Back in my hometown there was this guy – an old black man – who seemingly materialized up from behind the railroad tracks. He wasn’t there, and then he was. I came to know him as a guy who would buy beer and sometimes Tango or Southern Comfort for me. He wasn’t there every time I was looking to drink, but more often he was. And for a price, usually fifty cents, he would go into the package store just over from the A & P and come out a minute later with a six pack of Black Label bottles in a bag for me, and something for himself. I never knew that man’s name.
Let me say here I have a hard time with stories that jump around. It’s the present, next it’s the past, here one character speaks, now someone else is speaking. I have a hard time following. Maybe it’s the injury and my brain being scrambled, maybe it’s all the Black Label and now there is less of a brain, scrambled or not. Maybe my mind, from day one, was only designed to function on the keep it simple level. Whatever the case, this story is being told pretty much in a straight line, from where it began in Wellingham, Massachusetts, hard by the body of water known as Buzzards Bay, to where I sit now, back at my usual corner table in the Last Chance Saloon, two blocks off the beach in Santa Monica, California. My name is Kelly Silva. I am the star of the show, so to speak. There is another major player, a girl named Shalene Dunn. I guess it’s about her nearly as much as me. I’m just the one telling it.
I drank my way through my junior year in high school. I had been elected the class vice-president, the tainted result of an unwanted nomination and rigged election. The only vice-presidential action I ever took was to one time lead the Pledge of Allegiance at a class assembly, on a day Jennie Rivers, the president, was home with the flu. The truth is that throughout that school year I alienated a lot of people with my drinking and my antics, and by June I could not have been elected class clown. Nobody thought I was funny. Nobody, that is, except Roland Demeter III, Rolo, my best and likely only friend. He still thought I was funny.
That summer, between my junior and senior years, I worked for AT&T, thanks to a connection my Dad had. My job was to collect LIDS – left in disconnected telephones – from summer homes in Falmouth and Bourne on Cape Cod. I would get a company van early in the morning at the Wellingham garage and drive over the Bourne Bridge and out to East Falmouth, stopping at cottages and small homes that served as summer rentals for people from up around Boston and the western parts of Massachusetts. I was provided with a long list of addresses every morning and would start at the ones furthest away and work my way back toward the canal, and home. Most summer rentals back then were for two weeks and people would often have a phone installed so they could stay in touch with family and friends back home, or with a dad still working in the city and only coming down, along with about 300,000 other people, to the Cape on a Friday night. When the two weeks were over, and they went fast in the summer, the renters would head home to Roslindale and Marlborough and West Springfield, and the phone – generally on a wall – would be left behind. The phone would have been turned off when the renters left, hence “left in disconnected”. AT&T wanted their phones back and that was my job, take away travel and lunch, about six hours a day, five days a week. I managed to actually find a new renter or a landlord or rarely an open door on a somewhat whimsical basis, so if I had been given a list with 25 addresses on it that morning a successful day’s work would find me turning in 16 or 17 phones to the garage just before 5 p.m. I did that job for two summers and went to some addresses probably five or six times during that time. I go to know Falmouth and Bourne on the Cape side of the canal a little better, made a little money and saved less, and generally managed to stay out of trouble summer days.
Summer nights were different. Wellingham was made up of small beach communities as well as a number of cranberry bogs and a cover of woods over a fair part of the town. So it wasn’t hard to find a party going on somewhere, pretty much every night. I’d pick up Rolo or he’d pick me up, we’d find a buyer, often the mystery man from beyond the railroad tracks, and drink a six pack or two and in the course of the try to convince some girl, maybe some girl from somewhere else now on a two-week respite in Wellingham, about what good company we would make. I would say our success rate successfully arguing our case with young women was a little less than my rate of success coming back with LIDS at work. All in all, not bad.
It was on one of these find a buyer, head to the beach, convince a girl nights that “the injury” came into my life, and changed everything. I had just come back to the main party from a steamy make-out session with a girl named Roberta when Rolo said he’d run out of beer. He was going to go get some and I needed to keep him company. Bad timing Rolo. But friends are friends, and I had exactly one, so I promised Roberta we would be right back and hopped in his VW bug. About 15 minutes later we were getting out of the car in the A & P parking lot when some guys driving by in a dark green ’57 Chevy yelled out for us to go fuck ourselves. Rolo had the good sense to let that slide and began scouring the lot for a potential buyer. I, on the other hand, felt the need to reply to the Chevy crew, and threw them the finger.
To Be Continued