Tuesday, November 01, 2005

6:12 PM

A note from your author:

It's been a few weeks, and we've been joined by new readers from around the world, so how about a little synopsis?

Over the past few months, House has been reminiscing here and there about a woman who came unexpectedly to visit him in the hospital after the infarction, a woman named Eileen. (There's a complete list of Eileen chapters in the right sidebar.)

House met Eileen during his residency and found himself interested in her. Things were complicated, though, for House was... well, House, and the life of a resident is not easy. Eileen was significantly younger and -- worse yet -- was dating a medical student whom House was supervising at the time.

They bumped into each other a few times that spring, but House didn't see Eileen again until a November afternoon when their paths crossed again. Eileen had just broken up with her med student and had found herself without a way out of town for Christmas. House offered her a lift. He had his own issues at the time and wasn't looking forward to his own visit home, so he was pleased when Eileen ended up accepting the ride. He picked her up early on Christmas Eve, and they were off. We join them after a coffee stop....

Sitting at the coffee shop, dunking cookies in my coffee. It's cold and rainy out; I stopped in to warm up on my way home. I'm tired and sore from the weather and from sitting so long. I was working late tonight on that article, that one on the napthalene toxicity case. I really hope the revisions I made will pacify the stupid journal so they'll go ahead and publish the thing.

Why does everyone think that there's something wrong with me for being a misanthrope? You look at the world today and misanthropy seems to be the only logical response. Like these stupid cookies I'm eating. I'm actually kind of gnawing on them, because these biscotti are so hard you'll break your teeth on them unless you dunk them in coffee. Which means you have to order a coffee. Nice little scam there, kind of like the way bartenders set out peanuts and pretzels.

Or the grocery stores, my God -- I was at the store yesterday picking up my Halloween candy, and they already have the Christmas stuff going up. In a few more years it's going to be Christmas all year long. I dread that day; it's going to make holy hell out of the scheduling. It's pretty easy the rest of the year, but the holidays are a bitch. The kids are already sniping at each other about who worked where when, and whose personal level of devotion trumps whose. Note to self, the next hire should be a Jewish endocrinologist. As long as Passover and Easter don't coincide, we'll be golden.

I take another bite of my biscotto and look around the coffee shop. It's a slow night. I'm not usually here on weeknights, so I'm surprised to see some of the chess regulars here. I catch the eye of one of them, and he recognizes me from when I come here on Sundays. He comes over and tells me about how they come on Tuesdays, and would I like to play sometime? I tell him no thanks, I'm not really into pick-up chess, and he nods and goes back to the others.

It's not really a lie; I was never as into chess as... as some people. Like these guys, they're hard-core chess nerds, they've got the timers and everything. It looks like some of the players are kids from the university.

When was the last time I played chess? It's not something I do all that often.... I think of games I played in restaurants, lining up the captured pieces behind the coffee cup, and suddenly I am filled with nostalgia. The cold November rain spatters on the sidewalk. I lean my head on my hand and stick my cookie in my coffee and forget to take it out; the cookie turns soggy and falls apart but I'm not paying attention any more....

We’d made very good time; it was only another ninety minutes or so to the Briony exit. And then I’d drop her off, head back to the turnpike, and spend another two hours in the car by myself.

I took another bite of the cinnamon roll. I didn’t want to leave the restaurant. I didn’t want to get any closer to Briony. But I couldn’t think of any excuse to stay.

Like I could think of anything to say to her, anyway.
Here, Eileen, just sit here in the booth with me for a couple of hours, just because I just want you to. I’d already had a good hour or so with her in the car and all I’d managed to accomplish was put her to sleep, push her buttons, and make her cry.

She came back with the coffees. “Are we ready?”

I stuffed the last bite of roll into my mouth -- "Mm-hm--” and started gathering up the trash. By the time I'd dumped it out and stowed the tray, Eileen was halfway out of the restaurant. I shook my head and went to go catch up with her.

I stopped for gas before we got back on the turnpike. As I started the pump, I heard the car door close again. I looked up: Eileen had gotten a squeegee and was washing my windshield. I shot her a disapproving look; she smiled sweetly and kept going. She was standing away from the car, trying to keep the salt and grime off her long blue coat, so even with the long handle, she really had to stretch to reach the middle of the glass.

I settled back in the car, started the engine, and pulled out of the station. "What was that for?" I asked.


"The windshield."

"You mean... cleaning it?" I nodded, and she looked at me strangely. "Just to be nice. I can go out and spit on it or something if it really bothers you."

"That's all right." I looked over my shoulder and hit the accelerator; soon we were up to speed on the turnpike.

I looked back over at Eileen. She'd put her coat in the back seat and was sipping her coffee. When I caught her eye, she started guiltily and leaned over to turn on the radio.

"Don't bother," I said, "there's nothing on. We're even losing that stupid oldies station. Besides, you were supposed to bring some music. Don't you have anything in that backpack of yours?"

"I do." She lifted the bag onto her lap and pulled out a smaller case. "What are you in the mood for?"

"Surprise me. But no Christmas music."

Pouting, she chose a cassette and fed it to the car stereo.

I don't remember what I thought she would bring -- did I seriously think she only listened to madrigals? -- but whatever I was expecting, it wasn't a shouting David Byrne:

Watch out!
You might get what you’re after
Cool babies
Strange but not a stranger
I’m an ordinary guy
Burning down the house

I turned down the volume and looked over at Eileen. She had a smug little smile on her face, even though she was pretending not to look at me.

"Who'd you borrow that from?"

"I didn't borrow it from anyone. What, were you surprised? Everyone else seems to be when I bring that tape."

"I just thought maybe you'd bring your Duran Duran tape, the one with the lipstick prints all over it."

"Oh, Simon!" she simpered mockingly. "Sorry, not today. Maybe another time."

Another time? I looked back over at Eileen. She was just poking around in her backpack again. I took a sip of my coffee, looked back at the road and felt myself smiling a little.

Another couple of miles rolled by.

“So why no Christmas music?” she asked suddenly.

“It’s annoying. I don’t want my car to sound like the mall.”

“That’s true. It doesn’t mean as much if you start playing it all the time starting at Thanksgiving,” she mused. “Funny, I wouldn’t have thought you spent a lot of time at the mall.”

“Dude, I live for the mall.”

“Hanging out at the record store, drinking an Orange Julius…” she teased. “You mall rat. Or are you one of those boys that never come out of the arcade? What’s your high score on Centipede?”

“Centipede is a chick game.”

“Galaga, then. Whatever.” She giggled.

I started at the road. She did not need to know that my Nintendo was packed in the trunk of the car.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “You do play video games!”

“So?” I grunted.

“So I didn’t think doctors did stuff like that! Do you go to the arcade with the other doctors, or is that a secret too?”

“Doctors do all kinds of things. And I’m hardly a typical doctor,” I snapped.

“So I’ve seen,” she replied.

“Well, what does that mean?” I looked over; her expression was conciliatory. Was she making fun of me or not? This was so confusing.

“I’m sorry, I just – I shouldn’t have said that. I’m sorry.”

“But you said it,” I pressed. “You must have meant something.”

“It’s just –I don’t know.” She ran her hand over her hair. “I hardly know you. But from the first day I met you you’ve been asking me to keep secrets, like that whole thing with the piano and the practice room.... You seem to keep so many things about yourself a secret from the others -- and such little things, nice things. I don’t understand. I suppose it kind of helps when you’re dealing with patients all day long. But I don’t know why I said that. How would I know? It’s not like I hang out with doctors all the time.”

“Excuse me? How long were you dating Kopp?”

She pressed her lips together for a moment as she thought. “A little over a year. But that doesn’t count; Dave and his friends are med students, not doctors.” She smiled wryly. “And it’s not like I was hanging out with them all the time, even. No, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have made fun of your playing video games. But you said it first – that you’re not a typical doctor.”

Another couple of miles rolled away. The sun was all the way up now, but it hadn’t made much difference; the sky was completely overcast with dull, pale clouds that were almost the same color as the snow on the ground. Only the billboards and road signs broke up the monotony. I reached for my coffee and finished it off.

“So what do atypical doctors want for Christmas?” Eileen asked.

I decided to let her change the subject and get off the hook. “Doesn’t matter what I want. I’ll probably get two shirts -- one blue, one with stripes -- with matching ties and a sweater, a gift certificate to the local bookstore, and two CDs.”

“You have a CD player?” She said it as if she were saying, You own a Learjet?

I nodded.

She sighed. “I can’t wait to be done with school,” she said.

So what do covetous little divas with senioritis want for Christmas? I wanted to ask. Instead I just asked, “And what’d you ask Santa for?”

“A car.”

“That’s a big present. You trying to give Santa a hernia or something?”

“I’m not hoping for a fancy car or a new car. I just need a car.” She leaned back in the seat, the hunger for freedom plain on her face. “Maybe my brother will get a new car and give me the old one. Then I wouldn’t need to get a ride back to school.”

“Like, ohmyGod, and then you could, like, go to the mall, like, whenever you wanted!”

“And wear jelly bracelets and play Centipede!”

I looked over; she pulled a face at me. I stifled a grin.

The Talking Heads were still thumping away on my cassette player:

I can't seem to face up to the facts
I'm tense and nervous and I
Can't relax
I can't sleep 'cause my bed's on fire
Don't touch me I'm a real live wire

A mileage sign came up. Eileen craned her neck to read it and and leaned back smiling: only one more hour until we reached Briony.

I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel.

I’d met Eileen back in February. It seemed like a long time, and yet I hardly knew her. But why was I so -- what did I want to know about her? Why couldn’t I keep a conversation going?

And why did I care? Three or four miles rolled by as my mind slipped off its leash and started chasing the same old thoughts: why couldn’t I talk to girls, why was small talk so damned difficult…. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her reach down and pick up her backpack. Great. Might as well let her read.

I gripped the steering wheel a little harder.

“So, um -- Greg,” Eileen began.

I looked over, surprised. She’d put her bag back on the floor. She looked a little abashed, but then she smiled a little: look, I said it. “How much longer are you going to be a resident?” she asked.

“This is my last year.”

“So what comes next? Will you be a doctor doctor?”

“No, next comes a fellowship. That’s where I start to specialize.”

“Will that be here, or…?”

“I’m applying for a fellowship here, but I doubt I’ll end up taking it, even if they offer it to me. It’s not my field.”

“So what do you want to specialize in?”

“Nephrology.” I saw the question on her face: “Kidneys,” I explained.

“Ew,” she said. “Why kidneys?”

“You’re a squeamish little thing, aren’t you? Do you think kidneys are gross? Is there any part of the body that isn’t gross?”

“Fingernails seem pretty clean.”

“Oh, yeah? Ever seen a fungal infection? I could find some really cool pictures in a path book – green and black and --”

I smirked as she shuddered. Ugh, no, that’s quite all right.” She shuddered again and collected herself. “So why kidneys?”

“They’re interesting. They’re very delicate, yet they’re one of the hardest working organs in the body. Always making sure that the body’s water balance is okay, checking the sodium and potassium and hormone levels and so many other things… Did you know that urine is sterile when it comes out of the kidneys? You could drink it.”


“And they’re important in so many regulatory systems… they’re so sensitive, even as they compensate they’re an early warning system when things are going wrong. You should be grateful to your kidneys.”

She curled forward and addressed her waistband: “Thank you kidneys! I love you!”

“You are just way too punchy. Don’t they have bio classes for people like you? Lean forward. Your kidneys are here.” I reached over and tapped her back. She laughed and looked backwards over her shoulder, thanking her kidneys again. I turned my attention to the road, trying not to think about what I had just done – had I ever touched her before? -- and trying not to think about what it would be like to rest my hand on her back, to caress her, slowly, from her waist to the nape of her neck to the small of her back again…. I clenched the steering wheel again. Damn it.

Eileen had finished thanking her kidneys and was settled back in her seat. “How long does a fellowship last?”

“The ones I’m applying for are two years.”

“So four years of med school, three years of residency, two years of fellowship…. Wow.

I shrugged. “That’s what it takes. Some programs are even longer; some of the surgical residencies are five years long,” I said. “But surgeons are crazy anyway.”

“So you’re leaving this year, and so am I. And so is Dave. What a strange coincidence.”

Strange and unpleasant: at that moment, the last person on earth I wanted to be thinking of was Dave. Mr David Kopp, fourth year medical student, scut monkey, Eileen’s ex-boyfriend… I hadn’t worked with him since the spring, back on GI-Hepatology with Dr Ball. The memory of that night with the team at the restaurant came bubbling up – the memory of seeing Kopp kiss Eileen…. I tried to shove it out of my mind. But I couldn’t.

I let a good three or four miles go by before I went ahead and asked her. “Were you living with Kopp?”

She stared at me for a moment and then snorted. “Living with Dave? Are you kidding? My father would kill me.”

“What, Kopp gets off scot-free?”

“Oh, he’d delegate that to my brothers.” She smirked. “Maybe I should … no, that would be too evil.”


“Sic my brothers on him.”

“What are they, your personal goon squad or something?”

She laughed. “No, they work for my dad, not me. Why in the world would you think I was living with Dave?”

“Well, you were staying with that girl….”

“Oh! No, I live in a dorm. I was staying at her place because I left so late, the dorms were closed.” She chuckled to herself. “Locked out of my dorm room and camping at Michelle’s. This was not the way I’d planned to kick off Christmas break.”

She leaned back in the seat and stared ahead for a minute or two.

That afternoon in the caf…” she began.

I took a deep breath – did I want to hear this? yes, I did—

“Dave and I had already been -- having problems, and then that whole residency thing…. He was looking at residency programs, and I was looking at graduate programs, and we’d talked about looking in the same area, but I could never get him to really sit down with me and make a plan.

“There’s this performance and teaching program in Delaware – “


She ignored me. “— it’s exactly what I’m looking for, and they sound interested in me. They’re talking about a big grant – a free ride. Dave and I had been talking about residencies in that area, and he’d mentioned being interested in a couple in the Philadelphia area. I was all excited, so that afternoon I went over to the hospital – I dropped off some flyers and met Dave in the caf, and I told him about the program. And that’s when he told me he’d already submitted his applications. None of them were for Philly.”

“He told me where he did apply, and only one of them was anywhere close to where we’d talked about. I asked him what he thought I was going to be doing, and he just looked at me, and I realized -- he hadn’t given it any thought at all. So then he said, well, couldn’t you just find something there? Or teach or something? So I tried to make him understand what a big opportunity I’d be passing up, and that we were getting to the point where we really needed to get moving and start planning, especially if he wanted me to give up the scholarship….”

Her voice grew hard. “Dave said something about how we can’t make plans until he knows what residency he’s doing, and oh, Eileen, you weren’t talking about planning a wedding, were you? Long story short – he thought I was going to give up everything, just to shack up with him. I told him that I thought we were going to get in the same area, we’d talked about it, and instead he’d gone behind my back and applied to all these different places. I wasn’t going to give up all my grad school plans – especially not a full grant to a conservatory -- unless we got married, and he said it took a long time to plan a wedding and he didn’t think he was ready to make that kind of commitment.

She was speaking faster and faster. “So I said, let me get this straight, you’re willing to ask me to commit to giving up my professional future but you’re not willing to make a commitment to getting married. And he just looked at me. That’s when I took off.

“I was so stupid!” she said bitterly. “And I wasted so much time. I’d been lying to myself for months. But it was so easy to pretend that we wanted the same things, that things were going to work out the way I wanted them to.”

She looked over at me. “I suppose I owe you a dollar now.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said.

We drove a while in silence. Eileen sat with dry eyes and folded arms, staring ahead at the gray morning sky.

So Dave hadn’t wanted to give her a ring. Which one of them had been stupider – Eileen, who’d seriously considered giving up a scholarship to be a resident’s wife? Or Dave, who’d seriously considered giving up Eileen? Had Dave even considered a future with Eileen, or had he been planning all along to dump her after graduation? Had he been planning at all? But then, residency was so important… what would I have done? I’d never have changed my plans for someone else; what would I have done if someone had been willing to change her plans for me?

“Greg?” Eileen’s voice called me back to the car. “I know you’re not going to tell anyone about what I just told you, right?”


“And you’re going to leave Dave alone, right?”

I gave her a look: Do I have to? She lifted her eyebrows.

“Oh, all right,” I said. “If you insist. But why do you care? Weren’t you going to send your brothers after him just a few minutes ago?”

She chuckled. “I was kidding about my brothers. It’s just… it wasn’t fair for me to tell you all that. Promise me you’ll leave him alone?”

“I’ll leave him alone about this.”

“Thank you.”

She thought for a moment and turned back around. “Why do you dislike Dave so much?”

Because it infuriates me that a med student with nothing upstairs but an ability to memorize his textbooks and suck up to the right people could land someone like you. “Why do you think I dislike him?” I cautiously asked.

“Oh, come on.”

“What, you told me why you don’t like him, so now it’s my turn?”

“I don’t dislike Dave.”

“You broke up with him.”

“Yes, I did. And I’m angry at him, and I probably will be for a long time. But being angry at someone isn’t the same as not liking someone.”

“So you’re looking for another reason to be angry with him?”

“No, I’ve got plenty, thanks. But, I don’t know, maybe you saw something that I didn’t. Or maybe I’m just trying to get something out in the open.”

I thought back for a minute. Kopp was a med student, so of course I disliked him on principle, but beyond that, when I’d worked with him I hadn’t despised him any more than I despised the rest of his barbarous classmates. He was just another med student, and our paths hadn’t crossed since April. No, the only reason I even remembered his name was… jealousy? Certainly not that, but…

“I don’t have any special reason for disliking Kopp,” I lied. “I just... don’t like him. Besides, I hardly know him. He’s a med student, I’m not supposed to like him. It’s my job to pick on him. I pick on everyone.” I shrugged. “It’s nothing personal; I don’t really like anyone.”

My stomach dropped when I realized what I’d just said. I glanced over; she was turned in the seat and was looking at me. She smiled a little when she caught my eye – ha ha, funny joke – and let it pass.

Another mile, and another.

Why had I said that? Well, it was true, but for once I regretted letting it slip.

Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was

My irritation floated around and found a target in Eileen’s tape: the Talking Heads had gotten way too precious and annoying. I reached over and hit the eject button.

“Hey!” Eileen protested.

“Isn’t it neat how when you have a song on tape you can listen to it whenever you want?” I pulled out the tape and tossed it to her. “I see I’m going to have to take control. Get me that box on the back seat.”

She undid her seat belt, got the box, and held it open for me. I glanced over, found the Rolling Stones mix tape I wanted, and pushed it into the player. “You can throw that box back now,” I said. I usually kept it on the passenger seat.

Instead of hearing Eileen turn around, I heard her seat belt click. I looked over. She was settling back into the seat and grinning as she prepared to check out my driving music. I groaned and turned my eyes back to the road.

“Let’s see… The Who, Johnny Cash, Pink Floyd – don’t you label which album it is? – Blondie?” She chuckled at my sour expression and went back to rummaging in my tape box. “Oh, here we go: ‘Beethoven’. That narrows it down.” She closed her eyes and dramatically held the tape to her forehead. “I’m guessing… the Fifth and the Seventh.”

“Good guess.”

“Miles Davis… Elvis Costello… Brahms…” She squinted at me and nodded. “I could see you being a Brahms guy.” She picked up another tape. “Who’s Giles Memphis?”

“John Henry Giles, Live in Memphis. Jazz trumpet.”

She held up my tape of the Mozart Requiem. “Ah, here we go.” She dropped her voice and giddily mimicked the basses and tenors:

“Confutatis maledictis
Flammis acribus addictis…”

I cut her off before she could start her own alto part. “All right, that’s enough.”

She smiled and twisted around to put the tape box on the back seat. “Very impressive.”

“Well, I’m glad you approve. So when do I get to snoop through your tapes?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe if I ever have a car.” She looked ahead and smiled: we were coming up on another mileage sign for the Briony exit.

I felt myself sigh a little. It was my turn to say something and I was coming up empty-handed. It occurred to me that if I lightened up on the gas, we wouldn’t get there as quickly. If Car A is driving at 70 mph and Car B is driving at 55 mph, how much sooner will Car A… I stopped myself before I started doing the calculations. Another few miles had slipped by: another few minutes of time, wasted. I looked over at Eileen. She’d gotten fed up with waiting for me to hold up my end of the conversation and had pulled a magazine out of her bag. She was bobbing her head a little in time with the music: Jumping Jack Flash, it’s a gas gas gas….

“Hey. Abney.”

She looked up.

“Have you forgotten your duties? Entertain me.”

She rolled her eyes and put down the magazine. “I spy with my little eye… something that begins with an S.”

“Oh for God’s sake. Sign.”


“Snow. Slush. Saab.”

“Wrong, wrong, and wrong. By the way, the game goes faster if you ask for clues.”

“Aren’t you supposed to give the clues?”

“S does not stand for spoon-feed! Oh, all right: I spy something that begins with S that is neither solid nor liquid.”

“Sulfur dioxide.”

“Close! But that’s invisible, so I could not spy that with my little eye.”


“Bing bing bing!”

“So what’s my prize?”

“You get to be the next spy.”

“What? Do I have to? Okay: I spy something that begins with E.”

She gave me a withering look. Please tell me it’s not ‘Eileen.’”

“How did you ever guess? I would have also accepted ‘epidermis’.”

“Were you one of those little boys who would tease girls by telling them their epidermis was showing?”

“I was more the pigtails in the inkwell type myself. Now pick something else.”

“I spy… something that begins with P.”

I guessed pavement, police car, and Pontiac before insisting I was all guessed out.

“Something that begins with P that is inside the car.”

I sighed. “Physician.”

“Very good! I would also have accepted ‘pianist.’”

“So my turn now. Something that begins with M.”


“It’s inside.”

She glanced around and then down to her lap. “Magazine.”

“That’ll do. And would that be M for Mademoiselle? Or some other chick magazine – Cosmopolitan? What’s my horoscope?”

Cosmo!” she snorted. “Okay, let me see here…” She flipped to the back. “ ‘Beware of jumping to conclusions: your guesses are not as accurate as you think they are. Tonight, you may meet a mysterious man dressed in red.‘ “

“A vision of Satan! Excellent. Now read yours.”

“ ‘Your future begins with a journey to your past.’ ”

“Well, that’s boring. Where’s all the sex? Cosmo’s really gotten tame. Or are you reading Seventeen?”

Seventeen? What, do you want to take a personality quiz? Oooo, here’s a good one: ‘What type of lip gloss are you?’ “

I looked over. “Are you really reading Seventeen?”


I tried to remember some of the other titles from the magazine rack – whatever it was, it was way too thin for Vogue, and I already knew it wasn’t Bride’s…. Young Miss? Glamour?” She shook her head.

Tiger Beat?” I guessed.

“I do not read Tiger Beat.”

“Not any more, at least.” She pulled a face at me.

“Come on, Abney, what’s the secret?” I wheedled.

“It’s no secret.” She turned the magazine face down.

“So what are you reading?”

“See? All you had to do was ask.” She held it up: King’s Pawn Almanac. “It’s kind of obscure – it’s a chess magazine, ” she explained.

“I know what it is.”

Eileen’s face lit up. “Do you play?” she asked.

“Not really.”

“So how do you –”

“Saw it on the newsstand,” I snapped. I looked over my left shoulder and pretended to be preoccupied with passing a truck. But I could still feel Eileen looking at me. Once the truck was in my rear-view mirror, I looked back over at her. She was absorbed in her magazine.

Fine, I’d let her read. I couldn’t keep up this cheerful small-talk crap another minute anyway – I’d tried my best and all I’d managed to do was practically chew her head off yet another time.

King’s Pawn Almanac. I didn’t know if it was even sold on a newsstand, and I figured it was just a matter of time before Eileen called me on it. I knew it from when I was living at home – or, more precisely, from when my brother Mark was living at home. He’d been a chess nerd since the fourth grade and a subscriber since high school. Hadn’t I heard somehow that he’d even been writing for the thing? Was it for this one, or some other kind of Chess Nerd News type thing?

And Eileen Abney read Chess Nerd News? Before I could ponder this interesting new fact, memory tugged at me like an undertow, sucking the sand out from under my feet, pulling me under… coming home from school, dropping my books on the entry table, peeling off my damp coat and yelling I’m home… stepping out of my shoes, wet from an early November snow, and seeing the mail still lying on the floor in front of the slot… picking it up, sorting through it, dimly realizing that it had been sitting there for hours, since the mailman came around lunchtime. Mail for my parents, a college catalog for me and three more for Mark, plus his copy of King’s Pawn Almanac… rolling my eyes at his stupid chess magazine, planning how I was going to tease him about it, thinking of a way to read it without anyone seeing me… Looking up. Noticing I was still alone in the foyer. The growing unease as I realized that my mother’s car was in the driveway but she hadn’t called back to me yet, that the house was silent… Mom? I called out, Mom, I’m home....

…Relief at hearing her footsteps on the stairs, hearing her say Hello, dear, how was school, are you hungry? -- the same thing she said every day -- but today her voice was scratchy… seeing her smiling, seeing that it was forced, seeing that her eyes were swollen, that she was blinking a little too often – eye drops, she’s just put in eye drops – that her face was still a little damp from the cold washcloth… the surge of childish fear – Mommy is crying – coming back to myself and saying Mom, are you okay? Hearing her speak a little too quickly -- of course, Greg, I’m fine, it’s so cold out, you must be freezing, would you like some hot chocolate? – and choosing to believe the lie; letting her brush a snowflake out of my hair, leaving the mail on the table and following her to the kitchen…. Mark coming home later, reading his magazine at the kitchen table as he drank his cocoa…. Thinking about telling him -- I came home and Mom had been crying – seeing him absorbed in the chess problem in his head, and deciding not to…. Thinking it about it again over dinner, watching my father cut his potatoes, wondering if I should tell him, deciding not to….

It would not be the last time I came home and found the mail still scattered on the floor.

My eyes narrowed as I clenched the steering wheel. Had my father been cheating on her even then? How long had he been doing this to her, how long had she known? And now she was insisting everything was okay, and I was supposed to go home and sit at the dining room table and pass the stuffing as if nothing had happened? Who was worse – my lying father? Or my lying mother? Only a few more hours, and I was going to have to look at them again.

Part of my brain coldly observed that my heart rate and respirations were up. I couldn’t even hold up my end in a conversation about the weather -- what in the world was I going to say to my mother?

Eileen’s voice jolted me back to the moment. “Greg?”

I took a deep breath and looked over. She looked apologetic.

“There’s a rest stop coming up soon; I really….”

I nodded. “Your kidneys are working as they should.”

“Thanks.” She smiled, but her right leg was bouncing.

Another mile, and we were pulling into to the rest stop. Eileen grabbed her coat from the back seat and hurried inside. I looked at the magazine, decided not to sneak a peek, and got out of the car to follow her.

I didn’t even try to go in the rest stop; it was jammed with irritable travelers with full bladders and empty stomachs. As unpleasant as it was to be getting close to Briony – and to my own parents – at least it would get me off the road and away from these hordes of annoying people. I took up a spot outside the doors, stuck my hands in my jacket pockets, and settled in to wait. From the crowds, I knew it was going to take her a while. I fingered the new pack of Camels in my left pocket, considered, and decided to wait. It wasn’t worth listening to the little diva fuss about the smell – or worse, watching her wrinkling her nose and knowing she was trying to be polite and not complain. I’d be dropping her off soon enough. Besides, I wasn’t really ready for a smoke anyway. Another couple of hours of crowds and driving, though, and I would be.

Eileen finally pushed her way out the door and started heading back towards the car. I pushed away from the wall and caught up with her in a couple of steps. “There you are,” I said. “Are you going to offer me that lame excuse again about there being a line?”

“I am so glad you insisted on leaving so early. I had no idea it would get this crowded this quickly.”

“Haven’t you ever traveled on Christmas Eve before?”

“No, I’m usually home from school by now.”

“Well, then, you’re getting a learning experience – hey!” I grabbed at Eileen’s arm as she stumbled. Some clod had been too busy yelling at his zombie children to watch where he was going, and he’d plowed right into her. She staggered, but caught herself before she tripped over her coat. I turned to yell at the guy but he’d disappeared into the building.

“Idiot,” I snarled, and turned back around. “You okay?”

“Yeah. What a jerk.” She shook her head and took her hand off my jacket sleeve.

Back in the car, I waited as she stowed her coat in the back again and buckled her seat belt. We managed to escape the parking lot without getting hit, despite the best efforts of the other drivers, and get back on the road.

“You really couldn’t have waited till you got home?” I asked.

“I was trying to make it….”

“All right. Well, tend to your duties.”

“Aye aye, sir.” She reached forward and ejected the Rolling Stones tape.

“Excuse me?”

“Can we have just a little Christmas music? Please?” She made a beseeching face. “It’s not too much longer, and I promise your car won’t sound like the mall.”

“If I say yes, will you quit with the puppy-dog eyes?”

She smiled and put the new tape in. A few seconds of hiss, and then a piano playing “O Tannenbaum”… the bass began, and then I recognized the album: it was the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s soundtrack for “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

I looked over. Eileen was watching for my reaction.

“I suppose I can put up with this for a while.”

“Thanks. I thought you might like it."

The miles quietly peeled away. Eileen gazed out the window, her magazine closed on her lap. I kept my eyes on the road. I was still feeling talked out and irritable, but the Guaraldi’s tinge of melancholy was strangely consoling. At one point I looked over at Eileen and found her looking at me, her head tilted to the side. She smiled and went back to her magazine.

Another five, another ten miles. Soon it would be time to say good-bye.

And then the sign for her exit came up. I turned to order Eileen to get the toll ready, but she already had the ticket in her mouth and was counting out coins in her palm. We pulled up to the booth, I handed over the money and the ticket, and we turned off towards Briony.

“You’re going to have to give me some directions here, Abney.”

“Just keep going straight, we’ll cut through town.” She looked at me quizzically. “You’ve never been to Briony?”

“Oh, I know, you’ve got that domed stadium there, the two NFL teams, the jazz cafes, the world-famous art museum… I bet you think I’m a real hick now.”

Please. The only domed thing we’ve got is the roller rink. No, you said you were headed this way anyway, so I thought you lived further down Route 30, maybe towards Devon or Clear Springs, and you pretty much have to drive through Briony to get there….”

“Well, you guessed wrong. I’ve never been down Route 30 in my life.”

“So where are you from?”

I sighed deeply before I answered at last. “Somerset.”

Somerset?! You told me this was on the way! By the time you get to Briony and back to the turnpike – this puts you almost an hour behind! And the tolls –”

“So what’s an hour? And what do you care? You needed a ride, I offered you a ride.”

She shook her head. “You shouldn’t have done this.”

“Again: if I want to spend an extra hour careening around the turnpike, why should you care? Next time you need a ride without worrying about inconveniencing anybody, take the bus. But wait -- Greyhound doesn’t stop in front of your house, does it? So someone would have had to come and pick you up anyway. And like I said, don’t think I was doing this for you as some kind of favor. I wanted a co-pilot. That’s all.”

“Well, I hope—” she broke off.


“Nothing. I lost my train of thought.” She stared ahead, as if she were watching her lost train somewhere in the distance, then leaned forward and pulled out the ashtray. “Oops – that’s right, you keep ashes in there. Where do you want this loose change?”

“Just put it back in that little tray there.” I nodded toward the center console. She obeyed and sat back, grinning, practically squeezing herself to contain her glee.

A few more miles passed by, and then we started seeing the first signs of the town: a gas station, a convenience store, and then the big old-fashioned WELCOME TO BRIONY – HOME OF THE BRIONY BEARS sign, surrounded by the signs for every fraternal organization in town and festooned with lights and pine roping.

“Just keep going straight,” she said.

I drove slowly down the main drag – there were a lot of people out and about. “Rush hour in Briony. Okay, Abney, time for the tour.”

“Well, there’s the town hall, and there’s the post office….” The tiny downtown was decorated with greenery and red ribbons, and I had to admit to myself that it was kind of pretty. If decorations were necessary, at least Briony did it with a little taste. A few blocks and we were soon into the newer, blander area.

“So what are you going to be doing on your break?” I asked.

“Not that much. Writing applications, hanging out with friends, trying to make some money….”

“Money again! What’s with the avarice?”

“Making money is kind of a major concern when you don’t have any."

“Aren’t your parents helping you?”

“Well, yeah. But there’s always something. I always have extra fees for private lessons and that kind of thing. And then a recital comes up, you need a new dress and then you need the shoes…. And then I’m saving for a car, and I know I’m going to be traveling for the auditions.”

“So you’re working over the break?”

“See that strip mall? Make a left up there, you’ll see the grocery store as we turn.” She chuckled. “That’s where I’ll be ringing in the new year.”

I made the turn and started running the numbers in my head. Was Eileen a gold-digger? The idea didn’t sit well with me. She was feeling the pinch, and marrying a doctor was a time-honored way of taking care of that. If she’d gotten her way, she’d have gotten married in the spring to a boring med student who’d have become a boring resident in July, which would have meant a steady paycheck, with the promise of a comfortable life if she’d held on. And it was marriage or nothing for her. But the way she’d been talking, her issue had been over grad school, not community property law…. Had this whole thing really been over property? Or over principle?

We passed a church as we got into the residential area. “Oh look,” said Eileen, “they’ve got a new Nativity scene! That reminds me, I’ll have to give Jerry a call this afternoon. Jerry’s the music director there,” she explained.

“Is Jerry going to come ring in the new year with you at the supermarket?”

She rolled her eyes. “Jerry is old and bald and married. But if his musicians are all out of town he might have some work for me.”

“What kind of work?”

“This time of year? Mostly funerals -- turn right up here.”

I followed her instructions before I turned to look at her. “Funerals?”

“You know – singing at funerals. Music. It depends on the family, of course, and on what the church allows, but it’s good money. The directors like knowing when I’m home on break. I can work on short notice and on weekdays, so they call me a lot.”

“So how much do you make for a funeral?”

“Depends on what’s usual for the church.” She smiled mischievously. “But I think I’m going to start charging extra for ‘Danny Boy.’ Make another right up here on St John Street. We’re almost there!”

I made the turn, and Eileen guided me to the house. She frowned as we pulled up to the front – the driveway was empty. “Where is everybody?”

“Maybe they gave up on you and moved.”

“As long as they didn’t change the locks first.” She got out and opened the back door to get her coat. I popped the trunk and got out to get her suitcase. Halfway up the driveway, I looked back – she’d gotten her backpack from the front seat and was coming up with her shopping bag. We made it up to the front door; I stepped aside and held the storm door open as she fumbled with her keys.

“All right, Abney, this is it.”

“Not yet. You’ve still got a way to go, so you’re going to come in, rest for a minute, and tend to your micturition reflex.” She pronounced micturition carefully and precisely. “Come on. My mom’s out, and everyone else was going to the airport with my dad. You won’t have to talk to anybody.” She turned the key in the lock and opened the door. “Hello?” she called.

The house was silent. She held the door open as I brought her suitcase in. “See? Everyone’s out.” She stepped out, brought in her other bags, and closed the door.

As Eileen took off her coat, I caught a whiff of coffee and cinnamon from the kitchen. From the entry, I could see the family’s Christmas tree in the living room. The tree was surrounded by a mountain of gifts. Behind it, I could just see an elaborate Nativity scene set up on a table. I squinted. Everyone was in place but the star of the show: the crib was missing. Some of the figures with the shepherds didn’t look like they came from the original set. One of them seemed to be carrying a light saber.

I was about to walk over and take a look when Eileen turned back from the closet. “Can I take your jacket?” she asked.

“Huh? No, I’m okay.”

She smiled. “Come on, then.” She led me down a short hallway. “Bathroom’s here, if you need it, and the kitchen’s around the corner.”

I decided to seize the moment and stepped into the bathroom. As I stood at the sink to wash my hands, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I leaned closer and frowned. Eileen had had to look at that the whole way up? Maybe I should have shaved. It wouldn’t have done a thing, though, for all the late nights and early mornings written under my eyes… Oh well. I splashed my face with water, washed my hands, and headed out to the kitchen. Eileen was hunting around in a cupboard.

“Would you like something to drink?” she asked. “Some juice? I’ve got hot water on, would you like some tea? Maybe some hot chocolate?”

“Abney, I –”

She smiled, raising her eyebrows expectantly -- the kitchen was warm, the tea kettle was starting to burble -- and my resolve crumbled like a sugar cookie.

“I’ll have what you’re having,” I said.

“Tea it is, then. And there’s got to be some scones around here someplace.” She pulled a stool out for me at the center island, took two plates from another cupboard and started investigating a stack of tins and plastic boxes.

While she rummaged, I wandered through the dining room back to the living room. After weeks and weeks of seeing nothing but the hospital, my apartment, and the occasional bar or supermarket, it was almost disorienting to be in a room like this – a family’s room, comfortable, settled. It was like getting out of a sailboat and not having my land legs back.

It struck me that Eileen hadn’t always been in college, that she might have stood in this room as a high school student or maybe even earlier. There was a small console piano on the other side of the room. Did she play? I’d never thought to ask her. The Christmas tree was groaning under years of homemade ornaments. Which of them had her name on the back?

I walked over to the Nativity scene and bent to take a look. It was plastic, vaguely Italian; Mary’s hands were flung up in the “behold” position, but without the manger she just looked startled. Maybe there was a mouse in the stable. Joseph’s hand was pressed to his sternum in awe, or possibly in pain. Reflux, most likely: ranitidine 150 mg p.o. b.i.d. times 14 days, make appointment for follow-up visit in clinic. As for the rest of the cast, the Magi were off by themselves on another table to the right. The shepherd’s flock had been joined by a few animals from the workshop of Fisher-Price, and as for the shepherds themselves….

I heard the tea kettle whistling and headed back to the kitchen. “Hey, Abney. Since when are Yoda and Lando Calrissian shepherds in the Christmas play?”

She looked up from the counter. Yoda’s in with the shepherds?”

I nodded.

Eileen made an annoyed face as she got out the tea bags. “See, this is why I needed to get home.” She added boiling water from the kettle and set the teacups on the center island to steep. “Sit,” she commanded. I obeyed. “Yoda belongs with the Wise Men, I keep telling them this –”

“I tried to tell them but they wouldn’t listen.”

Eileen turned and my stomach dropped: A yawning teenaged girl in flannel pajamas and bunny slippers was shuffling into the kitchen. “Hi, Eileen,” she said drowsily.

Bern!” cried Eileen. The two girls started hugging and emitting high-pitched delight noises, and for a moment my skin crawled just as it did when I was fifteen and my female classmates would huddle around their lockers and giggle. I seriously considered grabbing my keys and taking off – I could cut through the living room….

Eileen pulled herself together. “This is my sister Bernadette, who I thought had gone to the airport with my dad. Bern, this is Dr House.”

Bernadette waved a little. “Hi,” she said. She seemed perfectly unconcerned by my presence. “You brought Eileen home, right?”

“Yes, he did,” Eileen said quickly. “Hey, where is everybody? Are you the only one home?”

“Yeah. Tom’s gone to the airport with Dad, and Mom’s at church. I think she was going to go to the store afterwards, she didn’t think you’d be in this early. You guys made great time.” She looked at the clock. “She should be home soon.”

“So why didn’t you go with them?” said Eileen fretfully. “Oh, forget it. Where’s Mom hiding the cookies?”

“Like I’m supposed to know.” Bernadette took a sip of Eileen’s tea and went over to open a drawer. She lifted a towel and started pulling out boxes. “Making a plate?”

“Yes. Dr House needs to get back on the road. He still has a ways to go.”

“Okay.” Bernadette started opening boxes and stared at me with naked curiosity. “That was really nice of you to give Eileen a ride. Do you like pumpkin bread?”

Eileen shot her a warning look and brought me a scone. “Sorry,” she whispered. I nodded and took a bite of the scone, and put the fork down again. I was trying to get a sense of how old the sister was, but it was almost impossible. Eileen looked young, and the sister looked like Eileen, so she probably looked young… maybe sixteen? But then what was with those bunny slippers?

Bernadette kept opening boxes and piling baked goods on a paper plate. Eileen handed her a roll of plastic wrap and walked back over to the stove. “Some tea or hot chocolate to take with you?” she asked me.

“You don’t have to do all this.”

“It’ll save you some time.”

Bernadette looked up from wrapping the plate. “Fine,” I said -- anything to get out of there. Eileen nodded and started spooning hot chocolate mix into a travel mug. She poured in the hot water, gave it a stir, and snapped on the lid. “Hot drink, something to eat… Anything else?”

“No thanks.” I pushed away from the counter and stood up. “Thanks again, Abney – Abneys,” I corrected myself, before that infernal Bernadette could start tittering.

They followed me to the door. “Well, see you later,” I said.

“Wait, I’ll carry the plate for you,” said Eileen. She handed me the mug and took the plate from her sister.

“Okay,” said Bernadette. “Merry Christmas, Dr House! It was nice meeting you. Thanks again for bringing Eileen home.”

“No problem,” I grunted. Eileen opened the door and I hurried out. She ran after me and caught up on the driveway.

“I am so sorry!” she said. “I figured everybody would be gone, I wasn’t counting on Sleeping Beauty in there.”

“You didn’t tell me you had a sister.”

“You didn’t ask.” She followed me down to the car.

“Well, now this is it,” I said. I looked down at the mug, and then looked up at Eileen. She wasn’t going to try to hug me, was she? I was probably safe as long as she had that plate in her hands.

“I’m really sorry,” she repeated.

“It’s okay.”

“Thanks again for the ride. I really, really appreciate it. Are you okay finding your way back?”

“Yeah.” I opened the car door and got in. I put the mug in the holder, started the engine, thought for a second, and turned back. “What about your mug?”

“Don’t worry about it, we have piles of those things. You can give it back to me in January.”


Weren’t we going bowling in January?”

“Glad you remembered. When are you back?”

“Not sure yet, I’ll let you know. Probably around the ninth.”

January. “Well, get back inside, you’re shivering.”

“Okay. But can I ask for a favor? If we go bowling in January, I want to play chess in February.”

“I told you, I don’t play.”

She smiled slyly. “You also told me that everyone lies.” She handed me the plate. “Thanks again for a fun ride. And have a merry Christmas, you deserve it.” She stepped back as I closed the door, waved, and headed back up the driveway.

I turned to put the plate on the passenger seat and found a small wrapped package. A card in a red envelope was taped to it. I looked up to the front door. Eileen was standing inside the storm door, watching me, holding the front door half-closed behind her. I held up the package and made a disapproving face. She smiled, waved, and went back inside. I put the car in gear and drove off.

Once I was safely out of Briony, I pulled into a gas station and tore into the goodie plate. Once I’d wolfed one down and crammed a second into my mouth, I unwrapped the little package. It was a coffee mug, with a little cartoon of the university mascot standing at a director’s podium and holding a baton. The other side of the mug was labeled DEPARTMENT OF MUSIC. I looked inside. Eileen had stuffed it with little marshmallows shaped like Christmas trees. I shook my head, ate a marshmallow, and put the mug down. The card had an innocuous winter scene on the front and was signed Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Eileen. I looked back at the envelope, at my name in her handwriting.

What had just happened?

I wasn’t sure.

But I was thinking it was something good. And I’d have plenty of time to think it over, because I was going to see Eileen in January. Christmas was tomorrow, New Year’s was just a week away, and then as soon as nine more days… I’d been kidding about the bowling, but now she seemed to expect it. It could be fun.

I pulled back out on 30 and headed back to the turnpike.

The rest of the trip went quickly. I spent most of it thinking about my co-pilot , about crying, laughing, teasing Eileen , about the curve of her back when she was twisting around trying to see her kidneys… about how she didn’t just slam the door and say so long when I dropped her off…. and I was going to see her again. I was going to see her in January.

When I got to Somerset, I took the back road around to my parents’ neighborhood and stopped off at the empty playground. I trudged through the snow over to the swing set, found one that wasn’t too wet, and opened the Camels. A light wind was blowing. I turned my back to the wind to keep the smell of my cigarette off my jacket and my mother off my case. Across the snowy field, the bare tree branches swayed in the breeze.

Finally I couldn’t put it off any longer. I put out the cigarette, threw the butt in the trash, and headed for home.

I pulled in the driveway, shut off the engine, and looked over at the cookies and the mug in the passenger seat. Have a merry Christmas. You deserve it.” I stuck a cookie in my mouth, left everything else in the passenger set, and went around to the trunk for my duffel bag.. I stopped on the doorstep and stood there for a long moment in front of the wreath, trying to prepare myself, before I gave up, turned the key, and stepped in.

“Hello,” I announced, tossing my bag on the floor. I stepped out of my sneakers, wet from my trip to the playground. Before I had my jacket off, my mother had appeared. She was beaming. “Gregory! Oh, it’s so good to see you– ” She hesitated, and then stepped forward and hugged me for a long, long moment. When she finally stepped back, she was blinking back tears.

I felt sick to my stomach. I had done this to her.

She laughed a little. “Don’t mind me. I’m just – I’m so glad you’re here.” By now my father had come into the entry. She reached behind her, lightly touching his arm and drawing him closer.

“It’s good to see you,” he said. I understand, his eyes added.

He extended his hand. And, at last, I took it.

The visit passed quickly. I took a long nap that afternoon in front of the fire and slept in on Christmas morning, so it was almost noon before we started opening presents. Mark was full of surprises that morning. He’d offered to pick out something for my dad from both us, and I’d taken him up on it (it saved me a shopping trip.) He’d done a surprisingly good job: Dad seemed quite pleased with his new humidor. I started in on the present Mark had given me, expecting the usual two CDs, and was surprised to find a Nintendo game in the box instead – especially since I hadn’t mentioned to anyone in the family that I owned an NES.

I looked at him curiously and he shrugged. “I figured you either had one or would be getting one soon.”

Later that afternoon I took my Nintendo out of the trunk and we spent a couple of hours playing Donkey Kong and Mario Brothers. We were pretty evenly matched; I was faster, but Mark was quicker at figuring out the game. My parents gave it a try, which was pretty amusing, but they quickly gave up. After supper my dad opened his new humidor and invited Mark and me to join him in the garage. It was easy to sit out there and not have to say anything. Later that evening my mom opened the piano; she played for a while and then played duets, a few with Mark and a few with me. I played one duet with Mark, but only because my mother asked, and only because it was Christmas.

I had intended to leave early on the 26th, but I stayed for lunch instead and left in the afternoon. My mother was still disappointed that I was leaving so soon, but she didn’t say anything. A hug for my mother, stiff handshakes from my father and Mark, and I was back on the turnpike.

I would be back at work the next day, rounding with Roderick at seven in the morning, but for now I had five or six hours to myself with nothing to do but think. It had gone so much better than I had expected, all of it. No scenes with my parents, no bickering with Mark….

I saw the sign for the Briony exit and thought of the little diva. Even that had gone well. Maybe I could take a side trip to Briony, drop in and surprise her at the grocery store?

No, that would be pushing it. Besides, that town seemed to be crawling with her siblings, and I’d be seeing her pretty soon anyway. As I passed the exit, my Rolling Stones tape reversed:

I'll never be your beast of burden
I've walked for miles
My feet are hurting…

Only a week to New Year’s, and then only nine days till Eileen would be back. And somehow I knew she wouldn’t forget, she wouldn’t break her promise.

“Thanks again for a fun ride….”

I smiled and sped up a little. Roderick would be expecting me to thank him for this time off. Maybe I’d even do it.

The chess players start whooping and cheering, snapping me back to the coffee shop. I take a sip of my coffee. It's cold.

It's still raining outside but I can't shelter in here forever. I gather up my cold coffee and leftover cookies, toss them in the trash, and head out into the rain to go back home.


Anonymous a monkey said...

Congrats on finishing this long chapter! It is most awesome. Silly House and his mixed up approach to women. Oh, memory. And yay for anticipating House's parents' appearence! Whoop!

November 02, 2005 12:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in Dahn yoga we're supposed to tell our organs we love them for working properly.
kidneys cause fear and represent strength, if i remember properly.

ah, man, nes. <3 my nes. :)

November 02, 2005 5:24 AM  
Anonymous PWCorgigirl said...

This is so lovely. There's a beautiful interweaving of memory and House's recall over the distance of time that is graceful and sweet, yet not at all overly sentimental. I have really enjoyed these stories.

November 02, 2005 10:32 PM  
Anonymous Auditrix said...


a monkey -- yes, it is long, isn't it? As for "anticipating" I fear the only thing I've "anticipated" is that House has parents. But that's why it's fan *fiction*, isn't it? ;)

anon -- I don't get it. How can something that represents strength cause fear? So if your kidneys work properly, are you timorous or brave?

PWCG -- thanks so much, I really appreciate it.

November 03, 2005 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

when your kidneys are happy, you are strong. :)

i battled with that sentence for awhile, sorry.

November 03, 2005 6:57 PM  
Anonymous Kaboth said...

Wow that was a really touching chapter. Your writing is incredible.

House seems so authentic, he's still a mysanthrope but seems to have a more self-control and a greater desire to be nice to some people. The fact that he smokes is interesting also. I guess when he had the infraction he just replaced one drug addiction with another.

November 07, 2005 5:33 AM  
Anonymous Auditrix said...

Anon -- thanks for clearing that up about the kidneys. So that's yet another reason to get those eight glasses of water a day. :)

Kaboth -- thanks! Re: the smoking, many doctors see habits such as coffee, smoking, etc as efforts at "self-medication."

November 07, 2005 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Eclipse said...

reading this blog is my guilty pleasure. thanks for putting it out there. :)

November 07, 2005 7:03 PM  
Anonymous Auditrix said...

You're very welcome, Eclipse. Glad you're enjoying it, whether your pleasure is guilty or honest :)

November 09, 2005 3:09 PM  

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