Laughing and Milkshakes

In memory of Sarah, my big sister.

(Warning: If you’ve got a weak stomach, you might not want to read this post.)

Where we grew up in Montana there was a restaurant there called Cattin’s. Every Thursday night they’d have a special, “All You Can Eat Fish & Chips.”  Sometimes we’d go there to have a meal with just the three of us: Sarah, Mom, and me. We’d sit in the classic diner booths and have basket after basket of their beer-battered fish and crispy fries. It was a rare treat as we almost never went to restaurants, and we could have as much as we wanted.

Sarah had a particularly large appetite. People always remarked about how much she could fit into her belly, despite being of a slight frame and always the smallest of the three of us. When she was manager of the wrestling team she would go for meals with them before a meet and out-eat any one of them. If ever we went to a buffet she could stomach several trips, easily.

This day was no different, and there’s no telling how many fries or pieces of fish she’d had. And to end the meal nicely she asked for a milkshake. A raspberry one. The diner was relatively empty except for the staff and the maintenance man who was mopping the stairs, so we entertained ourselves.

The milkshake was one of those that comes in a tall conical glass with an additional stainless steel tumbler. There was no doubt she’d finish it all. As she slurped happily away, somehow our goofiness got the better of us. We had a special humour only the two of us seemed to share, and we could get each other laughing over nothing. It started with a giggle, but grew into disaster.

Whatever it was that was so funny I fail to recall today, but in our hyperactivity (probably due to sugar rush from fries and milkshake) we started laughing uncontrollably. I can still remember clearly Sarah trying to gasp for air with tears forming as my mother said, “You girls had better quit it or one of you’s gonna start throwing up.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Mom’s warning somehow added to the funniness, and then the giggling fit had taken us to the point of no return. Several minutes had probably passed with Sarah clutching her abdomen from the onset of cramping from fullness and stupid hilarity. It was out of control.

Then suddenly, she put her hands over her mouth. She made a quick move to try and get out of the booth. Mom hustled out of the way. Sarah started running to the bathroom leaving a little trail of bright pink leakage from our booth to the hallway, when we saw by the look on her face that she’d just realised she didn’t know where it was. There she nearly knocked over the maintenance man, now at the top of the stairs having just finished mopping all the stairs below, who took one look at her and pointed down the stairs to say, “The bathroom’s that way! Go!”

The look on his face was one of shock and surprise like someone being mugged at first, but then his countenance fell as he realised he was now going to have to re-mop every single one of those stairs and clean the spots off the carpet, too.

I was still laughing. It was the most hilarious thing at the time (I think I was about thirteen or so) to watch this catastrophe play out while my mother sat there and buried her head in her hands with embarrassment.

“Oh, my God,” she remarked with exasperation, “what did I tell you? You can dress ’em up, but you can’t take ’em out.”

I don’t think we ever went to Cattin’s again.

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