“Isn’t that what you say every time I see you?” I asked.
“I see you every week or two, so, yeah, that sounds about right,” he said. “You know my girlfriend. A lovely woman. But Halloween is coming up, and she’s wanting me to dress up for this party we’ve been invited to.”
“That sounds like fun,” I said.
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But I haven’t gone out of the house dressed up since my mama’s wedding,” Cleotus said. “I’m not very creative in that regard. If I were to step out without my jeans, T-shirt and cap, I would feel naked.”
I asked whether he had any ideas for a costume. He whipped out a piece of paper from his pocket and slowly read from it.
“She has some options. For example, she has all these politicians, starting with President Obama. All I know about him is that ever since some people first laid eyes on him, they’ve been against his politics. We don’t favor except for the ears.”
“How about Mitt Romney then?”
“Yeah, she says I could wear a shirt that says ‘47%,’ but I’m not sure what she means. I’d be lucky to pull off 25 percent the way my life is going.”
“OK, what else you got?”
“She says I could show up at the party waving a pistol and a rifle around, pretending to be our congressman,” he said.
“That might be the end of the party.”
“Yeah, and I can’t be caught with no more guns. Or she says I could be his challenger and just not show up at all, but then where would I be?”
“Somewhere else?” I offered. “Keep reading.”
“Well, she lists this other Georgia congressman. He serves on a science committee in Washington but apparently doesn’t believe in science. I don’t know what to do with that.”
“Maybe you could show up at the party without a science book,” I said.
“I’d just hate to be the only one, though,” Cleotus said. “Here’s one: She says, ‘Be a sad, pathetic clown.’ ”
“Oh, a member of PETA, eh?” I guessed.
“Evidently,” he said. “I don’t know what they do, but I kind of like their bread – even if it’s always flat.”
I recommended that Cleotus see what his girlfriend wears and follow suit.
“I would – if she wore a suit,” he said. “But she’s planning to wear a slip that has expressions all over it: ‘Oedipus complex’ and ‘superego’ and ‘sublimation.’ She calls it a ‘Freudian slip.’ I don’t get to the mall much, so I don’t know this Freudian store. I offered to buy her a new slip from Sears, but she declined.”
The list was exhausted, and so were we.
“Why don’t you just be yourself?” I finally told him.
“That’s what Mama always said,” Cleotus replied, standing up. “And she’s one woman I never had any trouble with.”