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“You a juice-aholic or something?” Carrie teased as I slid onto the stool.

“Nope, barfly,” I grinned winningly.


“No, something more exotic.”

“Shirley Temple then.”


“Two bucks off when I punch your membership card, first one’s virtually free.”

It was nearly closing time and SOL was dead. The orange juice in the tall glass was tangy and the cold was a relief from the brutal heat outside. There was supposed to be a break overnight and the prediction was for a beautiful week.

“Do you work here every night?” I asked.

“Thursday through Sunday, always nights, plus anything more that I can get. That way I can play ball during the day.”


“Softball. There’s an organized game on Saturday and Sunday mornings, with some really good players. There’re pickup games during the week, early, before it gets too hot. This place hasn’t gotten the full memo on Title XX, so women’s fields are tough to get scheduled on, but they manage.”

“The heatwave’s supposed to break tonight,” I said, changing the subject, “or so they say. Could you make time for a picnic on Tuesday, for lunch?”

“Thought you had a steady job,” she parried.

“The ad for the interviews will run in the paper on Friday. Classes start Monday and we want to be interviewing by the end of the week, so that’s when I become a nine-to-fiver.”

“Okay, sure. Where can we go?”

“I’ve got a car. There’s a beautiful little park on the road out toward the ag school. I’ll pack a basket.”

“Okay, I’ll bring drinks and hors d’oeuvres.”

All they had left was a solitary chicken wrap and the waiters looked like they wanted to go home. I downed my drink and took the wrap with me.


The buildings guys had bolted the chair to the floor by the time I got to the lab. Anna and I were really in business.

“Let’s do a trial run. I’ll start recording,” I said. We took our seats. She read a short explanation of the study, and we began.

Her tone was pleasant but neutral. After asking my name and address, she asked questions that required yes-or-no answers. She asked if my date of birth was January thirtieth.

“No, it’s July 14.”

“Please just answer yes or no.”

“Oh, sorry. Uh, no.”

Had I ever visited Cleveland, Ohio? Winnipeg, Manitoba? Did I know how to fish? Was the moon made of green cheese? On and on, yes mixed with no.

“Have you ever stolen money from your mother’s purse?”

I was startled. “No!” A lie, I’d done it twice and always felt guilty when I thought about it.

After another twenty questions, she asked “Have you ever killed a kitten?”

“No!” I started to sweat.

Twenty questions or so later it was “Are you a virgin?”


“Is Cleveland in Ohio?”

When I said yes, she smiled. “Okay, you’re pretty normal. The typical response to the date-of-birth question is to provide the right date, which we don’t care about. We’re looking to establish a baseline for a mild negative response and we want to reinforce the yes-or-no type answer.

“The more outrageous or personal questions test other traits. We mix in the innocuous, ever-been-to-Cleveland stuff to test the baseline. It’s actually pretty clever.”

“Let’s check the file, see how it came out.”

We ran it from the top. The audio was ever so slightly fuzzy, but the video was exactly as the technical specs required, as far as I could tell. We were both satisfied.

“Okay, I’m going to send this to Margolin,” said Anna. “I’ll call you if he wants anything changed.”

“Marilyn says the ad is on schedule for Friday,” I reported. “I’ll be able to download the online responses and run the selection algorithm Sunday afternoon for whatever’ve come in by then. If enough of them pick Wednesday, we can start then, Thursday at worst.”

“Good. It’s always better to get off to a fast start. That way, if anything goes wrong, we have breathing room.”

“Does anybody ever get angry at these questions?”

“This is the third study I’ve worked on with Don, he likes this approach. There were a couple of questions in one study that were actually designed to elicit anger, not at me but at a scripted external situation, where I was an unsympathetic commenter. I’d have liked to have the build of a linebacker for the Packers right then.” Which would have been difficult, since she couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred and ten pounds.

We went to lunch at Literratica. Anna seemed to know most of what was interesting about me, I guess from my resume and talking with Don.

“I’ve put in to be a pysch major, but I don’t really know what I’m getting in to. When did you know this is what you wanted to do?”

“Four years ago I didn’t know the difference between psychology and particle physics,” she smiled. “I was an English major, wanted to teach high-school literature. I was doing practice teaching when they asked me to fill in for the guidance counselor, who was suddenly hospitalized.

“I think I was picked because I have a empathetic ear for adolescent casino şirketleri troubles. I loved it, the experience changed my life.

“But I wanted to know more than just helping kids. Eventually I found that pushing the boundaries of how people tick was even more interesting, but I still care about adolescent neuroses.

“Research is what suits me. I had to take an extra year of classes to get my degree in psychology. Don asked me to be a teaching assistant, then recommended me for a graduate fellowship. I’m a year away from getting my Ph.D.”

“What’s the practical value of a Ph.D.?”

“You can’t teach without it. And if, like me, you want to continue to do research, they won’t even look at your resume without one. I was lucky to have met Don, he’s very active in the field.

“We’ve got two different research projects going and I’ve already been listed as an associate on an article with him. It was published in the British Journal of Social Psychology, one of the biggies.”

“Gee, I’m a real rookie,” I said, feeling small.

“Everybody’s gotta start somewhere. I was into Emily Dickenson and Edith Wharton as feminist writers. Now I’m re-reading them for the insights they had, way ahead of their time, on women’s attempts to self-liberate in marriage.

“Keep your eyes and ears open around here. It may turn out that psych’s not for you. Or you may find a branch that suits you. Or you could wind up in particle physics. Whatever, doesn’t matter. But when you find your muse, god, the only thing that beats it is a good cum.”

I blushed.

“Oops, sorry, didn’t mean to cross the line, Carl.”

“No, it’s okay. I’m just, I suppose, I just don’t associate getting satisfaction from work with, you know, satisfaction. In sex, I mean,” I said, averting my eyes.

“Have you ever had that feeling when you were taking pictures?”

“I don’t remember, no. I’ve felt anger, pity, annoyance, superiority, there were even beautiful moments. But no high, like, uh —”

“Like a good orgasm?”

“You’re teasing me,” I said, blushing again.

“Not entirely, but yes, I am. You’re fun to talk with. Look,” she said, leaning across her salad, “this university is vast. There is something for you here, somewhere, you’ve got to have the courage to go out and find it. What you don’t want to do is drift into something that’s just okay and spend the rest of your life wondering whether you could have done something better.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with serendipity. That’s how my life changed, and a lot of people, looking back, say that’s how they found their muse.

“But you’ve got to put yourself in the way of the experience. Take chances. Not that I mean skydiving, unless that’s your thing. But do new things, go to new places, meet people you would have skipped before.

“Anyway, it’s going to be interesting.” She stood. “I’ll call you if anything comes up. Give me a shout over the weekend and let me know how the responses are coming. Here’s my cell,” and she gave me a business card.

Anna texted me on Tuesday morning, that Margolin had approved the videos. We really were in business.


I called Margery, just to check in.

“No grass grows under your feet.”


“Picnic with Carrie, tomorrow? She’s excited. You know anything about softball?”

“Person throws rock at another person, who defends self with tree limb. If successfully deflects rock, runs in counter-clockwise circle. Team with the most completed circles wins.”

“Smartass! Really.”

“I played little league for five years. Probably couldn’t tell you the name of a single player on a major league roster now, but at the time I really loved it.

“Anyway, while I love this conversation, I was really calling to see if you wanted to do dinner.”

“Thanks, that’s sweet of you, but Carlucci has finally gotten it together and she dumped it all on me this morning. And I’m working on the reading for the two courses I’m taking. AND I signed up as an RA, which may not be the brightest thing I’ve ever done.

“So I’ve got to plow through all of it, by Wednesday night, so I’m bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for Carlucci’s planning meeting on Thursday morning and the university-wide RA meeting that night.”

Lisa wasn’t working. “Monday’s her day off, slowest day of the week,” said the bartender.

The union wouldn’t be open till Thursday. I ordered pizza. When I went to bed I masturbated to Carrie’s face. I’d tried for Kim, but it didn’t happen.


By ten I’d finished the shopping. In addition to the chicken salad, lettuce, tomato, and fresh bread, I got sunscreen, a couple of pairs of throw-away sun glasses, and a stem of grapes, which I washed and put in the cooler. After some debate I decided to wear my jockeys. I tucked two condoms into the basket’s side compartment.

I called the Honda dealership for the sixty-thousand mile servicing. The appointment was for early Friday morning, take about an hour. They had Ruth’s records.

I checked Facebook. Carol had posted about casino firmaları her summer camp job and showed a couple of photos of herself with kids as well as a posed shot of her and a couple of other girls in full lacrosse regalia.

Pete was happier. Suzi had flown in and he’d introduced her to his uncle, who approved of her. They spent the weekend in bed (well, he wasn’t that explicit, but I could read between the lines).

Cindy was on a serious project at the company where her sister works. Things had gotten better for Linda, she’d moved and liked her new apartment better. Karen was almost done with prepping the first show, The Wiz, and was working on the technicalities of the second show.

Kenny was worried about the overly-aggressive behavior of certain 14-year-old girl scouts and was feeling old. Helen liked her job. Wendy was bummed that Law and Order was no longer going to be producing in New York: “Bastards cost us 400 jobs!”

Margery had posted a quickie. “Overworked, and loving it!”

I cleaned the bathroom.

It was eleven-fifteen.

Okay, pick up the car, drive back, kill time that way. So you’re early, girls seem to like that, unless they’re not ready. Crap.

It was about ten minutes before noon when I arrived in the lounge at Carrie’s dorm. She was there, reading the newspaper.

“Fancy meeting you here,” I perked. She grinned.

The sign was bigger and more prominent this time. “Closed Until Further Notice. Due to budget cuts, this park will be closed until further notice. We regret any inconvenience.” I parked on the shoulder.

We spread the blanket in the shade, distributed everything, opened two of the bottles of sparkling water and toasted the day.

“It’s a beautiful day. Let’s play two!”

“Ernie Banks, shortstop, Chicago Cubs.”

“You play?”

“Played. Little League, shortstop, catcher, outfield. Couldn’t hit the ball, though. You?”

“Walk-on varsity, ride the bench. This time last year I was all-county, second team regional, honorable mention all-state. Great field, adequate hit, not a great gun. But I’m fast, they use me as a pinch runner, play when the score’s outa hand. Coach says I should get more playing time next year.”

I pulled the camera out and took some shots of the food, the places where the shadows met the light, stood up and shot backwards toward the car.

“Smile.” She did and I took half-a-dozen shots.

“That’s great. Here,” I said, showing her the back of the camera. “I like looking at how the light filters through the trees and lands on the glasses and food. I like to do photo essays. I did one in front of Literratica just before Christmas, on guys staggering out the front door, wrecked.”

“Sounds like fun,” she said, almost sarcastically.

“Not fun so much as I wanted to capture expressions, body language. I stood in one place on a freezing cold night for an hour, trying to catch the perfect smashed look or the telling stagger. The camera I use for that stuff has a rapid-fire shutter than can handle twenty shots in twenty seconds without killing the battery.”

There have to be two Carrie’s. At Ruth’s, and here, there’s this sun-bleached ponytail-ed girl, shorts and a t-shirt, expressive shoulders, an athletic build, narrow waist and chest, who seems only comfortable talking about softball. At SOL, the same package is all business, handles any sort of barroom banter, is completely in charge, dresses in bartender white with a black vest, hair in a bun.

Her cheese was a big wedge of brie and some lovely bleu cheese, with stone crackers. Both were soft from the sun and spread easily on the crackers. We sliced up the bread for sandwiches and afterward lay back and watched the clouds.


The cruiser was behind Ruth’s car and the cop was leaning out its window as I stood up.

“Your car?” he shouted.

“Friend’s,” I shouted back. He got out and sauntered in our direction.

“The park is closed. Didn’t you see the sign?”

He was in conversation range by the time Carrie stood. He smiled.

“Yes I did, officer. But it’s such a nice place for a picnic, I didn’t see the harm.”

He walked into the grove and looked around. “It’s a great place for a picnic, it’s just that there’s been some vandalism at other parks and we’re checking things out.

“Look, I gotta chase you guys outta here, all the parks are closed. But,” he said, surveying the picnic, “you don’t look like you’re doin’ any harm.

“Can I see your license and registration?”

“Sure,” and I pulled out my wallet. “Registration’s in the glove compartment.” He checked the license and handed it back.

The three of us walked to the car and I pulled out the registration scan and Ruth’s letter. He checked them carefully.

“Okay, I’ll be back this way in an hour or so. Try to be gone by then.” He touched the brim of his trooper hat, “M’am,” and headed toward his cruiser.

Mood killer if ever there was one.

” ‘M’am?’ He’s got to be twice my age,” Carrie giggled.

“Yeah, and not in güvenilir casino as good shape, either.” We settled back onto the blanket.

“I’m working on upper body strength. If I can gain enough arm strength I could clip a half-second off my release.”

“Well, you sling the drinks around the bar fast enough.”

“I’ve been doing that since I was 16. SOL’s a real bar, just no liquor. The head bartender is a partner in the place, he likes to concoct these tangy drinks with the cutesy names. I’m amazed at how much people will pay for juice compared to liquor. It’s all marketing.

“But the hours are tough. Usually it’s six hours, always on my feet. Still, even with books and all, I’m putting money away.”

“C’mon, let’s take a walk,” I said. There was a dirt path that led to another stand of trees where there was a picnic bench with a grill. The path looped out and came back to the parking spaces.

We circled the park and settled onto the blanket. Suddenly she shot her leg straight out. “Cramp,” she grimaced. I helped her stand and she hopped around on it, gradually recovering.

“Can I help, do something?” I asked.

“Occupational hazard, too long on my feet,” she said. “But yeah, could you knead the calf muscle?” I knelt and worked the calf, not having a clue what I was doing.

“Oh yeah, further down, a little, yeah, that’s exactly right, a little harder.” Gradually she relaxed and we settled back onto the blanket. She stretched her leg across my lap and I kneaded it and saw the tension ease from face.

She started to pull her leg away. “Please, leave it, I like doing this,” I said, as I ran my fingers up and over her knee, then down to her ankle, feeling the soft skin.

She slid her other leg onto my lap. They were lean, and strong, especially the calves. I ranged the muscles but settled just for slight squeezes and stroking behind the knee as she lay back on her elbows. After a few minutes she dropped entirely onto the blanket.

I remembered the grapes.

“Can you reach the cooler?”

“Sure.” She handed it to me.

“Grapes?” I offered a short stem.

“Thanks,” and she stripped each of the four grapes off with her teeth and, one by one, crunched them, swallowed, and smiled.

“Grape?” I held it with my thumb and forefinger. She took it with her lips, crunched it, and smiled.

“Grape?” She took it with her lips and into her mouth, then popped it out onto her lips.

“Grape?” she offered.

I sucked it into my mouth, crunched it, and sighed.

She pivoted and laid her head into my lap.

“Grape?” I held it just over her mouth.

“Ummm,” and she lifted up, took it with her lips, and lay back to crunch it.

I ran the coldest one left behind her ear.

“Tickles,” she said. I placed it on her lips. She crunched it.

I rolled the last grape up her throat and onto her lips.


She took it, held it for a bit, then crunched it.

Out of grapes, I stroked her hair and cheeks with my cool fingers. She closed her eyes.

“You trying to seduce me?”

“How’m I d—”


Smokey was standing by his cruiser.

“Sorry, kids,” he smiled, “but you gotta go.”

“You’re right, it’s just so nice here,” I said. We packed the cooler and basket, folded the blanket, and walked to the car.

“Are there any places around for a picnic? I mean, places like this?” I asked.

“Not really,” he said. “These county parks are all closed, and the state’s parks will be after this weekend. We’re patrolling pretty heavily, to get the word out that they’re all shut.

“Maybe,” he mused, “if you go out past the ag school, there are a couple of small groves of trees at the edge of the farm fields that you could use. Not a park, only a coupla trees. Sorry, it’s rough out here.” He stood by his cruiser and watched as we pulled away.

We rode silently until we slowed to a stop at the first traffic light in town.

“That was nice. Thank you for coming.”

“I’m glad you thought of me. This summer’s gonna be intense, what with taking two classes, playing ball, and working at SOL. Plus trying to fit in the gym for the workouts.”

“You working tonight?”

“Yeah, six to eleven, tonight and tomorrow, the relief bartender hasn’t started yet. The kiddies are starting to trickle into town. The boss says parents drop them off or the buses offload 45 at a time. They stow their stuff and go looking for a good time.

“We should be mobbed through the weekend. We’ve got bands starting Friday night. I’ll be doing six-to-midnight Thursday through Sunday.”

“How about breakfast tomorrow?”

“I’ll probably be dead to the world till at least 8:30.”

“Fine. Mebbie’s?” That was the name of the breakfast place that Lisa and Margery liked, about six blocks from my apartment.

“Sure. I’ve been there a couple of times with Margery. Nine?”



Well, if you’re a romantic, be romantic.

The manager at the candle store became very enthusiastic when I explained that I was trying to seduce a girl and needed just the right candles to accomplish the task. She spent a lot of time educating me about scents and the difference between synthetic fragrances and pure essential oils. Eventually I bought two jasmine candles.

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