As requested … the latest revision JUST FOR YOU!!! *smooch*

“Home, James”

“I’m gonna nah…” the man stopped for a second, trying to remember what he was going to say. “gonna… name my kid yer name! Benny!”
The drunken man reached from the back seat and slapped a hand on his driver’s shoulder.
“Thas…’ow much I’s like ya,” he said proudly.
“That’s real sweet Jerry. I like you too.” Guy peeled Jerry’s sweaty hand from his shoulder and gently pushed him back against his seat.
“I mean, Benny isn’t my name,” he said glancing in the rearview mirror, “but apparently you think it is, so I’m flattered.”

Being a designated driver wasn’t the most glamorous, well paying job in the world, but Guy found it strangely satisfying. There was a solid sense of purpose in helping people.
Sure, sometimes the clients threw up on the back seat, but it would be in their cars anyway.
That was part of their service, Bender Buddies. They’re the people you call to deliver the inebriated — and their cars — safely back home. His favorite part of the job is the sweet collapsible motorized bikes they ride to get from one customer pick up to the next. It was convenient and spared the employees the smell of chum in their own personal rides. Even so, Guy was never repelled by that sort of stuff.
He preferred to use it as a reminder of how he never ended up. Most people in his situation would be there, sitting in their own puke, warding off thoughts of what they should have done or where they could be. But not Guy, he was better than that.
The lifestyle was something completely different from the one he lived in high school. It was a humbling job in comparison. No one ever forgot his name during his four glorious years at Lincoln High School. No one ever forgets the celebrities of their youth.

Guy whizzed past the high school on the way back from his last drop off. It wasn’t the most direct route to the boulevard, but he liked riding past to see the football field.
His helmet cocked to the right as he stared at the road and remembered the last game he played on that finely manicured, Kermit the Frog green grass.
He kept the picture in his head as he got off his scooter and with a slight limp, walked under the flickering street lights, and used his weight to open the rusty side door of the Bender Buddies home base. He was greeted with the familiar smell of stale coffee and cigarettes.
He nodded his chin in the direction of four college-age men dealing out another hand of Texas Hold ‘em on a grease stained card table. One of them pulled up a folding chair, tossing aside a pink box of week-old donuts and patted the seat, inviting Guy to join the game.
“No thanks Stan. I’ve got some crap to take care of tonight.” Guy gave Stan a firm slap on his thick back and smiled when he saw the Ace of Spades in Stan’s hand. “Maybe tomorrow.”

Outside his small circle of friends, the rest of the world knows the somewhat scruffy 6’2, average-built, Guy as James Theodore Malcolm Weston the Fourth. But, as far as the clerks at Safeway are concerned, he is simply James T. Weston.
Preface that name with Mr. and he was the spitting image of his father minus 45 pounds; chocolate brown hair, the same color as his eyes; a sandy complexion and a strong jaw line with a 5 o’clock shadow that usually showed up around three.
Aside from his athletic prowess on the football field in high school, Guy was the epitome of average. There was nothing blatantly notable about him at all, except maybe the unusual amount of people who mistake him for someone else. Guy has one of those faces that look kind of like every other person. That is, aside from his slightly oversized ears, which you don’t really notice unless you’re looking. In which case, if you were looking that close you would also notice the small crescent-shape scar on the soft part of his right lobe from the time in jr. high when he and his brother, Josh, decided they wanted to be cool and get their ears pierced like Vanilla Ice but were terribly unsuccessful.
He’d finally started coming to terms with his luck and the fact that his glory years as a football star were behind him. The dreams he held in his full ride scholarship to USC were shattered along with his knee; and households no longer associated 76 with his jersey number, but merely the corner gas station. He was now just “that Guy” that carries sparks of recognition when you see him on the street. The guy that some people know they’ve seen somewhere else before.

Guy picked up his nickname during his first few weeks at a local junior college. Chabot Junior College was just like high school. So much so that most people just called it Chabot High School. All the same people were there and some of the professors even had seating charts, just like in high school. Some days Guy felt like he’d just taken a step back instead of forward.

“Hey Guy,” his boss greeted him as he walked into the break room.
“Hey boss,” Guy saluted the short, stubby man, with a monk’s crown and years of experience etched on his brow. “I have a few things I need to take care of,” he said trying not to sound too anxious as he punched out his card in the clock. “Could I run the kindergarten tomorrow night?”
It was called the kindergarten shift because it was the night zone where the young pups meet when they go out for their first time. The new kids would be totally hammered by 5pm and at home by 9pm. The employees usually requested this shift if they had plans that night and wanted to get out of work early.
“I suppose,” his boss murmured, considering who could fill in, “but you know the drill. You have to find someone to cover you.”
“No problem, I’ve already made a few calls. If anything, I’ll pull in one of the older rookies.”
Guy finished his paperwork and raced home. He had some serious planning to do. He’d found his chance tonight. He had to make sure he executed this play perfectly.
“Oh MAN!” he punched the air. He was so pumped he didn’t know what else to do with all his energy. He had to tell someone what happened and get a second opinion on what to do.
“Hey Frank.” He’d decided to call Frank, his best friend since fourth grade.
Frank answered the phone with a groggy voice.
“Crap Guy, it’s 3 in the morning.”
“I know, I just got off work. I figured you’d still be up. It’s Saturday.”
“I know, I would be but I…”
“You met someone tonight, didn’t you?!” Guy cut in, “Frankster, you old dog! It’s that cute red head you met the other night, huh?”
“No…well, yes, but it’s not like that,” Frank stumbled over his words, trying to clear the sleep from his head.
“Well…dish it out man. I’ve got quite a story to tell too. But I wanna hear yours first.”
“It’s nothing big. But yea, I have plans with the red…I mean, with Traci. I’m going to meet her at her place in the morning to go to church with her and her family.”
“Oh man, you’re working the choir? I never would have thought.”
“Yea,” Frank rolled over on his futon and yawned, “So what gives, you’d better have a freakin’ good reason for waking me up.”
“You’ll never believe who I picked up tonight…Marty Fields.”
“Guy. You’re not serious.” Frank let out an exasperated sigh. “Man, what is it this time? Wait, don’t tell me. He brought Cass the wrong color roses last night. Maybe he ordered the wrong wine at their favorite restaurant?”
“Frank, shut up. I picked him up as a customer. He was tanked. But that’s not what I wanted to tell you.”
“Listen man, I’m too tired to hear to this now. I’ll give you a call after church tomorrow and we’ll get a beer or something. Cool?”
The phone clicked as Frank hung up and Guy sat for awhile flicking the antenna of his cell phone. In his mind, he replayed what happened that night.

He pulled his scooter from the trunk and watched a dark-haired woman in a green dress greet Marty at the door. She placed one hand on his shoulder and stood on her tip-toes as she raked her long cherry red nails through his short hair. Guy pulled the bill from his pocket and placed it on the console behind the steering wheel. He locked the door and turned to hand the keys to his customer.
His customer was still busy, going at it on the porch.
For a moment he stood watching, his jaw clenching and his fists tightening.

Guy felt his face grow hot as he remembered how Marty smirked when he wrapped those same arms around Cassie’s slim waist, holding her from running out onto the field. The spikes of his cleat had been firmly planted when number 12 made contact. He felt something snap and grind as the rest of his body from the knee up spun with the impact. Helpless, he just lay prone on the ground; his right eye twitching. He remembered how the grass itched against his cheek as he watched the refs run over puffing on the whistles clenched in their teeth. His ears rang with the sound of helmets clanking against each other above him.
The next sound he remembered hearing was the wobbly plastic of the x-ray pictures the doctor held up to the ceiling light. His father sighing heavily with a studied expression as the doctor pointed something out with a frown.
He remembered Cassie’s face too when she saw the x-ray pictures of his leg the next day. She was biting her lower lip, studying them when she finally looked up at him. “They should print these things in color. I mean, how do you know what is what?”
He half-smiled to himself as he remembered how she had wondered if she could have a Jello cup when the nurse brought him one with his lunch that day. He thought of how they spent the rest of the afternoon before his surgery looking at pictures she took during his last game.

Then he got an idea.

He quickly pulled out his digital camera from the side bag of his scooter. They were required to carry one in case of an accident. He knelt down alongside the scooter, pretending to fix something, and aimed the camera at the lovers. He snapped a half-dozen shots and glanced at the screen to make sure they came out clear. Satisfied, he shoved the camera back into the bag. Straightening, he walked up to the couple and cleared his throat. They still didn’t notice him.
Giving up, he put the keys in Marty’s jacket pocket, set the coat on the bench next to the door and left.
He’d done his job.


He remembered how they used to sit on the bleachers after he got done with football practice, and she’d finished swim practice. They’d talk about what life was going to be like when they graduated.
“We’ll have two kids, two cars, two dogs, and the two of us!” she’d say to him as she leaned back against his shoulder.
“What about our house? Are we going to have two houses? We’re probably going to need two houses to hold the two of everything else,” he laughed.
“No. Just one house,” she said, playing with the strings on his varsity sweatshirt. “But it’s going to have a red door. I like red doors, don’t you? They just have an open-arms, ‘come on in!’ feeling to them.”
“Can our house be sage?” He joked. He always laughed at how she had some fancy name for the most basic colors, like green.
She punched him flirtatiously in the chest. “Are you mocking my extensive color vocabulary, Sir?”
He didn’t answer. He just kissed her.


Guy looked at his watch. It was a quarter to two. Frank sent him a text message earlier that morning and said he’d meet him at Doug’s Bar and Grill at 1:15. He reached into the pocket of his Dickies, fishing for some change to pay for his Coke when he saw Frank trotting up the street.
“Sorry man, the zoo called. Sheila chewed through her bandages again.” Frank said, pulling up a retro iron chair with a zippy red vinyl seat to join him at the window side table. Guy could feel Frank looking at him, but for some reason he couldn’t pull his eyes away from the passing cars. He knew what Frank would say when he told him about last night. Right now he was safe from having his bubble burst again. Just keep staring out the window. The hope he had in his discovery would still be there as long as no one else knew about it or could tell him otherwise.
“Why don’t they just let you re-bandage her tail, Frank – you’re the kangaroo king. From what I hear, Sheila doesn’t take grapes from just anybody’s hand you know. You’re her sugar daddy and she loves you the most because of it,” Guy raised an eyebrow and stroked Frank’s hand jokingly. “Papa would do anything for his womenz.” He laughed.
“Yea,” Frank pulled his hand away and pretended to wipe it off on his collared shirt. “They know that too. But I’m just the manager in training. The only reason they gave me a master key to the place was so they wouldn’t be called out on a Sunday to give a let-in. I haven’t been granted all-access authority to call the shots or step-in for minor fixes yet. Even if the animals love and trust Papa Franky more than the doc.” Frank grinned, leaning back in the shiny tin chair, teetering on two legs and folding his hands across his slim belly like he was the Godfather.
Frank had been climbing the ladder at the local zoo ever since sophomore year in high school. He started out sweeping peanut shells from around the chimp cages. It wasn’t long before the management saw his affinity for animals and his amazing surplus of knowledge on the subject. The first time Guy met Frank he was connecting with the wildlife on a small expanse of hill on the far side of the field during recess in fourth grade. Guy tripped over him, chasing after a football. He didn’t see Frank squatting by the bushes trying to coax a blue belly lizard out of a hole in the ground with a blade of grass.
At first he couldn’t figure out how he’d missed seeing Frank’s tangled mess of rusty color blond hair. But when Guy said sorry and helped him up he saw that Frank’s grass green tie-dye shirt with a silk-screen picture of a dinosaur blended in perfectly with the bushes, he didn’t feel so bad.
“I got it at the Imaginarium,” Frank said, pushing his neon frame glasses back on his smudged face and tugging the front of his shirt so Guy could see the blood-splotched, snarling fangs of the T-Rex.
“Oh, cool.” Guy really didn’t know what to say. But it was a cool shirt. He had one sort of like it that his grandma gave him when she came back from Yosemite. Except his was blue and had wolves on it.
Guy looked at Frank. He hadn’t changed much from fourth grade; same shaggy blond hair, narrow face and ski-slope nose. In fact, Guy was almost certain Frank still had that dinosaur t-shirt. Frank pushed his glasses up on his nose again and looked back at Guy curiously.
“So tell me what was going on last night man,” Frank leaned back as the waiter brought two foamy beers to their table.
“You picked up Marty and then what? Did you fight him?”
“No. He was too sauced. I don’t think he recognized me. He and his buddies were still jumping strays and slop jawing shots when I got there.”
“So you just rounded him up and took him home?”
“I didn’t know what to say.” Guy leaned back in his chair, looking at his drink thoughtfully, wondering if he should tell him the rest or just drop it there. “And get this, I ask him for his address, knowing very well where he and Cassie live….and he tells me to take him to his girlfriend’s place because it’s closer.”
“What the hell!? Is he not married anymore? Or was he too drunk to remember Cass?”
“Oh, he’s still married. I watched him pull his ring from his pocket and put it back on.”
“Dude, that’s a bummer.”
“Well, yea – but not really.” Guy hesitated a moment, then looked at Frank with eyes, begging for understanding. “Don’t you see Frankster? This is my chance…”
“Man, don’t be lame. You can’t just knock on her front door and be like “Hey, your husband’s a jerk…but here I am!”
“Why not? I mean, she’ll be looking for a shoulder to cry on, right?”
Guy leaned back in his chair and pictured her tear-stained face and cute freckled nose, small and pink from sniffling.
“I’d just make my shoulder more-than-available. That’d be my in.”
Frank shook his head as he thought about it. “Guy, that’s kinda jacked, don’t you think? I mean, you’ve never been the kind to pull crap like that before.”
“I’m not pulling crap. She left me for Mr. Stability. She didn’t leave because she didn’t want me anymore. I know she’d take me back. I may not be able to give her financial stability, but I could give her…” Guy sat up, re-empowered by the rush of his own personal sermon. “I would give her relational stability. That’s what’s important. I’d never leave her, I’d never step out on her….Not like him, Frank. Not like Marty.”
“Guy…” Frank tried cutting in.
“I’d be so much better…”
“Honestly man. You need to get over this. It’s getting unhealthy.”
“What the hell do you know about health Frank?!” Guy snapped. “The closest you’ve ever come to a relationship is that stupid kangaroo court you play with every day and those kids you lead through that zoo with butterfly nets and safari shorts. They only love you because you have something they want.”
“And what do you want from Cassie, Guy? What makes you love her so freakin’ much? Huh?” Frank set his glass firmly on the table making a loud pok sound like a woman stomping her high heel on the stone floor of an old library. He looked hard at Guy. “It’s been four years man. Two years ago she said “I Do” and married Marty but you still haven’t gotten the clue. She’s done with you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean anyway?” Guy looked out the window angrily and crossed his arms. “Why’s it like that? Just I Do. Why not I would love to or I thought you’d never ask! I mean – the priest doesn’t ask would you like to take this man or this woman. He says it all legalistically. There’s no intimacy in that, there’s no feeling of closure or rightness; it’s all a legal transaction for the parents.”
“I believe that’s because all the thoughtful formalities were handled during what normal people like to call the dating or courting process,” Frank made quotations with his fingers.
“It’s a fun new pass-time kids have taken up,” said Frank in his teaching voice, “It’s sweeping the nation. You should try it. All the cool kids are.”
Guy glared at him.
“More often than not, Guy, planning a wedding is also a big sign that the bride is pretty comfortable with the idea of getting married.”
“It’s all so trivial, Frank.” Guy brought his hands to his face and he let out a sigh, raking his fingers through his hair. “It’s a big waste of time.”
“You know what this reminds me of?” Frank took another draw on his beer. “One time, this kid in a class I was giving a tour to for a field trip asked me why baby rattle snakes were more dangerous than the grown up snakes. Do you know why they’re more dangerous? Most people think it’s because a momma or papa snake is nearby and will protect the young. You know, like the whole, don’t mess with a baby bear because mama’s got his back. Well, that’s not the case with snakes. Most adult rattle snakes will strike only when threatened or when attacking prey – pumping only a certain amount of their juice into it to paralyze it so they can either get away or prep you for dinner. Most of the time, if they strike a human it’s just to cripple him so they can escape. But a baby rattler hasn’t learned this yet and doesn’t know when to stop striking. He will keep biting out of fear and eventually pump all his little snake juice into his attacker.
“Guy, you need to know when to stop. You can’t keep biting forever or you’ll just run out of juice and kill yourself.”


Guy drove by the field again on his way to his next pick up. He’d asked for the kindergarten shift again because he had plans to surprise his wife tonight to make up for the fight they had last week.
It’s been almost three years since he won her back from Marty Fields.
He gave himself a pat on the back every time he pictured her on their wedding day. She was beautiful. Crisp white lace wrapped around her caramel shoulders. She had the posture of a ballerina and the neck of a swan. All he remembered of that day in August was the sun beating down on the back of his black tux and the cool way she looked up at him with those big pimento olive eyes. He felt refreshed and calm when he looked at her. At peace. He loved those eyes.
He’d found strength in those eyes, and conviction. She wasn’t only his voice of reason; she was his eye of reason. He’d bring back a plate boasting a mountain of treasures from the buffet at Sizzler and with one raised brow she’d present the challenge, “Are you kidding? There’s no way you’ll finish that.” After watching his pace taper off ten minutes later, with a sly smile she’d offer to help him finish his salad. And by that gesture she only meant that she would pick out her favorite parts the way she’d picked out all the M&M’s from the trail mix she’d so thoughtfully packed for the hike last Saturday. Even though he got irritated when she stole the croutons from his salad when she thought he wasn’t looking, he loved her for it all the same. It was things that irritated him to no end that he grew to love the most about her. And it’s what he missed the most when he thought he’d lost her.

Guy pulled up in front of Drew’s Bar and Grill and found his customer hanging from his almost-sober friend’s neck.
“Heeeyyyy!!!” The man flapped his arm in Guy’s direction and looked back at his friend. “I guess thisss…” he stopped mid-sentence, distracted by an invisible spot on his friend’s shirt.
Guy folded and loaded his scooter into the trunk of the man’s car.
“So where ya headed buddy?” he asked as he carefully buckled the man in and tossed his jacket next to him on the back seat.
“My girlfriendsssss…….’spectin’ me. She’s…she’s,” he chuckled to himself as he saw his breath fog the window.
“Where does she live?” Guy asked patiently.
Guy sighed, “Well, if you’re not gonna tell me where she lives,” he reached back and retrieved the man’s jacket on the back seat, and found his wallet in the pocket. “At least I can find out where you live.”
Slid under the plastic window in front of his license, Guy found a Target receipt with a street name scribbled on the back. Underneath the name, in familiar loopy cursive was written, “Sage house, red door….the light will be on.”

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