One of my very bestest friends in the whole, big, wide world is a red-headed, innocent looking chick named Roberta. She’s funny, intelligent and without question the single most mischievous person I have ever met in my entire life.
Roberta and I were destined to be friends. We share a mad love of AC/DC, tiny chocolate turkeys, and thirty-something firefighters named Mike. We are also the only two people on earth that understand why the words, “back street boy” and “here’s the situation” are so funny.
I love her to bits and pieces. She’s the kind of friend that will lie for you even before you ask her to and the kind of friend that will make time for your late night frantic phone call from the bathroom of your tiny apartment because you have a drunken bull rider on your sofa that doesn’t get the hint that it’s time to crawl up on his bull and get the heck out of Dodge.
She’s also the kind of friend that would set you up with an alcoholic bull rider in the first place.
Berta and I have a bond that has grown stronger through the years. I would do anything for her and she would do anything for me. We always know that when the chips are down, we can count on the other one to pop open a tub of French Onion dip and eat them right off the floor. Our friendship is rock solid.
That’s why it really pains me to have to do this.
Lately I’ve been dealing with some degree of guilt over a few things I may or may not have done that may or may not have been less than ethical or in some cases, just slightly less than legal. I think my guilt has something to do with all the dead people that have been plastered on the news lately. There are dead people lying around in fancy clothes, dead people riding in long limousines and I think I even saw one sitting at the defense table in the Michael Jackson trial.
Being confronted at every turn by dead people has forced me to consider the fact that I might possibly die someday too. And so in an effort to protect my immortal soul, I feel the need to come clean about some less than wonderful things I have done in my life. And by less than wonderful things I have done in my life, I mean things Roberta forced me to do.
Here now are the top three things Berta forced me to do for which I need to be forgiven before I die.
Sorry Bert, but this is eternity we’re talking about. I burn easily.
One time, not at band camp, I might have been involved in a freak silly string incident that involved three cans of the stringy stuff, two cops and two unattended police vehicles with the windows down. I didn’t want to do it of course, but Berta Lou forced me at pencil point to drive the get-away vehicle. What makes this particularly worthy of repentance is that we weren’t so much fourteen years old at the time as we were grown women who were dispatchers for said officers. It was our duty to watch over them and do our best to keep them safe, not to make their cars look like Spiderman had a personal vendetta against them. I tried to talk her out of it, but our department had one of those high tech electric pencil sharpeners and that number 2 was really, really sharp.
And then there was the time because of our deep and abiding love for AC/DC and our less than deep and abiding love for some of our co-workers, Berta decided she would tell a few people that she was quitting the department to go on the road with Angus and the boys as a doo-wop girl. She then forced me to write an official looking announcement wishing her well at her new job with AC/DC and post it on the bulletin board. That might not have been so bad if we didn’t work with a few people that as kids were the very reason the government had to create those neighborhood signs that read, “Slow Children Playing”. They accepted the bogus announcement as fact and told everyone they knew about her career change. It wouldn’t surprise me if to this day they aren’t still telling people they know someone that sings back up for a famous rock band.
But without question, the worst string of offenses Roberta has ever forced me to participate in happened when our old Chief of Police handed us the keys to a brand, spanking new police car with only 65 miles on it to drive to our scheduled training. “Take our new car to school, ladies,” he said.
Looking exactly like the Grinch That Stole Christmas, Berta’s lips curled into an evil smile as she said, “Oh, we’ll take it to school all right.” I should have run as fast as I could in the opposite direction, but I felt an obligation to soak up all the knowledge I possibly could on behalf of my department at this incredibly exciting training event that would last three days and two nights at the Ramada Inn three hours from home.
We had no sooner made it out of our county’s jurisdiction when for reasons I will never understand Berta flipped on the lights and sirens, forcing the law abiding drivers in our vicinity to freak out and pull off to the side of the road. I held on for dear life while reminding her we were not legally allowed to drive 10-39 (lights and sirens) and begging her to come to her senses and behave in manner that would reflect positively on our fair city, but it was no use.
When she hung her head out the window and yelled, “Respect my u-thor-i-tie, Bee-otch” to an old lady driving a 1979 Buick Regal, I knew there was no turning back. She had crossed over to the bad side. She was Thelma and through no fault of my own, I was Louise. (Only with bigger hair and lots more make-up.)
After we checked in our hotel and cruised through the drive thru lane at McDonald’s, Berta became obsessed with the idea that we should go to a bar. And for the record, you’d be surprised at how quickly you get your Big Mac when you flip the red and blues on.
Naturally, I wanted no part of going to any place that served alcohol and pleaded with her to give me the keys to the patrol car. But before I knew what happened, I was handcuffed and thrown in the back of the vehicle as Roberta raced towards the nearest Cheers like facility.
And it was exactly like Cheers…except for the fact that it was dark and smelled like urine and gasoline and was packed wall to wall with toothless guys named Artery and Lucifer rather than Cliff and Norm. I have to admit that some of the guys were really friendly, though. Since the door to the women’s bathroom wouldn’t close all the way, they were kind enough to hold it for me every time I had to go. I thought it was odd they had to hold it from the inside, but I figured the doors were probably hung backwards or something.
After we’d been there for about an hour, Berta said to me, “I know! Let’s use very loud voices and say that I am a judge and you are a cop and that I once sentenced a man to death. That’ll be a fun thing to do.”
“No, Roberta,” I said. “I will not use a very loud voice and say I am a cop and you are a judge that once sentenced a man to death. That could illicit a somewhat negative response from some of the individuals here. No way, Jose. I won’t do it and you can’t make me.”
But alas, sneaky Roberta had brought along her super sharp pencil. Damn those number 2’s. I had to comply. She could have put my eye out right then and there.
“Oh waitress,” I said, waving to our server. “Waitress, I’d like you to know that I am a cop and this red-headed, innocent looking woman is a judge and she once sentenced a man to death. Pass it on.”
“Ok. But, why are you talking in such a very loud voice?”
What happened next can only be described as a wave, very much like the ones you see at football games in large stadiums. We watched as one by one, men without teeth and women in tube tops and blue eye-shadow mouthed the words, “cop” and “judge” and “they’ll never find the bodies” until it became clear that this might be a good time to locate the nearest exit. My Grandma had taught me when I was a little girl that you should never run from a dog that is about to attack you, but rather walk slowly and calmly to safety. I knew that advice was perfect for a situation such as this one.
So very calmly I said to Judge Roberta, “Sweet Jesus! Run for your life!!! These hillbillies are going to kill us!”
As you may have surmised, we did make a safe escape from the Deliverance Bar & Grill and returned to our department three days later absolutely brimming with knowledge.
Wow, I feel better now. Confession really is good for the soul. Let’s just keep this between us though. If Roberta finds out I spilled the beans, I’ll have to go in the witness protection program. She still carries a concealed pencil.
Copyright © 2004, Sherri Bailey
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