Baldie On The Barbie
This is a dream. Until it’s not a dream. Who can tell…
The pizza and Chinese delivery guys(aka num and nuts) piloted our SUV through Staten Island to the Memorial Day BBQ. I held hands with lady friend(LF) in the back seat. She chatted ceaselessly with num and nuts, which sounded like I was in an aviary. I stared out through the tinted window and thought about eating potato chips and slurping down cold beer. I also thought about other crap, too. I was in the back seat on purpose, because the pizza delivery guy was driving. You know we all had our seat belts on, wearing them like we were prepared for a moon launch. Or at least, I did.
We passed house after house plastered with vinyl siding, then a strip mall, followed by more vinyl homes until we came upon our destination. It was a townhouse community off Arden Avenue. Someone in the pizza delivery guy’s family owns a place there, and it was their BBQ party. Also, my friends Rockhead and Frankie “funerals” were invited. Don’t ask me to explain the connections, I’m not sure of them and don’t care.
We pulled into a two-way street, which funneled between the outside world and the townhouse community. We circled through, looking out the windows like dogs. Vehicles lined a maze of dead end streets and driveways of slender row homes. The homes all had postage-stamp-sized backyards. There wasn’t a single parking space, yet just as we were leaving to find a spot outside, a car miraculously zipped off. We pulled in and had about an inch of space for our vehicle to fit between two driveways. After we exited, I let my friends walk ahead. I had a shopping bag of goodies in one hand and a 30-pack of beer in the other. For a half-second, I waited to see if some SI troglodyte would come outside to claim our spot on the City street as if it was their gift from God. I admired our mint, white Ford Explorer, and then walked off, getting into BBQ mode.
The four of us had loads of mofo stuff; tins with slaw, spud salad, grilled veggies, beer, and the green shit. We eat healthy, I don’t deny it. We didn’t always, and I’m pretty much ok with the whacked out crap we eat. LF is no longer an enthusiastically big girl(Is that pc? In the past I’ve called her a fat sl-b, but only because I was one, too. Furthermore, I love her just as much now as I did then. I know I got it good). The pizza delivery guy also shed some lbs., but only because anything LF does, him and the Chinese delivery guy must mimic.
We came upon the townhome where the party was and heard music from around the back and smelled grilling meat. LF went inside first, followed by num and nuts who of course didn’t wait for muah. The storm door whooshed shut and nearly took off my nose. I exhaled sharply and put down the shopping bag, then yanked open the storm door. Yet the inside door suctioned shut. It was locked. I rang the bell and knocked, tapping my foot to the lively music.
It was barely four in the afternoon and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I took a deep whiff of BBQ smoke. An odd sweetness filled my nostrils. I thought it was the scents of lilac and vanilla. LF would know for certain. During the Civil War, lilac and vanilla were two of the scents used to hide the stench of death from the battlefields. I imagined some otherworldly presence was near. It was either that or someone was running a clothes dryer, using similar smelling fabric softener.
I eyed the neighboring townhome on the corner of the row of many connected homes. I didn’t want to go through his backyard to get someone to open the door. I texted LF. I was mad she didn’t notice I was missing.
For a long moment, on such a bright sunny day, I focused on nothing but the door. I heard muttering in the wind. It was the typical cadence of a lost soul. I set down the 30 pack and ripped a cold one free of the paper packaging. I cracked it open and took a swig, still staring at the door. Nothing was going to break my resolve to enjoy the day with friends. I thought about the grilled Greek salad LF had made. Netherworld be damned; I wanted to have BBQ fun.
Someone jounced behind the door, then a child opened it with a joyous smile. I entered with the shopping bag and 30 pack.
In the backyard, I found about twenty people jammed around a blow-up pool, most seated on mismatched plastic chairs and two redwood benches. Three ladies with fruity drinks enjoyed the best seat in the house on a covered swing.
My bud Rockhead was sitting off in the corner, smoking a cigar. At 6’2″, he’s as tall as me, though much closer to 300lbs than I’ve been of late. Upon seeing me, he reached into a cooler for an ale he had promised was icy cold and waiting for me. “Hey meathead,” he said, popping the cap off and then held it up.
I snatched the cold brown bottle and took a sip. I was a little shocked by its vanilla taste, along with the sharp alcohol bite. I read the label. “Kentucky Barrel Bourbon Ale. 8.2% proof.” I took another sip and gazed over the row of backyards. The smell of vanilla and lilac was even stronger. Then I eyed the BBQ, where a stocky Italian looking fella grilled sausages. “It’s wild boar,” Rockhead said. “You should try it.”
Hours passed and the night was falling and I was knee-deep in BBQ humor. Perhaps it was one too many Kentucky Barrel Bourbon Ales, because as I watched a lone person bob in and out of sight in a neighboring yard, it struck me as so odd that I thought I was half-dreaming. Adding to the surreal nature was a fine cloud of smoke that seemingly had no apparent source, though the smell of burning wood hung in the air.
A short time later, a light flashed and then flickered across the backs of the townhomes. I had to step up the stairs to the house to see where it was coming from. In a yard a little past the one with the bobbing man, two men stood around an open fire. They wore black coats and stove pipe hats. On a spit one of the men cranked what looked to be a massive shank of meat.
I went and sat back down. Across the blow up pool, I spotted num and nuts, both of whom I like to avoid as a general rule. They were standing, eyeing the men in top hats. One of them chirped at me, yet I turned away. I didn’t have the patience to be lectured by either num or nuts, especially in a bird language understood only by LF and native Indians.
To my further dismay, who should I see coming through the double glass doors and stepping down into the backyard, but Benny, “the cigar store Indian.” Where the light touched his bronze, it appeared to be serpent green.
I was baffled to see Benny hug a few of the ladies. How could he know them? He was a crazy old homeless man from Manhattan. Of course, LF greeted him like he was the Dalai Lama.
Everyone loves Benny, and I’m not supposed to say a cross word about him. Yet he loves to turn my life upside down.
A fire began to burn behind my eyes, and the heat of my anger surfaced on my skin. I was soon drenched in sweat. It was like I was on the grill.
Benny wasted no time in making his way around the crowd. He pulled up a plastic chair and sat next to me. I made no effort to hide my disdain for his presence. And he wasted no time in making my life hell; he dropped a tied up leather cloth in my lap. I knew what it was, yet squeezed it out of anger. It was hard, long, and thin. I didn’t have to unwrap it. It was a spike for killing.
I held the handle through the leather. Don’t hate me, but for a moment I though about plunging it in Benny’s forehead. You know how I like to be honest with you. So that’s what I thought. Sorry.
“What the f–k do you want me to do with this?” I asked and opened the plastic cooler, grabbing a Coors Light from the ice bath. I offered one up to Benny, and he took it. I then retrieved one for myself.
“We have a problem,” Benny said.
I cracked open the can of beer and sucked it down nearly in one sip. I didn’t respond to Benny, he was lucky I gave him the beer.
“I’ve been seeing this one nasty old demon,” he said. “From a block away I can smell the stench of death on him.”
I looked blankly ahead, opening another icy Coors Light.
“I don’t know who or what he’s killing, but it’s fresh blood on his skin.”
“I don’t want to be involved,” I said.
Benny laughed and I ran my hand inside the leather cloth, along the spike.
“That decision was made, either by you or someone else, a few hundred years ago,” Benny said, meaning in one of my past lives I screwed up in some way.
“Yea, well, good luck ’cause I’m not helping you.”
“I have a boat waiting on the Kill Van Kull.”
“The demon is an old friend of yours.”
“The demon is Jack Jefferies.”