Thursday, December 30, 2004

Stevo's year-end poll

When I started this blog, I had no idea what it would end up meaning to me - or you. And now, about 175,000 words later, I can't imagine life without it.

I guess I will never know exactly how much this blog has helped me - I've been living a life outside of it, too - but I do know that I've learned a lot about myself by doing it. It's been fun.

I do not know what the coming year will bring for me, but whatever it is, I hope to share it with you.

As I look back on the past year, certain posts stand out. I am always curious about which ones people like best (I've asked many of you personally), so it only makes sense to do a little poll.

Please review the following nominees and vote using the poll in the right sidebar.

"Contributing to the delinquency of a (hot) minor" (7/15/2004) Closed-door conference calls are fun!

"A peek into Steve's skeleton closet" (7/23/2004) Steverino, former fatty, helps out a kid being bullied by a current fatty and his current-fatty father. And, he awakens an old memory in the process.

"Over the hills and fart away" (7/27/2004) Bodily functions never cease to amuse.

"McSteverino's™: 36 37 Hotties Served!" (8/3/2004) If I blow a load, and the room is totally dark, does it still make a mess?

"When your best friends are dead people, it's time to start worrying" (8/18/2004) Steve goes to the cemetery and bonds with a few pals.

"Hi, my name is Steve, and I am a Twinkie® addict" (8/24/2004) Damn. High-carb snacks make me horny!

"Forty-three minutes after nine" (9/28/2004) Steve's mom dies. There will be no sequel, unless it's written by Stephen King.

"To mom, from Steve" (10/2/2004) What would a year-end poll be without a tear-jerker?

"That was quick..." (10/8/2004) I like this post. I like it a lot. I like how I repeat the same phrases over and over again, dozens of times.

"Acing our exams" (12/14/2004) My favorite sex scene of them all.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Did I ever mention that I hate whining?

I WAS going to post my year-end poll today, but, because of popular ball-breaking demand, I decided to fill you in on the denoument of the Christmas story today. Keep an eye out for my poll, and please vote when it's up!

And next time, suck it UP, people!


"May I speak to, Marti?"

"This is."

"Marti, my name is Steve. I'm dating your daughter Stephanie."

"Yeeeees, Steve!" she says. "How nice to talk to you! I feel like I know you!"

"Thank you! It's nice to talk to you, too! Happy holidays."

"Same to you!"

"Let me tell you why I am calling. I had this idea for a Christmas present for Stephanie."

"All right..."

"My father gave me a shoebox full of pictures of me. Baby pictures, young kid pictures, and so on. And I was wondering if you had a lot of pictures of Stephanie from when she was growing up."

"Stephanie is the older one, so yes, we took a lot of pictures of her, especially when she was little. Not so much as she got older."

"Here's my idea: I want to make a scrapbook where I put our pictures next to each other in chronological order. Her baby pictures next to mine, and so on."

"Oh, that's a lovely idea, Steve! The only thing is, a lot of these pictures are in albums or frames already, so I couldn't give them to you."

"Hmm. Do you have a computer with a scanner? And a color printer?"

"Why, yes, but the scanner never worked right. I couldn't get it installed."

"If I come up there and install your scanner for you, and buy you some photo printing paper, would you be willing to spend a few hours with me and go through the pictures?"

"Yes! Wonderful!"


Thursday, December 16.

I am extremely busy at work. But I've announced that I am not going to be in today, and I'm sticking with that. It's incredibly tempting to simply try to divert this to another day, but I need to get this taken care of as soon as I can. There is never going to be a convenient day to spend six hours driving.

I make the trip up in two and a half hours, speeding the whole way.

Marti is very gracious. When I get there, she's already got her photo albums off the shelf and lined up neatly on the dining room table, along with framed pictures.

The scanner installed easily. I just deinstalled it, rebooted, and let XP handle it from there. It took maybe ten minutes, max. Marti was grateful. "I was all ready to bring that stupid thing back!" she says. I am amazed how paralyzed some people get when their computers don't work, and how appreciative they are when I fix them.

I start out the album with baby pictures: Stephanie under a blanket, Steve asleep in his crib. I put Steph's picture in the upper left corner, mine in the lower right, and in the middle I write a caption: "The beginnings...."

I don't think about our age difference that much, but these baby pictures really drive it home for me. Mine is from 1970. The color is washed out, and there's a white border around the photo. Steph's is from 1981, and you can really see the difference. The images are sharp, the colors crisp. I feel like I'm robbing the cradle all of a sudden.

One of Marti's favorite pictures is of Stephanie talking on a play telephone. "She used to play with that phone all the time," Marti says. "She'd be walking around the house, blah, blah, blah, all day long." I scan it and print off a nice copy.

Then I dig through my pictures, and sure enough, I uncover a picture of little Steve, sitting in grandma's lap, dialing a play phone. "A-HA!" I say. Is this great or not!?

"Ohhhh, WONDERFUL!" Marti shrieks. "This is gonna be sooo cute!"

I mount the pictures in the album. In between, I write, "A play date? I'll have my people call your people!"

It's a lot harder finding pictures of us as we got older, as you might imagine. But I still manage to find some good ones. One set that sticks out in my mind is 14-year-old Steph, skinny and gawky, with a mouthful of braces, and 12-year-old Steve, fat and jolly, with a mouthful of....something (Doritos, probably). We both look kinda goofy, but we're smiling effusively. We're happy, despite our appearances.

As I come to the end of the album, I am really happy with it. It feels like I'm...telling a story. I like the idea that our lives are intertwined somehow, that we went through a lot of the same things, and that maybe I was not really as alone as I thought I was.

There's a picture of Stephanie from last year at a formal dinner, with a tight black dress and pearls. Her hair is up in a bun with one single strand hanging down in front of her right eye. I have never seen Steph that dressed up, and she is absolutely gorgeous. I scan it and print it, then stare at the picture for a long time.

"Pretty, isn't she?" Marti says.


I find a picture of me from my brother's wedding, in a black tux, microphone in hand, making a toast. I'm gesturing with my finger, and smiling my little Frank Sinatra half-smile. I like the way I look in this one.

"Look at this match!" I say. "We're both in formal wear!"

"OOOOO, you did it again, Steve! How cute! What a HANDSOME couple!"

"FORMALLY known as Steve and Steph," I write in between the pictures.

On the second-to-last page of the album, I place a picture of me jogging. It's shaky and out of focus, but you can tell it's me. And in the middle of the last page, I put the only picture I have of Steph and me, from this past Thanksgiving. We're squeezed into a recliner, her looking beseechingly at me, me looking straight-faced at the camera. It might as well be an ad for Barcardi or Marlboro.

Underneath it, I write, "Stephanie....I am glad I "ran into" you! Merry Christmas! Love, Steve"

Corny, I know. But she liked it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A mildly unwell Christmas (conclusion)

Christmas Day, 2004

There's something great about sleeping in on Christmas morning. I like the idea that there is a pile of presents waiting for me downstairs, and I am blissfully snoozing away. I can wake up, relax, and maybe even eat a little something, all the while giddy with the anticipation of what I'm about to get my hands on.

That anticipation is almost as good as the presents themselves. The anticipation got me through the endless Christmas masses at church and the centuries that came between December 1st and 24th when I was a kid. And it's the anticipation that I feel today, as soon as I open my eyes and see that it's morning.

Steph and I never made it off the couch. I wake up on my stomach, with her on top of me. Yes, I mean right on TOP of me, mounted on me like a backpack.

She's awake too. She rolls off me. "Merry Christmas!" We kiss. She curls up next to me. "Thank you for staying with me. I'm so glad I got to wake up next to you today," she says.

"You mean on top of me."

"Yeah! How did I wind up on your back?" she asks.

"Maybe you're part monkey," I say.

It's 8:30. We get up and make coffee, and Marti comes down. "Did you kids sleep down here?"

"Yeah, we never made it upstairs," I say.

"Awww. Well, I had the bed all made up for you up there!"

"I know."

The phone rings. Marti leaves the room to pick it up.

Marti comes back into the living room with the phone. "Talk to your uncle," she says, handing it to Steph.

"Merry Christmas!" Steph says. "Yes. Yeah, he's right here. He's leaving in a little while to see his dad. No, I'm staying with mom."

She pauses. "REALLY?! Ok, hold on." She turns to Marti. "Mom, Uncle Jerry wants to know if you want to spend the day over there so I can go home with Steve."

"I guess so."


2:00. Dad's house.

Everyone is here, and there is a pile of presents for Steph and I. We decided not to open our gifts for each other once we found out we were coming here. The anticipation, again.

"Ladies first," I say, handing her a box.

"Oooo, heavy!" she says. She unwraps it. It's the car stereo, her warmup gift.

"OH my God!" she says, holding up the box. "Now my stereo is officially worth more than my car!" We laugh.

"Your turn," Steph says. She hands me a small box.

I open it. It's a pair of $200 Ray-Ban's. I had tried them on at the mall with her one day.

"Steph!" I look at her.

"I snuck back in there after you tried them on that day," she says.

"These were expensive," I say.

"You looked SO sexy in those things, it just wasn't an option." she kisses me.

"Awwwww," everyone says.

"Thanks, Steph."

We open the gifts from my family. One of them is a basket from the Body Shop for Steph from Chris and Janet. "Do I see scented massage oil?" Steph says.

"Yes," says Janet. "I picked that out!"

"You're welcome, STEVE!" Chris says, to big laughs.

"Yeah, why do I get the feeling this gift is not for me," Steph says.

"Here you go," Steph says, handing me a huge, flat rectangular package. I open it.

It's an oil painting. I recognize it instantly. I know the jagged rocks, the foamy, splashing waves, the wispy clouds. It's the beach at Newport.

I look at Steph. "Where did you get this?"

"I painted it," she says. I knew she liked to paint, but I just figured she was so busy with school that she didn't do it anymore.

"So you went down there?"

"Meg and I drove down and took pictures."

"But that's a two-hour drive."

"Three," she says. "We hit traffic. And it was kinda hard to find that beach, too. You never told me exactly where it was; you just said it's where the people go to fly the kites. So I stopped at a few places and asked around. And then, as soon as I saw it, I KNEW it."

"Yeah, that's it, all right," I say.

"Your description was perfect," Steph says.

"Steph, I really appreciate you going to all this trouble," I say. "God only knows how many hours this took you, and I know you're busy." I feel myself getting all teary-eyed.

"You're quite welcome, hon."

"Open yours," I say, handing her her last box.

She's been eyeing this box all day long. I can tell she has no clue what's inside.

She tears the paper and opens the box. The room goes silent.

She stares at what's inside for a long time, turning it over, examining it from every angle, absorbing its every detail.

"Oh, Steve!" she says.

Monday, December 27, 2004

A Mildly Unwell Christmas

I'm terribly behind in my blogging, and since I would like to tell you about my Christmas sometime before June, I've decided to skip ahead and do so. Don't worry; I'll go back and tell you everything you missed later this week.


Friday, December 17

"Come to my house for Christmas," Steph says, blinking up at me coquettishly. Her irises are big and warm, flawlessly hazel. She wears no eyeliner and no mascara, but when I look at her eyes up close, I still get butterfiles sometimes.

It's awfully hard to say no when she asks me for anything this way. "My dad's been asking me to go down there," I say.

"I knowww," she says. It's a little-girl voice, kind of like Lila used to use. Steph almost never does that kind of thing, so I'm a little caught off guard. Seems she's catching me off guard a lot lately.

"It's the first Christmas without mom, so I really want to be with the family."

"Yeah, that's true," she says. "I really wanted to wake up next to you on Christmas morning, though."

That gives me an idea.

I NEVER get laid on Christmas. The last time was with Angie, and that was well over 10 years ago.

If you have a girlfriend, and you go anywhere near her on Christmas day, the biggest holiday of the year, meeting her family, or having her meet yours, you are sending a signal that Things Are Progressing. If you want to send that signal, fine. But if you don't, watch out. That is why I am very careful not to see girlfriends on Christmas day. The result is that it's been a very long time since I've had any yuletide booty whatsoever. But this year could be an exception.

Steph has been a great girlfriend since the beginning. I could not have asked for any more from her. She's given me lots of space, and lots of time for us to get closer. She hasn't pressured me or issued ultimatums about the relationship. She's never asked me how we stand or what I am thinking about us. Somehow, she KNOWS what I am thinking at all times; it's almost frightening. But it's also comforting, because I don't have to discuss it with her.

She hardly ever asks me for anything. When we go out, she's always offering to pay, even though she is totally broke. I've offered her money for bills or expenses, and she's rebuffed me each time as if I were trying to get her to drink a cup of piss. She never accepts rides or favors of any kind, unless I do something without asking, and then she accepts under protest. It's actually pretty amazing that she is asking me to spend the holiday with her; her style is to make her wishes known, and then to let me make the offer.

Knowing all this as I do, it's awfully hard to turn her down. But it's going to be a hard Christmas this year without mom, and I would really like to be with the family. If not for me, then for my dad and brothers. I definitely have to be there, at some point....

"How about if I come home with you on Christmas eve, and then leave in the morning?"

"So you're asking me to compromise," she says.

"Yes. It's a good 200 miles up there, so I would have to leave by 11 to get home in time for dinner."

"Christmas eve better be a GOOD night," she says, smiling.

"Just don't you worry about that," I say.

"Thanks for doing this," she says, hugging me. "It's just me and mom this year."

Steph's brother Robbie is visiting his girlfriend out of state, and her dad died a few years ago in a boating accident.

"You're gonna love mom. She's really cool."


Christmas eve, 7:00pm.

Steph and I drive north for the better part of three hours. It's a very scenic ride, and not only was there no traffic; there were times when ours were the only two cars in sight.

Steph's mom, Marti, opens the door before we even reach the steps. "Hiiiiiiii! Merry Christmas!" she chirps, squeezing Steph tightly.

She turns to me. "And YOU must be the handsome stranger!"

"I'm Steve, how do you do?" I say, extending my right hand.

"Get that hand outta here," she says, hugging me.

It's a good acting job on both our parts. I've already met Marti, and, in fact, spent the better part of a day with her a little over a week ago. It was something I had to do in connection with Steph's Christmas present, because after much soul-searching, I finally figured out what to get her. But that's another story.

Marti is an attractive woman in her late 40's. She's thin and very short, maybe five feet, if that. The first thing I notice is that she resembles Steph, bodywise; her legs and butt look a lot like Stephanie's, taut and shapely. She's got red hair, and though her teeth are terribly crooked, it somehow doesn't make her any less pretty.

The house is small, much smaller than mine. Everywhere you look, there are Christmas decorations: Garland. Stockings. Mini-Santa Claus's. Nativity scenes. Wreaths. Pine-scented candles burning. And Christmas trees, lots and lots of them, big and small, real and fake, even a ceramic one, are in most every room.

We sit by the fireplace and chat the night away. I am sitting on the couch, and Steph is below me on the floor, holding my right hand in hers. The smell of the candles wafts over to me and mixes nicely with the smoky scent from the fire as we exchange Christmas stories, and I realize that we are making a really nice Christmas memory, just the three of us.

Marti turns in around 10:30, and I run out to the car, and come back with gift-wrapped box.

"What's this? I thought we were opening presents tomorrow!"

"We are. But that one needs to be opened tonight."

"Uh-oh," she says. "By the way, you BETTER not have spent a fortune on me for Christmas."

"I didn't."

"Yeah, right, Steve. I know you. You probably went nuts."

"Well, only slightly nuts."

"You might be a little mad at me, because I kind of bought you something big. Just promise you won't get angry?"

"Oh, no. Steph, you have no money! How much did you spend?"


"Will you let me give you some money if you're a little short?"


"Will you tell me if you're having trouble?"

"I'll tell you, but I am NOT taking money from you."


She opens the box. It says "Victoria's Secret" on the top.

She shifts her eyes to me without moving her head, smirking. "How did I KNOW you were gonna do this, you horny toad?"

"How do you know it's something sexy? It could be power tools, for all you know. "

"From YOU? It's something sexy."

She opens the box. It's a lace merrywidow, which, for those of you who don't study the catalogs like I do, is a red and black camisole top with matching v-string panties, garters, and black stockings. Oh, and there's a Santa hat there, too, of course.

"So I suppose you want me to try this on."

"Just to see if it fits right. Then you can take it off immediately."

She disappears into the bathroom, then comes back wearing the outfit. It fits her perfectly, with just the right amount of cleavage and midsection showing.

"My mother BETTER not come back downstairs," she says.

I know the girls in the catalog always seem to wear high heels with these outfits, but there is something irresistible about seeing Steph padding around in her bare feet while wearing sexy clothes.

"God, Steph, you are so beautiful," I say.

"So does this mean that if I buy you something sexy, you have to wear it?"

"Such as?"

"Such as a thong, such as a Speedo..."

"Speedo's are only worn by gay men, and men weighing over 300 pounds," I say.

She laughs. "Tough luck."

"OK, If you get me something, I'll wear it."

"Thank you, baby." She sits across my lap, and all at once her face gets dark and intense. She kisses me, holding my face tightly in her hands.

The fire pops. We both jump, then collapse together on the couch, laughing.

She is laying right on top of me, staring at me nose to nose. "You're gonna make me fall in love with you, you know that?" she says.

"You're not doing so bad yourself," I say. My stomach does cartwheels as I realize that she actually feels so strongly about me. I knew it, sure, but hearing it makes a big difference.

I'm not repulsed, or scared, or angry that she said it, either. I'm...flattered. I'm happy. I'm monogamous - willingly!

Maybe it's time to change the title of this blog.

My hand is underneath the elastic of her panties, running over her skin, marveling at the firm curvy landscape of her backside.

"What are you doing," she asks.

"I'm feeling your nice ass."

"Oh yeah?" she says huskily.

"And getting majorly turned on, too."

"So pull my undies off me, then." So I do, and I take my own off, too.

We flop back down on the sofa. She throws a blanket over us. "The stairs are squeaky, but just in case mom comes down and we don't hear her..."

Her pussy is hot against my skin. She rubs it against me, and I am throbbing so hard that it almost hurts.

"What are you gonna do to me, lover?"

"I'm gonna fuck your little pussy until you scream."

"Oh really," she says.

"Yeah, definitely."

I start to reach for my pants on the floor, and then stop.

"Are we ok today?"

"Yeah. My friend is coming tomorrow," she says, "So you're getting a Christmas present a little early."

She lowers herself onto me, her fists against my chest, her eyes rolling back into her head.

I put my hands on her ass. I like how her cheeks are just the right size for my hands, as if they were made especially for me. She is pumping away at me just fine, thank you, but it turns me on knowing that I am pulling her towards me, making sure I am as deeply inside of her as I can possibly be.

She stops and sits upright for a moment, removing the top part of the merrywidow, which, truth be told, takes some doing, and tosses it aside.

She's totally naked now, looking seductively down at me through half-closed eyelids. The blanket slides off, and somehow it feels even hotter than before.

I grab her breasts in my hands. Again, a perfect fit. I squeeze, and she moans softly in ascent. The fire is roaring now, big, bright and glowing with a hot orange.

It's been a while since we've been together, and she is tight. I can feel her stretching to accomodate me. "I love your fucking cock," she whispers. "You are NICE and hard."

I look down and watch her curvy hips as she slides them back and forth over me. "Are you trying to make me come," she says.

Before I can answer, she has got two handfuls of my skin, digging her nails into me, and is in the throes of a huge orgasm.

I look up at her, her mouth curled into a grimace, her eyes squeezed shut. And yeah, her Santa hat is still on.

I watch my cock as it disappears into her, slick and gooey, and I know I am going to come like crazy. I go to pull out, but why should I?

There is something alluring about blowing a load inside of a girl. I guess it's the intimacy of knowing that you're actually leaving a part of yourself inside her body. The release is amazing, a big, wet, shuddering orgasm that takes over my whole body.

"Merry Christmas," she says, when she finally catches her breath.

To be concluded...

Friday, December 24, 2004

I wonder if she comes with sprinkles...

The more I think about Stephanie wanting to fuck my brother Chris, the more I am ok with it. Chris looks a lot like me, except taller and darker. If she's attracted to me, of course she is going to be attracted to him.

I am sure she was talking about Chris, too. I remember the two of them sitting on the couch on Thanksgiving, chatting away. When Chris starts talking with his hands, it means he's really into the conversation, and I could see his gestures all the way from across the room. Oh, and I saw him checking out her black-skirted booty when she got up to come to the dinner table.

So she likes him, and he likes her. Am I jealous? Am I worried that she's slipping off to his house, nailing him in between study sessions? Am I sorry I brought up the topic of who she wants to have sex with?

No, no, and no.

I trust her, just like she trusts me. Maybe I am a complete idiot, but I have no doubt, no doubt at all, that Steph would not do that to me. What's more, I have even less doubt that Chris would cheat on his wife. Chris is one of the most straitlaiced people I know. He won't even cheat at solitaire.

I am happy that Steph and I had that talk. We took on a pretty thorny topic - having sex with other people - and we were totally open and honest with each other. It's liberating knowing that I can tell her anything and that she can do the same with me.

Wait a minute. Is your perverted pal Stevo actually involved in something vaguely resembling a healthy relationship?


Friday, December 17.

I love Angelo's Restaurant. Or, I should say, "restaurants", because they just opened another one down the street from my house. The first one is right near my office, and I eat there whenever I can. The pizza is enough to give you a stiffy.

You can tell how good a restaurant is by checking out the weight of the clientele. If the career fatso's with the tractor-trailer asses are squeezing their walrus bellies into the booths, eat there. These people are going to die young, but they know where the good food is. There are always gravitationally-challenged people at Angelo's.

It's about 7:00, and Steph and I decide to hit the new Angelo's by my house. Mario, who I know from the original location, greets me warmly and shows us to a nice table. He pulls out Steph's chair, and looks her slowly up and down as she sits. His face goes all dark and dreamy, like he wants to fuck her right there on the table.

He looks back up at me. I smile slyly and give him a little nod. He smiles back. We just had a whole conversation without saying a word:

Steve: Hot, isn't she?

Mario: Yeah, I wouldn't mind doing her!

Steve: But you never will, you greasy guinea bastard!

"Marissa will be with you in just a minute," Mario says.

Marissa comes over, and right away I want to fuck her brains out.

She's 5'2", and definitely Italian: Olive skin, black hair and deep brown eyes. Her hair is pulled back into a tight ponytail, and she's wearing black jeans and a matching shirt.

We order wine, and she turns around to leave. Her ass is dreamy; round and juicy and smooth under her tight pants. Above the waistline of her jeans and below her shirt, I can see a small patch of skin on her lower back.

I think about that patch, that sliver of flesh, all night. How that one little sliver that is out in the open, for everyone to see, is so close to something so heavenly. That sliver makes me think about seeing her naked, about pounding the hell out of her from behind, while her bubble ass jiggles as our bodies slap together.

There's a right way and a wrong way to check out a waitress's ass when you're on a date, guys. It's pretty much at or close to eye level, so you just have to shift your gaze to wherever she is as she's walking away.

The key is distraction. Lift your water glass to your mouth and slurp ice. Loudly swish your drink with your straw. Cough. Get her to focus her attention elsewhere.

Personally, I just get this disinterested look on my face, then glance over at the chick's rump roast, then look away. It's also good to focus on two or three other people besides the chick, so it looks like you aren't fixated on the girl that you are actually fixated on.

Steph is digging through her purse for something as Marissa walks off, so I take a nice, long gander at her gluteus. I've got the disinterested look and everything. You see? There's never a need to get caught looking at girl's asses.

"Were you looking at her ass?"


"I may have scanned it briefly as I took in the overall ambience of the establishment," I say, helpfully.

She laughs. "You would've made an awesome lawyer, Steve." I've heard that before, too.

I could fuck Marissa. I know I could. It wouldn't even be hard. It would be simple.

She's just a kid, maybe 19 or 20. I find it easy to flatter girls that age. And they tend to like aggressiveness, too.

I could do this right now, while I am on a date. I've done it before.

I could get up and walk to the back of the restaurant, towards the men's room, and then, when I was safely out of sight, I would turn back towards the server station and walk at just the right pace so that I arrive there at the same time she does.

She'd have her head down, entering an order into the computer or putting away menus. I would touch her elbow or her tricep - somewhere on her arm, for sure - and she'd look up at me, a little startled.

Hey! How's it goin', I'd say, as if she were my next-door neighbor, or a friend from junior high.

Hi, she would say back, with a sidelong look, gazing at me suspiciously.

And I'd ask her if she's been working here for quite a while, or if it's always this busy on a [insert day here].

Hopefully, she'd give me an in, something that would remind me of a story, or a joke, something that would stick with her. Maybe she'd mention her other job, or how her car broke down and she's been bumming rides all week, or her crazy day at school.

I'd better get back, I'd say, motioning to the table. I'd love to take you out sometime.

A lot of times they say no. This one wouldn't. She'd blush, or stammer, or ask what about your girlfriend? And I'd clarify that she isn't my girlfriend, shaking my head dismissively, even though she is.

She'd write her number on the corner of a napkin or a grill slip. This one is a "Marissa", but she could just as easily be a "Shannon" or a "Tyler" or a "Dakota". She'd probably draw a little smiley face next to her name. I'd look at it and muse that oh yeah, I didn't even get your name before, did I? And she'd remember that. But it was all part of the plan. I love not asking girls their names. What can I say? I'm a Last Tango fan.

The whole transaction would take three minutes. Surgical and precise. I'd take a leak, and head back to the table, and my date would never know. It would be easy; totally, completely, effortless. Just like taking a dictionary from George Bush.

Then I remember what I said about The Habit.

When I was in high school, sometimes I'd get home and find a fresh, unopened half-gallon of Cookies n' Cream in the freezer. I'd grab an ogre-sized spoon, sit down, and eat it all. The entire fucking thing in one sitting. Now, I resist the temptation, and I have been for so long that I hardly notice the craving anymore.

Today, Marissa is the ice cream. And you know what? I'm going to resist her, too. Her, and her cheerleader-style ponytail, and her sliver of back-flesh, and her straight, immaculate teeth, and her rideable ass.

"You ok?" Steph says. "You look very...pensive."

Oh, it's ok. Just thinking about boinking the waitress.

"I was trying to think of something to drink to," I say.

She holds up her glass. "Merry Christmas," she says, smiling.

"Merry Christmas."

....and a merry Christmas to all of you, too.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Asking and telling

If you think I am (was) bad with the ladies, you should hear about Dom.

I have never met a more conscience-less, cold, disconnected person in my life, at least when it comes to relationships. He'll screw the hell out of some young hottie one night, tell her he loves her, then fuck someone else the next night, drilling the hell out of her as the first one calls him on his cell phone. He might get a good laugh out of it, but that's about it. He never feels guilty.

Dom says he's lost count, but he's been with at least 80 or 90 women. Back when I didn't know him very well, he claimed to have nailed THREE girls during one convention, which was three days. He's been truthful with me all along, as far as I know, so I think he's telling the truth. I have to admit, that is impressive.

I've seen Dom in action with girls. He has a way of looking at them, narrowing his eyes as they speak to him, as if they are saying something that is so interesting that he can hardly comprehend it. He'll say "really?" just when he should, or come up with a good joke at just the right time. As I've said, Dom hardly ever raises his voice, but he's somehow aggressive at the same time. He's not like me, asking a girl to go for a walk; he'll ask her to come home with him! And I've actually seen it work.

I don't know why Dom behaves this way. Maybe he's got some bizarre backstory like I do. I've never asked him about it. From time to time, he'll muse, "DAMN I love to fuck." Maybe he doesn't have issues; maybe he's just a horny bastard.

Dom and I have been hanging out a lot lately. All that competitiveness he had early on is gone. He's turned into a trusted associate. Yes, he works for me, but I don't like introducing anyone as "my employee"; it makes me sound imperious. I usually just say, "This is my associate, Dom." I think Dom appreciates it.

Every once in a while, Dom will open up about his brother or grandmother. He's very interested in my family, and always asks how my dad is doing without mom around. He asks about my neice, my brothers. He remembers things. I find myself saying, "Gee, isn't he a thoughtful guy?" It's flattering that he is interested in my life. And then it hits me: so this is how he does it. THAT is how he makes the girls feel like they are the only ones in the room. Yeah, I guess I do that too, to an extent.

Wednesday, December 15

I'm uneasy about tonight, because I think Dom might hook up with some one-nighter, and then I'll have information that Dom is cheating on Steph's best friend, and I'll be torn about whether or not to tell Steph. As far as I am concerned, it's don't ask, don't tell, but she probably will ask. Stephanie is no dummy, and she doesn't like Dom. She'll ask eventually.

Still, I really could use a little break, so I decide to go with Dom anyway.

We head over to a place called the East Side Brew House, a little gin mill that recently changed ownership. The place is tiny, and it's packed. The bartender scurries back and forth with a towel over his shoulder, mixing drinks and making change. The only hint of Christmas decor is a five-foot string of silver garland taped sloppily to the mirror over the bar.

The bartender knows Dom, and brings him a whiskey sour without asking. I order a Diet Coke, and Dom curls his lip at me. "Give him a Sam Adams Light," Dom says.

He turns to me. "It's a little place. We shouldn't sit at the bar if we're not drinking alcohol."

"That's you, Dom, the Emily Post of lotharios," I say.

An old neighbor of mine comes up to order a drink. We shake hands and exchange "Merry Christmas's", and he goes right into the story of his wife's cheating, and his, and their subsequent divorce.

It's a decent story. A half-hour passes. I turn around, and Dom is talking to a beautiful blonde. It's always blondes with Dom, always, always. That's when you know a guy is a successful womanizer: When he not only gets laid, but he does it with one specific kind of girl. Some guys are out there just taking whatever the hell they can get.

Any minute now, I figure Dom is going to come over and ask me to run interference for him by hitting on blondie's ugly friend. NO way I'm doing that tonight. It's bad enough I'm getting stuck in the middle between Meg and Stephanie. But he doesn't ask. It looks like she's alone, strangely enough.

My friend leaves, and I sip beer and watch ESPN on the 32-inch TV that's bolted to the ceiling. I'm getting bored. I wish I had my car. Why did I let Dom drive, again?

I feel a hand on my shoulder. "Steve, this is Andrea, Andrea, Steve, my boss."

"Hiyeeee!" she says. Jesus Christ. A total airhead.

We talk for a while. She is totally stupid, empty and vacuous, with not one single redeeming quality. Except a nice body. Every so often, her strapless silver dress slides down and I see a juicy chunk of boob before she pulls it back up. It's the only entertainment this girl's going to be tonight.

It's midnight. Andrea goes to the bathroom. I lean in to Dom. "You want me to take a cab, man?"

"What? No! No, Steve! Of course not! You come home with me!"

"OK. Do you have that CD I needed for my computer?"


Andrea asked me all about work on the way to Dom's house. She was talking to me more than him, for God's sake. She is so annoying that I can hardly stand it: Her voice is high and whiny, and she talks too loud. I hope Dom has soundproof walls.

Dom's house. "Here's that CD," Dom says. I grab it. I can't wait to get the hell out of here.

Andrea chuckles and grabs Dom in a tight hug, kissing him passionately, their bodies superglued together. Dom leads her to the bedroom and closes the door.

It would've been nice if I didn't see anything, but I did.

If Steph asks me, I'm telling her.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Thank you, Mr. Gates, may I have another?

Thanks to HijackThis and the many computer whizzes (without attitude problems) out there working apparently for free, I got my PC 90% of the way back. So now you guys get to sit back and enjoy today's entry!


At the party, Steph did a great job of making sure the house didn't get too messy, because she knew how that would stress me out. Someone would step on a Dorito, and she'd be there in 30 seconds, picking up the little orange pieces from the carpet.

Stephanie GETS IT. That's why I don't object to her sleeping over so much. She knows to give me a wide berth in the morning, and not to distract me in any way while I ponder how I'm going to handle the 347 nasty, combative phone calls I'll get that day. Of course, walking by me barefoot with her "Monkey Business" panties and t-shirt is distracting, but in a good way...

1:00. Dom has sobered up enough to drive. We walk him and Meg to the door and say our goodbyes. He hugs me.

Heidi grabs her coat and heads for the door, too. I've been thinking about this moment ever since she kissed me. I've wondered what our goodbye would be like, what Steph would say. And I've replayed a thousand times the feeling of her tits pressed against me, hard, as she shoved her tongue in my mouth.

Yeah, I definitely wouldn't mind fucking Heidi.

"Steve, thanks so much for having the party," she says, kissing my cheek. She gives me a tight-lipped grin, the impersonal kind of smile you give to an old lady as you hold a door open for her. It's the same smile she's given me a thousand times before at work. Whatever electricity was flowing between me and Heidi earlier tonight is totally gone, at least for now.

She kisses Stephanie and leaves. Steph immediately turns to me and practically collapses into my arms. She's tired. "I had fun," she says.

"Me, too. Thanks for helping out so much."


1:30. We're lying in bed, me staring up at the ceiling, her curled up next to me with her head against my neck.

"I didn't like that game," she said.

"Spin the bottle?"

"Yeah. Heidi pissed me off. YOU pissed me off!"

"How did I piss you off?"

"You enjoyed it way too much. You put your hand on her ass!"

"No I didn't!"

"Yes you did! I saw you! It was only for a second, but you did it. Ass grabber!" she says, punching my arm playfully.

"And you weren't exactly kicking and screaming when Dom pulled you closer, either."

"At least I didn't put my tongue in his mouth."

"Heidi did that to me!"

"I know. I hate Heidi. She's such a bitch."

"You don't like her?"

"No! I hate that whole airhead act she puts on too."

"I don't think that's an act."

"Meg has known her since college. She only ever does that in front of guys. If a guy is not around, she's Miss Professional. Then a guy shows up and it's 'Oh my gaaaad, oh my gaaad, can you belieeeeeeve it?!'," she says, mockingly.

She sounds exactly like Heidi. I almost fall out of bed laughing.

And now that she says it, I think she may be on to something. I've never seen Heidi do the airhead thing without a man around.

"I'm serious," she says. "I swear she's trying to steal you away from me."

"Come ON, Steph. Do you really think that she thinks that whole motormouth thing is ATTRACTIVE to guys? And wasn't she doing it on the phone with you this morning? There was no guy on the phone!"

"She knew you were here. She wanted to talk to you. Did you see what she had on?"

"It was a little tight."

"A LITTLE tight? She exploits her boobs!"

"I don't like her boobs. I like yours."

"Yeah, RIGHT. You guys were drooling over her boobs all night. PERverts!"

"Nah, I like yours," I say, kissing her neck.

"Can I ask you something," she says, ignoring my kisses.

"Hm?" Still kissing.

"Would you ever have sex with Heidi?"

"Nope." Immediate answer. It's like a hot stove reflex, guys. God help you if you hesitate on that one.

"No, I mean, if you didn't know me."

I stop kissing her. "If I didn't know YOU, I wouldn't know HER." Clever, eh?

"You know what I mean, Steve. What if I didn't exist? What if you met her at a bar somewhere? Would you sleep with her?"

"Who could sleep with THAT voice? It's enough to wake somebody out of a coma! She ought to work at the hospital!"

"Seriously. Tell me."

"Steph, come on."

"I mean it. I want to know. You promised me!" she says. "You said you'd be honest always."

"She's cute. She has a nice body." Notice, I'm not answering the question.

"Answer the question," she says.

Sometimes I hate dating a future lawyer.

"Would you sleep with Dom?"


"OK! OK! Yes. I would probably have sex with her. IF you didn't exist. And if I could muzzle her somehow."

There's no probably about it, guys. I would fuck her for days. But I had to make myself look as apathetic about it as I could.

"OK," she says. "Dom? He's cute. I don't think I'd have sex with him. He seems kind of sneaky and creepy. From what Meg says."

"Who WOULD you have sex with?"


"Besides me."

"Ricky Martin."

"Somebody we know. Who would you have sex with that we know?"


There must be someone, otherwise she would have just said, "no one".

"Remember, be honest," I say.

"And you don't exist?" she asks.

"I was never born."

She pauses for a long time. "There is one guy that we know who I would probably have sex with."


"Your brother."

Merry fuckin' Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Calling all geeks

I know you all want to read about what happened after I swapped spit with lil' Heidi, but I have been up since 5:30 trying to fix my computer, which has shit the bed on me again.

I can see my wallpaper, but no icons, no start bar, nothing, can't click my mouse, so I'm just sitting there staring at Mount Pinatubo or whatever that picture is.

Seriously, email or IM me at work if you have any ideas and I will post as soon as I can.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Spin the bottle dice

Saturday, December 11.

"Did you forget?" Stephanie asks.

"Forget what?" I reply.

"I KNEW it!" she smiles. "We have plans with the whole group tonight."

"Oh, THAT."

We are a clique of sorts, the five of us: Me, Steph, Meg, Dom and Heidi. We don't hang out much, but we're always sending funny e-mails around or ringing each other's cell phones to find out how the week is going.

We've been planning this night for quite some time now. Everyone is coming to my place to play trivial pursuit, have a few drinks, and celebrate the holidays.

Stephanie slept over last night. She pretty much lives here on the weekends, but she's always out somewhere studying. And during the week, she's at her apartment, which is a good distance from here, so I actually don't see her as much as you might think. I'm really happy when she is around.

"I was going to offer to help clean up for the party," she says, "and then I realized who I was dealing with."

We both laugh. My house is spotless from top to bottom. It's been decorated for Christmas since the day after Thanksgiving, when I took the well-marked Christmas boxes down from their designated spot in my attic, unpacked wreaths, lights, and decorations, and placed them in their pre-ordained places throughout my house and lawn. There is really nothing to do to get ready, except shop for a few last minute things.

"Oh!" she says. "Heidi was supposed to make her bean dip! I wonder if she remembered!"

She picks up the phone and dials. "Hey. It's Steph. I just-"

Long pause.

"I know, Heidi-"

Long pause. She looks at me and rolls her eyes.

"Heidi, don't worry-"


"Heidi! Heidi!" she says, finally. "Two things. First, are you still making your bean dip? Good. Second, here. Talk to Steve."

She hands me the phone, smiling widely. "Talk to her," she says.

"Hey, Heidi!"

"OH my God. Steve, I am stressing!"


"There is this guy in my building? Jamie? And he's like, this perfect guy. He's tall, dark eyes, and he's got this really RUGGED build. He's very RUGGED. And he walks around in all these J. Crew-type sweaters and things, and he says 'hi' to me! Every day! He just, says, 'hi'! And he keeps walking! I'll see him in the laundry room, or in the parking lot, and he never says anything but 'hi'! Why does he do that, Steve? Why doesn't he say anything but 'hi'?"

"I can't really say-"

"So I was thinking, I mean, should I ask him out? I could ask him to the party at your house, right? You wouldn't mind if I asked him over, would you? I mean, I don't think he's gonna tear up the place or something-"

"That's fine."

"Sooooooo, should I ask him out? Should I ask him to your party, or is that too forward, or should I, just, give him my number or something? Does that seem slutty, giving a guy your number, like 'Hey, guy, here's my number'?"

"Ask him to the party."

"But I don't know his name!"

"Introduce yourself."

"What if he says no?"

"Then don't worry about-"

"And what if he says YES? What if he AGREES to come, Steve?"

"Then bring him over."

"Do I drive? Do I let HIM drive? What do I wear? I have NOTHING to wear, Steve!"

"Wear something warm and fuzzy."

"You mean like a sweater?"

"No, like a mop. Of COURSE a sweater. Listen, I gotta go. Let us know how it goes with Mystery Man."

I hang up before she can ask me anything else.

I look at Steph. All we can do is laugh.


7:30. Dom and Meg arrive. Dom's cologne almost knocks me unconscious. "JESUS, man!" I say, waving my hand under my nose.

"I'm competing with you," he smiles, handing me a platter covered in aluminum foil.

Meg kisses me. "Merry Christmas!" she says.

Meg is beautiful. She curled her hair, and she's wearing a tight black skirt with a red sweater, black stockings and matching heels. She's looking extremely do-able tonight.

Steph takes the plate out of my hands and places it on the counter. "I'M the hostess tonight," she says, smiling.

"You two are so funny!" Meg says. "You are so cute!"

Dom grabs my elbow and pulls me gently to the side of the room. "You're making life difficult for me," he says.

"What do you mean?"

"Meg sees how blissful you two are, and she's pushing me to settle down."

"You're shitting me!"

"She keeps saying, 'If STEVE can date one girl exclusively, so can you'."

"Shit!" I say. "I hate how they tell each other everything."

He shrugs. "What are you gonna do? They're best friends."

"What are you two conniving over there?" Meg says.

"We TOTALLY have to watch the two of them when they're together," Steph says.

"Yeah, they're bad news," Meg says, nodding.

"No, Steve knows I trust him," Steph says, smiling at me.

She's wearing a pink short-sleeved mohair sweater and tight jeans. She bends over to pick something up and I stare at her ass, so smooth and round, so perfect-

The doorbell rings. "I'll get it," says Meg.

I hear the door open. Heidi is in mid-sentence. "-I tried the laundry room, I looked all around the parking lot! Everywhere! He's got a Jeep, so I looked all over for the Jeep, and I couldn't find the Jeep! And then I went back to the laundry room, and he wasn't there, and-"

"I'm guessing she's alone," I say to Steph. She laughs.

Heidi looks hotter than I've ever seen her. She's wearing beige slacks and a blue sweater, nothing fancy, really, but everything fits her so perfectly that she looks stunning. Her tits are huge, full and round, and her ass is as ripe as a pair of juicy apples.

"Hey guys!" she smiles. She kisses Dom and I.

"No luck on the guy, eh?" I ask.

"Couldn't find him!" Heidi hands me a slender brown bag. "Merry Christmas, Steve!"

I open the bag. It's a bottle of Jaegermeister. It's so cold that I can barely hold it.

"WOW that's cold!" I say.

"I put it in the freezer! But it doesn't freeze! Isn't that amazing? Alcohol doesn't freeze! Regular soda, or water, would freeze, but-"

Meg hands her a drink.

"We need to chill you out a little bit, hon," Meg says.


It's 10:30. We've played two games of trivial pursuit. I won once, and so did Heidi. We're making everyone else look bad, frankly.

The bottle of Jaeger is empty. So is the Absolut from my fridge, and the white wine that Steph brought. Everyone is fairly smashed.

"Let's play something else!" Heidi says.

"Like what?" says Meg.

" no no, you're gonna think I'm nuts."

"Say it," I say. Why do I get the feeling I'm going to like her idea?

"Let's play spin the bottle," she says. We all burst out laughing.

"We DO have an empty bottle," Dom says.

"Forget the bottle," I say. "We'll use dice."

"DICE?" he says.

"Yeah! You roll the die, and if you roll a one or two you kiss Meg, three and four is Heidi, five or six roll again!" I say.

We laugh. "No, no, no!" he says. "Five or six, I kiss Stephanie!"

"What about for the girls?" Meg says. "We're not kissing each other!"

"You're not? Damn!" I say. "Actually, we'll do it like this: One through six, you kiss me, seven and up, you kiss Dom."

"But we're only rolling one die!" Heidi says.

"Hey, I tried," I laugh. "OK, one through three is me, four through six, Dom."

"I can't believe we're gonna do this," Meg says. "We are SO loaded."

I have a bad moment as I tear the house apart looking for the die. It's just like when you're about to get laid, and she's on your bed totally naked, and you're scrambling around for a condom, praying she doesn't get up and leave.

I finally dig a die up from an old backgammon set.

Everyone is kneeling around the coffee table. I hand the die to Heidi. "Since it was your idea..." I say.

She rolls a four. "One through three is Steve, right? And four through six is Dom?"

"Yeah." someone says.

We all stare. Are they actually going to do this?

Dom is to her right. She turns to him, and moves in like they are going to make out, but it's just a grandma-style peck on the mouth.

"My turn," Meg says, and rolls a three. That's me!

"OK, who's next!" Dom says. We all laugh.

Meg and I are sitting on opposite sides of the table. She stands up on her knees, grabs the table, and leans in to me.

I like the idea that Dom is watching, that I am about to kiss his girlfriend, that there is sure to be some jealousy there, and that I am the cause of it. I like that Steph is watching, too; I imagine her feeling a mixture of horniness and cattiness, as though she really WANTS to watch but can barely bring herself to do it.

She kisses me long and slow, closing her eyes, savoring it. Her lips taste like root beer. Must be the Jaegermeister, I think.

I am vaguely aware of Dom saying, "Hey, get a room!" The laughter is flowing easily now. Everyone is wasted. Just about anything could happen tonight.

Steph rolls the die. A one.

"Uh-oh," Meg says.

"Hey, am I ever gonna get another turn here?" Dom says.

Steph walks over, straddles my legs, and grabs me by the front of my sweater.

"Whoo-hooo!!" says Heidi.

Steph kisses me dramatically, sliding her full tongue into my mouth, making no effort to hide it. She lowers me down to the floor, then sits up, wiping spit from her bottom lip with her middle finger.

A couple of people hoot and applaud. "We'll finish that later," I say.

"Yes we will," she replies.

Dom's turn. Five. That's Steph's number!

"OO-ooo," says Heidi, quietly. "He's gonna kiss Steve's girlfriend!"

"Do you wanna close your eyes, Steve?" Dom says.

Steph walks over to him on her knees, smiling. She glances over at me, then leans in and kisses Dom full on the mouth.

It seems to last for hours. Dom puts his hand on the small of her back and pulls her close; she doesn't resist.

My stomach burns. For a brief moment, I feel the urge to get up and storm off. Or hit Dom. I cool off quickly, but I'm surprised at how strong my reaction was.

Steph goes back to her seat and smiles at me. "I'm saving the really good kisses for you, sweetie," she says.

"Awwwww," Meg says.

My turn. I roll a three.

Heidi turns red. She looks over at Steph, as if seeking permission.

"Kiss him," Steph says.

Heidi scoots over to me on her knees and I sit up straight to meet her. She throws her arms around my neck and gives me one of the best kisses I have ever had.

She presses her soft, wet lips against mine, just firmly enough to make me notice. I can feel her tits pressing against me, big and firm, just like I thought they would be. I am surprised at how much she is turning me on.

I'm even more surprised when she sticks her tongue in my mouth.

"OH MY GOD!" Meg says.

"HEYY!" says Steph. I can't tell if she's kidding or not.

We separate quickly, and Heidi sits back down. There's a long, awkward silence.

"I made out with the big boss," Heidi says, almost whispering.

We laugh, and everything is ok again.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The mole is Bonnie

It's a no-brainer, really. Bonnie is the only one whe sees most everything that I see. And she is close friends with Claire, Dan's secretary. They talk several times every day.

I don't mind that she tells Claire things, or that Claire tells Dan. In fact, I am proud that communication works so well between the two offices.


I love Christmas shopping.

I love taking in the festive holiday ambience: The strings of shimmering tiny white lights, wrapped around every guard rail and light pole, the green prickly wreaths that hang from doors and windows, the Christmas music that plays endlessly from wall-mounted Bose speakers at the mall, the snow that (hopefully) blankets the ground on Christmas morning.

After Christmas dinner at my house, the men would gather in the family room, and the women in the kitchen. There was a mixture of calm and euphoria as we kids played with our new remote-control cars or video games.

In the late 70's, when mom was sober, she used to make a kick-ass apple cobbler, with loads of cinnamon. She made it every Christmas. The apple-cinnamon smell would waft out of the kitchen and down the hall, making me salivate like the wolf in the old "Three Little Pigs" cartoon. By the time it was ready, I would gobble it down while it was still so hot that it burned the roof of my mouth.

It is these images, the lights, the wreaths, the cobbler, the toys, that come to mind most every time I hear the word "Christmas". I didn't have a great childhood, so I treasure these happy memories very much.

I am in such a holiday way right now that I won't even be cynical about how there are only ten or so Christmas songs that every b-list artist and has-been insists on rehashing for us, so that, starting the day after Thanksgiving, we are treated to 3,341 versions of "Jingle Bell Rock" and "White Christmas".

I find the Pretenders' version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to be particularly egregious. The holidays are supposed to be happy: Why the hell does Chrissy Hynde [the lead singer] sound like someone stabbed her in the ass with a candy cane? I've heard "Amazing Grace" sung at funerals with more joy.

In no particular order, here are some of my favorite Christmas songs:

1. "Last Christmas" Wham
2. "Do They Know It's Christmas" Band-Aid
3. "Wonderful Christmas Time" Paul McCartney
4. "Happy Christmas (War is over)" John Lennon
5. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / Star of Wonder" Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan
6. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" Frank Sinatra
7. "White Christmas" Drifters
8. "Please Come Home for Christmas" Eagles
9. "12 Days of Christmas" Bob and Doug MacKenzie
10. "Santa and His Old Lady" Cheech and Chong (not a song, but hilarious)
11. "I Saw Three Ships" Sting
12. "Gabriel's Message" Sting
13. "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" U2
14. "Something About Christmas Time" Bryan Adams
15. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" Nat "King" Cole

It happens most every year: Suddenly, the realization dawns on me that It Is Christmastime, that I have made it through another year, and that there is some relaxation and quality time with family and friends to come. I'll see people I haven't seen in awhile. There will be smiles, and laughs, old music and TV shows that bring back memories of 8:00 bedtimes and sleepless nights spent watching the clock on Christmas Eve. There's a spring in my step that comes with the knowledge that I'll wake up on the morning of the 25th and find a few surprises for me, and I'll surprise a few people, too. It's fun!

Some years the realization never hits me. This year I was driving along, and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" by Nat King Cole came on my iPod. And just like that, the chilly holiday air hit me in a different way somehow, and I was in the Christmas spirit.

I have to find a gift for Stephanie. She's been great to me, caring and supportive, yet at the same time not smothering. I really want to make this work with her. I want to show her how lucky I feel for having this chance.

Gift-giving is a production of sorts: There is a right and a wrong way to present your gifts. You have to build drama. Suspense.

You start with minor gifts, like the undercard bouts at a WWE wrestling exhibition: You're not bored, but it's not what you came for, either. You finish with a crescendo, the gift that will make her eyes pop. Buy her the electric can-opener she's been bugging you for, sure, but make her open the wide-screen TV last.

I know for sure I am buying her a car stereo. Her car only has a tape deck, and even that doesn't work right. And when your stereo has knobs instead of buttons, people, God is trying to tell you something.

I hate buying junk. If there are three car stereos of the same brand, I'll probably end up with the most expensive one. Why buy a cheaper one, when there is another right next to it with more features?

I'm a fast shopper. If I walk into a store, it's because I am looking for something specific. I don't "browse".

Saturday, December 4.

I go to Circuit City and decide on a really nice Sony CD player for her car, buy it, and leave in less than 10 minutes. The thing's got a remote, too, which I never understood. You're sitting two feet away! Why do you need a remote? I guess it's for when you are getting horizontal in the back seat and Ozzy Ozbourne comes on the radio.

But then again, "I Am Iron Man" would be strangely appropos, wouldn't it?

The stereo was $300. It's her "warmup" gift. It's Wilson Phillips opening up for Madonna. Now for the hard part: What the hell else do I buy her?

I am leaning towards a choker chain and matching thumb rings. I'll keep thinking...

Thursday, December 16, 2004

(Bare)back to reality

Steph and I are laying on the couch, our bodies still dripping wet from the hot tub.

"What's wrong," Stephanie asks. "You look like you saw a ghost!"

"I... I can't believe I didn't use a condom!"

I have no idea how I spaced that badly. The only explanation I can think of is that I was so into what was happening that I just totally forgot. I had gone to a place I had not been in a very long time. I let my guard down.

"You are so funny with those condoms," she says. "You're always fumbling around trying to pull them off so you can spoo all over me." Yeah, "spoo" is her cute little word for "cum". Sometimes we'll be going at it hot and heavy, and she'll whisper, "Are you gonna spoo all over me, baby?"

"You pulled out, Steve," she says. "way before you came."

"But that's not-"

"And I AM on the pill."

"I know."

"You said you use condoms every single time. Right?"

"Yeah! That's why I can't believe I did that."

"Remember when I said I believe you and I trust you?"


"I meant it. I believe that you've been really safe. So we can go without every once in a while if you want."

"Why don't we get tested together, and then we can go without every time?"

"We'll get tested together, but barebacking every time? Uh-uh. Only when I'm not fertile. I don't wanna tempt fate."


Monday, December 6.

Mary from HR stands ominously in my doorway. What the hell does she want NOW?

"Yes ma'am," I say, looking up from what I was doing.

"Did Landon threaten you?" she demands.

"Uh, yeah, he might have said something."

"Did he say, 'You're gonna regret this'?"


"Steve!" she shrieks. "Why didn't you TELL me this earlier? We have to call the police!"

"Mary, drop it!"

"No, Steve, no! If for no other reason, do it for your own personal safety. What if he comes after you?"

"If he comes after me, I'll take care of myself."

"Steve, I HIGHLY recommend we file a police report."

I sigh. Jesus fucking Christ. I do NOT have time for this bullshit.

"Fine, fine. Call them."


Wednesday, December 8.

The police were very concerned about Landon's comment, and about his breaking the pen holder. The chief of police himself went to speak to him.

Looks like Mary was right after all.

The police chief claims that Landon was very apologetic, professional and courteous, and that Landon is going to contact me. I'll believe that when I see it.

Sure enough, at 10:30, my phone rings.

"Steve, this is Landon."

"Hi, Landon."

"Steve, I owe you an apology. You and your staff. I was disrespectful and rude."

"Thanks for saying that, Landon."

"And I know you don't know me as well as some people, but I think you're aware that I'm not the type of person who would go around... seeking revenge, or something. I mean, I... I guess I deserved a lot of that."

I can't decide of Landon is being sincere, or if he's just saying what he has to to get out of trouble. I actually think he means it. If he thought he was right, there's no way he would have given in.

A couple of days later, I get a nice note from Landon, saying basically the same things.

After reviewing Landon's duties with our IT department, I have decided that he didn't even have enough work to justify hiring a replacement.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

December 1 - again

Someday, I'll finish telling you what happened on December 1.

"You'll regret it," Landon snarls at me, as he turns and storms out of my office.

"Bonnie, get security on the phone," I shout into my receiver.

"Already done. They want to speak to you! I'm putting them through." she says. Bonnie is awesome.

My phone rings. I pick it up.

"I understand you've got an employee causing you some problems?" A man says.

"He's headed downstairs now," I say. "He's probably going to his office on the first floor."

"Ok, my name is Jared. Can you come down and meet me on the first floor?"

"One of our managers is on his way down now. His name is Dom. I'll be along in a minute."

I dial Dom's cell. "Hello?" he says, out of breath.

"Dom! Where are you?"

"Running downstairs. I don't hear him behind me, so he must have gotten on the elevator."

"Ok, meet Jared from security on the first floor. I'll be right down."

I run past Bonnie's desk. "Dan Johnson is on the phone for you," she says.

"Tell him I'm all tied up!"

I fling open the door to the stairwell and scurry down nine flights of stairs.

"Ah don' giva fuck WHAT you need to do," Landon is yelling at Jared, "Ahm OUTTA here!"

He turns and walks the rest of the way out of the building. Dom, Jared, and I watch him go.

"Should I alert the police?" Jared asks.

"No. Let's get his office cleaned up," I say, looking at Dom.

The two of us stride down a quiet hallway to Landon's office, and open the door.

It's nondescript, really, just four empty walls and a six-foot wooden table with a flat-screen monitor and a couple of 4 X 6 snapshots of horses resting on it. The keyboard rests on the table, in front of the monitor, and it strikes me as very odd that Landon didn't even have a computer desk with a keyboard tray.

There's an HTML reference book resting on a two-drawer file cabinet. We open the two drawers. Empty.

"Where's all his stuff?" Dom says.

"I don't know!" I say.

My cell phone goes off.

"This is Steve."

It's Dan Johnson. He's laughing hysterically.

"Steve! Ste-he-he-heeeeeve!" he roars.


"Steve, what have you learned today?"

"I've learned that I need a new programmer."

"I heard! And I couldn't be more delighted!" He says.

"You HEARD? ALREADY? I fired him 15 minutes ago!"

"I've known for five minutes, too!" he says.

"How did you find out?"

"I have my sources."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"Steve, I'm sending Ralph up there today. There are a lot of things you need to do to... protect the company's assets."

"From Landon?"

"Yes. We think he's got the capability to hack into your network there. And ours."

"Ok, we'll give him our undivided attention when he gets here."

"No, you'll give it to him NOW," Dan says. "Get your guy Chris on the phone with Ralph right away. There are some things that need to be done this minute."

"Dom, run upstairs and tell Chris to call Ralph at corporate. They think Landon had some back doors into the system."

Dom takes off.

"Steve, it's gonna be tough to replace Landon. He was a good one. But he was also a flaming prick. No one liked him at all. Still, it took a lot of balls to fire him. I WISH I could have seen the look on his face! I'm very proud of you, Steve."

"Dan, I appreciate it, but you know, it was actually pretty easy. He threw my-"

"Your paperweight?"

"No, it was a pen-and-pencil holder. Your source let you down, Dan."

"Steve, it wasn't easy. He's been pulling shit like that for years. I'm glad you got rid of him. Just make sure his projects get handed off."

"I will."

"And make sure your people close those back doors! Work with Ralph!"

"We will."

I get back to my office, and Mary from HR is standing by Bonnie's desk, waiting for me.

"Steve. We need to talk," she says sternly. She reminds me of a ruler-wielding nun at a Catholic school.

"We've got a lot of work to do," I say.

Suffice to say, Mary is pissed. Landon has never been written up for any infraction. None of his uncooperative and disruptive behavior was ever documented. His file is clean, and he got good reviews.

"He could sue us for wrongful termination!" Mary exclaims. "Not to mention, we can forget about disputing his claim for benefits."

"He's not under contract. This is an employment-at-will state. What the hell is he gonna sue us for?" I ask.

"You'd be surprised. Without documentation, he can claim whatever he wants!"

Mary spends a long time milking me for examples of Landon's escpades. She meticulously documents every detail.

I love the HR folks dearly, I really do. But is there a more uptight group of people in business?

"They are just trying to protect you from being sued or getting sanctioned by the government," you say.

PLENTY of people can get us sued. PLENTY of people can get us fined. Just about anyone can, actually. One late tax deposit can cost us $10,000 in IRS penalties, and you don't see the accounting people walking around with their worry-faces on all the time, do you?


Monday, December 6, 2004.

Chris and Ralph have been working for days to lock down our network and analyze the status of Landon's projects.

"It's the funniest thing about Landon's scheduler," Ralph says. "He built it as a web app, so the folks at the call center could all access it easily."

"So?" I say.

"Well, he built it using MySQL, and he had all the telemarketing people keying contact information into it. Eight or nine people were keying at the same time and it crashed."

"What information did he have them keying?"

"Everything. It was a blank database."

"WHAT?!" I say. "We paid a shitload of money for that prospect database. We already HAD that data! We could've dumped a file out of there and imported it into his database easily! PLUS, we don't pay those guys to key; we pay them to make phone calls!"

"I know. It only would've taken him an hour or so to build a routine to do that, IF he knew what he was doing, which he appeared to. It's a nice app, he just didn't go the extra mile."

It makes you wonder how much time and money he's wasted for us over the last twenty years.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Acing our exams

Thursday, December 2, 1:30.

"I'll see you guys tomorrow," I say, as I walk to the front door of the office.

"Have fun," Dom says, with a devilish grin.

I didn't tell Dom where I was going. He doesn't know about Steph's exam, or about my talk with her last night, or that we are dating exclusively now. Or at least he doesn't know from ME.

Meg and Stephanie are best friends. Evidently, Stephanie tells Meg everything about us, and Meg reports back to Dom, who she is still screwing.

I really can't stand it when people know my dating business. They tend to ask an awful lot of questions, or give unsolicited advice, or try to cock-block me when they know what I am up to. I keep everything to myself when it comes to the girls I am seeing.

I gotta speak to Steph about that. I should have already.


I pull up next to Steph's car and start reviewing a monthly sales report. It's 30 pages. I get the feeling that, if it were written properly, it could be four pages, and I wouldn't miss anything. I scribble furiously in the margin.

There's a knock at the window.

It's Steph. She's smiling brightly. Her hair is down. She looks happy for the first time in a while.

I roll down the window. She kisses me. "I ACED it!" she says.

"Awesome! Let's go!" I say.

She jumps in the car. "I sat down and tried to think of what questions he was going to ask, and I predicted them almost exactly!"

"I used to do that, too!"

"So where are we going?" she says.

"We're going to hot tub heaven," I say.

"Your house?"


"I don't have a bathing suit."



It's 106 degrees in the spa. The water bubbles and churns as if we were in a giant tea kettle.

"I have a confession to make," she says.

"You watch Dr. Phil?"

"No. Remember that sweatshirt I borrowed?"

"The Newport one?"


"The one that smells like me?"

"Yeah! All that time that we were fighting..." she pauses. "I totally shouldn't tell you this."

"Tell me."

"I slept in bed with it every night."

"So you cheated on me with my sweatshirt," I smile.


"I didn't realize you liked b.o. that much!"

"It DOESN'T have b.o. on it! It smells just like you! I love how it smells!"

The ends of her long hair hang wetly by her shoulders. Every once in a while, she sits up higher and I can see a crescent moon of breast.

I slide closer to her. She looks up at me, her face wet and dripping, her eyes wide.

"I missed you," I say.

"Me too." She is gazing at me, open-mouthed, just like a little girl.

We kiss. There's something really soothing about making out with steam rising all around you.

She puts her arms around my shoulders and straddles me. Her naked thighs are firm and tight against mine under the water.

I brush gently against her tit with my thumb, feeling her nipple go erect under my touch. I brush against it again, then cup it fully in my hand, caressing it, feeling its smoothness and heft.

Her breasts are beautiful, firm and round and perfectly symmetrical. When I look at them I know that Pam Anderson and Carmen Electra got it exactly wrong, with their big, round, fake-looking basketballs.

I fondle both of her breasts gently, then one, then the other, gently squeezing her nipples between my fingers.

She moans as she kisses me, raising her body up a little higher so her tits are exactly at mouth level.

I look up at her. She is smiling wryly down at me.

I flatten my tongue and brush it over her right nipple. I look up again. Her eyes close. She's got both of her hands behind my head, pulling me tightly against her.

I lick her again, holding her other boob in my hand. I swirl my tongue around her areola without ever touching the nipple. I've made girls come this way before.

Her breathing is short and shallow. I switch to the other breast and lick it, slowly, bottom to top, feeling her nipple go bullet-hard.

She is trembling. I look up at her again. I open my mouth to speak and realize that I am breathing just as heavily as she is.

I don't like fucking underwater. It doesn't feel like anything to me.

"I think it's time to go inside," I say.

"It's TOTALLY time to go inside," she says, softly.

We fling our wet, naked bodies on the first piece of furniture in our way, a sectional sofa. She straddles me again, grinding forwards and backwards against my hard rod.

I can feel her lubricating as she rubs against me, slicking my cock with her juices. She pulls her hips forward, so that the tip disappears under her, then back again, her labia peeking out from a tuft of short pubic hair.

She plants her fists on my chest, bending over slightly, her tits dangling invitingly above me. She slides her hips forward, in slow motion.

Pop! I slip inside her.

She immediately hits a rhythm, sliding her hips seamlessly back and forth, her breasts heaving.

A quivering moan escapes her lips; her eyes are closed, and her fists push harder against my chest.

This girl is going to have a HUGE orgasm.

Her breathing gets louder and faster as she fucks me more urgently. I feel her vaginal muscles spasm wildly. She tips her head back, fully in the throes of pleasure.

She collapses down on me, pressing our naked, still-wet bodies together. I pull out of her and slip my cock between us. "Don't forget about me," I smile.

"I won't."

She rubs her pussy against me again, and as I feel her heat and slipperyness I know that I am totally gone. I don't try to hold it back. I couldn't anyway.

Cum explodes everywhere, mostly on me. Gross? Kinda, but as long as I don't hit myself in the face, I'm ok.

She laughs a little as she gazes at me, still laying on top of me, her legs bent at the knees, her feet rocking slowly in the air. Her eyes search my face, as though she is memorizing every detail of this moment. She reminds me of that Christian dude on the album cover. She is at peace. I am too.

Just then, the realization stabs me in the gut like a 12-inch machete, waking me from the blissful afterglow.

Holy shit, I think. I fucking barebacked her!

Monday, December 13, 2004

My one-on-one with Kris Kringle

thet1nmann: does mrs. claus take it up the ass
SantaClaus: Oh dear. I just get so depressed when I hear that kind of talk. The English language used to be one of my favorites. A lump of coal for you.


Wednesday, December 1. How the HELL did I get so far behind?!

I'm filled with adrenaline after today's pleasantries with Landon (You'll read more about him someday soon).

We are going to be in a world of hurt without Landon here. Anything that goes wrong as a result of his absence will fall into my lap, and that is how it should be. But somehow, we will make do: Mona Lisa is still smiling, after all...

7:00. I've been meeting with HR for hours. They are pissed off at the way I handled Landon. Fuck them. I'm way behind, but all I want to do is go home.

I hop in my car and speed away from the office. I can't wait to get away from this place today.

I call Stephanie. "Hi. Can't talk," she says, before I have a chance to speak.

"I really need to see you tonight."

"I can't, Steve."

She's been chilly towards me ever since the night I confessed about Tiffany. We've been out, but she's been leaving early. We've eaten together, but she's either become hugely fascinated with the design on her Yorktowne plates, or she's avoiding eye contact.

I might as well say 'fuck it', I think. Back to the drawing board. There's a girl who works at the diner down the street. A waitress. With a succulent pair of lips and a nose ring...

"Steph, I - we've gotta get through this. Or not. But we can't go on like this."

"I can't DO this now, Steve! I'm stressing, big time!"

"FINE. Call me when you're not stressing!"

Click. She hangs up on me.

Guess it's safe to say your ol' pal Steve ain't gettin' any tonight.


Thursday, December 2.

I've been thinking about Steph all day.

If I want to settle down, if I want to have a family, if I am EVER going to be able to do this, I'm going to have to....break my habit.

That's what this is: A habit, I have decided.

I was big and fat all throughout my teenage years. When I was 19, I tried to go on a diet. I failed miserably. I always found an excuse to pig out: "It's a holiday", "It's the weekend", "I don't have time to cook" and so on, and so on.

I kept making up these great reasons why I had to eat pork rinds, double Whoppers and triple cheeseburgers. And I was happy: Who's NOT happy after a huge, greasy meal?

But every once in a while, I would catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, with my three chins and turgid stomach, hanging over the waistline of my jeans like a heavy sandbag. I'd see that fat guy, that huge, obese lardass, and I'd know that there was something better for me.

It was about more than looking good. It was about being healthy.

Was it harder to eat a garden salad than it was to eat five tacos from Taco Bell? Damn right. So why do that to myself? Why eat something that didn't taste as good?

Because in the long run, I would feel better, and be healthier. That's why.

It took a long time to learn discipline. After I had learned my lesson, it took a long time to actually put it into practice. It took a long time to do the right thing, even after I knew exactly what the right thing was.

The more I think about it, the more I believe I am at the same crossroads right now. It's so fucking OBVIOUS! Why didn't I see this before?

I KNOW what's right, at least for me. I KNOW that, at some point, the right thing for me is to settle down with a nice girl and commit to her, make a family.

It scares me to think of the alternative. What if I'm an 85-year-old man, lying on my death bed, all by myself, looking back on my life? What would I want to see? Would I want to see a beautiful wife, and two or three children, whom I brought up lovingly? Or would I want to recall that my dick got hard 30 or 40,000 times, and when it did, I stuck it somewhere where it felt good, and then I was alone? Would I be happy with that? Would I feel that my life was worth something?

No. I wouldn't.

It's about being happy. TRULY happy. And healthy.

My breath catches. I'm wasting my whole life away, I think.

I call Steph.

"Hi, I can't come to the phone right now. Please leave a message!" she chirps on her outgoing message.

She's happy in that message: You can HEAR the smile in her voice. I can make her that happy again. I have to get her out of this funk she is in. I have to convince her that I can be true to her.
I call again. Voice mail.

Steph studies in the campus library on a Thursday. Fifth floor, near the oversized books. It's quietest there, she says.

It's a long drive. I drink coffee and listen to "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd all the way there. Spacy, mellow music seems perfect for the uncharted territory I am now traveling.

I run up the five flights of stairs (I hate using elevators; why not get some exercise?) and walk all around the fifth floor, watching bleary-eyed students pore over War and Peace-sized texts.

There, at a small round table, in a baggy sweater and sweats, sits Stephanie.

I sit across from her. "They told me I could get free legal help around here," I say.

She smiles brightly. "Steve!" she exclaims. "What are YOU doing here?"

"I need to talk to you."

"I'm studying."

"Gimme five minutes," I say.

Her face clouds over. She looks down at her notebook and flips it closed with one hand, sliding her pen down the coiled wire spine.

"I need to get some coffee anyway," she says.

We stop at the elevator and she presses the down button. "We're taking the elevator," she says unsmilingly. "I know it bugs you out."

"It's ok."

She flips up the collar of her long black winter coat as we grimace into the whipping wind. "Aren't you freezing?" she says.

I hardly ever wear a coat. Why lug a bulky piece of clothing around when I'll only be outdoors for a grand total of three minutes? If I bring one with me at all, I usually leave it in the car. "I'm alright."

We cut across the quad and enter another building. There's a young kid there selling coffee and snacks from a cart.

"STEPH!" He says.

"Hey guy," she smiles.

"All ready for your test?"

"Getting there."

She orders two coffees. I pay before she can pull her money out. She doesn't thank me; that's unlike her.

"Are you the boyfriend," he says.

I look at Steph. "I hope so," I say.

We cross the quad yet again. We're at the student lounge. We sit in two fluffy easy chairs, facing one another.

She sips her coffee and looks up at me, eyebrows raised.

"I don't wanna lose you," I say.

She looks away, shaking her head.

"Are you even gonna listen to me," I say.

"Steve, I've been hurt. And if I get hurt again, really badly, it's gonna effect everything. My school...."

"I'm not going to do that again."

"But maybe it won't work out. Maybe we'll break up. And then I'll be hurt, and that'll be my education right down the tubes."

"That's not Stephanie talking. That's not you."

She looks at me.

"I know you feel the way I do. We have to be together. If you think I have this kind of conversation with girls all the time..."

She's searching my face, again, listening, gathering data like a supercomputer.

"So you're telling me you'll be exclusive with me?"

"I wouldn't have it any other way," I smile.

She breathes deeply and stares at the floor. I can sense her ticking off the possibilities, the potential costs and benefits.

She stands up suddenly. Time for what the sales guys call the "hard close".

"Can I take you out after your exam?"

"My exam ends at 2, Steve. You'll be at work."

"So what?"

"So you're taking time off from work for me now?" she says, with a little smile.

"I ain't going on Cialis, though."

She chuckles. Then she hugs me tightly.

She pulls away and looks at my eyes. "I wanna give it a try," she says. "You say you'll be monogamous, and I believe you and trust you."

For the first time in a long time, I feel like I can do this.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Steve's first victim. Kind of.

I have fired eight people in my professional career.

Most of them were for the most mundane, boring reasons you could possibly think of: Job abandonment and tardiness / absenteeism, primarily. Nothing even remotely blogworthy.

When I took over as DM, I figured all that was going to change. I figured there was going to be a period in which employees "tested" me, the way students test a substitute teacher to see what they can get away with. But it's never happened. If anything, people seem to be watching their backs more, as if they thought the party was over when Ross left. All the employees have been polite and respectful to me since the very first day.

Except one.

Landon has been with the firm for over 20 years. He was programming software for us back when you needed two of those throw-rug-sized floppy disks just to boot up your computer, and when you finally did get your PC started, it sounded like a Harley-Davidson.

He knows the industry. And he knows our systems COLD. He can program just about anything we want him to, and he can do so quickly. He is the last of a dying breed of programmers who understand the architecture of both the old systems and the new. The problem is, he knows it, and he is not too proud to use that advantage for his own benefit.

Landon regularly takes a week off, unannounced, in the middle of summer to go boating, putting entire development projects on hold, costing us thousands. "I can't give you notice, 'cause I don't know when the water will be calm and when it won't be," he says.

He leaves early. He comes in late. And he's got the typical computer-programmer attitude.

You know the attitude I mean. People who fix or program computers tend to be very condescending to those of us who don't. "How can I give you an ETA," they will say, "I have no idea what's going to go wrong!"

Gee, thanks.

They generally act like their computer knowledge is a gift from the heavens, that they have been touched by the finger of God, and that anyone who dares interfere with their sacred labors is spitting in the face of the almighty himself.

We've all heard their smart-ass retorts: "You can't get a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant", "Garbage in, garbage out", and so on.

Landon is from the deep south, and he actually owns a couple of horses and loves to go riding. He's got the classic southern outlook on a lot of things, too: I'll never forget the time when a local woman fell while working on a telephone pole and was critically injured. All Landon could say was, "What the fuck did they have a girl up there for anyway?"

Several years ago, when I first started here, Landon was working on a project for us, and after about a week and a half, we had to change the specs, and it set him back about three days. He got so pissed off that he threw his laptop against the wall and ruined it. He then promptly asked for a brand new one - and Ross approved it.

I almost killed Ross for that one. "It WAS two years old, Steve," he says. It's called cognitive dissonance, folks.

Years ago, he had an office here on the 9th floor with the rest of us, but he used to close his door, and refused to open it. Anytime someone knocked he went completely ballistic. So many employees complained that they finally moved him down to a little office on the first floor. And to top it all off, he usually takes his phone off the hook so no one can call him.

Wednesday, December 1, 2:00.

Dom is standing in my doorway. "We gotta problem," he says, softly.

I wave him in, hanging up the phone.

"You know that scheduler Landon did for us for the call center?"


"There was some kind of....malfunction."

Oh shit.

"What KIND of malfunction," I ask.

"We lost all our call histories for the last six months."


"We can restore them from the backups, but it's gonna take time."

"Get Landon up here."

"Steve, he's in the middle of a project."


He gets up to leave.

"Hey Dom."

He turns around.

"Clear out that office down the hall from you. The one with the file boxes in it."

"For what?"

"We're putting Landon in there."

His eyes get big. "Steve, are you sur-"

He stops himself.


"What is it, Steve," Landon says, scowling angrily.

"Landon, did they tell you what happened-"

"YAH, they told me. I fuucked up," he says sarcastically, in a deep southern drawl. "I fuuuucked up! Is that what you brought me all the way up here for, so I could be humiliated?"

"Of course not," I say. "There's something else, too."

He glares right through me. Charles Manson's got nothing on this dude.

"I just found out we don't have any documented quality control procedures. None!"

"Quality control wouldn't have found what went wrong, Steve. It was a freak thing-"

"The only freak thing is that we've been going on this long without controls," I say. "We are a MAJOR company!"

He rolls his eyes. "You young managers, you're ALL the same. You're trying to get a bonus, or kiss the boss's ass, or whatever you're trying to do..."

"I want quality control, so I'm a KISS ASS?"

"Yeah, you are."

"Well, you know Landon, I'm glad you have such a good attitude, because I'm gonna be seeing a lot of you in the future."

He raises his head slowly, his eyes widening, the realization dawning on him.

"You're moving back upstairs, my friend. And I'm having the lock taken off the door, too. If I can't shut people out, neither can you."

"I'm not moving. I'm NOT moving," he says, defiantly.

"Oh no?"

"You have NO idea what goes into my job, Steve. You got so many damn different systems around here, and everybody wants 'em to talk to each other, and you think it's SO friggin' easy. I'm down there bustin' my ass, tryin' to do my job, an' I'm gettin' interrupted fifty times a day as it is! So if you move me up here, you better just hire me some help, or plan on the work being done slower."

"I'll plan on you writing some QC procedures. By Monday. And then I'll speak to corporate to find someone to do QC for you."

"Well, Steve," he laughs, "good luck gettin' me outta my office. I'm not leaving."

"Let's get one thing straight, Landon," I say. "You don't work for Ross anymore. You work for ME. Screw with me, and lose."

"At least Ross knew what the FUCK he was doing," Landon says.

"Monday morning, " I say, "you're back upstairs. And you're not off to a very auspicious beginning with me, either."

"I'm not leaving my office."

"Monday morning."

"AHM NOT LEAVIN' MAH OFFICE!" He shouts, his eyes wild, his nostrils flaring.


He shakes his head in what looks like disbelief, and actually looks like he is calming down. He walks up to my desk and grabs the marble pen-and-pencil holder that dad got me for my promotion. He flings it against the wall; it smashes into at least three pieces that I can see.

What is it about me that makes people want to throw things against the wall? First the autistic kid with the phone, and now the redneck computer geek with my office knick-knacks!

"Oohhhhh, boy," Dom says, quietly.

For a long moment, no one speaks. I look at Dom, Dom looks at Landon, Landon looks at me.

"Landon, I changed my mind," I say, slowly. "You're not moving up here. Go downstairs and clean out your desk. You're fired."

He plops himself in the chair across from my desk. "You cain't do that Steve. You just cain't," he says, angrily.

"Landon, go clean out your desk."

He doesn't budge.

"OK," I say. "Dom, I'm calling security. Go out to the door and meet them." He rushes from the office.

I pick up the receiver. Landon stands up, reaches across my desk, and grabs it. There's a brief tug-of-war, and for a crazy moment, I think he's going to hit me. But then he lets go and turns to leave.

"You're gonna regret it," he snarls as he walks out.