Writing at the Ledges  | Mid-Michigan Authors & Poets

Deleted Scene #1 – Driving Crazy

This scene was written as a stand-alone story, but I wrote it with the intention of putting it in the book at around page 39. During one of the edits, I decided it didn’t really fit, so I removed it and added the “Slug Bug” scene, which is displayed here as Excerpt #2.

Though it doesn’t propel the storyline,  it does give a bit of insight into both of the main characters. I read this to Writing at the Ledges a few months back, and they enjoyed it as a stand-alone story. So I offer it here for your amusement. (PS – Some of this story is taken from my real life adventures. Try to guess which bits are real…)

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Man, I hadn’t been on a road trip in such a long time, I’d forgotten how utterly boring so much of it could be. We’d activated the quintessential road games, like Slug Bug, which we stopped quickly because neither of us liked bruises, and License Plate, which grew repetitive. So I started us on a game I invented a few years back on a trip to visit Mom in Florida. We both counted the number of Waffle Houses we saw, each of us keeping our own running tally. On my Florida trip, I counted over 115 Waffle Houses on I-75. In this version of the game, whoever spotted it first got to count it. We saw a lot of ‘em, even some cities where they had Waffle Houses across from each other. At least that way, we both got a point.

But after a while, that also became boring and tedious, and I kept losing count. I had taken to making hash-marks on my hand with a pen low on ink, and it hurt more than a little.

Looking over at Austin, half-asleep at the wheel, I figured I’d better do something to revitalize us both. “Hey bud, I got something to pass the time. Tell me a story, something that happened in your life that I know nothing about, and I’ll do the same.”

He turned and looked at me with a queer expression plastered upon his face. “Jay, buddy, We’ve been friends forever. I highly doubt I got a story you haven’t heard. Why, you got one?”

Grinning sheepishly, I replied, “In fact, I do. This one took place back in the late 80s, 87 or 88. I was still attending college at LCC. By about this time, I had really grown sick of school. In the middle of my degree for computer programming, I came to realize how much I hated programming.”

“Yeah, I remember how angry you’d get when the program wouldn’t run right. You broke a lot of keyboards.”

I chuckled softly at the memory. “True. But still, at that point, I toiled on. Actually, the only fun class I had that semester was Creative Writing. Being in my ‘I need to be different’ stage, I used to go to class wearing an old, ratty, full-length brown jacket. This duster had three mismatched buttons and it hung really low. But I had some heavy, brown boots that could only barely be seen sticking out under the duster. And to top off this ensemble, I donned a gray wide-brimmed hat, kinda like a cowboy hat, but more along the lines of what they wore back in the 50s. Just a cool hat, y’know?”

“Huh. You must’ve been quite a sight. Seems odd I never saw you in this getup.”

“Eh, I only wore it to class, and occasionally to parties. But I wore it, and particularly the hat, to almost every class. I only went without it a couple of times, and it would cause quite the uproar. People got so used to me in that hat that they’d comment about how different I looked without it. It amused me, and I guess that’s all that mattered.” I paused momentarily, to smile at the memory. These days, I highly doubt I’d have the guts to be that different in public, but man, I had no fear at that age. I continued, “But one night after class, a pretty young woman named Claudia came up to me as I packed up my stuff to leave. She had an exotic beauty, a mix of cultures that gave her dark, flawless skin and long black hair. We had conversed a few times before, so I already knew all about her ex-Marine boyfriend and their on-again, off-again relationship. So when she invited me over to her place after class, I was intrigued, but understandably skeptical.”

“Yeah, I would hope so,” Austin said.  “You were even skinnier and scrawnier back then.”

“True. But she made sure I knew he would be there, as would a couple other friends. It was just a friendly get-together. So, I followed her to her house, out in the country a ways. When we got there, she introduced me to her boyfriend William, seated on the couch with one other couple. William had only left the Marines a year before, so he still had the look and the attitude. He kept his hair tightly cropped and his muscles tightly packed. Still, he seemed friendly enough, shaking my hand with an overly firm grip. Once I wiggled free from his grasp, I said my hellos to the other couple, a clearly hippie-esque pair named Ernie and Lisa. They both wore tie-dye shirts and sported long hair, his brown hair touching his belt while her blonde locks ended in the middle of her back. Ernie looked a bit rough to me. He had a fair amount of stubble on his face, and had the appearance of a man who had not slept for several days. And Lisa looked, well, messed up. Actually, they both looked like they had been partying for quite some time. William offered me a … Waffle House!”

“What?”

Pointing, I said, “There’s a Waffle House up that hill.”

“That’s not fair, you distracted me!”

“Hey, I’m the one telling the story here, and I still saw it.”

Austin snorted his disapproval. “Fine. You get the point.”

“I know. Anyway, William offered me a drink. They had apparently been working on Relski Vodka for hours before we arrived, and were well into their second fifth.”

“Relski?” Austin shuddered involuntarily. “Oh lord, I remember that cheap, horrible Vodka. The hangovers we’d get on that stuff were legendary!”

“Oh yeah, that was to come. But for now, I didn’t want to be antisocial and besides, it being a Friday, I didn’t have class for a couple days. I could sleep it off. So, William poured me a huge, strong glass of Relski, and orange Kool-Aid of all things, and I drank it greedily.

“I started on my second glass, enjoying the conversation with William and Claudia while we played cards at the kitchen table. Ernie and Lisa, well, they were kinda in their own world, sitting across the room on the couch arguing with one another. It seemed rather surreal to me, the military man being so calm and peaceful while the two colorfully clad, longhaired members of our little party screamed horrible insults at each other. And I do mean screamed. I tried my best to tone them out, but as they became more heated, it became harder to do so.

“Finally, when their yelling reached a crescendo, William stood up and started walking over to them. I glanced at Claudia, and she had the tiniest of smiles on her face, so I figured this had to be a regular occurrence. The Friday Night Fight, I reckon.

“It was at that moment when Hippie Lisa leaped from the couch, picked up a vase with some really pretty wildflowers in it, and smashed it right into the side of Ernie’s head. Flowers, glass and blood flew all over the room as Ernie stumbled backwards and crashed into the entertainment center. He hit it with enough force that everything on it, books, glass figurines and even the small, portable TV cascaded from it and clattered to the floor in all directions. The TV, when it fell, barely missed Ernie’s head and landed squarely in his lap as he plopped down onto his butt.”

“Good lord!” Austin screamed. “Sounds like a nightmare! What’d you do in all of this?”

“Whatdya think I did? Waffle House! I get that point.” Austin glared at me, and I continued. “Anyway, I just sat there. I couldn’t leave, since this was all happening right next to the door. Besides, I didn’t want to look timid in front of Claudia, who, to her credit, didn’t seem all that taken aback by the situation. She looked at me and shrugged, so I just kept on drinking and watching. So anyway, Lisa continued to pick up things from around her and throw them at Ernie, who used the TV to block the projectiles. William, who stood there watching and actually laughing for a few more moments, finally walked up behind Lisa and put her in a Full Nelson headlock. You’ve seen it on wrestling shows before, I’m sure.”

“Oh yeah, of course.”

“Well, she was just thrashing around with all of her might, trying to break the military man’s hold. But clearly, William had put others in a Full Nelson before. Besides, he probably had at least 100 pounds of muscle on her, so she couldn’t wiggle free. This gave Ernie a chance to get up, after setting the TV down on the floor next to him. He touched his face, noticed the blood trickling down his cheek, and got even angrier. He walked right up to her, put his nose an inch from hers, and yelled directly into her face, ‘You stupid woman! You can deny it all you want, you can hurt me all you want, but I know you’re cheating on me! Confess!’”

Austin let loose with a, “Whoa.”

“It gets better. At that moment, she reared her head back and headbutted Ernie squarely on the bridge of the nose. Even from across the room, I could hear the sharp crack of his nose breaking. The man staggered backward, holding his nose with both hands, and again slammed into the entertainment center. The few remaining items showered onto the floor. He crumpled to the ground, sobbing softly. All the while Lisa, still thoroughly subdued by the ex-Marine, stood there laughing. Finally, she blurted out, ‘Okay fine, ya dumb old fool. Yes, I’ve been cheating on you.’ The whole room became very quiet. Ernie squinted up at her, still holding his bleeding nose, and quietly asked her who.”

“Really?” Austin asked.  “What’d she say?”

“Waffle House!”

“Dang it, Jay. Stop that!”

“I think I’m five ahead of ya. Anyway, at that moment, the big guy let her go. After shaking her arms a bit, to get some feeling back in them, she tossed a thumb over her shoulder and casually replied, ‘The guy over there in the hat. He’s really good, too.’ Then she turned and winked at me.”

“Good lord!” Austin paused momentarily before adding, “Uh, you weren’t, were you?”

“No, dude. I just met them, remember?”

“I know. Just checking.”

“I’m no home wrecker. But anyway, after this little announcement, I jumped up quickly, but after two really strong Relski and Kool-aids, I plopped back down into my seat. Fortunately for me, the hippie wasn’t fairing any better. Glaring at me through blackening eyes, he starting yelling for my head. But since he had a tight grip on his nose, trying to get the bleeding under control, it came out all nasally-sounding. ‘I’ll kill you, you bastard! I’ll kill you!’ Which actually, under different circumstances, would’ve been hilarious.”

“I see. So, not the peace-loving type of hippie, I take it?”

“Apparently not. Of course, for my part, I was denying it left and right. ‘Dude,’ I told him, ‘I just met you people today. She’s clearly messing with you.’  I looked at her and asked her why she would say such a thing. She just shrugged and laughed some more. The others found the whole thing quite amusing, which just blew my mind.

“At that moment, Ernie managed to pull himself to his feet and began staggering toward me, arms outstretched. Well, only his right arm was outstretched, since his left hand was busy pinching his nose shut. I finally managed to get myself up but since he still stood between me and the front door, I dashed into the bathroom. I stood there for a minute, panicking and hyperventilating, listening to the mad man beating ferociously on the door.”

“Sheesh! So what did you do next?”

“Once I overcame my panic, I looked around the bathroom. I kept picking up useless items as weapons, brandishing a toothbrush like a knife, then the hair dryer, holding it like a ray gun. But then, I noticed the window. Fortunately, it was just big enough for me to wiggle through. I did so, ran around the front, all ready to jump in my car and leave.  Small problem, though. I left my coat, along with my keys, on the coatrack in the house.”

“Uh-oh!”

“Yeah, uh-oh. Well, I stood shivering in the snow for a couple minutes, but I knew what I had to do. I went up to the front door and opened it as quietly as I could. Fortunately, the coatrack sat right next to the door, so a quick escape had possibilities. Also fortunately, the Incredible Hippie was so focused on beating down the bathroom door that he didn’t see me right off. Everybody else did, and they all smiled broadly.

“When I grabbed the coat, I didn’t clear the coatrack, and it tumbled to the floor, clattering on the linoleum. Of course, that finally alerted him to my presence, and he turned and came at me. But I had a good enough head start, so I dashed to my car, got it started and sped off.”

Austin looked at me through bewildered eyes. “Dude, that’s insane. Did anything ever come of all that?”

“The weird thing was, the next time I had class with Claudia, she said hello casually, but never brought up the situation. She didn’t even grin or look at me funny. No outward appearance at all, so I decided not to say a word about it. Heck, maybe I imagined the whole thing, or it was a drunken hallucination. Who knows. But she never brought it up, I never asked and I never did get another invite. Not that I would’ve gone.”

“Huh. That’s a bizarre story, Jay. Waffle House. That’s mine.”

Chuckling softly, I replied, “Good for you. So, you got anything for me? A wild adventure?”

“Let me think on that.” Austin sat silent for several minutes before he looked over at me and grinned. “Yeah, I do, as a matter of fact. Did I ever tell you about the time I stole a Big Boy from the restaurant parking lot?”

“No, I don’t believe you have.”

“Well, believe it or not, I used to hang out with a wild crowd. Well, wild for a bunch of DND nerds.”

“Oh right, I forgot about your Dungeons and Dragons days. You really got into that for a while.”

“Uh-huh. We’d get all liquored up and play for a few hours. Most times, we’d go our separate ways afterward. But occasionally, specifically when Bobby Gibson would show up, we’d do all sorts of wild things.”

I had to think about that name for a moment. “Bobby Gibson… Yeah, I don’t know him.”

“Nah, you wouldn’t. I met him through friends of friends. I suppose you’d call him the instigator of most of our weirder escapades.  Seemed like every time he came to DND, I’d wake up the next day with a hangover and a YIELD sign in my room, or with my hands all black and stinging.”

“What?”

“Heh. Yeah. We’d go into the park sometimes and shoot bottle rockets at stuff, oncoming cars, each other, that sort of thing. Apparently, the more I drank, the more often I’d forget to let go of the bottle rocket, and it’d blow up a few inches from my hand. It would leave a painful, sooty mark on my fingers.”

“I see.”

“Anyway, on this night, we played well past midnight, and polished off a fifth of, I dunno, something. Probably Relski. But we were definitely hammered. And Bobby suddenly decided he had the munchies, so Me, Bobby and Mel, remember Mel?”

Thinking a moment, I replied, “Uh, that the really ugly guy?”

Austin shrugged. “Sure, let’s go with that. So we three cruised around for a while, not being terribly safe in Mel’s beat-up old pickup truck. Basically, driving like drunken idiots. But we eventually ended up at the Big Boy in East Lansing. We got our grub on, basically annoying the crap outta the wait staff, until they kicked us out just before closing time. As we were leaving, Bobby and Mel became fixated on the Big Boy statue-thing out in front of the place. It was one of the big ones, like six-feet tall and made of a fairly dense plastic, or something. Mel stood there, doing all sorts of unnatural things to it.”

“Oh! That Mel! Sure, I could see that. He was a freak.”

“Indeed. But Bobby asked him if he wanted it to take home. Of course, Mel didn’t have to think about that one at all. So, they started unbolting the thing from the ground. I didn’t want anything to do with it, so I went back to the truck and sat in the passenger seat. Apparently, I fell asleep, passed out, whatever.”

“Sounds convenient.”

“Well, you might think so, until I woke up the next morning, in Mel’s barn, spooning Big Boy. They took all sorts of pictures and wouldn’t let me live it down for months.”

“So, you didn’t actually help steal Big Boy.”

Smirking, he replied, “Well, not technically, I guess, but I was an accomplice. I was complicit in the crime.”

“That’s funny. I always wondered what happened to that Big Boy. It took the restaurant months to replace it. So, what ever happened to the stolen Big Boy?”

“No clue. Mel stopped coming to DND not too long after that. I just hope the two of them had a good life together.”

I had to laugh out loud. “I can picture the wedding announcement. Well, that was fun, Austin. I only have one more thing to say about that. Waffle House!”

“Grrr! I’ll get the next one.”

(C) 2015 by Randy D Pearson
All rights reserved

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