First Date
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Cheers. Now, even though this is the first time we ever met, I want you to let you know a little bit about me, you know. First thing being I’m so glad you responded to my classified despite, you know, the six typos (I’m telling you it was the copy editors at that rag). See, I want you to understand what kind of gentleman I am, so you can sample the wares, so to speak, so you can dip your toe into the water before diving right in.

I mean, I feel that I come with the ordinary amount of baggage, all things considered, not too much, not too little. I mean, so what if I got married to a thirty-four year old with three kids when I was sixteen? We’re only young once. In my grandmother’s time, everyone got married at eighteen. See, there’s a precedent. So I was a bit excited, you know. I wanted to get the ball rolling. And I guess some people have a problem with the fact that my stepson was older than I was, but it was truly a fine relationship, even if when I tried to get him to call me Dad, he’d threaten to punch me in the head. Brass knuckles do hurt.

As far as Darlene went, you should know how wonderful it was to get married finally, after all those weeks of courting here and there. Hopefully—nudge, nudge—we’ll walk down those same aisles someday. If you’re lucky that is. Now Darlene was a real treat in every way. She was beautiful, in her own way. In the classifieds they call it Rueben-esque. And on top of it all, she was a hell of an inventive cook (killer Frito casserole—killer), and she was great at putting the kids in line, even if it took a pistol-whipping to get it done. During the entire eleven months of our union, she only accidentally shot her children twice (that was Innis, who got it in the same thigh, poor girl, but she shouldn’t have been sticking that dang flyswatter in her mouth, so I guess she had it coming).

Well, all good things must come to an end, I suppose. The word was Darlene was knocking boots with Tommy Wayne Houston and/or Bobby Lee Wayne, but only after they got out of wrestling practice. She never contributed to the delinquency of a minor, at least as far as keeping them in school is concerned. Darlene was just that way—she liked to stay busy, I guess. I guess we all have our calling. But the way things happened, one of us (or all three, depending on how these things really work) must of knocked Darlene up, sending her walking the well-worn path to the old clinic. “I can’t afford no more stringed carrots,” she said. Shame the check for that baby-killing doctor bounced and that Bobby Lee, Tommy, and me had to flesh out a deal with Jep’s Gas, working nights to pay off that former little one (“What kinda job can I get with four little brats?” Darlene said).

Well, I guess this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, all things considered, cause she kept Bobby Lee and Tommy and me on rotation—two of us would work the night shift (Jep likes two-at-a-time since it reduces the chance of armed robbery and all) while the other one kept her bed warm and the kids company. Home duty we called it. “But I’m your husband,” I told her once.

“Husband?” she said. “Bobby Lee and Tommy’re my husbands too. We all go way back since high school days. Before you come along.” I thought she said she never finished tenth grade, but I didn’t say nothing. So after we paid off that bounced check, I high-tailed outta there. I didn’t want to be no one-thirds of a husband. You know? You do the math.

So then I took myself some quality down time. Went back to my folks’ place, who were happy as clams to see me. After a couple weeks, I got a job down at the rending plant (I was in charge of heads and hooves). Life was going pretty well, I guess. Moving up in the world. Started into my GED prep class and all. Things was snapping along.

That’s when I met Georgie Sky. She was a little vixen—you know the kind that dresses in them tight shorts, the kind they must cut off'a them with scissors to get some shut-eye. She was very talented, though. Worked herself all the way up to assistant-assistant manager at the dollar store. It was great cause she’d give me anything in the store for twenty five percent off. We started dating, which was fun cause first we had to sneak around like we was in middle school, even though I was a ripe old seventeen at the time. We would go to all my old stomping grounds—Jep’s bathroom, the field behind Nittley High, the construction sight down by the dollar store. It just gave me an unspeakable thrill. I mean, I can’t wait to show you all the haunts, just like with Georgie.

Then when we got married, it was in the dollar store, seeing as how they gave me a job, too, and I was real grateful (I was up to junior-assistant-assistant manager!). It was October, and the trees were doing their leaf thing, and the masks starting blossoming out on the dollar store racks. That’s when the bliss set in. Our happy marriage seemed to go on and on for days at a time.

Then once November set in I started realizing Georgie Sky’s got herself some problems, too, what with all the blood curdling screaming in the middle of the night. I mean, I’m a pretty heavy sleeper who’s been known to saw right through all sorts of fights, gunshots, and broken bottles, but with Georgie, she’d wake up in the middle of the night screaming at the top of her lungs like nothing I ever heard before. Sometimes she was doing it in her sleep and wouldn’t even wake up the entire time. Who wouldn’t be turned off a bit by all this hoopla?

But the first few times, I thought I could help. So I tried to talk to her (see I got manly compassion, just like I said it in that paper). I tried to help her out and all, but she just kept wailing like her head was replaced with a fire engine or something. All she would do if I tried to lend a hand is she’d bite me or try to scratch my eyes out. She would yell at me that she’s always screamed in the middle of the night and that she wasn’t about to stop, and if I tried to make her she’d go wacko and end up on some daytime talk show for lopping off one of my body parts.

This was no fun.

I just started closing her in the bedroom and sleeping in the basement of our house, far away from the wailing up above. But even then I could hear her, plus there was always the vibrations in the walls (or maybe that was the rats). Plus the mildew and water bugs kinda got to me after a while. Stunk my clothes all up.

Then Sky would just up and leave for Idaho where her parents and shrink lived. Only she wouldn’t leave no note or nothing. A couple times I thought maybe she was dead. But when I’d call her parents in Idaho, they’d say she’s just depressed.

There was more good times here and there, but all-in-all Georgie Sky usually spent three hundred and fifty one days a year in Idaho, and maybe six with me around the Fourth of July. So it was a hands-off relationship. That was okay, though, cause in the ten years time I was able to climb the ladder at the dollar store, all the way to assistant-assistant manager. I ain’t vengeful or nothing like that, but it felt good rising to her old position.

If you are wondering whether Georgie and I got a divorce, the answer is yes. That was two weeks back now, and so now I’m a free man. Put that classified out as soon as I found out the papers went through. So long story short, I am ready to dive right back in off the diving board of love, and you’re the lucky gal who gets to be the water.

Whew, I can’t wait to hear all about your life. I bet you got yourself some stories to tell yourself, and as they say, I’m all ears. The hamburgers and curly fries should be here any second. You never know with a place like this though. Sometimes they get a problem with that old fryer. How’s your Sprite there tasting?

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