Eleven Demandments
Short Stories
Page 18
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It was late December when I came home wearing a kilt and ceremoniously threw all my pants in the dumpster, declaring, “I’m never wearing pants again!” By New Year’s Eve, my wife of ten years decided to leave me.

I had argued against a divorce initially because we got along so great and I was unprepared to cook for myself. But ten years was a long time to be married, so we split amicably. We got her an apartment in the building we were already in so we could share custody of our dog, Chloe, and she was out within two weeks. We agreed that I would help her set up her new place and she would make sure I was eating properly. And we’d get together for regular sex, at least until one of us started seeing somebody.

We spent most of a Sunday moving her stuff (or half of our stuff) into her new apartment. Our neighbor across the hall was in and out all day, and knew what was going on. She made an effort to talk to both me and ‘Vanessa’ (not her real name, she asked me to change it), being all Sad and There For Us. Rachael’s cute and she’d always been a little flirty with me. At one point when Vanessa wasn’t around, Rachael told me that she was going in for breast reduction surgery in a couple of months. I said, “Oh, really? I’m thinking of getting penis reduction surgery. Maybe we should get together for a little ‘before and after’.”

She looked down and I really thought she was gonna lift up my kilt to check for herself, but she just smiled at me and I said that she should come over later and have a glass of wine on the porch (she was always envious of our porch). She said, “Maybe” and went back into her apartment. I hadn’t been with anybody but Vanessa since we got married, and I wasn’t necessarily thinking I was gonna get Rachael into bed that night, but I thought it would be good to have somebody cute to talk to. Maybe have her over a couple times next week and see what happens.

We moved up all of Vanessa’s stuff and she had the last bag of books. She set it down and gave me a hug. “I know this is the right thing to do. We’ll be fine”, she said. “Who knows? Maybe we just need some time apart.”

As she was hugging me, I could tell she was crying. She later told me that she’d spent the night up in her new place going through all our pictures, listening to the music we both liked, and wondering if this was all a mistake.

So she’s hugging me, and it was a pretty long hug. Long enough for me to realize that I was just about to spend my first night alone. Ten years of marriage; over and done. I didn’t really want to be alone. I’ve always preferred having a partner; I function better that way. And now I have to start dating again. Well, I thought, there’s no shortage of cute girls in this town, that’s for sure. There’s the cutie who serves me coffee in the morning, of course, and the blonde teller at my bank, Sara. There was Amy who worked at the marina, and Lisa who worked at the boat brokerage I sometimes did jobs for. There was Theresa who lived in Boston. Maybe I could fly her out for a weekend. There was the waitress at the Hilltop, the chick over at Ken’s Market, and that other waitress at the Hilltop, the one with the short blonde hair and green eyes. Goddamn, I’d LOVE to fuck that one. And Rachael. Maybe I WILL try to do her tonight, I thought.

Vanessa let go of me, gave me a kiss good-bye, grabbed her books, and she and Chloe were gone. I closed the door, had a beer and wondered what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life. Vanessa and I were very close and we loved each other. Still do. We just wanted different things out of life and she was having a hard time dealing with my bipolar disorder. So she left. And here I was, alone.

But it was still early on a Sunday afternoon and I had a couple hours before I was gonna invite Rachael over for drinks and hopefully some naked time, so naturally, I went out for a beer.

I decided to go to a place up on Phinney Ridge that I had been to a week before. I had gone there for several years for my friend Dave’s annual birthday party, and this was the first one we had had after he died, a few months earlier. And it was also the first time I’d worn my new kilt out to a bar. I went without Vanessa, as she was protesting the kilt. The cute waitress, however, was drawn to it immediately and couldn’t keep her fingers off of it. Being married, I didn’t really flirt back, but I relished the positive reinforcement that you need when you first start wearing a skirt out in public.

I had a beer, but the cute waitress wasn’t there. I wrote a note on the back of my business card, something to the effect of- ‘Hey! remember me? I’m the guy in the kilt from last week. I was married then, but now I’m not! Wanna get together?’. I gave it to the bartender and asked her to ‘Give it to the girl who was working last Saturday night- dark hair, cute, I think she said she likes to paint...?’ (She never did call.)

I finished my beer, and I was pretty low. For some reason I thought I’d run into this waitress and she’d be so happy that I was now single, she’d invite me back to her place. We would get some red wine, paint each others naked bodies, and fuck all night. It seemed reasonable enough, but it wasn’t happening.

Plan B:

I got in the truck and drove back to Queen Anne Hill. Basically to park, because I was gonna go get smashed at one of the bars within stumbling distance to home. If I was going to spend the night alone, I wasn’t gonna do it sober, that was for damn sure.

I went to Hoyt’s and had a few beers and shots of scotch up at the bar. At some point I saw a group of four college-aged girls playing pool, so I ordered up a pitcher, got four more glasses and sat down at their table. Before I could think of something witty to say (I should have thought of something before I went over), they grabbed their drinks and moved everything to a new table. Fine. More beer for me.

Sometime after that I felt somebody sit down on the bench next to me and was relieved to  find that it was an attractive woman. “Hi! I’m Maggie!” she said, with this adorable English accent. My spirits rose.

We drank beer and scotch and she seemed to actually care about this drunk, pathetic guy who’s wife just left him. She told me I didn’t have to spend the night alone, and came back to my place.

We went to my apartment and drank and smoked her cigarettes and blasted music and fucked. I don’t remember thinking anything about it. I don’t recall any feelings of animosity towards Vanessa while I was boning Maggie. I don’t even think I felt relief that I could still get laid after all those years of monogamy. I just needed some human contact.

At seven in the morning my alarm went off, and although I’d barely even closed my eyes and was still kind of drunk, I knew I had to get to work by eight otherwise my guys would stand around doing nothing, or worse, do something stupid.

My head was killing me, there was a naked chick next to me who was not my wife, and I had to take a dump. I drank some water and went and sat on the toilet. I had my head in my hands, and was trying to get a grasp on what had happened in the last twenty-four hours when the naked chick comes bouncing into the bathroom and jumps in the shower. I started to point out that I was sitting on the toilet over here, and she said, “Oh, just strike a match, love.” It was the English chick.

So I’m sitting there knowing that something was very wrong, but I couldn’t quite figure out exactly what it was. My mind was a blur, and I tried to methodically recreate the events of the last several hours. It was very difficult and I couldn’t quite get clarity.

Until I hear the unmistakable jingle of Chloe’s collar as she comes bounding up the stairs outside the apartment and I remember that I’m taking her for the day so she doesn’t have to spend it in Vanessa’s new apartment all alone. Seconds later I hear keys opening the front door and it’s much too late (and quite inconvenient) for me to try and close the bathroom door.

My now-very-certainly-ex-wife-to-be pauses outside the bathroom and sees me on the crapper. She notices the shower running and gives me a puzzled look. Before she has a chance to ask me why the hell I have the shower going, the curtain swings open and the naked English chick says, “Hi! I’m Maggie!”

Vanessa turned and left. Which was a very good thing, ‘cause I got the impression that Maggie was all up for a dripping wet conversation with the woman she’d heard so much about the night before.

A couple of weeks later, when Vanessa was talking to me again, she admitted that Maggie had given her the closure that years of therapy might not have provided, and she thanked me.

                                                                         Huggy Jesus

I first met Sean online. We were both regular visitors to the Seattle Seahawks website, and posted on their message boards. He had entered the discussion group in the most obnoxious way possible. If you’re unfamiliar with message boards, here’s how it works- when you stumble across a discussion group online, you read what people are saying, look back to what has already been discussed, and try to get a sense of the place. And you understand that people have been talking for a while and have developed relationships.            

What you don’t do, is read one or two posts, decide everybody on the site is a total fucking idiot, and make a long, condescending argument as to why everybody should shut the hell up and just ask you directly if they have any questions about the topic at hand. And then, you don’t sign off-
Your Daddy.  

This was, of course, exactly what Sean did. We jumped all over him, and he eventually changed his sign off to Pops and became a favorite of the hundreds of visitors to the site. What he never lost, god bless him, was his sense of contribution to the future Super Bowl successes of the Seahawks.            

“Don’t you think Paul (Allen, the owner) and Holmgren (Mike, the coach) read these posts every day? Don’t you think that if I walked up to Matt (Hasselbeck, the quarterback) and said, ‘Hi, I’m Pops!’, he’d thank me for my tips on avoiding the pass rush? Dude! They read what we write! You don’t think Paul Allen, one of the richest men in the world, doesn’t know everything about me?!  What if he thinks I may become a threat to him someday? You don’t think he’d have me taken out? Come on!! You don’t get THAT rich by not being paranoid! But I could walk up to his house right now and his security guards would recognize me, tell Paul Allen I’m there, and I’m in! That ain’t no shit, Bubba! I was there when they were practicing on a field behind a school before the Kingdome was even built! He KNOWS that!”            

After several months of talking about the Seahawks, football, religion, Seattle, boats, etc., Sean asked me where I worked and showed up one day at my shop.            

He amused me immediately. He was a character out of an Elmore Leonard novel. I had been under the impression that he was a master machinist, so I was a little surprised at what he drove up in- an old black stinky noisy dying mini-van with no windows in the back.            

It didn’t take long before he was telling me stories about strong-arming his way into a Mafia family in Miami, smuggling cocaine in from Columbia, blackmailing a female FBI agent (they’re still fuming about that one, believe you me, Bub!), and armed bank robbery against a bank that screwed him out of some money in a house deal. They were all great stories, and the level of truth didn’t matter to me at all. And he gave me some pot that he grew in his supposed vast underground grow room.            
He reminded me of my grandfather, Papa. Not everybody liked Papa, but I did. I know he was an obnoxious pain in the ass, but I thought he was funny. I used to visit him at the nursing home every Sunday with a contraband Mars Bar and we’d watch a football game or a movie on TV. I’d wheel him out for a smoke and he’d tell me stories about World War Two and airplanes and ships.            

When Papa was being admitted into the nursing home, he underwent a mental evaluation and made a big impression on the resident psychiatrist. This doctor later told my parents that Papa was an amazing man.  

“It was an honor to meet him,” he said. “I love WWII history and to hear his experience on the battlefield was fascinating! He described the feeling of being there so well, I felt like I was right next to him, under fire!”            

My mother laughed. “He blew his knee out playing football in high school. They wouldn’t let him in the Army. He stayed here and built airplane propellers. He just reads a lot.”            

I know Sean doesn’t read books (he’s too lazy) but I do know he watches a lot of movies. And this doesn’t mean I doubt the legitimacy of what he’s ever told me, because I know that he’s capable of anything. Besides, I saw his underground grow room. I just never cared if the stories he told me were true or not.            

When Sean was evicted from his house, I let him take up residence in a back office of my shop. He did a couple of mechanical jobs for me, but it was immediately apparent why he couldn’t hold a job as a machinist. He was much too intelligent to work for idiots.            

I had little work for him, so his day consisted mostly of waking up around eleven, hitting me up for a couple bucks (it cost me between five and $20/day to know him then), going to the food bank, and getting online on my shop computer to dispense his football wisdom.            

And then one night I was having dinner with my ex-wife and we were talking about a girl I had started seeing. It was soon after we had broken up, and the divorce was still months away from being finalized, so it was no surprise that she was a little brutal to Theresa. Vanessa had always had a disdain to women who have stuffed dolls, and when I mentioned that she was a Christian, Vanessa said, “I bet she has a stuffed Jesus doll.”            

A lightbulb exploded above my head! A stuffed Goddamn Jesus Doll! Brilliant! What could be better than selling Jesus to the Christians? There’s millions of them, and there’s been two thousand years of pre-publicity! Everybody’s heard of Jesus! This would be way easier than selling those stupid Cabbage Patch dolls or those crappy Beanie Babies!            

I remembered Sean telling me that he’d made a full size shark costume for Halloween once (from the Land Shark skit on Saturday Night Live), and him telling me that his mother used to make dolls. And he’d be the perfect frontman for it. A homeless guy who finds Jesus and wants to spread His love. This was gonna be great!            

When Sean came into the shop the next day, I told him about it. He was all over it. We immediately set to work sewing up some prototypes. I came up with Super Jesus, complete with a cape and a big JC on His chest and capable of leaping off His cuddly soft cross in a single bound. And Sean came up with the model that we would use. His version won mostly because it looked like a little Charles Manson with freaky blue eyes and a bunny nose, and I almost peed myself every time I looked at it. Huggy Jesus was born.            

We had somebody make a bunch of dolls for us, and we came up with a story about how Sean had found Jesus one day when he was at the lowest point in his life. We decided that he had gotten to the food bank after they had closed and, dejected, wandered around Ballard in the rain. He came upon a church and, to his surprise, the door was unlocked. (At this point I wanted to say that he went in to steal something, but Sean rejected that.) He walked toward the alter and fell to his knees. He began crying uncontrollably, and begged God for help. After a couple of minutes, he looked up and saw a vision of Jesus. Sean said, “Hi”, but Jesus said nothing, for he had no mouth.            

I had insisted from the start that Huggy Jesus would be mute. I did not want Him to come with a message. I knew that some people would take it serious, and I did not want to send any messages about what Jesus would have to say to children. In part because I didn’t think we should preach Christianity, but mostly because I knew that I could not be trusted to do it right without having a lot of fun with it and ruining any chances of actually making any money off this.            

Next came marketing. A friend of mine did a website, and I remember being a little surprised at the time that huggyjesus.com was still available. How could nobody else have thought of this? It was so obvious!           

The billboards were great. Five of them around Seattle, with Huggy Jesus rising out of the clouds, declaring HE IS COMING! Cost me five thousand dollars, but it was worth it. We got an 800 number, and for every person who had to have one of these dolls there were two who thought we were gonna burn in hell for trying to profit off the Lord. It was great! The messages left on our answering machine were the best. Me and a couple friends would drink beer and sit around the answering machine laughing our asses off. Some people get very pissed off when you have a little fun with their savior, apparently.                    

We sold some dolls, got some press, and went through a few potential investors; all of whom tried to screw us. We finally got the owner of a pizza franchise (Sean’s new boss; he was now delivering pizzas part time) to buy the licensing rights to Huggy Jesus. He’s spent over $70,000, and to this point sold only a handful of dolls. Five thousand of them sit in a warehouse in Minnesota, despite his feeble and hapless attempts at marketing an established icon that’s been around for two whole millennia. He spent twenty thousand trying to spam Christians, but that didn’t work. He paid $13,000 for a TV commercial (one of the funniest things I have ever seen), but ran it locally and was put off when nobody in Seattle bought any. Several Christmas seasons have since passed with no action, and it all became just a bad joke that was no longer funny.            

But at about the time we were negotiating the final details of this licensing deal, tragedy struck. Sean lost his cell phone. He was beside himself. Suddenly, the world ground to a halt and nobody could do anything until he either found his phone or got it replaced. For about two days, he was unbearable. Things were starting to happen, and the loss of his phone had rendered him impotent to utilize his superior business sense and negotiating tactics to finesse the remaining details to his benefit.            

Sean had been the face of and fake story behind Huggy Jesus, and just as we were finalizing the biggest contract of his life, he had an Idea.            

I first heard of this Idea that Saturday morning. He called me at home from the shop. “Jay! Get down here! I have something for you! It’s very important! I know you’re probably hung over, so I waited till 7 to call you. Now get down here!”            

He called me several more times, until I finally arrived at about 10 to find him sitting outside, waiting.         

“God damn it! I told you this was important!”            


“Shut up and listen. I don’t know why I’m even gonna offer this to you now, but I like you so I’m gonna let this go. But never do that again!”            

He felt he could trust me (“Though I don’t know why, after you made me sit here for three fucking hours when I have shit to do!”) with his new Idea, but first there had to be some ground rules. “This Idea is gonna require your full attention. No more of this half-assed shit!”            

“Whole-assed, got it.”            

“Shut up. You’re gonna come work for me...”            

“No thanks.”            

“Will you please just shut up and listen?!?! I’m gonna make you rich, but you’ll have to work for it. You will be my West Coast rep, and I’ll give you a portion of every unit you place. Are you ready to hear my Idea, or not?”            


“Cell Phone Vending Machines!!”             

It was beautiful and so simple! He’d get a couple million dollars and set up all these vending machines around the world (starting in Hawaii) so people could have a cell phone for a couple of days until the battery ran out, when they could either re-up, or drop it back in the machine for their deposit. AND, he would install surveillance cameras in the machines and sell all the information and video to the FBI, because so many of his customers would obviously be using his phones for illegal purposes.            

He laid out the Plan in detail. Investment opportunity, employee benefits and profit sharing, even the huge cylindrical building with thousands of video monitors and a guy sitting in a chair on the end of a long arm that he controls to zip around and watch all the people buying phones and walking past his machines. This man would be wired in to the FBI, of course. And he told me everything he was going to do with his new found wealth.            

“The first thing I’m gonna do is buy the Seahawks. Paul’s a great owner, don’t get me wrong, but I’m gonna be more active. I’m gonna buy all the players beach houses in the Bahamas as incentives to play better; maybe then Springs will hold on to the fucking ball. I’m gonna rearrange the entire Secondary, bring in some new blood. And Special Teams! The coach, what’s his name? He’s gotta go.”            

“Rodriguez. They fired him. It was in the paper this morning.”            

He swept his arms out and had a very self-satisfied look, as if he had orchestrated the entire event without even trying.            

He basked in his glory for a moment and then asked me, “How much do you think it’ll cost to put tinting on the Owners box?” He grabbed the phone book and looked up window tinters. “This one looks good.”            

“When you’re the owner of the Seahawks, I don’t think you’ll have to shop around for tinting. I think all you’ll have to do is tell somebody you want it and that’s it.”            

“You’re probably right.” He sat down for the first time and was quiet. He looked at the clock and jumped up. “Shit, I’m late. I have to go deliver pizzas!”  

He was very busy for the next two weeks, putting his Plan into action. His unsubmitted proposal to the director of the FBI and a copy of his sent letter to Ted Turner (the obvious choice for funding such a project) are two of my prized possessions.            

He somehow talked a friend of his who owned a restaurant to give him $20,000. He leveraged his future earnings to Huggy Jesus, which in retrospect wasn’t such a bad idea; unless you were his restaurant owning friend, of course.            

Sean now had twenty grand at his disposal, and he was gonna do this right! He already had everything written down and drawn up, and he carried his Plan and schematics with him wherever he went. He told every person he met (“You can never tell who’s got money just by looking at them! Ever see a picture of Howard Hughes before he died?”) that he had something in his briefcase that was gonna make him rich beyond words, and if they wanted in they better get together as much money as possible, and get it quick. Sell their house if they had to, just get it together before somebody else does, or they’re gonna hate themselves for the rest of their life. He couldn’t divulge what the Idea was, of course, they would just have to trust him.            

It was suddenly very important that Sean carry himself with a new air of dignity. Nobody was going to throw hundreds of thousands of dollars at him if he looked like just another worker bee. And to watch Sean go through this total and complete reformation was a fascinating thing to behold.            
In addition to dying his hair black and getting a professional to clean his nails, he invested in a new wardrobe. Namely, an official Seattle Seahawks football jersey (number 8, with ‘Hasselbeck’ on the back), a matching nylon windbreaker/pants ensemble, and of course, a golf cap. A quick look at him will tell any investor with half a brain what Sean’s noble, yet simple intentions are- to own the Seahawks and craft multi-million dollar deals over a leisurely eighteen holes.            

The next problem to address was his car. A stinky noisy unreliable old black mini-van with no windows in the back was certainly not befitting to his new image. About six months previous I traded my shop van for a BMW 528I that needed a new motor. Sean took the job of swapping out the motor, but never quite got around to finishing it, so there it sat. I couldn’t sell it until it was running so I resigned myself to bringing it to somebody else to finish it up when he came out to the boat I was working on and threw me $500.            

“Jay, I’m gonna do you a favor, even though you’ve been a real dick lately,” he told me in front of a customer. “I’m gonna buy the Beamer from you for $2,000, but you gotta paint it black with NO RUNS! I want your best paint job or it’s no deal! I’ll pay for the paint and labor it takes one of your guys to prep it out, you just spray it.”            

He gave me a deadline to have it done (“One week!” “No way.” “Okay, two weeks!” “Maybe.” “Deal!”) and then spent the next two weeks looking at the car, no doubt imagining himself driving around in it with its bitching new paint job (black with gold metallic, of course. “I saw that color once on a car in Miami. Very classy!”).            

It had been less than a week since he got the money, but he’d been working very hard. Or at least Thinking very hard. It was time for a vacation.            

Fortunately, it was the time of year the NFL held it’s Pro Bowl. In Hawaii, no less! He could take a break AND do some work. He would scout out their international airport (“Lot’s of Asians go through there. Asians LOVE cellphones!”), get in some golf (“Bet you a thousand dollars I get my big investor before the ninth hole!”), and introduce himself to his future employees, the Seattle Seahawks. “Bet you another thousand me and Paul (Allen) figure out a deal that gives me the Hawks in trade for a little bit of SellFonz (or whatever he called it). It’s just gotta be done in a way that he doesn’t lose face.”            

When he got back from Hawaii, he didn’t offer too many details. No, there were no Big Deals struck on the golf course, but he did sit next to a very attractive black tennis player on the shuttle back to the airport. He showed me the picture he took of her with his new fancy cell phone, and it was, indeed, Serena Williams. “Is she any good?”, he asked me.   About a week later, he was at the boatyard with his new personal assistant, Jessica. This was his third personal assistant since he got back. The first was his sister, who he had to fire ‘cause she was a stupid bitch. The second couldn’t keep up with him as he dictated his thoughts on the golf course. And now, Jessica. She is surprisingly hot. Whatever he said to her while she was dying his hair a couple weeks earlier, she obviously bought.   Seven years ago Sean had acquired an old wooden boat at auction for $5. When he got evicted from his house he had the boat, which was in his driveway, moved over to the boatyard where I did most of my work.            

“There’s my boat I was telling you about! A ‘59 Chris Craft Constellation! She’s a classic! I’m living on it to save money. I’m trying to spend my resources wisely. That’s what you do.”            

Jessica looked confused, “Where?”            

“Right there!” Sean said, pointing to several different colored tarps, weather-worn and covering what could have been a boat. Or  a bus. Or several cords of firewood. “I’m restoring it! I’m gonna bring it down to Mexico and charter it out for fishing trips! I’ve got it all set up! They’re waiting for me down in Xiajuatinau! Wanna go?”  

                                                                           The Long Flight

Kenny and I had just said goodbye to my father and we sat at a bar in Providence’s TF Greene airport. A storm was coming in, and my Dad dropped us off early so we could catch an earlier flight and make the connection in Newark to get back to Seattle.  

I had some mediocre lobster bisque and an over-priced beer. There were about six or eight other people there, among them a cute girl sitting across the bar from me who I would have guessed to be about eighteen, except that she was drinking a beer so she was at least twenty one. It was a large beer, the same kind I was drinking, so maybe she was twenty two. Still, she was too young so I tried to avoid eye contact.   

They announced something about my flight being canceled and said everybody had to get up to the counter and get rescheduled. I stood in line and the cute girl queued up behind me. 

“Do you think we’ll make the 5:30?”, she asked me. She was asking about the connection in Newark to Seattle. It had to be the Utilikilt that told her I was going to Seattle and not, say, Cleveland or Kansas City.  

When you’re a guy in your forties you automatically suss out younger women as soon as you meet them. If they’re cute and within range, then, of course, you make every attempt to get them into bed. But if they’re too young, you put them into a different category. You become a Protector against all those other old dirtbag predators who are all over the place and want nothing else but to take advantage of all the pretty young things you can’t have.  

We had about twenty minutes in line, and then an hour together in the bar before our plane took off. We hit it off immediately and I could easily picture her as a younger friend. Just a cool girl who, no matter how cute, I would never get to see naked.  

We each had a book to read and we talked about our favorite writers. She said she liked to write poetry and I told her I could only write non-fiction. And crockpot recipes.  

I mentioned the cookbook, of course, and how I was hoping to get it properly published. She told me she had a friend who was an editor of some sort so I gave her a copy that I had in my backpack to give to him. But I told her, “It’s really more of a guy’s book...”, hoping she wouldn’t bother to open it.  

Her seat on the plane to Newark was in the back and I was more in the middle. I did the Sunday crossword puzzle and wondered what she was reading. The book she brought or my stories of casual sex and manic depression?  

I got off the plane first and waited for her. The storm stayed East of New York and we had almost two hours before our next flight. We found a Mexican restaurant that claimed to have the Best Guacamole In The Entire United States. Imagine our luck! Right here in Newark International Airport!  

As we talked and ate and drank, I started to see her a little differently. Turns out she was actually thirty-two and an engineer at Boeing. We talked about religion, relationships, and the hypocrisy of most of the people who go to Burning Man. She had a smile and a laugh that somehow felt very familiar to me. We talked like we’d known each other for years.  

And then she asked me if I was really married for ten years, and if I was still friends with Sean. So she HAD pulled out my book and read at least the first two stories. If she stopped there, I felt I might have a chance with her. You know, I thought of saying, I don’t think I want it to be edited after all. And it’s really not ready to be read by anybody... But then I figured, fuck it. Either she’s accepts me or not. No point in postponing the inevitable, if that’s what it was.  

When it was time to board for home, we walked over to our gate. We passed an international flight that made a last call for Charles DeGaulle and she asked, “Whaddaya say? Wanna switch flights?”  
I seriously thought about it for a second and realized that if it weren’t for all the practical reasons like money and the fact that I had a dog that might have to be quarantined or something, I would have gone. And I felt like, had she been serious, we would have had a great time in Paris and something to tell our grandkids.  

Just as we got to gate C-25, she said, “Hey! That’s you. They just paged you.”  

I didn’t hear it and I wondered how she knew my last name. And then I remembered the book, which had it right on the front cover. That book which might possibly guarantee I will never get laid again by any English speaking woman who was not in full control of her faculties. Ironic to the extreme, since one of the reasons I wanted to be a writer in the first place was ‘cause I thought chicks dig writers. And because if you’re a writer it’s almost expected that you’re a drunk and it’s kind of endearing when you make an ass of yourself and have to be wheeled back to your boat in a dock cart. If you’ve never been published and you act like that, you’re just a drunk.  

The woman at the gate said that since I was traveling with a pet, I shouldn’t be sitting by the emergency door over the wing. Normally, I would have insisted that Kenny and I were more than ready to help evacuate the plane if we had to make a water landing in South Dakota, but since I was traveling with my new girlfriend, I just asked if we could sit together.  

We had a row of three seats to ourselves, with Kenny in the middle. We both passed on the headphones, preferring rather to talk than watch the movies. It was nice. For a while, anyway.   And then she started asking me questions about the book, and I confessed that I wished I hadn’t given it to her. She looked surprised and asked me why. I told her I was embarrassed about it and I’d kind of like it if she gave it back to me. Maybe after we got to know each other better she could read it. Meaning, but not saying, that she could have it back after we’d slept together. It’s much easier to be open and honest with somebody once you’ve exchanged bodily fluids with them.  

She dismissed that immediately. “I can take it,” she said, almost a little defensively. We were both quiet for a little while and then she looked at me as if she was going to say something, and pulled my book out of her bag.  

She opened it to where she must have left off and started reading the third story, about the time I fucked a nineteen year old in a hot tub after her uncle had expressly forbidden me not to. It made me very uncomfortable, but all I could do was read along with her and hope it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. When she was done with the story, she put the book on her lap and stared at the back cover for a few minutes. I almost told her I was thinking about leaving that story out of the next edition, but realized it would be best if I just kept my goddam mouth shut from now on.  

She picked the book up again and read and read and read. Some more crockpot recipes, and the Twelve Step Program for Christians. I felt like telling her that the Twelve Step Program wasn’t my idea. It came from Thom, who I worked with briefly at Utilikilts who suggested I do a Twelve Step Program and make the last step ‘Go Get Drunk’. And as far as the girl in the hot tub goes, well, you know, she had her frigging hand on my pecker the whole time her uncle was in the tub and it was out of respect for him that we waited until everybody else left and what was I supposed to do anyway? NOT fuck her?!? Be reasonable, for Christ’s sake!  

You know, I almost said, it’s pretty easy to judge people just by reading their book. Why don’t YOU write a goddam book and let ME read it?   Instead, of course, I said nothing and pretended to read a book. Next was a story called ‘Look Alive, Leonard’. All of the stuff in this story are the kinds of things that one would probably not reveal to a potential partner in the first few weeks, or months even, of a new relationship. And of all the stories in the cookbook, this was the one I most wanted back.  

I put my book away and pretended to take a nap. I positioned my head in a way that allowed my protruding Cro Magnon brow to obscure the direction of my left eye. Me sleep now. Me no care what you read.  

But really, of course, I was reading along with her about my almost identical cousin who killed himself, the deep depression after my buddy died and the full manic pendulum swing that made my wife leave me. Bar fights, more drunken sex, and the general instability that would send any sane woman walking quickly and quietly in the other direction.   

She finished the story and put the book back in her bag. And before I could think of a proper explanation, she turned and raised the visor to look out the window.  

I was getting the silent treatment! Sweet! Our first fight! I couldn’t wait to tell the kids!  

When we landed, I told her my friend Valerie was waiting for me and that I absolutely insisted that we would give her a ride home, even though she said she should take a taxi.  

Nonsense! You will come with me and meet the female friend who would do an airport run for me at midnight on a Monday thereby proving that I must be an upstanding guy.   

On the drive from Sea Tac to Capital Hill, where she lived, we all made small talk. After we dropped her off, Valerie grilled me about every detail, but I wasn’t sure what had just happened. Either I ‘met cute’ my second wife, or learned a valuable lesson about discretion. I had no way of knowing, and wouldn’t likely know for at least a couple of days.  

I gave her my business card, which was for custom-made bagpipes that said ‘Putting the “FUN” Back in FUNERAL’ on the back and told her that “This was nice”, in the offhanded way that implies, ‘Well, I guess I’ll talk to you tomorrow.’    

She never did call me. We exchanged a couple of emails and she even sent me a book by a woman author called Cowboys Are My Weakness with an inscription that said, ‘Maybe this will help you understand women a little better.’  

Sure enough, it didn’t.