Chapter Ninety-Seven: “Am I dead”

Joey had decided that, since Miles and Oscar were away at their friends’ wedding, the rest of the guys should get together and hang out. He referred to them as the “bro squad”, which made Robin think it might be time to start limiting Joey’s access to social media and celebrity gossip websites. He had a subscription to People. He was weirdly fascinated by the Kardashians and oddly fond of Britney Spears. In fact, when Joey wasn’t blasting aggressive house and EDM from his speakers, he was playing Britney Spears’ discography. He was an incredibly difficult man to nail down. He had so many bizarre facets.

In any case, Robin allowed himself to be dragged over to Ramsay’s apartment on Saturday, the night of the wedding, albeit mostly because Joey had somehow managed to convince Bear to come as well. Plus, they swung by Finch’s apartment to pick him and his roommate Gord up along the way. Joey brought his portable speaker with him so that they could listen to his “Amped AF” playlist on the subway ride to Ramsay’s place. The other people on the train looked beyond annoyed to not only have to share a train car with Joey, but also listen to his music, which, as it turned out, was entirely Britney Spears. Robin really should’ve been expecting it, and yet it was still surprising to him when the opening verse of “Womanizer” began.

When they finally arrived at Ramsay’s place, he opened the door in a pair of shorts and nothing else. Now that it was June, his and Oscar’s apartment had reached nearly unbearable temperatures. It had been overly hot in the winter, but at least they could open the windows to let the frigid winter air in. Now the open windows just let i humidity. It was like being inside a recently used tea bag; boiling, damp, and uncomfortably sticky.

“No,” Ramsay said before any of them even had a chance to say anything. It was hard to pinpoint exactly what he was protesting; their clear intention to go out and do something, the fact that they were now listening to “I’m a Slave 4 U”, Joey, all of it combined. Bear was whistling along with the song and that was undoubtedly pissing him off.

“We’re going out!” Joey shouted anyway. “Get your shit together and let’s fuck off!”

It wasn’t actually a very compelling speech. Ramsay merely maintained his spot by the door, staring them down in blatant disdain.

“If you come with us, you won’t be here in your hot as fuck apartment, sweating your balls off,” Robin said instead, offering what he considered better incentive. Ramsay stared them down for a moment longer.

“Okay,” he eventually relented. He retreated into his apartment to put on a  shirt and grab some shoes. They walked away from his apartment, listening to “(You Drive Me) Crazy”.

It soon become clear that Joey didn’t actually have a plan for them. His main idea seemed to involve them wandering aimlessly around the city blasting Britney’s greatest hits for the world to hear. While that seemed alright, it wasn’t exactly the stellar evening of unforgettable memories that Robin had been promised. He could sense that they were rapidly losing Ramsay with each passing footstep. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on where you were standing when the evening came to a close, Gord and Finch came up with an idea. Apparently, they went bowling with their friends whenever they got bored. What they failed to mention was that they went bowling at the dodgiest bowling alley Robin had ever seen. They were the only people there except for the staff and two men in the corner, one of whom very well may have been dead. The other didn’t seem like he was far behind, to be quite frank.

“First we do shots,” Gord announced to the group as they gathered around their lane to put their rented shoes on. “Then we get pitchers and nachos. Then I harass the DJ into letting me take over.”

Robin assumed he was joking about the last part, but he wasn’t and it didn’t actually seem very difficult to persuade the man to leave his DJ booth unattended. It was like he had been waiting for someone to push him away all evening and he was all too happy to oblige. He left the bowling alley for a smoke without hesitation. Considering he had likely been playing music for two semi-conscious men huddled together in a dark corner, Robin could understand where he was coming from. In any case, the result was Gord settling in behind the laptop the man had left behind to steadily work his way through some Queen and an alarming amount of Shirley Bassey. Robin was pretty sure they listened to “Goldfinger” at least four times.

As it turned out, Gord’s list of activities wasn’t a once and done kind of thing, but rather a recurring itinerary. Robin saw at least three plates of nachos go past him. There were several more pitchers and even more shots. He wasn’t sure how long they were there, but no one else came into the bowling alley. The DJ didn’t even come back. The dude running the shoe rental behind the front counter seemed a little irritated by their presence, but in the sense that he would’ve been annoyed by any kind of liveliness or good humour in his presence. Remarkably, his annoyance had nothing to do with their descent into madness. Even Ramsay was losing his cool. Robin could tell because he had danced a little to Barry White when he got up to bowl.

By the time they left the bowling alley, after several games and several hours, Robin could barely hold himself upright. He kept leaning on Finch for support. Finch was so drunk that he was openly smiling. Ramsay kept pointing it out, like he was genuinely surprised to find that Finch was capable of smiling. Gord and Joey were leading the way down the darkened street, dancing and singing along to Joey’s speaker, which was now blasting “Work Bitch”. Somewhere in the far recesses of his brain, Robin was vaguely concerned they would get arrested for public drunkenness. He had no idea where they were going. He wasn’t sure either Gord or Joey knew where they were going.

They ended up in the old Italian neighbourhood at the suggestion of Bear. He kept telling them that Sasha had a problem she needed help with.

“I bet she does, buddy,” Joey replied, winking. He somehow managed to make winking look even more lecherous than usual.

“No, no, the guys who live in the basement of their place are really annoying and loud,” Bear corrected solemnly. Robin got the impression he was trying to be serious, but he was slurring his words. Besides, he had spent several minutes directly prior to his speech trying to pants Joey. It had proved difficult because Joey had on very tight pants. Part of Robin wondered if he had come specifically prepared for that instance.

“So what are we going to do?” Ramsay asked. He was also slurring slightly. As it turned out, Bear had a solution and it was a terrible one.

Robin had done a lot of really stupid things in his lifetime. Putting tinfoil in the microwave at age ten just to see what would happen was one of those things. Continuing to live with a man who had borrowed his car to sell crack from the trunk in a Best Buy parking lot was another. Wrangling a skunk to hurl into the open window of someone’s basement apartment was at the top. In the cold, harsh light of the morning he couldn’t think of a single strain of reasoning to support why that had been a good idea. Though, at the time, it had seemed brilliant. He was most amazed that the idea had come from Bear the mild giant and not Joey, who was completely bonkers at the best of times. Actually, to be accurate, he was most amazed that they’d managed to get a live skunk through the basement window. Granted, it was not without casualties.

Robin woke the following morning in Finch’s bed. It was swelteringly hot because Gord was in there as well. This made no sense to Robin and, when prodded awake, it made no sense to Gord either. Gord stumbled out of Finch’s room, claiming to be on his way to his own bedroom, but when he stepped out into the living room, he promptly tripped over Ramsay and fell on his face. Incidentally, he also fell on Ramsay’s face.

“Motherfucker!” Ramsay bellowed. Unsurprisingly, his hangover had made him even grumpier than normal.

“At least it’s cool here,” Bear offered mildly from the couch. It did nothing to assuage Ramsay’s bad temper.

“Jesus fucking shit,” Joey groaned from the floor a little further away from where Ramsay and Gord were tangled together. “What’s the fucking time? Also, what the fucking hell is that godforsaken smell? Something in here has died and then it was eaten by something bigger and smellier, which also died. I can’t breathe. Am I dead.”

The last part wasn’t even a question. Robin hauled himself out of bed to assess the situation himself, fully prepared to assure Joey he was being crazy. But then he stepped into the living room and gagged. He very nearly threw up on the spot, which would’ve been unfortunate because he was standing directly above Ramsay and Gord.

“Oh holy fuck!” Robin groaned. “I feel like I’m being chlorine gassed. My eyes are watering!”

“Oh my God! It’s me!” Gord exclaimed, horrified. He pressed his chin into his chest so as to better smell himself.

“But you were in there with us and I couldn’t smell anything in there…,” Robin began to respond thoughtfully. His brain hurt. He was finding it difficult to string together comprehensible thoughts.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!” Ramsay yelled, somehow even angrier than before. “It’s me!”

“It is!” Gord agreed, scrambling to get away from Ramsay. “It is you! What the fuck happened, man? Who did this to you?”

Gord looked ready to strike out and get revenge on whatever or whoever had made Ramsay smell so terrible. And then it dawned on all of them at once.

“The skunk,” Bear said reverently, voice full of wonder.

Later that afternoon, after they had managed to compose themselves and Ramsay had taken five separate showers at Finch and Gord’s and borrowed some clean clothes, the lot of them made their way over to Sasha’s place. The closer they got, the stronger the scent of skunk became. When Sasha opened the front door to them, she was wearing a surgical mask over her face. She let them inside, handing each a bible, and wandered into the kitchen behind them where Margot was sitting on one of the kitchen stools, also wearing a surgical mask over her face.

“A skunk got into the apartment downstairs,” Sasha explained. “Animal control had to come fish it out in the middle of the night.”

“Oh God,” Robin groaned feebly.

“It’s alright,” Margot assured him. “We mostly feel bad for the skunk. Poor dude just wandered right in. We don’t feel bad for the guys downstairs. They’re assholes. One of them has a drum kit.”

Her statement was met with a fairly guilty silence. Ramsay was trying to surreptitiously smell himself. He was wearing flared pants from Gord.

“So…,” Gord began slowly for the group. “The skunk didn’t so much wander into the downstairs apartment as get shoved through one of the windows.”

That statement was also met with silence.

“What?” Sasha asked after a moment when no other information offered itself up.

“Someone may or may not have pushed a skunk through the open basement window,” Robin clarified. More silence.

“What?” Sasha asked again.

“It definitely happened,” Gord added. “And it was us.”

Margot and Sasha looked at each other and then back at the guys in yet more silence.

“What?” Sasha said for a third time.

“We put a goddamn skunk in one of the fucking windows,” Joey explained bluntly.

There wasn’t anymore silence. The reaction was explosive and loud.

“You did what?!” Sasha demanded.

“How did you actually manage to get a live skunk down there?!” Margot cried.

“It wasn’t without sacrifice,” Bear answered vaguely.

“We had to hose Ramsay down at the dogwash,” Robin added brightly, pointing to Ramsay, who grumbled, looking like he might try to bite Robin’s finger clean off. Bear looked mildly embarrassed.

“Oh my God,” Margot said, stunned.

“If you’re picturing Ramsay chained to one of those meta basins, getting sprayed in the face with dog shampoo, good,” Gord interjected. “Because that’s exactly what happened.”

“You’re fucking welcome,” Joey said darkly.

Somewhat amazingly, Sasha and Margot took it fairly well. Sasha was actually pleased. Apparently she had been planning a similar attack, except that her plan involved cooking a lot of curry and not hurling a wild animal into one of their bedroom windows. The curry probably would’ve been a better idea.

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