Back in the truck he lights up in perfect privacy the precious red Marlboro he’s been concealing in glove compartment for weeks now. Ah, the bold flavor, the relaxation. . .beats that damn ecigarette any day.

He begins thinking about his life. Sometimes he wants girlfriend to shut the hell up when she brings up “bonding.” He’s had the insane urge on countless occasions to blurt out: “I don’t want to bond! I want to eat sleep watch my science fiction shows and f- -k!” He lets out a big hearty laugh, imagining her appalled reaction if such words were ever to be uttered. Maybe she’d get mad, and give him the silent treatment. Now that would work. But nah. That ain’t ever gonna happen. Mideveal wrath is more her style. “I’d better make sure the nail gun is locked away in the storage room if I ever plan on saying something like that,” he utters to himself, causing him to laugh so hard he almost chokes on his cigarette.

Two little girls head toward the Volvo parked right next to his Ford 150. He hears: “Dada, Dada, look at that man talking to himself and laughing so hard! Does he have one of those Blue Tooth phones, or is he just crazy?”

He rolls down the window and spouts: “No, girls, no blue tooth, just me, having the time of my life, laughing my head off. Did you know laughing and smoking relieve stress? Oh wait! Jeez, whatever got into me to say such a thing. Don’t ever smoke. Bad joke. Well, better be off. . .” The little girl’s father comes raging up to the truck, a furious look on his face. Afraid he might get punched, Bud frantically rolls the windows up. but even then, he hears the man say: Girls! Get in the car NOW. What I’d tell you about talking to strangers? Especially CRAZY ones!”

Whaddya whaddya do? Wow. He’s wondering what got into him. Whatever in the world possessed him to initiate such a conversation with two little tots that were barely five? Six? Who knows? He’s worried that maybe girlfriends craziness is rubbing off on him.

When he gets home, girlfriend hugs him and tells him how glad she is to see him. He asks why, but she say’s “no reason, I’m just happy you’re home.”
He plops onto his lazy boy, then proceeds to recount the hideous mall experience to girlfriend. She softly rubs his skull, cooing in his ear, talking her “baby talk” that while irritating at times, feels appropriately soothing to him now.

“It’s okay, baby boy, everyting is gonna be okay, now. Now let me see that cute little half-grin, little boy.

He can’t help himself, he lets out a happy laugh--the traumatic mall experience now just a distant memory. He sighs contentedly--feeling good, good to be once again, the king of his castle, with his girl at his side.

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