The German tavern where they ended up was called The Taste of Munich. The slogan painted onto the wooden sign hanging above the entrance proclaimed “Oktoberfest all year round!” There was polka music blaring from inside and the staff members were dressed in costume. Lederhosen for the men and barmaid dresses and braids for the women. It was all incredibly stereotypical. The music was coming from a live band on the stage at one end of the narrow pub. The tuba player was a tall, lanky teenager in green lederhosen and knee-high white socks, who looked like he’d lost the will to live, probably several polkas ago. Bear was impressed that the tuba hadn’t crushed him yet. He was incredibly slight.
The Taste of Munich was their third and final attempt. They’d first tried a place a block closer to Ramsay and Oscar’s apartment, but it was at capacity and nobody wanted to stand in a line for an indeterminate length of time. The second place had had a dress code that none of them, apart from Bernie and her boyfriend Lawrence, fit. It didn’t help that they’d collectively spent the past few hours sweating profusely. No one was looking their finest. The Taste of Munich hadn’t had any requirements. All they wanted from their patrons was some enthusiasm and a tolerance of accordion music. Ramsay’s birthday party came with a lot of the first and a surprising amount of the latter as well. The moment they’d been sat at the table closest to the band, Bear knew things were about to take a turn.
It didn’t take long.
All together, they made a rather odd combination of people. Everybody invited had a connection to Ramsay, who was not known for being overly social and loquacious. As a result, people did what most people do in faintly uncomfortable social situations; they drank. Not only did they drink, but they drank massive quantities of beer. Their waitress, a lovely middle-aged woman named Madge, had been waiting tables for over two decades. She knew the game. She saw them come in and she knew she’d hit the jackpot. It was her suggestion for them to order six different pitchers of beer to start, just so that they could have a chance to taste several different kinds. As far as Bear could tell, well into the third pitcher, it all tasted the same. It was also Madge’s suggestion for them to order soft pretzel sausage sandwiches. At the time, it had seemed like a really great idea. For one thing, Bear was starving. For another, he could tell in a vague way that he was very, very drunk, as was everybody else, and that food would make that at least somewhat better. The following morning, the four soft pretzel sausage sandwiches he’d eaten didn’t seem like as much of a good idea.
It was also Madge’s idea for them to wear the lederhosen she’d dug up from the lost and found box. There were a lot of options, which prompted Bear to wonder exactly how many people were leaving their lederhosen behind at the bar. What were they going home in? Surely there wasn’t an influx of naked people roaming the streets after leaving German trivia night at The Taste of Munich. Everybody changed into their lederhosen agreeably, even Ramsay, which was how Bear knew they were all well and truly fucked. If Ramsay was drunk enough to get changed into leather overall shorts in the public washroom of a German beer house, there was no hope for the rest of them, least of all Ramsay’s nephew Sayid, who was at serious risk of passing out at their table. If it wasn’t for the aggressively loud tuba blaring from roughly three feet away, Bear was sure he would’ve.
Of course, Joey didn’t help the situation at all. He was like the human embodiment of a frat party. Lots of heavy drinking and general debauchery accompanied by the vague sense of regret that occurred even while you were doing the thing you knew you were going to later regret, and yet powerless to stop yourself from doing it. Bear often wondered what Joey was like in his down time, if he in fact ever had down time. Despite the fact that Joey wore sweatpants approximately eighty per cent of the time, it was hard to picture him in repose, relaxing at home and not pressuring people into drinking excessive amounts of his nona’s red wine. The label on the bottles was handwritten and literally just said “red wine”.
Joey was the one who managed to get them free shots of some indistinguishable and amazingly awful liquor. He did it by swindling Madge into thinking they were out with a celebrity. Madge, who most definitely had the upper hand due to her vast world experience and sobriety, was surprisingly convinced.
“This is Patrick Chan!” Joey shouted to her, slapping a hand on Patrick’s shoulder while the rest of the table watched. Joey’s natural volume was usually loud at the best of times, but in fairness to him, everybody was shouting over the sound of the polka band directly beside them. Bear had had a thirty minute conversation with Bernie’s boyfriend Lawrence and he wouldn’t have been able to repeat a single damn word of even at threat of death. He’d done a lot of nodding and smiling, occasionally offering a few non-committal words and sounds that he hoped made some semblance of sense in the context. If Lawrence was telling him about the abysmal state of Greece’s economy or a recently deceased relative, Bear was going to seem like a massive dick.
“Pardon, hun?” Madge returned, leaning in to hear Joey better.
“Patrick Chan!” Joey repeated, using the grip he had on Patrick’s shoulder to haul him in closer to Joey. Patrick looked more than a little startled. Bear sometimes wondered if the rest of them looked like that when dealing with Joey as well.
“Alright, hun!” Madge called back, evidently done with the conversation.
“Patrick Chan’s an Olympic figure skater!” Joey added, grabbing her attention again. Technically it was true. Nothing Joey said was incorrect. It did heavily imply that the man sitting at the table with them was Patrick Chan, Olympic figure skating medalist, which was in fact untrue. Madge, however, clearly didn’t know who the real Olympic figure skating Patrick Chan was because, after frowning at Joey in consideration for a moment, she seemed to accept that Ramsay’s childhood friend Patrick Chan and Canadian sweetheart Patrick Chan were one and the same. The end result was free shots of something horrible and disgusting for the table. And also a request from Madge to see a routine.
There was several issues with that, but none more important than the fact that the Patrick Chan they were with didn’t know how to figure skate. Bear didn’t know how closely Madge followed figure skating; clearly not too closely, but surely closely enough to realize that someone flailing indiscriminately to polka music on dry land would not actually translate to Olympic medal worthy figure skating, no matter how many times Joey explained that it was different on ice. It couldn’t be that different on ice. A skating rink wouldn’t magically give Patrick the ability to count in time to music or coordination. As it was, he looked like a colt being born and then learning to walk for the first time, but in rapid speed, like someone had filmed it and sped it up double-time.
“This isn’t going well!” Miles informed Bear, as if he somehow had managed to miss how poorly it was going. Madge was frowning at Patrick as he stumbled around on his own in front of the band. She looked like she was cottoning on, obviously not as sure that Joey had been entirely truthful. She seemed to be regretting giving them those free shots, even before Sayid threw up directly on the table in front of him.
At that moment, the best thing to do probably would’ve been to calmly stand and leave The Taste of Munich. They were going to be asked to leave anyway; Madge had quickly gone from confused to furious and the burly bouncer in the brown lederhosen had already begun approaching their table. Any other table of mature adults would’ve seen themselves out, well aware that they’d overstayed their welcome. Unfortunately, this moment occurred after the eighth pitcher of beer, the shots, and many, many glasses of Nona’s red wine hours before. There wasn’t a single mature adult amongst them, proven quite succinctly by Patrick’s drunken dry land “figure skating” and Sayid’s vomit glistening on the table.
Instead, what happened was Miles stood abruptly from the table, grabbing Oscar by the hair to pull him along.
“Scatter!” He yelled and the rest of the table bolted in several different directions, ultimately making their way to the exit after zig-zagging for a bit. Ramsay and Santhir had grabbed Sayid, which left Bear to corral Patrick mid-triple axle and drag him toward the door. Once outside, he and Patrick began trailing after the others, all still wearing their borrowed lederhosen. Bear hoped The Taste of Munich didn’t want them back because there was very little chance they’d ever see those lederhosen again.
Halfway back to Oscar and Ramsay’s apartment, Bernie made them all stop so she could take a photo.
“Guys, we look like The Von Trapp children!” She exclaimed excitedly. Santhir looked at down at himself pointedly.
“What about me looks Aryan?” He asked.
“I guess we’re the Von Trapp’s shockingly diverse adopted children,” Lawrence said to Santhir.
Somehow, after Bernie managed to take the photo, the conversation descended into a Sound of Music sing-along, lead loudly by Priscilla, who knew a surprising and almost impressive number of the words to “My Favourite Things”.
In the morning, Bear woke on Oscar and Ramsay’s living room floor, sweating in a lederhosen that smelled like sausage, feeling supremely unwell with Robin’s feet pressed into his right side. Although, Joey was snoring into his ear on the left so it was hard to say which was worse. He had the chorus to “The Lonely Goatherd” stuck in his head as well, so certainly none of it was great.