You should never refuse a friend a favor, I thought to myself. You ought always be one upon whom counting can be done, like an abacus or the common hand. The lists to which your friends refer in time of need should begin and end with you. You could teach rocks a thing or two about steadiness, and helpful? Sarah, Mayberry's telephone operatrix, would finish full furlongs behind in any sort of contest with you. You're a prince among men and sacrificing your day to wait at your friend Lars' house for a tradesman is only the latest example of the selflessness and generosity that is your hallmark.
I was lolling on Lars' big comfortable sofa, slowly demolishing a pile of Tater Tots the size of a small tortoise and watching television. I wondered if I hadn't overdone it; it's hard to estimate the amount of Tots one will require, but it's always better to have too many than not enough — as nature’s most perfect food, room can always be found for a few more.
Lars had a satellite package that allowed one to watch pretty much anything ever filmed, provided one had the patience and thumb stamina to negotiate the myriad available channels. I found one that showed nothing but horse racing, and stuck with that for a while to see if maybe I had a future in handicapping. After six races I'd picked four who came in dead last, one who refused to leave the gate and lay down in a fit of depression, and one who wandered off the track and left to seek his fortune. Perhaps I could serve as a sort of reverse tout, predicting guaranteed losers for a slight improvement of the odds.
I began flipping through channels and tried to remember who exactly I was waiting for. Not the cable guy, clearly — all was A-OK there — and the plumbing seemed sound, as did the rest of the house. I landed on a show about orchid grafting and was watching raptly, metronomically popping Tots into my maw, when a knock sounded at the door. That was quick, I thought.
I opened the door to find not a coveralled, tool-belted tradesman, but a gentleman known to both Lars and myself who went by the name of Sandman. When I'd first met him I asked from whence came the moniker. "Iya put ch'ass to sleep," he said with an evil grin.
"Sandman! What's crackalackin'? C’mon in," I said.
"Hey. Where's Lars?" he said.
"Santa Rosa. He'll be gone all day. I'm waiting for the electrician or something. Tinker. Landscaper, I don't know, somebody. "Well, sheeit," Sandman said resignedly.
"Why, what's up?"
"Aw, he generally gives me good advice, and I've got a bit of a situation that requires some, so I thought I'd lay it out for him and see what he had to say."
I made a show of carefully inspecting my bare arms, palpating the flesh as if scrutinizing a cut of meat. "What the hell are you doing?" Sandman asked.
"Ascertaining that I am not, lest you think otherwise, chopped liver. I'm your man, dude! Lay it on me! People come from far and wide to lap up my wise counsel."
"No offense, guy, but you've got a kind of a reputation as an idiot."
"Calumny! Slander and lies. They're jealous, is all. Now tell Uncle Flynn the problem."
"Alright. You remember the broad who moved into the other half of the duplex?"
"The one with the yaggaga-gagga and the vroot, vroot?" I said, using my hands to manually depict significant convexities in the upper anterior and lower posterior regions of a feminine corpus.
"That's the one. She—"
"What's her name, Rotunda? Profunda? Robusta?"
"Rhonda." He gave me a look. "She's been dropping by every now and then, passing the time, borrowing this or that, you know, neighborly like. Maybe a little flirtatious, hard to tell. Probably. And you know me, Flynn I got to have that."
"Well, I know you're bound to try."
"Exactly. Bound to try, that's me all over. So that's why I came to see Lars, see if he thinks it's a good idea to make a move. He knows her from school and probably has some inside dope."
"Well, sure, if you're trying to find out who she's gonna ask to the Sadie Hawkins dance, by all means ask a school chum, but I've been compiling data on the gender for many years, my friend. I've been in the trenches. My experience and knowledge is comprehensive. I am a recognized expert in the field."
"Recognized by who?"
"Sandman. You're focusing on specific words instead of just gleaning my general tone. Don't get bogged down in particulars, just listen. It is never, under any circumstances, a good idea to get mixed up with a woman, and I say that as a guy in a committed relationship. It is at times necessary, but it is never wise. Trust me on this. I am not anti-woman. Love women. I think they're a credit to the human race. I like them as friends, co-workers, bosses, presidents, machine-gunners, pilots or whatever they want to be. I'll go you one step further. I have a sneaking suspicion that this world would run a lot more efficiently if women ran the show and men operated more in the capacity of pack animals and general factoti. Show me something completely FUBAR and I'll show you the Y-chromosome behind it. I am a steadfast supporter of the feminine gender, but damnit, once those fluids start commingling, that's when the trouble starts. That's trouble with a T, and that rhymes with V, and that stands for you-know-what. Do you think I'm happy in my relationship, Sandman? Ask me if I'm happy."
"You happy?” he inquired dutifully.
I looked around warily and lowered my voice to a hoarse whisper. "Christine does things to me in my sleep, man. Unspeakable things. I'm developing post-traumatic symptoms. Twitches and shit. My joie de vivre is seeping out like sebum from a teenager's face."
"That's disgusting," said Sandman.
"Exactly," I said. "So no, I'm not happy. There was a time when I was chock full of mojo, and that mojo has since been distributed among a number of females, most of whom use it to line their hope chests in which they keep secure their hopes for a steady supply of men to cannibalize for their essence."
"Now allow me, for illustrative purposes, to draw a telling comparison. Consider the satisfaction of another basic drive, hunger. When you get hungry, you go to one of the many purveyors of comestibles vying for the right to feed you. There, for a fee, not only are your nutritional needs met, but you are treated with deference and respect and made to feel as if you, your opinions, and your needs matter. To a greater or lesser degree, depending on the place. Isn't that a nice system, Sandman? Aren't we lucky to have Chipotle and Applebee's?"
Sandman agreed that casual dining was a boon and a blessing.
"Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that we reduce the sex act to a simple cash transaction. We've got that already, it's called hookers and it's usually sordid and gross. But suppose you got hungry one day, went to a restaurant expecting to participate in the usual exchange of money for food and were denied entrance and made to wait outside. Suppose that only after hours of begging, bribery, and little gifts to the maitre-d' were you allowed in. You're taken to a table in a lovely, lavishly appointed dining room and seated amid the most tantalizing aromas imaginable. The food arrives and is perfectly prepared, beautifully presented and incomparably delicious.
You eat until sated and enjoy a fine cognac to top off your meal. But wait, what's this? Iron bands emerge from the arms and legs of your chair and encircle your limbs, holding you fast to the chair. The waitress returns with another heaping portion of the same meal you just ate and feeds it to you. And then another, and another, and another — ad nauseum. Literally. Your distended stomach threatens to upend the table and you are finally released from your bonds, but you sit groggy and helpless while a team of extractors relieves you of all your valuables and rolls you out the back door into the alley. That's what a restaurant would be like if it operated under the same principles as the mating game. Terrifying, right? I'm thinking that man-kind as a gender should start focusing their energies on asexual reproduction. How hard can it be? Amoebas do it, right? Don't tell Christine I said that, or any of this. But as to you and Callipygia — "
"Whatever. What you want to do is get into the kitchen and make with the aroma-intensive foods. Cinnamon rolls, marinara sauce, maybe a roast turkey. That'll entice her over, impress her with your domesticity, and soften her up for the kill. Although — and I cannot stress this enough — this is overall a terrible idea and bound to end in heartbreak. You'd be better off taking a more virtuous path in life and quit mucking about with the ladies. It's a big, wide, woman-intensive world out there, Sandman. You've been warned. Be careful."
"Uh, alright then. Thanks, I guess. I'll leave you to wait for the Maytag repairman."
"Or whoever. Bye! Give my best to Rumbustia!"
"Right. See ya."
I returned to my Tots and TV. I found a show about animal doctors (not vets; animals who treat human maladies) and right at the emotional crux of the story, when a dog-tor had to tell a young mother that her child wasn't going to make it, I heard a commotion outside. I opened the front door to see a guy in a hazmat suit trundling some skull-and-crossbones-marked cylinders out of the back of a van. He saw me and gave a start. "What are you doing in there? Nobody's supposed to be in there! This house is infested with flesh-eating potato weevils! You haven't been eating any potatoes, have you?" he said.
"Who, me? Nope," I said, hastily jettisoning a Tot into the bushes. "Why, are they dangerous?"
"Oh no, of course not. They're the friendly kind of flesh-eating potato weevil."
It was impossible to read his expression through the helmet's opaque glass, but I thought I detected sarcasm.
"Report to the address on the side of the truck for decontamination."
I wondered if I'd misapprehended Lars' instructions and was only supposed to have let the guy in from the outside, or was he actually trying to kill me? He had left that giant bag of Tater Tots and knew my predisposition to them? Eh, whatever. I was exposed on a daily basis to a soul-devouring succubus, I should be able to withstand a little weevil-gnawing.