Wednesday, February 9, 2011

COMMON GROUND "The Toilet Seat" - Part 4

He sat the phone in the middle of the table. The three of them sat staring at it, mesmerized as if they’d never seen anything like it, before it finally went silent.

The silence brought relief to the people sitting at tables near them; Max, Miller and Nicholas had been unaware of the daggers being shot at them from the staring eyes of their table neighbors. It hadn't occurred to any one of them to mute the ringer or even “ignore” the call. They sat staring at the now silent phone, spellbound by it's existence and waiting to see if it vibrated then blinked to alert them that Meghan had left a voice mail.

The anticipation could be cut with a knife. They were barely breathing. An outside observer would have done a double take upon first glance at their table just to see what had the three men occupying it so entranced.

Then it happened; the phone vibrated and the red voice mail alert light began to blink. They continued to stare, transfixed. To reach out and touch the phone was like voluntarily sticking your tongue in a light socket.

Max picked up the phone and pressed the button to connect him to his voice mail. He listened.

Miller was still hung up on the fact that he hadn’t washed his hands when Nicholas had pulled him out of the bathroom.

“Do you think I have time to go wash my hands?” he leaned over and whispered to Nicholas.

“No,” Nicholas responded sharply without taking his eyes from Max. He was watching for any change in Max’s demeanor as an indication of what Meghan may have said on the voice mail. The least of his concerns at the moment were Miller’s unwashed hands.

Max made no facial movements at all while listening to the voice mail.

“Okay. All right. Here,” Max was a bit agitated. “Just to give you an example.” Max put the phone on speaker and replayed the message. There were no words, just noises.

“What is that?” asked Miller again confused by what was going on. He cocked his head like a dog hearing a high-pitched squeak and leaned in a little toward the phone.

Nicholas for some reason figured it out immediately. Maybe it was because he had heard the same sound moments before when he’d walked into the bathroom to find Miller.

Nicholas looked at Miller and over pronounced the letters “O. C. D.” in a loud whisper in an effort to help him understand what he was hearing instead of blatantly stating it.

Miller’s face suddenly changed as he realized what it was. “Oh,” he said almost aghast. Then thinking about it again he grimaced and repeated, “Oh,” with a disgusted look on his face. He couldn’t believe that Meghan had actually left a voice mail on Max’s phone of herself lifting and putting down the toilet seat. She was crazy.

“I can’t go home,” said Max, as he started to freak out a little. “I can never go home again.” He waited a beat then tagged on, “I’m homeless.”

“You’re not homeless,” said Miller, surprised at his quick response and levelheaded disposition under pressure. He was the one prone to overly dramatic exaggeration, yet here he was reeling Max in from the ledge. “You can stay with us. Right, Nicholas?” Miller looked at Nicholas for a response.

“Of course you can stay with us,” said Nicholas as he reached out and placed his hand on top of Max’s. “You can stay as long as you need to.”

Miller looked at Nicholas's hand on top of Max's and, being filter free due to the amount of tequila he had consumed, reached out and removed Nicholas's hand from atop Max's as he said, "You know you shouldn't be doing that. Remember college?"

Nicholas tutted as he sat back in his seat and crossed his arms. Miller placed his own hand on top of Max's.

"I can hold his hand in his time of homelessness. I never had a crush on him like you. This means nothing to me," said Miller as nonchalantly as ordering another drink.

Nicholas inhaled sharply then rolled his eyes as he released a deep breath of annoyance.

“Really?” said Nicholas, surprised at how Miller’s choice of words rolled off of his tongue.

“What?” asked Miller in the same nonchalant voice.

Max started to laugh as he reached up with his free hand and slapped Miller's to get him to move it.

Miller started to laugh. He looked over at Nicholas who still had the scowl of child whose feelings had been hurt on his face. He reached over and took Nicholas’s hand and in his best smoky noir femme fatale voice said, “I didn’t mean to leave you out, lover.”

Nicholas couldn’t keep a straight face. Whether it was the alcohol or the fact that what Miller had said was actually funny, he couldn’t keep from laughing.

“We’ll go over to your apartment while Meghan is at work and help you clear out your stuff,” said Miller to Max as a plan of attack started to formulate in his tequila-drowned mind.

“We’ll take the toilet seat too,” responded Max, proud of his idea. He had somehow turned into an evil mastermind floating without a life preserver down the tequila river where common sense sinks like a stone.

Responding as if he hadn’t consumed as much alcohol as the other two, “We’re not taking the toilet seat,” Nicholas blurted out looking at Max like he was stupid.

“Well then at least let me leave it up,” said Max in an effort to give another option of deviousness just to screw with Meghan’s mind.

“And I thought I was obsessive,” said Miller more to himself than to the other two.

“We should have one more round,” said Max, his scheming side kicked into high gear by his thoughts of what he could do the Meghan.

Having the sense to realize that they should stop now, Miller and Nicholas shouted “No!” at the same time.

Shocked by their outburst, Max finished what was left of his margarita, pouted for just a second then slowly stood up from the table. “I’ll go settle up then.” He checked his balance by carefully letting go of the table. The room was gently spinning, but his legs held. He walked in the direction of the bar in search of Jillian, only staggering once.

©2011 Michael Rohrer