BY LANCE DOILY I had just gotten through my first route without a near total collapse into debauchery in a couple months, so I gave my man Royce a call to celebrate over a couple cold ones at the Husker. Slunt Huskers, that is. Stone was at the helm, so it goes without saying that the tap was locked in the pour position and “Easy Livin’” was runnin’ repeat on the juke before our butts even touched the barstools. He was in rare form that night, barely getting to the second round before telling us a story about how he let the Chief of Police work him like a hand puppet to get out of a couple parking tickets. Royce nudged him for a toot and the next thing you know, he’s scooping blow onto the bar like he was measuring out flour for a birthday cake. Clearly, we weren’t going nowhere for a long, long time.
Then I got the call from the office — it was Amy. She told me she got a couple inside tips from a gang banger she used to run with that Rex had fallen off the wagon again. For reasons he’s never fully explained, he has a habit of building up a respectable family and buying a nice ranch home in the suburbs, and then, with no discernible rhyme or reason, throwing it all away to slither through the backstreets of Paterson with a gang of unholy alley dwellers known as the Filth Hounds. So far he’s done it three times with three separate families, but no matter how many times we find him in a back alley, punching out pigeons for their food scraps and using a half-inflated truck tire for a pillow, we’re always rooting for him to get back on the reservation. Royce, who had actually spent some time with the Hounds as a misguided teenager, offered to come along for the ride. Tuesday nights for him normally consisted of hollerin’ scripture into deaf ears on the PATH train well into the small hours of the morning, but The Good Word would have to wait another day. We had a fallen comrade to find.
From the little I remembered about the last time I had to do this, it wasn’t going to be an easy ride. We started out by muscling our way through some of the burliest ghettos of Paterson. Full on gang warfare was raging up First Avenue, but I made my way around in a bright red Budweiser rig, so I was able to work through some pretty sketchy Blood territory relatively unscathed. They were too busy engaged in a firefight with some Latin Kings to really give a shit anyway, so we snuck by almost as an afterthought. Near 12th street we got thrown a knuckler as a large group of homeless people formed a human roadblock in front of my rig, but once I got close enough for them to realize that I wasn’t stopping, they got out of the way. Most of them, anyway. A bunch of strays tried to latch onto the trailer on our way out, but I managed to jiggle em’ loose with a series of bootlegger turns.
Once we got through all that bullshit and made it to 16th street things started looking up. Out my window I could see a group of alley cats feasting on a freshly-minted cadaver, and out the passenger side window we could see a couple of neighborhood kids were kicking around a ribcage like a soccer ball. I grinned and shot Royce a fist-bump — we were headed in the right direction. On past search and rescue missions, I’ve found Rex in this vicinity, but I had a feeling he was in much deeper in this time. Not a problem, from here all we had to do was slink past a long forgotten section of Broadway where we’d get pelted with rocks and bottles from all angles and the truck wasn’t mine, so I didn’t care. Then the road would devolve from pavement to dirt to soggy marshland, and in the end I would have to finagle the rig across a nearly mile-long swinging rope bridge over treacherous waters. Not a problem. I should have tried it in reverse on the way back. Next time, maybe.
After a good 15-20 miles of nothing but dense wilderness, Royce was able to make out in the distance the complex system of grunts and shrieks the Hounds use to communicate. He had retained the basics and spewed forth some convincing grunts of his own. The Hounds were summoned forth almost immediately, and led us to Rex’s general vicinity before retreating back into the darkness. Wasn’t long from there until we found him in all his poor fuckin’ bastard glory, laying on the ground, dressed only in a hollowed deer carcass. He had built himself an impressive cinderblock fort nearby, but otherwise this was deep Appalachia. God only knows what else he was doing to survive out here.
We peeled him off the ground and lifted him into the rig. His back was charred to a blue-ish black hue and he was coughing up the shitdust; Royce speculated that he had fallen into one of the burning manure piles the Hounds huddled around for warmth on cold nights. One whiff of his breath and it was clear he had fallen off the wagon and was back to guzzling gasoline for a buzz; I’d estimate he easily had a gallon of that beggar’s bourbon coursing through his veins. Back in the day Rex could guzzle more gas than a ‘76 Caddy, and shame on us for thinking he was past all that. But this time was much worse. In the past, when we found him like this, he would cling to what little dignity he had left by insisting he only drank the top shelf stuff — Premium Hi-Test — but this time it looked like he was just taking whatever the siphon offered.
He told us that he abandoned his truck in the fast lane of Rt. 46 West in Fairfield a week prior, and getting the customers their beer was his main priority. Ladies and gentlemen, Rex was back. I asked if he wanted to hook a hose to my tank as a final gesture before returning to rational society, but he just scoffed and mumbled something dismissive about diesel being the malt liquor of gasoline and he may be down and out ‘but not that fuckin’ down and out.’ Fortunately Royce knew this state well, and brought us to an old farm a few miles south in West Milford that had a can of leaded gasoline hidden in the weeds behind the shed. Rex’s eyes lit up as if we poured him a glass of aged scotch and he polished the can off faster than me and Royce could kill our handle of Early Times. We waited for him to pass out behind the shed so we could finish his route, but he still managed to find a way back to do the last five deliveries by himself. He gave it his best, but after 24 years of delivering you think he’d know by now that he’s never getting out of this place alive.
PREVIOUSLY: How I Came To Know Lance Doily
PREVIOUSLY: The Auspicious Debut Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The Second Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The Third Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The Fourth Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The Fifth Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The Sixth Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The Seventh Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The Eighth Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The Ninth Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The 10th Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The 11th Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: BLOTTO # 12: Rehab Is For Quitters
PREVIOUSLY: BLOTTO #13: Kick Out The Jams, Motherf*cker
PREVIOUSLY: BLOTTO #14: Tommy, Can You Hear Me?
PREVIOUSLY: BLOTTO #15: Now I Wanna Be Your Dawg