Later that week, the guys decided to gather down at The Hatch. As it was a Thursday night, the place was packed with college kids for a retro music night. The theme that week was 80s Alternative. Overly synthesized but catchy tunes filled the air, many of them tantalizingly danceable. As they entered, A-Ha’s Take on Me was in full swing. A dozen tables of college students were giving the heartache lyrics a full-throated rendition. One boy and girl were doing their best to reenact scenes from the classic video.
“You know there is a New Wave song for every conceivable scenario,” said Andrew playfully as they sat down.
“Funny, I bet there is,” said Thomas. “You can make those lyrics mean anything you want.”
“Try me,” said Andrew. “If you stump me, I’ll buy your food tonight.”
“You mean ‘Take me on….’?” Asked Thomas with a laugh and parroting the tune.
“Okay, you just proved my thesis. And… we’re on!”
Thomas considered and presented his first scenario challenge: “Okay, so you are a teenage rebel in the English Midlands. You just want to ride your motorbike all over Tyneside, but your mom won’t give you gas money.”
“Are you serious!” asked Andrew.
“That’s literally all you got?” snapped Andrew playfully.
“Okay, what’s the song that fits it?”
“Life in a Northern Town, by the Dream Academy, obviously!” proclaimed Andrew.
“Okay, alright, I see how this goes. Give me a minute.”
The waitress came to the table. It was not Terri, but Thomas was not surprised. She did not work Thursdays. “Hi guys, I’m Amber, what are you having tonight? By the way, there is no special on Grain Belt tonight. But there are half-price margaritas.”
“Definitely not, thank you,” said pretty much everyone.
“I didn’t think so.”
“We will take nachos to start, right guys?” Paul suggested.
Everyone nodded and proceeded to put in their drink orders. When she left, Thomas issued another song challenge. “Okay, you are a high school senior and you realize that most everyone in your class has betrayed you in some way. You are going to the last school dance and the girl you like is going with your best friend. You get to your locker and it’s been broken into and all your stuff is stolen.”
“Easy…. Again! Look Back in Anger, by David Bowie.”
“Not really New Wave, is he?”
“Oh, we’re going to play like that, huh? You won’t accept Post Punk?”
“Nope, distinct genre.”
“Debatable, but no problem. Here we go… it’s coming to me... Okay, Ultravox, Dancing with Tears in My Eyes.”
That reference brought cheers to the whole table, as well as a rendition of the tragic chorus in Andrew’s clear tenor.
“I love this game!” he said triumphantly, pumping the air over his head with both fists. “Now, give me one more before we take a break.”
“Really, a break already? Maybe your well is not so deep, eh?” retorted Thomas, signaling Canadian.
“Well, I happen to know that Mike has some news. So, ‘fire away’… Oh, and that’s Pat Bene
tar and not what we are looking for.”
“Touché,” said Thomas. “Alright, last one before Mike’s news. Your parents force you to get a summer job... and the only thing you can find is to deliver the farm auction newsletter to country diners in out-state Minnesota. There is nothing really to do or see…”
“Okay, stop right there. I’ve got it already: Hideous Towns, The Sundays.”
“Alright, I give up. I’ll buy my food,” said Thomas. Andrew had racked up yet another win. He turned cautiously to Mike, who had been quiet, but did not seem as depressed as Thomas had seen him earlier in the week. “Whatcha got, Mikey?”
“Well, I guess you guys all remember my second trip to Beth’s farm,” Mike paused. “It did not go so well, obviously.”
The rest of the quadrad shrugged in agreement.
“Didn’t think I’d ever hear from her again, but this morning I checked my mail at the Student Center and there was this letter. Well, a postcard from Beth. I guess she has her own printed postcards now from her ranch or whatever it is going to be. Here it is.” Mike retrieved the postcard from his pocket and scooted it into the center of the table, making it fair game. Andrew was quick to reach, but Paul snagged it first. He sat back and took his time, inspecting it fully.
“What’s with the examination, Dr. Johnson?” asked Andrew.
“I’m just lookin’. With women it’s never just what they say… Okay on the back she writes: ‘You were nice to come, Beth. Big scrawling handwriting. That means she did not have much to say, but she did not want to make it look that way. She took up the whole back of it just writing that, you see? Nice handwriting, though. And yes, on the front in big letters Everhard Downs.”
“Everhart. It’s Everhart, you lame-o,” corrected Mike.
“My mistake,” giggled Paul.
“Okay, what if I call you ‘Ever-hard Up’?” Mike upped the ante.
“Oh, low blow, Mike,” smiled Paul.
“Everhart Downs… Is that her last name?” Andrew asked with a quizzical look.
“Yes, I know. You don’t need to say it, it’s almost Everdene from the book…. I guess it was Beth’s married name.”
“Okay, am I losing it here or is it just me?” asked Andrew. Are you living Hardy’s plot?
“Well, we are the only two who have read Madding Crowd, so no one else is going to get it, Andrew,” said Mike.
“But she sent you a note too. So, are you the shepherd, or are you now Boldwood?”
“I’d rather be the shepherd than him, thank you very much!”
“I just — I just can’t. I don’t know. This is too weird,” said Andrew, flabbergasted.
“So, what are you going to do?” asked Thomas.
“Beats me. I’ll give it a few days. Maybe call her. I don’t know. I really, don’t,” he said, chopping at the table.