Bent Words

Bent Words

January 10, 2006

Michael Z. was another member of The Group. I recently came across a letter I had written him in 1999. It may have been written when I moved here or it may have been written back in our home town. Either way, his name was written upon the envelope in gold pen and I sent it to him, finally, about a week ago. The last time I saw him was at his surprise birthday party back in July when I dislocated my shoulder and promised everyone that I'd be back in a half hour "once the fuckers over at the hospital pop her back in." That was while the sun was still up. I didn't get out of the hospital until after 2:00 a.m..

Never make drunk promises.

I can recall almost perfectly the first day that I met Mike Z. Duker and I had stopped by Mike's Dad's house on a not quite so very warm day yet I believe we were all going out riding. He had an old Honda Interceptor which we dubbed the Intercraptor. I mean, this sucker was old as I believe it was the 500cc or 750cc carbuerated (even spell check isn't helping me on that one) Honda compared to my much newer 800cc, fuel injected model which they began producing in 1998.

Anyhow, Michael was walking out from the living room dressed in a heavy blue and white flannel shirt and, as he passed, he looked up at me and said,

"Excuse me, I'm short."

"I'm Laura."


He was corny but he was also cute and rather funny. Because of our height difference, it was easy for me to see the thinning brown hair on the top of his head and I had originally assumed he was much older than his demeanor suggested. He always seemed a little bit nervous in nearly every situation I saw him in -- which was usually a garage setting -- and it was as though his voice concurred with the notion as it was always on the verge of breaking whenever he spoke. His voice never really broke, but it was always tiptoeing on the idea like it just wasn't sure.

He often wore cowboy boots and tap, tap, tapped along with The Group. He wore Preferred Stock cologne and drove a blue Rabbit which had an awesome stereo and a funky reverse gear. He drank Miller High Life from the bottle and smoked Marlboro Light cigarettes. This is what made me switch to Marlboro Reds as everyone in The Damned Group smoked lights. No one knew whose pack was whose and, of all the worldly dilemmas we could think of, that one consumed the most time.

"Dude! I had, like, a full fucking pack! You took my smokes!"

"Whatever. I've had these in my pocket all day. See the ass mark? You really wanna smoke these after my ass has been so near them?"

Ahhhh, yes. Young, drunk and ready for cancer on a stick.

Mike Z. ruined every song I ever heard. He would replace the artist's words with his own and brutally destroy the song's meaning in my mind forever. I would find myself singing the words that he would impose on all of my favorite tunes. Thank God, it's been so many years and I've drank so many Diet Coke's that I cannot think of a single song he has delightfully mutilated.

We also coined a lot of pointless phrases.

"Dork Monster."

"Tweeco." Whatever that meant.


"You're so short you'd need a phone book to fuck me from behind." One of my favorites.

Back then, we didn't have cell phones, we had pagers. Although he was the one who needed the dog leash, Duker had purchased me a green colored pager from one of those kiosks in the Mall so as to keep track of me. Mike Z. and I used to page each other with these long, elaborate sets of numbers which we would translate onto paper to figure out the message the other had sent.

968 273 843 2444378 3675 6667837 46 843 96753 translates into "you are the biggest dork monster in the world"

And we actually made time for this. In fact, it got so that we could remember the numbers for "the" and "dork" so easily that we could garner the correct meaning from the different tones of the phone's keypad. It was painfully ridiculous and consumed many a school notebook full of paper, but we did it. Sometimes the conventional means took over and I would drive out to his place of work when I was attending college in Janesville and leave him a note on the windshield of his car. However we conversed, we almost always got along smashingly. Or when we were smashed. Or both.

The Group decided to start a Couples Bowling League on Wednesday nights at the local alley. I always seemed to get there early. I'd sit in my car and wait until someone else showed up; acting as though I had just pulled in myself. Duker and I were partners but I can recall getting rotated with other partners for rare fill ins. Jeff and Jennifer were the best of group as they had their own shoes, towls, matching shirts and bowling balls. Eventually, this mutual adoration of bowling would lead to their marriage. The rest of The Group was pretty good, too. Save for myself.

I got a $5.00 gift certificate at the end of the year for Worst Bowler. I believe my average was 88.

Eric was the only one who really took it seriously. He would throw things, such as major fits, and whine and swear at the slightest inclination of a poor evening of bowling. No one really wanted to be next to him except for Mike Z. who seemed to be the only calming agent in Eric's life. The rest of us just laughed and flicked popcorn down his shirt so we could watch his face turn all sorts of pretty colors.

We had eight to ten people bowling together and although I was (way) under age, I was able to slide in with the rest of the gang and order up some booze. I always drank Swamp Water. I cannot remember what the HELL that stuff even contains now, exactly, but I am quite positive that it solely accounted for my glorious bowling average. The rest of the gang drank beer and by the second frame, many of us were just looking around the alley for our parteners.

"Jesus Christ, Nikki! It's your turn to bowl! Would you go already?"

"Mike! You having a baby in the bathroom?! Let's go!"

Someone usually stumbled or fell flat on their face during these get togethers.

"C'mon, Laura! I've been waiting for like ten minutes! Get offa the Juke Box!"

I couldn't bowl at all if I didn't have some good tunes cranking.

We used to get in trouble all of the time for bowling between each other's legs or throwing the ball down someone else's lane and I remember this one time when I accidentally hit someone in the balls with my wrist after flinging the ball. I'm sure I was flogged for this but I simply cannot recall the beatings. I do recall that a great time was had by all. I miss those days sometimes and yet there are other times when I cannot even fathom how ridiculous and foolish we all were.

For example, Mike Z. and I often raced each other home since we lived so close to each other. No matter which route I took, the one with the short cut or the one with the speed, Mike Z. would beat me to our desitination. He had more balls, so to speak, and never seemed to fear the tickets. I, on the other hand, was under age, drinking and still driving way too fast. Simply foolish.

Ahhhh, yes. Young, drunk and ready to race...

Written at 8:24 p.m.