As I've mentioned before, I would like to write. (I don't mean on a blog, although this is fun and good practice.) I mean that I'd like to write a book. Short stories. Whatever. Anyway, sometimes I do. I have the first 30 or so pages of half a dozen books/plays/screenplays saved somewhere, but I typically find it hard to keep going. I'm a busy guy. Anyway, I thought I'd put up part of one of those books. I only have a couple of chapters of this one. Basically there are four characters that narrate the story on a rotating basis. There's Ben, the main character; Maggie, his fiancee; Max, his best friend; and Angela, a prostitute. Angela shows up because Ben is concerned about the fact that he is sexually inexperienced, but Maggie is not. With their wedding day approaching, his anxiety is increasing, so his trouble-maker friend Max hires a girl to answer some questions for him. In the first chapter, Angela shows up at Ben's room for the first time and they discuss Ben's problem. This is the second chapter (or part of it at least), and it takes place the following morning. Hope you like it.
I woke to the Super Mario Brothers theme song--my ringtone--around 8 o’clock the next morning. It was Maggie.
“Did I wake you up?”
“I’ll be back in about fifteen minutes, so you should probably shower and get ready.”
Maggie’s sister had celebrated her 21st birthday in Madison the night before, so Maggie had spent the night there. I was surprised that she was up so early until I remembered that today was the day that we were registering at Target.
“Mmm hmmm,” I told her. Then I hung up and called Max.
“What the hell is the matter with you?”
“Get up and come to Target with me.”
“I'm going back to bed.”
“Whatever. Fine. But let’s go after lunch.”
“Can’t. We’re registering for the wedding and Maggie’s gonna’ be here in like two minutes.”
I got there ten minutes later and Mags still hadn’t shown up. Ben was brushing his teeth. He’s kind of a hard guy to read sometimes, so I tried not to make a big deal out of the whole sending-a-hooker-to-his-room-without-telling-him thing. I figured that if he wanted to talk about it, he’d talk about it.
“Mrgung,” he said, his mouth frothy with toothpaste.
He spit. “A hooker stopped by my room last night.”
So he wanted to talk about it.
“What did she look like?”
“Wud shluck luck?” Spit. “What did she look like? That’s all you’ve got to say?”
“It’s not all I’ve got to say, but it’s the first thing. I need a mental image.”
“She had a humpback and she was cross-eyed.”
“Yeah. What the hell were you thinking?”
“Look, man,” I told him as he rinsed his brush. “You’re a thinker. You’re the smartest guy I know. Suma cum everything. But you’re not a doer. I’m a doer. So I figured that if I did this for you, it might save you some embarrassment down the line.”
“I’m not even going to argue with the logic that sending a hooker to my room would save me embarrassment.”
“First of all, just because you made a mess out of your first time doesn’t mean that I’m going to. And second of all . . .”
He paused for a second and looked down with this little grin on his face as he pulled on a sweatshirt that said Stanford Dad.
“Oh my God,” I said. “You nailed her.”
“No!” he said. “But we did talk, and you were probably right.” Hell yes.
“I want every detail. I want to know what she smelled like.”
“She smelled like the perfume counter at McCullough’s.”
“Anyway--” He said it in the way that he always does when he’s tired of my bullshit. “She said I shouldn’t worry about it.”
“So did I, shit-for-brains.”
“Yeah, but you never worry about anything.”
“Yeah and you worry about everything. That’s why you need me. Whatever. What else did you talk about?”
“I don’t know. The Packers.”
If I have ever been capable of kicking Ben’s ass, that was the moment. Think back to when you were still a virgin. Imagine that you had a hot girl who had sex for money sitting in your room. Even if you were afraid to actually sleep with her, can you imagine a single scenario in which you would talk about the goddamn Green Bay Packers? Lucky for him, that’s when Mags walked in.
There are two reasons that I asked Max to come to Target with us. First, the stuff that had happened the night before made me nervous about being alone with Maggie. Second, registering seemed like an intensely boring thing to do, and I thought it might be more fun if Max were there. Needless to say, Maggie was not pleased with my decision.
“Oh, Max,” she said as she closed the door behind her. “How’s it going?”
“Awesome. How’s it going with you?”
“Pretty good. Is Max coming with us?”
“Yeah,” I told her. “I hope that’s okay.”
“I guess. We need to get going.”
We swung by Starbuck’s on the way so Max could get a caramel macchiato, Maggie could get some peppermint drink that they only have around Christmas, and I could get a hot chocolate. Interesting sidenote about me: I have never had a cup of coffee in my life. To me, coffee just looks like hot, dirty water.
“Okay, here’s the list of stuff that we’ve talked about,” Maggie said. Maggie, you should know, is a chronic maker of lists. There’s practically no part of her life that isn’t included on or organized by some sort of list. Part of me thinks that she wanted to get married because she realized the number of lists that could be generated during the planning process. One such list included stuff that we were going to register for.
“We need dishes,” she began. “I like the Summer Breeze pattern. Do you still like that?”
“More than ever,” I said.
“Then we need pots and pans, silverware, some little kitchen stuff like a lemon zester and a garlic press—”
“A what and a what?” Max said.
“A lemon zester and a garlic press.”
“And what do you do with those?”
“You zest lemons and press garlic,” I told him.
Maggie tried to ignore us. “Do you think we need a new coffee machine?”
“Well, neither one of us really drinks coffee, so I’d say no.”
“But don’t you think it would be good to have, just in case?”
“Sure,” I said. Clearly, the answer to her question was no. I didn’t and I do not think that it was or is a good idea to have a coffee machine around “just in case.” I’m not even sure what it’s “just in case” of. But it doesn’t matter because we were going to register for it anyway. You know how I could tell? She asked for my opinion, I gave it to her, then she re-asked in a different way. When that happens, it’s clear that she’s not really asking for my opinion. She’s asking for me to affirm her opinion. And when I couldn’t really care less, as in the coffee machine example, I do. Three minutes later, we were at the customer service counter at Target.
“Can we get two of those?” Max asks about the little scanner gun that the customer service lady has given me.
“Sure,” she says, but Maggie cuts her off and tells her that one will be plenty. Naturally, Max gives the lady a wink and takes a second gun as we leave.
“Where should we go first?” Maggie asks.
“Wherever,” I say. “Can we just start over here and go up and down each aisle?”
“Don’t you think that we should start with the stuff we’ve got on our list?”
We spend the next thirty minutes finding all of the stuff on that list. As I anticipated, Max is making this more fun. He’s doing Mission: Impossible rolls into the aisles and shouting things like, “I’m going in for the candles. Cover me!” Maggie seems unhappy.
Yes, I was unhappy. But not in the bitchy-girlfriend way. It’s not because Ben wasn’t taking this seriously, which was only mildly irritating. It was more because of Max. As I’ve said, I don’t like Max. To me, Max represents all of the assholes I wasted my time with before Ben. He is only interested in having fun, and I know how ridiculous a thing that is to criticize about someone, but when you have to deal with people who are only interested in having fun, it’s very hard for you to actually enjoy yourself. Use the registering example. If Max hadn’t been there, Ben would have been having fun with me. We would have talked about the wedding and he would have given me a hard time about my lists. He would have made me let him register for stuff like Old Milwaukee and Cinnamon Toast Crunch (which he did anyway, but it was less cute with Max throwing the cereal box in the air and Ben taking target practice with it). Once in a while, Ben would have given me a little kiss on the cheek. But when Max is there, he takes all of Ben’s attention. I probably felt the same way a three-year-old feels when her parents come home with a new baby.
“This is the worst part of my job,” Max said with a Southern drawl as he stood over the quesadilla maker that was lying on the ground. “He was a good hoss. Ma’am, you may want to avert your eyes.” And then he pulled the trigger on the registration gun and shuffled away, whistling “Home on the Range.”