My best pal Todd Hubb, only thirty-three, used to be a famous motivational speaker and writer, making millions cheering people up, and then he felt kind of down and then his wife took everything. He's my best friend in the entire galaxy, and for the past eight months, Todd and I have been living in my wife's mother's one-bedroom apartment, eating everything and doing nothing. Two weeks ago, my wife made me choose between Todd and a pie. I went with the pie.
Yesterday, I thought of a million things I'd say to Todd if I ever saw him again. I also thought of things he'd say back to me and then what I'd say back to him. Things like: "Oh no, you di'nt" and then "Oh yeah I did" and then "Oh no, you di'nt" and then "Oh yeah I did". I played our future conversation inside my head for ten hours.
In some mental playbacks, I was wearing a black mask like Zorro, or Robin from Batman, and Todd couldn't tell just what friend was breaking things off with him, and I could tell him terrible things about him to his face without feeling bad about what I was saying because he wouldn't be able to trace the comments back to me.
This morning, after making an appointment to meet with Todd, I walked into a café with two men in suits, each carrying briefcases. I saw Todd waiting for me at a table. I was surprised to see that he was wearing a suit, was clean-shaven, and had his hair cut so that he no longer sported his overgrown mop top.
I sat across from him. A suit sat on either side of me.
TODD: Who are these guys?
ME: They're high-priced lawyers. I'm officially divorcing you as a friend.
TODD: You don't have money for lawyers. You're hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
ME: I took out another line of credit.
TODD: Oh my God...
ME: Okay, we have tons of documents for you to sign, and this pile of paperwork makes War and Peace look like a pamphlet.
TODD: Eric, I have some news. This will get you out debt.
I turned to the lawyers.
ME: Get your papers out. He needs to sign them pronto.
TODD: I just received a three million dollar advance on the book I've been writing these past two years. Two Years with a Bottom Feeder. The book is about you... so I want you to take the entire advance.
ME: These papers state that you are never to approach me, or try to have any dealings, transactions, nothing...
LAWYER #1: Eric, I think you should hear him out.
ME: No I shouldn't. I got my own problems, like how much debt I'm in. It's hundreds of thousands of dollars, you know.
Todd reached into his breast pocket.
A dozen burly bikers in leather jackets stormed the café.
BURLY BIKER #1 (to Todd): Sir, do not make another move.
Todd stood there, frozen, his hand still in his inside breast pocket.
TODD (to me): Did you hire these guys too?
ME (nodding): I took out a second line of credit. These guys aren't cheap.
TODD: Jesus... I'm just trying to give you a cheque.
BURLY BIKER #1: Sir, kindly and slowly remove your hand from your jacket. Slowly...
Todd did as he was told.
ME (to Todd): I had to make sure you'd let me go as a friend without trying something stupid.
TODD: All right, but first just let me give you...
I interrupted him.
ME: Sign all the papers first, and then we'll talk.
TODD: All right.
Todd signed all the papers.
LAWYER #2: Eric, under these circumstances, I'm not sure if this is the right thing...
ME: Just hang a sec...
TODD: There... I signed them.
ME: Don't talk to me. You can't talk to me. You signed all the papers.
Todd reached into his jacket again.
TODD: Just let me give you the three million.
ME: He's going to kill me! He likes me so much as a friend that he's going to kill me!
The bikers all reached for Todd to hold him away. Once he was immobilized, I charged at him myself.
ME: Just let me go as a friend, you bastard! You friend-loving bastard!
The two lawyers seized my arms.
TODD (to the bikers): Let me go!
ME (to the lawyers): Let me at him!
I turned to Todd.
ME: I hate you! I hate you!
TODD: I tried, Eric. I tried to give you back everything you gave me ever since you found me, two years ago, when I lost everything. Your friendship saved me.
ME: You're not supposed to talk to me. You signed the papers, stupid.
TODD: This is the last time I try to give you this three million dollar cheque.
ME (fingers in my ears): La! La! La!
TODD: Eric, listen to me...
The bikers pulled Todd away toward the doors.
TODD: If you can take anything away from these past two years, it's this: You have something in you that no one else has. This energy... it's a gift. This big, bright energy lights up the Universe. No one has it, but you...
ME: I chose a slice of pie over you. Deal with it. Goodbye!
Todd was shoved out. I looked through the cafe's large windows as Todd was thrown into a cab. The cab drove off.
The lawyers straightened their ties and suit jackets.
ME: Did he just say something about three million dollars?
The lawyers each took a turn shaking my hand.
ME: I don't know... I couldn't hear over all the shouting and scuffling and such, but I thought I heard him mention something about three million dollars.
The lawyers walked out, and a male server came up to me.
SERVER: Sir, we are going to have to ask you to leave.
ME: A slice of pie; that just lasts two bites... if you're lucky and not that hungry... but friendship... I never had a friend like Todd. But am I imagining things? I could have sworn I heard him say three million dollars.
SERVER: I think he did.
ME: I'm hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, I now have two new maxed out lines of credit, I have no best friend, and I just lost three million dollars.
SERVER: And your friend, or should I say ex-friend, just left without paying his bill.
The server handed me Todd's bill. I stood there, with nothing to say, and nothing to pay with.
ME: Will you take this gold watch?
I removed the gold watch from my left wrist.
ME: It's been an heirloom in my family for five generations. It's all I have left...
The server stuck his open palm out for it. With regret, I dropped it into his hand. Tears welled up in my eyes.
ME (barely audible): Enjoy...