Winter Whisky – Part Two
I opened the fridge and behind some A&W take-out bags found the remains of a big bottle of Coke. Enough mix for the first few drinks.
We went back to the living room. I moved a pile of clothes off the saggy sofa to sit down. I recalled helping him drag the sofa he’d found outside someone’s house down the stairs.
“Here, I’ll put them away.” He sniffed them. “These are clean.” He flashed a big smile. “I guess I’m learning. Next comes folding. ” He disappeared into the bedroom.
“Ironing comes before folding.” I called out as I poured us each a couple of fingers of his Scotch.
“Don’t get too far ahead without me.”
He came back. He pushed some newspapers off his favorite chair and reached for his glass. “I’ll save the mix for later.”
He gulped the Scotch. “Nothing like that first bite. Right?”
I wasn’t up for raw yet. It took me a few mixed drinks before I was able to gulp them down the way he did.
“Now, that’s what I call a good drink.” He turned his head and wiped his mouth on the upper sleeve of his tee shirt.
He poured himself another and downed it. “Been keeping okay?”
He leaned back in the armchair.
“No complaints.” I finished my first drink. The flat pop didn’t quite mix with the Scotch. So I didn’t use as much with the next one. I drank it down as fast as Donnie had. It hit the spot.
“So how long has Trish really been gone?”
“About a month. She’s here nearly every other day though, so it’s not like she’s really gone. If she weren’t preggers, I’d tell her just to piss off, you know? But that’s just not in me. She’s a nice one. My Mom tells me not to lose this one.”
“You mean she puts up with your b.s.?”
“Something like that.”
He gave a short harsh laugh.
“Plus, she loves me. At least, she tells me she does. Nice ass, too. Yeah.” Donnie pushed himself up out of his arm chair. “Com’on see what I’m working on.”
We went through the kitchen to the unfinished part of the basement. This was his workshop. I had to stoop a little so I didn’t hit the door sill top that he had no trouble getting through. The workshop was as neat as a pin. This was his domain. His living room would always look like a storm had hit it but his workshop would be in apple pie order.
It wasn’t often he’d ask me in to see what he might be working on. Often it was some cabinet or a gun rack. His wood work business had taken a few years to get established but he was doing okay, even after the recent housing project closed down. People always needed kitchen cabinets.
The trouble was I never quite got whatever it was he showed off to me. Joints – dados all that stuff. I couldn’t tell a piece of pine from a piece of walnut.
This time it was a crib.
“Looks great.” I tried to sound enthused.
“Yeah. I found this here old crafts book and sort of copied it from there. Turn of the century. See.” he touched it and it rocked back and forth gently in its frame.
He grinned. It was only when he smiled this wide that I caught a glimpse of his two broken side teeth. In the clear light his redness seemed almost unnatural. Red hair. Red freckled face. A big kid bursting with pride.
“Being a dad may suit you after all.”
“I hope the fuck so. It’s not like we’re getting a dog or something. But as long as there’s a good drink nearby, I guess it won’t be so bad. I’m going to do some carving along on the backboard here. You think deer or rabbits?”
“No legs on a rabbit to deal with.” I laughed a little.
“I suppose Bambi is good for boys or girls.”
We went back to the living room. I turned the TV while Donnie went to take a shower. I watched the screen without the sound on. My eyes drifted out of focus so all I saw were undefined blobs moving back and forth on the screen.
“Okay, m’boy I’m as clean as I need to be.” Donnie plopped heavily on the couch beside me. “But I needs one more to mellow me out enough to drive.” He grabbed the bottle of Scotch and gulped down the last of it.
Stoners was near empty when we arrived. Not a good sign for a Saturday night.
“Sheesh. What’s up?” I asked. “Nobody like your Christmas decorations? Maybe it’s time to invest in a new tree.”
Lazy loops of tinsel garland had been strong along the lights along the back of the bar. The tree leaned in a corner, one of the legs on the base having been bent out of place in a fight two years ago. According to Hector, the bartender, replacing the silver aluminum tree wasn’t possible as they had been discontinued as fire hazards.
“Looks like the snow’s kept most folk in t’night.” Hector poured doubles for each of us without being asked. “Even Scott’s band couldn’t make it.”
We took our usual table near the stage. I always made sure I sat where I couldn’t catch my reflection in any of the mirrors around the room. Even in the dim lights I didn’t like to watch myself when I was drinking. I waved to Scott.
“The driving didn’t seem that bad, did it Donnie?”
“Hard to tell with all that friggin’ snow.”
Scott was alone on the stage. “The rest of the band get caught in the snow up in Meat Cove?” I called up to him. The rest of the band would have been a bass player and a drummer.
“I’m going to close with one of my favourites.” Scott tuned his guitar.
“Close? What time is it?” I looked at my watch. It was nearly midnight. It had been around nine when I went to Donnie’s. Where had the time gone? We left there around eleven. It was usually a twenty-minute drive from Donnie’s to the bar.
“It’s for someone I loved once. And well . . . still do.” He sang Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne.
The love of his life was a Susan none of us ever got to meet. Depending on his mood, the song would stick to the original lyrics, or if he was a little down in the dumps he’d add verses. Tonight was one of those morose nights as he sang, “Suzanne puts you down, deeper than t…he river, even when you give her all the tea in China.”
“Ooh,” I thought, or at least I thought I thought it, but I must have groaned out loud because Donnie gave me a hard nudge. “Not so loud, eh?”
Jen put a pitcher of draft on the table with three glasses. Again we didn’t have to order. I liked that. What we wanted was ready for us. “Ta, Jen. Busy later?” I asked.
“Who wants to know?” she laughed. “I’ll let you know when I counted up m’tips.”
Every guy who drank there hit on her at some time or the other. Some of them never figured out that her easy going way was primarily for the tips. If a guy didn’t behave she’d just nod to Hector and he’d come over to put him in his place.
Jan wasn’t a bad looking gal so it was easy to flirt with her because she knew it was just flirting. It allowed me to pass for one of the typical drunken bozos who’d hit on anything in a skirt.
The song went on. ‘Just as you start to kiss her, she tells you she has no love to give you.’
The only light seemed to be the overheads on the stage. I peered around and couldn’t make out much in the gloom around me. Even Scott’s voice slipped into the darkness. Scattered applause around me pulled me back to the room.
Scott put his guitar into its tattered case and sat at the table, poured himself a draft. “So how are things in the chalk mines?”
“Dusty.” The chalk mines referred to the school where I taught drafting to teens who often couldn’t draw straight line with a ruler.
Even though I showed promise in university the competitive drive in my dream field of architecture was more than I wanted, so I settled for something more practical. Teaching. I pushed the pitcher of beer over to him. “How’s things in the grease pits?”
“The pits. Haha. Same old, same old.” Scott downed a double with a quick beer chaser. “Now that’s a good drink.”
Scott worked at Turcott’s Auto, the service station his dad owned, which he would own one day. There was always that smell of oil about him. At six foot something, he was taller than either Donnie or myself. His brownish and sparse facial hair made him seem to scowl. But if scraggly was good enough for Bob Dylan then it was okay for him. I found it hard enough to listen to Dylan let alone look at him.
“Must be nice to have weeks off at Christmas.” He signalled for another pitcher of draft.
“Would be if I didn’t have papers to worry about. Just because I’m not at the school teaching, doesn’t mean I’m doing nothing. Even during the summer there’s something.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
“Besides, you mechanics make more than we teachers do. Even Donnie makes more than I do.”
“You hinting that I get the next round?” Donnie patted his pockets for his wallet. “Looks like I left my wallet at home.”
I couldn’t resist. Donnie leaving something behind was business as usual. Many’s a time we had to come back to Stoners to get his jacket or hat, once his shoes.
“Smart ass,” Donnie snorted.
“John McAuley’s one of the teachers at your school?”
“Well,” Scott’s voiced dropped, “he’s a fucking useless cock-sucker. A gear-box. He was in the garage the other day pawing at Mark, the kid my Dad hired last summer. Seems he was McAuley’s favorite. All over him he was. Made me sick. Isn’t it against the law for queers to teach? If it isn’t, it should be.”
“All over him?” Donnie asked.
“Practically!” Scott made a limp wrist and lisped. ‘Ooo Mark your jeans are so oily.’ He went back to his usual self . “You could tell he wanted to slip on that oil and into the kid’s jeans. So I told Mark to get to friggin’ work and asked McAuley what he was lookin’ for?”
“Which was?” I poured draft into each of our glasses.
“Not the oil change he was hoping for.” Scott laughed. “He was gettin’ his winter tires.”
“Just in time too.” Donnie looked into his empty glass.
John taught two grades ahead of me. I had heard whispers at school about him, and so I kept my distance. Mark had been in my class as well. He was repeating a year after getting out of ‘junior detention.’
Keeping that distance was a part of my life. Everyone had some secret and this was mine. I was safe as long as I saw to it that no one suspected. Letting go of Cindy was part of that, too. It allowed me to pretend I still had feelings that kept me from pursuing other women.
Cindy was a fun woman to be seen with. Pretty and always all over me in public. But in private there was really nothing. I had learned how to satisfy her sexually, but all the touching and rubbing never did much for me. Sometimes I couldn’t even get hard with her. Had to think of some man I had seen in the street or the drummer from Scott’s band. When she wanted that final commitment, marriage, I had to get out of it. Told her it might be wise if we saw other people for a while.
Winter Whisky – Part One https://wp.me/p1RtxU-39y