Have you heard of the boot? Encountered one for yourself?
No? A quick primer, then.
The first time I tried to encounter a boot was a failure. I was in Iowa, at some bar, with my good friend RHW. We’d just come from the Iowa State Fair, having consumed hefty quantities of fried foods on sticks, along with lemon and strawberry shakeups that we’d spiked with airplane bottles of vodka we’d smuggled in via our pants. (Or in my case, my bra.) But the bar didn’t serve boots after 11 pm, and it was 11:15 when we arrived.
Bootless, we left.
Fast-forward to New Year’s Eve 2009. The Swede and I, then together only a couple short months, attend the annual New Year’s Eve party of Mare and Doug, my best gal and her husband.
Along comes midnight. I smooch The Swede, and he smooches me back, because that’s how you ring in the new year.
And then along comes the boot. Which is apparently the other way you ring in the new year.
One of the hoodlums at the party put the boot on the bar and began filling. First one, then two, then finally tapping out at about five bottles worth of beer, an inch of foamy head giving a hiking sock-like appearance to the shaft of the boot.
(Haaa….I said shaft!)
Someone—I’m not sure which of the hoodlums loitering in Mare and Doug’s basement initiated it—hoisted the boot, took a sip, and started it round the room. It got passed around and passed around to much shouting and hollering until the last drop was gone. A collective cheer went up when it was finished, the guy who polished off the beer grinning triumphantly.
And then someone else—again, which hoodlum was it? My guess is probably Doug, instigator galore—filled the boot up again. Hoist and pass, hoist and pass, the boot made its way around the circle of newfound and old friends. It started coming around a second time, and when it got to The Swede, the beer that was left in it hit at just above the ankle line of the boot.
The Swede paused, then palmed the boot and just fucking went for it.
Back, back, back his head tilted, and down, down, down went a quart of beer in less than a minute.
In the background, the hoodlums cheered and hollered for The Swede, Doug’s voice rising above the rest, “Yeah! Drink it! Drink the boot! Finish the boot! Smash the boot against the floor!” At which point I grabbed the now empty boot from The Swede’s hands as he stood there smiling, and carefully placed the glass boot on the bar, thinking to myself, “You’d better not smash that goddamned boot or we will never fucking be invited back here again!” A roar from the hoodlum crowd went up and congratulatory pats on the back were doled out to The Swede for his boot-chugging abilities.
Twenty minutes later he announced that he thought it’d probably be a good idea if he went to bed.
The next morning, his first words of the new year were spoken very somberly and seriously: “Baby. I love you. I do not love that boot.”
This year we went back to Mare and Doug’s for New Year’s Eve.
This year, there seemed to be fewer hoodlums loitering in the basement.
This year the boot came out again.
This year, they eyed each other warily, The Swede and the boot. The Swede sipped cautiously, taking large swigs, yes, but passing the boot on for another hoodlum to finish.
The Swede, he still loves me.
He still does not, however, love the boot.