Shiny cars. Subwoofers. Smokes. Tattoos.
I hear the bass pulsating from the bottom of the valley.
“That’ll be Nick”, Matt tells me.
We’ve been waiting a half hour but not really waiting. Just passing the time together, sitting on my car.
Matt even gave me a tour of his new place: the house with the tiny door.
It feels like crawling into the side of the mountain.
A blue Civic winds around the narrow mountain road and parks beside us.
“Hey man! I haven’t seen you since, well, must have been high school” Nick says. We shake hands through the car window.
“What brings you back here?”
“Finished school, looking for work. “
“Good luck, man.”
Matt starts up the barbecue. I go in to grab a beer and the hot dogs.
Nick follows and asks me what Irish people are like.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland,” he says.
“It’s cool. I went surfing with some Irish lads. Good people.”
It seemed like a silly question, but I liked that he was asking it.
Earlier, when I picked up the six pack, I told the bartender I was Johnnie’s son.
“You must be the traveler then.”
I liked that too.
Brandon lights up a cigarette.
The smokestacks are across the valley behind him.
I wonder out loud why the smelter has the best real estate, right on a hill overlooking the Columbia.
Matt tells me that the ground beneath us used to be a landfill.
“So it literally is garbage here,” I say.
“Who brought the rum?” Brandon asks, holding up my litre of Bacardi Añejo.
“Help yourself. It was six dollars.”
“Yeah. From the duty-free. God bless America.”
Nick tells me that’s the only time I get to say ‘God bless America’.
Later, when Brandon shows off his Dodge tattoo, Nick says ,
“ Nice one, buddy!”
Matt and I head out to a bar.
There’s blood on the ground and a DJ that no one is listening to.
I go get a drink and search for the ten dollar bill in my wallet.
There’s a flash of purple.
I pull it out and give it to the bartender. He hands it back.
“Sorry”, I say and put the Lithuanian bill away before handing him ‘real’ money.
I take my drink and calculate the exchange rate. Ten litai should be enough to buy a pint.
The bouncer is six-foot-five, maybe three hundred pounds, with an unkempt beard. On a slow night, he’ll come over and talk comic books and make origami swans for the girls. The bar was empty tonight, but it was far from being slow.
I follow Matt out to the patio and get lost in the crowd.
“Yeah buddy!” calls out a voice I half remember. Dylan. “Fifty-six notches on my belt this summer, boys!” The last time I saw him, he tried to punch me.
He missed but I was wearing rollerblades and fell anyways.
It would have been funny if his friend didn’t jump on me.
Outside, a lady is harassing a cop.
“My grandma was having a seizure and driving to the hospital and the police pulled her over and she died.”
Good thing they stopped her from killing anyone else, I wanted to say.
Instead, I wait for her to leave and then apologize to the cop.
On the way back to Matt’s, I see Robbie Barr.
“Coutts! What are you doing here?”
“I have no idea. What about you?”
“Summer break. I go back to Vancouver tomorrow.”
Matt and I follow Rob back to his friends place.
There’s beer pong, and I set up a game with Rob. It’s too competitive, like we’re back on the ice again practicing one-on-ones and I’m trying to squeak past before Robbie rubs me out against the boards. We run out of beer but can’t stop playing; it’s tied at one game apiece. Instead we switch to rum.
Back on Matt’s patio, the sun is just behind the peak of the mountains.
The coffee makes everything feel more together, more relaxed.
Matt is beside me, not talking.
On the side of the coffee cup it says ‘7-Eleven’ but I don’t remember where it came from.
“I bought that for you when you were hurling in the alley”
“Right,” I say, “Thanks.”