My daughter is going to take the SAT test next month, and it reminds me of the day I took my ACT test and how my friends helped me prepare.

My best friend in high school, I’ll call her Mary because she’s a pillar of the community and might choke me if I use her real name, had called and asked me to come get her after her folks went to bed. She was grounded but could sneak out because her parents went to bed early.

It was a cold, clear Friday night in November and my friend, Clark, and I were cruising around in his gigantic Oldsmobile that makes today’s SUV’s look like matchbox cars. Clark’s first name was Pryor, and a few years back someone had made up a nickname for him because in those days, when whole battalions of kids gathered in the street to pass the time, making up fool-hardy names was entertaining. Clark’s nickname, say it fast, was: Pryor T Coon Type Dog Liar Makes His Rules Up As He Goes Along. This isn’t important to the story, but I thought you might find it interesting.

When we picked up Mary, she was drunk. “I just took a little bit of my daddy’s cough medicine,” she said. Mary lolled from side to side in the back seat, even when we weren’t turning corners, and I twisted around from the front and tried to keep her upright as best I could but it was a losing battle.

We drove out in the country, and Mary, who kept mumbling about the cough medicine and other things you couldn’t understand because her chin was resting on her chest, finally said something we heard very clearly: “I’m gonna throw up.”

We pulled over and dragged her, rubber legged, away from the car to avoid splattering. She lunged sideways, lost a shoe, and fell down backwards laughing like a drunken psycho. We tugged her to her feet like we were lifting a sofa, and she commenced to throw up an ocean of southern cooking into the shoe like it was a target. Meantime, at her very first heave, I got a gag reflex, and when the smell hit, I emptied the contents of my stomach like I was throwing out buckets of dirty water. Pryor T, bless his heart, braced us both up until the chorus of Ralphing subsided.

We got Mary in the car, minus the shoe, and took her vomit wreaking carcass back home, all windows down and the heat turned up full blast to melt the icicles forming on our faces. We knocked on her door until a light came on, then shoved her into the arms of her mom without much more than a “sleep tight” before we bolted. Pryor T dropped me off at home where I showered, slept, got up the next morning at the crack of dawn and took my ACT test. Thanks to Mary, Pryor T, the night air, and wretching, which must have cleared my head, I scored higher than all my friends. I don’t think I’ll recommend it to my daughter, though.