“Holy shit… RUN!” On a crisp fall afternoon some 22-years ago, that’s exactly what I commanded to my best friend, Drew. We were about to run for our lives. And to make things worse, I could not stop laughing…
Before I get to what it was that had us fleeing for our very survival, let me first tell you about Drew; Drew is my very best friend. We have known one another for well over 20-years. We navigated the perfidious trials of adolescence together, drank beer together, played hockey alongside one another and he likely spent more weekend nights at my place than his own while growing up. I was fortunate then and I am fortunate now to know such a man. And this past weekend, I got to see and spend time with Drew once again after a 7-year hiatus. Our pause in kinship was not born from anything sinister or dramatic, it’s just how life goes sometimes. Drew lives across the country in beautiful B.C., and I am here in Toronto—not exactly geographically ideal for weekend hangouts. But this past weekend, Drew was in my neck of the woods, and that meant one thing and one thing only—sleepover!
Drew was in town for a mini-cation (that’s a short vacation), and he asked if I could show him around the Golden Horseshoe. I was more than happy to oblige. In the lead up to his arrival, I found myself gnawing on old memories of mischief and tomfoolery. We had some great times together as kids. He was the one friend who always had the ability to take a bad day and turn it around into a hilarious one. Weather that be by way of his unusual body talents, such as inverting his eyelids and being able to keep them in that position, or his unique ability to turn anything into a nonsensical, philosophical monologue. He once spoke about M&M’s and how they are actually hidden on the food pyramid for over three days once. The man has a gift.
The day Drew was to arrive, I was excited and eagerly awaiting by the door. I love spending time with him. The thoughts of an unwritten weekend along with Drew plus me gave birth to a healthy amount of glee within me, perhaps even nudging at the shoulders of the young boy I once was. In my adult life, Drew had only ever gotten to hangout with, Matt, the drunk, angry medic. And not that he ever seemed to mind or imply as such, I still felt bad for it. This weekend was a new chapter in our saga—and it didn’t disappoint.
Drew arrived, and although he wore the markings of our true age, I saw the young, goofy kid I hung out with so often from back home. A smile instantly crawled across my face. We met and embraced one another while orating our appreciations of seeing one another. Drew put his stuff away in my apartment and we began traipsing around the city. It was hot, humid and busy, so to say that I was feeling a touch overwhelmed would be a gross misrepresentation of my innerworkings, but we managed to pull off a decent first day.
Drew knows of my PTSD. And just as he was back then, he remains so today—empathically kind and non-judgemental. As night fell and we settled into lounging postures atop of our respective sleeping spaces, discussions of our youth took flight from our lips. A steady stream of gaffes and delights filled the muggy quarters of my apartment. We spoke of our childhood crushes and the failures at gaining their adorations, we talked videogames and movies of our time.
“Remember theme nights?” I asked. Theme nights is a term coined by myself, and it referenced Drew and I going to the local video store and renting season themed movies. During the fall months, we rented Halloween horror movies and Charlie Brown’s Pumpkin patch. Fast forward to snowfall, we made sure to nab a copy of A Christmas Story and National Lampoons: Christmas Vacation. We would watch these flicks until all hours of the night during our weekend furloughs away from school. And when we weren’t doing that, we were seriously up to no good…
“Do you remember the time we prank called that lady, told her she had won tickets to the Canucks game and she called back and told us she had traced the number back and knew where you lived?” Drew recited.
“Holy fuck, dude, I was so fucking terrified! Haha, fuck we were little cunts!”
“Haha, yeah, we definitely were”.
“Bro, remember throwing eggs at that building across the street from my place, and the flood lights came on all of a sudden?” I asked.
“Haha, yeah. You froze and I took cover!”
“No shit I froze, I thought they were going to shoot me!” I replied through laughter.
“Haha, yeah, you did”.
“Turns out they were on a timer, but still!”
We continued along our impish-laden frolic through the past until a very distinct memory of a very specific time inked its way to mind. I paused for a moment as I took in a breath of air before exclaiming, “Drew, do you remember Mr. Stinky and his dog?!”
Drew paused now. Not because he was struggling to remember, but rather because he too was intaking a fresh batch of air before laughing out loud while confirming, “Haha, yeah, holy shit that was funny. Scary as shit, but funny.”
My room now held within it, two fully grown men of sturdy stature, mirthfully belting out in laughs-a-plenty! Through deep hiccups of belly bouncing guffaws, Drew coughed out, “Dude, you legit can’t run away without laughing your ass off, THAT’S one thing I remember!” He was right, no matter how scared I might be at something, I can not help but laugh myself silly. And that brings me to our near-death experience as teenagers.
It was just after school on a Friday. Drew had gained the permission of his parents to spend the night at my place, provided that he be up and at their family dry-cleaners for work extra early the following morning—a deal Drew was always willing to make. We were making our way up Shuswap Street towards The Little Store, for some pop and chips. The staples of any good sleepover. Along our route was a ramshackle old house that belonged to the fabled neighborhood mystery man. A man we dubbed: Mr. Stinky. Mr. Stinky, was a surly old man that boasted the grumpiest of grumpy expressions. On his deck was heaping piles of old newspaper and rotting garbage. He hated the neighborhood kids, and he hated them even more should they dare make eye contact with him when passing his shanty. He hated it so much that he would bound upwards with his large, capacious frame and make it appear as though he was going to run after the unsuspecting urchin. It was terrifying. Well, terrifying if you were a young kid… if you were fourteen and a little shit, it was adventure!
As Drew and I approached the crest of the hill, my eyes caught a glint of light bouncing off from Mr. Sticky’s enclosed deck.
“Drew, check it out, Stinky’s place” I said with hushed tone and a gesturing nod of my head. Drew followed my gaze. In unison we smirked and lowered into ourselves as if to have all of a sudden become sneakier. Drew scanned the ground for some rocks that we so often used as projectile ammunition. We would toss them at Mr. Stinky’s place and run away laughing at both the sound of small rocks pelting panes of glass and the vengeful scorned lamentations of Mr. Stinky. Like I said, we were little shits. After carefully selecting the perfect sized tools of our hand-tossed mayhem, we snuck into position. I was already snickering with each bound and movement. We had snuck close enough and sank into some bushes in preparation for our imminent bombardment.
“Okay, he’s on his deck… we are gonna have to huck these and run like fuck.” Drew said. I replied with a nod and a stupid shit eating grin. After a couple of deep breaths, we emerged from the foliage and into view of Mr. Stinky’s house. He was reading a paper with his head lowered, he had no idea. I watched Drew wind back his arm and ready his toss. I put myself into position to be able to follow with a volley of my own. I watched the several-dozen pebbles leave Drew’s hand and expand into a cluster of fast-moving nature bullets. Before they had a chance to reach their destination, I flexed my shoulder, arm and hand back and readied to shoot forth my tightly held rocks. It was at that moment that Mr. Stinky looked up, he must have seen Drew’s motion. I swear, Mr. Stinky smirked at me. A wild and unhinged smirk of devilish delight. I was about to toss my payload when all of a sudden, a new an unheard sound made its way into scene. It was a nefarious oration of primal tone. Short, snapping barks—it was coming from a dog. But not just any dog, Mr. Stinky’s NEW dog!
“Oh, fuck! Stinky’s got a dog!”
“Holy shit, RUN! DREW, RUN!!”
I dropped the rocks and began to scuttle as fast as I could until I was in full sprint. I looked behind me and there in chase was a black beast, salivating from the mouth with fangs the size of daggers and mutant like grunts of exertion as it gained on us. In actuality, it was just a young black lab that thought it was play time, but not knowing that, it became a moment of life and death. I had always thought that I was a faster runner than Drew, turns out that was not the case. Drew engaged into a gear that can only be described as Olympian, and took off towards the school. The elementary school that we used to attend was a few hundred feet ahead of us and both Drew and I knew that should we have any chance at living through this, that school was it!
I was running full tilt but losing steam because as per, I could not stop myself from laughing.
“Stop laughing and run! Fuckin, RUN!”
“Haha-hehe, Fuck, I’m trying! I’m gonna fuckin die!!!”
In one last pull from within, I hit another gear and pushed forward the remaining steps needed to follow Drew in through the side doors of the school. We were lucky they were still open. We clamored our way in and in the process, scared a middle-aged Filipino cleaning lady half-to-death.
“GASP! No, no, you can’t be here! You leave. Leave, now. Both of you!” She commanded. As Drew was fighting to catch his breath, I spoke up for both of us, “There’s a dog… chasing us… we… we had to get away… gonna… eat… us…” A stern expression of incredulity pulverised her face. She walked over to the door and peered out through the glass cut-outs of the door itself. She returned her gaze towards us, then back out towards the dog that was now leaping upwards as if to look in through the window. I suppose in knowing what I do now, had I been her, I too would have been confused—I mean, for all intents and purposes, we were being chased by a puppy!
We ignored her pleas and jogged through the halls towards the back of the school. We snaked our way through some back yards and alleyways until we had reached the store. Feeling confident that the black beast was gone, we rested our hands on our thighs as we bent over and took in what had just happened… I was laughing.
“Dude, we almost died!” I said.
“Well, you definitely did, the fuck you laughing while running for?! Just run, dude. It was a damn dog chasing you!!”
“Haha, I know… I can’t help it. Shit!”
We laughed and walked inside. We got our treats and walked on a little further, to the wharf. A great place to hang out and watch the boats for a while. When the sun began to set and the snacks started to dwindle, we decided it was time to head home… we took the long way around… I laughed.
Oh, I should tell you; Mr. Stinky became a family friend of ours. His name was Harold. He had some mental health issues that the local church helped him overcome. He befriended my mum and subsequently, I would head over to his newly built home and help him out from time to time. And his dog, the big black, fanged beast that thirsted for human flesh, her name was, Sadie. She was a 35-pound black lab. She was satiated by belly rubs, scratches behind the ear and falling French fries from whomever was eating fast food.
Both Sadie and Harold have moved on to greener pastures. The only thing smelly about that man, was how I treated him when I was fourteen. He forgave me and I beguiled him with other stories of my juvenile youth, he would smirk… devilishly so.
Drew and I laughed for the rest of the night about that story. About our younger selves and the small town that once seemed so big and full of everything. Drew fell asleep first and then eventually, so did I. But before I did, I thought of a dog… a dog named, Sadie.