On this occasion the three of us draped over lawn chairs on my back porch exerting no more effort than was neccessary to get beer from dripping wet bottles into our lawn-mowing tired bodies. By unremarkable coincidence we’d all finished the last bit of edging of our front yards at the same. An instinctual force drew the two of them over to my garage, past the beer fridge, through the side door, down the side yard, to near-encircle some plastic chairs into a ungainly U-shaped conclave. I believe Steffan spoke first.
“You’ve never convinced me that’s true,” he said
Steffan baited hooks with plump wriggling worms like this for Mark nearly each time we gathered. Mark lapped them up like a crappie short breakfast and dinner the night before. Being third to the cul-de-sac at first I determined Steffan was just a bit of a dick and Mark too desperate for a friend to care all that much. But, as that first summer spanned into this second, I changed my mind. I began to think Steffan thought he was teaching Mark about arguing and language and how to gracefully disengage from his shell.
Mark never wound up to worked up. He’d start exasperated and frothy to match the incredulity of whatever dumb-ass thing Steffan said then wind down to sensible and calm. No matter what, these conversations entertained me for that reason alone. Though, above all the other nuances I read into their exchanges, it was possible putting on a show was their singular purpose after all. This time Mark’s delayed response made me wonder if he had a doosey of a reply or if he’d even connected Steffan’s remark to the thread of the conversation we’d had last Saturday evening watching fireflies—and drinking.
“Fortunately it is true. No convincing to be done,” Mark said.
I laughed and sipped at the same time. Shiner erupted from the bottle up my nose and all over the ground. Of all the red-faced sputtering replies I prepared for, measured and cool produced the best reaction.