Pumpkin

Fellows, a quality woman in a happy marriage will not put up with dog shit in her kitchen, but a grievous woman thrives on discord.

I had been in the kitchen to get a drink to enjoy while watching the football game on television, and noticed a classic expression of canine shit-guilt in the behavior  of our small white and brown terrier.  Grabbing a beer from the fridge, I stepped around to the other side of the island where I spied the offending matter.

The precisely coiled excrement lay glistening and perfectly framed in the center of a single white glossy tile on the kitchen floor. That’s not the kind of thing I like seeing where food is stored and prepared, but wishing to remain in good spirits and enjoy the rest of the football game I did what any thinking man wishing to get back to his chair before the game resumed after the commercial break: I turned my back on the dog turd and walked back through the kitchen into the den, shut the sliding door to keep the laundry noise from interfering with the game, and sat down in my large, comfortable, leather chair just as the commercial break ended.

Yes, I completely ignored the dog shit in the kitchen, and I didn’t feel right about it. It felt wrong to leave it there. But I had been caving-in on everything with my wife, Pumpkin, for at least a decade, and just couldn’t abide doing so any longer. With our children grown and living on their own, mainly visiting on holidays and an occasional family vacation, I had all the time in the world. I would wait her out, force her hand. Because no woman in a happy marriage could ever abide dog shit in her kitchen!

My reasons for doing this may be childish or may be sophisticated; this I cannot judge. But the washing machine on the far side of the kitchen was running and I knew that  Pumpkin would be moving that load to the dryer soon and starting another. She would not be able to miss seeing the dog’s flagrant assault on the very floor tiles she had picked out when we remodeled the kitchen years ago, and would quickly take care of the problem.

Now, you’re probably thinking that shifting the duty on to my wife was a shitty thing to do. I will not argue that point, my good fellows, but since I worked from a home office while Pumpkin worked in an office in town, I was the prime caretaker of this animal, and I thought I was mainly in the right to expect her to take up the mantle from time to time.

My beer was about three-quarters empty when Pumpkin came through the den with a laundry basket.

“Who’s winning?” she asked as she slid the kitchen door open.

“We are,” I answered casually, never taking my eyes off the screen. “Couple touchdowns.”

She nodded and stepped through the open doorway, shutting the door behind her.

I relaxed, breathed a sigh of relief, and kept one eye on the game while listening for the back door to open and close signifying she had disposed of the problem in the usual way, by tossing it out into the side yard where Pumpkin did her business.

Did I neglect to mention that my wife and my dog had the same name at this point in our seventeen-year marriage?

So I watched the opposing team score on an impossibly successful kickoff return and that uneasiness combined with the concern I began feeling at not hearing the back door shut. I was convinced she had not because our back door sticks a little when it’s dry and has to be slightly forced (the same could be said of my wife), which usually mean Pumpkin slammed the door a little when closing it. This could be heard throughout the house.

I wasn’t hearing it. I don’t mind telling you fellows, I grew more and more concerned over what this meant.

Suddenly, the sliding door opened and Pumpkin stepped through the doorway with a glass of wine, slid the door shut, then sunk into the matching leather chair next to mine.

She smiled at me. “That’s the last load,” she said congenially. “Are we still winning?”

“Yes,” I said, “but we’re losing ground.”

She nodded and turned her attention to the game.

I don’t mind telling you fellows that my heart was pounding in my chest. I wanted to leap right up, dash across the den, fling the sliding door open with some vigor, and discover the current status of the dog shit on our kitchen floor.

Instead, I thought like a gentleman spy. My beer was almost empty, and I would continue sipping it at my usual pace but while doing so craftily take in more per swallow so I would have a legitimate excuse to re-enter the kitchen without drawing attention to my actions.

Fuck that! I thought. I stood up and announced, “Remember what happens for me. I need to hit the bathroom.” Then I walked into the bathroom, poured the rest of my beer out into the bowl, and flushed. Walking back through the den I announced, “I’m out. Need anything?” as I made for the kitchen door.

“No I’m good,” she said with a smile.

She did seem to be smiling too much. She was either truly the kind person she let on to be, or she was playing some kind of dark psy ops game that was, frankly, out of my league.

Into the kitchen I went, leaving the door open. I hit the fridge first, made sure she heard bottles clink as I pulled a fresh bottle from the twelve-pack carton, and shutting the refrigerator door loudly, twisted the cap off the beer bottle and stepped around the island towards the trash can where I could verify the removal of the dog shit.

It was still there! Pumpkin lay nearby napping, oblivious, uncaring. As I stepped on the pedal to open the trash can lid and deposit the bottle cap, Pumpkin lookup up at me with bored eyes, let out one of those little sighs dogs emit when just laying around, and watched me walk back towards the doorway.

Stepping into the den and sliding the door shut, I headed for my chair, pretty sure my disappointment and confusion was written all over my face for her to read. I avoided looking at her for that very reason until I arrived at my chair. As I sunk into the soft leather, I looked over at her. She was napping! The sound of the leather and a commotion on the television gave her a start, and she looked up and over at me with tired eyes, let out a little sigh like wives tend to do when just sitting around, and curled up tightly into the leather and shut her eyes.

This was war! Happy wife, unhappy wife, whatever, there was no way in hell I was going to cave and remove that dog shit myself. There was a principle at stake. What’s more, an existential reality. The kitchen was the Sudetenland and she was Hitler. Our house was Western Europe and I was Churchill. If I let her rule the kitchen, where would it end? Goddammit.

***

So I dug-in, fellows, and so did she. We were never in the kitchen at the same time after that though we never spoke of it or made any compacts or agreements. There was no real accord. The only way we could avoid acknowledging the dog shit in the kitchen was to never speak of it and never be in the kitchen at the same time.

We were mostly living separate lives by then anyway. Once, just a day or so after that Saturday, when unbeknownst to me her car was in the shop, I came home and headed for the kitchen to make a sandwich and caught her walking away from the other side of the island where the dog shit lay, a bottle of air freshener in her hand, heading for the laundry room. She hadn’t seen me and I quickly turned back for the den, but the kitchen smelled of lilacs and lavender for a week after that.

By day five, the dog was acting strangely. Perhaps it was the dog shit drying on her favorite side of the kitchen. Weeks passed. The dog shit slowly dried and hardened. One night I came back late after bowling league, having stuck around for beer and nachos with the boys. Pumpkin was already asleep. So was Pumpkin. The kitchen was mostly dark except for the light on the range hood, casting just enough light to navigate the table, island, and other obstacles. I grabbed a beer from the fridge and peeked over the island. There was a white cloth napkin covering the turd.

As the days wore on, Pumpkin began exhibiting a kind of malaise or depression, at least that’s how it seemed to me. I was still working from my home office and was around her the most, and was still the one who would take her out to do her business most of the time. She would pee but wouldn’t shit. Was she constipated out of anxiety? This really began to concern me. What were we doing to our dog? What were we doing to ourselves?

I took Pumpkin to see our vet, “Dr. Pete”, who I informed of the constipation issue. Naturally, he had questions.

“Anything unusual going on at home? Any unusual behavior from the dog?” he asked.

“Not really,” I lied.

“Has she eaten anything that didn’t agree with her? Anything toxic for dogs that you’re aware of?” Dr. Pete continued.

I paused to appear thoughtful for a few seconds, shook my head and said, “No evidence of that I’m aware of.”

“Getting plenty of water?” he asked seriously.

“Yes, we make sure she has plenty of water all the time,” I answered.

“Has Pumpkin been unusually anxious about anything? You know, stressed out?”

“Not sure what that would look like,” I said.

“Dogs are very sensitive to human behavior and energy,” he said. “So a dog in a happy home is generally happy, barring illness and the like. A negative environment will likewise affect a dog negatively in many cases.”

“Now see here,” I said. “I love Pumpkin. I would never want to see her hurt.”

Dr. Pete raised his hands. “Easy there, pal. No one is saying that. I’m just asking questions here. Trying to help you and Pumpkin. Relax, friend.”

But I couldn’t relax. The direction Dr. Pete was heading in seemed awfully specific all of a sudden. Did he know something? Had he talked to Pumpkin about Pumpkin?

I was starting to wonder if Dr. Pete was fucking Pumpkin.

“Let her stay with me a few days,” Dr. Pete said. “Board her, no charge over the weekend. Pick her up Monday. Let me have some time with her and see what I can do for her.”

“Yeah, okay. Thanks, Dr. Pete,” I said.

Dr. Pete grinned. “No problem, Old Sport.”

Fuck you, Dr. Pete, I thought.

I left Dr. Pete’s office and went for a couple beers. By the time I was pulling into my driveway back home, he called me.

“Good news!” he announced. “Pumpkin took a big poop in our poop yard just a little while ago.”

My heart sunk. We were killing our dog. “That’s great. Should I come get her?” I asked.

“No, no,” said Dr. Pete. “Let’s stick to the weekend plan.”

I said “ok, thanks” and ended the call.

All of a sudden, I hated Dr. Pete.

I parked in the driveway since the garage entry to the house was through the kitchen and laundry room, and I didn’t want to accidentally run into Pumpkin again. I found her in the bedroom, folding her clothes and laying them on the bed.

“Good news!” I said. “Pumpkin took a big shit at Dr. Pete’s.”

She smiled an odd, large smile, and said, “That’s great,” as she pulled a small suitcase out of her closet and placed it on the bed.

“Going somewhere?” I asked.

“Some of the girls are going to Sheila’s lake house,” Pumpkin said.

“Sheila?” I said.

“Yeah, you know,” she replied. “Dr. Phil’s wife.”

“Ah,” I said and headed for the kitchen. We were out of beer.

***

Pumpkin never came back from her weekend away, not really. Neither did Pumpkin.

I eventually changed the locks on the doors, and we made arrangements for her to come by a few days a week and get more of her stuff until it was all gone. She didn’t want the furniture. She was moving in with Dr. Pete, at his lake house, she said.

“What about Pumpkin,” I asked.

“Oh she’s staying with me,” she said. “You don’t know how to care for a dog.”

###

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Light Bulb

“I’m coming! I’m coming!” the short, thin bald man yelled as he waddled slowly across the dimly lit room to answer the door. He was out of breath when he opened it to find a tall, thin old man bundled in a worn pea coat and matching pea hat in the slowly fading light of dusk.

“Mikey from downstairs,” the bald man said, panting. “Mikhail himself. Why all the banging on, my friend?”

“It’s six o’clock,” Mikhail said stiffly, gesturing at the small table lamp with the dingy shade in the far corner putting out just enough dim yellow light to barely illuminate the small entry parlor where they stood. “It is our turn with the light bulb, Vlad, my friend.”

Vlad looked at his watch, a little panicked. “No, it isn’t,” he said with relief. “It’s, it’s only five. The ‘fall back’, remember they do that here? That was last night.”

“Dammit to hell but you’re right,” Mikhail replied with a soft chuckle as he turned to go. “I have been incorrect, and hasty as well! I am just returning from the public nurse and haven’t yet seen my Katerina. I shall go home and return in one hour.”

“Wait, old friend. No need to go back out in the cold,” said Vlad. “I found salt and pepper packets today. I have made a soup!”

Mikhail smiled. “Yes, I could smell it the moment you opened the door,” he said. “I would enjoy some very much, but I haven’t anything to share in return, I’m afraid.”

“Oh no matter, one day you will I’m sure,” said Vlad.

“What do you mean by that?” Mikhail asked.

“Nothing at all, friend,” Vlad assured him. “Only that our fortunes are always changing.”

“Ah, yes, fortunes,” remarked Mikhail. “We should all be…fortunate.”

The men shared a laugh as the sun continued setting and the room grew darker. A scuffling or rumbling sound, faint but seemingly close, could be heard in an adjacent room.

Mikhail cocked his head. “Have you heard that, Vladimar? That rumbling?” he asked.

“Only the rumbling of my empty stomach,” Vlad said good-naturedly. “But come. Sit down, there, by the lamp. Enjoy its light and warmth while I get our soup.”

“These light bulbs,” Mikhail said, shaking his head. “We come all this way to this land of abundance, become citizens, work all of those years, my God!” he exclaimed, throwing up his hands. “And now this.”

“Yes,” Vlad agreed, holding up a finger. “But the government knows what it’s doing.”

“Of course it knows what it’s doing,” Mikhail said in an agitated, scolding tone. “You watch. First it’s the electricity. Sharing bulbs like this…shit. Next it will be the grocery stores and the petrol stations.”

“They are only acting in our best interests ,” said Vlad. “These men, Mikhail. These are smart men!”

“Ptooey,” Mikhail made the noise and gesture of a mock spit. “This is politics!” he said. Then he squinted at Vlad. “That sweater. Doesn’t that belong to Nicholaus, from the third floor, the one his daughter made for him?”

“Ah you have a good eye, my friend, even in this dim light,” answered Vlad. “If only I possessed your youth and vitality. But Nicholaus and I made a trade.”

“What sort of trade?” Mikhail asked suspiciously. “It’s torn. Practically junk.”

“For you perhaps, with your fine pea coat. But for me with nothing but old business shirts? I let him have the lightbulb six hours early,” he said. “Just the other day, in exchange for this sweater. And believe me, he got the better deal.”

Mikhail laughed heartily. “Well you have another thing coming, Vladimar my old friend, if you think I would trade my well-worn coat for a few extra hours of barely enough light to tell an ant from a rat dropping,” he said, watching as Vlad walked off and disappeared through an arched doorway.

The sound of a pan rattling against metal and some light scuffling like stiff brushes on a smooth floor could be heard along with what sounded like snorting and wheezing.

“Is everything alright?” Mikhail shouted. “Is someone in there with you? I hear some kind of a struggle. Are you well, Vladimir?”

“Calm down, Mikhail, please. Everything is fine. This damned sun is setting and pulling all of the wonderful light out of the kitchen. It’s bad enough I should have a pitch black dining room, but the kitchen! And with my lousy eyesight! So here I caught my foot on the edge of the stove and tripped, but was fortunate to have saved the pan as well as myself from falling. It will be just a few minutes now.”

The sound of struggling and sliding grew louder as Vlad stepped back into the soft yellow light carrying a mug. He set it down with a shaking hand and handed Mikhail a small, stained hand towel.

“Vladimar,” said Mikhail, accepting the towel. “I know I’ve heard something there. Are you in some kind of trouble? You appear nervous?”

“Listen to you, Mikhail. You, you are quite the philosopher!” Vlad exclaimed. “Let me get back to the kitchen before you get at that bulb so that I might first fetch my soup without falling down.”

He watched Vlad waddle back to the arched entryway and disappear around the corner. The commotion in the unseen, darkened room turned into faint snarling and growling as though it originated on the far side of a field, or pasture, rather than in the next room. Vlad shouted back, “Okay, I have made it. You should turn off the light and let your bulb cool. I will feel my way back along the wall.”

Mikhail reached under the frayed lampshade and found the switch. He clicked it and reached for the mug with his other hand only to discover that it was empty.

Confused, he turned back to call to Vlad when a light suddenly came on in the kitchen and spilled over into the small dining area where several pairs of yellow eyes burned brightly as they charged into the pitch-black parlor.

***

The pounding on the door grew louder. “I’m coming!” Vlad shouted as he made his way across the dimly lit room and opened the door. An old woman perhaps ten years younger stood shivering on the dark walkway, the moon rising slowly behind her.

“Hello, Vlad,” the woman said. “Mikhail has not returned from the public nurse and it is our time for the light bulb. Have you seen him?”

“No, Katerina,” Vlad said. “I have not. But I agree that it is your turn indeed. The bulb is in that table lamp in the far corner. Come, sit, and enjoy its warmth and light.”

###

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barfly

“No, I’m not going to church tomorrow,” I said. “Or the week after that. Also, there’s a high probability I’ll be a no-show for the rest of my life.”

“I understand,” she said. “I’m sorry. But if you would just–”

“Later,” I said, cutting her off and ending the call.

I was sitting in the parking lot of a restaurant and bar called “O’Toole’s”, a sporty Irish-themed cookie-cutter chain. It was convenient to my house, but not too convenient, the kind of bland, anonymous place you go where you’re happy if nobody knows your name and the food doesn’t suck too bad.

Inside, I took a seat anchoring one corner of the U-shaped bar.

“What can I get you, captain?” a pie-faced bartender asked.

I smiled. “How’d you know I was a captain?” I replied.

He shrugged and said wearily, “Everyone’s a captain, brother.”

“A beer. Surprise me. And a water,” I said.

“Start a tab?” he asked

“Might as well,” I answered.

He brought my beer, and settled into the bar stool, giving my attention to a basketball game on one of the large flat-panel televisions over the bar.

That’s when she came in and sat a couple stools down to my right, anchoring the terminus of one end of the U.

I looked over, smiled and nodded politely. She looked a good fifteen years older than me but smartly dressed and well-kept. Her hair was bleached and, because she was slim and petite, a bit too big I thought for her small face.

The bartender walked over with a glass of white wine.

“Hi Ronnie,” he said. “Been a while.”

“For you maybe,” she said in a quiet voice, but wryly, with a little spirit. “I was here twice last week.”

The bartender laughed. “Need a menu?”

“No, thank you, Rob,” she said. “Just a couple glasses before heading home.”

I looked back at the game I had no interest in while I thought through what to do about my marriage. Divorce wasn’t out of the question, but was certainly a last resort in my book. I had been through it as a kid and seen plenty of friends and family go through it more than once. The kids made the whole situation more complicated and I felt ashamed to admit I sometimes wished we didn’t have any, more for their sake than mine. At least that’s what I was telling myself at the time.

“Excuse me.”

A delicate, feminine voice interrupted my reverie. It was the older chick at the end of the bar, now standing a couple of feet away.

“Do you have a light by any chance?” she asked, holding up a cigarette.

I gave her my standard smirk and said, “Just a flashlight.”

She giggled and said, “You’re funny,” as Rob the bartender came over with a lighter.

“What’s your name?” I asked. If I was going to be single again, I might as well start brushing the mothballs off my game. Not that I’d ever really stopped, but kept it shallow and short for fifteen years of marriage. Now it seemed to make sense to take it a few steps further, work the kinks out.

“Veronica,” she said, extending her hand the way many older southern women still do, palm down as though I was supposed to pull a Rhett Butler and kiss the back of it. Instead, I took her tiny, almost fragile-seeming hand in mine, and gave it my standard gentle squeeze.

“People call me ‘Ronnie’ but I don’t really like it,” she continued. “Though I’ve grown tired of correcting them, so I’ve taken to playing a little game in my head where ‘Ronnie’ is a sort of female James Bond.”

I chuckled politely. “Well, that’s one way to do it,” I said. Looking her directly in her eyes I could see the age better up close. A lot of makeup but like I said she was in good shape and had kept herself together, but the air of desperation was a lot more difficult to hide than her crow’s feet. Several steps into my forties at this point, I could see more than I used to. Than I wanted to, really.

“May I?” she asked and gestured toward the stool next to mine.

“Of course,” I said politely, wondering if she could read my lie as strongly as I told it. Felt it. I watched her step back down to her seat to retrieve her purse and wine glass, then stood and helped her up into the bar stool.

“Well, chivalry is not dead after all,” she said.

“It’s not,” I agreed. “It’s just on life support with a very specific living will.”

Looking back I wish someone would have punched me in the mouth or kicked me in the shitter at that very moment, told me to quit being chivalric sycophant with women. But the friends I had were the same way. It was the water we swam in back then.

“Life support,” she repeated. “Pretty cynical.”

I shrugged. Why was I allowing her to intrude on my peace and quiet? Her crappy perfume, and wine and cigarette breath was making me sick.

“You know I was married once,” she said. “Twice, actually.” She nodded at my ring finger, gestured with her glass.

“I’m pretty sure that one day I will have been married once, also,” I said. Why the fuck did I say that? Dumbass, I told myself and looked at her mouth. Did I want a blowjob from her?

“Oh I had the big house. The Mercedes. The fancy clothes. But I wasn’t happy,” she said.

“It happens,” I said, trying to beat this thing back down. But it was too late and she was rolling now.

“Here,” she said reaching into her purse. She handed me a photograph. “This is me back in the day.”

I took it politely, still in quasi-Southern-gentleman mode, taking the odd gesture completely in stride. It was clearly her, much younger, her hair a more natural blonde, and longer. She was leaning back against a black Mercedes, her tight little body in a tighter silver sequined dress, long, with a festive but classy-length slit up the side. Smiling comfortably and widely like she was having fun posing, the angle of her lean forcing her perky tits up and forward. She was hot. I would’ve banged the chick in the picture, no question. Especially now.

“Very nice,” I said, handing it back. I was trying to decide whether I wanted to fuck her. She looked a lot older than me, but based on her next fifteen minutes of oversharing I was starting to think she was closer to my mid-forties than I’d originally thought.

She reminded me of an older aunt rather than a peer. Older women appealed to me in my mid-twenties, but the first one I got was also the last one I wanted. She had satisfied my curiosity for good. Still, she was fit, attractive enough for a guy most likely at the end of his marriage to a cheating wife. Why the fuck not, I thought?

“Why the fuck not” ended up being because of the sadness. This chick was bringing me down, big time. I thought of my wife, the mother of my kids, hanging out in a cheesy corporate fern bar in ten-or-whatever-the-fuck years showing off pictures of when she used to be seriously hot so that strangers in bars would pay attention to her.

Suddenly, I really wanted out of there. I called for my check, paid my tab, and politely thanked her for the brief conversation. She seemed disappointed but not surprised, but what did I know.

I was happy to be out of there. A few weeks and some ultimately useless marriage counseling later, the ex and I were warming toward each other a bit. She called me as I was leaving the gun range and asked me to stop and pick up some steaks and wine for dinner. I stepped into the express lane at the grocery store with my steaks and wine, and there was Veronica working the register. Fuck my luck, I thought as I stepped up and threw her a low-key smile, hoping I could limit the small talk and wishing there were people in line behind me.

“Find everything you were looking for?” she asked politely, as though she didn’t recognize me. What the fuck? I thought. Was there a subtext there? Did she still want me? Or was I reading too much into this? Did she really not recognize me? She seemed more demure and sexual in the grocery store than she had in that bar weeks ago. The heavily sprayed mane was now soft and pulled back in a simple ponytail which didn’t make her look younger, exactly, but definitely a less desperate, more girlish presence. I could almost feel that soft hair on my face.

Why was this bothering me so much? I swiped my card and completed my payment, wondering if maybe I had also lost something, if I was not as memorable as I thought I was. Why did I suddenly have zero game? Why did I suddenly want not just her attention, but her?

As she smiled politely once again, I looked at her, perhaps a moment too long. Suddenly I thought she looked good. Really good. Much better than before. Her tight cashier’s vest showed off her lean, lithe torso almost as if it were a corset, her black slacks tight enough to show off, and partially shape, a very nice ass. I could feel the blood flowing now. What the fuck was this? Suddenly I wanted to pull her hair back and brush my lips along the side of her delicate, pale nick. I could’ve fucked her all night long a few weeks ago. Images of her on all fours on a leather couch somewhere with me pounding her from behind, hearing her grunt and moan, flooded my brain. What the everloving fuck?

I almost said something but my mouth was actually dry. Instead, I took the receipt, flushing slightly when her fingers brushed mine, wondering what the fuck was going on. I thought about stopping by a buddy’s house to get his take, but what the fuck was I going to say, and what was the point?

So I went home and fucked my soon-to-be-ex-wife instead, thinking about Veronica all the while, from foreplay to orgasm. We both agreed afterward it was the best sex we’d had in a long, long time.

###

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Samurai: Occultic Gaming Freeboot

The screaming Kawasaki engine quickly overwhelmed all podcasting microphones just before the screens went dark. The nine people watching this satanic ritual disguised as a harmless nerd game immediately lit their black Covenant Candles(tm) and consumed the blood of innocents  (i.e. cranberry jell-o shots).

“I thought he didn’t ride at night!” someone shouted from another location. “What the FUCK?”

Five of the six denizens of Torment acting as vassals of the Dark Lord (Supreme Shall He Reign) cursed and went to their kitchens for more beer and pepperoni sticks, unaware of the suffering being inflicted on the sixth.

“CHAOS MAGIC!” the Samurai could be heard shouting through crackling speakers by the curious audience, now down to eight, staring intently at the black video window on their computers and smartphones hoping to catch a glimpse of the marauder.

“Hey, that’s my beer, man!” the sixth man shouted amidst clinking and breaking glass. “You don’t just molest someone’s beer, man!”

“TOMFOOLERY!” the Samurai shouted as the audience, now down to 6, typed furiously into the live chat window:

BrutusMagnificanus30-30: “Who was that screaming? Who’s losing his beer? goddammit…WHOSE LOSING HIS FUCKING BEER?”

DickFloggsUs: Bunch a fuckin retards.

Trent4Men: I have a bow.

LarryMitsubishi: What manner of soy is this?

_Bob_Burns666: If they’re burnin, it’s cause they need to burn.

Trent4Men: Anyone want to see it?

LieutenantLibertarianism: This game is fucked. This chat is fucked. You’re all fucking fucked.

MetroJesus: The vibrations here are all wrong. Consider yourselves blocked.

BrutusMagnificanus30-30: @LL, but you’re playing the game, right?

LieutenantLibertarianism: Fuckers

_Bob_Burns666: this is about as entertaining as getting jerked off by a sperg chick wearing a metal mesh fillet glove in the dark corner of a bar listening to a bad Sabbath cover band

Trent4Men: Bow pics on website!

LarryMitsubishi: You boys are really letting down the team.

All screens remained dark and the noise increased. The power went out at all three remaining locations with viewers still online just as the commotion reached a crescendo which viewers would later liken to the mournful wailing of a thousand damned souls suffering in hellfire forever. Or Joy Behar’s voice.

Just as suddenly as it started, the channel went silent and the power returned at all locations. As the lights came up, the YouTube stats display indicated the number watching had suddenly risen to 666 active viewers, and 666 likes, 0 dislikes.

But the six original players were gone. Each player’s window was now filled by the Samurai, and only the Samurai, still and silent, staring back at the audience as the lights went out forever.

###

 

 

 

 

 

The Samurai: Sidewalk Sushi Bloodbath

He appeared at dusk speeding along the coastal highway atop the Kawasaki, heading east with the hazy pink sun setting at his back, the engine screaming like a pack of male feminists at a midnight he-she show in Bangkok promising nothing good–just chaos and a bad night’s sleep.

The engine sound progressed from a faint hum to a louder buzz like one of the small, low-flying planes towing advertisements for local businesses in the sky just off the surf.  By the time the screaming Kawasaki drew near to the trendy beachside sushi bar, it had drowned out all other ambient noise much like vacationing diners were drowning California Rolls in deep bowls of soy sauce in the outdoor dining area.

Seemingly out of nowhere the Samurai jumped the Kawasaki up the curb, spun the bike three times in the sand near a legally-protected dune, and catapulted himself into the dining area. This time it was the Samurai screaming “Aiiiiiiihaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii” as the wooden katana, having the appearance of finely-sanded Koa wood, cleared the scabbard on his back as he landed securely on his feet in front of a table of four.

“Lightning!” he screamed as he swept the blade along the table, upending the impossibly large platter of California Rolls with the katana and sending it clattering onto the nearby sidewalk, the rolls skidding into the road where it was promptly flattened by oncoming traffic and finally clung to the hot asphalt along with various roadkill–small birds, mostly–and dried dog turds in the middle of the street.

Leaping onto the table with another shout, the Samurai rained blows on the backside of a young caucasian man with two-inch earlobes dangling like taffy, swinging loosely like the floppy labia of a retired Women’s Studies professor as he attempted to scurry to safety under the table.

But there would be no safety. Not in that place. Not on that day.

A tall butch woman wearing a black t-shirt reading, “I Want Your Flower” and dressed like the lead singer for Judas Priest during the Screaming for Vengeance tour ran up and addressed the Samurai, facing him in an awkward, poorly-formed  Shizen-tai judo stance. The Samurai’s eyes narrowed in the eyeholes of his facial armor as he affected a moment of stillness, regarding her.

This agitated the butch woman, who lunged at him, screaming, “Flower power!”

The Samurai engaged fully, stepping into the lunge with a slight twist and bringing the koa Katana up sharply broadside into her solar plexus, causing her to double over and vomit a low-viscosity, greasy paste of fried calimari, tuna tataki, soy, and saki on the mock-cobblestone floor.

Leaping from the table, he planted one black-sneakered foot on the back of the doubled-over, vomiting lesbian and somersaulted back toward the kitchen, knocking three wait staff down. He landed near a family of seven where a young woman wearing a sorority jersey, isolated at one end of the table and oblivious to the pandemonium unfolding around her, awkwardly fumbled at scissoring her chopsticks around a California Roll which–due to entropy and mindless conformity–lay disintegrating in a bowl of soy sauce.

“Thunder!” yelled the Samurai as the tip of his Katana appeared at her mouth just as she grabbed a soup spoon and shoveled the ridiculous, broken mass of food stuff toward her face. With the deftness and almost preternatural skill of a brain surgeon, he excised the foul lump of popular nonsense from the spoon without spilling a drop on her shirt. With a nearly imperceptible flick of his wrist, the buggered roll sailed in a high arc above the heads of a dozen diners with confused, awestruck looks in addition to soy sauce on their faces, its trajectory taking it directly into the mouth of a trash can whose lid was just that moment being lifted by a bus boy.

“You there!” yelled a young, wiry lad with some faint muscle definition and a man bun as the Samurai placed a card with a phone number in the mouth of the sorority girl, yelled, “DINGALINGUS!” and executed a perfect jump kick, sailing over two tables and landing beside man bun who was already throwing a punch that caught the Samurai in the side of the helmet. “OW!” yelled man bun, withdrawing his hand as the Samurai brought around a pound of perfectly shaped and sanded koa broadside up and into his testicles.

“SASHIMI HA HAHAHA!” yelled the Samurai as he turned immediately, jumped smoothly atop the nearest mesh bistro table and, leaping from table to table, sprung over the short fence railing  onto the Kawasaki, yelled, “EXPERIENCE!” and took off like cannon fire, heading eastward as the last remaining rays of the setting sun enveloped his fleeting form, causing him to almost glow slightly in the fading light of dusk.

Later, eyewitnesses would swear the katana had somehow sheathed itself, promise they heard the Samurai whistle, earnestly insist they saw the motorcycle stand upright on its own as the Samurai landed perfectly on the seat, the engine screaming to life as the bike fishtailed violently, throwing sand over the remaining diners and their food, ruining expensive platters of California Rolls and Edamame.

The restaurant closed a few weeks later as summer ended. It would reopen the following year as a trendy Tex-Mex joint called, Taco Tool. Some other sushi restaurants in the area briefly removed California Rolls from the menu despite still offering them by request. Eventually, they were reinstated.

Life returned to normal here, eventually. Long-time residents and returning vacationers would occasionally mention the incident when a particularly loud aircraft flew low over the beach or the distinctive sound of a high-performance Japanese motorcycle echoed through the popular resort town, and young boys began buying motocross armor, painting it red and black to resemble The Samurai as they spread out across town on their bicycles. Some even bought wooden katanas from Amazon and began attacking combo meals at fast food restaurants. Of course, parents were called, katanas were burned. This life we live continued and the Samurai was never seen along our stretch of beach again.

###

 

 

 

 

 

Some Thots on Kafka

I don’t mind admitting to you fellows the serious mistake I made talking an online thot into reading “A Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka.

If only I had let well enough alone!

“What is this? I’m not bulimic or anything,” her message began. “Did you buy my latest set of photos? The bathtub scenes?”

I explained it’s about a figurative person, a made up person, who actually entertained spectators by not eating.

“She does cam shows?” asked the lovely thot.

I assured her that was not the case.

So she–and did I mention her name, Elodia? Elodia said if I sent her $373.77, she would send me ten pictures of her reading the story in the nude.

I don’t mind saying, boys: I took it!

It began to occur to me that something might be wrong when several days passed and I never received a message from her containing a payment link for the promised photos of her reading Kafka in the nude.

Then, one morning in early winter, I turned off the alarm upon waking and saw that I had a new message waiting. It was from her, my Elodia.

I opened it excitedly hoping to see the teaser photo she always included with a payment link, her posing nude but with dollar signs partially covering the less quotidian–shall we say, gents–parts of her slim figure. Such coquetry was not lost on me, however. I enjoyed our game despite being sad on occasion that I would never gaze upon her natural beauty unadorned with ink and metal.

But, enough hesitation! I clicked upon the message only to become totally surprised and not a little disoriented by the lack of either a photo or payment link. Instead, only these words:

Deer george  yr story was amazeballs and no joke on fleek and no joke i caught some feelz for this dude all cageing himself up like that, like who fuckin does that right????? Woke me up for realz anyway thought you should know I’m done stay good xoxoxoxox

As you fellows might imagine this is neither what i wanted nor expected. While her Instagram remains, it is now utterly devoid of the artful boudoir photography that once defined her online presence.

Never peddle philosophy to Instagram models, friends. Nothing good will come of it!

###

 

 

.

 

AugustCon 2020

Following on the universe-reverberating success of July’s AugustCon 2019, a date has been set for AugustCon 2020: July 7-8.

Just days after the inaugural event in 2019, Nick August, the Hermes Trismegistus of Northeast Georgia, promised that the 2020 event will be even more overwhelming than 2019:

“I promise that the 2020 event will be even more overwhelming than 2019.” — Nick August

August also offered some teasers for workshops and activities that will be featured at the 2020 event:

  • How to turn the shower handle to Cold
  • How to setup a WordPress account
  • The magic of selling things for XXX.X7 on Shopify (works for all eCommerce platforms)
  • The Dos and Don’ts of Dinner and Dancing
  • Romancing your lady and avoiding degeneracy by stirring your soup, properly, with your beautiful 59-year-old girlfriend’s hairsticks, at the metaphysical level
  • Gaming Granny: Approaching women in menopause
  • Good vibes: How to become your woman’s vibrator
  • Strategies for cleaning your room: clockwise, counterclockwise, middle-out?
  • How to avoid nutting while washing your dick in November
  • Flowers mean “I love you”
  • Pushups, Dammit

Comments from AugustCon supporters:

“Proper dance instruction, lumbersexual grooming tips, avoiding degeneracy…this event has it all!” — Nick, Georgia

“I thought this shit was in August. Drove all that way and missed the whole thing! What the fuck? But Nick is awesome and knows what he’s doing. Looking forward to next year!” — Oliver, North Dakota

“Mind? Blown! Spirit? Renewed! Southeastern United States? Saved!” — Nick, Georgia

“How can one amazing fucking dude be so fuckingly amazingly talented. Amazeballs!” –Nick, Georgia

“I got lost somewhere in North Georgia on a canoe trip with some friends who were raped and killed by murderous hillbillies. I was traumatized and lost my compound bow. ” — Trent, Maryland

“It’s like the fucking universe’s firehose blasting metaphysical cum on your spiritual tits!” — Nick, Georgia

Tickets go on sale January 1.

 

Quick Fiction

One: A Mixed Bag

 “Experience”

“You’re much older than your pic,” he observed.

“Sure, but with my skills I can do things younger women can’t even imagine at their age,” she said with a wink and a sly smile.

“Like having to convince yourself men still want to sleep with you?” he asked.

Finis

***

A Maid

“The maid’s singing Johnny Cash,” he told his wife. “Hear her?”

“You called her a maid,” she scolded.

“So what?”

“So it’s room attendant,” she said. “Maid is demeaning.”

“Well THE MAID sucked my dick,” he said. “For fifty bucks.”

“I’d have done it for forty.”

Finis

 

***

SJW, M.D.

“Perhaps,” the doctor said, looking over her reading glasses, “you’re really a woman.”

“Did you just say that I’m a woman?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied. “Have you considered that?”

“But I’m just here for stitches,” he said, holding up his bleeding finger.

Finis

***

The Outlaw

“I’m a pirate, a savage outlaw!”

How so?

“I say things that bother some people, and I don’t even give a shit!”

Ever read any books…like about what pirates do?

“BRB, taking the kids to karate.”

Finis

***

Freaks

“I just don’t understand,” the man in the dress said to the woman wearing the “Pregnant Pope” outfit. They watched nervous parents hurriedly walk their children to the school door.

“Disgusting,” the pregnant pope observed.

“Freaks,” the man in the dress agreed.

Finis

***

Cyber Monday

“It’s Cyber Monday,” she said to her husband. “Wanna cyber with me?”

He coughed, looked up from his cereal. “Hell yeah. There’s this cam girl who prefers couples.”

“Asshole!” she yelled. “I meant online shopping.”

“She sells her dildos,” he observed.

Finis

***

The Efficacy of Sunlight

“Focus on the sunlight penetrating your anus,” the dance teacher instructed the nude sunbathers on the large flat rock outcrop.

“I believe I have shat,” said an older man with a long, gray beard.

“Someone help George,” the instructor sighed.

Finis

 

Two: Mates

Couchmates

She stood up, yelled, “I’ve had it!”

“With what?” he asked.

“This,” she said. “Us. This damn couch.”

“Seriously?” he asked.

“Yes. And you’re gonna get old, die on this couch eating pork nachos,” she sneered. “Alone.”

“But you are going,” he confirmed.

Finis

***

Lifemates

“I don’t understand,” he said to his wife. “What’s changed?”

“Nothing. That’s the problem,” she said. “You’ve quit growing.”

“But our kids,” he said. “Our family.”

“So?”

“So we took a vow. Didn’t you mean it?” he asked.

“Of course,” she replied. “Then.”

Finis

 

***

Flatmates

The cop in the yard grinned as his partner interviewed the couple on the porch.

“Weeee’re jus’ flatmates, guvna,” she said in a bad Cockney accent. “An’ ‘e come to me bath ‘n’ ask me to touch his lingam, ‘e did!”

“You’re from Nebraska,” the man told her.

Finis

***

Teammates

“Janie and I are getting pinned,” the wrestler said proudly as he slammed his locker door shut. “Thursday night.”

“She still shaved?” the other wrestler asked.

“What!” the first wrestler exclaimed. “You fucked her?”

“I shaved her,” the other replied.

Finis

***

Seatmates

“The couple who got the upgrade, so cute,” one flight attendant remarked.

“I know!” the other agreed. “Just saw them sharing a blanket.” She leaned in, whispering, “I think she’s giving him a handjob.”

“Only one upgrade” the first said. “Husband’s in coach.”

Finis

***

Bedmates

“Enjoy life with your lady!” the men’s life coach said with strength and positivity. “I do, and we have no serious issues in our bed.”

“I, uh, thought your wife had, like, fucked other dudes,” one man said nervously.

“But not in our bed,” the coach clarified.

Finis

***

Bunkmates

Seeing bunk beds in the room, he told her, “We were last to arrive. I’ll take top.”

She awoke later to the bed shaking in the moonlit room.

“Christ, do you have to?” she asked.

“No. You come up and do it for a change.”

“I don’t like heights,” she said.

Finis

***

Playmates

The young couple climaxed together then collapsed on the bed.

“That was incredible, baby,” the man said.

“My god Kev, that was better than Labor Day weekend.”

“I was out of town then,” he said, “and my name is Tim.”

“Is your middle name Kevin?” she asked.

Finis

***

Crewmates
“You’ve seen my fiancé,” the flight engineer said to the co-pilot when the pilot left the cockpit.

“Yeah,” the co-pilot replied.

“Would you fuck her?”, asked the engineer.

“Maybe. If she lost a few pounds.”

“I meant this weekend,” the engineer said.

Finis

***

Tribemates

“Online relationships are dumb,” he told a co-worker. “You can’t really get to know someone that way.”

Yeah, I see that.

“Ok, gotta run, get a cold shower and more pushups.”

Why?

“I pay a dude who lives 1200 miles away to lead me and hold me accountable.”

Finis

***

Cellmates

“What’re you in for?” 30254 asked 50981.

“This chick, twenty years younger, would come over, strip down to panties and stripper heels, bring me beer and food while I was watching sports, give me lap dances, blow me, call me ‘Daddy’, shit like that. You?”

“Same.”

Finis

***

Soulmates

The newlyweds gazed at each other and at the waves rolling toward them on the beach.

“Should I tell her I knew the moment we met that she was the one, that this was fate?” he wondered.

“He looks way too much like one of those dudes who DP’d me,” she thought.

Finis

***

Roommates

“Well that was something,” he remarked as they began clearing the dishes.

“Yeah,” his wife agreed. “I can’t believe they went on about their sex life.”

“Shameless bragging,” he said. “I can’t remember the last time we did it.”

“I can,” she replied.

Finis

***

Bandmates

Backstage, the band members heard their introduction as they pulled the concert promoter off of the lead singer.

“I can’t believe you were fucking my wife!” the promoter yelled.

“Neither could she,” replied the singer.

Finis

***

Classmates

The two sorority sisters smiled as the teaching assistant entered the lecture hall with the professor. Both smiled back.

“I went down on him,” one girl texted.

“Me too,” the other replied.

“OMG slut,” she typed back.

“Wait,” the other whispered. “Which one?”

Finis

 ***

“Wombmates”

“Some news,” the doctor said to the man and two women. “It’s triplets.”

“And our womb-sharing plan?” asked one of the women.

“Complicates it,” he said grimly.

“Well we should do what’s best for the babies,” the man observed.

“We already have,” she sneered.

Finis

Social Justice Referee

“Yes, I’m willing to check my bag,” Midge said to the gate attendant.

The gate attendant smiled enthusiastically. “Thank you so much…ma’am?” she said with a polite smile.

“Sir,” Midge corrected. “And you’re welcome.”

“Pardon me,” the attendant said, nodding with a smile. “Name?”

“Mitch. Mitch Schwinghammer,” Midge replied.

The attendant spent a few seconds typing. “I see a Midge, but not a Mitch Schwinghammer. Could be a typo,” she said carefully.

“Oh, no, I know what it is,” Midge said. “I bought this ticket months ago before I began transitioning. I’m Mitch now.”

The gate attendant seemed unsure about how to handle the conversation, so she just smiled as she fastened the baggage claim tag to the handle of Midge’s roller and handed her the claim ticket.

“You’re all set,” she said to Midge. “Just pick up it up at baggage claim at your final destination.”

“Okay, thank you,” said Midge.

“Good luck with that,” someone behind Midge at the ticket counter said. She turned to see a slim woman in business attire. “Beg pardon?” Midge asked.

The business woman chuckled. “Oh, ha, I just said, you know, good luck because who knows where it’ll end up.”

“WHAT KIND OF BITCH SAYS SOMETHING LIKE THAT?” Midge screamed, her face inches from the business woman’s.

The business woman began shaking. “I…what?” she said in a trembling voice.

“Oh!” Midge exclaimed. “Oh my god. Oh my god. I’m so sorry. I’m transitioning.”

The petite woman began weeping openly as her eyebrows narrowed and she began clenching her fists. “That doesn’t give you a right to harass me for being a sex worker!” she yelled at Midge.

Hearing trouble, an effeminate baggage handler came running out of the jet bridge and placed himself between the two women just as the petite business woman threw her punch, her tiny fist lined with rings hitting the baggage handler directly on the nose, breaking it. The gathering crowd recoiled in horror upon hearing the unmistakable sound of snapping cartilage. A pudgy man wearing a Beto shirt vomited.

Midge leapt into action. She placed the business woman in a sleeper hold while simultaneously throwing a perfect roundhouse kick, her foot making contact with the shoulder of an air marshal who had been standing too close.

The quick-thinking gate attendant immediately grabbed her microphone. “Social justice referee to gate A seventeen. Social justice referee to gate A seventeen on a red ten, this is a code red ten, repeat, red ten.”

A slightly chubby person of indeterminate gender arrived sporting a faint moustache, short, spiked black hair with bright, fushcia tips, and a corduroy sport jacket with the sleeves pushed to the elbows revealing forearm tats, and loosely-laced Doc Martens.

“THAT’S ENOUGH!,” the referee yelled, taking charge immediately before gripping Midge’s upper arm with a giant hand that completely wrapped it with fingertips pressing into her tricep. The referee expertly placed Midge at arm’s length from the baggage handle while backing the business woman off.

“My name is Pat,” the referee announced. “I. AM. IN. CHARGE. HERE.”

Midge, the business woman, and the baggage handler silently watched Pat while trying to bring their labored breathing under control. The crowd of passengers waiting to board looked on in silence as well. Some were already uploading the video they’d captured with their phones to YouTube.

Once the chaos abated, the gate attendant walked out from behind her counter and approached Pat.

“What have we got, Willie?” Pat asked her.

“I’m not entirely sure,” the attendant replied. “But I think we have a trans man, some kind of prostitute, and Greg, who’s gay.”

“I was afraid of that,” Pat said grimly as several airport police officers jogged up. Pat intercepted them, “I’ve got this guys, thanks. If you could just hang bang and back me up. We could be here a while, and there could be further trouble.”

The officers nodded and looked on as two emergency medical personnel arrived carrying large black backpacks and helped the three perpetrators of the fight to seats by the wall. They opened their packs and began offering the three water, fruit juice, and organic snacks as Pat stepped up and faced the crowd of onlooking passengers awaiting their call to board the plane.

“This is what happens,” Pat began lecturing the crowd, “when hate is allowed by people like you to fester and spread. Every one of you is partially to blame for what happened here today…”

###

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TradConCon 2019

“Have you heard the good news about masculinity?” the well-coiffed lumbersexual asked with a broad, inviting smile as he extended his hand.

I was on the job peddling a patented process for dipping and chemically wrapping pictures of nude women onto guns because you don’t think you want a Playmate of the Month Glock until you actually see and hold one.

The company I work for had purchased a booth at TradConCon–“the Traditional Conservative Conference aimed at traditional conservative men”. We saw it as huge, untapped market and I was eager to tap it to hell and back.

Early research had revealed that traditional, conservative men’s traditional, conservative wives would be more understanding of traditional, conservative guns emblazoned with women in micro-bikinis than with any showing tits or ass, bush or pink, so we had our team work up the bikini designs specifically for TradConCon where I now stood behind three tables arranged in a U-shape displaying our brand new line of R-rated firearms.

Anyways, this guy sidled up to our booth oozing unfettered, sincere bonhomie and confidence, like that swaggering but young and inexperienced gunfighter in old westerns. You know the one. He gets shot early.

“I’m Trent!” he exclaimed as our hands clasped across my table for a few pumps over a Remington 870 covered with that famous old poster of Farrah Fawcett-Majors from the late 70s. Market research showed that 43% of our target demographic was over forty-four and would respond to her.

“Hi Trent,” I replied. “Bob,” I said, completing the shake and handing him a business card. “Have you heard the good news about tits and ass and guns?” I said with a chuckle. Trent didn’t laugh.

“I’m one of the veteran speakers here,” he said. “And helped plan and organize the event.”

“That’s awesome,” I congratulated. “Seems like a great show.”

“The best. We’re saving the West, brother!” he exclaimed. “And, thankfully, we still have more attendees than speakers for the time being. But I don’t mind saying–confidentially, of course–it was a close one this year.”

“So what do you do, Trent?” I asked. I was hoping he had money to burn because sales of our gun wraps–both R- and X-rated product lines–were not meeting expectations and I was sucking hind tit for the second quarter in a row.

“Have a tribe that I lead through my self-developed course, The Good News about Masculinity. Developed it myself,” he said. “I also have a compound bow and some kids.”

“That’s great, Trent,” I replied. “You know our bikini wraps can be applied to bows, too.”

“Don’t be a pussy,” Trent said. “Want to take a cold shower?”

“Beg pardon?” I said.

“Don’t be a pussy. Do you ever take cold showers? Who’s challenging you?” he asked.

I looked around. “You mean like, right now?”

“See, that’s my point. You should’ve responded with something clever and alpha and disarming when I said don’t be a pussy. Something like, ‘Well, you are what you eat, Trent’. See what I mean? Something like that. How many pushups do you do a day?”

“I don’t do any, Trent.”

“See, again. Me and my tribe–I have a tribe, too,” he said.

“Is that your family?” I asked.

Trent flashed a confused look and then laughed. “Hahahahahaha. Good one!” he said enthusiastically. “No, my tribe is my boys. The men who hold me accountable for holding them accountable while I hold myself accountable for holding my wife accountable so that together we are able to hold our kids accountable, which in turn holds us, and myself, accountable. There’s this whole circle of life dynamic happening, and it’s awesome!”

“I see,” I replied.

“Accountability is big with me,” he said, even more sincerely than before.

“Well accounts are big with me, Trent,” I joked. “As is my accountant. Are any of y’all accountants?”

“What?” he asked. “No. I don’t think so. Right now I have, let’s see, a dance teacher, a gym coach, another dance teacher, another gym coach. And twelve other influencers in the male space. Anyway, we meet regularly to check-in and get feedback from other men.”

“You’re all men, then,” I observed.

“Of course!” he exclaimed.

“You guys do anything? Hike? Camp? Shoot? Hunt?” I asked. “Think any of your boys might want an R-rated gun?”

“Huh? No, we meet online. The tribe is all over,” he said. “Well, a few are here at TradConCon with me because I got them seventeen dollars off every discounted ticket of seven hundred dollars they sold. So we met this morning for a power breakfast. And it was powerful: a group of men unashamedly discussing male shit like taking cold showers and not ejaculating for a month. Building and conserving our power for more focused releases of our power.”

“Cool,” I said.

“You’re welcome to join. We have room for a few more,” Trent invited. “Men do better when they’re constantly challenged. Are you feeling challenged right now?”

“I definitely am, Trent,” I confirmed.

“Working already!” he said enthusiastically. “And it’s only seventy-seven dollars and seventy-seven cents per month. For that you get to talk to me every week, one-on-one, and also join in our group chats so you can get challenged by everyone at once, too. I bet you don’t have anything like that in your life.”

“Well, I have friends,” I said.

“Do they challenge you?” he asked. “Are they challenging you to be a better man? An alpha man?”

“We hunt and fish and stuff. I have this one friend, Andy, we’re rebuilding a sixty-nine Chevelle together with his sons. I only have daughters but I’m good with engines so–”

“But is he challenging you?” Trent pressed.

“I honestly don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, Trent,” I said. “I’ve been making six figures for over a decade now. Divorced but have a great life anyway that I enjoy, pretty much live as I please. Worst thing was I chose a shitty wife, but that’s all in the past. Don’t think I could be happier.” I explained.

“That’s really great,” Trent said, getting quieter. I was losing his attention as he scanned the room. “Sounds…great.”

“But if you’re not interested in an R-rated gun, I’m going to have to get back to work. You have my card though,” I said.

“Yeah I might give you a call,” he said.

“Sure just let me know.”

“I could definitely help you with the car project!” he exclaimed, then his head swiveled right where he spotted a short, bald man heading for the organic jerky stand and skinned out in his direction.

“Hey, you there, brother! Have you heard the good news about masculinity?” he began.

###