Ozzy was gone. That was it. Ozzy was not coming back, not ever. Unreal. Nothing we could do would resurrect him or reverse these horrid chain of events. We had gotten ourselves into something that we couldn’t fix. We couldn’t make this one up, we couldn’t apologize or fight our way out of this. Death had visited us and presented the harshest reality there is to accept in life. Peter fucking Cushing. The finality of death. The weight of it all dug into our backs.
Life as it was, and as you knew it, ended. We were all well acquainted with heartache in our own ways but the loss of Ozzy was beyond any devastation we had previously known. We suffered an insurmountable tragedy and still something had to be done, even if it was for naught. The sun rose each morning and shone a light on a world that was uglier than it was days before. I, like the rest of our team of inveterate drinkers, drank myself numb. It was a manic time in our lives.
The funeral took place on the third day of a tear, in the drunken haze of triple distilled tears, in dimly lit pubs. Was there anything to note for the number three? Death comes in threes, no? Who was next? Three darts. Three wounds. The three murderers in Macbeth. Three witches. Three wishes. Three blends of whiskey joined together for perfection. Three. Three. Three. My insides rotted from grief and guilt and the beautiful amber alcohol as I pickled my organs and wallowed. My lips were perpetually arid. My body was coated in a slick layer of sour sweat, as the whiskey oozed from my pores into my tight fitting suit.
The world made less sense than it had ever had before. Most things, if not all, now seemed trivial and pointless.
The funeral was mobbed, brimming with heartbroken people who loved Ozzy. The attendance and the outpouring of affection were a testament to his character. People I hadn’t seen in ages turned up to pay their respects to Ozzy. Ozzy would have been moved if he could have seen the ceremony himself, maybe he could see it from wherever he might have been standing, just maybe there is something beyond. My father did not attend. His absence upset me but I supposed his presence would have upset me as well. That situation was lose lose. I tried not to do anything else to enumerate my woe.
Kenny came in from Ireland for the funeral, with Saoirse on his arm, she was more beautiful than I expected her to be. After years of saying that I was going to Ireland and never actually going I finally met her here in Queens. Some promises are not kept. Not the best circumstances for a first encounter but this was the hand we were dealt. A grown man crying in his beer was not a good look. It never is. She understood the loss was profound and I understood why Kenny loved her so much. She was sweet but also down for the cause.
It didn’t seem real. How was it possible that a funeral was being held for Ozzy? It made no sense. I didn’t remember much of it, it was like a dream that you have and can only remember fractions and pieces of the fog. You’re not sure if it actually was a dream or if you conjured it up in your mind. I remembered being moved to tears by Martin’s eulogy but will I spend the rest of my life trying to remember exactly what he said in his oration. I remembered that everything seemed colorless, we were all left with little voids. I hugged what seemed like an endless procession of people, I hugged them all tightly just in case it was the last time I saw any of them. You never know when it could be the last time. I reminded them all that I loved them.
Just as I had not thought that when the ambulance pulled away that it would be the last time I would see Ozzy alive, I regretted not hugging him and telling him that I loved him and that he was my brother. I remembered Pantera playing in the car on the drive from the service to the bar. I couldn’t tell you whose car it was or who was in it with me, but the song Hollow would take on a whole new meaning, certain lines spoke directly to me. Maybe it’s better to not have any recollection, it was too difficult a time so why have it stored in your memory, whiskey was a remedy. With the right pour life can easily be blacked out, a memory censor if you will, it might not be recommended but it certainly is effective.
While we grieved Carlton Ailse was granted bail, his parents put their house up to cover the bail and the 10 percent premium needed to set him free. The Ailse’s were comfortable but didn’t have the money on hand for the bail for second degree murder. Second degree murder comes with a minimum of fifteen years and a max of twenty-five to life in prison. Carlton’s affordable lawyer wanted a trial. At best his lawyer, a birdish looking middle aged man, felt they could beat the murder rap by claiming self defense, using our aggressive behavior against us, not to mention that we indeed started the altercation, physically anyway. There was an entire birthday party that could attest to that. In the worst case, Carlton would be advised to plead to the lesser charge of first degree manslaughter, which comes with a mandatory minimum of five years. The District Attorney, a colorful attention whore, a man who normally would do anything within his power and connections to see his picture in the paper, any publication would suffice. A man who loved to see the flash of a camera. He had dreams of being a politician once but never had the momentum, now he was nearing the end of his life, gearing up for retirement and trying to close out his cases. The fire was no longer burning for justice, he was no longer invested, or maybe he never was. He would be satisfied with a plea deal of manslaughter. Five years in prison for killing Ozzy did not sit well with us.
At the bar the night of, the cops had gotten statements from all who were still present. Naturally we were reluctant to speak with the law. We’ve all had our fair share of negative experiences with the police. I didn’t think all cops were bastards but I encountered a few who definitely were. I also knew a bunch of cops who were cool and probably shouldn’t have become cops. They had a job to do, and their profession didn’t mesh with most of the activities I enjoyed doing. It was simple. I still felt nervous around them especially regarding the specifics of that night. I kept quiet. This wasn’t some neighborhood or crew beef, this was random, a random act of violence, I had no respect for these kids nor did I feel like I needed to uphold some street code. At that moment I wanted him to rot in jail but until then we didn’t know who any of them were. We had never seen them before. I could barely picture their dumb faces. It didn’t matter if we knew anything or not his own friends gave him up rather quickly and shortly after he was arrested at his house. It was because of them we even found out his name. Detective Jacovino was the one who told me that the kid’s name was Carlton Ailse. Carlton should have to face the consequences of his actions like a man, he should take his medicine. The problem was that we were the aggressors, the entire bar saw that but we didn’t see Carlton stab Ozzy, not one of us witnessed Carlton sticking Ozzy. The scale seemed to tip in Carlton’s favor.
Back at the bar, I fed money into the jukebox and selected some tunes. I wondered how long before my songs would play. It didn’t tell you how many songs were queued ahead of you or how much money was dumped into it before you. Black Sabbath’s Sabbra Cadabra was playing. I supposed if I didn’t think of Ozzy whenever I heard Black Sabbath before I would from this day forward.
We posted up in the corner. We might as well have had brass plaques with our names on them mounted to the bar, or on the back of the stools. Assigned seats. Howard attended the funeral but was now working the bar for all of the grieving drunkards present. There was not an empty glass to be found that day, which really wasn’t that different from any other day at the bar. We reminisced about Ozzy, while Thin Lizzy played over the noise of the crowd. We shared personal stories, stories where Ozzy was the main star, and that he was, a bright star amongst a million redundant and bleary, boring ones. We traded stories of our fallen brother as if we were gathered around a warm campfire. We spoke of old time neighborhood glory. The wars of the past. We talked about fights, fair and unfair, and the blood spilled, the green and purple bruises from those brawls, which were many and mostly childish but exciting. We recanted the stories that were passed down from the previous generations of Memorial Park. It was its own mythology. The parables of courageous young men, mischievous boys and unruly young men.
I thought about The Outsiders, about how much Ozzy loved that movie. I thought particularly about the scene where Johnny Cade talked to Ponyboy in the hospital about how he was too young to die. He spoke about all of the things he would miss out in life. Everything he said was true about Ozzy. Ozzy was robbed. My heart hurt. A bad case of survivor’s guilt.
My batch of songs began to play, King Floyd sang about heartache as Martin coincidentally lost it. Don’t Leave Me Lonely was the only song from King Floyd that mattered to me. Martin buried his face in his hands and wept. Viggo grabbed an umbrella that was lying nearby on the floor, he opened it indoors, we couldn’t have any more bad luck. Peter Cushing took note. Viggo threw his left arm around Martin and held an umbrella over their heads, protecting them both from that black cloud that shadowed us. Viggo told Martin lowly, to let it all out, and that he loved him. It was gut wrenching to watch. It was a moment of genuine compassion and agony. I held back my tears with another shot.
Kenny talked closely with Saoirse, against the wall. Philip and the Winters’ brothers were on the other side of Martin and Philip to my right. I had Wilhelm Flood on my left. The bar was full of friends and family.
“One night we were doing the Whitestone 500,” said Wilhelm, “and I don’t know what happened exactly, I guess I cut off some guy in my Camaro.”
“I loved your Camaro,” I said. “Your backseat was full of cassette tapes.”
“Mad tapes. The conviction of my tape is rape, wicked like Nixon.” Wilhelm said, proudly. “So there is this car behind us, high beaming me along Powells Cove, we were driving toward the direction of the bridge. It wasn’t cops, they would have pulled us over. I thought maybe beef. I asked Ozzy what do you think they want. And Ozzy, looking back and nonchalantly, says to me, ‘I think he’s trying to tell us that he wants his windshield broken.’ It came off so funny, he was so dead pan. I’m doing the story an injustice. He just made everything sound funnier. He made everything more fun. I’m going to miss him. To Ozzy.”
“To Ozzy. He was one of the good ones.”
“Rest in peace.”
Kenny and Saoirse approached us, “Can we have a word, lads?”
Martin, Viggo and Myself walked to the back of the bar with my cousin and his girlfriend, to the last table in front of the back door and underneath the exit sign. The backyard was in disarray and never used. Howard sent a round of beers and shots to the back. The drinks circled the umbrella on the table, like a strange replication of some ancient runes. What is a pub good for if not to conspire. How many schemes were hatched in the back of bars? How many plans were devised with whiskey on the breath?
We plotted. We discussed what we wanted to do, what we felt we needed to do, we just needed the opening. This was necessary. It was only right. It was a war. There are many times in bars where it’s mostly talk without action. Harmless chatter. Sometimes emotions get the better of you and while you’re seeing double, declarations are made that in your heart you mean to be true, but in the sober morning the rational mind prevails and it lets those declarations dissolve into the realm of idle bunk. There are far worse things a person can do that talk a little a shit when you’re three sheets. This was not that. This was an unspeakable oath. This was a pledge to ensure that Carlton received exactly what he had coming, an improper burial.
When the opportunity arose, we would capitalize, we were hopeful it would be sooner than later.
Mr. Craven walked into the bar, in his only suit, with a brave face on. He saw us in the back, gave a nod but stayed in the front by the window with the dusty drapes, with his old friends. We would all mourn together. If this was a different time, maybe my father would have been here for Mr. Craven in his time of need. Those days were long since over.
Sonny Winnows walked in, did a shot, and made his way to us. There were a lot of people to greet. He said that on his way he drove past a rival park where a crew called GTL chilled. It was a crew that we had beef with over nonsense, which girls and grudges helped facilitate. I couldn’t tell you how long we had been drinking, or what day we were on but it would be dark soon.
“Think we should roll on them?” Sonny, asked.
Martin said, bet.
“How many heads are in the park?” asked Viggo.
“Ten, fifteen tops.”
I said, fuck it. I finished the last contents of a beer, brushed my hair out of my face with my hands, and placed the empty shot glass down on the scratched table.
“Well, let’s get cracking,” said Kenny. I almost felt bad for these kids. They were going to be the receiving end of all our pain and fury. May they all become my truck tire.