Three Childhood Buddies

When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, there were three guys who were pretty much best friends with each other and no one else; it stayed this way all through high school, and even on through college—they all happened to go to the same college that I did.

Now, we all have our bad habits and these guys were no different. The first guy—let’s call him Ralph—started drinking in high school; although he went on to become a fairly successful (and wealthy) attorney, he continued to drink. As he got to his 50’s, it began to “show” on him; his marriage fell apart, his practice began to winnow, his finances tumbled; yet he STILL continued to drink…

Buddy #2—let’s call him George—was a committed 2 pack a day smoker, starting in 8th grade. Never EVER saw him without a cigarette, all through high school and college. He developed the usual “smoker’s hack”, which continued to get worse and worse, yet he STILL continued to smoke into his 50’s…

Buddy #3—let’s call him Bruce—was, even in grade school—obviously gay. Always “the life of the party”, with a great sense of humor and a quick wit, he fully embraced the gay lifestyle—he moved to San Francisco after college and went through a “revolving door” of lovers.

Being the most sensitive and intelligent of the trio, Bruce urged all three of them to get physical exams when they hit 55 years old; they all met in New York City to visit a physician friend that we all grew up with.

Ralph, the lifetime alcoholic, went in first; he came out of his physical and sat back down in the waiting room without saying a word. George, the lifetime heavy smoker, went in next; 20 minutes later he too came out with the most somber of expressions, and sat down next to his buddies silently. Bruce went in last for his physical, coming out later looking like someone had walked over his grave; they all took the elevator back down to the street…

After a few minutes’ walking, Bruce could stand the silence no longer—he piped up and asked Ralph: “So—what did Tom (the physician) say to YOU?” Ralph replied: “Well, he said that my lifetime commitment to drinking has finally caught up to me; my liver and kidneys are on the verge of total and complete failure. In fact, he said that my situation was SO tenuous that ONE more drink will likely kill me…”

As he said these words, they happened to walk by a crowded midtown bar—Ralph looked in longingly at the people, all laughing, drinking, and generally having the best of times. After gazing through the window at this scene for 30 seconds, he could no longer stand it; he turned to his friends and said: “I’m going in for just ONE drink; you know how those doctors are, trying to put the Fear Of God into you and all…”

Before George and Bruce could stop him, he bolted into the bar, ordered a double whiskey, threw it down—then just as quickly came rushing back out of the bar and into the street, clutching his own midsection with both arms in a bear hug; he spun around two times and collapsed on the sidewalk, stone cold dead. Both George and Bruce looked down at their friend in abject HORROR!

Just then a city bus screeched to a stop a few yards in front of them and emptied its contents; as one of the potential riders stepped onto the bus, he tossed his newly-lit cigarette onto the sidewalk, landing 3 feet in front of George. George stared down at the smoldering cigarette, completely and utterly transfixed…

Bruce looked down at George, then down at the cigarette, then back at George…”You bend over to pick that up, and we’re BOTH dead…”

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