The Duggmobile

"Quick! Get over here at once! The hot water pipe to the washing machine has burst and gallons are splashing all over the basement!"
So shrieked Dugg Bedd on the phone to the plumber after school one day, 4:30 in the afternoon. It took a little pleading to get the guy to agree, promises of time-and-a-half wages not withstanding. Before signing off, the plumber dutifully jotted down the address in question, grumbling the whole time.

In fact, he had been given the location of José, the new principal who had just started duties this fine September week at our high school.

Immediately thereafter, Dugg Bedd was on the phone with an electrician:
"Quick! Get over here at once! Sparks are shooting out of the clothes dryer and I can't reach the fuse box!"
Again, José's address was provided.

Then Dugg Bedd dialed up Milander's Grocery Market downtown, detailing urgent deliveries required for an important dinner that night. Next on tap was the Pizza Hut, the first pizzeria in town to offer at-home service. And then the taxicab company was entreated to have a car arrive promptly for an unexpected trip to the airport to catch a chartered flight.

Last of all, the telephone rung up the florist to request a dozen roses delivered to José's wife. We uncovered her name the very first day of class, of course, along with other domestic details to make the FBI envious. In fact, the Gang assembled a rather full dossier on our new principal in rather short order.

And, oh, just to show you what an inspired genius Dugg Bedd was at this sort of thing, he had the roses include a card inscribed, "From your sweetheart, Jack," with the entire order fraudulently so charged to that name. For in fact, José had moved in immediately next door to Jack, the somewhat amorous (or at least, easily stimulated) lad described in Priapus in Our Midst.

At the conclusion of all this frenetic telephonic activity, we hopped into Dugg Bedd's ugly blue decrepit Volkswagen Beetle and shot over to Greenbriar Circle to witness the bustling activity from the end of the street. Sure enough, vans, trucks and cars began arriving in droves. The front door of the house kept opening with lengthy and presumably heated conversations ensuing on the door stoop. After getting confirmation of good results, we hightailed it, for having watched Dragnet on television, we were both aware that villains were well known to return to the scene of the crime.

It was a splendid how-d'ya-do, delivered to José with all the congeniality The Gang could muster.

I mean, most pranksters lodge a solitary call and let it go at that, a single movement as it were. But Dugg Bedd? No way. He pulled out all the stops to compose an entire symphony. Alexander Graham Bell could have lived like a king on the royalties.

It also well illustrated that darling premise from good old Oscar Wilde:
Nothing succeeds like excess.
Dugg Bedd was a great friend, from the earliest days at Louise Elementary School in which we first met. He lived a block south of me and for those dozen years or so, it was always a treat to swing by for a visit. Both his parents worked, so easy access to the telephone was assured. Given the authenticity of his performances on that device, I always suspected he subscribed to the Stanislavski system of method acting. For instance, one time he dialed up the Daily Tribune and convinced them that a person had just leaped to his death from atop the Graduate Dormitory on the ISU campus (at nine stories, one of the tallest buildings in town). It stood a mere four blocks from us, so we were able race over and nonchalantly watch as a reporter queried a startled receptionist at the front desk.

About that car of his: it was moth-eaten, but exceedingly cheap, so in fact he was one of the first of us to own an automobile. The paint was miserable, a mottled collection of various blues, some electric, some navy, some big-sky, but morphing one curvy direction to another, giving the appearance that the coat hadn't dried yet. And it was totally flat--no luster or gloss. Indeed, at first blush, it truly appeared to have been applied by a first-grader using water-based fingerpaints.

But, it had a trick feature to make it truly stand out from the crowd. In particular, the ratchet mechanism on the parking brake handle (between the two front seats) was missing its teeth. In other words, when you pulled on it, the brake did in fact grip, but only so long as the lever was held. Let go, and the wheel turned freely again. Notice the singular noun there. Only one wheel would be locked, the other three free to turn. Do you see what this implies? Whenever Dugg Bedd yanked on the brake, that one wheel would freeze in place, furiously burning rubber, and yet the car continued to move more or less forward. The screeching of the tire on the pavement was uncannily loud and shrill. Because of constant use, he had to institute a substantially accelerated schedule of tire rotation.

It was when this feature was uncovered we knighted the Beetle: "The Duggmobile."

Man, if we didn't have fun with it!

I believe I've mentioned that the city's population in those days was segregated town and gown, with a broad swatch of a grassy field dividing the two. That undeveloped area was dubbed "The Flats," right on Lincolnway with the Squaw Creek running through it. By the way, Lincolnway was a major artery in town, but also a segment of the nationwide Lincoln Highway. 

One day, the two of us were returning to our neighborhood from downtown and just about to hit the bridge crossing the Squaw Creek. Dugg Bedd spotted a guy on the pedestrian walkway portion, a college student from all appearances, who had paused to gaze over the bridge at something in the stream below. He had his back turned to the traffic and was entranced with whatever he was seeing. Just when were right alongside him, moving at 30 mph or so, Dugg Bedd applied the magic parking brake full-tilt.

"Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeech!"

With the ear-splitting dissonance emanating from just inches behind him, the hapless fellow almost leaped over the guard rail into the creek to save his skin. He may have wet himself for all I know. The Duggmobile kept shooting along, leaving behind a trail of guffaws from its cabin. Like a well-worn story a grandfather might spin, we related that tale to our colleagues in The Gang over and over, and it soon became part of the lore.

Or how about the time we jumped the curb with the Duggmobile down along Friley Road, continuing up across a resident's lawn, Dugg Bedd's arm reaching from the driver's side window, mine from the passenger side, each snatching a corner of a badminton net set up on flimsy aluminum poles in the aristocratic yard--this was a hoity-toity part of town--as we plowed through the midst of it, net flapping in the wind. The family was gathered within a screened-in gazebo not twenty feet away, sipping lemonade as they watched in disbelief. We escaped with our prize in front of their very eyes. Unbelievably, the entire affair, poles and all, survived our escapade and was later erected in the yard of the ISU dormitories south of town. I bet the students there wondered what benefactor bequeathed such a fine new badminton set to them unannounced.

You did read the Prolegomenon, didn't you? Or at least watched the fine film Going Places?

I've pondered for quite a few months now how to write the conclusion to this section on Dugg Bedd, and have decided simply to be truthful and direct, hoping everyone, especially he, takes it the right way. Dugg Bedd was an exceedingly warm, sensitive and generous person. And he never said an untoward word to anyone (except his brother whom he called a cheap chickenshit once, and that was well deserved). He was a great friend for all those years and I loved him dearly, so I don't want anyone to take the following as insulting.

Dugg Bedd was not especially academically minded and sometimes a bit slow on the uptake when The Gang entered into more abstruse discussions. One late evening we (about a dozen of us) attended the midnight matinee at the Collegian Theater on Main Street. Gifted hooligans all, The Gang spread out across the theater in pairs, I sitting with Dugg Bedd on the right aisle of the venue. Otherwise, Armpit, Sheel-Teat, Tiny, Van-O, Hutch and the others were sprinkled around the center and left sections, the better to create confusion among the gendarmes.

Before long, hard lemon drops were flying at patrons, missiles were launched toward the movie screen, rude noises punctuated the film action and so forth. It was bedlam and kept the ushers occupied all night.

Because of our strategic dispersal throughout the theater, whenever an investigation on the left took place, activity erupted on the right. Even the manager, Joe, who had the pocked face of a punch-drunk pug prize-fighter (The Gang had numerous dalliances with him over the years) didn't know if he was on foot or horseback.

With all due modesty, we were a well-trained and well-coordinated special tactical force. We kept our eyes open and knew how to create needed diversions to save the other guys. Say what you will about sociopaths, lack of loyalty is not among their failings, as contrary as that seems. Or perhaps it's just having a common enemy. More likely, maybe the Greeks, who had some half-dozen words for different types of love, needed to add one more.

Anyway, the first flick was The Fall of the House of Usher, starring Vincent Price. During one of the spookier points in the film, Roderick Usher grabs and embraces his sister, Madeline. 

With no warning, out of the vasty deep as it were, Dugg Bedd bellowed:

"Incest!"

I mean, so far the stunts had only been loud enough to cause slight discomfiture among nearby viewers. But now, he really let go, hitting a new decibel level which couldn't be missed anywhere in the theater.

All the rest of The Gang went silent and our eyes grew round in disbelief. There wasn't a one of us who thought Dugg Bedd even knew the word and moreover could wield it in such a clever manner which escaped the rest of us. What a hoot!

Incidentally, the college guy with his date sitting directly in front of us who had been exuding tons of theatrical sighs throughout the showing, got beaned with a lemon drop shortly thereafter, resulting in a hell of a shriek and probably a hell of a welt. Tiny, sitting in the center section, proved he could have played professional baseball. I've often envisioned a headline in the Daily Tribune:

Movie Patron Has Eye Put Out By Errant Candy

One Friday night we were all sitting around in the basement of the Campus Lutheran Church--one of our favorite haunts--wondering what to do next. A certain ennui had set in for whatever reason. We were all bored, and no activity appealed that particular night. Who knows what the deal was, but even sociopaths suffer Weltschmerz from time to time.

The rest of us were surly and uninterested in anything. But Dugg Bedd, ever the optimist, kept trying to cheer us up, suggesting various activities to rouse us from our apathy. His final appeal worked:
"Hey, I know! Let's go yell some obscene gestures at those chicks we saw earlier."
There was a stunned silence, as the dozen of us had the wind taken from our sails. We just sat gazing at each other in wonderment. And then The Gang burst out laughing, the first cheerful moment all night. As we roared, Dugg Bedd, kindly smiling, looked from one to the other of us, not sure how he had brought such joy to a bummer evening. He really was the nicest guy I've ever known.

And we did in fact go yell some obscene gestures at those chicks, thus bringing the evening to a happy conclusion.

Next installment: And So to Church

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