I saw my first chardonnay spit-take at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Chris had turned to me and, apropos of nothing, blurted out, "So Stephanie thinks you might be in the mob."

"I'm what, now?" I said as Stephanie wiped her chin with her sleeve.

Her husband leaned forward with excitement about the upcoming conflict. A defensive Steph then presented her case. "Well, that explanation makes a lot more sense than you coming into town for five months just to see the Steelers." We all had to concede that this was a pretty good point.

"Plus look at you. Beard and shaved head, all black clothes, trenchcoat. We've never seen you actually work, yet you buy anything you want. You wear sweats, like, all the time. You love conflict. When you're angry with someone you calmly say things like 'Just FYI, I'm gonna punch you in the throat in 30 seconds if you're still here.'" (True story) And whenever we've told you that a restaurant or bar or neighborhood is sketchy, you're there that very night."

Everyone looked at me, smiling, expectant. And then I unleashed an irrefutable defense: "If I'm going to fabricate a cover story, out of all the options available to me, why on earth would I pretend to be a technical writer?"

Steph slumped, defeated.