Hey guys, here is a slightly-more-autobiographical-than-usual piece. Please rip it to shreds.
Summer I was fifteen. We were playing soccer behind St. Joseph's on that big cement pad with the streetlamp. They made into a basketball court later on, but that summer it was perfect for three-on-three, FIFA street style. Me and Corb and James, and Solomon the Jamaican, and then Petr who we invited so his twin sister Tess would come because it was summer and she wore tanktops. She was about as good as her brother, anyways, and she was scrappier.
So that was good until it got too dark to see the ball, and then we had to find something else to do. It was James who said that we should get drunk, said it like it wasn’t even a thing, probably because Solomon had dangled the ball between his legs and Tess had laughed at him. We were sitting on a cracked bench by the long-jump pit, and the idea just sort of swirled around our heads while we peeled our shoes off. Petr and Tess mumbled to each other in Czech, kind of smiling. Corb knew about drinking because he took beers from the back of his fridge after his dad lost count. He was down for it. Solomon looked nervous, because he was always paranoid about police and stuff, and that’s what James wanted, I think, for him to be nervous.
“Vote,” said James. Corb plucked some dry grass, put his hand up. James put his arm up real lazy and looked right at Tess. Solomon made his joke about no, man, can’t get deported, man. The twins looked at each other. Tess went up and Petr went down, like a lever.
“Yo, all on you,” said Corb, putting a piece of grass between his lips, trying to do that whistle thing. “All on you, Willy.”
Solomon gave me this look, and I felt kind of bad because I was the one who invited him, right, because foreign kids are usually good at soccer and he rode my schoolbus, and ducks imprint on whoever invites them to stuff first. He had wicked feet, but Corb was my best friend and James could grow stubble and I thought maybe Tess had smiled at me a few times when we were playing, so I put my hand up.
“William,” Solomon sighed, like he was a saint or something. Petr said something in Czech. James fistbumped me, and I was feeling like I could get into it, now, kind of excited. Maybe I would go to church tomorrow with a hangover, like a real sinner.
Petr threw his jeans over the front of his BMX and pumped off, because I guess he didn’t care if we thought he was a pussy, or maybe he knew we already did. He left their cellphone with Tess, who didn’t have pockets. She slipped it into her sock and everyone looked a little disappointed.
Then we walked up past St. Joseph’s, where the streetlamps were always flickering, and I picked all the little pebbles out of my shoe treads while Corb and James put their heads together, making big plans. It was summer and so it smelled like grass clippings and hot tar. Solomon’s black forehead was shiny, and I thought that was weird, that Jamaicans would be used to worse, but he didn’t seem to mind the sweat either.
Tess slipped up beside me. Petr was disappearing around the end of the block and she was scowling a little.
“Does he have homework or something?” I asked.
“I don’t think he studies,” she said.
She looked at me and kind of raised her eyebrows and I thought maybe she had caught me looking at her chest. “Our dad is an asshole,” she said, real casual. She moved the strap of her shirt and my eyes got stuck on her collarbone. I didn’t know what to say back.
Solomon had been wrestling his shoes into one of those little nylon sacks. Now he came up between us. “Can I use your phone, please? Tess.”
Tess fished it out of her sock and handed it over. Solomon put in the wrong area code, then the right one. Corb and James turned on the sidewalk.
“Fucking rights,” said James. “Okay.” He was looking the way he looks before he scores a game-winner, just really intense and I guess honest. “The liquor store by IGA is real close, and it’s fucking sketchy. So Corb thinks we’ll get someone to boot. Who’s got money?”
“I had a sandwich before I left,” said Solomon, cupping the phone up and away. “With the baloney. In the fridge. Yes. No. No, I told you.”
“Are we getting beers?” Tess asked.
Solomon’s eyes went big and then he dashed a little ways up the sidewalk, hand over the speaker. Tess grinned and I grinned a bit, too.
“Uh.” James looked over to Corb. “Don’t know.”
“No,” I said. “It’s too much to lug around, right? We would have to get rid of the cans.”
“Nice,” said Corb, tapping his temple. “Nice wavelength. Yo, let’s get a bottle. Easy to carry.”
“It wasn’t an actual match, mom,” said Solomon from up ahead. “Nobody brought shinguards. I’m sleeping at my friend’s house. His parents are home. Which friend?” He turned around and flashed his eyebrows at me and I nodded. “William. He’s Protestant.”
“Are you?” Tess asked.
“Think so,” I said. Solomon finally cut the phone call and brought it back, holding it like a snake. His face looked sweatier now.
“Cool,” he said, tightening the napsack. “Let’s get hammered.”
“Fucking rights,” James said, because he was saying that a lot. He looked really jacked for it. Corb looked all calm and professional. Tess was smirking, and with her hair sweaty she looked kind of sexy I thought. Solomon was black and he wasn’t a pussy. It was one of those moments you need a soundtrack for, but I still didn’t have cash to buy my brother’s iPod.
The IGA and the Liquor Barn parking lots were divided up by a wirefence, and it would look suspicious having all five of us hanging around the liquor front so we decided two of us would look for a boot and three of us would wait in the IGA.
James took the offering in his hat, throwing in some loonies and quarters to start us off. Solomon had a rumpled ten that was supposed to be for pizza. I had nothing, but Corb threw in a crisp twenty for the both of us without saying anything, which was one reason he was my best friend, and he could afford it anyways because his dad was divorcing again. Tess also had nothing, but James wouldn't mind that.
James stuffed it all into his hoodie and I volunteered to be the other guy, since I know he noticed I didn’t throw any money in. “Too sick,” he said, and we slapped hands. The huddle broke. Corb and Tess and Solomon wandered into IGA, already looking too sly, kind of grinning at nothing.
“That chick,” said James. “What do you think?”
For just a second I thought he meant Tess, but I looked where he was looking and saw this lady on coke, or crack, or whatever. Her tits were saggy and her skin was sunburned. She wasn’t wearing a lot, and I think she was the kind who didn’t wear a lot in cold weather, either. I kind of felt like pissing myself as we walked up. Like, I had stopped sweating from the soccer, but now I was again.
“Excuse me, ma’am.” James got polite like that with people’s moms and I guess anyone over thirty he wanted stuff from. I was glad he could do the talking.
“You want me to buy you smokes?” the lady asked, real dry. She had one between her fingers but it wasn’t lit. Her tongue seemed really long and it was going all over her teeth.
“Uh, some beverages,” James said, kind of grinning. He gave me a look, like to say how crazy this lady looked and how great it was we were actually fucking doing this.
“Sure, sure, sweetie.” The lady eyeballed us a bit. James had that stubble, like I said. “You give me a ride to Hammerhead’s after, I’ll do that for you boys. I’m meeting my friend there. Where’s your car?”
James picked the biggest pick-up in the lot, but this lady was out of it and she didn’t even look suspicious. He gave her the money and then we went to the corner, where there was a convenience store and a laundromat, and we waited there.
“I told her to get a forty of rum,” James said. “Girls like rum, and Solomon’s from Jamaica.”
“I’ve never had it,” I said.
“You’ve had a beer, though, yeah?”
“Dunno. Maybe tried one once.”
“I haven’t,” James said, looking kind of sheepish. “So you know we’re going to book it, right?”
“Fucking rights,” I said, and he laughed at that and I think finally forgave me for skying that penalty kick last season. I told him he should have picked the shitty blue car with the crooked bumper because it looked like something a highschooler would drive.
“Yeah,” he said, but he was still looking at the big truck. The liquor store door opened and the lady came out, pulling at her shorts with one hand and sloshing a bottle around in the other, all wrapped in a brown paper bag.
“Let’s go,” James said. We started walking towards her. I wondered if the guy behind the counter in the store could see through the bars on the window.
“Import rum,” the lady said, way too loud. I stuffed it into my bag as quick as I could. It was heavier than I thought it would be for some reason, and that made it seem
even more valuable. She didn’t have any change for us, but I was kind of counting on that.
James waited till I zipped it up before he took off. He was a striker and he could also beat kids who were really into track and field shit, so he outdid me pretty good and the cigarette lady didn’t have a chance. He was all blur and the bottle was thunking hard in the small of my back, and the lady was sort of laughing but also calling us fuckers. Corb and Solomon and Tess were waiting on the other side of the fence.
James went up it like a monkey, real careful not to can himself on the top, and I heaved the backpack over after him. Solomon snagged it and James swore but I’m pretty sure it was cushioned enough that the bottle wouldn’t have broken anyways. Then I scrambled over the top and down and we all hustled.
It felt like my stomach was all the way in my mouth, but it felt good. The lady was still swearing and we booked it across the IGA parking lot to the crosswalk, and then jaywalked and almost got hit since we were on this roll with breaking the law, and then jogged probably half the block down towards St. Joseph’s again, just laughing and laughing.