Funny Fiction Friendship


By Andrew Paul Grell

The Mazda Miata slid into the Aerie’s parking lot, did the right doughnuts to leave an outline of an Alpine butterfly knot, and came to rest three feet from the Nest.

The Aerie wasn’t called “The Aerie” because old Eagle Scouts in the northeast gathered there, but because it was fairly high up in the Adirondacks. The name attracted the scouts. Carl Hardcastle, being more or less local, was in charge of organizing the reunion, and showed up first.

“Hey, Lauretta, still crazy after all these years?”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way, Carlos.”

“I know it’s a small group this year, but were you able to save The Perch for us?”

“Of course. It’s socially distance marked, and the louvre windows in the back allow the outside wind to suck out whatever you spray. Drinks, this year, will get to you via dumbwaiter. Place hasn’t used that for fifty years, I don’t think.”

“Mind if I check for bugs?”

“Have I ever? Damned if I know what people sworn to be trustworthy, loyal, and helpful could possibly say that would attract bugging.”

“This year is different, Madam Barkeep. The lawsuits.”

“Shame, ain’t it? ‘What a world, what a world,’ my grandpa would say. Let me guess, you’re going to do something about that, aren’t you?”

“You bet your sweet patootie we are. We’re going to talk about what it is we’re going to do about it. What’s you’re best bet for a campground for tomorrow?”

“It’s a bit of a climb, sure you’re up to it at your age? It’s the State hand-cut zone. My kids, you remember Pat, Kyle and Franny? They rounded up some usual suspects and now they’re putting together firewood bundles for the Air B&B crowd come the fall. Plenty of room to pitch a tent,” Lauretta said, making herself blush at the ages-old little secret between them.

“How are you holding up with the restrictions?”

“No problem for now, everyone’s happy to dine al fresco. Comes winter, well, we’ll just have to see. Notice anything?”

Carl looked around, then spotted it. “I see you got the Baldini painting, is that a full set for the Battle of Saratoga?”

“That’s all the Burgoyne surrender ones. There’s an Embleton, but it didn’t really fit, so I passed.”

“Painting, that’s not something scouts do, is it Carl?” Stan had snuck in from the kitchen entrance and gave Lauretta and Carl pointed elbow-thumps. “Food, wench! It’s a hungry climb getting up here.” Stan was in regulation Scout uniform with a sash full of merit badges. “Luther passed me on the way up, there was something odd on his roof rack.”

“Luther,” Carl said. “Always building the next gadget, left at the altar of every patent attorney and venture capitalist. Any bets on what it is?”

“Giant fly swatter for when the virus makes giant flies,” Stan proposed.

“Wait a minute,” Carl said. “If Luthor passed Stan, where is he?”

“Speak of the devil, and the devil appears.” Lauretta’s kitchen was getting more traffic than the Holland Tunnel. “Je suis arrive’,” Luthor proclaimed, his arm around something that looked like a robotic cat scratching tree. “This may be what we need if we’re really going to save scouting. As we shall discuss in The Perch.”

Lauretta took that as her queue to make herself elsewhere and out of earshot, but soon winced in pain, as did Carl, Stan, and Luthor.

“What is that horrid cacophony, and what is it doing in my bar? Musical waterboarding? And why don’t we see anyone killing the music?”

“Three Marks for Muster Quark,” the company heard, coming from the Aerie’s Revolutionary War re-enacting field. Lauretta had been pleasantly surprised to see how much money people would spend for overnight accommodations which involved chamber pots.

“Is that ‘Bill Grogan’s Goat’ they’re butchering? Has to be more than forty years since I heard that song at a scout event.”

The three marks were Mark, Marcus to be different from Mark, and Marcal, a nickname derived from an obvious but embarrassing incident one camping summer. Marcus led his chorister buddies into The Aerie and climbed up to The Perch to join the rest of the Lawsuit Response Committee. He was dressed in civilian clothes but with the neckerchief and an abridged version of the Merit Badge sash; he was one of the few Eagle Scouts to sport a non-scout badge, a life-saving award from his town’s mayor. Marcus was toting a suitcase which he opened on the pool table. He held up a specimen of the contents.

“Red Dawn,” Luthor asked. “You brought Red Dawn crew hoodies? Why?”

“Oh Come on, Luthor, pick your head up from the drafting table, or the CAD software. Strelnikov’s line was ‘He is a member of an elite paramilitary unit, Eagle Scout,’ heavy Russian accent, ‘ee-Gull’ Scout. Took me forever to find these, and I live half a mile from the lot. Sort yourselves out by size, Gentlemen.”

“It’s time, Lauretta,” Stan said. The landlady looked down from the perch to the masked, socially distant 50% capacity crowd below, checking for anyone who didn’t belong. She hit the dumbwaiter button and six martinis, poured into green glass Coca Cola bottles, a little scout secret, ascended to The Perch.”

Stan drew the short straw and opened up the discussion.

““First of all, does anyone think they’re going to send someone for a game of cookie,” Stan asked, and was met with five faces desperately trying to hide possibly embarrassing memories. "I didn’t think bankruptcy was the answer, but that’s what they decided in Irving,” the middle-aged accountant stated. “I took the liberty of chartering BSA Recuperations, LLC, to keep the camps from getting turned into subdivisions.”

“Is the company funded, Stan,” Carl asked. 

“I kicked in three month’s rent on an office, internet, left-over furniture enough for six people: me, two salaried, and three volunteers. We’re scoping out financial information —stuff available publicly if you know where to look—on any of the accused who are still alive. Maybe some of the scouts might settle for a token sum and a Truth Commission-style apology. Maybe not. I’ve got no illusions. I’m already getting a few nibbles on individual settlements. But I know it’s going to be mostly us and the committees like us in San Diego and Charlottesville.”

Marcal was up next. “That’s all good, Stan, but really, in practical terms, we’re each going to be digging deep if this is going to work.”

“You’re the ones with the piles of cash. But if my project pans out, we’ll be able to bail out the scouts from petty cash.”

“We’ve heard that before, Luthor. I think some of us have invested in a project or two of yours,” Marcus said.

“Alright, Marcus. Maybe you’ll get to see it tomorrow at the campsite.”

# # #

The committee members woke early, as good scouts should, getting the lay of the land, looking for problems, watching out for potential problems. There were three potential problems evident: the round-top was set for seven, it seemed to be that Lauretta developed a tick in her right eye; she seemed to have a little balance difficulty laying down the delft plates of eggs, toast, and hash browns—Scouting had evolved to be inclusive of kosher and halal dietary rules, and for the first time ever, The Aerie had plexiglass partitions at the tables. Lauretta, no longer showing signs of balance problems, put the coffee carafe, which now sported a little red Staples “Easy” button, close to the edge of the table, handle pointing at the door, button facing 180 degrees opposite the handle.

Luthor took a few more sidelong glances at the landlady’s eyes and discretely dealt himself a napkin, which, even more discretely, he wrote on: “blinking morse code. Trouble coming. Don’t touch anything from anyone you don’t know. I’m sorry. Pass it on.”

“Nothing better than mopping up yolk from sunny-side up eggs, is there, Carl,” Stan asked his old friend. Carl looked up in response.

 “Lawyer at twelve o’clock low,” he stage-whispered. Marcus allowed as he could smell a process server at fifty yards. Lauretta led the visitor, frocked in what looked like stalking clothes, if you bought your stalking clothes from Bloomingdales, to the committee’s round table.

“This gentleman would like a word with you all, folks. If you don’t mind.”

“Of course. Every scout is hospitable. Welcome to the Eagle Scout committee, Mr. Fagin,” Carl invited, as if he knew him, which he did, a little. “What can we do you for?”

The invading lawyer took out a stack of papers, certainly summons and complaint forms to be served, and tried to pass them over to the people he was supposed to be serving, but the plexiglass kept getting in the way. As if he was trying to get the answer to an LSAT question, he backed up, and tried to circle around the table, but the plexiglass seemed to not want to allow it. He finally gave up and sat back down; there was now a plate venison sausage and a duck egg.

“You must be looking for the coffee, Sean,” Carl said, opening the plexiglass from his side of it, earning a perfunctory thank you from their guest. The bottom-fisher lawyer put his fork down and received the carafe, which wouldn’t pour.

“Sorry, Sean, it’s one of those new energy saver pots, keeps the heat in. The red button gets you the coffee.” The moment the shyster hit the button, hot coffee sprayed over the entire stack of legal, but probably not, documents. The esquire’s faux stalking clothes would be ruined in a way that genuine stalking clothes would not be. He stood, pointed a finger at the committee, and declared, “One way or another, I will see you in court.” He galumphed out of the main dining room, ignoring the sign at the door that stated, in five languages, “Hold rail on steps, surfaces are slippery.” Ordinary slippery for The Aerie would be mud and wet leaves, but somehow, that morning, it was bear feces.

“I’m sorry, fellas. The state has been hammering us for months with restrictions, lockdowns, changes in restrictions and lockdowns, orange zones, purple zones, mauve and heather zones. He gave me $50,000 in cash to let him know when you guys would be here.”

“You did right, Lauretta. And you obviated him out of court, at least for a while. Don’t even worry about it,” Marcus advised.

# # #

After breakfast, Luthor organized the Three Marks to lug the robotic device components, with himself being the worrier & kibitzer in chief. Stan and Carl shlepped the supplies. Everything and everyone got to the field Lauretta had described, and the entire troop and its support were intact.

“Who’s going to build the table,” Stan asked. As a boy, his troop prided itself on putting together chairs and a table from available materials. They spent the morning pitching tents, digging a latrine, cracking jokes about pitching tents, hauling rocks for a fire pit. Lunch was sandwiches packed by Lauretta. Carl and Stan headed out to find a water source; it was not too far from their camp, and the tablets they tossed into a glass of the stuff declared it to be potable. It was time to talk.

Luthor and the Three Marks had put the mechanical device together. It looked like a robot version of Siamese twins. The inventor switched it on.

“This is Howard Co-Sine, speaking of sports,” The head on the right introduced itself.

The left head made a whistling sound. “Foul! That latrine is not regulation deep. Penalty, digging two more feet.”

“It can call a game—any game, with color commentary, and the other half can referee it.”

“Wait a minute, troops, this is perfect. We can play a game. We’ll apportion our net worths into shares. The higher the score, the fewer the shares you have to fork over,” the account reasonably proposed.”

“But what kind of game” was the uniform response from the other guys. Marcal pulled a shopping bag from an outrider on his pack and showed everyone the contents: A giant cookie from the mall.

“Oh no. Were you planning this? Are you serious,” Mark asked. “After everything that’s been going on, you want us to play the cookie game? How many lawsuits are out there already?”

“This has nothing to do with the lawsuits. Nobody is forcing us to do it. We did it ourselves, no staff involved.” There were a few “Yeah, Buts” but there was nothing concretely wrong with the game. The committee agreed that when Luthor determined the start of Civil Twilight, a game of Cookie would commence.

“It’s a clear night out here folks, in the arboreal peaks above historic Saratoga Springs, New York, the Empire State. The players are taking the field. Carl, as the first to arrive, places the circular pastry in center field and, according to ceremony and tradition, blows it a kiss. He takes his position in the circle. Next up is Stan, choosing to take the spot widdershins of Carl. Marcal is a brave player, having had a childhood accident that by rights would have kept him from engaging in just this sort of competition. Next we have Mark and Marcus, taking their spots, together, opposite Carl. Maybe they know something.”

The ref half of the robot dropped a white handkerchief, and the game began.

“Brave Marcal has made the first move, followed by Stan. Oh no, Stan is having a possible equipment failure. There are no timeouts in the Game of Cookie, too bad for Stan. And it’s Carl first out of the gate, and he’s making his first moves. Mark and Marcus are now out of the gate, but what’s this, they’re looking at each other and not the target. What’s going on here? Now it’s Luthor, his lightning moves have him seconds from Marcal.”

Another tweet from the ref. “Pine Tar, Player two, five second penalty.” Everyone stopped and looked at the robot and then at its inventor. Luthor paused his moved to explain. “Ref can handle any sport, but some of the jargon is cross-over. Pine tar in Cookie is similar to pine tar in baseball, but not exactly the same stuff. The explanation cost him dearly.

“Carl, the local hero, is primed and ready; he has a wet finger in the air, getting some windage for his shot. And he overshoots!”

“Ten second penalty for missing the Cookie,” The ref said. Then another whistle.

“Performance enhancing drug!” Luthor had a blue pill spill out of his pocket when he came out of the gate.

“It’s valium, you heap of tin!” Two tweets. The ref reversed his call.

“Folks, Mark and Marcus are now facing the target. We have the first clean hit, by Marcus, and the second, a surprise, Stan, overcoming his equipment issue. And it’s Luthor bringing up the rear; no one noticed that Carl was setting up a second shot. Tie! Carl and Mark! Oh, the agony. The ten second penalty scotched Carl’s chances.”

“Listen, fellas, I’m going to pay up my share for sure. But for the ending of the game, no way.”

“Think of your honor as an Eagle Scout,” Stan said.

“All right you guys. Fair is fair. Mmm. White chocolate macadamia, my favorite. A little salty, though.

December 12, 2020 04:20

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