The Vaults

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A host of ghosts have coalescing into an urge to write down some of the tales of my wasted youth.
A) I’m moving into a shotgun apartment that reminds me of the “horrible little shack in the woods,” as degenerate AA aptly put it, where I spent too much time in my younger days.
B) Moving, and change of any sort, always makes me consider where I’ve been.
C) I was taking a shortcut back to DP HQ last night, a route that took me through the Tech campus frat row. It reminded me of a specific tale I’ve told many times, but never written down in the ezine. Which made me think, “Y’know I don’t have any nightlife tales to tell in the old Electric Degeneration lately, due to whoring myself out to the Loaf. Perhaps I should give subscribers something different?”
The last time I put these sorts of tales on paper some of my friends stopped talking to me for a year so I’ve decided to avoid use of full names. So here is the first in what may be a series of tales that may not be factual, but are true. Let me know if you like this and I’ll do another installment!

I was stuck in a small college in the North Georgia mountains, a small conservative school with a large ROTC program – dullsville. I couldn’t afford to attend the big schools all my friends had run off to, but occasionally I’d go visit them for weekends of debauchery, amazed at things like coed dorms and fraternity houses that would throw parties that didn’t result in armed police presence.
BL and I were on one such jaunt, visiting degenerate DC at Emory. We hit a number of parties on frat row, ending up at the biggest, loudest one. Sure, we were underage, but it was a different age, the 80’s. Though the days were numbered, the safety police hadn’t yet exterminated all illicit thrills. We didn’t even get asked for ID at the door and walked into the party like we owned the place.
We were small town boys out of place on the big city private school party scene, so we made up for it by being a little extra obnoxious. We leaned in close and said hi to every girl that passed, usually resulting in a look somewhere between fear and disdain. Though the act wasn’t successful at getting us laid, it was successful at entertaining ourselves.
For example, at some point we overheard one girl address a cute Asian girl as “Susan” so we immediately struck up a conversation with her.
“Susan! I haven’t seen you in ages! How are you?”
“Uh… do I know you?”
“Of course, we went to high school together!”
“We did?”
“Yeah, don’t you remember?”
“You went to high school in Beijing?”
“Beijing, yes! I sat behind you in Chinese History class.”
We couldn’t keep a straight face. Our inability to even take ourselves seriously didn’t work in our favor with rich, fashionable girls.
We had few other options, underage in an unfamiliar town on an utterly alien campus, so we stuck around until the party died. Bored, we wandered about the place – swimming pool out back, game room though here, kitchen through there, an immense palace. One door led downstairs to a basement where we were instantly paralyzed – bee kegs stood, side-by-side, covering the floor as far as the eye could see. The tarnished aluminum was gleaming silver in our eyes – the palace treasury.
In moments like those, close friends often don’t need to speak. We leapt back up the stairs to make a quick look around to see if we’d been spotted or followed.
There was a couple making out drunkenly on the couch but they were obviously not interested in us. The place was otherwise deserted.
We hopped back down the steps and reached for the closest barrel of brew. I gripped one side, BL gripped the other and we turned to run for the stairs – only to be jerked right back in place. I’d never touched a keg in my life and was shocked at the sheer weight of the thing. It felt like it was bolted to the goddamn floor. We gasped, then summoned our resolve and hefted the thing an inch off the floor, moving it perhaps a foot before dropping it to the concrete with a dull thunk. We giggled, then made even more noise shushing each other. Another heave moved it to the foot of the stairs. Bit by bit we hauled the prize up the stairs, smashing into the walls and banging into each step as we went, followed by giggles and “shhhhh!”s every time. When we finally reached the top I fully expected some pumped-up pack of frat brothers to appear and beat the shit out of us.
But upstairs was empty save for abandoned plastic cups and the smell of spilled beer.
We hauled the thing out into the yard, now anticipating campus security showing up to arrest us – underage drinking, theft, trespassing, a litany of charges that would get me jailed, expelled, evicted.
Nothing but crickets.
We stashed the keg in the bushes.
Phase one complete, we had to find my car. The campus was an indecipherable maze even by daylight, and sober. In the dark of night and haze of alcohol, it was a miracle we found our way back to DC's dorm. Then we needed another miracle to drive back to the frat house. On foot, we’d cut through plazas and down one-way streets. Driving would be a different route entirely, one likely crawling with bored rent-a-cops. They’d think we were sexual predators, prowling campus in search of intoxicated underage helpless sorority sisters - not far from the truth, but not our goal of the moment.
But the Lord protects drunks and fools and we somehow found our way back to frat row, and the right frat house. The keg waited patiently for us in the bushes, reflecting the street lamps above. We heaved it into the back of my 1979 Toyota wagon and drove back to the dorm as calmly as we could. We left our loot under some clothes in the car and stumbled into the dorm to crash on DC’s floor.

In the morning I woke up with a half-remembered dream. As BL roused I mumbled, “Did we… steal a keg last night?” The laughter that came in response confirmed it.
We went out into the glaring light of day and looked in the back window of the car. A shirt covered one end of the keg, the other end shining in the sunlight. It wasn’t even hidden from casual view, much less concealed.
But it was still there.

It was Sunday so we had to return to our mundane lives in the hills. We snickered randomly on the long drive home. We had to find a place to stash the thing, since neither of our families would be happy to hold our contraband until we could figure out what to do with it. We decided to hide it in the river, a spot where nobody else would find it, a spot that would keep it comparatively cool, and a spot where we could throw a party the following weekend.
It took a while to roll the thing through the woods and down the hill. We selected a boulder hole in the middle of a waterfall and dropped the keg in.
It rolled around for a bit but eventually settled. Job done, we hiked out and went home to phone our friends, brag, and invite them to a party the next weekend.
The next Friday we had our all-you-can-drink-free-beer campout. Perhaps some of our friends didn’t believe us, or maybe the older guys had better things to do, but for whatever reason only a few folks showed up. We trudged down the hill with a tap from the local beer store and pulled the keg out onto the shore. With my inexperience, I had no idea how to operate the device.
Eventually we got it to pump foam for a good 45 minutes, followed by flat beer. I think the thing had been rolling around in those damn rapids all week and, in retrospect, I’m amazed it didn’t just blow up in our faces.
But it was beer, and it was free.
We filled gallon jugs and hauled them up the hill to our campsite to party the evening away. When we ran out of beer from the jugs, someone had to trek back down the hill for a refill, then haul the heavy jugss back up the hill, but it was about all an underage, small-town degenerate could ask for. By the time the sun set, we were all pretty hammered.
ML was the drunkest of the bunch, but wasn’t ready to call it a night when we ran out of beer again. None of the rest of us were motivated to fetch it, but he wasn’t going to let the hike get in the way of getting absolutely blotto. Only MH, DN and myself were still there and awake when ML went off into the dark woods, flashlight in hand.
The trail down to the river takes several unexpected turns and has many branches that end up at dead-ends of tangled laurel bushes or rocky cliffs. It’s not an easy path to follow even by daylight, and sober.
The rest of us sat staring into the fire. Eventually we realized ML had been gone for some time – quite a long time, actually. Unfortunately, he’d taken the only flashlight. I’d been lost in those woods in the dark before (different
story) and I knew there was no way to go looking for him.
So we called out for him, yelling louder and louder.
Eventually we saw a flickering light coming toward us. ML was obviously off the path, crashing through the undergrowth. We yelled, “Come toward us! Come toward the fire!”
But the flickering beam of the flashlight went off to our left. He sounded like a bear crashing through the forest. He grumbled and growled incoherently. Laurel is a tough little tree, particularly en masse where the branches weave together like baskets designed to catch drunken idiots.
Eventually the flashlight/beacon turned back toward the path, then went beyond it, circling the campsite to our right. We continued yelling, in between breaks for laughing. He somehow managed to circumnavigate the campsite a full 180 degrees before staggering into the clearing, covered in cuts and debris from the bushes he’d destroyed in his circuitous route. A half-full jug of beer was in one hand, a dead flashlight in the other.
“Lost my glasses. Goddamn… flashlight… kept going out on me…” he mumbled, angrily tossing the flashlight into the fire – then fell face-first after it, unconscious, right into the flames.
“Oh shit!” the rest of us yelled, grabbing him and rolling him out of the coals.
“Get the flashlight before the damn batteries explode,” I said to DN as I looked over the prone form of ML.
The Lord protects drunks and fools, and drunken fools doubly so. ML didn’t have a burn on him.
We pulled him further from the fire. We shook our heads, giggled a little, tossed a blanket over him and soon retired to our tents.
In the morning we followed the trail of destruction he had left. We found his glasses, only a few feet off the usual path. He was virtually blind without them. Had it been me, I might have laid down right there and slept in the middle of the damned forest and found my way back in the morning, eaten up by chiggers and god knows what else.

A couple of weeks later, DN and I were bored. He was of legal drinking age, but we were both broke. I talked to the purveyor of the local beer store and mentioned I knew where a mostly-empty keg was. She said she’d give us $10 for the thing, since that’s what the deposit would be if we’d bought it for the beer. So DN and I trekked back down to the river. The keg was gone, washed away by a storm.
We hiked downstream and found it lodged in a crevice in the rocks, some fifteen feet above the normal waterline. It was still heavy, 1/3 full of stale, hot beer, but we managed to work it free and roll it back up the hill. The $10 bought us a 12 pack. It was cold and carbonated, like beer should be, but didn’t generate any tall tales, like our stolen keg had. The best things in life are free.

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