Life After Little League


Part 1 • Stuck in the Dugout

Chapter 1

Brad got all the friends in the divorce. I got the house ($1328, payable on the fifth), a VW Passat ($442, payable on the fourteenth), and our son, Jordan. Normally, the ex-wife keeps the Christmas card list while the ex-husband cuts ties and moves on to a newly-minted life. In our case, Brad had been collecting these people for decades, and I was a latecomer to their party. So I got the house, and he got the foundation.

It’s not a bad deal. Given the choice, I’m not sure how many of those people I’d want to keep in my inner circle anyway. The friends he made when he was a kid growing up in Central Florida were fun; the ones he collected after he returned as Dr. Brad Holloway, and especially after he became one of the consulting orthopedists for the Orlando Magic, not so much.

Aside from that, life’s pretty much what you’d expect. Along with the standard ex-wife kit (kid, house, child support), I spend my days worrying about whether my single-parent status will warp my son for life and flinching every time I spy a racing-green Range Rover like Brad’s in traffic. You’d think being married to a surgeon who was never home would have prepared me for life as a solo parent, but no. Somehow, the days seem even more packed, the to-do list growing like it’s being fertilized. Some examples:

  • Take dog to vet for shots and flea treatment (two months overdue, and we’re all starting to itch)
  • Remind Jordan to bring his lunchbox home from school (for the fourth time)
  • Get a haircut (curls interfering with vision)
  • Shop for groceries (girl in Chick-fil-A drive-thru now knows my voice and greets me by name)
  • Laundry (buying more underwear is so freshman year)
  • Pay bills (please, God, let the water still be on)
  • Edit employee manual (like I don’t have enough to do at work already)

Somewhere in there, I have to pencil in eating, sleeping, and regular showers. I have to admit, though, some of those slip by the wayside sometimes. I just won’t tell you which ones. Or when.

My entire life these days can be summed up in a series of labels. Jordan’s mom. Brad’s ex. Bob’s office manager. There’s supposed to be a label for Claire herself, but damned if I can remember where I put it. It’s probably trapped in the overstuffed lint filter of my dryer (another task to put on my list). But even though it’s high time I did something about it, this week might not be the best one for a reclamation project. Jordan’s never expressed much interest in sports—one of the many sins I somehow accumulated in the Book of Brad—but this year, the baseball bug finally bit my boy.

Poor kid had it coming. Since my debut in this world coincided with Game 4 of the World Series. Daddy promptly decided that his October baby was to be a baseball fan. A knowledgeable fan. He used to drill me on the major league teams on the way to school. “Cincinnati,” he’d call out.

“Reds,” I’d chirp from the back seat.





“And?” he’d prompt.

“And Red—White Sox.”

“That’s my girl.”

My sports knowledge mostly confined itself to the baseball diamond, much to the consternation of my husband, who hailed from Tobacco Road basketball country and worshiped at the altar of Michael Jordan so fervently he named his son after him. Right at the time our marriage needed a baseball-style rally, Brad chose the fast break out, and that was it. There’s probably some cosmic message in the fact that our divorce was finalized the day the Grapefruit League cranked up for spring training.

I glance in the rear view mirror. Thick brown hair dominates the view. Jordan’s working his new glove. I smile. “Colorado.”

He looks up and grins. My blue eyes, Brad’s dimples. Jordan earned the dusting of freckles across his nose himself. “Rockies.”



“The Cards are in St. Louis, big man. Try another bird.”

He chews the inside of his mouth, concentrating. “Orioles,” he says finally.

“That’s my boy.”

He snaps the glove at the other seat belt latch, a clumsy alligator smelling of linseed oil. “Mom,” he says, face screwing into a frown, “what if I’m no good?”

“I got news for you, sport. Nobody’s that good this young. All the kids are learning. You’ll see.”

“Okay.” He looks out the window, clearly unconvinced. Secretly, I’m worried myself. Little League can be the best and worst of baseball—excited kids who play for sheer love of the sport on one side, foaming-at-the-mouth win-at-all-cost dads and helicopter moms on the other.

Please, God, I pray silently, Let me not hover. Or foam.

Whoever decided a five p.m. practice on a weekday was a good idea needs to be shot, I fume as I maneuver through some heinous late-afternoon traffic. We finally pull into a middle school parking lot teeming with SUVs. After a momentary skip of a heartbeat—racing-green Range Rover three slots down—I remind myself that Brad’s on call for the Orlando Magic this week, and nothing short of the NBA commissioner calling for another lockout is likely to get him out here. No Brad. No worries.

I slide my dirty Passat between a pair of sparkling clean Volvos and put the car into park.

“Ready to go, champ?”

He shrugs. “I guess.”

Some vote of confidence. The fields are surprisingly busy for this time on a weekday. They’re pretty much the way I remember my junior high: tired aluminum bleachers, chipped concrete dugouts, worn grassy fields. Since this is Florida, those fields are probably more centipede grass and sandspurs than turf. Carpet-bombed with fire ant mounds, of course. I scan them for some hint of where Jordan should be.

“Minor A Marlins?” I ask a lanky youth in a pair of well-worn pants and a sweat-stained Braves cap. He points at the far field, where a bunch of kids are chasing as many balls as they are catching. Looks about right. I wave my thanks and head that way. Jordan shuffles along beside me, his new equipment bag banging around his calves.
“This’ll be fun,” I say brightly, remembering the storm of wailing when he read the names on his emailed team roster and realized he didn’t know any of them. “Once you meet your teammates, you can make some new friends.”

He slants a wary look at me from under his too-long bangs. I’m not the only Holloway who needs a haircut.

“Really, honey. It’ll be fine. You’ll see.”

“I’m not a baby, Mom,” he admonishes, with a furtive look to see if anyone his age is listening.

Chastened, I give his shoulder a squeeze. “I know. Have fun, honey. I love you.”

He lifts his hand, fingers extended in the sign-language I-L-Y. He’s happy to admit he loves his Mom, but not in a way that’ll get him tortured by strange seven-year-olds. Strange seven-year-olds who, I can see now that we’re closer, are better at this than I assumed. The ball chasing is on purpose, part of a drill.

I walk away, determined not to obsess over Jordan, forlorn in old shorts and sneakers next to these laser-focused baseball machines in baseball pants and proper cleats. I have officially lied to my child. Some of these kids look like their next stop is Wrigley Field, not the next age group. Was this a mistake? Did he choose Little League to please me, and not because he wants it for himself? Oh, God, I am a pushy Little League mom. Pushy and, as I realize I now have to find something to do while he’s busy at practice, just as unsure as my kid.

I have this theory. The way I see it, inside every woman on the planet is the girl she used to be in the seventh grade. If you were in the cool group in seventh grade, with all the right clothes, shoes, and posters on the wall, you stay in the cool group forever. If you’re the Homecoming dance wallflower, or the band geek, or the brainiac with braces and Coke-bottle glasses, you’ll remain that girl forever, even if your outside ends up looking like Miss America.

A mix of women peppers the bleachers. Most have clumped together on the first baseline stand and already commenced with the gossip. On first scan, I spot five designer bags, a closetload of size 2, and enough diamonds to stock a jeweler at Christmas. I rub my thumb absently against my left ring finger—the bare one—and wonder for the millionth time how things might have turned out differently.

I’ve survived childbirth, divorce, and a cubicle. But at this, my initiation as a real-life baseball mom, seventh-grade Claire of the braces, glasses, and impossible hair is looking in vain for a seat.


The sharp voice derails my pitiful train of thought. I look up and register the pair perched on the top row of the third baseline bleachers, one robin in a soft red tank and khakis, both expensive, one bluejay in a sleeveless chambray shirt and black twill capris. The bluejay’s squawking. At me.

“You look lost, honey.”

“You have no idea.”

“Come on up here and take a load off.”

I climb toward them, heels clanging on the aluminum risers, and settle onto the dented metal with a sigh.


“No thanks necessary,” the jay chirps. She sticks out her square hand. “Bink MacLaren.”

“Claire Holloway.” We shake. She has a confident grip that delivers an unexpected boost of energy.

“Ellen,” the robin adds, “Evans.” She’s quieter, but clearly unfazed by her friend’s noisy enthusiasm. She strikes me as one of those women I normally hate out of principle, the ones who live in the calm eye of the hurricane of life.

Unlike me, the spindly house left in matchsticks when the wind kicks up. Watch and learn, I tell myself.

“Haven’t seen you around before,” Bink says.

“This is our first time,” I admit.

She nods. “Little League Virgin. Been there, got the T-shirt.”

“And the hat, and car magnet, and fundraising chocolate,” Ellen adds.

The knot in my midsection loosens enough for me to chuckle.

The team emerges from the dugout, a mixed bag of players. I spot Jordan in the bunch and resist the urge to wave.

“Which one’s yours?” Ellen’s voice is surprisingly relaxing.

“There.” I point toward right field. “In the red T-shirt.”

“Good looking kid,” Bink offers.

“Thanks.” He is a good looking kid. It’s amazing how the flaws you crucify yourself over become endearing when they emerge on your child. “How about yours?”

Ellen points to shortstop, Bink to home plate. “Scott,” Bink explains for her, “and my son Will.”

Will’s a twin of his mom, stocky, blond, and full of energy. Scott’s a good six inches taller than everyone on the field, and skinny as a Louisville Slugger.

Claire the former front-row student pulls a pen and the league email she printed last night out of her tote and dutifully scrawls Bink’s and Ellen’s names next to their sons’ on the team roster.

“Somebody’s prepared,” Bink teases.

I lift the paper. “Habit. Plus it gives me something to do besides hand-wringing.”

Bink chuckles as Ellen reassures me. “You’ll be fine. May I?” I hand over my list. “A few of these kids are new,” she says, “but we’ve known some of them since T-ball, if you want to take notes.” Her impressive diamond winks in the afternoon sun as she hands the list back. I feel a twinge, thinking of the rings I now have tucked away in a drawer.

“Let’s start with the easy one,” Bink says, pointing to third base. A brown ponytail bushes out from the vent on her cap. “That’s Dakota.”

“Scofield,” Ellen adds. “Dakota Belflower’s in the outfield somewhere.”

“Dakota-Boy, Dakota-Girl,” I murmur as I scribble, trying to get it all in my head.

“Don’t let her mom hear you say that,” Bink warns, jerking her head toward a woman stalking the baseline, phone pressed to her ear. “She majored in feminist studies up north somewhere. Patronize her daughter at your peril.”

I watch Dakota-Girl rifle a ball to Will. No kid with an arm that good has anything to worry about.

They spend a couple of minutes filling me in on the rest of the team. These two are Little League veterans, survivors of practices, games, rainouts, clay stains, and outgrown cleats. Names flow over me like water, players and their accompanying batch of moms: PattyBeckyLauren, a couple I missed, and a Willow, if you can believe it.
I steal a glance at my son and frown to see the second baseman arc a ball high over Jordan’s head. Great. Jordan dutifully chases it to the rusting chain-link fence far down the first baseline. He lobs the ball back, short. Mr. Second Baseman turns around with a disgusted look on his face.

“Could you throw it a little higher?” I mutter, mostly to myself.

“C’mon, honey, don’t be so tough on him,” Bink advises.

“Oh, I didn’t mean Jordan.” I point toward second base, who’s now turned his attention to the infield. “I meant him.”

Bink and Ellen trade a glance. “Harrison,” they chime, sotto voce. Ellen clucks her tongue softly.

“That kid’s a piece of work. Takes after his mom,” Bink says.


“Well, he does. Can’t say I was happy to see that name on the team list,” Bink admits. “He’d probably be all right except for her.” Her voice drips with disdain.

I follow her gaze to the other grandstand and suppress a shudder. Those women are firm. Toned. Don’t-have-a-job-and-go-to-Pilates-class-every-day kind of toned. The ten pounds I haven’t been able to shed since I gave birth settle in next to seventh-grade Claire and make themselves comfortable. “One of those moms, huh?” I say.


“In spades,” Bink says.

Ellen nudges Bink’s knee with hers. “You promised me you’d behave. Don’t make me send you home.”

“Okay, I’ll be good.” She slants me a sideways glance. “Maybe.”

I can’t help laughing. These two are about as opposite as you can get. Bink’s a rounded, blondish, Bette Midler. Smooth, brunette Ellen looks like she stepped right out of The Official Preppy Handbook, minus the uppercrust attitude. Oddly, I fit right in. We notice the Pilates crowd sneering back at us with mutually pursed lips. Or at least one of them is.

Slim, streaky blonde hair (it’s dyed, expensively so, but that goes with the territory), full makeup, she slides a look over me and turns dismissively back to her group.

“’Scuse me for living,” I say.

“Now you know where Harrison gets it,” Bink says, nodding toward the field.

Ah. Second base’s mom. “What’s her story?”

“Karen?” Bink snorts, clearly disapproving. “She’s divorced. Her ex is some hotshot attorney in Miami. She rakes in alimony and drives a Jag. Owns a little boutique that specializes in personalized trinkets.”

“Like that polka-dot tote bag you just had to have?” Ellen reminds her in an arch tone. She turns to me. “I’m surprised she’s here, to tell you the truth. Usually she drops off and picks up. Must be because it’s the first practice.” She lays a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t worry. She comes to games and vanishes as soon as she can hustle Harrison into the car.”

“Works for me.” I glance back over and catch Karen giving me a more thorough once-over. I return the favor, realizing with chagrin that my wilted cotton blouse and creased skirt just underscore my lack of makeup and rebelling French twist. Her clothes are crisp enough to have just emerged from the drycleaner’s bag, and her makeup looks freshly applied. Her expression of disdain matches her son’s. A very unflattering thought pops in my brain. I do my best to suppress a smirk.

“What’s so funny?” Bink says.

Karen the other divorcée turns back to her crowd. My smirk blossoms, breaks out into a snort.

Ellen raises a cool brow and studies me like I’m a naughty child talking too loud in the library.

I can’t help myself. “Her face. It’s like a Bowie knife with lipstick.”

Bink howls, and Ellen allows herself a ladylike chuckle.

“There’s hope for you yet, honey,” Bink proclaims. She rummages in that polka-dot tote and pulls out a fundraising chocolate bar, the kind with almonds and a dollar off coupon for Subway on the back of the wrapper.

“Sit up straight, now.”

I do as asked.

She taps me on the shoulder, left right left. “Mazel Tov,” she says, and hands me the chocolate. “You’re now officially a Bleacher Babe.”

Practice passes in a blur of overthrown balls, awkward base running, and enough windmill swings to power Southern California. Sweaty boys spill from the dugout, tipping back their last swallows of Gatorade and calling out goodbyes. The Babes and I—how fun, to be a Babe!—climb down to fetch our kids and start the evening relay.

“Hey,” Bink says, catching me by the arm. “What’s your cell number?”

I rattle it off and she immediately keys it in. My phone rings.

“It’s me,” she says. “Just save it in your phone book in case you need anything.”

“Good idea.” Ellen does the same, then the two of them collect their boys and head for the parking lot. I smile after them. I’m leaving practice with two new friends. For now. I don’t think there’s any chance of Karen the Bowie Knife suddenly deciding I’m worthy of conversation, but a couple of the others might prove more friendly. I definitely want to find out how that tall African–American woman, the one as poised as a goddess, manages to look so serene.

Jordan shuffles beside me, gray Florida sand dusting the baseball field-orange clay now staining his sneakers. He looks beat. I’ll be lucky to shovel some dinner in him before he falls asleep tonight.

“So?” I ask when we’re on the way home.

“S’okay.” He shrugs.

“Meet some new friends?”

“I guess so.”

“Are you excited?”

Another shrug. Mom goes down swinging. Tonight’s parenting average drops below the Mendoza line.

It’s a quiet ride home, and the moody playlist on my iPod doesn’t improve things. I’ve barely parked the car in my echoing garage before Jordan’s out, ditching his sneakers and socks in a sandy pile by the back door.

“Homework!” I yell after him.

No response. Magic, our Brittany, yelps and paws the metal door of his crate. “We’ll take him to obedience class,” Brad said while talking me into a Christmas puppy. He didn’t. Now I have a dog that will chase a tennis ball into the fires of hell, but who won’t sit unless you bribe him with a porterhouse. Go figure.

I ponder the human existence while Magic fertilizes the lawn and points at imaginary squirrels, then it’s back inside to kick start the evening routine. Dinner’s a make-it-yourself pizza. Jordan wrestles his way through his spelling words while I scan the part of the paper I couldn’t read this morning because the dog got loose and I had to chase him down the block. By the time Jordan’s sacked out in his glow-in-the-dark rocket sheets, I realize I’m whipped, too.

I give the kitchen counter a final buff and switch off the light. Empty granite gleams in the reflected light from the TV in the den. This, at least, is a nice change from the height of the Brad years, where I’d always find one last thing out long after I thought I’d finished cleaning for the night: a cocktail glass sweating a dripping ring, a crumb-filled cookie plate resting directly over the half-full dishwasher, a crumpled paper towel next to the sink. That’s the tradeoff. Clean counters, but an empty bed.

Sighing, I close down the back of the house. Lights off, doors locked, Magic settled down for the night. I peek in on Jordan to find him sprawled diagonally across the bed, comforter kicked into a pile at his footboard, arms stretched straight over his head. I smile. When he was little, he slept this way, like Little Nutbrown Hare in the book Guess How Much I Love You. Buried half underneath him is the lop-eared stuffed rabbit someone gave him at one of my baby showers.

I wriggle Nutbrown out and tuck him by one outflung arm. Jordan stirs and grabs onto his rabbit, other hand reaching for his missing covers. I nudge the comforter into his questing palm and leave the room after a kiss on his head.

The feng shui woman on our local-access station would be horrified at the state of my bedroom. Missing furniture, dust, underbed storage containing God knows what. It would take a Great Wall of China-sized can of metaphysical WD-40 to unstick my chi.

I strip off my bra and groan at how good it feels to scratch along the elastic line. Snatching up an ancient Rolling Rock beer T-shirt, I yank it over my head. This shirt’s becoming transparent it’s been washed so many times. It’s so soft, so old. So…Brad.

“You look good in it,” he said when I stole it from him, after an afternoon of hot, early-relationship sex. “But better out of it.”

He stripped me out of that shirt for years, until it was replaced by satin baby doll gowns after we got married, then silk, then the La Perla négligée he bought for our tenth anniversary. The one I wore exactly once. Two months later, he was gone.

I pull the rest of the pins out of my collapsing French twist and squint at my lipstickless reflection.

Mid-thirties are supposed to be my sexual peak. Right now, my peak resembles a sand dune that’s looking none-too-good after a recent hurricane. That’s not hard to imagine when you realize the main men in my life are the husband who left me, my never-met-a-buzzword-he-didn’t-like boss, and my seven-year-old. Jordan’s truly the light of my life, but let’s just say that chicken nuggets from the drive-thru are no substitute for candlelit dinners with a handsome man.

I need to get out more.

I need a life.

I need to revive the interesting, lively woman I know is trapped inside the burnt-out, hollow-eyed mommy staring back at me from the mirror before I lose her altogether.


It’s barely eight-thirty in the morning, but I can already hear the phone through the glass office door. I twist my key in the lock and push through, snatching up the receiver to gasp, “MediServ, may I help you?”

Guess not. Phone’s gone to voicemail.

Fine. I settle my tote into its drawer and glance at the picture of Jordan nestled by my monitor. Gap toothed and beaming, he’s being licked into oblivion by Magic, a squirming lapful of Christmas puppy. And since Brad took this picture, there I sit behind him, cross-legged on the living room sofa (the one that went to live in Brad’s new house) in my Scottish terrier pajama bottoms and a red long-sleeved tee, matching grin on my face. It’s a favorite picture even though the story it tells no longer rings true, because it makes me smile.

I begin the opening routine, automatic after so many years in this little office. Boot the computer, check the messages, review the to-do list I left for myself last night, scribble some extra tasks on the end I forgot to include. I just know that somewhere, some lucky woman is out there making an impact while I rot away as an office manager. Being a statistic isn’t all bad, though. My boring-as-oatmeal cube has fabric panels, so I can tack up cartoons to keep myself amused. This week’s favorite is a classic from The Far Side—the one where the kid’s trying to push his way into the gifted school using the door marked “Pull.”

That pretty much sums up my experience at MediServ. Today’s already started with a missed call and—now that my ancient computer’s managed to boot—an electronic sackful of spam. I hum the Monty Python “Spam” song as I delete message after message.

Today will be a light day, like most days. I glance up at the cheesy motivational poster in my direct line of sight. While the AMBITION eagle hanging across from my cube flies over the Grand Canyon, I get to collate sales packets for the next round of doctor blitzes. And it’s not like I can crack any drug dealer jokes, either. MediServ is a medical supply company. We’re responsible for cotton balls, sample cups, examination table paper, and paper gowns that tie in the back and leave your behind hanging out. My ambition: job with more challenging and creative possibilities. My reality: tedium and bad lighting. The hum from the fluorescent overhead is about to send me screaming out the door.

That, or the burgeoning PMS. I can tell it’s coming. It feels like the eagle in the poster is mocking me, not unlike that Bowie Knife mom at baseball practice last night. Recalling her—her perfect highlights and impeccable clothes—gets me thinking. I may be divorced, but I don’t have to be a pitiful cliché. I think of Bink and Ellen, my comrades in Babe-ness, and make a tiny change I’ve needed to do for months.

Pulling down the eagle picture, I march it down the short hallway, poking my head in doorways to review the other posters for something more suitable. Conference room and the boss’s office on the left, two small sales offices and a miniscule break room on the right. In the end, I set AMBITION free to soar his way toward the unisex bathroom with the leaky faucet at the end of the hallway and plant ATTITUDE’s sunflowers across from my desk. I haven’t been feeling particularly ambitious these days, and Lord knows my attitude could use some adjusting.

I’m reaching for a pad to scrawl a note to maintenance about the humming fluorescent and drippy faucet when I spot the magazine. Soar, the title proclaims against a background of clouds and shiny steel fuselage. Oh, no. Buzzword Bob’s been reading in-flight again, which means trouble.

My boss, Bob Entrekin, is the most consistent man I know, aside from my Daddy. That’s a good thing, since his sales force is constantly in flux. MediServ reps tend to skew toward the same demographic: young, male, and eager to seize the next rung. These are the ones who got passed over by Pfizer and AstraZeneca who are determined to gain a foothold in the medical world, then leap upstairs for bigger commissions. They aren’t trusting in tongue depressors to make them millions. That doesn’t stop him from trying to mold his ever-shifting team of rookies into a “sales force.”

Hence, the newest in-flight magazine idea. Usually, Bob + magazine = disaster. Previous issues have resulted in the inspirational posters, movie-inspired white elephant gifts (Is it wrong that Jordan has been using a scale replica, complete with certificate of authenticity, of Harry Potter’s wand as a strap-on crane arm with his Lego set?), and a spa certificate (okay, that one was worth it). I take a second look at Soar and its glowing inset photo of the Eiffel Tower. Bob hasn’t even taken Mrs. Buzzword to Paris, so there’s no way that’s happening. No hint from the cover on the latest brainstorm. I turn to the “IT’S US!!” sticky note and cringe.

The hapless executive in the picture can’t be thinking “synergy” or “teamwork” or anything else highlighted in the text of the article. His white, knobby knees are too busy fighting to keep his egg-shaped butt from ending sunny-side up on the grass twenty feet below him. “Learning the Ropes,” the title proclaims. “Tie your team together with a ropes challenge course.”

Props to you, Bob. I didn’t think you’d ever top the ugliness that was the bowling league of ’07, but you’re teetering upon infamy with this idea.

The door swings wide, and in walks the man himself, florid, balding, and jovial. “Claire de Lune!”

I force down a sigh. That’s only the millionth time I’ve heard that line. “Good morning, Bob.” I smile and close the magazine, squaring it with the calendar pad. Bob likes things neat, especially close to the door where people can see.

“You saw it?” he asks, pointing at the magazine.

“I saw it, all right.”

“Well, what do you think?”

Disaster. Epic. GoodLordyoumustbejoking. “It’s…an interesting concept.”

“It’s perfect!” He beams. “Innovative, synergystic, what’s not to like?”

I press my lips together and lift my brows. “The guys are pretty competitive. What makes you think this won’t degenerate into a free-for-all?”

“It’s called faith, m’dear,” he says, twinkling for all he’s worth. If he weren’t mostly bald and shaved closer than Mr. Clean, he’d make a terrific Santa Claus.

“There’s faith, and then there’s the crew,” I say, thinking of the current bunch, who at the moment are all male and prone to testosterone poisoning. I flip to the article and point to the egg-shaped guy. He and his about-to-be-splattered butt are set amidst soaring mountain vistas. “These photos were taken in Colorado. I know you’re not talking about flying out there. So how far are you willing to go for this kind of experience?”

“Just up the road near the Ocala National Forest,” he says with a wink. “Heard someone at the club talking about it the other day.” He slaps a hand on my counter a few times for emphasis.

In-flight idea, local prices? Now we’re stuck for sure. I scribble myself a note and stick it to the front of the magazine. “Did you have a date in mind?”

“Sometime in October,” he says, lifting the back of his pants. Buzzword Bob could use a little more time on the golf course and a little less at the nineteenth hole. “I’m sure it’ll all be handled by then, right, Claire?”

I pull up my calendar, scan the next month for conflicts. “No problem.”

He nods briskly and changes the subject. “How’s that husband of yours?”

I waggle my left hand at him. “Not my husband anymore, remember?”

“I know,” he says, smiling not unkindly. “But it’s not unheard of for divorced folks to get back together.” I don’t know who was more broken up about my divorce, me or Bob. He loved having a doctor’s wife on staff. A doctor’s ex-wife doesn’t have the same cachet, if you know what I mean.

I purse my lips wryly. “That’s a bit impossible when one of us is already married to someone else.”

He’s genuinely surprised. “When did this happen?”

“About six months ago, Bob.”

“How did I miss it?”

“You had surgery, remember? You got a hip replacement, Brad got a wife replacement.”

He leans on my cube’s six-inch faux cherry counter, genuinely contrite. “Sorry to have brought it up.”

I shrug. “That’s okay. You were a little distracted.”

“I should have known.” He looks over at the ATTITUDE poster, turns back to me with a smile. “Guess the sales team’s not the only one who could use some building. We can shut down the office for a day. Make sure to schedule yourself a spot at the retreat.”

And quick as that, he whistles down the hall to his office.

I lean forward and bang my head, very gently, on the desk.