Tuesday, February 22, 2011

COMMON GROUND "The Toilet Seat" - Part 6

Miller and Max didn’t so much burst through the door as stumble through it. Miller pushed the door open so hard that it hit the wall and bounced back at him. Max managed to catch the door before it hit the blissfully ignorant Miller in the face.

Their hearts were pounding. The blood was rushing. The alcohol, fear and dizziness combined to create a freaked-out effect.

They were looking everywhere for Nicholas. The sidewalk was deserted as well as the street. The only sound they could hear was the rattle of the bus stop sign just up the sidewalk being shaken by the breeze.

“Where is he,” cried out Miller.

“I’m seeing the same thing you are, Miller. I don’t know,” replied Max as he looked down the street for a car that might be driving hurriedly away.

“Don’t yell at me, Max,” said Miller, his feelings a little hurt.

Max didn’t hear Miller as he had walked to the corner to look down the side street that connected to Tremont.

“Look for his shoes.” Miller’s mind was showing him a scene of Nicholas being knocked out of his shoes by the break-screeching car.

“Oh my God,” Miller brought his hands up to his face. “He’s a hit and run victim,” Miller started rocking back and forth. “And he’s stuck under the car.” The alcohol allowed his senses to be extremely heightened so tears started down his cheeks. “That makes him a hit and drag victim.” He sat down on the sidewalk. “Max!”

As Max turned toward Miller’s shout he noticed smoke rising from the bench at the bus stop. He started walking in that direction and Miller thought he was coming to him so he reached up his arm for Max to help him up. Max ignored him and kept walking right past him.

“No, he’s just on fire,” Max said and then pursed his lips.

Miller looked over his shoulder at the direction Max was walking. He wrinkled his nose as his mouth dropped open in surprise.

“Nicholas,” said Max with disdain.

Miller managed to get himself onto all fours and slowly push himself up to a standing position. With nothing to hold onto he swayed and staggered in a jagged line to the bench.

Nicholas had actually been lying on the bench watching the comedy reel of his friends searching for him. He sat up as the two of them stared down at him.

“You guys were taking forever,” he said very blasé.

“It was just a matter of seconds,” answered Miller defensively, wiping tears from his face as he steadied himself by placing his right leg against the bench for support. He reached for and took the cigarette from Miller then took a puff.

“If a second lasts five minutes,” responded Nicholas snatching the cigarette back from Miller’s fingers.

“You could have at least made some kind of noise or something and let us know you were here,” said Miller reaching for the cigarette again, Nicholas changing hands to keep it away from him.

“I decided to enjoy my cigarette,” responded Nicholas.

“Oh, is that how it is?” said Miller with mock scrutiny.

“Ladies,” Max took the cigarette from Nicholas and stamped it out on the ground. He detested smoking and hated that his two best friends enjoyed it – especially when drinking.

Nicholas looked at Miller as if it was his fault that Max had stamped out the cigarette. Miller looked at Max as he sat down on the bench, arms crossed, mouth silent.

“I nominate myself leader.” Max said as he pulled them both to their feet. “All in favor.”

Miller and Nicholas looked at each other and in unison said, “Aye.”
With their brief foray into parliamentary procedure over, Miller said, “You should have been the leader from the beginning. ‘Follow Nicholas’ you said.”

Miller had tried to say the words low enough for Max’s ears only, but caught sight of Nicholas giving him the “I can’t believe you said that” headshake.

Miller looked at Nicholas and laughed nervously. Max started to laugh at both of them. They couldn’t really stay mad at each other for too long. They knew each other too well and trusted each other too much. Nicholas joined in the laughter.

“Let’s go. I gotta pee,” said Max.

“Me, too,” said Miller.

“Me, three,” said Nicholas as he continued to laugh.

Miller stopped laughing after Nicholas said ‘me, three.’

“I hate ‘me, three’,” said Miller

Nicholas stopped laughing for dramatic effect then began to laugh again, hard. Miller joined in as he put his arm through Nicholas’s and they started walking toward home: 20 Winchester Street in Bay Village.

Miller noticed that Nicholas was walking with a limp. He looked down at Nicholas’s shoeless right foot.

“Where’s your shoe?” asked Miller.

Nicholas looked down and realized for the first time that he only had one shoe on.

“Crap,” said Nicholas as he flounced off to get his shoe on the bench at the bus stop.

Miller and Max just stood there watching him stagger run to and from the bench. He was huffing when he got back to them with his shoe in hand.

“Why did you take your shoe off?” asked Max.

“My right foot was hurting so I took my shoe off when I sat down on the bench. Then I got distracted with smoking the cigarette and watching the two of you. Then you guys came over and berated me. I’m sorry, but there’s only so much I can keep straight in here,” indicating his head, “with the tequila keeping my pistons from firing at full power.”

“Berated?” asked Max as if the word were too harsh for what had actually happened.

“Criticized?” responded Nicholas slowly and wide-eyed as if they were playing Password.

Max nodded his acceptance of the word ‘criticized’.

“Why didn’t you put it back on while you were at the bench getting it?” asked Miller.

“Crap,” said Nicholas as he looked at the shoe in his hand.

He bent over and lifted his foot to put his shoe on and nearly toppled forward. Max and Miller caught him by the arms as he screamed out. The two of them were silently laughing so hard that their bodies were almost shaking too much to lower Nicholas to the ground so that he could put the shoe on without fear of falling.

When his shoe was tied, Nicholas threw his arms into the air as an indication for his friends, who had so gently set him on the ground, to graciously help him up from it.

Back on two feet he said, “Thank you,” to both of them.

“You’re welcome,” said Max.

“Yeah, you’re welcome,” said Miller. “A fall forward would have done nothing for your nose.”

Nicholas turned to look at Miller. Miller bit his lips to keep from laughing. Max moved to the middle between his two friends who wove their arms through his as the three of them turned left onto Stuart Street.

©2011 Michael Rohrer