I got in the van and was handed a Budweiser tallboy in a can, courtesy of John, swiveling around in the passenger chair. The barrage began. We talked about cars - one of the few safe reference points - until Cliff started in on my brother, telling me how Rich and his girlfriend recently shafted him out of $300. While Cliff spoke John would jump in and ask me questions. There was an ebb and flow to the way they’d each address me, then one another, then me again - and so on. It was obvious these guys spent alot of time around each other.
We talked a great deal about fuel-injection versus carbureation and John kept getting stuck on the phrase “throttle body”. Cliff also tossed around “center port” and “multi-port” and there was much talk of sensors and Chevron fuel-injector (and carb) cleaner and the merits of Pennzoil and why state-run inspection stations are a scam and how to pass the emissions portion of an inspection. It was heady stuff.
I produced a decent-sized roach and we passed that around with the beer. Cliff's been in and out of rehab and has a few DUI's so I was surprised to see him drinking. Eventually we tumbled out of the van and headed to the garage where Cliff showed me a model boat he was fixing up for my nephew. We left the garage door halfway up and opened more beers. Then Cliff grabbed his BB gun and before long we were plinking at empty beer cans set up in the corners of the garage.
At some point I was offered coke and - not wanting to be an ungracious guest - I accepted. I was pretty congested and don’t think I got any up my nose. It looked more like meth to me. The BB gun shooting went on until 2 AM and then John went home. I was concerned for him, seeing as how he had been drinking beer and smoking pot and snorting coke and had mentioned his DUI's. But he got in his car and drove home and I’m almost positive he made it.
Cliff and I went into the house and I hit the couch in the den, ready for some decent sleep. Cliff wanted to talk and sat on a chair at the end of the couch rambling on about my sister and how she tried to throw him out and he told her “Fuck you - you leave”. We talked about my mother and father and their divorce and Cliff showed great sympathy for my old man, saying he must’ve had a pretty good reason to give up everything he’d worked for to divorce my mother. Then he went back to talking trash about my sister and I felt between a rock and hard place. I finally told him I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer (which was true) and had to go to sleep. That worked.
I was lying there with an afghan pulled up around me, eyes shut tight, when Cliff came back in and thrust $40 at me. “What’s this for?”
"You're always so nice to my kids. You're their favorite uncle..." Not wanting to insult him, I took the money. Cliff stumbled upstairs and I went to sleep.