Prelude (Six Word Story 899)

Cigar smoke rose from the basement.


The Bone Pile

Somehow, me, Squirrel, Fat Danny, Reggie the Retread*, and Stinkfinger got it in our heads to have a big Fathers’ Day weekend pig roast.  This was gonna start on Friday night for the boys, and run over through Saturday whenever the pig was ready.  That way we could sleep off the pig roast and do some kind of thing with the kids on Sunday. Now, I know that no one really gives a sh1t what I say, and no one actually listens to my advice unless they have tried every other option, but hear me out on this, ladies.  The way you all run Fathers’ Day is a travesty, a simple travesty.  You want to make the focus on FATHERHOOD, not the FATHER.

If you asked most fathers, they would tell you what they really want for Fathers’ Day is a no-questions-asked trip to Las Vegas with 2 grand in cash and no expectation of bringing any change back.  At least, that’s what you’d get for an honest answer from those who are not too pu$$y-whipped to have to pretend they actually enjoy the subjugation of the modern marriage. The man does not want to have the kids get up and burn some corned beef hash and somehow botch eggs over-easy.  He doesn’t want to go to church and then have the kids give him hand-made cards from folded construction paper with drawings of the kids’ favorite animals on the outside cover.  Followed by a family movie and an increasingly annoyed wife who doesn’t understand why the caged bird isn’t singing.  The man wants to be able to do what he wants, be free from someone else’s time commitments.  He wants to be woken with a blowjob and a craft beer.  Maybe enjoy a cigar, some time with friends, nobody trying to take the remote out of his hands.  Nothing elaborate, just a day about HIM. But since it is at this point out of the question for a Father to get what he really wants for Fathers’ Day, we took matters into our own hands and threw this pig roast party.  Unable to buck the weight of tradition, we shot for a party that started Friday night and ran on into Saturday, so we could do our Fatherly Duty on Sunday.

Fat Danny brought the thing up a few weeks ago, and we all pretty much agreed.  In the meanwhile, Fat Danny ran with it.  He bought a 75 pound pig, and borrowed a smoker some friend made from a big oil drum. The guys presented the whole thing as a fait accompli to their women and children, and we started prepping.  We loaded up on charcoal, got a pony keg from {REDACTED CRAFT BREW PLACE OF MODERATE REPUTE}, three liters of Tito’s Vodka, mixers like orange juice, tomato juice, Cosmo mix, buns, barbecue sauce.  We got some hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages and pork butts as backup, in case.  I got my second wife, god rest her hole, started on making sides.  We’ve had our differences, but lord knows she is a trooper, and she sets aside any dispute if she feels under obligation to prepare food for a large group of people.  It’s almost like an article of faith for her.  Baked beans, cole slaw, salad, caprese salad, traditional bruschetta, hummus, pigs in a blanket, cheese wrapped in cold cuts, fruit salad.  She just went into the kitchen with a knife set and an attitude, and we had to ask Stinkfinger’s daughter, Collette, to get the beer from the fridge.  Everyone else was too scared to set foot in there.

We had the party at my armed compound, naturally.  It is really the only place large enough to fit everyone, and half of the people there were my progeny or ex-wives anyhow.  We started Friday night with a bonfire and s’mores for the kids.  They broke off in various groups split by age and interest.  Some stayed by the fire, others went inside for TV or movies, some did video games, others were out on the range trying out shotguns, air rifles, bows, and crossbows. Once everyone was settled, we loaded up the grill.

Squirrel was busy splitting kindling from the wood pile, and we had oodles of charcoal ready to throw on.  Fat Danny symbolically lit the kindling with a summons he had in his pocket, to great cheers.  Earlier I had seen him taking a picture of it with his smartphone.  So he was playing it cool like he wasn’t gonna appear, but had gotten the information in case he got cold feet.  I could respect that, and didn’t dime him out.

Once the wood was going, on went the charcoal, and we settled down for a few hours, sipping single malt whiskey and waxing philosophical on weighty issues of the day and other manly matters. Around 2 a.m., Second Wife came out with one of those family-sized stovetop espresso makers and five demitasse.  She poured us each a coffee and dropped in one or two cubes of sugar, depending on our preferences.  As she left, she noted that it was probably time to put on the pig, and she reminded us that there were many hungry people, and that we had better take pains to not fu7k it up. So on went the pig, and so began the slow and gentle roasting.

It was a great experience; it always is; but Fat Danny had brought this whole rig of thermometers to check meat temperature at the ham, meat temperature at the head, temperature inside the grill, and the ambient air temperature.  It was all hooked into his phone with an app, and he had some kind of car battery jumper system that also kept electronic devices alive.  This app would update us regularly, and let us know if we needed to vent the grill, add charcoal, shift the pig, whatever. Gone are the days when you’d roast a pig with 50 percent skill and 50 percent intuition, serving up meat the next day that would almost definitely lead to gustatory delight, but potentially also a case of trichinosis.  The app knows all, and tells all.  In fact, it even fed information to the people attending the event about the impending completion of the pig roast.  And that was a pain in the ass, people starting to show up with plates, pointedly making remarks about hungry children.  To which it was hardly politic to reply, that this was FATHERS’ DAY weekend, not SNOT NOSED BRAT DAY weekend.

So the pig cooked all night, while we sat around talking about this and that and the other.  And lo and behold, the talk did turn to fatherhood.  After the standard laments and basic points about children, Fat Danny got real deep, real quick. “Laura and I tried to have kids, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”

Somebody said something soothing about patience, and he just shook his head, “No, you see, she was pregnant any number of times.  Eight I think.  And each time she miscarried.  She lost her mind each time, and we tried everything.  Doctors, psychics, naturopaths, cranks she found on the internet.  Just time, money and emotional energy thrown away.”

He took a big draw on his cigar, a Ghurka, and spit into the dark, “The thing they never tell you about the miscarriages though,” he leaned in a bit, nodding, “No one gives a sh1t about the father.  No one.  It’s all about the mother, and what she’s going through, and how you can support her, and how you need to do this, how you need to do that.  It’s strange, but literally no one gives the tiniest tinker’s damn about you just having lost a son or daughter,”  and after taking another draw on the cigar, “Weird, huh?”

And he seemed genuinely puzzled, not hurt.

Squirrel broke the silence first, “Danny, look, I had no idea.  I really am sorry about…about your loss.  About everything.  About us not caring.”

Danny just nodded a bit, and thanked him quietly. “And you know,” Danny continued, “We didn’t tell anyone, but we tried to adopt too.  But that was a mess.  If you wanted a healthy baby, it was like always from some country where weird sh1t happens like Russia, or China, or somewhere in South America.  After what we went through, we couldn’t imagine maybe adopting a baby that had been kidnapped, or where the mother had been told the baby died.  Just couldn’t go through with it.  So we looked into adopting a special needs baby.  And when we stared into the abyss, we couldn’t do it.  Couldn’t even be foster parents.  We reached down into our deepest reserves to find out what we were made of, and there was nothing there.”

Danny was shockingly matter-of-fact, so we all nodded and made vague noises of support. “But at least you got each other, right?” Squirrel said, “You and Laura,” and getting no response, asked, “….right?”

Danny nodded, “You could say that,” he said, “We have each other.  At least as of today.  Or tonight even.”

Stinkfinger sat up straighter, “Explain!”

Danny looked around at our faces, making eye contact, then nodded, “So Laura’s been working late a lot.  Not making overtime.  Some big project.  But she’s been singing, and not b1tching about work or anything.  So I hired a private investigator.  She’s banging this guy from work.  He’s divorced, got three kids.”

We all sat there in stunned silence a bit, and then Reggie said, “Uh…so then I guess she gets kids?”

“Yeah,” said Danny, “That’s what I tell myself.  That’s what it’s about.  Kids.  Nothing more.”

And just then the ladies and kids came spilling out of the house, talking about the phone app saying the pig was done, and the corn was ready, and the sides, and who was gonna sit where and what were the kids going to eat. So we pulled the pig off the fire, and put him on a huge roll of aluminum foil on a picnic table.  We tore off hunks of meat for us, to do some “Quality Control”.  After having a quick bite, we shredded up mounds and mounds of other meat with these special spiked gloves someone had brought.  Meat went in the meat pile, bones went in the bone pile.

Squirrel started running in platters of the meat.  Some to the kitchen, some to the porch, some to the patio.  Everywhere people were tearing into the meat, bragging on it, and usually shaking on a little extra sauce.  A true Carolina barbecue.

And the whole time, there was Laura, bopping back and forth between tables, getting napkins for kids, wiping their faces, fetching sides, wiping off dropped forks and handing them back to kids.  Glowing.

The truth is, the human soul is a strange creature; malleable, unpredictable, and perverse.  Unchanging in character until it suddenly changes.  And you will never know what lies beneath.



*You all probably know that “retread” is a euphemism, not his true nickname.  Politically incorrect; agreed.  I did not give him that moniker.  Just trying to satisfy the sensibilities of a wider audience while staying true to what happened.

A Love Note to Cigars

So I was talking to my friend, and he pulled out a cigar, a Ghurka, and handed it to me with great ceremony.  I took it, unwrapped it, and ran it lovingly under my nose.  Spicy, warm, hints of pepper and the promise of a good buzz.

What is it about cigars?   Cigarettes and chew will give you a buzz, too, but it’s not the same.  A cigarette is gone in maybe five minutes these days, with the rush to finish it off in a designated smoking area.  Ten minutes, if you are at home and have time, or if you are walking down the street.  You can milk a chew for a good half an hour, but there’s all the spitting or the gutting, and it’s just not that social.  But a cigar?  Each time you have a cigar, you are setting aside at a minimum half an hour, but probably closer to an hour.  Maybe more if you have a good cigar with a tight draw.

I think the difference is the time.  Anymore, you get anything in short bursts.  You use Hulu, and pause at will, or watch TV and expect breaks for commercials.  You screw around on the computer, you stop whenever you want chips or something.  On the other hand, you light up a cigar, and you are there to stay until it’s done.  You can estimate how long it’s going to take, but in the end it’s gonna take as long as it takes.  And that’s a rare thing today, an event that unfolds, and keeps you from doing anything else but talking and passing time.

Viva la cigar!