Donner and Blitzen

by Bensiamin

Part 1


I strolled into McMennamin's Tavern after I'd walked the dogs. It had been a complicated day at work and while the walk was good exercise to end the day with, I just hadn't been in the mood to cook. So, after catching up on personal email, I put down a couple of chew toys for the boys and headed out to walk the two blocks to the tavern.

I was anticipating the change of pace always brought about by watching Charlie, the bartender, pull a pint or two of IPA, followed by something tasty to eat. That change of pace would take the edge off the pandemic-related problems at the office and make for a pleasant evening.

As I came through the door, the hostess smiled at me and before she could say anything I pointed at the bar and smiled back at her. She waved me through, I touched the brim of my cap, and as I turned to walk down the bar to the open stools, I saw him. Charlie was greeting me before I even sat down, and I asked for my usual IPA and watched him pull it from the tap. As ever, the first sip was to die for. That's when I heard the voice and looked to follow it. To my surprise, it was him. My mind did calisthenics back three days to Monday.

It had been that damn new cell phone that forced me into the wireless store. More specifically, it had been the "free" cell phone the wireless carrier had sent me because they would shortly be phasing out their 3G network. Yes, I had an older iPhone and it worked perfectly well and I was perfectly happy with it. Granted, an older phone fit me just fine as an older guy. I didn't spend hours a day creating TikTok videos to load up to Instagram or wherever. For that matter I barely took any videos at all. Plenty of photos, yes, and that was really the major attraction of being forced into an upgrade to a newer 5G model. It would come with a much better camera. How did they get two lenses in those thin cases anyway?

But that wasn't the point. I knew I had three or four months before I had to make the upgrade and my current cell phone would stop working. Then, on Saturday came the delivery of the little brown box from the wireless company with the free phone in it. I owned my own phone and had no intention of moving to a phone lease plan, and I wasn't interested in their free older model just on principle: their promotion was all about upgrading people whether they wanted it or not. The hell with that! I'd gone to the Apple Store over the weekend and bought a new phone.

So, there I was walking into the wireless store just after 10:00 AM on the first Monday of November. The weather was still good, meaning partly cloudy and no rain! That could change to rain quite quickly if it was going to be a wet winter and the curtain fell! I looked around and saw only two people ahead of me. Great! It had worked. Getting here early meant many fewer customers to wait behind.

But there was a problem. There was only one salesperson. I guess the first hours after opening are slow, and as the owner of a small business myself I could understand managing the labor costs. I hoped those two customers weren't doing major transactions, or this could take a long time. The first man was getting something done on a tablet and that only took a few minutes. The second was an older woman who seemed a little flustered, even if it appeared she was a sweet person.

She was holding the box for a new phone in her hand and had been walking up and down the racks of cases and covers looking like she was totally overwhelmed with all the choices. I understood what she might have been feeling. Simplifying choices for customers is a key aspect to making them comfortable and making a sale, and this poor lady was looking at dozens and dozens of choices and clearly getting flustered.

As the first customer left, the young salesman picked up his tablet and walked toward the lady. He was handsome… it was that simple. Black hair, longish on top and short on the sides, and a closely trimmed beard behind his mask. He was slimly built, but not too thin, and walked with ease in his Converse sneakers… and the tight jeans he had on complimented the musculature of his legs and the curve of his butt as he walked up to her.

His greeting was engaging, light and friendly, and it only took him a couple of questions to determine she needed to activate a new phone and help in choosing a new case and protective cover and a couple of other accessories. I heard him say, "Don't worry, it's not as complicated as it seems, and this won't take long at all."

They both had masks on, but it appeared that he smiled at her, and she smiled back with a look of relief on her face. He gathered up the cases and accessories and led her over to a table where they both sat down and he prepared to go to work, laying the accessories out in front of the phones. When he opened the box on the new one, it was clear that it was an Apple, and he delicately lifted it out of the box, peeled off the protective cover over the front glass and watched it come to life.

I was watching them because I was the next customer in line and hoped it wouldn't take long, and then I could see the creases appear below the hair that fell softly on his forehead. His eyebrows tightened and he looked up at her and said, "You can see it's just starting up for the first time. I guess you didn't set it up before you came in?"

"No," the lady said, "I didn't know that I had to."

He smiled at her and replied, "You really do, and it's not complicated. It just takes time. That way you have all your apps and data on the phone, and it's especially important if you have a lot of photos or music on your old phone."

The woman suddenly looked flustered again. "I do have a lot of photos, of my family and especially of my grandchildren and my cats… I mean, I… I… there are a lot of pictures."

He smiled at her kindly and said, "Well, like I said, it'll be easy. You can just set up the new phone and it will automatically pair with the old phone and copy everything over. You just follow the prompts, and it will all be copied. It just takes time to do that. More time than we could spend here in the store."

The lady paused, looked somewhere between disbelieving and crestfallen, and that's when I spoke up.

"It really is that easy. I did it last night on this new phone." I lifted it up to show her. "I have hundreds of pictures and a lot of data, too, and it only took 27 minutes. You literally just have to select English as your language and the United States as your country and then the new phone will ask if it's replacing an old phone. You choose 'Yes' and it will connect to the old phone and copy everything over. It's really quite amazing."

She nodded at me and looked like the supporting testimonial satisfied her, she smiled and said thanks and then turned back to the salesperson and added, "Then let me pay for the case and things and I'll go home and set it up and be back this afternoon. Based on what you two gentlemen have assured me will be an easy and pleasant experience." She smiled at the salesperson, then looked over and smiled at me, looking like she believed what she was saying.

I grinned at her from behind my mask. "Trust me. You will be amazed."

The lady sat down, and the salesman went to work putting a protective cover on the new phone. He'd flexed his arms to make his sleeves ride up, exposing delicate fingers and wrists. Then he leaned forward to position himself over the screen. When he did that, the jeans tightened over his butt, and as I watched I knew he was wearing boxer briefs because of the way his cock would occasionally appear in profile as he shifted his weight from one leg to the other and the fabric tightened, outlining it. It was a pretty sight.

I heard the click as he snapped the phone into the new case, and after he'd rung up the lady's purchases and put them in a bag for her, he picked up his tablet and walked over to me. He didn't have a name tag on but was wearing one of the wireless company's fleece jackets. Over his mask were twinkling blue eyes.

"Hi. I'm Seth. Thanks for helping me out. I worried there for a minute that she was going to get all upset."

"Hello, Seth. She might have, but you handled it very well and made her comfortable. On top of that, what we both told her is the truth. She will be amazed when she discovers how simple and efficient it is, and I'm pretty sure she'll be very happy to see you again this afternoon."

He grinned under his mask and his eyes sparkled. "So, now how can I help you."

I grinned back, hoping he could tell. Masks make it very difficult to read a person's expression, and they do a very good job of obliterating facial expressions.

"Well, Seth," and I said his name slowly this time, "it's your lucky day. You're going to get to help me on two fronts."

His eyes widened just a bit, but he stood there nonplussed, waiting.

"Like I said," I carried on, "I have a new phone to activate as well. And, I also have this to return to you." I pushed the brown box across the table at him.

He watched it slide toward him and then looked up at me. "Another one!"

I chuckled. "If most people react to this so-called promotion of a free phone like I did, I bet you deal with having these handed back to you all day."

"Oh yeah! We get eight or ten a day. No prob, though, I'll take that off your hands and we'll get your new phone set up." He picked up the new phone, had me key in my passcode and took it back. "I only need to move the SIM card over from your old phone and you'll be good to go. You could have done it yourself, you know."

I smiled at him. "I'm not as technically adept as you are, I'm sure. Also, I want to make sure it's done right."

Magically that little tool to remove the SIM card holder appeared in those long, slim fingers, which I noticed were accompanied by neatly kept nails. The fingers moved and out popped the card. He did a quick exchange, then went to his tablet and spent two or three minutes moving through screens, tapping here and there, and then looked down at my new phone before he handed it back.

"There we go. It may take a minute to fully activate… no, there it is. See the three bars and where it says 5G at the top of the screen. All set." As I took the phone from him, he looked up at me and it sure looked like he was smiling.

"Anything else?

"How about we make a call to confirm it's working? That way I won't have to come back once I get to the office if something goes amiss."

He gave me a curious look, as if I was questioning his abilities, but then said, "Sure thing."

He took the phone back saying, "I'll just call my phone." He nodded at a phone on the desk behind him.

I watched him dial, saw a number appear, and we waited for his phone to ring.

Nothing happened.

I heard him grunt and say under his breath, "Damn promo."

"What's up?"

The blue eyes looked back up at me. "Most people keep the free phone, believe it or not. The SIM card is already programmed to go into the free phone. That's why it's not working in your new one. This only happens once in a while, but I should have checked. I just have to put in a new card, but it's a pain." He paused, his eyes still looking straight into mine, and then added, "and it doesn't look too good… does it?"

I could tell he was smiling by the way little wrinkles appeared next to his eyes, which were sparkling again.

"It doesn't look good for the wireless company… but it does look good for you. Meaning, that you're doing a great job of handling the situation."

He obviously smiled back and then said, "Back in a flash" and turned to head through a door into the back room

I grinned to myself. It was worth the wait to watch the easy flow of those legs and the nice curve of his butt.

When he reappeared less than a minute later, it took no time at all to swap out the SIM cards and then he updated the account info on his tablet. This time the test call went through.

"Here you go, Mr. Frazier."

"Thank you, Seth. I appreciate all the help today."

We smiled at each other again and he turned to the next customer. I headed for my car in the parking lot, now considerably less upset about the free phone I'd received. However, as I drove to the office, I reflected that I'd probably not see him again, and since I was old enough to be his uncle... or maybe even his father! Ugh! But I did save the number he had called as a new contact, just in case there was another problem with the phone. I did wonder if he was gay, but the probability was that it was nothing more than a transient fantasy.


Working retail, you see a lot of people. In fact, you see them all day. Way too many of them for sure. Good ones, bad ones; tall ones, short ones; fat ones, thin ones; nasty ones and nice ones. Then there are the ones you remember because it was a positive experience, sometimes fun even, dealing with them.

I watched Mr. Frazier, that is Wilton J. Frazier walk out the door before I went to the next customer. He'd been fun to be with. He was patient and considerate. He helped me help the old lady who hadn't set up her phone. He was observant, at least in the way he'd commented on how I handled her. And besides being friendly, he'd been cool. He could have jumped my shit about not making a call with his phone before I told him he was all set, but he didn't.

You'd think by now I'd have learned to make a test call on every new phone when one of those fucking promo phones was turned in, but I just wasn't thinking. It was early and I'd just opened up and the customer line was already backing up, and my manager wouldn't get in until eleven and I'd be swamped non-stop… but the reality was he got my attention and that's why I wasn't thinking. He had really attractive hazel eyes that went really well with his wavy brown hair. He looked pretty fit even if he was older, but… he was just nice. And he smiled a lot, even if he did have a mask on. I could see it in his eyes, like he was signaling or something.

Or is that just me still all screwed up about Andrew dumping me and thinking every good-looking guy is a possibility or that they're hitting on me. Whatever, let it go… get over it!

I turned to the next customer, put a smile back on my face and hoped she'd be as nice as Wilton Frazier and not some crabby customer with an anger management problem.

It was non-stop customers till my lunch break at one o'clock. Pandemic dining still wasn't all that easy, so I just brought my own, and ate on the picnic tables out back. It was still warm and sunny, so what's not to like? By the time I'd finished my sandwich and had opened the bag of chips I realized I was thinking about him again. What a joke. I think I'd seen one customer outside the store in the year and a half I'd worked here. So, there was that, plus he's older and seems pretty competent and maybe successful, probably married with kids and I probably look like a kid. I've always been told I looked young for my age, meaning I didn't look twenty-two. That's one of the main reasons I have a beard, to make me look older or more mature. Even if he wasn't married, and then even more unlikely that he was gay, what older guy wants to be with a kid that works in a wireless store anyway? No long-term career path in that job. But the fact was that with the pandemic I was lucky I had the job. There were still a lot of people out of work that couldn't get hired back.

I carried those thoughts back into work with me and then remembered I had to stop at Office Depot on the way home and pick up some notebooks for Adrian, and a couple of sketch pads so he'd be equipped for his art class on Thursday evening.

That's how I got to the tavern on Thursday. I picked Adrian up at his foster home and walked him to the community center where they held art classes. He's pretty good at art and really wanted to learn how to draw and maybe paint. A lot more than they offered special needs kids in his high school, that's for sure.

I took another sip of my holiday ale and heard a "May I join you" from my right. As I glanced that way an older man with a mask was lowering himself onto a stool two down.

I nodded and waved at the stool, and said "All yours," as I thought about him being thoughtful enough not to plop down right next to me. Oregon was still doing social distancing, so that was nice.

I heard him order a pint of IPA, and then after it was served, he took off his mask followed by a long sip of beer, followed by a sigh of pleasure. "That hits the spot."

I knew the voice, glanced at him and recognized the face. From where? Oh yeah, from the store… just the other day.

He glanced at me and smiled.

"Mr. Frazier, right? I helped you set up your phone."

There was just a momentary pause and then he replied, "You did, Seth, last Monday, and thanks again. And, by the way, the name is Wilt. Mr. Frazier makes me feel older than I want, if you know what I mean."


As soon as I looked his way it was obvious it was Seth. Same black hair and closely trimmed beard. Same tight jeans over a nice set of legs. This time he was wearing a leather jacket with the zipper open over a T-shirt and showing a nice expanse of clear skin at his throat. His mask was on the counter, and to my pleasure there was a pleasant set of lips framed by that beard and moustache. What a nice surprise.

He smiled, and I confirmed what I supposed at the wireless store. The pleasant lips formed a very nice and attractive smile, and his eyes formed pleasant little lines at the corners, and they seemed to twinkle.

"I've thought about you a couple of times since Monday."

"Yeah? Why would you think about me? We just moved over your phone service, nothing special."

"I wondered how it went when the older lady came back in the afternoon after she'd set up her new phone."

"Oh, I get it. You know, you really bailed me out. I thought she was about to panic on me, and there were already two customers in the store behind you, and then you told her what you did and she just totally chilled."

"And how'd it go?"

"She came back blissed out. I mean seriously, she said it went just like you told her it would, and she couldn't believe she could do it herself 'cause she's not technical and stuff. You know, people expect the worst, and when it doesn't happen, they're blown away."

I grinned at him. "So, she was pretty upbeat when she came back?"

"Totally. The new phone was all set. She'd checked and made sure all her pictures came over, and the wireless set up was a piece of cake. She was pretty happy."

I held his eyes for a couple of seconds. "And you made a test call on her phone before you let her leave?"

He flushed, just momentarily, then smiled and said, "Yeah, I did. I learned my lesson with you! I keep telling myself to do it every time on those damn promo phones, but I blew it with you."

The words ran in a track in the back of my mind… blew it with you… wonder if that's the only way he was thinking of blowing?

I brought my mind back to the present. "None of us are perfect, and like I told you, you handled it really well. I own my business and have employees, so I pay attention to things like that."

"That's cool. I remember now that you said something about business problems."

"Seems like there always are. People leaving that you have to replace, or sometimes employees not cutting it and you have to straighten them out. The last week has been annual performance evaluations."

"I relate. I'm the assistant manager, so I don't have to deal with it, really. But I hear about it from the store manager all the time.

"Assistant manager! That's good. How long have you worked there? Was that a promotion?"

He smiled wryly. "Not really a promotion. I've been there a year and a half and assistant manager for six months, and mainly getting the job was, like, survival. You know, I outlasted the other salespeople. It mainly means more responsibility for not that much more money… and getting to do fun stuff like opening up in the morning and flying solo for the two hours! You saw how cool that is!"

"Yeah. It got backed up with customers quickly."

"Still, I figure 'assistant manager' will look good on a resume."

"Are you looking to change jobs? For a better opportunity, I mean?"

"Isn't everybody? I didn't go to college to work in a wireless store and don't picture myself being there in twenty years."

"Where do you picture yourself?"

"Oh, in business . Even though I majored in English, I minored in Business Administration. Someplace that's challenging and stimulating and isn't just scut work. Maybe helping people, too. What's your business?"

"I have a specialty medical supply company. We sell orthopedic components and a whole range of products that are used for orthopedic surgery. It's pretty specialized, but over all it's good."


I finished my beer and reached for a menu. "I'm going to order another IPA and something to eat. How about you?"

"Me, too. I have to be out of here a little before nine o'clock to get my brother. He's down the block in an art class."

I nodded, we both inspected our menus, then ordered. We chatted till the food came, then intermittently while we ate. When the dishes were cleared, I turned back to Seth. "Tell me about your brother and his art class."

He swallowed, as if it wasn't his favorite subject to discuss, but looked at me and said, "My brother, Adrian, is still in high school and lives in a foster home. He's developmentally disabled, but a really good guy. He's more advanced artistically than the classes he gets at school, and he wanted to take a drawing and painting class that his school doesn't offer. That means he needs an escort from his foster home… and that's me."

There was a complex expression on his face, a matter-of-fact look with a smile mixed in.

"Good for you, to put in the time and effort to help out like that." I didn't want to ask any more questions, since it seemed pretty personal. But I did say, "If you're walking, then you and Adrian must live close by."

"Yeah, his foster home is only three blocks east of here, and my apartment is two blocks south, so it's an easy walk."

"Geez! We're all almost neighbors, then. I live about five blocks north of here. It's pretty cool we can live in a community where there's still real neighborhoods, don't you think?"

He nodded, taking the last sip of his ale.

"If you live so close how come you're eating at a bar instead of at home?" As soon as I asked the question, I regretted it. Could be way too personal.

"I live alone now, and it's not fun being there by myself every night."

"I relate. I live alone now, too. Sorry if I seemed intrusive. I was mainly curious."

"No worries, Wilt." He looked at his watch and added, "I've got to head out. It's been nice talking to you. Thanks a lot."

With that he picked up his bill, left a tip, and headed to the cash register.


It didn't take long to walk to the community center, but my mind was buzzing. Wilt was a nice guy. He recognized me. He was very conversational and again I saw that he was both observant and complimentary. Did that mean anything? Or was I just lonely and horny. Anyway, it was probably a once in a million kind of deal… and he's probably straight. Even if he's not married that probably means a divorce. I mean, I looked and saw he wasn't wearing a wedding ring. Am I out of it or what?

Adrian's class was wrapping up when I got there, and we talked about what he'd learned on the way home. I walked him into the foster home, and we spoke to his foster parents for a few minutes. They're really nice and responsible, which is great for Adrian and pretty critical for me. I'm his only family, so if where he was living was a mess, it'd be a major problem for me.

I hugged him and kissed the side of his head, like I always did. He giggled, like he always did, and told me he wasn't a baby anymore… but he hugged me back, and I know it means something to him. We all need affection, right?

On the walk back to my empty and sterile apartment my mind drifted back to Wilt. I wondered if he lived in one of these apartment buildings, or… wait. He said he lived north, and after a couple of blocks that part of town was older single-family homes. He clearly had a better set up than I did with my one-bedroom apartment. By myself. Okay, stop. No more self-pity. Andrew is gone and that is that. Now I just had to get through the down time and be positive.


I thought about Seth on the way home. Not just that he was interesting and attractive, but also from a human resources perspective. When you own your own business, you're always looking for good hiring prospects. Not that I had any openings or needs right now. Thanks to the pandemic, we'd actually downsized by two employees. But one never knows.

When I opened the door, the boys were right there waiting for their final night walk. I said Hi to Donner and Blitzen, rubbed their heads while I hooked on their leashes, and we headed around the block. We all bedded down when we got back, and I reflected on sleeping alone in a queen size bed when I slipped between the sheets.

Friday is like any other day at work, at least in the morning. Usually, things quieted down in the afternoon after we handled the day's deliveries and then booked orders for deliveries supporting Monday's surgeries. Fortunately, it's pretty much only emergency surgeries on the weekend.

Mid-morning I heard the ding that meant a text was coming in. When I glanced at it, I could see it was Seth and I was glad I'd saved his mobile number.

< It was very cool meeting you again last night. It was a pleasant time. Thanks for the great conversation! >

This was a pleasant turn of events. If it had been a guy my age that I'd met at a gay bar the night before I'd expect I was getting hit up. But this was Seth, right? Still, how to respond?

< The pleasure was all mine. I enjoyed our conversation, too. >

Then as soon as I sent it, I realized I should have said something more personally engaging. I quickly typed another quick one.

< How did Adrian's art class go? Did he learn anything new? >

I figured that passed for being courteous and the reply would probably be a quick emoji or something. Instead, after a couple of minutes another text came through.

< He was pumped. He said he learned some new pencil drawing techniques… something to do with smudging to create shading. He'll have to show me, so I know what he means. I'm at the store and open the doors in 2 mins. I can see 3 customers already standing outside, lol! >

He was engaging. What did that mean? Is he lonely or just needs someone to talk to?

< Glad it went well for him. I guess you'll have to gird up your loins to handle the customer onslaught! You'll do fine, though. Thanks for texting me. I appreciate it. >

As soon as I sent it, I had second thoughts about the 'gird up your loins' part, knowing he could take it wrong. That was one of those Bible phrases my parents used to throw around about preparing for a competitive situation. Still, talking to a young man about 'loins' probably wasn't too cool. Even if seeing his loins was something I'd really like to do.


I worried when I sent Wilt the first text, like… what would he think. But, hey! We'd met again at McMennamin's last night so why not. It had nothing to do with work and he wasn't a customer now. And, his replies were nice, like he appreciated it. In fact, he said he appreciated it at the end!

I shot him a quick final reply.

< Kay. Have a good day and a great weekend. >

As I pulled out my keys to unlock the doors, I wondered what he'd be doing this weekend and if he'd meant something else about the 'gird up your loins' bit. I think that's called a double entendre, right? I mean he could have meant it in a risqué way… or maybe not. I'm not likely to find out.

The first customer of the day was looking for help backing up her pictures and data to the cloud. This would take a while, and no commission on a sale here!


My brother invited me to dinner with his family on Saturday, so that was a nice turn of events. We always got along pretty well. I'm older, but we were close when we were kids and stayed that way… even if he is a psychologist and regularly lets me know what I could be doing differently to improve my outlook and situation.

He's always been supportive and helpful, not the least of which was when I came out my senior year in high school. We were both athletes and he was a sophomore, and I'd told him first. He told me that things would be okay even if our parents were pretty religious. Jordan was there beside me. He was right. Things were okay. Not great, by any means, but okay. I didn't get yelled at or condemned or thrown out of the house. They didn't understand it or approve, really, but they tolerated it. It was 2000 for God's sake and being gay was legal and protected!

For sure, it was a tense year, no doubt about that. But I made it through and then went off to college, so the difficult times were limited to holidays and visits home. Jordan was there for me when needed, and that really helped later on in life. He and his wife had two kids and were living the All-American life, but it was fun to visit and watch their kids slowly grow up.

On the way home I wondered what Seth was doing. God! Was this turning into some kind of fantasy attachment?

Sunday morning while I was out on a run, I found myself thinking about him again. I had both dogs with me, and they were keeping pace. The weather was still nice, and it didn't warm up till afternoon, so they weren't overheating from the run. Besides this is what kept them in shape! In fact, it's what kept us all in shape. I wondered if Seth liked dogs. Then I told myself to cool it. You barely know the guy! Geez!

By Monday morning, though, I had to do something.

< Hey, Seth. Hope you had a good weekend. I thought about you yesterday when I went for a run with the dogs. Hope all is well. >

Was I going too far? Was this violating some kind of social decorum? Would Miss Abby condemn me for it? Oh well. I hit send.

A few minutes later his response came in.

< It was good. I spent some time Saturday with Adrian and then did laundry and other fun stuff like that yesterday. You have dogs? Wow! Who'd have thought! >

I smiled at the implicit cheekiness in the 'who'd have thought' comment. Not that I minded.

< Does Adrian have art class on Thursday evening, cuz I plan on being at McMennamin's. >

God, Wilt! Is this some kind of desperate reach for a date… or just being social? I wasn't used to this stuff. I was way too far out of practice, and probably sounded pathetic.

Two minutes passed.

< Yeah, he does, just like last week. So, just to be clear, are you asking me to meet you at McMennamin's? >

As I read his reply, I felt a wry smile unfold on my face. It was a little cheeky, but I could see the humor in it, and he was certainly within his rights to ask. He certainly had every right to determine if I was some old perv hitting on him.

< I'm telling you I'll be there and would be very happy if it turned out you were there, too. >

That was probably neutral enough! Geez. This was the kind of two-step you used to have to go through when dating. Now it happens when you're texting too!

I could see the ellipsis flicking on my message screen and had to acknowledge a certain level of anticipation.

< Yeah, man. I'll be there. Glad to hear it'll make you happy! 😉>


Was that weird, or cool? I mean this older guy I've only met twice tells me he's been thinking about me over the weekend!

Truth, though, I've been thinking about him. It was just so comfortable talking to him.

Either way, I'll be there on Thursday. What else do I have to do while Adrian's at class?

Besides, I want to see him again.


I walked the dogs after work and was at the bar before Seth. I was pretty certain I'd be early. He had to walk Adrian to art class. I had no time commitments and could get to the bar and make sure we had a couple of stools.

I saw him in the mirror above the backbar as he walked in and spoke briefly to the hostess, then watched as he came into the bar. I kept looking straight ahead, kind of down into my beer but grabbing quick glances in the mirror. As he got next to me, I looked down so I wouldn't be obvious, and at the same time as he said, "Hi, Wilt," I felt his hand settle on my shoulder. He gave it a slight squeeze. As I turned and smiled a hello in response, he slipped off his mask.

I'd hung my jacket on the back of the stool and just had a shirt on. His hand felt pleasant and warm through the cotton, and one part of my brain flashed, "It's been a while, hasn't it?' He slid onto the adjacent stool, and I noticed immediately he was next to me, instead of two stools away like last week.

He slid off his jacket and had on a snug Henley pullover that showed off his torso. Had he purposefully upgraded from the T-shirt he wore last week? He was also wearing tight black jeans and some cool looking Nike shoes. I stayed quiet while he ordered a pint of ale, and when he looked over at me, I asked, "How's your week been?"

Turns out it had been okay, not great. Just like mine. But the conversation was easy. I asked about Adrian's class and that led to sharing a little about family. He'd also grown up in Portland, but his parents died when he was in high school, so he and Adrian had then lived with his grandmother, but she died during his junior year in high school, and Adrian was still a minor and went into a foster home.

"That seems a pretty radical step."

"It was the only option. I mean, he's got Asperger's syndrome and I was in college, Adrian was a minor with disabilities, and the state does have a good program for placing underage disabled youth in foster homes. He's a senior now, but still a minor."

"How did you handle it?"

"I was panicked, really worried if it would be a good foster home, but it was. We both got totally lucky there. I came up on weekends till I graduated, them moved back here afterwards to be close."

"Wait. You moved to this neighborhood to be close to your brother's foster home?"

"Yeah. Why wouldn't I? I love him. We're all each other have, you know?" He looked at me as if he was wondering what my motivation was in asking.

"Don't get me wrong. I think what you did was amazing. Amazing as in wonderful. I meant what I said as a compliment."

He smiled softly.

"Seriously, you hear all this stuff about Millennial and Gen Z kids being self-absorbed. I think what you chose to do was the exact opposite."

"He's a good guy. He's smart, just has some problems. You'll like him."

"Do I get to meet him?"

"Probably… sometime." He paused and looked at me kind of slyly, the pitch of his voice rising. "Like especially if you keep asking me out for a beer on Thursday night?"

I paused and grinned. "Wait! Did I ask you out? I thought I just told you I'd be here, and you made it sound like a date or something."

"Whatever," he said, resting his left hand on the back of my right hand. He glanced at me. "Is that okay?"

"It's really nice." I looked back at him. "I guess we're both acknowledging that we're gay, is that right?"

"I am. I'm out and proud. How about you?"

"I'm out. I don't run around broadcasting it on all channels, but I am. My friends and family know, and my closest business acquaintances."

He smiled and I felt the fingertips of his left-hand kind of dance on the back of my right hand. "I'm glad."

"Me, too." However, being honest with myself, I immediately heard one part of my brain saying how nice it is to have a young gay friend in the community. Is that what it was?"

We ordered food and another round and chatted about a wide range of subjects. When the dishes were cleared and we could settle into real conversation again, I looked at him and asked, "Last week you said you live alone now. How did that happen?"

A flash of suspicion went across his face, followed by a smile… as if he'd reconciled within himself what my motivation was. Before he could answer I added, "I mean, I told you I live alone, too. Meaning we both do. I'm just curious. Is that okay?"

"Yeah, it's fine. I live alone because my boyfriend dumped me a nine months ago and moved out. You know how tight housing is right now, meaning the lease is in my name and I couldn't find a cheaper apartment that was still in the neighborhood. And I'm not up for a roommate yet. It would bring back too many memories of Andrew."

"Getting dumped is a total downer. I'm sorry I asked."

"No, it's alright. I would have told you. I wasn't hiding it or anything. Just not broadcasting it, you know."

His soft smile spoke volumes and his eyes sparkled in the bar light.

"I live alone because my partner, Patrick, died two years ago."

"Whoa! That's heavy. Sorry to hear that."

"Thanks, He was older than me and had aggressive prostate cancer. The treatment slowed it down, but the cancer won in the end."

His hand was still on mine and he squeezed it with a mix of empathy and connection. The kind of connection two people can establish when both have major losses in their life.

I saw him look down at his wrist and then up at me. "I was going to ask you to tell me about your dogs, but I've got to split to meet Adrian. Is that okay?"

"It's more than okay. It's what you have to do. I guess I'll have to hold telling you about the dogs till next Thursday. That is, if you'll be here."

His eyes brightened and his smile widened, and he said, "Would that be another date?"

"Well, if that's what we're calling it." I added, paraphrasing his texts, "It would make me happy."

He kept looking at me and then said, "It'd make me happy, too."


I wasn't sure I should squeeze his shoulder after I spotted him at the bar. He was trying to be cool, like totally nonchalant… but I saw him sneaking a glance in the mirror. So, I knew he knew I was there and coming over. It just seemed natural, not forward, and he felt so warm when I put my hand on him. He didn't flinch. I was totally aware of that.

I re-ran our conversation in my mind as I walked down to the community center. I liked him more and more. He was successful but had gone through hard times, too. I could relate. When he asked about my life and about Adrian, there was no pity… just understanding and acceptance. Maybe that comes with experience and older guys. Andrew was my age and just barely understanding of my situation and certainly didn't accept it. Meaning, for him Adrian was my problem, not his. He also didn't want it disturbing his life.

I found myself smiling. Wilt also had a wry sense of humor. He'd played along with the 'date at McMennamin's' line I gave him like he wasn't offended. In fact, like he was into it. There'd been give and take and for the second time it had been fun.

More fun than I'd had with another guy since Andrew split.

I had my phone in my hand and was typing the text before I consciously realized what I was doing.

<Thanks for our 'date' tonight. I really enjoyed it again. It's fun spending time with you. Thanks for opening up about your life.>

I re-read the words in the text bubble on my phone. Was this too much too soon? Was it going to come off all syrupy? Or was I just being honest. He's older, I'm younger… this isn't going anywhere romantically. Maybe we'll become good friends. Aren't friends honest with each other about how they feel?

I hit send and then walked into the front door of the community center. Adrian was ready, and on the walk to the foster home we talked about his art class… and I heard a text come in. I sure wasn't going to look at it now. Adrian had enough trouble keeping his attention on a subject, and me looking at my phone would probably spook him.

When we got there, I spoke to the foster parents for a few minutes, walked Adrian to his room and gave him a big hugand kiss on the forehead, and not until I got back on the street did I look at my phone.

< Well then, we both enjoyed it! You opened up, too, about your life… and I appreciate that. Now that you've got me cornered into it, I'm liking this Thursday night date idea! >

Wow! That was cool on many fronts. I didn't want to leave it just hang or say something lame, but I did want to reply. Finally, I did.

< Me, too. I'm realizing that I've been missing having a close friend. >

I flinched as I sent it. Would that be saying too much? Going too far?

I was in my apartment thinking about what it all meant when my phone pinged a few minutes later.

<Me, too! Now I'm even happy that I got that damn promo phone sent to me, LOL!>

Okay! That was pretty positive. It seemed like I needed to say something else… but not be sappy.

< Silver linings, and all that, right? 😂 >


Close friend. A new close friend would be a good thing, no denying that. It also set aside any romantic elements, so I can just file all those random thoughts!

I clipped the leashes on the dogs and took them for a short final walk, reflecting on my mixed feelings.

The next day was overly busy at work. With mask mandates and climbing levels of vaccinations, elective surgeries had just about returned to normal, but there were also a lot of people trying to catch up on surgeries they'd had canceled. It certainly looked like the next week was going to be a wild one based on Friday's orders for Monday delivery.

I ended the day with a short staff meeting. The staff was small, an office manager, a bookkeeper, two salespeople, two warehouse people and two delivery drivers. Basically, I wanted them aware that if today was an indicator, then next week would see a lot of surgeries and we'd be busy… as in real busy. My office manager was also my purchasing agent, and we talked about placing some additional inventory orders before end of day so we wouldn't run out of stock.

We were the last ones in the office, and as she left, I put leashes on the dogs and took them around the office complex before driving home. One of the benefits of my own business was that the boys could be with me during the day. They got along with everyone, and all the staff got along with them, and this way they weren't bored and got out a few times a day.

I wasn't in the mood to cook so I stopped by the local sushi bar to pick up the order I'd called in. Sushi with a couple of IPAs sounded like a pleasant evening. After I fed the dogs, I spent twenty minutes catching up on personal email, which included one from my brother. He was really good at staying in touch. I suppose it was a good characteristic for a psychologist to have!

The sushi looked fresh and shiny and very appetizing. I set it on the table with a little bowl of soy sauce mixed with wasabi and went to the fridge for an IPA. As I walked back, I found myself thinking of the last McMennamin's IPA I'd had… last night with Seth.

Right! Seth. My new close friend, Seth. The one with the long delicate fingers, the long legs in the tight jeans and the sweet smile. I wondered what he was doing at present. A thought arose about sending him a quick text, but I realized it might look needy. Shit, I might even say something stupid like 'I'm here alone and thinking about you.' That would be pathetic.

Instead, I checked the weather for the weekend and happily saw clouds but no rain. That meant I could take the dogs for long walks both days and also get in a run… plus do laundry and some shopping.

Saturday and Sunday, when my mind wandered, one of the subjects it regularly wandered to was Seth. What was he doing? Was he doing something with his brother? Wouldn't it be fun to have done something together? Sunday evening I realized that without even consciously thinking about it, my phone was in my hand.

<How was your weekend? Nice it wasn't raining, right?">

As I sent it, I hoped he'd think of it as a courtesy more than anything else.

A few minutes later I heard the ping of an inbound.

<It was good. I took Adrian shopping for some clothes and then we drove to Tryon State Park for a hike. Also, groceries and laundry, lol! How about you?>

That was a nice reply. Too bad we couldn't have been doing our chores together!

<My dogs got two long walks, and I got two runs in plus doing chores . 😜 >

I found I was watching the phone in my hand.

<You've got to tell me about the dogs… on Thursday. I've got to run now. I'm having supper with Adrian at the foster home . 😍 >

What a sweet thing to do. He was invested in his brother, took care of him, and spent time with him. I was impressed, but wondered if the hearts in the eyes was for his brother, whom he clearly loved, or just maybe… for me? Forget it… close friend, remember?

<Enjoy! Have a good evening and a good week.>

Five minutes later, as I was fixing something to eat my phone pinged.

< 👍 >

Monday was as busy as Friday, and, in fact, the whole week was. Lots of surgery catch up going on, which was great for business. We spent the whole day booking orders and expediting deliveries from our major suppliers, and I didn't get out of the office till after 6:00 every day. Suddenly it was Thursday and I found myself looking forward to this evening.

At lunchtime, I took the dogs out for a walk and bumped into a good friend who had office space two doors down. He was a local insurance agent and we chatted for a bit getting caught up. I told him about the spike in business this week, and when I asked how he was doing he said he was still looking for an office manager. That reminded me that his former office manager had retired and her last day had been a week ago.

"You must be feeling the pain by now, and swamped with candidates in this job market?"

He smiled wryly. "Lots of candidates, but most not qualified. It turns out a degree in sports management or a couple of years doing telemarketing don't translate into running an office with a hand on the book of business."

"So, most candidates are young and unqualified?"

He rolled his eyes as he smiled. "And most seem to think they deserve the job… like entitlement or something."

"Is young a rule out?"

"What do you mean?"

"Mid-twenties. Is that too young?"

"No, why"

"I know this guy who's responsible and caring, who's presently working retail… but not out of choice. His major was English, but his minor was Business Admin. He's sharp and caring and on the ball. Want to talk to him if he's interested?"

"If you're recommending someone I sit up and take notice! Yeah, I'll talk to him, of course. When?"

"Let me ask. I'll see him tonight and find out. Is that okay? If he's interested, I'll have him call you."

He nodded and I nodded at the dogs and said, "Gotta go… these guys need their walk."


I knew by now that Wilt would be at the bar when I arrived since I had to walk Adrian to the community center. He was in the same seat, but this time his eyes met mine in the mirror behind the bar and he smiled. I smiled back and like last week, squeezed his shoulder as I said Hi. His shoulders were tense.

I slid my fingers into the base of the brown hair at the base of his neck, wondering if it was okay.

He leant his head back and sighed. "Hi, Seth. That feels wonderful."

"You're very tight… I mean your shoulders, you know?"

I nodded. "One of those weeks."

I didn't even think about it, just stepped sideways behind his stool and put both hands on his shoulders and softly kneaded. "One of those weeks, meaning busy and stressful? Does this help?"

He sighed again and said softly, "You have no idea." I only went with the shoulder rub for thirty seconds so it wouldn't seem weird in public, then I heard him softly say, "Your fingers are not only thin and beautiful, but very effective."

I didn't expect that! I mean I keep my nails short and trimmed because I'm working on people's phones all day long. But, beautiful? Who notices if someone has beautiful fingers!

"I'm glad you think the shoulder rub is effective. I give Adrian massages when he gets too wound up, so I have some practice."

He smiled at me in the mirror and patted his hand on the stool next to him. "Sit and order. You didn't come here to rub my shoulders?"

"True, but it was nice."

The bartender came up just then, so I ordered a pint and then as I sat down, I asked, "So, what was so stressful about work this week?"

He explained about the sudden increase in surgeries, the jump in orders and the challenges of filling all the orders. Being in retail, even at a wireless store, I could relate. When I asked if he thought it was a one-time thing he said, "If I'm right it'll continue till Christmas. Now people are trying to get their surgeries done before year end 'cause they've already met their deductible."

I grinned at him. "I'm available if the stress in your shoulders gets too much to bear!"

I know I wiggled my eyebrows, even though I didn't plan on it, and I didn't want to come off as a flirt, but… oh well!

He looked at me in a kind of appraising way and then said, "Okay, Seth. I'll remember the offer." Then he smiled and winked.

Suddenly I felt a little flustered, so I said, "You told me you'd tell me about your dogs."

He grinned and the told me about his two Staffordshire Bull Terriers. He pulled out his new phone, the one I'd helped him set up, and showed me pictures.

"But aren't they pit bulls? Aren't they dangerous?"

His response was classic. "Seth, you've got to get out from under that rock where there's no dogs. Pit bulls is an almost slang term, and what people mean can include almost a dozen different breeds. People lump Staffies in there with pit bull terriers and fighting dogs, but you know what? In England where they were first bred, Staffies are family dogs. They're amazingly affectionate. You'll see."

I wasn't sure it was that simple. I mean, I'd heard stories and stuff. "What are their names?"

"Donner and Blitzen."

"What? Those are the names of two of Santa's reindeer."


"Well, you know. These are dogs."

He laughed, a laugh that was full-hearted and then settled into a chuckle. "I got them about three years ago, right before Christmas. When it came time to name them my nephew and niece, my brother's kids, basically took over and said they had to have Christmas names. Santa's elves' names wouldn't do, and they settled on Donner and Blitzen. What was I to do?"

He smiled knowingly. "Well, kids can be persuasive. I have a brother that can be persuasive, you know. Do the names mean something?"

"As a matter of fact, they do. The kids did a Google search on all these Christmas names and when they were done there was no arguing about it."

"Go on."

"Well, Donner comes from the Dutch word for thunder, and with Santa's reindeer he was supposed to have a deep booming voice. So, you see these two Staffies are brown with brown eyes. And they can make this deep booming growl?"

I didn't know what to say. I don't know much about dogs, let alone about pit bulls… or rather, Staffordshire Bull Terriers. "Okay, I'll buy the booming part. Go on."

"Well, Blitzen is the Dutch word for lightning, so the two of them are thunder and lightning. Oh, and I forgot to say, Donner and Blitzen are twins, and these two dogs are brothers."

"Whoa! How'd you end up with both of them?"

"Honestly? I was looking for one, but these two were inseparable and they were the last two in the litter and the breeder kind of begged me and all… you know how it goes. And they're so cute together, don't you think?"

Cute? I was still trying to figure out how that word applied to a pit bull. Still, Wilt was totally convincing, so I'd be chill.

"They're really cool looking. Especially the pictures of them sleeping together on their backs… on your couch. Is that your couch they're sleeping on?"

"Yeah. They kind of own the place. I take them to work with me, and guess what? All the employees love them… and we've never been robbed."

He laughed again, and then the bar tender came along and we ordered a refill and some food.

After we'd eaten, Wilt turned to me and said, "There's two other things I'd like to ask you about."

I was taking a sip of beer so just nodded, and he went on.

"How locked into your job at the wireless store are you? Are you open to considering an alternative?"

I must have looked at him wide-eyed, 'cause he raised his hands and said, "I'm not propositioning you." He grinned and wiggled his eyebrows, then went on, "I've got a friend in the insurance business who has an opening if you're interested."


"Yeah, seriously. His office is in the same commercial complex mine is and he has an opening for an office manager. He's more concerned with competence than age." He paused, smiled deviously and then said, "he's also partial to someone who gives killer shoulder massages."

"Get out!" I knew it sounded childish and stupid as soon as I said, it… but it just came out.

"I'm kidding about the massages, but I'm serious about the position. It's a bump up from your current position, probably pays more, and I think it has a better career path."

"Why would you recommend me? We've known each other for like ten days?"

"Because I'm a strong believer in Warren Buffet's thesis about employees. He said, "In looking for people to hire, look for three things: Integrity, Intelligence and Energy. And if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you!"

"Really, he actually said that… that way? That's wild. It makes a lot of sense, though."

"So, this position is for real. Are you interested?"

I knew I was smiling at him and trying hard not to break into a full-on grin. "Can I have about ten seconds to think about it?"

"Good, that's settled. Here's his name and phone number on the back of my business card." He handed me his card and he let his fingers linger in may hand just a little longer than necessary. "His name's Craig Beyer. Call him tomorrow and see where it goes."

I tucked the card in my coat pocket. "And the second thing?"

"Well, maybe you haven't looked at the calendar, but next Thursday is Thanksgiving. What are you doing for Thanksgiving? Are we still meeting here?" His hazel eyes seemed to be sparkling in the light reflecting off the mirror behind the bar and I could tell he was working hard not to break into a grin.

I couldn't stop myself smiling at him. "Well, I'm having Thanksgiving dinner with Adrian at the foster home, but that's in the afternoon. So, if you want, we could still have our date here."

He was looking me straight in the eyes and softly said, "It's a holiday. Does Adrian like dogs?"

"Yeah, he loves all animals."

"Then instead of meeting here, why don't you bring Adrian to my place, and you can both meet Donner and Blitzen?"


On the walk home I felt good. We keep kidding each other about meeting at the tavern being a date, but… who cares. It's fun and he's pleasant to be with. I was happy that he responded positively to the job opportunity. Even if it wasn't a good fit, it meant he was open to change and advancement. Good traits to have. I was also happy about the idea I suggested for Thanksgiving.

He clearly loves and cares for his brother, so why not share the joy a little. It was nice that Seth was doing Thanksgiving dinner at the home with Adrian, but there probably wouldn't be anything especially great about it except maybe a change in what food was on the plate. Also, who know about the quality of the food, but better not to go there.

I fell asleep thinking of the shoulder rub and how sensuous it felt… and an hour late woke to find myself with a raging hard on that I was stroking. I took care of that, and it felt great, as did the thoughts of Seth that crept into my mind.

Friday afternoon I heard the ping of a text.

< I called Craig during my lunch, and we had a good talk. He wants to interview me! 😃 >

I knew Craig well enough to know that he wouldn't waste his or Seth's time, and that he must have heard something that got his attention.

< Way to go! That's great news. Do you have an updated resume? >

I didn't want to get ahead of myself and tell him how to do this, but a well-done resume looks professional. A few minutes later I got the reply.

< No. I haven't done anything since I got the job here .>

In a way that was no surprise, and he hadn't planned on me dropping the opportunity on him the night before.

< It's important to look professional. I'll help you this weekend if you want. Gotta stress the Asst Mgr part!>

He had to have his own computer and printer, but there was also the question of how it was laid out and what was stressed.

< That'd be cool. Are you sure? >

Was that hesitancy or good manners?

< Yeah. We can meet at my office Sunday afternoon. Also, you can meet the dogs, so we kill two birds, lol!>

He was there at two o'clock as agreed, and he did well for a non-dog guy. I saw him walk up and met him at the door.

"They're going to be friendly, right?"

"Seth, they're Staffies, not fighting dogs. The most aggressive thing they're going to do is try to hop into your lap."

He smiled but still didn't look a hundred percent certain. I pulled him inside, and by this time Donner and Blitzen had woken up to the sound of voices and walked over to the door, where there were waiting with their tails wagging.

"Okay, see. You're with me so they already trust you. They've got their curious expression on their face, like 'Wow, is this a new friend?' Also, I know you can see their tails are wagging, so they already know you're cool and not an unknown or threat or anything. They're going to smell you up and down and check you out, and if you really want to connect, drop down on your knees and give them a hug… but they'll want to lick your face."

Seth was initially hesitant, then the reality of two friendly dogs with butts and tails wagging replaced the intellectual caution about pit bulls. They were dancing around his legs and Donner tried to jump up to which I said, "No! Down!" and he did. Seth began patting them and rubbing their ears… and that's when I saw the smile break on his face. The tension was gone, and he was comfortable.

They kept it up for a minute or two, and he looked up at me. "They really are friendly, aren't they?"

"I told you. Be careful or they'll love you to death!"

Next thing I knew he'd dropped to his knees and in a few seconds ended up with Donner's head on one shoulder and Blitzen's on the other as he scratched their shoulders and then started hugging them. He looked up at me with a grin.

"You're doing pretty great for not being a dog person. I think you've passed the test!"

"Well, you were right, they are really friendly." He turned his attention back to the dogs who were licking his face, and he started laughing and the dogs knew what was up and licked more intensely. After a bit I said, "Okay, you guys. Stop. Enough already."

They quieted down and Seth pushed them off him and stood up still grinning. He looked at me directly not saying anything, just looking.

I looked back, enjoying the contrast of his blue eyes with his black hair and closely trimmed beard.

"It's nice to be loved, isn't it?"

His eyes widened and he flushed momentarily and then nodded. "Yeah. They're very cool."

"They're what got me through the last two years… well, apart from my brother and his family." I smiled at him and pointed off to his left. "The bathroom's over there. Pretty sure you'll be wanting to wash your hands and face. I'll be in my office when you're done." I pointed at a door in the opposite direction.

When he walked in both dogs were laying on their beds watching him. I told them to stay and pointed at a chair. "Pull that over here and let's get to work."

His resume was okay, mainly focused on the two retail jobs since he'd graduated. "What was your summer employment during college?"

The last two summers he'd worked as an intern at The Oregonian newspaper, motivated by taking journalism classes. "What about during the school year?"

"I worked at the college radio station and on the student newspaper… but they weren't paying jobs."

"That's okay. They all count as experience. We'll just add them, move a few things around, and this resume will have a different feel. When did you become assistant manager?"

He told me and I started listing the positions in reverse order back to the student work. "Okay, now, you take over and lay this out in Word. Personal Info, then education, then whatever awards you got, then work experience in reverse order. And, most importantly, you start with an Objective, meaning what you're looking for in your next job. Just a sentence."

He paused, looking sweetly innocent as he thought about it. "But I wasn't looking for work."

"That's okay, the assumption is that everyone's always looking, keeping an eye out for a better opportunity. Say something like you told me, about advancing into business management and helping people out."

I vacated my desk chair and motioned him over, and as he sat down, I asked if he wanted iced tea or a Diet Coke.

He smiled. "Tea, please."

He was done in half an hour and had added a nice objective statement.

I was leaning over his shoulder looking at the new resume. I wanted to put my hands on his shoulders and nuzzle my face into his hair, but instead I just softly said, "Why don't you print a few copies out, and then what do you think about taking the boys for a walk?"

He tipped his head up and back and I could see the smile. "That's a great idea. Does that mean we're having a second date this week?"

I squeezed his shoulders. "Who's counting?"


It was such a great afternoon! I loved that Wilt wanted to help me with updating my resume but wasn't so sure when he told me the dogs would be there. However, it made sense when he explained that this way, they'd get to know me before we brought Adrian over on Thanksgiving.

Still! I somehow expected a bunch of vicious barking or whatever! Instead, it was total love. They were all over me, like I'd just been made a member of the pack or something. And Wilt was right… it is good to be loved.

Even if it was two dogs, it felt really good and made me realize that I'd been doing some kind of self-imposed isolation since Andrew split. I grinned at myself as I worked on something to eat. Ten days ago, alone. Now, loved by three… well, two dogs and one cool guy.

Love had to be in there somewhere, right? I mean we'd been having these dates, but I know we'd connected and liked being together and now he was helping me out and wanting to include Adrian. That was more than just casual dating, that's for sure.

While dinner cooked, I pulled out my phone to send a text.

< This was a great afternoon. Thanks for the help and making me part of the pack with Donner and Blitzen . 😍 >

Just a factual statement, right. And the hearts on the emoji could be for the dogs, right?

I was just sitting down to eat, and the reply came in.

< I checked with them both and you passed and are now an official member of their pack. Right now, they're kind of bummed that you bailed and didn't hang around more. But they'll get over it… and you have to get ready for your interview tomorrow. Let me know how it goes! 👍 >

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