The Red-Head Experiment

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When it comes to dealing with my friend Tosh and his needs and requests, the word “indisposed” has a fairly flexible meaning.

After our adventure with the kidnapping of Sharona Laird, I had been spending more and more time with Sara.  Specifically, at Sara’s apartment at The Center of the Universe (aka The Bordello).  Even more specifically, spending the night.  There were several reasons for this, one of which I’m going to let you guess at, dear reader.  But aside from the obvious delights of spending nights with my new paramour, there was the undeniable fact that she was a good 45 minutes closer (by bus ride) to campus than Pandora’s Box, the large, waterfront group house on Pleasure Point on the East Side of Santa Cruz in which I nominally lived.  (Well, paid rent and utilities, anyway.)

So when I say I was “indisposed” when Tosh called and asked me about this “red-headed experiment”, you can easily imagine what I mean, right?

“Sare!  It’s Tosh!” Ellie, Sara’s roommate shouted through the closed door that connected her room to the disastrous mess where Sara (and sometimes I) slept.  “Again,” I heard her say grumblingly.  Being as Sara was at that moment laying across my chest, I would have to agree with her sentiment.  (I also wondered why Ellie insisted on yelling to Sara rather than me, even when she knew I was there.  The ways of roommates are often mysterious.)

“Tell him we’re busy!” I yelled.

“He says it’s important.”  I heard her stomp away from her side of the door, clearly confident that I would come out sooner or later.  And even if it were later, the phone would still be off the hook, and Tosh would probably still be waiting.

“He always says it’s important,” Sara said, giving me a wry look.

“Well,” I said, “It usually is.”

“Heh,” she let out her explosive laugh.  “More important than this?”  She grabbed me in a manner that left no doubt—none—as to what she meant.  I reluctantly shoved her hand away.

“I’ll be back in a minute.”

“So you say.”

“Hey now!  I always do come back!”

She gave me a slow, sensuous smile.  “Yeah, you do.”  Her hands started moving under the blankets.  “Better hurry.”  I inhaled a quick breath.

“You bet,” I said.  I pulled on my pants and went into the other room.  After several months of living at Pandora’s Box—followed by my time in the Marine Corps—I didn’t really have a lot of modesty left, but Sara had asked me to not wander around the apartment naked for Ellie’s sake.  Not that I was particularly exciting to look at (for anyone other than Sara, I mean); 5’10” and only 165 pounds leaves one pretty skinny.  Not to mention the scars on my left side from the shrapnel I caught during my tour.

I high-stepped my way across the laundry-strewn floor, dodged around the two backpacks by the door, and went into the next room where the phone lay.  As I had anticipated, the receiver was sitting on the floor next to the phone.  (This was way back in the days well before cell phones, when most phones were still made by Ma Bell, and were usually heavy enough to use for home defense.)

I picked the receiver from the floor.  “You rang?” I said.

“Oh, Zack!  Good!” Tosh said, sounding genuinely relieved.  It never ceased to amaze me that Tosh, so much smarter than me, liked to have me around, and it always pleased me to hear it in his voice.  (I got no end of shit about it from Sara, let me tell you.)  “Something urgent came up!”

“Tosh, don’t you know what ‘indisposed’ even means?” I said.

“Heh,” Tosh barked out a laugh.  “Sure.  But you see Sara 4.3 nights out of seven; I don’t think interrupting you one evening is going to cut too much into that ratio.”

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