"Karen? . . . Hello, there, Karen? . . . Pardon me, miss. Are you Karen?"
"Oh, hi. You must be Toby. Sorry about that. I was trying to ignore you."
"Ok. Wait, what?"
"That's a smart looking outfit you have on there, Toby."
"Yeah, it's, uhh, business casual."
"A sport coat and everything. Nice."
"Well, I wasn't sure what we'd be doing today. This is my first blind date. It's a little strange, I guess. You?"
"Toby, this is my third blind date today, to be honest. And suddenly I'm feeling a bit underdressed."
"Yeah, uhh, I see that. Did you just get done wrestling with some dogs?"
"Wrestling some dogs? Really? That's the best you could come up with?"
"Well, I guess I could have . . ."
"I just got done mowing my neighbor's lawn, Toby. I needed to find some work that would pay me cash under the table while I collect unemployment checks. It's like being on extended paid vacation. I highly recommend it."
"Huh, I've never thought about it like that before."
"Yeah, well, you wouldn't."
"Anyway, that's why there are grass stains all over my gym shorts and sneakers. The stains on my t-shirt, well, that's just sweat. A little dirt. It's pretty hot out. Don't know how you're managing in that slick sport coat."
"Yeah, I guess it's time to take this thing off. So, Karen . . ."
"Peggy. Call me Peggy."
"Oh, sorry. Your aunt told me your name was Karen."
"That's because it is. I'm just trying out new names. Karen is becoming tiresome. Today I'm going with Peggy."
"Interesting. So, Peggy, is there anything in particular you would like to do this afternoon?"
"Well, you up for a bus ride, Toby?"
"Sure, Peggy. But, you know, my car is parked right over there?"
"Stop being so bourgeois, Toby. Be spontaneous. Look at you. You've already taken your sport coat off. Keep the ball rolling."
"Sure. Sounds great, Peg."
"The closest stop is a few blocks down the street. Let's get moving."
"Wow, uhh, so, do you always smoke a pipe?"
"Not always. I wasn't smoking it when you interrupted my day back there."
"Yeah, I know. I just meant . . ."
"I know what you meant, Toby. Lighten up. Yes, I always smoke a pipe. I like smoking. But I like the environment too. I got a little tired of flicking my cigarette butts all over the streets and grass."
"That is very conscientious of you, Peggy. Well done."
"Blow it out my pipe, Toby."
"Ha. Good one. So, tell me a little about yourself."
"Wow. The absolute worst question any human being could ask another human being, and you locked in on it. Just couldn't help yourself, could you, Toby?"
"Umm, I'm sorry. I didn't think that question was so . . ."
"Yeah, yes it was. But, you asked it. It's out there. So I have to address it. Wouldn't want to be rude now. So, I like some animals. I eat food almost daily. And, when I have free time, I really like it. Oh, and you should really listen to this. It concerns you, technically, since we're on a date, technically. I'm asexual."
"Asexual? Wow. What, umm, what do you mean by that exactly?"
"Well, Toby, the word 'asexual' indicates that . . ."
"Oh, no. I didn't mean it like that. Sorry for interrupting you. I was just asking what . . ."
"What I mean, Toby, is that I don't have sex. I don't want sex. I'm not interested in sex. With anyone. Or anything."
"Wow. That's pretty interesting. Have you always been like that? I'm sorry. I hope that's not too personal."
"Jesus, Toby. Stop apologizing. It's really annoying."
"Right. I'm . . . ummm. So, have you always felt this way?"
"I think so. It's hard to tell. When I was younger, I was definitely curious, like all young kids. So, I decided to indulge. I did everything with anyone, whatever they wanted. Men. Women. Men and women. It didn't matter. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about."
"Oh, ok. It didn't go well, I take it?"
"Well, at first, some of it did feel good. I mean, I am human. I have hormones and nerve endings. But my brain got in the way. When you really think about it, everything about sex is super gross. Nothing about it is objectively attractive. No body part. No activity. After awhile, those thoughts just got too much in the way. I started to hate sex and have ever since."
"Yeah. Umm, wow. You certainly have a point. But, I still think . . ."
"Heads up, Eartobe. Bus approaching. Wait down here a sec. I need to check on something."
"Kind of had a feeling this was coming. I understand if you want to end the date here, well, technical date. I'm sorry if I didn't . . ."
"Calm down, Toby. Stop frettin.' That wasn't the right bus. I didn't like the look of the people on it."
"What's wrong? Were they too ugly? Ha."
"Good guess, Toby. They were, too ugly that is."
"But that's not what I was looking for. People on the bus are always too ugly."
"But it wasn't the right bus because I didn't see anyone I recognize. You see, I don't actually know the numbers of any of the buses. I just get on, take a look around, and see if I recognize any of the faces. Then I know where the bus is going."
"Wow. That's oddly impressive, intellectually."
"Oddly? Well, aren't you the smooth talker, Toby."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that."
"Stop frettin.' I know you clearly think it's idiotic. But, that's the way I do it. Hey! Toby! What are you doing!?"
"Toby! Stop it!"
"Stop what? I'm giving this homeless man a five-dollar bill. What's wrong?"
"No! No, you are not giving that hobo a fiver. Gimme that! Gimme that!"
"Peggy, calm down. What's the problem?"
"Oh, nothing. I just didn't know I was with a guy 'idiotic' enough to give a hobo money."
"Peggy, he's a veteran. He needs food. You can see that just by looking at him."
"Food, huh? That's a good idea. I'm feeling a bit hungry myself."
"Peggy? What are you doing? Don't put that in your mouth."
"Annnnnnnnnnnnd . . . down the hatch. All gone. Thanks for buying me lunch, Toby."
"Peggy? I'm sorry, but . . ."
"Come on, Toby. You never give a hobo money. He won't spend it on the right things. You're just making things worse. You're the problem."
"Right. I, umm, understand that argument. But you ate my five dollars, and right in front of the guy? It seems we all lost in that scenario."
"I was making a point. And don't be so cheap, Toby. It's unbecoming."
"Oh. I apologize. I didn't mean to suggest that . . ."
"This is our bus. I recognize the driver. Giddie up."
"So, do you, umm, always sit in the handicap seat?"
"Sure. There aren't any handicapped people on here. Why not?"
"Well, I don't mean to be abrasive. But, what about that guy with the cane that just walked by?"
"He's mildly inconvenienced, not handicapped."
"Oh, right. So, Peggy, what did you do before, you know, you got laid off?"
"You mean besides hating life?"
"Yes. I, uhh, I guess so."
"I was a garbage woman."
"Wow. That sure is . . . wait, seriously?"
"Yes, Bathtobe, seriously. What, you don't think a woman can be a refuse collector? Is it a maaaaaaaan's job?"
"Well, historically, yes. But I didn't mean to suggest that . . ."
"Exactly. That's why I wanted to do it."
"I don't follow."
"Well, I have a bit of a feminist streak, Tobelight. So, I wanted to do something that would allow me to truthfully call myself a pioneer. But there aren't too many firsts left. There was always becoming the first female President of the United States. But with my checkered sexual history and general lack of ambition, that was out of the question."
"So, I did some checking. And, get this, there had never been a female refuse collector in Green County. You believe that?"
"How does one go about checking on something like that?"
"Don't worry about it. So, I signed up. It was actually a pretty good job. Afternoons off. Didn't have to worry about what to wear. Outdoors. Good exercise."
"Those are the same reasons I always wanted to play shortstop for the Chicago Cubs."
"Was that your idea of wit, Tobester?"
"That's unfortunate. Actually, the only downside to being Green County's first garbage woman, other than the fact that it was a job, is that I returned home from work every day smellfully."
"Smellfully? I like that."
"You like that? You've never heard anyone use that word before?"
"No, I haven't. I'm guessing because it's not a real word."
"Of course it's a real word. It's a word I just used in a sentence and you understood what it meant. Seems simple enough to me."
"Well, I don't want to get into an argument over semantics, but . . ."
"Too late. You already are. And you started it."
"Fair enough. And I suppose you have a point. So, you win."
"Nope, Tobo. Not good enough. Admit it's a real word by using it in a sentence."
"For example, because the brain-dead coma patient had a smellfully relaxed anus, the nurses had to change his bed sheets regularly."
"Now, your turn."
"Oh, ok. Umm, the marathon runner smellfully crossed the finish line in third place."
"That will do, I guess. Pretty dull though, again. Would have been much improved if you had said 'turd' place. I'm not opposed to puns, you know."
"Good. This is our stop. Giddie up."
"Are you sure? Does the pedestrian on the corner look familiar?"
"Ahh, yes. Just when I thought the day couldn't get any better, look at this. One of my favorite societal phenomenons. Toby, check it out."
"I am. I'm just not sure what phenomenon I'm witnessing."
"You wouldn't, Captain Sport Coat."
"These people are so eager to get on the bus, they've decided to greet us by forming a lovely semi-circle around the door. These seemingly functional human beings just can't wrap their minds around how this works. We get off. They get on. We all get about our day."
"Peggy, the mildly inconvenienced guy with the cane is standing behind me. He looks unstable. Can we just go?"
"But here, instead of siding with reason and waiting to the side of the door, these people have decided to form an impenetrable wall of morons."
"Wow. That's not gonna go over well."
"Sorry, everyone. Hate to break it to you, but there's no gold on the bus. They're not giving out free money or sandwiches. So, if you could please use your brain and back the frick up for just a minute, again, we can all get about our days. I assure you, the bus won't leave without you. What do you say, people?"
"I think their eyes are saying it all, Peggy."
"There you go. Just a step or two. See how this is working? I don't need a lot of room. The disgusting, fat people almost certainly behind me might though. So be ready for that. That's great. There you go. Thanks for your participation in reason. I'm sure you'll get the hang of this one day."
"Wow. So that's over, thank the sweet Lord."
"Sweet lord, Toby? I like to think of the Lord as constipated. Something to humanize God, you know?"
"Yeah, I, uhh, so, what did you do last night?"
"You won't stop with the third degree, will ya, Tobologne?"
"It seems I have a weakness for innocuous questions, yes. As always, I apologize."
"Well, I don't read a lot. I'm more of a skimmer. I suspect most people are. They just won't admit it. So, here's the oral version of what I did last night, in skim form. I had a few beers watching It's a Wonderful Life, and then I got lonely . . . two hours later . . . chuggin' a bottle of Jack . . . blacked out . . . lost my pants, twice, and my left shoe . . . a proctology experiment involving Snuffaluffagus and a plunger . . . realized my left shoe was on my right foot, meaning, however, my right shoe was missing . . . chugged a hobo's wine . . . one hour later . . . so I said to the cop, 'No, you stop hitting me' . . . and then woke up in a puddle of urine. Don't worry though, I don't think it was mine."
"Ha. Very funny, Peggy. Very funny."
"Stop sucking up, Toby."
"Right. So, where are we going?"
"We, Toby, are going to do a good deed. I hope you don't mind."
"Yeah, Toby. You don't have a problem with good deeds, do you?"
"Oh, no. Of course not. I didn't mean that. It's just that, well, you know?"
"I know what?"
"Again, I don't mean to be abrasive, but . . ."
"Spit it out, Tobeface."
"You ate money in front of a hobo."
"For his benefit. We've been through this. And the proper nomenclature is homeless man, not hobo, Toby. Don't be so insensitive."
"I'm sorry. My mistake, Pegleg."
"It's freaking Peggy, Analtobe. We've been through that before too."
"Right. So, where are we? The Red Cross?"
"Bingo. You can read. Now you're really turning on the charm."
"This is the good deed?"
"You got it, Toby. You're gonna donate blood."
"I am? We're not?"
"You are. We're not."
"Peggy? I'm trying not to be difficult. But, well?"
"Oh, it's simple. Blood supplies are notoriously low these days. And I can't donate blood, for reasons genetic, viral, and chemical. So, you're gonna donate blood, on my behalf. And I'll take the credit for it. It will be my doing, after all."
"Well, that is logical, kind of. The thing is, Peggy, I can't donate blood."
"Oh, really? Intriguing. So, what are you hiding, Toby? Genetic, viral, or chemical?"
"Neither, actually. Or none."
"Oh, come on. You're scared of needles? That's pretty lame."
"No, not that either. Actually, I just donated blood last week. I'm not eligible again until next month. Here, look, my donation card."
"Well, fine. Aren't you the patron saint of spoiling my day?"
"Oh, uhh, I didn't know we were coming here. Sorry."
"Ahh, forget it. Well, Toby, I guess this is the end of our date then."
"Oh, ok. May I walk you home?"
"Nah. That's not a good idea. My next date might see you with me. You know what they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression."
"Understood. You know, I didn't take you for one to be into cliches like that. Puns, noted. But cliches, a bit surprising, I must say. I hope you don't mind."
"Sorry to disappoint, Toby. Good luck finding your car."
"Wait. Wait a second, Peggy. Would you like to go out again?"
"Would you like to go on a second date? Or a first date? Either way, can I see you again?"
"Are you serious?"
"Umm, yes. I am. And you sound like you are too, for the first time. What's going on?"
"It's just that, well . . . I can't believe it! This is amazing!"
"I'm sorry, Peggy. And I'm sorry for apologizing again. But I'm confused. You seem, happy?"
"No, Toby. I am not happy. I am positively elated! And it is me who needs to apologize. Give me a second here. My goodness. I can't believe it."
"Peggy, I'm still confused."
"Sorry, Toby. Sorry, for everything. It's just that my aunt is setting me up on blind dates all the time. And I hate it."
"Oh, I didn't know that. This wasn't my idea. So, if I caused you any stress or . . ."
"Listen, Toby. It's not that. It's just that if I don't agree to go on her dates, I get nothing but flack from my parents and the rest of my family. They hate that I am still single. Anyway, the point is, the first few dates were such disasters. And a couple of the guys wouldn't stop bugging me even after I tried to let them down easy. So, I started using this Peggy persona to get rid of them."
"It was an act, Toby. Peggy was an act. I was trying to get you to want to get rid of me all day. It was sort of a test, in a way. But you still wanted a second date? You are the first one. You're the first one to make through the bus ride, actually. I still just can't believe it. And you're even cute too."
"This is more than a bit startling."
"I know. I know. Again, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for putting you through all this. But now it's so great!"
"Toby, I am not who you met today. Absolutely not. I do go by Karen. And I love doing charity work. I love that you donate blood. I work at a soup kitchen. I donated blood last week too. Can you believe that? And I know that homeless man you tried to give money too. His name is George. I love that you wanted to give him money. I am a third grade school teacher. I am not on unemployment. I do not smoke a pipe. And I love that you are stylish. You look great, by the way. These are my little brother's clothes. This is just all too surreal. Too fantastic!"
"Wow. Peggy, I mean, Karen, calm down. Trust me, you need to calm down."
"Why? What are you talking about, Toby?"
"I think there's been a misunderstanding."
"I know. I know. That was my fault. Trust me. It's not what you think."
"Yeah, Karen. That's the problem."
"Karen, I didn't ask to see you again because I was able to see through your disguise, or because I was able to see something special beneath your persona. I asked you out again because, well, I liked you. Or I liked Peggy, I guess."
"No. I had a great day today. Peggy was interesting, offbeat, unpredictable. It was excellent."
"This can't be happening."
"Karen, I work in an office with your aunt. I'm a computer programmer. I get set up with third grade school teachers all the time. It's really quite boring. Actually, it makes me wanna blow my freaking brains out. I dressed like this and was lame and dull all day simply because that's my routine. That's my version of being Peggy. Trying to get through a date set up by one of my co-workers without offending her or looking like a freak."
"Sorry, but, well, yeah. I just want to get the dates over with without word getting back to my co-workers that I'm a jerk, or weird. I don't want rumors to spread about me. The truth is, I hate my job. I hate my co-workers. I would quit tomorrow if there was something else I could do. I like smoking pot and judging people. I donate blood because my office 'highly recommends' that all employees do it. I would be in pajamas right now if you weren't here. In other words, I am Peggy."
"Wow. Umm, soooo . . ."
"This is . . ."
"Well, Toby . . ."
"Actually, Karen, I go by my middle name. My friends call me Alex."
"Of course. Well, Alex, tell my aunt I said, 'Hello.'"
"Will do, Karen."
BIO: Jeffrey Carl Jefferis is the more stylish son of Carl and Kathy. He graduated the fifth grade with honors, along with high school, undergraduate college, and law school. His work has recently been, or soon will be, published in Word Catalyst Magazine and Foundling Review.