The plane taxied at Wayne County Airport. We disembarked, grabbed our bags, found the queue and hopped in a cab. I turned to Jeannie. “Okay,” I said, “hand ‘em over.” She slid her hand down the front of her pants and grimaced. A few moments later she produced the two hot pink baggies only now they were flat with fine powder filling them from top to bottom. I laughed. “Look at that,” I said. “You pulverized it. From now on I’m calling that thing the Velvet Hammer.”
We drove to a nondescript suburb outside of Detroit. When we pulled up to the house I could see that it was unusually narrow and supported by short stilts of some kind. Jeannie’s mother greeted us. I hugged her. “Nice to meet you, ma’am,” I said. “I’m the last-minute replacement.” Everyone within an earshot laughed except Jeannie who scowled. A doughy guy in a porkpie hat approached me and shook my hand. He leaned into my ear. “I’m Joe, Jeannie’s brother. I’m kinda surprised she brought you.”
“’Cause I would never bring a girl I was dating back here. I don’t wanna show my white trash ass.”
Jetlagged, Jeannie and I tried to sleep late the next day but we were roused by the happenings. We ambled onto the back porch. There were about thirty people, grouped in fours or fives, spilling out into the yard. It was a muggy Midwest day and everyone was coated in a thin, grimy film. The bride-to-be, whom I’d met the night before, was drinking wine and puffing on a cig. She was seven months pregnant. John, bridegroom, was a spindly dude with eyes that were bugging, unblinking. As I hunted around for the beer cooler, I could hear him working a small crowd. “Back in the seventies,” he was saying, “the weed dealers weren’t cheap at all. If you bought an ounce, they’d just turn over a Frisbee and fill it full of weed and dump it in a bag. That’s why they called it a lid.” I didn’t say anything though I knew this to be factually incorrect. A “lid” of grass is old school slang for an ounce, that’s true, but it references the storing and selling of weed packed inside of Prince Albert cans—a practice that had fallen out by the seventies. Why anyone would conflate an upturned Frisbee with the covering of a container was beyond me, but everyone seemed to accept it. I located the cooler and grabbed a beer, lit a cig and joined the fray.
“It’s hot as balls!” Joe announced to no one in particular. He already considered us buddies so I sidled up to him. We chatted mundanely for a few minutes, but as young men drinking beers and smoking cigs, it wasn’t long before the conversation turned to sex. “If she won’t fuck in the ass,” he said, “I ain’t callin’ her back.”
“Oh, c’mon,” I said, “most women need time on that.” You know, they’ve tried it before with some selfish dick and he just rams it in and ruins it for her. She needs to know that she can trust you.”
He scrunched his face. “Ah, fuck all that!”
I debated no further as he was obviously inflexible. Then he leaned in close.
“So how’s my sister?”
With a closed mouth I laughed through my nose. I’d known this man fewer than 24 hours and he wanted to know if his sister was seeing to my needs. “She’s doing just fine.”
“Good,” he said. “I hope I taught her well.”
There was no need to dress, so I was wearing sweatpants. Sitting with Jeannie in my lap, I noticed for the first time that the pull-tab on my zipper pocket read KKK. (Most pull-tabs bear the inscription YKK: the predominant company headquartered in Japan; they’re to zippers what Tyvek is to home wrap.) I called this to everyone’s attention. “Can you fucking believe that?! What the hell could it possibly mean? Is it some kind of logo?”
“You don’t mean logo,” Jeannie said. “That’s not the right word.”
“I know,” I said. “I was gonna say acronym but I knew you wouldn’t get that, so I dumbed it down for you.”
By definition, an acronym is a pronounceable word formed from the initial letters of a compound term, like ADIDAS or NATO, so I was even wrong about that.
Everyone laughed except Jeannie who scowled. “You’re an asshole!” she said. Then she bolted.
I fell into form, basking in the glory of having timed and delivered a joke aptly for an audience. Then I scampered off to find Jeannie, to beg forgiveness. It was a device I’d cultivated in my youth. I always knew it to be dastardly, but I looked at it in terms of the numbers. The crowd’s laughter intoxicated me, and they were many. So what if I had to eat crow before the one? It was bullshit anyway.
Back in LA, Jeannie and I resumed our routine. I arrived home one night to find her passed out on my stoop, slumped over with a tallboy wrapped in a brown paper bag at her feet. I squatted to reach beneath her outstretched legs, and then I hoisted her up, limp in my arms. Some passersby snickered. “Nothing to see here,” I said. “It happens all the time.”