Excerpt from THE MAZE

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Barney wanted to try and talk to Maisie before he left, see how she was.  But Jenny said she was gone.  He never saw that steely look in Jenny’s eyes before.  It chilled him.  He felt his world was narrowing in on him.  He felt alone.  He wanted a drink, called his sponsor, talked it through, stayed strong, flew to Denver, Told Madalyn and Fiona not to pick him up.  He had to lease a car anyway.  Fiona was abrupt on the phone.  He didn’t pursue the subject.  Just made his way woodenly to the airport and to Madalyn’s.  She hugged him when she saw him and pressed her face into his neck, but she felt the change.  The voltage, the need, whatever it was, it was gone.  “You’re gonna need some time.  It’s okay, Barney.  I understand.”

“Do you, Mad?  Cuz I don’t.  I should feel relief.  The order for dissolution is already signed by both of us and notarized and ready to be presented to the court.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful.  I was worried.”

“Worried? That she’d fight it?  That she’d try to save her marriage?  No, Mad.  She didn’t.  She said it’s fine.  Whatever makes me happy.  No worries.  She’s strong.  No worries.  She’ll be fine.”“She will.  We will.  She’s so young.  You weren’t together that long.  .  .”“That long?  We were together.  Now we’re not.  Everything is fine.  I’m free.  I can be with you now.  I told her I had to be with you now.


“But what?”

“What is going unsaid here?  This should be our moment.  But there’s an elephant in the room.  Isn’t there?”

“I’m gonna stay at Fiona’s tonight.  I need to rest.  I need a space.”

“You need to be with me now.  That’s why you did this.  For us.”

“For us?  I’m going to Fiona’s.”


Fiona could only say to him, “I can’t talk about it, dad.  You have to deal with this on your own.  I love you and I try so hard to understand you, to at least see your point of view.  But I love Maisie and you guys were perfect.  Perfectly in tune.  I don’t see this thing with Madalyn at all.  And I knew her long before you met her.  How could it happen?  I can’t talk about it, dad.” She turned her back on him. 

 He was going to explain it was just the usual waking, half-drunk, to the awareness that his dick was in Madalyn’s mouth, but decided it wasn’t the kind of story you tell your daughter.  And Madalyn pushing the drinks on him had never before registered as being part of a plan of attack.  He was a guy.  It was a bj.  He was drunk.  Now what?

In the middle of the night, Fiona woke and saw the light in the family room.  Barney was staring at a silent television screen, an infomercial about a cookware set.  “Dad, you have to rest.”

“Please listen, Fiona.  Please.  I felt revulsion when she touched me.  What did I do?  Why did I do it?  I felt revulsion at my skin touching hers.  What have I done?”

“Dad.  Stay with her for a few days.  Take it slow.  It’s a big change.  You didn’t expect this to be easy did you?”

“It was easy.  Maisie said she wants me to do what’s right for me.  Like she wants me to be with Madalyn?  Why would she want that?”

“That’s not what she said, dad.  She said she wants you to do what’s right for you.”

“But we were talking about me being with Madalyn.  Maybe Maisie knows better, knows I should be with Mad, knows she’s too young for me.  She started to seem so immature compared to Mad.  Like Maddie was on a path and knew what to do and where she was going.  And Maisie just floats along, letting stuff happen.”

“Yeah.  Right.  Stuff just floats by Maisie.  She just sits there.  Writes two more books, raises three kids, keeps a perfect house, cooks from  scratch, looks adorable, loves you to death, puts up with you.  Just floating.  And, I know you make a good living, so I won’t even go there, but, really, dad?  Supporting her?  How does that work?  Emotionally?  And you in the sack with the next bimbo in line?”

“That’s hitting way low, Fiona.  That’s not how it was.  And I know now I need to be with someone who is mature enough to see that you have to take care of the future, have goals.  You can’t just…”  His nose was getting all clogged up with backed up tears.

“Dad.  Rest.  Take time.  Wait ‘til the dust settles.  And I don’t want to give out advice, but you are not in a good place.  You aren’t thinking of jumping into another marriage, are you?”

“The order of dissolution isn’t a divorce.  After it’s filed  the judge still has to issue the decree.”

“I know that, dad.”

“I told them to hold off filing and the JAG is my buddy.  But I’m just making excuses.  I’m so confused.”

“You have to spend time with Madalyn and sort out your feelings.  Maisie and the kids gone is a major upheaval for you.  Don’t rush.”

“I’m gonna talk to that doc friend of yours tomorrow.  Thanks, FiFi.  I think I can sleep now.  You don’t mind if I sack out here a couple of hours do you?”

“Couple of hours.  Couple of days.  Just take some time here.  Please?”

“Okay.  Yeah.  Okay.  Fuck.  It was like revulsion.  It made me think of that gecko.  I thought we had good chemistry.  I hope it was just a reaction.”

Walking back to her room Fiona thought, “Yeah, dad.  A  reaction.  Get a clue.  Pure carbohydrate chemistry, dad.  Booze and you know it.”

He talked to the doctor the next day and had dinner with Madalyn.  She was glowing.  She knew when they made love again he would remember why he was here.  He’d know they were supposed to be together.  But she wondered why he wouldn’t drink the martini, would only ask for more water.  They went back to her place and she moved toward him.  She teased at his shirt buttons, bit at his lips, started to unbutton her blouse.  He woodenly tried to get into it, remembered they’d really been hot for each other.  Knew it would kick in.  She was in great shape for her age.  Really good boob job.  Gorgeous silvery gray lingerie.  Maisie wore underpants, not lingerie.  This was what they called lingerie.  His mind wandered off.  “That grey tank top she always wore to bed with the little frayed bow.  .  .”

Madalyn touched him, looking for his response.  Drew her hand back in shock.  She was having no effect on him.  “It’s okay, Barney.  I know you need time.”  She went into the bedroom and took a couple of Ambien.  In the morning he was asleep on the couch, snoring, still dressed, rumpled, looking kind of awful, actually.

“I have to go talk to that doc again.  I gotta get in the shower.”  She followed him in and tried to make love to him.  He said, “I’m sorry, Mad.  I don’t  know what’s going on.  The doc will help me straighten this out.”  But Madalyn was pretty sure she already knew what was going on with Barney.


Half way through the second hour with Barney, the doc laid it all out for him.  “You might be impotent because of the guilt or because it’s going too fast.  You expected to work through things with Maisie and process it all as you moved from one relationship to the other.  But you haven’t had the time to do that.  Maisie didn’t cooperate.  She wouldn’t give you time to process it.”

“But I was in the new relationship.  Maisie was right.  Our relationship was gone or I wouldn’t have gotten into this new one, fallen in love with Maddie.’

“Listen to yourself, Barney.  You’re giving yourself permission because Maisie said it’s okay.  You used the word ‘revulsion’.  That’s very telling.”

“Isn’t it normal to grieve for the old relationship? The loss of my family?”

“Sure it is, Barney.  Even the impotence.  Perfectly normal.  Text book.  You could hang around and see if your pecker responds.  I could write you a scrip for Viagra.  You can go through the motions.  Anyone can.  But revulsion? Thinking a couple of drinks would make that go away?”

“Yeah.  I was thinking that, but I know I can’t have that first drink.  Especially when things are so unsettled.  I’m in transition.  I have to process it.  I’m thinking alcohol was a mechanism in this.  I know I can’t blame it on that, but I’ve been very strong up until now.”

“You don’t want to think Madalyn plied you with drinks to bring down your defenses.  You want me to say you have to be accountable for your own actions.  You already know that and I’m not going to say it.  I’ve met you socially and professionally through Fiona—seen you with Maisie, counseled you, partied with you, heard stories from Fee about your whole family.  Once again, there is that conflict of the personal and the professional.  You’re here for my professional opinion today so I’ll try not to let this get personal.  But I feel it’s my obligation to say Madalyn has a reputation in this town and we all watched in shock that she was doing it to you.  If you are sure you love her and want to be with her—well, that’s a possibility we must consider.  But I think your affair with Madalyn was a symptom.  You don’t sound like you’re in love with her.  You sound like you’re trying to sell me on it, Barney.  This isn’t a ‘you and Madalyn’ problem.  It’s a continuation of the ‘you and Maisie’ problem.  You’re still afraid to let little Maisie hold your balls in her hands.  You have to prove to yourself and to her that you and nobody else has control over your manhood.  It’s classic Jung.  It’s cliche’  mid-life crisis.  I’ve never before been pissed off at a patient.  You’re what? Forty eight?  Grow the fuck up, Barney.  Give the intimacy to the person you love and need.  Throw away the fear.  You don’t need to have fear.  You need to trust the one you love with your feelings.

“You’re not talking about Madalyn.  You’re talking about Maisie.”

“Wow, Barney.  You didn’t even need to put that in question form  Get the fuck out of my office.  I have a loaded gun in my desk.”




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