Area liquor stores might find their shelves inexplicably short on Kahlua and vodka in the next 24 hours. Grocery store managers will scratch their heads over the whereabouts of all those gallons of milk that were there one minute, gone the next.

Conspiracies will surface.

Perhaps the pretty young bottles have been kidnapped by nihilists. It’s only a matter of time before the ransom note — a crafty cut-and-paste of letters from a magazine, the irregular fonts joining forces to demand a payment of $1 million — churns through the fax machine.

Or maybe the bottles abducted themselves, a scheme to collect the cash and pay off debts to an adult film producer named Jackie Treehorn. (Who, it should also be noted, treats objects like they’re women.)

Luckily, there is a man (I won’t say hero, because what is a hero?) — and I’m talking about The Dude here — who could be called on to look into the matter.

You can call him The Dude or His Dudeness, Duder or El Duderino, if, you know, you’re not into that whole brevity thing.

Of course, this is a complicated case, a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what-have-yous. Luckily, he’s adhering to a pretty strict drug regimen to keep his mind limber.

Eventually, after a hacked-off toe arrives in the mail, a car is torched in a bowling alley parking lot and a dozen short-skirted lady bowlers are choreographed into a memorable dream sequence, The Dude will uncover the truth: The Kahlua, the vodka and the milk are being horded by the folks at One Longfellow Square.

And for good reason. Friday is Dudefest, an annual event at the arts venue that celebrates the box-office-dud-turned-cult-classic film, “The Big Lebowski.” And the aforementioned ingredients are the makings of a White Russian.

If you don’t see the connection, you’re obviously not a bowler.

Let it suffice to say that fans of “The Big Lebowski” descended on One Longfellow Square in years past, dressed to the nines in bathrobes and unkempt facial hair, to catch a screening of the film. They also drank the place out of White Russians, the signature drink of the movie’s central character, The Dude.

Tom Rota, managing director at One Longfellow Square, said their first Dudefest caught them off guard.

“We had one jug of Kahlua, a couple gallons of milk. We thought maybe 15 to 20 people would show up,” he said. “At 7, people are lined up outside. There’s a line wrapped around the (Longfellow) statue, dressed in bathrobes.”

Staff had to keep running out to the liquor store to keep up with demand. The following year, they bought more. And again, someone had to run out for more Kahlua, more vodka, more milk.

Rota swore they wouldn’t be unprepared again. “I said, ‘As God is my witness, we will not run out of White Russians. We will be stocked. Loaded up.’ “

One guess as to what happened.

It’s a testament to the film’s popularity, albeit delayed. The audience can’t get enough of the drinks or the quotable cast of characters, including Walter, the tightly wound Vietnam vet who appreciates an ethos, or Donny, who can never get a word in.

“People just love The Dude,” said Rota. “It’s timeless. It gets a little better every time you see it.

“They yell out the lines in unison and everybody’s laughing hysterically at the jokes,” he said. “It’s all very sarcastic and funny. It’s like this inside thing, this secret thing that appeals to people. They come together to watch this great movie.”

There are some additions to this year’s Dudefest. Following the screening, the Little Lebowski Under Achievers (Matt Shipman and Steve Roy of the local band The Stowaways) will play music from the movie. There will also be a costume contest, so attendees are encouraged to haul out their best bathrobe, Jesus jumpsuit or bowling pin headdress.

They can also do their darndest to drink One Longfellow Square out of White Russians once again. Like Dudefest itself, it’s, you know, a tradition, man.

And it sure beats sitting at home with pee stains on your rug. 

Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at [email protected]