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August 26, 2004

The Seven Second Lull

I stood in the kitchen like a mannequin, white knuckle grip on the beer bottle, staring at the CO2 cartridge inside the bottle and muttering to myself like a lunatic. But, some of the people knew me, and seemed to want to have a conversation despite vigorous attempts to ward them off. I regretted chaninging out of my gas soaked army jacket, as I stood there shivering, peering distantly into my beer bottle, and bantering in a disinterested sort of way with the neighbors, mumbling the requisite “mmmm hmmm? only when absolutely required to avert the dreaded seven second lull.

The other night, I was at the house of one of my neighbors, and she asked me if I was going to the party next door. I indicated that I was. She asked if I had a present, and I admitted that I didn’t.

“Don’t you think you should go and get one??

I agreed to go to a flower store and pick up an arrangement, if she would call it in.

“And go home and get cleaned up before you go to the party. You smell like gas.?

She was right, of course. She was like a mom to me, which I still needed for some reason. I got the flower arrangement, and went home and cleaned up for the party. I wasn’t too excited about the birthday party, as it was for a fifty year old woman that I didn’t even know. A friend of a friend. Someone that managed to make it to 50 without ever purchasing a house so she needed a place to hold the party.

I figured that it would be a morbidly dull affair, with a herd of middle-aged women refilling clear plastic cups with cheap California White Zin from a plastic-lined cardboard box in the upstairs refrigerator. Aging, bitter women overrun by liver spots. But, they had asked me over, and my life seemed to hold no charms on its own. So, I pulled my WWII 10th Mountain Division U.S. Army bear-paw snowshoes off the wall, strapped them on, and struggled through the massive snow drifts to my neighbor’s house.

In the basement, the melting snow from the blizzard had overcome the sump pumps and swamped the carpet. The carpet and padding were rotting away beneath our nostrils, so the doors and windows were left open, in spite of the freezing temperatures outside.

I stood in the kitchen, guzzling beer like an under-aged alcoholic on Spring Break in Cancun. I was drinking Guinness from 12 ounce glass bottles with the patently absurd little CO2 canister inside of them. The canister seemed to have been designed to force the beer onto your clothes when opened, lodge in the neck and prevent consumption when turned up, and finally to confound any attempt at recycling. My buddy Seamus had grown up in Ireland, and assured me that to pour a Guinness properly took the better part of a half an hour. But, I was under no delusions that I was on the wrong side of the pond, so the canister struck me as an odd gimmick that was only doing positive harm.

I stood in the kitchen like a mannequin, white knuckle grip on the beer bottle, staring at the CO2 cartridge inside the bottle and muttering to myself like a lunatic. But, some of the people knew me, and seemed to want to have a conversation despite vigorous attempts to ward them off.


I stood in the kitchen like a mannequin, white knuckle grip on the beer bottle, staring at the CO2 cartridge inside the bottle and muttering to myself like a lunatic. But, some of the people knew me, and seemed to want to have a conversation despite vigorous attempts to ward them off. I regretted chaninging out of my gas soaked army jacket, as I stood there shivering, peering distantly into my beer bottle, and bantering in a disinterested sort of way with the neighbors, mumbling the requisite “mmmm hmmm? only when absolutely required to avert the dreaded seven second lull.


The seven second lull has caused parties to careen onto the shoals, nations to go to war, and split up more relationships than any other phenomena, but it is poorly understood and here-to-fore undocumented. This dreaded lull can be cause by many things, but it most frequently occurs when a person that normally talks like a magpie on crack, suddenly feigns interest in the minions around them. At this point in time, due to synchronicity or some perturbation in the party karma, the music stops between songs, or the CD reaches the end. It is precisely during this seven second lull, that people realize how boring the party is, or how they neglected to report all their income last year and the IRS must surely be planning a blitzkrieg audit, or that they forgot to pick up their dry-cleaning. And, within seconds, a party turns into a rout, with all of the guests rushing for the door holding their noses, peering into their Guinness bottles, and muttering about how late it is, even though it’s only 8:30 on a Saturday.

But, as it was, I supplied the “mmmm hmmm’s? at all of the required intervals, so that the magpies continued to babble, without feeling obligated to feign interest into my life, which would seem shallow and uninteresting even to an accountant, I’m afraid.

When the cake was produced and the candle was extinguished in a burst of slobber and stale air, I was complacent enough to suffer morosely through the party, commemorating the 50th birthday party of an absolute stranger. One doesn’t celebrate birthdays after a certain point. They are observed, like the holocaust, but not celebrated.

Then Laura walked in. She was thin, but not emaciated like someone you’d see Sally Struthers blubbering and fawning over in some third world stretch of desert that wasn’t blessed with three trillion cubic feet of high grade crude oil. She had legs that would make a bishop kick out a stained glass window.

You could tell at a glance that she wasn’t sitting at home separating egg whites and straining distilled water through a cheese cloth full of pulverized rice. She had a healthy glow about her that meant when she saw a cow, she thought steak – not PETA. She was drinking Bass Ale instead of white zinfandel. My buddy from the U.K. had turned me on to Bass Ale when we used to work together in Minneapolis. I figured if it was good enough to make him drive down the wrong side of the road after leaving Lord Fletcher’s out at Lake Minnetonka, it was good enough for me.

She said she had a degree in mathematics, and refused to believe me when I told her that I also had a math degree. Although I don’t normally appreciate it when someone implies that I am a liar to my face, I didn’t mind it from her. You have to appreciate any woman that has a healthy distrust of strange men at parties. Enough of them have turned up in shallow graves to justify a bit of caution and disbelief under these conditions.

After we had consumed enough alcohol to make us act like children, someone decided that we should go to my house and fetch as many martini glasses as we could find. So, forgetting about the snowshoes, the two of us struggled back to my house and absconded with four martini glasses. I suggested that we drive the weasel back, as the weather had started out bad and deteriorated as time went on. We backed the weasel out of the garage, at which point Mike and some other people showed up and joined us in the weasel.

Once Mike was driving the weasel through a snow-filled ravine when the battery turned over and started glowing. We all bailed out and watched helplessly while smoke billowed and sparks spilled from the engine compartment. The battery cables welded themselves in half. Mike understood the nature of the weasel. He knew that she was a temperamental beast - irrational, and capable of almost anything.

The weasel is easily the most dangerous vehicle ever constructed. The windshield was made before safety glass was invented. It has a forty-gallon gas tank sitting inches from the starter, the battery, and the exhaust manifold. The drive shaft and the exhaust pipe both run through the hull of the vehicle. Anything that falls into the bowels of the weasel will be burned and twisted around the drive shaft. The back of the weasel has no seats to speak of, and no seatbelts at all. Riding in the back of the weasel with a drunken lunatic at the controls trying to impress onlookers, is nothing short of suicide.

I tried to explain all of this to Laura, (each of us holding two empty martini glasses), as we took off, but all that came out was “Hang on.?

In the first turn, Laura was catapulted across the weasel, but Mike caught her before her teeth made contact with the other side of the weasel. He was quick on his feet, and knew what to expect. He knew the way of the weasel. He’d saved Laura from a nasty gash and a late night run to the hospital for sutures.

“How much did you pay for those glasses?? Laura asked, laughing like a giddy teenager, unaware of how close she had come to becoming a comatose organ donor, preserved in the snow, waiting for a surgeon to divvy up her vitals and disperse them via a squadron of helicopters to a dozen different cities.

“Don’t worry about it. I can get more.?

Back at the party, we produced two martini glasses. One martini was shaken, poured, and handed to me. The other glass sat empty.

“But I didn’t even want a martini? I lamented.

“Drink it anyway, it’ll make you grow hair on your chest.? Someone suggested.

“I’d never turned down a martini in my life, and I wasn’t about to break tradition with a desert-dry Bombay Sapphire gin martini in one of my two surviving martini glasses in any event.

“Where does your ex-husband live?? I asked Laura as I began treading gin the bathtub sized martini.

“He’s in prison…Canyon City. He killed someone last year.? She replied.

It was at that point that the music stopped, and the dreaded seven second lull sent the party onto a reef. Everyone rushed the door like lemmings, holding their nose, and fleeing for reasons that even they couldn’t put words to. And that was how I met Laura.

Posted by Peenie Wallie on August 26, 2004 at 12:27 PM

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