Everyone's Reading Bastard

Only a storyteller like Hornby—a virtuoso at love gone wrong—could deliver such a rollicking tale of an average guy trying to survive an ex’s wrath gone viral.

  • Fiction
  • Byliner Original
  1. Chapter 1

    Elaine and Charlie agreed to divorce each other sometime between 9:30 and 10 a.m. on a Monday morning, in a coffee shop near their children’s school.

    “Well, what on earth did you say to her? In the coffee shop? To make her want to divorce you?” Charlie’s mother asked him later in the week, when he’d finally mustered the courage to tell her.

    “Two points here,” said Charlie. “One, I like how you automatically assume it was something I said. Rather than something she said. And two, divorces don’t just come out of the blue. Like, like a sniper’s bullet. You can’t just be walking along, all happy, la-di-da, and then bang! Ow! Divorce! … Things have been bad for a long time.”

    A long, long time. Years. When the fatal conversation took place, he was already living out of the family home, in a rented flat that was big enough for the children to stay in at weekends, if it were ever to come to that; at the moment, they were hobbling through Saturday and Sunday together, and Charlie spent the night in the spare bedroom. (When Elaine and Charlie eventually sat the kids down and told them that the marriage was over, Emily, aged nine, said only, “Der.”) Charlie and Elaine had been pretending—to themselves, to the kids—that this might not be a permanent state of affairs, that there was a way back from here if they chose to take it, but of course there wasn’t, not really. Even so, there was an element of shock, despite what he’d said to his mother. The weekend had been like other weekends ...

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