07 Oct

Here, have another 1000 words of Falling Lessons

Shirtless cover of Falling Lessons by Ren BentonBecause it would be great to live in a world where men step up and tell other men not to be shitgibbons instead of relying on the women the shitgibbons don’t listen to to fix the shitgibbon problem!

Again, not thoroughly revised and never known the touch of an editor. Part 1 is here if you’ve arrived late.

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Luke’s mocking singsong needled from the passenger seat. “I saw what you did back there.”

Phin ran the tip of his tongue between his upper teeth and lip to sweep away the taste of guilt. It didn’t work. He feigned ignorance while backing from the parking space. “What’s that?”

“You slipped your digits to the good doctor.”

“Physician assistant.” The correction came as automatically as shifting gears into drive. He was the nephew of a bestselling author who had impressed upon him and his sisters from an early age the importance of using the correct words.

“What does that even mean?”

“Google is free.” Phin would be consulting it later himself. If nothing else came of the evening, at least his knowledge of medical professions would broaden.

The darkened businesses lining the street offered no distraction from Luke’s powers of observation. “I thought you had a rule against hitting on women where they work.”

Phin’s first impression of Cassandra Nash was that she’d been reprimanded by her boss for being too attractive, and she was now fighting a losing battle against nature. The thickness of her glasses distorted her black-coffee eyes and suggested the lenses weren’t for show, but the optician must have wept when she chose the darkest, clunkiest frames in the store. If she wore any makeup, it was the kind meant to pass for invisible, not draw attention to soft features with the potential to distract from her sharp mind. She strove for maximum severity by pulling dark hair away from her face in a joylessly restrained style.

Or so he thought until she preceded him into the exam room, revealing the sedate brunette blended with a deep red no stuffy supervisor would approve and twisted into a sleek knot that gleamed like a candy apple.

A woman bending to appease authority would dye over that with a color found in nature, but Cassandra Nash wore it like a dare saved for the parting shot as she walked away from battle victorious. How could he not want to know what other secrets she wielded like weapons?

But Luke was right—there were rules. “What’s the reasoning behind the rule?”

“To suck all the fun out of life?”

Phin would never understand how a man reached adulthood without the realization women were people, not occasional playthings. As exhausting as it was for him to correct this shit when it crossed his path, he hated to think what it must be like to be the target of it. “If a woman’s job is to deal with you, she can get fired for refusing to deal with you because you made her uncomfortable. She’s trapped and forced to be more polite than she wants to be.”

“Fish in a barrel.”

The enthusiastic delivery of that analogy was disheartening. “Who’s had opportunistic assholes shooting at her all day, making it harder to do her job than it would be for a man in the same position. It’s unfair. Show some consideration.”

“But if you don’t shoot your shot, you could miss out on the best thing that ever happened to you.”

“Your desire to find the best thing that ever happened to you greatly exceeds the desire of every woman you meet to be the best thing that ever happened to you.” Even in Aunt Claire’s romance novels, women did not sit around waiting for a man to make life worth living. They had plans before the hero swaggered onto the scene, and more often than not, he got in the way of the heroine’s goals. Even when romance was right there in the name of the genre, men were a pain in the ass until they learned to help women instead of hindering them. “Learn to read the room and be more discriminating with your ‘shot.’ Start by not sexually harassing women in the workplace.”

“Says the guy who gave his number to the doc.”

Phin didn’t correct her job title again. If he got only one point across, he didn’t want it to be that one. “I wasn’t her patient, I left it up to her on my way out the door so she wasn’t obligated to humor me, and I’ll never hear from her because it was still wrong for all the reasons previously cited.”

“Then why did you do it?”

Because she had defiant hair and smirked at subtle jokes and visibly disapproved of getting back in the ring with an injury like she had an abundance of both common sense and compassion. “It would have been a good how-we-met story to tell our grandkids.”

Luke laughed. “The great Professor Pain is a sap.”

Many great love affairs went into the growth of Phin’s sprawling family tree, and that sap ran thick in his veins. “Keep it to yourself. I’ve been stockpiling favors the writers owe me for ten years, and I can make you cry about coming to work.”

“I think you mean ‘I’ll make you rue the day you tested the Professor.’”

Phin had wrapped up his performance for the night before hauling Luke out of the ring by the seat of his pants to keep his injury from interfering with the rest of the show. “There’s a surcharge for after-hours catch phrases.”

“Is that true? I thought it was a gag that your contract states you get paid every time you’re Professor-y.”

The convergence of philosophy and professional wrestling came in handy at times such as these. “What is truth but a consensus about what is perceived to be real?”

Luke sank lower in his seat. “I’m not paying for this.”

He wasn’t harping about Phin’s interest in a certain physician assistant, either.

“Take notes anyway. There will be a quiz when I wake you for your concussion check.”

© 2018 Ren Benton. Archived for evidence, so don’t be a thieving asshole.

CONTINUE TO PART 3

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