A Fergus Johnson story of gender relations
It all started with a harmless but cynical little joke. It was the kind of old throw-away line that men and women repeat to each other when commiserating with their kind about the unsteadiness of their steady beau or the unfairness of the fairer sex.
Fergus was in the usual bar telling stories with his usual buddies from the office. It was too early in the evening (and they had had too few beers) for the regular ladies to start looking good. Fergus had just offered the “Did you wake up grumpy this morning? No I let her sleep,” joke. Really, it was lame and innocuous. It was just as likely that a girl at the chick table would look around and observe that “The odds are good, but the goods are odd.” No harm, no foul.
However, as it would happen, the gods, also having nothing better to do at that moment, heard him and looked up from their rather tedious game of Canasta. This could get interesting. Dagon glanced at Loki who rolled his eyes and said, “Why does everybody think I want to get involved in every lame-ass, ignorant, thankless dork with a bad attitude? Persephone kicked Loki’s shin under the table and he winced. Loki sighed with resignation and took his turn at meddling in the affairs of men.
“OK, how’s this?” Loki suggested. “Every morning, Fergus wakes up next to a different unknown woman in bed. They all have pre-existing histories with him that he doesn’t yet know about. It keeps up until his attitude improves.” Thor gave a leering grin and a big thumbs-up. Phaethon just curtly nodded his consent, followed by a smug smile as hemelded four black treys to go out. And so it was agreed — and so it was done.
(1) Fergus woke up the next morning. There was a strange woman next to him in bed. She was already awake and already grumpy. He lifted one eyelid as she was finishing: “…so you’d better be getting your sorry ass out of bed. You’re making us late again. I’m not going to keep putting up with your laziness.” She stomped out and disappeared into the bathroom without missing a beat, “I’m out of here; the traffic is going to be awful this morning. You’ll just have to pour some cold cereal for yourself. And, you need to pick up some milk on your way home; it’s going sour.”
Fergus was not a morning person, but this definitely merited waking up. He struggled to sit on the edge of the bed, deliberately blinking several times to convince himself that he was not dreaming. Yep, this was as real as an ingrown toenail. “Who the hell is this harpy?” he wondered. “Where did she come from? What was she doing in my bed? Why is she going on like this? And, more importantly, how am I going to get rid of her?”
That last part took care of itself. She-who-must-be-avoided continued her ranting-dervish act through the apartment, right out the front door and into a silver Volvo. He locked the front door and watched her maneuver into traffic while criticizing everyone she saw — right through the dual-bonded tempered glass windshield — right through the sound-suppressing deluxe undercoating package and all. “Well,” thought Fergus, “That certainly gives critical thinking a bad name.”
Fergus puzzled over his mystery woman all day. Skipping work was not an option; his operations team expected each member to pull their weight. Besides, what could he say if he called the police? What crime had she committed other than insufferable grouchiness? Too many of his married friends would testify that insufferable grouchiness came with their wives’ job description.
It felt like his brain hurt. No, there was not much he could do. Maybe the problem would go away by itself. All he could do was get the name of a good locksmith. That and pick up some fresh milk on the way home.
That evening, Fergus spent several hours at the bar with his friends. He really wanted to avoid the unthinkable, but he had to know what was going on. So, he excused himself and left early. Seeing the silver Volvo parked in front of his apartment, he swallowed hard. There was a note on the door: “I’m going to bed. If you’ve been drinking, you can just sleep on the couch.”
“Damn,” thought Fergus. “She has a key and she seems to live here.”
He had second thoughts about letting himself in, but there seemed to be no other choice. He put the fresh milk away and lay down on his couch. It wasn’t comfortable and she hadn’t even left out a pillow for him. He decided that he wouldn’t risk going into her bedroom to ask for one. “When did it stop being my bedroom?” he groused to himself.
Fergus thought about calling his mom. He wanted to talk to her, but at 34 years, there was no way he could explain this to her without making things worse. It took three more beers and three late-night rerun episodes of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” for him to fall asleep. Just before dropping off, he muttered to no one in particular, “I don’t know which is more frightening, Ozzie and Harriet or the Zombie Apocalypse.”
(2) Fergus woke up the next morning. He wasn’t on his couch. There was a strange woman next to him in bed. It wasn’t she-who-must-be-avoided. Instead, she kind of looked like Donna from the desk beside him back in Lit. 201, except that this woman had a much lighter complexion with dark freckles. And, this woman had downy fuzz on her cheeks where Donna had stubble from several dozen hairs that refused to stay shaved down. No, this wasn’t Donna.
Fergus looked at the clock and decided that there was too little time and too much insanity for him to deal with. He reached over, put his hand on her shoulder and shook her gently. She looked over, smiled a sweet smile and said, “Hi, honey. Is it time to get you off to work?”
He offered a tense smile in return and replied, “Well, I am due in the office at 9:00.” It was a neutral and evasive answer. He sensed that it could be so easy to crash and burn.
“Of course, my hard-working man. And look at me just burning daylight lazing away in bed. I’m so sorry. I hope you’re not mad. Well, I’ll just get to the kitchen while you get showered and dressed.” Without waiting for a response, she twisted to raise both legs over the side of the bed and, in one continuous motion, extended her feet, seemed to levitate as she rotated up, stood and pitter-patted across the floor and out the door.
Fergus watched her disappear down the hall. Her light cotton shift danced in the swing of her hips and the little swirls of air that her passing stirred up. He just sat there for a minute, calculating the odds, counting his marbles and coming up with a plan. Nope — three swings and three misses. He’d try again later.
He walked quietly down the hall and peeked around the corner at Not-Donna. She was busy getting stuff out of the refrigerator while she warmed up a skillet, popped bread into the toaster and put away clean dishes from the washer. He remembered the script she had given him and retreated back to get showered and dressed.
When he was ready and Not-Donna spotted him lurking at the kitchen door, she floated over and gave him a brief but generous hug. She said, “You silly boy. Come on in here and sit down. I’ve got everything ready for you. I hope it’s alright. The first pancake was a little too done, they always are, so I threw it out ‘cause I don’t want you to have to put up with anything but the best. And, I warmed up the syrup for you. I always like it that way and I’m sure you must too even though you keep saying not to bother. I didn’t pour the syrup because I’m still not sure if you like to have the syrup touch your sausage or not, so I put it in a separate small pitcher right there. And, thank you for getting fresh milk. I put a small glass of it on the side for you. But, I was saving the older carton because I read that slightly sour milk makes for better pancakes. Would you like a little fresh fruit topping or maybe some jam? Oh, I’m so sorry, I forgot your napkin.”
Fergus ate his breakfast under her watchful and attentive gaze. He tried to not look back at her, but it was obvious that she both adored him and lived in dread of displeasing him. She was like the Irish Setter his family had back in Omaha. It was an almost painful experience. Didn’t she have a life of her own with interests that didn’t involve him? It was like being with a combination of Mary Poppins, the Pickup Fairy and a Stepford Wife. Some guys might like being served their pipe and slippers with well-aged cognac and the evening paper, but this just felt very wrong.
He wondered if she would still be here when he got back home and what they would say to each other and what he would have to decide. Once again, Fergus struck out. Two nights in a row, the unimaginable had happened and he was finding it impossible to deal with.
Yes, Not-Donna was still there when Fergus got home. Dinner was ready and it was wonderful. She had also whipped up a sampling of hand-dipped chocolates for dessert and they were wonderful too. Fergus decided to have a headache.
He fell asleep wondering if she had a name, whether or not it would matter at this point, and what would happen if he could manage to stay awake all night. That didn’t matter either because he dreamed of being up for bid in a bachelor auction with no takers. Once again, Fergus went down swinging. The gods had retired the side. This inning was over.
(3) Fergus woke up the next morning. There was a strange woman next to him in bed. Despite not being a morning person, he was starting to consider the utility of waking up more aware and alert. This morning he was immediately and profoundly awake and alert. She was drop-dead gorgeous. She was girl-of-your fantasies: smoking, flaming, hot.
I’m not kidding. She personified bodily perfection. She obviously used her gym membership. She had flawless skin and silky hair. She was almost naked. Her breasts spread to the sides without flattening. She was sprawled on her back wearing nothing but a thong and a gold toe ring. The front of her thong stretched between hip bones, leaving revealing air gaps. “Oh — My — God!” Fergus thought as he began trying to close his mouth.
If the previous days were leading up to this, it was all worth it. He couldn’t believe his eyes or his luck. He quietly moved a chair into the bedroom and sat staring for at least eight minutes. He watched the gentle heave and undulation of her breaths in the dappled early-morning light that was beginning to probe through the window shades. She was a feast for eyes and he indulged his gluttony.
For a moment, Fergus was almost distracted by trying to figure out where these women came from and where they went. Was he actually married to them? And, if so, were the marriages serial or somehow simultaneous? Once again, he demonstrated that existential philosophy was not his forte.
Fergus finally rationalized that there must be some future and purpose in his recent series of daybreak brides. He wondered if he were intended to participate positively in order to create a new reality in his life. Yes, that must be it.
Inspired by his new-found conviction, he moved over to the bed and sat down on the edge. He was determined to touch her with a gentle firmness that she could enjoy without the annoyance of being tickled. He laid his hand near her tummy just inside the curve of her hip. This would be intimate without being invasive. It was a sensitive spot that he had always imagined would feel good being touched.
It didn’t take long for her to respond. No, not long at all. She, in fact, awoke immediately, shrieking repeatedly like a pet store parrot. She grabbed the bed cover, attempted to fling it around herself, snatched up her purse and disappeared in a midnight-black late-model Lexus. As his adrenaline subsided and his breathing slowed, Fergus reflected on how nice it must be to live on a 5-acre ranchette and not have to worry about what the neighbors must be thinking.
Not expecting her to return any time soon, Fergus gathered what of her things he could find and left them in a box on his porch. They disappeared while he was at work, but he never found out who actually got them. Later, Fergus was hard-put to decide which was more memorable, the eight minutes of gazing or the eight seconds of flailing and flapping.
Kokopelli was awarded bonus points for the genius and entertainment value of his improvisation. Fergus went to sleep that night without undue trouble, considering. He was beginning to adopt a measure of resigned fatalism. He decided that you can’t complain about losing what you never really had. Besides, nobody could deny him the vivid memories of that morning — fit to gladden a lifetime.
(4) Fergus woke up the next morning. There was a strange woman next to him in bed. She was wearing one of his pajama tops. Somehow, he wasn’t surprised. This one was snoring loudly and stank of sour whiskey. On a hunch, he checked the bathroom and cleaned the toilet bowl. For one thing, it needed to be cleaned and nobody else was likely to take care of it. For another, he had occasionally gotten blotto himself and was grateful for the friends that had taken care of him.
Going back to the bedroom, Fergus decided that it would be polite, to say nothing of preferable, to play the gentleman. He got dressed, stood in the door, flipped the switch that turned on the bedside lamp, and asked, “How did you sleep last night?” He should have known better, but it was the first thing that came to mind.
She woke up only enough to pull the top-sheet over her head and say something so rude that even I hesitate to repeat it. She immediately went back to rattling the windows and Fergus went back to his living-alone-and-going-to-work routine.
When he got back that evening, Drinks-With-Zeal was simply gone and so were both halves of his pajamas and the breakfast he had made and left out for her. He also discovered that a bottle of sinus pills, a 3/4 liter bottle of Smirnoff Cinna-Sugar Twist vodka and a small collection of Elvis memorabilia were gone. He decided that he should appreciate getting the better part of the bargain.
(5) Fergus woke up the next morning. There was a strange woman next to him in bed. She was a bit plain in the face, but not totally unattractive. A bit of drool adorned her cheek. She was tucked securely under her sheet except that she had stuck one leg out from underneath. She was sporting a pair of flower-print flannel footie pajamas. They must be a favorite because they were getting thin from frequent washing.
“Unlike Ms. Too-Hot-To-Handle, this poor girl must get cold at night,” he thought. As if to confirm his speculation, she shivered a little bit and rolled to her side, facing away from Fergus. “Hell,” he thought, throwing caution to the wind, “there’s no harm in being friendly.”
Thus resolved, he snuggled up to her backside, draped his arm across her ribs and snugged it just under her breasts. It was the right thing to do. She murmured “Mmm, that’s nice.” and nestled into his chest. Waking slightly, she asked, “Time to get up?”
Fergus answered gently, “I just thought I’d share a little extra warmth with you.”
“Like hell.” she retorted, “I know you. You’re just a horny old goat up to no good.” She fumbled behind herself for a moment and discovered that he wasn’t actually up to no good after all. As advertised, he was simply offering a regular hug. “Well I’ll be damned,” she sighed, sinking back into the bed, “Thank you. You’re so sweet.”
They continued waking up together and making sweet small talk of no particular consequence. Eventually, Fergus offered, “If you start the coffee while I shower, I’ll make breakfast. How do you want your eggs?” It was a good question. Although they were enjoying the quiet comforts of long-time familiarity, he had never met this woman before in his life. He really needed someone to tell him how she liked her eggs. For the rest, he just hoped he could fake it. “Please lord, this is so nice, don’t let this one end up like all the others.”
He liked that neither of them were being defensive or competitive. They sometimes completed each other’s sentences. Fergus began to relax and imagine how good life could be with such a person. The world wouldn’t end if they never moved past snuggling to become more intimate.
Fergus brushed his teeth while the shower warmed up. He stepped in and leaned against the wall, resting his head on a raised arm as he let the water flow over his back. The shower door opened behind him and closed again. Her dry hip rubbed against his wet rump. “Hey, sailor, want your back soaped?” He turned around and looked at her. She was kind of short, and her brunette hair was already getting wet and stringy. Her body combined the fitness of health with a roundness that telegraphed “all girl.” The smile on her face radiated confidence and playful anticipation. His heart felt so full that he could barely catch his breath.
“I took stock of my options and decided that I would rather turn you on before turning on the coffee.” She glanced down and discovered that her stated ambition would not be met reluctantly. “Well then, maybe we’d better start the soaping with your front.”
I can tell you that their world did actually seem to come to an end while their relationship quickly went past snuggling. Let the record show that Fergus commented, several times, “Oh lord, this is so nice.” In fact, they both did.
Having already reallocated the time they gained by waking up early, they hurried to finish breakfast, kiss quickly, regroup to kiss slowly, and then hurry off to their jobs. The evening also went well and they fell asleep easily, finding comfort in each other’s embrace and warmth in the curve of each other’s backsides.
(6) Fergus woke up the next morning. There was a not-quite strange woman next to him in bed. He got up quietly to fix her eggs the way she liked them. He reminded himself that he simply must find out her name.
The gods shared a few grins and high-fives for themselves and for the happy couple below. As Maui shuffled the double deck, Quetzalcoatl stroked his feathers into place and suggested that Indra was the ideal candidate to take the next intervention. The rest of the players groaned and threw pretzels at him.