Me and PW were powerfully thirsty and in need of a cheeseburger having spent most of the afternoon not studying for our History final. Every quarter at finals time we found we could not concentrate unless we cleaned our room top and bottom and arranged our socks just so. It is impossibly hard to concentrate on the Code of Hammurabi when you know, just know, that the contact paper on your book shelf does not line up at the crease.
Having prepared so hard to study, we were too exhausted to bother with it and we were hungry.
Cheeseburger and beer to me and PW meant a couple of friendly games of pool at the Player’s Club downtown. The crumbling old club combined easy camaraderie with petty criminality and a really good grill. We came through the back entrance and waded through the blue smoke up to the front where old men were playing card games and exchanging bets under the table in the booths next to the bar.
We ordered up the specialty of the house. The beer came cold, the burgers hot and like Robin Hood’s Merry Men, we shut up and ate. PW had money and I didn’t. When he reached for his wallet, the queerest look came over his face. You never think of your wallet until you reach for it. If it is not there that is like stepping on the extra step that wasn’t there at the bottom of the stairs. You stumble badly.
“I must have left my wallet in the truck.”
“Yeah, right” said the counterman who was approximately the size of a side of beef, but much uglier. “Maybe you should leave your arm here while you go find it.”
Almost any sin is welcomed at places like the Player’s Club except for being broke. I quickly fished out my wallet and slapped it on the counter.
“It’s empty, but here’s my Drivers License and my Student ID. Hold on to this while we go look.”
We found more stuff that was missing behind the seat in PW’s old Ford F-150 than we imagined there was room to hold, but no wallet. Desperate, I went back into the club and became the honorable hostage while PW went back to look in the trash cans outside our now pristine dorm room.
He didn’t find his wallet but he did come back with our mayonnaise jar full of change that was going to finance a well deserved drunk after finals were over.
We were stacking up the nickels and sorting out the Canadian pennies when a ratty old couple came weaving into the bar. He was wearing a flannel shirt with one shirt tail out and she had put in her Sunday-go-to-meeting tooth.
“Anybody lose this wallet?” shouted the old man and me and PW began jumping up and down and whooping. PW almost kissed the old lady before his good sense kicked in.
“Where in the helllll didja find my wallet?” shouted PW.
“It was out in the parkin’ lot,” said the old man.
We figured that the wallet had been under the truck the whole time we had been looking for it up in the cab. When he came back from the dorm, PW had parked in a space closer to the door. The entire time he was gone it was soaking up the sun and inviting one and all to take it on a holiday.
All the money PW’d just gotten in the mail the day before was there and with the largess of the saved he handed over a ten dollar bill as a reward.
“Look at this!” shouted the old man.
“We can go eat at Wal-Mart!” said his old lady.
The slab of beef behind the counter was not amused at our rescue. So not amused that his nose almost bent into shape.
“Time to study!” I said with mock enthusiasm. We needed to give Beefy time to get over this. We could shoot pool next time.
PW grinned at me. “I really messed up the room looking for the wallet. We’re going to have to clean it again.”
Thank God for that!