A huge “harvest
moon” glowed bright as the parking lot lights faded. Three fresh, young 16 year old boys sat with an older man on the
parking paver’s behind a car in the lot where they all worked. They were ready to become men and Tommy promised to help.
Tommy was a short
bulbous man. A shine reflected moonlight from the top of his head. He held out a paper bag but when Ryan reached for it, he
pulled back and placed it behind him.
“Not until I get my money, kid.”
John J. stood up, you want me to give you twenty bucks and you
still haven’t told me what I’m buying. I’m not stupid…”
Tommy smiled big enough to show a missing tooth and interrupted.
“You’ll see when ya pay me boy.. This ain’t beer, this is the good stuff. It’ll get ya what ya want,
chuckle bubbled like it was rising through whipped cream. He released several yeasty coughs into the night air.
The boys looked at one another, Ryan and John P. both stood. Ryan
reached into his back pocket, removed his wallet and slid a twenty from it while John P. pulled his from his front pocket.
They both looked at John J. He glanced down at the asphalt, shook his head, mumbled and held out his hand where his money
was already waiting.
reached for the bills and winked each time he took one. He folded them, placed them in the pocket of his tan work shirt, reached
down for the bag and slid out a bottle of green liquor.
“This here is the real thing, Absinth from France. Ever hear about it?”
He bubbled and hacked again.
J. looked at him in the moonlight to see if anything was drooling from Tommy’s mouth.
Tommy continued, “This here is what they used to call the
cocaine of liquor. It’s just got made legal again. If ya drink too much, it can make ya see things that aren’t
head raised. He started to protest when Tommy held up a hand. “If ya give the ladies just a sip or two, it’ll
make em’ be your very own pets. You boys will be dreamin’ of nothing else for the next year. Just don’t
go overboard is all I got ta tell ya. It’s powerful stuff.”
With that he gave the bottle to John J. and walked toward the bus
bench, but he stopped and turned. “You boys remember where I told you ta go? Trust me, it’s a guarantee. I worked
at Kelly’s windows a few years back. Look at me. An I never spent a Friday night alone. That place and the bottle I
got ya’ will make ya’ want to carry me on your shoulders come Monday. I know what yer goin’ through at school.
I been there. None of those a-holes will ever give you crap again after tonight. You’ll all have tales ta tell.”
He turned back and
shuffled to the bus stop to sit and wait.
The boys turned toward the car, “I think he’s full of crap. You can’t believe
anything he says. My dad told me the guy never could have killed anybody in Viet Nam. Says he’d be seventy years old
by now.” John J. held up the bottle and looked through it to a green moon. “And 60 bucks for a bottle of green
shit? It better be what he says, or I’ll have Tommy dreaming for the next year.”
The three boys climbed into Ryan’s Honda. John J. rode shotgun
and John P sat in back.
They drove south on M-10 for 20 minutes, got off at Linwood and crossed Fenkle to the spot Tommy had directed
block was dark and desolate with building windows blank and boarded up. The crowd of women they were promised weren’t
there waiting. Ryan pulled to the curb and they looked up and down the street.
“Surprise! Tommy lied to us again.” John J. was livid.
“He said he
worked here a few years ago. Maybe they've moved. Let’s drive around to see what we can find. He might have told the
truth. Things change.”
Ryan pulled away from the curb, drove south a few blocks and turned into a residential neighborhood. The
streets were empty. They turned north again, circled around and around, looking for the crowd of women that Tommy’d
promised. After crossing Finkle the fourth time on both sides of Linwood, John J. said, “Just pull into that library
over there and we’ll see how bad he lied about this green crap.