The Americanosaurus Rex

—You don’t want that. I don’t either. Melissa says, stepping toward Zep until her breasts and belly press lightly against his body. Zep attempts to back away but his back is already two inches from the curved back wall of the wait station. The two inches he gets, Melissa quickly recoups.

—Whatever this is between us, Melissa says motioning between their sternums —it goes no further, got it?

—Yeah.

—Yeah?

—Yeah…I got it.

Melissa nods, backing away. —Good. I’m the left wing gunner, I have section one, and I don’t want trauma to bring us even closer. Great Scott’s in section three. If you get rattled, lean on him. He’s one of our veterans.

—OK, thanks.

—How’d you come by that name? Melissa asks, staring at Zep’s clavicles.

—My parents named me Led Zeppelin.

—What? Why—

—I don’t know. They’re fans… I shortened it to Zep till I can figure out something better.

—Well, that won’t be difficult. You look very clean. Do you use body wash?

—Yeah, it’s European.

—Yeah, I bet. You smell good. Look good, too. Stay away from me. Unless you have a question about work. Melissa says, her voice smoldering. —I’ll be back with a sandwich from the kitchen. I hope you don’t have any restrictions. The kitchen ignores them.

 

 


The Narcissus

—Do it, Jackson says, pushing me. He strips off his black leather gloves and throws them on the ground. Jackson doesn’t ride a motorcycle or drive a fast car, I’ve never understood why he wears those gloves. I don’t know if it’s the gloves, him taking them off, or being pushed that ignites my anger. I slap Jackson, he catches my hand after it strikes his face and punches me with his free hand a couple times.

I am stunned by the sheer cinematic grace of Jackson’s fighting moves. I always forget how good he is at fighting, how stunned I get by his effortless ass-kicking skills, and how sorry I am, right about now, that I chose to fight him.

Jackson would probably continue to punch me in the face until I fall down, but Davy grabs Jackson’s punching hand. All three of us tense up, like a bolt of electricity cables through our bones. Davy lets go of Jackson and hits me in the side of my head, which knocks me off balance and I fall.

I rebound quickly, on my way up grabbing a nearby tree branch, which I swing at Jackson’s face, and miss.

Davy jumps on my back. He’s never, in all our lives, done this. I merry-go-round the fuck out of him but he’s got me in some sort of headlock, his breath hissing in my ear. When I realize Davy is crying, a tsunami of regret washes over me and I stop.

Later, here we are, three men in their mid 40s, two married with children, sitting on the sidewalk curb outside a frou-frou Italian eatery, licking expensive gelatos, it occurs to me I can’t remember what started the fight.

—You were talking shit about the Defender series. Davy and I are gonna go see the latest installment, Mr. Mercurial, and we invited you.

—I never go with you guys to comic book movies, why would this one be any different?

Jackson shakes his head, stares ahead.

Davy regards me. —You should go see this one with us, Ben. It’d be good for you. It might resonate.

 

 


The Counter

When we get to the house Debra shares with five other graduate students, I put the question to her.

—Hey, is there any chance I could use your shower? Debra seems to consider the question. Or she’s trying to decide how cruel to make her answer.

—Dennis, you have a choice. You can either (a) shower at my place and thus close the door to any future sex with me or (b) you can use your brain and solve for the problem of how do I not smell like I just fucked my wife’s younger sister?

I really like Debra. I’ve always had a soft spot for aggressive women. We’ve only had sex seven times and the thought of ending our affair hurts me physically and damages my estimation of self. I’ve never lied to my wife about my affair with her sister, I just haven’t brought it up. As soon as she finds out, I will tell her as much or as little as she wants to know. And I can only assume she’ll find out, she’s a very smart and intuitive person. Plus she’s never liked Debra and already suspects her of trying to seduce me at our wedding.

Yes, Debra managed her way into a church bathroom with me without any of her clothes on and without anyone noticing. Except me, obviously. Though I did not have sex with her, I didn’t speak of the incident to anyone and some might say I was bookmarking Debra for sex at a later time. I can’t say because I don’t know.

What I do know is I can’t go home on a Saturday morning at 10:30 smelling like sex. I might dart around the house and jump into our swimming pool, or hose myself off like a dog who’s just rolled around in fifty other dogs’ shit, or drive down to campus, flash my faculty ID and shower in the faculty locker room at the gym. Problem is, all of these possibilities strike me as a little weird, a little bit extreme. I’m not really a fan of weird or extreme. I’m definitely a path of least resistance kind of guy.

So I look at Debra. Proud, self-possessed Debra, and I say, —Do you have a towel I can borrow?

 

 


The Reckoning I

—You’re conflating issues, Trudy—

—Which brings me to my second demand: An ombudsman that both you and Reindeer agree upon. Someone who has the authority to act as judge and jury in hearing complaints against you—or any person, Elf, or Reindeer—of mental, physical, or professional abuse. 

—This is my village and I won’t stand for anyone abusing anyone else! 

—What if you’re the abuser, Santa? It’s quite the irony that here you are, asking me to help you save Christmas when a year and a half earlier you told my father how disappointed you were in him for having a son like me. A freak that would never—that could never—be a part of the elite sleigh team. 

—Trudy, I don’t recall saying anything like that, but I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt by something you misremembered. 

—Thank you for putting your gaslighting skills on full display. If anyone had doubts about my allegations, they’ll start to reconsider now. Only I know no one does. Deep down, they’ve all experienced one form of torment at your hands. They’ve all known someone become the latest casualty to your whims and machinations. Those days are over, Santa. You have a simple choice: change or be cast aside. 

—No one is going to be cast aside! Not me, and, and, not you or you or you! Santa shouted, pointing randomly at no one. —Well, I said I would be accommodating and that’s exactly what I intend to do. Thank you for bringing it up, Trudy. I had in my mind to have this very conversation—but I’m glad you have brought it to the fore. Now, can we please get ready to go? We have a long night ahead of us!

—No. Trudy says. 

—What? What do you mean? Santa said.

—Three conditions, Santa. I have three conditions. I’ve only given you two.