A shiny, new Lexus pulled into the parking lot of the Breakfast Kingdom, Concord's best and only breakfast place. Geezer Jennings with his long gray hair pulled back into a pony-tale was sitting next to the large window that faced the parking lot, pointed the car out to his buddies, "Somebody got money. That there Lexus right there cost at least $80,000."
Big Larry, sitting across from Geezer, twisted to get a look and whistled, "Damn, that's a lot of money for a car."
From behind him, Geezer heard Rodney Bennett say in almost a whisper, "Ah man, they're here already."
Geezer turned ready to ask Rodney who he was talking about when he saw the expression on his friend's face. It was beyond sad.
Geezer was going to ask Rodney what was wrong when his next door neighbor and life-long best friend Pancho Romero said, "Dang, man, ain't that your boy Donnell, Rodney?"
Geezer whipped his head around and sure enough, a tall, well built young black man in an expensive looking tailored suit got out of the car followed by an elegantly attired and very pretty woman. "Damn, that is Donnell and Daisha. Hell, Rod, I ain't seen them since Marlys's funeral. What they doing here?"
Rodney didn't answer. Instead, he waited until his son and daugther-in-law entered the dining room. Pancho was the first one up to greet them, jumping out of his seat and embracing them both, "Damn, Donnell, you get bigger and better looking every time I see you. And who is this, your daughter? Hell, I thought you were married to that old hideous looking ragged looking Roberts woman?"
Daisha flashed him a huge smile, "You know perfectly well who I am, Coach and don't try to butter me up with all that daughter crap." She hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. Pancho had coached them both in the intricacies of baseball and softball once upon a time.
There were lots of hugs, handshakes, smiles all around. Geezer noticed though that even though Rodney was smiling, he didn't look very happy. There was a immense sadness behind his eyes. Donell waited for the small talk to die down before asking his father, "It was great seeing guys, but we got to travel. I have a big meeting tomorrow. You ready, Pop?"
Rod looked like he wanted say something to the guys but couldn't. He turned back to his son, "Ready as I'm likely to be. Gotta swing by the house to pick up my bags.
"Bags? Ready for what? You guys going on a trip. can I go to too?" Pancho blurted out. Tall and lanky, Pancho was always the impulsive one, the joker, the one who would always say what was on his mind. Although he had meant his words as a joke; it didn't take a genius to notice that they were much too heavy to float.
Donell looked surprised, "You didn't tell them, Pop?"
All the eyes swiveled and fell on Rodney who was looking at his shoes. There was a long tense pause.
Geezer broke the silence, "Something wrong, Rod?"
Rod slowly straightened his shoulders raised his head, "This is it, boys. I'm out of here. Donnell and Daisha have graciously invited me to come live with them."
Pancho blurted, "In Oakland?" Donnell looked at him and shook his head yes.
"I know you guys been looking after Pop and driving him to the doctor and all, and we're grateful and everything," at that point he started choking up, " The optometrist's office called us and let us know that some of the issues with his vision are going to get worse, and......I.., uh,.. we just need to have him closer."
Daisha added, "Donell got a big promotion, and we've moved into a bigger house that has a small apartment in the back. This way he can watch his grandkids grow-up, play sports, and all that stuff. Besides, with Donnell's new job we aren't going to be able to get down here as much." Although, all of the men present loved Daisha and Donell, her words didn't move them much. They were too stunned.
Big Larry spoke first, "Damn it Rodney. You should have said something. We coulda had a party or something."
Rodney just stood there looking chagrined. These men were his life long friends. When his beloved Marlys had died of a heart attack while Donell and Daisha were out of country on a business trip. It was Pancho and Geezer who had handled everything till they got there. When he couldn't pass the driver's test and lost his license, it was Geezer who made sure Rodney didn't miss a doctor's appointment.
Pancho walked over to him and gave him a big embrace, "Damn, Amigo. I ain't gonna lie, this shit don't even feel real. Hell, we been eating breakfast here every Wednesday for what twenty- five years, hell, every weekday morning for the last five. Don't seem real."
Rodney struggled, "I know, Panch. It don't. It sure doesn't seem real."
Geezer was up next. He threw both his arms around his old friend and spoke lowly, "Hell, Rod, you should have said something, gave me some time to process this and all. Who am I going to fish with now? You know, I really looked forward to driving you to Hartford so I could flirt with that little fat nurse."
"I know, Geez. I just couldn't though. I couldn't even say it to myself without wanting to cry, and I know how you start bawling like a little girl bout nothin."
Geezer held his friend at arm's length and looked into his eyes. "This here ain't about nuthin, Rod. This here's some deep shit. Sides, you know I ain't never cried."
Rod laughed sadly, "You a lie. You cried last week when the Dodgers beat the Giants. Didn't he Pancho?"
"Hell with you both. I was crying about that twenty-dollar bill I lost. I don't cry when it matters. Do I, Larry?"
Larry was too busy stuffing the last of his fries into this mouth and didn't answer. Daisha smiled grimly, "Sorry guys." She walked over and took her father-in-law by the arm and started to walk him out. Donell, overcome with emotion, had already gone out to the car. Rodney paused at the door and said, "You guys got my number. Call me and I'll give you my address, and we can write or something."
Geezer couldn't resist one last joke, "Rodney, what in our history makes you think that Pancho and Larry could write a damn letter?" Rodney smiled.
When the door swung close behind them, Big Larry offered, "Might be for the best, guys. Rodney's lost lots of weight lately, and I bet he ain't shaved in at least three days. Remember when Marlys was alive; he was always the sharpest dressed man in this town."
Geezer was too busy watching Rod walking toward the car and didn't answer, so it was up to Pancho to tell Larry to shut up," Be quiet, Dumb Ass. Rosie'd woulda kill me if I didn't see that he was eating regular, and who gives a damn if Rodney missed a shave or two? I do that shit myself."
Geezer couldn't take it and got up and quickly walked out the door and stood on the curb. Pancho was right behind him. Larry stayed behind and polished off his food. Benny the Bugle, another friend of theirs who had been listening in, ran and slid over to seat by the window and watched.
The shiny, new Lexus backed out of the parking slot and straightened its wheels so that Rodney, sitting in the back seat, was level with where Geezer and Pancho were standing. His head and shoulders were slumped over, and his head was barely above window level; he looked up sadly and barely raised his hand and waved as the car pulled forward.
Pancho and Geezer stood right where they were and waved long after the car turned left on Derry and drove out of sight toward the outskirts of town.
After a long while, Geezer turned to his friend and started to say, "Maybe Big Larry's right. It might be good for. . . ," he then noticed that Pancho was crying, "Are you crying? You damn crybaby. Two tours of duty as a helicopter gunner in Nam just to come home and start bawling outside a shit hole restaurant.. Knock it off, Pancho. We ain't freaking snowflakes! We real men remember. The last of a dying breed and don't you ever forget it!"
Pancho turned toward Geezer and smiled through his tears,
"Said the same dumb ass fool who cried all night when Jerry Garcia died. I'm gonna miss that fool, Geezer. He didn't talk dumb shit all the time like you."
Geezer took the insult in stride and gave Pancho a grim smile,"Hell, I know. I'm going miss him too. Hell, we all been sidekicks since we were in first grade. When Arlene left me for that preacher dude, and I wouldn't come out of house, it was Rod that coaxed me into going fishing. Probably saved my life by doing it."
As they turned back to the comforting embrace of the Breakfast Kingdom, Pancho put his arm behind his friend's back and said, "If I remember right, I tried everything I knew to get your ass out of that house."
"Yeah, you did, but you're a damn Dodger fan, so that shit don't count."
Later toward evening, Geezer stepped out on his front porch to smoke a cigar and saw Pancho sitting outside on his own porch. He lit the cigar and headed that way.
Pancho saw him coming and called out to him, "I thought you were going to come over and listen to the game last night."
"I planned on it. Then my son-in-law came over and wouldn't leave."
"The dumb one?"
"They're both dumb Panch; you know that. You gonna have to be more specific."
"Jenny's guy. What's his name, Roger?"
Geezer shook his head, "Yeah. That's him. Wanted to talk politics all night. I hate that shit. He thinks like just Jenny do. Hell, I wouldn't doubt she tells him who he gotta vote for."
They looked at each other and didn't say nothing for a bit before Pancho said, 'I was thinking about this one night with Rodney. We were at bar uptown when Ferdie Jenkins came over where we were and sat down. You knowed that dude ain't never liked you."
"Well, I never liked him a lot more than he never liked me."
"He started telling me and Rod why we hung around with you. Said you was stupid, two faced and a bunch of other shit."
"That fool never got over the fact that Ceecee Moore liked me more than him.'
"Rod got mad and held his hand up and said, 'Don't ever come over here and be starting shit when they're ain't none."
Geezer took a long drag off the cigar, blew it out, and said. "Screw you, Panch. You told me that before, and you're just telling me that shit now trying to get me to cry. You gonna listen to the game tonight or what?"
"You'd think I'd miss the Giants getting their ass beat? It's your turn to the bring the beer, remember."
"Shit, glad of it. That way I don't got a drink that horse piss you drink. My cousin gave me a couple of Cubans. We'll smoke them up." He started to walk away but then turned back. "One night my mom started to worry about me, and she sent her preacher out to talk to me. Me and Rodney had been out fishing all day. He got here as Rodney was leaving. We sat down out on the porch, and the preacher started to saying a bunch of shit about me being with Rod. I was shocked. I mean this was supposedly a man of God and stuff, but I told him in no uncertain terms to go fuck himself, and I got up helped him off the porch." Geezer waited a while to see what Pancho was going to say, then added, "Damn it! I Almost got ya! Your eyes are kind of wet."
Pancho shook his head and laughed, "You didn't get nothing. I ain't ashamed to say I cried all that shit out already. Tell me something though did that really happen?"
"Yeah. It happened, and if he'd said another word, I'd choked the living shit right out of him."
"Damn. I'd liked to been there when Mama Alice found out you told her preacher to go fuck hisself?"
"Shit, she went to church that night, walked right up the aisle to where he was standing and kicked that fool in his nuts. Caused a big mess, man. Damn near got herself arrested. I had to go down to the church and help straighten that shit out."
Pancho was bending over, slapping his knees and laughing hard, so Geezer kept going, "When the cops finally showed up, they asked me what mama's side of the story was, so I told him what had happened. He looked at his partner and told him, 'I don't know George, but kicking a slime ball preacher in the testicles hardly sounds like much of crime to me.' His partner looked at him and said, 'I know. It seems like she should a got a medal.'"
Later that evening when the game ended, and after Geezer had gloated for a full ten minutes over the Giant's victory, Geezer and Pancho, drunk on Modelo Reserva, sat silently in the dark, smoked a couple of Cuban cigars, and tried to not be too obvious as they cried a little for their missing friend.
About twenty minutes later, Pancho snubbed his cigar out in the the green neon, glow in the dark, ash tray that sat on the small wooden table at the side of his chair. "You know, Geeze, they're right. He needs to be close to Donell and Daisha."
"Don't make it any easier though. What's next for us. It'll be you or me next. What'll either one of us do without a true friend. I mean you got Rosie, and she's great. I ain't got nobody else. There's the girls, but I'd just get in their way. Least with you guys around, I can make some kind of stab at having some kind of life. Without you guys, it'd just be Bingo and wheelchair polka at the home." He drained the bottom of his last beer and took a last hit off the cigar. He started stoking his beard. Pancho knew his friend was elsewhere when that happened. An old memory of Geezer doing it back in 1972 just after his Dad died flashed into his mind. They had talked all night when that happened, Geezer, Rod, and him. It was great night that cemented their bond forever. They had talked about all the deep issues that no-one ever seems to talk about anymore. They shared their intimate thoughts and feelings and discussed their fears and the things that caused them anxiety. They were still awake and talking, sitting on the rear gate of Geezer's dad's 1957 Chevy pick-up, when the sun rose up over the horizon.
"We got go see him. Give him a month to get adjusted and then go up there to see how he's doing."
"Oakland, Pancho? You forgetting that neither of us is that great a driver. It's been a while since either one of us has driven on real freeway. You think maybe we oughta fly, or take a bus?"
"No screw that. Me and you on the road to help a friend out. Like the old days. Think of all the shit we could see and do. Think how good it will make Rodney feel."
Geezer stopped stroking his beard, "You know I ain't got no-one to talk me out of doing something this stupid, so you better be serious. What about Rosie? She's gonna kill you."
Pancho laughed, "No, she'll be so glad to see me when we get back she'll forget all about killing me. We'll have to take your car, so she don't catch on though."
"No problem, but we'll have to stop when I need a bathroom break. None of that handing me bottle over the back seat and telling me to fill it up like you guys used to do."
For one brief moment, the fires of youth and friendship reanimated the men's ever shrinking imaginations. A little jolt of energy created by anticipation flowed through their aging systems. Geezer, sitting on the porch step, turned and looked at his buddy.
"Hey Pancho. Do you remember the night my Dad died?"
Pancho laughed, "Funny you should mention it; I was just thinking about that night."
"That old thing drove like a tank."