(Note: The Contributing Writers Well is once again dry, so I thought I’d write up a short story from my past. All the names in this story have been changed due to the fact that I’m pretty sure that at least one of the people I’m going to write about is clinically insane and I don’t want her stumbling upon this story and showing up at my doorstep.)
Last week I was surfing around on YouTube and came across a song by the band, Was Not Was. The song I listened to is called, “Anything Can Happen,” and it has always reminded me of an extremely weird night I had in the early, cocaine-fueled ‘80s. Here’s the song, the first verse is the one that really dredges up this memory of a night that went horribly wrong on so many levels.
I think the year was 1983, it was sometime in January and I definitely know it was a Saturday around 6:30 in the evening when my phone rang. I picked it up and it was my friend Phil Benecke and he sounded kind of fucked up. Soon I found out he sounded that way because he was. Fucked up, that is.
Phil had been married for about six months and his wife was a little on the kooky side. Her name was Ronnie and her dad owned a bank and her family was loaded with dough. Phil didn’t marry her for her money, though, I think he married her because she was the only woman who could throw the booze down faster than he could. The two of them loved to party and since Ronnie had a trust fund, that’s pretty much what they did full time. Phil had a sales job, but he didn’t put too much time or effort into it after he married Ronnie. They made the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor characters in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” look like teetotalers.
So it was no surprise to hear him slightly slurring on this early Saturday evening.
“You sound kind of fucked up,” I told him.
“I got a sure thing for you, asshole,” he said in a muffled tone.
“I can hardly hear you,” I shot back.
“I’m in the TV room and I don’t want them to here me,” he half-whispered, half told me.
“Who don’t you want to hear?” I asked him.
He went on to explain that Ronnie’s sister-in-law, Leslie was over with a friend because Leslie’s husband, Brian was out of town for the night on a hunting trip with his friends.
Brian was Ronnie’s brother and he was a real asshole. He was one of these short guys who try’s to make up for his lack of height by being a tough, macho man bully. He was always getting into fights in bars and was a general asshat. Leslie was really nice and I think she only married him because of the money in the family.
Anyway he went on to explain Leslie was there with a friend who had just broken up with her boyfriend.
“She’s not ugly and she’s kind of a weirdo,” Phil confided in me, “I think you’d have a real shot with her if you come over here.”
“Gee, thanks for the compliment,” I sarcastically replied.
“No problem,” Phil answered as the sarcasm drifted over his head. “Why don’t you come over?”
“Okay, you want me to bring some beer?” I offered.
“Yeah, and can you get some coke from that friend of yours that deals?” he asked.
“Oh, no wonder you’re inviting me over,” I sneered.
“Fuck we’ll pay for it, the guy I buy from is out of town,” Phil said in pleading tones.
“How much do you want?” I asked.
“Get an eight-ball and we’ll have a blast, I’m telling you, this girl is yours for the taking,” he told me.
“Alright, I’ll be there when I get there,” I said hanging up the phone and putting on my shoes.
I called up my friend who almost always had an ounce of cocaine at his fingertips and set up the buy. I went to his apartment, did a couple lines with him and some people who were also buying coke (this was 1983 and everybody was doing coke) and then got the eight-ball and drove to Phil and Becky’s house.
They lived in a big house on the north side of Peoria. It was a two-story house with four bedrooms, a dining room, a large TV room and a kitchen that was bigger than my apartment. In spite of the house being so big, the kitchen is where most of the partying took place.
I parked my car in the middle of their circular drive and walked up to the giant white, wooden front door and rang the bell.
Within seconds Phil threw the door open and said, “Did you get the coke?”
“What happened to hello?” I said while walking into the front palace-like marble foyer.
“Hello, did you get the coke?” Phil asked impatiently.
Phil was a year older than me and I had known him since high school. He had always been a big drinker and told me he loved coke, because it extended the time that you could drink without passing out. He had put on a lot of weight since high school and kind of resembled John Belushi, both in looks and demeanor.
I pulled the baggie of coke out of my pocket and Phil whooped for joy. I followed him down the hallway to the kitchen where his wife Ronnie, Ronnie’s sister-in-law Leslie and her friend who I hadn’t met yet were standing around a wooden island table in the middle of the kitchen. There were empty beer cans all over the place and it smelled like seven hundred cigarettes had been smoked in there.
I walked up and put the 12 pack of Budweiser and the bag of cocaine on the island and said, “I bring beer and cocaine, let the party begin!”
“You’re the best,” Ronnie said, giving me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Don’t leave tonight without me paying you for the coke.”
“Don’t worry about that,” I laughingly told her.
Ronnie was two years older than me and went to the same high school that Phil and I went to. She had a blond spiky hairdo and looked like a punkier version of Debbie Harry. As I said earlier, her family had tons of money and she was wild as sin. I remember her being blotto on booze and drugs all through high school. Her and Phil were like gasoline and a match together and I wondered how long their marriage would last.
I said hi to Ronnie’s sister-in-law Leslie. Leslie was nice and kind of soft spoken. She was tall, slender, pretty and had a ‘70s Jane Fonda shag hair style.
I was then introduced to Leslie’s friend, Lydia. Lydia was tiny, about five foot, kind of on the skinny side and she had really short hair, kind of like Mia Farrow’s in Rosemary’s Baby, except Lydia was a brunette. She had big full lips and even bigger eyes that were kind of stunning and kind of crazy looking all at the same time. I was immediately attracted to her.
“I’ve never met anyone named, Lydia,” I said while shaking her hand after I was introduced to her.
She smiled at me and said, “Well, I’ve never met anyone named Marty.”
While still holding her hand, I got down on one knee and said, “Will you marry me?”
She laughed and said, “Phil said you were crazy and I think he’s right!”
I stood up and retorted, “Well, he said you weren’t ugly and he’s right about that too.”
Lydia hit Phil in the shoulder and we all started laughing. Soon the cocaine came out and we all started Hoovering lines and drinking and talking a mile a minute about every topic under the sun.
That’s the thing about cocaine, you do enough and you’re telling your darkest secrets to someone you just met.
Within an hour we had thrown down lots of booze and I learned that Lydia came from a rough background. She was an only child and her father had walked out on her and her mom when she was eight-years-old. Her mom was an alcoholic and Lydia married a 26-year-old loser when she was 18 just to get away from her drunken mother. She divorced him after he routinely beat the shit out of her and she had just broken up from her latest boyfriend who lost his job over a year ago and wasn’t in any hurry to find another one, according to Lydia. Like I said, you can learn a lot from someone after they’ve done enough cocaine to make David Crosby blush. I found her to be intriguing and a little scary all at the same time.
There was something familiar about the way Lydia looked and I couldn’t put my finger on it. At first I thought of Jane Wiedlin from the Go-Gos (Jane Wiedlin is my favorite Go-Go by the way) and then it hit me.
“You look like a Manson woman,” I said pointing to Lydia.
This silenced the blathering, Lydia laughed and Ronnie barked out, “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“She looks like a Manson woman,” I repeated. “She’s tiny, tough, has the big eyes...the Manson women all had a certain look and Lydia’s got it.”
“What kind of fuckin’ thing is that to say?” Ronnie said in a drunken stupor. By now she was drinking straight Jack Daniels. Both Leslie and Lydia were laughing.
I turned to Lydia and said, “Hey take it as a compliment, I’ve always found the Manson women to be fabulous babes. You kind of look like Snake Lake and she was always my favorite Manson woman.”
“You are so weird,” Lydia said, grabbing my arm and laughing.
“They carved a baby out of an actress,” Ronnie drunkenly spat out.
“See they could do it all,” I said with a flourish of my arm, “they could cook, clean, sew, kill, perform abortions.”
After that last quip, everyone laughed and Lydia was really laughing hard. In fact a little too hard. After the laughter had died down she continued to howl with laughter. Soon the laughter turned to tears and then an unexpected crying jag followed and she ran out of the kitchen and up the stairs. Leslie took off after her.
“Jesus, that was weird,” I said grabbing a beer.
“What do you expect,” Ronnie said grabbing a rolled dollar bill and snorting a line of coke off the mirror on the island. She cut another line from the mound of coke on the mirror and handed the bill to me.
I snorted the line and said, “I told her it was a compliment. I think she’s cute. Do you think that Manson crack made her cry?”
“I don’t know,” Ronnie said grabbing the bill back and snorting another line. “She was whining about her boyfriend before you got here, that’s probably what it’s all about. She seems a little off-kilter if you ask me.”
“Aw, fuck it, who cares,” Phil said grabbing the Jack Daniels bottle and taking a swig and then snorting a line.
“Well, I hope I didn’t hurt her feelings, I meant that as a compliment. The Manson women were good looking in a strange way,” I said while pacing around the wooden island in the kitchen.
“God you are such a fucking weirdo!” Ronnie said while laughing drunkenly.
Just then Leslie walked back into the kitchen.
“She’s not upset about the Manson thing is she?” I asked Leslie, who was heading toward the coke mirror.
“Oh no, she’s upset about breaking up with her loser boyfriend and Lydia’s always been...” And then her voice just trailed off. “Anyway, she feels embarassed now and doesn’t want to come down.”
“Good, that means more coke for the rest of us,” Phil said snorting a line.
We all laughed and Ronnie called him an asshole.
“Hey Marty, why don’t you go up and talk her into coming back down, she likes you,” Leslie said.
“Yeah, maybe she’ll see how sensitive you are and give you a blow job,” Phil retorted.
We all laughed and Ronnie once again called him an asshole.
“Fuck it, I’ll go,” I replied. “If I’m not back in five minutes, don’t come looking for me. It just means Phil was right.”
Once again everyone laughed, but now Ronnie called me an asshole.
I took a swig of beer, left the kitchen and walked up the stairs. Lydia was sitting on the top stair and was wiping her face with a Kleenex. She was staring down into her lap.
I sat down next to her and said, “You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m just a little emotional tonight, now I feel really stupid,” she said while staring down at her feet. “I don’t know what happens to me sometimes.”
“Hey, we’re all fucked up, we’ve done a ton of coke and nobody’s even going to remember this tomorrow,” I told her.
She looked up at me and said, “You think so?”
“I know so,” I said putting my hand on her shoulder, “now be a tough little Manson woman and let’s get up and go back down to the party.”
She fell into me and hugged me and said, “You’re a nice guy.”
“Not really,” I countered, “I’m just trying to get you to join my cult so that we can murder Ronnie’s parents and take all their money and run away to Switzerland.”
She laughed and we both stood up and walked down the stairs, back into the kitchen.
We walked in the kitchen and everything went silent.
“Do a line, Lydia,” Ronnie said handing Lydia the rolled up dollar. Lydia snorted a line and we were back to all standing around the kitchen island. It was still uncomfortably quiet.
“Lydia, can I ask you something personal,” I said as seriously as I could with a stone face.
Everyone had a “what the fuck is he going to say now” look on their face and Lydia reluctantly said, “Yeah...I guess so.”
I stared into her eyes for a good 30 seconds and then said, “Do you think I could carve a swastika into your forehead?”
There was a pregnant pause, but soon everyone was laughing and doing blow again. The ice was broken and the party was back in full swing.
By one in the morning, we were all extremely fucked up, had gone through most of the coke and drank a river of booze. Ronnie had almost polished off a fifth of Jack Daniels. She was plastered and wobbled over to what was left of the cocaine mountain and did a line, then she got a funny look on her face and ran into the bathroom around the corner. Seconds later we heard her vomiting.
Phil bolted up and said, “Fuck,” and ran into the bathroom.
Lydia, Leslie and I all looked at each other and started laughing. After a couple minutes Phil came out and said, “She’s really sick, I think you guys better go.”
“I was getting ready to go anyway,” Leslie said grabbing her purse and coat.
“What are you going to do?” I asked Lydia.
“Oh, I’m staying with Leslie tonight at her house, since Brian’s gone for the night on the hunting trip, so I’m going back with her,” she said as she put her brown leather coat on.
“Oh,” I disappointedly said, “well, what’s your phone number, can I call you some time?”
“Hey, why don’t you come back to Leslie’s with us and we’ll keep this party going!” Lydia sang out.
“Is that okay, Leslie?” I asked.
“Yeah, why not,” Leslie answered, “we’ll drink all of Brian’s beer, that’ll serve him for leaving me on a Saturday night.”
“Uh, oh, looks like a threesome is brewing,” Phil said in a drunken slur.
“Fuck you, Phil,” Leslie said and we made our way out into the chilly winter night. I followed Leslie and Lydia to Leslie’s house in my car because I had never been there. We got there and the house was about as big as Phil and Ronnie’s. More bank money.
We went down to the finished paneled basement, Lydia grabbed some beers from the refrigerator and Leslie pulled out a game of Monopoly and put it on a coffee table. We started playing a very drunken game with our own rules. One of them was you got a five hundred dollar bonus if you went to jail. Like I said, we were plastered and getting more plastered by the minute.
After about an hour, Leslie got up and said she was calling it a night.
“You probably shouldn’t drive, you can crash on the couch down here,” she offered.
“Thanks, I think I’ll take you up on that offer,” I said polishing off another can of beer.
“You coming, Lydia?” Leslie asked.
“I think I’ll have another beer with Marty,” Lydia said smiling at me.
Leslie cocked her head, laughed and said, “Okay, whatever...goodnight.”
Leslie walked up the stairs and I got up and got two more beers from the refrigerator. Lydia had moved to the couch and I opened her beer and sat next to her. She put her hand on my leg and said, “Thanks for being nice to me tonight.”
And then we started making out like two teenagers at an X-rated drive-in movie. After about ten minutes she suggested we move to one of the guest rooms in the house.
We ran up the stairs to the main floor and then up the flight of white carpeted stairs that led to the second floor and made our way into a spare bedroom.
I remember the room was sparsely decorated. Just a queen-sized bed with a white wooden nightstand next to it. There was a big window in the room and there wasn’t any shades on it, so the moon was shining in and it lit up the room.
“Take off your clothes and get in bed,” Lydia whispered in my ear.
My clothes came off and soon I was underneath the blankets on the bed.
Then Lydia peeled off her clothes to reveal a great looking body. Then she jumped in the bed and we resumed the makeout session. After a couple minutes my hands started roaming over her naked body.
She pushed me away and angrily said, “Stop that. What are you doing?”
I sat up in bed and said, “Huh?”
She had a weird look on her face. “Don’t touch me like that,” she angrily said. The moonlight was shining on her and she looked kind of crazy.
I started to get out of bed and said, “I think I’m going to sleep on the couch in the basement."
As I was picking up my clothes she walked over to me, put her arms around me and said, “Don’t leave me.”
I looked at her, and her body looked great in the moonlight. I looked her in the eyes and said, “You know what, I’m really fucked up and tired, let’s just go to sleep and in the morning we’ll probably feel really weird waking up with each other.”
She hugged me and said, “I'm sorry, I'm just so messed up tonight, let's just go back to bed,” and we got back in to the bed.
I had my back to her and she put her arms around me. I put my hand on hers and she started licking my ear. I rolled over and we started making out again. Once again, almost out of instinct my hands started sliding around her body. It went on for a couple minutes and then she pushed me away and once again angrily shouted out, “I told you not to do that!”
“Do what?” I asked. “You keep starting something here, what do you expect?”
“Oh so now I’m your private little slut?” She barked out. “I thought you were different but you’re like everyone else!”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” I wearily asked.
Then she got out of the bed, grabbed her clothes and stormed out of the room.
I laid in bed and wondered what the fuck was going on. One thing was for sure, Lydia was fucking nutty as seven cases of Snickers bars.
I put my head on the pillow, shut my eyes and the next thing that I knew was I opened my eyes to sunshine streaming in through the window. For a second I had no idea where I was. My head was throbbing and my nose felt like someone had poured cement in it.
I looked around the room and then remembered where I was and what happened. Then I looked outside and saw the sunshine and realized I had passed out. There wasn’t a clock in the room and I had no idea what time it was. I just knew I had to get out of there. What if Leslie’s husband Brian pulled up from his hunting trip and found me in the house? He might think I had hooked up with Leslie and shoot me before I could explain.
I jumped out of bed and quickly put my clothes on. My head felt like someone had beaten on it with a solid-steel shovel and I couldn’t breath through my nose. I resisted the urge I had to throw up all over the room.
I walked to the door and stuck my head out. No one was in the hallway and I didn’t hear anyone talking. Slowly and quietly I made my way down the stairs and walked into the kitchen. The clock on the wall said it was 8:34. Leslie and Lydia were probably still asleep.
I looked at the sparkling white refrigerator in the kitchen. I walked over and opened it up. It was stocked with all kinds of food and there was a six pack of Hamms beer in there. I grabbed the six pack and headed towards the front door.
Slowly and quietly I stealthily made my way towards the front door. I opened the door up and looked outside and down the street. I didn’t see anything so I threw my coat on and ran to my car which was parked in front of the house. The windshield was iced up, but I didn’t take the time to scrape it off. I jumped in, started it, put the heat up high and drove down the street with my head hanging out the window.
I made it out of the neighborhood and onto Sterling Avenue and breathed a sigh of relief.
In about ten minutes I had made it back to my apartment, parked my car and grabbed the six pack and walked up a flight of stairs to my place.
I unlocked the door, walked in and plopped down on my couch and opened a can of beer. I thought about the night and laughed a little and drank the beer. I think I passed out on the third beer and called my brother Jim when I woke up in the afternoon and said, “You’re not going to believe the fucking night I had.”
Now flash forward three years to the summer of 1986. That was the year I had been on the Today Show with my Idiot Trivia game and I was still getting some attention around town because of it. It was a Sunday in June and my brother Jim and I were going to Sully’s, a bar that had a deck on the outside and overlooked the river. It was a popular Sunday afternoon spot in Peoria and you could usually count on seeing someone there that you knew.
We walked in to the bar, got a beer, paid for them and walked out to the deck and immediately someone yelled out, “Hang on to your drinks everybody, the Wombacher brothers are here.”
I looked over and saw James Mueller sitting at a table. James was the older brother of a friend of mine. I laughed and waved at him and he told us to come over and have a seat.
We walked over and said hi to James. He was with a woman who was wearing big Jackie O. style sunglasses. Jim and I both shook his hand and then he said, “This is my girlfriend, Lydia.”
I looked over and she took off her sunglasses to reveal those big crazy-ass eyes. It was Lydia, the Manson woman!
“Hi Marty,” she said extending her hand.
I shook her hand and said, “Hi Lydia, how are you?”
James told us to sit down and then said, “Do you two know each other?”
“We met at a party a while back,” I said while looking at Lydia’s face. Her hair was a little longer, but she hadn’t changed at all.
“I heard Ronnie and Phil got divorced,” Lydia said.
“Yeah, what a shock, huh?” I sarcastcally replied.
By now my brother and James were talking and Lydia put her hand on my leg and said, “I saw you on TV.”
Nobody could see her hand on my leg because of the table, but it took me by surprise and I tried to ignore it.
“Yeah, that was pretty nuts,” I casually replied. “So how are you doing?”
“I’m a lot better,” she answered. “Sorry we never saw each other again, I’ve often thought about you,” she said while staring into my eyes. Now she was massaging my inner thigh and I didn’t know what the fuck to do.
I stood up and said, “Fuck, I just remembered I’m supposed to meet someone, Jim we gotta go.”
My brother looked at me and said, “We just got here, what the fuck are you talking about?”
“I gotta meet someone, we gotta go, come on,” I said pulling him up out of his chair.
Lydia looked funny and then grabbed her purse and said, “Hey, I’m working for a real estate company now, let me give you my card.” She fished a card out of her purse along with a pen and wrote on the back of it.
“My home number’s on the back, call me if you’re ever in the market for a house,” she said while handing me the card.
James gave me a weird look and said, “Good seeing you guys.”
I took the card and we said goodbye to them. As we walked away I looked back and Lydia winked at me and then put her sunglasses back on.
“What the fuck is going on?” Jim asked me as we made our way to my car.
I told him the Lydia story as we pulled out of the parking lot and he remembered me telling him about it for the first time, three years ago.
I looked at the card she gave me and on the back underneath her phone number it said, “call me PLEASE.”
“She kind of looks like a Manson woman, doesn’t she?” I asked my brother while holding the card.
“Give me that fucking card,” my brother said while grabbing her business card. He then tore it up and threw it out the window.
We both laughed and drove to another bar and talked about the psycho Lydia and what a crazy night that had been.
I’ve never seen her again and wonder what happened to her. I also wonder what would happen if I ever run into her again. Hopefully we won’t recognize each other. I’ve followed the Manson women as they try to get parole and most of them haven’t aged very well.
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