Sometimes what you want for Christmas won't make you happy.
"Roy! So good to see you!" I beckoned my old friend inside and hung up his coat. "How are you?"
"All right," he replied, "but I still can't grow my own coat."
I laughed at the inside joke. Roy and I had more than one common interest, but our obsession was movie monsters. We pored over pre-code comics, and he envied the werewolves even though they always died horrible deaths.
"I see college hasn't changed you," I said with a smile.
"Unfortunately not," Roy sighed. "You know what? I don't want to be a werewolf. I just want to see one. To see one and meet one, and then I'd be happy."
"Really?" I asked, skeptical.
"Really," Roy answered. "I just want to know it's for real, and move on. It doesn't have to be me, or bite me, to satisfy my curiosity."
I paused. I had a surprise for Roy, but it wasn't ready. On the other hand, Roy wouldn't be home again until Easter. I paused longer than intended.
"What?" Roy snapped. "Spill it."
"Four months ago, I went to this breakfast," I began.
"So?" Roy interrupted.
"So, I met this guy, Chad Randolf. We sat opposite each other, and we talked about cars. Mustangs and Thunderbirds."
"Werewolves are interesting. Cars aren't," Roy complained, and I gave him a dirty look.
"Four weeks ago, Abby and I went stargazing," I continued. "Clear night where everything was visible, and not too cold either. The only thing to watch out for was the edge of the cliff."
"I hope there was a full moon," Roy murmured.
"As a matter of fact, there was," I retorted, and he paid more attention. "I looked down over the edge of the cliff, and I thought I saw a wolf."
"Nice!" Roy shouted, as if that were the end. "I wish I'd been there."
"I got out my grandfather's binoculars for a closer look, but the wolf was gone," I elaborated.
"Instead, Chad was there, pulling a sweatshirt over his head."
"Ha!" Roy thundered. "Did you warn him about the wolf?"
"No, he was too busy pulling on a pair of jeans and lacing up his sneakers. Then he got into a blue Ford Escort and drove away."
"Weird. What do you think he was doing getting dressed down there?"
I just stared at Roy until he turned pale.
"Wait. You don't mean
" he trailed off, and I stared at him some more. "Seriously?"
* * *
Chad lived alone in a small house on the other side of town. We approached the front door not long after dark. On the way to the door, we passed a blue Ford Escort. The tires were muddy. Roy was shaking.
"Now remember, I've only met him once. Play it cool," I instructed, and rang the doorbell.
The door opened, and Chad stood there in a jean jacket, silhouetted against a den lit by only the television set. His eyes adjusted almost immediately to what little light there was outdoors, and he smiled. "Scott! What are you doing on this side of town?"
He didn't look much like a werewolf. He was tall and slightly heavy-set, with a humble smile and several large moles on his face. He looked like a farm boy turned yuppie, but back to farm boy for the weekend. I realized he had asked me a question, and here I was studying how much he looked like a movie monster.
"Oh, I just wanted to introduce you to an old friend," I explained. "I was telling Roy here how much you know about cars," which was technically true.
"Aw, shucks," Chad demurred. "Why don't you guys come inside and sit down? It must be cold out there."
"Scott says you're a werewolf!" Roy burst out, and Chad went from bashful to ashen.
"Yeah," he admitted, and right away regretted it. "Wait, what? How did we go from cars to werewolves?" he demanded.
"That's not exactly what I said," I sputtered. "Hey, uh, why don't we go inside, and we're going to laugh so hard about everything, once I explain."
"Bite me!" Roy screamed, his shirt sleeve rolled up and his arm bobbing up and down in the inadequate moonlight.
"You and your friend need to get out of here," Chad muttered at me, not making eye contact.
"Chad, please let me explain," I pleaded as the door slammed shut. I stood there for a minute, mortified, as if the door would open again, or a window, or a bottomless pit to swallow me up and save me the embarrassment. But not even a cricket interrupted the awful, awkward silence.
I finally forced myself to look at Roy. "You heard him," I said. "Let's go."
* * *
Back at my apartment, we sat in silence. Roy stared at the ceiling, and I tried to read a book. After an eternity, I gave up, and almost smiled.
"I just realized," I announced to Roy, "you actually got your wish."
"Yeah," Roy agreed, staring off into space. Suddenly, his eyes focused, and he wrinkled his forehead. "No offense, Scott, but don't you think you could've handled that better?"