The first time it happened, it was not a trend. Rodney Pearsall saw Henrietta Blevins one day as she was mowing the lawn wearing the shortest little shorts you ever did see. Before long they were seeing each other on the sly.
The second time it happened, it was still not a trend. On the next street lived Bertram Balzac, a supposedly happily married man. Before long, rumors were flying that Bertram had been seen in a local bar sitting extremely close to a much younger woman.
It was becoming a trend, and the women in Sadie Blunt’s book club had started to talk.
“Did you hear about Rodney Pearsall? He’s having an affair.”
“What a total jerk. He has a lovely wife and two lovely children.”
“Maybe that’s why Rodney is having an affair.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah, maybe he’s bored. His life is too perfect.”
“And then there’s that Bertram Balzac. “What’s wrong with these guys?” asked Gladys.
“Wait. There’s at least one more guy who’s fooling around,” interrupted Betsy.
“The manager of the hardware store, what’s his name, Jeremiah Mallet. Perfect name for a guy who works in a hardware store.”
“Please,” said Sadie, “let’s get to the book at hand. We’re supposed to be discussing Why Men Cheat on Their Wives by Justin Jay Dangerfield.”
Betsy groaned. “Why are we reading this book? Oh, wait. I know. Because women in this group just mentioned the names of three men who are cheating on their wives or who are at least fooling around a bit. But when you picked this book, Sadie, did you know about these guys?”
“No, not really. Just got lucky, I guess. OK, that’s not funny. Well, let me just say that this book has been on the best seller list over at Basil’s Books, and that intrigued me. I’m not sure if it’s on any national best seller lists, but maybe it is.”
“I thought everyone in Ashleyville was well-behaved and faithful and moral.”
“No, Betsy, that’s too much to expect. You just always look on the bright side, and you have a great husband and wonderful children, so you think everyone’s life is like that.”
“You make me sound naive and innocent, like some sort of Pollyanna.”
“Well, you are, and that’s not bad.”
“Well, that’s not how I want to be remembered.”
“What are you thinking of doing, robbing a bank?”
Betsy sat in her chair, holding the book about cheating husbands. Her fingers tightened around the book’s cover. She looked at the members of the book club. “No, I am seeking vengeance!”
“Has someone wronged you?”
“No, Gladys, but people I know have been wronged, the wives of those three men, and who knows which man in this town will be the next jerk? It could be my husband, or yours, Gladys. And the rest of you, Mary Ann, Justina, and Claudia, how do you know you’re immune from this plague?”
Everyone looked uncomfortable. No one spoke for at least three minutes, three very long minutes. Then Claudia cleared her throat. “Well, Betsy, how would you go about seeking vengeance, as you put it?”
Justina put up two hands. “I know what we should call ourselves: The Vigilante Women!”
The rest were silent. Then it was Mary Ann’s turn. “And just what would The Vigilante Women do to get their vengeance?”
More silence ensued. “Betsy, it was your idea in the first place. What would the vigilantes do? Put signs in lawns? Toilet paper in trees? Ads in the newspaper? What?”
“Sadie, it has to be a direct act, a punishing act, an act that these men won’t forget.”
“I can’t imagine. Well, I can imagine, but I dare not say it out loud.” The rest of the book club started to giggle.
Betsy started to blush. “Well, this is what I am thinking. We would accost the guilty party and beat him up.”
“I think that would be illegal. What do the rest of you think?”
They all nodded.
“But it’s not illegal to cheat on your wife?”
“Right. That is definitely not illegal. It’s immoral, and it’s selfish, but it’s not illegal.”
“OK. Let me do some further thinking on the subject. But maybe we should discuss the book first and then later, while we have our dessert, we could think of something.”
The discussion was lively and bitter, just the right tone for vigilante women. Then Sadie brought out the coffee and tea and a beautiful lemon cream pie. And that is when Betsy felt inspired.
“That’s it! That’s it! We push a nice, creamy, messy pie in the face of every man who is involved in some sort of dalliance. How does that sound?”
“Who’s paying for the pies?”
“We could take turns paying for pies, but we would all have to show up to make sure the pie was fully pushed into the guy’s face. And one of us would film the event and put it on social media.”
They all pondered the idea.
“I don’t think it’s illegal,” said Sadie.
“It’s not immoral,” said Betsy.
“It’s not fattening,” said Claudia.
“I’m a good photographer,” said Justina.
“And I could bake the gooiest pies ever made,” added Mary Ann.
“It looks like The Vigilante Women are in business,” concluded Gladys.