Vignettes: Three Days

Friday, March 27, 2015

So... this post has absolutely nothing to do with being trans. At all But I was telling someone this story earlier this evening and she told me I *had* to post it. (You know who you are. :D)

It's a tale of lasting friendships, cheap (in every sense of the word) beer, a cult film, and one mother who is pushed just a bit too far.

If this sounds to you like a tale worth hearing... read on. :)

It's probably safe to say that most of us did not have what could be described as a "normal" childhood. In my case, I've come to realize that I grew up with friends and acquaintances whose misadventures would make a pretty good sitcom. This is one of those stories. The names have been  changed to protect the guilty.

T and B were two of my best friends growing up. I've known T since I was five years old and B since I was twelve. And we are *still* friends all these years later.

T attributes this to the enduring bonds of our friendship; B notes that everyone else we know now crosses the street when they see us, so we really don't have a choice. (But I digress.)

We were inseparable growing up, spending countless hours playing and, in the case of B, going to Red Sox games together. (T hates baseball with a passion.)

Once we reached high school, however, T and B discovered a shared affinity for, shall we say, indulging in the spirits. It's fair to say that their palate was somewhat less than refined at this point. Their beverage of choice at the time (and I assure you I am not making this up) was labeled... "Beer." I can remember telling them at the time, "Boy... when the brewer is too ashamed to put their name on the can, you know you're drinking the good stuff."

Anyway, T and B, along with their girlfriends and other mutual friends of ours, developed a weekly Thursday night ritual during our junior year of high school, gathering at what they referred to as "The Field" (in reality, an abandoned factory in the middle of the field) to quaff some brews. They did so regardless of the weather - and it was a *cold* fall and winter that year, so much so that I remember it all these years later.

My parents considered T and B to be family, just as their parents did with me. That being said, neither of them, nor their parents, had any illusions about T and B's prospects for sainthood.

(For that matter, neither did Father B, the priest in charge of the altar boys, a group which he, no doubt to his everlasting regret, allowed us to be part of.

"I honestly don't understand what you see in those two borderline hoodlums, L," he said in his drily funny way one afternoon as we helped him put up Christmas decorations for the beginning of Advent.

I thought for a moment.

"Well... I guess the Lord works in mysterious ways, Father," I replied.

"Indeed," he mused. "Some more mysterious than others."

He sighed and shook his head as he watched T and B flinging the charcoal briquettes used to light the incense at each other.

"At least they aren't using lit briquettes this time," I noted.

"Mmmm. Small blessings," he murmured, handing me the stack of hymnals B was supposed to have placed in pews already. "Small blessings.")

One evening I was sitting with B's mother in her living room as we waited for T and B to return with the pizza we had ordered for dinner.

"I'm always glad when I know you're out with them, L," B's mother told me as we watched T's car decelerate from warp speed to a teeth-clattering halt in front of her house, gravel spitting out from beneath the vehicle's badly-tortured tires.

"Oh? Why is that?" I asked.

"Because I know you'll be able to bail them out of jail," she replied, standing up as the doorbell began to buzz non-stop.

(She was joking. I think.)

T and B, as it turns out, took notice of this trust, and, true to form, used it to their advantage to get out of the house every Thursday night for their drinking session at The Field.

Their plan was seemingly fool-proof. The movie Time Bandits, a personal favorite to this day, was playing at the local discount cinema in the town center, and had been for months. So, they each told their parents that they were going to see Time Bandits with me on Thursday night. Sort of a tradition, you might say.

Bingo! They were home free.

It was flawless.

Except for one tiny, seemingly insignificant detail that eluded them:

They never told me about their scheme.

And so it was one fateful Thursday evening in mid-December that I answered the telephone as I finished up a late dinner.

"Hello?" I asked.

"L? Is that you?" asked B's mother, sounding surprised.

"Mm-hmm," I replied.

"What are you doing home tonight?" she asked, perplexed. "It's Thursday night."

"I just got home from work, like I do every Thursday," I replied. "I'm going to wash my dishes and then go do my homework. Why?"

"I thought you were at Time Bandits with T and B?" she asked.

Suddenly I understood: It's Thursday night.

"Er... of course... Time Bandits!" I blathered. "Right... how could I have forgotten... uh... Time Bandits?"

She snorted.

"L, you are a terrible, terrible liar," she said. not without affection. "Unlike the other two geniuses. Excuse me - I have hoodlums to round up."

And so she did, along with T's mother.

Justice was swift and, in light of their offenses, relatively light. Both were grounded for the rest of the month. While this theoretically encompassed our upcoming Christmas break, it was tacitly understood that the shackles would be lifted by then, if only to prevent their parents from strangling them - - or each other - in exasperation.

That wasn't good enough for B, of course.

T was on probation, as I joked, in that he was allowed to go to my house or B's house (if B's mother was there). To B, that was all he needed to get the wheels turning.

"Sorry you're stuck at home, B," I said apologetically the next day as we walked him from school towards the first night of his incarceration.

"Nah," he said, his voice jaunty, as he waved off my inadvertent offense. "It's our own damn fault. The old hag is sharper than I thought. I'll have to remember that when I'm ready to throw her butt in a nursing home in a few years."

"A few years?" I asked. "She's only 40, isn't she?"

"40... 60... what's the difference? She'll be senile by then anyway. Hell, she already spends half her time watching Murder, She Wrote; you have to be brain-dead to watch that swill, I say."

He had a point, I had to concede.

"Anyway," he said, "Not to worry; we'll be out of here long before the month is over."

"You will?"I said, doubtful. "Your mom is mightily pissed off right now."

"Trust me," he said knowingly. "I give it three days."

"Three days?!?" I replied, disbelieving. "Seriously?"

"Three days," he repeated, his face solemn.

I shrugged. Even B can't pull this off, I thought.

Little did I know.

It was Sunday evening, three days after their banishment had begun. It was going to be a short week; Christmas vacation started on Wednesday, so we only had two days of school, and only Monday was a full day. Essentially, vacation had all but started already.

B's mother answered the door upon my arrival. As we walked up the stairs, I sniffed the air.

"God almighty," I said, my nose wrinkling. "What is that stench?!?"

Sighing, she jerked her head toward the kitchen.

A thick pall of smoke hung in the air, obscuring the kitchen and dining room in a nearly impenetrable haze. Indistinct shapes - at least five or six - seemed to be moving in the kitchen, and I thought I heard the voices of B and T's girlfriends, but I could have been mistaken; my eyes were watering so badly I could barely keep them open.

B and T walked out of the kitchen. Each had a cigar dangling jauntily from their mouth.

"Hey! Glad you could make it!" T said, reaching out to put his arm around my shoulder.

I shrank back, gagging.

"What the hell are you smoking, anyway?" I asked, wheezing. "My father (a police detective) has smelled better after coming home from autopsies, for crying out loud."

B proudly held up a box.

"Check it out, my friend."

"El Productos?" I said. "God, why don't you just smoke twigs and dirt? It probably tastes the same."

"Hey, c'mon now - we have standards to uphold," T said, seemingly offended.

"Yeah," B chimed in. "We're like the Rat Pack."

"Only without, you know, talent," T added. "Or taste."

B's mother rolled her eyes.

"Okay," she said, sighing wearily. "Get back in the kitchen, you two - please? The living room is the only place where L and I can sit without risking respiratory arrest."

"Sure you don't want one?" B said, extending the box to her. "We'll even cut you in on the next hand."

"Hand of what?" she asked, pushing the box away.

"Poker," T replied.

"It better not be strip poker," she said, glaring.

"Of course not," said T.

"Right. It's much too early for that," said B. "We won't get there until at least 1:00 or 2:00 AM."

"At the earliest," added T, nodding solemnly.

Sighing heavily, she turned away and retreated to her chair, gesturing to the couch. I sat down.

"Well, at least we can keep each other company, L," she said, turning on the TV.

"Right. And we'll be first out the door too when they start a fire."

She nodded, lost in thought.

"Do you think we could lock the doors behind us after we get out?" she asked.


It was nearly two hours later. The haze, somehow, had only gotten thicker. And the din from the kitchen, perhaps aided by the thick air, was making it nearly impossible to hear Fred Cusick's call of the Bruins hockey game on TV.

B's mother and I were chatting idly during a commercial break when it happened.

I was telling B's mother about my Christmas wish list when it happened.

"Enough!" she said, jumping out of her chair and marching toward the kitchen. "I have had ENOUGH!!!"

Alarmed, I jumped up and followed her. I knew where she kept the knives; I was fairly certain I could take her down if she made a move in their direction. After hours of this torture, though, I wasn't sure I would blame her if she tried.

"All right!" she bellowed as she reached the kitchen, coughing. Startled, B, T, their girlfriends, and several other mutual friends looked up, bloodshot eyes straining to see her through the murk.

"That is IT! I have had it! All of you -" She pointed to each of them, one by one. "GET OUT! NOW! I mean it!"

She turns to me.

"Except you, L. You're welcome to stay as long as you want."

She turned back to them.

"But the rest of you - get out of my sight!"

She didn't need to tell them twice, needless to say. They exploded from the kitchen table, whooping and hollering.

As they stampeded toward the door, and freedom, B emerged from the gloom. He sauntered over to me, cigar clenched between his teeth.

He took a triumphant drag, then slowly exhaled as he clapped a hand on my shoulder.

"Three days, my friend," he said with what can only be described as a huge, s***-eating grin on his face. "Three days."



Many years later, B was in the hospital recovering from some fairly serious surgery. He made it through with flying colors, but he was going to be hospitalized for some time. Fortunately, he had a private room, with his own TV and DVD player.

Upon hearing that, T and I realized that only one get well present would do.

And so it was that B found himself unwrapping his gift ("We used the racing form for wrapping paper," I noted helpfully to B as he struggled to remove the mass of tape T had used) as soon as he was allowed to have visitors. In spite of the pain, he began to laugh when he saw what we had purchased:

Time Bandits, of course. On DVD.

"Thanks, guys," he said. "This will bring back some memories."

"Just remember to tell your mother you're watching it with L," said T. "Otherwise she might ground us again."

"I gave her the receipt, B," I added. "In case she thinks T boosted it from Best Buy or something."

"Five-fingered discount," T said, wiggling his fingers. "Still the way to go, I say. But anyway... good thinking, L."

Both he and B nodded in appreciation.

"Hey, what are friends for?" I replied.



There could only be one song to accompany this post:

Lord, I could listen to her sing forever...


Halle on March 27, 2015 at 6:52 AM said...

That is friendship indeed! Made the tears come Cass.

Oh, and yes, she is a treasure isn't she.

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