Sam and Ron just finished their dinner. Ron was doing dishes when the phone rang. Sam picked the call.
“Hey Mendes, long time. Where’s Ian?” Sam said. His face gleamed as though he wanted to laugh. He listened to the caller, but the glint in his eyes suggested his mind was elsewhere. “Alright then, let’s meet up next week. Bye.”
“Who’s that?” Ron said, screaming over the sound of the sink water.
“I must tell you this.”
Sam and Ron were roommates for over a year, living in a dingy studio apartment in Journal Square. Both were similar in many ways, the two striking parallels being their short statures and skinny figures. But it was impossible to tickle Ron’s funny bone. And Sam wouldn’t give up.
“Go ahead,” Ron said, as he dried his hands on a towel he carried from the kitchen.
“They are my old buddies, Mendes and Ian. Twins. Will be in Newark for a week.”
“What’s in it to laugh?”
“Well, the last time the three of us met, we were in a park.”
People had begun to crowd the park, the green was bright, the afternoon had basked in the autumn sun. Mendes, Ian and Sam had sat on an old, rickety bench; the only one in the park. Sam had sat in the middle, and the twins, who’d each weighed 300 pounds, were on either side.
The wooden bench – which battled 720 pounds already, including Sam’s 120 – had been enduring the extra burden of the trio’s coarse talk. In fact, whenever the three met there, they’d go on some trance, and would offend not only one another, but those who happened to be around. And there were baby boomers, who’d come to the park to spend some minutes of tranquility, which they were entitled to, after paying taxes all their lives.
The trio had bet a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, and the challenge was, who would nudge which two off of the bench and be the last man sitting. The losers would buy the Pounder and serve it to the beaming winner on the bench.
The brothers winked at each other over Sam’s scrawniness, deciding to push him off, after which the contest would be in-house. But Sam sat like a bone, reluctant to be a mere paste these giants would squeeze off a tube. But he could only draw on his remaining strength. The dissonance of their struggle had forced a few boomers off the park. Then Sam fell, his knees hit the ground first, a humiliating defeat he had expected.
He gathered himself, and turned around to check who won the Pounder. But what he saw soothed his ego. The bench was a crushed ruin; its legs buried under the two plus-size men who lay in a heap, entangled in a way that from a distance they’d look nicely positioned and adequately cushioned, like a bench.
“Look at you both.” Sam held his mouth, not keen to bare his teeth. The twins grinned back, but it interspersed with the moans of their aches. They heard soft footsteps approaching them.
When Sam glanced at Ron in the apartment, his face looked stiff.
“Mendes and Ian were big, man,” Sam said, hoping a reaction from his roommate.
Ron threw his towel on a chair, and said, “Who disentangled them?”
“The boomers — but not before they had their due revenge, by pulling the twins’ ears and banging their heads against each other.”
“They spared you?”
“So when the twins nudged you off the bench, were you like a pin leaving monstrous hands.”
“You or I would have been that pin.”
“There’s no humor in your story,” Ron said, then leaned forward. “Did you buy the Pounder after all?”
“There was no winner. Story ends. Now, no more Mendes-Ian with you.”
Ron’s stiffness began to peel off his face. “I see humor when you let up,” he said, and laughed.
Then their laughter filled the room. They shared a bed that shook when their he-haws curled their bodies, tightened their muscles, and stretched their mouths, so much — their laughter lost its sound, to the involuntary holding of their breaths.