Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Sketchy Bill 10: I Meet The Family

Thankfully, Bill rescued me from the television room, so I didn't have to watch OU play football. It's hard enough avoiding it here--I had no idea I was going to be inflicted with college sports in that den of iniquity.

Bill's primary reason for bringing me upstairs was to fill me in on Alex, whose business card (which I may also still have here) proclaimed him to be an investment banker somewhere on 5th Ave. Alex, of course, was one of The Family, or maybe the Family. He was, said my host, visiting SF on business, but Bill also suspected as a spy to report on how Bill was doing. The Family, he said, would be cool with everything but the LSD, so would I mind keeping that under my hat? This was a no brainer, both because I liked Bill and because here was the first actual confirmation that the Mob was involved. Or rather, that I was involved with the Mob.

Luckily, Alex was flying out that afternoon, so there wouldn't be much time that I'd have to play it straight, which was good, because all the light in the room was starting to bead up on Bill's shiny forehead and slide down his face, which is really distracting if you're trying to remember which mafioso you're not supposed to be talking about LSD with.

All those beads of light vaporized as the front doorbell rang. Bill answered it, and returned with yet another frat boy gone to seed, this one named Steve. Steve analyzed me and dismissed me immediately, which was fine, because I'd done the same to him. Alex came upstairs, and the three of them forgot about me as they discussed the night before.

Turns out, Steve had loaned Bill a credit card for some reason. He was now also about to return to the other coast, and needed it back. After a few exchanges of what time everyone had gone to bed (Bill lied, which was rather interesting), Bill slipped out to get the credit cards. I managed to keep it together through two or three of the obligatory exchanges about OU football, propped up by Alex, who I was liking more as I saw him in the same room as this Steve jerk, who kept giving me the fisheye for no other reason than I was wearing a Corrosion of Conformity tshirt. And, yes, possibly because parts of my anatomy kept coming off and drifting aimlessly around the kitchen.

Bill returned, a bit redfaced, and asked Alex if he'd seen where Bill had put the credit card. Alex and Bill both left to go look, followed shortly by Steve, whose flight was leaving "immediately."

All three of them returned in 10 minutes or so, about the time I was realizing that while Bill knew that I was a stand up guy, these other two guys probably saw me as some transient who had latched onto Bill for his money. In other words, if that card wasn't found, and soon, my credentials might be brought into question. And my credentials, as far as the two younger guys were concerned, were not so great.

I wasn't worried about Bill, except inasmuch as he was brick red at this point, both out of humiliation and anger, and I could tell he wasn't thinking too clearly. Watching them together contributed a lot to me sobering up, actually, even before Bill threw his beer across the kitchen, lunged for the phone, and began roaring about "those two punk assholes who crashed the party last night. You remember them, Alex? Those assholes with Fabio?!"

Alex remembered, and before Bill had the seventh number dialed, all three had decided that if there was a credit card thief amongst the party last night, it was one of those "kids."

If you're trying to direct a film about this whole scenario, here's where everything switched from "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" back to "Scarface." Bill, it turns out, throws things for emphasis (I found this out for certain the following night, when I got a five pound bag of sugar in the chest), and even before Razor picked up his phone (on what couldn't have been more than the second ring), Bill had already wasted another beer and shattered his pot chopping coffee grinder on the floor.

The conversation (Bill's half, anyway) went something like this:


That was a quote, ladies and gentlemen. And what was even more disturbing was that the other two guys had begun staring at me like I was a bad porno. In retrospect, they were probably embarrassed by Bill's tantrum, but at the time it sure seemed like they were thinking I was a potential witness.

Which I was. But I had faith in Razor--there's no way in hell he would ever fuck up. His heart rate was too low. And his name was Razor, for fuck's sake.

Bill seemed further aggravated after he got off the phone, when he realized that he'd wasted four beers and pieces of shattered plastic were all over the floor. The loss of the chopper, that is, the loss of a device that performed the function of chopping up weed, was no big deal, and I wasn't surprised. Bill wasn't exactly Tommy Chong. It turned out to be Sheryl's, which was just one less thing for her to come pick up, in his estimation. Bill started pickup up. I helped. The boys continued, I felt, to burn holes in my back.

After cleaning up the beer and plastic bits, we decided to tackle the rest of the debris. As we worked, Bill reverted to his old self, laughing raucously and making crude jokes about the size of Sheryl's, um, vagina. The boys drifted downstairs to check on the game, and by the time Bill and I had filled the wine cases with empty wine bottles, spritzed down the counters, and put away cutlery, about thirty minutes had passed.

I heard an exclamation of surprise from Bill, and turned to find him looking at a credit card, which he evidently had found in a kitchen drawer. We both began cackling madly, him because of how worked up he'd gotten and me out of sheer relief. I was no longer a suspect--and believe me, brothers and sisters, the thought was never far from my mind. Break their fucking legs? I mean, shit, he hadn't even told Razor why. And Razor hadn't asked!

A few minutes later, Steve was reunited with his card, and all four of us were back to drinking beer standing around the kitchen island (which was some kind of really expensive looking granite, I noticed). Everyone seemed more relaxed, enough that the boys talked a little bit about how things were going in the Business Back Home. Once that ran dry, there was the obligatory talk about construction at SFO, and when everyone was flying out, me included. I found myself wondering if the previous outburst had been my imagination.

It was one of those conversational lulls that sometimes happen for no apparent reason. Bill had been studying me intently for a few seconds, like he had forgotten to tell me something.

Then his face lit up in a smile that's difficult to describe. It was the "silly me" face of someone who's forgotten something completely obvious, but at the same time it was the smirk of a guy who knows no one would ever call him on it. It was the crocodile smile of a man who didn't really care much about what was happening around him, because he was untouchable.

With a sheepish yet somehow gleeful bark of laughter, he said:

"Oh shit, fellas, I guess we'd better call Razor!"


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