A Life Lived

Chapter 1

By Dabeagle

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“Well, it doesn't look too busy,” I muttered to myself as I parked my truck. The door hinge squealed as I climbed out, and I made myself a note for the hundredth time to lubricate the damn thing. I went inside and walked past the displays for various products the store claimed were on sale and 'Good Deals!' with barely a glance. The dairy case is always tucked away so you have to pass a bunch of shit you don't want to get to what you do.

“Cream cheese, cream cheese,” I muttered as I studied the cases. There was only one shelf of the crap once I finally found it ,and I grabbed the store brand before hustling off to grab a package of ground beef. I hurried to the front of the store so I could get moving, but there was only one register open, and it was just my luck – Carol Burgess was checking out, and Fiona Granger was the clerk.

“So I can't decide, because on the one hand I should try to be nice and accommodate her, but on the other hand who has time to make all these separate dishes for dinner. I mean, Lord!”

Fiona clucked her agreement. “These people. Why can't they just be normal. Are your kids coming home for Thanksgiving too?”

“Mark Junior is bringing home his girlfriend – it's a big event, you know. Meet the parents!” Carol said with a little laugh and a big smile. “Gloria is buying her ticket this afternoon – or so she says. That girl! I've told them we'll have a full house this year. All our relatives are coming to our place this year.”

“That sounds awful,” I said gruffly. “Could we move this along? Huh? Some of us have places to be.”

Fiona rolled her eyes at me. “Where could you need to be in a hurry?”

“As far away from you two and your inane chatter as I can,” I growled.

“Well.” Carol sniffed. “I guess you should have gotten to the register more quickly then, isn't that right?”

“Or you could be the tiniest bit considerate, since there is a line forming while you two talk like housewives over a back fence.”

“I can take the next customer in line.”

“Go on, grouch,” Fiona said.

I took my items to the next lane, operated by Delia Jurgens.

“How are you today, Mr. McKenzie?”

“Dandy.”

“Would you like a bag?”

“No.”

“They're only five cents.”

I looked at her with frustration. “No.”

“It's supposed to be ‘No, thank you.’ Haven't you heard? That'll be $7.32”

“I hadn't,” I said, handing her a ten.

“Well, I remember learning that in grade school,” she said, placing the ten on the register and flipping up the bill holders to make change. “They used to teach things called manners. They must have had those when you were a boy, didn't they?”

“People used to make change and let the customer get on with their day, too,” I replied.

She sighed and shook her head as she counted back my change and handed me a receipt. “You have a blessed day.”

She says it to get under my skin. “Why don't you keep that to yourself?” I picked up my items and headed for the door. The truck started with the first hit from the ignition, something I've always liked about it. A few minutes later I pulled up in front of the Mountain Vet Hospital and headed inside.

“Hi, Mr. McKenzie. I'll get the doc for you,” the receptionist said. I nodded to her and took a seat. This receptionist is better than the last one. She gets down to business. I glanced around the familiar room, feeling fidgety. Waiting rooms are terrible places. Their whole purpose is simply to be a place to wait while others accomplish things. It's kind of like being on the bench.

“Colin, good to see you,” Doc Andersen said, smiling as he entered the waiting area. I stood and accepted his hand. “So I was able to get a sample from the masses we saw on the X-ray. I'm sorry, Colin. It's cancer.”

I pressed my lips together and sat down heavily. “Shit.”

He sat down beside me. “It's too close to the heart for surgery. We can make her as comfortable as possible, and you bring her in when you're ready.”

I sucked on my teeth a moment. “Does she have any quality of life left?”

“Definitely. She's a happy girl right now, just has that cough. I'll send you home with some meds. I should caution you, though, that given the location her time could be very short.”

“Okay,” I said with a slow nod. “Thanks, Doc.” I went up to the counter to pay the bill. A girl with a space between her two front teeth wide enough to hold a cigar gave me a smile she must give to everyone who gets bad news.

“Here ya go, honey,” she said in a tone I couldn't take. There is nothing worse than finding out something beautiful is going to die – that it's approaching. I take that back. The only thing worse is someone giving you a retail amount of regret.

“Your sincerity is only surpassed by your gap,” I muttered. No, it didn't quite make sense, but it was all I had at the moment. I hate when the moment passes and I just don't have the right amount of bile to really get a good zinger off. I tried to gather my gray matter to take another swipe at her, but the door opened, and my favorite vet tech brought Daisy out to me. She scrabbled forward, paws slipping on the tiled floor, tail wagging and coughing from the tumors by her heart. Instantly I forgot about the great gap behind the counter and knelt down for my girl.

“Hello, Baby!” I said to her, and she stood on her hind legs and gave me all the affection a mutt could possibly give. We don't deserve dogs. I clipped her leash to her harness, and she started pulling for the door, eager to get out of the vet's office. Crossing the parking lot wasn't done in a straight line – first there were things to smell, then there was finding the right place to squat, and then there was a fair bit more smelling. Finally we got to the truck, and I helped her into her accustomed seat before fastening her doggy restraint.

“There was a lady at the store,” I told Daisy. “She's talking about these people coming to her house for dinner and boring the rest of us about it. She just blabbed.”

Daisy licked her paw and then stuck her nose out the window, sniffing the breeze. We got home, and I gave her one of the meds right away, wrapped in cream cheese – the only way she takes her pills. I'd tried liverwurst before and that went okay until one day she found the pill. From then on she looked at liverwurst with suspicion, which really anyone with any sense should. Cream cheese was dense enough that she hadn't caught on yet.

I put her dinner down for her and went to sit in front of the TV with my dinner and a beer. I woke a bit later with Daisy pushing on my leg. I blinked a few times and glanced at the clock on the wall and wondered where my evening had gone. I let her out for her last potty of the night, and then we got ready for bed.

I keep the fenced part of my back yard mowed, because ticks like to hide in long grass. Beyond my four-foot high chain link fence was open field for a long stretch on either side to where my neighbors are, with a few overgrown acres stretching away from the back of my property. The space between my property and the one behind my house was quite a ways, not easily visible during the day and at night only by their lights, with a row of electric lines marching down the center. In the distance were dim lights for a house or two, but that side wasn't as developed as this one. I'd have preferred the less developed one, but the neighbors weren't too bad over here.

My street is the architectural equivalent of seeing it rain on the other side of the street while your side is dry. My side was spread out between houses, nobody on top of someone else. Across the street? A mix of single family homes, and right across from me was the only apartment complex on this side of town. It wasn't huge, only two stories and maybe sixty units, but it qualified. It had started life as a motel and failed. Someone re-imagined it, and here we are.

In the morning I fed Daisy and left the door open so she could take herself out when she deemed it necessary before heading to get cleaned up myself. My house is old in every sense – furnishings, paint, styling. Floorboards made predictable creaks as I crossed from room to room. After showering and deciding I didn't need the shave, I dressed and closed the back door before taking Daisy out to my old truck and putting her in the passenger seat. Her harness securing her and the window down for her nose, we headed into town.

This town is weird. The history, the layout, the people. Some might say there's just something in the water, but I think it's a mix of other things. Trouble with us humans is we look for a single, easy answer. Many of us stop there, but sometimes things are far more complex that a single thought. Many times things that people say are common sense really aren't. The trick is figuring out which is which.

For instance, even though the town wasn't small enough that you knew everyone's family or their names, it was small enough that more often than not they looked like you had met them before. We had the Willows, which used to be a big farm but now was full of houses of people that wouldn't deign to farm if their lives depended on it. Well, I shouldn't say it's full of houses. They planned a lot of houses, but only a few are built and occupied – the few behind my house. The problem is that people got greedy and the rest of the building permits or land transfer titles were held up due to insufficient grease on the appropriate palms. Who knew how long that would take.

There was my end of town, spread out and never having been farmable land, but not close enough to town – or the original rail station it had sprouted around – to have buildings packed closely together. The local public school got converted into a charter school. The locals haven't yet figured out what a scam that is. Oh, yeah, they'll break out the torches and the pitchforks later, but for now they're content in their ignorance.

“Ready to git, girl?” I asked Daisy. She had her nose to the open window, sniffing as her only response as we headed deeper into town. Downtown is what folks probably think of when the term Main Street is mentioned about little towns. It's a business district with parking and storefronts to either side. Just to be different they called it Maine Street officially. There was a newer area with some national chains closer to the highway, but the area was seeing a slow gentrification creeping in like a corporate cancer.

I pulled up in front of LuLu's Coffee Place and went around to get Daisy down. We walked to the front door, which I opened. I hollered 'We're here!' before letting the door close and going to take a seat at the only table and chair on the sidewalk before the place. For a long time Daisy and I used to go inside, but one day some nasty woman called the health inspector to complain about Daisy, and the owner had, politely and regretfully, told me Daisy couldn't come in anymore.

That went over like a fart in church for me, not that I'm against the practice – just a phrase.

So two things happened. The table and chair were left over from the spring and summer months, when they had outdoor seating. Being metal, they left the one set outside for Daisy and myself. The second thing was I plotted to get the harpy back who'd caused all this inconvenience.

I tossed Daisy's pad down by the chair, and she plopped her behind on it, keeping off the cold sidewalk. The door opened and Jeannie stepped out, the girl the owner hired for morning shift, and she set down my medium coffee and raspberry Danish on the table. She squatted down and started to pet Daisy.

“What did the vet say?” she asked without looking at me.

I sipped my coffee. “Cancer.”

“Shit,” she remarked. “How about a cookie, Daisy?” Cookie was definitely in Daisy's vocabulary. Jeannie fed Daisy little bites from the cookie in her apron while she talked. “How bad is it?”

I pulled a bit of Danish off and held the sweet to Daisy, who gobbled it. A stomach with four legs was my girl. “By the heart. It's all about keeping her happy right now.”

She petted Daisy's head, rubbing her ears. “You have the softest ears, Baby Girl,” she said to Daisy, who nosed her apron in case there were more cookies being hidden. Without looking at me she said, “You know, you could be a little nicer when you let us know you're here.”

“Could have kicked the Karen out,” I replied.

She stood and gave me a wan smile. “Storm tonight. See you tomorrow?”

“Wouldn't miss it,” I replied, then paused. “What storm?”

The corners of her mouth curled in amusement. “What? A man of your age doesn't know what the weather has in store? Don't you have a knee or elbow that twinges when weather change is coming?”

I looked at her flatly. “I had a twinge, but the doc gave me some antibiotics.”

She grinned a little. “Snow tonight. Maybe a foot or so, lot of wind. Lots of things to make Daisy think she heard something to warn you about.”

I grunted, but nodded to acknowledge her. I got up a little slower than I used to just a few years ago, and Daisy fell in beside me as we headed back to the truck. After getting her situated, I headed over to work. Used cars are no way to get rich quick. ‘Buy here, pay here’ is the devil's own playground. There is nothing worse than chasing someone around for $75 a week, or when the car breaks, the payments stop. Much better to sell the car, get your money and move on.

That didn't mean I didn't occasionally try to be human and arrange easy terms for someone. It nearly always bit me in the ass, so I didn't do it unless I knew I could afford to lose the car and not have it hurt too much. I pulled in behind the little office building, which was attached to the single stall garage where we did minor repairs and inspections.

Entering the small office, I headed to the coffee pot, while Daisy went to greet Annabelle, the mechanic. Annabelle had tried running her own shop and teaching, but misogyny is strong in the land of the free, home of the stupid. Too many men thinking they knew better by virtue of their testicles or simply not trusting her to think and ovulate all in a single day. When I'd heard her shop was closing I'd gone to see her, having lost my own mechanic due to not being able to keep his stupid ass out of jail, and we'd struck a deal. Her boyfriend was the complete opposite of her – worked in an office, wore white entirely too much.

“Decided to drag your ass in, huh?” she greeted me, walking over to the coffee pot with Daisy in tow.

“You know she's only following you for the treat, right?” I grumbled.

“That's because,” she replied, pulling a treat from the drawer under the pot and turning to Daisy, “I don't disappoint her.”

“Dog eats better'n most people. Trust me, she has no complaints.”

“She's more than a stomach,” she said, smiling at me.

“I know. She has four legs, too. Gets that stomach around pretty good.”

She chuckled and took a seat on the little couch for the customers to be uncomfortable on while we negotiated prices. “Storm coming tonight.”

“Yeah, heard something 'bout that. Guessing we ought to plan to be in early. Get some cars cleared off for the masses that will, no doubt, be surging at our door.”

“You never know. Tomorrow could be dicey.”

I grunted. “How are we on that little sedan?”

“Brake pads should be here this morning. It looks straightforward, so the customer can get it today.”

“Good. What's the status on the rest of our outstanding vehicles?”

“Three to auction by the end of the week, got those four coming in day after tomorrow. Tires and tie rods for that SUV will be here by tonight.”

“What about the gal that called about her van overheating?”

She smiled and rolled her eyes. “It wasn't overheating. The fan switch was defective, so it was running all the time. She thought the car must be overheating because of the fan. I put a new switch in it, and she's happy as a pig in shit.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Do you kiss your nerdy boyfriend with that mouth?”

She raised an eyebrow. “Among other things. Why I make him-”

“No, no! Forget I asked!”

Smiling slyly, she said, “Why Mr. McKenzie, I think you have a little crush.”

I snorted. “Don't you have work to do?”

She laughed and petted Daisy, who coughed again. She had been, but we'd been talking about other things. “What did the vet say about this cough?”

I sighed. “Cancer. She's okay for now.”

She glanced at me and then back down to Daisy. “Poor thing. Have to give you extra love while we can.”

I looked at Daisy, who was soaking in the affection like she does. It's in a dog's nature. Some people don't like affection. They can't handle the gentle touch or the kind word without it feeling as though it challenges their view of who they should be. Dogs are unencumbered with such conceits. Daisy the love sponge just rolled over and exposed her belly for more attention. Something to be said for asking for what you want. Also something to be said for living in the moment, enjoying what you have when you have it.

I spent the balance of the morning and into early afternoon looking at cars for sale online, responding to inquiries about cars on the lot, and taking Daisy out to meet her needs, which for a hound includes smelling every disgusting thing in sight. If it was extra smelly, she'd try to roll in it.

“Stop that! Not like you need to mask your scent. A hunter you are not, spoiled girl,” I told her.

“This the official greeter?” a customer asked, approaching me with a smile. That's what about 90% of people say when they come to the lot and meet Daisy the first time.

“Lead sales rep,” I told them, as I do so many others. “What are we looking for today? I'll sell you every darned car on my lot.”

He chuckled. Maybe mid-thirties, thinning hair and comfortable clothes. Not new clothes, but taken care of. Probably working.

“I need something for winter that's good on gas and won't kill me on maintenance.”

“Okay. Commuting to work mostly? Grocery trips or more long-distance driving?”

“I probably drive thirty minutes back and forth to work, and yeah some errands. I rarely go out of town, and I have an SUV for longer rides.”

“Okay. Reason I ask is that short hops would mean your exhaust may not heat up enough to burn off the water than can get in there overnight. See when people start a car, white smoke can mean there is water in the exhaust and that may mean a leak in the engine. But when you get dewy mornings, some condensation gets into the exhaust and you may see some white smoke at start up as it burns off.”

“Okay,” he replied, his tone unsure.

“My point being if you were doing little ten minute trips to work, the exhaust may not burn all the moisture off, and it makes the exhaust components wear out faster.”

He frowned slightly. “How?”

“The water sits on the metal, which has no protection, and it rusts out faster. So in that case you'd want a car that didn't have expensive or had less expensive parts. But sounds like you have a regular commute, should work out just fine.”

“I...okay. I saw a car on your website,” he said, pulling out his phone and showing me an image.

“Yeah, it's still here – just barely. Let me grab the key and let's mosey over to it,” I said, turning and calling to Daisy, who was aggressively sniffing his shoes. She decided she wasn't listening, so I just left her and got the key. As we walked to the car I filled him in on the history as I knew it and the features the car had. He was a pragmatic buyer, not one who was in love with the car, so I tailored my sales patter to the car's virtues in fuel mileage, service history and features.

An hour later, after a nice test drive and some office chatter he may have thought were negotiations, paperwork was signed, and I was happy to have one less car going to auction. When they headed to auction it was because they'd sat on my lot too long and were costing me money. After he'd left, while I did my little dance with the department of motor vehicles, I let Annabelle know the car had moved up in priority and that I'd seen a nice Volvo wagon online that I wanted to look at for inventory.

“A Volvo? Little upscale for you, boss.” she said with a grin.

I pointed at her. “You're trying to provoke me, but it's not going to work.”

“Oh, I think it did,” she said, laughing.

“Go back to work,” I grumbled.

She took her cheerful attitude and headed back to the garage. Meanwhile I checked on the status of my DMV documents and was satisfied I had time to go look at this car. I called to Daisy, and we headed out to the truck and were off. I went through a burger joint drive-thru and got a coffee and a plain burger for Daisy, who made a mess on the seat with crumbs.

“Are you going to clean that up?” I asked her.

She snuffled along the seat in case she'd missed a bit of the patty, then looked at me as if I were teasing her when all I wanted was for her to pick up the bread crumbs.

“You know, I have no idea why people get kids over dogs. I mean,” I said looking at her, “there are so many advantages. If I drop food, you will clean it up. If a kid drops food, they just leave it. You're happy to see me, kids just continue looking at their phones. That's another thing – you don't need a phone plan.”

I glanced over, but Daisy was ignoring me and looking out the window instead. Her ears flapped a bit in the air from the open window. The temperature was actually rising a bit, getting to the right temperature to snow, meaning we'd be getting that storm tonight.

It was unfair that dogs don't live as long as people. I can think of many people I'd rather lose than my dog.

I pulled up at the address with the Volvo and spotted the car on the lawn with a 'for sale' sign in the front window. I got out, and Daisy and I walked around the car for a closer look. Well, I looked at the car; Daisy sniffed the lawn. The body looked to be okay at a glance, and the interior wasn't worn out. The tires still had decent tread, though there was the odd scratch here and there. The headlights were clouded, but that could be polished.

“I can grab the keys if you like,” a man called out from the front stoop of the house.

I waved. “That would be great. Thanks.”

I continued my walk around, looking at the glass, signs of wear and so forth. I hunkered down to feel under the edges of the rocker panels for rust and then felt a bit dizzy when I stood up.

“Feeling all right?” the fellow asked with concern.

“Yeah.” I paused. “Just stood up too quick. Got a little light-headed.”

“Yeah. Getting older is a real kick, isn't it?”

“It's something,” I agreed. He opened the car and started it, then popped the hood. I plugged my scanner in and looked at the On Board Diagnostic, or OBD, information. The engine bay was clean enough. The shock towers were in good shape. He said he thought it may need brakes, and that his wife had dementia and the car needed to go, because she kept trying to drive it. We struck a deal, and I paid cash, telling him I'd have a truck come to take it later that day. I let Annabelle know where the car was and who to speak to for the keys and then headed back into town.

I swung by the bank to get some cash. Going inside sent me back down memory lane, as it always does. I'm not sure why I do this to myself; maybe I have a mean streak that even gets aimed at myself sometimes.

High school was quite a while ago, but not so long ago that I don't have very vivid memories of some parts of it. I don't recall the first time I'd seen Brian Repecki, but I can still call up the feelings he elicited from me. I can recall calling his home number to hear his voice, before the days of caller ID. I can recall joining the soccer team just to be closer to him. I can still feel the tremble in my chest as he and I became friends and how he looked up close – his fine blond hair, parted in the center, his clear, smooth skin. He was a runner, so he had a lean build. Even now, so many years later, my heart goes a bit faster as I think of him.

I think there are parts of our lives we never let go of, not really. Some things from sometimes years ago – decades even – can be recalled with such clarity that you can feel like an anxious schoolboy for a moment, however unpleasant that may be. But...I think there will always be a part of me that's in middle school and pining for Brian, hanging on every word, even if I no longer remember what was said.

Of course nothing happened between us. Except for one night where I gave him a body massage late at night, something that still burns in my memory from time to time. But later he discovered I wasn't cool, or maybe I wasn't worth tolerating anymore, and as things between people go, this one went. I was still attracted, even though he'd dropped our friendship for shallow reasons, and that had never really abated. It's funny sometimes how some parts of you still react to someone or something, even if that thing doesn't like you or want anything to do with you. It's a toxic thing.

Those memories always came back at the bank, where he worked as a branch manager. Now just a middle-aged man with thinning hair and a thickening middle, like so many of us. When he smiled I could still see the young man I'd burned for so long ago. Of course there was nothing between us anymore – I don't even speak with him in the bank, much less anywhere else. He'd married, had a child and divorced. He'd moved away once, but had come back to town. I wasn't sure of the reasons for his return, but I knew it wasn't me.

^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

Cash in hand from the bank, I headed to a small cafe for a sandwich and a small snack for Daisy. A woman with a small child approached, and the child asked in a high voice if Daisy would mind being petted.

“She may follow you home if you stop,” I warned her. The little girl petted Daisy and then squealed at her mother in glee before repeating the process. When they departed, Daisy looked up at me.

“Don't blame me,” I told her. “You're the one that tolerates kids.”

She gave me a little whine.

“No. No. You're cute and you wag at them, next thing you know they're putting their sticky fingers on you. It's not up to me to treat you for letting those little germ factories touch you.”

She shifted on her feet and gave me a little woof. I rolled my eyes and pulled a slice of meat from my sandwich and held it out to her. She had the audacity to sniff it first to see if it met her standards. The dog eats frozen poop and thinks something I give her may be less acceptable?

I swung past the DMV and got the plates for the car I'd sold that morning, also refreshing the stock of them I normally had on hand, and headed back to the office. With Daisy on her accustomed blanket on the couch, I sat down and went to work adding the Volvo to inventory on paper and writing up a description. Tomorrow I could take pictures, if the storm wasn't too bad. The thought put me in mind of looking up how much the local weather-guessers were saying about this storm, so I pulled it up on the computer and read about it.

“Well, Daisy, high winds. Maybe a foot or so, but nasty while it's going on. I guess we should get storm food. Maybe I'll stick a roast in the slow cooker tonight, huh? Or maybe the oven, in case we lose power. What do you think?”

She licked her chops as if she understood. Hell, she probably associates me saying storm food with her getting good stuff, so maybe she does. Annabelle strolled in a few minutes later and refilled her coffee cup.

“That little car you sold this morning will be done soon. Just have to refill the oil and I'll run over and get that Volvo,” she said, sitting down beside Daisy and stroking her head.

“Good. I got the plates, so I'll let the guy know he can come as soon as tomorrow. That Volvo was under market price, so give it the hairy eye and see if there's something major lurking I missed. If it needs to hit auction instead of our lot, I want to get it on the next truck.”

“No problem.” She pulled out her phone and the corner of her mouth curled into a smile. “Flynn is sending me pictures of cribs and things like that. I think he's hinting at starting a family.”

“I thought he was special for dating you, but kids? Has he seen how expensive those things are?”

She laughed and set her phone down on the table. “No. Please, Mr Weird Gay that doesn't have kids. Tell me all about it.”

I leaned back in my chair. “It's one of the first things that drew me to the gay side, a fringe benefit if you will.”

“Like our coffee pot?” she offered, an amused expression on her face.

“Exactly. Free coffee is a perk.” I nodded to add emphasis. “Being gay is an automatic 'get out of kids free' card. At worst you get shafted into being a guncle sometimes. But it's not just the idea of kids or the hard facts about expenses,” I said, raising a finger. “Have you seen these names today? I mean look at you, dating a Flynn. What sort of a weirdo name is that? When I was a kid Flynn was a little brother – the weak one that got eaten by his twin in the womb.”

She burst out laughing and rolled her hand, indicating I should go on.

“I mean it. LeVon. LaTrell. I mean anything where they stick something French sounding in front of the actual name to make them sound fancy or something.”

“I know!” she said, smiling. “I was just saying that to my friend Von and my other friend, Trell!”

I crossed my arms. “You know what I mean.” I pointed at her. “Then there's all the weird spellings. I just saw an article for the millionth time about that girl from Alabama that got murdered – Natalee? I mean I expect a spelling like that from Alabama, but come on!”

She leaned back on the couch and petted Daisy absently. “For a gay guy, you don't like diversity very much.”

“I'm just saying names mean something. Eddie. That was a good name. Where are all the Eddie's?”

“I'm partial to Michael.”

“No,” I said firmly. “Look at how it's spelled! It's a phonetic clusterfuck!”

She burst out laughing. “What about your first name? It's only one letter off from your asshole.”

“Colin is a fine name, despite your disparaging comments.” I raised an eyebrow at her. “Besides, don't you two need to talk about marriage first? Or are you guys going to just co-habit?”

She grinned. “Maybe we'll be single but co-parent. That way we can do the whole friends-with-benefits thing and have a kid too. What do you think?”

“I think you better get good health insurance, because your kid will need therapy,” I said with a roll of my eyes.

“I don't know,” she said, her tone shifting to something softer. “I don't mind the idea of a kid. I'm not sure I'm really cut out for the job of motherhood, but I like the idea.”

I grunted. “Kids are a lot of work. They eat all your time – if they don't, you're doing it wrong. It's a huge responsibility that too many people take too lightly. They think a few sleepless nights and cleaning diapers is the worst thing that could happen, but no. You don't pay attention and help shape the little diaper-filler, and next thing you know you have a Republican on your hands.”

She laughed again and stood. “Okay. I'm going to finish up that oil change and go get that Volvo.”

I nodded as she left the room, chuckling to herself. I looked at Daisy, who regarded me with her head between her paws.

“Don't look at me like that,” I told her. “It's not like you'd clean up after a kid. Oh sure, you just think they'll feed you – one more minion for you to lord over. But, no. They will break things and blame you – little innocent you. They leave dirty clothes everywhere – which you’d probably like, given how you like smelly things. Kids smell bad.”

Her eyes closed.

“Sure. Ignore my warnings,” I said, looking back to my computer. “Let's see what else is for sale out there.”




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