“Hey, let’s go grab a beer and wings at the pub. They probably have the Leaf game on.” said Stan.
“Wow, ok, ya dad.” Tim said. “ But where’s mom?”
“She went over to visit your Aunt Magda.”
“Nothin to worry about. Grab your coat.”
Stan poured them both more beer from the pitcher.
“Thanks dad.” Tim said without looking up. Stan had trained himself to savour those phrases. Tim really liked this father-son moment sitting at the bar watching the game and licking the bbq sauce off their fingers.
“Ya know, one of the other sales guys at work says his numbers are down because of the pandemic. Everyone else’s have gone up. What do you think is going on with that guy?” Stan asked.
“Dunno. Lots of factors: pandemic, budgets, competition. Or it could be something personal”
“Exactly. Those are the same factors for all salespeople. So why would his sales be lower?”
“OH yes. Oh, no. Shit, nice stop by the New York goalie. Nylander should have gone 5 hole. Sorry dad. What was the question?”
Stan made himself busy gnawing on a chicken wing.
“Right, why are this one guy’s numbers lower than the rest of you? Ummm. Well I don’t know the guy personally so it is tough to say.” Tim distanced himself from the question.
“He doesn’t know what he wants.” Stan said.
“Well, who actually wants to sell industrial racking systems?” Tim grabbed another wing from the plate between them with a rapid glance at his dad. “I mean does it bring him satisfaction?”
“With all these Amazon fulfilment centres mushrooming up all over the place it is an amazing opportunity to build a career.”
“Are you suggesting that I apply for a job there?”
“If that is what you want.” Said Stan. “You see, I don’t see you passionate about graphic design.
“Well, in a way, you’re right. It’s my entrance into the gaming world and the whole Metaverse and NFTs. Remember I explained that whole scenario to you.”
“I remember you told me Eminem invested thousands of dollars in a pdf.”
“It’s more complicated than that.”
“My point is Tim, it has been a year and a half since you finished high school and I haven’t seen any, you know, growth. I see you in your gaming chair and hear you scream when one of your buddies shoots you. But don’t hear anything about your on-line courses. I haven’t had you come up to me with a notebook and specific questions you have for growing a business or finding clients.”
Tim wiped his fingers with that noxious moist towelette they give you and grabbed his beer,
“So what happens now?” He arched his back after being hunched over his plate of wings and looked straight ahead at the big screen tv.
“You start paying rent the beginning of May.” Stan said
They stared at the same screen but were miles apart.
“If you want to go to college, for graphic design or anything else, I will pay 50% of the tuition while you live at home. And at that point we can negotiate the rent.”
“That was over two years ago.” Said Tim grabbing another nail from his pouch.
“So whadaya wanna do, bro?” Asked Manuel
“I wanna buy a house. I dunno, maybe flip it. We’ll see.
“So what’d your dad say when you told im that?”
“Well of course I didn’t talk to my dad the whole Uber ride home like any self respecting 20 year spoiled brat would do. Then lying on my bed with a pleasant beer buzz.”
“Wait, who says pleasant?” Interrupted Manuel.
“Hey, it’s my fuckin story pal?”
“And who says pal?” Manuel teased.
“Do you want me to push you off this fuckin floor? Pal?”
“Chill bro, chill.”
They were framing the second story of this new house they had been working on for 2 weeks. They were supposed to have finished by the end of October but they didn’t get started till the beginning of November. And still the general contractor was putting pressure on them. But it wasn’t their fault. The general contractor didn’t want to pay such a high price for the lumber so he delayed hoping the price would go down.
The price didn’t go down so that backfired and Tim and Manuel had to pick up smaller jobs in the meantime. Tim had signed up on one of those handyman apps. It was called Odd Man. Horrible name but they paid. He wasn’t supposed to because he was in the union. And the thing was the local carpenters’ union had worked out really well for him.
That Friday night Tim went out with his gaming buddies Raf and Tony. They were attempting to meet women so they were at a bar with Tony’s sister and a few of her friends.
“So chillin there, on my bed with a mild beer buzz I felt the house really, I don’t know, empty without my mom there. I grabbed my phone but focusing on that kind of killed the beer buzz and only made me angry.”
“Angry? Why?” Asked the friend of Tony’s sister.
“I have lots of reasons, bro.”
“I’m not your bro.”
“Sorry, man. Sorry again”
“Like what reasons.”
“Like… Well in this case ‘cause my dad was harpin on me about my entire future right. Anyway, I, like I say, I don’t know but I was driving myself crazy so I went down the hall and my dad was reading at the kitchen table and I said,
“Hey dad …?”
“Sorry for not, you know, for not talking to you on the Uber ride home.”
Stan looked at Tim slouching in his dropping sweat pants that had never seen a drop of sweat in their life.
“I remember, I took a big breath making me stand up straight and I said,
“What about Marco, Vince’s son? You said he joined the carpenter’s union and makes good coin.”
“Well that’s what I want. To make some good coin.”
“Give him a call.”
“I don’t have his number.”
“He lives right around the corner. Knock on his door.”
“Dad, nobody knocks on anybody’s door these days.”
“Then be a nobody.”
“And that was over 2 years ago.” Tim said.
“So, Are you a nobody?” She asked.
“Look at my hands. Are these nobody’s hands?” Tim displayed his scratched hands, palm and back, to Trish, the friend of Tony’s sister, for her to appreciate his calluses and cuts.
Trish put her phone in her back pocket “Look at my hands. Are these the hands of a nobody?” Turning over her manicured hands, palm and back for Tim to appreciate her silver rings and bright red fingernails.
“Those are the hands of …” Tim had nothing.
“The hands of the cute young woman at the bar you are going to offer to buy a drink.”
“That is … exactly correct.” Said Tim, briefly bowing his head. “What’s your poison?”
“You sound like a bartender, You’re not a frickin bartender.”
“Ok. Hey there cute young woman with ravishing red fingernails, can I interest you in a beverage?”
“That was cheesy but better. I’m going to the bathroom. Order me something you think I would like.” Trish nodded to one of the other young women in the group of friends of the sister and they headed to the bathroom.
Tim turned to the bar.
“What’s your poison?” The bartender asked.
Tim shook his head quickly.
“Did you see the woman I was talking to? What do you think she would like to drink?”
“I actually don’t recall seeing her specifically but you can’t go wrong with a Tom Collins.”
“I’ll get one of those and another pint of Creemore?”
“Do you remember my name?” Trish asked as she accepted the drink.
“Do you know my name?” Tim countered.
“Tim.” Trish placed the limp slice of lime on the napkin on the bar and sipped the Tom Collins. “Your turn”
“I don’t … recall.” Said Tim, copying the bartender.
“Do you live with your parents?”
“If you can believe it I would prefer the answer to be yes. I’m trying to save up to buy a house. I actually live with 2 other guys in a shithole with a filthy bathtub that hasn’t been cleaned in months.”
“Then clean it.”
Alcohol Intelligence is the original AI. It has been the modus operandi of many a shy/angry/ill-equipped-for-life man. It has worked well in the moment thousands and thousands of times. It has damaged lives thousands of times. It is the algorithm of getting sufficient alcohol into the body of at least one of the participants so they disconnect from reason, standards and dignity leading to sex within the first night, if not hours, of meeting each other. Whether they want to or not.
This, not surprisingly, was Tim’s default strategy. He had not encountered any other creative techniques for flirting . Stan was a good father/husband in that he was there day to day. He provided. Regardless, he didn’t know how to speak about women with his son. Which is a major reason why now, at the bar, Tim was preprogrammed to align all mental and verbal efforts towards sex tonight.
“Tina ..?” Tim raised his eyebrows making a stab at her name.
“Trish.” Trish wished Tim would stand up straight. Three beers in, Tim wished he could smell her long back hair.
“Trish, you wanna get outta here?”
“And go where? To your place. Not until you clean it.”
“Why me? I am waiting for my lazy roommates to clean it. We all have our responsibilities in the home. I am responsible for the kitchen. Raf, did you meet Raf? That’s him in the brown Atari t-shirt still holding his first beer of the night – he takes care of the garbage/sweeping mopping and shit like that, and that guy beside Raf …”
Trish shook her head and then leaned in to look into Tim’s eyes to make him stop.
“And why in the world would I be interested in your dysfunctional bro show in Nerdia?”
“Bro show in Nerdia?” Tim’s brain was temporarily blocked as her cool blue eyes hijacked his arterial system. “What the fuck is Nerdia?”
“Oh that is what we call the imaginary place a gamer’s mind goes to when he enters his video game zone. It’s a combination of nerd and Narnia.”
“It sounds like you are pretty proud of yourself for coming up with that … title.”
“It works doesn’t it?” Trish smirked with her eyes and sipped from the pink paper straw. “I can tell you actually like the whole idea of having your own little niche in the Metaverse.” Niche got its own punctuation: a wrinkling of the nose
“Are you actually talking with me or am I like that half dead mouse that a cat plays with?”
“You did pretty well with the drink.” Trish referred to the Tom Collins not wanting another one but wanting to keep Tim’s focus on her.
Monday morning was light years away from the here and now of Friday night at the bar. Right now Tim was the man of the moment.
“Timber or lumber. What’s the difference? Tim asked.
“It doesn’t matter.” Manuel puffed out clouds of steam in the cold morning. He hated working outside in the cold so he came to work pissed at Woodley, the GC because he delayed the project to save a few bucks and they ended up framing outside in late November.
“You’re right it doesn’t matter, It’s just I like to learn stuff, to understand stuff.”
“What a fuckin waste of time.”
Tim stopped hammering for a second as he felt the bubble he was in after going out with Trish again on Sunday afternoon was now being burst.
“The problem with you is you’re a lazy paycheck to paycheck typical idiot.” Tim puffed.
“Do you lay awake thinkin all these high school insults?”
“You’re worse than the fuckin spolied Canadians.”
“What de fuck you talkin about pendejo feo? Yer Canadian.”
“You don’t know what you’re talkin about.”
“If it was my choice, I’d fire your lazy, insubordinate ass.”
“Insubordination?! What are we in the fuckin army.” Laughed Tim.
“Shut your face and pass me another 2×4 before I freeze to death.” Manuel said.
“Entitlement is usually reserved for white trash Canadians, not immigrants who usually have a better work ethic. Unless they hate their parents. Do you hate your parents?”
“What the fuck. I’m bein paid to frame fuckin houses. Not be psychoanalyzed. This is bullshit. Esto es una mierda.”
‘Someone always ends up paying for the bullshit of others’, Tim thought as he dropped his toolbelt with a thud on the plywood floor of the open second story. Their friendly barbs had never landed them actually angry at each other.
He didn’t really need to take a piss but he needed to create some space between the two of them. He learned this technique from his dad. Also it would put him in a better mood because he just loved the inventive names the portable toilet companies had like Willy Make it, or Royal Flush. The one at the end of the driveway was Urinbiz.
“Here.” Manuel made up with Tim by getting him a coffee he didn’t ask for.
“Bro, this is the last job I do for Woodley. If you wanna keep workin wit em, man it’s totally your right. But me bro, this is my last. I’m done” As Manuel sipped his double double he was holding onto a loose 2×4 like it was a small tree. He let it go and as it began to fall he said in a whispered yell,