It was 10 p.m. Fritz said good night to his wife. She was watching TV. He went to bed. Tomorrow was a big day. It was his last day of work. Thirty years with the federal government. Thirty years of flying out of town for weeks on end. Thirty years of interviews, meetings, and heavy briefcases. Tomorrow it would all be over. Not that he didn't like it. He had enjoyed his career.
Fritz felt blessed. His father had had a tough life as an unskilled laborer. Whenever Fritz was a bit discouraged or upset, he thought about his overworked and underpaid father. He thanked God for his own good life, and for the fact that he had been able to make his dad's last years comfortable.
His two children were married and had their own careers. His wife Paige kept busy with, among other things, her bridge club. She had tried to get him interested in bridge, but without success. Fritz was content with his own Friday night poker group.
Friday morning, he went to work for the very last time. Those who knew him well would miss him. Fritz was a genuinely nice guy. He never had a bad word to say about anyone. Some people might have thought he was a little dull, but he was intelligent, a hard worker, and a team player. He had taken only three weeks of sick leave in 30 years.
A small group took him out to lunch. When he returned from lunch, the whole office gathered around for cake, ice cream, a farewell card, and a few short speeches. They presented him with various going-away gifts, including a big, paperback US atlas. It listed all the motels, campgrounds, national parks, tourist spots, and other information to help guide a leisurely traveler throughout the good old USA. He had told his friends that he and Paige were going to spend a couple of years visiting all the places that he never had gotten to explore while there on business. As a final gift, his supervisor told him to take the rest of the day off.
Paige's car wasn't in the driveway when he got home. She was probably shopping for some traveling clothes. Maybe she was out arranging a dinner at a restaurant that evening for just the two of them. That would be nice.
But something was wrong. When he hung up his jacket, he saw that the bedroom closet was half empty. Paige's clothes were gone. Her shoes were not on the closet floor. Confused, he looked around the bedroom.
He saw an envelope on the lamp stand. Inside it were two pieces of paper. One notified him of a divorce proceeding. The other was a hand-written note from Paige. "I'm so sorry," it began. She said that her lawyer had told her to wait until today. If she had sought divorce a year earlier, like her boyfriend had suggested, she would not have been able to qualify for 50 percent of Fritz's pension. She hoped that he would find it in his heart to forgive her. She felt terrible about this, she wrote, because "you've been so good to me. But I can't ignore my own heart."
Fritz sat immobile on the edge of the bed. Her note was in his hand; her words were burning in his brain.
Maybe an hour later, the phone rang. He picked it up on the fifth ring. It was Bob, wondering if Fritz was going to play poker later that night.