August 10, 2016, Author: wordvendor,

The Whole Pat Thing

For the Death of Dustin Essary: a music novel

(Chapter III)

“Fugin’ cops keep comin’ ’round, tellin’ me I gotta move an’ shit, askin’ me how I got here … Like I did somethin’ wrong to somebody, or like I gotta fugin’ screw loose or some shit… Well, hell yeah, I got a fugin’ screw loose, why the hell else would I be out here like this?”

My dad was the first one to tell us about Pat. It was on that Friday after school when me and Dustin and Radick were just hanging out at my house, not even doing anything, really, when my dad started in with all this stuff about how we should never go near him. We didn’t even know about him.

“Just stay away from him,” he said. “They’re alcoholics. Probably diseased.”
But as far as we were concerned, it was the greatest thing we ever heard; that there was a real-life bum hanging out down around Circle K. So we made up some excuse after that, like we needed to go to some friend’s house or something, but then we headed straight up to the corner to try and see if we could find him. It did freak us out a little when we first saw him, though.

We were coming up the back way through the alley and headed through that narrow space between the liquor store and Circle K as a shortcut. But when we came through the other side, Pat was right there, all sprawled out on the ground and it scared the crap out of us since we didn’t expect it.
“Got any change, fugers?” he asked.
“Shut up, you old geezer,” Radick blurted.
“I’ll kill you little fugers.” he grumbled, and it looked like he was trying to come after us so we started running after that.

And Radick was always saying mean stuff, and he didn’t even hang out with us usually, since he was always hanging out with Ares and those guys, mostly. I had known him ever since kindergarten, though, and he was pretty cool for the most part, and I was the one who introduced him to Dustin, and they got along all right.

“Why’d you say it, though?” I asked, as we made our way across the parking lot to the gas station.
“Because he stinks,” Radick said, and started laughing like he was out of his mind or something. I mean, Radick always had this sort of high-pitched laugh, anyway, but now he sounded like some kind of wild hyena or something. Me and Dustin were laughing when we heard it, too.

I was still pissed at him, though, since the guy was just asking for help, I thought, and I figured there was no way we were ever going to talk to him after that.

But then we ended up hanging out at the gas station for a while, just so we could watch him from a distance, I guess. And it was just weird seeing him there, really, since he didn’t have any place to go, I don’t think. And like how does it happen to people, I mean? But the longer we watched him, the more we could see he had it all worked out, actually. He just kept getting change from people, one after another, since they felt sorry for him, I guess. Then once he got just the right amount, he’d limp over to Circle K, buy a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, go behind the buildings, and pound it as fast as he could, and then come back out to his spot near the shortcut and start taking change from people again. It was pretty awesome.

“Yeah, and these dump fugers got some money ’round here, you can tell … It’s like ther’ feelin’ guilty ’bout it, too … like givin’ me some change is gonna save ’em or some shit … Well, that ain’t gonna save ya, buddy, but I’ll take it anyway … now, what do these little fugers want again? I’ll kill you little fugers!”

And I guess he could tell we were watching him at that point, since he was staring right back at us mumbling something, and we were just about to take off when I got one of the greatest ideas I ever had. And I swear it was like something just came over me, so I decided to go ask him.

“What are you doing?” Dustin yelled, but I was already halfway across the parking lot.
I almost changed my mind when I got up close to him though, since you could see all the dirt mashed into his hair and his beard, and there were stains of gross crap all over his clothes everywhere. And Radick was right, I guess, since he stunk pretty bad, too, and that yellow blanket he carried was all curled up around him with these stickers and crap all stuck in it. And then he spit a big ol’ choge on the ground right in front of me and asked what I wanted, and I wasn’t even sure if I still had the nerve to say anything at that point.

But somehow I just started explaining everything; about how we could never get anybody to buy us beer ever, and how those assholes tricked us that one time and got us a bunch of pop instead. And how we could get a bunch of money from our parents and that we’d split it all with him if he’d just buy us some beer, maybe. But he still wasn’t saying anything, so I kept on explaining, and I can’t even remember half the stuff I said to try and convince him when all of a sudden he smashed his fist against the ground really hard so I thought he was mad at first.

“Hell yeah, I’ll do it,” he said, and then he spit another choge off to the side somewhere. Half of it was running down his chin, too.
“M’name’s Pat,” he said, and then he reached out the grossest-looking hand I ever saw since he wanted to shake on it, I guess.
“Stay away from him. They’re diseeeeased.” My dad’s voice went off in my head. I still shook his hand, though.

Then Dustin and Radick came over, so I introduced them to Pat and I told them what the plan was. And I remember Radick let out an extra-wild hyena laugh so I knew he was happy. You could tell Pat was still pissed at him, though.

“Gimee der moneylet’s do it then!” Pat said, as he started trying to get up.
But that’s when we had to tell him we didn’t have any right then. I mean, me and Dustin had a little change so we gave it to him, but we told him we’d be back later with enough to buy a whole case probably, Radick said.

So then Pat was just leaning against the wall counting the change we gave him and mumbling again, and Dustin had the idea that we should go get him some food and stuff, but when we asked him if he was hungry, he didn’t seem to care, really. We still felt bad for him, though, so we all took off to go find some stuff at our houses and bring it back for him real quick.

When we got back, Pat was behind the liquor store all slumped over against the wall, trying to sleep, I guess. We had a bunch of stuff for him, though, so we woke him up anyway. Dustin brought a couple of baloney sandwiches and a thermos of milk he must have stolen from his dad or something. And all I could get was a half a can of Spam and some Bugles in a Ziploc bag, but only because my mom was around so I couldn’t sneak anything else out. And Radick even brought some stuff but I can’t remember what, exactly. Like some carrots, or half a banana or something. But then Pat just dug through it all real quick and he didn’t even eat that much. He threw the baloney on the ground and only ate half a piece of bread, I think, and he was drinking some of the milk from the thermos but then he got all mad since we were watching him.

“Go get chur’ money, ya little fugers,” he said, and then he started coughing real bad and dropped the thermos so the milk went everywhere. We all had to go eat dinner anyway, but our plan was to go get as much money as we could from our parents and meet back behind Circle in a couple hours, so we took off after that.

“Little dump fugers thinkin’ ther’ helpin’ or some shit … Like maybe I should come to ther’ house an’ meet ther’ parents or some bullshit … Hell, that’s a good one. Me havin’ dinner with one of those little rich fugers parents … Like I need that fugin’ bullshit … Little dump fugers … Another beer is all I need, or a bottle … or a smoke, maybe … Or maybe they wanna stop those fugers down on Van Buren from throwin’ change out the window that’s been heated up with a fugin’ blowtorch … Or stop those fugers that been tryin’ to been lightin’ me on fire an’ shit … Maybe they wanna help with that fugin’ bullshit … Little dump fugers …”

Me and Dustin were the first ones to meet up back in the alley that night, and as we were walking towards the corner, I remember we were both pretty excited. I mean, just the idea that Pat was our friend made us feel a lot older, in a way, and then we were getting a bunch of beer, too, so we were pretty stoked about it.

But when we got to the corner, Pat was still lying in the same spot behind the liquor store, and Radick was there standing like ten feet away, since he was afraid to go near him, I guess.

“He won’t move, I tried.” Radick said, as he started pacing back and forth all upset. “I guess we’re not gettin’ anything now.”

So me and Dustin went closer to check, but it was dark out already, and there was just this one orange light shining down from the top of the building, so we could barely see him all hunched over under his blanket there.

“Mr. Pat, it’s us!” I joked, but he still didn’t say anything and he wasn’t moving at all, either. So that’s when me and Dustin started thinking he might be dead or something. But then Radick got this idea and went and found this long stick from the alley and came back and started jabbing Pat in the neck with it.

“Auuuhgg. Yug little fugers,” Pat grumbled, and he got up pretty quick after that. But then he started blaming me for some reason, so I told him Radick was the one that did it. But at least it got him up, and he seemed ok, I guess, and we were just glad he still wanted to go ahead with our plan and everything.

So we talked it over and gave him all the money we had, which was about eight bucks altogether, I think, but instead of going to Circle like we told him, he kind of wandered out over towards the park for some reason. And I guess we thought he might take all our money at that point, but then he stumbled back the other way, and we realized he was just going around the corner to the liquor store drive-thru instead.

So we waited behind the buildings for him, and it seemed like it was taking forever, too. But when he came back around the corner, finally, he had a bottle of Beefeaters gin in one hand (which we never agreed on) and only two six packs of Pabst Blue Ribbon under his other arm instead of three six packs of Michelob like we told him.

“This is bullshit,” Radick said, but Pat just handed us the beer and limped past us drinking his Beefeaters.
“I’mna need summa that Pabst later, too, ya little fugers,” he said, and then he kind of laughed at Radick, it seemed like.

But we still had some beer, we figured, so we didn’t worry about it too much. So we went over to the shortcut and with the orange light shining down, we all slammed our first beers as fast as we could, just like Pat always did. It was pretty awesome. We had it all counted out, too—that we all had four beers each, I mean—unless Pat got to it first, so we drank as fast as we could so we wouldn’t have to give him any.

After we slammed a couple, though, we started slowing down, I guess, and we were getting pretty buzzed, I remember, but since we still had a six-pack left, we followed Pat over to one of his favorite drinking spots in the park behind the Jack in the Crack. And that’s what he called it, too, so we were laughing the whole way. But when we got there, Pat said we had to hide along the fence in the dark since the cops would come around, probably.

It was still awesome, though, just sitting there along the fence drinking with Pat. And we could tell why he liked it there, too, since you could see all the cars and the lights and the people everywhere, but then nobody could really see us back there, either. And we were almost done with our third beer each, I think, and Pat was almost done with his Beefeaters. And we were still trying to hurry up, I guess, so we wouldn’t have to give him any.

But that’s when Pat started talking a lot, and it wasn’t like he was just mumbling anymore, either. Because then he was telling us about the Vietnam War, since he was in it, I guess. And it sounded pretty scary, too. I mean, all the stuff he was saying, but I can’t remember what, exactly. But the more he talked about it, the more pissed he got, and the more pissed he got, the more you could tell he still hated Radick—I mean, from all the stuff he did before, probably.

And then Radick started making all these smartass comments, as usual. Like, what did he really do in Vietnam, and why was he living out on the street and stuff, until Pat finally leaned over and grabbed Radick by the throat and started to choke him pretty good. And it was pretty funny at first, I thought, since Pat was always moving so slow, so it wasn’t like he was going to hurt him at all, or, at least I didn’t think. But then we could see Radick’s eyes getting big, like I guess he couldn’t breathe at all, probably, and his face looked funny bulging out like that, so I couldn’t stop laughing, even though I felt kind of bad for him, really. But then Dustin offered his last beer to Pat, since he was out of his Beefeaters, I guess, so Pat let go of Radick like nothing had even happened. So it was Dustin who saved him, actually. And then Radick was all mad, and I can’t blame him, really. But we finished our last beers, and Pat was saying some funny stuff again, and I offered Radick a smoke, and he seemed ok after that.

The rest of that night I can barely remember, though, since we got pretty wasted. But let me just jump ahead and say that for the next three weekends in a row, my plan worked perfect and we partied with Pat like you wouldn’t believe. And that’s how we got to know him so good, too, since he told us a bunch more stories about Vietnam and about living on the street and everything, and even him and Radick got along pretty good after that first night.

But the cops had seen us hanging around him, I guess, and they kind of ruined everything when they pulled us aside that one day, even though everything they were saying sounded like bullshit, or like they were just trying to scare us, probably. And Pat wasn’t even around when it happened, either, since he was gone during the week sometimes, so we couldn’t even ask him about it. But I remember being out in front of Circle when they pulled up in their stupid squad car.

“One-Adam-12, one-Adam-12,” Radick mocked as they were getting out of their car to come talk to us. I used to love that show, too.
“Pat’s bad news … you guys know it, right?” the one cop said, and we were surprised they knew his name already.

“What do you mean, officer?” Radick asked, and they could tell he was being a smartass.
“You guys just need to stay away from him,” the other mean-looking cop said, and he sounded just like my dad for a second.

Then Dustin asked why, and that’s when they told us a bunch of stuff about Pat being sick from drinking so much, and how his leg was all infected and that it was still probably broken since he never went to the hospital to get it fixed right. And so that’s why he was limping so bad, we figured.
“Gangrene’s set in by now,” the nice cop said.
“Gangrene … Jesus,” I said, and everybody stared at me. But I had heard about gangrene in a war movie I saw once. I mean, about all the leper colonies and all that, so it kind of freaked me out just thinking about it, to be honest. He’s diseeeeased. My dad’s voice went off in my head again, and I started to think he was right, probably.

“You guys should just stay away from him,” the asshole cop said again, like he was making some final point about it. But as they were walking back to their car, we could hear they were still saying some stuff—something about Pat’s days being numbered—like he was going to die soon or something. At least that’s what it sounded like. We all heard them say it, too.
But Pat was our friend, so we weren’t just going to stay away from him. And we still had a plan for him to buy us some more beer that coming weekend anyway. But everything the cops had told us kind of freaked us out, actually. I mean, the stuff about his days being numbered was the worst part, I guess. Because if Pat’s days were numbered, then that meant all our days were numbered, really, and so then what the hell was the point to anything anyway? And then everything Pat was saying about how the cops and everybody were assholes, and how the whole world was all fucked up was probably true also, I mean.

So a few days later, me and Dustin went and found Pat lying in the shortcut since we figured we’d just ask him ourselves if it was true or not—at least the stuff about him having gangrene, anyway. He was sleeping when we got there, though, and we really didn’t want to wake him, either, even though I was joking at first that I might poke him with a stick like Radick did. But Dustin could hear him snoring, I guess, so we knew he was alive still, and we just figured we’d see him again that coming weekend.

But when we came back around that next Friday, he was just gone, I remember. And it wasn’t like during the week when he disappeared sometimes, since he always came back for the weekends since he knew we were getting beer and stuff. And Radick was saying the cops probably busted him, or they told him he had to leave again, and so maybe he did, finally. And Dustin thought they might have forced him to go to the hospital since his leg was so bad, I guess. But all I kept thinking was something bad must have happened, and I couldn’t stop thinking it for some reason.
And sure enough, that very next day we found Pat’s old blanket hanging over of one of the dumpsters behind the liquor store, so we knew he was dead after that, probably. I mean, there was just no way he’d leave his only blanket behind unless something really bad happened.

I remember walking around in a daze when we realized it, too. We just couldn’t believe it, though. I mean, one minute you’re friends with someone and partying and hanging out and everything, and then all of a sudden they’re just gone after that.

We ended up over in the park later that day, but none of us really said anything. There was a wooden bench we used to hang out around, and Dustin used a quarter to etch some stuff in it for him.

PAT WAS HERE – 1978. He left the quarter sitting there next to it, too.

But that’s when we decided we should probably try and quit drinking. At least for a while, anyway. I mean, we had only joked about it up until that point, like which one of us was going to end up like Pat first since we were always down there with him.
“Here’s Radick a year from now,” I’d say, and then imitate him limping around like he was out of his mind. “You fugers! Give me some money … I’m an old geezer now!” I’d groan and then laugh like crazy. And Radick would say it was stupid what I did, but then he’d imitate me doing the same thing, like it was the greatest thing he ever came up with. But we were all making fun of Pat back then. I mean, even Dustin said some stuff, I think.

But after he was gone, we just felt bad for ever saying anything, and none of us wanted to end up like him, either. And Radick made a good point, I guess, even though it sounded kind of mean when he said it, but we didn’t have anybody to buy beer for us after that, anyway. But mostly out of respect for Pat, we all decided around the bench that day that that was it. That from that day forward we were “on the wagon,” which is what my mom always called it when my dad quit.
“Your father’s on the wagon!” she’d say, and I used to picture him actually riding on a wagon when I was a kid. I mean, I knew what she meant after a while, and he’d always last a couple days, I guess, but then he’d take me on a drive as an excuse so he could sneak a beer or martini in a can and make me promise not to say anything. I mean, I still like going on drives with him.

Anyway, we were pretty serious about quitting at first, so we didn’t even go down to the corner that much. And I think we were just riding our bikes around, or throwing rocks down at the canal and smoking cigarettes. But after being on the wagon for a couple weeks, I couldn’t stop thinking about everything, and then I just felt like crap for the most part. And we were so bored we could barely stand it, too.

So it was one of those weekends right after that, when my sister came to the house with her new boyfriend Dan Dioso, but I got up the nerve to ask him to buy us some beer, just like I did with Pat. And I wasn’t even sure if he was going to do it or not, since my sister was saying a bunch of stuff to him before they left—something about us not being old enough, probably. But when I went back outside to meet up with Dustin after dinner that night, we found a twelve-pack hidden behind the bushes near the side yard, right where Dioso said he was going to leave it.

And then Radick showed up and let out this superloud hyena laugh so I thought my parents were going to hear us. But nobody came out, so we all slammed our first beers right there in the side yard next to my house before we even left that night. It was Michelob, too, this time. So then we headed up the street to the alley and ended up finishing the rest before we even got to the corner.

“Here’s to Pat!” Dustin said, and we all made a toast in his honor.

And we remembered all the good times we had with him, and all the great parties. And we laughed about how slow he was and how he was always yelling at us for no reason. Or when he’d be telling us some story and then turn away and throw up all of a sudden, but then he’d just go back to what he was saying right after that like nothing had even happened. I mean, I know it sounds gross, but it was still pretty funny. And that first night when he was choking Radick was the funniest thing I ever saw, too, or, at least I thought so, anyway.

But then we got quiet since we knew we went back on our promise. I mean, we all felt guilty for not staying on the wagon like we said. And then Radick was kneeling forward all hunched over with his beer hanging down, like he had gangrene all over his arm or something.
“I don’t give a shit, you little fugers!” he grumbled, and he sounded just like Pat, so we all started laughing again.

And so then we were drunk and we finished our last beers and we smashed our last bottles against the wall in the alley. And then out behind Circle and the liquor store again, right where we found Pat’s old blanket in the dumpster since he was dead…. But then Radick was saying some stuff, and it didn’t feel right at all, like “FUCK PAT, ANYWAY!” he was yelling … And then I swear it was weird, since like something must have heard us, because right when we came around the corner, around the liquor store drive-thru, this guy came out of nowhere and this car almost hit him.
And there in the headlights, staring right at us and more wasted than we’d ever seen him before, was Pat.

“Speak of the devil,” he said.

And I swear I’m not lying since that’s exactly what happened, and it scared the living crap out of us, too. And we actually did quit drinking for a while after that, since all of a sudden Pat was alive again, or like he came back to remind us we broke our promise since we were all laughing about it or something. But that’s when Radick stopped coming around. I mean, he just hung out with Ares and those guys from then on, mostly.

I remember Dustin came on one of those drives with me and my dad around that time, and I was pretty embarrassed since my dad’s hands were shaking as he was grabbing his beer at the drive-thru window. And Dustin was probably thinking the same thing I was, that Pat’s hands were always shaking that way, too. He never said anything, though.

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