Washing dishes and looking out the window, a big blue truck pulls up the driveway.
Mustache, a faded Budweiser t-shirt covering a beer belly, hunched over with two canes and a can of Molson Canadian in each pocket, an old cousin is here to visit Dad.
– Gotta see my people. I can get out. I just got to be careful.
He remembers me. Apparently, I was the only one that wouldn’t get on his motorcycle.
My sister Kristin comes home:
– Is Mark Payne in the house?
– You bet your ass he is, honey!
Nodding at the six beer on the coffee table, she laughs:
– This is exactly the situation I remember. You’ve even got the same shirt on!
Mark Payne is Dad’s cousin on my Grandfather’s side. Dad hired him to lay brick at fourteen after he was thrown out of school.
They sit together, drink beer and remember when.
I catch snippets of their conversation:
– He was pissed as a rat every day.
– No dumb bones on him.
– A good bricklayer but you couldn’t trust him in the bar. You never know when he was going to start swinging.
– I remember when we were coming down island and you called him a Limey and he had you by the neck and then Freddy had him by the throat telling him never to touch you no matter what you said.
– Freddy was a good guy. I miss him.
– Yeah, we had a good bunch of guys. I got on with a wild bunch of characters.
– And they never cheated ya.
– He couldn’t come out on parole unless he had a job so he had to come work for me. When he went to jail after he was sentenced, I paid his wife half his salary while he was away.
– He said, “You son of a bitch, I’ll never work for you again.”
– I said, “So, you’ve finished the job over there Freddy?”
– He laughed like hell.
– As long as I can breathe, I don’t care.
– I got to get to heaven somehow. I need some leverage.
– You’re a bricklayer. You have to believe in God!
– If you have a bunch of men that you trust, then everyone has an idea and you find a way.
– Broke my heart when he killed himself.
– Mine too.
– If you haven’t gone broke three times, then you’re not in the business.
– Friday nights when we had a wheel barrel full of beer.
– It was lots of fun. We had a million stories.
– Some of them we couldn’t tell.
Interesting thing when you help someone out of a jam. From what I can tell, they make loyal friends that visit you when you’re old even if they need two canes and a sense of humour to get there.