|With a face like that...|
“Did I ever tell you about my brother’s animal room?” Stoner asked as I negotiated the car through a twisty bit of Bosanquet Township’s Hungry Hollow Road, then climbed up out of the gulley.
“Animal room?” I mused, steadying a tall can of Ice Beer between crotch and thighs.
“I’m sure I must have told you,” he laughed, then grabbed another hefty swig of his own.
By this time, I’m certain he will tell it, given enough rope.
His stories are often worth waiting for. A kind of process ensues.
He gets out one of his interminable cigars, horrid smelling things, and fumbles with his lighter. He has shaky hands and the occasional feminine mannerisms creep through. But Stoner has a mind like a lead trap, and the nerves of something, I don’t know what.
“When we were young,” he begins. “And I mean really, really, young. Grade nine; or ten.”
And he looks at me.
I sagely agree, gently unleashing a belch.
“Young,” I murmur.
The cigar haze is beginning to build as he puffs on it.
“Remember that basement room at my folk’s place? I showed it to you when they were thinking of building some shelves?”
“Yeah,” that was the one about five feet deep in boxes and junk.
“Well, my brother used to keep a lot of animals in there. He had baby squirrels, he had a raccoon one time. It started off small and innocent. The one I liked best was a great snowy owl. It had a broken wing, and he splinted it and bandaged it up…”
I began to break up in laughs at this one, at the thought of Stoner’s brother trying to wrestle with an ornery owl. Takes some nerve. I sucked back a half a beer in contemplation of this feat.
“Well. I was about seventeen years old. And I went out with this girl named Holly. We went to a movie or something. We were all gunned up, I can’t remember the exact details. We went back to my folk’s place.”
Negotiating another turn in the darkness, the last indirect rays of sunset illuminate a billowing bank of otherwise black cloud in reds, oranges and purples. I’ve met Holly, he just doesn’t remember.
“We were in the recreation room, and the folks were asleep upstairs,” he ventured anew.
“You know my mom, she’s like one of the coolest people who over lived. On the other hand, my dad and I never really did get along.”
Stoner’s dad is a fascinating character. He flew in the Battle of Britain, he flew with the Dam Buster’s; and I think at Midway, and he trained U.S. Navy pilots in carrier landings in the Gulf. I mean, he got around.
I have never understood Stoner’s relationship with his father, but then who ever does?
My empty beer can sails off into the deepening gloom, into the anonymous landscape of grass and trees and fence posts and wire. The motor hums along serenely unaware of human foibles.
“Get me another beer,” I suggested. “Thanks.”
Still cold, I note with relief.
“So anyway, we were on the couch, and I’ve got all her gear off. We’re making out, naked. All of a sudden, for no reason she lets out a hell of a scream. She’s screaming to beat all hell.”
"Screaming." I’m already laughing because I can sort of see where this is going.
“She’s got a fucking iguana on the back of her head—it must have gotten out of its cage somehow.”
I’m roaring with laughter and trying to keep it on the road.
“It was maybe three or four feet long,” he explained, convulsing me in further spasms. “By this time it was all tangled up in her hair and she was screaming and screaming.”
I had this mental vision of Holly, with glossy black hair down to her ass, with three or four feet of reptile clamped onto the back of her head.
“I’ll bet she screamed,” I gasped through a veil of tears.
That was a good one, but no, it wasn’t over.
“You haven’t heard the best part, yet,” Stoner told me. “My father, Wing Commander Stoner, ‘Jabba the Hut,’ comes roaring down the stairs, to see what all the fuss was about.”
“Of course!” I gulped.
“So there he is standing over us, while we tried to untangle that damned iguana, there was my dad, naked except for those old pink and white polka-dotted boxer shorts, all red in the face, shouting stupid questions at us…”
“One hell of a situation,” I agreed.
“And that’s what I remember most about Holly,” he muttered and I had to laugh again.
“The night of the iguana,” I muttered.
“Yes! The night of the iguana,” he said.
Stoner rolled down the window to dispose another empty can of Ice Beer into the gathering night.