Stimpy’s favorite memory in 1985 is meeting Ren.
Stimpy’s favorite memory in 1986 is listening to the sound of his smoked hickory voice go on about, “Wow, they’ve got it, they’ve really got it! Purebred American pre-sliced cheese!” in the middle of the supermarket, something like ten other patrons pausing their way through the dairy aisle to watch a wheezing Chihuahua manhandle loaves of Kraft Singles. Stimpy’s among the spectators gladly. He remembers watching Ren in the aisle there, all his crooked teeth glimmering wild in such a grin as he procured. He remembers watching Ren unwrap four slices of yellow American and slap them on a cut of olive loaf and dance around their kitchen tile on his little puppy feet the whole time, and Stimpy remembers watching Ren slug back six beers with it and perhaps his favorite memory is more rightly the day after that Ren called out of work and let Stimpy lay cold washcloths on his forehead and rub his groaning stomach.
“Stimpy, where’re my slippers?” is his favorite part of 1998. They live in a big green house right now, and it has its own garage and it has its own mailbox where they get packages. Ren always finds places like this for them to drag their bed into. And it’s always thanks to that charm of his- there’s not a landlord on the east end of the world that doesn’t know one of Ren’s friends or uncles or friend of a friend of an uncle. They owe their big green house and garage and mailbox to the cousin Stimpy’d never heard of until the moment Ren clawed onto their then potential landlord’s mention of a work pal. “Angelo, huh, you know, I have a cousin named Angelo that works at that same sawdust factory. Ah, the laughs we used to share...the good old days… Boy, how mad he’d be if he found out I had no place to live again.”
Stimpy likes when Ren does the talking like that, and when he drives the car for them and signs both their names on leases. Anything to let him feel good and strong and godly. And Ren sure likes talking. That’s just what he does on the Thursday in 1998 that Stimpy remembers most dearly; Ren’s talking before Stimpy can see his head poke in the kitchen doorway, floppy ears left swinging as he waits for his answer. “Where’re my slippers?” and a tangy silence as Stimpy, shutting softly one cupboard door, thinks.
“Did you check the living room?” he tries, poking a finger between them.
The look that answers first- the look -is dark mauve and so pleasantly Ren. He screws his mouth up all nasty-like and mocks, “Yes, I checked the living room, how could I have gotten to the kitchen without going through there first?”
Stimpy doesn’t blame him for snapping like that. He can get a little surly when his feet are cold, too. “Hmmm…” hums his next train, rubbing a hand at his chin. “Oh, I know! They probably got kicked under the bed.”
Still posed by the door, bare toes curling, Ren lifts a hand from the pocket of his robe and drags it all the way down his face. “Stimpy. If I’m looking for my slippers, then I must have just gotten out of bed, which means I was already in the bedroom, and why would I not check under the bed if I was in the bedroom?!”
In a lame set of blinks, Stimpy puckers his mouth before it snaps into a smile. “Oh! Have you checked in the living room?”
Ren, after that, doesn’t say anything right away. Instead, he’s something like a chocolate birthday cake in July, yeah, his face gets all melty and screwed up (but no less delicious, if Stimpy’s any opinion to put in). He lifts both hands to cover the expression right up, and into cold palms, he wails.
“Why did I settle for someone so shtewpid,” he bawls, echoes so jarringly into his hands that Stimpy finds his first reason of the day to throw on a panicked sorrow. “I could have married a Playgirl model!”
Within the same snotty minute, Ren’s throwing himself into Stimpy’s arms that open with never a hesitancy. “There, there, Ren,” he’s telling him, petting his gloves down the soft mink of his back. “I’ll help you find your slippers. Let’s look around some more.”
Sniffing tautly into one nostril, Ren lifts his watery pink eyes and blinks the tears out in hard sprays. The kitchen door swings when they turn out of it, Ren trailing behind til they’re paused in the living room and Stimpy’s pulling himself up from his knees where beneath the couch held his eye- that’s when Ren teeters timidly over to him and can’t once perch his haughty glance on the red pair of size 5 slippers held up in Stimpy’s hands.
“They got lost under the couch, silly,” he says, offering down on instinct to lift Ren’s shivering feet into each a woolen slipper. “Feel better now?”
“You probably planted them there,” Ren mutters, arms folded as he watches glumly his second foot be shoed, “to make me look like the crazy one. I’ll tell you who’s silly.”
“You’re starting to sound just like my favorite TV character!” Stimpy yelps, standing straight again and with now both hands clasped, face gathered up into drama. “They think I'm crazy, but I know better! It is not I who am crazy. It is I who am MAD!”
“What, that crap show about the two guys in space?” Ren wags a tall finger at him. “Don’t go comparing me to juvenile things like that. You should know I’m more sophisticated.”
“Oh, my beloved ice cream bar,” Stimpy says. “How I love to lick your creamy center.”
Both hands ball up into fists that shake at Ren’s chest. “Could you stop being so fat and annoying for five minutes?”
Stimpy hums something thoughtful. Ren’s extra cranky today, could it be the phase the moon’s in? Or he’s still bent out of shape over the Yankees winning the last world series. Maybe he slept badly last night, maybe had a nightmare, too. Stimpy could just about collapse on himself, how horrible. If Ren’s hurting, Stimpy should be healing. That notion brings with it an idea to keep itself breathing. “Hey, Ren, how about eggs and toast for dinner?”
When Ren sniffs this time, it isn’t because he’s sad or crying but because he’s gotten the question palpably stuck in his throat. It clears, just a bit, licks his lip before he says, “D’we have...ham?”
“I think there’s some bacon in the freezer,” Stimpy nods, and every step behind him is mirrored by the tempted hush of slippers.
The next year, he has lots of favorite parts, all the way up to wintertime when Ren starts acting...theatrical. It’s December 31, 1999 when he finally pushes just the right button and says, so offhand it’s hardly even arm, “Hey, Ren, you don’t really think the world’s gonna end just because the computer calendars don’t go past 99, do you?”
That’s the moment Ren turns from his work, a hard shoulder-aching hour of nailing boards across the front windows inside, and with so precariously a hammer waving in his hand and eyes throbbing bloodshot, replies, “No, Stimpy, I’m no idiot. The world will still be here after the apocalypse. That’s what we’re preparing for.”
“An apocalypse? All because the computers are wrong?”
Ren peers up at him the way one would a storm-snapped oak. “It ain’t just about the computers, numbskull. Everything relies on the date and time- banks, the trains, the buses, nuclear energy. Can’t you fathom the massacre that’ll unfold if the human race is suddenly deprived of things like that?”
Stimpy scratches just beside his mouth. Then shrugs. A piercing glare stings into him.
“What am I saving your sorry ass for, then?” Ren scoffs, tossing the hammer to a hardwood patch of the floor. “If you’re so sure everything’ll be hunky dory tomorrow, then fine, go out into the world unprotected, be my guest. While you’re doing that, I’ll be in the basement with fifty years worth of baked beans.”
As if to emphasize his certainty, Ren yanks the front door open, wood boards still stuck into its back, and the sharp inhale of the snowing breeze is what drops Stimpy to his knees, clutching Ren around the ankles because his very life does depend on it. “Please, Ren, I’m sorry, I didn’t know any better! Please let me stay in your Y2K bunker with you-hu-huuu!”
“Nope,” Ren bites, arms crossed solid. “Not gonna happen. Now go on, into the cold, good luck fending for yourself in the desolate wasteland that will soon be our home.”
“PLEASE, Ren!” Gushing wet at both eyes, he turns them up to lock with the thin, sour glare above him. “I don’t wanna die without you! Please let me stay.”
Teeth grinding loud, Ren sighs even louder, unfolds his arms and grabs Stimpy up to stand beside him again. A truckload of wood slats are thrown clacking into his arms. “Fine, we’ll stick together. But you’re in charge of boarding up the bathroom drains. I’ve seen enough apocalypse movies to know what to prepare for.”
His favorite memory of that whole great big year is the thirty seconds before midnight that Ren tells him, “I love you, Stimpy. If anything happens to us right now, just know, I loved you breathlessly for so many years.” In the thirty seconds after midnight, Ren unholds his breath, grasps at his own chest as broadly, madly, his grin grows higher, and he says, “H-Hey, hey! We’re alive!” and proceeds, then, to give Stimpy his favorite memory of the new millennium, the best sex they’d ever had in a basement wallpapered by canned goods and toilet paper.
In 2002, Stimpy’s favorite memory is Ren pulling the dining room chair out in the kitchen of their second floor apartment, and in the same motion as sitting in it does he stick a cigarette in his mouth and muffle right around it, “I can’t take this feeling anymore.”
Stimpy glances up from watering the potted sunflower on the windowsill. Ren’s lighting the smoke behind his hand, shaking the match out and moving to ash the cigarette into an old teacup leaving a ring on the dining table. “What feeling, Ren?”
“Nothing,” Ren snaps back, still tapping his cigarette, over and over and over again as his focus fades farlong. Quick blinks bring the smoke just touching the rough skin of his lips. “...My stomach hurts.”
“I’ll open you a ginger ale.”
“I feel...I feel like I’m losing it,” Ren gripes, laying his forehead in a hand. The cigarette smolders. A cold can slides in beside the teacup, and with its placement Stimpy puts himself down in the chair just next to Ren, reaches out to hold his free hand warmly. Not a speck of refusal.
There’s something in a wandering pink eye that speaks hesitance. Stimpy watches Ren’s throat move with the slow, dry effort of a swallow. A thumb runs cross the back of Ren’s hand, and that’s just when he says aloud, “My life is pathetic, Stimpy. I’ve got nothing but you. And my collection of Harry Belafonte armpit shavings.” He lifts his head to take a tart drag on the smoke, pouring from his mouth alongside, “Who’s going to remember me when I die? We’re in a new millennium and still living in a dirty old tenement.”
A frown tugs at Stimpy’s face. “I like it here a lot, Ren, it’s very nice living in the city.” Like every old habit, he nudges the teacup closer to Ren upon spotting the inch of unashed buildup on the end of his cigarette. “Well...my favorite place was that green house we lived in, remember, the one with the nice garage? I like the small town lifestyle, too. It’s different in the city. Nobody ever stops to help lost dogs in the street. Everybody just keeps driving. Isn’t that strange?”
Tapping his menthol on the porcelain rim, Ren squints at him, mouth balled up to match a scowl. “What are you letting strange dogs into your cars for?” he barks. “Why should anyone help them? You don’t know what that dog could be carrying. Rabies, guns, HIV! I say hell yes keep on driving! Nobody ever stopped to help me!”
“It’s smart here in the city,” Stimpy decides to nod. “But…” And he wrings his hands, smiles coyly, just enough. ”Oh, I don’t think strange dogs are all bad. Your Aunties are all so nice.“ And they’ve all got the biggest doggy boobies in all their faux fur sweaters at Christmastime when Ren’s mother calls the girls over, yes, ‘nice’. They (he the cat and his claimed purebred) get invited for Sunday coffee and they (the five ladies all with tight little accents and gaudy 70’s color schemes) get called over for brunch and the two events melt into each other for the sake of all parties’ self-designated punctuality. Stimpy loves being part of Ren’s whole big family. A shame he hasn’t seen any of those aunts since they’d brought up the coming new year round Christmas ‘99 and didn’t take as kindly to Ren’s emphatic manifestos as he does.
Ren’s ears hang softly behind him as he ashes his smoke out on the dining table. Drags it back and forth across the wood. Grinds it in. Stimpy lets his gaze follow it.
“Well,” Stimpy starts up again, “I like living in the city, as long as it’s with you.” His smile’s wide and gaudy as it ever is. Ren doesn’t answer, but that’s okay, Stimpy thinks he ought to rest, anyway, if his tummy is upset. “We’ve got a nice bedroom here. And the shower works, a-and the stove, too! There’s lots of room, so if you’re really worried about leaving a legacy behind, we could-” Here, he stops to blush just beneath the grinning eyes, hold a hand to its innocent heat. “We have plenty of room if we wanted to have a-”
“No babies,” Ren says quick enough for spit to fly up with it. “Do you know how much a baby costs? No way, don’t even think about it.”
In 2003, Stimpy’s favorite memory is the December their son is born.
Ren Höek is first a lover before anything else, Stimpy knows, and he proves himself as doting as any lover could be up to the very second Ricky comes gasping and wailing into the world. Then he’s got something else to love, a squirmy little armful of Chihuahua puppy who Ren treats like his own paper doll. Ricky grows fast. He’s everything Stimpy thinks he ever could’ve wanted out of a son- soft and sweet and clingy to his parents, says please and thank you once he learns them and in every other facet is just like Ren, right down to the handsome face and pink in the ears.
Stimpy can recall a walk from the kitchen into the living room sometime in 2008, hands full and song humming, perhaps his favorite memory when he elbows the door open and lays eyes on his pride and joy standing up gripping the ottoman to keep his tiny self anchored. In its matching chair, Ren hunches forward with a pen cap in his teeth, scribbling fiercely black across all the scattered papers before them. Ricky observes him the whole way, nose poking right up into his work until he spins himself around at the sound of Stimpy setting a plastic cup to the coffee table.
“Look at you, handsome,” Stimpy admires, reaches to cup his baby’s squishy puppy face in both hands, and Ricky’s still just young enough to love every moment of it. He hopes he’ll raise him to never stop wanting affection from his parents like that, hopes he’s got just the right ratio of cat to Chihuahua in his blood as to not grow up quite as truculent as his Daddy. Right now, Stimpy can grab him up under the arms when they lift to demand it, kiss his face and squeeze his bones in hugs, and that’s quite likely all he’s ever wanted in his whole long years, just to have someone in his life who never ever ever says no to a hug. Maybe that’s what he wanted a baby for. Mostly, he thought he’d like one or two or six kids because that’s how true love goes, get married start a family have everything ever wrapped up in a big green house with a garage and a mailbox. Desire creates love creates more desire to love. Stimpy holds his son and sees Ren in every inch of him but his eyes (those are green like his own, very becoming, very convincing when they stare up at Ren all wet and round when Ricky really wants something from him that always he gets); Stimpy holds his son and shifts him idly, takes the soft length of an ear to his mouth and kisses it. “You’re getting bigger everyday.”
“Yep, Ricky’s a big boy now,” Ren says, spits the pen cap cross the room and straightens the papers out. “He’s just got his very first cable account in his name.”
“Very impressive,” Stimpy smiles, places Ricky down at the table where he’d set out a half glass of milk and those horribly plain crunchy animal crackers all on their own little plate, just like a zoo or a circus or something, perfectly deliberate as every other ounce of his care. Little itty bitty hands destroy it without a second thought. Stimpy, eyes half lidded, sighs angelically from his smiling mouth.
“Hey, what about me?” catches him to look over a shoulder to where Ren’s lips quiver, eyes begging wet.
Stimpy puts a grin back on as he’s petting Ren down the ears. “You can share. You wanna share your snacks with Daddy, don’t you, Ricky?”
“No,” their baby says, stuffing pawfuls of animal cookies in his mouth.
Gripping the arms of his chair, Ren scowls with all his yellowed teeth. “After I taped all those cartoons over my Soul Train VHS for you, this is the thanks I get?”
With all the malignance a four year old can possess, he laughs, standing on two wobbly feet and hiccuping giggles into the cup of milk he tips toward his mouth. “I love Daddy.”
“...That’s more like it,” Ren cuffs.
Stimpy, just in reaching to stroke one time his fur again, can practically hear how hard the pride pounds in Ren’s heart. “I’ll get you something,” Stimpy tells him. “Oh! It’s just about time you took your medicine, too.”
(Stimpy’s favorite memory in 2007 is Ren’s lithium prescription. Not to say he didn’t like Ren or how he acted before then, but it’s never not wonderful to know his favorite person is taking care of his health. Mental included, even if Ren doesn’t consider it a worthy issue, even if Ren argued with his primary for days that he didn’t need a psychiatrist and with the psychiatrist for weeks that he didn’t have any reason to slap diagnosed bipolar on his medical records. Stimpy chose not to offer his own opinion).
A glass of water clinks to the coffee table. With a free hand Stimpy pinches the crumbs off Ricky’s cheek, offers one little pill into Ren’s reluctant palm.
“...Thank you, Stimpy,” he mumbles, kicking his feet up to rest on the stack of papers that crowds the ottoman. The pill’s on his tongue when he’s muffling out, too, “You’re always taking care of me.”
“Oh, Ren.” He’s near to cooing. Stimpy holds one hand to his warmed face, smiles. “This is the happiest day I’ve had all year!”
The water glass stays tipped as he gulps down a swallow. “Eh,” and he wipes the wet of his mouth on a wrist. “You say that everyday.”
Stimpy laughs shyly just before he says, “Well, sure. Every day I get to spend making sure you’re happy and taken care of is my favorite, Ren.”
Maybe Ren dropping his empty water glass in Stimpy’s hand is just his way of helping keep his day wonderful. Oh, heaven, he’s just too sweet.