Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Bubble Bath, Part 12

Editor's Note: The Bubble Ship has departed Atlantic City, racing back to Philly. Terry and Bubbles are ensconced in the front set of the car, having had less alcohol than me and therefore in a more subdued mood. I have been banished to the back seat, where I am supposed to be blogging, and I am doing that from time to time. But I'm also singing. There are two reasons for my one-part harmony...

One, Bubbles does not have AC in her car. So the windows are down. Since we are traveling at roughly the speed of light, gale-force winds are whipping around in the back of the car, creating a nice sonic shield to muffle my warbling. I don't have to be anywhere near the right key, and no one will care. Two, singing is one of the few distractions I can think of to help me not ponder the fact that the evil wind is ripping the hair from my skull.

Eventually, we roll into Philly and other activities arise...

  First, we have to get beer.

  This is a primary directive in any successful social situation. There must be beer, preferably tons of it so that no one has to make that critical decision about whether or not to swipe the one remaining bottle in the otherwise empty refrigerator. Entire branches of my family no longer speak to one another specifically because someone made the wrong move with that last bottle. There are rules to follow. Perhaps someday I will distribute a brochure to my lesser friends who don’t understand this.

  Anyway, we’re searching for beer, and there are some complications. The most obvious setback is that Terry and I don’t live in Philly. We have no idea where to procure brewskis. Since it is Philadelphia, the natural assumption is that beer surely must be freely available, once one figures out where to get it. We must now depend on our friend Bubbles, especially since she is navigating the rocket ship.

  Trouble is, Bubbles is not well-versed in beer obtainment. Not that she’s not familiar with alcohol, by any means, she just prefers the harder stuff that she can sip while entertaining her guests. She does not indulge in guzzling as the boys from Texas do. So she only knows where to find the hard liquor. Complicating this is the timing issue. There are different hours of availability for liquor and for beer. Bubbles can tell you the precise second when you can no longer score a bottle of gin. She doesn’t have the faintest idea about the deadline for longnecks.

  It is, however, starting to get late. The general consensus is that the beer deadline, whatever it may be, is surely approaching. Decisions must be made. I put aside my netbook with the latest blog draft, something about how lonely my hand is when it’s not holding a chilled bottle, and try to assist in the search for grain-based intoxicants.

  As mentioned, I am not familiar with the area. But it sure seems to me that we are zipping past several establishments that could possibly satisfy our needs. Then again, I am not familiar with any of these store names. I don’t want to holler out a suggestion, only to find that we have turned into the parking lot of an acupuncturist with a fondness for neon Budweiser signs.

  Suddenly, Bubbles spies a venue that meets her needs, and we rocket across several lanes filled with death-cars. She slams the vehicle to a halt and leaps out. She and Terry thunder inside the small convenience store. I climb out of the floorboard and back onto the seat, removing the netbook from my ear, where it had lodged when Bubbles violently terminated all velocity. Initially, I decide to just wait patiently. I’m sure the two of them have the skill set required to adequately complete the purchase.

  Time ticks, and I start to get concerned. Why is it taking so long? Something must be amiss.

  Then I start surveying my surroundings. Have we managed to pull up to a colorful crack house of some kind? Is there a possibility of drive-by violence and irritated people performing rude hand gestures? Perhaps I should investigate. Stealthily, of course. No sense in walking up to that guy standing on the corner over there, asking “Is this the type of place where people get killed?”, as if I were interested in being serviced in that way.

  The door to the store suddenly pops open, and Bubbles trots forth. She comes up to my window. “Do you think a 12-pack will be enough?”

  Good Lord, woman, are you insane? “We need at least a case.” (Only because no one should be forced to make that last-beer decision, you understand. I’m just looking at it from an etiquette perspective, of course.)

  Bubbles nods her head. Got it. Then she adds “It’s packed in there. They stop selling at ten.” Then she turned and dove back into the apparent melee.

  I glanced at my netbook. 9:50p. Holy cow. The drama that would have erupted if we’d been forced to head back to Bubbles’ place empty-handed. I craned my neck to get a better look inside the store, and could see Bubbles and Terry, clutching items, way at the back of a line. I had some time to kill. Great. I could get a smoke in before the rocket ship lifted off once more.

  And I could watch the desperation and mayhem as the local citizenry raced to beat the beer deadline. There’s a dark side of me that enjoys watching panic-stricken people take extraordinary steps to feed their addictions, especially when my own habit-provisions are already relatively secure and en route to my waiting arms. It’s fun.

  And these people did not disappoint me.

  I had barely stepped out of the car when this pickup truck, that couldn’t possibly still be running but somehow was, basically jumped the curb, sailed through the air, and slid to a halt about two inches from my nose. My jaw hadn’t even stopped dropping before the two occupants were out of the truck, bumping into each other as they ran toward the store, and knocking over a newspaper box as they vanished inside. One of them let out a celebratory squeal of triumph as the door closed.

  Well, then. Perhaps I should be making my performance appraisal from a safer location. Such as back in Texas.

  I walked slightly around the side of the building, to a little area where motorcycles and bikes could park. These modes of transport were smaller and I had a better chance of survival. I really didn’t relish the thought of being massacred by another airborne pickup, my last sounds on Earth being the rattle of empty beer cans in the truck bed.

  Once positioned, I lit my cigarette, and things were instantly better, because that’s how nicotine works. Almost instantly, several previously-unnoticed shadowy figures began appearing from other parts of the parking lot, wandering my direction.

  Terrific. I just wanted a quick smoke. I really wasn’t interested in the bonus plan where I get accosted and/or utilized in nefarious means for someone else’s entertainment.

  I considered my options. I could scream and run into the store, but that seemed a little excessive. I could jump back in the car, but since all the windows were down, these cretins could still lunge through the openings like Cujo after Dee Wallace Stone. (And Bubbles would not appreciate the stains on her upholstery.) Or I could just stand there. And I really wanted to finish my cigarette.

  Two of the figures broke off from the shadowy pack and stepped forward into the light from a nearby pole…

Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series.

Click Here to read this story from the beginning.

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