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Deborah Gaines Headshot

Revenge is Wet

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I'm not a (terribly) vindictive person, but some opportunities are too good to resist. Which is why I volunteered my ex-husband for the dunk tank at the school fair.

It started with an email addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Married Name. Five years after the divorce, the school continues to call me Mrs. N, in spite of the fact that my legal name was never Mrs. N. The email began "Happy Spring, Mrs. N!" and continued, "We need volunteers! Who's up for the dunk tank?"

My usual stab of annoyance gave way to a surge of glee as I hit "reply."

"I will be working late that evening," I wrote. "However, Mr. N would love to join you." I thoughtfully included his email and cell phone number. Then I did all the things the divorce books recommend -- count to ten, take a deep breath and release your hostility on the exhale -- chortled "Screw it," and sent the email anyway.

Two days later, my 11-year-old son called me at work. "Dad volunteered for the dunk tank! I saw the list on the gym wall!"

"Stupendous," I said. "You should call and congratulate him."

Five minutes later, I received a text. "WTF? Why can't you do it?"

"It's your turn," I texted back. I realized that I felt no remorse. I thought of every cupcake, Halloween costume, Sponge Bob bandaid, homework assist, carpool and camp clothing label I'd provided over the past five years. There weren't enough dunk tanks in the world to even that score.

In the end, my ex went along with the joke. He isn't long on sense of humor, but he didn't want to disappoint the kid.

The day of the fair was sunny but unseasonably cold. He climbed onto the platform to hoots and cheers, wincing as the frigid water slopped around his ankles. For the first time in a long while, I remembered that my ex was actually, in many ways, a decent guy.

As the DJ pumped up the volume, he waved to the crowd. The balls began to fly. To both our surprise, he was having a wonderful time.

Our son whooped as a third grader scored the first hit. At six-five and 225, his dad displaced a lot of water. "Best splash ever!" someone shrieked as he plummeted into the tank.

Lurking off to the side, I caught the moment on video. As my ex surfaced, he gave me a thumbs up, and I realized that maybe, finally, we had both moved on.

Then I got in line.