My college roommate Satan and I were living in the dorms at San Diego State when we decided we needed a road trip and we needed one badly. “We should go to Big Bear for the weekend,” I told her. I had grown up in Big Bear and my family still owned the house up there even though no one lived in it. So all we were going to have to pay for was gas, food and booze. It was a perfect plan.

Friday rolled around and we both had early classes so we were able to load up my red Firebird and be on the road just in time to beat the weekend traffic. We made good time, but that shouldn’t be a surprise, given that I was driving like I was in a high-speed car chase. Satan and I were blasting Salt-n-Pepa and singing together like we were the 8th white wonders of the world. We pulled up to my house just before 5pm and we were ready to get our hair big on and our livers miserable.

After showers and way too much makeup, we had some dinner and were ready to hit the town. First stop (and maybe only stop) had to be Chad’s Place. Chad’s is a popular Big Bear hot spot. Back in the 60’s and 70’s it was mostly known for its Harley Davidson clientele. It still caters to the bikers, but in recent years it has been overrun with the younger, hipper crowd. On this particular night, Satan and I were card-carrying members of that next generation. As we sauntered in (yes, I said sauntered), we ordered up some beers and tequila shots and went and stood by the pool tables. It was a relatively calm night for Chad’s, which was a rarity, and we drank alone for a while. As it always happens in Chad’s, I eventually ran into someone from high school. David and I had always been close in high school, because we had a mutual understanding. I drove him to school in my baby-blue VW bug, and he fixed it for me whenever I drove it into things. Most notably, he bent it back into shape after I lost control on the ice and drove into a truck. I can’t really say I drove it into a truck per se; it was more like I drove it under the truck. By the time my car actually came to a stop the taillights were staring me in the face and I was thanking my lucky stars that my pot addled brain was still in my skull.

Anyhow, David was part of a group of guys who were out on a bachelor party. David brought Satan and I into the mix and we somehow worked our way into the bachelor party circle of trust. After a couple of hours at the bar, the party was moving back to the groom-to-be’s house and we were going along for the ride. I followed the line of cars in my Pontiac and we made it safely to our next party destination. We threw back some beers and then the doorbell rang.
“I think the strippers are here!” exclaimed the best man. Now you know as well as I do that I have a soft spot for strippers, but this wasn’t a male stripper dressed as a cop coming to arrest us. This was two female strippers with a very scary, very large male escort watching their back.
“Great! What do we do now?” Satan asked me, looking slightly annoyed.
“I don’t know,” I told her. All of the guys were starting to go up the stairs in single file as if the strippers had put some sort of trance on them that they were powerless to resist.
“I don’t want to go up there,” Satan whispered to me.
“Neither do I,” I whispered back. Just then David came up to us and asked us not to leave. He told us that the strippers were only going to be there for a little while, and that we should stick around. He then showed us where we could get more beers and food. Free beer and free food? I was good with that.

It didn’t take long before we heard the catcalls and what sounded like wedding rings falling to the ground. Satan and I had at this point proceeded to play a two person game of Indian Poker, and I was being forced to down my beer after losing yet another hand. “Let’s raid the kitchen,” I told her.
“I thought you’d never ask,” she replied. So into the kitchen we went and right to the chips. As we were standing in the kitchen munching down on some Cheetos, I looked out the kitchen window and noticed our next attraction.
“Heeeey, is that a hot tub out there?” I asked.
“I think it is.”
“Oh, I think we may need to test it out and make sure it’s safe for public use.”
“I think you may be right,” she agreed. What was the harm? The boys were all upstairs throwing dollar bills, and we were bored with Indain Poker. So we made our way outside, stripped down to our undies and jumped in the hot tub. And it was nice.
“We need bubbles,” I told her. After about 5 minutes of stumbling around in the dark in wet underwear we finally found the switch for the jets. We then settled in for a lovely evening of Southern California mountain life: sitting outside in a nice warm hot tub, drinking beers, and looking at all the stars.

The strippers eventually left and the two guys without wedding rings found us in the hot tub outside. They brought us some cold beers, so we let them enter our new domain. We were all just laying back and staring at the sky when the pine trees above us started to sway.
“Does anyone else see that?” David asked.
“Are you talking about the trees? Because I thought I was just really really drunk for a second,” I told him.
“What the hell? There isn’t any wind,” David said. Just then the best man opened up the door to the patio.
“Holy shit! Did you guys feel that!” he shouted.
“Feel what?” David said
“The earthquake. It was huge!” the best man said. Big Bear isn’t known for its earthquakes and the locals usually make jokes about the beach front property we’ll own one day. But this earthquake was big enough to hit us up in the mountains. We must not have felt it because of the water. Well, if it ain’t broke…We all sat in the hot tub for about another hour until it was time to go home.

The sun was due to rise any moment, so Satan and I decided to take David and the other unmarried guy into the mountains to watch the sunrise. It really was beautiful and totally worth missing sleep for. We were taking the guys home when David suggested that we go to his grandmother’s house for breakfast. We made it to Grandma’s house and she welcomed all four of us very tired, very hungry souls into her beautiful and delicately decorated kitchen. The reason I say “delicate” is because David’s grandmother was a big collector of those commemorative plates that you see advertised on television. She had been at it for over half of her life, and had 14 United States Presidents (Reagan was on multiple plates), 5 Elvis plates, and one Fonz. Each plate had its own place on its own hook in her kitchen. Grandma sat us down, gave us all a cup of coffee, and took an extra long look at me. “Aren’t you the reason David graduated high school?” she asked.
“ I guess so. I mean, I did make sure he got there everyday.”
“Yes, but didn’t you also help him with his studies?”
“Yes, I did.” I didn’t want to tell her I helped him study while he put stolen car parts on my car. I’m pretty sure that might have blown her whole image of me. As grandma and I were walking down memory lane, another quake hit.

For those of you unfamiliar with earthquakes, they’re not as scary as they’re made out to be on television. In fact, after most earthquakes, you might hear the following conversation:
Bob: “Did you feel that?”
Sally: “Feel what?”
Bob: “Never mind. Probably just an earthquake.”
So for Californians to take notice, much less get up out of their chairs, a quake has to be pretty big. The one that hit Grandma’s house was huge. It wasn’t a “shake” as much as it was a “violent slamming.” David hit the wall (or did the wall hit David?), Satan was thrown from her chair, and I grabbed Grandma. I should have grabbed the plates. Years and years of collecting came crashing down around us. When the quake stopped I could hardly make eye contact with grandma. She told us she was all right but I knew she wasn’t. There was no way she was ever going to be able to replace those plates. We helped her clean up and then it hit me. If this is what happened to her house, I wonder what’s happened to mine.

I gave David and his grandmother a hug and told them I need to check my house to make sure there wasn’t any damage. My house was only 6 miles away. Satan and I pulled up and I was relieved to see that there was no damage on the outside. This house had been built by my grandfather, and as such was an extension of my mother’s heart. If it were damaged, she would be too. We walked up the side steps and I put my key in the door all the while saying, “please let it be okay, please let it be okay.” I opened the door and the only thing that had happened was a plastic cup had fallen out of the cupboard and was now lying on the kitchen floor. I breathed a sigh of relief and just then the phone rang. “Hello,” I said into the receiver.
“Stacy, is everything okay? Are you okay?” It was my mom.
“Calm down, mom. We’re fine. The house is fine.” I reassured her.
“Oh thank God,” she said.
Apparently the earthquake Gods overheard our conversation and were displeased, because right then we were hit with a 6.4 magnitude earthquake. Satan dove under the dining room table and began crying.
“Mom…I gotta go…” was all I was able to get out before I was thrown from the dining room into the kitchen. This is where it got tricky because all the glass was now flying out of the cupboards and crashing onto the floor, and I was barefoot. That’s when I went into a series of ballet moves that can only be described as “Convulsing Butterfly.” I started off with an Allegro. Then went airborne with a Ballon that somehow took me from the kitchen into the master bathroom. Weird. But I wasn’t done with my involuntary tour of my house just yet. One last slam sent me spinning into the bedroom. It was a good thing, too, because as I was “leaving” the bathroom, I saw the enormous mirror come off the wall and hit the ground. So there it was. I had taken maybe two steps, but somehow managed to go from the living room to the kitchen, from the kitchen into the bathroom, and had ended up on my mother’s bed. The whole thing was surreal, as if God was playing Marble Madness, and I was the marble.

By the time it was all over, the house was destroyed. The hot water heater was spraying water, and the kitchen? Oh, the kitchen. Every one of my mother’s glasses, plates, bowls…you name it. If it was breakable, it was on the floor. And broken. The refrigerator had emptied its contents onto the floor as well, leaving us with broken jars of mayonnaise, mustard, jelly, pickles, and something that looked like it had been a roast. I just stood there for a moment looking at what used to be my mother’s heart and sighed. Satan crawled out of her hiding spot and the phone began ringing. I walked over it to answer it and as I picked it up I could feel an ache in my chest.

To be continued.

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