Pat looked stricken. “But why? Why aren’t you coming?” Answering was easy and it made me sound like an ass.
Stan was long and lean like the old-time cowboy in Tom T Hall’s song Faster Horses. He was an all around tradesman that lived like he was in his mid twentys.
Pat was a waitress in a small cafe and bar. Young (but not that young) and flirty. They met when he walked in after work one day for dinner and she commented, “Nice pockets!” He smiled and soon they were joined at the hip.
They decided that marriage was a good idea. Neither had married and both bought tickets for and had lived the carnival house of meth. Both were fun, cynical, accepting. They both knew bullshit at face value.
I met Stan ’cause he bought the house across the alley from me. I worked a lot and Stan spent his day off doing mechanical things behind the garage where I drove in and out of my shop.
Stan and I visited lightly with Pat occasionally dropping in. She was always nice to me and usually a bitch to Stan. Even the most mundane circumstance dripped with sexuality between the two. Social dialogue between most folks was foreplay between them.
We did favors for each other the way neighbors do and became pretty good friends. He was my only friend at the time ‘cept for Old Man Pete because work was my reason for living and I was Stan’s only ‘quiet’ friend based on the partying.
One day he said “Man, I’m tired. I’m gonna go to the doc to see if they have some better pills to keep me going.” That sounded like a good idea. He worked six 14 hour days a week laying concrete in the building of those huge farm warehouses. He had to drink 12 – 18 cans of Pepsi a day and was starting to drag. He needed better pills.
We would probably still be talking shit today if he hadn’t gone. They drew blood and sent it to the lab. Now they had all they needed to kill him. He had some kind of leukemia so he was convinced to let them ‘fight it’.
They pumped that poor son of a bitch so full of toxic shit that he went from a normal guy to the living dead in 3 days. “So tragic.” they would say. Or, “this all happens so fast.”
I went to see him. He wasn’t right. He still talked about building but no longer made any sense. I asked the 10-year-old that was in charge of the nurses in his wing when they were gonna detox him and send him home. “Oh, he’s not going home” she reassured me. “He’s going to die here in a few days.” Her eyes widened at her own words. “Does he know it?” I asked. “I told his family but they don’t listen and keep fighting among themselves while they’re here.” she answered.
I went back the next couple days and watched him succumb to their ‘care’. The room was dimly lit and Stan was telling me that the walls weren’t plumb when suddenly he asked me to hand me his hammer. What?! “Wadda you saying Stan?” “Hand me my fucking hammer will ya.” I figured I’d play along. I looked around the room for his hammer then asked “where is it?” “If it was up your ass you’d know where it was.” I spun around and the toothless son of a bitch was laughing. “Ain’t no hammer in a hospital room Ass Hole.” He got me. “Fuck you Stan.” We sat for a while and I wanted him to live.
It took those motherfuckers 6 weeks to kill Stan.
They ran him through the oven right away and set the memorial for a week or two out. I drove by the place. Turns out I wasn’t Stan’s only friend. As I pulled into my alley driveway his wife came out and asked if I was coming to the memorial. I looked at her for a few seconds. She really is a pretty gal. She’s got that ‘worldly’ way about her that’s attractive. “Naw, I’m not going.”
“Why? You’re his best friend!”
“I’m sorry Pat. I love him but I’m not coming.”
“Well, he isn’t coming to my funeral, I’m not going to his.”
She looked at me, a bit disgusted, her eyes doing that fast back and forth between each of my eyes for a second or two, “You and Stan are both ASSHOLES!” She walked off.
I started to smile. Yeah, that’s….. that’s about the best….. Thank you Pat.
Death is a pain-in-the-ass.