The Old Days

      Smokey Joe, Mike Stone, Zuki and Loopy. They weren’t all my friends but I spent hours with them in the thick crash of live music, smoke, and dollar pitchers of beer. They all had their moments, hell, how can you not like a guy named Smokey Joe? One time he was so happy to see us walking up the driveway that he fell out of a second story window, slid down the roof and landed on the driveway in a tumble of limbs and expletives. Like Popeye he bounced to his feet, beer in hand, and led us through the front door.
      Mike Stone was a redneck with a heart of gold. Broad and friendly he was always happy to throw fists and somehow never lost his temper. It was all a game to him.
      Zuki, God bless his soul, died a few years back. He fell off a boat somewhere in the Florida Keys and no one ever found his body. I’m guessing his big-ass boots carried him straight to the bottom. A big X should mark the spot.
      Even Loopy’s grandmother called him Loopy. I once saw him so drunk that he spent minutes; I mean minutes, retching in the trashcan at the end of the bar. He stood unsteadily when he was done, cavefish pale, and ordered a round of shots. Jagermeister, probably. He was a champ. Beat him with a stick, throw him into a brick wall and generally do your worst. You couldn’t bring him down. But there was more: deep in there beat the heart of good person., a person you could trust, a person who would watch your back. I don’t need that so much anymore but at the time it meant the world and sometimes I have one of the those days when I wish someone was there to watch my back.