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When Randy Arthur of New York City separated from the first Mrs. Arthur, he left home with two suitcases, the stereo speakers, an agreement he’d get the children alternate weekends and every Tuesday and Thursday night, and a Five Year Plan.

It broke his heart to leave the children, left him broke to leave Mrs. Arthur, but after years of feeling unappreciated by the woman he’d married twelve years earlier, it was a decision he felt compelled to make.

As Five Year Plans go, Randy’s wasn’t up there with, say, Stalin’s Five Year Plans to industrialize the Soviet Union, but still, he felt a strong commitment to it. He’d focus on work, the children, pay the bills – and have lots of short term, non-committal, no strings attached relationships with a variety of beautiful women.

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He was honest with the women he dated; told them right up front that he didn’t want to get involved. But of course they never believed him. He was too attentive, too affectionate; in lieu of their names he called them "sweetheart" and "beautiful," leaving each woman under the impression that she was his beautiful sweetheart.

As soon as anyone got too close, attempted to buy theatre tickets for shows months away, or suggested he redecorate the living room of his small one bedroom apartment, maybe hang some pretty curtains, he said a gentle good-bye. His priority was the children whom he never introduced to any of the beautiful sweethearts; he didn’t want eight-year-old Phoebe and five-year-old Benjamin growing attached to women who would soon be moving on. It was a good plan, and because of his up-frontness with each succeeding participant,

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arguably an honorable plan, and should have been reasonably successful if he hadn’t screwed it up in Year Two.

His best friend Dan who now lived in California suggested Randy call Linda who lived in Chicago, best friend of Dan’s girlfriend Lynn. And if you failed to track that, ignore it, continue on, and go with the flow.

"What do I need with calling some woman who lives seven hundred miles away?" Randy said to Dan. In the interest of male bonding they spoke on the phone almost every week.

"My gut says you’ll like her." Dan had a large gut so Randy tended to trust it. "She was here last year right before you were. She’s tall. Dark hair. Decent body. She wrote a book. You should read her book. See what you think."

"What’s her book about?"

"Her dead husband."

"Great. Already she sounds like fun."

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"What have you got to lose?" Dan said.

"Airfare," Randy said.

But after Randy’s current girlfriend started mumbling things about maybe leaving a toothbrush at his apartment, Randy began to think there might be certain advantages to dating someone out of town. Get together. Share a few laughs. Score some easy gratuitous sex, then escape on a plane. Talk about your no strings attached. The only thing better than a woman you don’t plan to see again is a woman you’ll never run into again.

So he called me.

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