“If I do not write to empty my mind, I go mad.” ~
Joey Cardona takes two steps down off the sidewalk, opens the door into the dimly lit Barlow’s Beer Stop. He steps inside, pauses, and takes a deep breath savoring the fragrance of stale beer, burnt pizza, along with several other disgusting odors. The only other person in Barlow’s at 10:30 in the morning is Skinny. Skinny’s the bartender and he’s not so skinny. Three months ago, Skinny did the stomach stapling thing. At the time, he weighed three-hundred-ten pounds. Now, he’s a svelte two-hundred-ninety pounds, which is not so skinny.
“Yo, Skinny, you got two cold bottles of Bud?” hollers Joey from the doorway.
Skinny looks away from the TV and rotates toward the door, “We’re not open til 11, Joey.”
“Come on, man. The door is open. That means you got to be open, because if you was closed, the door would be closed. See where I’m going?”
Skinny thinks, yah, you’re going straight over the cliff and you don’t even know it. He says, “I can’t sell you anything because of the laws, but you can come in. You look like hell. You needs a haircut and if that’s a grunge, it don’t look too good neither.”
“Man, I need a beer, Skinny. I can’t help it, Skinny. I thought Sunny was the one and then she tosses me out for no good reason. The last two weeks been like a hangover that won’t go away. Know what I mean? Anyway, Nate is going to meet me any minute. One of the bottles is for him.
“Whatever. I told you, she wasn’t your type.”
“She got this way of messing with my brain that makes me not know what I’m doing.”
“I’ll slide em down. Whistle when you’re ready.”
“I shoulda listened to ya when you warned me about Sunny, Skinny,” says Joey whistling and sticking his hand on the bar, palm facing Skinny at the other end of the bar.
Skinnyslides a bottle down the length of the bar watching slide softly into Joey’s open hand. The second bottle comes in with a rough landing but Joey’s left hand saves it from tipping over. A tad of beer splashes on the bar.
Joey hollers, “Thanks, Skinny. I got it.” Joey stands up, pulls up his stained maybe white, maybe grey t-shirt, sticks his hand inside his t-shirt, bends over and wipes the spill with his t-shirt.
“Tanks, Joey. Like I said, I can’t take no money for the beers. Consider them on the house,” says Skinny
“I owe ya, Skinny,” Joey gives Skinny the bartender a thumbs up and carries his beers to a booth as far back as the next county, sets the beers down, and slides into the booth. He takes a long swing from one of the bottles, closes his eyes, and enjoys the rush of cold beer traveling toward his stomach. Joey opens his eyes thinking a cold beer is one of the best things in life. He wipes his lips on his bare arm, burps, and stares at a poster of a topless woman on the wall behind Skinny. The topless woman starts Joey’s brain to reminiscing about how he got himself caught up with Sunny and how she ruined his life.
“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” ~
“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.” ~
“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” ~ Cyril Connolly
“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ” ~
Vinnie, Joey, Larry, and Sara are huddled in Vinnie’s yard. Rupert is on the ground between Vinnie and Sara. Dexter is lying between Vinnie and Joey.
Sara says, “Vinnie can you check with your dad, he’s a lawyer. He can tell us if it’s legal.”
Vinnie says, “He’s pretty busy working for the mob. I heard Dad tell Mom one time it’s better not ask permission, it’s always better to ask forgiveness.”
“I guess that’s why they have confession at church,” says Joey.
“Makes sense,” says Larry. “When I went to confession three weeks ago, I told Father Pete I copied all your answers on the math test.”
“Did you tell him we were the only two to get one hundred,” asks Vinnie.
“I did. I told him my mom was really happy I got an A,” says Larry.
“What did Father Pete say?” asks Sara.
“He told me I had to tell my mom the truth,” says Larry.
“Did you?” asks Sara.
“I’m going to when I think she’s in a real good mood,” says Larry.
“That’s not fair. I got a 98 and I should have been second best,” says Sara
Joey chimes in, “I wish I sat on the other side of you, Vinnie. Then the three of us could have got a one hundred.”
“I hope Father Pete gave you a hard penance,” says Sara.
“I also told him I twisted my little brother Vic’s arm until he said uncle.”
“What’s wrong with that?” asks Vinnie.
“I kept twisting it until he started crying. But, he deserved it because he hid my baseball glove and wouldn’t tell where it was and I had to use Tommy Smith’s glove.”
“Wasn’t Tommy playing?” asks Sara.
“Tommy’s not too good. He was sitting on the bench making faces at the pitcher so he didn’t need a glove,” says Larry. “Anyway, Father Pete told me I had to do something nice for Vic every day for five days.”
“That’s really a hard penance,” says Joey.
“Do you think we’ll have to tell Father Pete we’re going to do something and not tell our parents?” asks Sara.
Vinnie answers, “Uncle Mike told Dad it’s only a crime if you get caught. I think he knows because he’s been in court a lot of times.”
“That doesn’t sound right to me,” says Sara.
Joey jumps in, “I think it’s right because one-time Mom told me not to eat any of the cupcakes she made for a party. They were chocolate and she filled the middle of each cupcake with fudge. When they were cooling on the table I took one and moved all the others around so it looked like they were all there. Since I didn’t get caught I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Can I ask Rupert what he thinks?” asks Sara.
Vinnie picks up Rupert and holds him in front of his face. Rupert is facing Sara. Sara says, “Rupert have you been listening this?”
Rupert answers, “I wish Joey brought me the cupcake he took off the plate.”
“Rupert, you know that is wrong,” says Sara.
“I don’t think so, because Joey’s mom didn’t tell me not to eat one. She told Joey not to eat it.”
Sara says, “Vinnie, you are right, Rupert is the smartest person on Earth. Can I ask him if what we’re doing is going to get us in trouble?”
Vinnie sets Rupert on the ground and says, “Rupert’s going with us. He’s going to be our guide. Here’s my plan. I’ll ask my mom for a four month advance on my allowance. That will give us enough money for the boat at the lake. Joey, you have your mom pack enough food for four days.”
“What should I tell her?” asks Joey.
“The best thing is tell her the truth. That way you can’t get in trouble,” says Vinnie.
“What’s the truth, Vinnie?” asks Joey.
“Tell her you’re going to come to my house and sleep outside in a tent with the three of us,” says Vinnie.
“I don’t have to tell her we’re going to take a boat to the island in the middle of the lake and play survivor?” asks Joey.
“No, if she asks, tell her you got to go to your room and pack your stuff,” says Vinnie.
“Where do you learn all this, Vinnie?” asks Sara.
“Uncle Mike. He’s really a cool guy. He knows stuff most normal people don’t know,” says Vinnie. “Larry, you got to get us about four six packs of soda. None of the diet junk. Only the good stuff.”
“Easy, squeezy. My mom stores soda in the pantry in case company comes over. I’ll sneak it over tonight,” says Larry.
“Sara, can you get us some of the bug and sun screen stuff?”
“I can get it, Vinnie. But, I think I need to tell my mom we’re going to the island in the park pond to play survivor. Mom and dad will be worried about me,” says Sara.
“Rupert has a great idea how to take care of our parents. Rupert, it’s your turn,” says Vinnie picking Rupert up and turning him toward Joey, Larry, and Sara.
Rupert says, “Everybody has to write a note that says, ‘Dear Mom and Dad, don’t try to find us. We’ve gone to the jungle and we’re playing survivor. It’s something I dreamed about all my life. If I survive I will be home in a few days.’”
Vinnie sets Rupert down and says, “It’s the perfect letter. Our parents won’t get nervous.”
Vinnie’s mom calls out from the deck, “What are you kids planning?”
Vinnie’s looks over to his mom and says, “We’re planning a cool adventure, Mom.”
Vinnie’s mom’s first thought, this is so cute. Her second thought, ‘what kind of adventure? Oh, dear.”
“I know it’s difficult in the beginning. But, listen. If you have the impulse to write, do yourself a favor, do the world a favor, and write.” ~