The Not-so-super Model
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The term "Best friends" is a fascinating concept when you take time to reflect on
it for a while. Everybody has them. You notice I said "them". That's
what's so fascinating to me. Everybody seems to claim having more than
'best friend' and yet "best" normally implies something singular. The
synonyms for best are also singular in nature: top, foremost, leading,
preeminent, premier, prime, first, chief, principal, supreme.
purpose in mentioning this isn't to get into a philosophical
discussion. This concept is very important to me on a personal level.
case I've decided that I only had one best friend in my life. His name
Dennis Hooker. He changed my life completely.
that by dying.
and I grew up together, next door neighbors and school buddies
until we were separated by the military. He joined. I did not.
that, though, he got
married to Hannah Lisowski, who grew up in the house on the other side
Her family was Polish and she got a lot of grief for that. Children can
cruel. I didn't know it then, but Lisowski comes from Polish for
"fox" and that turned out to be prophetic, though not for the meaning
of fox that the Poles meant. She was a gawky girl with buck teeth and
thick glasses. Her mother put her long hair in pig tails until she was
teens. Fortunately her parents also got her braces and nature worked
magic on her over the years. By the time Denny asked her to marry him
she was a
stone fox, glasses or not. Laser surgery got rid of those, by the way.
he saw something in
her before all this happened and was one of only two boys who didn't
call her a
Polack, or stupid, or any of a host of other cruel names as she grew
up. I was
the other. I'm a little ashamed to say that the reason I didn't torment
because Denny was my best friend and he wouldn't tolerate that kind of
coming from me. The crap lasted well into high school, I guess, because
rarely went out on dates with guys. I would find out later that, for
reason, they all expected her to put out for them, probably because
thought they were doing "the Polack" a favor by asking her out.
can be stupid, too.
story short, after they
graduated he popped the question. He hadn't dated her and she'd never
"girlfriend" but I guess something about her got to him. I was there
when it happened. She'd gotten a flat tire and was standing on the side
road trying to figure out where the stuff was to jack up the car and
old tire off and all that. We happened along and Denny told me to pull
out and she smiled
at us and over the next half hour we changed her tire for her while she
there looking beautiful. When we got done Denny turned to her and said,
"What would you have done if we hadn't come along?"
know," she said in her soft voice. "Walked to get
help from somebody, I guess."
know, if you married me, you could just call me for help, any
time you needed it."
tease me, Dennis," she said.
teasing? Marry me, Hannah. You could do worse."
not how this is done, Dennis," she snorted. It was the
first time I'd heard her communicate scorn. She was soft-spoken and
she rarely said anything at all.
says? I like you and you like me. Why not go with it?"
crazy," she said. "We haven't even gone out."
know. We've lived side by side for seventeen years. I've
seen you every day of my life. According to my mother we used to get
diapers changed right next to each other. We've seen each other naked,
Hannah!" He grinned.
think you're so funny," she said, and I heard a dangerous
note in her voice. I'd heard that same note in my latest girlfriend's
just before she broke up with me. Of course Denny was safe. They
together, so she couldn't break up with him, right?
trying to be funny," he said, no longer grinning.
"Marry me. I know I should have asked you out a long time ago, but it
seemed strange, you know? I mean we know each other better than any
couple I know of. We've always been buddies, sort of."
looked at me for some reason.
about him?" Not, "What about Bob?" or,
"What about your inseparable best friend?" or, "What about the
guy who lurks in the background every time you talk to me?" Just,
"What about him?"
He looked surprised. "He'll be my best man."
she said. "I thought maybe you'd want me to marry both
laughed and reached out to grab her. He pulled her into a bear hug
while she squeaked and lifted her off the ground, spinning her in a
my best friend but he's only invited to the wedding, not on
the honeymoon," he said, pushing his face into her hair. It was loose
set her back down her eyes were a little wild but she just stood
you for fixing my tire," she said.
to help," he said. "See you tomorrow."
were back in our car I asked him, "You want to tell me what
that was all about?"
just asked Hannah Lisowski to marry you," I said.
nuts about it?" he said, his voice casual. "She's
the coolest girl I know. I've gone out with lots of girls, but she's
any of them."
pointed out, you haven't gone out with her," I said.
"How could you know she's not like them?"
doesn't play games. She doesn't gossip. She doesn't think she's
God's gift to men. I like her."
me if I'm wrong, but I believe you're supposed to be in love
before you propose to a woman," I said.
know my grandma?" he asked, apparently changing the
course," I said. I knew everybody in his extended family.
I'd eaten dinner with all of them, more than once.
know she was in an arranged marriage?"
shitting me," I said.
never shit you," he said. I knew what was coming next.
We'd said it to each other a million times. I said it with him: "You're
yeah, yeah," I said. "What about your
told me about it one time. Her parents were friends with
somebody and they all got together and decided that their son should
grandma. So that's what happened. She never even held his hand until
minister put it in his at the wedding."
crazy," I said. "I thought that only happened in
And she told me that they learned how to love each
happened to him?" I knew his grandfather was dead, but
not much more than that.
got married in 1939 and had my mother just before the war
broke out. He was a marine. He got killed at Guadalcanal."
said after the war she never even thought about getting married
again," said Denny. "She said he was the love of her life and she
knew she could never find anybody else who would make her as happy as
been with him."
She told me love doesn't just float around like a germ people
can catch. It's something two people create when they want it to exist.
never been in love, but I know I could love Hannah."
come you never said anything about this before?" I asked.
came over me," he said, shrugging. "While we were
changing that tire I looked at her and I just got this feeling that I
make this girl happy for the rest of her life."
doesn't hurt that she's a knockout," I said.
it," he warned. "You're talking about my
recall, she said you were crazy," I said. "I don't
think she thinks she's your girl."
change that," he said.
crazy thing was that he did change that.
course events helped. When he got home I guess he announced that he'd
proposed to Hannah and his parents got a little nuts about it. His
called her mother. They were good friends, of course. Hannah hadn't
anything to her parents, so it blindsided them. When they asked her
she said all he was doing was teasing her, but Denny insisted he wasn't
It took a couple of days but, suddenly, Dennis was dating Hannah. I
took a month for him to convince her he was serious and only then did
him she'd had a crush on him for years.
married six months later, possibly because she was already
pregnant. I was the best man, and I did not get
invited on the
honeymoon. I made a joke about it at the reception, when I danced with
sure I can't come along on your honeymoon?" I
asked, grinning. They were only going to Hannibal, Missouri for three
Apparently Hannah had read all of Mark Twain's books and wanted to see
the stuff he put in them. They didn't have enough money to go on a
honeymoon and both of them had to be back to go to their jobs.
still going to be our best friend," she said, smiling.
It was good to see her happy. "But there's a limit, Bob."
I said, drawing the "ay" out in a long sigh.
still get to see plenty of him," she said. "I'm
not taking him away from you completely."
didn't. I was around a lot. I suppose part of that was because
there was no woman in my life, at least not one I wanted to make happy
rest of hers. I guess I hadn't yet found one I wanted to learn to love.
didn't take him away from me. It was the Army that did that. It
took him away from both of us. When I think back on it now it sends
my spine, because it was a lot like what happened to his grandparents.
longer, but we lost him just like his grandmother lost her husband in
Denny for ten years before 9/11 hit. In this case "we"
means Hannah, their daughter Harper,
and me. I had dated a dozen women since they got married, but there were never any sparks. I was still alone, except for them.
He joined the Army a week after the twin towers fell,
the time Mr. Bush got us involved in
Iraq he was in the special forces. He said it was to honor his
was one of the people who went into Iraq before the war actually
we were told (she was told, actually) was that he was there to
targets and that he was killed after the bombing started.
was almost eleven when her father died. I was "Uncle
Bob" to her, probably because neither Hannah nor Denny had any
I watched her grow up like an uncle might, I suppose, except I was
around a lot more than your average uncle probably would have been. I
one who taught her to ride a bike and play catch, or at least I was the
helped her practice that kind of thing. I always had to read her a
whenever I came over, at least until she was about six or seven and
"I can read all by myself now, Uncle Bob." Then, one time I told her
a story, making it all up and after that I had to tell her a story
every time I
came over. It got so I ran out of material, so I just retold her things
read in books, making changes suitable for her age.
did this, Denny and Hannah got things done that had been
neglected or put off because they were raising a little girl. Children
dominate your time. It's just how things are. So I was sort of a nanny
I went over. I was also the official babysitter whenever they wanted a
natural, when Denny died, that I lend a hand. I was just as torn
up about it as they were, or at least that's how it felt to me, but I
needed to rise above that and help them get through it. He was gone. I
That meant I owed it to him to take care of them as best I could.
was life insurance that helped, but there were a ton of things that
had to be done. I won't go into detail, but dying creates reams of
and literally dozens of things that have to be done legally to close or
business accounts and things like that. I also cooked for them for a
got help from people in their church, who brought over food that just
had to be
warmed up to serve. Giving them that much time wasn't a problem for me.
inherited ownership of the local transfer station, where garbage trucks
sixty mile radius dumped their loads in a big metal building. My people
pushed it through holes in the floor into eighteen wheelers, which then
them away to an actual landfill. I had seven employees who knew what
doing before it became mine and didn't really need me, if I had to be
else. I spent most of my time in the large appliance area, salvaging
brass and getting the iron pile ready for being picked up by a metal
probably three months or more before it seemed like everything was
done that had to be done, or at least could
be done. We were still waiting for a couple of companies and one bank
there was an evening when Hannah and I were just sitting in
the living room. It was kind of odd. We weren't talking about anything,
sitting there. I think we were both tired and still a little
everything that had happened and what we'd had to do because of it.
in her room. She'd been spending a lot of time in her room.
Hannah said, suddenly.
she sighed. "I don't know how we'd have
gotten through this without your help."
didn't do much," I said.
would have wanted it that way," I said.
But thank you anyway."
welcome." For some reason that night we helped her
change her tire popped into my mind, and I saw Denny standing there
lopsided grin, saying, "Anything to help." I almost said it myself,
as I thought about it, but then didn't. It was true, but I also thought
worried about Harper," she said.
I couldn't think of anything else to say.
you go check on her?"
I got up
and went to Harper's room. She was lying on her bed, reading.
She looked up at me when I opened the door. I'd been around enough that
didn't complain that I hadn't knocked.
okay?" I asked, feeling lame.
so," she said.
if a faucet had been turned on, she was crying. I went and sat
down on the edge of the bed and she came in for a hug. I just held her
she cried. Ten minutes later she pushed away from me.
get better," I said, feeling even lamer.
didn't say anything.
know where to find me if you need anything," I said. I'd
been sleeping in the guest room pretty frequently, at least two nights
and sometimes more. We didn't live next door to each other anymore.
was it. She didn't cry anymore after that. Hannah teared up a
lot, but after another three or four months she seemed to have adjusted.
went by and things seemed to find a normalcy of sorts. I still went
over pretty frequently but my relationship with them had changed. I
of assumed that, to Hannah, I was this guy she could ask anything of,
comfortable around. She didn't seek male companionship, and more than
thought about Denny's grandmother, who'd made the same choice after
mate. Harper still called me Uncle Bob, but no longer demanded I tell
stories. She got interested in art and that seemed to take over her
time she was fifteen, Harper had soaked up everything public
schools had to offer her, in terms of art, and her teachers recommended
start getting instruction at a more professional level. In their case,
meant getting her into a charter school that specialized in the arts.
got her into the graphic arts program of the Turnbuckle Academy, which
bought an old run down strip mall and renovated it into a mini campus.
a student body of probably a hundred fifty or so. It was expensive, but
felt like it was worth it. It appeared she was right, because
to take off. The guest bedroom I'd spent so many nights in got turned
Harper's art space, which took up a heck of a lot more room than I'd
thought "art" would take. The bed was still in there, but now it was
shoved in one corner and when I used it, I usually had to clear a bunch
stuff off of it. Or Harper did. I wasn't allowed to just randomly touch
turned out, her public school teachers were right. She was good.
She got some of her art into exhibitions and finally started to seem
cheerful girl I'd known before her father died.
When whe started her junior year at Turnbuckle, they urged her to begin applying to
universities and such. I thought that was kind of stupid, since she
two years of high school to finish, but that's how they do
these days. A couple of months into her second semester, she started
letters from colleges. Some were
rejections, but two of them showed promise. Both of them laid out
for her acceptance. She had to maintain a high GPA. She had to have
recommendation from two teachers and two adults not related to the
system, one of which had to be a professional artist of some kind.
She had to develop a portfolio, which had to
include a whole bunch of different kinds of art, in a whole bunch of
What was relevant to me about all this was that the
portfolio had to include at least three figure studies, and that is
where, once aqain, having Denny as my best friend changed my life forever.
might think my life had already been changed forever, but in reality
I'd still been perking along just like I always had. I'd never had any
feelings about what I wanted to do with my life. I'd always been a
and, in my case, I'd followed Denny, for the most part. He was the
I was the sidekick. That hadn't bothered me. Great leaders can't be
leaders if nobody follows them.
about the only strong feelings I'd had were about things I didn't
want to do with my life. Such as join the Army. Basically, other
helping out with Hannah and Harper, I just puttered through life. I'm
those people who are happy if they have enough money for their basic
don't require complicated long-term financial plans to feel like the
be good. I suppose I'm the kind of person who ends up scraping by on a
Security check in later years, but my needs had always been simple. I
thought about it like this: "As long as I have books and a couple
calories a day, I'll be okay."
about to change.
change started one evening while we were having supper. I either
stayed for supper or came over by invitation about two or three times a
though I didn't sleep in the guest room that often anymore.
said Harper through a mouthful of mashed potatoes.
talk with your mouth full," admonished Hannah.
made a big show of swallowing.
she said, opening her mouth much wider than needed,
obviously to display it was now empty.
didn't rise to the bait. "Yes?"
waited. I continued to eat.
know those figure studies I have to have for my
took a bite and just nodded.
one of my own hand and it came out okay, but I have to have
full figure drawings of a male and female, too. I tried looking in the
to do me, but it's not going to work."
happy to pose for you," said Hannah, getting right to
the point. "Assuming you don't object to drawing your mother."
you," said Harper. "I don't object at all.
turned to look at me. She didn't have to say a word. I looked
over at Hannah and found she was staring at me as well.
said, through a mouthful of mashed potatoes.
groaned while Harper grinned and I swallowed hastily.
me?" I asked. Don't ask me why I was uneasy about this. I
mean what could it involve? I'd have to sit still for a while and look
something. Wasn't that what you always saw in portraits? Everybody
regal, or at least interesting. I didn't think there was anything
don't know," said Harper. "Now that I think about
it, I guess it will be easy for me to walk around at the mall and find
stranger to come over and take off all his clothes so I can paint him."
She took a bite of green beans and (intentionally, I thought) talked
in her mouth. "Yeah, that should be a piece of cake. There are plenty
out there who would jump at the chance."
admit here, that my thoughts got a little fragmented at that point,
so my brain didn't work all that well. The first thing I thought about
word "naked", which appeared in my head like the Hollywood sign board
on Mount Lee in Los Angeles. Then some synapse in my skull connected
with me, and then, in a flash, with Hannah, who had already agreed to
course her situation might be entirely different than "mine", but I
couldn't keep my thoughts from reflecting on that. The brain works at
of light, or pretty close, so all these images kept flickering like
lightning, bouncing from me naked (and of course with an embarrassing
Hannah who, if you'll remember, I told you was a babe. Then it would
to me without that embarrassing erection, my cock being wilted and all
inches long, which was even more embarrassing. Then it was
Hannah again who, for some insane reason, had assumed a pose
appropriate for a
porn site, and then I imagined Harper naked, standing there
without a care in the world. Finally my brain overloaded and the fork
of my limp fingers. I think I drooled a little bit. I know one corner
mouth felt moist.
don't have to be sarcastic about it," said Hannah,
frowning at her daughter. "And what's all this about nudity?"
figures have to be nude, of course," said Harper, as if
that should be obvious to anyone.
says?" asked her mother.
instructions, that's who."
are a what, not a who," corrected Hannah.
instructions," said Harper with exaggerated patience.
like to see these instructions," said Hannah.
said Harper, who started to get up.
supper," said Hannah.
said the girl. She looked at me. "Why do you look
man, Darling," said Hannah, who glanced my way and then
went back to eating.
does that mean?" asked Harper, who was still
looking at me.
glanced at me again while she chewed. I had this horrifying
suspicion she could see right into my thoughts. I felt my face get hot
decided I needed to wash it. Actually, I just needed to get away from
lurched up and staggered a bit as I headed for the bathroom.
are you going?" asked Harper.
I answered. I couldn't get their images out of my
mind. I realized that boner had actually developed in my pants and felt the
flood through me. It was entirely different than it had felt in my
fantasy. It was actually much worse.
explain it to you later, Dear," I heard Hannah say.
when I knew, deep in my bones, that Hannah was a secret
sorceress or something, and really could see the images in my
herself as a naked succubus whose goal was to consume me, body and soul.
down in the bathroom. I splashed enough water in my face to get
the front of my shirt wet, but it helped me get control back. I was a
amazed. I'd looked at both women before, of course, evaluating their
Like Hannah had said, I am a man. But it had always been just
momentary kind of a nice diversion. I mean I appreciated them both on a
of levels. Harper was a younger version of her mother, but not as
Hannah was a sensual woman, though I don't think she tried to be. It
natural. It had developed in the first year of their marriage and when
noticed it, I decided it was because she became accustomed to being
as a goddess by Denny. He was insanely happy because she'd married him
didn't mind showing it. I'd often thought she could make some other guy
insanely happy as well, but she'd said on more than one occasion that
wasn't looking for a man.
on the other hand, was young and fresh and sexy in that way of a
promise of joy, like a beautiful present that is forbidden to be
until later. I was pretty sure she was already making boys by the
their meat raw, but I had never imagined actually being around her
I mean. Or me, either for that matter.
decided that what had happened to me was like bursting into tears when
the stress gets too high. It had just been a catharsis of sorts. It
I was an animal, or pervert, or horny out of my mind. My own sex life
primarily solitary, but that was fine with me. My hand never has a
and I have a whole raft of fantasies I can call on when the need
Bullock is one, just to give you an example.
up and straightened my shoulders. I frowned at the wet front of
my shirt, but there wasn't anything I could do about it at the moment.
several deep breaths and then remembered my unruly little friend. I
the front of my pants in the mirror and was delighted that my bone
bone anymore. I targeted my thoughts on that part of my body and felt
even mind that it might very nearly be only two inches
long, at the moment.
got back to the table nobody said anything to me. I saw Hannah's
eyes drift to my shirt, but then they moved to her plate. I later found
she'd told Harper I was embarrassed about the posing naked thing and
mention it again until later.
of supper went fine. My brain, which was obviously perverted
after all, kept trying to go back to pornographic images of my dinner
companions, but I was able to think of something else.
I said I needed to get home.
can't leave," complained Harper, who had interpreted
"later" as "right after supper."
can," said Hannah.
you can talk to him later!"
later," argued Harper.
have plenty of time, young lady!"
bollocks!" said Harper, dramatically.
We both stared at her.
it on a British documentary. Does it sound cool?"
doesn't sound very ladylike," said her mother.
girl, not a lady," said Harper. "Ladies are
your pardon!" said Hannah.
leave you two to it," I said, managing meaningful words
for the first time since being asked to pose nude in front of a
call you," said Hannah. That sounded odd. She called me
all the time, but never warned me she was going to do it.
the house and walked down the sidewalk toward my car.
like I'd just managed to avoid the jaws of an alligator.
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