It all started when I came home from work and found a butterscotch-colored VW microbus in my driveway. I pulled in and as soon as I got out of my car, the door of the microbus swung open and a most interesting character appeared. He was short with salt and pepper hair with a beard to match. He wore jeans and cowboy boots and his swagger completed the look. I couldn’t for the life of me guess what he might want.
He ambled over and pointed to a spot on my lawn next to the road. “Do you mind if I take those mushrooms?” he asked? I won’t lie. I was a little dumbfounded. I didn’t even know there were mushrooms over there. I certainly didn’t know there were edible mushrooms over there. Then I began to wonder just what kind of mushrooms they were. Was I growing psychedelic mushrooms unknowingly? Sure he could have them. He gathered them up and drove away in his microbus.
I have to admit that I was literally shaking my head as I thought about the odd exchange. This guy looked like he came out of the 60’s. He wasn’t really a hippie, but he had the microbus so that gave him a bit of a 60’s vibe right there. He was kind of a hippie cowboy. I didn’t even know those two words could go together! Anyhow, I thought that was the end of it, but it wasn’t.
I don’t remember when he came back, or why. What I do remember is that Bill was playing his guitar when he came to the door. He said he played, too and he’d be right back. Sure enough, in a few minutes, he was back with his own guitar. It did not escape me that his quick return meant he lived very close by.
We learned that his name was Bill, too. That’s where the similarity ended. It’s going to be very difficult to keep the Bill’s straight in this story so I will call my husband Bill, and the other Bill “Other Bill.” Original, huh?
This microbus-cowboy boot-wearing Other Bill was not one to be one-upped. He wanted to hear Bill play. Bill obliged by playing a quiet piece by Bach. Other Bill smiled and proceeded to play with gusto. l admit now that I couldn’t remember the title of the song. It might have been Spanish Flea or Spanish Fly, but it was some sort of Spanish insect. Spanish Fly sounded about right after the whole mushroom episode.
Bill informs me now that I was wrong, it was Spanish Flang Dang. My insect theory was dashed, but at least it was Spanish! What the hell is a flang dang anyway? I’m not sure I want to know. Other Bill also played something that was very fast and impressive. I can’t remember the name of that song either, but he was obviously very proud of himself.
I have to admit, he was really good. He very much wanted us to think he was amazing. He left sporting an air of arrogance that was undeniable. After that, I figured he’d probably had enough of us mere mortals. But no, he wasn’t, not by a long-shot. Apparently, playing those songs weren’t enough to prove his superiority indisputably. Why he felt he had something to prove, I’ll never know, but it irked me. It irked me a lot. I don’t do well with blowhards.
It was Christmas Eve when he invited us to his house for a bit of Christmas cheer. My mother was visiting us so she tagged along. My Mom was a Baptist deaconess, but she was pretty much a live-and-let-live kind of person. Little did she know what was in store as we were heading up to Other Bill’s house.
As he opened the door all I could smell was burnt coffee. He smiled and pointed to a spatterware enameled coffee pot. It looked like it came out of a Western movie. I suppose it matched his cowboy boot persona. Seeing that, I wasn’t surprised when he asked us if we wanted some “cowboy coffee.” It had been boiling on that woodstove all afternoon and was about as thick as molasses. He offered us a cup. Bill and my Mom were smart enough to politely decline. Not me! I’m not smart at all as you’ll see as this story unfolds.
Seeing Other Bill try to one-up my Bill in such a dramatic fashion with those guitar songs had not been forgotten. If he could drink that sludge in a pot, so could I! Did I mention that his superiority complex irked me? This cowboy was going to have a little comeuppance if I had anything to say about it!
Other Bill seemed surprised that I survived the coffee, but he wasn’t done. He brought out an array of baked goods. They all looked yummy, but every single one of them was laced with a LOT of alcohol. Brandy and rum were high on the list of ingredients for these potent pastries. I think there was some whiskey in there, too. Again, smart people that they are, Bill and my Mom nibbled a bit and smiled like appreciative guests.
I am so stupid when I think I have something to prove. There was some irony there and I knew I wasn’t any better than he was by trying to bring him off his pedestal. That didn’t stop me. If he could stomach this stuff, so could I. I refused to be outdone.
His round oak table was covered in these treats and I tried them all. Nope, he wasn’t going to outdo me in the pastry department, even though my alcohol level was probably high enough to make a breathalyzer melt. It didn’t matter. I watched his face as I matched him bite for bite. I didn’t have to win this stupid game of one-upmanship. I just needed him to realize that he wasn’t as great as he thought he was.
I thought at that point we would just exchange some pleasantries and be on our way. Oh no, it couldn’t be that easy. It was then that moonshine came out. I’d never seen a mason jar of real moonshine before but I had an inkling it might be my undoing. He was practically gleeful as he told us just how potent it was.
Saying it wasn’t enough apparently. He cleared the table, poured a pretty good splash of moonshine on it and set it on fire. Yes, we were sitting there while the table was burning. His eyes were twinkling as he looked for a reaction. Bill and Mom stepped away like sane people, but I didn’t move a muscle. I was committed at that point. I was now beyond irked. I waited for the inevitable.
The fire burned itself out and Other Bill poured two shots. He wasn’t even asking Bill or my Mom anymore. This was between us. My eyes were like slits as we went back and forth, shot for shot, till the mason jar was empty. At that point, he had nothing more to offer. We were at a stalemate and we said our goodbyes.
I would like to leave the story at that say that I went home happy knowing I stood up to that arrogant ass. The truth of the matter is that once I was home, I walked in the door and headed straight for the bathroom. I revisited every bite and every drop that I’d swallowed that night. But you know what? It didn’t matter. He didn’t have to know that. All he knew was that he hadn’t won. It was a vomit of victory!