“Ready to go?” Bork barks as he opens the back door. I am finishing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before hanging out at the music store. Bork’s mom’s boyfriend, Chad is taking us. I have never met Chad, but Bork’s mom’s boyfriends are pretty much all the same. They smell like beer and their brains are ensconced in a ragtime of cajolery for anything of intellectual value. But you never know when one might have a beer for you.
I sit behind Chad and Bork sits in the front passenger seat with the heater blasting so loud he has to shout so I can hear him. It doesn’t matter anyway. I can tell by his facial expressions Bork is describing the latest great thing he’s done. Chad’s car contains a plethora of sense appalling stimuli which keeps my mind more preoccupied than Bork’s droning on about some song he has figured out on the guitar. Mildew from the roof upholstery, the cigarette smoke which infuses every molecule of breathable air, and a wadded up stained and hardened wash rag jammed between the two cushions all have my attention. And all the fast food bags crammed between the floor and the seats in front of me so I cannot extend my feet under the seat.
We stop at the house of a friend of Chad’s. Roy is in his early forties, a six foot three, balding blonde guy in clean, ripped and faded jeans . He stands stooped in the garage in an old unzipped vinyl jacket revealing a bare chest behind two missing shirt buttons. He and Chad bullshit over beers while Bork listens closely. The garage is empty except an old push mower and a rusty snow shovel. I wander to the driveway and look across the sky knowing the others have an eye on me. I don’t want to have to listen to them. I would rather look at the snow filled back yards, the raised, cracked cement of the porch, the drapeless windows backlighting a ledge filled with whiskey bottles.
The two adults talk about Chad’s job, and the one Roy used to have. They joke about each others’ sex lives, and try to top each other with tales of drunken exploits. Chad holds the conversation lead as Roy stoops toward him. At maybe five foot eight and in his black coat and black and white sweat pants Chad looks like a penguin while Roy the crow lurches toward him as if about to land on his shoulder. Chad talks about his assembly line job that is easy enough even if he does have to deal with so many dumb asses, while Roy looks to be the kind of guy who needs a good night sleep or he calls in sick. His green eyes maintain a faint glaze, and his pupils remind me of the reflection of a setting sun on a putrid and lazy pond.
Chad asks Roy if he got the rent money from Perry. Roy laughs and says he did and that Perry was a dumbass because he still hadn’t paid him the five hundred bucks he owed him from last month. Apparently Perry was bad at bowling and his wife was a slut as well. Chad said it was too bad stupid people like that got all the good jobs and Roy couldn’t find one. Chad’s face is a mask of compassion, like he is mimicking an actor as he looks at Roy. “Oh well, it makes Perry feel better,” says Roy. I don’t care. I could give a shit what he thinks anyway.”
A brand new Ford pickup truck pulls into the driveway.
Chad says “hey, Number One, lookit Number Two’s new truck. I woulda got a different color. That mufukka is butt ugly.”
“Yeah, Number Two thinks he’s the shit since he got a new truck to roll around in,” says Roy.
Perry is around fifty years old, six foot, two hundred twenty soft pounds. His face is a pale pear with a long mustache that leads to the folds of his buttery neck..
Chad: Hey, Number Two. See you ain’t missed any meals lately.
Jerry: Heh heh. Not complainin’.
Roy: Number Two’s gut don’t come from beer. It comes from eatin’ too many cookies.
Jerry: Heh he. Yeah. Ya got me there.
Bork’s lip curls with ridicule as he makes fun of Perry’s corduroys. What a dick. Bork. Not Perry. Bork is looking at me conspiratorially and I too curl my lip, but at Bork. What a dick. Which he misreads with delight as he motions for me to follow him over to Perry’s truck while he cuts down the motor, the color, the size, the trim, and the wheels. I ignore him and look at all the back porches in a row with shoveled sidewalks, except for Roy’s.
Chad says “hey Bork, know why Perry’s Number Two?”
“Cuz he’s a shit!” Bork sneers while looking at me with wide eyes and laughing at his own joke.
Chad ignores him. “Cuz he ain’t number one” he says, and then he and Roy laugh while Bork looks at me and repeats, “cuz he’s a shit,” urging me to laugh at his joke. I offer a lackluster snort which Bork accepts conspiratorially. I look at Perry’s face while it remains unflinchingly in a half smiling state.
“Heh heh, yeah, well… So we still going fishing tomorrow?” Perry says, looking at Chad and Roy who share a quick look between them..
“Yeah, uhh, sure. I guess,” says Roy as he looks at Chad with a smirk. Chad swallows the last of his beer and says “if I ain’t got nothin’ else goin’ on.” Then Chad turns to Bork and me and says “let’s go.” To Roy he says “pick you up later,” and gets in the car. Perry sees me looking at him and squinches up his cheeks in a tight lipped smile and nods. I return the squinch, that smiling grimace people give each other when they want to show that they wish no harm, and climb over the trash into the back seat of Chad’s old Pontiac.