Jim became more of a permanent fixture in my life as well as Liz’s. I probably talked to him on the phone as much as I did her. It was a no-brainer that the two of them would be Gavin's godparents. They spoiled him rotten and I liked to put all the blame on Liz for the mouth on that kid. I didn't think anyone screamed louder than I did when I found out Jim asked Liz to marry him and that they were going to move to Butler to be closer to her family and me. As soon as they moved back, Liz began tirelessly working and researching for the next few years to get a solid business plan in place. She told me a few months ago that she finally figured out what she wanted to sell, but she didn't want to tell me until she was certain she could do it. After that phone call, the most I saw of Liz was a blur as she ran from one appointment to the next. She was constantly on the phone with realtors and banks, running back and forth to her lawyer's office to sign paperwork and making daily trips up to the county court house to get all of the small business forms completed. I reluctantly agreed during a night of girl-time, after five too many dirty martinis, that I would help her out on a part-time basis as a consultant. I think my exact words were “I love you Liz. And I love vodka. I shall hug you and squeeze you and call you Lizdka.” Liz considered that a yes.
All Liz told me about the job was that it could be considered sales and I would have a blast doing it. Being a bartender, I considered myself pretty damn good at sales.
“What? You say your wife dumped you for a woman in her book club? Here, try a bottle of Patrón.”
“Oh no, your best friend’s neighbor’s ex-wife’s dog was hit by a car? Here, Johnnie Walker should do the trick.”
Liz liked to make even the most mundane things suspenseful and wanted to keep me in the dark and surprise me about what I would be selling. And since I was drunk at the time, I would have agreed to sell do-it-yourself enema kits and she knew it. I worked a few hours almost every night at the bar after Gavin went to bed and made some money putting together candy and cookie trays for parties around town but I could always use the extra cash, so I was okay with it as long as helping Liz out didn't cut into my time with Gavin too much.
Tonight was my "orientation" so to speak. I was going to tag along with Liz to one of her engagements so I could get a feel for the business. Jim was watching Gavin for the night so I offered to drive, dropping him off when I picked Liz up.
They met us out in the driveway as I pulled in. Liz was lugging the biggest suitcase I had ever seen behind her and shooed Jim’s hand away when he tried to help her heft it into my trunk. I should have taken Jim’s knowing smirk when we pulled away as a huge red flag. In my defense, I don’t get out much. I assumed we would be selling something like candles, Tupperware or beauty products; all things that Liz loved. I should have known better. Or paid closer attention to the words "Bedroom Fun" stitched into the side of the suitcase in pink, elegant script.
4. Sex and Chocolate
"He was my favorite uncle. Good old Uncle Willie. I sure am gonna miss him."
I rolled my eyes and drained the last of my beer, listening to my best friend Drew on the barstool next to me try to pick up one of the waitresses.
"Oooooh, you poor baby. You must be so sad," she told him, eating up all of his bullshit and running her hands through his hair.
"I'm devastated. Practically horny with grief."
"What did you say? I couldn't hear you over the music," she shouted.
I snorted and looked over her head to make eye contact with Drew, giving him a look that clearly said “I cannot believe the words that are coming out of your mouth.”
With a kiss on his cheek and a smack to her ass, they parted ways and he swiveled around on his bar stool to take a swig of his drink.
"Your Uncle Willie died two years ago. And you hated him," I reminded Drew.
He slammed his beer down on the bar and turned to face me.
"Have you forgotten the awesomeness that was "Wedding Crashers", Carter? Grief is nature's most powerful aphrodisiac, my friend."
Drew had been my best friend since kindergarten, and yet sometimes, the things that he said still amazed me. The fact that he was a good friend and was here for me in my time of need helped me overlook his obnoxious and man-whorish behavior most of the time.
Drew flagged the bartender over and ordered up two shots of tequila. At this rate I would be going home on a stretcher. My organs were going to start shutting down from liquor running through my veins instead of blood and I’m pretty sure there was a little person in my brain whispering the words to “Ice Ice Baby” and messing with my vision.
Drew and I both worked for the same automotive plant and were recently transferred from the plant in Toledo to the one a few hours away in Butler. We shared an apartment together in Toledo, but after two years of listening to him bang his way through the white pages, the yellow pages, and eight business directories within a ten mile radius, I decided not sharing a small space with him anymore was a necessity. I still had a ton of unpacking to do in the small ranch-style home I was renting and was starting to regret letting Drew convince me to drown my sorrows in the bottom of a bottle. He knew me too well though and knew that if I was at home, I wouldn’t be unpacking. I’d be sitting there alone, staring at a picture of my ex wondering why the hell I wasted so many years with her.
The bartender poured the shots, letting them overflow and Drew grabbed them both, handing one over to me and raising his in the air. I reluctantly did the same with mine and tried to focus on holding my hand steady while the room tipped sideways.