Busted Axle Road
Chapter 91

Copyright© 1993, 2001, 2010

By the time the witching hour was approaching, Mark was sure he was navigating on instruments through a thunderstorm, and the instruments were lying. His head was more than a little light, and vertical didn't quite seem vertical any more. He hadn't been this wasted since he got out of the Army, and he was very sure that Jackie had never been that wasted, period.

The party hadn't died down much, although there had been a few celebrants felled early, and heat and noise and booze had made a lot of the costumes look more than a little disheveled. The heat and the noise were getting to Mark, too; he was overdressed in the flight jacket and the helmet, and somewhere inside him, he knew he'd better take a breather.

It was quieter out on the sweeping porch of Commons, and cooler, too. He took off the helmet and the jacket, and sat on a log railing of the porch, his back up against a post to give him balance, while mentally he tried to sort out impressions. He'd never, ever been to a party like this, and he wasn't real sure he wanted to again, but it had been fun.

Mark wasn't sure how long he sat there before he discovered Mike was there. "Hey, don't you know that it's against the rules to not have a drink in your hand? Here, have some punch."

"I don't ... oh, what the hell," Mark said, taking the plastic cup from Mike. He was glad he'd stuck to the punch; apparently the bar mixed them pretty stiff. "What's in this stuff, anyway?"

"Don't know," Mike admitted. "All Carrie has ever said is that it's based on some sort of German forty-rod that Helga imports from the Black Forest." He laughed, and went on, "There was the year that someone got the bright idea of making the punch out of equal parts of tomato juice and Budweiser, with a little steak sauce and celery juice for seasoning. There was something in that mixture that gives you gas like you wouldn't believe. It was fart city around here all evening. Trick or treeeet."

The joke was just gross enough to punch through Mark's alcoholic haze. He started giggling, then finally rolled into full-blown laughter.

"What's so damn funny?" Ryan Clark said, joining them.

"The tomato beer punch," Mike laughed.

"I hadn't farted so much since I got sucked into being a judge at the chili contest," Clark agreed. He was pretty loaded, too.

Mike was still getting along, though he could see that he was fading. Still, Clark might be able to add something to what he'd overheard earlier. "Hey," Mike said. "What do you hear about the city wanting to put in some sort of a retention pond out on 427?"

"Don't know much about it," Clark said. "I know Kutzley has hinted that he's got something in mind as an alternative to the sewer separation, but he hasn't said much. A couple of councilmen got a little pissed about it in executive session the other night, but he said the idea isn't ready to bring to council yet.

"I knew you jokers were doing stuff in executive session you're not supposed to be doing," Mike accused.

"We weren't discussing anything," Clark said. "We don't know enough about it to discuss it. All I know is we got a hell of a big bill from the engineering firm on 'Retention Pond Study', but he didn't want to explain it. That's what got people pissed."

As drunk as he was, Mike knew a story when he saw one, and he knew enough now to know what questions to ask, Monday. If he remembered. He wished he'd brought a notebook. "Well, that's Don for you," he said. "If he's not going to say, he's not going to say."

"Yeah, well, the hell with the damn sewer system, and the hell with the snake," Clark said. "I'm tired of even thinking of the damn thing. I think I'm not going to run again when my term comes up next year. You did the smart thing, getting a place out of town. Maybe I'll do that."

"You better watch what you say about that," Mike said. "You could find yourself owning a new place before you sober up. Binky's wandering around here. She isn't drinking, and she's making notes."

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