This is an excerpt from Dave Lundy’s new novel, “Wild Turkeys: Fall Semester” (still in development) — the prequel to the bestselling comedy “Squish the Fish: A Tale of Dating and Debauchery”.
It was a day not much unlike today, except completely different. Our tale begins on a blazing hot August afternoon in Buffalo, NY. The year was 1993. If asked, most would guess the city was named after a wild beast that once roamed here. This historical lore, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. It would be far too simple for this misunderstood town.
The Steer was a restaurant-bar located near the University at Buffalo’s city campus that, for some reason, was popular with rich kids from Long Island. Its interior was made of dark brown wood from floor to ceiling, which gave it an old Wild West vibe. Complete with wagon wheel ceiling lights, a brass spittoon tip-jar on the bar, and an enormous bull’s skull that hung obnoxiously on the wall in the dining area. With classes not in regular session, there were a fair number of students imbibing and, in general, acting like they owned the place.
Sitting at one of the tables were three young men. All at the ripe old age of twenty-one — or at least that’s what their IDs said. Each looked like they were recovering from different stages of alcohol poisoning. Wearing sale-rack suits, they stuck out like a sore thumb in the middle of what can only be called, “douchebag central.” And, although it was approaching the mid-’90s, these specimens from Central New York looked like they had forgotten to leave the ’80s.
The first in the group was the spitting image of Tom Selleck’s Magnum P.I. character if he were baby-faced. Tall with a natural tan and a bushy brown mustache; all he was missing was a Hawaiian shirt and a Detroit Tigers baseball cap. It took all of his friends’ collective brainpower to coin his nickname during freshman year — Magnum.
The second wouldn’t have stood out in a police lineup if it weren’t for his jackass grin. Sporting some extra pounds packed on during college, his name was Robert but he went by Bob.
The last of the magnificent trio had long, curly, blond hair and a stupefied expression on his jaw-dropped face. He looked like he’d been kicked in the face by a donkey and, from the size of his dark purple swollen left eye, that possibility was not out of the question. Of the three, this knucklehead was clearly the Rhodes Scholar of the bunch. Everyone called him Zabka after his doppelgänger William Zabka, the actor and antagonist in Karate Kid.
Their waitress barreled out of the kitchen with their lunch balanced on a tray on her palm. She was dressed like she was ready for an early Halloween as some kind of cowgirl-stripper. While handing out their orders, she couldn’t help but flash some eye-popping cleavage out of her flannel button-down.
Bob reviewed Zabka’s order and then glared at his friend. “Who the fuck orders a salad?” He picked up and dropped his knife, clanging it on the table for dramatic effect. “No great story ever starts with, ‘So, I was eating a salad…’ But here you are… eating a fucking salad.”
The waitress finished the delivery and readjusted her cowgirl hat. “Y’all need anything else?”
Zabka looked up at her. “Naw, Sugar-Tits… unless ya gotta twin sister?” His facial expression was one part self-amusement and two parts severe hangover.
Daggers shot out of her eyes. “My name ain’t Sugar-Tits… it’s Wendy.”
“Like the fast-food joint?”
She stared at his face, wanting to punch it, and took delight that someone had already taken the liberty. With a fuck-you grin and an exaggerated amount of sweetness, she said to him, “You should really put some ice on that nice shiner of yours,” then moseyed away in her cowgirl boots and tight denim shorts.
“Ice?” he mumbled. “I don’t need no ice. Pussies need ice. Right, Bob?” He stabbed his fork through lettuce and a cherry tomato. With a shaky hand, he brought it to his mouth while concentrating to not drip any dressing on his suit.
Magnum looked at Zabka and said, “Ya know, calling women Sugar-Tits, and stuff like that, it’s borderline offensive.” His high-and-mighty tone was over the top. “The world is changing, my friend. Pretty soon they’ll be able to join the army… maybe even do factory work. Who knows?”
Zabka gave a side-eye look at Bob with an expression that said, You hear this bullshit?
Bob shrugged while reflecting on Magnum’s equally bizarre, yet polar-opposite, outbursts yesterday. He’s lost his fucking mind.
“And like Bob was saying earlier…” Magnum added. “No great story ever started with, ‘So, I was eating a salad…’ Order a real meal and get with the program, Zabka.”
Zabka chewed, his face scrunched, pondering those words of wisdom. “Yeah, but what if I was tossin’ some chick’s salad?” He raised his eyebrows and continued, “That’d be a good start to a story, right?” Undoubtedly, he thought his response was clever.
“It sure would be… except that you’re not.” Bob took a swig of his beer and threw his polyester tie over his shoulder. “Anyway, if we don’t have a blast today, it’s your goddamn fault.” He attacked his greasy cheeseburger, devouring half in one bite.
“Whatever.” Zabka’s skull was pounding, and beads of sweat that were likely 80-proof had formed on his forehead.
Bob laughed at him. “Dude, you look like complete shit. Did you throw up when you were in the bathroom?”
Zabka shook his head and took a sip of his Bloody Mary. “No…” he groaned. “But I wish I had.”
Magnum felt the urge to share, “Well, guys, I feel great.”
Bob replied, “Yeah, that’s cuz you’re a freak of nature.” He turned to Zabka and said, “Come on, you need more than a salad. We have a big day ahead of us.”
“I’ll eat what I wanna eat.” Zabka grabbed an olive out of his morning cocktail and tossed it at Bob, hitting him between the eyes.
Bob wiped tomato juice off his face. “Asshole.”
“Listen, I couldn’t make it to the gym this morning, so I’m eating light.” Zabka flexed his arm and made a muscle. “You don’t get a ripped body like mine without sacrificing every once in a while.” He looked at his friend. “And Bob, you could stand to lose a few pounds, so don’t gimme any shit.”
Magnum said to Zabka, “No offense, but why bother? You know today’s gonna be a repeat of yesterday — you’re gonna drink a hundred beers again. Seriously, what’s the use?”
A country pop-song by Billy Ray Cyrus began to play in the bar.
Magnum was the first to comment, “I’m so sick of this song. It’s on the radio all-the-damn-time.”
Bob was physically agitated. “Achy-Fuckin’-Breaky Heart? This garbage sucks donkey-balls.”
Zabka said nonchalantly, “I’d Achy-Fuckin’-Breaky that guy’s nose if he was here.”
“Why? I figured that tard was your idol. Why else would you have the same stupid mullet?”
“Cuz I make it look cool,” Zabka replied. “If I wanted, I could get up and line-dance to this shit and make it look cool.”
“Oh god, please don’t.” Bob closed his eyes and shook his head. “But seriously, Zabka, why’d you make us come to this hellhole? I hate this fucking place.” He watched a group of girls in matching sorority shirts with matching nose jobs chat up the bartender. “Oh, that’s right… because you’re sniffing around for Tracy Cohenstein.”
Magnum’s eyes grew wide as he thought about the last time he saw Tracy at the end of the previous year’s spring semester. She was sunbathing in her backyard and he was perched in a tree with binoculars.
Zabka put his fork down. “Screw you, Bob. Stop trying to stir the pot.”
“Who, me?” Bob placed his hand over his heart. “I would never.”
Zabka shook his head. “Yeah, never.”
Bob was undoubtedly stirring the pot. “You two fucktards… and that incident at Tracy’s place last night… you two were out of your goddamn minds. Like, way over the line.” He gulped down some beer and shoved a fist full of fries into his mouth.
“Pff, no we weren’t,” Zabka dismissed. “We just got, I don’t know… enthusiastic about things.”
“Enthusiastic?” Bob turned to Magnum. “Do you agree with him? You think Tracy would see it that way?”
Magnum responded by turning red with embarrassment and rage.
Bob wisely realized it was best to switch subjects and thought about something else to say. “Hey, remember the last time we came here? That huge bouncer tossed some douchebag into the street.”
“Oh yeah, that was hilarious,” Magnum replied. “No offense, Zabka, but I’m shocked that’s never happened to you.”
“Someone thinks they got the balls to try to throw me out?” Zabka scoffed. “Ha. That’s a good one.”
Bob commented, “Actually, I’m shocked Brewer didn’t toss you outta The Base last night. You were a stumbling shitshow and wouldn’t shut-up.”
“They’d never — they love me,” Zabka said with a crooked smile. “We own that bar.”
Magnum shook his head. “Everything… and I mean everything… was a fiasco yesterday.”
Bob added, “Fiasco isn’t quite the right word. It was a… clusterfuck.”
“Yep, one giant clusterfuck.” Impulsively, Zabka felt his black eye.
“I’m mentally scarred by several things I witnessed.” Bob shuddered. “Actually, can we please just talk about something else?”
“Sure. How about hangovers?” Magnum finished his beer and raised the bottle. “Thank god for hair-of-the-dog.”
“More like shit-of-the-dog. Dog shit’s what I feel like.” Bob’s forehead throbbed. “So no, I don’t wanna talk about hangovers.”
“Okay, then how about the Bills?” Zabka asked. “Their second preseason game is today.”
“Come on, I thought we were changing subjects.” Bob rubbed his temples. “The Bills are the NFL’s version of a hangover. They lost against Detroit last week… Fuckin’ Detroit!”
“Relax,” Zabka told him. “It’s preseason. Means nothing. The team’s rusty and, most likely, partying a fair amount. I’m sure things get a little wild down in Fredonia during training camp. No big deal.”
“To be frank, Buffalo is done,” Magnum stated. “They lost the last three Super Bowls. They’re done. It’s all about Miami this year. Go ’Phins!”
Zabka picked up his fork. “Fuck Miami and fuck Marino.” He had only taken one bite of his salad after being harassed and speared a piece of chicken with this helping. “Shouldn’t you root for a Hawaiian team, Magnum? Oh shit, that’s right… there isn’t one!” As he began gnawing on the meat like a piece of gum, his face slowly turned green. He spit the chicken on the floor and inspected its pink flesh. “What the fuck?!” he screamed. “It’s fuckin’ raw!” He leaned forward and dry-heaved.
“Back in town for less than twenty-four hours and already someone’s out to get you, Zabka.” Magnum shook his head. “Shocker.”
Their waitress heard the commotion and hustled over. “Is there a problem with your order?”
“A problem?!” Zabka’s adrenaline spiked. “You’re goddamn right there’s a problem! The fuckin’ chicken ain’t cooked!”
“I’m so sorry. Let me take care of that and get you a new salad.”
“No, you will not! I’ll handle this myself.” Zabka stood up, grabbed his plate, and marched toward the kitchen. He slammed through the aluminum swinging-door and yelled, “Who the fuck made my salad?!”
The kitchen staff froze, alarmed by the madman with the black eye.
Zabka scanned for the culprit and landed on the Panamanian who’d paused chopping lettuce. “Hey, chico!” His experience growing up as one of the few white kids in a Latino high school had kicked in. “Why’d you put raw pollo in my salad?!”
“I didn’t do that,” the food preparer replied. “I make the vegetables.” His nervous eyes implicated his coworker that was grilling meat.
“I see.” Zabka turned to the cook. “So, Señor Fuckface, it was you.” He walked over and dumped the salad on the Mexican man’s head. “Tell me why right now, or I swear I’ll strangle your fucking neck!”
The guy gulped, fully believing Zabka’s threat. “Okay, okay. Some girl paid me fifty bucks to do it. Please don’t tell my boss. I beg you.”
“Some chica?!” Zabka looked around. “So where is this conniving little cunt? Keep talking and I might let you off the hook.”
The cook pointed his shaky finger. “She was out at the bar.”
“Take me to her.” Zabka punched his open palm. “Let’s go, motherfucker.” He took hold of the cook’s arm and pulled him briskly toward the door.
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