Mulholland Books Popcorn Fiction Popcorn Fiction - The Break Up 5000 by Beth Schacter
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A hipster wife races her husband and father across America to spill some dirt in this droll tale from screenwriter/director Beth Schacter.

The Break Up 5000

You want me to say that I'm totally surprised that I flipped my car six times and then landed right side up with the sound of Japanese plastic cracking against American failure. You want me to lie because I am not the kind of girl who...but this is exactly where I expected to be when I said my vows and so did Simon and if he says anything different he's the damn liar I now know him to be.

I am supposed to be at his parents' house telling them about the lies: the gifts he sent some girl he met on-line, the way he gave me Chlamydia when we first started dating and how I never told anyone, changing gynos right after so Simon wouldn't be embarrassed when I went to the doctor. You see what I mean, how I thought about him first? How I kept his feelings at the front of my decisions while he was figuring out how to fly to Sacramento and bone some bank teller named Connie?

(She may not be named Connie. I just want her to be named something that says "guest star on Laverne & Shirley" and "smells like cabbage" in equal parts.)

We were awesome once. We were cute, funny hipsters; Simon had a beard and wore skinny jeans because they honestly looked good on him and I had sweatshirts repurposed as skirts and we both volunteered and when we took a vacation we always went to eco-resorts in developing countries or to small-batch/sustainable wineries. If a TV show was award-winning and under-watched, we had seen it and knew six people who worked on it. We had a non-denominational wedding and then moved to a small house in an up-and-coming neighborhood with our large dog who would have died if we hadn't adopted him.

And then it all just stopped. Simon still had the beard and the jeans and I still had the professionally recycled clothes but everything that mattered stopped. We weren't funny. We weren't anything. We faked it for our friends and they never knew. We talked about it; we tried sexing our way out of it, I ran a marathon and he applied for a PhD program but the problem was us. I tried to tell my sister, who was nursing her newborn son in public because 'the male gaze can suck it' and she started to cry and then the baby started to cry. "If you guys can't make it, I'm just gonna get a divorce right now."

Simon tried to tell the woman who owned our favorite restaurant (dedicated to locally grown and sustainable dishes) and she threw a plate at him. He kept saying "April Fools" even though it was September. She finally calmed down when he said we would have our anniversary dinner there and order the sulfite free Pinot Noir even though we could get it at the wine shop for $20 less.

We agreed that the mistakes (Connie) were symptoms of the larger problem—our marriage—and we needed to end it. We wanted to stay friends. We wanted our friends to stay friends. We didn't want them to think we had failed to consider their feelings. But our friends all knew each other and we weren't sure who to tell first or how we could control the flow of information. Tell a Kind Friend before the Crankier/Possessive friend and it could all get nasty very quickly: gossip, fighting, people not invited to composting parties, we'd seen it all before. Simon made a flow chart on a dry-erase board that had a penis drawn on it that no amount of cleaner would remove. I led us in some role-playing so we knew what to say when a friend wanted to blame Simon.

We went to my dad's house in Arizona to tell him first. This was how it started - Simon getting the ring from my dad - so this is how it should end. Bound together by our first simultaneous need in months we took my car, because it is bigger and I remember to clean it up every week while Simon lets his overamped Honda collect spicy pumpkin seeds in the cracks of the seat like he's worried about The Zombie Apocalypse and has found a creative food storage system.

(Did I tell you that he thinks me worrying about The Zombie Apocalypse is a sign of insanity and that when he comforted me all those nights I couldn't sleep because I couldn't figure out how would we get to the car from our 2nd floor bedroom when they came for our brains, he was laughing at me?)

The drive was nice; the dog's head hanging out the window, the 10 so consistent that you could pretend it was a video game, the roadside food James-Beard-award-winning. We got to Tucson around midnight. My dad wandered out of his house in a knee length blue nightgown making him look smaller, rounder and older; he rested a muzzle-loading musket on his hip, a show of force to his turquoise wearing neighbors who might complain about the dog barking after 11 pm.

We crashed without even talking to him about why we were there, just collected some stuff from the car and quietly shared the guest room sink. Simon was hiccupping, he was so nervous. To make him feel better, I joked that it would be a whole lot worse if we came out here and I told my dad about Connie, or if I went and told his parents. That made him laugh and he stopped hiccupping.

I fell asleep cuddling the dog. Simon was wide-awake and went to the kitchen for a whiskey. My dad joined him. And I guess because Simon's mom is a whore he thought it would be okay to tell my dad everything. Not about Connie or the vibrator he sent to her Sacramento town house. Not about his mood swings or his inability to flush a damn toilet or clean up after himself. No, Simon told my dad about me. About how I wasn't making much money, how I still had student loan debt and that I paid my mom back before I paid Simon back when we first moved in together and that after that Simon couldn't trust me with money - not to make it or take care of it. He told my dad that I cheated at on-line Scrabble and that I hadn't gotten around to getting health insurance and that I paid credit card bills late and that twice we had our power turned off not because we couldn't afford it but because I forgot to pay it.

I know all this because when I rolled over and discovered an empty space in the bed I tried to find Simon, assuming he was freaking again. I was going to tell him it was all okay and that we would get through it, that we could totally get divorced and still be good, fun people and we would stay friends and we could still take that Italian wine vacation together and have sex once in awhile.

See, I got up to possibly promise him post divorce sex and instead I heard Simon and my dad agreeing that I was a mess and probably always would be. Having no other choice,I grabbed my stuff, threw Simon's wallet and my dad's truck keys into the saguaro-filled desert and took off to see Simon's parents. Cambridge, Ohio would be my revenge. I'd tell his parents about Connie. I'd tell them everything. I had other stuff, too. I had the big gun, the baby, I'm not ready I'm still trying to figure out how to be a man and you tricked me even though I said I wanted kids abortion gun.

(You wanna sit with that for a minute or you wanna hear about how I paid for it?)

I knew Simon would follow me, he knew where I was headed, but I didn't expect my dad to take the Mustang out of storage and join him. There were two of them and they didn't have to stop to sleep, so after telling the AT&T lady about Connie and The Sacramento Dildo, she started texting me their location when she could get away from her desk. She was how I knew that my fourteen-hour lead had been whittled down to six so I pulled over and reported Simon as the felon bail-jumper I saw posted in a Kansas post office. I was back to ten hours of lead when they persuaded a pilot friend to emergency land his crop duster on I-80, blocking traffic for half a day. By the time I escaped to the rural routes, they were bearing down hard. I figured the best thing to do was just get to Cambridge and get it done. If my dad wanted to confront me about being bad with money he could do it when I was forced to move back home.

Right now, I think they're about ninety minutes behind me. It was two hours when the prehistoric hatchback missed its exit, paused in the zebras, and then sideswiped my sweet little car. I flipped once, sending a peanut butter cup into my pants leg. Then I flipped again and again until I was in some sort of valley created by freeways and exit ramps. As the car settled the peanut butter cup slid into my boot.

It started to rain. I looked up and saw the hatchback driver get out of her car. She was enormous, her face ended at her lower lip and after that it was a mix of folds and lumps, ending in breasts that had spent far too long resting on a shelf of gut. I reluctantly got out of my car.

"My lawnchair gave out on me, so I'm not moving too good," she shouts.

"I'm sure its glandular," I say but she can't hear me so I yell, "I'm climbing up now" and she holds her hand out like she can do anything.

I'm not good with fat people. I obsessively look at the mole that rolls in and out of her chins as she tells me that my little blue car came out of nowhere.

"It's black."

"Looks blue to me."

She's talking about the car, not the mole, right?

We go to her car. I think her name is Rita but it turns out her name is Elaine and her best friend Thelma is in the back seat. Thelma is a gym teacher. Elaine is a Latin teacher. Thelma has a beard that is brownish gray and looks soft. We sit quietly as we wait for the Sheriff to finish measuring whatever they measure when closeted lesbians run a West Coast liberal's hybrid off the road. Then we stand on the side of the road as I take a breathalyzer. So does Elaine, guffawing that she's happy they did this before she and Thelma went to Shoney's for Elaine's birthday. Sometimes she likes beer with lunch.

"But Thelma is the fancy one with her wine spritzers." She wags her finger at Thelma, who waves and beams with love

We have to get into the Sheriff's car to finish the paperwork, leaving Thelma to stroke her beard in the backseat dreaming of the lunch she and her lover will share when this madness ends. When I was a kid the slogan used to be "Sho Nuff Shoney's."

Elaine gets in the front seat, I get in the back and realize seconds later that I'm stuck until the Sheriff lets me out, and what I thought was a flirtatious twinkle is the pure Midwestern loathing they feel here about people from California. I go full Ohio drawl; my decades old Cleveland accent that charms customer service agents and racists. I forget irony even exists. Or sarcasm.

Elaine has an agenda. Seems her brother has a step-son and the step-son likes guns and sure enough Ohio has a highway shooter, the sixth or seventh I can remember since moving west, and Elaine thinks her brother's step-son is the shooter.

"He came back from a hunting trip with no deer. And he was gone until Thursday. Issnotright."

The Sheriff grunts. "Last shooting was late Thursday night."

Elaine doesn't care that evidence is not on her side. She watches CSI. "Right. Thursday. Like I said. You gotta come talk to him. Issnotright. Not right t'all. You're Lillian Brown's son, right?"

He grunts a yes. Being Lillian Brown's son must be a sore subject so he glares at me through the rearview.

"It's A Bill Of Rights, Not Suggestions."

He's quoting my bumper sticker.

"So when I see a drunk driver and that drunk driver is gonna kill someone and you know it and I know it, and I don't kill em, you can thank your bill of rights when he kills your mom."

Cancer killed my mom but I'm again disappointed by how rarely you can use that in offense or defense. I give him a generic "sad about mom" face and hand him my insurance card. My friend at AT&T tells me my lead-time is under twenty minutes.

"My husband is expecting me."

Elaine twists around and looks at me as well as she can.

"You ain't a lesbian? I thought with the short hair and the black clothes and the face."

What's wrong with my face?

"People think me and Thelma is lesbians on account of her being a hermaphrodite and a gym teacher and me being how I am but I am not. I saw them on Oprah once and someone threw a chair at em."

While I find it implausible that anyone threw anything at anyone on Oprah, I nod because Thelma is a hermaphrodite with a beard living in Ohio and respect should be paid.

"So you aren't a lesbian?"

And because I am an idiot who believes in a Zombie Apocalypse and that Simon will eventually remember to flush the toilet when we go to a friend's house, because I'm a girl who believes we will once again be the envy of all of our friends with our jeans and skirts and irony, because I'm a daughter whose dad now knows everything about me that I hoped he would never know, because I'm a little bitch who hates sleeping alone and likes the notch my wedding ring has given my finger; because of all of these things I tell them about getting a divorce. And then I cry.

Elaine gets out of her front and slides in next to me in back. I'm flattened into a bosom I refuse to call breasts and my chin is in the associated shelf, and I'm snotting all over her acrylic shirt and she smells like tea roses. I tell her about Connie and about everything I need to do to make this right since it has gone so wrong. The Sheriff watches us until Elaine notices him and then she smashes the grate with her paw.

"Drive, you faggot."

We're a few miles away from the house when the Sheriff passes Simon and my Dad in the Mustang doing 50 in a 45. My dad is a pseudo rebel and Simon has always voted and never ignores a jury summons so I expect them to slow down. But something bigger is happening and when they see me in the back they speed up, trying to pass the cruiser. Simon is behind the wheel and my dad has his musket but they don't know the shortcuts the Sheriff knows. And even if they do, I have Elaine and Sheriff Brown and Thelma back in the car. I have a list of Simon's bosses, his ex-girlfriends, his sister's work address and I have Connie's home address. I have a backpack with the texts he sent her printed out and the sex toy receipts and I have a tragic porn he made before he met me and learned how to do anything right. I clench Elaine's hand as the sirens clear another intersection. I'm gonna win this thing.

About the Author

Beth Schacter is a writer/director. Her first film, Normal Adolescent Behavior, premiered at theTribeca Film Festival and her next, Virgin Mary, is in pre-production. A contributing editor at GeekWeek, she's also co-author (with Jennifer Sullivan Corkern) of the upcoming book Everybody Dies, You Don't Have To Be An Asshole. She recently discovered that the dirty martini at Taix is better than the one at Taylor's because they muddle the olives.