Thursday, April 16, 2009
Okay boys, back off and spread out!
By Richard E. Noble
A Summer with Charlie is a rather short book. It is actually a long short story. While writing it I tried to keep the focus of the book on Charlie and his life situation and not get lost recording the various antics of the infamous Howard Ass - as Ray Dolan had dubbed the old corner gang. Consequently there was more left out of the book about that fateful summer than actually went into the book. Here’s one that didn’t make the cut.
After a rather ruckus weekend at Old Town Way and everybody had disappeared back to the city and the real world of 9 to 5, Charlie and I were left to clean up the disaster. Charlie relished this duty. I don’t know why. But he would scurry around in his pork pie hat and bathing suit with broom or mop in hand whistling and humming all morning. I suppose if I didn’t have such a terrible hangover every Monday morning, I would have found this comforting rather than annoying.
The first thing that we discovered was that somebody had broken the commode in our unique back porch toilet.
The bathroom sat on the back porch of our cottage. Hang a right after exiting the kitchen, take about fifteen paces and there was a door. The average homeowner would probably conclude that the door to this shelter hid a utility room or a storage closet, but it contained the toilet and a bathroom sink.
Being rather unhandy, I was under the impression that commodes were another of those mysteries provided by God in his infinite goodness – a divine intervention of sorts. Commodes always were and always would be, thank-you God, amen.
That is not the case. Commodes are manmade. Right there in this little hardware store in the town of Salisbury sat a variety of commodes for sale.
We installed the new commode and put the old one on the back porch a few paces from the kitchen door. We would take it to the dump with all the empty beer, wine and hard liquor bottles the Monday following this weekend’s fiasco.
For this weekend’s agenda we had a new idea – we would concoct a “punch” for the girls. Girls dig punch and we figured that it would add an air of class to the joint. Besides, everybody was drinking up all the Seagram’s 7, Smirnoff Vodka, Bacardi Rum, Beefeater Gin and our prized Kruger beer in the little ugly Kruger bottles.
The more we thought about this punch the more involved it got. We wanted to put a large amount of hard liquor in our punch, of course. Girls need a good shot or two before they can loosen up. But girls are also very cautious. They don’t want to get too loose -which means that the potency of the punch has to be disguised in some way or other. Then there was the expense. We always had lots of company and strangers can suck up a good quantity of free punch.
We bought several quart bottles of booze that came under the Shamrock logo. Shamrock? It was about a quarter the price of any booze that was for real. It was horrible, but we had a plan.
We bought one quart of Shamrock scotch, one quart of Shamrock gin, one quart of Shamrock rum, one quart of Shamrock vodka, and one quart of Shamrock Irish whisky. But now we needed something to make all this booze taste like Kool-aide. We bought two gallons of sweet Cucamonga wine, several large cans of fruit cocktail and various other fruits, a few cans of Dole pineapple rings to float on the top, and six large cans of Hawaiian Punch. I suppose in today’s world this could be construed to be the original date rape drug.
We went to a used kitchen supply store and got a bunch of “punch glasses” for about two cents each. They weren’t very dainty. They were all different colors and had nice handles on them but they probably held a full cup of liquid each. We thought one cup per dip of punch was just about right.
We couldn’t find the right sized punch bowl though. Then somebody suggested that we use the kitchen sink. It was a good sized, old-fashioned, deep, dishwashing sized sink. What a great idea!
Shortly before things got rolling that Saturday night we prepared the sink for the punch. A few of the guys used the sink that morning to shave. Consequently there were a ton of little hairs sticking to the white porcelain bowl. We had nine guys and only one bathroom - some facial hair in the kitchen sink was to be expected. We cleaned it – a little. We bought new sink stoppers and made sure that the sink did not leak. We didn’t want all our efforts washing down the drain.
We dumped all the booze into the kitchen sink punch bowl and then gradually added Cucamonga wine, canned fruit and Hawaiian Punch until the taste of the Shamrock liquor was undetectable. That took all the Hawaiian Punch, all the Cucamonga wine, and all the canned fruit. The canned fruit and the floating pineapple rings did add a very nice touch.
When the girls started wandering in, it was mandatory that they be escorted by one of the house “chaperones” over to the sink for a try at the punch. [We thought of ourselves more as guardian angels than as chaperones.] All the girls loved the punch. It was so sweet and “yummy.”
“Is there much liquor in here?” she would ask, naively.
“Noooo, it is mostly fruit and Hawaiian Punch,” one of us cottage angels would advise.
Well, I am gonna tell you, the girls loosened up pretty quick after a couple of “tiny” cups of that hobo style Hawaiian Punch.
The first cup would only be a quarter full for most girls. But after awhile they wound be stumbling over one another to that sink laughing, giggling and slopping up those cups to the brim. By the fourth or fifth cup of Hobo Punch the girls were bobbing for fruit cocktail cherries and getting pineapple rings caught on their noses.
Actually we had over done it. A few hours at our punch bowl and most of the girls weren’t good for anything – even a little idle conversation was difficult.
For example, me and Charlie were cooling off out on the back porch having a cigarette. The interior of the cottage was jammed. A girl suddenly came tumbling out the kitchen door. She looked like she could have been a very nice girl before she found the Hobo Punch. She was quite pretty – in a drunken, disheveled sort of way. She had long brown hair and was wearing a pair of tight, butt-hugging jeans. She wobbled there for a minute doing her best to stand erect and remain in one place.
“Rough sea tonight, huh sailor?” Charlie commented with a bemused grin.
“F’in right it is,” she slurred. “And if I don’t pee pretty quick there’s going to be an ocean of trouble right here in river city.” At that moment she glanced to her right and saw the old commode sitting on the porch. “God,” she exclaimed. “This is a classy joint! But what the hell! When in Rome as they f’in say. Okay boys, back off and spread out!”
She stepped up - or backed up - to the commode, unbuttoned her pants, pulled down her draws, sat on the commode and peed with a big sigh of relief. When she finished she looked around desperately. Then beamed up at Charlie and me and said. “Fellas, I can take an f’in joke but where the hell is the toilet paper?”
We both looked at her and pointed. “It’s in the bathroom just behind that door,” we chimed.
She took a gander down to her right towards the bathroom door, then shook her head and mumbled in frustration. “You have got to be shi----g me!”
“Honey please, you are talking to the clean up crew,” Charlie said crushing his Lucky Strike on the deck. “A little pee on the back porch is acceptable but any more than that and you’re cleaning it up yourself, matey.”
Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published five books. Two of them have Lawrence as their setting, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. A Little Something is a book of poetry partly inspired by life in Lawrence. Hobo-ing America, is a workingman’s tour of the U.S.A. The Eastpointer is selected pieces from his award winning column about life in a sleepy fishing village in the Florida Panhandle.