Drop #164: Snub

wedding cakeI see Johnny Malloy’s brother, Charlie, at the fish and chips shop and go up to him.

‘Hey there, Charlie, how you going?’

‘Fine. Fine.’

‘And how’s married life treating Johnny then?’

‘Good, I guess.’

‘Say, I think it was quite rude of him not to invite me to his wedding.’

‘Oh?’

‘Yeah, given we’ve known each other almost ten years.’

‘He must have had a good reason.’

‘I mean, seriously. I think that was quite a low blow not inviting the captain of his inter-pub football team, as if we weren’t really mates after all. Not inviting the man who introduced him to the girl whose friend got him that part-time job at the ice cream stall.’

‘Oh.’

‘To not even extend me an invitation. To leave a good buddy and fellow old Daltonian hanging that way. To be honest, I’m a bit hurt.’

‘Oh. Sorry to hear it.’

‘Well, how was it then anyway?’

‘What’s that?’

‘The wedding–his wedding. How was it?’

‘Oh, nice from what I heard. He didn’t invite me either.’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop #162: Night Out

IMG_3586I was supposed to go out last night with Pete and Jack but fell asleep on the couch. I called Pete around noon:

‘How was your night?’ I asked.

‘Amazing. So much fun. You really missed out. We went to this insane place, the Deadshot Saloon. What a bar! Non-stop action and mad energy all night long. Awesome country music with hot waitresses in cowboy boots and tiny shorts dancing on the table, pouring free shots in your mouth from the bottle. Cheap drinks and fifty cent buffalo wings, great crowd, everyone tipsy and having fun, no pretension, so happening, bras hanging from the roof. God it was a blast. There were—shit, sorry, I have another line. Call you back.’

Jack happened to call two minutes later.

‘So, you have a good night last night?’ I asked him.

‘Awful,’ he answered. ‘You’re so lucky you didn’t make it out. We ended up at this absolute shit hole of a honky-tonk joint with the most obnoxious crowd you can think of. So cheesy. So cheap. Bad liquor. Crap loud music through busted speakers and the most cliché thing ever: crass ugly barmaids doing a ridiculous fake cow girl dance on the bar in boots with fat asses hanging out of their too small shorts, pouring drinks all over your face without you asking, screaming non stop. The place was tiny and crowded and annoying, stinking of sweat and old booze, full of drunk sweaty douchebags shouting, always pushing to get by, bumping you, spilling pitchers of beer on you. Only nasty greasy chicken wings to eat and—oh, sorry, I have another line. I’ll have to call you back’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop 149: Pimp

pimpAfter three months, I was excited to see the gang again. I’d lost 12 pounds and was toned from all the running and working out, had a new hairstyle that really looked good, had finally fixed my teeth, and was tanned for just about the first time ever.

I arrived and they all greeted me cheerfully, but mentioned nothing about my looks.

I sat down and ordered a coffee. Still nothing.

Finally Tom stared me right in the face and said: ‘Jesus, buddy, look at you!’

I smiled.

‘You’ve been busy since we saw you, haven’t you?’

My smile grew.

‘Busy growing a zit! Spent the whole summer on the task by the looks of it.’

‘What?’

‘Yes, very impressive,’ Paul added. ‘A beast.’

I stopped smiling. Christ, of all the things they’d noticed, it had been the pimple between my eyes. Whatever, I only cared what Sally, who wasn’t there yet, thought anyway.

Just then she arrived, hugging me warmly, stirring my insides with her scented softness. God I’d missed her.

‘Wow!’ she said, grabbing me firmly by the shoulders to look me over. ‘Check this guy out!’

I got excited again.

‘Someone splice some rhino genes into your DNA over the summer or what!’ She laughed. ‘That thing is huge! You’re more unicorn than man at this point. Shall we order you a nice bowl of rainbow-colored grass?’

By EM Vireo

Drop #133: Office Party

‘Why you not drinking? You pregnant or something?’

‘Pregnant? God no. Just still hungover.’

‘Oh.’

‘Never want to see a bottle of vodka again. Never in my life—oh, and thanks, by the way.’

‘For what?’

‘For implying I’m fat. Sure, I’ve been hitting the cupcakes a bit hard, but pregnant?’

‘I didn’t mean … ’

‘God, imagine that though, being pregnant at our age, at our salary, with our men. Both Derrick and George are sweethearts but shit, they couldn’t raise a barn door with an army of Amish on meth. Parent! Oh man. I’d rather lose a foot at this point—no kidding. God, the practicalities alone. The time. The money and responsibility. They say it costs half a mil just to get them to 18. Where’d we scrape up that kind of dough with our mortgage and our debt? You got debt right?’ She swigged from her Diet Pepsi, looking up.

‘Some.’

‘See. Who doesn’t? And besides: I know it’s over-argued but I just don’t trust this world with its overpopulation and imminent pandemics. It scares the crap out me. And I’m just me. If I die: there it is, but imagine processing all that Ebola and Fukushima and fracking and shit with other lives dependent on your dumb ass—real human lives. I’d be a mess, 24/7.’

‘Come on. It’s not that bad.’

‘And that’s not even taking the white man’s lot into consideration. The inevitable shift in things. Just you wait till the Chinese get it together and the Indians adapt to keep pace. How you going to get anywhere in fifteen years as a Jones or a Smith?’

‘Tsk! Where d’you get this stuff?’

‘Online. Sometimes CNN or other tabloid news. I’m a voracious reader. But seriously, this is the last white generation that can con a worthwhile dream from the world, and now you add a kid to that ruckus? An utterly dependent being you must shelter and guide into the future—that future! Imagine the competition for schools, for universities—Christ! Even for pre-school. The wait lists, the prices! It’s going to be all Chang and Singh and Volkov. No,’–she shakes her head–‘you’d be toast unless you married into Sanchez or Ras el Hanout.’

‘Come on. That’s a blend of spices!’

‘Yes! And one you couldn’t compete with. Exactly what will your bundle of joy do in 22 years when he can’t find work and can’t handle the bills, and his parents are sick and poor but still alive? Maybe cancered up but on miracle meds, or maybe one has died to leave the other broken, never having been alone, with only a son left in the world as support and shield against a dark and ugly loneliness. The guilt we’d latch around them. We’d be liabilities—gross, festering nuisances. I have no pension, George only scraps, and he had that small heart attack last year. Our cholesterol’s through the roof and everything else has pretty much already begun to quietly break down. Imagine having an 19 yr old at 62! Ha! Pregnant. What a mad question.’

‘Yes.’

‘Anyway.’ She shrugs. ‘What’s new with you?’

‘We just got the news. We’re pregnant. We’re ecstatic.’

 By EM Vireo

Drop 125: Crossing the Road

crossing the road–Oh good, you’re back.

–Yup, had quite a walk.

–Oh yeah?

–Yeah, saw loads of people we know.

–Like who?

–Like Sarah.

–Nice. I’ve been meaning to catch up with her.

— She was with some tall guy. Looked British. Guess she’s banging him. Then, just after, I saw Julie. Round as a melon.

–Oh yeah. She sent an email saying she was pregnant, but I guess that was months ago by now.

–Also saw Ben and Bill on the corner of the street with like nine bags of groceries from Dean and DeLuca. Probably having another of their crazy dinner parties.

–Man, I love those two. Haven’t hung with them in ages either. Wow, you saw all those people!

–Yeah.

–Awesome. What a great chance to catch up with them all! No wonder it took you a while. Post office isn’t that far.

–Well, I stopped for a slice too, and get this: when I got there, Norm Jericho was just leaving the pizza place.

–No shit! Norm ‘The Noodle’ Jericho.

–The one and only.

–That’s incredible. I’ve been trying to find that guy for years. God, how the hell is he? In fact, how are they all?

–Huh?

–What’s going on with them? Sarah, Bill and Ben, Julie. They must have told you so much news.

–What do you mean?

–What did you talk about? Tell me everything.

–Oh, no. God. I didn’t talk to any of them.

–You didn’t talk to any of them?

–Of course not. I just saw them, and as soon as I did I crossed the road so they wouldn’t see me.

–Wow.

–Yeah. Anyway, your stamps are on the table.

By EM Vireo

Drop #114: Cool Friends

‘Hey there, neighbor.’

‘Hi. Say, I noticed you had friends over for dinner last night.’

‘That’s right.’

‘So why did you invite me to dinner on Saturday and then cancel, and not invite me again last night? That’s kind of rude, don’t you think?’

‘Well, yesterday I wasn’t hanging out with my cool friends; I was hanging out with my boring friends, and I’d tentatively put you in the cool category, so I figured you wouldn’t have mixed. The friends that canceled on Saturday were also in the cool category so next time I have them, or other cool people over, I’ll invite you too.’

‘Oh.’

‘Unless you think you belong in the uncool category. I could always move you over. I was a bit hasty with your placement and might have got it wrong. Happens sometimes. Not much evidence to go on really. More of a hunch.’

‘No, no, that’s okay.’

‘Are you sure? An honest mistake, perhaps. No harm, no foul. I’m having some rather boring people for dinner on Wednesday. A sweet couple. Really nice folk. Both vegans with matching gluten allergies. He’s a tax attorney and she’s a paralegal secretary. They’ll bring their one-year-old twins, Luther and Timotei. We’ll probably have a hearty discussion about third world inflation or mortgage rate projections before playing Trivial Pursuit, though Sandra has a rare blood disease and bad asthma and often feels too tired to finish the game. Let me know if you’re interested. There’s definitely room for one more, though I should warn you, it might be hard for you to get back into the cool crowd once transposed. There have only ever been two switchovers, and they were both from cool to uncool, like you might be doing and not the other way round. Some of the cool crowd is coming over on Friday – about six of them, though that number could balloon. We’ll have pasta or something, probably smoke a chillum or two, listen to music, watch a movie, maybe go for a drink. Rodrigo sometimes pulls out the guitar and gives us a live show—he’s a wizard with the whammy bar.  He’s in a punk band that just signed to a pretty major label and he’s bringing two of his girlfriends. The other guy, a friend I know from high school is a licensed shaman and grows his own peyote. The other two are a couple of skinny polyamorous tattoo artists who split time between New York and Austin. Really funny chicks. They can never keep their hands off each other, even in public – off all the rest of us too, now that I think of it. We usually end up having a pretty wild time.’

‘Yeah. I think I’ll wait for that.’

‘You sure? As I said, it’s not too late to join on Wednesday. I can buy another couple of heads of lettuce, and you can help keep an eye on the babies when Don plays his usual hour of Chopin scherzos on the piano, though you shouldn’t touch them because of the skin rash, of course.’

‘No, really. I’ll wait. Thanks.’

‘Sure? It’s really no bother to scoot you over, hardly any logistics to it at all.’

‘Absolutely. I’ll wait for Friday.’

‘Suit yourself. We’ll start around nine. Oh, and let me know if we disturb you Wednesday night, though I doubt it. It’s usually a quiet affair.’

‘Okay. No problem.’

‘Great, by the way, I love those shoes.’

‘Thanks, neighbor.’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop #111: Confidence

When they were done with lunch, Frank asked Jack what he was doing later.

‘Meeting Tim for a drink.’

‘Tim? That guy is such a cheapo.’

‘Is he?’

‘Yeah,’ said Frank. We had cocktails last week and when I asked to taste his he refused, said it was too expensive and I should get my own—can you believe it? What a tightwad! A single sip too precious to share.’

 

Later that evening Jack told Tim that he’d had lunch with Frank that afternoon.

‘Oh, I had drinks with him last week.’

‘Yes, he mentioned it.’

‘Funny story, actually, between me and you,’ Tim said. ‘We ordered cocktails and Frank suddenly asked if he could have a sip of mine, caught me totally off guard. I had to quickly make something up before he put his lips on it – that guy fucks everything that crawls and I didn’t want to get something nasty from him. So I told him it was too expensive to share. Kind of lame, but it worked.’

‘Hm. That is funny.’

 

Tim asked Frank if he’d seen Jack lately, when the two of them had met for drinks the previous week.

‘No, but I’m having lunch with him Saturday.’

‘Yeah, we have tentative plans for that evening. You around?’

‘No, have a work thing.’

‘Pity,’ said Tim and Frank agreed it was a shame.

‘You know,’ Tim said after a pause, ‘I never really trusted Jack.’

‘Yeah, I get where you’re coming from.’

‘I just wouldn’t tell him anything in confidence is all I’m saying, unless you want it blurted all around town.’

‘I totally agree,’ said Frank; then he asked if he could taste Tim’s cocktail.

by E.M. ‘Sweetshanks‘ Vireo

 

Drop #96: The Band

‘Man, where have you been?’ Hal asked. ‘You were supposed be here hours ago.’

‘Yeah, sorry,’ said Julien. ‘I got caught up. I got no ice, either.’

‘That’s OK. Sally brought some.’

‘Party looks rocking.’

‘Yeah, glad you made it. What held you up?’

‘Only the best band I’ve seen in like, forever!’

‘Yeah?’

‘Hell yeah! I just stopped in at Cookie’s for a beer before heading out here and this band started up and they were friggin incredible.’

‘Nice!’

‘They played for like an hour and a half, and I thought they were done, so I was getting ready to get the ice and come over, but they were doing another set so I had to stay for it. They were too damn good.’

‘Fair enough.’

‘I hung out with them a bit during the break. Bought them a drink, did a bit of coke. Cool cats, the lot of them: two dudes and two chicks. Then they played another hour and a half. Second set was even better than the first.’

‘Well, good for you. You’re usually quite picky with music.’

‘I know!’ Julien said. ‘They were just incredible, and exactly what I like, but new and surprising too.’

‘Excellent! Hey, let’s get a beer.’

‘I don’t feel I’m explaining myself well. These guys were the absolute fucking truth! I’m not kidding; listening to them was like a religious experience. I would have followed them anywhere but they had another gig to play and it was a private gig, so they felt weird bringing me along. I can’t blame them really. I’d only just met them and I can come off a bit intense at times.’

‘That you can, but it’s a charming quality according to me.’

‘Aw, thanks, sweetheart.’

‘So, how about that beer?’ Hal put his arm around Julien and led him towards the larger back room where most of the guests were.

‘Sure.’

‘I know it won’t compare, after your religious experience, but I sorted out some live music too.’

‘Cool.’

They reached a bucket of cold beers and Hal grabbed one for each of them. ‘They should be starting soon, actually,’ he said, looking towards the make shift stage he had set up. ‘Funky band my buddy Pierre turned me onto: The Nevergoods.’

‘What?’

‘The Nevergoods. They’re a local product.’

‘Oh, my, fucking God!’

‘What?’

‘That’s them! That’s the band I just saw. I can’t believe this.’

‘No way!’

‘Yeah, for real, dude.’

‘That’s awesome. They’re going to play a long set.’

‘I fucking love you, man,’ Julien said as the first track’s bass line started up. ‘Seriously, I want to have your babies.’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop #93: Three Months

I got a call at work: ‘Hey, man; it’s Billy.’

‘Billy?’ I asked, in a businesslike tone.

‘Billy, from South Africa.’

I thought about people I might be doing business with in South Africa but couldn’t place this guy.

‘Yes, how can I help you?’ I asked.

‘It’s me, man. Billy Wilson, from South Africa!’

‘Oh, shit! Billy. Wow. Sorry, I didn’t recognize your voice.’

‘That’s OK,’ he said, perhaps a little hurt.

Billy, George and I had been best friends in South Africa as teenagers. We’d been an inseparable trio, getting into trouble together every weekend. I had my first cigarette and first got drunk with those two. We’d drink in the caravan, always parked beside George’s house since his family never took holidays together anymore. His folks would fight too much. So we’d sleep in there, get drunk on beer and whiskey, listen to Led Zeppelin and Metallica and The Police, and we’d make music too sometimes. I would sing cause I couldn’t play anything. The other two were decent on the bass and guitar respectively. George and I got on better with each other than either of us did with Billy, though. When I left for The States I heard they fought a lot. Once they went fisticuffs in the driveway and it got bloody. They didn’t speak for a while after that. George was pretty stubborn and he drank too much, but he was a brilliant guy. One of those moody, sarcastic guys that might be too smart for his own good. Billy was softer, a nice person, and pretty talented too, but he could get on your nerves.

After I left, I kept up sporadically with George by email etc., and I’d call both when I came home for visits every other year or so, but I hadn’t been in touch with either in months. Now, I felt embarrassed I’d been so short with Billy on the phone and treated him like a stranger. We’d shared a lot of life.

‘Shit, Billy. I’m sorry, man. What the hell is up?’

‘Jesus, man. You’re bloody impossible to find!’ His accent was so strong. ‘I finally got a hold of your dad’s number and he gave me this one. Been trying to reach you for months.’

‘Yeah, sorry.’

‘There’s something I have to tell you, man.’

‘OK.’

‘It’s about George.’

I knew what he was going to say, immediately, but I asked anyway: ‘What is it?’

‘He’s… he’s dead. Committed suicide.’

‘Shit,’ I said. It was all I could think of. ‘No.’

‘He did it in his garage, with gas.’

‘No, man.’

‘I know.’

‘Fuck, man! What the hell am I supposed to do now?’  I don’t know exactly what I meant, but that’s what I said.

‘I don’t know.’

‘When?’

‘Three months ago. I’ve been trying to find you since. I thought you should know.’

The rest of the call was short and businesslike. I think I told him to keep in touch, and that we would talk about this later.

It was early afternoon. I returned to my desk. George had been, without a doubt, my closest friend but I felt little emotion over the news I had just received. My thoughts were practical, curious: what had I been doing the day he died? Had I felt a twinge, an echo of some kind, the moment he passed on? What had I told him the last time we met? Why hadn’t I made any contact lately?

Three whole months. Jesus. I was living so far away.

I told my boss I had to leave. Told him why, straight up, starting to cry. I broke down when I called my wife. ‘George…is dead.’ I barely got it out. ‘Suicide.’ She said she’d come get me right away.

I met her in a bar down the street. We drank strong drinks while I cried uncontrollably for an hour. I had never cried like that before.

Of course, I still think of him often, but not with sadness. I spent it all: the regret, resentment, anger, guilt and grief that afternoon in the bar. All of it. A terrible equation, balanced at once, by the violence of a reaction.

I saw Billy only once since, when I was next back in South Africa. We talked openly about George’s death, and all the problems leading up to it, but we resolved nothing, managing only, sadly, to stir up old frustrations between us. The living, obviously, must still endure their conflicts.

What they say is true, though. Life does go on.

By E.M. Vireo

Drop 88: At the Club

The club was filled with the standard mixture of idiots, clowns, douches and cunts, and the empty tarts they score with: kielbasas in dresses, with little piggy feet stuffed into stilettos; long, lithe, fish-faced deer with perfect hair and upturned noses; amazons with enormous faces and crooked mouths: frightful broken dolls in makeup, with desiccated souls strewn about haphazardly in there somewhere.

The horrible sound of enthusiastic alcoholic amusement loudly permeated the place like death stench in a basement and you could barely fight through the matted tangle of cologne. I usually avoid such fetid urban swamps, where people shout ‘Shots!’ and request songs by Tiao Cruz, featuring some or other Lil’ somebody, bottles of champagne come with sparklers, and women fall off tables; but a friend, Carl, who is far less cynical, and I must add, obviously has far worse taste in bars (probably in all things, now that I think of it) tricked me into meeting him there. Maybe, I have to admit, he can’t really be a friend—how many really are, right? By the way, his pants were way too tight, and seeing the contours of his ass so well-defined was disturbing.

‘Johnny should be here any minute,’ Carl said.

‘OK.’

‘Interesting dude, right?’

‘I hardly know him.’

‘That guy has a past. Make no mistake about it.’

‘What are you saying, that he wasn’t born this very second?’

‘You’re such a joker! Anyway, we’re going to be roommates. I’m moving into his place – the awesome one on West 4th. Isn’t that wonderful?’

‘Don’t you know?’

‘I do, I was just–’

‘So why did you ask?’

A mid-life crisis with a toupee asked a sad sack has been for the time as I walked away and bought a 15 dollar mojito, which, of course, was shit. I stood alone, looking around the joint, wishing I owned a disappearing wand. A girl pulled up beside me at the bar.

‘How do you do it?’ I asked

‘What?’

‘Manage to look so hot and pointless at the same time?’

Her ‘Fuck off’ was worth something, but God knows what, the economy being what it is, and all.

Johnny was there when I got back. He was wearing those brown rubber type shoes that look like chocolates. For the rest, he seemed to have perfected a style one could only call Gypsy Chic. His lips, naturally traced with a thin purple border, made his face both harsh and unappealing, like a sad old transvestite nobody finds charming or amusing anymore. What was I going to say to this buffoon? To all these utter tools? I’d have to spend my entire salary on booze just to get by. So I did the gentlemanly thing and left, before the familiar disillusionment grew into full-blown dejection.

I was home in thirty minutes. Zoidberg and Bender met me at the door, riding a tsunami of love that knocked me over. I sat there, petting and playing with them for a good five minutes, and by the time I got up, I had nothing in me but gladness.

By E.M. Vireo