Pinball Wizards

We all had it in the back of our heads that this wasn’t all that good for us, but we also knew that if we didn’t do this here and now, we’d wake up one day thirty some odd years down the road and see a void where there should have been late-adolescent excitement. So we rolled around on carpets soaked in dried cat piss and we went balls to the walls creating musk-stained memories of chock-full of debauchery, drugs, and pinball.

All of us were fairly young back then. Chuck and Zoe had been dating for about three years. Chuck’s ma had died back when he was in the 7th grade. Aneurysm. She was young, in waspy farm town years. That left Chuck and his little brother with their pop in that house. The old man was pushing 60 at the time, which would make him damn near 75 when Chuck was in his early 20s. So without his mom, Chuck and Zoe, or the Zuck as the pair was known to us, got real tight. She kind of patched up a part of that loss for him. Zoe brought this bit of her to him that made it a little better, or at least I always liked to think that’s the way it worked. They were sort of like the voices of reason of the bunch. I never saw them fighting, they would celebrate holidays like Christmas and Valentines with these little dinners they’d make for each other, always finished off with pot brownies and bottles of wine. They rode this thin line between playing house and growing up, never committing to either.

Those days I felt better spending my nights and weekends playing houseguest at Chuckie’s. I was a couple years above this crowd, but I hadn’t quite made it out of town. Well, I had, but I hadn’t quite landed on my feet, you know? I had landed with this group of kids who were more or less all seniors in the same high school I’d graduated from. I remember this one night on Cinco de Mayo drinking tequila with these the brothers . Their father had worked at the turkey farm most all their lives and they lived about a five minute walk down the road dirt road we were raging on. It was cool because they were the only Mexicans in town and we had them there to chase tequila shots with lime wedge bites on Cinco de Mayo. Amid the saluds Zoe snagged the bottle to mix up some strawberry margaritas.

She was always playing the mother. We were always the disobedient rug rats. When I started there it was weekends filled with beer and whatever type of hard liquor we could grub up for the night, usually vodka, sometimes whiskey – always bottom shelf. We would drink for hours, smoking our hand-rolled cigarettes in every corner of every room of the house. The bath room had a toilet, shower, sink, mirror, and a washer and dryer, which explained the constant littering of dirty clothing strewn on the floor. The room was both for laundry and defecation, the floor a hamper. It also had what all the rooms in the house had – an ashtray. Amend that. It had an overflowing ashtray.

There were always people coming and going from Chuck’s house. He was always getting calls that lasted somewhere between 10-15 seconds and always ended with his somewhat forced voice growling for whoever was on the other end to come by the house. I’d heard that phrase many a time from the speaker on my phone, at least once a week but normally more than that. He was my guy, but he sold shitty midgrade greens where he’d have to account for the weight of the thick stems and the fact that there were more seeds in his eighths than there were in three pre-genetically altered watermelons. I worked fulltime at a grocery store and lived with my mother. I spent most of my paychecks on bud and McDonalds.

It was the life I lived. There was something cold within me, something that would make my whole body tremble and shiver unless I tried to keep it at bay. What happened over at Chuckie’s, that was my blanket.


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