If you’d like to read “The Quiet Ones, Part 9” click on the title.
Chris had never really “gone out” with girls in high school. He’d had that one obligatory date to the senior prom, but even then the girl was more a friend than a romantic interest. It wasn’t that he didn’t like girls. He did. He’d had all the confusing emotions and erotic thoughts that the tide of hormones normally washes in during puberty.
As a teenager, he felt excited when a girl flirted with him, and he flirted back, in that awkward but earnest way boys had. He knew they wanted something more from him, and he hoped his obvious enjoyment of the game would encourage them to reveal what it was. But somehow things never progressed beyond the glancing and giggling phase.
To say that his understanding of what females want was impaired would be an understatement. It was non existent. He had to admit, he really didn’t really understand them at all. There were a few girls who hung out with his group of guy friends on occasion, and he’d been to some boy/girl parties. The girls were mostly friendly on these occasions, and they’d had fun acting silly, playing board games, and wandering out into the yard to play chase and climb the small ornamental trees common to suburban front lawns.
The kind of girls who hung out with nerdy, video game obsessed boys, were pretty nerdy themselves. They were o.k. with letting the boys know they really liked the brownies someone’s mom had made by downing two or three, and they didn’t mind if their hair got messed up during a hand stand contest in the middle of the living room. If the host parents didn’t watch closely a pillow fight might break out using the couch cushions. They were basically like a basket full of wiggly, silly puppies, bumping randomly into one another with all the intent of electrons.
To their parents it was both a relief and a puzzle. There wasn’t a single unwanted pregnancy among Chris’ compatriots. While their bodies experienced the indignities of puberty, their minds seemed to grasp that they weren’t really ready for all their bodies were offering them – a fact that had eluded the generations before them – or maybe they just lacked the boldness to go against their parent’s wishes to fulfill their baser desires.
Chris grew up in a world where all of his needs were met. He got enough love and attention, but not too much. His parents both had unimpressive, middle class jobs – his mom was a nurses’ assistant and his dad was a low level administrator at a state agency – but he was an only child, so he got all of what they had to offer. He made good grades, but not great ones. He joined the computer club, and took drama in high school. He got a few bit parts in school plays, but he spent most of his free time playing on line games with the computer club guys.
His parents and friends accepted him the way he was, so he had nothing to prove. He never achieved anything of note and he never got into any kind of trouble. Chris had realized early in life – he could do pretty much whatever he wanted, as long as he maintained a low profile. The overriding message he had received from birth was “we love you unconditionally, and we will do everything we can to support you as long as you love us back.” It was the kind of upbringing that fosters contentment, rather than success.
After high school, Chris took a few classes at Austin Community College, but it seemed pointless. In the end he didn’t need a degree for the low level tech job he landed. He knew he could always go back if he wanted a degree later.
In Chris’ mind high school graduation meant trading one job for another, only this time he had more choice in how he would spend his working day. The tech support job had seemed perfect at first, but it was a lot more frustrating dealing with other people’s cyber problems than he’d expected, and the maintenance aspect was just boring, like chemistry class. When he found out there were going to be lay offs, he hoped he’d be one of them, and to his relief, he was.
Unfortunately, he’d been with the company for less than six months, which meant he wasn’t eligible for unemployment benefits. He had four days of vacation saved up, and the rent was due the following week, so he’d packed up his apartment and moved back in with his mom.
Chris had lost his father to lung cancer nine months earlier, and his mother was genuinely happy to have him back home with her. He knew he was welcome to stay as long as he wanted, rent free. All he really needed to do was pay for his car and personal expenses, which meant he could choose a job, based on his preferences rather than how much it paid.
It was an easy decision for him. His father was allergic to pet dander, so they couldn’t keep animals in the house when he was a kid, but he loved playing with his friends’ dogs. He had a hunch he’d be a lot happier spending the day caring for people’s pets than their computers, and he’d been right.
Most people consider “bathing the dog” a loathsome chore, but for Chris it was a dream job. There were days when he ended up soaked from head to toe, stinky and exhausted from struggling against some collie’s aversion to water, but he loved every minute of it. The dogs were much less complicated than their human owners. They were naturally friendly and relatively easy to win over.
Still, at the end of the day Chris had to acknowledge, he sometimes craved human companionship, and not of the motherly kind. When all the dogs were clean, he often ended up working the front desk, checking people out when they came to pick up their pets. It was a great way to meet women, although most of them were soccer moms and retired ladies. He’d struck up conversations with a few single girls, but it always seemed that the ones he liked weren’t interested in him.
Chris was attractive enough in a non-athletic, baby faced way. His slight build and sandy brown hair reinforced his boyish charm. But his looks were the sort that wouldn’t endure the ravages of time with grace. At thirty Chris would be seriously balding. Without the dewy softness of youth, his features would harden in a jarring, rather than ruggedly masculine way.
Still, most young ladies found him “cute.” Absent a peak at his family photo album, they could easily imagine him retaining his appeal for the long haul. But smart, pretty girls in his age group were usually also ambitious. Most of them were in college, and their vision of their own futures didn’t include supporting a husband who was really great at bathing the dog. Most of the time he struck out before they even found out that he lived with his mom.
His luck changed when Kari came in to pick up her great aunt’s shih tzu, Bitsy. The easily excitable lap dog had been bathed and groomed hours before, but she was so traumatized by the experience, she had pooped in her kennel, then run around madly squishing feces between her toes and flinging it into her fur.
This was during the 5:00 pick up rush, and Chris, who was normally in tune with the goings on in the kennels, had been busy helping customers. When he went to get the dog for Kari, the mischievous pooch rolled over onto the pile of waste in order to present her stomach to him for petting, and ground her own excrement into the fur all along her back.
Naturally, Chris couldn’t send the dog home like that, so he grabbed her and pushed her into a tub of soapy water. Kari began to wonder what was taking him so long, and wandered back to the grooming area just in time to catch him carrying the poo encrusted scoundrel over to the tub.
“Oh my God! What happened to her?” Kari said holding her hand over her nose and mouth, “she smells like shit!”
“You just tell it like it is, don’t you, sister?”
“Seriously, is that poop on her back?”
“I’m afraid Miss Bitsy has undone all the good effects of her bath. Much as I hate to have to give you a two for one special, we’re just gonna have to start over. But don’t worry; I can get her fixed up in no time.”
“That’s o.k. I’m not in a hurry. I’m sure Aunt Jean would rather I didn’t put a poop covered dog in her caddy.”
“A caddy, eh? You must enjoy driving such a sweet ride.”
“I do, but it’s not my car. It belongs to my Great Aunt Jean. When I’m not helping her out, it’s just me and my bus pass.”
“Aw, that’s no fun. Hey, I’ve got a car. It’s not a caddy, but it’s not the bus either. I’ll make you a deal. You don’t mention this little incident to Aunt Jean, or my boss, and I’ll drive you around the next time you have errands of your own to run.”
Kari thought about it for a second. Clearly his offer was less about saving face with his boss than about spending time with her. Yea, she liked his looks and the confident way he handled the dog situation. And she was flattered by his attention.
“If you want to go out with me, why don’t you just ask?”
“Whoa, there’s that directness again. I have a feeling a guy would always know where he stands with you. O.k. would you like to go out with me sometime?”
Yes, she believed she would.
If you’d like to read “The Quiet Ones, Part 11” click on the title.
MORE FROM THIS CONTRIBUTOR:
Scruffy and Snickers — Two Dogs Tie the Knot in California
Boys at Play
First Person: Modern Universities Educate Video Game Generation, Ground Helicopter Parents