a clown, a philosopher, a vapor with teeth. He was a stuntman who asked you to perform the stunt first. He was fabric made from sticks and gossamer. He could make a person think hard, drink hard, and laugh hard. He could change the color of things. A chameleon? That’s too simple. He never blended in with anything. He was plaid on a white background. And me, I was the white background.
His old man brought him into Pete’s one Saturday. Yeah, Pete’s was turning into a goddamn daycare center by the time I turned fifteen. Lots of single parent families. I guess wives got bored living on Anglin Street real fast. No money, front yards the size of burial plots, busted toys spilling onto the sidewalk. Men who worked twelve-hour shifts, ate their suppers standing up, and drank down the telephone bill money. And not just beer, but the stuff that smelled like diesel and blew fumes around your head all night. Women shuffled off to bingo or Tupperware parties, or spent their nights looking for nickels under the couch cushions just so they could score another quart of milk. I’m getting away from things, aren’t I? I’m just saying that marriages weren’t doing so well on lower Anglin Street. The women weren’t treated so well, and they found excuses or boyfriends so they wouldn’t have to stick around. There were a lot of single fathers. Maybe not a lot, but enough for me to notice. There was Randy Christmas who lived three doors down and looked a little like Joe Namath and smelled like wet oak; there was Phil Tremane who lived on the next block… he was bald but his beard was gray and bushy and braided, and he walked around with a steak knife in shirt pocket. And there was Cam Jordan, my dad’s best friend. He lived three blocks over, near the bus depot. Cam’s boy was Cal. We never really knew each other because Cal was two years older than me. He was like a rock star and I was another lowly roadie. But that one Saturday, we were stuck in Pete’s, and it was either ignore each another, or talk bullshit like our dads. And Cal wasn’t someone who took to being ignored. And so we talked….