What’s the most bizarre story you’ve ever heard? The reason I ask is that I can’t get one I heard last weekend out of my head. I feel as if I simply must relate it, though I admit I was sworn to secrecy. Some things, however, need to be told.
I was on a sales trip to a city I’d never been to before and not knowing anyone I decided to pass the evening in a bar I’d spotted down the block from the hotel I was staying at.
It was a convivial establishment and being a Friday night the locals were out in force celebrating the end of the week. I ordered a beer and sat down at the bar but it wasn’t long before I found myself caught up in conversation with one of the townsmen who invited me to join him and his friends at their usual table.
They were all salt-of-the-earth blue-collar workers, not unlike any you would expect to find in a city in the American heartland. I was introduced around. Bill, Frank, Steve, Earl, they were all there. It seems they were curious about the newcomer to their haunt, they weren’t used to strange faces at Al’s Red Frog Bar.
We began hoisting mugs of the local favourite, Budweiser, as it would happen at this table. I’ve never been a fan of the stuff, but I was wise enough not to tell them that where I came from it was more commonly referred to as Butt Wiper. When in Rome, do as the Romans, and so there I was raising my glass elbow to elbow with the good citizens of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
As the evening wore on and we’d run out of jokes to tell that none of had heard before and they’d asked me all the questions about my life and work they could think up we began spinning yarns to entertain ourselves. Each in turn regaled the rest of us with tales of varying interest until it was time for Earl to front up.
I had noticed him becoming more serious as the stories were told, as though there was something weighing on his mind. At last Earl was up and his friends urged him to tell us about something unusual he had seen or done in the past.
Earl sat there for a minute staring into the middle distance and then looked at each of us in turn with an intensity that soon had us all unnerved. He downed the remainder of his beer and leaned in with his elbows on the table and spoke in a low tone.
“Frank, you remember how I told you I used to work up in Minnesota way back when?”
“Sure Earl. I don’t recall as how you told me much about it. I remember asking you what you did up there but I don’t think you ever told me.”
Earl nodded and waved the waitress over for another round.
“Yeah, I don’t suppose I did. Fact is I’ve never really told anyone about it. I guess I’ve always sort of hoped it would just go away and I wouldn’t have to think about it anymore. I’ll tell ya though, I don’t believe that’s ever gonna happen.”
The next round arrived at the table and Earl fell silent until the waitress was gone. He looked around the room before he spoke again. By now we were all rapt. It was clear Earl needed to get something off his chest.
“I want you all to swear that what I’m about to tell you will never leave this table.”
Part 2 Tomorrow