Dart Etiquette – Ch. 7

A muddled pile of money remained on the bar soaked in Irish whiskey and Imported beer. Our hands gesturing and accentuating all the dumb words that slurred from our crooked mouths. We talked so much nonsense, but it was always fun, and that was the point. Pints and shot glasses clinked one after the other as everything was all laughs, spills and smiles. Through the happiness my mind still drifted, wandering toward the darker corners of my brain, at least not the entire night. I did have thoughts about the future that were in a positive light. We talked about music and world events and bullshit but I thought about the Navy.

The Navy was a way out of here, like all the other people who utilized the military as a vehicle for improvement or change, it was a possibility for a better way of life.

I had spent the last few months reading the fine print in the brochure and speaking with recruiters, weighing the pros and cons of enlisting. I had made a decision. Come Monday I would submit my paperwork. I thought about sailing around the world on a destroyer, fantasizing about being a stranger, possibly an assassin, in different cities when Viggo interrupted and suggested that we should go back to the neighborhood.

The boys decided that it was a better idea to finish the night back in Whitestone. We were getting proper messy at Flood’s making the car ride home even more dangerous, even though it’s said most accidents happen closer to home, we still had over ten miles to navigate through the city with altered states. We intended on closing out our bar, the Memorial Park Bar, which was situated diagonally across the street from its namesake park, Memorial Fields of Flushing. In a sense the bar and the park both belonged to us. We threw flags in the ground, claiming it for ourselves like the territorial dogs that we were. What is it about human beings that we desire to possess everything? We were the regulars, we were the ones who stopped the music when you walked in, we were the ones who made you feel unwelcome. We made you want to finish your drink and leave.

In comparison to the grand scale of planet earth, we occupied a miniscule section, almost non-existent, almost not even worth a mention in the scheme of things, but for us growing up there at the park, hanging out at the bar, the history we carved in those places was important. Those places were an instrumental part of our lives. A crucial component of our upbringing and integral to the formulation of who we were and who we might become. It was partly geographical and partly nepotistic. Not everyone from the surrounding area hung out at the park like we did and most people found the bar unpalatable, they’d never step foot inside a place like that. It was a blight on the community. A major contributor to noise pollution and to the defacing of its neighboring properties. These offenses could be said of us, in most cases we would be the responsible party for any one of their complaints on any given night or worse. 

Our families settled in Whitestone, coming from other sections of Queens and other boroughs, and perhaps, a few generations earlier from other parts of the world. People have wandered here since 1683. I had some family scattered around Whitestone and other sections of Queens, though if I saw most of them I wouldn’t even say hello to them. I was, like the majority of my friends were raised hanging out in the park, street kids and then, like my parents before me, we segued into the pub. Once we actually got to go into the bar, we did, usually unlawfully. It was this weird rite of passage, the transition of park into pub, some were admitted sooner than others on the vouching of a family member or one of the older kids from the park. I was admitted into the bar because of an uncle, a relative of my mother who I only ever saw at the bar, never on holidays or barbeques, only at the bar. I was sixteen when I was granted access. Others had to wait for fake ids to be allowed in. I always preferred the park to the bar, though I loved the bar compared to other places where we might find ourselves indulging in some cold ones. The change was normal for us and fairly seamless. 

As kids we were immune to the cold and would drink beers outside in the winter in front of the stores. The stores was a general name for all the establishments on that strip. There was the bar, the fish market and the ill fated pizzeria. The pizza under various owners was never anything to write home about. There was also a barber shop, an old fashioned kind of place, where they awkwardly rub their groins on your elbows and disregard any direction on the type of haircut you actually wanted. Then there was Mama’s, a little asian run candy store. Mama’s supplied us with fifty cent iced teas in styrofoam containers, jumbo pilot markers, Sky-Bounce blue handballs and candy.

I always had a sweet tooth, Ozzy too. Hershey’s with almonds for me, Kitkat for him. Mama’s had Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter 2 arcade games which kept us occupied briefly. I liked to use Ryu and Sub-Zero, Ozzy used Guile and Raiden. The snow would crunch as we shoved our beers into the mounds that the proprietors shoveled when they cleared the walkways. I doubt our presence and behavior helped their business. We were pests that you could not get rid of. 

We said bye to the girls, thanking them for their unwavering hospitality. Mina and Imogen were the best. Ozzy called shotgun. We wobbled our way back to the car in the cold. Our breath visible in the night. Viggo and I talked about Philip, we wondered what he was doing in the Tombs, Philip was still hours away from being arraigned. I surmised that Philip would be given a small box of stale Rice Krispies shortly.  Viggo told us that he had plans, not a date but plans to hang out with Mina one night later in the week. He sounded excited about it which was unusual for Viggo. Martin had gotten a number off a girl he met at the bar whom he was never going to call due to his idiotic infatuation with Blair. The blocks felt longer than normal, and my Doc Martens felt heavy and abnormally hard as they slapped down on the pavement with each step. I supposed I was more tired than my body let on.

Ozzy was quiet, listening to us chatter as he looked up to the sky for bats or aliens or who knows what, after a while he turned to me and said, “If the X-Files is such a popular show, and don’t get me wrong here, I love it as well. How come they haven’t changed the opening credits? Why wouldn’t they change it? Keep the music but fix that shit.” I didn’t have an answer for Ozzy. I laughed, and was in agreement that the opening was pretty wack. As terrible as the sequence was, Ozzy and I most certainly wanted to believe. We spent many nights watching the show and talking about the existence of extraterrestrials. We discussed how we wanted to bang Scully, and that remained the focal point for the rest of the walk to the Malibu. Philip’s forty ounce was still on the ground next to the tree where he left it. He must have been so annoyed with Ozzy for pissing on that tree. 

The car was cold and needed to be warmed up. Ozzy put in a cd. It was Slaughter of the Soul, everyone’s favorite At The Gates album. I sat behind Martin, rubbing my hands together, Viggo was already asleep next to me, behind Ozzy. That was quintessential Viggo, in the car for two seconds and he was snoring, sleeping like a large baby. Viggo could fall asleep anywhere. If he were a superhero that would be his special power, narcolepsy. But once we get to the bar, he will be awake and ready to pound another beer and down more shots. I’ve witnessed Viggo, head down on the bar, woken up to chug a boilermaker, only to projectile vomit, wipe off his mouth, shrug it off and chug another. He was a machine. While Viggo could sleep in any condition, Philip was probably trying his hardest to fall asleep under a bench in one of the holding cells. You get shuffled around from cell to cell before you stood before the judge. We’ve all had our fair share of nights in central bookings. 

Martin drove us over the Williamsburg bridge. My least favorite bridge in New York City. Though I’d still climb and paint her. It was designed by a gentleman named Leffert L. Buck, it opened in 1903, a time probably better suited for me. But all times seem more appealing to me than the current. The bridge was deemed unattractive despite having great functionality in withstanding the wind and supporting a heavy load. You can put everything into making something as epic as a suspension bridge and there will still be people who will shit on it. Sure, it wasn’t as beautiful as the Brooklyn Bridge but not many things are. Whatever people’s criticisms were it wasn’t like it was the Tacoma-Narrows, the sister bridge to our very own, Whitestone. I thought about how important it was to take pride in your work even if people don’t get it. Some won’t even try. I wondered if the aesthetic failure affected the designer and its architects, it’s tough to take a loss and we all have to take them at some point. 

We flew along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Interstate 278, over the decrepit Kosciuszko, which was falling apart and bound to find itself in Newtown Creek eventually, to the Long Island Expressway, Interstate 495, on to the Van Wyck Expressway, Interstate 678, then we would exit at Linden. We would carefully sneak along the side streets hopefully without any detection of the boys in blue. We didn’t make it that far. I remember listening to Andy Larocque’s guitar solo on the song, Cold, when I heard Martin yell, “Fuck.” There was an immediate and hard impact, accompanied with blazing light. It was surreal but at the same time, it carried a sense of finality, an urgency. This was going to be the end, maybe rightfully so, and maybe a little overdue.

A car hit the Malibu on the right, a car that should have never been there. The car that hit us sped through the zebra that tapered off as we drove alongside it in our lane. There was no other place for the car to go but into our lane, or stop, which apparently wasn’t an option, instead the car t-boned us. Martin hit his face on the steering wheel, splitting a nice gash into his forehead. Viggo was woken up with a giant kick to his side as he slept against the car door, the door crushed inward and his ribs bruised instantly. Ozzy turned to Martin when he yelled, immediately Ozzy snapped back, pulled like a puppet, whipping the back of his head into the window. The window did not shatter, but there was a lump on his head. He was probably mildly concussed but Ozzy was the type to power through something like that, would never even bring it up again. Martin remained conscious and alert despite having his bell rung. The car that hit us, a car that was momentarily conjoined to us, something vestigial, before detaching from us. The driver made a decision in those vanishing seconds to floor the gas pedal, and he drove through us, sending the Malibu into a tailspin, careening in wide circles across three lanes of heavy traffic. The driver said fuck it. Fuck what might happen to these people I just hit. It was a decision that thrusted our lives into jeopardy and not once did he look in his rearview to see the outcome. A cloaked Peter Cushing was on the side of the road, off in the distance rubbing his skeletal hands together. 

Martin regained control of the car, somehow he managed to save our lives and I’ll never understand how. It was a skillful act I didn’t know he was capable of, and maybe a little luck as well, he did it. We lived on to fight another day. We had done enough doughnuts that I was unable to keep count of them, the headlights of the eighteen wheelers illuminated the inside of the car as the crescendo of honking horns was deafening. They feared for their own lives as the trucks narrowly missed the Malibu and killing the four of us and potentially killing themselves in the process. It wasn’t our best interest the other drivers were concerned with. I understood that. Most people are not worried about your best interest. 

Inside the car, we spun in a vacuum, in a loop of a clipped moment in time, a heightened sense of awareness with absolutely no control from the backseat, it was as if we spun ourselves into an alternate reality or some parallel dimension where we could step outside ourselves to witness our own demise. I remember trying to climb backwards in my seat as if to find higher ground, for what reason I could not answer. I guess it was a poor attempt to find safety during the spiraling, but there was nothing I could do, or any of us could do  if a truck did connect with the Malibu. As much as we had no control in that moment, do we ever really have any control of anything in life? I leaned more towards no, we don’t. Death was a fairly simple thing, it’s life that is complicated and death was always stalking nearby, but in the car that night, he overlooked us, Peter Cushing turned a blind eye for he had other plans for us.   

When the car finally stopped, it came screeching to a halt just before the jersey barrier. I imagined if we had continued, with enough velocity we might have hit the barrier and flipped over the wall, scuffed from the other fenders and wheel walls, and went down on the 108th street below. I was able to envision it then someone spoke. I don’t remember who spoke first but we all asked seemed to ask the same question. Are you alright? Was everyone inside the car ok? The doors flew open and we came out roaring, hissing with anger but there was no one to punish for this close call. The car never stopped. We could have become small spatters of red flesh and fatty tissues alongside the mangled parts of fiberglass and pieces of cheap metal. Little rivers of oil and green fluids leaked from the car. The only person who stopped was a yellow cab driver, he had seen the whole collision and was amazed that we were alive let alone relatively unhurt. It could have been a lot worse. I’m sure to him it looked worse. 

Martin didn’t want to call the cops. He wanted Philip to remain the only of us to get locked up that night. I wouldn’t be the one to call. I didn’t have a cell phone, I didn’t even have a beeper, so it wouldn’t be me. I didn’t have any way for anyone to reach me. People would have to check Memorial or go to my house if they wanted to find me. If I wasn’t at either, I probably didn’t want to be found. I liked being off the grid.

If the cops had shown up Martin was undoubtedly catching a DWI. If we would have been killed on the Long Island Expressway, maybe then the cops would have shown up, if we had died Philip would have been lucky to get arrested, he would have been a little like Kirk Hammett. Fate, if you subscribe to that sort of thing is a pretty crazy thing, I was tempted. I didn’t, but still, if one of us were to die in the car that night, or on any other night, it should always be me. It is because deep down a part of me wants it more. I think out of my friends I was the most prepared to see what the next world had to offer and I was content with the idea of eternal darkness, with unending sleep. The truth was worse, out of us I would be voted least likely to make something of myself. Among us I had the least to offer the world so it was better off for everyone if I was the one to go off the great yonder. My race may be run underneath the moon. 

The Malibu was totaled. It’s chassis was bent and broken. The force of gravity had it’s way with it. I suppose we were lucky to be alive by the looks of it, lucky if you actually wanted to be alive, did I feel lucky? I felt cheated. The problem was that I didn’t really like this world. At least the one in which I occupied. Was there any good left in the world? Was I a good man? I wasn’t sure. Was I capable of a transformation into becoming a decent human being? It was difficult to predict. The world I resided in was mostly filled with unhappiness. Of course there were some good times and fun to be had, but it was momentary. The subtext of all of my actions was pain, it was always bubbling and frothing in the subconscious, the anger and all the let down, it was all there in my mind, always present behind the short lived expressions of joy. Behind every smile was ennui. It was built into me, nurtured and coached. 

A cop car drove by, but the cops didn’t stop. Honestly, I didn’t think our accident was a priority either. It was the same way I felt about graff. There were more important issues the police should be handling. They paid us no mind whereas a tow truck driver saw us and dollar signs. He noticed us heading westbound, got off at the next exit and wrapped around to make some cash. Before the truck grumbled up behind the wreckage, we dogged the wall along the pedestrian walkway that led to the overpass above the highway. Ozzy always kept a few cans in the trunk, some Rustoleum or Krylon spray paint. Since we were in need of the police and figured no one was coming, it made sense to us. We caught a few tags and throwies while Martin stayed back by the car, wearing an old red Vision of Disorder “Zone Zero” t-shirt around his head to stop the bleeding. I made sure to hook up some Soda tags. 

Growing up in Queens graffiti was ubiquitous, it was literally everywhere despite Giuliani’s best efforts to clean the city and to thwart the vandals. Maybe the trains were being cleaned but the highways, rooftops, handball courts, buildings, roll down gates and fences all across the city were bombed. It wasn’t until I went to Bleecker that I got schooled. For me, graff was inescapable, it was no longer just scribbles of my name and my favorite bands on my binder. It seemed like you went into seventh grade and now everyone had a tag. Even if you didn’t really write you had a tag and crews were positioned in every single park, loitering in front of stores, in parking lots and cruising along boulevards. The main crews where we hung out on the border of Whitestone and Flushing, were MPB, Memorial Park Boys which were the older guys who we idolized and emulated growing up and the other was us. 21 PARK was the crew that we started. Typically shortened to 21PK or XXI, or just simply, twenty one in any language of your choosing. Veinte y uno. Einundzwanzig. Fiche a haon. There were offshoots and little clicks within the umbrella of those two larger crews. As time went on the crews blended together anyway, it was different ways of saying the thing, a different way of representing the same collection of people and the place we allocated. 

We were little teenagers drunkenly wandering around the neighborhood and hanging out in the park. The MPB guys were older, cooler and tougher than us. We had aspirations to be like those guys and all the other writers we saw up on walls or heard stories about. We would sit in my room in the basement or at the Craven household and discuss graffiti to no end. We went from trading baseball cards and comic books to making lists of our favorite writers and tracking what spots were recently hit. We were a bunch of twelve and thirteen year olds trying to come up with tag names for ourselves. We needed something that we thought sounded cool, not really understanding the full weight of those names that we chose for ourselves in Ozzy and Martin’s living room. Sometimes a name stuck and you wished everyone would just forget it.  Initially I had a horrible tag, luckily there were no traces of it in existence, only in the back of a few people’s minds. I swapped my old tag for SG. I wrote variations of it: SG, SGEE, or SG One. My tag predated my knowledge of Soilent Green, but I liked that it could mean that but it was really about staying gold. 

We watched countless movies at the Craven house. We enjoyed films long before we devoted all of our waking hours to the park, we watched horror movies after running around the neighborhood, most of the movies I already owned on VHS, but we rented them anyway at a mom and pop rental place by Cherry Valley and later on at Blockbuster off of Farrington in the Pathmark shopping center. We scoured the selection, which was one short aisle, but we sought after the scariest images on the box and the creepiest synopsis. Our little gore obsessed minds were insatiable. The thing about those movies is most were so obviously fake, no one was really hurt, It was fun to be grossed out or to laugh at the absurdity of it. There was enough horrible shit happening in the world you needed something to lighten it up. Renting movies was a big deal for us and before you know it there would be no video rental stores. Blockbuster was doomed, its days like our own were numbered. Still the store might last longer than some of us would.

We watched horror mostly but we also loved movies like Juice, Boyz N The Hood, Judgement Night, The Wanderers, A Clockwork Orange, King Of New York and New Jack City. There was one movie in particular that we sweated the most, The Outsiders. It resonated with us. We had more than maybe the greasers had but not much more, we had a commonality in coming from broken homes and that the future looked bleak. We were like them only in Queens during the 1990s instead of Tulsa in the 1960s. I couldn’t say for sure, but I think I was the only one out of us who read the book. One day it was on the television and Ozzy had an idea. We would all have tags taken from The Outsiders. He took out a piece of scrap paper and made a list of characters and the names of the actors. He didn’t bother writing anything associated with the Socs. He immediately crossed out words like greaser and Tulsa. He didn’t like that the tag name grease or greaser as it might evoke images of the musical, which he didn’t care for. Ozzy wanted his tag to be Dallas, Dallas was pretty badass, but Ozzy disliked writing the letter L, let alone twice. He opted for Ponyboy, which he thought sounded soft but he liked the abbreviation of PB. Martin’s tag was SODA, after the character of Sodapop Curtis. Coincidentally the Craven brothers adopted names of some fictional brothers. Viggo chose the tag, HOWL, which I thought was the best one on the list. It was a play on C. Thomas Howell’s name, the actor who played Ponyboy Curtis in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 classic. Philip wrote HINT, or HINT One, after S. E.. Hinton, the woman who wrote the timeless literary masterpiece. 

        Philip and Martin were those guys who had tags but didn’t really get into graff like the rest of us. Philip always blamed his bad penmanship for being wack, whereas Martin had a lot of style but just didn’t care enough about it. Viggo was starting to ease up as well, since he got on the Fire Department. Graffiti was now a felony and an arrest for him would certainly get him fired. We always made sure to hook them up when we bombed anything. 

Ozzy and myself took the whole culture seriously. We were students of graffiti. We observed and discussed graffiti as we did music and films. We took notice of writers and how their styles differed and the similarities between others, dissecting every swoop and arrow, every dash, dollar sign and star. We took diligent notes regarding case sensitivity and proportion. We destroyed black books and legal pads, grinding pencils down to the ferrule, emptying pens and markers of their ink at the Cravens dinner table trying to perfect our style. Everyone begins as a toy. It starts with doing other people’s tags and throw ups and stealing a bit here and a bit there, until it is critiqued and altered just enough to be your own. It can take years to develop one’s style. We loved doing graffiti, plotting spots and executing them. Can control is another aspect that comes with practice. We put up stickers and always carried paint markers in our pockets. We stuffed our Jansports with cans of paint and went on special missions. We painted highways and storefront roll down gates. Ozzy hit rooftops, funny enough I wasn’t crazy about heights then so I didn’t do too many rooftops.

I ate the paint off of my fingertips. We used german fat caps and skinny caps and had our own favorite color combinations for fill ins. We soaked the caps in our mom’s nail polish remover to clean them. I loved standard black and white fills, but brown and baby blue or cherry red and sun yellow looked great. I didn’t give a shit about triple outlines. I hated the kids who thought they were cool because of graffiti. I knew graffiti was inherently self-absorbed and full of egotistical assholes, but hubris was my biggest turnoff, I didn’t do it for those people. I did it for myself cause I liked to do it, I did it for the adrenaline rush. I wasn’t looking for anyone’s approval, I wanted my friends to see it. I wanted to see it up. I didn’t need props from people who I wouldn’t want to be friends with anyway. 

I bit the hunter green paint off of my fingers, we were tired and battered, bouncing around in the tow truck on the way to the bar. Viggo slept inside the Malibu in tow, while Ozzy listened to Wu Tang. I sat in the cab of the tow truck between the fat driver and Martin. It was well after four in the morning, and we were haggard but still breathing.

It’s a fact that cheating death makes you incredibly thirsty. The front door of the bar would be locked, closed to the public but not us. If you walked by the bar after closing you’d be able to hear the chatter of the drunks still inside and the music playing from the jukebox beyond the chipped and scratched wooden door. Howard Bogdanowics, the man who owned the bar, was our friend, team. He moved aside the cheap velvet window curtain to peek out, his head bumping into an unlit Memorial Park Bar neon sign, to see who knocked on the door. His first reaction when he heard knocking was please, no police. If you weren’t from the neighborhood the door was not going to open for you. Howard jokingly asked for a password, before we heard the sound of the lock turning. A look of worry on his face as he saw us. Martin’s face was glossy and slick with sweat, as the gash on his forehead was open and meaty with dried up blood around the wound. A bloodied shirt in his hand. Ozzy and Viggo looked roughed up. I don’t know how I looked to Howard, I suppose I looked worn as well, the night had taken a toll on us. Maybe the neighborhood, much like the world, was due for a good tragedy. There is never enough heartache to keep people grounded.

The morning sun was on the rise and we were back home, in a merry pub breaking day with a fresh round of drinks and more life stories to share. Maybe we would play some darts for money, Cricket or Legs. I might take over the jukebox as Philip was probably munching on his box of stale cereal in the Tombs, as the asshole who hit us might be reporting his car stolen. I wondered what Maeve was up to and if she was alone or not.

As we walked into the pub Howard caught sight of the Craven’s car hitched up as the tow truck driver honked and waved goodbye. “Fuck. Your car is destroyed. Are you guys alright?”

“Very observant,” I said. I was the last one in. 

“Fuck you, Colm. I’m supposed to be the sarcastic one here. Know your fucking place, guy.”

Only a few people were still partying at the bar when we arrived. They quickly jumped to the conclusion that we were jumped or had brawled when they saw Martin’s forehead split open. It was at a time of night where it was fairly easy for a person to make an assumption. Wilhelm and Sonny flipped out. Things got a little loud momentarily. Who did this? Who the fuck did this to you? Drunken overreactions aplenty. The accident was explained and it defused the situation to which the natural remedy to anything and everything was always more drinks. We drank to heal, but the more I drank the more I thought about death, the less I thought about the Navy and then that got me thinking more about Maeve.

I took what Martin said into account, I always valued his opinion, I always heeded his advice. He might have been right about some things but I was going to have to do the hard thing. It was true that I was intentionally sabotaging my relationship even though in the moment, and on the surface it was one of the good ones. But it had appeared to me, seeing relationships around me fail, that love was an impossibility, that it was impossible to remain or sustain happiness in a relationship. They all seemed to start with a bit of doom.

I was drunk on a bar stool, tired and lonely. Am I weak, I thought, the answer tipped toward yes. I was going to go against my better judgement because I missed her. Though I was suspicious of the feelings motivating me to call her. Can you be certain that you miss a person for the right reasons? I was never certain. 

“Howard, can I use your phone, sir? I yelled at him, leaning over the bar. I thought about just walking behind the bar without asking permission but I knew Howard hated whenever anyone came behind the bar. I loved the bar, not just the dingy watering hole but the bar itself, imported dark wood, alluring and sturdy. I liked that Howard preferred traditional to modernism. I enjoyed the old-fashioned cash register. All of the dusty framed black and white photographs of sponsored teams, softball and two hand touch football players huddled up, hoisting cheap trophies. The ghosts of dart leagues past. There were small pictures of King Diamond and Ronnie James Dio scotch taped to the mirror just behind the top shelf booze. If you asked Howard who was a better vocalist for Black Sabbath, for him it was hands down, Dio. It was undoubtedly a dive bar, and undeniably Queens, with Mets ‘69, ‘73 and ‘86 pennant flags pinned to the cabinets alongside Mr. Met decals, with New York Giants and New York Rangers memorabilia floating about.  

Howard said, of course. The telephone cord got caught on an edge as he tried to pass the phone over the bar to me, he whipped the cord to free it. The bar had a rotary dial telephone. Rotary dial telephones had a good run. Patented in the late 1800s, it took about thirty years for the touch tone phone to kill the rotary dial after being introduced in the early 1960s. Rotary dial telephones just looked cooler to me. Of course I fucked up dialing Maeve’s number a few times before getting it right. I half expected some man to answer while it rang. She answered.

“Hello? Hello, Colm?” I liked that she didn’t think it might have been someone else. Maybe she was hoping I’d call or maybe no one else would call her at such an ungodly hour. 

I said hello over the noise of the guys.

“It’s been a little while. I haven’t heard from you. Are you alright?” 

That is always a tricky question to answer. “Yeah. Yeah. I’m fine. Never better.” I didn’t want to mention the accident or anything negative. 

“It’s 5:30 in the morning.”

“I know. I know what time it is. Want to get some breakfast with me? Book club.”

“Ok. Alright. Book club. I’ll pick you up from the bar, just give me a little time to wake up and get ready.”

“Sounds good.”

I passed the antiquated telephone back to Howard. Howard was the best. He was one of us. I ordered a Becks. He placed the beer bottle on the bar with a napkin stuffed into the mouth of the bottle. It was Howard’s trademark, his signature move. He pulled two glasses from the bar and planted them in front of me. He took a bottle of Jameson and poured two shots that would make a novice cry. We never did shots out of shot glasses, we always did our shots from proper whiskey glasses, these oversized bevelled glasses that looked like something from the seventies, probably purchased from a previous owner. My grandparents probably drank from these glasses.  If you weren’t one of us, if you were a jerk off or a stranger you got your shot in a regular shot glass. It was very telling if you took a look around the bar to see who had what glass in front of them, who was team and who was not. It was a little reveal, like the napkin in the bottle if Howard was a serial killer in some trade paperback crime novel. A calling card in the mouth of the dead. Howard could definitely play the villain in a suspense thriller, a giallo. I liked that about him as well. 

Howard told me he was glad I was alright, and happy that we were all relatively unharmed compared to what could have happened. He knew like the others did, that I wasn’t alright. He said, “To what might have been.” The glasses touched each other and then tapped down on the bar before we made the whiskey disappear. 

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