Chapter Fourteen- A hamburger with cheese
We scrambled about madly and dashed outside. I accidently bumped into a small statuesque ceramic Jesus with his arms stretched to the heavens in praise. It fell over and part of his left hand broke off. I returned it to an upright position. He now looked as if he were giving us the finger. Doc reminded me I couldn’t go to a hospital in a robe and bare feet unless I wanted to look like a patient. Knowing he was right I began to scour the premises for something else that might suffice. Suds’ clothes were too small, Tiny’s were too big, and Doc’s although close to being just right, were needed by Doc. All my other clothes were still in the Honey-wagon.
“What the fuck am I, Goldilocks or something?”
Finally it was decided I could wear Tiny’s flannel jacket. It looked more like a dress on me than its original intent. He also offered up his boots which I had to hang onto with my hands for fear of tripping out of them. When I walked. It made a fa-boop sound.
Doc laughed. “Don’t worry Sparky. You’ll grow into them.”
The tractor wasn’t big enough for all of us to ride on, so Suds hooked up a small wagon to the back, in which both Doc and I sat, amid his protests of, “Sparky, would you get those boots out of my ass.”
“Don’t worry Doc. You’ll grow into them.” However, I relented and twisted my body so I could flop the huge black rubber footwear over the edges.
The going was slow and laborious. The anxiety was nothing compared to the humiliation I felt. Motorists slowed down to gawk at two grown men, one in a flannel dress with huge deformed feet, being taken for a wagon ride, on a tractor driven by a Munchkin. I could not conceive there would be a hospital so close by, and had prepared myself for hours of this debasement.
Suds quickly corrected me. “It’s a doctor’s house, not a hospital,” he said. “The closest hospital is in the town of Crabbucket on the other side of the reservation. You don’t want to go there. I’ll take forever.-”
As we puttered along, Doc swung his head back to me. “-As long as time’s a factor.”
Forty-five agonizing minutes later we arrived at a roadside house with a white picket fence incased by shady white birches. It was between the bookends of a diner and a gas station advertising Fresh bait. There were several vehicles in view, one of which was Wally’s truck. It was parked next to a phone booth in desperate need of a phone, where a small volume of Yellow-pages fluttered in the breeze like a trapped bird.
Doc and I climbed out of the wagon with a flurry of protests and groans about stiffness. Suds bid us farewell and slowly traced back the way we’d come. His little blocked feet pounded the gas pedal, as the tractor crawled from view.
We were about to walk through the gate, onto a cobblestone path separating a hedge and two apple trees, when Wally yelled at us from the diner. He grunted up with a quickened shuffle, to where we stood.
“Figures, that’s where you’d be,” Doc cussed. “Feeding your face again?”
“This is the first time I’ve had a chance to eat today. In fact, smart ass, I haven’t even ordered yet. Which means, I haven’t eaten since last night at the studio. It’s not right for me to go so long without food. You don’t know what it does to my innards.”
“Unfortunately Wally, I do.”
“But I saw you guys roll in, and came out to meet you anyway. Skunk and Grub had a little accident.”
“We heard. What happened? How little?”
“Don’t worry the injuries were minor. The Doctor’s patching them up as we speak and then we’re good to go.— Nice dress Sparky.”
“Don’t go there, Wally. Now that you’re here, give me the frickin’ keys and let me get a change of clothes.”
Wally reached into his pocket and withdrew the Honey-wagon’s ring of jingling metal. He tossed it to me. “Where on earth did you get that table cloth you’re wearing? And those boots?”
“We met Tiny,” Doc informed him as I unlocked the truck and retrieved my bag.
“You’ll get along famously. He has the brain capacity of a brick.”
"Where's the mens room?"
“Doc, I have to change. I don’t want to walk into the doctor’s looking like this.”
“So you’re going to walk into a crowded diner instead?”
“Good point.” I crawled up into the cab of the Hino and started to slip in and out of garments there.
“Hurry-up Sparky I’m hungry. I feel like a hamburger with cheese.”
“You mean a cheeseburger,” Doc corrected.
“I don’t want a cheeseburger. I want a hamburger with cheese.”
After a few minutes of struggling, I slid out of the cab, tucked in my shirt, and zipped up my trousers. I still had to wear the boots, as I had only the one pair of shoes I had worn on my feet. One of which, was still at the bottom of the outhouse. Wally returned to the diner while Doc Barlow and I walked to the Doctor’s house. fa-boop, fa-boop, fa-boop I felt like a was walking on stilts and the rubber was beginning to chafe my inner thighs.
We ascended the porch steps and opened the door. Inside was a small reception desk with an older woman seated behind it. She had on a white shawl over a sparkly black shirt and cat glasses attached to a chain which drooped down her neck to a string of pearls. Her hair was pinned back into a tiny, tight bun. It choked any chance at a cheerful disposition. She was typing away at a mad speed at a computer console as we entered.
“Shush!” She scolded. We stopped in our tracks. “Can I help you?” She made the question sound more like a threat than an offer of resolution.
There were several chairs in a room decorated sparsely with expensive thick gold frames, guarding shitty paintings of bad landscapes. At the far end of the room we spied Skunk. She was sitting next to a middle-aged farmer with a vacant look in his eyes waiting patiently. The man had a towel balled up to the side of his head and had, what looked like, a fork protruding from it. Skunk had her face buried in a back issue of Vogue. She was waiting for Grub who was apparently still with the Doctor.
I looked back at the receptionist. “We’re here for her,” I said pointing to our guitarist. She waved us away and returned to her typing. As quietly as possible we tiptoed over to Skunk.
“Je-sus,” Doc moaned. “That Suds made it sound like a severe accident. There’s hardly a scratch on you. I thought I was going to see severed limbs and busted guts, squirting intestines. All kinds of goo. Thank God. You’re all right.”
Skunk labored slowly to her feat. “Will a couple of busted ribs do Doc? I’m all bandaged up under my shirt. I hit the steering column pretty hard. My tits hurt like hell.”
The farmer next to her spoke under his breath. “T’ain’t nothin’. Did yer wife stick ya in the head with a fork?”
“In my world we wear seatbelts,” Doc lectured.
“It was the frickin’ driveway leading to the studio Doc. We both undid them. We figured the journey was over.”
“Christ, Skunk. What happened?”
Skunk looked at my boots but decided against making a comment. “We were making good time. Enjoying the scenery. It was a nice morning. Everything was going great until we made the turn and ran right into the back of some asshole who decided to leave his truck parked in the middle of the road.”
“And let me guess. That asshole was Wally. Right?”
“You got it. Wham! Right into the back of that sanitation rig of his. Grub was gasping for air and saying, ‘Meeya! I can’t breathe,’ over and over. I think he busted a rib too....My husband's going to kill me.”
“This fork hurts like hell,” The farmer said. "And when I get out of here, I'm killin' my wife."
I turned to the man. “Am I talking to you?”
“Shuush!” The receptionist nagged.
Doc looked at the farmer. “That wouldn’t be your wife there would it?”
“Just wondering. Cause at this point we could help you.”
“Doc, please. — Skunk, where’s your car now?”
“In a ditch between the trees. It’s totaled.”
“Shit! How did it get like that?”
“Wally. He tried to push us in reverse. Get us back out onto the main road with that truck of his. Instead, Bang, shoved us right into the bush. He got that monstrosity of his out though....I take my kids to school in that car....Then he brought us here, to the doctor.”
Doc shook his head. “Why didn’t you use the tractor to pull the car out? That would have made more sense.”
“That little Suds guy didn’t have anything we could use to pull the car out with him and we had to get to a doctor. Grub was hyperventilating.” Skunk made the Meeya sound again.
“Just great. Two vehicles out of commission. We’re wasting time running around, and we haven’t played a single note yet.”
“Sparky, what’s going on . . . and what’s with the boots?” She couldn’t resist after all. “Wally said something about those being the wrong directions?— What the hell are you so happy about?”
“See Doc. See! I was right! I was right! Those were the correct directions . . . I mean wrong directions . . . I mean . . . that proves it. How could Skunk have the same— ”
“— Sparky! Think about it. If we both had the same directions, that means someone gave them to us, and that someone is Griffin Alexander.”
“Fuuuck. You’re right Doc. Rat ass, Son-of-a-bitch!”
“SHUUUSH!” The receptionist added her index finger to her lips this time, reveling nail polish chipped by her endless hacking away on the computer keys.
The farmer spoke. “Twenty years with that woman and this is what I git.” He moved his towel a little to the right and winced.
“Sparky . . . What’s this all about?” Skunk inquired.
“Look, stay here and wait for Grub, then meet Wally, Doc and me in the diner. We can’t discuss it here with Mrs. Bugupherbutt, shushing us every few minutes.”
We found Wally sitting impatiently at one of the corner tables and I plopped myself down next to him. Doc went to inspect some impulse items at the counter. Tiny had not left too many crumbs at this morning’s offerings and the hunger was creeping in again.
“Frickin’ service is so slow here. It’s a wonder they have any business at all. I ordered my food ten minutes ago and they still haven’t called it out yet.”
“Wally didn’t you find it strange, Skunk rear-ended the Honey-wagon?”
“Sparky it was parked on the road around a sharp turn. Anybody could have rammed into it. We shouldn’t have left it there. I wanted to turn on the four-ways but Noooo . . . ”
“You don’t get it do you, Wally? Skunk ended up in the same place we did. Those were the wrong directions. Someone wanted us all to get lost, or at least delay us, and they have.”
Doc continued his inspection of pies and cakes. The cook behind the cash register shoved a brown paper bag onto the metal counter top, rang a small bell, and yelled out. “Cheeseburger to go!”
“Wally, there’s your food.”
“No Sparky I ordered a hamburger with cheese.— It’s very strange that Wires would give us both wrong directions.”
“Wires didn’t do anything Wally. It’s Griffin Alexander who’s in charge of his last wishes. It was Griffin Alexander who set up the studio and gave us the wrong directions. Believe me once we get back to Faith Sound, I’m going to find out exactly what Griffin Alexander is up to.”
The cook called out again. “Cheeseburger to go!”
“You really think that Alexander guy would do something like this? He’s a lawyer. Isn’t there some sort of ethics code? A Hippocratic oath or somethin’?”
“That’s for doctors, not lawyers, Wally.”
The cook was becoming agitated. “Hey buddy! You in the yellow. You want your cheeseburger, or what?”
Wally turned to him. “I ordered a hamburger with cheese.”
The cook sighed, paused for a moment then rang his little bell again. “Fine! One fuckin’ hamburger with cheese to go.”
Wally smiled and got up from the table. “Food’s ready. Let’s go, Sparky.”
“But Skunk and Grub?”
“We can meet them outside.” Wally walked over and collected his bounty.
“Come on Doc.”
“Just a minute, Wally my man. I’m waiting for sustenance too.”
“And what did you get Mr. Barlow?”
“So where is it?”
“In the microwave.”
“Christ Doc! Cake in the microwave?” I said.
“I like it when it gets all woogily.”
“Woogily cake? I’ve heard it all now. How did I ever get mixed up with the likes of you two? I’ll be outside.”
Fa-boop, fa-boop, fa-boop.
I waited outside for everyone to appear, and they did, all at the same time. Skunk and Grub sporting their wounds, Wally with half a hamburger with cheese hanging from his incisors, and Doc with his steaming bag of woogily cake singing happily to himself. “Do you know the muffin man . . . Je-sus! This thing is frickin’ hot!”
I told Skunk and Grub all that had transpired and slowly we started to fit the pieces together. This wasn’t just bad luck, this was malice with foresight and something had to be done. We had to press on despite the obstacles and deliver the goods. Once I had finished my skip through the details and my addendum pep-talk, I turned to Grub. “So what did the doctor say?”
Grub lifted a wounded left wing and showed me a bandaged wrist. “It’s broken,” he said.
I turned to Wally. “You said their injuries were minor.”
Wally chewed and shrugged.
“How bad is it?”
“The doctor said I won’t be able to play the drums for a while.”