Two mischievous school chums meet again after twenty years.
|A Totally Unexpected Event
I was startled by a sudden phone call while reading a mystery novel shortly before bed. I jumped, because I was just at the scene where the undisclosed murderer was about to plunge a cold, steel knife, into an overly curious teenage girl.
The caller was laughing, "Hey, is this Stinky?" That was the nickname that I'd earned after a botched experiment in my sophomore chemistry class. It created such a horrible odor, and set off the buildings fire alarm. After the evacuation, I never heard my real name again for the next 2 years, except from the teaching staff.
It was my best friend from high school, Jack Hensel, who I'd lost contact with for more than twenty years. He was the kind of friend who could always make me laugh just by looking at him. I was pleased to get the call from Jack who had become a professional Sport Fisherman, constantly touring the states to compete in any tournament that attracted him, so he said. He'd found my number on an internet "people search" site and decided to check up on me.
"I have a Trout tournament next week Saturday at Shasta Lake and thought I could talk you into having dinner with me? It would be fun to reminisce about old times."
"Okay, but it will have to be on you, just for calling me Stinky again!"
"Ha Ha, ya sure bud. You didn't do anything rash like get married did you Dean?"
"Ya Jack, I've been rash ... we even have two brats at home!"
"That's absurdly rash, Dean! Well, then bring your wife along, but leave the brats at home, cause if I wanted kids around, I'd be married too. Not saying I don't have any kids ... I just don't know who or where they are... if you get my drift, ha ha.
So I made arrangements to meet Jack at a pretty nice Thai place in the area. When my wife and I arrived we were met by the hostess, so I proceeded to introduced myself. "I'm Dean Hall, has fellow named Jack Hensel had arrived yet?"
"Oh yes ... right this way."
The place was decorated with figurines and huge ornate fans from Thailand. It was nice to get out from the chill of the snow-capped mountains that were stubborn to lose their winter coats, even though it was mid June.
As we approached the table, I was able to recognize my old pal, even though he was much thinner than I'd remembered and tanned like a Hollywood celebrity.
"Hey Dean, it's great to see you again. You're looking good," (he said with a two armed hug). "This ravishing creature can't possibly be your wife, can she?" I introduced Olivia as Jack planted a kiss on her cheek.
"You've lost some weight Jack."
"Well you know Dean, It's hard to eat when your in a boat all day. The minute I put down my rod, some lunker's sure to bite, which could cost me a thousand dollars or more. Plus ... if I'm trying to get a date, no woman wants to go out with a fat guy who smells like fish, so I have to keep it lean."
"Maybe it's time I started calling you Stinky then Jack!" (I teased).
"Payback is hell Dean" ha ha. "Any idea what's good in this dive? I'm joking", he said after seeing my wife roll her eyes.
"Well the fish plate is very good", Olivia replied.
"Doggone it, I HATE FISH!, unless they're flopping around in my boat's live well!", Ha Ha. "Weird ain't it!"
Olivia and I had a good time visiting with Jack, catching up on the old days and remembering the many pranks he pulled. What a practical joker. The best one was when he'd snuck into the girls gym locker room while they were playing softball, stole all of their panties, and hoisted them all up the flag pole near the front entry. When the time came, we hid out close enough to see their frustrated faces as they walked back into the main hallway. Even the girls we had crushes on looked like bitches that day, especially the ones wearing skirts. Man were they steaming! When school let out someone spied the panties hanging high, and proud, just beneath the American flag, waving victoriously in the breeze. No one ever found out who did it, cause Jack was a genuine cat burglar that day.
Toward the end of the meal, Jack asked how I was keeping myself busy? "I have a job with Top Choice, a company who markets generic foods that taste like the name brands."
"What are you Dean ... in sales or something?".
"No, I Analyze the chemical nature of a name brand product so that our company can duplicate it."
"You mean you're a chemist?" Jack broke out in uncontrollable laughter for nearly a full minute, crying and wiping his eyes on his napkin. "You're not telling me that Stinky actually became a chemist are you?"
"Well Jack, I had to redeem myself somehow" I said with a wink.
Jack said that he needed to check into a motel soon, because Saturdays tourney started at seven AM, so he wanted to set out at six AM. "Jack, why don't you stay over in our guest room. It's closer to the lake than any of these motels are, and we promise not to keep you up all night. Is that OK with you Liv?" (That was my affectionate name for her). She looked at me with a "how can I say no" look.
"That would be great Dean, as long as you can promise to keep those brats quiet."
"They're not brats you guys, their good kids", Olivia said defensively.
So Jack followed us back in his 97 Suburban, with boat in tow, to our lovely log home in Shasta Lake City.
It was already nine PM when we arrived home, so we didn't have much time to visit since Jack had set his bed time to ten PM.
Liv and I, always stay up late on Friday nights. Normally, we would go out till two AM or so and hit the sack around three, but since we had a guest, we stayed up, drank beer and played Scrabble while watching the Tonight Show. I guess it was a habit since we still ended up crashing around three AM.
I woke up at 6:30 AM to relieve myself, and took a look outside from our upstairs bedroom window. Jacks truck was still parked in the same place, which I thought was odd since he'd said that he wanted to be up and out by six. I figured that he must have decided to leave a little later, so I went back to bed ... exhausted.
"Dean" (Liv was standing by the bed shaking my arm), "Dean!" ... (Liv spoke louder), "Isn't Jack supposed to be on the water now ... it's 10:30 in the morning and his truck and boat are still here?"
"I know ... I noticed they were still here at 6:30, so I figured he'd decided to sleep in a little. I guess I'd better go check on him. I bet his alarm never went off."
I rubbed my eyes as I sat up, thinking, "gee, I hope Jack's OK." I rumbled down the hallway, listening as the living room TV blasted annoying kids shows downstairs, while Olivia sheepishly crept along behind me.
Standing outside of the guestroom door, I banged on it three times in a moderate style and timidly called out, "Jack?" There was no reply so I knocked again with more force and yelled out "JACK!", only to have total silence in return. Everyone knows that three knocks are the magic number which assures the best results for a response, so being at number six with no response made me cringe inside.
That's when everything went into slow motion ... when I grasped the guest room doorknob. Like a scene from a Stephen King novel, I was suddenly in expectation of the worst case scenario of events ... a nightmare which was spawning at that very moment. With my hand on the knob, my heart started beating like a kettledrum. I turned to see two very wide eyes on Liv's face, her mouth gaping open, and her skin losing all of its color in what seemed like only a second. She grabbed on to the top of her head as if it were going to pop off, threading her fingers through her tangled strawberry blonde hair.
"Jack must have been in the room for over ten hours without making a peep", I thought to myself as I began twisting that knob. I reluctantly opened the door, very slowly, about 2 inches, as if a bomb might detonate and gave a one eyed peek into the room, which was still pretty dark, since the shades were closed. There was a lump on the bed, so I swallowed hard as I opened the door and went inside. The clock radio was on, softly playing the song "Hells Bells", of all things and the ceiling fan was on low, buzzing eerily.
Not wanting to be blinded by the light, I walked over and opened one of the window shades to expose the scene. "Oh my god", whispered Olivia, "What's happened to him?"
I could see Jacks face. His eyes were slightly open, but his complexion was blue and grey. He was definitely dead. I mean, when I pushed on his body it was stiff. I pulled the covers up enough to see his rather lean body wearing only shiny red boxer shorts.
Liv was in panic mode..."Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god", over and over. "Why did he have to die in our house, on our old bed? We still make love in that bed sometimes! Never again Dean! Oh my god, we're gonna have to move out of this house now!"
"Calm down Liv. I don't know what happened here, but I don't want the kids to see Jack like this", as I walked over to shut the door.
"What should we do Dean?"
"Well, we need to keep our wits about us right now. I think I should call the Authorities, don't you?"
Just as I finished offering that advice, Liv spoke up ... "Dean, is that what I think it is?" She was stuttering and shaking.
"On the nightstand. Is that a syringe?"
I looked over to find the source of Liv's question. "Oh my, I wonder if he was diabetic Liv?" As I looked closer, my foot kicked an object on the floor near our old Queen size bed. It was a badly tarnished spoon with a lighter laying a few inches away.
"Liv, from the evidence, I'd say Jack died of a heroin overdose", talking as if I were some sort of detective. "He must have knocked this spoon and lighter off, while in his death throws."
"Dammit, that's awful Dean!"
"This changes everything Liv. I can't have drug use linked to our home, especially since I'm going to be the States new Boy Scout leader."
I paused for a few minutes before speaking ..."This is what I'll do. I'll dress Jack up in his fishing clothes, put on some gloves to avoid leaving any fingerprints and drive him to the lake in his truck, as he was supposed to do anyway. Then, I'll prop him up behind the wheel, put the syringe, spoon, and lighter next to him, and just leave him there as if he had overdosed in the truck. When the authorities find him, they will just consider it an overdose, and all will be well! I mean, no one likely saw us drive here together and you heard Dean say that he has no family to speak of, so I think it's a good idea."
"SOUNDS LIKE A PLAN TO ME!" A Masculine voice spoke out. Jack, suddenly jerked up from his prone position, laughing his ass off as we stood there speechless and in shock. Liv was shaking like a lost orphan.
"This has to be the best prank I've ever pulled!" Jack said as he smacked his leg, gasping, and wheezing in ornery tone.
I stared at him with a confused and disgusted look and asked, "but Jack ... what about your face?"
"It's only makeup Dean. You should have checked for a pulse."
"But you were so stiff and with that makeup, I was sure...." (Finding myself dumfounded, I paused).
I just couldn't stand the fact that I'd fallen for Jacks horrible practical joke, so I jumped on the bed and started choking Jack, while Liv pelted him with pillows. The whole scene was full of swearing, spit and red faces for nearly ten minutes. After the dust settled, we all started laughing and crying at the same time.
"I was so afraid that you wouldn't ask me to stay here last night Dean, but I was betting on it and I won!"
"But what about the tournament today Jack?".
"Sorry Dean ... I fibbed. It's tomorrow, Sunday, so it's all good. But now I'm gonna change the subject for a minute."
"Since I could only think of one guy who wouldn't really kill me for pulling this prank ... which was you, I figured I'd better have some way to make amends, so"...
Jack stood up suddenly and pulled some papers out of his coat pocket, then proceeded to hand them to Liv, who asked him, "what is this?", as she unfolded them.
"My friends, I'm sending all of you on a two week Caribbean cruise, with a split cabin, one for the kids that will be right next to yours. I paid for the tickets over my laptop last night. You have 24 hours to decide on a departure date. They won't refund my money, so you have to go. Just promise me that you won't have any more brats! I'm expecting for both of you lovebirds to go through the motions though!" Ha Ha. "And you'd better make love on this bed again too ... I insist!"
That happened 15 years ago. We still see Jack every three years or so. He's made us his family and always apologies for that practical joke every time he sees us. He's still pretty ornery, so Liv can be seen tossing a throw pillow at him from time to time.
I guess sometimes you have to give the "black sheep in the family" a little slack. even if they are adopted.