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I was not drunk, you have to understand that. Inebriated, maybe -- even tipsy
perhaps, but certainly not drunk. For example: I knew precisely what time it
was by the dashboard clock, even though I'd left my watch on the shelf in the
men's room of the Shangri-la restaurant and Bar, while attending Sam Jackson's
It was a quarter to four in the morning, a compromising hour I have to admit
for someone my age. Fishermen, railroad engineers, and expectant mothers may
be found up and about at that hour, but there are occasions when an elderly
retiree can be seen coming home from a party.
The drive home was accomplished without incident, and some people might say
it reinforces the age old axiom that God keeps watch over those who have had
one too many. Granted, I did lose my way twice, but that was due entirely to the
defective signage along the thruway. That fact alone would account for the
lateness of the hour as well. It was somewhat comforting to note that dawn was
not as yet ready to come up like thunder. With luck, perhaps my wife might
discover me in the spare bedroom when it did.
Had it not been for the dashboard clock, I must confess I would have had no
idea what time it was. I took note of it as I switched off the ignition and
lights and coasted silently up the driveway. A drunken lout would not be that
considerate of his spouse's rest, I assure you. That's why I insist I was at
most, inebriated. It was that same family interest, I'm sure I share with all of
you, that eventually did me in.
When the darkened car rolled to a stop, I quietly opened the driver's door
and stepped out. It was spring, and even in the dead of night, the maples were
busy helicoptering their seeds to the ground. In this meditative state of mind,
I sensed I was under the watchful eyes of nesting parents of Baltimore
Orioles, cardinals and abominable squirrels.
I remember thinking how nice it would have been had my wife chosen to share
Sam Jackson's retirement party with me. After all, Sam Jackson doesn't retire
every day, and the invitation was for two. But, on the other hand, Sam's wife
wasn't there either. What is it with wives anyway?
When my philosophical conjectures subsided, the first feelings of resentment
set in, and although mellow in the extreme, I began to feel sorry for myself.
Thoughts like these are the first indications of returning sobriety, (I'm sure
you know them well). There was also the secret and clandestine joy in
savoring the recollection of my friends making fools of themselves at the party
I stood by, a model of sober decorum.
I had such a good time! how great it was to see all my old yoke mates again,
and what a warm feeling it is to know the company is going steadily downhill
without this old helmsman at the tiller. Of course I'd tell my wife all about
it in the morning, but that's not the same as hearing it for herself.
It was with this feeling of self-esteem, mixed with a measure of conceit and
a growing bladder urge, that I reached in my side pocket for the latch-key.
It was not there.
Time and again I have lectured myself to be orderly. As one grows older, it
is imperative to be orderly and disciplined. I always put my keys in my side
pocket. The moment I remove them from the ignition I put them in my side pocket.
They weren't in my side pocket -- ergo, they had to be in the ignition. Yes
.... ergo, they were .... I could see their dull gleam inside the car by the
faint light of the street lamp. But, ergo! the car doors were locked! Making
sure the car doors were locked when I exited the car was another orderly
discipline I followed religiously.
There were decisions to be made, but elderly people should be told what to do,
they should not be allowed to choose. The choice I made was one I would have
been able to accomplish with grace thirty years ago .... but not tonight. I
chose to climb through the window to the den. The sill of the window is five
feet above the patio floor and the window is about two feet high by three feet
wide. The window was never locked. No intruder would have chosen to break in or
out through that window, so we never locked it.
I knew there was a little Deacon's bench in the den just below the window
which would permit me to lower myself gently from the window sill to its
cushioned seat. I knew there were plastic chairs on the patio outside, and by
two of them together I could probably get my first leg through the window,
then my second .... Voila! It all seemed so simple. Deceptively simple.
Almost immediately, Rasputin, the neighbor's elk hound heard me fiddling with
the plastic chairs and didn't like the idea at all. He commenced barking. My
soothing words were ineffective because, in my semi-inebriated state, the name
Rasputin did not fall trippingly from my tongue. This forced me to assemble
the plastic chairs hastily, and by the time I managed to get my first leg
through the window, they collapsed in a noisy tangle which convinced Rasputin
something was definitely brewing next door. At that moment, my position on the
sill was similar to that of an overweight and elderly jockey, agonizingly
crouched on the back of a very thin horse.
I realized haste was of the essence if I were to gain access to my own house
without waking the neighborhood. Nevertheless, at such times the mind drifts,
and is able to escape the narrow confines of the body and it will amuse itself
while the body tries as best it can to cope. My mind wandered too. It
postulated how it should feel encapsulated in a barrel with its physical host as
went over the brink of Niagara ... would it have second thoughts? Would this
mind say, "What in the hell is wrong with me? I've got to be out of my senses to
get into this contraption with a nut like you!" My mind had a few caustic
remarks for me as well, the most profound was, "You know you should have emptied
your bladder by the juniper bush before you got yourself into this fix."
Yes, that was one of the problems. Getting my second leg over the sill was
another. Then a sharp sciatic stab of agony arose to became the most pressing
problem of all, and I was forced to use both hands to bend the second leg until
it would fit through the window. I was now in somewhat of a fetal position,
looking for all the world like a Pompeii figure baked in lava dust. It was
imperative that I get inside and safe in bed before I strained something beyond
repair -- and soiled myself in the bargain.
My game plan was to twist my body and heist my bottom end enough to clear the
window sill. By doing so I was sure I would land safely on the upholstered
seat of the Deacon's bench. A good Catholic always invokes the Almighty before
attempting the impossible. I know I did .... and I know He did everything He
could to help me. But how was He to know my wife had sent the Deacon's bench out
to be stripped of its mahogany finish, she was presently in love with blond
Five feet may not seem an extraordinary height to you. I can remember on a
Continental flight to Dallas, the pilot told us we had hit an air pocket and
dropped thirty five hundred feet. No one was any the wiser, however, under
different circumstances, one's life can easily re-run itself in the time it
fall five feet.
It seemed to take forever.
My mind had ample time to consider my body's known weight of one hundred and
eighty pounds, or roughly eleven stone and four pounds in British avoirdupois
measure, certified only last week by the carefully graduated scale for
periodical self weighing in the premises of Bernie Shapiro, pharmacist of 19
Avenue. Yes it was on the occasion of the last feast of the Ascension -- to
wit, the twelfth day of May of the bissextile year one thousand nine hundred
and ninety eight of the Christian era (Jewish era five thousand seven hundred
and fifty eight, Mohammedan era one thousand three hundred and eighty six). It
also considered my dear wife upstairs snug under her blankets. It further
recalled our placid and peaceful coexistence, (until now) in the little town of
Westlake Village. Finally, it even managed to dispute, in harsher terms, her
decision to choose yesterday of all days to have the damn Deacon's bench
©Harry Buschman 1998
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