Three best friends reunite for one more night of debauchery in the city of Vancouver as they chase the infamous magical can of Lucky Lager.
Written by Gregory Patrick Travers
It has been told throughout the years, passed down from generation to generation by the local Vancouver residents, that hidden somewhere in the vast metropolis, tucked away in the back of some unknown fridge, behind the wood of some unknown bar, lies a can of Lucky Lager which holds the power to grant to the person that drinks it their deepest, most desired wish.
It was a legend to which Joe had heard many times fall loosely off the lips of his college roommate, Chad, after he was a few Luckies deep, lounging in the dorm room with their best friend, Leo. Always the sensible one, Joe laughed off such a ridiculous claim and Leo, ever the shy, quiet observer often just sat and listened with a polite smile on his face but Chad…well, Chad truly believed that somewhere out there was a can of beer that would grant his deepest wish if he drank it.
After college, many times Chad tried to convince the other two boys to come along on a lead he had received from this person or that person but, as time does so often, new loves and new opportunities separated the three best friends and put a stop to their chase of the “lucky” Lucky.
Joe married his college girlfriend Lisa and got hired in a marketing firm owned by her father. They bought a house in Burnaby and had two sons, James and Matthew. Leo still lived in the city, working as a waiter at one of the swankier establishments in Gastown. More often than not he stayed inside his modern studio apartment in the west end, only venturing out into the world to go to work or get groceries. And Chad’s continued search for the “lucky” Lucky elevated into somewhat of an obsession.
Papers and tabloid articles on its whereabouts were pasted to the wall of the room he rented on East Hastings. Books from the local library were stacked on his desk, dusty and long overdue, while empty cans of Lucky cluttered his shelf and dresser, reminding him of his failures and inspiring him to continue the search. And he did, going to every bar, pub, restaurant or strip club that sold the stuff and drinking them straight out. For three years he did this but found nothing.
And then one day that all changed…
The phone rang on a Tuesday evening as Joe stepped out of the shower and dried himself off with the new towel set Lisa had purchased at Home Sense just the week before. He was enjoying that new-towel-softness he loved so much when he heard his wife yell from downstairs, “Joe! Phone!”
He sighed and stepped out of the bathroom, throwing on an old faded Canucks shirt and stomping down the stairs. Even in his own home, a few minutes’ peace seemed like an impossible task. If it wasn’t Lisa’s father breathing down his neck, making sure every account was handled with the utmost care, then it was Lisa badgering him on their need for some new appliance or some new dish and cutlery set. And his sons, though he loved them with all his heart, were at an age where they were always screaming or crying about something. They were always trying to push his limits on what they could get away with. All Joe really wanted was a little bit of downtime away from the family and the career. But a wish like that seemed all but impossible.
“Hello?” Joe said into the phone as his wife handed him the cordless.
“Hey, Joe,” said the familiar voice on the other end. “It’s Chad.”
Even though it had been over three years since they last spoke it was a voice that needed no introduction. “Wow. Uh, hey, Chad,” Joe stumbled. “It’s been a while.”
“Three years,” he replied.
“So…How are you?” asked Joe.
“I’ve been busy,” replied Chad with cheerfulness in his voice. “It’s taken me a very long time and cost me a lot of money but I’ve finally tracked it down to within two locations. The Legend of the Lucky, I found it, I know it.”
Joe rolled his eyes and shook his head, “That’s great. Good for you, Chad. But you really didn’t need to call me at my home to tell me this. You know how I feel about that topic…”
“I know, you think I’m crazy,” Chad answered, “But this time I am sure and I want you to come with me. You and Leo. It started with the three of us and I feel it’s only right that the three of us should share in the victory.”
Joe sighed, “I can’t, Chad. I have a very demanding job.”
“We can go on the weekend,” Chad replied.
“I watch the kids while Lisa goes to spin class on Saturday and Sunday she has her book club so…”
“Ah, come on! She can skip a class just once. Just this once! Please, Joe? I know we’ve had our problems but it just wouldn’t be the same without you. If for nothing else, Leo really wants to see you.”
“You talked to Leo?”
“Yesterday. He’s in. He can’t wait to see you.”
Still unsure, Joe told Chad he would think it over and said goodbye. When he turned around he saw Lisa standing behind him with a goofy smile on her face. “Did I hear you right? That was Chad? As in, “your old roommate”, Chad?” she asked.
“That would be the one, yes.”
“Well, what did he want?”
Joe told her about Chad chasing the Legend of the Lucky and how he was absolutely sure he had tracked it down.
She laughed, “So? Are you going to go?”
“Absolutely not,” said Joe. “The whole idea is plain nuts. It’s crazy. There’s no way I’m going. Nope, not a chance. No way.”
Joe’s Oxfords tapped outside of the Cambie as he hastily smoked a cigarette and wondered how on earth Lisa had gotten him to agree to go on this wild goose chase. It had been so long since the three of them had gotten together, he wondered if they would even have anything to talk about anymore. After all, time does have a habit of changing people. It’s no secret.
His worried inner monologue was cut mid-thought as Chad and Leo came walking around the corner. The first thing he noticed was that, like him, Chad had put on some weight under the jaw and around the hips. But Leo looked like he hadn’t aged a day, still a youthful adolescent with eyes full of hope and wonder. That used to piss Joe off a little, how Leo was so good and positive all the time. But deep down he knew he was just envious of the way Leo saw the world in the way that he did. He only resented him because, really, he admired him.
“You made it!” Chad said, shaking Joe’s hand.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” said Joe. He wiped his hand on his dress pants before putting it back in his pocket and turning to Leo, “It’s good to see ya, kid. You look great.”
Leo smiled modestly, “Thanks, Joe. It’s good to see you too.”
The three of them stood there, uncomfortable, unsure of what to say next. Finally, Chad broke the ice, “So…We’ve got a lot of Lucky’s to drink. Maybe we should head inside.”
“Good idea,” said Joe. He opened the front door and motioned them inside.
They walked over the warped hardwood flooring of the hostel pub and grabbed a seat at one of the oak tables by the window. In a few hours, it would be happy hour and the place would be loaded with local thugs and international backpackers but for now, the place was deserted. Chad excused himself to the bathroom and Joe and Leo sat down.
“So, he finally tracked it down, huh?” said Joe, sliding off his overcoat and straightening his cufflinks.
Leo chuckled, “He seems so sure of it…It’s hard not to believe him.”
“Yeah, well, we’ll see,” said Joe, turning his attention to the waitress who had made her way over to take their order. They ordered two Lucky’s each and two more for Chad, who came back from the bathroom at about the same time the waitress came back with their beers.
Joe leaned in, “So before we start this thing, remind me how this works. Do we have to say our wish out loud or what?”
“The legend says that the can will grant its drinker that which he most desires,” answered Chad.
Joe grinned, “So what do you most desire?”
“To be rich, obviously,” replied Chad. “What about you, Leo?”
“I would have to say the same,” he said.
“Well, that makes three of us,” said Joe, lifting up the red, white and gold can, tilting it in for a toast. “After tonight, may we all be stinking fucking rich! Cheers!”
The two boys lifted their cans to Joe’s.
“Cheers!” said Leo.
“Cheers!” said Chad.
Two hours later, their table was scattered with a dozen empty Lucky cans and the conversation was flowing easily now that the alcohol had eased their nerves with its familiar embrace. It didn’t take them long to fall back into their old ways, Joe and Chad yapping back and forth liberally while Leo sat silently with a smile on his face.
“Ugh, this stuff tastes like piss,” said Joe, putting back the last few sips on his seventh bullet.
“Oh, come on,” scoffed Chad. “You never used to mind it. What do you drink these days? Water with diamonds in it?”
“Guinness,” Joe answered proudly. “…Stella too, if I’m in the mood for something lighter.”
Chad threw his head back and laughed, “Of course you do. A businessman that drinks Guinness and Stella—what a surprise!”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” said Joe, glaring across the table.
“It means,” said Chad. “That you don’t have to try so hard to be a stereotype.”
“Fuck you, I’m not a stereotype,” said Joe.
“Leo, you work in a bar, right?” asked Chad. Leo nodded and Chad continued, “You cater to all sorts of fancy business types in that fine establishment so, tell me, what do these aristocrats tend to order when they come in after a busy day at the office looking to unwind and wet their proverbial whistle?”
Though obviously reluctant to be included in another one of Joe and Chad’s furious debates, he answered anyway, “Guinness and Stella…Sorry, Joe. He’s kind of right on that.”
“Oh, whatever,” muttered Joe, flagging down their waitress for another round.
An hour went by and the pile of empty Lucky cans grew and grew. Outside the sun began to fall behind the horizon and people slowly began coming in off the street, filling the tables around the drunk trio. Joe signaled her over once more, but this time she came over and, very apologetically, said, “I’m sorry, boys…but you drank us clean out of Lucky’s. Can I get you something else?”
The boys howled and cheered at their accomplishment, confusing the waitress, who had expected a very different reaction.
“That’s okay, sweetie,” said Joe, “We’ll grab the bill.”
“So are we splitting this?” asked Leo, the waitress stepping off to settle their tab.
Chad pulled out his debit card and put it on the table, “It’s on me.”
Joe pouted. “You don’t have to do that, bud. I know times are tight for you.”
“Fuck you, it’s on me,” Chad returned. “As a thank you for this little get-together.”
Joe got up from the table and threw on his overcoat. He removed a cigarette from his Belmont pack and placed it in between his lips as he asked, “So…Where to?”
“It’s the last spot,” said Chad. “We’ve literally narrowed it down to one. Every other place in this whole city was bust. This has to be it. It has to be here!”
“Where?” asked Leo.
They walked into the Pub 340, conveniently right next door to the Cambie, and took a look around at the scattered senior patronage, the smell of piss and stale cigarettes stinging their nostrils.
“Uggh,” sighed Joe. “This is depressing.”
“Aw, come on,” said Leo. “We’re all going to get old one day.”
Joe rolled his eyes and turned his attention to the small stage at the far end of the pub where a long-haired, woodwork looking fellow strummed along on an acoustic guitar and sang about a fantastic place called, Crack Rock Mountain.
They sat at a table, far from the stage, and just like that—the search for the “lucky” Lucky commenced once again. Can after can, slammed, chugged, shotgunned and glugged. They burped, they laughed and they toasted their glass. They sat back, relaxed and were merry at that!
Joe swayed back and forth in his seat as he said, “I’ve missed this. I really have, I’ve fucking missed this, guys. I fucking love you guys, for real. I swear, you guys are my best friends, I really mean that! I don’t care what anybody says. You guys fucking are sick, I swear.”
“We love you too,” said Leo.
Joe went on, “It’s just so stressful lately, y’know? With work…and Lisa and the kids? It’s like “holy shit! I’m a father!” Like, these kids depend on me, man. They fucking depend on me—to live!!” He laughed softly saying, “I don’t know, I guess it’s just nice to finally get some time away from all that. Just have some ‘me’ time. And how better to spend that day than with some old friends? It’s…It’s really nice.”
“Why don’t you go out with people you work with?” asked Leo.
“I’ll tell you why,” Joe slurred, “Because the guys at my work are fucking dicks! Every single one of them is trying to take my job! I can’t unwind around them! I can’t relax around them…”
Then he turned his attention to the stage where another open mic act, a rapper, for some reason, was screaming sharply into the microphone while he jumped around and got in all the old people’s faces.
Joe threw an empty beer can that nearly hit the over-energetic emcee and screamed, “You fucking suck! Boo! Go back to Surrey!”
The bartender came darting out from behind the bar and over to the boys saying, “You can’t be cussing and throwing beer cans around in here, guys. You’re gon’ get thrown out.”
“Ah, fuck off,” Joe scoffed; lobbing another beer can across the bar.
The bartender just shook her head and walked off.
Moments later she returned with a large framed bald man in a tight black shirt who did not look very pleased to have been called over.
“It’s time to go,” he said.
Chad jumped up in his seat and put his hands together, “No! Please! We’ll be good! We’re sorry!”
He was unmoved, “Too late gentlemen. Pay up and go.”
“You don’t understand,” Chad pleaded, “You see we’re chasing the “lucky” Lucky and…”
“I don’t give a flying “lucky” shit,” said the bouncer. “Pay your bill and get the fuck out!”
The Pub doors closed shut on the three men as they stumbled back onto the corner of Hastings and Cambie.
“Well, thanks a lot!” Chad yelled over the howling winds.
Joe hiccupped and furled his eyebrows, “What? That guy fucking sucked. And what’s he doing rapping to old people?”
“Well, we didn’t get to drink all of the Lucky’s they had so now we’re fucked! What if the magic can was one of the ones we didn’t get to drink?”
“It won’t be!” Joe cried. “You know why? Because there’s no such thing as can of beer that can make your wishes come true, that’s why!”
“Fuck you!” yelled Chad. “You ruined everything!”
“Fuck you!” Joe returned, taking a step closer and saying sternly, “This whole night was just a huge farce to validate your childish delusion.”
“You’re an asshole,” Chad said, getting in Joe’s face.
Joe raised his fist, “Well, you’re a fucking looney tune!”
Leo stepped between them screaming, “Guys! I’m tired of listening to this!”
The boys stopped and gave him their attention.
He continued, “Can you guys just stop fighting for one second? If not for you than for me! Do you have any idea what it feels like for me to have to be constantly stuck in the middle of your pointless arguments with each other? To have to choose sides between you? You know, for so long all I wanted was for us three to get back together like old times. I wanted it more than anything in the whole world and…”
“Woah, woah,” said Joe with his hands up, “What did you just say?”
Leo repeated himself, “I said, more than anything I just wanted us three to get back together and…”
Joe threw his arms in the air and cried, “Holy shit! It’s real! I can’t fucking believe it but it’s fucking real! Holy fuck, boys! The legend is real!”
Leo and Chad looked at each other, confused.
“What are you talking about?” asked Chad.
“Don’t you see, you stupid fuck?” laughed Joe, “All of our wishes came true!! Leo just said, ‘More than anything in the world he wanted to see the three of us back together’ and look! Here we are! The three of us! And more than anything I wanted to get some time away from Lisa and the kids, I wanted to get away from the stress of my job and—look! Here I am! I got exactly what I needed! I’m here, away from my wife and kids, getting drunk as fuck!”
Chad frowned, “But what about me? I wanted to be stinking rich…”
“No, asshole, you didn’t,” said Joe. “More than anything you wanted to find that fucking “lucky” Lucky. And if both Leo and me got our wishes….then that means…”
Chads eyes blew wide-open and a grin stretched across his face before breaking into a smile, and from a smile to a laugh, then from a laugh to a howl.
“We found it!” he declared, shouting at the moon with his fist stretched into the night, “We found the Legend of the Lucky! Whoooo!”
Yes, indeed, the boys had learned a lesson old and true that chilly evening outside the Pub 340. That lesson is this—while it may be so that there is no actual magic can that will grant its drinker their deepest desire, one cannot deny that there is something very magical about getting together over a Lucky Lager and sharing your deepest dreams with some old friends.
And so, they made a promise to each other that they would get together, at a minimum, three times a year whereby they could sit, drink and laugh, knowing when it comes to your real friends—time is never wasted when you’re getting wasted.