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Community Dispatch:
Mike & Natural Light
by Jenny Wray

It was a Friday night and I was staring at United Dairy Farmer’s refrigerated wall of beer. The convenience store’s choices were variations on a theme. Budweiser in cans. Budweiser in bottles. Bud Light in cans. Bud Light in bottles. I wanted Schlitz. There was no Schlitz. Or Pabst, Blatz, Black Label or Schafer’s–none of my favorite cheap, cheap beers.

So I decided on a case of Natural Light, the beer that reminds me of freshman year when my tolerance was up and my weight down. I was heading to a party, and the beer’s low cost per can was the answer.

I hefted the case up to the counter.

"Thirsty?" the cashier asked.

"I’m not going to drink it all myself," I mumbled. "It’s for a party."

After leaving UDF we drove through the rain to the party, finding parking several blocks away. My head down to avoid raindrops, I started walking, Beckeye striding aside.

"Hey, girl. Can I have a beer?"

I looked up. On my left was a family perched on a porch. The youngest guy, who approximated my mid-20s, was talking to me. I stopped, hesitating before speaking.

"Uh, yeah, why not," I said, tearing open the case.

"Oh, I was just playin’," he said. "You don’t really have to give me any."

"No, I’m not gonna drink this all myself," I said. "I bought it to share." I handed him a beer.

"Can I have a beer, honey?" an older woman with a moustache darkening her upper lip asked. And soon I was handing beers to everyone on the porch: Moustache, her husband, Gold Fronts; her sister, Excitable; her niece, The Drama Queen and The Drama Queen’s Boyfriend.

"C’mon and drink some Christian Brothers with us," Moustache said, grabbing me by my sweatshirt and pulling me onto the porch. Then she and Excitable grabbed Beckeye.

I told her we had to go. We were headed to a party. We were already late. But Moustache held a trump card.

"Tell me who you think this is," she said, thrusting a sepia-tinted picture in front of me. The photograph, creased and blurred, showed a young boy, no older than 10 or 11, his hair styled in a ’fro, playing cards.

"Well...it looks kind of like Michael Jackson," I said.

"That’s because it is Michael Jackson," Moustache said, delighted. "My ex-old man was his godfather."

The party could wait.

So Beckeye and I sat on the porch, Beckeye drinking her Miller Light while I sipped syrupy Christian Brothers brandy mixed with Pepsi. As I flipped through photographs of the Jackson 5 playing cards and rehearsing, Moustache told me about her ex-old man, the man who was to shape Michael Jackson.

"I know this may be hard to believe," she said, casting her eyes at her soft body, "but I used to be a real beauty. My old man knew everyone: governors and business owners and all sorts of high-up people…he used to take care of me, but he’s dead now."

I asked her how she met Gold Fronts, who was sitting beside her, sipping his drink.

"Well, you know, it was s’posed to only be a one-night thing, but then we stayed together," she said. "You know, with my old man, it was a money thing, but this, this is love, we’ve been together for 10 years now." She looked at Gold Fronts and smiled.

Staring out into the street, Gold Fronts spoke, alcohol and Southern accent thickening his words.

"I work. I work for the university. Almost every damn building, I helped build. I work. I come home from work and I drink. I come home from work and I drink every damn day. I drink...everyday. I’m an alcoholic. I work, I’m an alcoholic..."

"I love this man," Moustache said. "But anyway, my old man, he knew Redd Foxx, too. I had pictures of him, too, but she lost ’em." Moustache gestured toward Excitable.

"I didn’t lose them," Excitable yelled. "I didn’t!"

Meanwhile, The Drama Queen spotted a cat that had slunk its way up the porch stairs.

"Oh my gawd! I hate cats; I’m allergic to them," she said, kicking at the feline.

The Drama Queen’s Boyfriend chased after the cat, scooping it off the ground and petting it.

"You’re going to make me sick," The Drama Queen said, walking over to her boyfriend. The Drama Queen’s Boyfriend put down the cat, then rubbed his cat-contaminated hands across The Drama Queen’s face.

The Drama Queen punched her boyfriend’s shoulder. The Drama Queen’s Boyfriend returned the favor. The two traded punches until they started rolling on the ground, kissing.

As Excitable and Moustache argued and the quarreling couple smooched, I realized Gold Fronts had yet to stop talking.

"I like to drink," he was still saying, holding his Natty Light aloft. "I come home and drink. Every day. I drink. I’m an alcoholic and I drink. I build things for the university and I drink. I like to drink. I’m an alcoholic..."

I glanced around the porch, but everyone seemed nonplussed by Gold Fronts’ cry for help.

"So, you’ve been together for ten years, huh?" I said to Moustache.

She smiled.

I sipped my drink and smiled back.

It was a Friday night and I was staring at United Dairy Farmer’s refrigerated wall of beer. The convenience store’s choices were variations on a theme. Budweiser in cans. Budweiser in bottles. Bud Light in cans. Bud Light in bottles. I wanted Schlitz. There was no Schlitz. Or Pabst, Blatz, Black Label or Schafer’s–none of my favorite cheap, cheap beers.

So I decided on a case of Natural Light, the beer that reminds me of freshman year when my tolerance was up and my weight down. I was heading to a party, and the beer’s low cost per can was the answer.

I hefted the case up to the counter.

"Thirsty?" the cashier asked.

"I’m not going to drink it all myself," I mumbled. "It’s for a party."

After leaving UDF we drove through the rain to the party, finding parking several blocks away. My head down to avoid raindrops, I started walking, Beckeye striding aside.

"Hey, girl. Can I have a beer?"

I looked up. On my left was a family perched on a porch. The youngest guy, who approximated my mid-20s, was talking to me. I stopped, hesitating before speaking.

"Uh, yeah, why not," I said, tearing open the case.

"Oh, I was just playin’," he said. "You don’t really have to give me any."

"No, I’m not gonna drink this all myself," I said. "I bought it to share." I handed him a beer.

"Can I have a beer, honey?" an older woman with a moustache darkening her upper lip asked. And soon I was handing beers to everyone on the porch: Moustache, her husband, Gold Fronts; her sister, Excitable; her niece, The Drama Queen and The Drama Queen’s Boyfriend.

"C’mon and drink some Christian Brothers with us," Moustache said, grabbing me by my sweatshirt and pulling me onto the porch. Then she and Excitable grabbed Beckeye.

I told her we had to go. We were headed to a party. We were already late. But Moustache held a trump card.

"Tell me who you think this is," she said, thrusting a sepia-tinted picture in front of me. The photograph, creased and blurred, showed a young boy, no older than 10 or 11, his hair styled in a ’fro, playing cards.

"Well...it looks kind of like Michael Jackson," I said.

"That’s because it is Michael Jackson," Moustache said, delighted. "My ex-old man was his godfather."

The party could wait.

So Beckeye and I sat on the porch, Beckeye drinking her Miller Light while I sipped syrupy Christian Brothers brandy mixed with Pepsi. As I flipped through photographs of the Jackson 5 playing cards and rehearsing, Moustache told me about her ex-old man, the man who was to shape Michael Jackson.

"I know this may be hard to believe," she said, casting her eyes at her soft body, "but I used to be a real beauty. My old man knew everyone: governors and business owners and all sorts of high-up people…he used to take care of me, but he’s dead now."

I asked her how she met Gold Fronts, who was sitting beside her, sipping his drink.

"Well, you know, it was s’posed to only be a one-night thing, but then we stayed together," she said. "You know, with my old man, it was a money thing, but this, this is love, we’ve been together for 10 years now." She looked at Gold Fronts and smiled.

Staring out into the street, Gold Fronts spoke, alcohol and Southern accent thickening his words.

"I work. I work for the university. Almost every damn building, I helped build. I work. I come home from work and I drink. I come home from work and I drink every damn day. I drink...everyday. I’m an alcoholic. I work, I’m an alcoholic..."

"I love this man," Moustache said. "But anyway, my old man, he knew Redd Foxx, too. I had pictures of him, too, but she lost ’em." Moustache gestured toward Excitable.

"I didn’t lose them," Excitable yelled. "I didn’t!"

Meanwhile, The Drama Queen spotted a cat that had slunk its way up the porch stairs.

"Oh my gawd! I hate cats; I’m allergic to them," she said, kicking at the feline.

The Drama Queen’s Boyfriend chased after the cat, scooping it off the ground and petting it.

"You’re going to make me sick," The Drama Queen said, walking over to her boyfriend. The Drama Queen’s Boyfriend put down the cat, then rubbed his cat-contaminated hands across The Drama Queen’s face.

The Drama Queen punched her boyfriend’s shoulder. The Drama Queen’s Boyfriend returned the favor. The two traded punches until they started rolling on the ground, kissing.

As Excitable and Moustache argued and the quarreling couple smooched, I realized Gold Fronts had yet to stop talking.

"I like to drink," he was still saying, holding his Natty Light aloft. "I come home and drink. Every day. I drink. I’m an alcoholic and I drink. I build things for the university and I drink. I like to drink. I’m an alcoholic..."

I glanced around the porch, but everyone seemed nonplussed by Gold Fronts’ cry for help.

"So, you’ve been together for ten years, huh?" I said to Moustache.

She smiled.

I sipped my drink and smiled back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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