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The Wood, Sheila, the Beer and the Test
by Don Drewniak

During my college freshman year decades ago, I developed a lasting friendship with two classmates, Charlie and Will. They were physical opposites. Charlie was slightly over six feet, blessed with good looks and athletic. He played for the school’s golfing team all four years and made the junior varsity basketball team as a freshman.

Will was quite the opposite. He was not blessed with the greatest of looks, was at least thirty pounds overweight, had zero athletic ability and smoked a minimum of one package of cigarettes per day. Both lived at home, owned automobiles and commuted to the campus.

We frequented “The Wood “ (The Hollywood) once or twice a week for a beer or two. It was a bar/restaurant located about a mile from the campus. There was never a problem getting served despite our being nineteen, two years under the legal drinking age.

I suspect that an unknown ancient god of screwing humans arranged to have the three of us in the same Geography 101 class during the first semester of our sophomore year.

In all probability, Will carried over to college a habit he had developed in high school. If the class was boring (or if he thought it was), he would place his right elbow on the flat surface of an armchair desk and grip his forehead between his thumb and four closed fingers. Holding a pen or pencil in his left hand, he placed the tip on an open notebook page. He always managed to sit near the outside and rear of classrooms. This most often shielded him from whoever was conducting classes.

It was either the second or third week of Geography 101 when a loud thump echoed through the room. Will’s head slipped from the grip of his hand and as a result he head-butted an unforgiving desktop. Laughter from those sitting near him, quizzical looks from the rest of us. The professor, to his credit, asked Will if he was okay. Will nodded and the lecture continued.

Our first test was scheduled for a Wedmesday at one o’clock during the fourth week of school. Near the end of the day before the test, Will flagged Charlie and me down and suggested we meet at The Wood at ten the next day to have breakfast and compare notes.

“Let me see your notes,” said Charlie.

“Well, um, I left them at home.”

“In plain English, they are worthless,” I added.

“Okay, okay, I need help.”

Unfortunately, Charlie and I agreed.

It just so happened that ten was the time bars were allowed to begin serving liquor. Will was the first to place an order (with our favorite waitress, the rather well-endowed and pretty Sheila). After requesting bacon, eggs and toast, Will added, “And, oh, three coffees and three bottles of Bud.”

“Hey, Will, we have notes to go over,” interjected Charlie.

“My treat, guys, and the beer and coffee will help us think better.”

“He’s right, guys,” said Sheila as she moved from me to Charlie to Will gently squeezing each of our necks and brushing her lips over our right ears.

And so it was that Will’s order went through. I am rather fuzzy as to how it happened, but three additional rounds of beer somehow materialized before we left The Wood. According to Charlie, when we discussed what happened the following day, Sheila brought the last three rounds without their being ordered by us.

Will was flat-out drunk as we left ten minutes before one. We all climbed into my car. Two traffic lights slowed us down. It was one even as I pulled into the parking lot. Charlie had to help Will out of the car and guide him step-by-step to the classroom. We were ten minutes late by the time I opened the classroom door.

Now in the roles of Larry, Curly and Moe, we did not realize that the three of us smelled like an old brewery a week or two after Prohibition was foisted on the American public.

I grabbed the first empty desk in sight, the first one in the column nearest the door to the room. Charlie found an unused desk somewhere in the middle of the room, while Will tottered to one near the window.

Boom! Will missed the seat and hit the floor. He was unhurt and managed to plunk himself on the seat as laughter rippled through the room.

The test questions were written on a blackboard that spanned most of the front wall. Even if I had all my faculties, I couldn’t have read the first question which was written in cursive on the far side of the blackboard. After ripping out a couple of sheets from one of my notebooks, I called the professor over and asked him what was question one.

“Name the eight Hawaiian Islands.”

According to a girl sitting across from me, I told him, “That would be tough enough if I was sober.”

We were allowed to leave after completing the test. I went straight to the car and waited for my two fellow idiots to join me. All the while, I imagined getting expelled. The next class wasn’t until Friday, some forty-seven hours in the future. They were among the most miserable of my life, especially the hours spent back on campus the next day and Friday morning as I waited to be called to the Dean’s office. Thankfully, the call never came.

Finally, the moment of truth arrived as I entered the room for Friday’s geography class. The professor, Dr. Tyler, had a stack of disparate sheets of paper in his hands. Calling out names, the students went up to him one at a time to retrieve their tests. When the last of the tests in his hands had been distributed, he announced, “Will the gentlemen who did not receive their tests please see me after class?”

Mild laughter cascaded through the room. More torture.

Finally, the dreaded moment arrived.

“Come over to my desk, gentlemen.”

Once we were assembled in front of him. he continued, “I made a few mistakes back in my undergraduate days, but nothing remotely resembling yours. Mr. Drewniak, your grade was 63, Mr. Dixon (Charlie) 60 and Mr. Dempsey 15.

He paused to let the grades sink into our muddled brains. ‘The next test is in three weeks. You can either accept what you earned on this test or you can choose the alternative.”

“Sir, what is the alternative?” asked Charlie.

“If you score a 90 or higher, this test grade gets dropped. Anything lower, it stands. Will had no choice as he was buried with his grade. Charlie and I rolled the dice.

I paid full attention during every lesson, took notes after notes and pulled an all-nighter the night before the second test. The result? I aced it as did Charlie. Will had a crossed out 88 at the top of his test with a 90 next to it.

“Anyone for The Wood?” asked Will as we left the classroom.