A Girl, A Dog, A

Fiction by Audie Cockings
Chapter Three: Stealing Cars and Co-Ed Bars

The guys I dated before Todd
weren’t anything to write home about. Seemingly pleasant company, but not engaging in a lifetime sort of
way. And I had zero man-luck in
med school. There were too many
willing undergrad girls looking to land a doctor so the single males in med
school were severely oversexed…

I thought I was modern. A go-with-the flow kinda girl who
wasn’t in a full-on sprint to coupledom.

But after being prepositioned by far too many drunk partygoers, I
concluded that I’m nicer than I put on.
Perhaps all of those years of Sunday school stuck because a roll
in the hay was of no interest to me.

That, coupled with the fact that I never really had a serious long-term boyfriend
kept me in good standing with Flossie and her friends at church who regularly
asked God to send me a husband before I gave up and sinned.
She said that if she waited then so
could I.
She also said that the
best husbands are friends, first.

Problem was that no straight fellas
wanted to be my friend and every relationship I did have seemed to end at three
months. There was always something
major missing, so I’d rip off the band-aid, knowing I hadn’t met that worthy
sparring partner. But at the
less-than-fresh age of thirty-five, I wondered if I would ever belong to someone.

I wanted exactly what my folks had
but that ideal scenario was seeming less and less likely each passing year. One night
(under the influence) I nearly signed up online to be a nun. I figured I’d made
it through half my life without experiencing a man, why not die intact? At least nuns get respect for a chaste
life instead of being scoffed at. My
study buddy, Annie, thoroughly enjoyed teasing me. She loves men and thought my lack of experience was
funny. She said I didn’t know what
I was missing. No shit. Like I needed reminding.

If it weren’t for my roommate also
being entirely unsullied, I’d have thought I was a freak.
It’s funny how Lilly and I were so
similar despite the fact that she’s from a tiny village in Cameroon and I’m
from Silver Spring.

We were determined to graduate with
honors, without boys getting in the way.
We had learned from the mistakes of friends, Annie in particular. She’d been around the block a few times
before Charlie locked her down. She
dropped out of med-school for a year to have her child, not knowing who the
father was. But that’s of no
consequence. Her son, Jacob, is
the joy of her life and she’s pressing on for him.

The night I met Todd, Jacob had a
babysitter. We could have
celebrated the end of the semester anywhere, but Annie insisted on McGarvey’s
so she could flirt with Charlie. They liked to play pick up. I wished Annie would just shut up about
the other stuff they played.


Peering over my shoulder, I snuck a
quick glance.
The stocky one
caught me looking and flashed a cheeky grin, so I snapped back to forward
facing position, sat up straight on my barstool and sipped my beer. Ugh. I
didn’t want those two jumpsuits thinking I noticed them.

I never considered military types
as potential mates. They seemed either
too loud, too intense or too stupid to interest me. But Todd was a little different. A tall lean build and buttery blonde locks with a hint of
wave on the top, neat and trim on the sides. More like a J Crew model than a tree trunk. He didn’t try and look tough like the
other active duty guys in town.
Todd had a smile on from the moment he entered McGarvey’s, dimples
killing me from afar. But I wasn’t
going to get goofy over him like the girls next to me, sticking their chests
out like two broody hens. Ridiculous.

Annie began to chuckle as Todd
approached the (only empty) barstool next to me where my purse was perched. "You mind if I sit here?" Todd asked,
picking up my purse and handing it to me with a crazy beautiful smile.

"Uh, yes, I do
mind. I’m waiting for someone." I
replied, unaffected. But my
stomach was jumping around and I felt a peculiar degree of uneasiness.

"Well, can I
sit here until he arrives? I’d kinda like to sit."

"What, do you
have arthritis in your knees?"

"No, but I do
have some shrapnel in my thigh…Does that qualify?"

"Oh. Sorry. Sure, sit." I said, looking away. I took another sip of my beer. "Stupid, Ruby!" I thought to
myself. Annie was watching us
closely, giggling as I stared straight ahead, ignoring the delicious male next
to me that every other girl there was hoping to bed that night.

I was relieved when Lilly finally arrived. I waved her down, grabbed my purse off
the floor and addressed Todd in a matter-of-fact tone. "Your friend can have my
seat. My girlfriends and I will just
go stand over there" I said while motioning to the other end of the thirty-foot

"Are you always this sticky sweet?"
he asked, setting his empty beer glass down for a refill.

I ignored Todd’s snide remark,
mostly due to the fact that I didn’t have a clever rebuttal. I looked away as if Todd had said
nothing at all.

Annie’s boyfriend, Charlie, flipped
the tap then returned a perfectly poured IPA to Todd. From the look on Charlie’s face, he didn’t approve of my
curtness, especially to one in uniform.

I didn’t intend on being so rude, I
just figured good looking guys are too pretty to be smart. Besides, it’s not like highly eligible
guys go for beanpoles like me anyhow.
If it weren’t for my decent hair and lack of outdoor plumbing I could be
mistaken for a dude. Not that I
cared. I’d rather be smart than
pretty. Dad always thought that my
brain was my best feature, even when I was a little girl in tutus. It’s funny, I
never felt the need for a man in my life while he was still alive.

I finally curtailed the inner
monologue and peeked at Todd, who appeared somewhat annoyed.
But I found his irritation rather
amusing and seized the opportunity to push him a little more.
After all, how often would I get to grill a
specimen male?

"Sorry, where are you from? Sounds like you speak Southern…"


"Not Northern
Virginia, I take it…"

"No. Are you?"

"No, I grew up in

"So what do you
do when you’re not at charm school?" he queried.

"I’m a physician. Well, in training…At Hopkins." I sneered. Todd suddenly looked impressed, raised
his eyebrows and shot me a one-sided smile.

"My buddy Bruce
here was a medic in his previous life…" he said. Bruce was directly behind
him, chatting with the hens.

previous life?"

"Yeah, before he got Lasik he was a
medic. He wanted to fly but his
eyes were bad so he went to Field Medical Service School…His old unit called
him "Doc". He was pretty good.

"And how long
is that training?"

"Uh, two
months–or something like that…"

"So I could have just enlisted and
went to school for two months instead of long, grueling medical school that’s fifty grand a year… All
for the same title? Would have
been nice if someone told me that ahead of time…" I said sarcastically.

"I don’t suppose you can handle a
rifle or stop the bleeding on a human piece of Swiss cheese then carry him down
a mountain and load him up on a bird?"

"Uh, no." I

"That’s why he’s called ‘Doc’, and
you’re just called ‘Doctor’.
There’s a difference. And,
personally, when my turn came, I was happy to have a ‘Doc’".

Annie was listening in and gracious
enough to change the subject since I’d just essentially been spanked. She nudged Bruce, cocked her
head and turned on the sass. "So…Do
you often frequent co-ed bars in your cute little royal blue jumper? I don’t suppose you’re here looking for
an easy target?"

"Who told you?" Bruce asked with a
quizzical brow before letting out a goofy chuckle. "Actually, I don’t try to
get laid. Too much work…And they
never call me afterward…Then I get my feelings hurt and all of that…I’d be
happy just to get a peek at some pinkies.
Mardi Gras is my favorite holiday.
My call sign is Jugs."

"Jugs? Really?"

"It’s short for

"I’m sure it
is…" smirked Annie, rolling her

Todd began to laugh as Bruce inspected
the pair on Annie with a crooked smile. Charlie heard the entire exchange from across
the bar, grinned and shook his head.
Annie’s shelf always got too much attention, not that Charlie minded.

"What are you here for anyhow", I
asked Todd.

"Did you catch
the air show this afternoon?"

"No, why?"

"That’s what I
do. I fly jets…For the Navy. I’m a
Blue Angel…"

"Oh. Do you fight? I mean, get deployed on missions and stuff?"

"No. Well, I
did, but now I don’t."

"Why not?"

"Because after I’d been deployed
twice and injured pretty good, my mom got it in her head that I need to be
home. She called in a few favors
without consulting me. Her dad’s a
retired rear admiral…I was pretty pissed…"

"Why would she
do that without asking you first?"

"You don’t know
my mom."

"I don’t, but apparently someone
does if she managed to get you a spot on the Blue Angels."

"She didn’t get
me the spot. I got the spot."

"How can you
know for sure?"

"Because I made the team laugh the
hardest. The funniest candidate gets
the vacant spot."

"What was so

"I told ’em
about the time I stole my dad’s Mercedes…When I was thirteen…"


"Well, my buddy Erick and I decided
to take Dad’s car out because some girls from school were having a slumber
party. We wanted to, you know, see
what girls at slumber parties do…"

"So at thirteen,
you were a car thief and a peeping

"Yeah. But that’s not the funny."

"Right. That’s just disturbing."

"So we pushed the car out of the
garage and down the drive. We found
the party about three miles down the road and parked behind a barn before
sneaking up to the basement window.
The girls were in their nighties, lip-syncing "Like A Virgin", while watching MTV.
They were really into it. The worst one was Jenny Valentine. She was pole dancing on the basement water pipe. We couldn’t believe our luck! We sat there in the dark for almost
thirty minutes but it was getting late so we headed home. We were doing good until a colony of
bats flew in the windows. Erick
and I both started screaming like little girls! I rolled the windows up, thinking the bats were all out but
a few were stuck in the car. They
were in our hair, biting us, and going kamikaze on the widows. I was so scared that I wet myself."

"You wet
yourself? Is that it?" I asked,
holding back my laughter.

"No. Erick was bit on the nose but the dang thing wouldn’t let go
of him. He and the bat were screeching
eye to eye. It was scary as hell."

"Is that it?"

"No. I opened my door, got out and ran around the other side to
try and get the thing off his nose.
The bat finally did let go and flew out the door with the other two."

"Was that it?"

"Well, no, because Erick’s nose immediately
started swelling up and we were both convinced that he got rabies. But we couldn’t drive to the emergency
room because my dad was the hospital’s former chief counsel…"

"What’s a chief

"Head lawyer. Anyhow, somebody would tell Daddy that I’d
taken the car, and I would have been grounded for life…"

"So then what?"

"So I got back in the car and
turned the lights on, only to find that the damn bats had shit all over the
inside and outside of the car."

"Ha ha! Is that
the funny part?"

"No. Not funny. Because we drove it home then tried to clean
it up with Lysol. It took the
finish right off the car and discolored the leather on the seats. Worst part was Erick started feeling really sick.
He was burning up. I had to
go inside and wake up my dad at 2 a.m. and tell him I used his car to go spy on
girls and that the Mercedes was shit on and molested with Lysol…Oh, and that Erick
was dying on the garage floor…"

"Is that all?"
I asked, anxiously giggling.

"No. Dad was so tired that he forgot to get dressed. He’s a big boy and I’ve never seen him waddle that fast. He made it to the garage in his underwear,
saw Erick, called 911 and requested an ambulance for a sick kid with his nose
half bit off…"

"That all
sounds terrible…Talk about bad luck…"

"Well, no, the bad luck was when
the EMT got there. We were
explaining the whole night to my dad, trying to keep him from killing us
both. Seriously, I’ve never seen
my pop that angry in my entire life. His face was redder than hell!"

"So him wanting
to kill you was the funny?"

"No, the funny was when the EMT
overheard Erick talk about a girl named Jenny dancing like a whore on the water
pipe…Turns out his daughter, Jenny, was at a slumber party down the road…"

"Ha! Is there

"Yes. So, the EMT was good and angry by then, but Erick was nearly
passed out with a high fever so the guy started cutting Erick’s clothes off so that
he’d cool down. But as soon as the EMT started cutting his pants, Erick started
screaming something about how sorry he was…and promised never to look at Jenny Valentine again…"

"Is the end
coming soon?"

"Ah, yes…The big finish…Apparently, Erick didn’t want the guy
to cut off his pants off because he’d gotten a little aroused by Jenny’s
charming rendition of ‘Like a Virgin’ with the water pipe…

"Oh, no!"

"Oh, Yeah! That EMT started cussing at poor Erick
and tried to hit him! Mind you,
Erick’s nearly passed out with a 104-degree fever. Dad had to bear-hug that EMT to keep him from killing Erick with the

"Poor Erick! Puberty sucks!" I
couldn’t help but laugh.
And once
I started, I couldn’t stop.

Watching Todd tell that story and the faces he made when the EMT saw
what was in Erick’s underpants had me snorting out loud with half the bar
stopping to watch.

Todd told the story with such
charisma, reliving each scene as if he was thirteen again.
We were near strangers but I had
already found myself thinking about staying later than I’d planned.
I liked being near Todd. His enthusiasm was contagious. And he was obviously pleased with his
own performance because once he heard me snort, he was laughing even harder
than I was and smacked poor Bruce on the back, nearly knocking him over in the
We had laughed so much
that by closing time, Todd’s voice was cracking from overuse and no amount of cold
beer could help with that.

At 1 a.m., Todd and Bruce walked us
back to my car. Todd opened my
door, helped me in, shut the door, then winked and walked away. It seems that he was on to my
game. He didn’t even try to kiss
me and I was irked. But when I got
home I found a note on the back of his business card, discreetly tucked into my

I love grouchy
women. Can I see you in two weeks
when I’m back? Digits on reverse.


It was nearly three in the
before I finally felt
I thought about Todd and how
good it felt to let go, even in front of a hundred strangers.
I hadn’t laughed that hard since before
Dad died.