Eating makes Ren happy. If he’s eating, then he’s got the money to eat, he’s got the money to bring home a bucket of chicken for him and Stimpy, maybe a two liter of rootbeer, even, so Ren’s happy when he’s eating.
Smoking makes Ren happy, too- don’t get him started on that one. If he’s smoking, then he’s really got money, just got paid today money, give me a pack a Newports and a couple a two dollars scratchers money.
Sex makes Ren happy. That used to mean he had money, too, but now just means he’s got someone to keep the bed warm at night. So maybe he ought to say Stimpy makes him happy, since he’s making a list and all. Eating, smoking, and Stimpy, perhaps in that order, but no, what if someone were ever to hear him say that? He loves Stimpy when they’re alone. That’s as much as he’s getting.
Alone is a relevant term on Ren’s drive home, his tire-burning park in the driveway and heavy walk up to the door of this month’s trailer. He’s got his hat in the same hand as his briefcase handle as he skirts through the front den and finds, with a push on the swinging door, the kitchen that floods with light, sound, life.
“-is just wonderful. Oh, stop it, you!” By a bare counter, Stimpy fingers the phone cord, and Ren watches his face shift from dreamlike to the pleasant shock of seeing his other half walk through the door. “Sorry, I gotta go now, Ren just got home. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Goodbye!”
Ren squints darkly at the receiver as it clatters back to its cradle. A brow lifts, the same time Stimpy’s bolting over to take his coat.
“Who’s that on the phone?” he tries to say nonchalantly, though perhaps the stiffness of his arms as they pull from jacket sleeves gives away the tension mumbling underneath his flesh.
“An old friend. We used to be neighbors before he moved to South Wisconsin.”
Stimpy lifts effortlessly the coat to the high hooks of the rack by the door. Ears perking, Ren eyes him in null but red suspicion. “He?”
“Mhm,” Stimpy nods back. “He was always so nice to me. You’d like him, Ren, he’s a dog, too. Want something to eat?”
Whether it’s conscious or not, Ren’s hunched forward, stalking after Stimpy’s every step. “What kinda dog?”
“Oh, I dunno, a Pomeranian or something. I never asked.” The refrigerator suctions open. Bathed in its light, Stimpy’s eyes glint, and he smiles on a turn around to shove a Saran wrapped plate of meat and bread into Ren’s unwilling hands. “I know how much you love leftovers.”
Glancing to the plastic, Ren blinks, shakes his head with a clink of the plate down on the table behind him. “Yeah, sure. Say, Stimpy, what’s this friend of yours calling you for while I’m slaving away at work to keep a roof over our heads?”
“Hm,” he hums, doesn’t pause to the sound of steps following behind his own that trail toward the bedroom. “Just to talk. He got a cool new car, a really nice Fo-ra-ree, er, something. He said if he’s ever in the area we can go driving in it, and you can come, too.”
“Oh, no,” Ren husks. “I’m not getting lured in that easy. First step is to butter me up, get on the man’s good side so he doesn’t notice you sneaking in trying to steal his carnal mate right from under his nose!”
Quiet falls over his huffing breaths and yanks back up again when Stimpy shrieks with glee, tugs him right up to the fur of his chest. “Oh, Ren, I’m just honored to be your carnal mate.”
Ren bares his crooked teeth in a taut lipped sneer, and hugs him back twice as tight.
In the morning, the front porch light is buzzing with moths, dawn curtaining kindly the world within it. For all Ren knows, that whole damn curtained world could be blackened in hellfire and he still wouldn’t care enough to glance out the window, not with such focus as he bears in his kitchen. It might be somewhere around the stove clock reading eight when his ears lift to the sound of their bedroom door opening. Ren swipes a streak of chocolate off his cheek just in time to turn and catch the yawned, “Good morning, Ren.”
“Good morning, sweetheart,” he smiles back, stepping just enough out of the way to showcase the pair of mugs on the counter both labelled HIS. The right one steams plainly. The leftmost does, too, until Ren flicks a wrist and piles it in whipped cream, sticks a cookie in the foam and sprinkles a handful of its crumbs overtop. “Would you so kindly partake with me in this hot cocoa I’ve made, Stimpson?”
In blinks, Stimpy cleans the sleep from his eyes and begins to prowl forward, pajama shirt buttons all lopsided and blue. A gradual grin worms onto his mouth. “Sure thing, Ren,” he says, reaching toward the mug on the right until Ren bats him away. The other mug sloshes into his hands, whipped cream melting slowly down the rim.
“Only the best for you,” Ren says, guiding him to sit at the head of the kitchen table.
Cookie crumbs on the mouth, Stimpy chews as he mumbles, “Don’t you have to go to work soon?”
“Not today,” he responds swiftly back. Both hands fold themselves together. He stands beside him and watches. Watches. Smiles. “I called out. I wanted to spend the whole day with my best pal, just you and me, how’s that? We can do anything you like.”
Stimpy comes up for air from his mug with a rush of an inhale. Chocolate and cream drench his grinning lips. “You really mean it?! Anything?”
“Yes, sir, anything at all, baby,” Ren nods, fingernails reaching up to scratch Stimpy’s back, the most begged spot for itching right betwixt the shoulder blades. A cat paw thumps the floor in ecstasy. His hand relaxes in gentle rubs on his back. “How about some tube, huh?”
“Okay!” He springs up, empty mug clattering in a spin on the table. “Commander Höek & Cadet Stimpy should be starting soon. Wait here, I’ll go get my anti-gravity bubblegum!”
He whisks off in a cloud of dust. Ren’s still smiling until the kitchen phone rattles.
Thinned eyes leer at the receiver, breathing harder all the way to grabbing it up, rolls up an anticipatory sleeve on the way. “Hello, who the hell’s calling?”
“Hello, we are reaching out to a Mr. Ren Höek in relation to an outstanding bill with-”
The phone tosses back on its hook. He breathes a cooled exhale, because he’s cool, yeah, everything’s cool, turns one single step before the phone rings again right into his white knuckled hand.
“Yes? What do you want?”
On the other end, it’s quiet a moment, staticky another, and Ren’s tapping impatient fingertips on the trim of the wall by the time the speaker asks, “Um. Is Stimpy there?”
All at once his fingers pause, mouth dropping low and eyes pulling wide for a brief flash that ends in a glower. “Ohhh, wouldn’t you like to know. This is that Pomeranian again, isn’t it? Listen, pal, what business do you have with Stimpy? Anything you want to say to him, say it to me first, see if you leave with all your little puppy teeth still intact.”
The satisfied smugness under his raised fur remains just as long as it takes for the stranger to wet his mouth and answer, “Who the hell is this? What business do you have asking me about my business? Nobody talks to me like that. You sound like a real blithering eediot, you know that?”
Ren blinks. Molars clenched, he glares at the receiver so hotly it may disintegrate to ash in his own dirtied palm. “Who the hell am I? Who the hell am I?!” A snarl leaves his nose. “I’ll tell you who I am, I’m the one in charge of the phone calls around here, so you’d better not make any more to this number again! If you even think about my boyfriend one more time, I’ll crawl in your ear like a mite and chew your rotten dirty brains out, ya got that?!”
With a metal CLANK! the phone hits the hook, hairline crack forming up its ceramic as Ren seethes his ears ringing.
“Who was that on the phone?” Stimpy wonders, makes Ren flinch with how suddenly he’s behind him. He turns, gathers himself enough to force a smile back on his dried lips and say, “My mom.”
Dressed up behind a plastic space helmet and genuine Super-Elastic Time Shorts, Stimpy pokes his tongue out, leaves a wet mark on the helmet interior. “Oh, okay. Do you still wanna watch TV with me?”
Ren feels his muscles unroll like loosened springs, and he lets his lids relax half mast and mouth form a genuine smile for perhaps the first time in his life. “Sure, pal. There’s nothing I’d rather do more.”
Maybe someday the wires of his brain will spark a connection.