Archive for December, 2010

Suck it, monkeys

If you’re on Facebook and friends with my wife, you might know that she recently posted on her wall for the first time in probably a year. “Suck it, Monkeys,” she wrote. “I’m going corporate.”

As you might imagine, there’s been concern and confusion about the meaning of this message. Did Sally change jobs, people have asked? Did she scream and go streaking through the neighborhood again, others have wondered? Did she intend to quote a sitcom or did it actually quote her, still others have pondered?

The answer to these questions is no. What happened is Saturday night, after returning from a fancy party with an open bar, Sally wrote the monkey note and then informed me that she’d done so.

I, the sober and responsible and boring one, reminded her that her nieces and coworkers and maybe even former students would read her update. I told her that most of them wouldn’t get the joke.

Sally’s response? “They can suck it, too.”

Then she closed her laptop, told me she was going to bed, kissed me on the forehead, and ambled towards the stairs.

“Good night, hun,” she said softly.

“Sweet dreams, wife,” I replied, forgetting all about sucking and monkeys and Facebook.


Where the laughter is loudest

I realized at the Pumpkin Carving Party, the second to last time I would see Ryan, that I could pinpoint his location. In the kitchen or the garage or outside, I’d hear a booming voice and people laughing and I’d know Ryan was there, being smart and funny and sometimes crude. Wherever he moved, the party became louder, rowdier, drunker, more fun. He was the heart of the party.

Ryan left the Pumpkin Carving Party early that evening. Without saying good-bye to anyone, he slipped out the door and into the night. He’d do that sometimes. Just leave.

I wonder if that’s what happened Saturday night. I wonder if he stumbled away from the bar without a word before he climbed in his Chevy Silverado and drove too fast and lost control and smashed into a pole and died.

I’ll probably never know.

Ryan’s death doesn’t feel real yet. Part of me still expects to find Ryan sitting at a bar, talking about selling meat door-to-door and offering pointers on the best places to play ping-pong and hatching plans to make a pilgrimage to the Texas Motor Speedway. “Bro,” I can hear him saying. “Bro. We have to go.”

I never figured out exactly what Ryan did. When I met him, he was working at Gold’s Gym, which seemed an odd career choice for the overweight man wearing a ratty tee shirt, slouching in a camping chair, and drinking liquor from a flask.

Gold’s Gym didn’t stick, and every time I ran into him, three or four times a year, he’d be on to something interesting and new. One time it was repairing roofs. The next, I think, he was running a construction company. Towards the end, it was an Airstream polishing business he’d started.

Acting was still another. A couple of years ago, I watched Idiocracy, and suddenly there was Ryan talking on my TV. I’d known him for probably a year at that point, and I had no idea that he’d played Clevon.

In the movie, Clevon impregnates the trailer park and impales his crotch attempting to jump a jet ski from a lake into a swimming pool and pretty much causes the dumbing down of humanity. It was the perfect part for the heart of the party.

The last time I saw Ryan was just before Halloween on a frosty night at Jester King Brewery’s open house. He’d arrived with BJ and the two of them were joking around and sometimes picking at one another. It struck me that they were as close as brothers.

As the evening drifted along, BJ discussed beer with a brewer, and Ryan and I stood around a bonfire. We talked dive bars and what to look for in a used golf cart and how to cook live crawfish. We talked about boats, too. Ryan had been researching them, and he said he’d be buying a boat this summer. I promised I’d get him a pass so he could use our neighborhood ramp.

“I’m serious, Bro,” he said in the parking lot as we called it a night. “This summer. I get the boat, you get beer, and it’s on. It’s fucking on.”

Those would be the last words I’d hear him speak. It’s fucking on.

My head has been cloudy the past few days. The sky seems duller somehow and words keep blurring on the screen and I can’t remember what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s like there’s a film over everything. And I can’t kick the sensation that I’ve forgotten something, that I’m missing something important.

I’m okay, though. I’m getting on with things.

Getting on won’t be so smooth for Ryan’s close friends—for BJ and Claudia and Raymond and Dave—or for his family. I wish I knew what to say to them. I wish I could lie and tell them that Ryan is actually fine, that he just slipped out the side door like he did at the Pumpkin Carving Party. He’ll be back next weekend, I want to tell them. Just listen for where the laughter is loudest, and you’ll know exactly where he is.

But I can’t. So I say I’m sorry. Only that. Only those gutted words. I say I’m very, very sorry.

And then I slink silently away myself. To my house. To my sleeping family. To this hard, hazy life I hold on to tighter than ever.

The cat we feed

You might remember Snurp, our cat who we called dumber than a donut on this very blog. Snurp is still with us. And he still hasn’t gotten any smarter.

Of late, Snurp has become wary of strangers. When other people visit the house, he either hides outside or howls at the top of the stairs.

“What is that?” a neighbor asked one afternoon standing in the living room.

“It’s our cat,” Sally replied, making quotes with her fingers when she said cat.

To be fair, Snurp has improved some. For instance, he rarely does his business in the dining room. He’s also tolerant of Slade, who spots Snurp, booms, “Hi, itty cah,” and pats (read: pounds) or hugs (read: tackles) Snurp almost every day.

Gentle, we remind Slade.

“Geeee,” Slade babbles, sometimes smiling like he gets it. Then he tackles the cat again.

And Snurp? The cat takes it. In fact, Snurp never acts irked by the indelicate toddler yelling and yanking on him, which is impressive, actually, even if it does reaffirm our belief that the cat is brain damaged.

Snurp used to bite people, but he’s grown out of that.

Okay, not really. Not completely.

He still attacks Sally, and only Sally, for reasons we can’t figure out. She’ll be lounging on the couch or walking down the driveway or sitting on the toilet, and Snurp will pounce and chomp. Snurp’s favorite time to attack is when Sally is dead asleep. I’ll hear Sally swear in our dark room, and Snurp will bound off the bed, and I’ll look at the clock, and it will show 2:15 or 3:37 or 5:15.

“Snurp?” I’ll ask, even though I know.

“The jerk bit my toe.”

A couple of weeks ago, lying in bed after downing four pumpkin martinis at Apache Shores movie night, Sally retaliated.

“Hurts, doesn’t it?” she snapped after she bit the cat’s tail.

“Okay, I think someone had one pumpkin martini too many,” I said, acting like a grown up or maybe an asshole. And then I had to ask: “What exactly does Snurp taste like anyway?”

“Like terrible cat,” she said.

You’d think we’d learn by now. You’d think we’d leave Snurp outside at night to tangle with the coyotes or that we’d at least shut him out of the bedroom. But we haven’t. And we won’t. The truth is Snurp is part of our pride, and we want him to be around, even if he is half feral and chuckleheaded and insane.