A Change Would Do Him Good.

Charlie sat in traffic. It would only be a matter of minutes before the inevitable started. His blood pressure would start to rise. That was dangerous. The past 18 months had been near fatal for him.. He’d had a stroke. He had always been hypertensive. He’d worked as hard as four men to build up his law firm into the best in the state. He went through assistants in a way that caused his partners to fear wrongful termination lawsuits from the stream of verbally abused people leaving his immediate employ. If his workplace was stressful, his home life was worse. Charlie married Melody for reasons that had long passed his memory or ability to understand. All they did was fight. For the first 15 years of marriage he assumed it was his fault. He thought he was stressed at work and he brought it home. But then he realized it wasn’t him at all. It was all her. She complained about everything. Other than complaining she did nothing. A series of au-pairs raised the kids. A series of cleaning companies kept up the house. A series of lawn-services did the yard-work. Other than trips to the salon and gym Melody did nothing but complain to and about him. Her favorite time to complain was right after their quick and perfunctory quarterly intercourse session. She would lie there until he was finished. Then, with an attitude like she’d done him a favor, she would tear into him about how miserable he made her.

In retrospect, he was surprised he’d not had a stroke sooner. If he’d not been having lunch with a doctor client when his stroke started he probably would have died. Regardless, he was lucky to recover after 10 months in hospital and rehab facilities. He had to focus his intense drive to re-learn how to sit, stand, walk, talk, and control his body. His nearly complete recovery was nothing short of a miracle.

Once recovered he gladly left the doctors, nurses, therapists, and assistants and went home. Upon arriving home, he’d discovered that Melody had taken out a mortgage on their previously paid-off house and transferred all the money to a newly-opened investment account in her name. That burned him up. He nearly had another stroke right then and there. He didn’t keep it in. He erupted in a lava-hot rage. Unleashing furiously on her. Repaying her in small measure for the decades of misery she’d caused him. She’d always been a self-centered, and trifling bitch. Although he could trust her to not fool around on him or try to steal money from him, she blamed him for every bad thing that befell her. That time she was rear-ended while stopped in traffic while visiting her friends 250 miles away while he was doing a long jury trial - his fault. When it rained during the cook-out they’d planned for their daughter’s college graduation - his fault. That time the sandwich shop forgot to put extra bacon on her sandwich but charged her for it - his fault. He’d had enough. That night he told her to get ready for the divorce lawyers.

The divorce went more smoothly than expected. He was a respected and feared attorney and lined up the most impressive array of attorneys to make the whole sordid affair as painful for her as it was quick for him. The house was sold, after she paid off the mortgage she’d taken out, and he got most of the sale proceeds. She asked for alimony. She got a single lump-sum payment. She wanted cars, she got none. She wanted all the nicest things from the house, he gave them to her and laughed when she asked for money to store them until she got another house. He reminded her of the lump-sum and said figure it out yourself. After eight months all the details were worked out and he was going to be free of her.

He started to work fewer hours. He started to rage less at his legal assistants. He started to play golf. He started to swim. He went out after work with some of his partners and had a non-working dinner. It was on the way home from that dinner that he got caught in traffic. The traffic report on the radio said that the cause of the miles-long slowdown was “the setting sun was in drivers eyes.” After a few minutes Charlie started to feel odd. His face felt different. It was tingling. His eyes widened and everything seemed brighter. Colors became more brilliant. His breathing seemed to change. Then there was a strange feeling across his face that spread down his shoulders. He started to wonder if he was having another stroke. He turned the rear-view mirror to face him and saw something he’d not seen in decades.

He was smiling. A big broad grin. What he was feeling was muscles in his face he’d probably not used in years suddenly showing the relief he was feeling throughout his body. He laughed and exclaimed to himself, “Well I’ll be a sonofabitch. This is what happiness must feel like.” It was.

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