By Linda Cako
Jared and I always spend our weekend summer nights playing pool at the local bar. Sometimes our friends Lenny and Mo would come and play with us, but not every night. They had wives and kids so they had other priorities. Those poor, dumb bastards.
Me and Jared have this long-standing wager where the loser has to drink a shot of gin. Neither of us like it so it makes good incentive to win. The bartender, Al, was a good friend of Jared’s dad and always lets us play until late at night, so long as we lock up after.
Sometimes Jared would bring cigarettes and we’d chain smoke them and practice making smoke rings. Sometimes we’d try to pick up girls, too. That never really worked though, so we stick with the cigarettes.
Tonight Lenny and Mo couldn’t make it and it was my turn to buy drinks.
“What’s for tonight?” Al said.
“Make it a rum and coke for me, and um, your finest imported malt liquor for the Mrs.” I said. Al winked. When I pulled out my wallet, he put out his hand and shook his head.
“Not tonight. Business is good.” he said. “How long are you two staying?” He said.
“Same old. No place to go here.” I said.
“Alright,” he said, “don’t you boys stay out too late though. Thinking ’bout you boys’ mothers if anything.” He said
“Yessir,” I said.
When I brought our drinks to the table, Jared had already broken.
“C’mon man. Without me?” I said. He ignored me.
“I’m stripes,” he said. Then he chugged his beer.
The rest of the night went by playing pool and smoking. Then Al left and after a bit we did too. We decided to spend the rest of the night walking around. The roads were quiet and everyone was sleeping at home so me and Jared decided to go to the water tower at the other end of town.
Once we got there we picked up stones and threw them at the tower. The thing was pretty roughed up anyways with all the dents and graffiti.
Jared said, “You ever think about getting married?”
“Why the hell would I?” I said.
“I don’t know. ‘Cause you got to move on. Start a family. Get your shit together. Get our shit together man. I can’t stand the fact I can’t keep a girl for more than one night. I mean, doesn’t it bother you?” he said.
“I don’t know man. I like us here right now. I like Al and Lenny and Mo, but you see them. They look miserable even if they say they’re happy. You want that? You want some girl making all your decisions for you and screwing you like that?” I said, “That’s not the kind of life for me.”
“Doesn’t sound too bad,” he said.
“Then get yourself a girl already! Jesus. How hard should it even be?” I said.
He said nothing so we continued throwing rocks in silence.
The next day Jared didn’t come to the bar, so Al got to lock up this time. There’s no reason for me to stay so late by myself. The day after, Jared ditched me again. Said he’s with some girl and that she’s one of the good ones.
“Maybe you’ll be my best man,” he said. I just nodded.
I went back to the bar the next week but there was still no sign of Jared. So I pulled out my cigarettes and ordered a rum and coke and played pool.