Gavin and Chuck Shop for a Christmas Tree



 This is not a true cut. Much of this material made it into the rewrite of Chapter-20, but the new version is much tighter.


“Danny sends his eternal thanks to you for coming with me and giving him a break,” Gavin said, as Chuck climbed into his SUV. “Of course, you understand that if Rita doesn’t like the tree, it’s all your fault.”

“What else is new?” Chuck said, buckling his seat belt. “Where are we headed?”

“There’s a farm up in Lincoln County we always buy from.” Traffic moved at a brisk clip through the center of town, and thinned out once Gavin got to the two-lane county road. “How’s Bobbi?”

“She went back to work this week, but there’s still something hanging over her. When I went to tell her about the lawsuit, I got no reaction out of her at all. You have any ideas what the problem could be?”


“Me? But I fixed this.”

“Not yet, you haven’t. I made you mad that day on the golf course when I suggested there was more to your affair than just sex. Has Bobbi asked you why you cheated?”

Her agonized words echoed in his head. Until you understand what you were looking for, what kind of connection you made with that woman, I can’t trust you. “Yeah, we’ve discussed it,” Chuck said.

“I know you’re frustrated, and you feel like she’s being difficult, but there’s a method in what she’s doing.”

“Then enlighten me.”

“Trust is the key issue here, right?” Gavin glanced at him, and waited for a nod. “Even if she forgives you, and you reconcile, Bobbi will not go back to the way things were before…”

“I understand that. I’ve changed…”

“You have. I’m not denying that. I think Bobbi wants you to spell out what you wanted from Tracy so she knows you came up with it on your own. She won’t believe you if she thinks you’re parroting somebody else’s idea.”

“But I don’t have the answer, so we’re stuck for who knows how long.”

“Not necessarily. What’s Phil doing with you?”

“Making me list everything we’ve ever argued about to see if there’s a pattern.”


“It’s mostly stupid stuff.”

“What was the most recent thing? Before the affair?”

“The BMW.”

“Bobbi made you buy it?”

“Funny. She hated everything about that car from the minute we pulled on the lot.”

“That’s significant. Why?”

“We were on our way to a restaurant for her birthday.”

“A little inconsiderate.”

“Yeah…” Chuck stared out the window, trying to recall where they ate dinner that night.

“Wait,” Gavin interrupted. “You bought that car in March. When did Tracy start at the firm?”

“February. Why?”

“You bought that car to impress that woman, didn’t you?” Gavin squinted at Chuck over the rim of his glasses, and he used the tone of voice reserved for the seventh graders who ended up in his office.

Chuck raised a hand to protest, but he knew better. Gavin nailed him. “Bobbi said it sent all the wrong signals. I convinced myself she meant the cost.” By the time he bought the BMW, he’d decided Tracy’s opinion of him was more important than his wife’s. The affair had already begun.

Gavin parked in front of a shed that served as the farm’s office. “You gotta face it, before you can fix it.”

“I’m pathetic.”

“Yeah, you are, but we still love you.” Chuck shook his head. “C’mon. At least take a break from beating yourself up.”