I was in the wrong road-there ahead was the Wayan Bough Methodist Church. Distracted, I made a wrong turn somewhere. Or, maybe it was all the wine I drank last night that still haunted my head and body. And, of course, last night. I wished last night had never happened. What do I tell my wife?
Closing my eyes, I took a breath, hoping to calm my pounding heart and turned around to follow the road back. Turning left at the light, I made another left, and then another and finally, there it was- the supermarket.
As you can imagine, I just wanted to get this over with. Moving as quickly as possible, I went from aisle to aisle, picking out what I needed. I promised myself that I would just go home, grab a beer, and go to bed before doing anything else.
Then, at the check stand, I found, to my horror, that I had Bud Fermata’s wallet! It was his driver’s license and credit cards in my hands – and it was his money I used to pay for the groceries.
Oh, God, my stomach turned. Last night would not let me go! I ran to my car, put the groceries in the trunk, and sat gripping the steering wheel trying to understand.
The day before began with a local convention of T-Bone franchises that, by evening, turned into company parties and such. My team stayed the latest, talking and telling stories. It turns out Bud was the star of the show. He was full of anecdotes and quips – you could hear his voice over all the others. I learned some things you don’t hear at BBQs and executive meetings.
All in all, I think we all had a good time, at least to that point. No, no, I will be honest and say that I enjoyed the whole evening even though it left me guilty, hung-over and confused.
When the three of us left the bar, things took a turn. We were on our way back to the office to get our cars when Bud said, “You guys up for it?” We all laughed, thinking of the obvious implication. But then, Bud started giving directions to his favorite massage parlor, or whatever it was.
If only I had not had so much to drink.
I realized that I didn’t know where Bud lived. I stared at the address on the license; Wayan Bough, same town, couldn’t be far. I would have to get it back to him as soon as possible; I had to get the whole thing behind me.
It was relatively early in the morning, probably still early enough that Bud may not have looked at his wallet. I don’t know how they could have gotten mixed up; we were all in separate rooms. Maybe the girls were playing a joke? I just hoped there was an easy solution – I wasn’t up to asking everyone there. Oh, last night!
I told myself to keep a clear head and get it over with. I began to search for my phone when I remembered I left my phone at home on purpose because I didn’t think I could handle a phone call feeling like this. This wasn’t going to be easy.
I stopped at a truck stop. The man behind the counter was wearing a grease-stained white apron; his expression and demeanor were right out of a 50’s diner. He was losing his hair and slicked back what remained with some sort of aromatic oil. I could almost see a cigarette hanging from his lips. The speakers sang an old Beatles tune: “You are me, and I am you…”
“Yeah, Bud, what can I do for you?” Leaning on the counter with both fists, he listened to my request, “But I can’t leave the counter to take you home,” he said, almost apologetically.
“No, no, no,” I said without shouting, “I just need directions to this address!” And I pointed at the driver’s license.
The guy hesitated and looked at me, then back at the license and asked, “Are you serious?”
“Well, I wouldn’t be asking if I wasn’t,” I said, a little exasperated. “I need to return this. Please don’t ask me why,” My headache was getting worse. What was I going to do?
“Alright, Bud,” he said. “It is just around the corner.” He pulled a paper napkin from a nearby dispenser and drew a few short lines. “Just turn right as you leave the restaurant and then follow this map.” He pointed at the street in front of the diner. “Must have been a bad night. Drive careful,” he added with a laugh.
Once back in the car, I followed his instructions until I saw the house. A neighbor waved as I pulled in; I waved back. I grabbed the groceries out of the trunk and walked around to the kitchen screen door. Ellen looked at me and said, “Bud, you are finally back! Did you get everything?”
“Yeah, I think so,” I said, wishing I was someone else.
Don Morgan has been writing all his life in a very wide range of areas and genres. His work has appeared in Eclectica, Raven’s Perch and was accepted at Amaranth Review.