We went as far as his car would take us, driving past the smoking blue mountains of north Georgia and Tennessee, the hickory sweetness invading the cracked leather of our 1995 Chevrolet Cavalier, which was an indistinguishable red-brown-orange depending on which angle you looked at it from. We sped through the once-treasured nightmare of Detroit, the neglected chaotic sunset of Dallas. Yellowstone, freshly scorched and withered from its latest cleansing.
Listen, you’ve gotta hear this.
I was over by my Ma. I don’t see her much, but I’m trying to do better.
Some of you guys have met my girlfriend, Doris. She comes from a big family so I figure I’ll take her over to Ma’s house and that way I get to see my Ma and Doris sees that I’m a good family man. Can’t hurt.
That night was still. I heard the silence of all those lost souls. I considered myself being one. I dismissed the idea very quickly and drank another gin. Straight gin was allegedly, the drink of alcoholics. Specifics for some reason outweighed quantity. The gin wasn’t really a choice, it was simply what was there.
Eric Ward was never the same man when he put on the suit. It was a three-piece, black pinstripe with a notched lapel. A silk kerchief, deep crimson, sat Presidential in the jacket pocket with a tie to match. The Homberg on his head carried the proper tilt. He never checked the mirror. It just felt right. This was a suit for winners. A deal closer. That’s what his father would have said: a suit you wear when you want to Get Things Done.
The gang from the boatyard, by God you had to love ‘em, the lot of them, every man jack of them; braised, poured, scratched, abraded, welded, mucked about by all of life, you had to love ‘em. Up front you have to know that those who had gotten nicknames felt honored, for that moniker stuff usually came from within, a private medal of sorts, earned without hoopla, seared forever. Those who hadn’t been so acclaimed patiently waited some kind of anointment, slow in coming, taking over like a root, underneath everything seen or known. Some of them had names like Max, Slad, Wilf, Muckles, Shag, Ronnie J, Slip, a feast of designations varied as character. And the sole captain of his own boat in the lot of them was Shanklin Garuf.
To a man, you had to love ‘em.
I wish my older self could go back and speak to me as a kid. Don’t we all? What to say though? I suppose some people would think about what wisdom and advice they could pass on. How many would be able to tell about specific people or situations to avoid? This would all make their younger self happier and more comfortable. A warming hug from a ‘Drop Dead Fred’ scene.
The two of them laughed as they skipped into the woods.
“You are rubbish!”
“I know sweet cheeks, my coordination is terrible.”
“It’s step forward, pause, step forward other foot, pause, step forward only quickly. Sing ‘Mary Mary, Quite Contrary…And You’ll get it.”
They both bent over laughing.