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You There, On My Shoulder!
My hands tremble as I pace around my apartment. Gentle indie music bounces off the plain white walls as it enters my ears, unable to sooth my spirits. My fat white cat lays on the couch, his golden eyes staring at me in what looks to be pity. It almost appears as if he begins to shake his head at me, but I don't let it bother me. Who was he to judge me? It should be normal to be nervous. I pass by a mirror with coat hangers pointing out from it countless times during my pacing, but in one instance I pause to inspect my features and groom more myself if need be. My dirty blonde hair, which is usually in a complete mess, has been combed neatly down, giving me the appearance of a typical nice guy. I really hope that’s the look she goes for. I look at my smooth face, and curse myself when I discover a lone hair that had survived the shaving jutting out from the tip of my chin. I look at my watch. She’ll be here any minute. Oh God why didn’t I just pick her up? Now I seem like a lazy guy. I rush into the bathroom and flip on the light switch. I take a small pair of grooming scissors and snip the pesky hair off from my chin. It’s the best I can do without whipping out the shaving cream and razor once more. You win this time facial hair.
I stare at myself in the mirror, looking for any and all broken aspects of my character. Is my yellow dress shirt too bright? Too flamboyant? I could always just wear my black suit jacket. Yes! That will work. Maybe she’s an Iowa Hawkeyes fan. That’ll work! I laugh to myself as I feel my confidence boost. My hands continue to jitter around as my heart beats loudly. I wonder as to what I’ll have to do with them to keep them from freaking Janet out. Girls don’t usually like nervous guys right? I managed to get my roommates out of the apartment for the night, a feat I'm quite proud of thank you. Nothing can stop me now! I'm going to make this the best night in the world for Janet. I hear voices now. Ah crap…
“There’s the big guy.” My little shoulder angel says. Angel, that’s funny. Did I say angel? I look up to see Fred standing over my left shoulder. He’s wearing his usual black suit and matching fedora. His black ties hanging loosely around his collared white shirt, and the stubble he hasn’t shaved in two days gives him the appearance of a scoundrel. “Ready to get ya some action?” He asks. Yes, he’s far from an angel.
“Leave me alone Fred.” I mumble. “Just leave me to this one date.” I know he’ll screw it up. He always does. He always tells me to say the wrong thing, or distracts me long enough for the girl to notice and believe me to be crazy. I grow unnerved. If Fred, my supposed angel, is here, than where is…
“Grüße Verlierer!” Karl cries as he leaps into the bathroom. He’s my shoulder devil. Unlike Fred, he at least looks the part of his position. You don’t get much more evil than a Nazi. His uniform is black, with a matching officer's cap, and that distinct Nazi band over his arm. Sometimes I really wish I knew what the bearded fellow was saying. “Wie werden sie schraube zu diesem zeitpunkt bis ich frage mich.” Karl chuckles and strokes his beard. I take no notice to his obvious attack at my lack of skills when handling woman.
“What’d he say?” I ask. I know it’s futile, and that Fred fully understands the Nazi, but he refuses to tell me.
“Something about peace and love. Love through war. You know. Crazy Nazi stuff.” He says. Karl seems to take no note of his partner’s butchering of his language, and continues stroke his chin. “So, how did you meet this girl again?” He looks to Karl, and the two give each other what I think is a scheming look.
“I was at the music store,” I reply. “She was at the music store, and after finding out we both love the same music, she gave me her number. She seemed kind of hesitant at first though, but she did. It was like someone was telling her to.”
“Huh, you actually gave us an answer. Why’s that?” The suited man asked. I smirk.
“I was hoping conversation would be enough to get you to leave.”
“Ah ha! Well lucky for you Gabe you can be quite the conversationalist, that’s why Karl and I stick around.” I know for certain that’s not why they stick around. I must have really pissed off God in my past life, so he decided to curse me with a conman and a Nazi as my protectors. “So, is she quite the looker?” He asks. I sigh, knowing that if I say yes, they’ll make the date worse, and if I say no, that they’ll make the date even worse for lying to them.
“Yeah she’s pretty.” I hear the door knock. Oh God… “Leave.” I mutter to the two characters as I make my way toward the door. Of course they don’t, as instead they follow me like stray puppies toward the door.
“Why do you hate us so much Gabe?” Fred asks me.
“Because you constantly ruin my life.” I spit back at him. The suited man snickers.
“Fair enough, but you can’t say we haven’t had our fun times.” I’ll admit to that. Fred can be a cool guy sometimes, even if he’s supposed to be my good side. Karl, God bless him, is thankfully the least racist and narrow-minded Nazi I’ve ever met, err…heard of. You know what I mean. He’s pretty nice to have sometimes too. On the way to the door Karl points a finger at my cat and yells angrily at it. He’s not fond of the fact that my cat sheds all over his uniform every time he visits. Don’t ask me how cat hair sticks to a hallucination. I take a deep breath as I stop at the door, taking a moment to calm my nerves, if just a little, before clutching the knob. The door opens, almost on its open, as I meet eyes with the beautiful girl I met at the music shop. Her vibrant green eyes go well with her shoulder-length brown hair. A single blonde highlight runs through her bangs, a unique trait I found appealing. Her brown pea coat and a green scarf that enhances her eyes, coupled with her knee-high boots, only add to her indie-girl look. If there’s one thing I love, it’s an indie-girl.
“Nice work Gabe.” Fred says proudly. “She’s gorgeous!”
“Sehen Sie sich die Brüste auf, dass ein!” Karl exclaims. I swallow the nervous lump in my throat, but Janet’s words beat mine to the punch.
“Hi Gabe!” She seems happy. Happy? Great! That means she’s happy to see me! “How are you?” I don’t know what to do with my hands, I can feel them trembling. Acting cool, I place one in my back pocket and hold onto the door with the other. I smile, but feel my lip twitch a bit.
“I’m great.” I say, surprisingly in a calm and restrained tone. “Come on in.” She does, and as I take her coat off for her, she seems to be fall in love with my apartment. I feel my confidence soar once more. “How have you been Janet?” I ask as I place her coat on the coat hook hanging from the living room mirror.
“Great, great.” She replies. Beneath her coat she was wearing a plaid red and black shirt and matching skirt. “Is this your cat?” She asks. I nod.
“Sure is.” I say. I don’t know what else to add to that, but watch her sit down beside the big blob of fat and fur and pet him.
“Is it a boy or girl?” She asks.
“Uh, boy. H-His name’s Snap.” I say. Great, now I’m losing my cool. Janet runs her long, thin fingers through Snap’s fur, but he loves every minute of it. I can almost hear him cry out in joy as his eyes roll back and he lets Janet work his magic over his huge belly.
“Well,” She says with a giggle. “He’s as big as a lion! Aren’t ya Snap?” If there’s one thing Snap doesn’t have anymore, it’s dignity, as he rolls all over the couch for Janet to play with him.
“Hey Gabe, I thought you two were going to a movie.” Fred points out. I feel my heart skip a beat as I swallow the lump in my throat.
“Oh gosh I’m sorry.” I say. “I didn’t mean to take your coat; we should get going to the movie shouldn’t we?” Janet pauses for a moment, and looks up from my fat cat. Her head is cocked, but a pretty smile falls over her face.
“I thought we would just watch one here.” She says. Great! Nice! Good form! I almost jump with joy but quickly ask that question before another moment passes. Snap rolls over and glares at me. I guess I may as well be damned if I take away anyone willing to rub his stomach.
“Well them, what would you like to watch?” I ask and make my way to the drawer full of DVDs my roommates and I collect. Action movies, sci-fi, good and bad, old classics, we have a bunch of guy flicks, and a few just plain good movies.
“What do you have?” Janet asks as she leaps from the couch to my side to see what we have.
“Privat Ryan nicht Sparend!” Karl scolds me as he and Fred plop down on both sides of Snap. As I glance toward them, I'm surprised to see that Snap is responding to their presence. He always does, and it has always puzzled me. Fred and Karl try not to touch the cat, since they both have black on, but Snap begins to beg for scratches by rubbing his head against Karl's thigh. I can hear the German curse my cat once more, but he doesn't want to throw the thing across the room. At least he's being respectful.
“Hey, Saving Private Ryan.” Fred says in opposition. He looks to Karl.
“Manchmal muss man schleifen meine Getriebe Fred…” The Nazi growls.
“That’s the spirit!” The suited man replies. My attention seems to move away from the duo, as Janet and I flip through the movies, our hands occasionally brushing across one another’s, to which we simply and sheepishly snicker.
“Oh!” She exclaims. “How about The Producers?” Suddenly the scene with the Nazi and the Hitler-related song comes to mind. I smile widely.
“Sure, I love that movie.”
“Hey. ..hey Gabriel. ..do, den Sie Bedürfnis etwas von der Küche machen ja?” Karl asks me. I don’t understand him, but am certain that he wants to get away from the movie. I don’t quite understand, or care for that matter, why he can’t just leave. It’s not like it’d be rude on his part to leave, especially when my date can’t see him.
“Nope,” Fred says with a shake of his head. “You’re sitting right there and watching the whole thing.” He looks at me. “Hey Gabe, pull the pirate pick-up line.” My eyes somehow dart away from the television and to the couch that sits across from ours. I mouth the words ‘no’. Besides, it wouldn’t do any good, as my arm has already slithered its way around Janet, who has accepted it surprisingly well. As she cuddles up to me I feel my insides melt. Still, her focus is on the movie, which is good for me as Fred and Karl continue to distract me.
“Sie behalten besser jenen Arm zu sich bis nach Ehe.” Karl says to me. I really need to take a German language class.
“Come on, use the pick-up line.” Fred continues. “That one’s hilarious.” I glare at the suited man. Not only does he sound like a little kid right now, but I know he’s just trying to distract me. I roll my eyes, then I hear something that makes my heart jump.
“What is it Gabe?” Janet asks. I look to her; her green eyes meeting mine, and I think quickly for an excuse.
“I uh…I always thought that was a lame line.” I say. Janet looks to the television, then back to me, eyebrows raised.
“They’re not even to the funny part.” She replies. Crap. Gotta think fast.
“Yeah but…it’s just the way he says it, you know?” I respond. “It bugs me.” Janet shrugs, then gives me her award-winning smile before resting her head on my chest once more. This is the life, watching a funny movie with a gorgeous girl who digs you cuddling up to you. It’s perfect, except for my less than competent shoulder angel and shoulder devil sitting here with us. I try to concentrate on the movie, and Janet, and it seems to be working! Karl and Fred’s conversations seem to drift into the back of my head, and their existence depletes as well. This is why I love movies. They give you a chance to escape from your life, no matter how bad it may be, for at least an hour and a half. If it’s any shorter, I don’t consider it a movie. If it’s an hour, hour and twenty-nine minutes, and anything less or in between, it’s like a novella, but in movie form. Suddenly my ears feel like they’re about to explode as a teeth-rattling noise fills my apartment. I jump violently, which makes Janet leap as well. My eyes dart over to Fred, who looks guilty like usual. Karl sits with his favorite luger, smoke pouring out from its barrel.
“Ah, deshalb wurde es beladen!” He says joyously. He looks to me, and his happy expression changes.
“What the…? Gabe!” Janet says, almost annoyed.
“I’m sorry, sorry!” I reply. “I forgot to tell you about a twitch I get every once in awhile.” Janet gives me a suspicious look. Her eyes pierce mine as I feel my hands tremble once again. Then her gaze softens, and she smiles.
“I do that all the time when I sleep.” She laughs. “Were you sleeping?” I chuckle sheepishly.
“Uh…I was trying to stay awake, but that sure helped.” We both laugh a bit. As we begin to settle back down, Janet sneezes, polite enough to look away from me while doing so.
“Gesundheit.” Fred, Karl, and I say in unison. The suited man and the Nazi look at each other in a most perplexed manner. Janet returns her gaze to mine, a goofy grin slapped across her face, as she says.
“Thank you.” Her tone almost seems confused. I know sneezes tend to make you loose your senses, but for this girl, they must send her topsy-turvy. We sit there, no longer watching the movie, but with her goofy gaze staring into my nervous one. Seconds pass like years as I struggle to find something to say.
“What are you doing? Don’t just sit there.” Fred as he leans forward. “Offer her something to eat or drink.” Karl begins to get up and says.
“Ich werde das Bier erhalten.” But Fred shoves him back down and clasps his hands, watching me intently. Well, in one sense he’s like my shoulder angel. He’s at least trying to get me with a girl.
“Um…” I clear my throat. “Would you like anything to drink? We could go look in the…”
“You know,” Janet interrupts me. “I’ve always wanted someone to say that to me when I sneeze.” She giggles and smiles wider. “I’d love a drink.” I feel my spirits soar, as for the first time in my life; I feel connection with a woman, even for such a petty, small thing. I smile, and the two of us don’t even care to pause our movie as we get up and go into the kitchen for some drinks. Fred, still in a position to pounce on the couch, looks to Karl.
“Well Sausage, looks like we did our deed of the day. Let’s leave these kids to their fun.”
“Ah sehr gut!” Karl says as the two get up. Fred looks over to the other couch, shoving a hand into his pocket, and smiles.
“It was a pleasure working with ya. You think we’ll actually get these two to marry?” Opposite of the suited man and the Nazi stand a blonde businesswoman and a girl in a black beret. The businesswoman wears a pair of thick black reading glasses, and her properness seems to clash with Fred’s casual style. Her navy blue suit and matching skirt hug her body closely, which draws both Fred’s and Karl’s attention. Still, as she makes her focus solely on the suited man, Karl fixates his gaze upon the young woman at the businesswoman’s side.
“Well Mr. MacDonald, if we could work out something.” Her tone seems to drop with her words. “I’m sure we could arrange such a thing as this.” The two smile at each other, when Karl bows in a most respectful manner to the girl wearing a beret.
“Guten tag.” He says. Upon closer examination, he sees a red star on the girl’s beret, which matches her red uniform and skirt.
“Dobrey den.” She coos to him with a curtsey. Fred turns and realizes that the German and Russian seem to connect seamlessly just through each other’s gaze. This tactic doesn’t work for Jennifer however. The suited man looks back at the young woman, scratching the back of his head.
“So you seem to have a good grip on Janet.” He remarks. Jennifer snickers.
“Ah yes.” She replies. “Janet’s a bit insecure. Alena and I merely keep her from stressing out too much. We see that you and your friend have fun with your Gabriel.” Fred chuckles at this.
“Yeah well, you have to have fun on the job right?” To this, Jennifer’s expression shifts from an intellectual with a deep interest in Frederick, to a stern woman without an ounce of humor in her.
“If only the time calls for it.” She says firmly.
“Want to go get a drink?” Fred asks in a casual manner. The businesswoman raises an eyebrow, following what appears to be a smile cracking across her lips.
“That may work for your loveable oaf, but you with me, you’ll have to try a little harder.” The suited man smiles at her, and turns to Karl as he and the Communist ogle each other longingly. He looks back.
“Any suggestions?” The woman’s smirk widens. Alena the Communist turns to consult the intellectual. She leans in close and whispers Russian into Jennifer’s ear, which to Fred comes across as gibberish. Jennifer and Alena return to their stances, the businesswoman eying Fred seductively, while the Communist giggles with joy toward Karl. Finally Jennifer speaks.
“How about a movie?”