Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Big Cheese in the Woods

Terrance had been on campus only two weeks so far this semester, but he was loving life. If he were a student, the tedium of attending classes, reading badly-copied course packets, and studying for exams might detract from the quality of his days, but he had no such obligations. With vague promises of future attendance and a plea of being “more into absorbing my world’s culture rather than merely studying its facts,” he was now entering his third semester of aimlessness.

“Good thing I’m so ruggedly handsome,” he thought to himself as he stopped along the street to admire his ruggedly handsome features in the glass in front of the display of the ruggedly handsome outfit on the ruggedly handsome mannequin in the window of the Urban Outfitters store. Terrance approved of what he saw, both in the glass and behind it. He would have to get those pants. And it looked like they might be on sale. Score.

But soon he resumed his loose-limbed and confident stride toward his destination. He had made plans to meet a group of friends for drinks, and he was now more than an hour late. Time to make a belated appearance, always leave them wanting more. Maybe tell them the story about the Duke of Wellington. That always got a laugh, maybe even a free drink or two.

Terrance realized suddenly that he was being approached by a scruffy-looking man who seemed intent on presenting him with something. Before Terrance could maneuver around him, the man swiftly opened a small, light brown valise just a foot from his face.

“Hey, dude, looking to buy a pipe?” he asked, indicating the single glass water pipe nestled atop the valise’s foam rubber–covered interior. Terrance wondered at this sales pitch. Surely it would be easier to display an array of pipes for those interested in such things. This method was just too hit-or-miss. You had to know your customer. This guy obviously didn’t.

“Got all I need,” Terrance said brusquely, though that’s not the way he himself would have described the manner of his speech. In fact, he went like this:

“So I’m like, ‘Back it up, dude!’” Terrance told his acquaintances at the bar. He took a large drink of his second microbrew beer of the hour. Everyone laughed out loud at the progression of his story. He pushed on toward its climax.

“Then I turn to him just before I go and say, ‘You’d be a lot better at selling bongs if you’d just go find some head shop and sit behind the counter!’”

The group of people around him—most of them, anyway—exploded in laughter. Terrance grinned and finished off his beer. Someone offered him another.

“Hey, Ter,” someone called to him from nearby, “why don’t you tell them the one about the Duke of Earl?”

Terrance took a long sip of his beer and waved his hand in front of him. “Hey, now, get it right. That’s the Duke of Wellington you’re talking about,” he said, and prepared for the drinks to flow until all hours. He just hoped the aftershave would hold up as well as his hair gel was.

Suddenly he thought he noticed something out of the corner of his eye and turned to get a better look. Whoa, was that waitress checking him out, or what?