Thursday, May 17, 2018

Story 238: Rent-a-Cuddler

            The Escort knocked on the motel room door and braced himself for the evening’s client to answer.  Maybe it’s not too late to go back to law school, he thought.  Nah, I made the right decision: higher ed’s a scam anyway.
            The door was opened by a woman wearing sweats, slipper socks, and loosely tied-back hair; the hand not holding the door was holding a glass of water.
          “I’m sorry, I have the wrong room,” the Escort said as he cursed himself for not double-checking the room number before he got there, again.
            “Are you from ------?” the woman asked.
            “No mistake – come on in!”  She held the door open wider; he hesitated half a second before entering, noting all exits and anything in reach that could be used as a weapon in addition to his own personal stash.
            Since the unit was an efficiency, there was a kitchen where the Client then headed.  “Want something to drink?”
            Absolutely not.  “I’m good, thanks.”  He racked his brains for the most diplomatic way to redirect the conversation.  “So, any place in mind you’d like me to take you out to first?”
            She popped her head around the kitchen/living room/bedroom wall.  “Oh, I forgot to mention this would be a staying-in night.  You mind?”
            Do I have a choice?  “Not at all.”  He took off his jacket and began to unbutton his shirt.
          The Client chuckled.  “No need for that!”  She re-entered the multi-purpose room carrying a bowl of popcorn.  “I specifically requested someone who is good at cuddling, and that’s all.”
            He froze.  “I was told ‘snuggling.’”
            “There’s a difference?”
            “A bit.”
            She set the popcorn onto the end of one of the twin beds, grabbed a tote bag off of a chair, and began to take DVDs out of it.  “Sorry if there was a miscommunication; I’ll throw in extra if you’re disappointed – ”
            Quite the opposite.  “Not necessary: just let me know what you’d like me to do, I’m here for you.”
            “Aw, that’s sweet,” she said, tossing the bag aside.  “All righty then: so you don’t have to fake being interested for two hours, do you like… sci-fi?”  She held up a DVD.  “Or…mystery?”  She held up another.  “Or… action/thriller?”  Another.  “Or…sci-fi/mystery?”  Another.  “Or… documentary?”  She held up the last with the others.  “You’ll notice there are no chick flicks, dramas disguised as comedies, or depressing disaster films included in the selection – I want you to enjoy yourself.”
            Wow, that’s… nice.  And confusing.  “Umm, any of them would be great.”
            “Oh come on, seriously, which one would you want to see?  Or I can check Pay-Per-View?”
           No extra charges!  “Don’t, please; umm, let’s see.”  He ran his hand over the titles she still was holding, then pointed to the sci-fi/mystery.  “I’ve actually been wanting to see that one – I missed it in the theater.”
            “So did I!  Great minds, huh?”  She laughed as she put the other movies back into the bag and put that DVD into the player.  As it went to the main menu, she grabbed several blankets and pillows from the beds and arranged them on the floor; he helped in order to have something to do.  “Is this too low to watch?  I figured the bed would be too far away.”
            “No, this is fine.”  He sat down on the floor next to her.  “Want me to hold your hand?”
            “Maybe later.”  She held out the popcorn bowl to him.  “Want some?”
            Good thing I had dinner earlier.  “Thanks.”  He waited until she also ate some at the same time, just to be sure.
            She started the movie, then asked: “Ooh, want me to turn off the lights?”
            “Sure, if you like.”
            “I don’t mind either way; I’m asking if you want them off.”
Really?  If she’s so emotionally-starved, why am I the one being pampered?  “Actually, the TV’s glare in a dark room kind of bothers my eyes; doesn’t happened in a movie theater, though, and I have no idea why.”
“On the lights stay, then!  Ooh, that’s great when they open the action with an explosion.”
“Yeah, maybe that’s the mystery part of this one.”
About half an hour later, during a scene with no dialogue, she turned to him: “Mind if we cuddle a bit now?  I’m bummed out that they just killed off the main character.”
“Definitely.”  He set aside the nearly-empty popcorn bowl and put his arm around her shoulders; she settled in comfortably and sighed.  “Want me to massage your back, too?”
“Nope – this is good.”
Some time later, they both flinched as another planet was blown up.
“Wow, I’m glad I didn’t spend $15 to see this in the theater,” she said.  “I’m getting depressed with all this futuristic nihilism.”
“Yeah,” he nodded in sympathy.  “That’s why I’ve only been going to the bargain nights lately – it hurts less when the movie’s a letdown.” 
She looked up at him.  “Want me to put on something else?”
“Nah, we’ve invested so much time in it, we have to see how it ends.”
“Yeah.  Could you hold my hand now, please?”
“Of course.”
They spent the rest of the movie gently holding hands, with the occasional tear coursing down their faces.
By the end, they were starting to fall asleep but the discordantly happy music playing over the credits jolted them awake.  The Client then sat up and rubbed her eyes.
“Well, that genre classification was a bit misleading,” she said mid-yawn and mid-stretch.  “The mystery was solved in the first act and the only thing sci-fi about it was the angst was in outer space.”
The Escort stifled his own yawn.  “Yeah, I’ve noticed that happens sometimes – I think they didn’t know what genre they could file it under and picked the closest ones they could think of.”  His phone vibrated to unobtrusively remind him of the time.  “Well, we have about 10 minutes left – ”
“That’s fine, I’m all good now,” she said as she collected the DVD, bowl, pillows, and blankets; he tried to help but only increased the mess.  “You don’t have to stay for the whole time – you’ve been great.”
“Seriously?  I really didn’t do anything.”
“I told you, I only wanted to cuddle.  You were perfect.”
“You know, if everyone was like you, I’d almost be tempted to do this for free.”

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Story 237: The Shortest Awards Ceremony Ever

            (In an auditorium, an M.C. enters from stage right)
            M.C.: Welcome everyone to this evening’s awards show.  (Applause; M.C. cuts that off with a gesture) Enough of that: as you may have heard, this ceremony will be the first one in history to end on time, if not sooner, with no lollygagging, meandering, and/or filibustering allowed.  When making your acceptance speeches, the following words and phrases are prohibited: (Reads from an index card) “First of all,” “I’d like to thank,” “You know,” “This is completely unexpected,” “So,” “I never imagined,” “Wow,” “This is a dream come true,” and, especially, all variations of “Um.”  Tears, coughing fits, and nervous laughter also will not be tolerated.  There will be no music played as a hint that you should finish: you will simply disappear.  That’s it for my opening remarks: the first award goes to “Most Improved Student of the Year.”  (Opens an envelope and reads the name)
            (Student 1 jumps up from the audience, laughing and cheering; there is a podium where the M.C. gives Student 1 the award)
            Student 1: (At the microphone on the podium) Wow, I never imagined I’d get this; first of all, I’d like to thank –
            (M.C. presses a big red button on the podium and a trapdoor opens underneath Student 1)
           M.C. Not improved enough, it seems; parents, you may collect your offspring in the band room afterwards.  The next award is for “Highest GPA.”  (Opens an envelope and reads the name)
            (Student 2 solemnly but quickly walks to the podium on the stage and takes the award from the M.C.)
     Student 2: This-is-a-great-honor-thank-you-to-my-parents-teachers-mentors-friends-and-everyone-else-who-believed-in-me-have-a-great-summer-bye.  (Walks quickly back to the audience)
            M.C.: I can see why you were awarded that.  Next one is for “Athlete of the Year.”  (Opens an envelope and reads the name)
            (Student 3 vaults onto the stage and snatches the award from M.C.’s hands)
            Student 3: Thank you so much!  Boom!  Done in two seconds!
            M.C.: Sor-ry, you used one of the forbidden words!  (Throws a smoke bomb at the feet of Student 3; when the smoke clears, Student 3 has vanished) Parents, you may collect your offspring in the upstairs chemistry lab; don’t ask me how magic works.  Next on the program unfortunately is a musical tribute to your class’s accomplishments that was clocked at 10 minutes; however, since I severed the piano’s strings there will be no musical interludes and this will be done a capella.
            (A chorus runs onto the stage, sings the tribute at triple time, and runs away)
          M.C.: Wasn’t that lovely.  The last segment features the awards for the students who have volunteered their talent and – I don’t know why – their time to worthy causes.  In total there are (Looks at a brochure) 20 of them?!  I am not reading all of these names and what all y’all did: get up here now!
           (Chaos as 20 students rush the stage and crowd the podium to shout into the microphone)
            Students: Thank you! – Love you, Mom and Dad! – This is for you, Grandma! – What am I doing up here? – All that effort and I still didn’t get into the school I wanted, it’s not fair! – A hundred hours and all we get is a plaque?! – Thank you, Mr. ----, you’re the best! – I can’t believe you guys gave me an award for something the court ordered me to do –
           M.C.: THAT.  IS.  ENOUGH.  (They all stop talking – the M.C.’s hand hovers over the big red button and they flee back to their seats) I’m not waiting until you’re sitting down: this ceremony is over, you’ve been a mediocre audience, good night!  (Wheels the podium off stage right to scattered applause)
            Parent: (Looks at watch) Less than fifteen minutes – totally worth it.