Elizabeth and I climbed the stairs to my apartment but upon reaching the top, it was pretty evident that our hormones had beaten us there. If you can believe it, they were sitting around playing a few hands of cards and downing Gin and tonics, waiting around my living room for us to show up.
‘Where the hell have you guys been?” our hormones asked indignantly. “We’ve been waiting around all night for the two of you! It’s about time!’ they said glancing back and forth between themselves and looking impatiently at their tiny hormonal watches.
And since we’d kept the company waiting, we did the only polite thing we could have done and skipped the drinks and conversation altogether. We didn’t even make it more than a few steps into the living room before the rain-drenched clothing started to fly. A pair of pants landed on the TV, a shirt skidded against the living room wall with a wet ‘thud,’ and my cat attacked and pounced on shoes, socks and balled-up clothing as they rolled back down the stairs or flew into the kitchen.
We started in the living room, and then after a few hurried suggestions, things moved to the shower. Awhile later the shower gave way to towels and the bedroom floor, and then finally the futon.
Things couldn’t have been any more perfect. None of the skeletons dropped in for a nightcap. I guess they were busy elsewhere terrorizing other poor guys for the night. And regardless of my initial worries, all of the whisky and beer I’d drank earlier in the night gave me a break and hung out in my head and stomach instead of messing things up elsewhere.
You know, some people are good at tennis, or golf or volleyball or gambling and I suppose that’s cool and all. But isn’t it wonderful when you run across that occasional person who’s really, really good at sex? It spoils you. Sometimes it even has the tendency to ruin your memories of past encounters. Because whatever expectations you’ve been carrying around about what defines good sex, it all gets thrown out the window like some sort of lightening rod religious conversion. That one night back in October you thought was so incredible and earth shattering? Well… maybe not. It was ‘ok’ I guess.
You have to wonder where this person has been all your life. You have to wonder where they were that one time you stayed home on a Friday night and watched the movie ‘The English Patient’ on cable and then you felt like you wanted to re-enact a few of the scenes afterwards. Wouldn’t it have been great if you could have rang them up? ‘Yeah, I don’t really know you or anything. But do you have the Encore channel on cable? Oh yeah? You didn’t happen to just watch The English… You did? So did… What was that? You’ll be over in five minutes? Directions to my house? Great! see in you in a bit.’ I come back from the bathroom with a warm washcloth and she’s still there on her stomach, lying perfectly still on top of the covers.
“Ohhhh, that feels really good,” she says as rub a washcloth down a thigh. “And you used warm water, you don’t miss a trick.”
“You shouldn’t flatter me too much. I miss plenty of tricks but with stuff like this I think the whole ‘do unto others’ thing comes into play. Because you know, I’d seriously have to throw someone out of the bed if they hit me with some cold dishcloth when I was laying here all warm and fuzzy.”
“C’mere,” she says, pulling me down onto the futon beside her and positioning my arms around her.
“You comfortable?” she asks.
“You’d be proud of me,” she says, rubbing her hand back and forth across the stubble on my face. “I was bored the other night and I was gonna go up to Blockbuster and rent something but I ended up raiding my parents movie collection instead.”
“Oh yeah? So’d you watch ‘The Graduate’?”
“No, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
“Hey, good for you. That’s another one of my favorites. I was on this big Truman Capote kick last summer and I think I must have watched that damn thing like three times in one month.” I start to pull a few covers over the top of us. “Have you cooled downed yet? You ready for some covers?”
She nods. “Wasn’t he a serial killer or something?” she asks.
I have to laugh. “No, he was a writer. Now I don’t think anyone would disagree that he was one hell of a weird guy but I don’t think he murdered anyone. He wrote ‘Tiffany’s’ and he also wrote a book called, “In Cold Blood” that was based on the true story of some pretty gruesome murders. That’s probably what you’re thinking of.”
“Oh,” she says, rolling over to put her face against my neck.
“So what’d you think of the movie?” I ask.
“I liked it. I’m always hearing that song on the radio about it so I figured I should see what all the noise was all about. It was pretty good for an old ‘fogey-stogie’ movie. I didn’t understand the girl though. I thought she was married to the mob guy she was visiting in prison and then that farmer guy shows up. What was her name again?”
“That’s kind of an corny, movie star sounding name don’t you think?” she says, twirling her toes around beneath the covers. She runs a foot down the length of my calf.
“That was the whole point. She was a high society imposter. It’s kind of spelled out that she made the name up herself,” I point out.
“An imposter? I didn’t think so. She knew mobsters and rich guys and all those people she invited to her party.”
“Yeah, she knew all of them because she was a prostitute.”
“What?!” She raises up on an elbow. “How can you say that?”
She watched the whole movie and managed to skirt the main theme. How do I break this to her? “Uhhhh, well, for starters. The opening scene? The one where she’s having breakfast in front of Tiffany’s in her evening gown? She’d just gotten off work. She doesn’t have a real job. She sleeps all day and she’s out on dates every night. Uh… guys give her fifties for the powder room. And then there’s that scene where she sneaks out of the window of her apartment, climbs the fire escape and into bed with George Peppard because one of her dates got unruly?”
“Who’s George Peppard?”
“The actor who played Paul Varjak, the writer who lived upstairs,” I say.
“Oh yeah! Didn’t he have it good with his mom stopping by all the time to buy him suits and give him money. I have a brother like that. He doesn’t even have a job. He just lives off my parents.”
I have to get her off this subject before I end up having to point out just how much of this movie she’s misunderstood. It’s not that big of a deal, she made the effort and I guess there’s something to be said for that.
“So what’d you end up doing tonight?”
“I went over to my friend Jennifer’s and we made some Bloody Mary’s and watched a few episodes of Melrose Place she had taped. And then her roommate came home and she’s kind of a bitch, so we fled the apartment and went down to the Red Sea in the Loop and had a few drinks.”
“So do you hang out at the Red Sea a lot? Is that the kind of bar I’d be likely to find a girl like you in?”
She thinks about it for a second. “Yeah, we hang out at the Red Sea sometimes because it’s so close to Jennifer’s. But I guess most of the time we hang out at Shooter’s Sports Palace. And sometimes we hit Harry’s up near Westport.”
I’m not picky about bars. I’m really not. Nor am I the sort of person who would necessarily judge a person by the bar they hang out at. You have a bar you really like? Sure, I’ll show up and have a few beers with you. I’m pretty easy going about locale as long as they’re serving some decent brands of beer. But my girl here? She just named two places I wouldn’t be caught dead.
And not only would I not go to either of these places, but I also fancy myself the sort of person who doesn’t know anyone who would either. I’ve been to both of those bars at one point or another, you know, because someone at work was quitting and they had a happy hour for them there or whatever. And they suck. They flat out suck. I’m not kidding you.
They’re sports bars and consequently they have TV’s all over the place; even in the bathrooms so you don’t miss out on that crucial play while you’re taking a piss. And another weird thing: sexual harassment is not only acceptable – it’s openly encouraged. The waitresses have to dress in tiny micro-shorts and skimpy tops and wear bandoleers of pink and purple party shots. And the intelligence factor of the regular crowd lends itself pretty well to homophobia, dick jokes, and fights about every half an hour.
“You ever go there?” she asks. I think I may have drifted off for a second there.
“No, not really.”
“So where do you hang out?” she asks.
“Well, I guess you could call me a regular at ‘Winnies’ in Maplewood. That’s where most of my friends and people I work with hang out. We end up at ‘Upstairs at Eric’s’ quite a bit on weekends. Hmmm, where else? I guess we favor ‘Weber’s Front Row’ on weeknights sometimes for a few pitchers.”
“I’ve never heard of those places. But I went to that ‘Upstairs’ place looking for you tonight.”
“Oh yeah? What’d you think?”
“It was kind of a weird place. It was really dark and kind of shady. And there was this stray dog running around. I wouldn’t say it was my sort of place.”
But dick jokes, ass-pinching, party shots and televisions in the bathrooms make her feel right at home? I don’t get it.
I had a really delirious sleep and woke up with the distinct impression that every single person I have ever known or met in my life made a cameo appearance in my dreams last night. You know, where you wake up and catch yourself thinking about some kid you knew one summer at camp when you were ten, or an old neighbor you haven’t talked to or thought about in over twelve years?
That’s because he was in your dream last night. He played the train conductor on the Orient Express. Huh? What? Orient Express?! What was a train conductor doing in my dream? Why was I on a train in the first place?
And what the hell am I doing shoved all the way over on the left side of my futon? Usually I sleep in the middle. I squint through hungover eyelids at the bright light streaming in through the slits of the venetian blinds. And then finally I remember. Elizabeth… I roll over but find myself alone in bed. I glance up at the alarm clock. 11:55. A church bell is chiming noon somewhere nearby and I can hear a train rustling through the west part of town.
“Elizabeth?” I call into my apartment. “Hello?”
No answer. Just the silence of my apartment and the sounds of a day that has started without me.
Finally Pork Chop comes wandering into the room and jumps up onto the bed. Yes, this is the bachelor life. The woman is gone in the morning, almost like it didn’t happen at all, and the cat comes clawing towards you over the covers because he’s been awake since dawn and he’s hungry and pissed off that you slept so late. And other than the cat, you don’t have to get up for anything – absolutely nothing at all. It’s Saturday.
I grab a hardback off of my headboard and make it through three or four chapters before the phone rings for the first time. I check out the Caller ID.
– STRIEBEL, TIMOTHY –
“Hey man, I hope I’m not interrupting any of the next morning monkey-business or anything,” Tim says.
“No, I’m just laying in bed reading. She pulled a disappearing act on me at some point last night or this morning while I was asleep.”
“Oh yeah? So are you feeling cheap? Used? Like she only wanted one thing out of you?” he asks sarcastically.
“Totally man,” I chuckle. Actually I am slightly disappointed. I happen to like the tousled hair, conversation and shared giddy high of the next morning when a woman will stick around for it.
“So is she really as good looking as my first impression last night? Even drenched and looking like a wet dog she was as cute as hell.”
“Yeah, your first impression was correct.”
“You lucky son of a bitch! So’d you guys do it?” he asks childishly.
“Yeah, we did it.”
“Did you do it on the stairs? Did you do it on the…”
“Look you silly bastard, you’re not getting any details out of me, alright? Go out and buy an issue of Penthouse or something.”
“Did you get to…”
He laughs. “So what’re you up to today?”
“I need to run some errands. Get some laundry done, pay some bills, and make some calls. You know, that sort of boring shit. I’m not sure what’s going on tonight.”
“We’ll scare up something,” he says.
“What, you aren’t doing something with Laura tonight?”
“Nope, the fight continues,” he whispers. “She still hasn’t let me off for not going to baby shower.”
“Ahhh. Is she in the room?”
“Yeah. I’ll let you go. Give me a call later on if you get a chance.”
“Sure. Talk to you later.”
I set the phone down on the nightstand and roll onto my back again. I guess I should get up and join the world of the living. I contemplate it for a full ten minutes before I finally roll out of bed. And in an instant, my cat is at my feet.
I could swear his meow has a belligerent tone to it, ‘Alright you cheap slut, get in the kitchen and pour some food in my bowl, now!’
Where woman are concerned, I don’t get any sympathy from my cat either.
“City please?” the operator asks.
“Uh, Brentwood I think. The number is 555-1326 and the name of the business is Girlfriend-Express. I’ve misplaced their address. Can you give it to me please?” I ask.
“Just a moment,” she says. “Was that Girlfriend-Express with a hyphen between the two words?”
“Yeah. Are there two listings or something?”
“No sir, just a moment please,” she says.
I wait, listening to her type away on her keyboard. “Your business doesn’t seem to have an registered street address. However, we are showing a post office box listed in the registry,” she says with exaggerated politeness.
“Ok, I’ll take that I guess.”
“The address is post office box 12890A, Brentwood Missouri.” I jot the information down on a napkin laying next to the phone.
“12890A? ‘A’ as in apple?”
“That’s correct sir. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
“No, I think that’ll do it. Thanks for your help.”
“Thank you for using Southwestern Bell,” she says.
I’m not beaten yet. I think I’ve already said that I have this friend who works for the Phone Company, right? Stewart. He’s the ace up my sleeve.
I guess I should tell you that just about every guy I’ve ever known in my life named Stewart has been a complete freak in one way or another. Your mileage may have varied, but for me it’s been an absolute truth.
There was Stewart the rich-kid drug dealer that lived downstairs from me when I was living in my first apartment. Then there was Stewart the heavy metal wannabe-Satanist that rode my bus in high school. I seem to remember a kid named Stewart in my homeroom in the third grade that was famous for eating dirt clods, bugs and an occasional frog. And then there’s my friend Stewart the hermit who works for the Phone Company.
(As a side note: if your name happens to be Stewart and you’re absolutely certain that you’re not a complete freak. Then I guess you’re an exception to the rule. My apologies to you pal. Please introduce yourself to me at some point so I can say I’ve met at least one Stewart in my life who is relatively normal.)
Stewart never answers the phone right away. You have to yell at him repeatedly in your message on his answering machine until he’s accepted the fact that you’re not a threat to his reclusive lifestyle.
“Stewart! Pick up. It’s just your friendly neighborhood Craig here.” Pause. “Stewart, god dammit! Pick it up you idiot. Get off the couch, turn off the cable TV and answer the phone. I need to ask an important…”
“Hello?” a groggy voice says through a fit of coughing.
“Yeah, I was taking a nap,” he says.
“Taking a nap? Look, it’s like two in the afternoon! You’re missing out on an awesome day here buddy. It’s in the upper seventies.”
“Yeah, who cares? I’m sure there’ll be plenty more.”
“Hey, I need to ask you for a favor.”
“Man, you still owe me one and now you’re asking for another?” he mutters.
“What do I still owe you for?”
“Oh C’mon, you couldn’t have forgotten… You had that crazy ex-girlfriend who was bugging the shit out of you a few years back. And I rigged your phone line so that if she called you, her call was automatically rerouted to that other guy’s number. What was his name? Jeremy?”
“Yeah. The ex-girlfriend was Beth, and Jeremy was the guy she dated before me. She hated him like nothing else. Believe me, you did me a great favor. After we broke up she was calling me for every single little reason she could think of. I told you about that. It was nearly to the point of harassment. Something had to be done and your little act of phone trickery Stewart, having her calls to me end up ringing her ex-boyfriend Jeremy’s number instead? Yeup. That did the trick. She stopped harassing me. And it’s ironic you should bring her up. I ran into her at a bar last night.”
“Well I hope you guys didn’t make amends or anything man,” Stewart says. “Because let’s just say that little trick I pulled off is now a permanent undocumented feature of your phone line. I got fired at Southwestern Bell a few weeks ago.”
“What? What the hell happened? You’ve been working there for years.”
“They fired me for distributing an unauthorized memorandum to most of the West County office.”
This gets me laughing pretty hard. As soon as he said he’d been fired I just knew there wasn’t going to be a simple story behind it – like he’d failed a drug test or had an unacceptable number of absences. People like Stewart get fired for far more colorful reasons.
“I’m sure you’re pretty sick of telling the story, but what happened?” I chuckle.
“I don’t know why I did it man. I guess I was getting sick of the whole corporate atmosphere. There was this one memo that hadn’t been routed yet. They were planning to have the whole office take ‘Diversity Training’ classes in April. ‘Everyone’s different, we come from a multitude of backgrounds and races and yet it’s possible for us to all work together…’ and all that bullshit. Do they have those kind of classes at your work?”
“So anyway, I rewrote the memo and changed the wording to the effect that we all work in the same office. We all sit in cubical offices that look exactly the same. We all wear shirts, ties and business attire that don’t give off the slightest whiff of diversity.
“So during the course of the three-day ‘Diversity’ classes I urged everyone to make their cubes as different as possible. I told them they were allowed to turn their cubes into bungalows with Tiki lamps, couches and wet bars. And I told them they could dress casual – that Daisy Dukes shorts and tank tops were completely acceptable, and that overall they should all strive to be as different as possible during the classes. I stressed that their interpretation of the word ‘different’ was the whole purpose of the classes. And then I put the memo into mainstream distribution.”
“Heh, Stewart man, what the hell were you thinking?”
“I was thinking I wouldn’t get caught, that’s what I was thinking. But one of my coworkers informed on me and I got called on the rug. And I have to tell you man, they were really pissed! It was all just a harmless joke but they didn’t think so.”
“Well I’m sorry to hear the news. What’re you gonna do now?”
“Shit, I don’t have any worries. I’m a senior level Network Engineer. I have a ton of experience with telephony, Internet technology and Cisco routers. As soon as feel like going back to work, I’ll start accepting salary bids for my next job. With any luck I’ll double my salary again.”
“Sounds like you’ll do fine man. Really. And I guess I can’t ask you my favor now since you’ve moved on. I was going to have you look up the billing address of this one place I’ve been dealing with.”
“Oh yeah? Which place is that?”
I don’t think I have anything to worry about in telling Stewart that I’ve been using a dating service. He’s such a hermit I don’t think he would have anyone to tell even if he wanted to.
“I’ve been using this dating service and they’ve been setting me up with dates and stuff over the phone. But they don’t seem to have an office and I don’t know, the whole thing seems kind of fishy to me.”
“Are they ripping you off or something?” he asks.
“Well, no,” I have to concede. “But I guess it seems way too good to be true. They hooked me up with two gorgeous women for only twenty bucks. And then they charged it to my Best Buy credit card. I dunno man – it’s a long story. They’re probably totally legit. Maybe I just want to track them down and thank them.”
“Why don’t you just call them and ask them for directions?”
“Call them for directions?”
“Maybe I want to surprise them or something. I’ve been talking to them for weeks now and wouldn’t they be surprised if I dropped in and brought them a gift or something to thank them for helping me out.”
“Why don’t you call information? They’ll have the address.”
“I did. The operator said the registry on the phone number was linked to a post office box.”
“That’s pretty suspicious right there,” he says.
He starts coughing. “Because you’re not allowed to do that. Places that do business over the phone have to have a verified address on record with Southie Bell. It’s Missouri law. The only exceptions are collection agencies and a few of the government offices.
“I can’t help you in tracking them down, man. But I can tell you that one of two things is true. Either they’re a dating service and a collection agency too, or they’ve pulled some favors with someone like me to rig their phone records.”
The phone is ringing as I’m finishing my laundry and hanging the last of my shirts up in the closet.
– DE CHRISTINA, D.–
My first reaction is ‘who the hell is that?’ But then I recognize the number. Apparently Dawn is also known as Ms. De Christina. Randall never told me her last name and I guess I never thought to ask.
“Yeah, hey Dawn.”
“Oh, sorry about that,” she laughs. “I guess you live alone so it would pretty much have to be you answering the phone, right? It just didn’t sound like you.”
I clear my throat. “Excuse me. That’s probably because it’s nearly three in the afternoon and I still haven’t managed to wake up yet. This is what I sound like when I first get up in the morning.”
“You have a late one last night?” she asks.
“Yeah, I guess you could say that. My friends and I were down at ‘Upstairs at Eric’s’ ’till near closing time. So what’s up with you?”
“Oh, not a whole lot.”
“We still on for tomorrow night to go see Jonathan?” I ask.
“Well, that’s why I was calling. I’ve had a change of plans.”
“Oh yeah?” I’m getting ditched by my celibate date. Does life get any worse?
“My Ex was supposed to have Lindy this weekend but he ran headlong into a little legal complication this afternoon that’s going to keep him from seeing her for a long time.”
“Legal complication?” I pry.
“He got taken in on a DWI. And that’s not all. He’d just picked up Lindy from me. So now he’s facing additional charges for child endangerment.”
“Wait a minute. He was drunk when he picked her up?”
“Yeah. He got pretty good at hiding that kind of thing when we were married.”
“Jesus,” I say. “What an incredibly responsible guy.”
“Yeah, the police wouldn’t even tell me what his blood-alcohol level was. I think they knew I’d go completely nuts if I found out.”
“At least your daughter’s ok,” I point out, trying to put some sort of positive spin on things.
I have problems. Sometimes I can’t take vacation at work when I want to. My car’s brakes have been making a funny sound recently. And I have this neighbor who steals my newspaper every once in awhile. But these are all minor annoyances compared to Dawn’s very real, adult-style problems. I can only guess how I’d deal with them if they were in my lap.
“At least we got to see Jonathan in Bloomington,” I say. “I read somewhere recently that he’s going to be in some movie this summer. So the next chance we get to see him he might be playing the big amphitheaters instead of the small bar scene. Oh well, we can always go out some other time.”
“How about tonight?” she asks abruptly.
“Uh tonight, uh. I don’t think I have any solid plans,” I find myself saying. “You have a sitter for tonight and everything?”
“Yeah. My sister offered to kill her plans for the night and watch Lindy so we could still go out.”
“Darla offered to ditch her plans so you could go out with me? She’s never even met me. I could be a complete asshole for all she knows.”
“She knows I steer clear of assholes these days,” she says. “But I’ll have to introduce you to her before the date. You’ll have to get her final approval and everything.”
“Alright then, I’m up for the challenge. I think Darla’s gonna get a chance to see my best Prince Charming routine. I just have to come up with something for us to do at the last minute. I already checked the Gutterfrump Times and no one good is playing in town tonight. How about dinner for starters? I’ll come up with some reservations for somewhere nifty. And hmm. What else could we do at a moment’s notice?”
A movie is out of the question. That’s always a bad date idea. You sit side by side in the darkness of the theater. Making out or trying to get up her shirt is out of the question because you’re not sixteen years old anymore. Maybe you get to do the handholding thing or you put your arm around her. But the real problem is that it’s two hours of black nothingness without any chance for conversation.
“Well I’ll come up with something before we go out,” I say. “What time should I pick you up?”
“Seven? Is that good for you?” she asks.
“Yeah, I think I can have my hair done by then,” I say.
“Should I dress casual, or get dressed up?”
You have to be careful when a woman asks you this question. Sometimes they sincerely want to know how they should dress. But other times they’re actually implying they want to get dressed up if you’ll only give them the excuse.
“Well, I mean. If you want to we could…”
“I bought this dress a few months ago that I’ve been dying to wear out. And I’d love to have an excuse to wear it out,” she says.
“Then formal attire it is,” I say. Mentally, I pat myself on the back. I called that one pretty well. Men have intuition, they really do. It’s just that the hormones get in the way of it so often.
“Ok then,” she pauses. “And Craig, thank you for being so flexible with me,” she says rather earnestly.
“Hey, don’t mention it. I’ll see you at seven.”
I race up to the stoplight and start checking out my tie again in the rearview mirror. I had a hell of a time deciding whether or not there was enough brown woven into the pattern that it would match my pants. The sports coat is black and that goes with anything. But the tie has to match the pants. That’s the rule.
Dammit! Why I am I worrying about it so much in the first place? I told Randall I was going out with her again because of my supposed impaired judgment that night at the concert. Then tonight she gives me the perfect opportunity to back out, and once again I make plans to go out with her.
What’s up with that? Is it because I feel sorry for her? Do I really believe that maybe we’ll turn out to be really good friends? Or is there a side of me that refuses to believe she’s really celibate? Am I subconsciously following Tim’s advice and trying to ‘storm the barricades?’ And if that’s the case, then why?
I know this hottie named Elizabeth. I have her number tucked away in my wallet right next to my driver’s license. I could call her right now and she’d probably let me come over and… But no, I’m wearing a tie and I’m taking Ms. Celibacy out for a night on the town. Is this charity? No?
Memo to myself: Figure out what the hell you’re doing. This was all really exhilarating at first, to be dating one – and now two women. But you’re spinning around in circles and smashing into the walls and it’s ceasing to be very much fun anymore. Figure things out soon, Ok?
I pull into Dawn’s driveway, turn down the stereo and shut off the engine. The tie looks fine, I decide, looking at it again in the rearview mirror. I’m sure of it now. I run a hand through my mess of hair but there’s really not much that can be done about it. When you have hair as curly as mine, it’s best to just let it do whatever the hell it wants. You can make suggestions like ‘lay flat’ or ‘sway to the left.’ You can soup it up with mousse or hair gel or whatever, but it really has a life of it’s own and you have to accept the fact that you’re merely a transport for it – or rather, it’s your head it’s riding on top of.
It’s been a beautiful day today and tonight promises to be exactly the same. The sun is starting to set on the horizon and a cool spring breeze sways the trees.
I ring the doorbell and a few moments later I can hear a small set of running feet come to halt behind the door. After a second, the door rocks backwards and opens.
“Hi Lindy,” I say, adjusting the front of my sports coat.
She just stands there staring at me, chewing on the shoulder of a long-sleeved T-shirt.
I smile. “Is Dawn around?”
She shakes her head with a double dose of overemphasis.
“How about Darla then?” I ask. She takes a step backwards. She didn’t see that one coming. She looks confused, like she’s met her match. How did I know Darla’s name? Because I’m an adult and I know things, see? You don’t want to mess with me Lindy. I have twenty-five years more experience in playing mind games than you do. You called me a ‘turd-face’ on the phone. And you caught me off guard the first time I was standing on this porch but it won’t happen again.
She points to the chest of her light-blue overalls. “Your tie doesn’t match,” she says finally.
“But I…” I start to say, but then a woman appears behind her in the doorway.
“Craig?” she asks, extending a hand over Lindy’s head.
“Yes,” I say, returning her grasp.
“I’m Darla, It’s nice to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you from Dawn.”
“You have huh?”
“My sister is running a little late. She had to pick this little troublemaker up from swimming lessons,” she says, giving Lindy a pat on the head. “You wanna come in for awhile?”
I follow Darla through the doorway. It’s a huge, imposing house from the outside, but walking through the rooms, it’s kind of empty. I wonder whether Dawn has minimalist tastes in decorating or whether the drunk of an ex-husband took a lot of the furniture when they split.
By the time we get to the living room though, my question is answered. This room looks ‘lived in.’ Lindy’s toys and books are scattered around the floor in front of the TV and the area is overflowing with couches and armchairs. I try not to be too obvious about looking over all the pictures on the wall but I’m kind of curious to see what this Ex of hers of looks like.
I guess it’s not too much of a surprise that there don’t seem to be any pictures of him. They’re all pictures of Dawn, Lindy and other assorted family members. There’s a picture of Lindy dressed up as a cowgirl, with Dawn standing in the background proudly displaying a huge bag of Halloween treats. In another one, Dawn is pulling Lindy on a sled. It looks like it might have been taken on Art Hill, near the Art Museum downtown because you can see hundreds of other sledders in the background. Lindy has a huge snowball tucked in her gloved hand and a wicked grin on her face. Yeah, that makes sense. I bet the kid is a real terror with snow on the ground.
“Can I get you something to drink, a beer or something? ” Darla asks.
I just realized that I’m standing in the middle of the living room, looking kind of lost. I sit down on a recliner near the hallway.
“No, I think I’m fine. Thanks.”
Though obviously much older, Darla shares a lot of features with her younger sister. She has the finely chiseled, almost Slavic face and the long, straight brown hair. But I can see where Dawn would come up with the term “homebody” to describe her. She’s one of those people who obviously don’t spend too much time on their appearance or clothing. A plain purple housedress and sandals make up her attire for the evening.
“So Dawn tells me you’re a writer,” Darla says, sitting down on a loveseat across from me.
“Well, yeah. I guess you could say that. I write copy for Blockbuster Entertainment. Mostly I write a lot of their promotional flyers and employee literature. I majored in Journalism, so I guess it’s sort of in my field. But needless to say, I’m kind of looking for an avenue to break out of it at some point. How about you? What do you do for a living?” I ask.
“I’m a librarian.”
“Oh yeah? Where at? Do you like it?”
“Yeah, I really do. I work out at Daniel Boone Library on Clarkson in West County. It’s not a bad job. It keeps me busy and I enjoy what I do. The people I work with are a lot of fun too.”
“Good old Daniel Boone. Wow, I almost feel like I grew up running back and forth from that old place! What’s it like these days?”
“Well, it’s still there. It’s been renovated in the last couple of years. But I’m sure you’d still recognize it,” she says.
“My family lived out in the country and that was the closest library to us. My mother would shuttle me in there once a week. I have a lot of fond memories of combing that place for new books to consume,” I laugh. “And get this. When I was in the sixth grade, I was really into UFOs, Bigfoot and the Lochness monster and that sort of stuff. I joined this small UFO hobbyist group that met in the basement every Sunday afternoon. You know, they met in those meeting rooms down the east stairs. Are those still there?”
She chuckles. “Yes, the meeting rooms are still there. And ironically enough, so are the UFO hobbyists,” she says with a gleam in her eye. “I actually attend that group every week. You’d be amazed, Craig. It’s really grown since the X-Files became popular.”
“Oh my God! You’re kidding me. That’s so cool! I’d completely forgotten about the whole thing until you mentioned the library. Oh man, lemme see if I can remember any of the names of the people in the group back then. Well, there was this old guy. He must have been in his fifties or so. And he’d always walk in with this scowl on his face, but as soon as the talk of UFO’s started, he’d lighten up and have a great time. I think his name was Mr. Jeffries or something like that.
“And then there was this one kid who was just fixated on UFO’s. I mean, I was totally into it all too. If you go back and check out the records, you’ll find that a twelve year-old Craig Mitchell checked out every single book in the whole library on the subject of UFO’s between 1981 and 1982. But this other kid, man, what was his name? Oh yeah, Jason McGregory! He was the complete UFO nut if there ever was a kid who was.”
Darla smiles. “Well, it probably wouldn’t surprise you to find out that Jason McGregory is still part of the group. In fact, as of last month, he’s the Chairman. He’s married now and his wife Karen is the treasurer.”
“No way! You’re kidding me right?”
“No, I’m not,” she grins.
“Well next time you see him, ask him if he remembers me. Tell him I was the kid who wouldn’t shut up about Star Wars and didn’t believe his story about that cousin of his from Hillsboro who supposedly saw a cigar-shaped UFO. I didn’t believe him then, and if he hasn’t fessed up to the lie yet, I don’t believe him now.”
Darla laughs… and so does Dawn, who’s been standing behind me in the hallway for how long?
I spin around in the recliner and… this is not to be believed.
Will someone please explain to me how women pull this off? I mean, they can be really attractive in pair of jeans and T-shirt out at a bar for the night. They can look really cute when you take them out for a night at the movies, or a Sunday date to the zoo.
But when they want to, when the lure of a fancy evening or an expensive restaurant is at hand, they have the ability to pull the ‘Cinderella on her way to the ball’ thing on you. They completely transform. I don’t know if I can speak for the entire male sex on this point, but speaking for myself – when I’m not expecting it, the ‘Cinderella’ thing has the tendency to strike me utterly stupid. Call my parents and have them pick my ass up, I’m finished for the evening. Take me home. Thank you.
Her long hair is pulled back behind the crown of her head and she’s wearing a dark blue, shoulderless evening gown. The diamond earrings and matching pendant have come out of the safe deposit box for the night. She’s wearing a little makeup and her eyes… And the long legs? And the hint of perfume I just noticed. And the smile on her face because she can tell, as I suppose all women can, when a guy is totally struck dumb by the overall effect.
You know, I’ve said the mushy phrase a million times, most of the time because despite being a knuckleheaded guy, I know it’s often expected. But this time I mean it.
“You look beautiful Dawn.”
“Thank you,” she says smiling, and then looking down at her shoes.
“No, I mean it. You really do.”
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