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I love stories about The King. Some of his antics are just off the wall. And growing up, we’d hang out a lot. This was one of those times. It was during college and we were home for winter break. We had celebrated Christmas and were making plans for New Years. My Captain Kung Fu’s mom had a beach house and she had told him he could go out there for New Years. So, we loaded up a keg and headed off on a road trip for New Year’s Eve at the beach.
When we arrived, the house was awesome. It was plenty big enough for a bunch of us to party there and then crash in beds and on couches. And there was a lake in the backyard so we could hang out and have a nice view. There were a few other houses around the lake and some of those also had people celebrating New Years. Kung Fu’s mom’s house had good chunk of property, so the houses were fairly well spaced out. While sound travels well across water, it wasn’t too loud and the other people could hear us making noise, but that was about it.
Kung Fu gathered everyone around when we got there while we were still sober and announced there was only one rule. Nobody in the house was allowed to go across the lake and steal the giant, illuminated Santa. We had all been joking about it, but we were there to drink, so this was a moot point. More importantly, everything else was ok. Sex in any room was fine. No drugs were off limits. You could smoke anywhere you wanted. All beer and liquor bottles were communal and we had all chipped in for the keg.
So, an awesome night was underway. In fact, this was the first of a number of New Year’s beach parties in a row that were all noteworthy for various reasons. I will tell stories about them all. So, we all got to drinking. Most of us started out at this one table playing speed quarters. We were going through remarkable amounts of beer. I won’t even try to tell you all of the people at the table, but there was me, The King, and about 8 other people – both guys and girls. Now, New Years is a time when everyone should try to get laid. And that was my goal.
The problem with going to a party like this, a long drive from my house, was that if I didn’t bring a “friend,” I was left to hope single girls showed up or that some guy brought a hot single girl with him. As it turned out, the night had little to offer me in that respect, so all that was left to do was get drunk and watch The King work. And it was like 8 at night when The King was drunk enough to start misbehaving.
He doesn’t smoke (he quit in high school), so I was more than a little surprised when he started bumming cigarettes. He was outside talking to people and then everyone went back inside to resume our game and it was so chaotic, in a drunken blur of revelry, that everyone lost track of us.
We set out to annex Santa. The King by boat, I on foot. The plan was that I would run around the lake, through everyone’s yard, unplug Santa and take it to the dock, where The King would meet me, take the cargo, and head back across the lake. I would run back, rejoin the party and The King would come in later, proving we had not conspired to steal Santa. It was fool proof.
Around 10, we realized nobody had seen The King in a long time. We went outside looking for him, but he wasn’t anywhere. We walked to the beach, but he wasn’t there. I suggested he might have taken the paddle boat out because it was missing. Then my friend E met us back at the house and he had located The King. At this point, it’s appropriate to relay the events of the two hours since The King was last inside. During that time, The King had been busy.
After smoking a cigarette, The King and I knew we needed a break from drinking, so we devised our plan. The King untied the paddleboat from the dock, tossed the rope into the back, and took off paddling. At that point, I took off on a jog around the lake. It was cold, so nobody was outside. I got onto the deck with Santa – Santa was large. It was a hard plastic santa with light bulbs inside of it. It stood about 6 feet tall and had a long cord that extended from its feet and ran to the back door of the house. I unplugged the cord and picked Santa up. I’m not sure what Santa weighs in real life, but this thing weighed about 75 pounds and was no easy carry down to the dock, where The King was waiting.
The King started paddling back to the house and again I took off on a jog. For me, the most memorable part back was running through some bushes between two yards where someone had intentionally put up a fence. It hit me just below the sternum and despite most of my weight being below the fence, I flipped up and over it. As I lay there with scratches and cuts across my stomach and the wind knocked out of me, I knew we were almost home free. But we had to get back before the next smoke break, otherwise they might notice we were missing, or worse, see us coming back with Santa.
I managed to get back to the house before anyone noticed anything and milled around in the kitchen for a little bit to catch my breath and drink a beer before rejoining the game I’d been playing before.
But midway across the lake, things went bad for The King. The paddle boat started spinning and he couldn’t steer the rudder. Being as drunk as he was, he failed to realize the problem. Instead, he decided the problem was the big, fat Santa. His only choice to get home safely was to jettison the extra weight. So, in went Santa, who apparently was buoyant and floated neck deep in the icy waters of this lake. But that didn’t fix his problem. The King continued to float, struggling to paddle and when he did, simply move in circles.
About a quarter mile from the house we were partying in, there is an Air Force base, with many large signs that tell you not to go any farther without facing the wrath of the US Air Force. And this is directly where The King was drifting, paralleled by the jettisoned Santa, bobbing along beside him.
The water was easily 32 degrees where it wasn’t iced over, which should have ruled out swimming to the bank. But, in his state, he had tried to get out and swim to shore, only to realize it was far too cold in the lake, so he climbed back into the paddleboat and continued to drift, praying that we’d notice he was missing. And while we had noticed he was gone, two hours after he first left the party, we weren’t thinking he had made the journey to the Air Force base.
When we finally got to him, all standing on the lakeshore, he was screaming for us to throw him something and pull him to shore. But he was too far out to get anything to him. Finally, we realized that someone was going to have to swim. The King had tried and was now freezing – he wasn’t doing it again. So it was E. He got into the icy water and knew immediately that we were going to have to steal someone’s canoe.
We ran from house to house, looking for a canoe or something to steal to get out there. Nothing. Finally, back around the lake at the house we had stolen Santa, there it was. A canoe. But it was chained up. How awkward was this going to be?
Knock, knock, knock.
A middle aged man came to the door to find about 10 drunk 20 year olds. “Can I help you?” He was clearly not amused.
“We have to ask a favor. Can we borrow your canoe. One of the people at our party got drunk and stole your Santa, and he’s stuck in the middle of the lake heading towards the Air Force base.”
“You stole my Santa?” It was clear this man was not going to appreciate that we had also tossed it in the water, so no one mentioned it.
“Yessir, we’re very sorry. That was the only rule for the night, but someone did it anyway. Now he’s soaking wet and unable to get back to shore. Can we please use your canoe to go save him.”
“None of you are sober enough. The last thing I want to do is lose my Santa and my canoe tonight. Which way is he?”
We all pointed in the general direction, but being after dark, he could have been anywhere. And the man, as pissed as he must have been, unlocked his canoe and pushed off for the middle of the lake. Once out there, it must not have been too difficult to get The King because they were back on land within 15 minutes.
Captain Kung Fu was mad as hell. But The King lived! Santa, however, was not so lucky. While intended for outdoor use, it was apparently not meant to swim with.