It’s Easier When You Try

“It’s astounding what they’re doing with technology these days,” an older woman said, following her female companion’s brief presentation on the inner workings of her smartphone.

Jake Guerrero didn’t care what these two women in front of him, in a line waiting to be seated at a diner, were talking about. He didn’t care that this old woman, with a dye job that was supposed to fool onlookers into believing she was not on the verge of dying, found technology fascinating. Jake was focused on the couple in front of the elderly woman and her companion. He wanted to hear what that other couple were saying to one another, and the old lady chatter served as an obstruction to that.

‘Could it possibly be just a simple, cruel coincidence,’ he had wondered after spotting that couple, while holding the second door for his date of the night, Wanda Kennedy. That door almost closed on Wanda, as he attempted to find out for sure if God was, indeed, playing a cruel joke on him. He turned quickly and caught it, before it hit her.

As Jake and Wanda took their place in line, third behind the old ladies, Jake examined the couple in front of them, waiting to be seated in the diner. She had different clothes on. He had different clothes on. Jake had never seen either of them in the clothes they wore on this night, but he assumed these were their dating clothes. It was a cruel coincidence.

“Oh, don’t I know it,” the female companion of the older woman said. “Technology had made life so much easier for everyone.”  This woman went onto provide details for how the smartphone had helped humanity, “And groups,” she said. “So many groups.”  Jake found their conversation annoying, but he could not avoid hearing it. “Including we Senior Citizens,” she said. “And Women. Not that it’s any of concern to us any longer, but I was just reading about a device that a young woman can insert into her that will detect the precise moment when a sperm penetrates an egg?”

“So much for a late breakfast,” the man in front of the women said, turning to them. He smiled after he said it. He laughed a polite laugh. It was Myrle Gumear. The cruel coincidence of this moment, for Jake Guerrero, had been confirmed.

Jake Guerrero had despised the man, this Myrle Gumear, for years now. Everything the man stood for, stood in direct contrast to how Jake believed a man should conduct himself, in Corporate America, and in life. The two of them had been in all the same corporate training classes together. They knew each other as rivals. Well, Myrle was Jake’s rival. Jake wasn’t so sure that Myrle considered him a rival. They were equals in those training classes, three years ago, learning the method of operation of the job. Since that point, Myrle had escalated up the corporate ladder with the greatest of ease. Jake loathed him, and his merry path. This cruel coincidence, of now having to bear witness to this first date, between these two, was confirmation that Myrle had not only had a better life than Jake Guerrero, but he could be on his ‘greatest of ease’ path to having a better wife.

‘Who do I have to kill to live one day of this man’s life?’ Jake thought with the flair of one nostril.

It was embarrassing to Jake, then and now, that he remained in the entry-level position for which they had both been trained. Jake wasn’t privy to the finer details of Myrle’s ‘greatest of ease’ escalation. He had long since stopped paying attention to Myrle. He couldn’t take it. He knew of some of the harmless, white lies the man had told in his rise, he’d heard them secondhand from a woman that knew nothing of Jake’s animosity for the man, and he imagined that there had to be others. No one knew about Jake’s animosity, for it was imbedded deep. Seeing the man succeed was one thing, but having someone find out how bitter he was to the point of jealousy, he may have found it difficult to go on as a fully functional human being.

As difficult as it was, being in the same department with the man, Jake managed to maintain his stature among his peers, by avoiding the man at all costs. He didn’t look at the man, when they passed in the halls. When conversations about the man arose, among other employees, Jake did his best to tune them out. He had tried everything else. He had tried the methods his parents taught him about how to deal with success and failure in life, he even tried the suggestions mental health professionals made in online journals, but nothing helped him more than denial. He simply convinced himself that a man named Myrle Gumear ceased to exist. It was difficult, being in the same department with the man, but Jake had been successful, until the last three days.

 “Sorry,” the female companion of the wool coat woman said. “We didn’t mean to­ offend–”

“I’m joking ma’am,” Myrle said. “If you’ll pardon my eavesdropping, what you two ladies speak of is the VerBruggen device, the latest technology devised in the fight against deadbeat dads.”

“The Ver–”

“VerBruggen,” he said. “Capital ‘V’, capital ‘B’, the way the krauts do it.”

“How does this VerBruggen device thingy work?” the wool coat woman asked.

“I’m not sure if this is the proper venue for such details,” he said with a hand splayed out at the restaurant and a nod that acknowledged his own point. “But I will say that this device is further evidence of the idea science has been pursuing for decades and beyond, that we’re all chemical.”

“Fascinating,” the wool coat woman responded.

“It is. It truly is,” Myrle said. “It’s science.”  He pumped his eyebrows at the women, and he then looked over their shoulders to see Jake Guerrero. “Guerrero, how the hell are you?”

Much to Jake’s later shame, he couldn’t help but lavish in this moment of recognition. He smiled at Myrle, and Jake proceeded to send that proud smile to his date of the night Wanda Kennedy.

“Good Myrle,” Jake said. “How are you?”

Soon after saying this, that foolish smile fell from Jake’s face when Myrle’s date of the night turned to Jake at the mention of his name. Jake didn’t need the cruel coincidence confirmed, by this point, but having it confirmed for him broke that smile he had on his face. It was Rogene Tvardik.

Jake and Wanda had not seated yet, and a myriad of excuses flooded his brain that he could’ve employed in context. He could’ve said that the staff of the restaurant appeared to be incompetent, since no one had been seated in the time they spent in line. ‘And there are clearly three tables open right over there,’ he could’ve said after spotting them. ‘Not to mention that one over there, or the one under that painting. Five open tables, with three, make that four couples waiting to be seated. They’re either incompetent or overwhelmed.’  He could’ve said, ‘I’m not going to stand here, and …’ He couldn’t say any of that. It would’ve revealed all prior jealousies, and the angst he had boiling up inside him over the cruel coincidence of having to bear witness to the first date between Myrle and Rogene, in the same restaurant he and Wanda had chosen for their first dining experience.

Rogene Tvardik had been hired for the reception desk two weeks ago, for the corporation that Jake and Myrle worked at. She handled the basic reception desk duties, of course, but she was also the first bright, shiny face all of the employees saw at the start of their day. Her smile was so intoxicating that Jake managed to find the courage to speak with her. That didn’t happen on the first day, or the second day. He was too shocked the first day, and too scared the second, but he did begin speaking with her. He thought about her at night. During the day, while sitting at his entry-level desk, he pictured that bright, shiny face sitting across from him at a restaurant. On the fifth day, he thought up a joke that made her laugh. Some stupid joke, or saying that he had heard about that particular day of the week. It may have been a Thank God it’s Friday joke. He couldn’t remember. He only remembered that bright, shiny face giggling. He had accomplished a giggle from her. He lived with that over the weekend. He scoured the net for anecdotes or sayings that he could drop on her the following Monday.

He greeted her with his own bright, shiny smile that Monday. He dropped that line he found. He made her giggle again, and again, until she said, “You’re funny!” on day ten. By day twelve, he had a presentation all worked out. He would ask her out in a way no man had ever asked another woman out. He worked on his lines, until he had a flowchart all worked out, based on her possible responses.

“I forgot to tell you,” a friend said, three days ago, when Jake dropped his ‘I’m going to go for it tomorrow. I’m going to ask Rogene out’ plans on him. “Myrle Gumear already swooped her up. Seriously, they’re going out this weekend.”

Thus it was a cruel coincidence that Myrle happened to be at the front of the line, with Rogene Tvardik, on what appeared to be their first date.

The mere presence of Rogene Tvardik, with Myrle Gumear in tow, would’ve been enough to drop the smile off Jake’s face, but her bright, shiny smile now appeared to have an added element of excitement in it that he had never witnessed. Her wave to him, when she turned to see the man Myrle had greeted, was so energetic and enthusiastic that Jake couldn’t help but think that Myrle had been showing her one hell of a good time to this point.

Jake had, of course, waved back, and he attempted to mirror her energy and enthusiasm, and he could’ve introduced them to Wanda Kennedy, his date for the night, but it was a time and place issue. He barely knew the Myrle and Rogene, so introducing Wanda would’ve been considered odd, and a revelation of his competitive nature, and his inability to compete with Myrle Gumear. Plus, they were third in line. Jake would’ve had to brush the two old ladies aside and brought Wanda forth, and to be blunt, Wanda wasn’t one that a man made an effort to introduce. She was cute, and she had an alluring quality about her, but she wasn’t the type to trumpet. She was no Rogene Tvardik.

***

The cruel coincidences would not end in the foyer of the diner, for when Jake and Wanda were finally seated, they were seated right next to Myrle and Rogene. Jake had purposely set out to avoid eavesdropping on Myrle and Rogene’s conversation, and he even managed to avoid watching them after a bit of time passed. He was so successful in his efforts that he agreed to the seat the hostess chose for them, a seat that happened to place him in a position to watch Myrle and Rogene’s first date transpire.

Jake would not watch them. He swore he would not listen to a word they said. He would devote his full attention to Wanda Kennedy.

Myrle Gumear made that effort difficult when he began searching for sugar soon after his tea arrived, and after their waitress had departed. His search became audible and distracting. He rifled through the condiments carousel at their table. He patted at his pockets to suggest he occasionally kept sugar packets in his pockets. He glanced around at surrounding tables.

“Why is it they never have the one thing that you need?”  Myrle smiled when he said this, but his polite smile progressed to frustration in his continued search.

 “It’s not always need either,” Rogene said with her eyebrows raised and her glass of water jutting towards Myrle. “Some of the times we need, just to need … Just to feel. Some of the times we don’t even want what is lacking in our lives, until it is. At that point, we think it’s time to need.”

Myrle was a doer, as opposed to a thinker. Jake did not know Rogene as well, but he considered her more of a reflective person. He didn’t know for sure, but it was one of the reasons his fascination with her went deeper than just the superficial. If he was right about her, he hoped that the future exchanges that occurred between them would lead to Rogene becoming disillusioned with Myrle.

“I am not going to drink tea without sugar!” Myrle said with more emphasis. “I’m paying for this meal. I should have it exactly the way I want it.”

Rogene shrugged his complaint off and took a sip of her water.

With Rogene’s attention on the water, and then directed out to the other patrons at the restaurant, Myrle waved at the waitress. It was a quick wave, but Jake spotted it. The wave appeared, at first glance, to be nothing more than a customer signaling a waitress that he was in need of her services. After giving the quick signal, however, Myrle put his hand down quick and measured Rogene’s reaction, to see if she had noticed it.

Satisfied that she hadn’t, Myrle continued his search, and he played his sense of frustration up.

“All I know is I gotta do something here,” Myrle said turning to the condiment carousel again. He dug through it, flipped it around, and dug through the other side. He lifted the napkin holder to provide an image of a man desperate to find even a stray sugar packet.

“Why is it that they can almost overfill your table with condiments,” Myrle asked, “And always forget the one thing you need?”

“I have an idea,” Rogene said, “Why don’t you get that waitress over there.”

That response was the perfect foil for Myrle’s desperation. It was sarcastic, but not too sarcastic. It was first date sarcastic. It was a ‘no one’s feelings should be hurt in the making of this solution, but there is one, and it’s simple’ tone Rogene gave him to end all of Myrle’s troubles.

At that point, as if in response to Rogene’s sarcastic response, Myrle patted his hands upon the front of his jeans, then up to his breast pocket. He glanced up at a customer that stood in line, waiting to be seated. That customer had made his frustrations about the incompetent wait staff, and his wait to be seated, known. After glancing up at that customer, Myrle checked the back pockets of his jeans.

Rogene shook her head and began signaling the waitress.

Myrle clapped his hands.

That waitress that had stood behind a waist high counter to this point, leaned down, grabbed a sugar shaker and tossed it to Myrle. The sugar shaker passed over the counter going end over end. It passed that disgruntled customer, waiting in line. That customer ducked with a yelp. The sugar shaker passed through the rest of the naked air and landed in Myrle’s waiting hand.

Without glancing at its progress, or its ascension or descent, Myrle caught the sugar shaker right side up. He flipped it, again without a scant glance, and poured it into his tea.

“Wow!” Rogene exclaimed. She enunciated each ‘W’ in the word ‘Wow!’ to express full surprise. Her finger slowly withdrew from the act of pointing at the waitress. She glanced over at the waitress, to see her busy at work, wiping the counter down and whistling. “That was cool!”

“What’s that?” Myrle asked in a casual manner that Jake believed the effect he was trying to achieve.

“Do you two do that often?” Rogene asked. She was laughing. She studied Myrle while laughing. She was looking from Myrle to the waitress. “What happened here?”

“I asked for the sugar shaker, and she gave me one.”

Jake was not afforded an angle on Rogene’s face, but he assumed that it contained an impressed expression. Regardless if it did or not, Jake thought, Rogene was laughing. That laughter expressed some incredulousness, but more than that it appeared to enjoy the display for whatever it was.

“It’s science,” Myrle said. “Guerrero!” he said looking over at Jake, pumping an eyebrow. “How the hell are you?”

Jake wasn’t sure if Myrle knew that Jake had been trying to land a date with Rogene before Myrle swooped her up, but he assumed that there was some sort of competitive play in that second, greeting. If there wasn’t, Jake thought with an attempt at objectivity, he dreamed it all up, he dreamed it up big.

***

Wanda Kennedy had been speaking throughout the scene. Throughout Myrle’s search for a sugar packet, throughout the clap, and throughout Rogene’s laughter, Wanda spoke. What occurred, had occurred behind her, so she could be forgiven for not noticing some of it, but Jake wasn’t sure how she could have missed all of it. Jake looked around at the other patrons, and none of them seemed to notice it either.

Wanda Kennedy smiled when she spoke, and her smile was intoxicating. It was so intoxicating that Jake simply had to ask her out that day at the refreshment stand. Had he been dying to ask someone out, anyone out, in the face of Myrle swooping Rogene up?  He didn’t think so. Wanda had attractive qualities. That smile of hers for example, and the overt ways in which she had made it obvious that she was attracted to Jake. Those were both very attractive qualities on any woman, Jake thought, but he wondered if he was more attracted to the fact that she was attracted to him.

‘Is that smile you wear an accentuation of her beauty,’ he wondered while she spoke, ‘Or your only beauty?’

So complete was the transformation on Wanda’s face from nonsmile to smile, that Jake believed Wanda Kennedy might make the perfect criminal. He fancied that if she were spotted committing a heinous deed, the witnesses would feel compelled to describe Wanda with and without her smile.

“What?” Wanda asked politely, gracing him with that smile.

“Nothing,” Jake said diverting his stare.

“Well, I must say that I’ve had a great time tonight, Jake,” Wanda said motioning to him with her glass of water. “You definitely know how to make a girl feel … well, special,” she said wincing slightly, as if she wanted a better word, but couldn’t find it. “I’m serious here. Nobody’s treated me like this in a long time.”

“We went to see a movie,” Jake returned plainly.

“We went to a movie. I know we went to a movie, but it’s the little things,” she said. “Girls love little things. Little things tell you little things about a guy.”

Wanda was a little thing. She was short in stature, and her haircut was a little girl’s haircut. She spoke softly, and walked with a light step. She responded to points with equanimity, but there was an insecurity about her too that was endearing. When Jake would joke, Wanda would respond with a soft, light giggle that hid behind a hand. She was what the women at the company called a girly girl. Nothing wrong with that, he thought. It was what attracted him to her in the first place.

“Good point,” Jake said. He was a student of little things, he had composites of the people that surrounded him built on little things, and he had a brief, premature profile on her, built on little things.

The crucial element to building profiles on people, to Jake’s mind, was that you don’t lock the vault, until that character chart is complete. The key is to be patient until all data, or a sufficient amount of data is in. Once he felt like he had a decent sample with which to work, Jake employed a scientific method to either find out how right he was, or if he had made some mistakes along the way. He attempted to prove and disprove his assessments, in other words. These assessments were so ingrained, at this point, that they went beyond a simple fascination for a subject and into the grounds of preoccupation.

A half hour into their dining experience, Jake believed he had built a decent personality profile on Wanda Kennedy, until their meal arrived and she ripped a gargantuan hunk of her sandwich free. He had been disproved. It was at least half the sandwich gone, Jake surmised, in one bite.

With leaves of lettuce and slivers of meat hanging from her mouth, Wanda held up a finger, to suggest that she had something to say.

Jake concealed his expressions of revulsion, behind a fry.

“The little things I’m talking about are tough to fake,” she said reaching out to touch his hand.

Her hands were so smooth, atop his, Jake almost searched the back of his hand for a film of some sort. He decided that she wore more than her share of moisturizer.

“It’s not just that a man opens a door for a woman,” she said. “Any man can open a door. It’s how he does it. I can tell you had a mom that taught you how to treat a lady. Then, then, you asked me if I was comfortable in the theater. I cannot tell you how huge that little thing was in the halls of little things.”

‘Why aren’t you gorgeous?’ Jake thought throughout her compliments. He knew he was being shallow. He’d heard the adage that beauty is only skin deep, but doesn’t a male peacock have to have that gorgeous set of eyes on his tail to attract a female?  Doesn’t a Lion have to lick himself to beauty, if he wants to continue his bloodline?  And isn’t it beauty that gets a human beyond square one, with another human?  Isn’t beauty but an incentive for ambition?

Wanda Kennedy had a beauty about her that could not be denied, but she was no Rogene Tvardik, and she was no Diana Pelzey.

Diana Pelzey had left him standing and staring in an airport terminal, one month prior. As much as he tried to convince himself otherwise, he was still on the rebound from that blow. He was still in the process of convincing himself that a woman named Diana Pelzey simply ceased to exist. The errors he made on that situation, after all the attempts to prove and disprove his assessments on it, were affecting his date with this woman named Wanda Kennedy.

He had been looking forward to a new lease on life, with Diana Pelzey, on the drive to the airport that day. He had been so excited the night before, he experienced a bad case of insomnia that he solved by going to his computer to learn all he could about the new city. He scanned their classified ads, and he studied the tax consequences and benefits of the move. The discussions the two of them had were a series of exciting conversations about the possibilities of change. The cruel beast that hindsight can be informed him that these exciting conversations had almost all been one-way conversations.

“You’re not coming out!” Diana said in that airport terminal, after the kiss. It was one of those moments that you expect to his you at some point in your life. You plan for the best, as they say, but you prepare for the worst. Jake considered himself a cynical mind, but no amount of cynicism can prepare you for a moment like this when you’re left standing there in an overcrowded airport terminal with everyone around you quieting. You even smile after it is said, and you say something stupid like, “Ok,” to give everyone around you the idea that you knew it was coming.

She had gathered her paperwork for the TSA agents, after asking him to help her go through the mental checklist to make sure she wasn’t forgetting anything. She leaned in for the kiss, and then she said it. She said it, as if it had been a part of the departure ritual. Contrary to what the silent onlookers may have guessed, Jake Guerrero didn’t have a ticket. He wasn’t going to fly out with her, but their plans –or as it turned out, his plans– were for him to meet her a month after she had settled in.

“Or should I say, you’re not coming with,” Diana added, as if she sensed the perceptions of those around them. “You can fly out if you want, it’s a free country, but I won’t be there for you.”

She yelling when she said this, and she wasn’t being loud. It didn’t appear to be her intent that anyone but Jake hear her, in other words, but her tone was so forceful that those within range knew there would be no need for further clarification, and there would be no equivocations in some future, late night phone call.

Prior to this moment, Jake had never considered the importance of acoustics in the architectural design of an airport, to allow for the passengers to hear intercom messages. Diana hadn’t intended for anyone but Jake to hear, but her words bounced off every acoustical chamber the airport had carefully constructed to carry sound.

Jake stood too long behind the velvet security rope that divided passengers from well-wishers seeing their loved ones off. He stood amid the impressions of the throng that surrounded him. He could feel their eyes on him, and their sympathetic half-smiles. They heard every word. They wanted to watch. It was compelling to watch a silly boy’s silly dream crash around him.

Amid the painful silence of the moment Jake spent watching Diana Pelzey work her way through security and out of his life, without so much as a look over her shoulder, Jake found himself confronted by the fact that he was wrong. He’d been wrong before, of course, but never so much that he began to question everything that had happened before, and never so much that he feared it would taint every human reaction he had therafter.

It dawned on him, as he watched Diana Pelzey make that final slip out of sight that the whole reason he took an interest in human psychology was to prevent a moment like this. He had watched the women he wanted to date around those they knew, believing that was the key to understanding them better. He had avoided those women that he believed might hurt him, no matter how much he wanted to be seen with them. He had relationships prematurely with the thought that he would hurt them before they could hurt him. Everything he learned about humanity had been learned to prevent a moment like this, a moment when he stood before his fellow man, a fool, vulnerable to their assessments of him.

Their sad eyes stayed with him, even after he turned away to end that painful silence and walked out of sight. The onlookers cried and waved, as their loved ones passed through security, with the idea that they couldn’t wait to start it all over again when their loved ones returned. Jake wasn’t afforded so much as a second glance.

Jake had hoped Rogene might prove to be that could make him forget Diana Pelzey had ever existed when he first spotted her, but he had needed a little more time to tend to his scars before jumping into another relationship. A little too much time as it turned out, but this date with Wanda wasn’t going so bad. They spoke of the stupid, little things that two people that just met speak of, and she proved herself to be, at the very least, an interesting person.

***

Or, at the very least, a good distraction, Jake thought after the two of them collected their coats and prepared to meet the cold air. ‘As much as I’ve tried to enjoy this outing, the cruel coincidence of having Myrle and Rogene right in front of me prevents me from viewing Wanda Kennedy as nothing more than an excellent distraction.’

He hadn’t been listening to their conversation, while Wanda spoke about her dad’s failed attempt to open his own, small business. He hadn’t been watching them in the manner he feared he might, and he hadn’t spent that portion of the night regretting that he had to settle with a Wanda Kennedy.

‘What would she think if she knew that I had settled with her?’ he wondered, while holding the exit doors for her to pass through. ‘She’d probably call an end to the night, right here and right now. What self-respecting person wouldn’t?  She’d probably say, you’re not such a nice guy after all Jake Guerrero, and who do you think you are anyway?  And she’d probably go home and cry into her pillow, and feel all alone in the world again.’

‘She appears to be a wonderful, caring person,’ he thought. ‘And that smile. She does have that smile.’

“I’ll tell you what you need to do, if you think there’s such a divide between her normal expression, and her smiling one,” a fellow employee had said in the midst of Jake’s complaints about her beauty. “Keep her smiling.

“My wife wasn’t everything I thought she’d be when I first dated her,” this fellow employee continued, “But she turned out to be a whole lot of something else I hadn’t expected. You go out on this date you promised that girl, you do whatever you have to do to keep her smiling, and you may find out that you have one wonderful, caring person on your hands.”

“That punk over there’s gonna throw a snowball at us,” Myrle said motioning towards a young man.

That distracted Jake out of his train of thought. Myrle and Rogene were standing at the car right next to Jake’s Jeep. Jake looked over at the man Myrle was calling Rogene’s attention to, and he witnessed the man with the snowball wind up.

“If he does,” Myrle said meeting this kid’s eye with a steel glare.

The punk took a two-step bounce and let loose what appeared to be a softball-size snowball.

Myrle had to race backward, nearly running into Wanda, to catch the snowball on the fly.

 “Wow!” Rogene exclaimed, after Myrle caught the snowball. She did not enunciate the ‘W’s in her ‘Wow!’ in the manner she had the first time, but she still appeared impressed.

“Hold on a sec,” Myrle said regaining his balance. He packed the snowball a little better. It didn’t appear to need packing, but Myrle packing it may have been borne of habit more than anything else. Myrle then bounced forward, in a javelin hop, and he reared back and let loose the snowball.

The young punk began scampering away, with his eyes on Myrle. He slipped on a snowbank, in his feeble attempts to exit, but he managed to get over it and start running.

“You hit him!” Rogene exclaimed. She leaned forward and placed her hands on her knees, while she watched the punk scamper away. “It almost appeared as if he ran under it.”

Shrugging, Myrle said, “just timed him right.”

Rogene was laughing so hard, at this point, that she had to hold her gut.

“It’s science,” Myrle said wiping his hands on his pants. “Hey Guerrero!” Myrle said. Jake couldn’t see the man’s eyebrows lifting and pumping, but he could hear it in the man’s voice. “How the hell are you?”

Jake turned his attention to his Jeep. He opened the door for Wanda Kennedy, and he did not slam the door on her when she sat. That would’ve revealed him.

***

To attract a woman with as few games as possible was Jake Guerrero’s goal. He knew he would have to play some, but he was a genuine man built on integrity. You do put your best foot forward on a first date, he reasoned, and you do alter your personality in such a way to create interest, but maintaining one’s integrity should always be the primary goal for those that want their date’s attraction to be merit based.

Most honest people have lied and stolen things at one point in their lives, and they find that the reward of living an honest and integral life can only found nestled within the knowledge of what it feels like to be caught in an act of deception. Only an honest person feels that special sense of emptiness that occurs after they are exposed for being dishonest. The dishonest person hates being caught too, but they focus on what led them to being caught and the corrections they will have to make in the future to prevent begin caught again. The honest person thinks about what the person that caught them must now think of them, and they worry about it so much that they decide that the risk inherent in lying and stealing is not worth it anymore.

“Want to listen to the radio,” Jake asked Wanda Kennedy, in an attempt to fill the lull.

“You’re the driver,” Wanda said. Her submission to his decision-making prowess was playful, more than anything else. She appeared to be rocking before Jake even had the radio on. With a lowered head and a waggling finger, Wanda appeared to enjoy conformed comedy.

‘She’ll be making a crack about how guy’s leave the toilet seat up before the night is through,’ Jake thought watching her waggle. ‘Either that or she’ll probably ask if I know where I’m going after a while, and she’ll take that occasion to make a clichéd crack about how guys never ask for directions. I don’t know if I can handle another stupid guy joke.’

“Who do you think is funny?” he asked. She said that question was a little broad. “Who are your favorite comedians?” he asked. She stated that she wasn’t “in on” the decidedly male penchant for lists. “What comedies do you watch?  Rom coms?  Netflix originals?”  She said she didn’t watch much TV. “What I’m getting at here is your philosophy on comedy,” he said. She said she didn’t really have one. She just laughed at some jokes, and she didn’t laugh at the ones she didn’t find funny.

“Did you hear the party of six behind us at Denny’s?” he asked. “They thought they were funny. Most people do. I mean, you’d be surprised how many people think they’re the only ones who understand true comedy. Their jokes were rehash. I’d heard most of their jokes before, and the few of them I hadn’t heard were told with lousy style and poor inflection.”

“So you think you’re funny?” Wanda asked. The competitive bitterness in her voice was overt. “You think you have some kind of hold on what’s funny and what’s not?  Isn’t your definition just as subjective as anyone else’s?

“I don’t mean this to be insulting,” she furthered. “I just don’t understand this world some people live in that suggests that their taste in comedy is the informed version of comedy versus, say, that table of six telling body function and sex jokes, and yes I did hear them. I’ll admit that they were juvenile, but does that necessarily mean that they were inferior?  If a grown man still enjoys the latest music from the chart topping teenage singer, does that mean his musical taste is inferior to the person that enjoys Igor Stravinsky?  The taste in music, not the music. Which leads me to a definition of love. Your definition of comedy, music, and love might be different than mine, but it’s because of your upbringing. It’s as much of who you are, as who you were, and who you’re going to be. It’s all about upbringing, and social class, and what you learned in the sixth grade, and how that panned out in the course of your life, and that thing your friend said that seemed simple-minded at the time, but bore out in a manner that surprised you. Again, I hope this isn’t viewed as insulting, but that loud, overweight guy that was telling bawdy jokes isn’t inferior in his philosophy of comedy. He just had a radically different upbringing than you apparently did. Which leads me to wonder if you think there’s some kind of comedic purity inherent in your jokes, or that you have no influence, or that your influences of superior?”

“I probably wouldn’t go that far,” he said reeling a little from her curt tones, “but I know what’s not funny,” and here he laughed an overbearing laughed he hoped she’d share. “And those six were not!”

“Okay,” Wanda said softening a bit, “I was going to say that comedy is a lot like music in that you probably have to go back to the cavemen to find an original musician.”

“It’s why I hate the radio,” Jake commented feeling around in the back seat for his cassette tapes. “I hate listening to somebody else’s ideas of what I should find entertaining.”

“Hmmm!  A man who knows what he wants, and isn’t afraid to say it. I like that in a guy,” Wanda commented, starting up her music-free finger waggle again.

There was a duality there that Jake avoided pointing out between a person that knows what he wants and believing that those products are superior, but it was a soft one that wasn’t worth arguing over, so he dropped it.

He did want a moment here, however, and he flipped through a number of selections to come up with the music of the moment.

At the third stoplight they hit, Jake flipped on the dome light and arched into the back seat, while keeping his foot on the brake pedal.

“Ahh!” he said finding the perfect disk.

Jake, as one of his friends put it, ‘bought into all that power of music B.S. to soothe the soul of the savage beast within’. Jake laughed in the face of the comment, because there was a lot of poetic gibberish attached to the power of music adding to the quality of life, but there was a day when music did just that for him. Would he have been so ridden with despair that he would’ve wanted to end it all?  No. The quality of life discussion could be had there, and at various other points of his life, however, and even though the gist of the conversation was way above his paygrade, he couldn’t deny that his life wouldn’t be as enjoyable without music.

As a true aficionado, Jake moved through the more superficial music to the more obscure material through the course of his life, and he believed more obscure material provided a wavelength that required aeration, maturation, and exposure for it to oxidize, find its flavor and release its aroma. As such, when Jake Guerrero chose his special brand of music, and played it in his expensive car stereo, chosen for clarity over capacity for volume and bass, he expected reactions. He expected the woman of his dreams to search for the real Jake Guerrero through music.

“What do you think?” he asked when the most beautiful song he had ever heard began spilling out the speakers.

“It’s nice,” she said. When he said nothing. She turned to him and said, “I like it.”

She was being polite. She made an effort to be polite, but she was still being polite. There was a point in his life when that would not have been enough for him. Those days passed when he realized that most people didn’t have an almost physical need for music in the manner he did. Most people led a better life than he had, and there was no need for music. They enjoyed music in the manner others enjoy a nice setting, but for the most part music was nothing but background noise for them. It was a disappointing fact of life, but it was still a fact.

***

“Criminy,” Jake whispered, as he pulled into the motel parking lot, and his headlights washed up on Myrle Gumear and Rogene Tvardik exiting Myrle’s car. He couldn’t believe this was happening. Again. Again with the excuses, Jake thought. ‘Would you like to go somewhere else,’ he thought of asking Wanda while his Jeep idled in the motel parking lot. ‘There’s about one hundred motels and hotels in this area, you want to find another?’ He moved the car so that the headlights were no longer on Rogene and Myrle. After doing that, Jake allowed his Jeep to idle in a space of indecision, away from the porticature of the motel and in no particular parking slot.

“What’s the matter?” Wanda asked.

“There they are again,” Jake said.

“Do you know them?”

Jake said that he did, and he described some of the particulars, but he kept it superficial.

“So, do you want to go somewhere else?” he asked.

“You’re the driver,” she said in the same playful manner she had earlier. Soon after saying it, Wanda appeared to recognize the purport of what he had just asked her, and she said, “This is fine Jake.”

He pulled into a parking spot near where Myrle and Rogene exited. He was tired of fighting the cruel coincidences by this point, and the spot next to their car was the only one available.

As soon as Jake shut the engine of his Jeep off, Myrle began patting his pockets again. Jake rolled his eyes. He knew what was coming. ‘Need another sugar packet?’ he wanted to ask the man. ‘How about a snowball?  How about you lose your car, and I coincidentally roll over you after you clap your hands?’

Myrle opened his car door and leaned back in. Jake felt compelled to watch. He didn’t stand and stare, but he did slow his walk to see how this would all turn out. Jake realized that he didn’t have a whole lot of emotion invested in Rogene, but this idea that another man could show her such a great time was both deflating and so compelling that he had to watch it.

 “What’s a matter?” Jake heard Rogene ask Myrle while she rounded the car to stand outside the driver’s side door behind him. She began leaning in to watch him search.

“Did you see where I put my wallet?” Myrle asked mimicking the frustrated tone of a person who’s lost something.

“I didn’t even see you use one at the diner.”

“I did … Gosh darn it, I did” Myrle added. He was seated on the driver’s seat now, looking out the front window, like a person retracting their steps. “And that’s the last place I had it … at the diner.”

“Well, let’s go back there then,” Rogene said politely, to note the fact that it was no big deal if they had to, “We could ask them if anyone turned anything in.”

“All that money,” Myrle said attempting to exit the car. “And my credit cards. Criminy,” Myrle said. He stared off into open space, as if trying to recollect his every move prior to this one. Rogene backed away from the car to give him room. She kept her eyes on him, awaiting a decision. “You know what,” he said brightening. “Hold on one sec’!”

Myrle clapped.

And from the heavens, or so it appeared to Rogene and Jake, a wallet dropped into Myrle’s hands.

He caught the wallet, without looking up or around. He rifled through it, “All there,” he said. “We’re good to go.”  He began walking towards the motel’s sidewalk.

“What the hell is going on here?” Rogene asked with a laugh. She backed up, away from the motel, to look up to the motel’s second story terrace. As much as Jake would later hate himself for doing it, he walked towards Rogene and looked up with her. Jake was now as much a part of this as Rogene, and he hated himself for being so curious, and so caught up in one of Myrle’s setups.

A man looked down from that terrace, around a bottle of grape flavored Sunkist that he was drinking from.

“What’s that?” Myrle asked with a tone that suggested she had pulled him out of normalcy.

“Come on!” Rogene said with her hands planted on her hips, and her head slightly tilted to the left. “Don’t give me that what’s that stuff?  What is going on here?”

 “I thought you said you wanted to come here?” Myrle asked with a wounded tone.

“I’m not talking about that.”

“Well, come on then,” Myrle said striding back towards her. “Because just looking at you makes me hornier than a steer.”

“Well, if you’re going to be that romantic all night…”

“Hey Guerrero,” Myrle said, putting his arm around Rogene and walking up the motel’s sidewalk to the motel office to check-in. “How the hell are you?”

Myrle had an all-American boy grin on his face when he would say this. That grin informed you that everything does, indeed, work out for some people. Some people don’t worry, that smile said, some people just do, and isn’t doing really the way to go Guerrero?  Isn’t it easier when you try, rather than leaving everything to chance?  You see me succeed, and you may think I’m an Adonis blessed with superpowers that the common man cannot comprehend, but I’m ordinary, just like everyone else.

‘And isn’t that the most brilliant marketing package anyone could put together?’ Jake thought with the remnants of that cocky All-American boy grin still flashing in his mind’s eye. ‘To feel compelled to remind others that you’re ordinary might be the most arrogant sentiment one could assemble, but if we weren’t so in awe of their success rate they wouldn’t be granted a license to use it. It is some kind of bizarro-world reminder the author of the quote sends out to the ordinary to remind them that the author is not some superhuman blessed with powers that the common man cannot comprehend. ‘And if I can do it, anyone can. Don’t give up on your dreams little buddy,’ these types say. What they seek, in this literary device, is a degree of humility that permits them to reconnect with their fellow man in a manner similar to the one depicted in Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam.’

The smile alone could cause any man to reconsider the notion that violence is not the answer, but the idea that such a reaction made sense in light of all the successes the man had had throughout this night, turns mr. hand into mr. fist in a reflexive manner that hopes to correct all of the irrational thoughts swimming around in the head.

Had Jake revealed one of the swear words he had considered an appropriate response, he would’ve revealed everything he was going through to that point. Once a person reveals themselves to that degree, there’s no turning back, and there’s really no going forward either. You may as well just pack up your proverbial bag and hope that you never see any of the parties involved again.

His anger and jealousy had been fueled by how much Rogene appeared to be enjoying her night with Myrle, and how much Wanda didn’t appear to be enjoying hers, by comparison, but it had more to do with the fact that Myrle had just issued that repetitive greeting to Jake, as if he hadn’t said it all night. He said it in the exact same manner he said it in line, at Denny’s, waiting to be seated. He said it as if a series of cruel coincidences hadn’t caused them to cross paths so many times tonight.

“What do you think of all this?” Jake asked Wanda.

“All … what?”

“The games this guy is playing?” he asked. “Don’t tell me you haven’t seen them?”  She looked at him, confused. He replayed for her all of the events that Myrle had engineered to that point. By this point, he was beyond fearing a revelation of his frustration. He asked her about the snowball, “That happened right in front of you. The guy almost knocked you down for cripes sakes.”

“Okay, well, I noticed him almost running into me,” she said.

“But other than that?” Jake asked, working himself down to a more rational level.

“Other than that no,” she said. “But you know those two. I don’t. I have no reason to pay any attention to them.”

“But …” He dropped it. He dropped it, because his next sentences would’ve been insulting in regards to the fact that most people don’t pay attention to what’s going on around them. ‘Most people are so lacking in observational skills that an elephant could walk across the interstate and most people wouldn’t notice it,’ is something he would’ve said had he not stopped himself.

“But that doesn’t answer my question,” she added.

“You’re question?”

“So, you haven’t been paying attention?” she asked.

“I have. I have. It’s just that. Okay, I haven’t. Sorry. What did you ask?”

“Well, I said something along the lines of,” and here Wanda grew frustrated. Her tones were percolating with as much frustration for Jake as he had had ten seconds ago with her. “Going to a place like this. Like, a seedy motel. Like, is it an appropriate place for a couple on their first fricking date?”

  “Ok.”

“That’s what I was asking.”

“Ok. Ok. I am sorry, I just got distracted, but we’ll go somewhere else,” he said in full apology.

After ripping off her gloves, Wanda studied the motel. Then, with an abject expression she acquiesced, “I guess this is fine.”

“They have cable.”

“I said it’s fine,” she added.

Jake was forced to give her some respect for calling him out like that. Few people, and very few weak, submissive people, demand attention like that. Jake realized how ambivalent he had been to her by the point. He realized that, prior to her outburst, if she had said she wanted him to drive her back home now, his emotion needle wouldn’t have tilted a degree either way. He would’ve taken a left instead of a right on the parkway that led to this motel, and he probably wouldn’t have changed expression. His ambivalence had reached a point where he even forgot to open the car door for her, and he couldn’t even remember her exiting it.

“Eighty-two fifteen,” the small, pinkish hotel manager said from behind the counter. ‘For this motel?’ Jake thought, with the initial stages of a coronary creeping up on him. He restrained himself to just a slight eye bulge. The small, pinkish man simply shrugged back at him, with a ‘take it or leave it’ shrug.

Emptying his wallet, Jake nearly cast a look at Wanda similar to the look his father had cast upon him whenever the man paid for anything that he considered too expensive. The look could make a person feel small and imminently worthless. Jake knew the look and the feelings that followed. He refrained from casting that look upon Wanda. He was the driver, after all.

It did cause tension between them though. This was made all the more obvious when Wanda stepped away from the counter. He looked at the ground where she stood previous to the transaction. He overreacted without saying a word, and he knew it. He collected himself.

Finishing the transaction, Jake allowed Wanda to pass through the disease detector first. As he waited for clearance, Jake studied her bottom, as it bounced with each step. He then walked through without further event.

She is beautiful in so many ways, he decided. There is something, some thing I can’t quite put my finger on, that keeps her from the gorgeous level though.

On their way down the hall, Jake fought off the urge to place his hand on her bottom. This was a natural activity for Jake and a date, but with Wanda it just didn’t feel right. Not yet. Maybe not ever, he decided. In the movie theater, on the way to the diner and back, and even in the diner, Jake realized Wanda was something of an intellectual. Wanda proved, in the short time Jake was with her, that she was a winner, a woman any man would be proud to go grey with. Maybe that’s my problem, Jake decided, glancing around at the motel hall’s cheap wall paper, maybe I’m not as ready for all that as previous thought.

As soon as Myrle said, “I got it. It’s over here,” Jake didn’t even have to look at the motel room numbers to know that they would be in the cruel coincidence suite right next to Myrle and Rogene’s.

“Of course,” was all Jake said when he looked at the room number and the key, and he laughed.

“What?” Wanda asked.

“Nothing.”

The uncomfortable silence that had been percolating between the two of them, since Jake paid the pinkish motel manager, became deafening the minute Jake opened the door to their room.

It was exactly as Jake had always pictured a motel room: small, cheap, and dingy with a tangible grime in the air. After surveying the room a second time with revulsion, Jake glanced at Wanda.

Entrance into this room will definitely obliterate any last sentiments that could possibly occur between us, Jake thought staring at her.

He wanted Wanda to take a second look, turn around, and maybe curse him for even bringing her here. He wanted to go back to the diner, start all over, and look at her as he would any other prospect.

She passed him and entered into the room.

If I grab her and pull her out of this room, she’ll think I don’t find her attractive, Jake realized standing in the room’s foyer. Then, what will happen to my macho points. ‘You had her in a motel room,’ he pictured his friends saying, ‘and you didn’t even…damn man…we really need to talk.’  Plus, Jake conceded, isn’t it the woman who controls proceedings from this point onward?

I can’t do this, he wanted her to say, after smelling the sex that seemed to be in every molecule of this room. It was a putrid smell, Jake thought, noticing that Wanda was also sniffing. It was a smell that dominated the room so thoroughly he couldn’t see the top shelf aerosols getting the smell out.

“I’ll be in the bathroom,” Wanda said turning to him.

As soon as that bathroom door closed, the urge to rise up and call Wanda back, paralyzed Jake. He stared at the crack in that bathroom door for some time. His hand was in position for a knock, as he counting off the possibilities that were now ruined.

Going to the room’s window, Jake began taking his coat off progressively. Opening the window, however, reminded Jake how chilly it was out, so he left it on.

The cool night air lifted his hair and danced upon the pores of his face. So refreshing was the breeze that Jake wondered if he went to the window with the intention of cooling his feelings of guilt. The entire night was making Jake feel stereotypically male.

A ladder slammed against the outside wall of the hotel, near Jake’s window. He’d been lighting a cigarette at that moment, and the slam made him drop it. He glanced at the ladder rather than the cigarette, and he saw it lift, move, and then rest again beneath the window next to his.

The man put a finger to his lips and bounced it there: the international signal for silence. It was the grape Sunkist drinking man that had dropped the wallet from the second floor balcony to Myrle’s waiting hand.

“What the hell is going on here?” Jake asked whispering loudly, after lighting another cigarette.

“Shhh!” the man issued again.

“Did he hire you to do all this?”

“Shhh!”

While the man climbed up the ladder, Jake noticed that the man had an object between his teeth. Awaiting the man’s climb, Jake examined the motel’s grounds to see if anyone else happened to notice this peculiarity.

When the man reached what he considered the stopping point on the ladder, four or five rungs beneath Myrle and Rogene’s motel room window, he halted and removed whatever he had between his teeth.

“I can’t see!  What is it?” Jake whispered, peering through the darkness.

“A condom,” the man responded, shaking the birth-control device like a child showing off a new toy.

“How much do I have to pay for the services you provide this man?”

The man covered his mouth with the hand that held the condom, and then he removed the hand to show Jake that he was laughing.

“I’m not … with the motel,” the man whispered, with his laughter breaking up his words. As the man continued to laugh, Jake joined him, though he wasn’t sure why.

Myrle and Rogene’s window opened. This quieted the laughter Jake shared with the man on the ladder. Jake didn’t need to peer through the darkness to know who the shadowed figure was. It was Myrle Gumear. Myrle looked at the grape Sunkist drinking man and gave him a quick nod.

“What the hell are you doing?!” Jake heard Rogene cry out, “it’s freezing out!”

“Well, then,” Myrle responded, “let’s get under the covers.”

As if cued, the Sunkist man on the ladder climbed to the top rung. He looked in, surveyed the room, and ducked down. He waited there ducked down.

“What are you doing?” Wanda called.

“Shhh!” Jake whispered, turning back to her. He signaled for her to come over, with that finger on his lips.

Wanda placed her head beneath Jake’s, looking out. “What are we watching?” she asked when she saw the man on the ladder.

A couple more minutes passed, and all three of them heard a loud clap.

The man on the ladder shot his head up and sent the condom into the room, in a Frisbee throwing style. He then flipped his feet to the sides of the ladder, and shot down to the ground. Once on the ground, the man lowered the ladder down to the ground and hid it, and himself, among the vegetation on the ground.

“What the hell’s going on here,” Wanda and Jake heard the Rogene say with that exasperated question fueled by laughter. “And I don’t wanna hear that ‘what’s that?’ stuff!”

Wanda ducked out of the window, when she heard the woman’s voice. Jake stayed, however, and was soon greeted by a topless Rogene Tvardik.

Jake’s eyes went wide. He thought of pulling back out of the window, before she could see him. It would’ve been close, he knew, for it didn’t take long for eyes to adjust to the darkness. Plus, the lights in their room were on, so he may have been illuminated in his window. Whatever the case may have been, Jake decided that this might be the only chance he had to see Rogene Tvardik topless. He stayed in that window and soaked it all in, committing the contours of her breasts to memory for later.

Rogene appeared to be squinting over at Jake, when she asked, “You didn’t throw a condom in here did you?”

“How could I?” he asked her breasts. He motioned to the distance between the two windows.

“It would be scientifically impossible,” Jake called out. “How the hell you doing Guerrero?”

 “Ok,” Rogene said covering her breasts when her eyes adjusted to the darkness and she saw Jake staring at them. She pulled back out of the window and closed it.

 “What the hell just happened?” Wanda asked, as Jake pulled out of their room’s window and closed it.

“Just more of those games I was telling you about,” Jake said in his turn back to Wanda. His words, when he said that, were a little slurred. Wanda Kennedy was wearing two towels. One was wrapped around her hair, the other around her torso. He looked at the bathroom. He didn’t know she had taken a shower.

 “I didn’t bring a teddy, of course,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting this, of course,” she said. “So I remembered that my ex-boyfriend said I looked great wet … and in a towel.”

“Your ex- was right,” Jake replied, after finding the ability to speak, “It does you fine.”

She smiled then, causing a flush to overcome Jake’s face. She was, indeed, gorgeous, and Jake finally found the aspect of her physical appearance that had kept her from the gorgeous plateau: her hair. That little girl’s haircut did nothing for her. She was a full blown woman in every right, hiding behind a hairdo she should’ve reconsidered. The fact that Jake found her personality alluring was never in question. Her face, formed around a smile, was the product of many young boys and old men’s fantasies. But her hairdo just didn’t do the rest of her justice.

The motel room they were in not only seemed grimy and dirty, now, it seemed vile.

“This is the first time I’ve been in a place like this myself,” Jake confided, “And I have to admit, it will be the last.”

“Well, since we are here, you might as well take off your coat and stay awhile.”

“Huh?  Oh yeah!” he said, removing it. “Hey listen-”

Wanda removed the towel that concealed her body, as if she knew exactly what Jake was about to suggest.

And that was all it took.

For what felt like mere minutes, but may have lasted an hour, Jake experienced something he never thought he would. It wasn’t just the sex. It was that something for which he had spent a lifetime searching. It was a subtle something that came from a core, a core he hadn’t been ignoring throughout the night, but he hadn’t been paying enough attention to it either. It was a second chance, right in front of him the whole night. It was the ability to move on from Diana Pelzey and forget about Rogene Tvardik. It was something this little girly girl revealed in him, and a symbiosis with a female that he would’ve considered impossible five minutes prior, and while the rational Jake Guerrero wouldn’t have believed it possible for all this happen to him in one night, the emotional Jake now countered that most of it came from the possibilities of what it could be in the future.

They spoke in soft whispers, for hours, saying things usually reserved for intimate lovers. Then they whispered facts about their lives neither of them had ever shared.

If it couldn’t be love on a first date, then Jake was at least deeply infatuated with this woman named Wanda Kennedy. He went down and laid his head on her belly, speaking of some of the painful incidents in his life, and he felt enamored by her silence. She wasn’t dismissive, of course, but she wasn’t supportive either. She was silent. She was so silent that Jake considered the poetic power of silence versus that B.S. about the power of music to soothe the savage beast.

When Wanda finally spoke, still stroking his hair, as he laid upon her chest, she shared some of her own painful incidents. She opened up to him, and Jake returned her silence.

Jake had read authors like Aldous Huxley speak of the power of silence, but it’s one of those things a person cannot know until they have experienced it for themselves. The power of silence, he thought, can be so much more powerful than the power of music, in the hands of the right musicians. There were no questions about the sexual experience they had just engaged in together, no insults, and no compliments. Just silence. Silence that was so uncomfortable in all other areas of Jake’s life, but felt so comfortable now. So comfortable that, without recognizing the various stages of his fall, he fell asleep.

Jake wasn’t sure how much time passed, of course, as he slept, but when he awoke to the beeping sounds of an alarm clock, he was in full delirium. He went to the dresser and slapped the top of it a number of times, searching for an off button.

“What is that?” Jake asked when he noticed that the silhouette, that was Wanda Kennedy, had sat up in bed to watch him. “It’s coming from …” he tried to place it.

Wanda began to weep slightly.

“What’s a matter?” he asked. “Are you diseased?”

Wanda reached under the covers and switched the alarm off.

“I got checked after the last time I had sex, didn’t you?!” Jake asked.

“Jake,” Wanda said when her sobs ended. “We both passed under the disease detector when we entered the motel. It’s not that, and you know it. Have you heard of the VerBruggen device?”

‘Capital ‘V’, capital ‘B’, the way the krauts do it,’ Jake thought. “Yeah,” he said, “I’ve heard of it.”

“I’m pregnant,” she said. “The device is used to–”

“I know what it’s for, now,” he said, recalling the words of Myrle and the old ladies at the Denny’s. “I just thought, I thought the federal government required you to wear protection.”

“Some of the times,” she said. “They don’t work Jake.”

“They don’t work,” Jake said losing control of his emotions. “I’m not ready for this. Hell, I can’t even take care of myself. You didn’t use protection?”

“Did you?” Wanda added, now fully calmed and accepting. “Aren’t you required to wear protection too?”

‘It’s science,’ Jake thought looking to the wall that separated him from Myrle and Rogene. ‘How the hell are you Guerrero!?’ he pictured Myrle asking him with that grin that could turn mr. hand into mr. fist, and pummel though a load bearing wall.

###