101. Mina Peezler, Actuary

A lot of people find Mina maddening. Her manner reminds them of their worst grade school teacher, the one most likely to keep them after school for what always seemed to be the most minor infraction. And there is her voice. Grating and precise.

Ask her husband. “If you have a sense of humor, there is no one better. She gets you through hell and high water. But when she has that tone in her voice, watch out. And don’t let her catch you laughing when she uses it. For me, it happens about three times a day. Sometimes more. We share offices and in a lot cases, clients.”

Mina’s husband, Roger, couldn’t be more different. Mina is what you might call “by-the-book.” For her, events have a certain chance of happening or not. Her sentences are carefully constructed, uttered only after a few sentences, sometimes minutes, of analytic thought. And once uttered, are not subject to argument or modification. Her favorite phrase: “When you are right, you are right.” Mina is always right. Ask her.

When she makes one of her declarations, Roger just smiles and says “Yes, dear.” He knows better than to argue or even to say, “Are you sure?” He’s not a wimp. He is a lawyer. And a very good one. He avoids adversity and confrontation whenever possible and selects his arguments very carefully. That is one reason his clients and his partners call him “The Wizard.” He has settled all but the most intractable law suits, gotten criminal clients off with the lightest possible sentence, usually involving no jail time, and negotiated some of the craziest deals on record. His wife may deal with a black and white world. Roger’s world is every color of the rainbow.

Mina and Roger have two children. They had them in the first three years of their marriage, both to please Mina’s parents and because Mina wanted to “get it over with” as soon as possible. She believed infants and preschoolers are career wreckers; once toilet trained, able to feed themselves, and are in school, it is possible for a professional woman to go back to her career. It is one area where she admits she was wrong.  First, she loved being a mother. Second, both her husband and her made more than enough money to hire all the child-care help they needed. Third, she found her assumption that after they were toilet trained and in school, they would leave her free to pursue her career without hassle proved completely wrong. Mina always forgets: most people are not quite like her.

You’d think with parents so different; the two kids would have serious emotional problems. Not so. Gloria, the oldest, seems genuinely happy and amazingly level headed for a college sophomore. She majors in Art History with plans to go to law school. She wants to work in intellectual property, a goal so arcane and specific her friends would roll their eyes. Gloria said it sounded like loads of fun.

Roger, Jr. is on his school’s tennis team and taking advanced placement courses in Math and Physics. “Maybe a doctor or something. I’m a bit young to make plans but something in the sciences probably. Who knows?” Whenever Junior says something as indecisive sounding as that, Mina insists, “Of course you are going to medical school. Why wouldn’t you.” Junior says nothing. She should know he dreads the idea of being a doctor.

But that’s about as rebellious Junior ever got. Or as disruptive a thought as may have upset what Mina saw as a pleasingly placid and, most important of all, a predictable life. So, when Mina happened to walk in on her husband watching porn on his office computer screen, it was what you might call an event and then some.

He was totally absorbed and didn’t hear her behind him. She was just about to say something when she saw what he was watching.

Her eyes bulged. Literally. And she shouted. “ROGER!” He screamed and spun around in his chair.Then, she turned and left. She slammed the door behind her. Roger just sat there. He almost threw up. His heart was racing

He heard the car start and take off. She was gone for about an hour. He was still sitting just where he was when she had walked in to his office and saw what was on the screen. He hadn’t moved. He had no idea what was going to happen next or what he might do about it. Divorce? Counseling? Embarrassment? Shame?

But what happened next truly stunned him. Without getting into the details, let’s just say Mina and Roger are happier now than they ever have been. They laugh and giggle a lot more together. And their life together is not quite so humdrum or as predictable as it once was. When Mina saw what was on her husband’s computer monitor was not like anything either of them might have imagined.

85. Leonard Delgado, Detective

A Good Listener

Leonard never talked about his job. Of course, that’s just what everyone wants to hear about. And, to make matters worse, Leonard never has much to say about anything. Or has anything he necessarily wants to share. His wife, Linda, called him “The Grunt.” And she made grunt jokes. Which was fine with him. He was crazy about her. They married right out of high school. He continued on in school, first at a junior college and then at a state college where he got a degree in Government. She went right to work after high school, as a receptionist. To make ends meet while he was in high school and, then, in college, Leonard worked in a hardware store. When he graduated college, he went right into the police academy, got his badge and went to work as a patrolman. He drove a cruiser for five years, dealing with accidents, speeders, drunks, random burglaries, and assorted human failings. As soon as he was eligible, he studied to become a detective. By the time he made detective, he and Linda had two kids and she was beginning to make a little money as a real estate agent. Things were good. After being ten years on the force, Leonard made detective-sergeant. He was also gaining a lot of respect as a very effective investigator. And an excellent interrogator. If you asked him why he was so good at it, he’d say, “Who knows? I just do the job.” And then, he’d give his secret away: “What do you think? What would make a big oaf like me with half a brain any good at this business?” And then, he’d just listen.  And when you say something, he seems intensely interested and eager to hear more. More times than he can count, Leonard will patiently listen to a suspect until he’s got enough to bring charges without the suspect even knowing how it happened. Once he made sergeant, Leonard never wanted another promotion. Making captain would mean being an administrator. Not his thing. So, he settled into a job he loved and figured that’s where he’d be until retirement. He’d come home most nights in time to see the news and have a couple of pops, have dinner, and doze off watching sports or some movie on TV. All of which left Laura a little bored. It was fine when the kids were young but not so fine now the oldest, a girl, was starting law school and their little boy was in the Coast Guard. It helped that her days were busy. Her real estate career had blossomed beyond her wildest dreams. And she was meeting people she could never have imagined meeting, especially since she got involved with a residential design firm. That’s where she met Ricky, the brother of one of the women she worked with. It was one of those things that people fall into when they let themselves. They had almost nothing in common – she, a cop’s wife with limited education; he, a divorced architect and single parent with degrees in Art History from a big-name university and a graduate degree in Architecture from a school in Italy. Both of them knew that this was a bad idea. But there wasn’t a lot of hesitation or soul-searching for either of them. So, one minute they were exchanging pleasantries in a parking lot. And the next minute they were headed for a hotel room. And when the door to that hotel room door closed behind them, they couldn’t take their hands off one another. This was going on more or less constantly for about six months without Leonard having a clue. Laura figured that Leonard must know. After all, he’s a detective. And a good one. Despite the attraction she felt for Ricky, she loved and admired Leonard. And so, as the romance went on and deepened, she started feeling more and more guilty. One evening, she couldn’t stand it anymore and confessed. It was the same way a lot of people confessed to Leonard. She talked. He never said a word until she finished. When she was done, he said he wasn’t surprised. He explained that while he’d suspected nothing specific, he had noticed how cheery she seemed recently. It wasn’t like her. And then, he said, he understood and he forgave her. He loved her. And so, that was that. She and Ricky tapered off. Leonard tried to pay a lot more attention at home. He retired two years later, after which he and Laura decided to divorce. It was time.