Extracurricular Activities - By Maggie Barbieri

Chapter 1

I have two best friends; one is a nymphomaniac and the other is a priest.

And then there’s Ray.

Ray’s my ex-husband and what I call a “fornicator extraordinaire.” Not that I had any firsthand knowledge of his prowess; our sex life had consisted of a weekly roll in the hay that usually took place between the end of whatever show was on and that local news program that begins with a solemn “It’s ten o’clock. Do you know where your children are?” But from the women who flocked to Ray like bees to honey, it was obvious that he held some kind of sway over the opposite sex. I had either come late to the party or didn’t expect much from married sex. Either way, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out how many affairs he had had during our marriage.

That would be four. Two with people unknown to me, one with our neighbor, and one with one of my students. Ray has, I guess what you would call in today’s psychobabble, an issue with “boundaries.”

But try as I might, I had failed to cut him out of my life. His lack of boundaries made him think it acceptable to come to my house whenever he felt like it, dropping by any time he wanted, and acting as if we were amicably divorced. He still had a key and he used it whenever he wanted. I guess I didn’t send off the vibe that I wanted to cut his testicles off every time I saw him.

Ray and I both teach at the same small Catholic university; Ray is the head of the Biology Department and I’m an English professor. We see each other more than we should, which is why I can’t figure out why he still drops by my house “just to see how you’re doing.” I’m fine! I want to scream. Leave me alone! But after having attended Catholic school myself for sixteen years, including St. Thomas, where I teach, I am unfailingly polite. I always greet him with a smile and, sometimes, a hug. And hence, because he is the least self-aware person I’ve ever met, and clearly doesn’t know how much I detest him, he thinks we’re solid. All has been forgiven.

I’ve spent more than one sleepless night wondering just why we married, but suffice it to say that Ray is extremely handsome and really charming. But really, my dying mother made me promise that I wouldn’t become an old maid. Ladies and gentlemen: Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Stark!

It had been a long day at school. The president of the college had been demanding that a review committee be formed to reassess the English Department’s curriculum; apparently, a group of students was demanding more diverse courses that took into account the changing face of the school. I had been handpicked by my boss, Sister Mary McLaughlin, to collect data from my colleagues. It was a nightmare; trying to get information from each of my colleagues, many more senior than myself at the school and many of them nuns, about what they were teaching was akin to getting the blueprints to the Pentagon. They were resentful, prickly, resistant, and clearly technophobes, because while most every other instructor at the school had a Web site with syllabi for each course they taught, the old nuns refused. Hard copy only. That complicated my task considerably. Some had been teaching close to thirty years and had been left alone during that time; asking for an accounting of their work was not something that they looked at kindly. I wasn’t getting paid to do it either, which, given the St. Thomas history of low pay and long hours, wasn’t surprising. So when Sister Calista, who taught American literature, practically spat at me when I asked for her syllabus, I almost gave up. Hey, Calista means “most beautiful one,” I wanted to remind her as she shut her office door on my foot, not “she who can hock a loogie.” And just because you’re old and celibate doesn’t give you the right to act however you want, lady. I’m of un certain âge and celibate (not by choice, of course) and still manage to get along in polite society.

It was martini time. My freezer contained two things—one, a bottle of Ketel One with a thick layer of frost on it, and two, a box of Klondike bars. Tonight’s appetizer would be a big glass of Ketel One