Alex has been an online sports and pop culture writer for five years. When he's not writing about sports, Alex is an aspiring screenwriter.
It had been about a week since my… ugh… date with Carrie. I made the mistake of consulting my so-called best friend Simon about it. He thought I was unfair to Carrie. The way I saw it, she won the date. I gave her a date. Simon was having none of that. He was going to make me go crawling back to Carrie. I was approaching her locker after school. Each step felt like an eternity. Simon was like a prison warden in this death march.
And there Carrie was. She was just putting her books in her locker, but everything about it felt so much more sinister. I gave Simon one last look, hoping he would let me out of this. That was it, just a look. He returned my look with one that said “you’re not getting out of this.” I may have been able to convince George Clooney to finally settle down, but there was no reasoning with Simon.
It’s funny. Despite having wooed many of the most beautiful women on the planet, I was actually hesitant about approaching Carrie. I guess the difference was I actually WANTED to talk to those women. I took a breath, and got her attention: “Carrie?”
She turned to me with a light in her eyes: “Robert, what’s up?”
“Look, I was thinking about it, and I realized I didn’t give you a fair shake when I took you out a week ago. So I would be honored to take you out again.” I’d like to thank the Academy.
“I would love to, but…” She hesitated, and her smile faded. “But I’m kind of seeing someone.”
It took me a second to register this, but I still replied: “What do you mean ‘kind of seeing someone’? You’re either seeing someone or you’re not!”
“In that case, I AM seeing someone. Maybe next time!”
I was flabbergasted at this. Carrie was seeing someone? Who the smeg wanted to go out with her? Then a thought crossed my mind: I was free! I was rid of that walking, talking anchor. Of course, that analogy came naturally to me since Carrie kind had the physical appeal and smell of an anchor.
I erupted from that school with all the ferocity of… something… that erupts… really strongly. Hey, I can’t always have a clever simile. Simon had a very difficult time keeping up with me. I was doing cartwheels, front flips, backflips, and pirouettes. I’d have made an excellent gymnast if it weren’t too girly. I was needed for more macho callings such as football… which I couldn’t do.
“I take it you’re excited that Carrie isn’t going to be chasing you anymore.” Simon had officially been promoted from Corporal Obvious to Captain Obvious.
“Excited? Excited doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel, Simon. I am rapturous. I am… Do you have a thesaurus handy?” Simon gave me a puzzled look. “That’s how excited I am! I’m just beyond words! I am at a loss of words!”
“That’s a first.”
“It’s exciting – no more having her coffee breath breathing down my neck when I’m practicing football, no more of her pestering me to join the band, no more creepy notes in my locker! As far as I’m concerned, I may be flying solo, but at least I’m flying free. And no wiz that ever is or was can bring MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE down!”
“I just hope you’re happy.”
“But I still can’t help but wonder…”
“What kind of guy is Carrie going out with? I mean seriously, who could replace Robert Ulysses Tolkien? Maybe Carrie found her match. I could just picture him: Sweat stains, teeth that are downright, blackened, a receding hairline at the spry age of nineteen, glasses so thick they could cut diamond and he probably has a hunch from years of scoliosis!
“Then again, what if this person is actually competition? This guy probably has washboard abs, a chiseled jaw, flowing locks like the Golden Fleece. Oh sure, this Adonis may seem like Carrie’s diametric opposite, but that’s why he wants to go after. ‘I’ve loved thousands of women but nothing like Carrie Reinhold,’ he says in some exotic accent like Mexican, Australian, or Pakistani. Then again, I just aptly described myself…
“Wait a minute! That may be what she did! All this time, Carrie may have more to her. She is good at science… I think. What if she’s spent all these years working on her own creation? Piecing the parts together after years of searching and grave robbing. Meticulously gathering every part she needed – toenails, hair, teeth, skulls, a ribcage or two. Then the day came – she had her very own Franken-Tolkien… or would it be Tolkien-stein?”
Simon abruptly grabbed my face. “Robert, Carrie is out of your hair! Let it go.”
I decided to just keep my trap shut about the matter… to Simon anyway. No matter how hard I tried, the matter never escaped my mind. I had to know who Carrie was seeing. My first instinct was to check Facebook. No dice – Carrie hadn’t posted any pictures of herself with this mystery man. After the way I acted, I was way too embarrassed to ask Carrie who this guy was. There was but one solution. I was going to have to go undercover.
That Saturday, I put on my raincoat. I put on my detective hat. Mom was watching TV downstairs. I had a lot of freedom to go out at night when it wasn’t a school night. I thought I’d just pass by. “Bye Mom, I’m going out.”
She caught me. “Bobby, where are you going dressed like that?”
“Can’t you tell I’m doing a little detective work? There’s a dame with a new man in her life. I’m hot on the trail to get to the bottom of this case.”
Mom snickered, “Don’t be out too late, hon. Love ya!” I can’t be too surprised Mom was cool with me going out to do a little snooping since she knew firsthand what a great detective I was. After all, I could always figure out who did it on Monk.
I made my way to the restaurant. The night was cold – colder than the other side of the pillow left in the refrigerator. The night was black – like Richard Pryor and coffee without cream together. I finally made it to the restaurant. I was scoping at the area for signs of Carrie – her distinct aroma, flakes of dandruff that may have fluttered to the floor, or maybe I’d hear Carrie’s unique brand of bellowing. I caught the eye of the hostess. “Excuse me, may I help you?”
“Yeah, I’m looking for someone. And I’m undercover.”
“Word of advice: If you’re undercover, you don’t tell people.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Now can you help me find someone?”
“Maybe I can help you. Who are you looking for?”
I was about to answer when I realized my problem. If I don’t actually know who I’m looking for, I can’t quite describe them to the other person. With confidence, I proclaimed “I don’t know.”
The hostess smiled as she said, “I can’t quite help you if I don’t know who you’re looking for.”
“Maybe I could draw them for you!”
I drew up a police artist level sketch of Carrie. Since I wasn’t quite sure who else I was looking for, I drew a question mark next to her – a damn good drawing of a question mark, I might add! The hostess gave me a crooked look. “Yeah, I don’t recognize these people.”
“You don’t recognize them? You haven’t seen anyone who smells like she spent the night with wolves, bellows as if she’s being pushed out of a moving helicopter or has the personality of a grenade blast?”
“That sounds like someone I would have recognized.”
I sneered realizing I had been beaten. Carrie’s a pretty hard person to miss. If the hostess hadn’t seen her, she hadn’t seen her. However, I had to get one thing off my chest: “Just one more question… Where did you get those shoes?”
I think I was beginning to irritate the hostess. “I don’t mean to be rude, but do you plan on ordering something?” I decided I might as well stay and enjoy a little local cuisine. Besides, I had nowhere else to go and I figured Carrie might show up sooner or later. Most importantly, I didn’t want this person to call the actual cops on me.
I sat and ordered myself an omelet – I’ve always been one of those people who could eat breakfast food any time of the day. This was one of the few times I had to sit by myself at a restaurant. I never realized just how lonely it was without company. I also never realized just how boring it was. Times like this made me happy that I invented the smartphone. I decided this was as good as time as any to catch up on my messages. Lorde had spurned all my album name suggestions such as Good Lorde, Dear Lorde, and Oh My Lorde. I poured through those messages. Still no Carrie.
Dinner arrived. I got a three-meat omelet. I was still waiting for Carrie. The waitress came over. “Are you enjoying everything?”
“Yes, this is quite tasty,” I answered. “And you can tell the chef that’s from someone who made a bacon-avocado frittata that Chef Ramsey approved of.” I devoured my dinner pretty quickly. Still no Carrie. I started buying time by buying more Dr. Pepper. It’s an awfully good thing I worked out religiously otherwise all that pop would probably have taken its toll on my weight.
Unfortunately, all that Dr. Pepper took another toll on me as I frequently had to make trips to the John. It’s one of those great mysteries of life – how does making a venture to the wonder seat make one’s dinner appear? Unfortunately, making a trip to the oval office hadn’t made Carrie appear. What a turn of events! This was the first time I ever actually WANTED to see Carrie! I decided this was as good a time as any to finally hit the road. If Carrie hadn’t shown up yet, she probably wasn’t going to. It’s amazing – I was one of the few people who got to see The Day the Clown Cried. Yet figuring out who Carrie Reinhold was dating was one of the few mysteries that would forever dog me.
I made my exit… after, of course, paying my check. I was heading toward the door. Admittedly, I wasn’t really paying attention as I bumped into some random couple on the way out. The guy said, “Hey, watch where you’re walking!”
The girl said “Robert!” That girl was Carrie. So this was my mystery man. I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised he was a few years older than me. I’m guessing he was at least in college. He had longish hair and five o’clock shadow – because nothing says “I don’t care what other people think about me” quite like keeping up an image.
“You know this guy,” said… said… I hadn’t quite caught the guy’s name yet.
“Yeah, we go to school together. We were here a few weeks ago,” Carrie said in a more sheepish tone than usual. She decided to introduce us. “Robert, this is Marshall. Marshall, this is Robert.” Marshall! I have given a name to my pain – and it is Marshall.
“So this is the guy who preceded me? Did you keep her warm for me?” Marshall seemed to take amusement at this as he taps slapped me a few times. Marshall held out his hand, “I’m Marshall, nice to meet you.”
I coughed in my hand. Marshall shook it anyway.
“I would advise not touching me like that – otherwise I’ll show you the vicious art of Tolkien Fu.”
“Tolkien Fu?” Marshall took amusement in the things I said. “This guy is a riot! Carrie, can this guy sit with us?”
“Yeah… I’d love that,” Carrie replied
But I wouldn’t have loved that! “Sorry, I must be going.”
“Bull!” Marshall replied. “You’re dining with us tonight.”
Marshall grabbed me up as he and Carrie approached their table. It was as if I were being led to the gallows. This was like a bad real-life sequel – how do I top that horrendous date with Carrie? This time I’m coupling a date with Carrie with someone who already irritated me after only a few minutes.
“So what’s up with that get-up?” Marshall asked me. “Do you always go around dressed like Columbo?”
I didn’t want Marshall or Carrie to know I was actually trailing them. Mayhaps I should have thought of that before I actually started trailing them. “I was doing a bit of investigation. According to the police, there have been a string of robberies in the area. And they called on me to help crack the case.”
“Where do you find this guy?” Marshall asked as I was getting more and more frustrated. “And where does he come up with this stuff?”
Carrie was kind of bashful in her response: “Robert is… really creative.” I couldn’t figure out what was up with Carrie. She was uncharacteristically quiet.
“Hey Bobby, let me see that hat!” Wow! Two strikes in one! First, he called me Bobby! Nobody outside of my family calls me Bobby! Well… I let Olivia Wilde call me Bobby, but you must be at least 18 years of age to hear THAT story. And he took my hat. Marshall didn’t ask to wear my hat. He just took it! And for the record, he didn’t rock the hat as I could. “What do you think of me, Carrie? Do I look like Indiana Marshall?”
“I think it’s a good look for you.” Yeah, Carrie was into this guy. Nobody would perpetuate a lie like that unless they were trying to get into the sack with them. Why do you think I told Megan Fox she could act?
“Would you kiss me if I wore the hat?” Carrie giggled at this. I sneered. I double sneered when they started kissing right in front of me. God, why they gotta be so rude? Of course, I wonder how Marshall was standing the taste of cigarettes, gravy, and plutonium that I imagine Carrie’s breathe tastes like. I figured this was as good a time as to exit stage left. But first, I took my hat back!
I was not looking forward to going to school on Monday. Come to think of it, I didn’t look forward to going to school on any day that ended in Y. But I was definitely not looking forward to seeing Carrie. Then again, I never… Oh, I think you know where this is going!
Monday came. I stepped off the bus. Carrie stepped out of Marshall’s car, and she kissed that vermin right on his toxic lips. Marshall drove off and Carrie walked away. It hadn’t escaped me that Carrie was putting a little more effort into her appearance. She still dressed like a bag lady, but her hair looked like she actually knew what a comb was. She carried with her the scent of cheap, off-the-counter deodorant and not the decay of a thousand corpses. Alas, she saw me.
“Hey, Robert!” I do think it escaped her that I was giving Marshall a death stare as if staring at him hard enough would actually cause his head to explode. Hey, it worked once!
“What do you see in that cretin, Marshall?”
“Jealous type all of a sudden? Marshall seems to be turning you into the green-eyed monster.”
How did Carrie know I was secretly the Incredible Hulk? “Robert Tolkien is jealous of nobody! Answer the question!”
“First of all, he’s nice.”
“Nice? You say he’s nice after he unleashed the Cheers gang on me!”
“The Cheers gang?”
“Not to be confused with the Chairs gang! Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. Well, sometimes they want to take you where everybody beats your face! There’s the leader – Malone. His weapons of choice were the 5 B’s: Broken beer bottles and baseball bats! Then there was Norm. Don’t let his monstrous girth fool you. He could drink himself into a rage and overpower foes with his weight.
“Then there was Carla – a woman as rough on the inside as she was on the outside. Leader of the Tortelli mafia, Carla was known for being cruel even to fellow teammates! Lastly, there was Clavin. In addition to his chain letter schemes, his working knowledge of tools gave him a MacGuyver-like ability to build weapons!”
Carrie started laughing at this. I asked, “What, pray tell, is so funny?”
She answered, “Your story is just so silly.”
I was getting frustrated. “What’s this Marshall got that I don’t?”
“For starters, he’s in a band.”
“In a band? Okay, maybe I’m between bands right now, but need I remind you of the plethora of bands I’ve performed with? Have you forgotten my presidential themed rock group Van Buren?”
“He could pick up on my ‘Kiss Me’ face.”
Is that what she was doing? I replied, “There’s a difference between not picking up on it, and not wanting to!”
“He likes Jane the Virgin.” Dammit, I couldn’t compete with that! “Look, Robert, I think you’re cute. But I’m with Marshall now. You had your chance, you blew it.”
Carrie walked away. I had no idea what this gibberish Carrie was talking about. Oh well, I’ve never been the kind of person who can be kept down for too long. Sooner or later, Carrie would… Carrie would… God, what did I want the endgame to be?
© 2020 Alex deCourville