My thanks to Harry R for helping to edit this beast into some semblance of readability.
I guess that you could say that my world started on that slow downhill slide into a shit pile while I was waiting out the airline rescheduling in Milwaukee. They had me grounded overnight because of a maintenance problem.
My friend, Wick, and I were sharing a drink at the Doubletree when this little detour along my idealized vision of the so-called highway of life came about.
I travel quite a bit in my work. It was on one of those work trips that I ran into a friend and work associate at Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport. William C. "Wick" Pettigrew was also traveling for work. He, however, was in town for an appointment here the next day, while I was simply stuck.
"Hey, Grady; long time, no see Bud," said my friend as we met up at baggage claim.
"You mean like all the way back to last Thursday?" I replied with one raised eyebrow, cognizant that this was Tuesday; only five days following the last time we had spoken over the cubicle walls back in Cary, NC.
"A lifetime to a drinking man!" Wick responded without even pausing to blink before giving his reply.
Wick, one of my best friends and classmates from college, and an old Kappa Alpha brother of mine at NC State, works in the same division that I do at Odyssey Corporation, an engineering process consulting company operating out of the town of Cary. Thus, we share cubicle space with four other engineers at the home office and we cross paths occasionally whenever we travel.
I'm happily married and have settled down just a bit from my rowdy days in college. Wick wasn't married, and didn't seem to have any serious relationships going on with any of the several fine-looking women that he was known to date.
"Speaking of which," Wick continued, "there's a fine bar at the hotel where I'm staying tonight. I figured I'd head over and settle in, then maybe wander down to said bar and see if I could work out some way that I might end up matching pee holes with a lounge lizard before the night is over."
I just chuckled and shook my head.
"Where are you staying?" I asked him. I knew that Wick was probably familiar with the nicer places throughout the Midwest, since this was his territory. Mine was in the Northwest, and I was only here in Milwaukee because of the vagaries of airline routing from Spokane all the way back east; or, "out east," as the native West Coast folks say.
"Doubletree, My Man," Wick answered, "Best rooms, best bar, best looking women; well ... best of everything."
I hurriedly got onto the Hilton mobile web page via my Smartphone to attempt to make a reservation where my friend was staying. I was relieved to be able to get a room at the same hotel. It also didn't hurt that I was getting mega Hilton Honors points for staying at the place.
Wick and I grabbed a cab together and were able to get through town to our destination without much difficulty. We had reservations at the Doubletree Hotel Downtown; just a few blocks from Lake Michigan and nearer to the airport than the one in Brookfield.
We were drinking together once again in the bar downstairs an hour later and, right from the start of our conversation, Wick was offering to set me up for the night.
"You know," Wick said with his confident grin, "I could match you up with just the right lady for tonight. And possibly even for the next day or two, if you'd like."
I just glanced over the rim of the glass that held the drink that I was sipping. I could see past his grin and tell that he was really serious.
"Come on, Wick," I answered, "You know that I would never stray on Laurel. After all, why should I settle for hamburger on the road, when I have steak at home?"
"Ah," Wick said with an exaggerated nod of his head, "Spoken like a truly loyal husband; or maybe one who has been thoroughly domesticated and housebroken." He did not say it this time, but I'd often heard him refer to the other married members of our office crew as being pussy-whipped.
"Well," I said, "Consider me as unashamedly representing all of those cases. But don't let me hold you up if you are in the hunt tonight. Go ahead and enjoy yourself."
"Thanks, Bud," Wick answered. "I think I will. Maybe I can find me a woman with sufficient oral talent that she could suck a golf ball through a garden hose."
Wick got out his Smartphone and hit one of the icons from within the 'app drawer.' I watched him tap the screen a couple of times, and then noticed a pop-up screen.
"You really are a pussy hound; aren't you?" I asked softly as he manipulated the icons on his phone's screen.
"You'd bettuh believe it, Ma Man!" he drawled as he continued to work.
I was suddenly struck by an idle thought. I wondered just how Wick could be arranging something as complicated ... or as simple ... as getting laid on such short notice by manipulating his Smartphone.
"Mm-hmm. This one is nice ... she's local ... she's divorced ... supposedly ... and she's available ... her preferences are a pretty high match with mine ... and ... the price is right," I heard Wick mumble to himself. Then he nodded to himself, tapped the screen closed, and put his phone away and picked up his glass to take a swig.
"That's it?" I asked with no small amount of surprise in the inflection of my voice. "No trolling a bar full of women? No targeting a prospect? No corny pick-up lines or dancing a couple of numbers with a few of them to feel them out? No paying three times the normal cost for watered-down drinks? Or lying about the size of your cock and the number of times in a night that you can get it up?"
By this time, Wick was holding up his hand in a 'stop' motion and was chuckling to himself at my display of apparent disbelief.
"Dude," admonished my friend, "you simply HAVE to enter the twenty-first century. There's an app for everything these days; even for pussy." Pausing for a second, Wick then went on, "And women can even search for and find some suitable cock the same way."
Then Wick pretended to furrow his eyebrows in a frown, but his lips were still carrying the vestiges of a grin. "You mean to tell me that fine-looking foxy geek of a wife of yours hasn't convinced you yet that you can arrange for almost anything on a computer or a Smartphone these days?"
I just shrugged and grinned back at my longtime friend. I did not get a chance to respond to his question by acknowledging that Laurel was indeed always clueing me in on the newest developments in technology and mobile applications. After all, that was her specialty in the career field in which she worked.
Wick's phone rang, using a ring tone song that offered the instrumental opening measures to the Joe Cocker song, 'You Can Keep Your Hat On.' He turned away briefly to speak into it. After what seemed to be only about twenty seconds of low-volume negotiation, Wick turned back in my direction, as he finished his phone conversation.
"Lookin' forward to it, Sugar. Caih-ful uh them ah-see roads on the way ovuh; ya hyeah? Mm-hmm; bye naya," Wick said, over-emphasizing his North Carolina down-home drawl a bit more than I thought was necessary. Then he pocketed his phone, finished his drink, and signaled for another for each of us.
"Well, it looks like I'm all set," said Wick. "Tell me, Grady. Are you sure you don't want me to set you up? I mean, what are brothers for if not to have each other's back?"
Wick was speaking as a fraternity brother. I knew, and I truly appreciated his sentiments, but what he had said reminded me at that moment of my own biological brother, Mike.
My name is Grady ... Grady Stone. My brother, Mike Stone, is two years older that I am. We got along reasonably well while we were growing up in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Except for the two years when we attended Seventy-First High School together, where he did not want to have his style cramped by the presence of his uncool "Little Brother."
Mike played football in high school, while I ran cross country. Thus, we did not hang with the same crowd. That allowed us to get along better than if I had simply tried to hang around Mike as sort of his 'Mini-Me'.
Dad, who had served with the Fires Brigade of the Eighty-Second Airborne Division (what I later learned that the Cold War Soldiers in the old days would have called the Division Artillery), had been killed in Iraq in a non-combat-related vehicle accident. Mike had been fourteen when we got the word of Dad's death, and I was twelve. The news hit us all pretty hard; Mom most of all.
Mom had stayed in Fayetteville after Dad died and the grieving was over, even though her extended family was from Sylva, over in the western part of North Carolina. She had a good job with a prominent real estate firm and was in a position to go higher in the company.
Mom had waited until Mike and I were in college before she started dating again. She was and still is a very attractive woman, and she'd found she had no problem still attracting men. But, she had been very particular, and it had been a while before she finally settled into a regular relationship with a really nice guy named Miles Lanier, a financially-very-well-off widower.
.... There is more of this story ...