Designer Children Chapter 2

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Designer Children by OneShot20XX

Chapter 2

“Yeah, most men do look. But did you really have to bait her like that? Girls like that, you need to give them a wide berth. I mean she could tell the casting people for the show that you made a move on her or worse that you pushed her. You need to think about things more, man. I still don’t think this show is a great idea for your career either. Have you given any thought about maybe moving in with me?”

It was the next day and the Burger Palace was bustling. Greg was busy frying a host of all-bacon patties, the Palace’s newest concoction, and lecturing me. He might as well have been wearing a giant hippo head.

Still, I was conflicted, not only because I was still wrestling with the idea that Hermie the Hippo went against how I was brought up, but I wondered if I could even work with Ashley, or if the animosity we shared would spill out onto the set.

I replied, “I didn’t bait her. She just lashed out.”

Greg shook his head while turning over a patty, “Ryan, the way you told it, and the way I understand it- you accused her of trying to sabotage your audition.”

I glared at my friend, “She definitely was. She gave this lame excuse about trying to get into character.”

Greg frowned and put the prepared burgers on the plates, accompanied by the Palace’s famous sweet potato fries, “Is it possible that that is exactly what she was doing?”

My words caught in my throat, choking any potential anger I felt toward Greg and what amounted to a reasonable explanation for Ashley’s behaviour. When I finally spoke, the words tumbled out, “I mean, I guess you could be right. But she’s a psycho. I told you how she took my phone and started messing with, right? She called Jessica and threatened to tell her stuff. ”

Greg nodded, “Yeah, OK so she’s a little unhinged. There’s usually reasons for that. Just be a complete gentleman around her. And for god sakes stop looking at her like you usually do.”

I raised a brow as I slipped the platter of burgers under my arm, “What do you mean like I usually do?”

Greg replied, “Let me put it this way. You are the rubbernecker at the scene of the car accident who is driving 5 miles per hour. It’s OK to look, but you are taking in the whole scene like you are the EMT.”

I shook my head, “I don’t do that.”

Greg frowned but said nothing. I reaffirmed my point curtly, “I don’t.”

I left with the platter. I took a few minutes to wipe down a table and reset the utensils and condiments at a table that had been recently vacated. I restocked the napkin holders and then returned to Greg, ready to change the topic of our conversation.

“So, I’m thinking that I might call Jessica. See if she wants to get a drink or maybe some dinner.”

I couldn’t see Greg’s face, but I knew he was smiling, and once I reached the side of the grill, my suspicions were confirmed. We spoke often during our shifts, but we were always doing something. If I wasn’t getting drinks or wiping down the counter for the next round of burgers, I was sweeping, but I did so without thinking, my arms moving mechanically in any tasks as I engaged in conversation.

Greg said with a slight smirk, “What changed your mind?

I sighed, “Guess. As much as I hate to admit it, that psycho has a point. I’m twenty-two years old, and I haven’t had a relationship longer than two months. I don’t usually get past the second date with most of them. I see what you and Eve have and I’m-“

Greg broke into a wide grin, “Jealous?”

I furrowed my brow, curling my lip into a slight sneer, “Not exactly. It’s just got me thinking though. Maybe I should give Jessica another chance. We got along real well, and she’s really, really hot. I mean she makes psycho look like a member of the K-9 unit.”

Greg looked frustrated momentarily, the smile dropping from his face, but he quickly adopted it again. “Lucky her. What makes you think she’ll be interested? You never called her after our double. What can you offer her exactly? And isn’t she too smart for you? ” The last words were said with a disapproving tone.

I answered immediately with a cocksure grin, “A night of incredible sex. My apology for not calling her back. Oh and it will be the best she’s ever had. I’ll even do foreplay for however long it takes to get her really revved up.”

Greg shook his head in clear disappointment, “Jessica doesn’t seem like that kind of girl. And here’s one thing I notice with girls, they don’t really care about this one-upmanship we do, you know? Like Eve and I were going at it the other night and I got her to go. Well I am feeling pretty damn proud of myself, and I ask her. Did any of your other boyfriends get you off like that?”

“Well she says it ruined the moment because you know it was just between us, it didn’t matter how the others were. It was our moment, our connection or whatever. The second I brought her old boyfriends into it, it was like a game. A competition. Women, at least women like Eve, don’t see sex like that.”

I said sardonically, “Maybe you should be the one to get the part on Hermie. You sure are preachy, man.”

Greg replied, “I’m just trying to explain how things went down between us. I know not all girls are the same, but Jessica seems like the type who would want an emotional connection more than just sex. Maybe she will be good for you.”

I was amazed to think that my encounter with Ashley could actually be a springboard to a state of mind where serious relationships were a possibility, but it was also Greg’s statement about my apparent shallowness that got me thinking that Jessica might be a good break from the women I usually dated.

From the moment Ashley brought up Jessica’s name and threatened to tell her damaging lies about my character, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Was I really threatened by Jessica’s intelligence, or was it something else?

Because I moved so often as a kid, I probably had difficulty reconciling the fact that any friendships I made were going to be temporary. It was one of the reasons I had been so close to my dad. Due to the limited time associated with these friendships, even as an adult, I made lots of friends and dated lots of girls, but once things started to break down or the first time a relationship was tested, I bailed. I just didn’t have a lot of experience dealing with anything outside of the Honeymoon period. So when Jessica and I failed to click on the same intellectual level, I just figured there was no point in asking her out again. She was way smarter than most girls I dated, but to be honest, she kind of intrigued me.

Just as Ashley had described, a part of me was also terrified at the prospect of being a forty-year old out of work actor trying to date much younger women. I didn’t want to leave the profession, but I didn’t know how to deal with the sense of impending failure. It was just easier to give up and move onto something else. Maybe I could manage the Burger Palace for a few years and try acting again later?

Greg leaned in close, and the little smirk on his face burst into a wide grin, “Are you actually thinking something through for once? Maybe you should date Ashley instead. She’s made a real impression on you.”

I blanched, and this only caused Greg’s grin to turn into a wide-mouthed boisterous belly laugh. I said, “I’d rather stick a fork in my eye.”

***

“Hello? Ryan, is that you?” Jessica’s sweet voice rung in my ear. It was just the right combination of alluring and feminine, but with a strength I wasn’t accustomed to. Most of the girls I dated had this breathy whisper that acted as a mating call to all alpha males that the girl lacked confidence and had poor self-esteem. I had mostly dated women who most guys and girls would label sluts. I tended to go for the women who simply enjoyed sex. They revelled in the act, and there were no strings attached. This worked perfectly with the fact that I lacked the capacity for long-term relationships, because other than a handful, I never saw them again. The ones I did see again were my ‘fuck friends’. However, there were some who while being sluts, also had a host of emotional baggage.

I have had girls literally crying, not from joy, but from shame and embarrassment after sex. One girl cried for fifteen straight minutes, blubbering about not being like this before. I didn’t feel particularly bad for her because I didn’t know her. I had no connection to those women other than the bodily fluids we shared. Despite the obvious differences, I was still interested in Jessica. I knew she wasn’t a slut, and I knew she probably wouldn’t sleep with me right away. Maybe I was actually developing some emotional maturity, as Ashley had called it. It also probably had something to do with Greg calling me both sexist and shallow. Perhaps I wanted to prove him wrong, and Jessica was the perfect girl for that.

“Uh. Yeah. Listen, sorry for not calling you before. I’ve just been really busy, and I wanted to make sure I had some time for you.” I was particularly proud of this line. It would no doubt make Jessica feel like she was extremely important.

“Really.” Jessica’s response was surprising. I didn’t notice any positive change in her voice, in fact, her single word was coated with a layer of suspicion.

I replied, “Uh. Yeah, definitely. I meant to call you. Just been busy at the restaurant, and I’ve had this audition I’ve been prepping for too.”

Jessica said, “Look, Ryan- I know you are lying through your teeth. Just be honest. And stop insulting me with your ridiculous excuses- first of all, I was over at Greg’s the other day and he was playing some game on his Xbox. Well I heard your voice coming in over the TV. So you could have called me then. Or were you too busy owning noobs? Secondly, it’s been two weeks since our double date, and you didn’t have a fifteen minute break at the restaurant to call me? Or ten minutes when you got home? Stop with the bullshit excuses and tell me the truth before I hang up on you.”

My eyes widened, and I was thankful we weren’t face-to-face because I would have shown a mixture of humiliation and shock. Apparently, Jessica was immune to my usual lines. A girl with low self-esteem would practically be eating out of my hand after my first line. She would just be glad someone was paying attention to her. Jessica was clearly different. “Sorry. I just meant that I wanted to call you. But I-“

Jessica said brusquely, “I’m hanging up now, Rya-”

I said, “OK, you are, you’re way smarter than me. I guess I was just- I was intimidated by it. It caught me off guard. I expected you to be-”

Jessica interrupted, “An idiot? Because I’m an aspiring fitness model? I studied kinesiology in college, and I’m actually hoping to be more than just a model. I’m going to be starting a Youtube channel where I not only demonstrate the exercises, but talk about the impact on the body. I’ll talk about fitness injuries too. As for your problem, well I can’t help you there. I’m passionate about my career path, and I’m not going to dumb myself down for a guy. Can you handle that?”

I blinked, again thankful Jessica couldn’t see my face, which probably showed surprise, “Wait, what do you mean? You want to go out again?”

Jessica replied gently, “I actually had a good time with you. You’re a nice guy when you aren’t trying to charm me or use one of your insipid lines. You’re funny, and confident- so I’m willing to give you a chance. As long as you don’t tell that joke again. The one about the contortionist and the fitness model in the car.”

There was a measure of amusement in her voice, which made me think Eve was the one who found the joke tasteless, more so than Jessica.

I understood what insipid meant. Despite my lack of higher education, I had a good command over the English language. When I wasn’t watching gangster movies, I devoured true crime novels and anything related to organized crime. This helped my vocabulary growing up, and my acting background made me an articulate speaker. Unfortunately, in many cases, I sounded smarter than I actually was. It is the curse of the actor to sound confident and yet know nothing. After all, actors who played doctors might know the terminology and even how the procedures are done, but they lacked the years of schooling that goes with the profession.

As for me, when faced with something I had no knowledge of or something that was too complex, I often grew frustrated. This is exactly what happened when Jessica started talking about musculoskeletal conditions and neuro-something. If I really wanted to prove Greg wrong, then I absolutely had to try. Jessica was a gorgeous woman, but I could be seen as shallow for wanting to only date women less intelligent than me.

A smile appeared on my face, “Yeah, I can probably hold off on that.”

Jessica’s voice was honeyed as she spoke, a wonderful feminine tone combined with a firmness that was unfamiliar to me outside of the bedroom. One of the girls I had briefly dated, who later became one of my fuck friends, was Monique, and she was a freak. Normally, I wouldn’t allow a woman to take control during sex, deciding the position or the length of time spent in a position, but Monique was different. She could make my entire body tremble with excitement with what was to come. I allowed her to have her way with me because the sex was incredible, and there was never any foreplay. She was apparently always ready and willing. She often spoke to me in a demanding manner, but I always submitted, knowing it would be worth it.

“Great, I know a place. I’m shooting my new show doing 12 hour days until Thursday. But I’m free then. I’ll text you the address.” Jessica’s tone was firm with a hint of a potential controlling nature, but I didn’t expect to be doing the same things with her that I did with Monique. Jessica was choosing the restaurant, whereas Monique chose the position, usually girl-on-top.

I grinned, “OK, I’ll see you then.” I hung up after a quick goodbye. It sounded like Jessica wanted to talk more, but I wanted to limit our conversation. I was still concerned that she would be trying to talk about things way over my head, and I thought about actually doing some research on human kinetics, but another call interrupted my train of thought.

“Hello?” I didn’t recognize the number.

“Yes, is this Mr. Sullivan?” The voice on the other end sounded familiar.

“Yes. Uh. Are you Ms. Daniels?”

“Yes, Mr. Sullivan. I have some good news for you. I spoke to the other casting agents. We watched your audition tape with Ashley, and we think you would be perfect in the role of Mr. Grant, the music store owner. Even though we couldn’t get the actress who plays Madison, you did a wonderful job with Ashley. The two of you have impressive chemistry.” Ms. Daniels had no idea that nearly all the tension in the room, from Ashley’s icy glare and clenched jaw, was all coming from a very legitimate source. We hated each other.

Ms. Daniels continued, “It is a shame, however, that Ms. Perkins will no longer be on the program.” Now not only did I have the part, but Ashley wouldn’t be there to stab me with an assortment of butcher knives, which is how I assumed our relationship would end. In my mind, trumpets from heaven blared played by bikini-clad angels, and the little knot in my stomach that had formed since meeting Ashley (and had never untied itself), immediately unravelled.

I followed up my Emmy award-winning performance from my audition with the following line, “That’s too bad. We really did work well together. I guess you need me to read lines with the possible replacements?”

Ms. Daniels answered evenly, “We are phasing out all of the adult actors on the show, except for your part Mr. Sullivan.”

I raised a brow, confused yet still content that I had won the part, “Can I ask why?”

Ms. Daniels replied, “Studies have shown that children are more likely to pay attention to the voices of other children, or a very discernible voice, like Hermie’s. Since most children tend to tune out their parents at times, this is the concern with children’s programming. We need them paying attention to the important lessons the show aims to teach them. From what we have seen, however, we believe you will have a real rapport with the child actors on the show. And with your extensive experience working with amateur child actors, you should have no problem interacting with seasoned, professional ones.”

I cleared my throat, “Yeah. Sure. So when do we start rehearsals?”

Ms. Daniels replied happily, “In the next few days. There is something we must absolutely ask you to do though before you can have any contact with the children. As you know, there is a new strand of the SARS virus, and while it seems to be completely harmless to adults, those with compromised immune systems, children and the elderly are very vulnerable. Under the California Child Protection Act, if you are going to be working with children for any length of time, you must be vaccinated against this strain so there is no chance you transmit the illness. Adults are immune to the effects, but they can still carry the virus itself. Do you understand, Mr. Sullivan?”

I had no idea what SARS was. Was it like the pig flu illness from a few years ago? Everything that Ms. Daniels was saying sounded like legitimate concerns, and while I was still having second thoughts about the show, my ego took centre stage. I was going to be the only adult actor on the show. I only wished I could see Ashley’s face when they told her she was off the show, and when she would see me on television for the first time.

I replied, “Yeah, no problem. I’m willing to get the shot. Wouldn’t want the kiddies getting sick.”

Ms. Daniels voice was sweet as she spoke, “I will text you the details about the clinic that will provide the vaccination. I am so happy that you will be working with our company, Mr. Sullivan. We think it will be a very rewarding and educational experience for all parties involved.”

I thanked Ms. Daniels and hung up the phone. The text with the clinic details came a minute later. I was practically giddy, having managed to land the coveted role and even happier that I wouldn’t have to work with Ashley. I knew it was a far cry from the three-piece suits, gaudy jewellery and hardware I wanted to wear, but for the meantime, I could adopt the clothes and personality of Mr. Grant. I still had a nagging feeling that no one would take the soft-spoken yet firm Mr. Grant as a Mafioso, but I hoped I could continue to make contacts while on set.

The fact is, I could have all the talent in the world, but Hollywood is about who you know. I could have turned down the role and languished at the Burger Palace, maybe even moving in with Greg at some point, but to me, even coming here was a gamble. I needed to roll the dice again. Maybe the show’s producer knew Al Pacino or Ray Liotta, or the key grip was the brother of the sister of Martin Scorsese’s cousin. And to be honest, I had little choice, the rent was going up in my place, which likely had something to do with the high-priced condos going up across the street, and I would have to get a second job, on top of the Burger Palace, which would make it even harder to pursue acting.

I figured too, once people got to know me, and how different I was from Mr. Grant, that they would see what a fantastic actor I was. This was going to be my big break.

***

“I really think you are making a mistake with this, Ryan. You’ll be typecast.” It was Tuesday, and I was on my way to the clinic to receive the SARS vaccination and Greg, as always, was trying to talk me out of it.

I replied, “I would be really stupid not to take the part. And, I can’t afford to be picky.”

Greg said, “I told you that you could live with me.”

I shook my head, “Come on, man- you and Eve, you’ll be living together in a couple months. It’s probably the only way you two will see each other on a regular basis. And you two are ready for it.”

Greg responded with clear scepticism, “Oh yeah? What would you know about being ready for something like that? You’ve never even lived with a girl before.”

I frowned, “I’ve just got a feeling OK? You two are really good together. I can’t explain it more than that.”

Greg said, “And I’ve never heard about this vaccination you are supposed to be getting either.”

I laughed, “OK, so I’m sure what is going to happen is I’ll get the vaccination, and I’ll wake up in an alley without a kidney. Come on, man. Stop being so paranoid. I looked it up, and SARS is definitely a thing. So they want to protect the kids. That’s not a big deal. I’m sure that teachers and anyone else working with kids for lots of hours has to get the same shot. Doesn’t Eve have to get her flu shot every year? It’s the same thing.”

Greg sighed, “Yeah, anyone who works in a hospital.”

I asked, “What the hell is with you? Why don’t you want me to take this part? You going to miss our kitchen convos or something? Or are you jealous that I’m the only one that is actually getting somewhere, and you don’t have the balls to actually branch out like I have.”

I added, “I think you want to get out of the business. You haven’t had an audition in three months, and you aren’t actively looking. I think you are considering giving up and trying for that assistant manager position at the Palace.”

Greg’s voice had a bitterness to it. He was clearly jealous. “Says the guy who told me he was going to quit before he got an audition just handed to him. It’s real easy to say that now. You were thinking the same thing, and I know you and Vince talked about it.”

I said with a smirk lining my lips, “Yeah, you are definitely jealous. Just admit it. You are pissed off because you’ve got your big fancy acting degree from Northwestern, a couple credits in a few low-budget movies and nothing to show for it but a job as a line cook. I know that you think you are a better actor than me. That you deserve the opportunity more than me, but you don’t.”

Greg’s voice took on a steely quality, “You are spewing so much bullshit, your breath is starting to smell like it. You’re such an asshole. I can’t believe Jessica agreed to go out with you again. Do you know why I keep telling you that you are going to be typecast? Well while I was earning that fancy degree, we had seminars with accomplished actors, and the number one rule is to have your sights set on what you want. Well if you want to do gritty crime dramas then does it really make sense to do a kid’s show for a few years just to pay the bills? The experts say no. You should be trying to do whatever you can to get noticed for those shows, even if it’s just getting coffee as an assistant, working on set. You know that Harrison Ford was discovered by George Lucas while he was working as a carpenter on set? He was in the right place because he wanted to be in the kind of movies Lucas was making. You say you want to be in gangster movies. Well start with TV. See if you can get small parts or just work on the set of a show. You’re like a country singer who thinks they can become famous by joining a metal band. It makes no sense, and it’ll hurt your career.”

I hung up on Greg. We fought rarely, which is probably why we had stayed friends for over a year. We met on the set of a toothpaste commercial where neither of us were successful. I told him about my problems (which at the time involved just recently losing my car and being between jobs), and he steered me toward the Burger Palace. I desperately wanted Greg to drop it because I did consider him a good friend. Despite my outgoing personality, I didn’t have many real friends. It didn’t help that just to make my rent, I was working six and sometimes seven days a week. In that time, I was allowed to go to auditions- Vince was fantastic in that regard, but I had to make up the time elsewhere, which meant working twelve hour shifts sometimes. It didn’t leave a lot of room for girlfriends or a large circle of friends.

Still, if Greg persisted and he couldn’t squash his jealousy, I would bail on him, like I had to others so many times in the past.

***

I walked into a non-descript clinic and approached the receptionist. It was similar to any other clinic I had visited in the past. Large computer monitors were hung on opposite sides of the room, relaying information about different vaccines that were available. One of the information blurbs discussed the myths about the flu shot, and how it was a misnomer that you could actually contract the flu from the vaccine. The middle-aged receptionist was heavy set, but that was really a slightly nicer term for fat. I expected that sitting in a chair all day didn’t help things, but neither did the extra-large cola sitting on her desk.

She was probably as far from perfect as a woman her age could be. She wore ‘scrubs’ which consisted of a multi-coloured blouse that did nothing to hide the patches of blubbery skin that masqueraded as her bicep muscles. The fat hung down in deep pockets around her elbow, which was almost non-existent. While I couldn’t see her entire frame, her belly pushed up against the desk. Her face, which could have been the saving grace was unfortunately her largest flaw. Her nose was bulbous, and her eyes looked tiny, set against swollen cheeks and multiple chins. This woman actually harmed my sensibilities she was so hideous.

“Oh my god, just kill yourself.” Had I been cruel, those would have been the first words out of my mouth, but instead, I said, “Uh. Hi. I’m here for a vaccine?”

She didn’t so much as speak as robotically drone, “Name.”

I replied, “Ryan Sullivan. I have an appointment for a SARS vaccine?” I focused on the woman’s eyes, trying my best not to make a face as imperfection incarnate sat before me. As I handed the receptionist my health card, I noticed a security camera on the far wall slowly shifting its focus toward me.

The receptionist replied, “Another one? Room three.” She guided me to the room and set my chart in the plastic container on the door.

I entered room three, and it, like the rest of the clinic, was nondescript. There were pamphlets for allergy shots, dryness of the mouth and teenage pregnancy. Next to the sink were tongue depressors, a large glass container of cotton balls and hand sanitizer. I sat down on the examining table and a few minutes later, the doctor entered.

“Mr. Sullivan, I am Dr. Travers.” If the receptionist was slightly robotic in her intonation, then the doctor was barely human. He spoke without a hint of emotion, but I had known other doctors who lacked any semblance of bedside manner. As a ten year old, I saw one doctor when we lived on a base near Florida who I was convinced had steel instead of blood in his veins. I had fallen out of a tree that I wasn’t supposed to be climbing. He diagnosed the fracture in my foot correctly, but he did so with so little emotion, I really thought he was a robot or at least a cyborg. This doctor reminded me of him.

Dr. Travers asked, “Are you frightened of needles, Mr. Sullivan?” Again, there was no emotion to his voice. He might as well have been a computer asking the question.

I narrowed my eyes and my masculine identity asserted itself fiercely. It was that one-upmanship that Greg was talking about, but here, I was competing with every other person the doctor had asked previously. “Do I look like a pussy to you? Of course not.” I turned my left arm over and exposed my forearm for the doctor.

As the doctor approached me with the needle, I could see that he was Caucasian and middle-aged with strands of silver lining his thinning brown hair. The silver in his hair was haphazard. It reminded me of a Christmas tree decorated by children, the tinsel just randomly placed with no rhyme or reason. He was greyer on the left, while small patches dotted the right. Where some men would choose where to show the grey to give them a distinguished look, he seemingly chose to do nothing. If I had a similar head of hair, I would have definitely coloured it in places.

He was an unimpressive specimen, likely standing only a few inches over five feet. A pair of thick glasses sat on his nose, but they were ill-fitting as the spectacles actually sat an inch off his nose. Despite his robotic tone and manner, I got an absent-minded professor vibe from him, but only in the way he dressed. His white coat, the typical uniform for a doctor, was wrinkled, and his pants were too short.

The doctor did not respond to my proclamation. He simply brought the needle near and quickly pierced the skin. His face was expressionless, but he was staring into mine, as if searching for a reaction. He pushed the syringe pump forward, as my eyes took turns darting toward the fluid entering my body and the doctor’s impassive expression. The fluid was clear, and it looked like every other vaccine I had ever received. I had to admit that the fingers on my right hand started to shake gently as the pump reached the halfway point.

Dr. Travers asked, while sounding much an automated operator, “Am I hurting you, Mr. Sullivan?”

I shook my head, “No, but do you have to stare at me like that? It’s creeping me out, man.” The needle actually did hurt a little.

Dr. Travers nodded slowly. “The needle is quite long. I was looking for signs that you were in distress. But I saw none. I apologize.” His eyes left my face and focused on the needle, but nothing changed in his facial expression. His eyes blinked at regular intervals, but nothing else moved.

I smirked, “So did you fail bedside manner in med school or something? I think maybe you should have taken the class again.” I was hoping to add some levity to what was becoming a very awkward situation. A part of me seriously thought that Dr. Travers was a robot, and I was some guinea pig in an experiment to see if robot doctors were a viable means to provide medical care. I meant to keep it to myself, but I blurted out.

“OK, so the experiment is a failure. Robot doctors are creepy. They should only work on other robots, but only the ones without an emotion chip installed.”

Dr. Travers didn’t look at me. He watched as the last of the fluid was pumped into my arm. He cleaned the punctured area, placed a bandage over it and said, “The vaccination is complete Mr. Sullivan. You may experience some soreness in your arm over the next few days. If you have any questions or concerns, or you experience any pain, don’t hesitate to call for an appointment.” I left the room quickly.

I walked up to the receptionist and said, “I’m pretty sure the doctor that did my vaccination is a robot. That camera over there, it’s for my reaction when they show the circuits, right?”

The receptionist ushered me forward, while the other patients looked at me sternly. She said with actual emotion in her voice, “That’s very disrespectful, Mr. Sullivan. I’m not sure exactly, but I believe that Dr. Travers has a form of autism. He’s actually an excellent doctor. Not only that, but he actually works in a number of community clinics for free. He’s also worked with the homeless and prison populations- all of it pro bono. I think you owe him an apology, Mr. Sullivan. I really don’t think he can help how he is.”

A look of horror crossed my face as my eyes raised in my skull and my mouth hung open, “Oh. Shit. Really?” The receptionist nodded. Instead of trying to apologize, I backed up and flung open the front door, quickly escaping any further humiliation.

I felt legitimately bad that I had poked fun at the doctor, but the guilt was short lived. After all, I didn’t know about the man’s condition, and while I had been initially embarrassed, it was hilarious to see the expression on the faces of the other patients. I pictured them with ridiculous monocles, all falling off at the same time as they voiced their displeasure at my behaviour. They all had English accents too. Despite being in my early twenties, I apparently still had traces of class clown within me.

My pocket buzzed, and I quickly unlocked my phone. I will admit that I fell within the population of sheep who absolutely required the newest, shiniest and fastest phones on the market. Despite the fact that I was broke most of the time, something about the beautiful, sleek contours of my smart phone made it all worthwhile. I still pulled it out of my pocket with a sense of wonder and pride. I paid for it with a credit card where I could only afford to pay the interest. The phone replaced my car, a ’96 Ford Mustang- that had died a terrible death- engine failure. I could fix just about anything other than that. My dad hated to do it, but whenever one of our cars had engine problems, he brought it to the mechanic.

Because of this, I never learned the skills required to fix a car’s engine, so when my engine light came on, I knew that the car was on its last legs. Like a cowboy lost in the desert, who had ridden his horse to death, I left the car to rot. The maggots festering about the car became homeless people who used the car as both a urinal and the trunk as storage. Acting like descending vultures, the denizens of my neighbourhood stripped the car clean, removing the hubcaps, chrome and eventually the tires, which were nearly bald anyway.

My dad bought the car from an auction or something. It had been in an accident, and the insurance company deemed the car a complete write-off. I watched the tow truck deposit the wrecked Mustang GT into our driveway. My seven year old self looked at the devastated car. Between the missing fender, cracked body, and broken windshield, I figured it had been in a demolition derby. Amazingly, over the next five years, my dad, and eventually me, resurrected the car. I mostly tightened nuts, held the flashlight or handed my dad tools. By the end of it, I knew everything about fixing cars, except for engines.

He told me, “Ryan, you don’t treat your own head wounds, and you never mess around with an engine.”

He never really explained why, so I just figured it was normal. When I left home, I drove the car down to California, bringing it and my dad’s old army jacket and his overseas service badge. While not the classic ’64 or ‘67’ Mustangs, the 1998 Mustang GT was still an incredible car. Car designs were leaving the boxy as fuck 80s and returning to a curvy, attractive sloped style. The changeover was the equivalent to a stripper with giant tits and a tight ass versus some kid in a training bra and an ass like a piece of cardboard. Who the hell would want to look at that? Perverts.

The hood’s sloped design gave the car a racing feel as did the two black stripes that ran parallel to the engine bay and the spoiler. The look of the car was perfect, but it drove even better, with silky smooth gear shifting and enough torque to cause the many girls who entered it to scream in fear and excitement. My dad let me drive the car as a teenager, but I had enough respect for the thing not to use it for my joy riding. Besides, my mom’s car was perfect for that.

After all the work we had put into it, I felt like I had failed my dad by letting the car get trashed, but I just couldn’t afford a new engine. When I saw the tow truck take away the remains, it was one of the only times I remember being really sad, other than when my dad was killed.

Two uniformed officers came to the door, and I just knew. I took off and didn’t return for nearly three days.

The phone didn’t replace the car, but it was a shiny toy that lessened the pain.

The text said, “tonite?” I grinned widely, all thoughts of my father, my behaviour in the doctor’s office or my credit card bills immediately forgotten. It was Monique.

***

Greg and I barely spoke during the 6 PM to 2 AM shift. I was still pissed at him for trying to lecture me on my career, but I couldn’t stop the lustful grin that kept forming, so when Greg caught me the fourth or fifth time with the same expression, he confronted me. All I could think about was Monique.

“You know I wouldn’t normally say anything, Ryan. But Eve and Jessica are friends, and you- I know what you are doing tonight.”

I rolled my eyes, “What am I doing, man? Tell me, I just can’t wait for you to tell me. Did you guess a leisurely bubble bath and a snifter of brandy?”

Greg shook his ridiculous looking bald egg-shaped head. “You’re seeing Monique.”

I smirked, “So what? Jessica and me- we aren’t even going out. We are going on one date. You act like I’ve been dating her for years or we’re married or something. And come on, this is Monique. I’ve told you what we do. Do not guilt me on this, or I will seriously kick your ass, man.”

Greg sighed, “How do you think Jessica would feel knowing that you were screwing another woman just days before your date? Picture her with another guy, screwing his brains out.”

I slid against the counter, feigning tiredness. “Fuuccck, Greg, where’s your pussy? You and Eve have a matching pair? Why does it matter? Maybe you and Eve shouldn’t move in together, you’ll like merge seamlessly together one day. I’ll call you Greve.”

Greg frowned, “You know that’s not fair. Eve and Jessica are really good friends. And I like Jessica too- a lot. She’s a really nice girl. I don’t think you deserve her. I would think if you really liked her that you wouldn’t be so quick to run off to Monique.”

I glared at Greg, clenching my fists, “You don’t make that decision.”

Greg said evenly, “Unless I just happen to tell Eve that you are going to be fucking Monique all night. And she tells Jessica.”

I narrowed my eyes and stood in front of Greg, proceeding to push him hard against the grill. A number of pots and pans that had been carelessly stacked on the shelf above came tumbling down, ruining most of the sizzling burgers on the grill. I took a swing and connected with Greg’s chin, causing the young man to crumple. The clattering cookware brought Vince from his office, and while I was a consummate actor, I couldn’t hide the rage I felt. My jaw was clenched, my muscles like thick strands of coiled rope and Greg, fallen with the beginnings of a nasty red welt underneath his eye- it was all the evidence Vince needed to send me home early, without my tips.

An hour later, I was in Monique’s bedroom in the girl-on-top position. The petite French-Canadian was the lead singer of a shitty punk band, but she could have been a mime or a truck driver because all that mattered was what she was doing with her tongue, which involved carving out the insides of my mouth as if she were trying to sculpt them into some fabulous work of art. Yes, it was girl-on-top, but there were times when she liked to pull me up by the hair to her lips, and now was such a time. She would tease me with her full breasts first, dangling them in my face and then practically try and suffocate me with them, before attacking my lips and thrusting her tongue down my throat as if she was searching for what I had for breakfast. The boob job she had was not fantastic, but the scars were hidden by a veritable art attack. Roses, screaming skulls surrounded by pink unicorns, firing laser beams and disintegrating butterflies- it was like she only got tattoos when she was drunk or high. Or both. Her arms and legs, and up and down both breasts- she was covered in them.

She was trim with a slightly fleshy middle, but I put up with it because she was like a jungle cat and porn star. She knew what to do and she had seemingly unending energy. She brushed away the long locks of her dyed red hair as she continued to go up and down on my cock. You know that Lady Gaga song, the one about riding the disco stick? That was Monique.

While this was going on, I was doing my best to avoid looking at Monique’s gorgeous face, her lipstick a sultry red with smoky, dangerous eyes all framed by a visage with a porcelain complexion. I was obviously enjoying the act, but the fact that Monique was hot beyond belief was like that extra spark. It was the defibrillator shot that gets the heart going again. I was turned on banging her, but even more so because she was unbelievably hot. So, it was becoming increasingly difficult to stave off the inevitable the longer I looked at her face.

There were times when she would stop and enjoy my body. She still went up and down, but her ministrations were deliberately slower, allowing her to enjoy the sights of what most felt was an impressive male on display. It really wasn’t a fair fight with Greg. Not only did I know how to fight, but I was far more athletic than him. I worked out whenever I could, using the 24-hour gym a few blocks from my building. It was another way to meet girls who were exactly my type, and in my profession, you had to stay trim and built. Mostly, though it was the girls.

Monique ran her fingernails over my hardened pecs, chiseled by thousands of bench presses, then she proceeded to scratch the area, leaving an angry red mark. The jungle cat had emerged. Even when she was slow, she was near psychotic. Those fingernails traced along my biceps and then dug in, but because of their width and firmness, I barely felt it. I didn’t have the frame of a professional body builder, but it was closer to a Hollywood action star- who wasn’t named Arnold or Stallone. Her hands moved back to my chest where she played with the dusting of light reddish hair. She wrapped her finger around a strand and then proceeded to rip it off. I stifled my yell, and she looked at me with a devilish grin.

The only imperfection, other than my weak chin and darkened tooth, was the very small layer of fat (it was mostly skin) that had settled on my belly which was likely earned from eating too much Burger Palace takeout. It concealed my abs at times, especially if I was bending over. Obviously, though since I was engaging my abs during sex, they were front and centre.

After the hair pulling, I easily lifted Monique off my cock. I repositioned myself inside her and pushed her up against the bedroom door, lifting her completely off the floor. With my height and strength, it was easy to prop her up, especially as she coiled her legs around my waist. We continued this way, until my muscles began to burn from the strain, a full ten minutes before they usually did.

Monique slowly slid down the door as I lost my grip on her, my legs bending as I tried to quickly adapt to the reality that I was seemingly not strong enough to lift her. Eventually, she slipped out of my arms, falling about two feet on what was a plush ass. The shot. Dr. Travers had told me to expect soreness in the arm. It made sense that I would have difficulty supporting Monique, and to be honest, my left arm was sore.

Monique stood up and cast a withering look in my direction, “The fuck- baby, you don’t have trouble with that usually! You getting soft on me?” She lit up a cigarette and took a long hard drag, “Fuck, yes- come on, baby. You’re gonna finish me.” She took my hands, then immediately broke away. She proceeded to place her hand on my forehead, and then quickly stepped away from me, a look of horror crossing her pretty features. “Fuck, baby- you’re goddamn hot. Like burning up. I’ve got a showcase in a few days. I can’t afford to get sick. You better go.”

I shook my head, “Are you serious? I think you were trying to see how far you could stick your tongue down my throat before. I’m pretty sure if you are going to get it, a few more minutes won’t do it. Come on, Monique, we swapped your gum back and forth.”

She pointed to the door, and as I bent down to pull my boxers on, she slapped my ass. “Call me when you feel better, baby. I want to see how long we can do it against the door.”

I dressed quickly, annoyed at Monique’s fear of germs and at the fact that I was still seriously tenting my boxers.

Monique looked at me with a smile as she proceeded to slap my ass again, “You know it’ll be worth it.”

I frowned slightly as I slipped my jeans on, although I had difficulty at first, having to actually rearrange my business to zip them. “I don’t think so. I-I’m probably going to start seeing this girl. You know more long term.”

Monique actually threw her head back, her laughter was cold, biting and drenched with skepticism.

“Sure, baby. Sure you will. Just like with what’s her name from a few months ago? You and me, we always cut and run when it’s no fun anymore.”

As I left Monique’s apartment, I heard her say with amusement, “You’ll be back, baby.”



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