Friday, October 30, 2009

How to survive a Haunted House

So you want to know how to survive a haunted house. And I'm not talking about those staged ones with the actors and props. I'm talking about a real haunted house, complete with either supernatural or superpscycho killers. Given my few experiences with the otherworldly and with research from watching plenty of horror films and tv shows, I've decided to share some tips on how you can survive a haunted house.

The first and most important tip of surviving a haunted house is Do Not Go into the Haunted House! Seriously, especially on Halloween night! That's when all the ghosts and psychos come out and start killing people.

If some old person, some gypsy, some psychic, or even some animal gives you a warning about the haunted house, then you better pay attention and not go in the damn haunted house! And don't go inside for some stupid reason like on a dare or to win some prize! Because you can't gloat to your friends or spend that prize money when you're as dead as the the presidents on them dollars! And if you went in the haunted house to satisfy some morbid curiosity or to try and prove the existence of ghosts, well then it's your own stupid fault when the monsters come after you and chop you into little pieces.

The second tip of surviving a haunted house is Be Prepared! That means you need to arm yourself!

If you're not a slayer nor a hunter of the supernatural, then you best get yourself a gun and learn how to use it! The more guns, the better. If you don't have a gun, then take some knives. They're good for cutting through ropes when the sociopath leaves you tied up and goes to prepare his tools to take off your skin and wear it like a dress. A sharp silver knife can kill a psycho, a werewolf, and other preternatural creatures when stabbed directly into the heart or brain. A sharp pointy stick to the heart can kill any crazy person and vampires trying to suck you dry. And take some salt! Salt repels evil spirits. And you can use it to blind the psycho killer coming after you with a buzz saw! It'll buy you some time to get away. Anything can be a weapon, even a wire hanger.

The third tip is Don't Let Your Guard Down! You're not safe in a haunted house! Anything can happen.

If by chance you do manage to kill the psycho or creature, don't just stop and rest, thinking it's all over! You need to make sure that mofo is dead! You need to stab him in the heart and cut off his head! Those evil mofos tend to jump back to life and try to kill you as soon as you turn your back or start crying like a little baby! It's not over til you're out of the haunted house and far beyond the reach of evil! Even then, you need to stay ready because sometimes, they come back and you have to do some serious ass kicking all over again!

And finally, Never Go Alone! There's strength in numbers. Do not get separated from the group! That's how the killers and the evil spirits start picking off people, one by one!

If you're the one putting together the group, remember, no chicks allowed! Girls, especially big boobed blond ones in tight clothing, always get killed! Unless you're taking Xena Warrior Princess or Lara Croft with you, don't take any girls in your group! And for f*ck's sake! Do not, I repeat, Do not have sex in the haunted house! That guarantees your death! You'll be too tired to run for your life when the ghosts or the killers come after you! Evil spirits and deranged killers always spy on the couple who had sex and then kill them!

Remember, don't get separated from the group! If for some godforsaken reason you do get split up, then there are some things you need to remember. Big boobed blonds always get killed first, especially when they're wearing heels. You can't run in heels! You'll trip and fall and that's how the monster catches you! Minorities always get killed when they're by themselves. If you are a minority, you're best bet is to stick with the busty blond bimbo in the group. That way, when the killer comes after you, chances are gravity and bad choice of footwear will cause the blonde to trip, break an ankle, and distract the killer while you get away! Don't look back! Just keep on running!

I hope you remember these survival tips when you're out trick or treating...or just turning tricks.

Feel free to share any helpful haunted house survival tips with us!

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

For whom the Belles Toll, the conclusion

For whom the Belles Toll, Part 5

A bell is no bell 'til you ring it

--Oscar Hammerstein

The loud sound of the tv woke me up rudely. I groaned inwardly and peeked at the bedside clock. It was only 7 in the morning. I could hear Teacher making noise as she moved about the room. Then she went into the bathroom and closed the door loudly. Damned morning respect or consideration for those of us who don't get up with the sun. I heard the shower go on as I curled myself under the blankets and tried to go back to sleep. I was still tired. I fell asleep for a few minutes until the loud roar of the hair dryer through the opened bathroom door woke me up again. I had this suspicion that either Teacher was oblivious to the racket she was making, or she was trying to wake me up. There was also a very distinct possibility that she was just getting back at me after I told her off last night.

Then I thought to myself, Nah, she wouldn't act so childish. I didn't think that she was being vindictive. Until she opened the blinds and let the bright lights in! Okay, now she was being a bitch. I just turned the other way and buried my head under the covers and tried to ignore all the noise she was making. She even turned up the tv volume at one point. Luckily, I've been known to fall asleep in front of the tv a few times. In fact, I often turn on the tv and radio and set the sleep timer to turn them off in an hour. The noise from the tv and radio often puts me to sleep. I think it's because I grew up in such a big household, that there was always some sort of noise going on in the background--people laughing, shouting, talking, or just moving about. I found it very comforting at times when I'm having trouble sleeping. It's probably why I fall asleep faster on the sofa in front of the tv than I do when I'm just lying in bed. I was dozing off again when I heard the door slamming shut. I'm pretty sure Teacher went off somewhere, but by then, I was drifting off to sweet unconscious sleep, so I really didn't care.

The next time I woke up, the tv was still on. I looked at the clock and it was about noon. I stretched and turned on my back. I looked to my left and saw Teacher sitting there, remote in hand, giving me a puzzling look, like she was pondering a decision. I just grunted acknowledgment and sat up. I stood up, stretched, and grabbed my gear and some clothes and headed into the bathroom. That cool shower felt refreshing. Today was the big day. In a few hours, Bride would get married, and suddenly I was more awake. It was hard to believe that she was getting married, today, and I felt my chest tightening a bit with that realization. It was a big change, a life changing event that I wasn't sure if I was ready to embrace. But she seemed happy about it, and that's all that really mattered. If she was happy, then I'd be happy for her.

Soon as I got ready and put on some clothes, I came out of the bathroom. Teacher was still watching tv. When I asked her if she was hungry, she snapped at me that she all ready had breakfast. Okay, fine. She was being bitchy. I didn't care. I had other things on my mind. So I sat on the bed and put on my shoes. I told her that I was going out for lunch then. When I grabbed my keys, she suddenly asked me where should we go for lunch. I told her that there was a restaurant next to the hotel or maybe we'd go riding around and find a place to eat. We found a restaurant we both agreed on and got a table by the window. Our conversation was mostly polite, talking about the weather and the menu and what we felt like ordering. We were talking about everything else instead of dealing with the blowout from the night before. But I've all ready said my piece, and I don't regret it, even if it came out harsh. I figured we'd keep to the polite talk while we sort our feelings and digest what was said. I figured wrong.

When we started in on the chips and queso appetizers, Teacher revealed that Boytoy texted her last night. His girlfriend was pregnant. Whoa! I told her that was big. I didn't know how to proceed. This revelation was just more proof that Boytoy was even more attached to his live in girlfriend. I was pretty sure that Teacher must've been devastated at the news, and that probably explained why she was such a bitch the night before--and maybe this morning, too. But that was just my guess. I asked her how she was feeling. She told me that she was fine, and it wasn't like she and Boytoy were serious. She was just having fun.

I didn't believe her at all. She wasn't having fun. Her moody behavior told me that she still had feelings for this jerk. But I wasn't going to push her any further. Whatever happens next would be up to her. I didn't know what else to say, so I changed the subject. I told her that Deceiver was coming to the wedding. That got her attention. She was just as shocked as I had been yesterday when Bride told me the news. I just shrugged and told her that Bride's mom felt sorry for Deceiver, seeing as how Bride and Deceiver used to be friends.

Teacher laughed and said, Deceiver used to be our friend, too! I couldn't help but laugh, and told Teacher that I said the same thing yesterday to Bride! For now, our shared aversion of Deceiver helped to reduce the tension that had been growing between us since last night. Lunch was good; we laughed a little easier and shared jokes and memories. Then we went walking around town, looking into a few shops til it was time to get back to the hotel and get ready for the wedding. I put on my suit and helped Teacher zip up her dress.

We arrived at the church almost an hour ahead of time; we wanted to get good seats. The wedding designer was putting up the last of the flowers and decorations. Half an hour before the wedding, the wedding party arrived, along with a few guests. The photographer started taking wedding pictures. I still hadn't seen Bride yet, and I was anxious to see her and the rest of the wedding party. In the meantime, I started chatting up some of the other guests. Teacher was back to her sullen mood, remaining silent and giving off this cold vibe. Moody, much?

I spotted Bride's friends, the Blond and the Brunette, from the night before and I smiled and waved at them. They smiled back, seemingly relieved to recognize someone friendly in the crowd of strangers. They sat in the pew behind me and we started talking. I have to confess that while I was partly motivated to make them feel welcomed, a small part of me still held out hope that maybe things would head into a fruitful direction, in spite of last night's bust. I was talking to the girls when my partner in crime from last night, Fix, showed up. He greeted the girls, then said that one of the ushers for the wedding was feeling sick (still hung over!). He wanted to know if I could fill in, seeing as I was wearing my black suit and white shirt, I said, Sure! Fix said that Bride would be relieved. So I got up and excused myself and headed over to the church foyer with Fix to meet the wedding planner and the one other usher.

The wedding planner explained that the usher's job was to make sure that the wedding guests would be seated according to whether they were here as the groom's or the bride's guests. Bride's guests on the left, Groom's on the right. Immediate family members were seated at the very front pews reserved for them. Simple enough. So I put on my smile, greeted the guests as they came into the church, and sat them accordingly. The music started playing and the church started filling up. Soon enough, the Groom was at the front and the wedding party started marching in. When the last pair went in, I closed the door behind them and turned to see Bride standing behind me. I felt my heart flutter when I met her eyes and she smiled. She looked stunning, absolutely breathtaking in her white gown and pearls. I told her that she was gorgeous, an absolute goddess. She smiled and said thank you. Then we heard the wedding march and she nodded. Together, the other usher and I counted to three and opened the doors again, revealing Bride in her all her enchanting glory.

I watched her glide gracefully down the aisle, past the standing guests who looked at her with wonder and joy. It was like watching a dream as she moved further away, step by step. The ceremony proceeded smoothly and before I knew it, it was time to exchange vows and rings. I was surprised at how fast this moment had come. It seemed unreal to witness Bride and Groom saying their vows. I was witnessing something intimate and monumental, something sacred. And when the priest asked if anyone had any objections to this union, I wondered, Well, if anyone did object, would they really stop the wedding? Time seemed to stop for a moment, and all I saw was Bride, looking so nervous and happy and absolutely lovely.

Then it was done. They were married. With the ceremony was over, I stood back up and resumed my usher duties, opening the doors to let the wedding party exit. And when Bride passed by, I saw her joy. I felt my heart stop again as I returned her radiant smile. I wanted to freeze this moment in time. I wondered if all brides were this happy, this beautiful on their wedding day.

Teacher and I headed back to the hotel, where the wedding reception would take place. When we entered the reception hall, we dropped off our gifts then found our table. Our table was next to the wedding party table at the front. Fix was there along with the Blond and the Brunette. Fix and I exchanged that look again, and I thought, Why not? So we started our game plan again, turning on the charm for the Blond and the Brunette. Teacher kept to herself while Fix and I were laughing and bantering with Bride's friends. All was going well. Then Teacher gasped, grabbed my arm and said, Deceiver is here! Fix and I turned to look. And it was true! The Deceiver had arrived.

We quickly looked away before she made eye contact. And when we surreptitiously looked again, she was seated at the far end of the hall, right next to the kiddie table! We laughed at that. The Blond and the Brunette were curious as to why we were behaving this way. So Fix told them that we just spotted someone we knew from school. They seemed confused, so I told them that it was a person who was not very nice to us in college. That seemed to answers some of their questions, but I wasn't going to tell them anymore. I didn't want to ruin the good mood Fix and I had created; we had enough problems keeping up a fun, cheery atmosphere with Teacher looking all morose and snippy. But as much as I tried to ignore Deceiver, it was hard not to think about her now that she was here.

For whom the Belles Toll, Part 6

Ring out the old, ring in the new... Ring out the false, ring in the true
--Alfred Tennyson

We weren't always enemies. There was a time when Deceiver was a friend. I remember the first time that I met her. It was the first day of class. She seemed so meek and lonely, especially when the professor had us break into groups to do an exercise. No one had asked her to join their group. I felt bad for her, so I asked her to join our group. She was quiet then, not really saying anything during our class exercise. I thought that maybe she was shy. I was wrong. She wasn't shy. She was merely trying to figure us out. When I met Fix and Bride, they told me that Deceiver was someone they knew of from the old neighborhood. Bride was always friendly to her, as was Teacher. Fix was just polite.

As time went on, Deceiver started hanging around us when we went to the beach or out to lunch. She'd look for us when we were hanging out under a tree or around a table. A few times, she came to parties with us. She was speaking up more, and she often called us to go to the beach or hang out. And when we didn't want to go, she'd whined and complained til we gave in. I didn't mind it too much at first. Then she started making disparaging remarks about people who dressed different or looked different. I'm not sure why she felt the need to put other people down. I suspected her attitude had much to do with her home life. I met her parents once, and once was enough. Her dad was such a jerk, saying demeaning things about people he considered beneath him. Her mother drank heavily and just agreed with her father.

Deceiver started pursuing a guy who was an engineering major. I called him Tesla. Tesla seemed like a nice guy, and he was really smart. He was also one of Fix's fraternity brothers, so I'd often run into him at parties that Fix and I attended. For some reason, Deceiver was under the impression that she and Tesla were in a relationship. She hounded him, and joined all the clubs that he was in, just so she'd spend time with him. It was obvious to everyone that Tesla was just being nice to her, treating her the same way he treated other people. Deceiver was having a relationship with her imagination.

Then Tesla came out. He was gay. And while that wasn't anything too shocking to the rest of us, Deceiver took it particularly hard. She started badmouthing him, talking about how she was misled by him. We ignored her at first, but that just made her complain even more. We weren't sympathetic to her. For one thing, they never had a relationship! And we still hung out with Tesla; his orientation made no difference to us. He was still the same guy. But Deceiver couldn't let it go. It was like she was craving attention, and when we didn't give it to her, she sought it out from a student Christian group. She even tricked me once by telling me that she was going to a prayer group to pray for one of our classmates who died in a car accident. I agreed to go with her, thinking that I was doing something nice to honor someone's memory.

Boy, was I wrong! Instead of praying for the deceased, the junior pastor started lecturing us about the righteous path. The next thing I knew, Deceiver started telling this sob story about how she had been misled and betrayed by a man who used her and then told her that he was gay. I couldn't believe that crap! And when the others in the prayer group started to speak ill of Tesla, I was dumbfounded! Then they turned to me, expecting me to join them in condemning Tesla for being a sinner. That's when I lost it! I snapped at them that maybe they ought to pray for themselves first before condemning others as sinners. I quoted them a Bible verse about casting the first stone if they themselves were without sin.

The stupefied look on their faces with their mouths wide open was my reward for the evening. But I was still pissed off and before I got up to leave, the junior pastor started quoting Bible verses on homosexuality being a sin. His smug and self righteous attitude made me mad! This idiot was trying to lord his Biblical knowledge over me. Big mistake! I come from preacher people. Going back to my great grandparents, there have always been pastors, preachers, and missionaries of various Christian denominations in my family. My mother read the whole Bible with each and every one of us when we became teenagers. It was a rite of passage. And when I started questioning different religions in high school, I started researching and attending various religions, learning all I could about them. So when this smug jackass started quoting catchphrases from the Old Testament, I had to smack his ass down with great vengeance!

So I started quoting him the Old Testament. I countered that it also says that eating pork and eating shellfish was a sin! So if he's ever eaten bacon or shrimp, he has sinned. Blood transfusion are also a sin. That part of the Bible also says that it's okay to own slaves and women were the property of their fathers until they married, and then they became property of their husbands. The junior pastor seemed stunned that I wasn't some idiot off the streets when it came to the Bible. Then I told him to read the New Testament and learn what Jesus said about loving thy neighbor. Then I quoted that Jesus warned of false prophets who preach in his name, act on his behalf, claiming to do his work. When the time comes and they stand before Jesus for acknowledgment, Jesus will tell them to get away from him, because he does not know them!

When the junior pastor flipped to the table of contents trying to find the right book to check on my last quote, I couldn't help but make fun of him. I told him, Oh, my gawd! You can't find a simple book in the New Testament? Even my 9 year old niece knows all the Bible books by heart! What kind of pastor doesn't know the Bible books by memory? I admit, it was petty and low handed, but it served its purpose! The look of embarrassment and shame on the red faced junior pastor and the dumb expressions on the prayer group's faces was so worth it. These mofos wanted to smear someone and they failed miserably. It felt good to kick dirt in their faces while they were down.

I ignored Deceiver for a while after that. Eventually, I revealed to the others what had happened after much prodding and cajoling (and threats!) from them. Fix was particularly pissed that Deceiver was spreading lies about Tesla. We stopped hanging out with Deceiver that semester. And it wasn't until she tearfully apologized the following semester about her actions did we tolerate her presence. I heard that her Christian group had disbanded. I suspected that without any friends, she came crawling back to us. But if the others were willing to accept her back, then I supposed I could, too. All was forgiven. And things were fine for rest of the year. The next year, however, was a totally different story.

Our classes were getting harder and more intense. To get ready for midterms, we started a study group for the classes that we had in common. During our study sessions, Deceiver kept interrupting our progress, wanting to take numerous breaks, go for an ice cream or a snack run. We ignored her and went back to studying. Then as the midterms were a week away, she became even more disruptive. She wanted us to stop studying and go to the movies. When we ignored her, she suddenly grabbed our notes and tossed them in the air! Then she stomped around the living room and said that we were so boring and we should go to the beach. The rest of us exchanged looks that said, What The F*ck? That bitch has gone crazy! The next few days, we avoided Deceiver and ignored her calls while we studied together. She was just too distracting and destructive. When our midterms were over, our hard work paid off. We aced our tests. Deceiver flunked! She'd have to ace the finals just to get a barely passing grade. She was sulking and bitchy that we had done well, but we ignored her. Hell, we had a party to celebrate that midterms were over!

During the rest of the semester, Deceiver apologized for her disruptive actions and we decided that the stress probably made her act crazy. We started to let her hang out with us again, and things were going smoothly, until it was time for finals. One of our class finals had two parts. The first part was a term paper; the second part was a cumulative test on the material. The term paper was a group project due the week before the test. Bride and I teamed up together. A few weeks before finals, we started meeting with the professor and her teaching assistant regarding our project. We were looking for input and emailed them our working paper for critiques. Two weeks before finals, the professor wanted rough drafts to see how the groups were progressing. Suddenly, Bride and I were approached by Deceiver, desperate to join our group. She was having problems with her other partners; she said they weren't doing any of the work and were ignoring her.

Bride and I weren't sure, as we had all ready started working on our final draft. The rough draft we were submitting was the similar to the one we had discussed in our recent meeting with the professor. We kind of felt bad for her, because if she didn't ace the final, she'd flunk the entire course. The professor gave us the okay to work together. And so we started finalizing our paper. We saved our work on a disc, but our data and revisions were copied on my laptop as well. Two days before the paper was due, Deceiver told us that she wanted to type up the paper, seeing as how Bride and I had done most of the research. So we let her take the disc. The plan was that the next day, we'd go over the paper and make any final changes before submitting it.

When the next day came, however, Deceiver was no where to be found. She missed our meeting and didn't return our calls. When we went by her apt, she didn't answer. Bride and I were getting agitated. She had our disc, and we had this sinking feeling that she hadn't typed up anything like she had agreed. Luckily for us, we still had a copy saved on my laptop, and we spent all night working on our final copy. And when we were done typing it, we took off Deceiver's name and emailed our professor and her teaching assistant, informing them of what had happened. The next morning when the paper was due, Deceiver called Bride's phone. She had this sob story about how she had lost the disc and had spent the entire day looking for it. When Bride asked her why didn't she just tell us so we'd start working on the paper ourselves, Deceiver's excuse was that she didn't want us to get mad at her for losing the disc. Bullshit! We knew that she was lying. And when she asked us what we were going to do, Bride told her that we'd work something out with the professor.

We didn't even ask Deceiver to join us for our study group the week before finals. After our written exam, the professor asked Bride and I to meet her at her office. There, we had a revealing discussion. Apparently, Bride had told the professor that she had done most of the work on the paper, and we had pushed her out of the group! We couldn't believe that she had lied so blatantly! Unfortunately for Deceiver, the professor was familiar with our work and knew that Deceiver was lying. Not only did Deceiver flunk the course, but the professor reported her for misconduct. Deceiver was placed on academic probation and had to repeat the course and earn higher grades or get kicked out of college.

The fallout didn't stop there. We had another party to celebrate that finals were over. The next few days, we'd find out our grades. Then we got emails from the Dean of Student Affairs wanting to speak to us. I was the first one to meet her. I couldn't imagine why the Dean wanted to talk to me. When I did meet her, I was shocked! She said that someone had reported that during the party we recently had at my apt, there was a lot underage drinking and drug use. I was blindsided by that! I mean, sure we had drinks at the party, but no one was driving anywhere and most spent the night at my place. But I wasn't going to tell the Dean that! And besides, there were no drugs at the party!

I called upon all of my acting skills and righteous indignation to defend myself. I told the Dean that I was insulted that someone was making these false accusations. I demanded to know the name of my accuser and I wanted to press charges for slander! I worked up a furious anger and started talking about a lawsuit! That got the Dean's attention and she told me that she was just investigating a report. She tried to calm me down. She assured me that no action was going to be taken against me at this point, and that she'd contact me the next day once she ended her inquiry.

I called my friends and told them what went down and what to expect. Everyone was stunned but we decided to stick to the story I started. Everyone was nervous. But quite unexpectedly, everyone else's meeting with the Dean was canceled. The next day, I met the Dean and she said that the complaint had been dismissed. And when I asked her who made the complaint, she revealed that it was Deceiver! I couldn't believe it! That backstabbing, lying bitch!!! When I told the Dean that Deceiver wasn't even at the party, the Dean said that's what her investigation found out. And that in talking to the professors, she learned that Deceiver had a history of lying and misconduct. Forget academic probation. This latest stunt got her kicked out for a whole academic year, and there was no guarantee the university would take her back after that.

When I told the others what had happened, they were shocked at first, then they were really angry. That bitch tried to burn us! And then she had the nerve to send us an apologetic email, asking us for forgiveness! She claimed that she felt like we were leaving her behind as she was failing class, but she didn't want us to move on with out her. That's why she did the things she did. That bitch was just crazy. The girls wanted to kick her ass, but she was all ready gone by the time she sent her pathetic email. Besides, it felt good to know that the university had kicked her out! Karma's a bitch!

Years later, after we had graduated and moved on with life, I heard through the grapevine that Deceiver had moved out of state to marry some divorced guy with three kids. I couldn't imagine her as a mother, and I laughed at how she'd have to compete with children to get the attention she craved. Then two months ago, I got an email out of the blue from her! It was a long apology letter, where she admitted she had wronged us, and she had been a terrible person. She was divorced now and moving back to the state. She also said that she was going into the hospital for surgery, and she wanted to settle her affairs in case the surgery was unsuccessful. Truthfully, I didn't give a damn about her email or her life. I couldn't believe that she even wrote me! So I blocked her email and tried to forget about her. And I haven't thought about her until now.

But whatever unpleasant thoughts I had were pushed aside when the wedding party made their entrance to loud applause and cheers. Seeing Bride's alluring smile made me think only of celebrating her happiness. And it was a fantastic reception. The food was great, the music was fun. We ate, we danced, and we laughed and groaned at some of the speeches. Once again, Worstman gave a horrible speech comparing Bride and Groom's union to a sentence in prison, but at least he wasn't revealing any more secrets about Groom. Fix and I were doing very well with the Blond and the Brunette. We danced with them when we weren't sitting at the table, laughing together. We all did some line dancing, some two stepping, and the wedding standards: The chicken dance, the electric slide, and the cha cha. Then it was just a bunch of mix of different songs to get our groove on. I convinced Teacher to dance one time, then she sat back down and started drinking, keeping herself separate from the rest of us. But by then, I was having too good of a time with Fix and the ladies.

Maybe it was the good spirits I was feeling (or the ones that I had been drinking) that left me in a very generous mood. On the way back from the bathroom, I ran into Deceiver. She said hello and I just looked at her, nodded and kept walking. By the time I made it back to the table, I thought to myself, Well, maybe it's time I just let my anger at her go. And I started feeling sorry for her, especially since her last email said that she had to undergo a serious operation. Maybe she did deserve some kind of acknowledgment as a human being. I almost convinced myself to talk to her when it was time to dance with the Bride. I pinned money on Bride's dress before we started dancing. I told her that she looked absolutely stunning, just beautiful. She laughed and told me that she could tell that I was having a good time. I agreed.

I told her that I was feeling sorry for Deceiver, especially since she had that serious operation. Bride raised an eyebrow and told me that Deceiver didn't have a serious operation. She got a boob job! I was like, Say what? Bride laughed and told me that Bride went in for a boob job two months ago! I couldn't believe it. Once again, I've fallen for that bitch's lies! Bride told me to just let it go and never ever talk to Deceiver again. I grunted my agreement, and finished dancing with Bride and she kissed me on the cheek when our dance ended. I tried to ignore my irritation for falling once again for Deceiver's lies. I thought she was dying, but it turns out, she just wanted to get bigger boobs! Gawd, I was an idiot! Maybe I have drunk too much.

I was watching Deceiver talk on her phone when I had an epiphany: As mad as I was at Deceiver for lying, I was even more mad at myself for not doing anything about it! I was wasting time being angry at her; I ought to get even. I saw two kids at the buffet table, so I went up to them. They were both 9 years old. I gave them each ten dollars, told them what to do when they went back to their table, next to Deceiver. I walked back to my table to watch what would happen, and I wasn't sure if it was going to work. The boys said some things to Deceiver. Then I saw the look of horror on Deceiver's face before she looked down at her dress. The boys went back to eating their food and ignored her as she put on her jacket. It wasn't cold in the hall, but she had her jacket all buttoned up. Even then she kept looking down, drawing her shoulders in. Within half an hour, she got up and left in a hurry. I started laughing then. When Fix asked me what was so funny, I told him it was nothing, but he knew that I had done something that I wasn't quite ready to share yet.

My plan had worked better than I expected. When I approached those boys earlier, I told them what to do. I wanted them to stare at Deceiver. And when she made eye contact, tell her that she looked pretty. Then tell her the top of her dress looked crooked. Tell her that one side seemed lower and bigger than the other. I wanted Deceiver to think that her boob job looked lopsided. Seeing her freak out and leave meant that my plan had succeeded. I almost felt bad for her. Almost. Payback's a bitch.

I was exhilarated and I had a sweet buzz from the alcohol. I was having fun with the Brunette. Fix and I had worked our way around the table so that we were sitting next to the girls instead of across from them. We were doing some flirting when Teacher interrupted us, saying that she had a headache. She gave me a dirty look and said that she wanted to go back to the room. Okay, now I knew that this bitch was trying to c*ckblock me! I was like, Oh hell no! You ain't ruining this like you did last night!

I told the Brunette that I wanted to make sure that Teacher reached the room safely, and I'd be back in a few minutes. I gave her hand a light squeeze before I got up and left with Teacher. Teacher just looked cross the whole time we were in the elevator. Soon as we got in the room, she stalked over to the bed and sat down. I asked her if she needed anything, but she refused, saying that she just wanted to lie down. So I told her to lie down. As I was getting ready to leave, she demanded some ice. So I grabbed the bucket and went to get some ice from the end of the hall. By the time I came back, she had passed out with her shoes still on.

I left the ice in the room, locked the door, and headed back down to to rejoin Fix and the girls. We stayed and enjoyed the reception til was just after midnight, when Bride and Groom were ready to leave. We said good night to Bride and Groom. They were spending the night in the hotel. In the morning when we'd all check out, I'd give them a ride to the airport where they'd catch their flight and embark on their honeymoon. Then we dispersed ourselves. Fix took the Blond to show her the room he was staying in. The Brunette wanted to show me the view from her room on the higher floors. And it was a very nice view from a very nice room.

The next morning I found Teacher still sleeping in her dress. Her shoes had come off at some point. I grabbed some clothes and took a shower. When I was done, I stepped out of the bathroom to find Teacher somewhat awake but groggy. I handed her a glass of water to drink. When she was done with her shower, we packed up most of our stuff, then went for breakfast. She was quiet and contemplative and we didn't say much at first. Then she surprised me by apologizing for her behavior. She was sorry that she had been such a bitch this whole weekend. I told her that she wasn't a bitch the whole weekend...just most of the weekend. That got a dry laugh out of her. She thanked me for being a friend and for putting up with her crap. She said that she slept well last night, knowing that I was watching over her. Well, she didn't need to know everything, so I just nodded.

We said good bye to Fix and the others before dropping off Bride and Groom at the airport. On the drive home, Teacher was quiet. I think she had some things on her mind. So did I. Eventually Teacher fell asleep. It started to rain after a while, and I started thinking about another rainy day so long ago, in a barn alone with a beautiful woman, being closer than we've ever been in our lives. And I thought about Bride and how happy she looked when we danced at her wedding and when we hugged at the airport. I thought about things that happened and what could've been; I thought about what was, and what is, and what if. And I couldn't help but sigh, thinking that her hair still smelled the same, that sweet scent of green apples that I remember so fondly.

Friday, October 23, 2009

For whom the Belles Toll, Part 4


The Widow led us into the big house, and I was reminded of why it was such a good place for holding social functions. It was a really big house! It was the unofficial social hall for the community. Christmas parties and fund raising dinners were held here. Once, I attended a party for the local 4H club; those kids were so excited about going to a conference. I heard that a few weddings had taken place on the ranch. Well, I could understand why. It was a very beautiful rustic setting.

Widow introduced us to some people who where sitting and drinking in the living room. Then she took us to the kitchen, the hub of activity, with people cooking, making drinks, and laughing. We met a few more people and Widow told us to help ourselves to some drinks and snacks. The rehearsal dinner would take place outside in a short while. Teacher grabbed a glass of wine while I took a bottle of water. We went out back to the yard where the rehearsal dinner would take place.

The back yard was huge and there were plenty of tables and chairs set up outside, arranged in rows. I could see strings of decorations and lights that hung between trees and over the tables. The rows of trees provided ample shade from the sun. Beyond the field was the red barn, magnificent against the blue skies and the green grass. It would be a few more hours til the sun set, but the air was cool and dry, a sure sign that autumn was here. The atmosphere was perfect.

Some people were sitting at unmarked tables. I recognized a few of them, so Teacher and I went over to say hello and chit chat for a bit. Then I excused myself to walk over to where several men were huddled around the grill. I knew a few of them as workers on the ranch and we exchanged pleasantries. The rehearsal dinner was done in true Texas style BBQ.

In this part of Texas, BBQ is seasoned meat that's been slow cooked and smoked with mesquite over hours, using indirect heat, causing the meat to be tender and juicy and full of flavor. You don't use any BBQ sauce. I knew that the BBQ meat and ribs were done--I smelled that sweet mesquite scent in the kitchen as the cooks were slicing and dicing that tender meat goodness. My mouth was watering while I was in the kitchen, but I resisted sampling a piece of the meat, preferring to wait til the actual dinner.

Grilling is different from BBQ. Grilling is cooking food like hamburgers and hot dogs and chicken legs and sausages directly over high heat. It was funny listening to the fellas exchange recipes and tips on how to grill, about using a dry rub or marinade; whether to start with the meat's fat side down or up on the grill; how to use beer as flavoring; how long to keep the meat on the grill before turning it. All the while, the griller just nodded and did what he wanted; everyone else just grunted their approval when the griller turned the meat. Grilling is a manly, bonding experience; trust me. It reached back to a time when the cavemen first discovered fire and learned how to cook meat over it; huddled together to share in the bounty of their hunt; trying to survive in a cold, harsh world.

I spent some time chatting with the fellas before I turned back to the table where Teacher and I sat. She was looking at her phone, excluding herself from the group's conversation. She was probably texting Boytoy, again. I sighed and headed back to the table, trying to think of a way to get Teacher to hang up that stupid phone and stop making a fool of herself. She was pouting when I got there, and I really didn't feel like opening up a whole can of worms, especially here. I asked her quietly if she was all right. She said yes. I told her that she didn't look all right. That got her to say that she was texting Boytoy but he hadn't responded. So I told her not to text him anymore; I'm sure he would text back when he got the chance. That got her to pout even more, and she totally tuned me out, turning away from the table and going back to her phone. I was getting irritated by this. For a smart woman, she sure was acting stupid.

I ignored her and joined the group conversation at the table. It was small talk about what was going on the community--some gossip and some local events. I asked them what they could tell me about the Groom, since I didn't know who he was. Before they could answer, someone squeezed my shoulder from behind and surprised me. To my excitement, that someone was a friend of mine! I call him Fix, because he's an engineer. I hadn't seen Fix since he attended Rancher's funeral. Most of our college friends who could make it showed up to support our friend in her time of loss. We've kept in touch with the odd email and phone call over the years.

I actually met the Bride through Fix during college. Fix was in the Greek system and I met him through another friend who was in a fraternity. We often hung out at my place or at parties or the beach. Fix and I took a Statistics class and during a group project, he asked one of the girls to join us. That girl was the Bride. Fix and Bride were actually cousins. They shared the same fun, easy going personality that endeared them both to me. We spent a lot of time hanging out in college and going on road trips and having fun wherever we happened to end up. They grew up in this area, but were now living other cities. But I guess this part of the country was still home to them. Fix and I took some time to catch up with each other. Fix was fun to hang out with, because he was down for anything, and he had this mischievous glint in his eyes. Even Teacher came out of her sulky mood to greet Fix.

Fix proceeded to tell me a little about Groom. Groom worked as sous chef in one of the local restaurants. He and Bride met through mutual friends at a bowling party over a year and a half ago, and they've been together since. Fix said that Groom was a nice guy, but I couldn't help but have a small doubt about that. I guess I was just protective when it came to my friends. I mean, I haven't met the guy yet, so I suppose I'll make up my mind when I meet him.

I didn't have to wait long though, because I heard a commotion at the back door. The wedding party had arrived, and leading the pack was Bride. We got up and went to greet her. She looked so happy and excited to see us. She looked fantastic. And it felt good to hug her and share in her joy. I told her that she looked great, and she laughed and thanked me. She leaned in and whispered that she had some news she needed to tell me. I raised my eyebrow as she took my arm and led me a short distance away to whisper,"Don't be get mad, but Deceiver is invited to the wedding."

I felt a flare of anger at the mention of that cursed name! Well, her name wasn't actually Deceiver. I just call her that because she was a big fat liar and a backstabbing biatch! I had the urge to leave immediately before I lost my damn mind, but Bride had a firm grip on my arm.

She continued, "My mother said it would be just awful to not invite her, seeing as how we grew up together and used to be friends."

"Used to be friend is the operative phrase," I grumbled. But I took a deep breath and reeled my emotions in. I told Bride, "Don't worry, I won't throw a tantrum."

Bride laughed, "I know that! Throwing tantrums is Deceiver's thing."

And I laughed with her, because that was true. But I was worried about that and Bride noticed, "Don't worry. She won't act up. Not unless she wants to be completely ostracized. And I've made sure you two are on opposite ends of the seating arrangement."

I felt a little guilty that Bride would make arrangements based on my comfort level. This was her day, and she shouldn't have to worry about petty fights and drama on her wedding day. So I told her, "Thank you. But you didn't have to do that, ya know. I wouldn't have caused any problems, ya know?"

"I know," she said,"Just wanted to give you a heads up." Still holding my arm, she led me back to the main group and introduced me to the Groom.

I caught the surprised and wary look in the Groom's eyes as he gave a fleeting glance to Bride's arm wrapped around mine. He recovered quickly, smiled cautiously and reached out to shake hands and greet me. I returned his smile and we both did a quick body check of each other. We shook hands, a little too tightly, and exchanged, Howdys. I was taller than him by an inch and half, but that didn't stop him from straightening his back and pulling back his shoulders, trying to add to his height. I was still taller, and I tried not to smirk.

Bride had moved on to greet the other guests. Groom said that he's heard so much about me, and he was really glad to finally meet me. The slight uncertainty in his tone made me question the sincerity of his statement. But I was unfazed and replied that I was glad to meet him as well. Then I added, I wanted to meet the lucky man who was making Bride so happy these days. I could tell there was moment where he was probably pondering the truthfulness of my words. But he let it go and introduced me to his best man.

His best man was a tall, skinny, scruffy guy whose hair was unkempt and his eyes were bloodshot red. His clothes looked rumpled with some noticeable stains, some old and some new. He was loud and kept cussing. He liberally used muthf*ckin this and f*ckin that in his sentences. Now, I don't mind people cussing when the situation warrants it. But I find it uncouth in mixed company and in the presence of ladies, especially older ones at a social function. And in the corner of my eyes, I noticed the disapproving looks from some of the elderly ladies standing on the veranda.

Luckily, Fix stepped in and introduced me to various other wedding party members and guests. Then we joined the line to get our food and drinks and returned to our table. I found Teacher sitting there, sulking again at her phone. She didn't get herself a plate, so I told her that I'd get her one. I went back up to the line and got another plate for her. Fix and I started talking with the other people at our table. We met two new people, Bride's friends from work. Fix and I exchanged a quick look, and it was like we were back in college. I knew that look, and I was trying really hard to suppress a wicked smile. Fix used his left hand to rub his chin really quick. I got the message: He wanted the blond girl sitting on the left, the one facing him. That meant I would be go for the brunette on the right, sitting across from me. And so the game began.

We started by telling little jokes and getting the girls to relax. It helped that we had access to alcohol. We made small talk to find out bits of information about the girls--their interests, their hobbies, places they've traveled. And once we gleamed a little of that info, we used it to build each other up to our prospects. The Blond said she recently went to a music concert. So I told her that Fix was big music lover and goes to a lot of concerts. They started talking about their musical tastes and which artists had real talent and which were just hype. That progressed into a discussion of upcoming concerts and tentative plans to see those concerts together. It wasn't really about going to the concerts. Nope. The whole point of the exercise was to establish a rapport and build upon that. If she could envision going to concerts with Fix, then she was comfortable enough to receive his attentions.

The same thing with the Brunette when she mentioned she loved traveling. Fix told her that I had recently traveled to Europe. So the Brunette and I started comparing and contrasting our experiences with Europe, laughing over things that we found unexpected. We discussed food and wines and eateries. We kept laughing and talking and I made sure there was enough alcohol to keep the mood light and enjoyable. Things were progressing very nicely. It was only a matter of time before Fix and I would make a play for a win to end the game.

Our conversation was only stopped for a short while when the Bride and Groom stood up to say thank you to the members of the wedding party and gave them gifts. They also said how happy they were to have us share this joyous occasion with them. Then the parents of the engaged couple took turns speaking, telling little stories about their own marriages and how they were so happy for the engaged couple. A few people took the opportunity to tell their own little tales about what they knew about the engaged couple. Some were funny and heartwarming stories. Others were just light teasing. It was so cheesy and fuzzy but in good fun.

Then things took a wrong turn when the best man told the story of how he and Groom used to cut class so they could get high. Then he talked about the time he picked up Groom in his truck and went to the lake to get drunk. On the way back, he drove into a ditch and Groom got dirty while pushing the truck so they could get out of the ditch. He said they were lucky the cops weren't around since he could not keep the truck from going over the lines, even though he was driving very slowly. Everybody looked uncomfortable then. Groom had this WhatTheF*? look on his face; his parents looked stunned. I thought, Good gawd! That was a terrible story! Why the hell would you bring that stuff up now? Underage drinking, drugs, and drunk driving? What was wrong with him? That's the kind of secret that you take to the grave! That dude is the worst best man ever!

Groom's expression changed into embarrassment. Bride had put her hand over his, being supportive I suppose. There was an awkward tension in the air as the mood had changed from happy to uncomfortable. This was bad. I hadn't planned on speaking, but I couldn't leave things as they were. So I stood up and marched over to the head table where the wedding party was seated. I had no idea what I wanted to say. So I said the first thing that came to mind. I said that Bride has always been a wonderful friend, ready to lend a hand, whether it was to pull me up when I've fallen down or smack some sense into me when I was being an idiot. Smart, beautiful, funny, always kind and forgiving. In all the years that I've known Bride, she's spent a lot time making other people happy. So it's quite an honor and joy for me to see that this time, someone was making her happy. And any man who was truly lucky enough to make Bride happy is an honorable one, most worthy of sharing her love and happiness. I congratulated them both and wished them much joy and good fortune for a long and wonderful union. I said, Cheers! And the guests echoed my sentiments.

Bride hugged me and I shook Groom's hand; whatever silly issue we had between us was gone. The important thing was, the celebratory mood had returned. I went back to my table to find cheers and admiration from the group. Fix patted me on the shoulder and the Brunette was smiling at me. Things were heading in a very promising direction. By now the sun was setting and the strings of white light were turned on. The DJ started playing some music and some people started dancing. It added a wonderful ambiance to the yard. People were breaking up into groups, mingling, laughing, dancing, wandering from table to table.

We were done eating, and I offered to take away the plates from the table. After dropping off the plates, I turned to find Bride taking my hand and we danced for a little bit. It was good to see her smile.

I saw Groom talking to his best man at the table. Bride just rolled her eyes and I laughed and told her,"That dude is the worst best man ever! In fact, I'm calling him the Worstman!"

Bride laughed and told me, "He really is the worst best man ever. He didn't even set up a bachelor party for Groom, which is awful considering, when he got married, Groom set him up a bachelor party."

I couldn't believe it!, "That dude is married? Good gawd! What woman needed a green card that bad? And why the hell is the best man? It's the best man's job to set up the Groom's bachelor party! Seriously, why is he the best man?"

Bride laughed, "He's divorced now. But Groom was best man at his wedding, so now he's returning the honor. And they really do go back a long ways. I just think that he's a lazy, inconsiderate idiot. And it pisses me off that Groom has done so much for him, and he hasn't even thought about doing anything nice in return."

I could hear the disappointment in Bride's voice, and I felt bad for Groom, being stuck with an idiot and ingrate for a best man. Seriously, that dude needs to get new friends! When I walked back towards the table, I met a cheerful Teacher. That made me suspicious. Something sketchy was going on. She told me that Boytoy had finally responded with several messages after she sent him a pic. She seemed to gloat. She had sent him a picture of me on the bed and told him that we were sharing that bed. I was flabbergasted! She basically used me and misrepresented the situation in order to make Boytoy jealous! I was not happy about that. And it wasn't because I didn't like being used by a girl to make someone else jealous; hell, I've done that a few times with my friends when they wanted get someone's attention.

My problem was Boytoy! I was pissed at him for taking advantage of Teacher, but I was also getting ticked off at Teacher for being so stupid. She was just a booty call and that's the sad truth. That boy was not going to leave his girlfriend for her! And when we got back to the table, Teacher said that she wanted to go back to the hotel. It was only 8 p.m.! I wasn't ready to go to bed yet! I knew that she just wanted to back to the room so she could text and talk to Boytoy without so many people around. Oh, hell no! Then she wrapped her arm around mine, totally ruining my game with the Brunette, who was now giving me the raised eyebrow and not the coy smile! Even the Blond sensed the change in our dynamic and was starting to pull away from Fix, just so her friend wouldn't get left out. Sigh. So much for a winning play. Teacher's antics were getting on my nerves!

I looked out across the field and saw Groom sitting on the veranda, talking to his parents--I'm pretty sure it was an uncomfortable conversation, given how Worstman had revealed some of his youthful indiscretions. I felt really bad for the guy. I turned to Fix and asked him if he knew that Groom didn't have a bachelor party. Fix said that sucks, and I agreed. Then I thought, what the hell, I'm sure we can do something for him. Maybe go to a bar or something. I suddenly remembered what Fix told me about Groom meeting Bride that first time at a bowling alley. And I recalled that there was a bowling alley with cheap drinks and good food about a 40 minute drive from here. So I told Fix my idea, and he liked it. I told him that since he knew these guys better, maybe he could just tell a few of them to join us with Groom and go bowling. Keep it quiet and don't tell Groom. We agreed to tell them that we were all going to pay for ourselves and for Groom. I wasn't sure whether we should invite Worstman, but Fix laughed and said, well, we should since he is the best man. I grudgingly agreed and we set our plan in motion.

I told Teacher that I had to be somewhere and that I could drop her off at the hotel. I'd probably be back at the hotel late. Then I sought out Bride and told her that I wanted to take her husband out for a drink, but I needed her help. She told Groom that one of her relatives drove down for the wedding but was having car trouble. She asked him to go with me in my car to pick up that relative. Groom agreed. I went and talked to Fix, who said that he and few guys were leaving now, and they would arrive a few minutes before Groom and I did at the bowling alley. Fix laughed and told me that Worstman had wanted us to hire a stripper, but Fix shot him down. I was like, If that jackass wanted to hire strippers, he should've done that weeks ago! It is way too late in the game to be hiring strippers! You can't just call one out of the blue this late! You're likely to get ripped off! It's a very shady business full of shifty characters. If these were responsible and reputable people, they wouldn't be strippers in the first place!

Groom and I dropped Teacher off at the hotel, making sure she went past the lobby before I drove off. During the 40 minute drive, Groom and I made small talk--about childhood homes and schools and sports teams, a little bit about Bride. And when we turned into the bowling alley parking lot, a few people were waiting for us. Groom looked at me and I told him, Well, this is your bachelor party dude. I hear you like bowling. Groom looked surprised. The he laughed and we got out of the car.

We headed into the bowling alley and I paid for Groom's shoe rental. They were playing a mix of top 40 and rock hits in the bowling alley along with some one hit wonders, which put us in an upbeat mood. We got ourselves a lane and took turns buying rounds of cheap--but good--beer. I stuck with water. I don't bowl often, and I'm a sucky bowler, but I had a blast. I bowled a few gutter balls, but the funny thing was, I got three strikes when those gutter balls bounced back on the lane and knocked those pins down. I don't know how I did it, but it was fantastic! Groom was really good, even when he got tipsy towards the end. Some of the other guys were really good, too. We laughed and bantered and bowled. It was fun, and it was a lot less expensive than a bar. We stayed for hours, drinking and even snacking on the cheesy, delicious enchiladas and nachos til the place closed after midnight. By the time I dropped Groom off at his place, we'd become chummy with each other. He seemed really happy (could've been the alcohol), but he thanked me for a great time before entering his house.

It was almost 2:30 in the morning when I got back to the hotel. I just wanted to shower and then fall asleep til noon. The wedding wouldn't take place til four in the afternoon, plenty of time for me sleep and for Groom to sober up. But when I opened the door, I was surprised to find Teacher still awake, flipping through tv channels. I said a quick hello, but she didn't reply. I grabbed some stuff from my bag, hopped in the shower, and let that hot water wash over me. It felt so good and relaxing. And when I came out of the bathroom, I wore boxers and a T shirt--a lot more than what I usually wear to bed. I made my way to the unoccupied side of the bed and got under the covers. Teacher was still watching tv and just as I was about to fall asleep, she suddenly asked, "Where have you been?"

She sounded angry, so I rolled over and sure enough, she looked pissed, except she wasn't looking at me, just at the tv. I said, "Just went out with the guys."

She just hmph. I didn't know why she was so upset, so I asked her, "What wrong?"

She snapped back, "What do you think is wrong?"

Okay, that just made me irritated so I said,"I can't read minds so either tell me now or forget about it, because I'm tired and I'm going to sleep."

"You left me alone!," she accused,"and you didn't tell me how long you were going to be gone!"

"What?", now I was confused,"You wanted to come back early to the hotel and I told you that I was going out and I was coming back late."

She replied,"I just feel like you're not here for me."

That made me mad, so I told her, "You know what, I'm here for Bride's wedding, and I sure as hell have always been here for you!"

The conversation that I had been dreading was now taking place. But at this point, I was too pissed off and too tired to think of the right words, so I just told her, "I'm worried about you, because you're in a very bad situation. I don't want to see you get hurt. And when the sh*t hits the fan and all hell breaks loose, you better remember that no one, no one, ever sides with the other woman. They always sympathize with the wife or girlfriend. People will blame you! If that boy wanted to leave his girlfriend, he'd have done it a long time ago! That boy is playing the both of y'all. You're the puppet and he's pulling all the strings. You need to be careful. These things always end up badly, especially for the other woman. I would hate to see you get burned in all of this."

With my rant over, I suddenly felt so much lighter. The troubling thoughts that weighed heavily on my mind were gone, now that I had spoken them out loud. I took off my shirt and snuggled under the covers. I needed to be comfortable if I was ever going to get any sleep. I left Teacher to her thoughts. Maybe I had been too harsh with her, but at the moment, I didn't care. She needed to hear the truth. I was just tired--tired of her antics, tired of dealing with jackasses, and just tired from all the day's and night's activities. And in a few hours, I'd have to deal with so much more. I just wanted to close my eyes and go to sleep. And soon enough, I did.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

For whom the Belles Toll, Part 3

Hard Work

After freshening up a bit, Teacher and I headed back down to the car and drove over to the rehearsal dinner. It was being hosted at a ranch just outside city limits. A few cars were all ready parked in front of the ranch, but it was still a few more minutes before the official start of the rehearsal dinner. We walked up to the house and knocked on the front door. We were greeted with enthusiasm and smiles from an older woman who held a cocktail glass in one hand and tried to hug us one at a time. I called her the Widow. Usually, she was a poised and precise woman. But her wide, sweeping moments and the easy laughter and rosy cheeks made me suspect this wasn't her first cocktail. She was clearly having a good time, and I was glad to see her happy.

I've known the Widow for a few years now. I had also known her husband. Her daughter was one of many friends that I met in college. I was often invited to eat out with them whenever they came to town to visit their daughter. And I do like free food, so of course I accepted their invitations; I'd be a fool not to, especially since I was broke like every other college student. But I also enjoyed their company.

I haven't seen the widow in almost a year; that last time was when I passed through town and we went to lunch. Two years ago, her husband, a rancher, passed away from a heart attack. Her children were out of town when it happened. I was working in a city just an hour away from her when I was told of the news. It was kind of a shock to me, when I heard her husband had passed away. The Rancher was a larger than life kind of character, a true Texas original. He greeted people with a strong handshake and a welcoming smile, tipped his hat and said, "Howdy!" He wore cowboy hats and boots and sported large belt buckles with pictures and names on them. His favorite belt buckles were the ones that he won while riding in rodeos in his younger days. To tell you the truth, I liked those rodeo ones, too.

I used to luv listening to him tell his stories of traveling the rodeo circuit and the incredible wins and losses and near death experiences he had. Of course my friend would roll her eyes when her dad started telling stories, probably because she's heard them hundreds of times before. His wife would have this look of loving resignation on her face, probably because she's heard the stories more than anyone else. But like me, I think she saw how much fun Rancher had by retelling his tales of youth and adventure.

Rancher was a generous man, with a big heart. I knew he often volunteered a lot for Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army, donning the red uniform and ringing that bell in front of stores for donations for the poor. He often took time to help the neighbors with various projects. I guess when you live in the country, you rely on your neighbors a lot more. Even though he retired and had hired people to run the ranch for him, he was still active, often mowing his large lawn and mending fences. It was so hard for me to believe that he was gone. When I found out, I had just gotten off work. I drove straight to the ranch. Inside, I found Rancher's wife in the middle of a group of close friends and neighbors. Her eyes were red and swollen. And when she saw me, she reached out to me and cried. I went up to her and hugged her tightly and felt my own tears fall from my eyes. She told me that her daughter was flying into town. Then more people showed up and I moved aside to let them offer their condolences.

I wasn't sure what else I could do. I wanted to help her somehow, do something to ease her sadness and pain. I heard her talk about how unexpected it all was and she couldn't believe that he was gone. She had become a widow. She talked about all the plans he had made earlier in the week. He was going to start painting the barn the in a few days; he had all ready bought the paint. And he was going to mow the lawn the next day. That gave me an idea. The next day, after work, I took a change of clothing and drove to the ranch. My friend was there; she made it home. We hugged and she cried for little bit. She said they were leaving soon to meet the priest and would be back in a little while. I asked her to show me where the lawn mower was. She took me to the shed, where I changed clothes and then proceeded to mow the large lawn. It took me almost an hour to cover the vast stretches of grass around the house. And when I was done, I put away the lawnmower, changed clothes again before taking a nice cold drink of water and then drove home.

Over the next few days, I'd drive out to the ranch. While Widow and her children were planning Rancher's funeral, I was painting the barn. Rancher had all ready done a lot of the prep work. I figured I'd start on the front first, since it's the first place people looked at. I had to use a ladder to reach the top of the walls, and I almost fell a couple of times. It was hard work, but I did it gladly. It gave me purpose, and I felt like I was doing something for Rancher, something he wanted to do for his family. I spent the entire weekend painting that barn. I only had a few days left before my job ended and I'd be off somewhere else on another assignment. Someone from the big house would often bring me snacks and a drink. Sometimes, it'd be my friend when she wasn't busy or needed to get away from the people in the big house.

When I was done painting the barn, I decided to tidy it up a bit on the inside. It rained that day while I was moving around bales of hay to the loft. I had taken off my shirt because I didn't want it to get sweaty when I started the heavy lifting. I welcomed the chilly air because it cooled me down and made the hard work a bit more bearable. I was surprised to see my friend show up with lunch in a cooler. She braved the heavy downpour to come out to the barn.

I wasn't hungry, but I took a break and just sat with her and watch the rain come down heavily. It wasn't going to ease up any time soon. We didn't talk much, but sat there alone in our thoughts. Somehow, being next to each other was enough for now. The skies were gray and gloomy, as if they, too, were mourning the loss of Rancher. He would be buried the next day. That sudden realization made me sad, and it reminded me of my own father's passing. I felt my heart twinge at the memory of my own loss, and I suddenly found myself almost overcome with sorrow.

And maybe it was our shared grief that brought us closer than we've ever been. And when she laid her head on my shoulder, I closed my eyes and breathed in the sweet scent of green apples in her hair.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

For whom the Belles Toll, Part 2

Love makes fools of us all

I pretended to be oblivious to what Teacher was telling me. I figured that I could play dumb for a while. She hadn't really asked me outright to support her relationship with Boytoy. She was being subtle, hoping that I would catch on. I could just pretend that I was too preoccupied with driving to pick up on the hints. Of course, I knew that the longer I feigned ignorance, the more likely she'll progress from annoyance, to irritation, and finally, just plain pissed off. But I needed time. I had to to find a way to be honest with Teacher and not hurt her feelings--or at least minimize the damage.

I knew that she had a lot of trust in me to share what was going on between her and Boytoy. She said she hadn't told anyone else. That much trust and faith in me humbles and honors me greatly, but it's also such a great responsibility and tremendous burden. To be a true friend, I have to know when to encourage her on her endeavors or oppose her course of action when they become dangerous. I was having problems deciding whether to stand by her or stand up to her. I was also having problems figuring out if my feelings were clouding my judgment. Was I being fair in my assessment? Or was I being judgmental? I wasn't sure.

My own feelings were conflicted. In the past, I had been involved with a few married women. When I was younger, I thought I knew everything. Of course, I know now that I was just a cocky idiot whose hormones and lack of experience overrode common sense and logic. But that's the curse of being young, dumb, and in search of fun. You think you know everything, but you really don't. Wisdom comes from age and experience, especially the painful ones. And that's what I was hoping to stop Teacher from experiencing, spare her from the pain.

Truth be told, I enjoyed my time with those married women. Though, I confess that the first one scared me that morning after, when we were lying in bed and she revealed that she was married. I was afraid of what her husband might do when he found out! And it also went against everything that I was taught--that adultery was a sin, and that I would receive divine retribution and damnation. Of course, at the time, I had long separated myself from my church. My pastor was more concerned about making money and preaching damnation and hellfire to anyone who refused to accept his interpretation of the Bible. I didn't care for him or his prejudiced nonsense.

But it was much harder to forget morals that were drilled into me at a young age, that sense of right and wrong. And somewhere deep in my mind, I was reminded that marriage was sacred and adultery was wrong. But I'd seen too many divorces and too many cheating spouses that made me question the sanctity of marriage. And when that first married woman assured me that her husband also saw people on the side, it made me feel like I had found some great revelation, only I wasn't sure what it was, other than I had permission. And it gave me license to do as I pleased so long as it was between consenting adults.

Eventually, I stopped seeing married women. It wasn't worth the trouble. I suppose I was growing up. Maybe I was just growing tired of hiding and having to make plans based on whether the husband was out of town or not. Or maybe I just realized that it wasn't for me. And I learned a valuable truth in the process. It wasn't marriage that was so important. Rather, it was the commitment that people made to each other that was truly sacred. And as much as I enjoyed my dalliances with the wives, I knew that it was all just for fun. There was no promise of anything more. And therein lies the problem with Teacher. She was looking for something more in her fling with Boytoy. And though he may not be married, he was still somewhat committed to the girlfriend he lived with. Why else would he still be with her? And Teacher was either in denial or too blind to see that he would never leave his girlfriend to be with her.

By the time we pulled up to the hotel, Teacher was pouting and sighing. I knew that she was annoyed at my failure to pick up on her hints. I wasn't giving her the response that she wanted to hear. But I wasn't ready to deal with her just yet. I didn't have the right words to say what I really wanted without hurting her too much. So I grabbed our suitcases and followed her inside. She had made prior arrangements for our room. And when we got to our room on the third floor, I was surprised to find one bed. So I put the luggage down and threw myself on the bed. I heard her laughing. It sounded good. I rolled over and asked her, "So, where're you sleeping?"

She took a picture of me with her phone and replied, "What do you mean where am I sleeping? Where do you think I'm sleeping?"

So I smirked and answered, "Well, seeing as you made the room arrangements for the both of us, I am so glad that you were thoughtful enough to see that I would sleep on the only bed in the room. I hope you enjoy the sofa. Or maybe the hotel has a cot. The carpet looks plush enough, so maybe the floor."

She huffed, "As if! I'm not sleeping on the sofa or the damn floor!"

"The tub then?", I suggested helpfully with an eyebrow raised.

"Shut it!," she said, "Move over! We're sharing the damn bed!"

And she proceeded to jump in the bed next to me and push me over. I laughed, "Geez, are always this bossy in bed?"

"Shut it!," she said, "I'll have you know that no one's complained about sharing the bed with me before!"

So I said,"That's just a sad reflection of the people you've slept with."

That got me a punch in the shoulder and her indignant response,"How dare you! As if the whores you've taken to bed are any better!"

"Hey!," I replied, "Those women were not whores! They didn't charge me for any of the filthy things we did!"

"Oh, my mistake," she said,"I got it all wrong. Those women weren't whores. You're the whore!"

"I told you," I said,"I'm a service professional!"

And we proceeded to laugh heartily for a few minutes. And it felt good. It helped to dissipate the tension that had been building up during the drive. I knew that I was only delaying the inevitable, difficult discussion, but for now, I was grateful for the short reprieve. I needed time to think about how to tell Teacher the ugly truth--She wasn't the new woman in this boy's life. He wasn't looking for love; he was looking for sex. The truth was, she was being used by a boy who had no intention of leaving his girlfriend for her.

Monday, October 19, 2009

For whom the Belles Toll

I should really put more thought into taking trips with friends. I mean, I love them, but some of them just aren't good traveling companions. Traveling brings out the ugly side in some people. But I wasn't thinking about that when I grabbed my overnight bag and hung my suit in the car. Nope. I was just thinking about having a good time as I pulled out of the parking lot and headed for the highway.

A few months ago, I got an invite in the mail from an old friend who was getting married. She lived a few hours away from me, and I was happy for her. I was looking forward to attending her wedding. That's where I was headed Friday afternoon. It would've been just a three hour drive to her place, but another friend called me up earlier in the week, asking me if I was still going. When I said yes, she asked me if I was going alone. Again, I said yes. I have no problems attending social functions by myself; but this friend did. She asked me if I could pick her up so we'd go to the wedding together. It would add another 2 hours to my drive, since I had to go to a different city to get her. But I didn't mind. I figured, it'd be fun. I hadn't seen her in over a year. I told her that I was going to stay at a hotel, but she told me that she was going to make arrangements and get us a room, so we'd share the cost. It sounded like a good deal, so I agreed.

When I arrived at her place, I went to her door, knocked and waited for her to open. She opened the door and smiled, telling me that school just got out. She was a teacher. I bet her students had crushes on her. She was a tall, beautiful, buxom blond with blue eyes and a shapely body on long, limber legs. When she spoke, her tones rang with the Southern accent that reminded me that she was really a country girl now living in the big city. Her sweet smiles and easy laughter belied her iron will and great strength. That's the thing about Southern belles. Underneath the pretty faces and fancy laces were a calculating cunning and a defiant, fierce spirit.

I helped her put her bags in the car and we drove off to the wedding rehearsal dinner. I was pretty sure that, even taking traffic into account, we'd make it in time. Plus, I knew to avoid downtown and just take the back roads to get to the rehearsal dinner. During the drive, Teacher criticized my choice of radio stations. I like to listen to rock, dance, and hip hop when I drive. No slow music, because I don't want to fall asleep at the wheel. And when she wasn't complaining about the music, she was texting her boy toy on the phone, often giggling at some private joke between them. And when she wasn't texting him, she would pout and complain about her relationship with Boytoy. That should've been my first clue that Teacher wasn't going to be a good traveling companion.

I try not to pry into other people's business. And I all ready knew why Boytoy couldn't come. The truth is, I didn't have much faith in Teacher and Boytoy's fling, because that's all it was, a fling. And while Teacher might frequently refer to their relationship as something casual, she sure didn't act like it. I suspected it meant much more to her than she was willing to admit. And it was all going to end horribly; that much was obvious to anyone but her. She kept telling me about all his wonderful qualities and how much fun she was having with him. I had the feeling that she was looking for validation. She wanted my support, except, I couldn't give it to her, at least not the kind she was looking for.

That left me in an awkward and uncomfortable position. Because as much as I cherish and support Teacher, I couldn't lie to her and encourage her to pursue something more with Boytoy. It would end up badly for everyone involved, but especially her. Nothing good would come of her involvement with Boytoy. To be honest, I've never even met the guy. I only know him from what she's told me. But what I did know about him gave me a bad vibe. And it wasn't the fact that Boytoy was much younger. They were both consenting adults. No, age wasn't the problem-- although I've joked with her about the fact that he wasn't old enough to buy alcohol yet. And I didn't care that he was waiter, working on his GED. So what? People are more than what they do for a living. No, I didn't have a problem with that.

My problem with him was something much bigger and more serious. You see, Boytoy had a girlfriend, and he was living with her. Teacher was the other woman. And I wasn't quite sure how to deal with that.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I say again, once was enough

So I finally managed to finish this meme. I've all ready posted the first half of the 10 experiences I'd rather not repeat. I meant to finish this earlier, but it took a lot longer than I had planned. As you may have noticed, some of my posts are very long, but I've tried to keep only the essentials. I've had to change a few things, because the truth is, there really are a lot of experiences that I'd rather not repeat (and wish I could forget). And I admit that I debated over how much of my personal life I could disclose while still maintaining some semblance of anonymity. Weird, right? But in the spirit of good fun, here are the last 5 of the 10 experiences I'd rather not repeat:

6) Being hassled by the cops.

I may have mentioned this before. I've run into trouble with the law a few times. Once, I kept putting off doing the laundry, because I was lazy and I was out of detergent. Then I realized that I had no more clean clothes, and I had to work the next day. So I put on the only clean clothes I had--an old white T shirt, shrunken to a size too small, and an old pair of tight faded jeans with holes and tears along the thighs and below the back pockets. I lived in a shady part of town, and I had to walk to the convenience store to buy some laundry detergent. During my leisurely stroll to the store, a patrol car pulled over and the policemen stopped me for questioning. I was almost arrested, because the cops mistook me for a prostitute!

7) Hanging out with a friend's idiotic husband.

I was in Las Vegas with some friends. One of them decided to bring her husband along. He was the odd one out; everyone else knew each other. So, being the nice guy (and idiot) that I was, I decided to make an effort to get to know him and help him feel at ease in the group. And it was no easy feat, because this guy was standoffish and didn't want to go out clubbing or see a show like the rest of us.

That first night in Vegas, we walked towards the Strip. On the way, we came across a strip club that advertised a 'Free' show. The husband wanted to go in; he said that he often frequented strip clubs. I tried to tell him that there's no such thing as a 'Free' strip show. You're going to pay one way or another. No one else wanted to go in, but the husband was adamant that we should go inside the dingy old building with the blacked out, filthy windows. Finally, someone said that if we were going to split up, then we ought to meet up in an hour at Treasure Island.

Everyone else started walking again, except for the husband who looked at his wife to see if she was going inside the club with him. She wasn't. Then, the dude just went towards the entrance, and left us standing outside. My friend was upset, so I sighed and told her to go with group, and I'll go inside and make sure her (stupid) husband would be okay.

He was waiting for me by the door, tapping his foot impatiently--talk about rude! And while we didn't pay an entrance fee, there was a two drink minimum. And he didn't have any cash or credit cards on him--his wife was holding their money! So I had to pay for his two drinks. I was pissed off because I didn't want to be inside in the first place! I was also the designated driver, so I couldn't order any liquor. Instead, I ended up paying $20 for my two glasses of watered down Coke!

It reeked inside the club--cigarette smoke and some sort of heavy floral scent that failed to cover the old, musty stink of odors whose origins I'd rather not think about. The dimmed lights did little to hide the scarred, tired bodies of dancers way past their prime, who couldn't dance or were just too wasted to give a damn. Not even their clear heels and glow in the dark G strings could make them look appealing. We stayed for ten minutes--long enough for me to finish my Coke flavored ice water. After that, I stopped trying to please that jackass. Instead, I spent the rest of the time doing what I wanted and enjoying Las Vegas.

8) Being present at childbirth.

No matter what anyone says, there's nothing beautiful about childbirth. A friend asked me to be with her in the delivery room while she gave birth. It was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen! There is nothing beautiful about giving birth. It is horrible, for everyone involved!

She was moody and ranting and angry like she was possessed! She kept yelling 'Hold my hand!', 'Don't touch me!', 'Don't leave me!' over and over again. I was thinking, Make up your mind you crazy woman! Every time she screamed, I felt her pain! I cringed. I kept thinking, Did they give her enough drugs? Seriously? And is there anyway they could give me some drugs? And she was squeezing my hand really hard. But the truly terrifying part was watching that baby start to come out!

It was like that movie Aliens, where the parasite bursts forth from the human host. When that baby started crowning, it was horrible! Just ghastly! Her secret lady place started to swell, then it began to rip apart as this round object started to make its exit! It was awful and terrifying to watch that baby bust its way out of such a tiny space! First came the head, and it was covered with a disgusting film of body fluids and human tissue. Then a shoulder and an arm came out and then a pause. For a chilling moment, I thought, Good lord! It's stuck! Then a few more pushes and the whole baby just slid right out. And it looked revolting covered in grime and fluids that I'd rather not think about.

But the horror didn't stop there. Oh no. I was trying not to think about how her secret lady place would never be the same after that trauma. Suddenly, this shiny wet sac of meat just slid out of her! It was the afterbirth. No one told me about the afterbirth! I mean, I knew that babies came out of the vajayjay during birth, but no one warned me about the afterbirth! It was repulsive! I thought, Oh my gawd! Her insides have fallen out!

After seeing that, I knew that I would never, ever want to be there during a childbirth again. No, thank you. The real miracle of childbirth is that women still want to have babies and push them out the natural way. I'm a big fan of the C section now. I understand now why it is women who bear the children. Because if it was up to men, the human species would've been extinct a long time ago! Whoever said that childbirth was a beautiful experience is either lying or high on drugs!

9) Getting a sports physical.

When I was in high school, I underwent a sports physical. It was a very disturbing experience. For one thing, we were all lined up in our underpants. Then we were told to drop them while the doctor grabbed our nuts and told us to turn our heads and cough. But when that doctor put on his gloves and told us to bend over and spread 'em, I was like, I don't think so! What is this, prison? This ain't no private boarding school for boys !

I said, "No, thanks. I've had enough." And when the coach asked me what the problem was, I said, "Y'all ready done felt up my jewels and it was completely unsatisfactory on my end. So unless someone's buying me dinner and getting me off, there ain't going to be any poking and probing!"

Hey, I don't drop my pants just for anyone, ya know.

10) Getting way too drunk.

When I was younger, I was kind of wild. I was living with a bunch of other guys my age. We worked just so we'd have money to party. I didn't realize that I was such a drunk until years later. But I do remember when I decided to be more prudent when it came to drinking. We went to Spring Break. All we did was go to the beach, go to bars and clubs, try to hook up with other Spring Breakers and just drink, drink, and drink. It was a fun week.

One morning, I woke up, feeling sore all over. It took me a few minutes to realize that I didn't recognize the room, and there were strangers sleeping in the bed with me! I was kind of freaked out, but then I told myself, well, I'm alive, so that's good. The clock on the bedside table showed it was just past seven in the morning. I was really sore and cramped and struggled to sit up. I hurt all over. Then I realized that I was nekkid! I found my underpants and shorts on the floor, but I couldn't put on my shirt because it was dirty and smelled like cigarettes and alcohol. My pockets were empty. I thought about using the bathroom to wash up, but there was someone passed out in the doorway. I made my way to the door and exited quietly, which was hard to do, considering every move I made caused my back to ache and burn all over.

I tried to find my way back to our hotel; people were staring at me, some gasping, others shook their heads disapprovingly. I bet I looked like a mess; I sure felt like a mess. But I tried to maintain some semblance of dignity, held my head up high, and refused to acknowledge that I was undertaking the walk of shame. When I finally found our hotel, I pounded on the door and hoped one of the guys was there to let me in. They let me in and asked what the hell happened to me. I told them that I had no clue, as my memory was a little fuzzy. They laughed at that; and when I said that my back was hurting, they laughed even harder. I didn't see what was so funny, so they told me to look in the mirror. I did, and while I did look like a mess, it was nothing they hadn't seen before. But then they said, turn around and look at your back in the mirror. So I did, and I was shocked to see welts, beginning bruises, and some long scratches all over my back! What the hell? Did I get hit by a bus?

My friends refreshed my memory of the previous day's events. We went to the beach, started drinking, met some girls, and hung out with them for a while. Then the girls wanted to go clubbing. So we skipped dinner, went home for a quick change and met the girls at the club, where we proceeded to drink some more. Apparently, I had lots of shots when I wasn't dancing. Then one of the girls joined a wet T shirt contest. And I had a few more drinks and was easily convinced to join the wet undies contest, where I won a $200 to spend on more drinks. Then we went to the girls place and had a good time. And when we left to go back to our place, I had the brilliant idea to spend the rest of prize money on more alcohol. Along the way, we started rough housing. Then I had them carry me on their shoulders for laughs, except they dropped me on my back; and when they let me down to walk some steps, I lost my footing, fell back and slid down some steps (That explained the welts and bruising). I just got back up and laughed with them before we found a club, where we had more drinks, more dancing, and more laughs. I ended up making out with a drunk chick, who fondled me in public view, then let me take off her underwear to add to the collection of undies on the bar wall before we disappeared together.

Good lord, was I embarrassed after my friends finished telling me! It also made some fuzzy memories make sense. That dream where I was in my undies in public in a compromising position, yeah, not really a dream. I remember thinking it had felt good when it rained, except it didn't rain. It was pitchers of water being poured on me during the wet undies contest. After that, I decided to be a lot more discreet when it came to drinking.

And that's it. The rest of the meme, the 10 experiences that I'd rather not repeat. I kind of wish I didn't have some of them in the first place. But I'd like to think of them as life lessons. And some things are best learned the hard way.

 Related Links:
The Boys of Summer
Brothers and Sisters
Once was enough
The Good Intentioned Samaritan
The thing about fathers
Veterans Day reflection
Soda Pop