Excerpt from THROUGH THE EYES OF THE BEHOLDER

Everyone who’s inhaled and admitted it knows somebody like Max.  He was the guy who sat in the back row in class and laughed through World History.  He was the guy who made it to every party, always had weed, and never managed to pick up women.  Max could hook you up with a breath mint, a shot of Visine, or a No-Doze, and, when you ran out of rolling papers, he could throw a pipe together in five minutes or less with whatever materials were on hand.  He was a true stoner in every sense of the word and the McGyver of marijuana.

On Max’s twenty-first birthday, a bunch of the guys put together a Goodbye Virginity party for him and invited Sam to be the main attraction.  Although they never slept together again, Max and Sam developed a mutually beneficial friendship as a result.  Basically, Sam defended Max whenever someone hassled him, and Max furnished Sam with all the pot she could smoke.

Passing the joint to Todd, Sam leaned over toward Max and flashed him a smile.  “How goes things, my friend?  Any new romances I should be jealous of?”
Max smiled back and tried hard not to blush. 

“Nah, I don’t have the patience for feminine head games.  All I need is a full stash box and an occasional blow job, and I’m right as rain.”

Sam leaned closer and whispered to Max, “So, how good do you think my chances are with this one over here?”  She tilted her head and gestured toward the opposite side of the couch.  “Has he gotten over what’s-her-name?”

“Oh,” he whispered back, “yeah, I think he’s past all that, but you don’t want him.”  Max lowered his voice and whispered close in her ear, “He’s an unemployed sponge.  Asks me to front him all the time.  You deserve better than that.”

“I don’t want to date him, sweetie,” Sam whispered back into Max’s ear, “you know?”

“Sam,” he said shaking his head, “you’ll probably make some man really happy one day if you can get that libido under control.”  Sam gave Max another smile and a peck on the cheek, and shifted herself to face Todd.

“So, what are you two lovebirds talking about over there?” Todd said, handing the joint back to Sam.  “I’ve had to smoke most of this myself.”

“I was just telling Max, here, how well I thought you were filling out those jeans.  Right, Max?”  Sam turned to see Max shaking his head again and preparing to roll another smoker.  Turning back to Todd, she added, “He agreed with me, but I think he’s a little reluctant to talk about it now.”  Sam took as much of a drag as she could, then reached across the coffee table to toss the rest in the ashtray.

“So, do you often discuss my clothes with friends?”

“Only when I’m thinking of removing them.  Any chance you’re free this evening to help me out with that?”

Todd let out a light chuckle and lowered his head.  Lifting his head up again and looking at her, he added, “You don’t give up easily, do you?”

“Not where you’re concerned, my friend.”  Sam put her hand on his thigh and leaned over to bring her lips to his ear.  “You can stay here and jack off later, or you can come with me and let me roll your eyes to the back of your head.”  She tightened her grip on his thigh, and kissed his earlobe and neck.  “Your choice.”

“I’ve gotta hand it to you,” Todd said fidgeting, “you make one hell of an argument.”

While Sam turned the heat up, Sandra and the others stood across the room watching the couch and waiting for the outcome.  “Do you believe those two?” asked J.C., a close and long-time friend of Todd’s.  “I mean, come on, either he’s gotta give in or she’s gotta give up, ‘cuz I’m sick of this cat and fuckin’ mouse game.”

“You mean Todd hasn’t gotten a piece of that yet?  Jesus, the way they’ve carried on all this time, I thought he’d banged her a while ago.”  Billy was another long-time friend of the family’s, and the only other guy in the room besides Max that had rounded home plate with Sam.

“No, man,” replied J.C., “she’s been huntin’ him like a dog.  It’s gettin’ real fuckin’ old.”
Billy shook his head.  “And all this time I thought the ol’ Toddster had gotten him a little somethin’ and was beggin’ to get back in.  Poor bastard.  He doesn’t know what he’s missin’.”

“Jesus, guys,” piped in Sandra, “do you always act like pigs, or are you trying to impress me?”

Someone knocked on the front door, and Todd jumped up from his spot next to Sam to run to answer it.  The group heard shouts of “Hey, man, it’s been a long time!” and “Where the hell have you been?,” then Sandra invited their new guest to grab a beer and make himself at home.  Approaching the tiny gathering of friends, Todd said, “I think you probably know everybody, Brad, and I’m sure you remember Sam, don’t you?”

Sam looked up and watched the newcomer cross the room to the couch.  He sat down next to her in the spot Todd had vacated and threw his arms around her, and, before she could process who the guy was, he’d planted the most incredible kiss on her.  In those few cavernous seconds, her mind rifled through fifteen years of childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood to gather the pieces that would make sense of the moment his lips met hers.  They’d been schoolmates, friends, even boyfriend and girlfriend once in junior high, if she remembered right.  He had been the kid in eighth grade that nearly dislocated her jaw with a dictionary.  What a kisser he’d turned out to be.

He pulled away and looked at Sam through the deepest and most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen.  Had they always been that blue?  His hair was a little mussed and his arms felt strong.  His face was familiar, but no memory made him as beautiful as the man sitting there next to her.  He said to her, “I’m back!” to which she replied, “You certainly are,” and pulled his lips back to hers.  Suddenly, she had forgotten all about Todd.

September 22, 2003

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