“So there I was – drunk.”
Jer’s stories always began that way. When he was home on leave, his family called them his “drunk Marine” stories, but they’d laugh at every one. His buddies joked that all his stories started like that because he was always drunk. Jeremy wasn’t always drunk, he was a Marine. He had perfect posture, he looked good in uniform (and knew it), and he always held open doors for the ladies. But even though he took his position seriously, he lived for the weekends.
Tonight, Jer was hanging out at Denny’s – since his girlfriend had been deployed three months ago, he’d spent most of his evenings hanging out at a small table in the back of the dingy 24-hour restaurant. He was eating his usual meal: greasy hashbrowns, eggs with hot sauce, and black coffee. The regular evening waitress, Shelly, sat across from him. She propped her feet up on an extra chair and leaned back, watching him through the hazy blue smoke from her cigarette.
“Okay. So there I was, drunk. Me and the guys were hanging out, shooting the shit, when we got hungry. We were all too wasted to drive, so we figured we’d just walk here.”
“Uh-huh,” said Shelly, as Jeremy shoveled another huge bite of eggs into his mouth. “What exactly did you do?”
“Well, apparently we get a little crazy when we’re drunk. We sort of knocked over some mailboxes and shit. But that wasn’t the funny part.”
“So what was the funny part?” Shelly reached across the table, pulled another cigarette from Jeremy’s pack, and lit it.
“We got lost.”
“You got lost? In ten blocks?”
“Yeah. It took us like four hours. It was light out by the time we got here, and we were mostly sober by then.”
“Oh, Jesus. You need to cut back on the alcohol, hon,” said Shelly as she stood up and stretched. “I’ve gotta get back to work.”
“Have a good night. Are you coming over later?”
“Maybe,” she called over her shoulder.
Jeremy finished his coffee, paid the pudgy middle-aged cashier who said “Bye, sweetie!” as he walked out the door, and headed home. He’d have just enough time for a quick nap before the guys showed up.
“Hey! Open up in there!” Jeremy woke with a start. He wiped the drool from his cheek, and gave the apartment a quick once-over. No dirty underwear on the floor. He opened the door, and five guys with crew cuts filed in, laughing and joking. The tallest of them, Mark, was carrying a brown grocery sack. “I’ve got the refreshments,” he said as he pulled bottle after bottle out of the sack.
“Tonight it’s the four horsemen,” announced Zach. “Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Johnny Walker, and Jose Cuervo. We brought a bottle of each.”
“Say what?” asked Jeremy. “Shel says I’m supposed to lay off the drinking. I’m afraid she might call Lisa.”
Mark’s voice was high-pitched and mocking: “I’m a big pussy and I’m afraid of my girlfriend.”
“Come on, man, Lisa’s a thousand miles away. What’s a little liquor gonna hurt anyway?” Zach’s voice was muffled, his head stuck deep in the refrigerator. “Dude, when are you gonna buy groceries?”
“There’s some pizza rolls in the freezer. Make those,” said Jeremy. “But seriously, guys, we shouldn’t be drinking so much. I’m about broke.”
“I think there’s sand in my vagina,” mocked Mark, ducking the pillow Jeremy sent flying his way.
“All right, man, give me the Jack,” said Jeremy. “Let’s get this party started.”
The goal was to finish all four bottles of liquor before the sun came up, but three of the guys bailed before the first liter was gone. Jeremy, Mark, and Zach decided to finish the rest on their own.
They sat around telling “drunk Marine” stories until six in the morning. The bottles were all empty, Zach was smoking at the kitchen table, and Mark was passed out on the couch. Jeremy tossed a blanket on top of Mark, and pulled his boots off. “I love you, man,” mumbled Mark as he pulled the blanket around his shoulders and rolled over.
Jeremy wavered unsteadily back into the kitchen and found Zach studying a packet of strawberry jelly. “Hey, Jer, where’d you get this?”
“The jelly? Denny’s.”
“Well, it’s looking at me funny.”
“Zach…it’s jelly. Smoke another cigarette or something. I’m going outside for a bit.” Jeremy stumbled out the front door and sat in the corner of the open stairwell. He pulled his cell phone from his pocket and dialed his sister’s number. It rang, and rang…after the fourth ring, the answering machine picked up.
“Hey sister!” Jeremy slurred into the phone. “It’s Friday night, you should still be up drinking! It’s only….four….in the morning. Well, I guess you’re not partying like a rock star like I am. I love you, sister.”
As he was sitting in the stairwell thinking of who else he could call, he heard a crash from inside the apartment. He jumped up and reached for the doorknob, but missed. “I must be drunker than I thought,” he thought.
Zach was standing in the farthest corner of the kitchen, eying the jelly packet warily.
“What’s wrong, man?”
“The jelly. It’s talking smack about my mom!”
“Dude, jelly can’t talk.”
“Jer, I mean it. It’s talkin’ shit!” Zach slowly advanced towards the jelly.
“Well, don’t let him get away with it,” Jeremy joked.
Zach picked up the jelly. “Don’t you talk about my mama,” he growled. “Oh yeah? Now you talkin’ ‘bout my sister, too?” He squeezed the packet; jelly spurted out and splattered him in the face. “Oh, now you’re gonna get it!” he yelled.
He hurled the packet across the room – it left a streak of sticky red where it hit the refrigerator door. Then he threw it on the floor and stomped on it with his heavy work boots. “Take that, sucker!” His glance fell on the broom leaning in the corner; he picked it up and attacked the jelly packet.
Jeremy was laughing hysterically by now. “Dude, you’re making a mess.” Zach picked up a second packet and threw it at his friend.
“Now it’s talking about your mom, Jer.” Jeremy, still laughing, grabbed the broom from his friend.
A few minutes later, they were leaning on the table to catch their breath from laughing so hard. They were both covered with sticky red jelly.
“I’m gonna take a shower,” Zach gasped, and they both started laughing again.
Jeremy looked around at the kitchen, contemplated cleaning up the mess, and decided to do it later. He stripped down to his boxers and flipped on the tv.
Just as he was dozing off, Zach reappeared with a towel around his waist. “Your turn.” Jer groaned, rubbed his eyes, and walked slowly toward the bathroom. Zach flopped down into the recliner in his towel.
Moments later, Zach sat bolt upright in the chair. He jumped to his feet – there was a uniformed officer in the doorway with his hand on his pistol. “Oh shit,” he thought to himself. “Uh, what can I do for you, officer?”
The officer looked him over.
“Pants,” Zach thought out loud. “I need some pants.”
“That would be a good idea,” said the cop. Zach grabbed his pants, put one leg in, then the other, and yanked them up as fast as he can. “Now can I see some ID?” Zach turned pale, fumbled for his wallet, and tossed the whole thing to the cop. He flipped through it, doubtlessly discovering that Zach wouldn’t be of legal drinking age for another year.
“We had a report from the neighbors of someone yelling ‘Kill it, kill it!’ What’s going on?”
“Sir,” Zach said unsteadily, “the only thing we’ve been killing is bottles.” He gestured at the empty liquor containers on the table. “Oh, and the jelly was talking shit.”
The officer looked at the kitchen, eyed Zach one more time, and said “You need to keep the noise down, son.” He tossed Zach’s wallet on the table, said “Have a good night,” and left.
When Jeremy emerged from the shower, Zach was curled up in the chair, crying.
“Hey, what’s wrong?”
“Jer, we gotta quit drinking so much.”