Weekendz with Bernie

part four

The party ended; we got paid, packed up and loaded the van. I was the only one sober enough to drive, so I climbed behind the wobbly steering wheel and headed out onto the pitch black two-lane roads.

We needed to first stop in Saratoga for gas. It was about 2AM, so we would finish before sunrise, a bonus. Seeing a light at the end of the tunnel I was relieved. Still feeling the party's juices in their veins, George and Bernie were plenty boisterous, but I knew once we were rolling things would quiet down; calm would prevail.

We made it back to town and found a gas station. My tipsy colleagues then began to waffle. They wanted to abandon the plan and find a cheap motel to flop. No matter that our original plan made sense and we had no idea where such a place was, they were crashing and weren't relishing a two hour drive. Motivated by having left all my clothing at Bernie's parents,' I resisted, emphasizing that their entire job at this point was to fall asleep. Eventually I won the case; we were still on track and I got to keep my clothes. That's when my modest hopes for a quiet drive came apart. George suddenly started, shrieked, and announced we had to go back to the party. Or rather, the house where a few hours earlier the party had ended. Turns out he left his sweatshirt there. At first, Bernie and I were adamant: no freakin' way. The house was seven miles in the opposite direction and it was already 2:30 in the morning. No freakin' way.

But George was really persistent, almost hysterical. It was his wife's sweatshirt, her favorite sweatshirt at that, and she didn't know he'd taken it and she'd kick his ass if she even thought he'd taken it let alone LOST it! George, drunk George, BIG drunk George was animated, pleading and arguing and not letting go. We HAD to go back. We HAD to go back. Bernie and I both sighed. OK... we can go back for the sweatshirt. We finished gassing up; I pulled away from the pump.

the trauma lay in the sound...Sadly, tragically, I poorly gauged the van's distance from the pump's protective concrete-filled steel pole and turned the ancient van with the impeccable exterior right into it. A loud, awful screech filled the van, a perfect expression of how I felt as all hope to escape the trip in calm anonymity vanished. The deafening screech was replaced by deafening silence as the van jolted to a stop, still pressed against the evil pole.

Unfortunately, the silence was short-lived. Bernie's guns commenced blazing venom and vitriol, all of it aimed at miserable, lousy-depth-perception-hatin'-life little me.

I didn't argue back. What could I say? I did it! I wrecked the van! I'm sorry. Bernie, I'm really sorry. O, it was torture, friends. As you would expect, Bernie responded magnanimously, by deriding my ability to drive and revoking that part of the plan. "Get out!" he yelled; he would extricate the van from the pole and drive the rest of the way, beginning by driving back to get the sweatshirt.

We drove back to the house in tense silence. Occasionally, George would bubble-up through the tension, thanking us for agreeing to go back or being anxious about whether he could actually find the sweatshirt once we got there.

The darkened driveway led to the darkened house, the slowly lumbering van drifted quietly to a stop. George disembarked, not-so-stealthily sprinted to the door and let himself in. He took a flashlight, which provided an amusing, burglar-esque display as he rifled through the pitch-black downstairs rooms.

After a few nervous minutes the door opened. Clutching the precious sweatshirt, George wore the smile of a man who just escaped a stern, wifely ass-kicking.

Next: Bernie put the van in motion...