Saturday, May 31, 2008

Andy, Sandy, and Charlie Bob

"So they come in the room and Andy's just jawin' and twitchin', drunk as shit. She keeps holding his head down and being loud. I thought the manager was gonna call the cops or some shit." Charlie Bob took a long swallow from his can of Bud before continuing. "She finally let's Andy up for air and tells him he can do whatever he wants to her, but he's just saying 'oh fuck,' over and over. Me and Sandy were still in the bathroom trying not to bust a fucking gut. The girl didn't realize Andy's got Tourette's. She thought he was just drunk, so she keeps answering back, 'okay, okay, okay,' over and over. Sounded like Little John. Oh, man. It was fucking great."

Everybody laughed while Charlie Bob slapped Andy on the back. Andy grinned and followed Charlie Bob back to the cooler. Charlie Bob ran his hand through the ice, grabbing himself a fresh one and handing one to Andy: Andrew Michael Coolidge...Charles Robert Coolidge's baby brother.

Andy popped open the can and swallowed the air a couple times before speaking. "I like the way you tell it."

Charlie Bob let out a belch. "You done good with that girl. That was a hell of a night."

The night in question was a Saturday night in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee about a month prior, when Steve Williams married Amanda Lester, a dyed blonde who loved talking about how much Malibu she could drink and had made her way through most of the guys in the fire department at least twice. Charlie Bob told Steve one time, "I'll bet she'd fuck a petrified turd if there was a ten minute wait for dick." He never thought Steve would marry her knowing what everyone else did. Charlie Bob meant everything he'd ever said about Amanda, but was glad Steve didn't hold it against him.

"Hey!" Charlie Bob turned just as Sandy wrapped her arms around him and planted a sweet tea kiss underneath his beer soaked handle bars. She gave Andy a hug and laughed at both her men. "Ya'll drinkin' already?"

Charlie Bob nodded. "Hell yes. Fish fry's over."

Sandy grabbed herself a beer. "How'd it go?" She smiled at Andy. "Did he run everybody off, bullshitting?"

"They--there were a lot of people earlier." Andy swallowed the beer, trying to hide behind the cold can.

"I told them we ought to do barbecue. How was work?"

Sandy shrugged. "Busy." She searched through her purse and pulled out a pack of 100's. "Eddie dropped a load of dishes and Meredith was yelling at him out front while customers were waiting at the register."

Sandy lit a cigarette while Andy watched the smoke trail up. He could feel himself turn red. He'd probably do something like dropping a load of dishes.

When Charlie Bob joined the fire department, Andy kept hanging out at the station. One day, he told Charlie Bob that he wanted to help out and be a fireman. Charlie Bob could say "hell no" to about anybody in the world. Anybody, except Andy.

Charlie Bob talked to Derrick Angel, the fire chief, about taking Andy on to sweep or wash the trucks or something. Derrick turned Charlie Bob down flat, which would've been the end of it, except Charlie Bob said he'd pay Andy out of his own pocket if Derrick would just let him hang around and do a little bit. Derrick agreed under the condition that if Andy ever fucked anything up, he was gone.

Charlie Bob had more than a few things to say about Derrick after that, but everything worked out. Andy lived with Charlie Bob and Sandy, so all the money Charlie Bob was secretly paying Andy ended up going back into Charlie Bob and Sandy's bills, anyway. After a while, Derrick moved out of state and Steve Williams took over as chief. Andy had become something like the station's mascot.

Sandy never blinked about Andy living with them and Charlie Bob loved her for it, though he told her it was because of her tits. Sandy stomped out her cigarette and finished her beer.

"Ya'll ready to head?"

Andy looked at Charlie Bob. Charlie Bob grabbed another beer from the cooler. "Yeah. Just a sec." He shotgunned his last beer and tossed the can in the trash. He grinned at Todd Evans. "Ya'll better recycle that shit."

Sandy smiled, putting an arm around Charlie Bob. "Let's get out of here before you can't get it up."

Charlie Bob laughed. "Short Bob's never seen the day." He kissed her on top of the head, put his arm around Andy's shoulder, and helped them both to his truck.

Monday, May 26, 2008

George Is Alright.

The door opened to a dark room filled with the smell of stale smoke and liquor. George sat there, his head against the back of a recliner with his eyes wide open. He looked like he hadn't slept in months.

"George? The door was open."

His head dropped and he smiled. "Come in."

"How's it going?"

He chuckled. "Tommy."

I walked over and sat on the bed. His eyes half-followed me. It made my head hurt, just being there. "You been alright?"

George nodded. "I've got great friends and more money and pussy than I know what to do with." He laughed again.

George hadn't been alright in a long time. He had driven most of his friends away, lost a half dozen jobs over the last four years, and hadn't been laid in about as long, unless he'd paid for it. He motioned towards the mini-fridge

"There's some beers if you want some." He knew I wouldn't.


His head hovered over an almost lifeless body. His fingers stretched out and then curled back again. It was painful to look at him, the remains of a friend who'd been a mentor and told me a million lies over the years to help me stop being a coward and shape me into the kind of man he'd stopped trying to be.

"You want one?"

He shook his head. "Nah. They'll keep."

The unwelcome sunlight slipped between the blinds, falling against his dark blue shirt. I couldn't think of anything to say. It had taken a long time for him to become like this. Those of us who whispered behind his back couldn't pin it on a single event.

He'd gone through a bad breakup with a nice girl. He'd helped put down a half dozen sick animals on his grandparent's farm. He didn't talk about the time he lived in Tennessee, except to remind everyone that Memphis was as bad a shit hole as any place he'd ever been.

He'd gone through a ton of coke and weed back then. A lot of people wrote him off. When he finally got it out of his system, we thought he'd come back around. I guess it wasn't the kind of thing anyone gets over. He was clean except for the booze, but everything he'd lost was gone forever.

He stood up and shuffled over to his computer. He clicked around until sleepy music came on.

"You been writing?"

He glanced at me. "I guess."

"I've been working on a few things. Nothing very good."

He nodded. "Send them to me." He took a slice of cheese out of the fridge and ate it. "Did you work today?"

"Yeah." It was hard to tell if he was making conversation or if he cared.

"How was it?"

I shrugged.

He stretched and looked at the clock. "I guess the mail's come. You want to go out for a bit?"


We walked to the mailbox. He stuffed an ad for a car lot in his back pocket and rolled a cigarette. "I hate smoking inside. It makes everything smell like shit." He watched the smoke trail off. "I'm glad you don't smoke."

"What have you been writing?"

"My memoirs." He cut a fart and laughed.

I laughed too, until everything was quiet again. Being around George made me uneasy. He was like a caged animal, made tame by years of nothing changing. You never questioned the totality of his defeat, but always wondered how deeply buried the natural instincts were.

We walked back inside, into the darkness.

He grabbed a beer before taking a seat in front of the computer and I sat on the bed again. The glow from the screen made him look sick. He rummaged around in the top drawer of his desk and pulled out a bottle of vitamins. He took one and washed it down with the beer.

He clicked around on the computer again, and scrolled through a document. "I really have been writing my memoirs." He took another pull off the bottle. "It's all bullshit, though. All ego. If I even remembered the truth, I don't think it would amount to much." It wasn't something either of us wanted to talk about, so he changed the subject. "How's Amy?"

"She's alright. We had a fight the other night. Well, actually, she just yelled at me while we ate a thirty dollar meal."

He nodded. "That's why I eat at home."

We talked about nothing for a little while longer, then he put on some old movie by a German director he loved. We watched it for a bit, until I decided it wasn't as good as he remembered or maybe he wasn't in the mood for it.

We went out again and leaned against his car. He smoked as the sun dropped behind the trees and the mosquitos began their quiet night flights. The gray blue sky turned his face to ash behind the bright red cherry.

"I hate the city, but sometimes I miss living there."

"Why don't you move?"

He shook his head. "I've got a good life here. I'll probably just stay here until I die."

He hated the sound of it as much as I hated listening to it. We both knew it was true.

Living in the city had been hard on him. He'd spent too much time there. He'd poured himself into the fast paced life and spent every minute of every day laughing at asshole's jokes. He'd networked and been the life of the party. Everyone loved him as much as he'd hated himself. Out here, he didn't have to face any of that. He felt like he was better off empty than living in the city.

It was getting late.

"I'd better go."

He nodded. "Send me that stuff you been writing."

"I will." He took another long drag off the cigarette and looked out into the night, into the distance of all that dark nothing. "I had a good time."

He smiled. "Me too."

He watched me drive away and I kept the radio off for the whole drive home. I could picture him going back in for another beer, sitting in front of the computer, hacking away at the keyboard for a few hours, until stopping for a bit and falling asleep in his chair.

George hates for people to see him like this. He prefers the loneliness, because he doesn't know any other way to face each day. He knows he's not alright and probably won't ever be again. Everything he writes is a memoir and it's all bullshit. He'd never tell it as a sad story. He changes the names, talks about raising hell, and laughs off how the characters should have known better.

George laughs a lot when there's nothing to laugh about and I don't ever feel like there's anything I can do about it.