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I knew something was up from the moment I saw them in the parking lot. We were winding down from a busy Saturday night, I was scheduled to close, but my server friends were waiting for me in the bar so we could all go out together after midnight. We had the bar schedule down pat – we knew where we’d start and where we’d finish. We even had a designated driver.

(PSA: driving drunk is fucking stupid.)

The yawning front windows lot of the restaurant coupled with the halogen lights in the parking afforded us a perfect vantage point with which to watch people come and go. Generally we were too busy to pay attention to the customers, but by 10PM, most everyone had left the building for drunker pastures, which meant that there was an eerie silence where the throngs of the eating masses had once been. I could almost hear ghost forks clinking against long-eaten plates while I walked through the winding mass of now-unoccupied tables.

There were a few stragglers eating, their voices now hushed as the rest of the din had, as though a cork had been popped, suddenly dissipated. Although we were open for a few more hours, the remaining patrons were clearly uncomfortable in the silence, so they began to eat more quickly, suddenly in a hurry to do whatever activity was following dinner.

But there they were, walking through the parking lot. I hoped -in vain – that they’d be picking something up, rather than forcing me to slap on a smile and pretend to give a shit about their wants and needs for an hour.

I was tired – we’d just started clinicals in nursing school, which made me miserable, and my young son was beginning to start various therapies for his autism. I wasn’t able to attend these therapies most of the time, as they conflicted with my school schedule, which only compounded my guilt.

I studied them through the glass window, standing behind the counter of the restaurant, lost in thought. He appeared to be mid-to-late thirties, a sort of gruff blonde guy, with a warm face, the sort who you might expect to see on a cattle ranch in Montana, not a deep dish pizza joint in Chicago. Alone, he’d have been under my radar. But he wasn’t.

Next to him, curled up in his arm, was a small waif of a girl, no bigger than five feet, topping the scales at maybe ninety-pounds, soaking wet with a backpack on. Her normally brown hair was dyed into three segments – black, white, and red, and fell somewhere around her scrawny shoulders. He was holding onto her, not quite daughter-like, but not entirely sexually, either.

I guessed at her age. Thirteen? Fourteen? She’d clearly not gone through puberty, her concave chest told me that.

I continued assessing her as they entered the restaurant, asked for a seat close to the door, and were seated by my manager. Once a student nurse, always a student nurse. I’d been assessing people from the moment I crawled from my mother’s womb – reading people was how I could make fat stacks of cash as a bartender and waitress.

“Becky, it’s yours,” my manager and good friend Rosanne grinned and winked as she told me. “What a bunch of fucking weirdos. Oh, and CARD THEM.”

I went over to the table and said my hellos, studying them as I took their drink order. The girl had to be closer to twelve, although she was surly as hell. She grumbled loudly and finally settled on a water. He ordered a Mike’s Hard Lemonade. “Fucking girl drinks,” I said to myself as I carded him. “Who the fuck drinks that garbage – it tastes like carbonated piss.”

I never made a habit of checking the photos on ID’s. The one I currently had made me look like an overweight Hispanic male, who was possibly taking a shit, so I never got too into the photos. I’d check the date, do the math, and move the hell on. NO ONE looks like their driver’s license photo.

This one said the guy was 47.

“Damn,” I said to him. “You look GREAT for your age.”

He laughed a little and smiled as she glowered at me. Was that…jealousy? I couldn’t tell. I certainly wasn’t going after him – he was my patron in a crappy pizza place. Nothing more.

Besides, I ruminated as I walked behind the bar to grab his Froofy Girl Drink, she’s like twelve and he’s clearly over forty, they can’t possibly be…

No, I decided firmly as I slammed the beer cooler shut. He is NOT an Uncle Pervy. See? He’d chosen a MIKE’S HARD LEMONADE, and NOT a Zima. We ALL know that Zima is the choice of drink of Uncle Pervies (and stupid high school kids) everywhere.

Except, that annoying little voice in the back of my head, no one makes Zima. Mike’s Hard Lemonade is the New Zima. (kinda how Pink is the New Black, but alas I digress)

I placed the water and the Mike’s Hard Lemonade in front of them, studying them as they put in their pizza order. She’d barely speak. He did all the talking. If I were out with my Dad, I thought, I’d probably let him…oh yeah right. I talk paint off walls. But that’s me, this is her.

“What’s up with those weirdos?” Rosanne giggled conspiratorially as she found me at the computer, putting their order into the system. “I don’t know,” I replied. “Is it a full moon?”

A half dozen of my good friends and coworkers yelled, “YES.” Apparently they were having the night I was having.

I went back to the kitchen to start on my side work to the lilting sounds of a Mariachi Band – the kitchen staff always ignored my requests for “disco” and “Ricky Martin,” instead pumping the volume of the chortling horns to 11 whenever I walked in. Assholes.

No sense in leaving it until midnight – even if I got ten more tables, most of this shit could be done between ‘em. I wiped down salad dressing containers, shuddering as I got to the thousand island. Just LOOKING at it made me nauseous. Let’s not even DISCUSS the time I accidentally dropped a gigantic tub of the shit on the floor in the middle of the summer, when it practically melted in the 100+ degree kitchen.

No sooner had I finished with the salad dressings and was moving onto marrying ketchup bottles, when my friend Nikki thundered into the kitchen. Nikki’s teeny – been a friend of mine since we were in diapers, but in this case, she, and about three other servers plus the busboy raised quite the cacophony, even over the gentle, soothing sounds of the Mariachi band.

“Oh fucks, Becky, the girl at your table, she’s DRINKING the Hard Lemonade,” she spat out. “Go do something!”

I found Rosanne, who was in the back counting bags of flour, and told her what was going on. I wasn’t about to call the cops – but that feeling of something being not right rose to a fever pitch, thudding loudly in my ears. “Something’s not right, Rosanne. I can feel it.”

Rosanne nodded as we walked to the front of the restaurant. We watched them interacting, the feeling in my gut rising, as the girl continued to try and sneak sips of Mike’s Hard Lemonade from her water glass. Eventually, I had the busboy, Eddie, fill up her water glass with water, thereby removing any hope of drinking it.

The table ate in near-silence, the two of them not interacting very much. I guess it COULD be a father/daughter thing, right? That was, until he squeezed her hand lovingly, passionately. CREEPILY.

I brought them their bill, which they promptly paid, and left me a 20% gratuity. I looked down at the signature as they pulled out of the parking lot. It read, “Dr. So and So.” The signature’s lines were both forced and clearly faked.

Clearly, the man was not a doctor, nor was this his credit card, but they’d long since left. I stood there, staring down at the signature, my coworkers loudly celebrating at the bar over shift drinks yelling at me to join them, my stomach churning and unhappy, my heart somewhere on the floor. Something was up with those two. Something. And I?

I hadn’t done anything.

I hadn’t stopped them.

I hadn’t called the police.

I hadn’t even suggested calling the police.

I clocked out and balled up my apron, the thrill of going bar-hopping with my friends long-since passed.

As I sadly poured myself a vodka/diet, I thought to myself, “sometimes I am not my sister’s keeper.”

I’ve regretted it ever since.

I spent a good deal of time yesterday adding things to the Anatomy of a Forum post from yesterday. I’m telling you, I’ve never laughed so hard at comments before – and you guys are good. Like I want to make an award for best! comment! ever! but I’d give it to everyone, which kinda dilutes the whole thing.

Anyway, the post has been updated and will probably be updated again – you Pranksters are hysterical.

—————

Last week, the hospital called.

I wasn’t sure if it was a matter of wondering where I was, since I hadn’t been in (knocks on wood) for a couple of months. Hell, maybe I’d accrued some frequent flyer miles with which I could purchase a lovely sandwich in the cafeteria!

I answered, my mouth watering with antici….

…pation

It was the dude who schedules shit. Shit like, oh I don’t know, ULTRASOUNDS of my THYROID that may or may not show that I have an evil twin or one of those tumors full of hair and nails. Or the dreaded Neck Baby.

I’d had every intention of calling for the ultrasound…just…sometime else. Like maybe in 20 years or something.

It seems silly to be worked up about learning that my neck was pregnant or something, but after you’ve fallen on the wrong side of statistics enough times, you know that “routine” and “ultrasound” and “thyroid” and “neck baby” don’t go hand in hand. So I was more than a little bit nervous about learning I had a neck baby or an evil twin or something.

On Good Friday, I chose to celebrate the chocolate rabbit rising from the dead by making Dawn and The Guy On My Couch go with me to my ultrasound. I had to promise them cheeseburgers, which, I can’t say I blame them for. Bargaining is an art form.

The ultrasound didn’t show any beating neck baby hearts or teeth or hair, from what I could tell, anyway.

“Your doctor should have the results in two business days,” the tech told me cheerfully as we walked out of the room.

Wait.

Two business days from today? Good Friday is a trading holiday (I’ve been in the financial industry too long, clearly), does that mean radiologists get it off too?

I didn’t know.

So when Monday rolled around, I spent it balled up on the couch, a bundle of nerves with kicky hair. By Monday afternoon, I decided I should call my endocrinologist…just to see if they had the results back. They did! OH HAPPY DAY!

I waited nervously.

I’d been told email = good.

Phone call = bad.

By 4:15 CST, the same time zone my MD lives in, I’d had enough – I called back. I HAD to know if I had a neck baby.

“This office is now closed. To reach the doctor on call…” I was livid. What the fuck kind of doctor CLOSES at 4PM on a MONDAY?

(answer: apparently my endocrinologist)

I thought about all the hackers I knew. Maybe one of THEM could get me my results. I can interpret them (*waves* HI MOM! Thanks for that nursing degree!) , I just needed to see them.

Okay, I thought, most doctors don’t actually leave when the office closes. I bet she’ll call with the results tonight.

When the phone rang as I was watching reruns of Sister Wives, at 8:30, I was just positive it was her. Nope. My mother. Asking how I was.

Eventually, I fell into a nervous sleep.

The following morning, I grabbed my iPad and frantically waded through 837 “Make your penis bigger” emails (responding to them, of course. Who DOESN’T want a bigger wang?). Nada. Fuck.

I plodded over to my computer, ready to put a call into the office when, *zing* it hit my email.

“Hi Rebecca,

Your results were normal.

Thanks!

Nurse’s Name”

Thank the Good Lord of Butter – I am not growing a neck baby.

Kinda sucks about the evil twin thing, tho. I could’ve used an evil alter-ego to blame shit on.

———-

So, when I’m not staple-gunning things to my walls and watching animated animals play the piano, I run a site you’ve heard me blather on about. It’s called, Band Back Together, which, like five people have noticed, is a direct riff off the Blues Brothers:

Here’s the plan: we get the band back together, do some gigs, earn some bread, bang!

Nothing? Hrms.

Okay, maybe it’s a Chicago thing.

Anyway, the site is a group blog where anyone (YES YOU) can write their stories – stories of anything. Reposts of older posts, new posts you don’t want to share on your own blog, whatever. We pair the posts with a metric fuckton of resource pages (anything from how-to cope with depression to love resources to how to cope with a rape)

(*waves* HI MOM! Thanks for the nursing degree! I’m finally using for things other than diagnosing myself with testicular cancer)

Anyway, this isn’t the elevator pitch for the site. This is an answer to a question that was posed to me via my Go Ask Aunt Becky Form (and yes, I know I need to get back into writing my weekly assvice column – I’ve just been…floundering a bit).

I was asked: “how do I get in on this funfest?” and I don’t have an email address to reply privately, so here goes.

See, Band Back Together only runs because we have 60ish people working behind the scenes. We do everything from our Wednesday #withtheband Twitter Parties to creating pages, to brainstorming new ideas, to fundraising, to commenting, to using social media, to editing.

It’s a big fucking operation. And it’s entirely volunteer run. We’re waiting on our federal non-profit paperwork, but at the moment, since we don’t do ads or other revenue streams, no one makes a cent. In fact, we PAY for server space. Not a big deal.

If you’d like to work with us, and know how to tune your email settings to filter out some of the email (which can be overwhelming at first), shoot chibi@bandbacktogether.com an email. She’ll get you hooked up.

We’re a big dysfunctional family, which means we always need more volunteers.

Please note that any offensive words I’ve used were only thrown in to more properly illustrate my point that Forums = full of asshole pinheads, not to offend anyone. When I’m trying to offend you, you’ll know it.

-Aunt Becky

—————–

Ignorant Newbie Asks Innocuous Question: “Why are hedgehogs underrepresented in today’s media?”

Guy Who’s Been Ar0nd For Eleventy-Bajillion Years Who Gets Snippy When Rules Aren’t Followed: “Please search the archives for an answer to this – it’s already been discussed.”

Ignorant Newbie: “I’ve searched the archives. I can only see a question about Kumquats in the media.”

Person Who Has JUST Discovered The Internet: “OMG. YOU GUYS! I just got an email about people with HIV who stick there dirty needles underneath your car handle! BE CAREFUL!”

Self-Proclaimed Grammar Nazi: “Please use the proper word – “it’s their,” not “there.” Using the wrong one makes you appear to be a toothless yokel.”

Woman Who Self-Identifies As “Feminist” And Uses Word To Bash All Other Women: “I’m amazed by the blatant sexism here. ARE YOU REFERRING TO RAPE? RAPE ISN’T FUNNY!”

Pedantic Guy Who Has To Pick Apart Whatever Has Been Said Regardless Of Whether It Has To Do With The Subject: “You say, “blatant sexism,” yet, I see no mention of gender. Or rape. Perhaps you are trying too hard.”

Guy Who Makes EVERYTHING Political: “Abortion is murder! Obama is to blame!”

Woman Who Blames Everyone For Being Dramatic And Pretends To Flounce Off: “OMG. Can we PLEASE stop being dramatic? HEDGEHOGS ARE CUTE!”

(this message has been removed by forum moderator)

Woman Who Self-Identifies As “Feminist” And Uses Word To Bash All Other Women: “HA! See? You just said RAPE. I SHOULD REPORT YOU TO THE POLICE!”

Self-Proclaimed Grammar Nazi: “It’s “sexual assault,” not “rape.” Please, get a dictionary, you slack-jawed FemiNazi.”

Forum Moderator: “Please read the rules of this forum. We do not tolerate threats – idle or otherwise. Also: foul language is not appreciated.

Pedantic Guy Who Has To Pick Apart Whatever Has Been Said Regardless Of Whether It Has To Do With The Subject: “What, pray tell, is an “idle threat?” Please explain.”

Guy Who Pops In Simply To Break The Rules: “I’m gonna kick your motherfucking ass.”

Woman Who Self-Identifies As “Feminist” And Uses Word To Bash All Other Women: “I am a woman. I can do anything you can do better. Therefore, I will kick YOUR ass, then report you to the police.”

Guy Whose Wife “Just Doesn’t Understand” Him: “Sighs, I wish my wife were feisty like that. My wife, well, she got fat and lazy after she popped out our kids.”

Guy With Badly Drawn Four-Leaf Clover Who Likes To Use His Irish Background To Grope Girls on St. Patrick’s Day but Never Has Anything to Say About the Conversation at Hand,” O’DOYLE RULES!”

¬†Girl Who Inappropriately Flirts With Everyone: “I got a hedgehog for you, baby, right here.”

Woman Who Self-Identifies As “Feminist” And Uses Word To Bash All Other Women: “You are a DISGRACE TO WOMEN EVERYWHERE, YOU WHORE.”

Guy With Badly Drawn Four-Leaf Clover Who Likes To Use His Irish Background To Grope Girls on St. Patrick’s Day but Never Has Anything to Say About the Conversation at Hand, “Hey baby, wanna cyber?”

Girl Who Inappropriately Flirts With Everyone: “24/F/Chicago.”

Guy Who Has Hooked Up With Inappropriately Flirty Girl Who Now No Longer Pays Attention To Him: “Sighs. I thought it was love. I knew I loved her. Why, o! why doesn’t she love me back?”

Chick Who Wants To Drive Traffic To Her Blog: “OMG, I just wrote something about this on my blog [insert link to unrelated blog entry].”

Guy Who Tries To Steer The Conversation Back To The Original Question: “Don’t you think Sonic the Hedgehog is big enough in today’s media?”

Guy Who Randomly Pops In To Hypocritically Tell Everyone That They’re Losers For Responding: “U R a bunch of losers.”

Woman Who Self-Identifies As “Feminist” And Uses Word To Bash All Other Women: “How dare you! You are clearly anti-women! We should burn you alive!”

Chick Who Wants To Drive Traffic To Her Blog: “Oh my GOD, I wrote about THAT too! [insert entirely unrelated blog entry link].”

Pedantic Guy Who Has To Pick Apart Whatever Has Been Said Regardless Of Whether It Has To Do With The Subject: “I cannot believe that anyone who talks in text-speak should be allowed on the Interwebs. You, sir, are the true loser.”

Guy Who Simply Likes To Start Shit: “If you’re such a feminist, why are you bashing another woman? Having a healthy sexuality is not the same as being a (as you put it) ‘whore.'”

Woman Who Self-Identifies As “Feminist” And Uses Word To Bash All Other Women: “Women should have healthy self-respect and not fawn all over any guy who looks at her twice. Just look at me! 35 and still a virgin! Why? I haven’t met the right guy yet.”

Chick Who Wants To Drive Traffic To Her Blog: “Also, I am running a contest. Go vote for me!!!!! [insert link to contest]”

Guy Who Simply Likes To Start Shit: “You’re a virgin because you still live at home with your Mom and her 45 cats. You probably have a “A Woman Needs A Man Like A Fish Needs A Bicycle” bumper sticker.”

Woman Who Self-Identifies As “Feminist” And Uses Word To Bash All Other Women: Mr. Muppets and Mr. Sprinkles are the only things that make my world worth living. And so what about my bumper sticker? ARE YOU DISCRIMINATING AGAINST WOMEN?”

Guy Who Simply Likes To Start Shit: “I bet you’re ugly as hell.”

Girl Who Inappropriately Flirts With Everyone: “I’m pretty sure no man would dare stick his dick inside you. There’s prolly barbed wire in your vagina.”

Woman Who Self-Identifies As “Feminist” And Uses Word To Bash All Other Women: “THIS IS AN ATTACK ON ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE.”

Guy Who Comes Onto The Board Simply To Whine About His Life: “I’d LIKE to respond to your question about hedgehogs, but my dog just died, my mother has cancer, I just got laid off, and my girlfriend left me for my best friend.”

Guy Who Simply Likes To Start Shit: “I bet you’re ugly too.”

Girl Who Inappropriately Flirts With Everyone: “Poor baby – wanna come over here? I got a webcam!”

Ignorant Newbie Tries To Steer The Conversation Back: “Uh, sorry about your Mom. Do you know much about the media and hedgehogs?”

Girl Who Is So Deadpan It’s Hard To Tell If She’s Being Serious: “Do hedgehogs really like shiny rings?”

Ignorant Newbie: “Uh, no. That’s just a video game.”

Girl Who Is So Deadpan It’s Hard To Tell If She’s Being Serious: “That’s bullshit. Hedgehogs ARE all blue, right?”

Ignorant Newbie: “Uh, no. That’s just a video game.”

Girl Who Is So Deadpan It’s Hard To Tell If She’s Being Serious: “Now I can see why the media doesn’t give a shit about hedgehogs – they’re boring as hell.”

Asshole Guy Who Occasionally Comes Around Simply To Use Inappropriate Words: “U R A Fag. Who gives a shit about those stupid rodents, you fucking r*tard.”

Ignorant Newbie: “I’m uh, not gay – I’m married with three kids. And I take offense to you using the “r” word.”

Woman Who Self-Identifies As “Feminist” And Uses Word To Bash All Other Women: “How DARE you use the word “fag!?!?!” You should be sued!!!!!!”

Asshole Guy Who Occasionally Comes Around Simply To Use Inappropriate Words: “Your wife is prolly a fag, too, assmuncher.”

Emo Teenager Who Whines About Her Life At Every Opportunity: “My life is so hard. My mom, like, makes me fucking go to school and shit. All I want to do is work at 7-11. I don’t need a GED for that. She’s such a bitch.”

Asshole Guy Who Occasionally Comes Around Simply To Use Inappropriate Words: “U R A Cunt.”

Girl Who Is So Deadpan It’s Hard To Tell If She’s Being Serious: “I cannot wait for you to find some new, enlightening words with which to bash us. Try Thesaurus.com.”

Forum Moderator: Asshole Guy Who Occasionally Comes Around Simply To Use Inappropriate Words has been banned.

Woman Who Self-Identifies As “Feminist” And Uses Word To Bash All Other Women And Is Now Self-Righteous: “I’ve also reported him to the police. I think using the r-word is illegal. I’m sending an email to his employer, his wife, and left a message on his Facebook.”

Ignorant Newbie Tries One More Time To Steer the Conversation Back: “So, uh, HEDGEHOGS anyone?”

*crickets*

——————

What am I missing here, Pranksters? I’ll be adding throughout the day.

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