Thursday, January 10, 2008

Schruted

A new pair of attractive, twenty-something newlyweds sat quietly observing their surroundings at a weekly, religious-based meeting of young married couples in the finished basement of a well-kept suburban home. As the other ten couples were about to come to session, the wooden stairs leading down to the basement began to creak, signaling the arrival of another couple. However, the couple descending down the stairs was not what the newlyweds expected.

As a single figure meandered into the couples' site, the black leather shoes and dark, boot-cut jeans of the man are the first things that appeared, followed immediately by the bottom of a black leather jacket. As the ominous figure turned on his heels to face the bottom set of stairs and the group, the freshly shaven, bald head and bushy black goatee now revealed the determined-looking face of the "man in black" to the now heedful first-timers. The newlyweds seemed shocked that this intrusion was not being met with more caution by the rest of the group.

A fluffy pink blanket was concealing something he was holding against his left shoulder, and surely this seemingly harmless covering was a clever disguise for a sawed-off shotgun as this stocky man was certainly here to collect a bounty, possibly on the co-leader of the young married group who is employed by the Central Intelligence Agency. The brave young husband of the freshly minted couple stood up, fists balled firmly, ready to gallantly protect his bride and his group of new-found friends.

Just as the brave knight was about to pounce, the pink blanket slipped to the floor divulging its secret; a wide-smiling, bright blue-eyed, blond-haired little girl who had apparently been playing a preemptive game of peek-a-boo with the whole group. Both members of the newlywed couple had a distinctive look of mystification that distorted their typically handsome faces.

The knight's female counter-part, looking overtly alarmed, leaned over to one of her new acquaintances and asked invasive questions about their unwelcome new guest. The long-standing female group member replied, "that's Cameron and his daughter, Ainsley. I don't know where his wife is."

The rough-looking Cameron, now aware of the newlyweds' loutish stares, responded graciously with a raised-eyebrow/awkward half-smile as he took his seat. This did nothing but exacerbate the concerns of the young couple, who spent their first night with the group avoiding the austere and provocative spiritual discussion being directed by the group's co-leader in favor of quietly contemplating what sinister intentions this shady-looking "Cameron" had with his presence.

"He's participating a little too much in this discussion" the husband whispered to his wife. "And where is his alleged wife?" responded his wary spouse. All sorts of unpleasant conspiracies were exchanged between the couple over the next half hour, during which time the thick-necked object of the couple's discussion had become a little cagey noticing the leers of the newlyweds. Cameron's eyes had begun darting around the room like Kevin Malone as he was looking around to see if anyone else was noticing this unwelcome scrutiny he had acquired. After understanding no one else was keen to his plight, he leaned back in his chair in such a way as to test its spacial capacities, but removing himself purposefully from the couple's line of sight.

When the closing prayer had concluded, the couple's curiosity had been roused to its peak and they were no longer afraid of the rugged-looking character, but ready to corner and grill him ceaselessly on his personal history, determined to expose his presumed villainous character.

The pair shot-out of their seats like a firecracker had gone-off under them with the "amen" of the prayer. In only four or five steps, the newlyweds were standing over the still-seated suspect.

"Hi, I'm Scott and this is my wife, Faith" the husband said hurriedly. Now cued, Faith stumbled into a pseudo-friendly factual observation as her ice-breaker. "We're new here, um, and we were just, um, amazed at how good your daughter was the whole night." Cameron responded with a small smile and wide-eyed, jolted nods as he was sensing the wall of distinctly un-subtle, disingenuous interest that had trapped him in his metal chair.

A barrage of thinly-veiled intrusive questions about his life followed in close succession, to which the regular attendees of the group were now listening, somewhat horrified at the unwarranted inquisition. After about the fifth or sixth question about his family and personal life, Katie, the warm and gracious owner of the former basement turned interrogation center, caught Cameron's wide-eyed glance when she noticed him turn from skittish and uncomfortable with the questioning, to calm and oddly charming with a sudden appearance of an engaged and interested close-mouthed smile as he made eye-contact with his male captor.

The light-switch change was noticed by many more than Katie, as Cameron fielded a question about his wife's employment. "Well, she's not my wife per se, but she does 'take care of me' if you know what I'm sayin'," and Cameron added a wink to the Faith for good measure. "Well, what does she do?" Faith responded curtly, trying to reverse the affect of the attitude change.

"Well, the question is, 'Who doesn't she?', kitten. She's a woman of the night. That's why she can't be here. She's working." Now ankle deep in his story, and noticing the shock on Faith's face and the look of validation in Scott's smug smirk, Cameron ran over the groom's next question as he began shoveling an even thicker pile about his common law wife and how he was "out" on work-release, and taking care of his cousin's child while she's sent up for a stint at Levenworth for being involved in a United Nations sex scandal involving Boutros Boutros-Ghali and the intercourse-for-food scheme in Amsterdam.

Just as Cameron was about to embark on his future plans about skipping town after knocking over a couple of magic stores and retiring to his ocean-front villa in Phoenix, the happy couple noticed the room around them laughing raucously at Cameron's tales....and at them.

BANG! It dawned on the newlyweds with the force of a frying pan to the head; they'd been taken for a ride with their own perceptions and assumptions. As Faith covered her face with both hands in embarrassment, Scott stood with his hands in his pockets, looking at the ground with his face turning a bright shade of fuchsia. The jig was up, and Cameron smiled wide like a Cheshire cat as he explained about his real life working at a mid-size, regional paper company and living on his small family beet farm south of town.

"What's your wife's name?" Faith inquired genuinely, now quite satisfied with Cameron's truthful answers.

"Angela," he replied.