a timely change of pace: FINAL ACT
The rest of the night has absolutely no consistency. It involves a series of memory lapses, chemical imbalances and mild brain damage.
Judging from Jeff’s slanty walk and his sporadic and incoherent mumblings about the nature of humankind or something to that effect, I can see that our little drinking sesh in the back of Chris’s truck has more than adequately redirected us up the road that lies perpendicular to Sobriety Avenue. I figured our next pit stop would successfully steer us onto Inebriated Highway, and, after a quick left at the traffic lights, we’d hitchhike the rest of the way to our final destination at Wankered cul-de-sac.
I don’t have much sensation at this point but I do feel the motions of walking. It is now up to me to find our way back as Ross has difficulty with the simple task of comprehending the names of streets in Victoria. I know for certain that I couldn’t find our way back to the bar if I was sober. We find ourselves now gifted with the basic animal instincts that have been lost to mankind through years of rational thinking and responsibility. Such instincts include the instinct of direction and the instinct to talk in tongues. Ross is fluent tonight.
“Who says they’re never before find it to ways of my lost who? No! Victoria! Headlights fast come near, but why me so just fine? Good shoes, that’s why! ”
“My thoughts exactly, my friend!” I reassure Ross. I’m just glad he’s not swallowing his tongue at this point.
I make the time pass by quicker by fucking with Jeff a bit. Mimicking his intermittent ramblings, and at times taking it to a whole new level by making full sentences with random words, I do my best not to giggle when I see confusion darken his face. As I suspect, he doesn’t call me on it, probably for fear that I’d tell him he was too hammered to understand words and mock him for the rest of the night. Instead, he complacently agrees with anything I say. Just the right time to bring the Queen back into the mix, I reflect, but suddenly the staggering silhouette beside me bursts into song and I lose my train of thought.
As we weave our way through the city streets of Victoria I feel the third and final instinct come over me: The instinct of melody. This is perfect because AM gold is my speciality. As I’m reaching the tenth and only line of “I Got a Feeling,” I realize that the wind is burning my eyes. To my astonishment, it’s because I’m now running.
After at least half a dozen verses of his ditty, wherein all the lines seem very similar, I think for one glorious moment that Jeff’s face is about to get a lot more familiar with the pavement. To my astonishment, he manages not only to keep his balance following the initial lurch, but also to continue his forward motion into a run, or something of the like.
Ross’s voice recedes into the distance as the scenery flashes into a neon blur. I can no longer see clearly as the wind becomes so intense. I must be running like 60 km per hour I figure, and there’s no sign of stopping. This is only going to lead to disaster. I throw up my arms and yell. Then all of a sudden, there’s calm. I lower my arms to realize that I’m just outside of the coat check. Three seconds later Ross is besides me.
Trying to catch my breath I say, “I think I better slow down with the drinking from here on in, Ross.”
“No I’m not!” Ross explains.
Imagine if you will, a toddler…a female toddler…who, brimming with ecstatic pleasure at not having fallen flat on her arse within the initial three seconds of her first time standing upright, decides to have a go at the 100 metre hurdles at the Olympics. Now imagine her being chased by a small pony with opposable thumbs and a gun and you’ll have some concept of the image that now meets my eyes. All wavy arms, screeching, and alternating expressions of terror and glee. I reluctantly give chase as I know we’ll never be let back into the pub, should the bouncers catch a glimpse of my compadre. I’m well ready for a beer.
Four Hours Later
I wander into Chris’s front room and am taken aback at the sight of the most glorious Christmas tree you can imagine, glittering in all its splendour and towering over a wooden coffee table littered with at least two dozen statuettes of St. Nick. The slow realization that it’s now February dispels my panic that I had forgotten to bring any gifts, though the resulting relief soon gives way to a deep perplexity and a burning desire not to meet Chris’s possibly deranged kinfolk. He explains that his mother has been busy and has not yet had time to disassemble the festive decorations. Relief again.
As we adjourn to the living room, I cringe at the unwelcome sensation of the wet sand inside my sock grating against the ball of my foot. I make a mental note: Must remember to invest in a better pair of shoes, just in case, as had happened at some point in the last few hours, I end up on a beach in the middle of nowhere. Maybe taking my flip-flops with me wherever I go would be cheaper, but I’d probably try to sell them to Jeff at some point if I did. He’d buy them. And he’d eat them. And I need them.
Always the most hospitable host, Chris lets us recline in the warmth of his living room and, even though our McDonald’s mission on the way home from the pub had been a complete success, he brings a wealth of delectable dishes and bountiful beverages for our gluttonous pleasure. Now on our sixth gallon or so of blueberry juice, and munching happily on more pepperoni sticks you’ve seen in your wildest dreams, Jeff and I try to convey how much we appreciate seeing our former school friends again and of our gratefulness of their entertaining us in Victoria. Then Jeff apparently decides to see if he can get us kicked out.
Praying that Chris has managed to imbibe enough to keep his spirits high throughout the onslaught, I watch anxiously as Jeff bombards him with questions about his sister and her whereabouts. I am mildly impressed at Jeff’s optimism and perseverance, as he remains undeterred even after Chris tells him for the umpteenth time that he has four brothers and no sisters. Fortunately, Jeff becomes momentarily distracted by Chris’s dog, who chooses this point to nuzzle the former’s leg; the latter obviously still on the hunt for pepperoni sticks. A reversal of roles would not have astounded me. Either way, seeing that the human no longer has any pepperoni treats on his person, and is rather being encouraged to partake of a suspicious stain on his jacket, the K-9 wisely declines the offer and goes on his way. All I’ll add is that a creature who spends a good portion of his life with his nose wedged either up his own or other creatures’ arses, refuses to let his tongue touch Jeff’s clothes, even when they’re smeared in food. ‘Nuff said.
Three hours 12 minutes Before
We’re back at the club with Chris and Marybeth, but all of a sudden I find myself alone. I don’t know where Chris or Marybeth are, but Ross must be in the corner conversing with a coat rack. I hate being left alone at clubs because I’m at the age where I’m susceptible to taking on the image of being too old to be here for no reason. Back in my hometown I always thought the initial purpose of going to the bar involved being sixteen, growing a shitty moustache, and passing yourself off as a Phil spelled with a “F.” Being here now I look like someone’s dad who’s in search of his disobedient child. Women in the bar are expecting me to approach them and ask, “Have you seen my daughter Sarah? She said she’d be home before eleven… Buuuut since I’m here, can I buy you ladies a drink?" However, at this point I’ve already drowned my self-consciousness and I begin smiling at all the nice people. I have no malicious intentions, just the usual inner monologue of, “Right foot counters the left. Don’t forget to blink. No, don’t fall asleep, you don’t know where you are!”
I find myself staring at this one girl across the room—Who knows, she could have been two feet in front of me. Also, I shouldn’t really claim to be “staring” at her. If you saw me you’d think that I’ve just fallen asleep with my eyes open and I’m pointed in her general direction. All of a sudden she stares back. What is this? She attempts to challenge me to a stare-off? She fails to realize that no one can step over the line like me when it comes to staring contests. Ha! Yeah! I see that I took her to school on that one. I’m beginning to remember my middle name after she looks away, it’s “alienation.”
Marybeth comes over to talk to me because she and the rest of the bar had just witnessed me defending my title. She fails to realize the rate of my brain function at this hour.
I think she says something like, “Whatisgoingon?Doyoulikeher?Icandosomething.Sheisshot.Heysheislookingoverhere.Wave!”
“Sloooooooooooooow dooooooooooooooown,” I attempt to say, but I think it comes out as, “Daaawww.”
This girl across the room gets up to leave and Marybeth calls her over on her way out. “Hey, my friend here says he recognizes you!”
This girl stops and turns to me. As the two of them stare at me quizzically, I try to go into some kind of “smooth mode.” My mind works a mile a minute to think back to those childhood icons that have taught me the ways of smoothness. I don’t know why but the only two people who come to mind are Bill Murray and Rodney Dangerfield. Realizing I’m doomed, I say the first thing that comes to me, “No I don’t.” I nearly jump by surprise as my inner-monologue screams, “Fuck!”
I can’t remember the conversation these two girls were having in front of me but I know at least two of us are now uncomfortable. I don’t know how Marybeth is able to skip the icebreaker, but the next thing I know, she says the words, “Ohyouhaveatattoo!” Then she proceeds to expose this surprised girl’s chest to show us the symbol on the upper side of her once completely covered breast. Before I can let out another incoherent comment, I quickly remember that my left foot had better quickly counter my right.
To confuse matters even worse, this girl turns to me and apologises. My reply isn’t quick enough because it comes out when she’s already gone, “Daaawww.”
Ah well, I wonder if Chris has a sister?
One Hour 15 minutes Later
I remember McDonald’s and wearing no socks. It’s all coming back to me now. Chris is driving us to the beach. However, once there, the rules are no shouting or breaking glass. Where is the fun in that? I promise that Ross and I won’t terrorize the elderly, that’s all I can be certain of. We step out onto to a nice beach and the first thing I do is climb atop a bench and do a somersault off it accidentally. My scream flies through the nearby neighbourhood as I attempt to manoeuvre my beer mid-air so as not to spill a drop, and I successfully do. I yell over to Chris to tell him the good news—even though he’s right in front of me. So far it’s one solid strike against me, as Chris’s expression reflects my failure to follow his instructions. I still ask him whether I can throw my beer bottle at something. He says “no,” but just as I place the bottle down on a cement divider I see Ross coming out of the shadows. He’s running up like he’s in the World Cup and kicks my bottle. It shatters on his foot before it even gets into the air. Strike two. Chris puts us in the truck and takes us to his place.
36 minutes Before
The wait at the McDonald’s drive-thru feels like an eternity. I grow bored and decide to go and investigate why the line of cars ahead of us had come to a standstill and have remained stationary for at least three minutes. The sideways glances of irritated, and probably inebriated, motorists convinces me that any kind of scene would not be welcome, so I pretend I’m merely stretching my legs by going for a wander. The drive-thru attendant looks bewildered as I nonchalantly saunter by his window, and I inwardly smile with the thought that he’ll be even moreso when he sees me in the passenger seat of a Rav-4 and ordering food in just a few minutes. Or at least hopefully sometime within the next hour. As I finish my circuit and cigarette, Chris leaps from the driver’s seat, instructs me to sit in his place until his return and bounds off into some nearby bushes to answer the call of nature. Thankfully my undoubted and imminent piling into the car in front at high speed in an effort to keep up with the now crawling traffic is preempted by his return. But where one disaster is avoided, another suddenly rears its ugly head: I hear Jeff struggling to remove his socks in the back seat.
Now everyone’s in the car and I’m dishing out more cheeseburgers than you can shake a stick at to the hungry mob. I throw Jeff and Marybeth’s share over my shoulder because I don’t want to risk losing a finger in Jeff’s mouth, which would be a danger if I passed it back. I reflect on the fact that my burgers taste like feet and look down to find the culprit stretched through the gap between the front seats and almost touching the dashboard. Reaching at least eight feet tall (my rough estimate), Jeff’s physique could provide a tribe of cannibals sustenance enough to last them through many winters. Normally, thinking about Jeff’s body and cannibals is enough to make me lose my appetite, but this late into the proceedings, I’m passed caring.
Chris pulls over on a dimly-lit and deserted street and we sit for a minute and admire the surreal but beautiful sight of a group of deer, as they stalk through the neighbourhood gardens. Unsatisfied with my obstructed view, I quietly hop out of the truck and try my Crocodile Dundee speciality, imagining how grateful the rest of my party will be to be up close and personal with these majestic creatures. Though at first wary, the head deer is reassured by my artful gestures of communication and for a moment, we become one. His eyes gaze into mine and we are linked in spirit and mind. “I mean you no harm, o great one of the forests,” I tell him through our telepathic connection. He bows to my will and consents to approach with his herd in tow. Before he can make a step, however, my mind is distracted by Marybeth, who has joined me outside the vehicle to get a closer look. The link is broken and the great stag once again fears man. I sigh inwardly.
Wannacatchtwo,sitonthemandhavearace?” says Marybeth, though maybe not in those exact words.
“Yeah alright,” I reply.
We chase them around for a while, realizing before long that our deer race would never come to pass, and then clamber back into the truck and make headway for the beach.
(Ross) and (Jeff)
I open my eyes. Where am I? I see Ross at the other corner of the room. As soon as I realize that I’m in Victoria and not in my own house I greet Ross, “I hate you, Ross.”
Jeff wakes me up to tell me he hates me. I roll over and go back to sleep.
Chris and Marybeth drive us back to the ferry terminal. It’s cold. My head hurts.
So does mine.
We’ve come too early. We have to wait two hours for the next ferry.
We’re both asleep on the ferry. I wake up. I’m wondering if Ross would even know I was dragging him outside and over the edge. I don’t know where these angry thoughts are coming from.
I’m dreaming about drowning Jeff.
We’ve come full circle and are at the local pub the next day having lunch and a few drinks. I’ve reimbursed Ross for the trip.
The waitress brings the check. Jeff looks at his empty wallet, then looks at me.