My dashboard clock read 11:46 PM when I pulled to the curb, and the temperature indicator told me it was a frigid twenty-four degrees outside. I switched off my wipers and headlights, killed the engine, wrapped a scarf around my neck and pulled on a pair of warm gloves, grabbed the bottle of Veuve Clicquot I’d picked up at the Blue Front, and got out of the car.
Billy’s street was deserted and lovely at this hour, despite the cold. The tree lawns were lined with bare-branched sugar maples, there were no streetlights, and the fat snowflakes drifting silently down from the heavens turned the night into a scene from a Grimms’ fairy tale. I hurried up the front walk, took the six wooden steps to the porch two at a time, and leaned on the buzzer.
A minute passed, and then the door swung open, revealing my childhood friend in a pair of truly ridiculous pj’s, with characters from The Simpsons cavorting up and down his arms and legs and chest. He was bleary eyed, obviously confused at being hauled out of bed at this hour. When he saw that it was me, he first smiled and then did a bit of a double take, worried there must be something wrong for me to show up on his doorstep so late.
“Jerry,” he said, and there was a hint of a question mark in his tone. “Is there … ?”
I held up the bottle and grinned. It took a moment for the penny to drop, but then it did.
“You remembered!” he said. “Is it after twelve?”
“Not quite. But I wanted to be here at the stroke of midnight to toast your latest victory.”