“Joe! Good to see you! You remember Laurie?” Ron’s girlfriend Laurie was artsy, quirky, funny, and too good for him. She had corn-colored hair, freckles on her nose – and she was stacked.
My cousin Ron was a good-looking guy, with way too much charm, and brains to match. It never seemed fair to me that one guy got so many blessings.
Laurie gave me a quick hug, and said hello to Marty – he was flattered that she actually remembered him. I introduced the sisters. Ron scoped them out, horndog that he was. I don’t know why Laurie let him get away with it.
– “Welcome!” he said, holding on to Tanya’s hand a bit too long. “Please make yourselves at home. My weed is your weed. And Joe’s beer – obviously, the same.”
I took my cousin aside a moment later. “She’s only 16.” I whispered.
– “No shit?” he murmured, looking at her one more time. “Too bad .. you should cultivate that action, Chaz. Future prospects, you know?”
I chatted with Laurie for a while. She had been with Ron for over a year, so I had met her a few times. I liked her. When somebody put on the Talking Heads’ ‘Life During Wartime’, Laurie squealed and dragged me into the living room to dance.
We worked up a good sweat. Then I grabbed a fresh beer, and went to look for the sisters. Well, two of them, anyway. Sam was in the kitchen, pinned up against the stove, with two of Ronnie’s more disreputable friends telling her jokes. At least, that’s what I thought they were doing. As I drew near, Sam saw me.
– “Hey, Joe!” she called. “This guy says he’s a P.I.. Is that true?”
I didn’t know Gerry very well – but if P.I. stood for Permanent Ignoramus … then yes, he was. Gerry grinned, and flashed a me a piece of cardboard the size of a business card. It read: P.I. – and then, in smaller print, ‘Panty Inspector’. Standard Joke Shop stuff.
– “That’s not a real job, is it?” said Sam.
The two jerks laughed their asses off. Honestly – it struck me that if I left Sam alone for half an hour, she’d be upstairs, in one of the bedrooms, on her back, with guys lined up to climb aboard.
– “She’s with me.” I told Ronnie’s friends. They had the good sense to back off. I was not channeling much Christmas spirit, and precious little goodwill toward men.
Why did I care? Couldn’t answer that, for the moment.
– “Did I do something wrong?” asked Sam.
– “No. We need to find your sister, though.”
We found her, talking to Laurie. I relaxed immediately. Laurie was smoking a joint, and offered me a toke, which I declined. Tanya didn’t.
– “Is that a marijuana cigarette?” asked Sam.
Christmas gave my stepmother a great idea.
– “Since you’re working full time, I think you can afford a little more, when it comes to rent.” she said. From the tone of her voice, I could tell that she had already whipped my Dad into line. It was a done deal, as far as she was concerned.
– “I’m saving up for college.” I said. “You’ll notice I haven’t even considered buying a car.”
– “You can still save, and pay a little more around here.” she insisted.
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