The Little Surprise

It sounded like the beginning of a story where you know it was going to end badly.

I called off of work to spy on my ex’s current boyfriend at her bequest.  The Catch: he’s a high school teacher.  The 22: I had to wait in the parking lot.

The sorry truth was that I’m not young enough to be attending there, and I’m not old enough to be working there.  And I’m definitely not a parent.

When the campus security guard asked me what I was doing, I wish I would have said:

“Why sir, I’m waiting for my girlfriend.  She’s a senior.”


“I’m picking my sister up.  We’re taking the family dog to the vet and it doesn’t look too good.”

Even this would have been good:

“I’m stalking one of the teachers.”

But instead, I said nothing.  Then I started mumbling and bumbling my words.  He asked me again for clarification, and then for my ID.  As I gave up and reached for my wallet, guess who appeared.

Marvin, are you harassing my buddy?

Mr. Antonlini, you know this guy?

Yeah, he’s meeting me for lunch.

Ryan Antolini.  You have good timing.  I’ll give you that.

He rushed over to the driver’s side window I had rolled down for Marvin.  I realized I hadn’t even looked at the security guard the entire time, mostly out of fear.  He didn’t look a day over twelve years old.  I could have took him.

Marvin, you remember Aiden Caulfield, don’t you?  He graduated three years ago, a year before you.

From what school, Mr. A?

This one, you knucklehead.  Ryan fake punched Marvin in the arm, just like how he fakes everything, I’m sure.  Marvin stared at me, trying to place my name with my face.  Ready to get out of here? Ryan asked of me, and I nodded.

How had he seen me?  I was in the back end of the lot.  I didn’t think he knew what car I drove.

He climbed in the passenger side and said, Let’s go.  I’ve got a little surprise waiting for you.

I didn’t inquire about anything that was happening.  My only question: “Where to?”

Pencey Cafe, on Pennsylvania Ave.

So I drove, and neither of us said a word.  I was in a stunned state, and that reminded me of The Stunner that Hank had talked about.  When I mentioned today’s plan to Kilgore, H.L., and Santiago, they all shrugged it off and let me carry it out.  Kilgore at least drew me a map to the bingo hall and said to forget the trailing, but Hank would have set me completely straight.  I wouldn’t have been in that car at that point if he hadn’t stopped going to Marlin’s Inn.

I’d imagine he would have said something like this:

Chasing pussy’s one thing, but following a dick is another.

At Pencey Cafe, we both exited the car with the same speed and momentum.  Whereas my expression was solemn, his was all smiles.

Inside, I found my little surprise: Ashleigh waiting at a table for three.  She waved at me and my stomach devoured my heart.

I knew this sounded like a story that was going to end badly.

The Stunner

The spirits were high at the ol’ Inn.  It was almost as if some kind of happy gas had been let loose on us unsuspecting patrons.  Considering the way H.L. was acting extra nonchalant, he might have actually released some variant of nitrous oxide into the air.

Any of you guys ever pull “The Stunner?” Hank asked of everyone.  I’ve seen the man as drunk as a Hasselhoff, but his demeanor was less mean than usual.

“I’m afraid to ask what that is,” I said because I didn’t want to ask.

Oh Hankerchief, please tell me you’re not about to go on another one of your kinky diatribes.  Kilgore shared the same fear I did.  And man, there really must have been something in the air, because even Santiago was smiling ear-to-ear, and I didn’t think his face could do that.

This one’s clean.  This one’s clean.  I swear it.  Hank started laughing.  Nervously, Kilgore and I joined in his distraction.  I wanted to check on H.L. and Santiago, but tears were filling my eyes for no real reason.  Unless there were fumes that I was reacting to.

Hank explained:

“The Stunner” is as simple and as brilliant as this.  When you’re driving, and another car wants to merge, or turn, or cut you off in some fashion or manner, but they’re being polite about it.  You know, they’re looking back, turn signal’s flashing.  So what you do is this – wave ’em ahead.  Be polite right back and offer to let them pass.  Then just as they wave to thank you, flip them the biggest, fattest, meanest bird you can.  One that doesn’t require a horn for emphasis.  You’ll freeze ’em right in their tracks.  “The Stunner.”

Proud, Hank leaned back as far as one could in a stool, shifted his spine upright, and then slouched back over the counter.

“I might actually try that.”

Let it be known, the Stunned One is likely to give chase.  They’ll follow you for miles and miles.  Then when you stop and get out of your car, they’ll beat the living turd out of you.

“Did  you get beat up, Hank?”

No!  That’s how I met H.L.  He invented it.

I looked at H.L.behind his MegaTouch for confirmation.  His explanation: I was having one of those days.  Then he disappeared from his usual spot and headed over toward the bar’s HVAC room.  He emerged a few minutes later with a small canister which he tucked swiftly into his overcoat pocket.