In college, three of us lived in a house together, one of those barely held together places that had been rented to students for decades. It was me, John, our dog Dana (named after the bar we went to almost every day) and Chuck. Chuck was, I realized in retrospect, an alcoholic. He drank constantly. He’d get up and have a drink. He’d take a drink to class. He drank every night. At the time, it never occured to me that Chuck had a real problem. We were in college. Everyone was drinking. We lacked the perspective necessary to separate our habits from his.
Eventually, we graduated and his constant drunkenness became less something that seemed sort of normal because we were in college and more of a complete and total problem. It got to the point where we all sort of avoided him, as any outing had a high percentage chance of ending with him doing something to inconvenience everyone else. I voluntarily lost contact with him.
He died before any of us knew he was sick. He literally drank until his body shut down. He didn’t want his mother to contact any of us because in the end he was embarrassed by the state of himself. He had been dead for months before any of us knew he was gone. I’ve always felt guilty about that- that in the end he didn’t feel like he could call.
All of which is a really fucking depressing way to get to two stories of people hilariously slapping me around.
It was a Saturday, mid-afternoon and Chuck stumbled downstairs. Besides being drunk all the time, Chuck was also a slob, and this morning was an amazing example of just how not-together he was. He was wearing a ratty blue bathrobe, whitish boxers, and brown slippers with holes in them. I mean…slippers and a robe. We were in college and the guy wore slippers and a robe! His glasses were on his face, but were askew so the left side was riding up about two inches above the right. His hair stuck straight up. In anyone else I would have assumed he was doing a parody of a guy who was a mess but in Chuck’s case, he was just being Chuck.
John and I were on the couch, probably watching Jaws for the 300th time. Chuck slumped down in the recliner.
“Jesus Chuck,” I said, being an asshole, “You look like shit.”
“I know,” he said. “I know.”
He rubbed his hand through his hair, looked up and said, sounding sincere, “Plus, I think I’m getting Alzheimer’s.”
“Really?” I said. “Why?”
“Because,” he replied, completely deadpan, “I don’t remember fucking asking.”
The surprise of it was so total that I just sat there for five seconds, silent and processing. Then I laughed for about ten minutes. I still smile every time I think of it. It was just such a perfect bitch slap of my smug and arrogant ass. It was a thing of beauty and what I always think of when I think of my friend Chuck.
I recently got served, as the kids would say if it was five years ago, in an equally funny and surprising manner.
T2 is usually very good about doing his homework. He likes school. He enjoys learning. The other day he came home brimming with knowledge about famous Americans.
“Jackie Robinson was the first black baseball player,” he informed me. “He was in the Army, then played for the Kansas City Monnnarcachles, then the Dodgers, then he died.”
“Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream and hated white signs. He was an assassin.”
“George Washington’s horse was named Blue. Oh, and he was the first president.”
Usually he gets home, plays for a bit and then does his homework while we fix dinner. Every week he has a list of spelling words and every day he has to do something different with them. Sort them in alphabetical order, use them in sentences, that sort of thing. Last Thursday I had to make up a practice test for him.
I called out ten or so of the words and he dutifully wrote them down. I then called out five different words and told him to use them in sentences.
T2’s sentences are always entertaining. He’s a clever kid. The problem he runs into is that, for some reason, he always forgets to capitalize the first word and to put punctuation at the end. I check the test. He spelled all of the words correctly, but forgot to capitalize and punctuate the sentences.
I marked them wrong and told him he owed me three more.
All hell broke loose.
It was too hard. He didn’t want to do more sentences he just wanted to fix the ones he had. He couldn’t do it. It was unfair.
Finally he quit whining and wrote three more sentences. None of which were capitalized or punctuated. I marked them wrong and told him he owed me three more.
He lost his shit. Whining. Crying. At one point I got so tired of it that I chased him up to his room. He hates giving in but he also hates it when I get mad at him, so he spent five minutes sitting on his bed scowling at the wall. Don’t misunderstand, no one told him to do it. He was just pissed. Finally, after about fifteen minutes of these theatrics, his mom drug him back downstairs. He wrote three new sentences. It took him about a minute, as I knew it would if he just quit pouting and did it. He finished, looked at me, smirked, dropped his pencil like Jay-Z dropping a microphone and wandered off into the family room.
The sentences were capitalized and had the proper punctuation. I am reproducing them below, with the spelling words underlined.
“Rabbits are quick.”
“The sky is blue.”
“I am quitting this right now.”
I laughed for ten minutes and thought of Chuck.