Phil shouldn’t have let Gaffney choose the music. He had relinquished control over the stereo along with the wheel about 30 miles back, and Gaffney had immediately started blasting a ludicrous rap album that sounded like someone stomping on a Casio. The lyrics were worse; the current song seemed to just be a litany of metaphors about performing oral sex.
“It’s Danny Brown,” Gaffney had explained. “It’s what the kids are listening to.”
Mr. Brown was in the middle of comparing cunnilingus to hitting a fire hydrant with a baseball bat when Gaffney swerved violently to the exit lane.
“Nonononono, it’s Exit 26D.” Phil was navigating.
Gaffney swerved back into the flow of traffic, nearly compacting Phil’s Prius into a truck carrying chickens.
“Chickens? Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Where the fuck IS this wedding?”
“About 45 minutes away at this point,” Phil noted.
Jeff, Phil and Gaffney’s high school buddy, had decided to hold the wedding where he and his fiancée Ariana had first met. Unfortunately, they were both big nature-philes, and had met four miles Northeast of San Francisco.
“45 minutes? That sounds like booze-o’clock!”
“You’re not drinking and driving.”
“Oh, nonono, I’m drinking and you’re driving.”
Gaffney swerved again. Phil was trying to work on his policy piece about Switzerland’s guaranteed minimum income for the Chronicle. Gaffney had promised to drive so Phil could work on the article, but apparently this had escaped Gaffney’s mind. Phil thought about trying to argue this point, but it was useless to argue with Gaffney; he was an excellent debater, and if he ever felt himself losing, he would just become gratingly playful and suddenly act like the outcome of the argument didn’t matter; he ended up winning either way.
Phil didn’t even want to go to this fucking wedding. Neither he nor Gaffney had seen Jeff in half a decade, and Gaffney had only convinced him to come by being gratingly playful.
Gaffney had called Phil as soon as the invitations had arrived. Gaffney usually wasn’t on top of things unless he was really excited. It was just an odd thing for Gaffney to get excited about, seeing as most of what excited him involved sex.
“You gotta forget about that cheating bitch Cinthia.”
“How is attending the consummation of a relationship supposed to help me forget mine?”
Gaffney had shaken his head while smirking at Phil’s innocence.
“It’s not about the ceremony. It’s about the reception afterwards. All the chicks are drunk and done-up all nice, they’ve just viewed this heart-tugging event and are looking to shoot off some of the anxiety about going into their 30s single with a one-night stand.”
There it was.
“You’re describing the premise of Wedding Crashers.”
“Just like Wedding Crashers. That shit was a documentary.”
Gaffney knew damn fucking well that it wasn’t a documentary, but he would facetiously argue this point to hell and back if challenged. Phil admitted that there was a point in there somewhere, something about having a good time…maybe meeting someone, though he wasn’t one for one-night stands.
He had ended things with Cinthia a couple weeks ago when he had found that she had been banging their neighbor. When Phil had demanded why she had been doing this, Cinthia responded with:
“I dunno…I guess because he was always there for me, and you never were.”
Translate to: you work too much. Translate to: it’s really your fault.
Cinthia had agreed to be the one to move out. That left Phil with the problem of still having to still share a wall with the fuck who had wrecked everything; it was awkward.
“That’s the reason she gave?” Gaffney had screamed into the phone when Phil had told him. Phil had felt grateful for Gaffney’s rage, which could always be counted on, even if Phil was aware that it was partially a projection of Gaffney’s significant women-issues.
“I swear to God, women have no goddamn idea what they want. If you’re not successful enough, they don’t want anything to do with you, and if you’re too successful, they squat on the closest cock available. And the whole time you were paying for the apartment.”
“We were splitting it, actually.”
“Well…” Gaffney searched for something else to be enraged about. “I bet they used your bed.”
That theory had really gotten to Phil. He had mostly been depressed about the whole situation prior, but the thought of his nest being invaded had gotten his territorial vitriol up. It was all based on animalistic instinct, true, and wasn’t really the point, further true…
“Fuck that,” Gaffney had spat. “You have a right to be angry.”
He had been with Cinthia for three years.
And so Phil found himself nervously glancing up the highway for approaching law enforcement as Gaffney belted Vodka behind the car.
“GUFFF!” Gaffney bellowed after each chug, then spat. It was bottom-shelf stuff.
Phil swiveled his head back up the highway and, to his horror, locked eyes with the oncoming headlights of a police cruiser.
“Dude! Gaffney! Cop! Cop!!”
Gaffney glared disgruntledly up the highway with one eye squinted shut.
“He’s still a long ways away.”
“Get rid of it!”
Gaffney interpreted Phil’s plea in a way that he felt would satisfy them both: he tipped the bottle all the way back and started chugging.
“Not like that!”
Gaffney held up one finger to silence him—don’t interrupt, time is of the essence—as the cruiser continued to approach. Phil hopped in his car, then hopped out again, confused as how to act as legally as possible.
Gaffney jerked the bottle straight up to get the last trickle of firewater, then, not wanting to implicate Phil by allowing an open container in his car, elected to rear back and heave the liter into the woods by the side of the highway.
They couldn’t figure out if the cop had seen this happen, but, in any case, the cruiser began tailing them as soon as they pulled back onto the road.
“Greatgreatgreatgreatgreatgreat…” Phil cursed under his breath. It was NOT great.
“Calm down. Cops can smell fear. Like bears, or…I dunno, housecats.”
“He’s probably just looking up my plates in preparation for pulling me over.”
“Well, you didn’t actually DO anything. And what are they gonna arrest me for? Being drunk in public? …not in public. Littering?…well, I guess they could get me for that one, but it’s not like they’re gonna like, throw me in the back of the car or anything.”
“That’s not the point.”
“Yes it is.”
“No…the point is you just did something fukkin stupid.”
That shut Gaffney up. Shut him up with hurt. He was sensitive and didn’t take criticism well.
The cop, who had been hanging back a couple hundred feet, suddenly accelerated, closing the gap. He continued to surge forward until he was mere feet from the back of the Prius, then swiftly turned into the passing lane and zoomed off.
Phil felt his muscles relax. He allowed his torso, which had been plastered up against the wheel with anxiety, to settle into his seat. He felt slightly guilty for yelling at Gaffney. Not that what Gaffney had done WASN’T stupid, but it was hard to yell at someone for drinking when they were addicted to it.
He glanced from the road to see Gaffney staring sullenly out the window. Great. Now it was HIS job to make things better.
(don’t even) “Sorry…I was just nervous…it would look really bad for the Chronicle if one of their writers were arrested.”
“Yeah…it’s no NFL,” Gaffney quipped.
“Well,” thought Phil, “at least he’s meeting me halfway.”
Phil cruised the Prius off the highway onto a smaller road, then a smaller one, then one made of packed dirt. They launched off a bump in the road and Gaffney slammed his head on the ceiling.
“Where they fuck are they getting married? A tar pit? And how is there a fuckin hotel back here?”
Phil, who had actually read the invitation, had the answers at his fingertips.
“It’s like a…lodge?…the invitation described it as a lodge, I don’t really know what that means. The reception is in the lodge itself.”
“Self-contained, huh?…damn,” he continued “…I didn’t mean to drink all that at once. I’m gonna be prreeetty plastered in about 15 minutes.”
Phil winced. Gaffney held his liquor quite poorly for someone who had it in their system most of the time.
“Well, it’ll make talking to Jeff easier.” Gaffney looked off through the window as he said this.
“What, are you nervous because you haven’t seen him for a while?”
“Nah…just gotta talk to him about something…it’ll be good to have mah tongue loosed.”
Phil wondered on that as the lodge rose into sight.