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two cents

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Stimpy pounces for the kitchen phone exactly the second the clock reads 12:03. Just enough time for Ren to make it to the car and light a smoke on his break at noon. Stimpy can tell he’s doing just that when he calls him at 12:03 and listens to his rusty voice singsong, “How much more do we have to go over this, Stimpson? My boss pays for this cell phone, it’s only for emergencies.”

“Oh, I promise, Ren,” he nods breathlessly into their landline. “It’s really important.”

Stimpy hears a lighter flick, hears bored eyes watch the radio clock. “What?”

Pointedly, he clears his throat, one sharp ahem with a fist on his chest. “Se nos esta acabando el champú.”

His face eats itself alive with the pride of a grin, an unbearable feeling of accomplishment as he imagines Ren on the other end of the phone beaming the same. That’s what he must be off doing when the line is quiet so long. So long. So very long.

Stimpy redials the phone at 12:16, and Ren answers on the sixth ring, halfway unintelligible with so stuffed his mouth sounds. “What, Stimpy? What do you want? I’m trying to eat my sandwich.”

“What kind of sandwich?”

Ren pauses again, but to the relief of Stimpy’s held breath replies doggedly after, “The one you made for me this morning.” There’s a shuffling, wet chewing, something thoughtful in the continuation, “Turkey...mayo, lettuce, definitely lettuce...ah, mustard?”

“Dijon,” Stimpy corrects, all the sudden gags back a wild grin. “Did you get my note? I put it in with your lunch.”

“Yeah, yeah, same as everyday.”

Stimpy’s kitty toes curl in their place on the tile, eyes gone squinting. "Didja like it?"

Ren’s tone can always bring with it a story. This one is lower, mouth cleared, and the plot is Ren in his business coat and hat and tie reclined in the chewed up driver seat of their ‘81 Impala, shouldered up against a fifteen inch cell phone with an antenna scraping the low-hanging interior of the car roof; “Yeah, it was great, love you, too,” he sighs, though plucks himself back up by the scruff to say, “Maybe next time, you could just put it in the bag instead of in the sandwich.”

“Sure, Ren,” Stimpy says, though throbs at the heart too boldly to place it with more importance. But, say, yeah, something else was important, oh yeah! Nearly do his hands fumble on the receiver in their haste. “Oh, by the way, Ren, se nos esta-”

“Yep, thank you, Señor Stimpy. I’ll stop at Dollar Tree on my way home.” Stimpy hears the distinct rustling of a paper bag being fisted shut. “Now you’re going to let me hang up today, aren’t you? I’ve got four minutes to eat this pickle and smoke this cigarette before I have to get back to work.”

“Are you having a good day?”

The story of Ren’s voice now is that he’s got his nose bridge all pinched up in two fingers and a menthol waiting to be lit on the dashboard. “No, I’m not having a good day. There’s a big fat retard who won’t stop calling me.” 

“Oh, dear,” Stimpy murmurs. “Have you tried asking them nicely?”

By six PM, Stimpy figures the call must have died before Ren got the chance to answer, and it doesn’t matter anymore, since Ren’s kicking his way in through the front door right as he clangs the receiver down. 

“Ren!” He’s skidding over, claws all out in pure adrenaline. From his silhouette in the blackened doorway, Ren pulls the hat from his head, tips it sideways to pour from it its moat of rainwater and pond fronds. The door slams behind him as he bends to plant hands and feet flat on the ground and shake his wet fur across the kitchen.

“Oh, is it raining? Let’s dry you off,” Stimpy hums alongside the soft white length of a towel scrubbing Ren’s head side to side. Laying it round his shoulders, Stimpy steps back to lift both arms above his head and tell him, “Skin the bunny!”

Ren stands there, Chihuahua feet trembling on the wet floor, fur of his face and ears fluffed up but no less haughty. “I’m not in the mood to skin the bunny tonight, Stimpy.”

“Come on, Ren, your clothes are all wet. I have to get them off of you before you get sick.”

“I’m just not in the mood, okay? Back off.”

“But, Ren,” Stimpy tuts, “You love playing skin the bunny. Come on, put your bunny ears up.”

UGHCK! Fine! If you’ll just shut up about it!” 

A harsh breath leaves him like the thunder past the windows; in creaking motions, both arms lift straight above him. Stimpy smiles his whole way of leaning down to grip his shirt and coat by the hem and peeeeel them up his body, shaking either hand freed at last. “There, isn’t that better? I’ll put some water on.”

“Tea,” Ren bites, bringing his arms down again with another hard shake of his damp ears. “There’s no parking all up and down our street, I had to walk all the way from the freaking corner store.”

“They sell great cookies there,” Stimpy calls from flicking the stove burners, first the front left that’s finicky before settling for the rear. The kettle sets overtop the breathing flame. “Honey or sugar?”

“Huh?” Ren coughs, pops the finger from his ear and smacks the water from it. “Uh, sure, yeah, I’ll have some cookies, whatever. Hey, Stimpy, how about my robe? I’m freezing over here.”

“Coming,” Stimpy promises, and he is, materialized right up behind him to slip both arms into the lush red fabric. “Did you get the shampoo?”

When he looks up from where Ren’s hands cinch so tautly his waist in the robe belt, there’s something in those wandering pink eyes that lilts anguish. “Uh, oh, they- didn’t have any. Place was ransacked. Mobbed, I tell you.”

“Oh my goodness,” curls from Stimpy with a clutch o’er his heart. “I hope you didn’t get hurt.”

“No sweat,” Ren spews, waves a paw through the air. “Fought off a few guys, kicked somebody’s teeth in, got held at gunpoint but kicked the pistol right out of his hand.” 

“Just like Jackie Chan!”

“Yes, Stimpy, precisely. The Fearless Hyena 2.” Pressed up beside him, Ren pulls a hand down Stimpy’s fur, sweet petting strokes that make his throat begin to tremble with purrs. “Go ahead and tell me now, what’ve you got planned for dinner?”