Win a Date with Robert Tolkien (Short Story)

 

I’ve been with a lot of women. And to be honest, they’ve had their ups and downs. Lady Gaga was fun, albeit a little weird. Jennifer Aniston really is an absolute sweetheart. Mila Kunis said kissing me was better than kissing Natalie Portman. Unfortunately, there have been the bad times. For example, I still haven’t gotten over Carly Simon writing that song about me.

I wish the girls at my school weren’t so uptight. A lot of them are nice to me, but nice in that way you’d be nice to someone’s retarded younger brother. Now you may be wondering why I’d even want to go out with these stuck up broads when I’ve been with some of the most beautiful women on the planet. Well, the fact of the matter is if I’m going to be stuck somewhere, I might as well make the most of it. I tried asking a girl out recently:

“Hey Suzie, how would like the pleasure of going out with Robert Tolkien this Friday?”
“I have swimming practice.”

“Yeah, swimming is important. Can you believe that I – Robert Tolkien, me – almost earned a Silver medal in swimming? Maybe we could meet up and I could tell you more about it?”

“I told you I practice all the time – do you not listen to me?”

Suzie loudly replied: “I said I have practice every day! Do you not listen, you creep?”

Suzie stormed away, but I am not one to be deterred. I approached another pretty woman: “Hey Anna, how do you feel about spending an evening with the most handsome, the most debonair, the most…?

“I just saw you ask out someone else!”

“So you know I’m available!”

Anna threw her milk in my face.

I always hated getting advice from people. I think most people are more obsessed with pretending they know some obscure trick to dupe women than they are with giving any kind of actual advice. I read one dumbass magazine claim that “If a woman shuffles her feet, exposes her wrist and tugs at her ear, that’s her way of saying she’s interested in you. However, if it’s a full moon, Friday the 13th and/or Harvey Keitel’s birthday, that’s her way of saying she’s not into you. Unless of course it’s a leap year: Then the pattern is flip flopped.”

I was talking to my best friend Simon about my problems with the fairer sex. He wasn’t particularly helpful:

“Robert, you know I don’t exactly have the best luck with women either.”

“I just don’t know what to do. I mean if these women aren’t impressed with the guy who got Gilligan off the island, what will impress them?”

“Yeah, you have a point,” Simon replied in a sarcastic tone. “Most of these women should be running for the guy who ran five laps around New Zealand.”

“Australia – I ran five laps around Australia.”

I could tell Simon was busting my chops. However, his snarky comment did enlighten a bulb above my head: If none of the girls were going to go out with me, I’d give myself away in a contest.

After school, I plastered fliers across the school advertising my contest – Win a Date with Robert Tolkien. I also scattered entry forms – which included some common knowledge Robert Tolkien questions – into a few girls’ lockers (Yeah, I was kind of picky about who wound up with a form). I asked my closest confidant Simon to help me with this quest.

Pessimistic Simon had a question: “If girls won’t go out with you normally, what makes you think they’ll enter this contest.”

“Simon,” I replied. “If you make something sound important, people will believe it’s important.”

I figured entry forms would be returned to me so quickly it would make my head spin. But instead I faced a bigger disappointment than when LeBron personally told me he wouldn’t leave Ohio. I walked up to school and found a trashcan overflowing entry forms. It didn’t appear a single one had even been filled out. Did a teacher throw them out? Were girls so intimidated by my awe-inspiring presence that they just tossed them? Who knew? But it was a moot point since nobody entered my contest.

Oh, and I found myself in the principal’s office.

“Saturday detention?”

The principal asked me, “Did you get permission to post those fliers?”

“No, but how can I have detention? Do you think the president advises himself?” Make that two Saturday detentions.

Believe it or not, I did get one of the applications back. I was at my locker, and I heard someone call “Hey stupid!” Someone tossed a crumpled ball right at my head. I was unable to accept that nobody entered my contest so I decided to do a little investigation. I approached Rebecca Carlyle:

“Hey Becca, why didn’t you enter my contest?”

“Because you’re a freak!” Please – don’t spare my feelings. Tell me how you really feel.

Next was Sarah Connelly. I had to know why she didn’t respond. Her answer: “You know I’m seeing someone, right?” Yeah, keep comments like that in mind in a few years when you tell everyone “If you just asked me, I would’ve gone out with you.”

I approached Hannah D’arcy for her answer: “Robert, you know I’m gay right?” Excuses, excuses, excuses…

I eventually tried to put it out of my mind and continue with my life. After all, I’m a single successful guy. I don’t need a woman holding me back, right?

Later that week, I was leaving karate practice (I should be a multi-degree black belt by now, but I still have to go through the motions), and there she was. I was treating myself to a smoothie when I heard a familiar voice say “Hey Robert!” I dropped my smoothie when I heard that. I turned around to face the bad news. With her clothes that looked like they were rejected by the Salvation Army, hair that I don’t was washed since the Bush administration, and an odor that would make men of lesser caliber faint – “Stinky” Carrie Reinhold. And she was holding a “Win a Date with Robert Tolkien” paper.

I might as well elaborate. Carrie Reinhold was hopelessly in love with yours truly. There were days I’d try to eat my lunch only for her to sidle up to me. (My request for a private lunch room were fruitless.) I’d open my locker in morning to find valentines and love letters from her. I always tried to figure out ways to get her off my back, but when you’re as unbelievably handsome as I am, that’s a hard thing to do. Yeah, I know it’s kind of hypocritical to treat her this way when that’s how all the other girls treat me. But I’ve been electrocuted, taken a kick from Conor McGregor and someone once dropped a piano on me. I can handle being a called a hypocrite.

“Hello Carrie, it’s good to see you,” I said through gritted teeth. “What’s that you have in your hands?”

“You ought to know. It was your contest after all. Don’t you wanna make sure I got all the answers right?”

Ha-ha! She was right! I could use a technicality! I snatched up the sheet and looked over the questions – 1.) What’s my favorite movie? 1. Ferris Beuller’s Day Off  2. Big Fish 3. Catch Me if You Can 4. The Sting 5. Tangled – Damn, she somehow knew the top five. 2.) What’s my favorite band? Van Halen. Dammit, that’s two. 3.) What’s my record for running a mile? Five minutes –  I really shouldn’t have posted that on my Facebook… There were others, but I think you understand the trend.

I breathed a sigh, and with the solemnity of a funeral announcement, I informed my classmate: “Carrie, you’ve won.”

“Oh my gosh! I’m so excited! I mean, I found that application in the trash and just thought I’d enter! I didn’t think I’d have a chance by I had to enter because I’ve wanted to go on a date with you for so long! And I’ve never won anything in my life…”

I tried to just nod and smile as Carrie blathered her victory screed for an eternity. But as it started to look like Carrie would fill a Stephen King-sized book with her ramblings, I firmly but politely interjected: “Carrie!” She snapped to attention like a Marine. “Why don’t we save the talk for Saturday?”

“Oh, I am so sorry. You’re right! We’ll see each other Saturday! You’re probably VERY busy! I’ll see you Saturday. We can do our talking then! I’m really looking forward to it!”

Carrie waved goodbye to me with an absolutely beaming smile. I waved back with a devilish, passive aggressive smile. I actually had zero plans of going on said date with Carrie. I figured I’d be able to just blow Carrie off and go on with my life like nothing happen. I suppose if Carrie asked me where I was, I’d tell her Tom Hanks was begging me for acting lessons again.

I went home and tried to watch Samantha’s City. It was the show starring Natalie Rowe, my favorite actress, the woman I had intentions of marrying one day. While I was trying to enjoy my show, I heard my mom talking on the phone: “No, Bobby hasn’t said anything about that… They are? That’s wonderful!”

I had a feeling I knew what Mom was talking about, but I brushed it off. Mom came into the living room. “Mom, could you please not bother me. Samantha’s City is on. This is my time with Natalie.”

Mom grabbed the remote and paused the DVR and paused the show. “I just got off the phone with Mrs. Reinhold. She told me you and Carrie are going on a date on Saturday.” Ugh, I forgot Carrie’s mom was friends with my mom, and Mrs. Reinhold couldn’t wait to tell my mom that I was going out with her daughter (Then again, I can’t really blame her).

“Too bad, I’m not going.”

My sweet, loving mother soon became enraged: “Robert, Carrie is a sweet girl” (Vernacular for “she’s ugly”) “And you’re going to go out with her or I’m going to ground you until Doomsday!”

Normally, I’d take it like a man and just accept it, but I had just gotten off of being grounded when Mom found my fake I.D. Also, Mom busted me skipping school a few weeks back. Simon and I went to a local pizza place. Mom busted us and asked us, “Why aren’t you at school?”

I tried to turn things around and ask “Why aren’t YOU at school?” My ruse didn’t work and I was grounded. So I was NOT ready to go through that again.

But then again, anybody who thinks I can’t haggle doesn’t know Robert Tolkien. I still had some of my Christmas money left over: “Mom, I will give you $50 if you let me out of this!”

“You’re not gonna talk your way out of this, Robert!”

“Who’s talking? I’m bribing!” That wasn’t going to work. “Okay, I’m sorry I’m just now springing this on you, but Metallica has a concert this Saturday. Lars isn’t feeling that well and he needs me to fill in.”

“I don’t care!”

Reasoning with her was not going to work. I had to take more drastic measures. A few nights later, I presented my argument in a well-crafted Powerpoint presentation. The first slide featured yours truly: “Mom, this is me – Robert Tolkien, your son. Look at that chiseled jawline, that lion’s mane of hair.” I switched to a picture of Carrie. “Now this is Carrie Reinhold: do you realize I’d be dating waaaaaay below my station. Carrie smells like a zoo.”

I turned to my next slide which featured talk show sets and a picture of my one and only, Natalie Rowe: “Imagine a future where your son is on one of these talk shows. Instead of focusing on my many, many, many accomplishments, all they’ll want to talk about is this blemish of my date with Carrie.

“And this is the light of my life: Natalie Rowe, the woman I would die for, the woman I would kill for. As you can probably understand, I am quite concerned that a date with Carrie might taint any chances with this beautiful creature. What if she mistakes us for an item?”

The next slide featured a picture of the White House: “Now, we both know I’ll probably reside here one day. Imagine a Tolkien presidency: An economy blossoming, unemployment at an all-time low, test scores at an all-time high. But the people still can’t get over one thing: Their president had a date with Carrie Reinhold!”

The next slide featured a scaling chart: “And as you can see from this slide I’m pretty sure going out with Carrie would lead to an increase in infant mortality.”

My mom sat in silence for a second. She breathed a sigh before saying someone stoically: “I’m not letting you out of this.”

Finally, I resorted to something I swore I would never do – I got on my knees and begged: “Please don’t make me go out with Carrie! Please! Please!” True, such behavior was beneath me, but it exemplified how badly I did not want to go on this date with Carrie. This display naturally meant nothing to my mother.

“Bobby, you made your word. And you’re going to keep it. End of discussion.”

My mom can’t be bargained with. She can’t be reasoned with. She doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear and she will not stop until I am miserable!

Saturday night came. It’s funny; I’ve made Brock Lesnar tap out. I’ve driven from Cleveland to Washington D.C. with my eyes shut and I’ve even beaten Battletoads without Game Genie, but this was going to be my most treacherous challenge yet – a date with Carrie Reinhold.

Of course, I did have one other ace up my sleeve. After all, I am a master of disguise, having fooled thousands with such personas as Hunter S. Tolkien, Ziggy Tolkien (and the Spiders from Mars), Groucho Tolkien, Luke Skytolkien and even Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Tolkien. With my skills, I could blend into a crowd better than Waldo.

The next night, Mom confiscated every one of my disguises so that idea was out of the way. I was wearing a nice button-up shirt. Mom adjusted it and told me “You look very handsome, Robert.” Mom said one thing that was right.

I trudged my way to the Reinhold residence. With a quiver in my finger, I rang the doorbell. No one answered. Maybe Carrie moved back to the wolfpack that raised her. Despite my best discretion, I rang again. STILL know answer – I mean it’s not like Carrie was gonna be washing her hair. Hey, they can’t say I didn’t hold up my end of the deal. I tried to sneak away. Unfortunately, to my eternal consternation, Carrie answered the door. She said, “Robert, you look so gorgeous.”

“Carrie, you look like you put effort into your appearance.” I wasn’t kidding. She still looked like she spent the night in a dumpster, but at least I could see the effort. Her acne-ridden face actually had some makeup on it, her hair was done nicely and she even put on deodorant. I could tell because she had deodorant cakes in her pit hair.

“I have something for you.” Oh God, I hope she’s not like a cat, and thinks a dead mouse is an acceptable gift – or a live one for that matter. Instead it was something I had wanted for a very long time.

“Canolis, my favorite – how did you know?”

“I heard you like them, but you can never find them.”

“Well… Thanks…”

Happier than a kid in a candy store, she took my hand and we were off (while I used my free hand to cover my face).

I took her to a nice restaurant. We ordered our food and believe it or not, I actually started to enjoy myself a little.

“The important thing about wrestling an alligator is don’t let its head get near your mouth.” I told this story and she was hooked on every word.

“My grandpa burst into das fuhrer-bunker with his bunker and kapow! Hitler suddenly had one less face!”  It was a breath of fresh air to be able to talk about these things without being told to shut up, without being asked a bunch of dumb questions or without hearing “Interesting” in a tone most condescending.

Unfortunately, Carrie was quite the chatterbox. “So, band has been pretty rough! Coach Spitz has been harassing me about not marching enough, but does he have any idea how hard it is to carry a trumpet for three miles!” Yeah, I’m giving the abridged version here! It doesn’t help that she was giving all this mindless blathering while she was eating. As if it weren’t bad enough that she ate with her mouth open, glaring at her unbrushed, braces-covered teeth made the experience all the worse. It was one of the most revolting things I have ever seen in my life and I’ve watched Meat Loaf eat!

I started losing my appetite a little watching her eat. She asked me, “Are you gonna finish that?” Yes! I would! I started wolfing down my food.

Carrie started making all these crazy faces. I think she was sick… or confused. “Carrie, is there something wrong?”

“Robert, you are so adorably awkward,” Carrie said. My face went red. Suffice to say I was NOT blushing!

My mind eventually wandered. Of course she got my attention when the radio started playing “Don’t Stop Believing”. “Wanna dance?” She asked me.

“Here? Now?”

“Where else?”

She grabbed me and started making me dance to “Don’t Stop Believing”. How I hate that song, I really wish I had never written it.

After that debacle, I walked Carrie home. I don’t know why, but on the walk home, I asked Carrie a point blank question – “Carrie, why do you like me?”

“What do you mean why do I like you?” She asked.

I answered, “Other girls treat me like I’m bleeding AIDS, so why do you like me?”

“For starters, you are very handsome,” she finally replied. “But you’re one of the few people I know who’s nice to me. Besides, your stories are awesome. All other guys care about is boobs and football. When you talk, it’s like an adventure.” God, the rest of that walk was awkward.

When we arrived, she thanked me for taking her out. Then she leaned over like she wanted me to kiss her. Not wanting to do that, I held my hand out and gave her a hardy handshake. I noticed a little bit of disappointment in her eyes, but I tried to disregard it and get this night over with as quickly as possible. I walked home with my shirt covering my face, hoping nobody would see me.

When I arrived home, I was faced with another problem – getting in without having to face a bunch of stupid questions and comments from my family. Fortunately, over the years, I had acquired the skills of a master ninja. I used said skills to sneak into my room through the back window.

Unfortunately, all the ninja skills in the world won’t help the fact that my family knows I would just hole myself up in my room (I wonder if Ric Ocasek ever had that problem). Of course, I was barraged with asinine questions from my mom: “How was it?” “Are you two ever going out again?”

Of course, my odious little brother, Tim mocked me as much as possible, “You know you have to marry the first girl you date!”

“Is that why you haven’t been on a date yet?” But eventually, my family decided to leave me alone.

Sadly, that was not the end of the stupid questions. The next day, my friend Simon was pestering me about what happened – “So how was your date with Carrie?” I didn’t feel like dignifying that question with a response so I gave Simon the old one-finger salute. “That good, huh?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“This is what you get – you made the contest, and you have to live with the winner!”

“You got a point Simon. You ever hear that song ‘Ex-Girlfriend’ by No Doubt? Every time I hear it, I just think that if I treated her better, Gwen Stefani would have married me instead of that guy from Rush.”

Simon gave me a crooked stare. “What are you trying to say?”

“Well… What if Carrie becomes really hot some day?”

Copyright 2011 Alex deCourville

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