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“Hey! Rebecca!” My father exclaimed in the gleeful way he does now that he’s retired and in the mood to fuck with me.

“Yeeeesss?” I looked up briefly from my phone, where I’d been frantically editing photos to make sure cats with freakin’ laser beams appeared in every snap.

“What do you say? Wanna talk about guys? I know guys. We can totally talk about guys,” he said, his eyes twinkling.

“UGH,” I replied. “Why don’t you go reorganize something?”

He laughed and left me alone with my mother.

“Have you thought about dating again?” she asked, in the same way that everyone from my mailman to the guy at Starbucks had begun.

“No… not really,” which was the truth. I’d been putting the pieces of my new life together, working a zillionty-hundred hours a week and trying to ensure that I made time to pee once in awhile.

“I don’t know if I’d get remarried – too much work,” she mused.

I HEARD THAT!” My father yelled from the kitchen where he’d begun arranging glasses by color, size, clarity, and width. Retirement is not his OMGBBQBFF.

—————

After a long day at Not-Chicago, I wearily climbed into bed for a brief nap before I tried to muster up the energy to make myself something to eat. The job; well, I loved it, but damn if it didn’t take the fuck out of me. Eventually, I pulled myself out of bed, intending to pop outside for some fresh air and to watch the sun set. The sunsets in Chicago, well, they’re amazing, and I try not to miss a single one, even if sleep is where I’m a viking.

Eyes filled with sleep, I opened my front door, immediately confronted by a large grey cat, who appeared to believe that he, too belonged there.

“Meeoooow,” he whined at me a long-drawn out moment, before sauntering back into the bush in front of my window.

“Hey buddy,” I said, rubbing sleep out of my eyes. Living on the river = you never know what sort of critter will be popping out to try and eat, maim, or love on you.

I rounded the bend out of my stoop and there stood a man who appeared as shocked as I was. Critters I was used to. A dude standing there? Not so much.

“Hi,” he said. “Sorry about my sister’s cat – he likes to hang out in front of other people’s doors. He’s a pervert, but he means well.”

I laughed. “Well, at least I’m wearing pants.”

Turning thirty-seven shades of red, he laughed awkwardly.

I walked out further to stand near him – I love my neighbors at the FBI Surveillance Van, and this one seemed friendly.

“Dan,” he said, formally holding out his hand.

“Becky,” I said, adding, “with a ‘y’ not an ‘i.'”

“Nice to meet you, Becky-with-a-y,” he smiled at me.

“Nice to meet YOU, Dan,” I smiled back, the way two people do when they know they’re sharing a special secret; that this is about to become something big; bigger than either of us could’ve imagined.

—————

“Hey Baby,” Dan called over the sound of the vacuum. “You should SEE what I found behind the couches!”

I popped out of the bedroom, where I’d been purging all of the “maybe I’ll use this someday shit” that multiplies while I’m asleep. Or gnomes drag it in – I can’t be sure. Either room, I needed to make some room in my life.

“WOAH,” I took a step back. “That is GROSS!”

“No more eating in the living room, I’m thinking,” he replied.

“Agreed.”

“Okay, YOUR turn! Come and see what I’ve done with our bedroom!” I squeeed. I love purging like I love butter.

“HOLY SHITFUCK, Becky!” he exclaimed. “This is all my closet space?”

“Yep,” I said, beaming. “It’s almost like you live here or something.”

“Baby,” he snorted back laughter; a private joke between us. “I DO live here. I haven’t left since our first date.”

I smiled at him; that same knowing smile two people can share when they have a particularly delicious secret.

He grabbed me and spun me around as I squealed happily, until we both fell onto the bed, dizzy and smiling, knowing that indeed, this had indeed become bigger than either of us could’ve imagined.

“So,” he said. “THIS is what happiness feels like.”

I smiled again. “Yes, I believe it is.”

When most people consider moving from a house to an apartment, they see it as a step down. Like ordering creme brulee and getting a dish of plain vanilla soft-serve (WITHOUT the all-important sprinkles) or something.

I won’t lie: I felt the same way. In October I moved from a three-floor house with a yard full of my roses into the FBI Surveillance Van where I shared all walls with other individuals whom I figured were always up to some nefarious hijinks. I even thought of getting a black light to ascertain if there had been any semen stains on the walls from previous tenants.

(Lazy + too – even for Your Aunt Becky – creepy = not gonna happen)

But I didn’t know quite what to expect beyond dorm living, which had been my only real experience living outside of a single home, and we ALL know the hilarious hijinks that go on in those dorms.

It took a bit to warm to the idea – being reprimanded by the self-appointed friendly neighborhood garbage police for not properly breaking down my boxes after moving in did NOT help in any way to reduce my paranoia – (personal motto: just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you) but slowly I did. And my neighbors? Well, they’re FULL of the awesome.

(pointless sidebar: not NEARLY as full of the awesome as YOU, Pranksters)

Kitchen sink busted? Call maintenance.

Car battery dead? Ask aforementioned maintenance guy to give you a jump.

Need counseling? Talk to The Twitter.

Slowly, I got into the groove of living life in the FBI Surveillance Van, even if it did mean I shared my bed with children who, despite their relatively diminutive size, managed to abscond with both space on the mattress and all of the covers. The mornings I’d wake up shivering cold and half on the floor I dubbed “cozy,” rather than “dude, where’s my sleep?”

Things took a turn for the better once the pool opened. The home previously known as mine didn’t have a pool, unless you counted the three inch plastic baby pool, which I, of course, did not. Even if I’d wanted a pool, I knew better than to actually have one constructed – growing up with an in-ground pool is enough to scare you out of your mind. I saw more dead animals each spring than I ever dissected in my biology classes, which is saying a LOT.

I’d not given the FBI Surveillance Van’s pool much thought at all – I hadn’t really wanted to take a dip on my own without my kids (who really wants to feel like the creep by the pool?), and as there was only one of me and three of them (two of whom couldn’t swim), I didn’t feel entirely safe bringing them, either. But once the weather warmed up, the chants of “MAMA, CAN WE GET SOME CANDY? IT’S CANDY DAY, MAMA!” turned into “MAMA, CAN WE GO TO THE POOL? I READ THE SIGN, IT’S OPEN.”

Then I cursed the public school system for teaching my child how to read and tried to recall where, exactly, one purchases a swimming suit and those floaty things for kids.

With great trepidation, I filled my ugly-ass beach bag (which has been around the world to various and sundry disgusting beaches) with towels, goggles, floaty things, and sunscreen and decided that it was high time to work on my tan and teach the kids to swim, which is no easy feat considering I’m not a swim instructor and I don’t even play one on television.

The kids bounded on ahead, ring things around their waists, trying to avoid the red-wing blackbirds dive-bombing their sweet heads while I trudged behind them, lugging approximately 847464 metric fucktons of pool shit.

It took them awhile to warm up to it – and by “them,” I mean “Alex,” who is ALWAYS hesitant to try new things – but slowly, they inched their way into the water with Dan and I keeping an obnoxiously close eye on them. Eventually, the sun decided that it was high time for me to take a rest on one of the germ-laden pool chairs and so I did.

It was then that I saw him.

Leather man.

Not an unattractive guy by any stretch of the imagination, somewhere in his mid-to-late sixties, he was simply sitting and drinking with his buddy on the other side of the pool fence, trying to catch some rays. Which wasn’t too far from what I was doing, excepting that I had a swimsuit on and wasn’t drinking alcohol.

The problem was, I couldn’t honestly ascertain whether or not he was wearing clothing or not. His shorts very nearly matched his torso, which meant that he could have easily been wearing a shirt. In fact, I figured he was. No one has skin quite that color. No one.

Or so I thought.

I was, I admit, intrigued by how closely his body resembled one of those brown body suits that fancy-pants surfers wear, and wondered why on earth he was wearing it not on the beach, but on the banks of the gnarly Fox River. I shrugged it off, thinking of sprinkles and cuppity-cakes and went back to resting quietly.

Just nearing that sort-of slumber brought on by intense sunbeams, it smacked me upside the face in a nice, neat mushroom print:

He had puffy nipples.

If he had puffy nipples hanging out, then he wasn’t wearing a bodysuit.

That was his skin.

“Dan,” I whispered frantically as I dipped my legs into the water. “I think that guy is wearing a skin shirt.”

“Where?” he asked.

“Over outside the pool area. DON’T BE OBVIOUS!” I replied.

He pretended to be checking out something in that general direction for a few moments before returning to face me.

“Babe,” Dan said. “I don’t think that’s a shirt.”

Half the pool turned around at the audible SMACK that my jaw made when it hit the concrete.

“That’s his… skin?” I asked.

Dan nodded and chuckled at my reaction.

“He’s like a walking poster boy for skin cancer,” I said, awed.

Dan laughed.

“When I grow up, I want to be JUST LIKE HIM.” I stated firmly.

“Tanned like a leather hide?” Dan asked, eyes still smiling.

“YES. I’ll be too old to give a fuck.”

“It’s good to have goals, Becky. I think you should put that on your bucket list, alongside “tango with Elvis impersonator,” Dan snorted.

“Already done.”

“You’re so weird,” Dan laughed. “Now get in here so we can have a proper squirt gun fight.”

Scene: Me, entering the bedroom after depleting the minor reserves of piss in my squirrel sized bladder; cursing my parents for allowing an experiment to be performed in which a squirrel’s bladder was replaced with my own. Somewhere, there’s a squirrel who hasn’t peed in 25 years while I pee every time the wind changes – which, in Chicago, is every other minute. I come across a man laying in my bed, fully clothed, surrounded by my cats.

Me: “I’m pretty sure you should’ve ended up with some crazy cat lady.”

Dan: “You know, you DO have three cats – you’re kinda the crazy cat lady.”

Me: (laughs) “Yeah, but only one is mine – the other two are Mimi’s birthday present.”

Dan: (smiles): “True.”

Dan: “Besides, you met me while I was walking my cat.”

Me (mulls over the statement): “This is true.”

Me: (thinks for a moment before flopping onto the bed next to Dan): “You know, I’m sensing something here.”

Dan: (rolls eyes jokingly): “Yes, I’m only dating you for your cats.”

Me: “No, dumbass, I’m thinking something completely different.”

Dan: “…”

Me: (three remaining brain cells knock into each other trying to formulate an idea): “I may have an idea. A BRILLIANT idea.”

Me: “Or it may be gas.”

Dan: “Go on…”

Dan: “Wait, no, not if it’s gas.”

Me: (smiles): I think it’s high time we make a calendar.”

Dan: “Oh?”

Me: “YES. A calendar FOR crazy cat ladies.”

Dan: “…”

Me: “You know, they’re always coming out with adorable fluffy cat calendars that are used by secretaries and middle-management worldwide. I think it’s to show their humanity, but that’s merely speculation on my end. ANYWAY. I think what we need to do is to riff off that idea. And no, it’s not my ‘cats with fricking laser beams coming out of their eyes’ idea, but that would be awesome too.”

Dan: “….”

Me: “Why not combine the two? Women, who, I’d surmise, are the major buyers of calendars because guys just check their cell phones for the time and date or run late to shit, really enjoy two types of calendars: men in skimpy clothes and fluffy cuddly animals.”

Dan: “Not sure I’m following, Babe.”

Me: “Why not combine shirtless dudes AND fluffy kitties?”

Dan: “Why WOULD you combine the two?”

Me: “BECAUSE IT’S SUCH A STUPID IDEA, IT MIGHT WORK. Think about it: KITTY PORN!”

Dan (slowly begins to nod): “Okay… I still don’t quite get this idea.”

Me: “We can theme out the months. Y’know, kitties in stockings with a shirtless dude dressed as ‘Sexy Santa’ for Christmas?”

Dan: (laughs)

Me: “IT COULD TOTALLY WORK.”

Dan: (nods disbelievingly)

Me: “Tell me, what do you know about those weird thing dude’s can put on their wang to make it look festive? Like, a candy cane for Christmas or something?”

Dan: “Absolutely nothing.”

Me: “Well, time to get crack-a-lacking on this idea.”

Dan: “Wait…what? You’re actually considering pulling this off?”

Me: (nods emphatically) “Why the fuck not? It’s stupid enough that it just might work.”

Dan (dubiously): “I…guess.”

Me (flounces off the bed happily and claps hands together): “YAY!”

Dan (shakes head, laughing at my reaction)

Me: “You’ve got until next summer.”

Dan: “For…what?”

Me: “To get your ass in shape. We’ll go jogging together!”

Dan: “Uh, Babe, what does this have to do with me?”

Me (does pivot and jazz hands): “I’m gonna make you a star, Baby.”

Dan (to himself): “It’s a good thing that she forgets these things quickly.”

Me: “I HEARD THAT.”

Dan: “I said you looked nice today.”

Me: “Oh. Well. Um. Carry on. Now let’s talk monthly THEMES.”

Dan: “OH LOOK, A BLUE CAR!”

Me: “HUH? WHERE?”

Dan (laughs quietly)

Me: “I have a sudden urge to watch a documentary about the Nazi’s and eat donuts.”

Dan (openly laughing): “Rock on with your bad self, Babe.”

Me: “Also: hot wings.”

Dan: “Sounds like a plan.”

——————-
How have YOU been, o! Pranksters, my Pranksters? I’ve missed you much.
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