Pass Me The Donut Cushion

After two weeks behind bars, you forget about the woes waiting for you outside.  You spend all your time focusing on the good times, because your bad times are front and center. 

So what?  You lit Marlin’s Inn on fire

So what?  You found out your dad left your home because your alcoholic mother stabbed him.

So what?  I can’t really top those two so whats.

So those were my woes.  But also I forgot about my whoa’s.

Ah, young Aiden.  I hope they treated you well.

I exited the police station expecting to be excited, but instead I felt exacerbated.  My emancipator was none other than: “Hi Grace.  How did you–?”

I’m a judge.  Well, I used to be.  Didn’t Hank ever tell you?  Or my grandsons?

Her grandsons being my childhood friend that we now call Steve, and his douchebag brother, Ryan.  I don’t even feel like getting into it.

Oh, I guess it never came up.

“But how did you–?”

How did I know?  Let’s just say a little birdie called me up, out of the blue, and asked me if I could help.

Hank.  That lovable bastard. 

Kilgore once described him best: Henry “Hank” Chinaski might come across as dire case of torching hemorrhoids.  But his kit still includes the ointment and that blow up donut cushion.

“Well, I’m going to have make sure to thank that little birdie.”

Don’t just thank him, Grace started, like a steamroller of enthusiasm.  She raised up her left hand and revealed a diamond-encrusted band around her ring finger.  Congratulate him, too!

She did get me out of jail, so I let her hug me.

But I sure fought the urge to flip my little birdie.

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The Face Off

I brazenly approached Hank and his new group of “friends.”  They all looked so happy.  Like a family.  Who finds happiness in a bingo hall?  I mean, the Edmont Bingo Hall is a nice place, but they don’t even serve beer!

As I placed the denizens setting up for their next round of called letters and numbers, I finally looked at Hank, Ryan, and his grandmother, Grace.  I mean really looked at them.  They did look like a family, in a non-facetious way.

Whether I was overcome with embarrassment, respect, or doubt, I abruptly spun the opposite way, fully intending to leave.  That’s when I heard that unmistakable gruff.  Although I never heard him use such language.

Aiden!  Head over here boy.

Had Hank gone soft?  I would venture to guess senility first.  So did as I was asked.  My about-face was less about facing them and more about being polite.

“Hello HankRyan.”

Twice in one day?  To what do I owe this pleasure.  Thanks for pointing that out, Ryan.  I wanted to say that so bad, but the good in me wouldn’t allow it.

Hank outstretched his hand.  I heard you’re standing up in Ryan and Ashleigh’s wedding.  That’s quite a stand-up thing to do.  When Ryan told me you agreed to do it, I thought he was doing stand-up.

Why did he say stand-up so many times?  Again, I’m going to go with senility.

The Lunch Date

Lunch: The most useless meal of the day.  At least that’s a t-shirt I’m going to design and market.

Here I was, on my called day off, sharing lunch at the Pencey Cafe with my ex-fiancée and my whatever-he-was.  I couldn’t keep track of anything I was feeling anymore.  It was like being lost in a field of rye, and–

Ashleigh interrupted my train of thought like a car running out of gas on the tracks.  I told Ryan everything we talked about, last night, when he returned home.  All of my concerns and worries.  And your plans to follow him.

Ryan grabbed my shoulder and squeezed.  It must have been as tense as a – what’s that line Kilgore always uses – a proctologist’s Monday.  He actually squeezed my shoulder twice.

Relax, Caulfield.  No hard feelings.  I realize you still care about my beloved and that those old rumblings aren’t going to shut right off.  But I also know you’re not going to try anything with her either.  I mean, you were together for five years and never did!

“Six years,” I said under my breath.  Why do I keep correcting that?

So I’m going to have to let it go.  As should you.  Let’s bury this hatchet between us, because… well, you want to tell him, don’t you, honey bunches of oh’s?

Ashleigh nodded and grinned and grabbed Ryan’s hand.  My lungs stopped working automatically.  I had to remind them to inhale and exhale.

Remember all the things I was worried about last night?

(Duh, it was just last night!)  I wished I’d said rather than thought.

Well, he’s been working extra jobs lately, odds and ends, saving up money for a ring.  Because we’re getting married!

Odds and Ends?  Sounded like a strip club to me.  But when the second half of her proclamation started sinking in, the odds and ends in me started drowning.  If the glowing couple had been paying even the slightest bit of attention toward me, they would have noticed I was going dim.  Was I going to faint?  Was I dying?  Why wasn’t I at Marlin’s Inn?  Better yet, why wasn’t I at work?

Aiden, because you’ve been such a huge part of my life, we were wondering something.  Their eyes bounced back and forth at each other like they were doing Morse code.  Were they doing Morse code?  Will you stand up in our wedding?

The vortex of chemicals spinning inside me had to be the reason why what happened next happened.

I answered:

“Of course.”