He always took the train home right before the holidays. Same jacked-up ass-rape fares but less people. The train was nice because he could think and drink; more of the second but enough of the first. When he got to his hometown he did his family time. Then he caught up with old friends, and avoided neighborhood fixtures like Chuckie the Elvis man, who did Elvis impersonations at the CVS pharmacy during the holidays, evoking a combination of sympathy and alarm from customers as they searched for Ace bandages.
This trip, he and his friends decided that they were going to call each other by their porno names: the name of your first pet combined by the name of the street you grew up on. That would make him Midnight P. His old running buddy Zsa-Zsa Mt. Pleasant met him at the train station with a big hug and a bag of drugs.
Zsa-Zsa lived in L.A. and attributed his present svelte-ness to the Master Cleanse diet: Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s simple; lemon juice, cayenne pepper, maple syrup and waterÃ¢â‚¬Â¦no food,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Zsa-Zsa before doing a fat line off an old betting chit while they waited at a red light. Ã¢â‚¬Å“You got that Viagra, right?Ã¢â‚¬Â Zsa-Zsa needed it in case he hooked up and had to achieve wood, one of the many downsides of his cocaine addiction.
P and his wife had had many arguments over his friendship with the drug-abusing, misogynist, racist, self-destructive compulsive gambler. She said he was Ã¢â‚¬Å“toxicÃ¢â‚¬Â and the name Ã¢â‚¬Å“SatanÃ¢â‚¬Â actually came up more than a few times, but now she just left it alone. What it boiled down to was that both P and Zsa-Zsa were stand-up comics and that was that. As different as they were, they spoke the common language of funny like a couple of wild haired mad scientists huddled over some Bunsen burners.
The lawn of PÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s parentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s house was covered with a bunch of old chairs that his mom had dragged home in her dementia-hoarding stage, and that the old man hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t had the heart to remove. Zsa-Zsa immediately fired up a joint, pointing out that he liked to Ã¢â‚¬Å“keep his body guessing.Ã¢â‚¬Â The born-again defense contractor neighbor across the street pretended not to see him just as P had pretended to have not been disgusted when the guy would jog by shirtless in all weather, grey hair crested man-tits flapping in the wind like tattered sails on a sinking ship. P hit the J as well just to get the image out of his mind.
Walking into his parentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s house, he smelled the smell of good food, heard the little brown radio cranking out some opera, and felt hungry and stuffed at the same time. His father was cooking in the kitchen and his mother was walking around in a confused and medicated state with the live-in helper from Ecuador who spent all her extra time trying to enroll Pops in JesusÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ army. Good luck with that old Jew, senorita.
His father saw him and Zsa-Zsa, and let out a Chewbacca-type noise. The big man came stomping over from the stove Ã¢â‚¬â€œ face all red Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and gave them both a hug soaked with sweat made of vodka. Next to the stove was an empty rot-gut bottle of Popov from the Korean liquor store. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I dunno where it all went,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Maybe it evaporatedÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬Â
His gay, younger brother walked in wearing a pair of jeans that only gay guys and certain Europeans with crunchy hair wear, the kind where you pay an extra hundred bucks for holes. He was immediately given the porno name Tifki Tennyson. The old man got into the act and volunteered that his first pet back in the day was a cat named Shim-Shim, who lived in the grocery store his immigrant parents had in the ghetto.
They ate like Romans and listened to Shim-Shim vent about how SCTV was way better than SNL, as well as other thoughts that had been marinated in Popov. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Why do you drink this cheap-ass shit?Ã¢â‚¬Â P asked his father, inspecting the label of the bottle, which displayed a made-up Popov family crest with some animal that looked like the eagle from the Muppets wearing a crown. Ã¢â‚¬Å“That Korean liquor store reminds me of my parentsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬Â Shim-Shim trailed off.
PÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mother disappeared for a while and then returned with a guilty look on her face. Not a good sign. A symptom of dementia was finding unique places to go to the bathroom. Somewhere in the house there was a flowerpot that had taken a beating.
P had a no-favored nations deal with his brother Tifki; when they hung out together they would alternateÃ¢â‚¬â€ straight bar, then gay bar. And tonight was one of those nights. It was funny how as soon as P got home, he had to get out of the house.
They hit the straight bar first in a conservative part of town. It was a sports bar, so there was lots of Chuck Norris hair, zip-up fleece and a chorus of Ã¢â‚¬ËœWhooooÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s when a team scored on the huge TV screen. Zsa-Zsa immediately started chatting up a couple of flight attendants hanging at the bar.
TifkiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s D.J. friend Booty McDonald showed up. Mcdonald was not technically the street he grew up on because he was homeless most of his childhood, but he had always ate from the Dumpster behind McDonaldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s so the name was grandfathered in the porno-name rules.
BootyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d gotten his front teeth kicked in by some black skinheads and had never gotten them fixed which made it hard to be on the receiving end of a conversation with him, especially if he was using a lot of words with the Ã¢â‚¬ËœthÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ sound. Every time he got the money together to get his teeth fixed, he ended up spending it on more records.
Tifki was killing one of the flight attendants by doing his patented impression of a Ã¢â‚¬Å“60Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s lady stomachÃ¢â‚¬Â while Zsa-Zsa told the blonde about a dancer in Bangkok that could shoot a dart from a blowgun using her vagina with amazing accuracy– a make or break story that somehow sealed the deal.
As P, Tifki, and Booty left, through the glass they saw the blonde and Zsa-ZsaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s faces locked in an oral half-nelson just as someone playing something on the TV scored, and somebody screamed Ã¢â‚¬Å“Whoooooo.Ã¢â‚¬Â
P, Booty and Tifki hopped a cab and were soon at the gayest place P had been in; last time he went out with Tifki, it was to a dive that actually handed out tubes of Astroglide ass lube at the door as a party favor. He also felt a little bad because he had bailed early and later that evening Tifki got jumped and caught a black eye.
He remembered Tifki rooting around in the freezer later that night, to find a steak to put on it, and having to settle for a frozen chicken wing instead because the Ecuadorian lady who took care of their mom couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t eat red meat so Shim-Shim stopped buying it. The next morning he had discovered Tifki passed out with the melted chicken wing stuck to his face like some kind of poultry Colonel Klink monocle.
This bar had two levels; downstairs was old, white queers in cable knit sweaters talking Desperate Housewives. Upstairs was all black, every other word was Ã¢â‚¬Å“fierceÃ¢â‚¬Â and the crowd was dancing to a reggae song with extremely homophobic lyrics about burning faggots.
P and Tifki reminisced about the good old days when their mom was a pistol who-drank-box-wine spit fire, and fixed the trashmen breakfast every Monday. Now, all she liked to do was eat ice cream and pee in the flowerpots. Booty raised a MakerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Mark and toasted: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Family goes down easier on the rocks.Ã¢â‚¬Â They left at last call and staggered through the door at the crack of Christ.
Around lunchtime P awoke, not quite sure where he was, as a woman who was once his mother stared at him from the open door, not quite sure who he was. He got her some ice cream, put an old movie in the VCR for her, checked the flowerpots, and felt thankful that his life was full of all the ingredients which, if cooked just right, gave him something to talk about when he got on stage and grabbed the mike before a room full of strangers.