I woke up Saturday morning thinking about how I’d written off Susan. She was adorable, yes, but I could see how that would become annoying over a short span of time. There was also the matter of her intelligence. There was more than the matter of her placing Victor Hugo in the wrong century. After coffee, we had gone for a walk around the college campus and almost every fact she spit out was incredibly incorrect. The most memorable was when she told me the moon was about a thousand miles from earth.
It would never work out between us, but I still felt bad about it. Maybe it was just that cute, pouty look she gave me at the end of the night when I handed her a penny to remember me by and told her I didn’t think there was any real chemistry between us. Maybe it was the fact that I fed her a load of horseshit about that mystic chemistry that I don’t believe in. I’m an honest guy, but I’m not cruel enough to tell the poor girl that she was an idiot.
I couldn’t dwell on Susan, though, because I had to shower and get ready for my moving-date with Diane. I’ll admit that I was incredibly nervous about seeing her. While I was in the shower, I couldn’t stop rehearsing what I’d say. I’d follow Lenny’s advice and put on the Man-Pants. I just wanted to think of a tactful way to tell her I wanted to jump her bones.
Diane had given me impeccable directions to her house. It was in one of the nicest neighborhoods on the lake, and as I drove through the valley of enormous houses, I was once again reminded of how far this woman was out of my league. Her house, a whopping three-story Victorian, sat at the end of a cul-de-sac, right on the tip of a peninsula.
There was a large yellow moving truck parked in the front yard. It was one of those move-it-yourself deals. I was guessing that the size of this truck and the size of the house meant we’d be making about a thousand trips. But then I remembered that she was probably only moving half of the things in the house.
Diane was in the yard, carrying two chairs out to the Bronco. Nothing about this woman could have prepared me for that vehicle. With the way she dressed, the way she carried herself, and this amazing house, I guess I had expected her to be ordering a butler to load her fine china into her Rolls Royce. This Bronco, though, was a beat-up SUV from the late eighties, baby blue, and covered with dents and scratches. It probably wasn’t hers.
Diane, herself, broke this image I had of her. She was wearing gym shorts, a muscle shirt, and a baseball cap. As I pulled into the driveway, I even noticed the hint of a tattoo on her lower back. She was as dressed-down as dressed-down can get, and despite everything I had told Lenny, I was suddenly very interested in getting this girl into bed.
“I thought you might try to sneak out of this.” Diane was smiling as she walked up to my truck. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail that stuck out the back of her cap, and it bounced as she walked.
“Are you kidding?” I got out and closed the door, looking up at her house. “I’m just here to load up as much of your valuables as I can into the truck and then take off. Please tell me we’re not moving anything down from the third floor.”
“Only one thing from up there,” Diane said. “But you’re going to hate me when you see what it is.”
“I’m not complaining about getting to spend my Saturday morning sweating with a beautiful woman, but tell me again why you didn’t hire movers.”
“Oh, I called around, believe me. But none could do it until next month, and I just want to get out and get on with it, you know?”
“No, I don’t know,” I said. “But I do understand. Before we start, though, I want to say something.”
“If you say that you can’t lift more than 50 pounds, I am gonna kick your ass into the lake.”
“Oh no, it’s nothing like that. I just wanted to make it clear up front that I want to jump your bones.” Yeah, that was tactful, all right. She didn’t answer right away, but she didn’t stop smiling, either. “I don’t mean right now, of course, or even tonight. Well, I do, but I don’t expect that to happen. Not that I expect it to happen… oh fuck, I can’t stop talking. Interrupt me before I dig a deeper hole!”
“I think I get it,” Diane said between giggles. “You’re afraid I’ll put you in the friend category because you’re being so helpful and nice, so you had to say something ridiculously masculine to prove you have a penis. Something like that?”
“I respect you for your brain, too,” I whispered.
“Good,” Diane smiled. “Now come inside and meet the family.”
“Meeting the family on the first date?” I asked. “I hope they have strong backs.”
Diane laughed and led me into her mansion. I could see right away that she had been busy before I’d arrived. Everything was boxed and stacked by the foot of the stairs. The inside of her house put the outside to shame. The foyer led to a staircase, which ascended about twenty feet, like in some rich movie-house. The den was about eighty feet across with an incredible view. Because of where the house was positioned, you could see water from any window but the front.
“So, not to pry, but why would you want to leave this house behind instead of kick him out?”
“It’s ok,” Diane said. “There are too many memories in this house, and I like the idea of starting over better than picking up the pieces.” She gave me a smile and then called out to the upstairs. “Daddy! Ben is here!”
There was a muffled reply from somewhere upstairs and the sound of shuffling. I imagined some frail old man making his way to the balcony to look down at us. Diane led me up the stairs, rather than waiting for him, and walked me into the master bedroom. There was a mammoth of a man hunched over the bed frame, taking it apart. He turned as we came in.
“I was coming right down, pun’kin,” said the giant. He got to his feet, and stood about six inches taller than me. His chest was the size of Massachusetts and his arms were as big around as my thighs. He could’ve passed for a man in his forties. I’d never been intimidated by a girl’s father before meeting this man. Any nervousness I had, though, fell away as soon as he smiled and held his hand out to me. “Nice to meet you, Ben. I’m Carl.”
“Nice meeting you, sir.” I took his hand and shook it. He had a firm grip, but he didn’t break any of my bones.
“I was afraid she was going to bring some fella who couldn’t lift a chair without help. Glad to see I was wrong.” Carl set back to his work as he talked. “You a football player, Ben?”
“Not since high school, sir,” I said. I moved to the other side of the bed frame and began helping his break it down. “Tore some ligaments in my knee and that was that.”
“Drop the ‘sir’ business. Carl is fine.” He gave me a grin. “You call me ‘sir’ and then I might have to start thinking like a father, and asking you questions about your intentions towards Dee and all that.”
“At least you’re holding a bed frame and not cleaning a shotgun, though I suppose you could take my head off with just about any tool in your hand.”
“Daddy played for Broncos,” Diane said. She was picking up a box.
“’Played’ isn’t the right word, really,” Carl laughed. “I warmed the bench for them.”
“That’s still pretty cool.” I said. “You get paid to practice and you end up with the best tickets to every game.”
“True,” Carl said. “I’ll never regret it. That’s for sure. So what position did you play? You look like a guard or a tackle.”
Carl and I talked about football, past and present, over the next few hours. He and I were given the duty of moving anything heavier than a box. The boxes were left for Diane, who would dart around us and between us as we worked. On more than one occasion she would brush up against me as she did. Considering the amount of room she had, I guessed it was intentional.
By eleven, we had the moving van, the Bronco (which turn out to be Diane’s after all, a gift from her father while he was in the NFL), and my truck packed to capacity. This trip would carry more than half of the things Diane was taking, and the second trip might be able to fit entirely in the moving van. She crawled into her Bronco and took the lead, with her father and me following her across town.
Diane’s new house was much smaller than I expected, barely bigger than my modest starter home. It was, however, in the ‘Old Money’ part of town, so it was probably three times as expensive as mine. It was also on the water of a smaller lake, which probably added some numbers to the pricetag.
Small or not, the house was nice. Before we started unloading, she gave us the tour and showed us where she wanted everything. We went back outside and stood in the yard, looking at the three full vehicles.
“The worst part about moving is when you stop and don’t feel like starting again,” I joked.
“Yup,” Diane agreed.
“We could unload Dee’s truck for now and grab some lunch.” Carl’s suggestion had crossed my mind, too. I’d only known the man for a few hours, but I liked him.
“If we start unloading, I’d rather get it all unloaded,” I said. “Otherwise we end up stopping again.”
“Besides,” Diane added, “lunch will taste better knowing that we’ve gotten that much more out of the way.”
“I don’t know about all that, but I’m for getting done with it.” Carl walked to the moving van and pulled the ramp out.
I followed Carl to the van and we began unloading. Diane fell into her box-moving routine, like a one-man train of ants carrying a piece of food back to her nest one bit at a time. The unloading conversation picked right back up with football, but migrated towards Diane.
“So how’d you meet Dee?” Carl asked, carrying the other end of a sofa. It’s a question I had hoped wouldn’t come up, because I didn’t know if Diane had told him anything about me.
“I bumped into her at a salsa club, although I have no idea what I was doing there.” I shrugged as best I could while carrying a couch.
“I thought we called it Aberrant Intoxicated Behavior.” Diane winked at me as she relayed a box past us.
“Well, I was trying to be tactful.” I laughed. Carl was laughing, too, so I didn’t feel as self-conscious.
“I was young once, too,” Carl grinned. “It’s not like I’ve forgotten how a lot of couples meet. So what are your intentions towards my daughter, Ben?”
“He told me this morning that he wanted to jump my bones.” Diane had teleported in from her box depository at the perfect time to answer. I felt my cheeks burning.
“I did qualify that statement, sir, by saying I didn’t mean right this instant. Just at some point down the road,” I said. Carl had stopped moving and was staring at me. The sofa between us, which has been fairly heavy when we picked it up, now seemed like a flimsy barrier.
“Let him off the hook, Daddy. Otherwise he’ll start talking really fast and not be able to stop.” Diane kissed me on the cheek. “Although it was sort of cute to watch.”
“I’m just fuckin’ with you, Ben,” Carl laughed and began waddling back towards the den with his end of the sofa. I followed. “If I didn’t kill James, I think you’re pretty safe.”
“James?” I asked. The answer came to me immediately, though. He was the name that was in the phonebook. “Ah, never mind. You mean The Bastard.”
“I do,” Carl nodded. “In fact, I’m going to steal that. You hear that, pun’kin? I’m calling him The Bastard from now on.”
“Just not to his face, Daddy, and not in front of the girls,” Diane said. As soon as her mouth closed, her eyes went wide and she glanced at me. She’d let it slip. “Ummm…”
“You have children,” I smiled. “Most married people do, Diane. Besides, the toy chest and the twin beds in the moving van was a pretty good indicator.”
“I wasn’t trying to hide it, exactly,” Diane said. “I just wanted to ease you into it.”
“I don’t see that as a problem. I love kids,” I said. Carl and I set the couch down in the den. “And if they’ve been raised to be like you and your father, I’m pretty sure we’ll get along just fine.”
“Good,” Diane smiled. “They’re staying with Gammy this weekend while Paw-Paw helps me move. It’s been rough with all their questions about this.”
“I can’t even imagine,” I said. “So aside from the fact that you’re a mom, is there anything else you’re easing me into?”
“Well, it’s obvious she can’t pull a fast one on you. Did you notice the dress made of human skin and the Satanic altar?” Carl asked.
We all laughed at that. I couldn’t think of a more fun first date than this one had become.
After unloading, the three of us piled in the Bronco and headed to a local deli for a quick lunch. I’d only known Diane for around seven hours in total, and known Carl for only four, but I felt right at home with these two. The conversation never stopped, and the laughter was just as constant.
“You’re all right, Ben,” Carl said. He and I had both ordered the biggest sandwich on the menu. He looked across the table and smiled. “Not many men would help a girl move after just meeting her and not have some ulterior motive.”
“He did say he wanted to jump my bones,” Diane smiled. She was sitting beside me in a booth seat, and sitting closer than most people would.
“That’s true, Carl,” I said. “I might be a nice guy on the surface, but I’m one hundred percent Eddie Haskell underneath.”
“He thinks he’s some sort of ass because it helps him meet girls. Tell him about your theory, Ben.” Diane put her hand on my knee under the table and gave an encouraging squeeze. Carl’s eyebrows shot up and he leaned in the listen.
“Well, women are unconsciously attracted to assholes,” I started. “They’ll deny this to their deaths, of course, but you’re nodding so I can see you know what I mean.”
“Yeah, some fraternities train kids how to be the perfect asshole,” Carl nodded. “It’s like they hand out Docker shorts, polo shirts, deck shoes, and sunglasses on Croakies and send them out to act up in bars.”
I was in the middle of a swallow of my Coke when Carl painted the perfect frat-boy picture, and my laugh sent some of it into my nostrils. The burning only made me laugh harder.
“That’s an unfair stereotype, Daddy. They aren’t all like that.”
“But there are enough of them out there for Ben to know exactly what I’m talking about,” Carl said.
“He’s right, Dee.” I was wiping my nose, but my laughter was under control now. “You can’t say that you’ve ever been to a club and not seen at least three of these guys stalking the place.”
“Well, why do they have to be frat guys? Why can’t they just be normal guys?” Diane asked.
“Because normal guys leave their sunglasses in their car when the sun goes down. Frat guys keep wearing them around their neck as if it might suddenly get bright. It’s akin to something called ‘peacocking.’”
“Peacocking?” Diane looked skeptical.
“Like showing your colorful ass to make women notice you?” Carl was grinning.
“Exactly like that,” I said. “It’s wearing something so stupid or out of place that it becomes a conversation piece.”
“That would never work,” Diane laughed. “Women are not so stupid that we are attracted to bright and shiny objects!”
“The sunglasses don’t work as well, I’ll admit, but only because the ‘market’ is flooded with them.” I decided to ignore Diane for a moment and spoke directly to Carl. “But the frat guy has other tools to fall back on, such as being a jerk and playing like he’s not interested. So the weaker-minded girls still flock to these guys.”
“But…” Diane started. I held up a finger and gave her my best ‘I’m sorry but be quiet a minute’ smile.
“So I came up with this idea to start being a cocky jerk, and seeing how it worked,” I said. “On the night I met Diane, I had three phone numbers in my pocket before I got hers.”
“Ah ha!” Diane shouted. “But you weren’t a jerk to me! So why did I give you my number?”
“You gave me your number because I wasn’t a jerk.” I stopped Diane before she could interrupt my thought, and continued. “If I had been a jerk to you that night, I would have never gotten your number, but we very well might have had sex.”
Carl cleared his throat, and I felt myself blushing. Perhaps I’d said a little too much. Diane’s look, though, confirmed that I was right in what I said.
“I didn’t want to take advantage of your situation like that, which is why I call it ‘Nice Ass’ and not just ‘Ass.’” I smiled at Diane, and then glanced at Carl to make sure he wasn’t angry. “I’m not doing this to get some tail. I’m doing it because I want to find someone I can have a relationship with.”
“Nice save,” Carl chuckled. “But you haven’t been an ass at all, from what I’ve seen.”
“Well, with Diane it was different,” I said. “For one, when I saw her I really wasn’t as interested in picking her up as I was in keeping her from doing something she’d regret. And Nice Ass is all about first impressions, so once she saw the real me, I guess I didn’t think I could use him.”
Carl nodded, gave his daughter a meaningful look, and smiled as he ate his sandwich. Diane smiled back, nodded, and continued to eat her salad. I wasn’t in on this telepathic conversation that passed between them, but decided I didn’t want to interrupt it. I finished my own sandwich and carried our trash to the trashcan. When I came back to the table, they were whispering.
“You can talk about me later, guys,” I said. “Let’s get the rest of your crap moved.”
“It’s not crap,” Diane protested. “It’s stuff!”
“Lots of stuff,” Carl said, laughing.
“But it’s MY stuff, and I love it.” Diane grinned and surprised me by grabbing me in a big hug. “And I want to thank you for helping me move it. Let’s have dinner tomorrow night.”
“That sounds good, but I’ll have to check my calendar when I get home to make sure I’m free.” I returned the hug, and found that her small frame fit just perfectly inside my arms.
“You do that,” Diane winked and headed to the parking lot.
“She’s not too subtle,” Carl said. “She gets that from me, I guess.” He clapped me once on the back and followed her out.
With that, we loaded in the Bronco and set off to furnish the rest of Diane’s new life.