“I’m going to hurt you.”
I blinked at my phone. Now, conversations with my writing partner Mel often begin this way, so it wasn’t completely surprising, but the air of seriousness coming through that simple text message was troubling. So I started typing. “Whatever it is, I’m sorry. What the hell?”
Next came the pictures.
Mel: “He started talking to me. Said he needed a place to crash and I looked like a kind soul. I can’t take this home.”
I sighed. “Yeah, well, you know what usually happens in these situations…”
Mel: “Great! You can pick him up at the bookstore.”
Oh God, I thought. My insanity is catching.
Mel: “These ones want to come along too. They say they know you.”
Mel: “Are you sure? They look like your kind of people–”
Lili: “BACK AWAY, MEL. IT’S PART OF THE TRAP.”
Mel: “JESUS CHRIST HE ALMOST GOT ME.”
Lili: “I told you to back away.”
“He won’t shut up. Keeps singing One Toke Over the Line.”
Lili: “At least it’s not Lawrence Welk?”
Mel: “I HATE YOU.”
Mel: “He wanted to sit in the front seat.”
Lili: “If you get pulled over I’m not bailing you out.”
Mel: “He’s over 18, it’s his ticket.”
Lili: “How do you know how old–”
Mel: “I told you, HE WON’T SHUT UP.”
So I had to go to the bookstore to pick him up. “Good God, he smells.”
“His name’s Joe.” She paused. “Emphysema Joe.”
I stared at him for a long minute, waiting for him to say something. Silence. Finally, I sighed, and picked him up by his hat. “Willard isn’t going to like this.”
Mel shrugged. “He says Willard’s no problem. He was $35, by the way.”
Of course I paid. What else could I do? I swore to God he’d go home in the trunk, too.
I was wrong.
“A LITTLE TIGHTER…THANKS, MAN.”
I didn’t flinch, but it was close. “I’m not a man.”
“YOU’RE A BIT UPTIGHT TODAY, SWEET THANG.”
“Joe, do me a favor and shut up.”
“WANT A SMOKE?”
I restrained the urge to throttle him with the seatbelt. “No.”
“MIND IF I…”
“Yes, I mind. No smoking in the car.”
“IF I CAN’T SMOKE I GOTTA SING.”
It was a long ride home.
Then I was faced with the dilemma of where to put him. Fortunately, as soon as I carried him into the back yard (not through the deck, because Willard was up there) I spotted a likely place. “Joe, how do you feel about lavender?”
“IF IT’S GREEN, MAN, I LIKE IT.”
I had visions of him stuffing his pipe with Lavendula augustfolia, and cringed a little. But what the hell, at least he wasn’t singing. “Stellar.”
So there he is. Miranda likes him quite a bit, but Willard hasn’t seen him yet. I’m glad. Of course, Fred and George had to bring him a welcome basket…
…but that’s another story.