Chapter Two: On the road again. or- I hafta go baffroom!!! Ariel contemplates just how the three of them wound up pulling an all-nighter driving to Miami...
“Well, you do have a point there. But, in all honesty, when you go off on one of your ‘business trips’, I guess we’re just supposed to sit back and wait with baited breath for your return? I don’t think so. We were invited by the ONLY two friends you actually approve of me having to go to the beach with them. Suzi has been begging, no, pleading you to take us all summer. So, I said we’d go. What’s the big deal?” I was through explaining myself to the controlling arrogant bastard. Let him stew by himself for a couple of days. It’ll do him good. “Come on Suzi, got your beach stuff?” I yell out to her from our room, as I finish stuffing the last of my clothes into my bag and zip it up.
“Yeah mom! We’re gonna build a BIG castle, aren’t we?” She waltzed into our bedroom, and after looking at her dad’s face, she stopped dead in her tracks. “Daddy? What’s the matter? We can go to the beach with Unca Roy and Aunt Leeni, right?” The worry lines on her face showed that she wasn’t too sure, and it tugged at my heart, because I wasn’t too sure myself at that point.
Jake, who at 6’4” towered over us both, kneeled down to her level.”Sure sweetie. I hope you both have the time our your lives.” With that, he glared at me as he stormed out of the room, and I heard the front door slam, as he left the house. No hugs or kisses. Little did I know then, he was storming out of our lives forever.
The four of us had a wonderful week at the beach. Growing up, I always spent my summers at my grandparents in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, so my opinion of the local beaches were slightly skewed. Even so, the weather was perfect. Little Suzi squealed with delight at burying “Unca Roy” in the sand.
All the while, Leeni was watching me watch them, and with one sideward glance, she said, “I know honey. It should be JAKE doing that. But, we all know his life is SO much more IMPORTANT.”
Thru the tears, I could only laugh. “Yeah, because right now, HE’D be getting a bucketful of water on his head from me!”
Later on in the week, Roy even endured a night of Olsen Twins movies (ooo, poor guy!) and popcorn, so that Caroline could take me out and ‘get her good and plastered and hopefully laid’. Such tact from my best friend! That’s what happened tho, at least the good and plastered part. The Purple Moose was having a ‘Ladies’ Nite’ and the shots were flowing. But, in the end, we only helped each other stumble home along the boardwalk, giggling like the two drunken over-grown girls we were.
“Hey daydream believer! Wake up. We’re gonna be stopping for gas and some food soon.” Roy’s bellow startled me back to the present. I stretched and wiped the sleepies out of my eyes.
“Sorry guys, but last night I didn’t get much sleep, and with Suzi getting up to nudge that damn rooster again, I needed that power nap.” Looking out the window of the car gave me a split second of vertigo. “Hey Dale, how fast you got this pegged? And, where the hell are we?!” I said this as I scooted up in between the front seats and leaned onto the armrests, looking at Roy, the wanna be Nascar Racer.
“Uh, oh shit. Did it again. This thing feels like its on rails, and when you don’t pay attention, before you know it, you’re doing 105, like now.” Insert sheepish grin here. “As for where we are, almost to the NC line. Once we’re in the Carolina, I figure we’ll stop for a gas-n-go. Sound good?”
Caroline piped in, never opening her eyes, “As long as there’s coffee and a clean toilet, not necessarily in that order, OK.” I give her a hug, knowing she is really not liking this drive.
“Sweetie, you know if we could’ve gotten plane tickets, we would’ve. But, since this is the best we can do on limited time, sit back and enjoy the ride. I know! Let’s play stupid signs-” The look I got out of that half-opened eyelid stopped me cold.”-or not.” I slunk back into the seat and remained quiet for all of, oh, ten seconds.”Are we there yet?” I quipped.
“No.” Leeni snapped.
Ten more seconds. “I gotta go baffroom” I half whined in my best Little Suzi imitation.
Leeni turned in her seat, and smiled.”Then you’d better hold it, huh?” and threw a cheezits at me.
I was sitting at my desk, contemplating how many years one would get for bludgeoning their boss with a red swing line stapler (yes, I have a red swing line….ANY fan of ‘Office Space’ does!!), when I got the first frantic call from Caroline.
“Good afternoon” (It was 10:30 in the morning, but who’s keeping track?) “Kupp’s Insurance, how may I help you?” I got into automatic professional monotone.
“Oh jeez Ari, what do I do now??!!!” Leeni’s voice was pleading with me on the other end of the line. “George’s girlfriend just called me collect from the hospital in Miami! They were in some sort of accident and he has to have surgery! I gotta get down there – my baby NEEDS me!” She was in hysterics, so I GUESSED that was what she said in between sobs.
“Calm down. Where are you now? You aren’t driving, are you?” I go into’ Super Friend with a Calm Head’ mode.
“No, I’m still at work. Roy’s at lunch, so I can’t leave until he gets back with the car. We rode together today.” Roy and Leeni both work at the same car dealership, just different departments.
“Ok, wait there. I’ll start calling the airlines, but just in case, you check the trains and if all else fails, we’ll drive.”
“Oh hon, you can’t drop everything and tag along! What about Little Suzi?” She stopped the sobbing, but there’s still the panic in her voice.
“Don’t worry about that, I’ve got it covered. And of course I’m going. You have been there for me enough in the past three years, I’d be a bad best friend if I didn’t. Now, let me make those calls, and I’ll get right back to you, okay?”
Leeni sniffles, then says, “thank you.”
After calling all the major (and some not so major) airlines for availability and rates, I call her back. “Honey, we are so SOL on taking a plane. What’s the word on the train?”
“Roy’s just renting a car. The train’ll take twice as long as to drive ourselves, and we’d still have to rent a car once we get there. We’re leaving today around five, is that too early for you?” She sounded better, but still upset.
“Nope. I’m leaving work now, and the BattleAxe is picking up Suzi. I’ll be ready.” I mentally calculated what needed to be done at home. “Yeah, 5ish is good. Do you want me to meet you at your place?”
"Nah, we’ll pick you up. The rental’s at the airport.” She sounded resigned to driving.
“How’s the Waffle House sound? There’s a gas station right next door as well.” Roy asked, as we got off I95 somewhere in North Carolina.
“Good to me. Hey what time is it?” Leeni started to put her shoes back on, and rummaged around on the floorboard for her purse. “Just hurry, cause I really need to pee, NOW.”
“Ok, here, I’m parking, and it’s a little after 1am.” Roy parked, and even before the engine was off, Leeni was running into the building.
“Well, I guess she’s gotta go, huh?” I laugh, as Roy and I get out of the car and stretch.”You want me to take a turn at driving yet?” Roy has this thing, where he is Mr. Macho, and feels the need to drive the whole way, no matter WHERE we’re going or how far our destination; even though I can tell he’s dead tired.
He comes over and hugs me for a long minute. I swear, if this man wasn’t my best friends’ and he wasn’t my best friend, I’d jump him in a heartbeat. “Roy, I honestly don’t know how you put up with us both,” I say into his chest as I start to pull away from his wonderful hug. Geez, he really feels good! I need to get LAID, and soon, before I throw him onto the trunk of this car and attack him right here and now, damn the fact that I’d be losing both of my best friends, no, scratch that, both of my ONLY friends.
“Well, I figure it like this – Leeni is the love of my life. She’s been thru way more than one woman should in a lifetime. She’s happy, so I’m happy. I’d be even happier if you’d both just strip nekkid for me to have my way with you-“
“ROY!” I exclaimed in mock surprise, knowing what I was just thinking.
“Hey, a guy can fantasize, right?” He smiled at me, but his eyes said what he was thinking. “Let’s go grab some grub and get back on the road.”
We head into the Waffle House, and straight into Hicksville, USA. Or maybe it was Mayberry. Either way, we were definitely not in Baltimore anymore.
I hadn’t laughed that hard in a very long time. All three of us, as a matter of fact. Standing at the counter of the Waffle House, waiting for our to go order, we were dumbstruck by what transpired in front of us. First, Roy was momentarily stunned into silence when the waitress asked him what he wanted on his hash browns.
“I didn’t know I had a selection,” was his only answer.
“Why sure sugar. We got cheese, syrup, grits, crumbled bacon, crumbled sausage, and gravy. Now, that’s both chicken gravy and brown gravy.” The waitress smirks at us as she rattles off the list of options.
“Uh, just ketchup, please.” Roy shrugs at us, as he gave his answer.
“Ketchup?”the waitress wrinkles her nose.”Ya’ll aren’t from around here, are ya?” She looks at Roy for a second, shrugs, and turns around to put our orders in.
Just then, a fight breaks out between two drunken rednecks in the corner. Something about it being the bigger ones’ favorite stool at the counter, and the little one knowing it, but still sat there anyhow. The night manager calls the cops, even warns the two that she did. They just keep on cussing at each other and shoving each other off the stool, like a musical chair game gone to the dark side. By the time our food was ready and paid for, the cops show up, billyclubs and blackjacks ready in hand, so we decide to hang back and watch the show instead of leaving. I almost spewed a mouthful of coffee all over Leeni when head macho man cop says to the big redneck, “Boy, yous best jus git!” and escorts him outside by the collar of his tee shirt.
“Oh my god! If all this went down at the Honey Bee, the tazers would’ve been working overtime, and they’d all be arrested by now,” Leeni exclaims thru her giggles to the waitress.
“Well now sugar, ya’ll are in the south now. Things get done differently around these parts. Besides, those two were brothers, and they have the same darned fight at least three times a week. The owner is seriously thinking of carving their names onto two of the stools over there, so they’ll know where to sit each time.” With that, she smiles, and goes off to help another customer.
That’s when we made our exit, laughing all the way to the car with tears in our eyes, and holding our sides. Roy let Leeni take the next leg of driving, and after stopping to fill the tank on the behemoth, she drove straight thru South Carolina and Georgia. When we stopped at the roadside rest area near Jacksonville, Florida it was almost sunrise.
A change of clothes later, with our teeth and hair brushed, Leeni and I head out of the bathroom to the car when we realized Roy is nowhere to be found. “NOW where did he go?” Leeni asked.
Looking around, I spot him on the other side of the parking lot, watching something in the drainage pond between the highway and the rest stop. “Whatcha lookin at Roy?” I yell as I start to walk over.
“There’s gators in there. I’m gonna get me a gator,” was he reply, very seriously.
“Come on – we’ll get you a gator later,” dragging him back to the car. “You’re up front with me sweetheart. Let Leeni get some sleep in back. I’ll drive from here.”
The drive from Jacksonville to Miami was quick, considering I was averaging 95 to 105 mph. Roy was right, the dang car rode on rails ! Note to self: must find out how much one of these cost. Somewhere past the exit to Daytona, we watched a Corvette, heading the other way, burst into flames and pull over on the side of the road. “ OOOOO – car-b-que! What a shame.” I laughed when Roy said that.
We saw someone in a yellow Piper Cub taking flying lessons. They were close enough to the orange grove on the side of the highway that we could see the two people’s faces as they banked left to fly over 95 to go back up the other side. Roy was in heaven, like a kid in a candy store with a crisp new twenty dollar bill.
Once in Miami, I drove straight to the hospital and dropped off Leeni and Roy at the front entrance. “How long do you think we’ll be staying? I’ll go get us rooms at the nearest nicest looking hotel.”
Leeni hugs me as she replies, “I have no idea. Probably be best to make it at least a week. Let’s start with that.”
“Righty-o. He’s going to be alright. I’ll be back as soon as I can. Where should I look for ya’ll?”
“We’ll leave word at the front desk, I’m not sure yet myself. Last I heard, he was in ICU.” Leeni starts getting teary-eyed.
“Roy, get her in there to her baby, now-“
“-I know, before we have to admit her as well,” Roy finished my sentence for me as he leads her thru the sliding entrance doors. With that, I take off to search for a hotel that won’t break the bank. Like that’s gonna happen in Miami. Oh well.