I should have taken a cab home from the bar. Twenty minutes into my walk home the wind starts to pick up and there’s little doubt that a spring storm is going to let loose sometime soon.
When I was younger I used to have a problem justifying the expense of cab rides. It was a difficult concept for me to grasp, you know, paying someone by the mile to take you a distance you could walk in about an hour. But hundreds of cab rides later, however, what I’ve come to understand is that you’re not just paying for the mileage, you’re paying for the overall cab experience. For the price of your fare you get to take a joyride with a complete lunatic who cuts people off, speeds, runs red lights, all the while yelling and cussing at the other drivers.
If you’re lucky he might tell you the stories of his life. You might get to learn all about the Aluminum siding business or the stint he did in the 5th Armored division in the Gulf War or how he used to be a corporate spy. It’s like, if I were Forrest Gump I’d ditch that pansy-ass ‘box of chocolates’ metaphor in favor of a more realistic one:
“Life is like a line of waiting taxi cabs pulled up to the curb in front of a fancy hotel. You never know which raving lunatic is going to get you to your destination – or for that matter, whether you’ll get your destination at all.”
I decide to veer off the path home and walk up the street to the main drag where I have a better chance of hailing a cab. I stand on a corner next to a 7-Eleven near the intersection and wait. The smell of rain is riding heavy on the wind now. Can’t be much longer now before it starts coming down; not that I’m a wimp about getting rained on. Usually I don’t care. But when you’re drunk and hungry and smell like a giant cigarette because of Happy Hour, the idea of being soaking wet just isn’t that appealing.
I bide my time kicking rocks into the gutter and watching people walk out of the brightly lit 7-Eleven carrying super-sized sodas, containers of ice cream and beer. Then I spot a County Cab going the opposite direction on the parkway and raise my hand in the air. I’m not sure whether he saw me or not, but then he does a U-turn across four lanes of traffic and angles over to the curb. Needless to say, he gets quite a few applause from the audience for this feat. They register their approval with a barrage of car horns.
I hop in as the first raindrops start to fall. The cab smells like Ben Gay but it’s fairly clean. This might be Ok. “Hey man, I need to get to Mary and Countryland Lane. I know it isn’t far, but I’ll give you a great tip.”
“Alrighty, man,” the cab driver says in a clearly Midwestern accent. He’s older, in his 40′s. Cleanly parted hair and a flannel shirt. He seems pretty calm. He might even be sane. But then he strikes up a conversation and I realize that my initial impression couldn’t have been any more wrong. We start talking about how much the utility companies screw you (a cab driver favorite subject by the way. If it’s not the government screwing you, then damnit, it’s the electric company or the phone company. Someone is always screwing you.)
I make a comment about the fact that at least we don’t have a nuclear power plant in our backyards like those folks out west in Callaway County. And that comment, as it turns out, is the ticket to the show:
“I used to work at Callaway,” he says.
“Oh yeah?” All in all, this doesn’t surprise me, but I pretend to be surprised anyway. “I’ve never met anyone who worked in a nuclear power plant. That’s really interesting! Did you enjoy working there?” I ask.
“Yeah. I was just a kid and I was making thirty grand a year. There was just easy money to made at Callaway. You know those steam ventilation shafts that stretch for a half-mile away from the core?”
“That was my job, to clean those. They’d get all corroded and clogged after awhile. All the steam blowing out from the core. That’s what they used to cool the reactor. Steam.”
“Don’t you mean water?” I point out. “I’m guessing they used water to cool the core and it turned into steam because of the heat.”
“Yeah. That’s right,” he says “So anyway, I was on a team of fifty guys at the plant who’d clean them out. We never really did much work. Mostly we got paid for just sitting around and drinking and playing blackjack. Ten dollars an hour to just sit around and do whatever we felt like. How’d you like that? It was paradise. The easiest job I ever had.”
I’d like to point out here that “paradise” is the absolutely the last thing you would expect anyone to associate with cleaning irradiated ventilation shafts in a nuclear reactor. This guy must be some kind of genius.
“Once or twice a week they’d stop our Blackjack game, shut down some of the ventilation shafts and send us into those pipes with these mop-like things and some chemicals,” he continues. “We had to wear these funny radiation patches all over our bodies, on our arms, back, stomach, legs and then one big one on our forehead. You’d head down a pipe and screw around and clean the corrosion up. We’d have these huge mop fights. You know how it is, we were kids so we screwed-off more than we worked. You had to work down there for six hours or so, but if you got tired or were hungover or whatever, you just forced a burn-out and climbed out.”
“Forced a burnout?” I ask.
“Yeah, you were only supposed to take in so much radiation a day. It was government regulation or somethin’. That’s what those patches were for – to measure the amount you had taken. When you got too much in any one area the patch would go all red. They called it a burn-out.”
He laughs. The laugh turns into a cough and soon he’s wheezing. “Damn, cigarettes,” he mutters. “So when I got tired or just didn’t feel like workin’, I’d just stick my ole’ forehead up to the top of the shaft and press that big patch to the metal. Damn if that didn’t force a burn-out real quick! Usually happened in a couple seconds.” He turns to me as he drives and grins, obviously pleased with his ingenuity.
“That’s pretty ingenious,” I say. I try to imagine this guy with his head pressed to a pipe near the center of a nuclear reactor, steadily absorbing high doses of radiation through his head so he can climb out and play some more blackjack with his buddies.
“In-genus.. What’s that mean?” he asks.
“Oh, it means… uh, smart, you’re really clever.”
“Yes sir, I didn’t never work when I didn’t want to. I’d just press that ole’ noggin up there to that pipe and say, ‘Hey Jake, I burn-out yet?’ And old Jake would laugh and he’d say, ‘Yeup’ and swat at me with his mop. Then it was his turn.”
“You think that’s amazing, if you were willing to sign a few extra papers and a bunch of legal shit, they gave you two-hundred and fifty dollars. Can you believe that?” he asks.
“Wow,” I said. “What a deal. Nothing better than free money.”
“Damn straight,” he says laughing.
Just as he pulls up in front of my apartment the rain lets loose. He shuts off the meter. $3.20
“I stopped working there a few years ago. They said it was time for me to retire. Gave me a whole bunch of money. A grand or so. I was kind of pissed that they forced me to retire, but I had fun while it lasted. I guess you can’t be livin’ in paradise forever.” I dig a ten out of my wallet and hand it to him.
“Keep the change and good talking to you man,” I say getting out of the cab. “Keep dry.”
“You bet, thanks,” he calls behind me as I slam the cab door. I make a run for my front door. I grab my mail out of the mailbox and dive through the front door. It’s a fairly decent place. At my age, I’ve managed to ditch most of those particle board pieces of discount furniture I collected in college in favor of real adult-style furniture.
The space isn’t that large. It’s a one bedroom but it suits me just fine. In my life I’d much rather have a smaller place than pay more rent for a bigger place and have less money for fun. After all, life isn’t about big apartments and spending every penny of your income. It’s about not being broke when there’s fun to be had.
I walk into my bedroom, flip on the TV, drop down on my futon and sigh loudly. A minute passes, then I sigh even louder just for the fun of it. I start bouncing around on my bed. This is kind of fun. Or maybe I’m just drunk. But regardless, when you live alone you can pretty much do whatever crazy shit you want. No one’s around to see. I start to sing a local furniture store’s jingle that’s been stuck in my head all day, and bounce around some more. Then I spot the answering machine next to my bed. The message light is blinking.
I roll over and hit play.
BEEP. “Craig Mitchell, this is First North American Bank, we haven’t received a payment on your account with Structure, please call 1-800-555-1434″
BEEP. “HEYEYYYEYY!!!!!!!!!!” I nearly bolt out of bed her voice is so loud. It’s Sarah. “I just got home from Winnies’. Me and my roommate Cindy are going out to Bruno’s Cabaret. You wanna come? Give me a call! Latah!” For Sarah, the night has only begun. She’s like the Energizer bunny of drinking. I can rarely keep up.
BEEP. “Hiyee Craig, this is your Mom. Give me a call when you get a chance.”
BEEP. The sound of someone clearing their throat, and then silence. “Ummm, Mr. Mitchell. This is Randall from Girlfriend-Express. Please give us a call as soon as possible, this evening if possible. Thanks.” Click.
“YOU HAVE NO MORE NEW MESSAGES,” my answering machine says. Shit. I probably shouldn’t call them. I’m drunk. I roll onto my back and follow the pattern of cracks across my ceiling. My eyes wander over to a Gustav Klimt print on my wall. I follow the patterns of his painting, focusing on the bright metallic areas. I should call him, I really should. He said call tonight. But I’m drunk and I really shouldn’t. I test my voice to see how far gone I am.
“Hello,” I say to no one in particular. “This is Craig Mitchell returning your call.” That doesn’t sound too bad. I’m not slurring my words. I just feel buzzed. Oh well, I rationalize, this would probably be the best time to call. I don’t really feel like yelling at them at the moment. Some people get mean or angry when they’re drunk but I’m a happy lush; I couldn’t be more forgiving.
I grab the cordless phone from next to bed and make the call.
“Girlfriend-Express, can I help you.” It’s not Randall, it some other guy and it takes me by surprise.
“Uhh, yeah…” I stutter. “This is Craig Mitchell, I usually deal with Randall. He left me a message… uhh…”
“Just a moment Mr. Mitchell.” He puts me on hold.
“Hello Mr. Mitchell,” Randall says when he finally picks up the call. He sounds happy, optimistic even.
“We have a date set up for you this evening if you can make it.”
“Uh, what!?” I stammer.
“Jesus! What time is it?” I roll over and look at my alarm clock, 8:45 glows back at me in red LCD. “Whoah! I just got home from Happy Hour… I haven’t eaten yet. Wait a minute… before we even talk about this new date, let’s discuss that last one you set up.”
“What about it?” he asks.
Here it comes… “Well, for starters, you set me up with a girl who has a kid. She doesn’t drink. Then at the end of the evening she confesses she’s celibate.” There’s a long pause. “I mean, you asked me a shitload of questions Randall. You asked me where I buy my clothes and where I hang out. And all kinds of personal stuff, for Christ’s sake. I answered a million questions and you set me up with a girl who’s celibate.” I laugh. “What’re you trying to tell me here, pal?”
“Yes, we’re sorry about that. She didn’t divulge she was celibate when she signed up,” he says.
“Yeah, well she was,” I say.
“She called to correct us after your date. We’ve removed her name from the roster.”
“The roster?” I ask.
“Yes, we’ve removed her from the list of eligible girlfriends,” he replies. If this is meant to make me feel better it has the opposite effect. In fact, it really bums me out. I mean, not that it would have worked out anyway but she seemed really cool. Even in talking to her for an evening I wish her the best. I hope she eventually finds someone but I wonder what the chances are she’ll find some nice guy who doesn’t like to have sex.
“So did you refer her to your partner company, Celibate-Girlfriends-Express?” I ask. Randall laughs. He actually laughs. This is the first emotion he has displayed to me on the phone. Up until this point it’s been all business. I think we may have a major breakthrough here.
“Yeah, something like that,” he says still chuckling. “So can you make this date this evening?”
“Oh man, I gotta be honest, like I said, I’ve been at Happy Hour since early this afternoon. I’m really kind of drunk.”
“You don’t sound drunk Mr. Mitchell,” he says.
“Well I am, and please quit calling me Mr. Mitchell. I realize you guys have to professional and all that shit but it makes me feel older than I really am.”
“Well Craig, I really think you should make this date. I think this is your Ms. Right.”
“Oh yeah? What makes you say that?”
“She matches your profile pretty well,” he says.
“How is that? What’s my profile? What type of guy am I?” I ask.
“I’d be putting Girlfriend-Express out of business to reveal our methods.”
“You’re gonna put Girlfriend-Express out of business if you keep setting guys up with celibate girls,” I point out.
“That’s true,” he conceeds.
“So are you guys gonna charge me for that last date?”
“No, that one was our mistake,” he says. “Unless you turn out to be Mr. Picky, we won’t charge you until you meet Ms. Right.”
“So you think I should go out with this girl tonight?”
“Why? Tell me why I should go out with her. I mean, I don’t even think I should be driving much less going out on a date. I just walked home from the bar. In fact, there’s a reason I can’t go out. My car is five or so miles away at work. I took a cab home tonight.”
“She’ll drive,” he says.
“Whaa… What? How do you know that?” I ask.
“Because she said she wanted to.”
“Really? She wants to drive me?”
“No, not you in particular,” he says. “She wanted us to set her up with Mr. Right and said she’d be willing to drive.”
“Really. Well.. hmmm. I’ll make you a deal. You clue me in on more information about this girl in advance and if she sounds right then I’ll agree to it.”
“What do you want to know?” he asks.
“Is she celibate?”
“Does she have a kid?” I ask.
“How old is she?”
“Twenty-one,” he replies.
“Really?!!” Suddenly I’m hyper. I don’t feel drunk anymore and my adrenaline is racing. “Wait a minute, she’s not going to want to go out with someone eight years older than her…”
“She specifically asked for an older guy,” he says.
“What?! I didn’t get to ask for anything, you guys said you handled that. What kind of unequal sham is this?”
“Craig, it might surprise you but it’s a lot harder to find women to sign up for our service than it is to find men,” he says. “Finding Mr. Rights is very, very easy. Women, on the other hand are far less willing to join our service.” He sounds so much older than he has in past conversations. He still had the teen voice but I’m beginning to doubt my theory that he’s a kid.
“So you let them give input as to who they want to meet?”
“So what else is she looking for? Do I have to like gay dance music?” I ask.
“I can’t divulge that Mr. Mitchell. Nor do we want you to try to emulate what she is looking for. Be yourself. You’ll do fine.”
He sounds like my High School Drama teacher – ‘unleash yourself, forget who you are. Become immersed in your part.’ And this advice given to me for my two measly lines in “A Christmas Carol” in my Sophomore year.
“There you go again with that ‘Mr. Mitchell’ shit again” I say.
I hear traffic in the background. I wonder if Girlfriend-Express is based in the city, downtown near the Arch or something. Wait a minute, I remember, it’s the same first three digits as my phone number. Can’t be in the city.
“So will you go or not?”
“What’s her name?” As if this makes a difference. Would it make a difference if her name was Stephanie? Or Claire? Or Jennifer?
“Her name is Elizabeth Birdstall,” he says.
“Hmmmmm. Yeah, I’ll go.” The name sounds interesting and vaguely notorious. “But I gotta run. I need to take a shower and get ready. Is she picking me up here?”
“God, I still gotta eat something.. Should I take her out to dinner or…”
“Well, good luck Mr… I mean Craig,” he says cutting me off. “She’ll be over in about a half an hour. And by the way, you never called us after the last date. Please call us this time to let us know how things went.”
“What are your hours?” I ask.
“We’re here mostly in the afternoons and evenings. Some mornings. You’ll find one of us here usually ’till one or two in the morning,” he says.
“Ask for you?”
“Alright man, it’s a deal. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Goodbye.” Randall says, hanging up.
I roll over and look at the clock. I have about thirty minutes to get ready.
I have to get my ass in gear.
I start the shower and head into the living room to put some music on. I find that when you’re pressed for time and a frenzied pace is required, equally frenzied music in the background seems to help you keep the pace.
I slot a Ramones CD into my player and crank the sound up. The words “One, Two Three Four…” are followed by a burst of guitars. I unwrap a frozen dinner and toss it into the microwave – six and half minutes on full power. And I’m running… My wet, cigarette-stinking clothes hit the bathroom floor as I pull back the shower curtain. And of course, my cat is already in there, sitting on the side of the tub swatting at the water droplets that run down the tub.
Ever since I brought “Pork Chop” home from the Humane Society a year ago, my shower has served as a never-ending source of fascination for him. I can only guess what goes through his head when I turn it on. Based on his typical reaction and need to be in there whenever it’s on, I’m guessing he might be thinking something like, “Praise Felizer, God of shower water. My master Craig has once again opened the shimmering portal to the shower universe. I must bask in its glory.”
The shower is my cat’s shrine, his church.
He may have figured out how to jump all the way from my refrigerator up into the top pantries in the kitchen. He may have figured out how to work the doorknob to my bedroom with his paws when I shut the door on him, and he may have figured out why I get so pissed when he puts his claws into my furniture. But the shower? Nope. It’s still the lead entry in the “Ripley’s Believe it Or Not for Cats.”
I lather up my hair with some sort of musky smelling Portuguese shampoo my father brought back for me on his last business trip. I wonder where he is in the world. He’s probably sound asleep in a Hong Kong hotel room – or heading out for a night on the town in Quebec.
I stand under the stream of water letting it waterfall over me. I hate short showers. Anything less than 10 minutes is like watching a movie and then leaving the theater a half-hour before it ends. I don’t have a choice though. This twenty-one year old, this Elizabeth Birdstall mystery girl is going to be here in no time. I already feel at a disadvantage somehow. Like letting her drive somehow takes control of the date out my hands. I rinse off, shut the shower off and pull back the curtain. My cat is bummed. He jumps into the tub to inspect what remains of the “portal to the shower world.”
I stand in front of the mirror and start to put my contact lenses in but then I realize they’re already in. This isn’t a morning shower. Damn, maybe it’s a good thing I’m not driving. My judgment is definitely impaired and somehow I suspect that my motor skills aren’t far behind.
The hair gel goes in. The skin moisturizer goes on. I brush my teeth and gargle with Scope and then it’s a run for the closet. I have quite a few clothes. I didn’t realize it until recently but I can go for about a month and a half without doing laundry. It’s kind of girlish to have this many clothes. I know. But you tell me which is better: doing laundry every week or once a month? I stand in my closet trying to figure out what I’m going to wear. Ordinarily I would never give it this much thought. I’d just grab something. But this is a twenty-one year old. I don’t want to look too stodgy, or like an old guy trying to look young.
I grab a pair of khaki’s, a T-shirt and my favorite Guess pullover. I hold them up to me and swing girlishly back and forth like I’m checking out a new flowery dress. “Oh yes,” I say in mock femininity. “This one will do just fine.”
I get dressed with one hand and shoves spoonfuls of microwaved mash potatoes and turkey into my mouth with the other. My cat swats at my shoelaces as I tie them. I’ve chosen the Pumas. Normally I’d wear my favorite pair of loafers. I don’t know why but tonight loafers seem inappropriate.
I spray on some Cologne and you know, I haven’t been able to smell the stuff since a week after I bought it, so I’m not sure what point there is in puttng it on. What’s up with that? I try to alternate colognes and I still can’t smell them. At best, I can smell them for a few minutes when I put them on. I suppose after awhile your nose starts to think the cologne smell is part of your own body odor and just ignores it.
The doorbell rings. Whoah!
I haven’t even had time to clean my apartment. What if she wants to come in or needs to use the phone? I make a mad dash around the apartment. The Ramones crank into another song. “One! Two! Three! Four!” I grab up dirty clothes, beer bottles, food containers. I’m a pretty tidy bachelor. It’s not too much of a mess, but you know, things have a tendency of collecting over a day or so. And on my last pass across the apartment I hear the doorbell again. She’s either really insistent girl or in a hurry. But I can’t resist pulling the curtain back an inch or so and looking out to see who’s there.
Her back is turned. She’s looking around my apartment complex like she thinks she might be at the wrong door. She looks pretty good from the back. Long, full black hair. Very nice ass. Blue jeans and one hell of a slinky tank top. A bra strap hangs astray of her tank top dropping loosely over her left shoulder. Then she starts to turn back around… we’re about to find out here. Is she Alice the Goon? Or is she a hottie?
Wow. She’s a hottie. Definitely. She’s a real hottie. Jesus.
She sort of looks like Jennifer Aniston. Wait a minute. Well not really. Her hair is cut that way but she doesn’t really look like her. But she’s as beautiful as Jennifer Aniston – that’s for certain. And man is she stacked. Wearing that skimpy tank top I bet she could stand at a major intersection and stop traffic.
I can hear it on the nightly traffic report… ‘Eastbound Highway-40 is backed up from 270 to the Innerbelt. There’s a four car collision on Highway-44 at Laclede Station… and avoid the intersection of Manchester and Brentwood. A hottie with really large breasts wearing a really slinky little tank top has traffic stopped for five miles on the approach…”
She catches me looking out the window. Dammit.
I open the window and yell down.
“Be right down, I’m trying to find my keys.”
She smiles up at me, obviously taking in my face more than she’s listening to what I’m saying.
I trot down the stairs to the first floor and open the door. And there she is.
No chronic acne, humpback, or buck teeth. She’s just as beautiful up close as she was from upstairs.
“Hi,” she says.
“Yeah, that’s me.”
“Wow,” I say despite myself. I must be grinning like an idiot.
“What?” she asks, not breaking eye contact.
There’s something about her smile that reminds me of something… or someone. Suddenly this childhood memory pops into my head. Out of nowhere I remember this neighborhood picnic my parents took me to when we lived out in the country. I was really young, like four or five years old.
After dinner when it was starting to get dark and the locusts were loud in the trees, this little girl dared me to touch an electrified cattle fence. She promised me “it only tingles” and swore on her dog’s grave and all that kiddy dare stuff. But I think she had her fingers crossed behind her back.
I touched the wire and nearly peed my pants when the electrical current practically knocked me out of my Nikies.
So why am I remembering this all the sudden? This can’t be the same girl.
But it’s the same smile. She has a smile like a dare.
“Uhhh,” I say stammering. “I don’t mean to be rude. But why do you need a dating service?”
She laughs, turning around to look at the other apartment buildings and then up at the sky.
It’s stopped raining. The sky is clear like the storm never happened. Spring storms work that way. The only reminder of it is the rain falling from the trees.
“What do you mean?” she asks brazenly eyeing me from head to toe.
I should be honest here. I really should. What have I got to lose? For that matter – where dating is concerned what have you ever got to lose? Think about it. You’re might suffer some momentary embarrassment but it’s not like it’s going to be printed on the front page of the newspaper the next day.
“I dunno… You’re young. You’re beautiful. I suspect you could walk into any bar and instantly have five or six guys falling all over you. So why do you need a dating service?”
She purses her lips like she’s about to speak but then doesn’t. She just smiles. It doesn’t look like she’s paying too much attention to my question because she’s trying to look over my shoulder and into my apartment.
“I guess you tend to meet the same kind of guys in bars,” she says finally. “And no offense to male sex but I’m sick of dating the same fucking guy.”
Wow, she cusses too.
Man, if this date continues I’ve really got to control my eyes. They keep getting drawn to her chest like a magnet.
“So how do you know I’m not another one of the these typical guys?”
“Because Randall said you weren’t.”
“Really…” I’m going to have to get her to elaborate about that one. I wonder what my old buddy Randall said about me.
“Hey, I’d love to stand on your doorstep and talk for an hour more. But can I come up and use your bathroom?”
I knew it. Good thing I made that last minute sprint to clean things up.
She climbs the stairs with me right behind.
“It’s a pretty small apartment. You could find it on your own, but it’s off my bedroom there on the right,” I say pointing towards the bathroom.
She walks through my apartment stopping to peak into my bedroom as she walks into the bathroom and closes the door. I run my hands through my wet hair. Man I can’t believe this. I don’t know what I ever had to fear from dating services. Why didn’t I call one sooner? I’m going out on a date with a twenty-one year old bombshell and all I had to do was answer the phone and say, ‘Sure, I’ll go.’
I wonder what she thinks of me. If I had a bigger ego, I guess it wouldn’t even cross my mind that I’m dating a twenty-one year old. I’d probably take it for granted.
How do you get a bigger ego anyway? I never have figured that out. You know, they have breakfast cereals with extra fiber and protein. I wonder if they have one with extra ego? Honey Nut Ego Flakes? Someone needs to make these. I’d buy them.
The door opens and she steps out holding my cat.
“There was a cat in your shower,” she says cradling Pork Chop like a baby.
“Yeah, sorry if he scared you. He likes it in there. I guess I should introduce you two. Pork Chop, this is Elizabeth. Elizabeth… Pork Chop.”
She rubs him under the chin, and strokes his back. Pork Chop is a black cat – an all black cat in fact. Most black cats have at least one patch of white, usually on their chest but my cat doesn’t. So why did I name him Pork Chop? I don’t know. You’d have to meet him. I’m sure it would make sense to you then.
“I can’t believe he’s standing for that. He wouldn’t let me carry him around like that.”
“I have a way with animals.” She laughs. “See. He’s purring. He likes it.”
Pork chop lays back in her arms and nestles his head between her breasts. Lucky bastard. Sure he likes it. I would too if I were him.
She walks from room to room cradling my cat and checking out my CDs, my movies, the kitchen. Then she walks into my bedroom. The place I didn’t get a chance to clean.
I run in after her, worried about what she might find and luckily it’s not too bad. But I did leave my boxer shorts hanging from a lamp.
“Nice boxers,” she says touching them.
“They’re not my favorite pair. I’m wearing those.”
“Oh yeah,” she says putting Pork Chop down and turning to me. “Let’s see them.”
“Let’s see them,” she says with that smile.
I decide to be Joe Cool and act like it’s no big deal that she’s standing in my bedroom and commanding me to drop my pants.
I unbuckle my belt and drop my jeans to my knees.
“Hey, those are pretty nice…” she says walking up to touch the fabric of my waistband. “I like the pattern.”
So she wanted to drive me huh? This makes complete sense to me now. Not only is she driving me in her car tonight but it seems apparent that she’ll drive the date too.
I have to make some sort of comeback quick here before I’m drooling and she’s leading me around on a leash.
“Pretty cool,” she says about nothing in particular. Then she walks over to my futon and sits on the edge. At this point I’m wondering whether or not the date is going to leave my bedroom. I’m standing there with my pants down. She’s sitting on my bed.
“There’s a really cool party going on in Chesterfield. Wanna go?”
“Yeah, but I can I pull my pants up.”
“Yes,” she laughs. “But you have to say ‘Mother may I?’”
“Yeah, you wish…” I pull up my pants. “I think this has to be a first. I’ve never had a girl ask me to drop my pants on the first date. Or even the second date now that I think about it.”
“Well you never dated me.”
“Yeah…” she says in a mocking sexy voice. “You’re pretty damned cute by the way.”
That one came out of nowhere. Jesus, I think I might blush. She certainly doesn’t pull any punches or mince any words.
“Uhh, thanks. You’re quite a bombshell yourself.”
“Yeah, you da bomb.” She smiles and crosses her legs. “In fact, if I’m not mistaken, you’re the motha fuckin’ bomb.”
“That’s me,” she says
I grab a comb from my dresser and try to fix the back of my wet hair.
“So when’s this party?”
She’s looking through the books on the headboard of my bed.
“It’s starting now. But it’s cool. We have plenty of time. We need to hit a liquor store though. You have one of those around here?”
“Not a liquor store -they’re few and far between in this area. But there’s a Schnucks down the street,” I say, naming popular chain of grocery stores in town.
“Have you read all these books?” She thumbs through a hardback book.
“Yeah, most of them. I used to read a lot more when I was younger but I haven’t had the time lately.”
“I didn’t know they had a book for this movie.”
I turn around and she’s holding ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ by Hunter S. Thompson.
“Well, actually. It was a book first. Hunter wrote that one in the Sixties. I think they made it into to movie this year. Have you seen it?”
“It’s not out for a few months. But I want to. Johnny Depp’s in it.”
“Johnny Depp. Ugh. I’m not sure if he belongs in a movie based on that book. For that matter, I’m not sure if there needs to be a movie. Why can’t Hollywood come up with their own ideas for movie scripts without robbing all of the great literature.”
“I guess books make great movies,” she says. “That Dracula movie with Gary Oldman was really good.”
I don’t want to risk sounding like an old guy on a rant so I decide to keep my mouth shut. That movie murdered the novel. The only one I can think of that was worse was the recent adaptation of Hawthorne’s ‘Scarlet Letter’ where they changed the entire ending of his book.
“I love your futon,” she says rolling around on my unmade sheets. “My Ex had one of these in College but it hurt my back.”
“Yeah, mine’s an expensive one. It has a fancy mattress. I don’t know the science of it, but it’s a lot more comfortable than your average futon.”
“So you ready to go?”
“Sure, lemme flip some lights off here and turn off the stereo.”
She gets up.
“So what do you drive?” I ask as I’m flipping off lights.
“Oh yeah? Cool. I do too. I drive an all green one but I left it at work earlier tonight.”
We descend the stairs to my apartment. Out in the parking lot there’s a white sport utility truck parked halfway out of one of the spaces that I figure to be hers. She walks towards it but then I realize she’s walking past it…
Hers is the squat little red Porsche 911 parked behind the truck.
“Holy shit. I thought you were kidding.” This is amazing, an absolutely beautiful car.
“This is your car?” I ask.
“Actually, it’s my Daddy’s car.”
Chirp, the alarm system beeps. She unlocks the doors.
“Your Daddy or your Sugardaddy?” I ask getting in.
“My father’s,” she says giving me a dirty look. “He owns Kiel Auditorium.”
“I thought that place was owned by the city, or by the Blues or the hockey owners or something?”
“That’s what everyone thinks.” She starts the car.
I buckle my seatbelt and lean back in a bucket seat that feels like it was built to fit my body.
“I’ve never ridden in one of these things before.”
“Really?” she asks. “I normally drive a Rav 4 but I steal this thing whenever my Pop’s out of town. There’s nothing quite like it.”
She shifts the car into gear and revs the engine. It hums, just like in the movies.
I think every little boy bought sports car magazines. We all dreamed of Trans Ams with fiery golden decals on the hood. I wasn’t too into it but I always liked those Porsches.
And you know, I’ve always known that one of these things can do like 60 MPR in like five seconds. But in an instant I learn something about the Porsche you don’t tend to read about in magazines.
In less than a second, in less time than it takes to open your mouth… they can accelerate up to twenty or thirty MPR from a dead stop.
My mouth never gets the chance to open. It seems like I hear the tires squeal after we’re careening out of the parking lot at 40 miles per hour. This thing is a bottle rocket and I’m riding on the end.
“HOLY SHIT!!!!” I yell and grab for something to hold onto.
Elizabeth laughes at me, cutting the wheel hard to left as we head out of the apartment complex.
“There’s a stop up here!” I yell over the whine of the engine. She breaks hard. The car slides slightly to left and glides to a stop at the stop sign.
“Fuck,” I say, out of breath. “I think that’s the fastest I’ve gotten… to this stop sign yet.”
“Huh?” I say dazed.
“Which way to the Schnucks?”
She tenses, waiting for a car to pass on the main road. I brace myself, expecting her to floor it at any second. And sure enough…
I was leaning forward a moment ago but suddenly I’m slammed back into my seat as the car accelerates. The tires squeal loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear as we peel out onto Manchester Road – speed limit 30. By the time I get a look at the speedometer we’re doing well over 50.
“You might want to slow it down. I call this road ‘the Gauntlet.’ There are bored cops all over the place around here from three different municipalities.”
“My dad says this car doesn’t get tickets. It has a built in radar system. This one handles laser guns.” She points to a green LED dial. “This one handles some other kind of gun. And this one my dad says handles the rear and side defense.”
“Rear defense? Is he a spy or something? Even James Bond gets speeding tickets.”
“This alarm system cost five grand or so. He says it’s guaranteed. The company that makes it picks up the bill if you get a ticket.”
We pull into Schnucks parking lot. Another world speed record set tonight for getting to the grocery store. I need to get me one of these. I’d get out more often if I could get places this quickly.
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