Teaser 014: “The Boys” and Their Coterie
Serena's left hand rested gently on my right arm below my shoulder. “Come and meet my guests.” First, as we began from our left to right, was Drake, actor, producer, and from the “Show Me” state, Missouri. We were appropriately introduced by our hostess and I offered my right hand.
“I don't get a hug?” Drake protested. “I pretend to be European at times.”
I feigned shock. “Someone as pretentious as me? Well, that most definitely deserves a hug.” I closed our gap quickly, wrapped my arms around him, and, despite the several inches of height he commanded, I squeezed him hard and thoroughly.
“Wow, that is a hug, all right!”
I sensed him considering it. “And don't pat me on the back like I'm your dog.”
Drake laughed as we separated. “You caught me just in time.”
I shook my head with a smile. “Men pat each other on the back, like they're dogs. Even women pat men on the back like they're dogs. But you don't pat a woman on the back. They're not dogs, they're cats. Think I'm kidding? Tell a woman sitting comfortably on a sofa, 'Fetch.' She looks at you like you're crazy and says, 'Get it yourself,' just like a cat. A cat will bring a mouse inside and you'll tell it, 'Put that in the disposal,' and they drop it on the floor. A cat will do whatever it wants to, just like a woman.”
“So, women are cats and men are dogs?” Serena's smile was intriguing.
“It's better than Venus and Mars. I don't get it. Are women supposed to be hot as hell, upwards of nine hundred degrees, and men do nothing but fight all the time? That does not work for me. Cats and dogs? That works for me, because it's true.”
“So, women do whatever they want and men are obedient slaves?” Serena was sparring with me. I liked it.
“Men are not obedient slaves completely, but here's another one. Dogs drool and men do too. Pavlov could have skipped dogs and gone straight to men and still proven his hypothesis, but he probably would have had to use nude pictures and I suspect he was uncomfortable with that.”
Serena smiled even more. I thought she was liking this. I knew I was. “So, are you comfortable when a woman does whatever she wants, Gregory?”
“As long as it's not too catlike, so she sleeps all day, goes out carousing all night and brings home someone to drop him on the floor. Then, I have to get up in the morning and ask, 'What do you expect me to do with him?' And she looks up at me with her sweet, catlike expression and I know I'm gonna have a hard time getting him in the disposal.” While everyone was smiling or laughing and enjoying, it only served to encourage me, but Serena suddenly came to her senses.
“Maybe Ray was right, because if you don't shut up, Gregory, it will be dark before I finish introducing you!” She looked at me sweetly, though, her left arm wrapped firmly around my right arm.
“Well, I do like the hugging part of this. Next!”
I hugged Katherine, Will's wife, then I hugged Will, Katherine's husband. “So, let me see if I've got this straight...You're his wife,” I pointed to Will and heard Katherine's confirmation. Looking at Will, I said, “And you're her husband.” Will confirmed. “I see how this works.” I turned to Serena. “So if I point to the empty space to your right, and say, 'You're her husband,' and point to you and say, 'And you're his wife,' this means...?” I knew what Serena's response would be. I wanted to hear it, though, and I wanted everyone else to hear it too.
Almost in a whisper, Serena said, “He's not here right now.”
“This explains the empty space!” I now knew the cute little Mexican actress was sleeping alone tonight. “I'm starting to get this.”
John offered, “My wife's not here either, Gregory.”
“Didn't you just get married, John? I mean, fairly recently.”
“And you're already separated?”
“She had things to do, and I'll be leaving tonight and I'll catch up with her later...”
“Catching up with her tonight, I hope.”
“Well, not exactly.”
“Not that it's any of my business, John, but being married for such a short time and you're already spending nights apart doesn't seem to be too promising for a long and healthy marriage, but what do I know? I started with a sex fiend and turned her into a sexual prude. It took thirteen years, but I did that, all by myself. Congratulations to me.” It was a dangerous step I had taken since I had just met most of these people, but I made my point unscathed, which I would use later. Though most overlooked it, the point was sinking in.
I hugged Ken, Will's longtime friend from their Hahvood days. “It's certainly been enjoyable and entertaining meeting you, Gregory. John said you were probably insane. He can drop probably.”
“Has anyone called you a handsome devil, Ken?” I asked innocently.
Ken took a moment to reflect. “No. Not that exact term. Not at all.”
“Huh, I wonder why? Is it because you're not a devil or you're not handsome? Which one is it?” Ken was suddenly flustered. “I'm just kidding, teasing. I do it a lot. You know where you stand with me, because if I like you, I tease you, and the closer you get the more I tease. It's hard for some people, but hardest for those I don't tease at all. If I don't tease you at all, it's because I don't really like you. I'm just waiting for you to go away so I can get back to being normal again.”
Ken smiled widely. “I like you. You say the most outrageous things and then rescue it. How do you do that?”
“It's a gift, really, but I still can't believe no one's ever called you a handsome devil because you are but maybe it's a midwestern thing and they never say it in New England. I don't know.” I shrugged my shoulders and Serena guided me to Ken's wife, Penelope, also an actress.
“I can't wait to hear what you'll say about me.” Penelope's large smile was genuine.
“After the hug. First things first.” I slowly stepped up to her and as sexy as I could muster slipped my arms to the sides of her waist and slowly, sexily around to her back. I nodded to Ken. “He doesn't get jealous easily, does he?”
Penelope laughed. “No, he's usually a good boy.”
“That's a relief.” I continued to hug as hard and as slow as the others and Penelope actually emitted a low “Ohhhhhh.” “Because Ken looks pretty buffed up now and I'm sure he could lay me out with one punch and it wouldn't even be his best.”
Ken jokingly said, “Okay, you've hugged my wife enough!”
I leaned to Penelope's ear and loudly whispered, “I've heard people from New England are impatient. Is that true?”
Both Ken and Will simultaneously said, “Hey!”
Penelope let out a short chuckle. “They can be at times.”
I started to ease my hold on her, letting her decide when to separate. A few moments later she dropped her arms and I stepped back. “Well, patience is a virtue, which is not to say that impatient people are scandalous. I'm not saying that. I'm implying it, but I'm not saying it.”
Will chimed in. “My mother would love you, Gregory.”
I turned to Will. “Your mother the teacher would probably love all of us, then remind us that, despite the fact there are two of us who gained entry to Hahvood, we are nothing but an assembly of a motley crew, and I'll prove it.” I turned to Serena and pointed to her. “Dropout.” I turned to Drake. “Drake, did you even attend school, because I think Missouri doesn't care, especially in the Ozarks? 'School? I fish all day.'”
Drake laughed. “I had a little college.”
I pointed to him. “Dropout.” I turned to Katherine. “Katherine?”
Katherine smiled. “I have a university degree.”
“You are now in charge of all intellectual discussion.”
Katherine's smile widened. “Thank you.”
“You deserve it.” I turned to Will and pointed. “Dropout.”
Turning to Ken, he wouldn't even let me get to it. “Dropout.”
Penelope instantly offered, “I have a degree.”
“As a matter of fact, yes.”
“You are now second in command of all intellectual discussion, only because Katherine was appointed first, and somebody has to be first.”
“Thank you. I won't let you down, sir.”
“I'm sure you won't but you needn't be so formal. I offered John the option to call me shithead, so there you go.”
John confirmed, “He did.”
“And as for you.” I turned to John.
John immediately offered, “I've had a little college too.”
“Dropout.” I now pointed to myself. “Dropout. So let's see how motley this crew truly is.” I turned to everyone in the same order and counted the dropouts and skipped the degrees. “One, two, skip, three, four, skip, five, six. Six dropouts out of eight. Seventy-five percent in this assembly are educational failures. That is truly motley all right. And, Katherine, as I understand it, you're not even in the entertainment biz. True?”
I turned to Penelope. “And are you going to be involved in this movie?”
Penelope smiled. “I don't think so, unless there's a role for me. Other than that, no.”
“So every one in this assembly who will possibly be involved in this movie are complete educational failures.” I turned to Will. “Your mother would be so proud.”
Will laughed. “She probably would. 'Six dropouts are going to make a movie? Well, you certainly have ambition.'”
Penelope spoke with a bit of disappointment. “You haven't said anything about me yet.”
“Oh, Penelope,” I began with a sorry tone, “what can I say about you in the hopes you won't take it the wrong way unless it's the truth. So here's the truth. I know you've made quite a few movies, most of which I haven't seen, but it's not a reflection on you or any of your roles. It's because I'm not a movie buff. I'm more into music.” I turned to Serena. “I haven't seen most of Serena's movies. In fact, I probably haven't seen most of everyone's movies here.” I turned to John. “And when it comes to movies about robbing casinos, I saw the first one but only snippets of the others and only because I was channel surfing. Once a movie idea becomes a franchise, I lose interest.” I turned to Drake and Will. “And that goes for you and you.” I turned to Ken. “Have you done any franchise stuff?”
“Not yet,” Ken said triumphantly. “There's always next year.”
“You did do a blind superhero movie,” I reminded him. “I don't know if I would brag about that one.” Ken looked a little sheepish.
“What about me?” Serena demanded.
“Please! Spy Games?! I'm sure if I meet Robert he's gonna shout at me, 'What's wrong with Spy Games?' I'll have to tell him, 'There's nothing wrong with movies for sixth graders, Robert, but I prefer movies for adults!' It's a preference thing. I like what I like and I won't apologize for it.” I paused for a moment and gave Serena my best aroused expression. “But those pigtails were flattering. Hey, while I'm here, could you put your hair in pigtails so I can confirm, 'Yep, that's how I remember it. Please, put your hair back the way it was. Thank you.'” Serena punched me lightly on my right shoulder, smiling with an obvious affection. I turned back to Penelope. “I can say this about you in all honesty. You are a step up, way up,” I glanced to Ken, “from Penny on the block.”
Penelope laughed quite heartily as did some of the others. Ken muttered, “That's a low blow, Gregory.”
“Do you want to go back to that?”
Ken quickly shook his head. “No.”
“What can you say about a woman who married a man with essentially the same name as the man who was the high priest for Ceasar, who benefited the most from his assassination until he fell madly in love with Cleopatra, and, as Wild Bill warned four hundred years ago, 'Beware the Ides of March,' and on what day was I born?”
Will asked, “You were born on the Ides of March? Really?”
“And on a Thursday no less. And what's Thursday's child?”
Ken answered. “Child of woe.”
“Bingo, so guess what I get to hear on my birthday when everybody comes over? 'It's only two days to St. Patty's day! Then we can really tie one on! Oh, by the way, Gregory, happy birthday.' 'Yeah, thanks, and fuck you too.'” I turned to John but glanced to Serena. “John and I need no introduction.” I stepped up to him and fully extended my right hand.
“I don't get a hug?” John bemoaned.
“I think we have already established a protocol for greeting, John, and it would be a handshake.”
“What if I want a hug, though? Everyone else got one.”
“Change is hard for me, John, though it's not the change so much as the possible future inconsistency. One day it's a handshake, the next it's a hug, then the next, the group you're with makes you feel uncomfortable with a hug so it's a handshake, and on and on. You're going to have to decide which one and stick to it! So, which one?”
“I want a hug!”
“Okay, but I'm gonna squeeze you extra hard,” I advised, closed the distance, wrapped my arms around John, pulled him tight against me and squeezed hard.
John had some difficulty breathing. “Yeah, you weren't kidding. How does a skinny runt like you get so much strength?”
“Muscle memory...and I split wood, manually, with a thirty-five pound maul. I can split about a third of a cord in an hour.”
“Yes way. Had enough?”
“That will suffice, yes.”
Serena patted me affectionately. “My God!” she exclaimed in mock surprise. “It's still daylight!” She turned to face me. “You couldn't reach sunset! I'm so disappointed in you, Gregory.”
Apologetically, I replied, “I have my limits.” Widening my eyes I added, “One is thirst.”
“Which reminds me,” she said as she turned to walk toward the promenade while I tried not to look at her butt well sculpted in her fashionable turquoise blue slacks and followed, “we all left our glasses of wine inside.” She leaned deep to her left to glance at the contingent. “That was a huge mistake on our part!”
Once the confirmations of various audible levels subsided, I remarked, “But I'll bet if any of you invite me to your house, from now on you will usher me right inside, telling everyone, 'We cannot greet this guy in the driveway. We'll never get back inside.'” While everyone laughed in complete agreement, John slapped my back with both hands. “Was that a man slap or dog slap, John?”
John laughed. “Man slap, Gregory.”
“Good. If it was a dog slap, I'd have to pee on your leg.”
“You would, too.” John was getting it.
I passed by Ray standing at the promenade. “See what you missed with the handshake?” Ray did his best to pretend not to acknowledge me. “I wish you had said something about the wine, Serena. I feel bad keeping everybody from it. I hope it was red.”
Serena had reached the door and opened it, stepping past to allow me inside. “It is red wine.”
“Well, then, it may be better, having breathed. It's what I've heard.”
“It is true.” I stopped beside her to her right to wait for everyone, when she slowly lifted her hand to pat my cheek twice like a little boy. “It had already breathed.”
“Nice try,” Serena agreed but her smile was intoxicating. I needed a beer.
“I thought you were gonna say, 'little boy.' You can call me that. It won't offend me. Most of the time I behave like one.”
“You are like a little boy in an old man's body.”
“The worst combination.” Drake walked by. “Now Drake,” he stopped to turn to me, “played an old man in a baby's body, all the wisdom, experience and he's stuck drinking milk from a plastic bottle, a horrible dispenser. I can't drink milk like that. Bring me a woman who's lactating. Now that's a proper dispenser!”
Drake smiled and raised his fist and we bumped fists together. “That's a good one.”
I put my left arm to Drake's back and urged him toward the others. “When you tell this joke in mixed company, Drake, you have to be careful not to look at any of the women's breasts for the next five minutes or they'll think you have ideas. You cannot let a woman think you have ideas. Best to keep your brain a clean slate, so if she ever asks, 'Do you have any ideas?' you can truthfully say, 'There's nothing in here, dear, ideas or anything.' She will always respond, 'I know that.' And you will always respond, 'If you know that, why did you ask?' This, incidentally, is how you get out of painting the house. She will now hire a painter.”
“You are...” Serena began behind me.
I turned my head to catch her gaze. “Incorrigible.” I turned back and we had reached a table where everyone had picked up their glasses of wine. “It may not be in your English lexicon.”
Serena shouted, “John, Will, Ken, incorr-”
“Incorrigible,” Will interrupted. “Ummm, uncontrollable, unruly.”
“Willful,” Ken offered.
“There's dozens of definitions. We could look 'em up on the internet, someone could read each one and I'd say, 'Guilty,' if it fits, or 'No,' if it doesn't. My personal favorite is 'bad beyond correction or reform.'”
“Oh, that's you!” Serena chided. “Bad beyond correction or reform.”
- Just Desserts, Segment Two “Dog Grooming” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021
contact me, as always: email@example.com