Ben is sitting shotgun again. I’m still driving. We’re all hungry. Lacey distributes one piece of wintergreen gum to each of us, but it’s cold comfort. She’s writing a gigantic list of everything we’re going to buy at the BP when we stop for the first time. This had better be one extraordinarily well-stocked BP station, because we are going to clear the bitch out.
Ben keeps bouncing his legs up and down.
“Will you stop that?”
“I’ve had to pee for three hours.”
“You’ve mentioned that.”
“I can feel the pee all the way up to my rib cage,” he says. “I am honestly full of pee. Bro, right now, seventy percent of my body weight is pee.”
“Uh-huh,” I say, barely cracking a smile. It’s funny and all, but I’m tired.
“I feel like I might start crying, and that I’m going to cry pee.”
That gets me. I laugh a little.
The next time I glance over, a few minutes later, Ben has a hand tight around his crotch, the fabric of the gown bunched up.
“What the hell?” I ask.
“Dude, I have to go . I’m pinching off the flow.” He turns around then. “Radar, how long till we stop?”
“We have to go at least a hundred forty-three more miles in order to keep it down to four stops, which means about one hour and fifty-eight-point-five minutes if Q keeps pace.”
“I’m keeping up!” I shout. We are just north of Jacksonville, getting close to Georgia.
“I can’t make it, Radar. Get me something to pee in.”
The chorus erupts: NO. Absolutely not. Just hold it like a man. Hold it like a Victorian lady holds on to her maidenhead. Hold it with dignity and grace, like the president of the United States is supposed to hold the fate of the free world.
“GIVE ME SOMETHING OR I WILL PEE ON THIS SEAT. AND HURRY!”
“Oh, Christ,” Radar says as he unbuckles his seat belt. He climbs into the wayback, and then reaches down and opens the cooler. He returns to his seat, leans forward, and hands Ben a beer.
“Thank God it’s a twist off,” Ben says, gathering a handful of robe and then opening the bottle. Ben rolls down the window, and I watch out the side-view mirror as the beer floats past the car and splashes onto the interstate. Ben manages to get the bottle underneath his robe without showing us the world’s purportedly largest balls, and then we all sit and wait, too disgusted to look.
Lacey is just saying, “Can’t you just hold it,” when we all hear it. I have never heard the sound before, but I recognize it anyway: it is the sound of pee hitting the bottom of a beer bottle. It sounds almost like music. Revolting music with a very fast beat. I glance over and I can see the relief in Ben’s eyes. He is smiling, staring into the middle distance.
“The longer you wait, the better it feels,” he says. The sound soon changes from the clinking of pee-on-bottle to the blopping of pee-on-pee. And then, slowly, Ben’s smile fades.
“Bro, I think I need another bottle,” he says suddenly.
“Another bottle STAT,” I shout.
“Another bottle coming up!” In a flash, I can see Radar bent over the backseat, his head in the cooler, digging a bottle out of the ice. He opens it with his bare hand, cracks one of the back windows open, and pours the beer out through the crack. Then he leaps to the front, his head between Ben and me, and holds the bottle out for Ben, whose eyes are darting around in panic.
“The, uh, exchange is going to be, uh, complicated,” Ben says. There’s a lot of fumbling going on beneath that robe, and I’m trying not to imagine what’s happening when out from underneath a robe comes a Miller Lite bottle filled with pee (which looks astoundingly similar to Miller Lite). Ben deposits the full bottle in the cup holder, grabs the new one from Radar, and then sighs with relief.
The rest of us, meanwhile, are left to contemplate the pee in the cup holder. The road is not particularly bumpy, but the shocks on the minivan leave something to be desired, so the pee swishes back and forth at the top of the bottle.
“Ben, if you get pee in my brand-new car, I am going to cut your balls off.”
Still peeing, Ben looks over at me, smirking. “You’re gonna need a hell of a big knife, bro.” And then finally I hear the stream slow. He’s soon finished, and then in one swift motion he throws the new bottle out the window. The full one follows.
Lacey is fake-gagging — or maybe really gagging. Radar says, “God, did you wake up this morning and drink eighteen gallons of water?”
But Ben is beaming. He is holding his fists in the air, triumphant, and he is shouting, “Not a drop on the seat! I’m Ben Starling. First clarinet, WPHS Marching Band. Keg Stand Record Holder. Pee-in-the-car champion. I shook up the world! I must be the greatest!”
Thirty-five minutes later, as our third hour comes to a close, he asks in a small voice, “When are we stopping again?”
“One hour and three minutes, if Q keeps pace,” Radar answers.
“Okay,” Ben says. “Okay. Good. Because I have to pee.”