Saturday, July 4, 2009

Just Call Him Mr. Dime Nipples

Last night at eleven, when I was driving home from the first round of weekend fireworks, my friend Josh called me. When I picked up, I could hear a bad band playing in the background and an awful lot of shrieking.

“JESSICA!” he shouted. “I’m at the beer tent! You need to come to the beer tent!”

In our hometown, the weekend surrounding or close to the fourth of July is dominated by the firemen’s carnival—in its 60th year now—which is all about the Italian sausage, the strawberry shortcake, and the beer tent. There are rides set up on the baseball field of course, but that’s not really what the majority of the town cares about. After the kids go to bed or get shuttled off to the babysitter’s, the adults and the underagers who are using someone older to score beers for them gather under one of the picnic shelters to drink cheap, watery beer and fling themselves around the dance floor.

“My mom is here!” Josh said. “She is drunk and she is dancing!”

Josh’s mother is like no one else’s mother. I love my mom, and I enjoy having some drinks with her, but there isn’t any bone in my body that has the desire to see my mom guzzle a ton of beer and then run around hugging me and all my friends, dance suggestively with her man, grind up and down in the middle of the dance floor for everyone to see. But Josh wants that, and for good reason: his mother is hilarious when she’s had a few, and that pleases Josh who values, above all else, a person’s ability to let loose and make an ass of herself. It is surprisingly easy to make an ass of yourself when you are with Josh.

“Who else is there?” I asked.

“Kristen,” Josh said. “And John. Jooooohn.”

I have always tortured Josh about his friend John. He is artsy and cute. He is a boy who is getting his MFA and looks like approximately like Adam Levine. One of my favorite pastimes is informing Josh of the extent to which I wouldn’t mind making out with John.

“Oooh,” I said. “John.”

“Are you coming?” Josh asked. “I can’t hear you! Are you coming?”

“Sure,” I said. “I’m coming.”

And I did. I pulled into the park at midnight, which meant the beer tent would be open for approximately another hour. I parked my car on the muddy lawn behind the picnic shelter where the band was playing.

I walked around slowly, staying at the edge of the crowd, searching for Josh or his friends. I saw chubby girls jiggling across the width of the shelter. I saw teenagers with hair dyed black-black-black wearing purple eyeliner making sour faces as they searched for someone to buy them beer. I saw mothers still sporting the same unfortunate hairdos they had when they were in high school: big bangs and curls that had been attacked with a pick until they frizzed.

Men hung near the corners of the shelter, holding beer and cigarettes, and they watched the floor, assessing the selection of women available for hitting on.

Volunteer firemen were manning the pizza stand, the sausage stand, the beer stand. I recognized men who used to work with my father when he was a volunteer, and I wondered if they would know who I was by looking at me.

I couldn’t find Josh. I called him. “I’m here,” I said. “Come get me. Where are you?”

“Where are YOU?” he shouted. “Wait. Wait. I see you! You’re walking toward me!”

And suddenly I heard Josh’s voice, and it wasn’t on the phone. He was running at me, full speed. He was wearing a patriotic ensemble: a red-white-and blue t-shirt and a slick Pabst Blue Ribbon hat that was cocked crookedly across his forehead.

He snatched me up off the ground and hugged me like it was the first time he’d seen me since I’d been home, like he hadn’t just seen me the night before, when he’d had mojitos with us and then insisted that I ride on the back of his bike from one bar to the other, which, if I hadn’t already had four drinks, I would have recognized was a horrible idea. I’d clutched at Josh and screamed, “I DO NOT KNOW WHERE TO PUT MY LEGS! JOSHUA! WHERE DO I PUT MY LEGS?!”

But at the beer tent, that was all a distant memory.

Josh set me down and we made our way back to his friends, who were sitting at a picnic bench that was drenched from the earlier rain shower.

“Do you want a beer?” Josh asked. He was drunk and loud. “DO YOU?”

“You can have this one,” John said. He flicked a half-empty cup sitting in the middle of the table.

“Yeah?” I said. “What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s only spiked with a roofie,” John said. “No big deal.”

“I have a ticket,” Josh said, and he shoved it in my face. It was pink and said BEER!

“Will you go get it for me?” I asked. I gave him my best smile.

“Oh, okay,” he said, and he disappeared.

When he came back, he set the beer down and collapsed on the bench next to me. “Kristen,” he said. “I want to see your cats. I want to make love to Chumba.”

Josh and Kristen, who live together in the city, often have her cats living with them, too, and Josh loves this more than anything. He is crazy for cats—especially Kristen’s cats. He likes to balance them on top of doors to see how they will handle the new heights.

“I love the cats,” Josh said. “Hey. I saw Wagner in there. He’s such a fucking pussy.” He poked me in the side. “My mom is here, Jess. Are you going to write about this night sometime? You are, aren’t you? My mom is drunk.”

And not long after that, his mother made an appearance. She came up behind Josh and caught him in a hug.

“Hi, Val,” he said. “You’re drunk.”

She had with her a beer and her husband. You might remember them from one of the funniest conversations of my life (#3).

“Your uncle’s in there dancing on the table,” his mother said. “It’s great.”

“Mom,” Josh said, “do you remember Jess? This is Jess.” He put an arm around me. “Jess is the writer.”

“Josh!” his mother said. “Josh, you don’t have to introduce her by her profession. I know who she is. She’s a human being, not a profession.”

“You’re right,” Josh said, very seriously.

Now, Josh’s step-father was wiggling his hips to the beat of “Sweet Home Alabama.”

“I remember you,” he said. “You were at our house that one time.”

I’ve been at Josh’s house a lot, but usually no one else is home and we end up drinking wine and vodka at 3:00 in the afternoon and running around shooting leaves with BB guns.

“That’s me,” I said.

“You’re the writer,” the step-father said.

“Yes,” I said. “I am.”

"The writer!” Josh’s friend John said. He raised his beer and cigarette into the air.

“You’re very observant of all this,” the step-father said. He narrowed his eyes at me. He made the universal I’m-watching-you sign and gestured two fingers toward his eyes. “Me too. I’m like that too. I watch everything.”

Josh’s mother was hugging him and hugging Kristen and hugging John.

“You like to watch everything, take everything in,” Josh’s step-father said.

“I do,” I said.

“She’s going to write about this,” Josh said. “I know. I can tell.”

Josh’s step-father stepped to his right and began to hump the air around Kristen’s head.
Kristen closed her eyes and drank her beer. “Oh my God,” she said.

“Mom!” Josh said. “Mom, he is HUMPING KRISTEN!”

Josh’s mom was dancing to the music.

“Mom!” Josh tugged at the sleeve of her denim jacket. “Can you make him stop?”

“This is just like when I used to serve shots at the strip club,” Kristen said. Josh’s step-father held his beer carefully as he continued to pump his hips in the air.

“Are you going to come drink with us?” Josh’s mom asked. “We’re leaving.”

Josh shook his head. “We’re going to see the cats at Kristen’s.” He made a dreamy face and pretended to snuggle the air like it was a cat. “I love those cats,” he said.

“We’re leaving,” Josh’s mom said. Her husband stopped humping and brought his beer back to his lips.

“Okay,” Josh said. “Goodbye, Val!” He launched into her like a football player attempting a tackle, and he hugged her tight.

After they left to continue their drinking elsewhere, Kristen began taking pictures of the two boys. She conducted a pretty rigid photo sessions. “Turn your head an inch to the right. Okay. Hold it right there,” she would say. “Lift your eyes a little. Look up at the sky. Don’t breathe. Okay.” Then she would take the picture with the phone and turn it for us to see, and there was John or Josh encased in some frame that made it look like they were being swallowed by a shark or wearing a an old West sheriff’s hat.

The boys thought it was the funniest thing they’d ever seen. Josh laughed so hard he couldn’t breathe, and he wheezed and leaned against me until he caught his breath.

“Pose like you’re sucking dick!” Josh insisted of John. “Do a little dick sucking!”

“Wait,” John said. “Am I posing like I’m sucking or being sucked?”

“Sucking!” Josh said. He demonstrated.

“Oh,” John said. “Right.”

The results were funny, and Josh leapt off the picnic bench and bent over, laughing. He started talking nonsense.

“Vagina,” he said. “Dick sucker!” He spun around at the precise moment a short but scrappy man walked by. Josh opened his mouth to say something, and I started to pray that he would have some small shred of sanity available to realize speaking like that in this guy’s direction was going to be a bad idea. The guy, who looked like he was the type to haunt any of our small town bars, drinking whiskey and telling other guys what motherfuckers they were until one of them challenged him to fight, narrowed his eyes at Josh.

Josh turned abruptly around. “Jesus,” he said and sat back down.

It went on like that through a few more beers. Josh couldn’t stop talking about how much he loved Kristen’s cats—“You really like them,” John said. “Are you going to finger-bang them?”—and people they went to school with kept floating by.

Josh slung his arm around a tall, chubby girl. “I bit her in elementary school,” he told me. “I got sent to the principal.”

“Hiiiiii, Josh,” another girl said. She walked by an sent a sly, flirty look over her shoulder at him.

She was ignored.

Kristen gestured to Josh. “Josh has nipples the size of dimes,” she said. “Seriously. That’s at their biggest. DIMES.”

“Dime nipples!” John said.

“Show us your nipples, Josh,” Kristen said.

“No,” Josh said.

“Come on!” Kristen said.

Josh shrugged. “Okay.” He tugged his shirt up and showed off his nipples.

“See?” Kristen said, smug. “Dimes! Told you!”

It started to rain soon after, and we decided to go—but not before the boys snuck off to go to the bathroom behind the tents and food stands, not before John told me about the new playground just behind the carnival setup, not before we walked straight into the dark and examined the new playground equipment, not before we climbed the slippery rock wall, not before John insisted I stand in the middle of the rickety, swingy wooden bridge so he could bounce me like the boys would do to the girls when we were little.

After we were finished on the playground, we headed off to our cars, and on the way Josh and John got into a scuffle—they were trying to wrestle, see who was bigger, badder, stronger. They locked arms and tried to force each other to the ground. This happened in front of the shelter, where the band was packing up, where everyone else was finishing up their beer.

“Oh Jesus,” Kristen said.

There were cops loafing in the dark, standing underneath the now-closed pizza stand, and one of them stepped forward, not sure if Josh and John were serious with their sloppy brawl.
I thought it was fairly easy to see it wasn’t serious—there was an awful lot of giggling going on, after all—but the cop bent close to say something to them.

The boys popped up and started talking back to the cop.

“Oh Jesus,” Kristen repeated. “I think we better go get them before they say something stupid.”
“Hi!” Josh said brightly as we approached.

“Good evening, ladies,” the cop said.

“Hello,” we said.

“Are you here to claim these guys?” he asked.

We nodded.

“You sure you want to?” the cop asked.

“Mostly,” I said.

“They need to go home.”

Josh was singing lyrics under his breath. He giggled.

“Absolutely,” I said.

“Have a good night then,” the cop said. “GOOD NIGHT!” Josh shouted, and then I took him back to my car, and he waited patiently while I made my way through the mud to unlock the doors.

“You’re going to write about this?” he asked. “Aren’t you? I love when you write about stuff like this. I love YOU. Hey! I’m going to get to see the cats!”

No comments: