GPS got the four teammates to the Proud Lake Recreation Area and Remy took it from there, recalling from dusty memories the back roads he and Jordan had traveled on many a beer run. He only made one miscue, when he sailed past the private gravel road that led to the Lilley’s House and had to double back. The road used to be marked by a sign that read “Welcome To Our Lilley Pond.” Jordan and Remy had hung it the day they broke ground on the house, with Timber fussing about how they had both had too many beers to be allowed to wield a nail gun, and making them reset it three times until she deemed it straight enough. The sign had a mamma and pappa duck on it that day, but a baby duck waddling behind them was added when Meghan was born, with plenty of empty space left for more little ducks to be added. That sign, or any other identifying marker was now nowhere to be found.
The house looked the same though, and Remy experienced a feeling of deja vu as he pulled into the driveway. The two door knockers were still there; the one Jordan had given Timber the day she got her PhD that said Dr. And Mr. Dr. Timber Lilley, and the one on the opposite door of the double door entry that said “Danger Inhabitants May Be Unchained.” Remy always thought there was a story behind that one, but neither Jordie or Timber would ever give it up. At least the knockers indicated Timber still owned the house.
“Nice diggs” Puck observed. “I always heard Lilley Pond, but that looks like a lake.”
“It was a pond when they bought the property, but they enlarged it into a man made lake big enough to water ski and sailboard.” Remy informed him.
“So theirs is the only house on it.” Puck nodded. “Nice. Takes some kind of money to do that. Did they stock the lake with fish?”
“I don’t know Puck,” answered Remy a little annoyed at the question. “We were never here much in the summer.”
“The year Jordan was on the DL and didn’t go to the All Star Game.” Coop recalled to no one in particular. “That was a good weekend. Jet skis. Volleyball. All our women in bikinis by day and skinny dipping by night.”
“I missed that one.” Scott volunteered. “Made the game that year. I faced three batters and all three hit me. Wish now I’d opted for the bikinis. Never been here in the summer, that was always supposed to be an ‘after we retire’ thing. It was just before Christmas the last time I was here. Like now. Only the whole house and all these trees out front were lit with white lights.”
“I remember,” Remy agreed. “And Jordan and Timber were at war over whether they should be solid white or twinkling.”
“Ha!” Coop laughed out loud. “God, I remember that. The lights were on a remote, and Jordan was constantly pushing the twinkle button which would drive Timber crazy. So one time, Timber and I are headed out on a beer run, and it’s three in the afternoon, not even dark yet, but she turns on the lights just to taunt him, and she’s got the remote with her so there’s nothing he can do about it. We get back a half hour later, and all the lights are blinking. Jordan has figured out how to make them twinkle without the remote.
“So Timber is amused yet pissed, and she says into the air ‘Hope this wasn’t your best pitch Sweetie, because this does not stand.’ And I say, ‘I don’t know Timmie, I think he’s got you this time.’ And she pats my cheek and says, ‘Silly, silly, boy, all this needs is a little red lipstick.’
“So she digs into her purse, digs out a tube of bright red lipstick like I’ve never seen her wear in my life; she slathers it on in the rear view mirror, turns to me and says, ‘ten minutes, and the lights twinkle no more for eternity.’ With that she saunters into the house, and, what the hell, I want to see this, so I follow her down to the rec room where the guys are all watching the Giants game and she perches on the arm of Jordie’s chair.
“Now Jordie is in into the game, the guys didn’t like a call the ref made and they are all yelling madly at the TV, and no one is really paying any attention to Timber. She puts her arm around his shoulders, and he pats her hand, but never even looks up. So she waits for the next commercial, while the guys are still venting their anger at the ref, and she whispers in Jordie’s ear. Three seconds tops. Maybe less. And he looks up at her with shock and awe on his face, and she does this barely perceptible double nod, puckers up her mouth and blows him a Marilyn Monroe style air kiss, and sashays out with that little round ass of her swaying just right.
“So, I watch Jordie as he looks around the room, and I know he’s thinking, ‘Are they going to miss me if I slide out?’ And there’s Timber walking up the stairs and she looks back over her shoulder and throws him another air kiss, and it’s goodbye Jordan.
“I look at my watch, and sixteen minutes later, Jordie comes back down, and he’s all, ‘Gee I’m being a bad host, who needs a beer?’. And Timber comes in a few minutes later with a bowl of chips, no lipstick, and perches on the arm of his chair like nothing just happened, but she indicates to me with her head that I should look out the window, and sure enough, the lights twinkle no more.
“So later, I ask her. ‘Timber. I have to know, what did you whisper in his ear? And she smiles and whispers, ‘I said I wanted to fill my mouth with hot water and suck you til you’re dry.’”
There was a round of laughter in the car and Scott interjected, “Yeah, that’ll do it.”
“But I still couldn’t resist teasing her,” Coop continued his tale, “because she had predicted a ten minute victory, and they had been gone sixteen minutes.” And Timber looks across the room at Jordie where he is pulling on a bottle of beer, shakes her head sadly and tells me with this big sigh, ‘Yeah, the poor dear is getting older, I really need to learn to make allowances. We’re late for everything these days.’”
“Oh, burn!” Scott cried. “Yeah, that was a great weekend. That was the last time I was here too. Remember there were those big evergreen wreaths with the red bows on the bay windows? And the first night we were here it snowed, and the guys all went outside and started tossing snowballs around, and someone discovered you could swing the wreaths back and forth on the red ribbons they were hanging on. So, a bunch of pitchers, what are we going to do but start pegging fastballs through the center of the wreath.”
“And you busted the window.” Remy recalled.
“There may have been a wild pitch thrown,” Scott allowed. “And there was a tiny crack in one of the panes. A minuscule crack. Practically microscopic. I had some hope Timber wouldn’t spy it until I was gone. The problem was the power of my mighty pitch knocked the wreath down, which we all know that level transgression would have put me in danger of Skunk Beer.”
Remy and Coop laughed at the reference that went over Puck’s head.
“So it’s like midnight, but I drag the ladder out of the garage and we’re going to try to get the wreath back up before Timber sees it and takes a chainsaw to our testicles. I’m up on the ladder, and Glenn Kincannon from the Tigers, that guy Jordie played with in the minors? He’s trying to hold the damn thing steady from below, when here comes Timber, and she’s got a box filled with snowballs. Not just regular snowballs either, she made these around ice cubes from the freezer. Stung like a bitch.
“I still don’t know who ratted me out, but she came right at me, wailing these ice balls at me and yelling about how I’m a Grinch who hates the Baby Jesus and giving it to me in ‘Timber Trash.’
Coop broke out laughing. “Oh God. Timber Trash. She’s the only woman I ever met who can swear without ever using an actual word of profanity.”
“I know,” Scott agreed. “At one point she called me a ‘cheese hole fucker.’ A cheese hole fucker. I mean, what does that even mean. So I call a timeout to the chase and I ask her, Timmie, I gotta know, when you say ‘cheese hole fucker’ are you visualizing my mighty tool drilling through a block of cheddar? Or is it more of a jacking off into a Baby Bell situation? And she stops and laughs, and I’m thinking, ‘this is good, situation de-escalated,’ and as I am congratulating myself on my negotiation skills, she yells ‘Time in you clint popper’ and pegs me right in the ear. And I think Jordie must have been coaching her pitching technique because I swear that snowball came at me 40 miles per hour.
“Forty miles,” Puck snorted.
“I swear. She was zipping those things.
“So now I’m running around the yard like a running back, and she’s connecting with her box of ice balls way more than was good for my reputation, and all the guys are laughing their asses off, so I’m trying to gather up snow to make a snowball I can maybe fight back with and stall her long enough that I can go hide in the bathroom til she’s asleep for the night, and I make my way toward Jordie who’s now up on the ladder and I plead, ‘Dude, control your woman.’ And Jordie just laughs at me and says, ‘I feel for you Scotty, I really do. But if you hit her with that snowball, I’m going to have to deck you.’
“So I’m defenseless, but she finally runs out of snowballs, so I stop evasive maneuvers and do a little arms out gesture of apology. Say, ‘I’m real sorry about the wreath, Timber’ as sincerely as I can, and she looks at me like she’s St. Peter deciding whether to let me into heaven and tells me, ‘You’re on Skunk Beer for the weekend Mr. Avila, and you’re getting a badge.’
“Oh no! Not the dreaded badge!” Coop interjected.
“What’s a badge?” Puck wanted to know.
“It’s a Post It note with ‘ASK ME ABOUT MY CRIME’ printed on the top, and Timber fills in the ‘crime.’”
“Yeah, you don’t want to get the badge of shame, Scott told Puck. “I dropped down to my knees. I pleaded. But heart of stone.”
“So you wore the badge?” Remy asked.
“Damn straight I wore the badge.” Scott laughed.
“What did yours say?” Coop wanted to know.
“My crime was Hater of Holidays, and if anyone asked me what I did, I was supposed to say I pissed on the Baby Jesus.”
“Wow. She’s tough.” Coop snickered. “She gave me a badge my first time here for ‘Crimes Against Nature.’ And if anyone asked I was supposed to say I was the reason cancer had not been cured.”
“Oh I gotta hear this,” Scott encouraged him.
“We were here for a snowmobile weekend – all guys from the team, and one of the trainers – and I had never met Timber before. She seemed sincere when she said I should make myself at home, so at one point, I made myself a ham sandwich, but we had a pool tourney going on and I got called in for my game, so I threw half away.”
“Oh oh.” Remy snickered. “Big trouble in Little China.”
“Well, I’m in the middle of the pool game, and here comes little Timber carrying that big stainless steel trash can from their kitchen, and she puts it down on my big toe and demands, ‘Is that your ham sandwich in my trash?’
“And like I said, it’s my first time here, and I didn’t know Jordie all that well then, and had no idea Timber was a vegetarian, so I’m thinking maybe they have a bear problem, or put all their food waste in a compost heap or something. So I say,’ I’m sorry Timber, was I supposed to do something else with the sandwich?’
“This may have been the wrong thing to say because she gets in my face with her index finger and says, ‘Yes! If you make the sammy, you are supposed to EAT the sammy. You killed a living creature for that sandwich. Some poor little pink piggie that never did anything to hurt you was slaughtered and hacked up so you could gobble him down with his life juices running down your scruffy Yankee chin, and you just toss her away, like her sacrifice meant nothing to you! Maybe this poor little pig had parents who loved her. Maybe she had children. Maybe she would have grown up to cure cancer. And now cancer still exists in the world because you had to have a ham sandwich.
“Now at this point, the guys are all laughing like crazy, and I’m not sure if she’s serious, or this is some kind of new guy hazing. But I apologize again and say, next time I will eat the whole sandwich. So she leaves. Just turns around and stomps out. And the guys are all looking at me warning, ‘you should run now Coop while you still have kneecaps.’
“I take my pool shots, and I’m standing at the bar having a sip of my beer when Timber comes back, takes the bottle of Beck’s out of my hand and replaces it with some off brand bargain basement shit and informs me, I can either eat the sandwich I threw away, or I’m on Skunk Beer for the weekend.
“Now I’m sure I’m being hazed, and there is no way I am going to eat the sandwich from the trash and be known as Garbage Man all next season, so I politely decline. So Timber goes into the trash, takes the meat off the bread and says, the poor piggy didn’t touch anything but the bread. ‘Either eat the garbage meat, or you’re on Skunk Beer.’
And I still think it’s all a joke, so I go to take my Beck’s back, and she jerks it away and says, ‘You’ve got a pair on you mister; you’re getting a badge.’ And all the guys are rolling on the floor by now, when Jordan comes in and tries to stick up for me. ‘Timber, sweetheart,’ he pleads my case, ‘he’s new. He didn’t know.’ But Timber isn’t having any. She tells him ‘your friend is a frivolous waster of defenseless little piggies, and if you take his side, I will have to consider you an enabler of frivolous little piggie life wasters, and everyone knows life wasters sleep on the floor.
“So Jordan plays wounded, and pleads, ‘not the floor, Darling. I’ve got a bad back.’ And Timber tells him, ‘A lot of guys here Jordie. All the couches are taken.’ And Lilley thinks about this for about 2 seconds and says, ‘Right.’ Turns to me and says, “If I were you, I’d eat the garbage meat, that Skunk Beer is really shitty.”
Everyone in the car laughed, for a second forgetting that Jordan Lilley would never crack another joke, but that realization quickly brought silence to the car.
“You know it was a shakedown, Scott.” Remy broke the silence. The skunk beer, the crime badges. It was Timber’s way of raising money for charity.”
“No way.” He shook his head. “The woman was certifiable.”
“When they got married,” Remy explained, “Jordie told Timber as a Yankee wife she would be expected to raise money for local New York charities. Timber said no problem, I’ll just write a check, just tell me how much you think we should give. But Jordie said, no, she needed to get other people with deep pockets to donate so they became aware of the charity and the charity got the contact information of the donors. But Timber was never comfortable asking people for money, so she’d give someone a badge or make them drink skunk beer unless they wrote a check for a couple hundred bucks out to whatever charity it was she was supporting. Everyone knew it was an act Scotty, except apparently you and Cooper.”
“I knew.” Coop stuck up for himself. “I knew when she wouldn’t take cash. She wanted my check.”
“Well damn,” Scott shook his head. “Was Jordie in on it?”
“Who do you think told Timber you trashed her wreath?” Remy asked him.
“No!” Scott exclaimed.
“He helped her make the box of snowballs. And the ice cubes were his idea.”
“This is blowing my mind,” Scott said. “Now that you tell me, I can see it, but I always thought she was genuinely nuts. I kinda liked that about her.”
It was Puck who broke up the walk down memory lane by opening his car door. “Let’s go see if the lady is in.”