Too Hot To Handle (Weekly Writing Challenge)

The Weekly Writing Challenge wanted us to keep it real. Sur-real. Challenge accepted. Surreal I can do.

“Trust your heart if the seas catch fire, live by love though the stars walk backward.” -E. E. Cummings

**********

“See where that tractor is pulling off? Follow him down that road.”

“Good grief, Nathan. You really do live out here.”

“Well now you can see why I didn’t want to take the bus. Thanks for carpooling.”

“Hey man, if you’re setting all this up, least I can do is give you a ride.” Grant found his gaze slide back to his rearview mirror once more. He knew that there was a certain patch near the back of his head that liked to stand up and wave to the crowd. The more Grant tried to push it down and make it obey the pattern of the other hairs, the more likely it was to come back for a command performance. For the moment, the patch seemed to be keeping a low profile.

Grant’s had been a long one and he wasn’t done yet. First off there had been the staff meeting to discuss how they might achieve greater success and team cohesiveness in the workplace. Grant did not think that being a call-center rep really needed any cohesiveness or even a dab of Elmer’s Glue. However, he had been strongly encouraged to attend. If the first three memos stating the “voluntary” nature of the meeting had not motivated Grant, the personal invites by all four of his supervisors had done the trick. Especially when his immediate boss had asked, with eyebrow raised and a dangerous tone, “We’ll see you tomorrow, right?” Freedom to attend had no felt so menacing.

Afterwards, he had worked his eight hour shift. And the customers had been an extra kind of crazy that day. Grant could not believe, in this day and age, that he still had to convince a woman that her CD-drive was not a cup-holder, and that is why it had snapped off when she had put her latte in and the drink had spilled all over her computer and keyboard.

Who even has CD-drives anymore? Grant shook his head at the memory. A Blu-ray-drive works for everyone, but c’mon, at least get a DVD-drive. Yikes. I wonder if she has all her photos saved on floppy disc. Grant knew that on his last day he would probably talk each customer through “accidentally” reformatting their hard drives.

Grant looked out the window at the pastures that lined the road and shook his head. Cows. When was the last time I saw cows? And they’re everywhere. The only thing that had made his day, and this surprisingly long commute, worthwhile was the promise of a date. Nathan had assured him this gal would show him a hot time.

“Sizzling, man. Sunga knows things you wouldn’t believe. You’ll love her.” Since Grant’s dating life was in the midst of quite the cold spell, he agreed. What did he have to lose?

“Hey, Nathan”, Grant said as he drove by a fertilizer dealer. “Why didn’t you introduce me to Sunga before?”

“Oh, well I thought you were dating Annette”, Nathan replied. Nathan was leaning as far back as the car seat would go. Staring at the car ceiling, Grant couldn’t help but envy his coworker. He always seemed a little calmer with customers than Grant. Nathan had the answers and Grant hadn’t even figured out the questions. Grant had a lovely wife and two kids. He owned a house. Even with the salt and pepper hair that dotted his temples, he still acted young. At six foot nothing and broad shouldered, Nathan was always “that guy”. He was the guy who would crush all comers at recycling can basketball. He was the employee that actually offered useful insights in meetings. The man had his act together and it gave him a confidence that both annoyed and amazed Grant.

“Annette? Who’s Annette?” Grant tried to crane his neck backwards, but he couldn’t get a good view. He would have to hope that his nostril hairs were trim and decent. Grant wasn’t unattractive, but he was no Nathan. Grant was two inches shorter and twenty pounds heavier. His blonde hair was thicker and fuller than Grant’s brunette tresses, but that only left more ways for it to flop around and generally act unkempt. Thanks to long years of programming and sitting in front of a computer, Grant’s wrists and knuckles were wrecked. Almost every gesture or move that his hands made was accompanied by the sound of joints popping and cracking. Grant had parts of his life together, but there was certainly some assembly left.

“You know, Annette. Accounts receivable? Really nerdy?” Nathan started tapping out a rhythm on his jeans as his hands slid and slapped on his jeans.

“That Annette?” The one with the chart detailing all the Star Trek boats on her wall?”

“Ships, Grant. They’re called ships.”

Nathan couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Isn’t she the one that taped big blue construction paper to her office tardisdoor until the higher-ups made her take it down?”

“Yep”, Nathan said with a smile. “The woman wanted to live in a Tardis and The Man shot her down. It was a problem even a sonic screwdriver couldn’t fix.”

Grant shook his head. “Why would you think I was dating her? I barely talk to her.”

“Well, you always open the door for her. And I see you in her office quite a bit.”

“That’s because she’s always carrying too many papers and can’t reach the door. C’mon, I’m not that big of a jerk.”

“Uh huh. And the office visits?” Nathan smiled in his own sly way as he pressed.

“Dude, her account got hacked because she opened that e-mail a few weeks ago. I’ve been trying to get her computer up and running again so we won’t lose any billing information.”

“Wait”, Nathan said as he sat the car seat upright. She opened the ‘FREE RABITZ’ e-mail? The one with like, four attachments on it?”

“Yep, she was the one.”

“Dear word”, Nathan said as he went back to tapping his beat. “I really thought she was smarter than that.”

“This is the point I am trying to make. And I can’t imagine Annette and I being happy with a gaggle of bunnies pit-pattering around our place.”

“Well, I’m sure you’ll like Sunga. She’s amazing, fascinating, and exotic. Oh, and they’re a colony. Also known as a nest, or my personal favorite, a warren.”

“What?”

“Turn left up here. A ‘gaggle’ of rabbits? They’re called a warren.”

“How do you know this stuff?” Grant flipped his turn signal and headed down the dirt road.

“I read. My wife tells me things. The usual. We’re the house at the very end of the block. Watch out for the tar pits over there.”

Grant and Nathan were flung forward as the car jolted to a stop.

“Grant! What the… why’d you slam on the brakes.”

“Tar pits?!?”Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

“Oh, that’s right; you haven’t been to my place. Sorry. Yeah, we’ve lost a few tires to the tar pits. A few cars and bikes too. But hey, we never have to shovel the drive.” Nathan smiled, the terrain being quirky and amusing to him.

“Tar pits. Explain.” As if to emphasize his point, Grant put the emergency brake on.

Nathan sighed and turned to the driver. “Okay, here’s the thing. We’re right above this weird geothermal zone. That’s why there are tar pits on the way. And, I might as well tell you this now, the floor of my house is made of lava.”

“I’m starting to think you belong with Annette.”

“No, you’ll see”, Nathan said with a chuckle. “That’s the only reason we were able to afford this place. I admit, it took some getting used to. Right away, we knew we’d never be able to have pets. I mean, c’mon; one misstep and those furry little suckers would get all their fur singed in the lava. That’s just cruel; we couldn’t do that to a cat. And the fumes have this effect on birds. I guess it’s like canaries in the coal mines? I don’t know, but those things pass out and don’t snap out of it. But the four of us are happy by ourselves.”

“Wait, you’re not kidding. Your floor is made of lava?”

“I know, I know”, Nathan said as he waved off the shock with a gesture of his hand. “It all sounds so insane. But dude, think about the benefits. I don’t have a heating bill. Zilch. And since it is always warm, we can keep the windows propped open. That takes care of most of the fumes. You know I’m a strong believer that kids are pampered. A toxic fume here or there will build character.”

“Hey, book guy”, Grant said as he smacked Nathan on the back of the head. “What part of ‘toxic’ is not sinking in?”

“Oh, it’s fine. Just in the ‘caution’ range, not quite in the ‘hazard area’. We got it checked.”

“Well if you’re propping windows open all over the house, how do you keep burglars out?”

“Why is that always the first question people ask?” Nathan sighed. “I’ve talked about this with Alyssa time and again. People don’t want to know how the geothermal conditions powers our electronics. They don’t want to see the cool glass studio we have out in the garage where she sculpts her art. Nope, they want to know how we keep out robbers and thieves.”

“And?”

Nathan shook his head ever so slightly. “Think about it, Grant. You’re sneaking into the house. It’s late. Sure the floor looks funny, but people pick weird carpets. So you lift one leg in through the window. The smell starts to make your nose twitch, but you continue. All is quiet. Other than the glow coming from the floor, it’s nice and dark. You swing your legs in, stand on the floor, and Wammo! All of a sudden your shoes start melting. You try to make it out in time, but then it goes after your socks, makes quick work of them, and it starts to get to your feet. You’re outta there like a shot and you aren’t coming back. I’m just glad the judge found in favor of us. For guys that make their living operating outside the law, thieves can be awfully litigious. Did you know that?”

“No”, Grant said as he tried to reclaim his bearings. “Apparently I’m learning a lot today.”

“It’s good for you.”

“Wait, how do you keep from burning? Your books, your couches, do you just float around on this constant bed of coals and magma?”

“Lava, technically.”

“What?”

“Lava is above ground, magma is underground. At least, that’s the short answer.”

“Nathan, you’re killing me here.”

“I know, but what a way to go!” Nathan had spread his arms wide but soon realized his friend didn’t share his enthusiasm. “Okay, look. The short answer is we use lots of Nomex and iridium. Lava has a pretty set temperature in our place. So we reinforce all our walls and the ground around the house with iridium and we’re happy campers. The constant flow of lava and the geothermal energy powers the array of fans we have all over; you’ll see.”

“If you’ve got it all figured out, then why is there a lake of lava in your living room!” Grant could hear his voice crack, but did not care.

“You know, that’s a question Sunga still hasn’t answered to our satisfaction. We kinda just let it go.”

“Hold on”, Grant said as he turned off the car. “What does Sunga have to do with this? What is she, some sort of Volcanologist?”

“Hmm? Oh, no she’s our neighbor.”

Grant felt a sense of dread take over. “Your neighbor who lives… where?”

“Underground”, Nathan said calmly, but with a faint trace of hesitation.untitled

“Underground. Of course, because she’s what, Lava Lass?”

“Actually, she refers to herself as a Keeper of the Crust.”

“So she’s a custodian of lava?”

“Well, I’m not sure her underlings would call her that but—.”

“Underlings? She’s, their queen?”

“No”, Nathan said with some irritation. “I told you, Keeper of the Crust. C’mon, Grant, catch up. Yeah, she’s royalty, but she’s above all that.”

“Okay, you’re setting me up with royalty. Great. How am I not going to die when I set foot insider your house!?!”

“We have iridium shoes for you, duh.”

“Where are you getting all these materials?”

“Well, Sunga helped us out. She really made the home more livable. She likes us, and wants us to stay, so she really goes out of our way to make our lives easier. She’s introduced us to lots of folks in the meteorite community. That’s how we can afford all that iridium. I’m telling you man, she’s great. Smart, wise, funny. You’ll love her. Just, y’know, keep your car keys and wallet in your pocket at all times. Five seconds after you drop anything and it’s not coming back. Alyssa loves not having to vacuum, though.”

“So when you said Sunga was hot…”

“Oh, she is”, Nathan said excitedly. “You’ll love her, I know it. She’s smart, inventive, and hilarious. Nobody works harder to take care of others than she does. She’s like Mother Teresa of the underworld. Hmm. Bad choice of words. Of the netherworld? Shoot, what did she call her realm? I’ll have to ask. It’s a much better title. Ugh, Alyssa always has to remind me.”

“But Sunga, she’s not like a Tolkein dwarf or anything? No Quasimodo hump on her back?”

“No no, she looks stunning. Think a gal from a tropic with a few differences”, Nathan said waving his hand once more.

“So, the tan to beat all others?”

“Well yeah”, Nathan admitted. “I’m not going to lie to you; all those decades around magma have made her skin a bit leathery. But man, she’s got a soft spirit. Don’t you worry.”

The car was quiet. Nathan looked to Grant, opened his mouth, and then changed his mind.

If there was one thing Grant had learned from years of fielding phone calls, it was how to read silence. He looked at Nathan. Nathan wouldn’t meet his eyes. Grant cleared his throat loudly. Nathan turned to look. Grant tilted his head and raised an eyebrow. Nathan smiled.

“What?”

“What?” Nathan adopted a look of innocence.

“Don’t give me, ‘What’”, Grant replied. “I know this feeling. Any quieter and I’m going to start seeing tumbleweeds roll across our path.” Of course here, the tumbleweeds would catch on fire and keep on rolling until it was ash. “What aren’t you saying? Does she have an extra hand? No teeth?”

“I told you, she’s gorgeous.”

“Except…?”

“Well, her eyes are all black.”

“Uh huh”, Grant said as he tapped the steering wheel. “Do tell.”

“C’mon man, she lives underground most days! She has to be able to look straight at magma, lava, and navigate dark caverns. Of course her eyes are going to be a bit different. So she has black oil swishing around in her ocular cavities, so what?”

“That…”, Grant caught himself. He was intrigued.   “That actually sounds awesome.”

“I know, right!”   Nathan leaned towards Grant as he spoke excitedly. “Alyssa doesn’t get it. She’s learned to not see it but it freaked her out at first. The kids think it’s amazing. You know, like one of those lava lamps—“

“Because you’re so lacking in lava.”

“Yeah, yeah. But between you and me? It’s incredible. Like a hula-dancer who sways hula_dancerwith her eyes. Frickin’ enchanting. Don’t tell Alyssa, though. I mean, she’s probably guessed, knowing her. But still.”

“Sunga’s fun too?”

“Oh, man, are you kidding?” Nathan slapped Grant heartily on the back. “She’s the best. A little forceful for my tastes. You know, since she’s used to commanding and ordering people around all day. For you, though? I think it’ll be great.”

“Nobody’s going to toss me into a lake of burning tar?”

“Hey, if my kids can get through their toddler years in one piece, you’ll be fine. Watch your step is all.”

“Literally and figuratively.”

“Yeah, I mean it is your first date with Sunga. Don’t say anything stupid.”

“Like, ‘Is it hot in here or—‘.”

“Exactly like that. Don’t do that.”

“Got it.”

Grant sat in his car and mulled over his situation. He had already driven all this way. He really was intrigued. The house and its strange habitat sounded interesting. More so, he was curious about Sunga. If she was half as great as Nathan said she was, it would be much more fun than another night of Celebrity Jeopardy. What did he have to lose? If nothing else, he was quite sure the evening would be memorable.”

“All right”, Grant said as he turned the car back on and removed the emergency brake. “Guide me through these hazards and pitfalls.”

“Okay”, Nathan said as he pointed up the drive. “See where the smoke is coming up from that black pool there? Drive around it, not through it.”

“Understood”, Grant said as he pressed onward. “What next?”

Advertisements

A Spouse Never Forgets

Love will draw an elephant through a key-hole.” –Samuel Richardson

**********

“Em, I’m home. Time to hide all your boyfriends.”

“Oh, but they brought me flowers and everything”, came the response from the dining room.

Tyler Cohn kicked his shoes off and rolled his eyes. He found the mail by the door and thumbed through it carelessly. Not seeing anything in the stack of bills and donation requests to catch his eye, he let the stack fall from his hands, most of it landing back on the table. He shrugged at the mess, tossed his keys in the general direction of the mail, and walked towards the living room.

Tyler had not been the most attractive person in high school. His odd skin tone made him stand out in a crowd, but his unruly hair had singled him out even more. It was not until college that he discovered the real him was only a few buzzes away. Coupled with a roommate who introduced Tyler to the joy of working out, and a new version was born. Tyler found that the quick, aggressive, thrilling move of hefting weights was an adrenaline rush that he loved. His muscular physique, olive skin, and shiny dome now all complimented each other. He had lost his childhood nervousness and now approached life with what his wife could only describe as swagger.

“For the record, I saw you first”, he countered as he doffed his jacket and let it land on the living room couch. In front of him was the large gray mass. He avoided looking at it, as always, and turned into the dining room. “Where are you?”

“I’m on the other side of it”, Emily called back.

An alarmingly loud trumpeting sound blared three times from the living room. Tyler and Emily both hurried to cover their ears, and by the time the noise had stopped, Tyler was almost in the dining room.

“I swear, The Moustache is going to drive me crazy”, Tyler said as he looked to his wallet and pulled out the receipts that he had collected over the day. “He keeps telling me that his business is going to get sued. I swear, that man thinks his workers are just there to collect on disability. I respond to all his e-mails but he won’t believe that we have his risks all covered. If he gets anymore up my butt, that facial monstrosity of his is going to start tickling my stomach. I wish I could get him out of my haiiiiiiiiir.”

Tyler had looked to Emily for the first time and was shocked at what he saw.

“Hey”, Emily said with a smile as she went towards him.   With her typical elegance and grace, she made every small step look like it had been planned out for months. Her composure had been the first thing that attracted Tyler to her. However, much to his delight, he found that when she went to hug him, her perfectly straight spine curved into him. Her hips ever so slightly leaned into his waist, her shoulders softened, and her long neck listed to the left, finding his nape and taking up residence there. With her normal ballerina-like stance, Emily stood a solid two inches taller than her spouse. But when they were having their quiet moments, he ended up being a bit higher up. She didn’t really care. Many of their best talks had been shared in this position, starting with when her father died. Tyler didn’t worry about being the tallest when they went out and Emily wore high heels, and Emily didn’t worry about her poise when she was alone with Tyler.

However on this night, Tyler found the embrace a little awkward. Normally he would feel her long, wavy chestnut hair against and under his chin. This was not the case tonight.   Instead Tyler felt a soft cushion of hair, then short bristliness, then another tuft of long hair. Had her entire head fit, Tyler would have felt another shaved section. And, to his great horror, sections of the hair were dyed orange and blue.

Is this what it feels like for her to kiss me when I haven’t shaved?

The only long hairs that felt familiar were the ones attached to the tail from the gray mass as it swished and brushed against Tyler’s leg from the living room.

“I got a text from Tess and Burt.”

“Are we supposed to be having them over for dinner? I don’t have enough cooked to feed us and my greedy siblings.”

“Greedy, or filled with a hunger for victory?”

“Greedy, Tyler. Definitely greedy. You play tennis with them, but you never had to share LEGOs with those two. Susan was the worst though. Leave it to the middle child to always cause the problems.”

“Em, there are four of you”, Tyler said as he tried to decide whether he should pull away from this painful dome or if it was best to keep her hair as out of sight as possible. “That makes you a middle child too.”

“Yes, but she was the first middle child”, she replied, pulling slowly out of the embrace. “You only children don’t know what we had to go through.” She kissed him, showing more passion than usual, and went back to the spaghetti on the stove.

“Regardless, your siblings want to know if we would play tennis tonight.”

“Tonight? Tyler, it’s seven p.m.”

“Right. Still daylight out there.”

“Honey, we have dinner to finish. And eat. Then, if we change into gym clothes, play several matches—“

“Then we can still be home by ten. C’mon, it’ll be fun.” Plus, knowing those two, they’ll bring up the haircut so I don’t have to.

Now out of their embrace, Tyler had the full effect. The left quarter of Emily’s hair was shaved off, except for a tiny, bristly layer of what used to be beautiful hair. That prior hair was hinted at by the next fourth, which was neon-orange and flopped around with four inches of length. The third section was the same shaved style as the first. And to finish off the monstrosity of it all was a section of long hair, looking just as it had before, only now filled with blue streaks in abhorrent strands.  

“Tyler, I know you. When we drive to the gym, under the auspices of playing tennis with my siblings, you’ll want to lift. This, as we both know, will require a change of clothes. And you’ll want me to lift with you. Honey, I just don’t have the strength.”

“You can always go swimming while we lift. The pool should be pretty empty. Maybe you’d have it all to yourself?” Maybe your new hairstyle will act like a fin that will help you steer in the water. Like a graffiti-obsessed dolphin. Or The Rocketeer on his worst day.

“Why don’t you just come out and admit that you want to see me walking around in a bathing suit?”

“Naturally”, Tyler said as he retrieved a mammoth bag of peanuts from under the kitchen counter. He took one, broke it, and nibbled on the nut while he tossed a handful into the next room. “I will always admit to wanting to see my wife in her element. You are a sexy woman and I appreciate that about you.”

“Uh huh”, she said with a look of disbelief behind her eyes. “I should never have taken you to that first swim meet of mine in college. It set a bad trend. Speaking of which, don’t go filling up on peanuts. Dinner is almost ready.”

“You don’t want me stocked up on protein before the gym? Besides”, he said as he threw another heaping handful into the living room, “how many do you think I’ll get the chance to eat?”

“We both know I’m going to be the one to clean those shells up, one way or the other. Go easy.”

“I will if you go to the gym with us. Please?”

“Fine”, she said with a feigned sigh. “But we are getting home no later than eleven. Got that? I’m still trying to get the payroll system up and running. Also, some of us don’t get to set our own hours. Twerp.”

“What can I say”, Tyler said with a shrug as he stirred the sauce, “it is truly challenging being a highly sought-after risk assessor.”

“Emphasis on ass-essor.”

“You’ll stop making that joke one day.”

“Plates please, Monsieur. And I’ll stop making that joke when it ceases to be funny.”

“Oh, I don’t know, I think you’re already cutting it too close.”

“What?” Em pulled the noodles off the strainer and carried them to the table.

Stupid, Tyler. Stupid, stupid choice of words. “Nothing. I’m only trying to defend myself against your rapier wit. You do love to cut me to the quick.” Again?!?! What is wrong with you? Dig yourself out before you get into a close shave. Tyler had to stop from slapping himself in the face. What is wrong with you? Freak.

They sat down at the table as munching noises became audible from the living room. The two often talked about eating by candlelight, but they knew that the constant threat of methane from the gray mass made that unwise. The whole situation lacked the romance that they yearned for. One day they would seek out a solution, but their everyday lives demanded their attention.

“So are we going to talk about it or what?”

“Talk about what?” Tyler filled his mouth with a forkful of spaghetti so that he would not be expected to respond anytime soon. Unfortunately, he had made the sauce hotter than he realized and was forced to take a swig of water and add it to his already full mouth.

“The hair, you twit. You don’t like it, do you?”

Tyler made a show of chewing and swallowing, trying to think of the proper response.

“All those sitcoms from my childhood and I still don’t know how to handle this”, he half-joked.

“So you hate it”, Emily replied as she set down her fork with purpose. “That’s great. You couldn’t come out and say that?”

“Risk assessor, remember? Not risk creator.”

“Don’t do that again. I’m being serious here.”

“Look, I didn’t lie to you. I just didn’t say anything.”

“Because you don’t like it.”

“Honey, it’s three different lengths and three different colors. Maybe when we were in school, but in our 30’s? I’m amazed you think people will take a human resources person seriously like that.”

As if to accentuate the finality of his argument, a large tooting noise came from the living room.

Emily turned her nose up at the new smell but was not done talking. “That, well that is a load of crap.”

“Cute.”

“Don’t cute me, it’s true. Work didn’t factor into your thoughts. You wanted someone else to tell me it was ugly.”

“Emily, that haircut isn’t you. Why would you do that?”

“Because it isn’t me.”

Tyler leaned away from the table. “Okay, well now you’ve lost me.”

“You don’t think I see how people treat you? You’re the cool one. You’re the one that travels around putting out fires. You work in crises. You get to watch cars get smashed and houses collapse. You think I don’t noticed that my siblings, my own family, they text you more than me. And why wouldn’t they? I sit behind a desk and deal with coworkers that can’t play nice with each other or decide they want to play nice in the bedroom, and then they come to me when it’s over and, guess what, they can’t play nice. You’re exciting, I’m dependable. Why wouldn’t I want a change?”

From across the table, Tyler could see Emily’s eyes tearing up. She picked up her napkin and dabbed her eyes with it. Tyler backed his chair away from the table, stood up, and slowly made his way to the other chair. He knelt down in front of his wife and put his arms on her legs.

“Because you are perfect.”

Another tooting sound came from the living room. No no, you’re timing’s perfect. Please, keep it up.

“More crap”, Emily replied sadly.

“What I’m saying is not crap. Do you know that half of the time I’m talking to Tess and Burt, I’m bragging about you? They’re the only ones who get it. They’re the ones who love you as much as I do and can’t stop being blown away.

“You? You spend forty-plus hours a week taking care of people, making sure that they get paid. In addition to all you do for me. On top of that, you make time for your church committees. It’s all I can do to get to church each week. Yet you somehow find the patience and the energy to tend to others. That is amazing to me. Why are you trying to be more like me when I’m trying to be more like you?”

“If you’re just saying this to get yourself out of the doghouse…”

“I’m not. You have this inner peace about you. I try to find little doses, little spurts of that in me. For you, it just happens. You define grace for me. I see all these people that have lost things, all these homes that have been wrecked, and while I’m trying to comfort them my brain is screaming that I should get back home to you right that second. Learning in the field is great; being away from you is not.”

“But people still like you more”, Emily said through small sniffles.

“I don’t think that’s true. They certainly love you more. Not a Sunday goes by when someone doesn’t pull me aside and sing your accolades. Even strangers, visitors to church; they talk to you for brief moments and then they meet me and tell me how blessed I am to be with you. They like both of us, sure, but they’re in awe of you.”

“Really? ‘cause this is stuff you could be telling me.”

“And I probably should. I’m sorry.”

“While we’re at it”, Emily said as the color in her cheeks, if not her hair, returned to normal. “You could also hang up your jacket when you come home instead of lazily throwing it on the couch.”

“People have been commenting on the straw odor.”

“It would also make your wife happier”, she said with a smile.

“What if I offered to shave your head? Would that help this situation or should I leave you be?”

“You know, that was what I was tempted to do”, Emily replied. “But the hairstylist said this would be less extreme.”

“I’m sorry… what?”

“She thought I might want to ease my want into this.”

“That’s ridiculous. Shaving your head is much less traumatic. I mean, you’re already halfway there, for corn sakes.”

“I said that, but she got so worked up about it”, Emily said.

“Okay, let’s try this. Do you like it? Not me, not the hairdresser; you.”

“Maybe if they had used hair dye colors that were found in nature. But as is? Notsomuch.”

“Will you let me shave it then?”

“You think you have enough expertise? I’d need someone who was used to having their hair short.”

“I think I can manage to figure it out”, Tyler said with a grin.

“All right, let’s do it. The sooner it’s over, the sooner my hair will grow back.”

“You know, I’ve never seen you with short hair. That could be cute.”

“Well, you’re going to find out. And we’re skipping the tennis and gym tonight. Now I really am too tired. And you have to help me.”

“Yes ma’am. I’ll send them a note after we finish dinner. Then you’ll get your head all shorn.”

“Where do you think we should do it, over the sink?”

“I was actually thinking the shower”, Tyler said as his smile grew. “That way, you know, we wouldn’t make such a mess.”

“I should probably take my blouse off too. It will keep the hair from getting everywhere.”

“That is an excellent point. Less clothes, less mess. And I know how you hate messes.”

“First thing’s first”, Emily said with a look in her eye. “You have some business to take care of.”

“Oh”, Tyler said as he adopted his “come-hither” voice. “Do I?”

“Yeah”, she said plainly. “Dumbo over there. He needs to be tidied up.”

“Yes ma’am”, he said with a chuckle.

“Trust me”, Emily said as she brushed her long strand away from her right eye and winced at the blue dye. “Things will all be better after we’ve dealt with the elephant in the room.”

A Very Disney Wish

You broke my smoulder! -Tangled

(My coworker, who is quite the Disney fan, just got engaged. Since the congratulations note was rather non-specific, I figured I would share it with you folks. If nothing else, there is a video at the end for those of you that have forgotten your Disney childhood.)

———-

It’s clear that your friends should all say “Congrats”,
And the gents walking by should doff their hats.
In a life where dating seems quite harried,
You are content to be getting married.

You’re a cute couple, go walk down the aisle,
We’re curious if you’ll do it “in style”.
The groom will be handsome, the bride will beam,
Even more so with a colorful theme!

The classic setting calls for some stained glass
To light up the storybook lad and lass.
Oh, the joy to be wed in a castle.
Though the dragon might prove quite the hassle.

And yes, fairy godmothers would be nice,
But still, you should probably think twice.
Invite them, you’ll get Maleficent too,
Her ivy grows everywhere; who knew?

Let’s avoid a ceremony with vines,
You could always get married in the mines?
We know seven dwarves who’d help, they’re all kin.
But you’d have an abundance of groomsmen.

Here’s something that would go swimmingly well,
Go get married at sea, like Ariel!
There’s the woman dressed like an octopus,
That’s only a problem if you’re a wuss.

What, something like her would bother you two?
Or is it nixing crab off the menu?
We can see how his feelings might get hurt,
Ask Sebastian if he’d like the desert.

Have the event in The Cave of Wonders;
You’ll have to watch out for social blunders.
If one guest tries to take a souvenir,
You’ll all have to yell, “We are outta here!”

The walls falling down is hardly the worst,
You could be in a whale, dying of thirst.
We think Pinocchio is a cute boy,
But you want a ring-bearer, not a toy.

We think it’s time that you start to settle,
Simple entertainment, like a kettle.
You can still have a fancy chandelier,
(Gaston might get you a good deal on beer).

Hey, have you planned out the bridal shower?
We think it’d be cool to use a tower.
You’ll need a ladder so gals could get down,
Y’know, if they all wear their finest gown.

Perhaps if your sister is feeling nice,
She would host you in her palace of ice?
But then a kid would try to lick a wall,
Or an elderly man might slip and fall.

At this point we don’t know what to say.
Why are you smiling and laughing that way?
Silly us.  You don’t need all that glory,
You’ve already got your own love story.

You two just don’t need a real fancy plan,
He’s got his lady, and she’s got her man.
We’ll be the background characters for you,
In your fairy tale that is coming true.

The Dating Game (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(Weekly Writing Challenge is your friend.  Take advantage of it.  I do!)

But when the time comes that a man has had his dinner, then the true man comes to the surface.” -Mark Twain

**********

Greg picked up the fork in front of him and cursed.  It wasn’t anything that the fork had done in particular, but the sheer pronged nature of the utensil vexed the man.  Greg tried to gauge his reflection in the metallic surface, but the gaps in between the metal made this effort difficult.  It felt as though there was a little tweak of hair on the back part of his head that was sticking up.  He reached up, attempting to comb it down with his right hand while the fork was nearly strangled in Greg’s left.

Exhaling angrily, Greg’s frustration was evident.  Hearing a giggle, he quickly put the fork back on the table.  He didn’t care that the silverware was no longer uniform in what had been its carefully placed arrangement.  Greg was too concerned about any embarrassment that he might have earned.  He glanced from table to table, hoping that everyone else in the fancy restaurant was too focused on their tiny portions and shiny gold-accented plates to have taken in his grooming performance.

The waitress walked up to his table and refilled the water glass without asking.  She smiled briefly and then moved on to the next patron without a word.  Greg sighed and crumpled up the cloth napkin that resided on his lap in a jumbled mess.  How am I supposed to be engaging and interesting when the waitress, someone who is paid to be nice, barely even gives me the time of day?  This was not a good idea.

The notion of a dating service was not one that appealed to Greg.  He didn’t relish meeting new people.  He was a baseball referee.  He spent all his days surrounded by people, most of them drunk and loud.  The last thing he wanted to do when he got home was talk sports, or even worse; partake in small talk.  However there was only so much going back to an empty apartment that Greg could stand.  He was a solid provider; not prone to wild outbursts or violence like so many overpaid celebrities that tore up the stadiums.  Greg had it on good authority that he was highly dateable.  No less than three of his friends had said so.  It had taken a few beers for them to admit as much, but the friends had stated it after only a few prodding attempts from Greg.

REFEREEA striped uniform and a chrome-plated whistle were hardly the most alluring of attire, so Greg knew that meeting someone at work was unlikely.  He realized that he would have to enlist some outside help.  That was where the dating service came into play.

Greg had sat through the pre-game ceremonies that they had called, “initiation”.  He had detailed what he looked for in a woman, doing his best not to limit any potential candidates.  “Smart, fun, cute”, he had said with a shrug.  Skin color?  Religion?  Any beliefs that might clash with his?  Greg had shrugged and replied, “Well, I’d prefer if they weren’t too crazy.  I mean, I guess I’m looking for somebody who would appreciate me and want to spend time with me.  Someone… um, who’s fun, and smart.  Oh, and cute.”  Greg had felt his face turn red when he realized how repetitive he sounded.  The depersonalization of finding true love grated on him.

I hope she hasn’t ditched me, Greg considered.  It’s one thing to accept the awkwardness of a date that someone else sets up for you.  But to be stood up and left sitting alone?  She wouldn’t do that.  Would she?

The notion dawned on Greg that he really didn’t know anything about Sophia.  The phone message had been short and unhelpful.  A chipper voice had his voicemail, brushing the “perfect woman” for him in broad strokes.  “She’s got a great personality, really wonderful, and we just love her here at the office.  She’s got some fun opinions and she’s just great.  Sophia’s beautiful, of course, and has a spirit that really stands out.  I think you two will have a great time.”  Greg had hung up on his voice mail that morning, unconvinced.  Well isn’t that just great.  He marveled at how the staff could use dozens of phrases to say absolutely nothing; all in a cheery and lively voice, of course.

“Excuse me, are you Greg?”

Greg was startled awake at the tall figure that had placed her hand tentatively on the vacant chair.  He blinked himself back into full consciousness.  He blinked again.  Still trying to make sense of the sight across from him, Greg gulped down what moisture was left in his quickly drying throat.  Then he blinked a third time.

“Greg”, the woman prompted with a warm smile on her face.

“Yeah.  I mean, yes.  Please, have a seat”, he replied.  Greg was shocked at the person that he was to share a date with.  The analytical, realistic, pessimistic side of himself had calculated the odds in his head.  His picture of a “Sophia” was a short person, cute in a tank top, and probably easily distracted by pretty things.  She would be many things, all of which could be gathered under the umbrella of “sorority girl”; with an emphasis on the “girl”.  The woman that stood confidently in his line of sight was already proving Greg quite wrong.

Sophia stood at a solid six feet at least, but she confidently wore high heels and her hair was swept up on top of her head.  If she was abnormally blessed in height, she seemed determined to embrace it.  Her smile seemed born of an inner voice that said, “Hey, how are ya?” in that natural way that Greg most clearly lacked.  She was no beanpole; even Greg could see that she had some curves to her.  Yet, like the rest of her demeanor, she appeared to own them.  Greg wondered to himself how someone this enticing upon first meeting was still single.

“Do you mind if I take a seat?”  Sophia began to pull the chair backwards.  Greg cursed to himself.

“Oh, I’m sorry”, he said half standing up.  “Please, please.”  Brilliant Greg.  Forget to stand up to greet her, and then forget to get the chair for her.  That’ll make a great first impression.

“Have you ever been to this place before?”  Sophia smiled.  She unfolded the napkin with a quick gesture and placed it lightly on her lap.

“No, I don’t really eat out much”, Greg admitted.  “They said you recommend this joint and I figured that was alright by me.”

Sophia laughed and made a move for the menu.  “Yes, I can honestly tell you that this ‘joint’ is one of my favorite haunts.  Don’t you just love sushi?”

“It’s a pretty decent food”, Greg said as he cursed himself again.  “What do you think I should try”, he asked, hoping to get back into her good graces.

sushi“Oh, I’ve always been a fan of their California rolls.”

A kind force must have been looking over Greg, for the waiter returned before Greg could blurt out a clumsy joke about Rolls Royce cars.

“What do you say, Greg?  Shall I order us up two plates?”

Greg nodded, watching as Sophia went to work.  He stared at her and soon noticed that he was unable to keep up with her orders.  A blur of high-society words came into their conversation as the woman about town and the experienced waiter bandied back and forth about various side dishes, fish freshness, and wine pairings.  Greg found himself blinking again and pulled out a piece of paper.  Holding the cheat-sheet just under the table cloth on his lap, he skimmed the list for any question that might spark a conversation.

“I really think you’ll enjoy the food here”, Sophia offered as the waiter returned to the kitchen.

“What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?”  Even Greg noticed how awkwardly he had blurted out the question.

A look of confusion came over Sohpia’s face.  There was a definite pause as she took in the question that had been asked of her.

Stupid, Greg.  Put her on the spot before you even know anything about her.  Stupid.

“You’re not going to waste any time are you?  Just jump right in, huh?”  Sophia laughed and pulled her chair in closer.  Greg had thrown down the gauntlet and now Sophia was contemplating picking it up.  “Fair enough; I’ll play along.”

“No, it was an insensitive question.  We can talk about something else.”

“Oh, come on.  This’ll be fun!”  A playful and daring light was obvious in Sophia’s eyes and Greg once again questioned how this had all worked out.  Maybe blind dates aren’t so bad after all?

White_House_Front_Dusk_Alternate“Okay”, Sophia began.  “I’ve got one.  It was a year or two ago and my grandfather was invited to The White House.  You see, he was one of the last living survivors of World War II.  The whole family got to go and we were all so excited.  I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself, but I still wanted to look regal, you know?  I wanted to bring the glamor if I was going to meet The President”, she said with a laugh.

“Well, sure”, Greg said in a way that showed he didn’t know what else to say.

“There were a few other families before us.  The Fourth of July is quite a big day around The Oval Office, as you might guess.  All these men in suits with sunglasses, my mom worrying that we were keeping ‘Him’ from running the country.  It was overwhelming, but delightful”, Sophia explained with an unbridled excitement in her voice.

“Anyways, in my attempt to look elegant but still keep Grandma from thinking I was a hussy, I chose this long white dress.  It was sleeveless, flowing, and I paired it with what I thought were a classy pair of sandals.  You have to plan these things just right, don’t you?”

“Of course”, Greg answered.  Be agreeable.  Forget the fact that this woman has met The President while you were probably home drinking a beer and watching pay-per-view.  Just smile and nod.

“In all the waiting around, wouldn’t you know it?  I had to go to the bathroom.  The assistants were all perfectly nice and they showed me the way.  I was about to go in the door when along comes The First Lady!  I mean, of all people!  Secret Service wanted me to wait but The First Lady wouldn’t hear of it.  She looped her arm around mine and pulled me in.  After I had taken care of things, I tried to leave as quickly as possible.  I mean, I couldn’t maintain my composure at being in the same room with her!  Could you?”

“Not likely”, Greg answered.  Thankfully, the food had appeared with surprising quickness.  Greg started to put food in his mouth so the temptation to say something stupid would be lessened.

“She stops me, and she tells me how great it is that I’m there.  She appreciates how I’m setting an example for the younger generation and goes on about how much she likes my attire.  I of course have no idea what she’s talking about.  I was there for Grandpa, not myself.  I asked her what she meant.  And are you ready for this?  She thought I was Wonder Woman!  Apparently she mistook my dress for a toga.”

“Mmm”, Greg murmured as he chewed eagerly on his food.  He could understand The First Lady’s mix-up.

“I didn’t know what to do.  I tried to explain that I wasn’t a model or an actress or anything.  I was just a granddaughter!  But how do you explain to the most important woman in the country that she’s mistaken?  Then she took me out to the reception room and told all these dignitaries’ kids that I was Wonder Woman.  That I was there just for them on the special holiday!  I turned beat red when my Grandpa arrived and we had to sort the whole thing out.  The First Lady had a great sense of humor about it though.  She wouldn’t stop apologizing and we laughed about it for quite a time after.  But being introduced by Wonder Woman; it was all so embarrassing.  I still have a picture of The President, The First Lady and myself at home.”

“That’s quite a story”, Greg said as he finished off the last of his rolls.

“How’s the fish?”

“Quite good”, Greg replied.

“And you?”  Sophia reached for her plate as she prompted Greg.  “What’s your tale societal woe?”

“I have to think about that for a moment”, Greg said as he scooped up the green pile from his plate and thrust it into his mouth without a thought.

“Greg!”

There was a moment of calmness.  To be truthful it was more of a millisecond.  In that infinitesimally minute amount time, Greg was confused.  He saw a shocked expression come across Sophia’s face.  He felt the green paste land on his tongue and do something to his taste buds.  Then, scant seconds later, all the sound and sights in the room vanished as all his senses turned toward his mouth.  All he could feel was the excruciating pain that overcame his mouth.  His tongue was on fire.  His eyes watered, trying to douse the inferno that had when his lips had closed and the fork had wisely retreated.  It was in that formerly calm moment that Greg learned what a heaping mound of wasabi would do to a man.

“Aaaaah!!!”  Greg screamed as the agony became too much for him.  He clamped his hands on to the table, pulling the tablecloth towards him as he reached for anything that might bring him relief.  He spat the green offender out and chugged down the water that had been four gallons short of what he needed to put out the blaze on his tongue.  He chugged down the wine and felt a sense of relief coming.  The worst of it was over, but a painful tingling remained in his mouth.

There, on the formerly pristine tablecloth, lay the aftereffects of what had just happened.  In a big white circle, surrounded by crystal glasses and fine cutlery was a green blob, now looking rather disturbing and on display for the world to see.  Many of the surrounding patrons took up the invitation and craned their necks; gasping and chuckling were audible from nearby.

Sophia’s eyes grew wide while Greg’s still welled up from the sensory overload.  Neither of the two could take their gaze off of that wasabi bull’s eye on the giant target before them.

“Huh”, Sophia finally replied.  “Guess we now your most embarrassing moment, don’t we?”

Questionable Circumstances

A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” -Bruce Lee

(I was asked to write a play.  I took a little David Ives inspiration and crafted what you see below.) 

**********

Characters: 

Karen, in her mid-late twenties is an attractive/athletic woman wearing standard drab-looking uniform.  She’s a little haggard from the day she’s having, but still a sight for sore eyes. 

Lucas is in his early thirties.  He’s no poster-boy, but he does alright for an average fellow if he’d remember to run a comb through his hair.  He’s a smart cookie, prone to playful discussions on nerdy topics.  

 

Location:  An apartment hallway.  Karen stands with a small box and clipboard in her hand in the hallway on one side of the door while Lucas is in his rather disheveled apartment on the other side of the door.

 

(Knock on the door, Lucas opens it to find Karen standing there in a delivery uniform holding a small box)

Lucas:  May I help you?BenBois_French_parcel_post

Karen:  Is this 624 81st Ave, Suite #512?

Lucas:  Does this look like an office complex?

Karen:  Is that a no?

Lucas:  Are you a lost?

Karen:  Did you order a parcel?

Lucas:  Who wants to know?

Karen:  So you’re not expecting a delivery?

Lucas:  Did I say that?

Karen:  Have you said anything helpful yet?

Lucas:  Would you like it if we started over?

Karen:  Are you going to answer any of my questions this time?

Lucas:  What can I do for you?

Karen:  Is this the office for Mortimer VanHoffner?

Lucas:  You really think I’m a Mortimer kind of guy?

Karen:  Can’t there more than one type of Mortimer?

Lucas:  What kind of parent would subject their kid to that kind of name?

Karen:  (laughs)  How do they ever fit his full name on forms?

Lucas:  Do you think that Mortimer is ever not mortified or mocked because of his morose moniker?

Karen:  How long have you been holding that joke in?

Lucas:  Why should I reveal such personal information to a complete stranger?

Karen:  Did you ever ask my name?

Lucas:  Do you know for a fact that my name isn’t Mortimer?

Karen:  Would it help to smooth things over if I told you I’m Karen?

Lucas:  If I introduce myself as Lucas, will you promise not to call me Luke?

Karen:  Got some identity issues, do you?

Lucas:  Got some directional issues, do you?

Karen:  You think this is funny?

Lucas:  Do you know that this is the most fun that I’ve ever had answering my door?  Do you think I have lovely women come knocking every day?

Karen:  Should I be happy for you?  Are you going to help me or what?

Lucas:  Don’t they give delivery drivers directions?  Or better yet, maps? 

Karen:  You’re some sort of expert at this?

Lucas:  I have to deliver packages to know that it helps to have a final destination for them?

Karen:  Haven’t you ever depended on the kindness of strangers?

Lucas:  What’s an attractive gal like you doing schlepping around boxes for a living?

Karen:  Did I say this was my career job?

Lucas:  Was I given any evidence that it wasn’t?

Karen:  Do you know how hard it is for a Stanford graduate to get a job with benefits these days?

Lucas:  So you’re not a professional?

Karen:  What sort of insinuation are you making?

Lucas:  You didn’t think I was calling you a “professional”, did you? 

Karen:  Were you?

Lucas:  That would be pretty stupid of me, wouldn’t it?

Karen:  Have you ever felt a door slam in your face before?imagesCAQQ7I83

Lucas:  Do you make a habit out of breaking guys’ hearts?

Karen:  What?

Lucas:  You wouldn’t intentionally stomp on my feelings would you?  You wouldn’t be so cruel as to walk away from all this fun we’re having, would you?”

Karen:  This is your idea of fun?

Lucas:  You’re not enjoying it?

Karen:  Is this how you would spend your lunch break?  Do you know what it’s like to have the boss track every second of every day?

Lucas:  So it’s not me you’re irked at; it’s your job?

Karen:  When did I say that I don’t like my job?

Lucas:  Do you love your job?  Do you find it challenging?

Karen:  Do you know how challenging it is to get you to answer a question?

Lucas:  Do you realize how hypocritical it is of you to ask that?

Karen:  Are there women in the world that find this charming?

Lucas:  You don’t enjoy a debate here and there; a conversational crossing of swords?

Karen:  You don’t really get out much, do you?

Lucas:  And you do?

Karen:  Would you believe that I like to have a little more fun than you do?

Lucas:  How so?

Karen:  Have you tried going out?

Lucas:  To where?

Karen:  You’ve never heard of clubs?

Lucas:  Aren’t those places designed to make your ears bleed?

Karen:  You’re going to make assumptions just like that?

Lucas:  Are you saying I’m wrong?

Karen:  You’ve never been to one, have you?

Lucas:  Did I say that?

Karen:  What about restaurants?

Lucas:  What about them?

Karen:  Do you ever eat out?

Lucas:  Why do you ask?

Karen:  Aren’t there three pizza boxes stacked in your trash can over there?

Lucas:  How do you know that I ate all those myself?  What if I have a girlfriend?

Karen:  What girlfriend would come over to a place like this?

Lucas:  What’s that supposed to mean?

Karen:  Do you carefully position rat traps around your living quarters, or do you just throw them around and hope for the best?

Lucas:  Why are you so dead-set on me having rats?

Karen:  Would it be a big surprise?

Lucas:  What if I promised you that I’m just going through an unorganized streak?

Karen:  Are you trying to set some sort of record?  Is there an official from Guinness adding up the days?

Lucas:  Haven’t you heard that all geniuses are messy?

Karen:  So you’re a genius now?

Lucas:  Did I say that?

Karen:  Didn’t you imply that?

Lucas:  Would you agree that we’re both reasonably intelligent people?

Karen:  Who in their right mind would describe anything about this whole ordeal as reasonable?

Lucas:  Why don’t you just accept that I’m a fairly nice guy?

Karen:  What sort of nice guy doesn’t offer a hard-working gal who’s been driving around all morning the opportunity to use a restroom?

Lucas:  Do you need to use the facilities? 

Karen:  Can’t you tell when I’m kidding?

Lucas:  You’ve figured out by now that I’m not Mortimer, right?

Karen:  Mortimer would have offered me a drink by now, why haven’t you?

Lucas:  What if I was hoping to get you a drink later?

Karen:  What’re you trying to say?

Lucas:  What happens if I ask you out?question_cedric_bosdonna_01

Karen:  Wouldn’t you find out if you actually tried?

Lucas:  Are you the kind of woman that gets offended when guys try to hit on her at work?

Karen:  Do you get a lot of people telling you that your apartment looks like a mail and parcel service depot?

Lucas:  So you’re not afraid of me, but you’re afraid that I breed rats?

Karen:  Don’t you get by now that I was teasing you?

Lucas:  Do I strike you as the sort of person who likes to be teased?

Karen:  You’re used to dishing it out, but not taking it, aren’t you?

Lucas:  Did I say that?

Karen:  Is that a no?

Lucas:  They don’t make many women like you, do they?

Karen:  Are you complimenting me?

Lucas:  Isn’t it obvious?

Karen:  You don’t have much practice in all this, do you?

Lucas:  So why are you letting me fumble so?

Karen:  Can’t a girl have a little fun? 

Lucas:  Do you ever wish that things were different?  Do you wish you could take a break from the same old activities with your friends and find that one someone who gets you more than anyone else?  Don’t you yearn for that one person who you know you can call after a hard day and they reassure you that everything’s going to be all right?  Don’t you wake up some mornings; look at the things in your life, and wonder?  What if this is all well and good, but there’s that certain person that could make everything seem a thousand times better just by having them in your life?  Do you even know what I’m talking about?

Karen:  Have you been reading my diary?

Lucas:  Should I?  Are there really juicy parts in there?

Karen:  You’d love to know, wouldn’t you?

Lucas:  Am I helping my chances here?

Karen:  What if I told you that you were right?  What if I listed off the long string of guys who spent more time in the bathroom working on getting their hair to look disheveled than they did asking me how my day was?  What if I was tired of being around guys who did their best to have a “good time” with every female in the room while stealing money from my purse?  What if I told you that my most recent relationships were more interested in themselves than my opinion?

Lucas:  Why don’t you try something new?

Karen:  Something along the lines of the Lucas 2000?

Lucas:  Haven’t you heard the buzz about the many daily stresses I cure and soothe?

Karen:  So you’ll give me a backrub at the end of a hard day?

Lucas:  You’ll push me to try some new adventures?

Karen:  You don’t have a prison record, do you?

Lucas:  How long do you think I would last behind bars?

Karen:  You don’t think an orange jumpsuit would suit you?  What about me?  You’re not just asking me out because of how I look in this uniform, are you?

Lucas:  Who told you about my love for industrial tones?  Who could resist a woman in baggy clothing and cotton baseball caps?  Don’t you know the allure those oil stains and wrinkles have over a man?

Karen:  Would you believe that I clean up nice?

Lucas:  Can I ask you to think the same about me?

Karen:  What if I assure you that I take my dates very seriously?  Do you realize how much I like dressing up after wearing this all day?  Can you imagine my hair coming down, the slinky dress, and a desire to have fun?

Lucas:  (nervously clears throat)  Is it getting hot in here?

Karen:  What about you?  Do you have a pair of shoes that aren’t tennis?  Have you ever used shoe polish?  You look pretty handsome in a button up charcoal shirt and a nice pair of slacks, don’t you?

Lucas:  So… you’re saying I’m allowed to ask you out?

(The two smile with each following question.  They only get more eager with each possibility)

Karen:  It sounds like that’s the case, doesn’t it?

Lucas:  Will you go on long walks with me?

Karen:  Will you distract my mother when she starts asking me why I’m not married?

Lucas:  Can we stay up late just talking about the thoughts in our heads and the hopes that we have?

Karen:  Will you open doors for me and not answer your phone when we’re in the middle of a date?

Lucas:  Are you okay with the fact that sometimes I’ll have a collection of cardboard boxes and take-out containers here and there?

Karen:  Am I allowed to vent when people cut me off in traffic and I want someone to listen to me?

Lucas:  Don’t you think the possibility here is rather fantastic?

Karen:  (teasing)  You realize that at some point I have to go find this Mortimer guy’s office, right?

Lucas:  Are you free for dinner?

Karen:  When?

Lucas:  Could it be soon?  Don’t you want to strike while the iron’s hot?

Karen:  Is that really the best you can do?  Can’t you ask a gal out a little better than that?

Lucas:  Hey Karen, you seem like a rather fantastic person that I would like to get to know much better.  Would you let me take you out to dinner after work tonight?

Karen:  Of course I will, Lucas.  Thanks for asking.

Perfect Perspective (Weekly Writing Challenge)

Perfect Perspective (Weekly Writing Challenge)

 (C’mon folks, it’s Saturday afternoon.  If you haven’t looked at The Daily Post and their suggestion for the week, you’re kinda lagging behind.  Hop to!)

Let me just begin by saying that there are two sides to every story. This is my side, the right one. “ –Easy A

**********

“I can’t believe that jerk almost killed me.” 

a3500_einstein1_gCarlos tore off his ski mask angrily and stormed in the door.  His hair raged like his temper; clumps of brown follicles thrust this way and that in an unintentional homage to Einstein.  The rest of his body was not keen to rest either.  His tempest of frustration surged.  Carlos tore off his gloves and jogging shoes.  He paced back and forth in his living room as he pulled of his jogging pants and shirt.

Making his way for the shower, Carlos still couldn’t calm himself down.  He stepped into the hot water and felt the moisture stream down on him.  Normally he turned the hot water on and then tempered it with some cold for the ideal amount of heat.  Tonight, Carlos let the shower spray out stinging pellets of scorching water to fuel his fury.  His sore body yielded and relaxed under the showerhead.  The physical exhaustion was ebbing, but not Carlos’ indignation at the event.

Carlos had thought going for an evening run would be a nice source of relaxation.  He had a ski mask that he wanted to break in for the ski trip that Connie and he were taking for Christmas.  Also, it had been getting colder outside and the thought of not having dribbling snot and sweat freeze to his face held an appeal for him.  In his dark-shaded attire, Carlos had made his way around the city streets.

The first few miles had been the same as they always were.  It took Carlos a bit to get his legs warmed up and loose.  In another mile, his lungs had adjusted to the thirty degree chill.  The only problem with Carlos’ chosen route was the lack of sidewalks.  The residential streets where he lived had nice little paved strips for him to travel on.  Besides the occasional garbage can that waited patiently to be picked up by early morning sanitation workers or mailboxes that took up permanent residence at the edge of the curb, the route was obstacle-free.  However, further away from the houses and mowed lawns were the city streets.

Back when the area had first been established, jogging was probably the furthest thing from the city planners’ minds.  No one was buying running shoes or meandering about the town for exercise seventy years ago.  So it was that the sidewalks soon gave way to vehicle lanes.   Carlos loathed racing in the same lane as cars, but he hadn’t seen any viable alternatives.  He wanted his ten miles and there were only so many routes available to him.  He wasn’t about to jog the same block over and over just because some moron on his Bluetooth couldn’t yield to a pedestrian.  Regardless of his stubbornness and his determination, Carlos would have admitted that the whole thing made him nervous.  The man had long been worried about an incident just like the one that happened that night.

For the first hundred yards on the street, things had been fine.  Carlos hugged the edge of the road, trying to give the cars as much room as possible.  Some cars honked at him, others swerved into the middle lane at the last moment.  All these activities were rather normal and the intrepid runner was able to take it all in stride.  That was before the blue four-door.

In the last stretch of the street route, Carlos noticed a car coming up behind him.  The headlights cast an eerie glow over his shoulder.  Unlike the other double-lit signs of approach, these were unyielding.  As the circles of light 549787_3225555432071_1788332779_nbecame more distinct, Carlos’ fear became greater.  To his left was the inside lane of traffic which was heavily populated with more vehicles.  To his right, Carlos saw the concrete barrier that kept him from falling off the edge and plummeting down a hundred feet to the lake below.  The car continued to approach Carlos.  He knew his escaping unharmed was entirely on him.  He scurried up onto the foot-wide perch on the top of the barrier and tried to keep from falling either down the steep drop or back into the path of the car. 

Suddenly, the blue four-door noticed the pedestrian.  It honked, swerved to the left, and screeched its brakes all at the same time.  The vehicles in the middle lane also stomped on their brakes and narrowly missed the other cars when they darted across the double-yellow line and back again.  The blue four-door somehow missed colliding with any other cars.  A man threw the passenger door open and screamed to Carlos who was lowering himself from atop the concrete wall.  He ignored the curses and angry shouts when he realized that the car wasn’t going to stop and apologize.  Sure enough, the car door slammed and the blue four-door sped away.

Carlos turned off the shower and dried himself.  His anger had almost entirely dissipated, but he still couldn’t understand why the event had happened. 

Cars are supposed to yield to pedestrians.  Yeah I was a little hard to see, but that’s the social contract people sign when they get behind the wheel.  Why couldn’t they stop gabbing at each other and focus on, I dunno, the road?  There was a time when joggers weren’t required to wear headlamps and reflective gear.  What happened to letting people not die?  There are too many distractions and too many displays in cars these days.  I’m sorry, but once you start putting DVD players in vehicles, you’re just asking for trouble.

Putting on a t-shirt and his most beaten up pair of jeans, Carlos decided to relax on the couch.  He knew he wouldn’t have the television to himself for long, so he pulled out The Three Stooges.  His wife never understood the comedic brilliance that they were performing.  Carlos got it though, and he was in the mood for some laughter.

Sure enough, as the credits started to roll, the sound of Connie’s car was heard as she pulled into the garage.  The car door slammed.  The door to the garage slammed.  Finally, Connie walked through the living room and threw her bags on the counter with a mighty thud.

“Unbelievable!”

“Honey?  Connie?  Are you okay?”

“You would not guess what happened to me.  Morons, Carlos.  We’re living in a world of morons!”

“Tell me about it.  I mean, just an hour ago…”

“I’m sorry dear”, she interrupted.  “Do you mind if I go first?  I want to… I mean… I’m so angry!”

Carlos nodded without saying a word.  He had pacified himself and his wife was clearly still incensed at her day.  He turned off the television, waved her over, and let his wife collapse onto him.  Connie sighed, slumped onto the soft cushions, and let her head rest lazily on Carlos’ shoulder. 

“It’s good to be home”, Connie said with an exhausted tone.  The relieved attitude didn’t last long.

“I still don’t see how anyone could be so stupid!”  Connie leapt to her feet and started pacing in front of the television.  Nothing that flickered across the screen could dare be as animated as the enraged woman was and Carlos gave her his utmost attention.

“You remember how Stan and I had to make this presentation downtown tonight, right?  That’s where I was for the last few hours?”

Carlos only nodded, knowing the questions that would be thrown out were only rhetorical.

“Well the whole thing went great.  I expect them to offer us a contract in the next few days.  Stan and I are happy little coworkers.  We head for his car since I left mine parked at the office.  We’ve talked about his hybrid before.  I wanted to know how it handled.  I mean, how much have I spent on gas in the last six months?

“Anyway, Stan offers to let me drive his car.  He takes the passenger side, I slide behind the wheel, and we make our way back to the office.  Traffic was awful.  There was some accident by the first intersection.  It blocked things up for I don’t know how long.  Then… then came the real kicker.

“I think everything’s going to be fine.  I figure we’re through the worst of it.  But no.  I’m driving along the city road and the most incredibly asinine person gets in my way.”

Carlos started to feel a tingling down the back of his neck.  He didn’t understand what it meant at that precise moment, but he soon would.

“Someone, some complete buffoon who’s too stupid to run on a track like a smart person, decides that the street is the perfect place to get his jollies.”

After that, Carlos could only stare on in horror.

“I mean, he wasn’t even smart about it!  Was he wearing white?  No!  Was he running in the opposite direction of the cars like he’s supposed to?  Of course not.  And why would he be out jogging at night time?  Is he suicidal?  Do joggers have some sort of death wish to offset their need to be healthy?  I mean, c’mon!”

“Uh, Connie?”

“So there I am.  I’m driving a car that I’m still trying to figure out, and there’s this jogger.  In the road!  Not off to the side, not on some sidewalk.  He’s in the flippin’ road!  Doesn’t he know that there’s a massive cliff on the other side?  Of all the asinine behaviors…  And he’s wearing all black!  Who wears all black anymore?  Emo-running is the hip new thing now?  I just, I can’t even believe it.  I need to take a shower and calm down.” 

Connie sighed and stopped pacing.  She looked at her husband, took a deep breath, and kissed him. 

“I’m glad I’m home.  Would you be a darling and cook dinner while I scrub this atrocious night off of me?  Thanks.”

“Uh, honey?  What kind of a car does Stan drive?”

“I told you”, she said as she made her way down the hallway.  “It’s a hybrid.”

“What kind?”  Carlos could feel himself twitch with fear as he asked the dreaded question.

13203533121548009075ski-mask-psd7675-md“I don’t know, Carlos.  It’s a hybrid.  His is blue.  It’s a four-door.  What do you want me to tell you?  And why is that new ski mask I bought you on the floor?  What have you been up to?”

Song Struck

A girl often has a man eating out of her hand by keeping him at arm’s length” -Unknown

**********

Anna stood in the darkness while Tony shone in the bright spotlight.  She had been scurrying around backstage all night.  Her job as stage manager demanded that she be everyplace at once while keeping tabs on all activities at once.  However, there was one moment each night when she allowed herself to stop and really watch the show.  It, not coincidentally, happened every time that Tony sang his solo.

Anna was a powerhouse of a woman.  She was young.  Her five foot height and dark, shoulder-length straight hair allowed her to blend into the background quite well when others were taking up the limelight.  But when Anna wanted to be heard, all eyes turned on her.  The actors’ stage presence came from their wild gestures or disarming good looks.  Anna’s ability to command attention of everyone around her came through sheer confidence and intelligence.  When Anna gathered people around her and began to talk, there was no doubt that she knew exactly what she was doing and what others should be accomplishing.  She had interned at the theatre in college and had quickly risen through the ranks.  Now, five short years later, everyone that graced that wooden pedestal respected and adored her.

The allure of being an actress had never appealed to Anna.  She didn’t like too much attention.  She appreciated when people would listen and consider the ideas that she put forth, but she wasn’t about to step out on stage and flash a winning smile to a crowd.  She was there to make others look good.  Anna wanted each show went off without a hitch; that was all

Over the course of the twenty or so plays that Anna had been in charge, she had observed plenty of drama taking place on-, but mostly off-stage.  The actors couldn’t seem to keep their hands off each other.  He would date her, she would date him; and so it went.  Anna did her best to subtly remark that certain “shenanigans” shouldn’t be indulged at a professional theatre.  Yet, every so often, she would come across unmentionables.  Had she found them in dressing rooms then that would have been one matter.  She could almost pretend that those were props that had been left behind.  But she also found loose garments lingering around the sound booth, the catwalks, and in the audience when they hadn’t had any patrons.  It seemed that the actors loved only one thing more than struggling with their lines; struggling with their scene partners afterwards.

Anna rolled her eyes at the performers.  She was far too busy to let these men woo her or romance her.  As much as she liked her line-reciting compatriots, she had a certain opinion about them.  Actors, in Anna’s mind, enjoyed having the focus on them.  And only them.  In the social interactions that she had had with them after plays or late at night, they always seemed to lead the conversations back to themselves.  As a woman with actor friends, Anna was okay with that.  At the same time, she knew that it would never work as a romantic pairing.  Anna liked to have food cooked for her and her feet rubbed.  With the men that she spent her time bossing around, she expected to have her lunch absconded from the lounge and her toes stepped on in the darkness of backstage.

Still, as Tony stopped fighting with his fellow actress on stage, Anna couldn’t help but stare.  His short curly hair was adorable.  It wasn’t at all the type of hair that she pictured on a tall man with nice arms and a distinguished nose.  Somehow though, it worked for him.  He had the confidence that his fellow thespians did; he couldn’t have held his own on stage without it.  Yet, whenever she saw Tony, he always had a respectful way about him.  He actually stopped and looked her in the eye when he asked, “How’s it goin’?”  Most others, even Anna’s close friends, said such phrases in passing.  They never actually paused in going from point A to point B to get a response.  Tony not only stopped, he paid attention.

Anna, assuming her history with dating would maintain its tragic track record, told herself that Tony was gay.  It made sense.  He dressed well, he sang well, and he could dance.  He was nice to everyone and hugged anyone that needed it.  Anna told herself that he was not into women; he was just a perfectly nice person.  But that thought had been formed before the backrub of three weeks ago.

It had been an excruciatingly crummy day.  The lighting chief had been called out of town on a family emergency, ticket sales were lousy, and the next show was set to open soon.  Spirits were low and folks were grumbling as Anna tried to get everyone’s attention.  The director wouldn’t get off the phone and the lead actor refused to put down his latte and circle around with everyone else.

Tony, in all his charming brilliance, had done what any rational actor in the situation would have done.  He pretended that his butt was on fire.  He ran around the theater, patted his butt and screamed in comedic agony.  Anna found herself laughing along with all those assembled and caught her attention drifting to the supposed scene of the inferno.  She felt her eyebrows raise in satisfaction as her head bobbed along in agreement.  She was shaken from her physical critique as two strong hands came up behind her.

“Now that I have your full attention”, Tony’s strong voice boomed.  “I believe that the lovely Anna was trying to say something?  Anna, the floor is all yours.”

Anna had coughed in embarrassment, thanked Tony for the amusing introduction, and run down the clipboard of notes in front of her.  It hadn’t been the greatest meeting.  There had been some back-talk.  But the softening of the mood had clearly helped morale.

As the actors started to take their place on stage, Anna found herself sitting on her leather chair.  There were few sacred spots left in the tiny backstage area, but every person that walked around behind the curtain knew that the aged brown chair was off limits.  No one knew where it had come from.  Most assumed it was some prop pulled from The Man Who Came to Dinner, or some similar production.  Those that had tried it before its status as Anna’s seat had found the chair to be too small.  For the tiny stage manager though, the scratched, haggard, beaten up chair fit her just right.

As her petite figure collapsed onto the chair and her trusty clipboard fell onto her lap, Anna let her head fall back onto the top of the chair.  She closed her eyes, avoiding the sight of the numerous lights above that needed to be fixed.  It was then that the two strong hands returned to her shoulders.  The thumbs rubbed and dug their way into her tense shoulders as the palms pulled at the cluster of knots that had begun a summit on her upper back.  She felt the stress of the job lessen as her body went limp.  She moaned in contented pleasure.  “Ohhhh… that’s… yeah….”

“I’m glad you approve”, a familiar voice said.

“Tony”, she said without opening her eyes.  “Is that you?”

“It is unless you wanted somebody else to do this.  I’ve been told I can be a little too strong.”

“Mmmmm.  No”, she said, unable to wipe the smile off her face.  “You’re absolutely perfect.”

“I’ll remember that when I ask you out to dinner one day”, Tony replied with a laugh.

Anna’s constantly working brain shut down.  She didn’t think and she didn’t organize or plan; she let go.  The veins her forehead loosened.  The groups of knots and nerves released.  She felt herself falling asleep in the chaotic environment.  Anna couldn’t remember the last time she’d been so at peace at theatre.

“Oops, I gotta go”, Tony apologized as he stopped.  “They’re calling me for my death scene.”

Anna was almost unconscious and only managed to reply with a, “mmm-hmm”.  And then, as she was about to mentally clock out entirely, she felt something press against her lips.  This was no quick peck or gesture of friendship.  She could have sworn that the sensual touch had lasted a good ten seconds.

Anna fought to wake up.  No was standing near her.  Blinking her tired eyes, she saw Tony on stage in the middle of a scene.  She had obviously been out of it for a few minutes.  She started to wonder if she had imagined the whole thing.  Tony probably hadn’t kissed her. The stress of the day had thrown her for a loop.  The backrub had played tricks on her weary brain.  Anna knew that she had imagined that kiss.  That was the only answer that made sense.  Or was it?

Three weeks later and Anna couldn’t take her eyes off of Tony.  She wondered if he knew just how sexy he looked when he was singing to a full house.  She smiled at his voice, his smile and that cute head of hair.  She looked in awe at the way he kept the entire audience’s attention.  Anna knew she should pinch herself and get back to work.  She didn’t want to.  It wasn’t helping that Tony was singing one of her favorite songs.  She swooned each time she heard, “Just the way you look… tonight.”

There was one performance oddity that Tony had.  At first, like the kiss, Anna doubted if it was real or not.  Yet, it happened with insane regularity.   Every time that Tony sang his solo, without fail, he would glance off stage to Anna.  It didn’t matter where she stood, he somehow found her.  For one, fleeting moment, he would look right at Anna and wink.  Then he went right back to performing his tune to the audience with no one the wiser.  Anna tried to convince herself she was wrong, but she had been doubtful of that reasoning for a while.

She mockingly winked in return, half encouraging and half teasing the strapping man.  With Bambi-eyes and a cheerleader’s look on her face, Anna crossed her arms in front of her chest, stood on tiptoes, and exaggeratingly mouthed, “I love you!” in as obnoxious of a face as she could manage.  The first time she had heckled him, Tony had almost lost his concentration.  Like a pro, he took his surprise and turned it into a laugh, making the patrons love him even more.

Anna was afraid to admit it, but she was getting rather smitten with Tony.  She was going to have to confront him one of these days.  He actually listened to her.  He was undeniably attractive.  And the two clearly had similar interests; one doesn’t enter the theatre life for casual jollies.  Anna let her head rest on a breaker panel.  She had no desire to take her eyes off of Tony.  His song was almost over and she wanted to enjoy him glowing perfectly on stage for as long as possible.  Her cheeks started to flush.  Anna grabbed her handy clipboard and covered her face with it.  She couldn’t believe she was blushing.  Biting her lower lip nervously, Anna knew she’d have to corner Tony at the after-party.  She’d find some out of the way spot for them both to talk.  If nothing else, she was going to kiss that man with all her gusto.  Of all the performances being given tonight, Anna was determined that hers was the one that Tony would remember.

Problems With Infinity

Confessions of a Delusional Maniac

Avoiding Neverland

A teacher's reflections on preparing teens for life

Late~Night Ruminations

...for all the ramblings of my cluttered mind....

Short...but not always so sweet 💋

Life is a series of challenges ~Happy endings are not guaranteed

Running Away To Booktopia

Because let's face it, reality sucks most of the time.

guclucy5incz5hipz

Exploring my own creativity (and other people's) in the name of Education, Art and Spirituality. 'SquarEmzSpongeHat'. =~)

The Land of 10,000 Things

Charles Soule - writer.

40 is the new 13

These are my 40s... what happened?

You're Gonna Need a Bigger Blog

This blog, swallow you whole

bottledworder

easy reading is damn hard writing

s1ngal

S1NGLE living H1GH thinking

Listful Thinking

Listless: Lacking zest or vivacity

Kim Kircher

Strength from the Top of the Mountain

The Byronic Man

We can rebuild him. We have the technology... Drier. Hilariouser. More satirical than before.

The One Year Challenge

A one-year chronical of no flirting, no more dating and absolutely no sex.

Beth Amsbary

Spirit Workshops Convener, Storyteller, Grantwriter,