This Week in World Wars III Through VI

ALAN CAUGHT THE TAIL END of the news on the television in the Rileys’ living room. Then he muted the sound and returned to the kitchen, where Melvin now poured tequila, and Jim, Keith, Dave, Ron, Ted and Charlie candidly discussed tequila-specific rituals.

“You put the salt right there, and you lick it before you take the shot. Then you suck on the lime.”

“I thought first you suck on the lime, then you lick the salt.”

“And you would be wrong.”

“But might be good.”

“Doubt it.”

“Like the T-shirt: Lick it, slam it, suck it.”

“You do everything T-shirts tell you?”

“Fuck off.”

“I bet some people might like it.”

“Why the lime at all?”

“You don’t have to like it or not like it. That’s just not how people do it.”

“For that matter, why the salt?”

“Why not?”

“Why even the tequila?”

Then the tequila ran out.

Whenever the Gentlemen’s Oratorical Society ran out of tequila at Ted Riley’s house and Ted’s parents weren’t due home for a week, drastic measures were taken: Red Rileys. The Red Riley was a specialty drink made from a little bit of everything in Ted Riley’s parents’ liquor cabinet blended with frozen strawberries.

Ted Riley produced a key and spread wide the cabinet doors. Melvin shot Polaroids of the contents from three angles, then carefully withdrew each bottle and splashed a bit into the blender, onto a stack of bright-red frozen fruit boulders. Melvin then returned the bottles (and napkins and swizzle sticks) to their exact former positions in the cabinet, and Ted Riley pressed Liquefy.

A round of red drinks was poured, and another. All girlfriends called as one from Cathy Barty’s house across town. The boys passed around the phone. Hard to understand the details, but it seemed that the girls had also run out of tequila and improvised in the same way as the boys, only with frozen blueberries: Blue Bartys, it turned out, were as much a summer tradition at the unsupervised Barty house as Red Rileys had become at the Rileys’.

Hey. How’s it goin’? Nothin’. What’s goin’ on? What’s happening over there? Did they? Yeah — Jim, Alan and those guys. Everything all right with you? Who was that? Say hi for me. You guys doin’ okay? Did you catch the new Brangelina spawn? So what’s up? You doing anything this summer? Hang on. Dudes — shut up. Okay. Go ahead.

SOMEONE ACCIDENTALLY TURNED UP the sound on the television. CNN announced that World Wars III and IV were over, and World War V would begin at 8:30, 7:30 Central. The boys and girls drank to that. And that World War VI would be coming this September, so they drank to that, too. Everything had gone Guernica. Because Karl called Dick, and Dick called Rupert and Bob, and Bob checked with Jack and Jack called Tom and Tom called Rupert and Karl and as soon as the checks cleared at 9:02 a.m. GMT, Lithiumania bombed Palace Stein bombed Kukluxklanvia bombed Metagascap bombed Zion bombed Texas bombed China bombed North Korea bombed South Korea bombed Texas bombed Mesopotamia bombed London bombed Russia bombed Texas bombed Iraq bombed Texas bombed Iraq bombed at the box office back home, where the cars bombed the sky bombed the glaciers bombed the sea bombed the hurricanes bombed the levees bombed the democracy back to the Slave Age.

However: Not one show of titties. And not a single naughty potty word. Keep it clean. And . . . cut to a two-shot of Brad and Angelina.

HEY. NOT TOO BAD. WHAT ARE YOU UP TO? Not too much. Just tryin’ to stay cool. Becky and Terri got jobs at Burger King, so . . . free drive-thru! Is that Jim and those guys? Shut up. That was Robin. No, not really. I mean, yeah. Just hangin’ out. Yeah — we saw it on the news. I think they named the kid Shiloh Nouvel. Same old same-old. Were you out at the lake? Wait a minute. You guys? Shut up!

TEN SLOPPY BATCHES OF RED RILEYS later, the boys are out cold, the bottles are empty, the Polaroids futile. Charlie, Ted, Jim, Alan, Melvin, Keith, Dave, Ron, blitzed, trashed, ripped, wasted, thrashed, torn, bombed, basted, sprawled in various states of red-stained, snoring disrepair. From the kitchen through the living room to the bathroom and back, the Red Rileys have returned.

Ted Riley wakes up in a roar on the living-room floor, face up, admiring the Riley family’s brand-new custom-made skylight and, through it, the Condor Legion, nearly a hundred planes strong, flying low overhead.

Ted falls back asleep.

Keith wakes up on the floor, severely medicated. Looks up through the Rileys’ attic and into the extremely loud new sky. Melvin, Charlie, Ron, Dave, Jim and Alan wake up and do the same. The sky clears and the engines fade.

“So,” says Keith. “War planes, hole in the ceiling, but no bomb?”

“Yeah,” says Melvin. “What the fuck’s that all about?”

“No shit,” says Ron.

The phone rings.

Hello? Yeah. Here, too! Like a hundred or more. Friendly fire, I guess. No, we’re fine. Seriously? No way! I know! We’re all, like, ‘What kind of bomb does that,’ right? Totally. Oh YEAH-YEAH! You know what I was going to ask? Was about the order of the salt and the lime. It’s ‘lick, slam, suck,’ right? Right! No, I know. Ron and Charlie and those guys were arguing about it. Yeah. No, it’s totally fuckin’ weird. Pretty expensive to fix. I bet my parents’ll be pissed. So what are you up to later tonight, say, around 11?

Melvin, meanwhile, has snatched up the Polaroid and aimed its lens at the hole in the roof. From three different angles, Melvin takes pictures of the contents of the hole.


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