Fiction | Tunneling

A Short Story

It began, Eleanor would remember later, when she caught him in the basement, masturbating—or so she thought, anyway, for a strange and topsy-turvy moment.

She’d come home from work an hour early, at 4 p.m., to an empty kitchen and the faint hiss from below that meant he was in the basement with his trains. Halfway down the stairs she saw him, in the swivel chair by the table, the train making its whizzing circuit of mountain and village. He had his back to her; he was hunched over, pumping his hand in front of his trousers. Turning, she hurried back up to the kitchen, still holding the brownie she’d brought from the deli. The situation had an Ann Landers–like quality. My husband is a fifty-eight-year-old high school history teacher, and the other day I caught him... It opened up distressing new horizons. If toy trains could be erotic, Eleanor wondered, what else? Garden hoses? Shopping carts?

A moment later he came up. His pants were buttoned, belt buckled, and his shirt neatly tucked in.

“I thought that was you,” he said. “What is it? You look like you saw a ghost.”

“Frank,” she said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to...interrupt. Here, this was for you.” She placed the brownie on the table, and only then did she see the label—Sinful Fudge.

“Interrupt what? What’s wrong?”


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About the Author

Rand Richards Cooper is Commonweal's contributing editor.