The drive is uneventful otherwise. We talk some but mostly we listen to Steve’s CD’s. He has them in a metal case and he’s very good about changing them. He has a variety of music and I don’t get bored. We stop for gas, a Coke for me. We polish off the last of the Pringles potato chips.
Late in the afternoon we get into another of our discussions about our family. This one is about our brother Kevin. Somehow we miss a turn-off from I-55 to I-39. Oops. We’ve overshot and are too far north. We have to backtrack. I am so sick of driving at this point that it really doesn’t matter if I have to drive another hour.
Finally we arrive at his place. I help him unload his stuff and head for Sue’s. When I arrive I see a gathering going on around what looks like a small shed that converts to an open air bar in the back yard of the house next door. Sue walks over to greet me and says we’re having a cookout. I say why? She says it’s Memorial Day. Oh, right.
Before I dropped Steve off he had me swing by the liquor store. As a reward for all of my driving and for that extra hour out of our way he’s bought me a bottle of white zin. It’s the big bottle, though, and I wonder how he thinks I can drink all of it. But then I remember where I am. Ladd, Illinois. Everyone drinks. There’s nothing else to do here. I have three nights to work on this big bottle of wine. I open it and pour it over ice in a red solo cup. When in Rome…
I take a seat on a stool at the outdoor bar next door and Sue says you remember Dave M_____, don’t you? Yes, I do. He was in my class when I attended school in Ladd in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. And this is exactly what I was hoping for. To see him again after forty years or so after I’ve been driving for nine hours. I had no idea he was Sue’s next-door neighbor.
He says he remembers me but the sunglasses I’m wearing threw him off or he would have recognized me. I lift them and he says, yes, that’s you. I remember Dave as being a nice guy and he still is. We catch up a little on our lives. I recognize a few of Sue’s friends, people from the neighborhood I’ve met before. She introduces me to others. Another guy reminds me he was in the same class as Dave and me and do I remember him? I do. He makes a remark about another of our classmates and it isn’t exactly complimentary. Someone tells him he’s an ass. How am I an ass he wants to know. I look at Sue and say if he has to ask is it even worth the time to explain it? I decide to ignore him and don’t care if I’m thought rude. There are enough other people there that probably no one will notice.
While our chicken is on the grill mostly I sit and listen to the others. I am not a part of this, although if I’d hadn’t moved from Illinois to Idaho after my sophomore year of high school, maybe I would be. Maybe I’d have married a local boy and settled down in Ladd, Illinois and spent the rest of my life there. Maybe I’d have a bar in my backyard, too.
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