Mr. Craven pulled up to his house after putting in an honest day’s work, just as he did each week day and most Saturdays, for overtime he couldn’t refuse. He glanced at us on the front steps, shaking his head with disapproval, pulling up into the inclined driveway on the right side of the house, throwing more daggers at us while backing out carefully onto the somewhat busy street, then parking in front of the house.
He moved slower these days, unintentionally calculated and already had a six pack under his belt for the day. He got out of the pick up and motioned as if it had an alarm, which it didn’t, double tapping his thumb on the key ring. The pickup was his baby. He loved his sons, sure, but she was his little girl. If Mr. Craven had a pet name for the truck he never told anyone. The truck was a 1956 Ford F100, black with yellow rims, that he restored himself. It wasn’t in pristine condition, as much as he loved the truck it wasn’t for showrooms. Banged up a bit and rusted here and there, she ached and bellowed at times just like her father’s lower back and joints. Arthritis and age bothered the man but you’d never hear a word of it.
The house and the pick up had belonged to Mr. Craven’s father before him. Mr. Craven was old school, he worked and drank hard, said very little. He expected certain things to be constant, one of them was the space in front of his home, he expected it to be vacant for him and the pick up. He believed that you simply did not park in front of someone else’s house. A blasphemy, and if someone was in his spot, he’d wait for them to return to their car to share his thoughts on the matter. The Malibu was for the driveway, before it was destroyed. We knew better than to take his spot or fuck with his truck. The truck’s exterior was nowhere near mint condition, so he didn’t worry about it being stolen or damaged. He felt that nothing was perfect so why bother. Under the hood was where his love and attention went. If the truck was in tip top shape then a ding or a dent would drive him mad. It was in exactly the state he was content with, no better, no worse. He was a man who still lived by a set of principles that in today’s society were slipping away quick.
Mr. Craven couldn’t fathom something like graffiti, he couldn’t hear the musicality in genres like death and black metal or hardcore hip hop. He lived in a time that had long since passed, a time that I wished I could have lived in, a time where people were courteous and respectful of one another. A time where you could teach those things with a fist if needed. Discipline was being abolished. accountability defunct. The world was changing around him while he remained unchanged in his way of thinking, firmly planted in his ideology. He felt that people should live and behave a certain way and seeing how we were he was more than a little concerned about the future. It must have been hard for him to accept, whereas someone like myself was used to disappointment.
He slammed the door, it was loud but not nearly as loud as us. The more we drank the louder we tended to get. The plastic bag he pulled from the bed of the truck swung back and forth in his dirty, grease stained hands. His dinner might be some absurdly sweetened children’s cereal and a few more Budweiser tall boys. For desert, he might knock back Johnny Walker, a little Blue Label which would suffice before bed.
Martin, Ozzy, Viggo and Myself were taking a break. That afternoon we sheetrocked the Craven’s living room. The house was old but sturdy, it had a personality but needed work, like most of our own personalities. It was a relic for the Craven family, as well as a de facto headquarters for us, and often a headache for Mr. Craven. His sons, along with help from us boys maintained the upkeep and renovations since their mother left. Control was delegated to Martin and Ozzy to decide design and color selection with Mr. Craven possessing veto power, which is why the fire pole was never installed.
It was in the boys best interest to remodel the house, it would raise the property value and eventually it would be theirs. It was tradition. I doubt they would ever sell the house but things change and you never know what lies ahead. Their inheritance bore the same facade since the day it was first built, Mr. Craven wanted it to remain relatively untouched, unlike many other houses on the block and in the neighborhood. Most people were tearing down the old houses and replacing them with these modern, monstrous eye sores. Fucking McMansions, Mr. Craven called them. It was an intended middle finger to them all to not alter the house, a spite house, and to let it stand out as a reminder of how things used to be amongst the competitively gaudy and droll houses popping up all around.
Ozzy wanted to put a fire pole in the house. When Viggo first got on the fire department I think Ozzy asked him everyday about the fire pole and if he had one in the firehouse and had he slid down it. I honestly didn’t know if he was kidding or not. He said he wanted to slide down from his room on the second floor, through the living room and into the basement, where we spent many nights talking shit, shooting pool and throwing darts. The beers always went down dangerously smooth, like water in the Craven’s basement. Mr. Craven would quickly interject, Abso-fucking-lutely not. There was no fucking way. He was not into the idea of putting holes in the floor so Ozzy could slide into the basement. He found it ridiculous to even ask such a thing, but Ozzy did repeatedly. What was the life expectancy of a fire pole? How much maintenance did a fire pole require? How long did one last before it needed to be replaced? These were things I’d never wonder about if it wasn’t for Ozzy.
“Hey, Craven,” said Mrs. Polito, a widow who lived two houses down. She was also one of the last of the Mohicans on the block refusing to sell her house. She was the surrogate mother of the block for years. A tough woman who was not looking to leave her home. There were far too many memories, far too attached to let go. Mrs. Polito bandaged scraped knees and filled empty bellies. She was a good woman who was close with the Cravens for decades, since Mr. Craven was a small boy. Mr. Polito had recently passed and was sorely missed by those in the shrinking community.
A hardworking bull of a man. He loved beer in a can and his cream colored 1985 Ford Econoline van. State of the art for 1985, equipped with an overhead compartment, a VCR, and velvet drapes for the windows. Martin and Ozzy would play in it as children. The van barely moved when Mr. Polito was alive, and even less after, unless Ozzy used it to take out girls. Mrs. Polito gave the Cravens the keys, and told them they could use it whenever they pleased. She had never gotten a drivers license. The only condition she had was that the gas tank must always be full in case of an emergency. She liked a full tank and kept a spotless house. Everything inside their abode was clean, polished, vacuumed, shined and scrubbed. If you even looked at a dish she cleaned it. The family heirlooms were preserved and on display.
Mr. Polito’s collection of trench knives were oiled and shimmering on the wall in the dining room. A trench knife may be less glamorous than other weaponry you could collect and hang on your wall but Mr. Polito loved them. He preferred that they were authentic and saw battle. He wanted them to have tasted blood. He felt the trench knife was grittier, a tool specific for gutting, to implement a fatal wound in close quarters if all else failed. That was fucking tough. It was a knife that had the most heart, he said.
Mr. Craven waved, as Mrs. Polito was walking Cookie Hill, her morkie. Cookie was often found beside us on the front steps, inside the house or in the backyard. A cute, feisty little thing.
Mr. Craven took attendance on the steps, looking around. Martin looked a lot like his father when he was young. He noticed the gash on Martin’s head but shrugged it off. It was perfectly normal to see us busted up then. He must have left the house for work in the morning hundreds of times only to pass one of us asleep with eyes blackened, and bleeding on his couch. I don’t think that in his day he was a stranger to throwing hands. I think deep down he respected our pugilistic tendencies. “Malibu? Where is it?”
“California,” said Ozzy.
“What are you fucking twelve? Where’s the car? Try to be serious for once. I know that is hard for you, but just answer the question?”
“Sorry Dad, I’m just being an idiot.”
“The Malibu is totaled. We got into an accident last night on the way in from the city,” said Martin.
“You didn’t think that is something I should have been informed about. Like when it happened. So what did happen exactly?” Mr. Craven squinted, his way of looking closer at something, in this case, that something was Martin’s forehead. “Press a cold can of beer on that.”
“A car hit us on our way home from the city last night,” said Martin.
“Fucking hit us out of nowhere,” said Ozzy, demonstrating by hitting his fist into his hand, like breaking in a new baseball mitt.
We all said yes.
“And where is the Malibu?”
“The tow truck dropped it off at some auto body shop in College Point. I have the card but there is no use in trying to fix it. The car is totaled. We have to call the insurance company and find out what the deal is,” said Martin.
“How did I have such dumb children? How? Oh right, your mother. Alright. Leave the card on my dresser and I’ll take care of it.” Mr. Craven was serious but not without a little playfulness. I don’t think the Malibu mattered more than us, and it was his ex-wife’s car so I don’t think that meant much to him either. I think Mr. Craven thought that he showed affection though it barely came across that way, if anything it came out through ball busting, a tough love sort of thing. Cookie Hill skittered after him into the house.