Every bad ending has its roots in a bad beginning. In this case it was a steaming hot platter of spicey fried pork, which I inhaled. Then I looked greedily at Woodrow’s plate.
“Are you done?”
“I think I have space for those ribs.”
“The ones on your plate.”
“There’s nothing left except the bones.”
“Are you kidding? A rib’s not properly eaten until you’ve gnawed the gristle and stripped the membrane.”
“Yuck. It’s all yours, Dad.”
The next day was Friday. “You sure up onna early,” said Mrs. Wankmeister.
“Huge day today. Gotta get in early and ambush the day.”
“You not ridin’ onna bike? Itsa time wastin’ day all your bikin’ friends ain’t got onna job and wastin’ all day Friday like it’s onna weekend day.”
“Nah. Got too much on my plate. If I’m at the desk by seven it will set me up for the rest of the week. If I fiddlefuck around with those wankers we’ll wind up drinking coffee and swapping lies at Terranea until eleven.”
“What do you want onna breakfast?”
“I’m not hungry after all that greasy pork and all that gristle last night.”
“You gonna work onna cup of coffee and you gonna fail crash onna desk because no energy.”
“I know my body.”
“I know it onna lot better because you actin’ onna guilty because you eatin’ all a dinner like a trash disposer an now you gonna try to get the day onna one cup of coffee but you gonna be hungry like cats and dogs and come home hungry and eat ten times as more. Why you don’t eat onna oatmeal now?”
“Nah. I’m good.”
Then I checked my phone and saw a text from Junkyard. “Coffee cruise. You in?”
“Nah,” I texted back. “Gotta work. Big day ahead.”
I pulled on my kit and got halfway to work. “Dang, it’s early. I suppose I could do part of the coffee cruise and peel off for the office after twenty or thirty minutes. That would still put me in early.”
I turned off and met the gang. “Hey,” said Junkyard with a nod, the silent acknowledgment of a fellow lazyshit bike bum deadbeat. “What happened to the big day?”
“I’m gonna pedal with you guys for a few minutes and then head on to work.”
“Yeah. Sure. Let’s roll.”
At 10:30 I checked my watch. “Fuck! How’d that happen?”
“How’d what happen?” asked Junkyard, now on his fourth cup of coffee and well into a story about some girls, a stolen bike, three cases of beer, a garage, and a job interview.
“I gotta go, guys.” I jumped on my bike and dashed to the office. By eleven I was hard at work.
At 11:30 the phone rang. It was Jack from Illinois (not his real name). “Hey,” he said.
“Hey. What’s up?”
“I just got into town. Go for a pedal?”
“Can’t. Big day today at the office.”
“What were you thinking of?”
“Quick spin around the Hill with Crabs. You’d be back by two.”
“Well, I’ve still got my riding shorts on.”
“Meet me in twenty?”
Bad things come to those who wait
I met the crew. “Man, I’m hungry.”
“Didn’t you eat lunch?” asked Jack from Illinois (not his real name).
“Just some coffee this morning. But I’ll be fine.”
“Sure, you will. Let’s roll.”
Three and a half hours later we got back to Redondo Beach, and I was dehydrated and famished. “Let’s grab a beer,” suggested Crabs. “That’ll perk you up.”
“Beer,” added Jack with a smirk. “It’s what’s for dinner.”
We sat down and ordered the first round. “You guys gotta come by our new place sometime,” I said.
“Nice place, huh?” said Crabs.
“More of a dump, actually. But our neighbor is smoking hot and hangs out on the adjacent balcony all day with a thong and a bathing bra. She’s very talented.”
“She talks to an old worn out shoe like you?”
“Never had the nerve to even say ‘hello.’ I’m waiting for the perfect moment to make the right impression.”
“Hey, easy on that beer,” Jack said as I drained the first tumbler. “It’s gonna hit you like a sledgehammer.”
“Afraid it already has.”
“Why don’t you get something to eat?” he said as we ordered another round.
“Fuggit, I’ll be fine.”
By the third round it was clear that “fine” was not a condition that I would be in for the remainder of the day, which was now an early evening. Crabs had left us, and as Jack simultaneously phoned Mrs. WM and ordered me a double cheeseburger with bleu cheese and sautéed onions and jalapeños and avocado, I put in for a fourth pint, this final, giant nail in my coffin being something called a Triple IPA and arriving dark and bitter and cold and ornery and evil and, with the abandon of the first three, being tossed carelessly down my throat with this difference, that instead of roiling my already distressed and churning stomach with nothing but its companions, it mixed and matched and heaved and rolled with the monstrous burger which, Jack later said, “You appeared to devour in whole swallows, without chewing.”
“I gotta go,” I slurred. “Bfor’ I get too drunk.” There was three of everything and the deck of the ship pitched and rolled atop the heavy seas.
“We’re too late for that. You gotta wait. Your wife’s coming to get you.”
“She is? She don’t have a bike.”
“Right. She has a car.”
On cue Mrs. Wankmeister appeared. She wasn’t happy. “What you wanna be drinky pants alla day when you supposed to be onna workin’?”
“I was gonna…”
“You was gonna be drinky pants and now I’m onna taxi service because you’re onna too drunk for ridin’ home or standin’.”
“I don’t need no taxi,” I muttered as I slumped over in the passenger seat.
“You’re lookin’ onna drinky pants green face and you better not be throwin’ out all onna inside my car!”
“I won’t!” I tried to shout back, but couldn’t because of the cheesebeer that kept fighting to crawl out of, or rather pour out of, my throat, and the ensuing struggle to keep down the admixture meant that all I could say was, “Urghhh.”
“You get out now!” she commanded.
I struggled to my feet, crossed the parking lot, and somehow ascended the stairs and reached my door. Turning to the wall I leaned over and opened my mouth as the cheeseburger mixed with four pints of beer and bile splattered against the wall and formed a pool in which I stupidly stood, waiting for the eruption to stop.
“Are you okay?” It was the smoking hot neighbor, of course, and I paused for a moment to reflect on my impeccable timing.
“Uh-uh,” I said, and completed the ejection, wondering why my feet were now soggy and warm and squishy between the toes, and wondering why everything smelled like beer vomit, and wondering what would happen if I sat down, and after sitting down, wondering why my bottom felt warm and soggy like my feet, and what that squishy wet feeling was seeping up through the pad of my riding shorts and into the crack of my butt.
Tomorrow, we ride
At 5:00 AM my phone rang. Was it really my phone? Or was it my head? Or was it both? It was.
Then the hangover inventory began. “Where am I?” I asked myself.
“You are in bed.”
“How did I get here?”
“Someone put you here.”
“But the last I remember I was sitting in my own vomit.”
“You’re now wearing clean PJ’s and your favorite Smurf underwear.”
“Why do I smell good?”
“Someone must have bathed you.”
“But I was fully dressed and covered in very nasty pieces of hamburger and bleu cheese and beer.”
“Someone has taken care of you, it appears.”
I looked over at the other side of the bed. That slight turn of the head set off whanging hammers and grenades and lightning bolts of pain in my skull. She wasn’t awake yet. So it would at least be an our or so before The Reckoning.
The phone kept ringing. “Hello?” I said.
“You alive?” It was Jack.
“How do you feel?”
“Great. As long as I don’t move and there’s no noise above a whisper.”
“Well, the Donut Ride is at eight, so start eating aspirin, eggs, and drinking water. You’ve got three hours.”
“Not happening. And quit screaming.”
“I’m not screaming and it is happening. Glass Hip’s in town and you promised me you’d ride with us. It’s his first Donut since he moved to California in 1996. Sack up.”
The crazy man with the hammer and the lightning bolts paused for a minute. Here was a hard choice. Stay in bed and be there when Mrs. Saint Wankmeister awoke, or get up and escape under cover of darkness for the Donut Ride, knowing that each movement for the next four hours would be a living, agonizing hell.
The wrath of Mrs. WM? Or the wrath of Glass Hip and assorted Donut idiots who would pummel me in my weakness?
“I’l meet you in thirty,” I said.