The Cheater

Mrs. Kuperinsky got more upset the more she watched. She was on the westbound Gladstone train and the good-looking middle aged man in the seat next to her was cheating.  He was trying to hide it, but a cheater could never get past Mrs. Kuperinsky.

He was in a dark expensive business suit, and he was working on the New York Times crossword puzzle in pen. “What arrogance,” thought Mrs. Kuperinsky. ” In pen.”

He continued to fill out the puzzle, but every once and a while would stop. Obviously he was stuck for a word. Then he would take out his iPhone and scroll through it. Then he would go back to the crossword puzzle and begin filling in letters again.

Obviously he was cheating. He was looking up answers on his iPhone whenever he got stuck. Mrs. Kuperinsky hated cheaters. Her husband Charles had been a cheater. But everyone loved Charles Kuperinsky. Good old “CK.”

Like the man on the train CK had  started off by cheating on little things like crossword puzzles. It seemed harmless enough at the time. Then he moved on to little white lies on their  joint tax returns. Overstating  just a little bit how much they donated to charity. Not reporting some side income when he got paid in cash. Then he began cheating with the company car. He was supposed to use it only for business, but after a while  using it every weekend for all their shopping and chores.

It had not bothered Mrs. Kuperinsky.  It never occurred to her the cheating went beyond money. They had a wonderful marriage and  CK was such fun. That was why it came as such a shock to her the day CK announced that he was leaving her for a much younger woman he had been seeing on the side for almost two years.

Ever since then Mrs. Kuperinsky had been hyper-sensitized to  the cheating all around her. She noticed what an epidemic is was and how no one was willing to stop it.  People slipped through the turnstiles going into the subway. Other people would sneak their own empty coffee cups into Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts and then fill up with coffee for free. Old ladies at restaurants filled their purses with sugar packets and dinner rolls. Drivers went through red lights in the city. On the highway 100% of the cars were breaking the law and going over the sped limit.  Everyone stole pencils, pens and paper from the supply room at work. The America she had once known was gone. No one cared about the rules anymore. No one except Mrs. Kuperinsky.

She took solace in the fact that she was making a difference by punishing one cheater at a time. She reached into her purse and pulled out a little gold colored box. “Excuse me”, she said to the man next to her. “Would you like this box of chocolates my grandchildren gave me? I didn’t have the heart to tell them I am diabetic, and it seems such a shame to just throw it away.”

The man didn’t really want to accept it, but it seemed easier to take the gift than to get into an argument. The old woman was almost forcing the box into his hands so he accepted it and put it into his suit pocket.

The train stopped at Lyons and the man got off. Mrs. Kuperinsky looked out the window and saw him get into a car next to an amazingly good looking woman with dark hair at least 30 years younger than him.   “Look at that,” Mrs. Kuperinsky thought, “he has his mistress pick him up at the train station in full view of everyone. No shame at all.” Mrs. Kuperinsky glared at him through the window as the train pulled out of the station.

Mr. Meyer got into the car with the young woman and she said, “Who is that old lady giving us the evil eye from the train Daddy?”

“I don’ t really know Amy. She just sort of started talking to me on the train and then gave me a box of chocolates for no reason.” He pulled out the box ans showed it to Amy. “Every time I took out my iPhone to check my e-mail she gave me a weird look.”

“Are you crazy Daddy? You took food from some nut case on the train? Besides, you know the doctors said chocolate is bad for your blood pressure.” Before he could object, Amy grabbed the chocolates, got out of the car and threw them into the garbage can by the train station.

“How is Mom doing?” asked Mr. Meyer.

“Not good Dad. The chemo has taken away a lot more of her hair than last week, and she is very thin and white as a ghost. Try not to look too shocked when you see her.”

Mr. Meyer and his daughter drove off to visit Mrs. Meyer in the Sloan Kettering cancer treatment center in Basking Ridge.

That night a hungry raccoon found the box of chocolates while rummaging through the garbage. He was dead  ten minutes after eating them, and the poison which Mrs. Kuperinsky had carefully injected into each candy.

As the raccoon died, Mrs. Kuperinsky was  in New York City. She had taken the return train back to New York.   She was now  sitting in Dunkin Donuts next to a young man who had brazenly come in with his own Styrofoam cup. He filled it free fromm the coffee bar, and the people working at Dunkin Doughnuts were too busy to notice.

Mrs. Kuperinsky asked the young man if he would  like some nice chocolates to go along with his coffee.

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