Horizon Beach – June 8, 2005  (2)
Nevertheless, Mark felt very guilty every time. Not because of the tenth commandment — Mark was an atheist — but because he felt he was betraying the woman he loved. But he couldn’t help it: when his eyes were attracted by promising lips, a plunging neckline, or even a swaying walk, he felt a deep warmth fill his stomach. Then, because he was shy, because he was a faithful husband, he would avoid any close connection with the creature he had just been desiring. Yet he knew that later he would be unable to avoid recalling the recent encounter and imagining multiple love scenes with a woman who would not be Helen. Mark would always experience a deep feeling of guilt, but he knew it would be useless to swear that he would not be snared again: sooner or later another chance encounter would plunge him into another “disgrace”.
When he was younger, Mark had come to consider himself depraved, unable to resist his drives and therefore totally responsible for his lustful dreams. But when he was in his forties, and time had taken away most of his grandparents, he suddenly discovered an interest in the history of his ancestors. And among the things he learned, he thought he had found the source of his shortcomings. In fact, he discovered that some of his male ancestors, grandfathers and great-grandfathers, had been womanizers.
In particular, the grandfather he had so admired for his free spirit was also a philanderer who had repeatedly caused his wife to suffer — at a time when divorce was not as common as now. Mark con-cluded that he had probably inherited some undesirable aspects of his male ancestors. But paradoxically, he was relieved: just as he considered the concept of original sin absurd, Mark felt no responsibility for the genes he bore.
And with regard to his own conduct, Mark was actually satisfied: if his ancestors had committed numerous infidelities, for his part he had remained true to one woman, whom he still loved. He was able to resist the drives aroused by his genes, the main consequence of these drives being only a great timidity in the presence of women, especially when they were attractive.
That week, Helen had planned a brief visit to her sister Pamela, who was living in San Francisco. On Monday morning, Mark took her to John Wayne Airport before driving back to open the bookshop that he would have to run alone for three days until Helen returned. He had just arrived at the store and was about to open the door when Helen called him on his cell phone:
“Mark, I'm still at the gate waiting for boarding and I'm calling because I forgot to remind you: today is the day when Karen is supposed to bring her soaps.”
“Oh, yes, I hadn’t even thought about it again. Should we give her the usual conditions?”
“Yes, ask her about the costumer price. Then you can enter that in our inventory with a forty percent commission for us... I’ll have to hang up now: they’ve started boarding.”
So we’ll also be selling bath soap!” This was the thought behind the smile that appeared on Mark’s face.
To sustain sales at Books For Everyone, their bookshop, Helen and Mark had had to start diversifying a long time ago. The store had gradually become a collection of bric-a-brac, where you could buy stationery, greeting cards, candy, toys, decorative items, or even locally manufactured cosmetics. And that day Karen Greenstone was going to add her scented soaps to the assortment of items offered for sale.