I like the serendipity of my life. This morning I could not remember where my scheduled counselor meeting was supposed to be, so I wound up unscheduled at the coffee shop on Dustin’s birthday, a provisional nonvoting member of coffee nation. I did not know this little piece of info since I was not current with Facebook at that moment. I just ordered my medium coffee and was walking toward the door when Big Bald Vinnie came walking in. We greeted one another and I started to explain that we weren’t meeting since it was the second Thursday of the month.
“Well, Steve and Gene said they were coming.”
“Oh, an unofficial meeting of the nation.” I suspected a coup brewing in insulated coffee cups. “I’ll stick around.”
Vinnie and I chatted about his family and the end of his Great Dane puppy experiment. “My wife didn’t see that coming. And we don’t even have papers on the dog.”
“I’m not following you. Would it be better to have a defective Great Dane puppy with papers?”
“No, I guess not.”
“There’s the fence and the toys and the food and the vet bills and the…I could have sent a kid to a semester of college with what we spent on the dog.”
“Well, your marriage is better than ever. So you have that.”
“True… could take another cruise with the wife for what I have in that dog.”
Ronnie from Jersey strutted in. Greetings. He joined us at the impromptu gathering. Vince was on his way to work in Hershey, PA but had time to burn with us. Ronnie is recovering from surgery and a life of construction work.
“Yeah, I’m from Jersey. Ya know, it seems like there’s a lot more murders around here lately,” said Ronnie.
“I’ve noticed that since you moved here, Ronnie. Are the landfills full of bodies in Jersey?” I added in.
“No, well, the Mafia has reserved lots for future appointments, ya know, like pre paid burial vaults.”
“Good to know.”
We got on to the usual nothing talk that marks a group of guys who are comfortable with one another. Historic storms, the Jersey Shore, shootings, and noisy Harleys. Before we even paused to look up, Big Steve rolled in sporting his new 5–0 look. He was without Gene but confirmed that it was Dustin’s birthday and that the young man of 38 would soon be joining us.
Steve has a unique mind. Somehow we got on to field sobriety tests and Steve amazed us by reciting the alphabet backwards while also turning around to face the wall. It was a double reverse verbal gainer. The Judges gave him 9.4, 9.6 and an 8.1 from the Jersey judge who was envious, I think, of this uncanny skill. Steve also drinks frozen mochas which will freeze mammal brains; however, since I believe he has a reptile’s brain, he drank deeply without even a hint of a brain freeze. Over this mysterious brain is an ear muff hair style with a wide landing strip down the middle. But sitting across from Razor Bald Vinnie, Steve looked like Bon Jovi. (This is a bone for the Jersey Judge in case there is a round 2 of amazing stupid human tricks later.)
As Ronnie doctored his hot coffee, the legendary Lance entered and nearly sat in Ronnie’s just vacated seat. However, being the king of pilates, he moved as if on a hinge and did not touch butt to chair. Instead he dragged over an ownerless chair to our shrinking round table. Introductions were made all around for Sir Ronnie’s sake, who is not usually at the Round Table. The skillet of wit was now hot and sizzling since Lance is both a barbershop raconteur and a template of fashionable haberdashery, according to him.
Critical mass was achieved and the jokes, tricks, references and silly words came often and easily. In a group of five guys it is possible to have three or four concurrent inconsequential conversations, which we did.
The topics were interwoven…
“And what’s with you?”
“Which U? Miami? The U?”
“Oh, you mean U-Conn? Yeah amazing, men and women’s national champs…”
“You mean the coach, Gino…”
“Well Bill had a reference from him…”
“NO, Gino, the women’s coach.”
“Not good enough for our local high school, though.”
“No men’s retreat this year. Too much shaking up at church.”
“I’m appointing you, Vinnie, to investigate this.”
“What’s my budget?”
“Just save all your receipts.”
“Did you say receipts or retreats?”
“Yes, save them. Like the whales.”
Dustin walked in and saluted us as is his habit as a former military member. Now it got dangerously goofy like an overheated nuclear reactor with too many loose electrons smashing into one another. The caffeine effect was sending verbal pulses across an eighteen inch round table at warp 9 speeds. An unidentified guy in a ball cap said hello to Steve.
“Oh, you asked me too fast. Bob… uh.”
“You know, from church. His wife is that lady…”
“Oh yeah, they sit behind me.”
“Wasn’t their son, the guy who…”
“Uh huh, but he got fired for…”
“No, that’s not the same guy, you’re thinking of what’s his name.”
“With the big nose?”
“Yeah, Brian. His wife was the one who told me about setting up shop downtown.”
“Alright, I still have no idea. But it’s all good.”
Lance, “This reminds me of an episode of Cops where they’re busting a dude and he don’t know nothing. The cop says, ‘What are you doing?’ and the dude says, ‘Well, I was over there with them dudes but then what’s his name came along and they started into it and I got outta there when I seen you guys show up. And I don’t know nothing.'”
Dustin, “That’s just like a conversation at your barbershop, Lance.”
“That’s the truth.”
“What was that guy’s name, you know ‘the Truth’?”
“You know, the wrestler who was a governor?”
“No, he’s the one with his nanny and the wife on t.v. A Kennedy lady.”
“Ventura. Jesse, right?”
And those are the Real Lives of The Husbands of Franklin County.