a short story
S. Francis Pringle
THE PINE GLADE INN, an old stone tavern standing next to the two lane highway that ran between the river bridge and the mall, had become the main watering hole for our small college’s underage drinkers. Despite its name, The Pine Glade Inn possessed neither pine trees nor a glade. Peter, the owner, was fond of explaining away this apparent inconsistency. “In revolutionary times, before the farmers cut down all the trees, this tavern did stand in a cool glade of pines, where travelers could rest their horses,” he would expound, hoping his customers had not noticed the date 1938 on the tavern’s cornerstone as they came in. “Well, my name is Peter Rams,” the innkeeper would reveal, pausing to wipe the bar with a sour rag, allowing his listeners a moment to think about this fact before delivering the punch line: “Now, I couldn’t very well have named this place The Peter Rams Inn. . . .” This usually brought a curious look and perhaps a grunt from the customer, but Peter always laughed.
Few outsiders visited our town as nothing ever happened here, but those who did knew “The Glade” and made it their hangout, probably because, besides the college students, the place attracted an abundance of town girls known for their beauty, and their putatively loose morals. Prize winning poets, and writers-in-residence, although there were fewer of them now as the college was facing severe budget cuts, often gyrated on the dance floor among college kids clad in sweatshirts displaying the logos of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. The only people wearing the name of the local school, Trumpett College, were the town girls, who didn’t go there anyway.
A kind of caste system existed among the students at Trumpett. The students who had transferred from some other school, where they bought their logo gear at the campus store rather than from a mail order catalog, having flunked out before coming to Trumpett, considered themselves superior to those students who had gone directly to the local institution. The two groups did not interact socially; in fact they were rather hostile to one another. Although Trumpett College had been my only choice, the one school my parents could afford, I was, because of my friendship with a transfer student named Hank Kolada, allowed to mingle, if only incidentally, with this group.
Outside my window the early winter’s night was being dampened by a gentle snow as I hurried to finish typing a term paper before going out for the evening. Across town my friend Hank would be shivering in his yellow rain slicker, as the volunteer Civil Defense Policeman waved his red baton-flashlight at the steady line of cars coming and going around a three ton boulder that had slid down a cut in the road and was occupying the southbound lane of Route 609. In another hour Hank would be off duty, and meeting me at The Glade for a beer. No one was scheduled to replace Hank Kolada; the cars would just have to get around the rock on their own, which they seemed to be capable of doing when he wasn’t there. Hank didn’t let the fact that his task was rather make-work to keep him from botching up a more serious job bother him. He enjoyed playing policeman, which was why Hank was a volunteer. Hank hoped to become a law enforcement officer when he graduated from Trumpett, the third college he had attended, which made him a kind of super hero among the transfer students. Plus, his father was the chief of police in Shankerburg, the township where The Glade was located.
Everyone, at least everyone under the legal drinking age of 21, professed to be Hank’s friend. If The Glade was going to be raided, they reasoned, Hank Kolada would be sure to know about it. The sight of Hank hunkered over the bar nursing his beer brought considerable comfort to the minds of those customers whose real ages did not match the ages on the ID cards in their wallets.
Looking out, my breath frosted the window. I imagined Hank tugging his slicker tighter around his neck against the cold, and checking his watch. Hank too liked to hang out with the “fast” crowd at The Glade. It gave him a sense of importance that someone who had already flunked out of two colleges by the age of twenty desperately needed. Unfortunately, Hank and I had been less welcome at the Glade since perpetrating our hoax.
It had been Hank’s idea. I still wonder how I had the temerity to agreed to the bizarre scheme, perhaps because I was rarely asked by anyone to participate in anything. Hank, as a volunteer Civil Defense Policeman, displayed an official-looking rack of warning lights on the roof of his car. He also carried in the trunk a complete store of emergency gear: helmets, yellow slickers, nightsticks, flashlights, whistles, hand-held radios; a mini police station complete with everything but guns.
The Glade, as a widely-known underage drinking spot, operated in constant fear of being raided by the Liquor Control Board, its young patrons speculating on how much of their nightly tab went into paying off whoever was being paid off, and when these payments mightrun out, and the curtain brought down. But this risk was part of the attraction of drinking at The Glade, a frisson that made the beer taste sweeter there than the same beer drunk from a can in a parked car, or out of a paper at a fraternity party.
Hank, nicknamed “Pina” to his chagrin, possessed of a strange sense of humor anyway, and perhaps to spite those insiders at the tavern who regularly mocked him, especially the owner Peter the inventor of his tag “Pina Kolada”, contrived to orchestrate a mock raid on his favorite drinking establishment.
The Friday night before the Homecoming Parade, wearing his Civil Defense Police slicker and helmet, and blowing a whistle, Hank had burst through the double front door of The Glade, the warning lights on his car flooding the background with flashing red and blue, its siren howling like the dogs from hell, and shouted through a bullhorn: “Don’t anybody move this is a raid!”
For a moment dancers on the polished floor froze in place, chuggers halted in mid chug-a-lug, the good times hung suspended. Then a crescendo of too young drinkers panicked for the side exit, where I, in similar faux police costume, had taken up my position also blowing a whistle, and rapping on the window with a billy club. Seeking an escape the crowd in the back room had bolted through the kitchen, and out the back door, which to their grief opened on a field that had been freshly fertilized with barn manure.
Clambering on an overturned wastebasket a ex-Yaleman got stuck trying to squeeze out the men’s room window. Harvard and Princeton sweatshirt wearers were found cowering on the toilet seat, the stall door locked.
At the first blast of Hank’s whistle Peter and his wife had fled up the backstairs, seeking sanctuary in their apartment above, where they would claim they had been all night, planning to place all the blame on their newly hired bartender.
The bogus attack lasted less than a minute: Hank, now Pina again, throwing off his helmet and yelling, “Surprise”. But before I could also reveal the joke, all of the underaged patrons, which meant most of the patrons, excluding those still hiding in the toilets, or out back running through cowpie up to their ankles, had rushed past me and gotten into their cars and fled.
The rest of the night was rather quiet at The Glade. Hank and I apologized profusely for our joke, which all agreed was in poor taste. Peter swore we were banned from his establishment forever, only relenting when he remembered how useful it was to have the son of the local police chief as a regular customer.
I was allowed back into The Glade perhaps because I was Hank’s best friend, or so everyone thought. Of all the people Hank Kolada knew there must have a dozen or so closer to him than me, but none, I suppose, quite as desperate and gullible as I was then.
S. Francis Pringle is a writer who lives in upstate New York. He has published numerous short stories. including one in the June issue of this journal. A RAID AT THE G is an excerpt from a longer work.
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