BY LANCE DOILY It was only about quarter to nine in the morning but what the hell, it’s happy hour somewhere in the world, right? I am sitting on a stool in Murph’s, a barely standing dive bar on Union Blvd. where I spend most of my time when I’m not working, regardless of whether or not I’m supposed to be. The salesman back at the distributor I make deliveries for must have figured out my weakness for the place, as sometimes he’ll space it out so that I have to deliver here up to 4 times a week. If I get here by 8 AM I can usually sneak out around 2 PM or so when all the intoxicants start to turn on each other in the regular’s heads, but today was Freddy’s birthday so I had the feeling I wasn’t getting out of here so easy.
What can be said about Line Drive Freddy? Possibly the biggest drunk through sheer volume in Passaic County, he earned the nickname after passing out shitfaced at a Mets/Pirates game in the mid-80’s and taking a Keith Hernandez foul ball straight in the jaw. He was pissed off and feeling like a shitstain on an old mattress as usual, this time since another 12-14 hour a day regular, Smitty, was getting all the kudos and shots. You see, it was Tuesday, which meant we had Dusty Clouds on the first shift. Dusty was a career bartender and grizzled internal war vet who wore cut-off sweatpants to work and was relentless in fucking up our drink orders (the consensus is he came from deep in the Appalachian Mountains; he played a mean cretin’s fiddle and brought squirrel to work a couple days a week for lunch). Over the past couple months, Smitty had been picking up on specific patterns and cracked a code that enabled us to get the drinks we had actually ordered by placing them in a certain succession. Before this, on Tuesdays we would all have to man up and drink a scotch & milk every now and again (this fuckball Tommy immediately started ordering one every time, knowing someone else would always have to suck it down), and since Dusty had some weird in with the Murphy family that rendered him practically untouchable, we all knew to keep our mouths shut and drink what‘s in front of us.
So naturally, with Smitty getting all the attention Freddy’s attitude turned sour. He had already blasted through four or five grams of bargain basement blow and was starting to settle into one of his “tear in my fuckin’ beer” grooves, getting misty out loud — and steadily getting louder — about the days when his biggest responsibility was finding a new apartment complex with outside A/C units so could huff the Freon. Ordinarily, this is my chance to duck out and do a couple deliveries, and for the regulars to go to another bar, but it was his birthday so we all decided to humor him and suffer through it. We did need a small break from him though, so we waited for Dusty to lapse into one of his trademark states of near catatonic nothingness (he earned his name due to the world beating amounts of PCP he smoked in the 80’s), and ducked behind the dumpster out back to ‘scale the alps’ ourselves. Smitty normally had decent blow, big step up from the baby powder and gasoline Freddy inhales. But as per usual, what was supposed to be 5 minutes turned into close to 2 hours, and by the time we got back inside Freddy was just melting away, stammering around shirtless, pouring sweat, mumbling some backwoods nonsense that we would all “die drowning in a shitter’s hell.” Dusty just gave the “fuck do I know” shrug and offered us shots, but I had to pass them up.
It was nearing four in the afternoon and I still had 12 deliveries to go, five of them averaging about 200 cases each — basically the whole truck. But no worries, I’m already planning on leaving the Wayne deliveries for last since the bars are open until 3 am. My buddy Rex did an overnighter a few days ago, getting back to the warehouse at about quarter to four in the morning and leaving with an early truck 15 minutes later, but I wasn’t up for that tonight. True, Rex was well stocked in amphetamines, rye whiskey, and Hank Williams, and I was down to the residual chalk of a Percocet and a couple piss warm Schaefer’s I found last night in the neighbor’s weeds, but never mind that. It had been months, maybe years, but tomorrow I really wanted to put in a regular 7AM-3PM shift, despite the fact that most bar owners had finally gotten used to getting their delivery at 1:30 in the morning. But if I knew the salesman as well as I thought I did, and I thought I knew him pretty fucking well, he’ll send me back here tomorrow morning with five cases of some shitbag Peaches & Crème hard lemonade that will obviously be refused just to see if I could resist the gravitational pull towards the place. I think we both know the answer to that one.
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