Winter Whisky – Part Three
“Earth to Dave.” Donnie shook my arm. “You were out there with Santa.”
“I was thinking about Cindy.” I leaned back in my chair. “Hard not to this time of year.”
“I know what you mean Dave. I didn’t know how I could live without Suze, you know? I never met a girl like her before, you know? I was such an idiot for letting her get away. Fuck. I should have set fire to that guy’s place.”
We’d heard Scott’s Suze moan so many times now, Donnie would recite it word for word. Soon he’d pull that photo of the two of them on some beach in Mexico. Susan, the one that got away before any of us met her.
“Didn’t you say she met him when she moved to Alberta after she left band you started in Toronto?” I reminded him.
“Says who?” Scott’s scowl was comic. He reached for his glass and missed it.
I envied him. When he came back after his attempt to make it big we saw he was more than disappointed. He was broken. All Donnie and I could that first year was make sure the booze that numbed his pain didn’t drown him.
Through that I envied him. I wanted to know what it was like to love someone so much the pain of losing them could hurt years later. He’d met other women since then, but none of them made him love Susan less. What hold did she have over him?
“She was well rid of me anyway. She was right, you know. I’m just a drunken guitar player who’ll never get further than playing at the next bar for tips. She was well rid of me. Fuck.”
He downed his glass and signalled for another.
Jen came over. “Sorry boys. Time to close up. I wanna get out of here without a snowplow.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Donnie nodded. “Time we got out of here any ways. There’s more where this came from at my place any who.”
“Yeah, sure.” Scott fumbled to put his jacket on.
But we sat at the table, immobile in the dusty yellow light of the bar. The other tables were empty. Hector turned off the swag of Christmas lights that dropped in loose loops over the dusty mirror behind the bar. The dim house lights got a little brighter.
“Time to haul ass, guys,” Hector shouted. “You’ll aha etc follow the snow plow home. If he’s going your way, that is.”
Hector was a large, heavy man no one sober would want to tangle with. His sturdy arms and shoulders needing a good massage was the one fantasy I had about any of these guys. “So get the fuck out of here so I can get home to my dog.”
“I’m gonna leave the guitar here. Bad enough we have to go out on a night like this.” Scott shut the lock on his batter guitar case.
“Put it under the tree.” Hector said. “It’ll be as safe there as anywhere.”
“Thanks, Hec. You putting out beer and a pickled egg for the bearded one.” I said as we headed the door.
“Sure enough guys.” He said then locked the door once we were out.
Outside the the night air was bracing. The snow had stopped. The sky was empty of all but a wisp of black cloud against its own black.
It took ten minutes to clear the snow off the roof of Donnie’s car. While it was warming up one of us suggested food.
“Polly Cracker’s Chicken.” The three of us shouted at the same time.
The smell of the fried chicken filled the car. It made my mouth water.
“Has any of you every had Polly’s without a few good drinks first?” Donnie reached behind to me in the back seat and pulled a potato wedge out of the bag.
“Can’t say I have.” I pushed a wedge into my mouth. It tasted of salt and pepper but not of potato.
“So where to now?” Scott asked biting into one of the wedges. “Man these need more than salt and pepper. I hope one of you put some hot sauce in here. He wiped his hand on the front of his parka. “I said, where to now?”
I knew he meant let’s go to my place. Both had parents to deal with who wouldn’t put up with our late night carrying on.
“Okay, okay. Let’s go to my house.” I rolled the top of the bag closed to keep them from eating it all before we got out of Polly’s parking lot.
Donnie started the car and carefully headed into the street. Luckily, there was no traffic. There were tracks from the snowplow that had recently been through. The streets were slippery from the snow, and Donnie was hunched over the steering wheel, squinting hard as he drove.
“I should cover one eye. I’m seeing double.”
“Come on, asshole. We want to get there while the chicken’s hot.”
We drove in silence for about ten minutes. It started to snow again.
“Hey! You missed the turn.”
Scott nudged Donnie’s arm. The car skidded to the gutter.
“Careful!” I clutched the bag with our chicken in it.
He pulled the car back on the road and turned down the next street. The steering wheel spun in his hands and the car continued to spin. It turned two or three circles and stopped.
“Look what you made me do, fuck-head.”
Donnie gunned the motor and tried to back up, but the car wouldn’t move. The wheels spun on the ice.
“Don’t baby it, for Chrissakes.” Scott leaned over and jabbed his foot onto the gas. The car jolted forward, and we were over the curb and into the trees.
“Where those fuckin’ trees come from?”
Donnie tried to turn the steering wheel, but we were on our way down the side of a hill. Branches smacked the windshield until the car bumped to a halt with a loud, tree-snapping crunch.
Donnie turned to Scott and pushed him in the face. “You dumb fuck.”
I opened my door. There was about three feet between me and the ground. I could smell gas.
“Let’s get out of here before she blows.”
“Blows up?” Scott sniggered. “You’ve seen too many movies.”
He opened his door and stepped out.
He dropped to the ground.
I let myself down cautiously.
“You okay, Scott?”
I made my way over to him.
Two fir trees were wedged under the front of the car, the front wheels spinning in midair, the back resting on the ground. Donnie had to crawl out of Scott’s door as the driver’s side was jammed shut by another tree.
“You got the chicken, I hope.”
“The hell with the chicken, Donnie. How are we going to get out of here?”
The car’s headlights didn’t give much illumination through the trees.
“Back up the way we came.”
“Get the fuckin’ chicken anyway, fer Chrissakes. At least we won’t starve.”
I boosted Donnie back into the car. He turned off the motor and handed the chicken down to me. The front wheels stopped spinning.
The way up had been cleared by the car’s descent. Clambering over bent and broken trunks, we were soon back on the street.
“Where the fuck are we?”
“Franklin Road!” I guessed. It was one of the areas that faced the wooded ravine.
As we slogged through the snow I could see a street light. I couldn’t figure out how we had gotten so far down Franklin without realizing we were even on Franklin.
“Fuck Donnie, you must have turned left instead of right at Kelly Road.”
Donnie was panting as he pushed through the drifts. “It’s not my fault the only place open to get food was Polly’s, the way the fuck out here.”
Scott was a few feet ahead of us.
“If we go any slower, they’ll find our bodies in the spring.”
We got to the streetlight and stood leaning against the pole as the snow swirled around us.
“Can’t be much farther,” Donnie mumbled.
“Here.” I pulled the mickey of bourbon out of my inside pocket. “Seems like the right time for a good drink.”
The whiskey was ice-cold. I couldn’t gulp more than a mouthful before I passed it on. After Donnie and Scott, it came back to me half empty.
“Sure hits the spot. Maybe we should have a little something to eat with it.” Scott opened the bag of chicken and we each pulled out a piece. What was left of the greasy warmth was a welcome relief.
We lurched back into the storm. After a few steps the snow stopped. The wind died down. It was as if we had drunk ourselves into calm.
“Scott, isn’t that Saint Aggie’s hospital?”
A large building with random lights glowing in many of the windows faced us.
“Yeah, Donnie. What if it is?”
“If it is, we’re going in the wrong direction. My place is north of here, not south. I think we’re heading south.”
“No we aren’t. You are drunker than a skunk, Donnie my friend.”
“Where are we going then, Scott?”
“To Dave’s, right? We’re going to his place. Remember?”
“Shit! I thought we were going to my place. That’s why I took that turn back there.”
“Like fuck. That’s not even the right way to get to your place. Last time we’ll let you drive.”
We were on the bridge over the creek that ran behind the hospital.
Scott stopped and leaned on the railing. “Let’s serenade them.”
“The dying fucks in there. Oh dying tonight.” He sang out to the tune of Silent Night.
“Quit it.” Donnie began to laugh.
“Oh you’re going to die tonight,” I joined in.
Our thin voices echoed in the cold night air.
A couple of lights came on on one of the floors.
“Come on. Let’s get out of here.” Scott nudged me. “Don’t want to get busted for singing out of key.”
“You should talk.” Donnie laughed as we pushed back into the dark.
“Where the fuck are we going?” I asked. The mickey was nearly empty. “There’s just enough in here for one more round.”
“I thought we were going to your place?’
“So did I, but this isn’t the way to anywhere.”
The wind came up again and we huddled at the next street corner. Snow was whipping around the light poles and the stop sign.
“This way.” I turned towards my place. The wind was coming from that direction.
We finished off the mickey, had another bite of no-longer-warm chicken and headed into the wind. In the distance we could hear snow plows.
We trudged in silence for what felt like hours. Up one hill, through the park and, at last, my place was in sight. The wind died down again though the snow continued to fall. Wisps of smoke rose into the dim moonlight along the rooftops.
I kicked snow off the back porch and opened the door. I glanced behind at Scott and Donnie. They were covered with snow and ice.
“Hope the fuck you’ve got something to drink in there.”
“Don’t I always? Basement,” I slurred. “Head for the basement.”
We trundled down the basement stairs. I fumbled for the pull cord on the laundry room light that swayed back and forth as we pried off layers of snow-encrusted parkas and pants.
Donnie reached for the pile of dirty clothes and pulled on grey sweats I had been wearing yesterday.
Scott sniffed first and wasn’t willing to do the same. Neither was I. I dashed upstairs in wet socks and undies to grab some towels and tossed them down.
“Here, dry off with these. I’ll find us something to wear.”
Winter Whisky – Part One: https://wp.me/p1RtxU-39y
Winter Whisky – Part Two: https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3fR
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