22 Apr





Barbara Berger

Please do not read this if you have any problem with strong language and explicit material!

Please do not read this if you have any problem with strong language and explicit material!

Pebble woke up the next morning (it was Saturday) with the worst cold she’d had in years. It must be psychosomatic. She could hardly open her eyes. Her nose had turned bright red from blowing it all night and her head weighed a ton. Retribution, she thought. I guess I was just having too much fun. Up until her recent setbacks, Pebble had felt this wonderful sense of elation, like a runaway slave who’d just crossed the Mason-Dixon Line. She’d been on a high, discovering herself, experiencing one long burst of creative energy. She was even making money! But now that the roof had fallen in, Pebble was all snot.

She dragged herself out of bed and looked at herself in the hallway mirror. This is worse than a hangover. She couldn’t believe she was looking at the woman she thought she liked.

Jon and Adam comforted her with more news.

“Dad’s coming over.” They’d talked to him after Pebble had gone to bed early. It was only 7 pm when she went to bed, but Jon and Adam knew their Mom was like that at times. “Strange” was how they would have put it. They figured she was just tired from her great adventure to the icecap. She hadn’t told them much about it yet – but she’d hinted at it with remarks about helicopters and skiing and dog sleds. Just enough to get their imaginations working. (She had to keep up her image.) She hadn’t told them about Fem-Ads either. She’d just packed up her gear and went off to her room. She’d left them a big note on the kitchen table: “JON & ADAM, I LOVE YOU. AM DEAD TIRED. SEE YOU IN THE MORNING. THEN WE’LL TALK. MOM.”

When they saw her standing in the hallway in her long flannel nightgown looking at herself in the mirror they guided her carefully back to bed. Sometimes sons are that nice.

“We’ve made breakfast, Mom. Go back to bed and we’ll bring it to you.” Adam opened her curtains a little. The sun shone weakly in through her window. It was still foggy. The huge plant by the window, the one she loved, kept growing. Pebble always marveled when she watched this wonderful piece of tropical greenery in her bedroom. How can it survive? Pebble was convinced this plant was a special miracle, growing solely to give her courage, that’s how little light there is in Copenhagen during the winter.

Her kids brought in a tray with toast and a hard-boiled egg and wonderful coffee. She was moved to tears.

They didn’t understand.

“How sweet,” was all she could mutter between sobs.

“Aren’t you hungry, Mom?” Adam was always practical. He didn’t like wearing your emotions on your sleeve.

“We talked to Dad last night Mom, after you went to bed.”

“I know,” Pebble dried her eyes, “he called while you guys were out.”

“We invited him over.” Often, Jon didn’t think about consequences, but his heart was good. Looking at his Mom, he realized it might be awkward.

“I didn’t know you had a cold, I figured you’d be out somewhere.”

Adam looked at Pebble, “You don’t want to see him, do you?”

“Not especially,” she replied.

“We can call him and meet him somewhere.”

It was hard for the boys to accept that their father and mother weren’t friends.

It was hard for Pebble to accept, too.

“Why can’t everybody just be friends,” Jon always echoed Pebble’s thoughts. He was thin and sensitive. Already girls (women) flocked to him, ready to lay down their lives (and bodies) to be near him.

“Oh my head,” Pebble moaned. She decided to tell them about Fem-Ads. “I’ve got something to tell you.”

She sounded so serious, she caught their attention. Usually their mother was pretty happy-go-lucky. “Do you remember the WonderLift campaign I was working on before I went to Greenland?”

“How could we forgot – you were working on it day and night,” Adam always remembered situations with a cool, clinical accuracy. He was 14 and deep. Pebble sometimes wondered where he got it from. He picked his friends carefully.

“Well while I was away, the biggest advertising agency in Copenhagen – the Republic Group – you know Einar Bro – well he’s the Vice President… Well, they launched another product – one that’s very similar to WonderLift called YourLift – 13 days before we were scheduled to launch WonderLift.” Suddenly she started crying again.

“What is it, Mom?”

They both felt the seriousness of her tears.

“Peter Cato, he’s the director of Fem-Ads, thinks I told Einar the WonderLift launch date. It was top secret.”

Jon took her hand.

“Peter says I’ll never work again in this town.”

“What makes him think you did it?” Adam asked.

“His secretary, Jennifer saw me holding hands with Einar at the Hotel D’Angleterre the night after the Fem-Ads meeting. I was pretty drunk, too.”

“You were holding hands with that creep?” Adam was revolted. Adam had met Einar the night he visited when Molly was there.

“Well, he took my hand and I didn’t know what to do.”

“Oh come on Mom, you could have pulled your hand away.”

“Yes,” Pebble replied carefully, “I could have, but it wasn’t quite that easy. You see Einar has just offered me this great job.”

“You’re not supposed to hold hands with the men you work for,” Adam shot back.

“But the worst part of it is – he really did ask when the WonderLift launch date was. But I didn’t tell him, I swear I didn’t.” Pebble started sobbing hysterically and blowing her fiery red nose. “Peter swears he’s going to tell everyone and I’ll never get another job after this – not in advertising anyway.”

“Oh come on Mom, it can’t be that bad,” Jon patted her on the back. He always took the philosophical view.

“What are we going to do? And Slim’s coming this afternoon.” Pebble kept on sobbing.

“I’ll go and call him,” Adam left the room.

“I wish I could just disappear,” Pebble said when she stopped sobbing.

Adam returned, “Sorry Mom, all I got was his answering machine.” That meant he would turn up all too soon. Pebble turned over in bed and moaned. All she wanted to do was hide under her warm down comforter.

“I think you ought to meet him when he comes,” Adam said as if reading her thoughts. “He is our father.” Pebble could see it was important to Adam.

“Okay, I’ll try.” She’d do anything for her kids. “Just let me sleep for a while.”


After her boys left her room, taking the breakfast crumbs with them, Pebble’s mind went wild. She imagined her body working feverishly to get her out of this unpleasant fix. Pebble hated confrontations and remembered all the unpleasant scenes she’d had with Slim before their divorce. He’d holler and she’d tremble. It was enough to make her temperature rise, even now. Maybe my temperature will rise and I’ll get delirious… maybe I’ll have more and more difficulty breathing… maybe I’ll feel so weak and dizzy that I can’t navigate my way to the bathroom. She pictured herself getting out of bed in her feverish state, and stumbling towards the bathroom. I’ll be so groggy that I can’t see straight. The walls will wobble and everything will look strange. I’ll feel so dizzy that I’ll stumble and walk right into the bathroom door by mistake and knock myself out. Jon and Adam will hear this awful bang and come running down the hall and find me unconscious on the floor. They’ll be desperately afraid and call an ambulance and rush me to the hospital immediately. After conferring in hushed voices, the doctors will put me in the intensive care unit and insist that I remain there in absolute quiet for at least 2 to 3 weeks. It was a wonderful thought.

Pebble almost smiled. No angry ex-husbands, no accusing ex-employers, nor any semi-sober boyfriends would be allowed in to disturb me. Whoever wanted to pour venom on Pebble’s head would have to wait. She could just see Peter, Albert and Slim pacing furiously up and down the hospital hallway. The doctors wouldn’t tolerate their agitation. Ms Beach is in critical condition gentlemen, so we must ask you to leave at once… at once! She’d have time to recuperate, rest, get her act back together. And by the time she was as fresh as a daisy, they’d all be gone, especially Slim. He’d be “very gone”. Of all the people she knew, Slim was the one with the least patience. He’d never wait two weeks to see her. (She remembered how he’d blow his top if a kid needed a diaper change when everyone was finally dressed for their Sunday walk.) Waiting for two weeks for Pebble to get out of intensive care – no way! The man would be so fed up that he’d stomp out of the hospital and take off on another escapade and not return for at least another 10 to 15 years. The thought was positively invigorating.

Adam knocked on her door.

“Yes, dear?”

He opened it just a crack. “Don’t you want to get up and take a shower before Dad comes?” He didn’t want Slim to see Pebble looking so retched.

“You’re right. Did you try to call him again?” She clung to false hope.

“Yeah, but he didn’t answer. He’s supposed to be here at two.”

Five minutes before Slim’s expected arrival, they were all sitting in the living room, waiting. Pebble had done her best to fix herself up. Behind her makeup, she was miserable. Jon, seeing Pebble’s desperate plight suggested she go for a walk. “You can always come back after he’s been here a few minutes.”

But Adam objected adamantly. “It wouldn’t be right and besides, you’ll look like a coward.” Adam had a ninth grader’s clear-cut ideas of right and wrong.

Pebble, who remained rooted to the couch, suddenly had a brilliant idea. I’ll write a book and call it” Ten Easy Ways to Meet Your Ex and Survive!” The idea exploded in Pebble’s head. It had to be a bestseller; the idea was so hot, Pebble forgot she was feverish and that her makeup just barely covered her red nose. Just think of the market. I’ll be writing for half the adult population of the Western world. The thought was overwhelming. Pebble had never written a book in her life. She was a copywriter, period. She might write brilliantly, but she wrote what other people told her to write. They set the tone; she just filled in the blanks. It was easy. Writing a book, writing a real book was something else. A whole other ball game. Pebble couldn’t see herself being an author. The creator of something original. But the thought intrigued her. My life sure is due for an overhaul. Turning author fit perfectly with her up-and-coming out-of-work status. I’m going to be a hopeless bum on welfare anyway. I could just as well use my time to write a book. Wonder why I thought of this now? The fear of meeting Slim again seemed to stimulate her creativity. The idea was real, intriguing and Pebble liked it. She saw herself in a whole new light and it scared her. She saw herself powerful, in control. Now that she was nearing rock bottom it was just what the doctor ordered. She might be sitting warm and tight in her apartment with her sons, but the safety of her surroundings was deceptive. She had no one to rely on but herself. I guess that’s how life is. Having to face Slim again – and face what she’d done with her life – was forcing her to grow, even if she didn’t feel like growing. Maybe something good will come out of this divorce in the end. She liked the idea of making millions writing about divorce survival. For the moment, it didn’t occur to her that the process might enrich her life, too. She only thought of the money. Making a million would get to Slim. And Pebble was mad enough at herself to like the thought. If there was one thing Slim couldn’t tolerate, it was Pebble’s success.

Fueled by the fear of meeting Slim again, Pebble’s mind raced on. She discovered dark shadows she didn’t want to look at. Pebble was not ready to admit that Slim still had power over her.

“I wonder where he is,” Adam broke the silence.

Pebble was covered with a cold, sickly sweat. It was not at all warm in the room. Jon fiddled with a soccer ball he found under the sofa. He’d bounce it and toss it and stop. Then he’d start all over again. Pebble felt like shouting “stop it” but didn’t. The boys are nearly as nervous as I am. She wanted to comfort them and make things right, but it was too late for making things right again. Divorce might not be death, but it’s very final. Slim is their father. God I wonder how it must feel to be them?

Her mind went back to her book. Probably some American psychologist somewhere has already written it. But if it’s out there, I haven’t seen it yet. Her mind was calculating the number of couples who have or will encounter precisely this traumatic moment on the way from marital bliss to divorced bliss. Almost everybody gets divorced. At least almost everyone Pebble knew did or would. And they’d all have to pass this milestone in personal development. Pebble smiled. A book about divorce survival has got to be a bestseller. Especially if the book wasn’t already written. The market has to be immense. Is there really anybody out there who wasn’t either thinking about getting divorced, looking forward to getting divorced, dreading getting divorced, actually getting divorced, recovering from getting divorced, or just plain divorced?

The doorbell rang………………

Barbara Berger



Posted by on April 22, 2012 in 21 AND OLDER, WISDOM


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5 responses to “THE ADVENTURES OF PEBBLE BEACH – By Barbara Berger

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