It was right about 6:45 when I overheard Danny Lopaca say to Featherly, “See, I told you he’d blow us off.”
“No, that’s bullshit,” Featherly snapped, sounding urgent but also just a bit uncertain. Everybody looked at him and stopped talking, which was weird and lasted for a few seconds. But then the music filled in and all the yakking went back to normal.
Tina finally lifted herself off the couch, and, yeah, she was wobbly as shit. I thought she might collapse on her way over to yap with Anna, but at least she was away from Russell. It hadn’t really crossed my mind that she’d be interested in him, but that was stupid given that his post office career was way more together than mine, to say nothing about how much she obviously liked his stash. Still, this was my big chance to try to talk with her, so, wasted as I was, I wandered toward her. And I almost made it too, but Anna grabbed hold of my arm and actually leaned her weight against me. She was hammered, big time, must’ve guzzled four or five Old Styles. “You’re a nice boy, Kenny,” she garbled, and she turned to Tina. “What do you think Tines… Isn’t Kenny a nice boy?”
Oh, man, I could feel my face turn red, but then Tina actually smiled at me. Her eyes were bloodshot, eyelids swollen halfway down, so I’m not sure who she thought she was looking at, but I smiled back anyway. She didn’t say a thing, just stared blankly, and that’s when I tried to be clever and said, “You guys ready to watch the Hulk?”
Anna let loose a sloppy cackle. “Oh, Kenny.” She laughed. “No, no…we just wanted to see Tom lighten up a little, see if he liked to party — and, you know, find out if we’re going to lose our jobs.”
I didn’t know what to say and just watched as Tina tottered back to the couch and plopped back down next to Russell.
My heart crashed like a racecar — Kaboom.
I thought my chest had exploded, but no, it was just the screen door slamming shut. Featherly had stepped out on the outside staircase landing and was just standing there alone, gazing off at the traffic away on Lincoln Avenue. The clock now said 7:00. Even if Tom did show up, there wouldn’t be much time to hang out with him, learn shit, or whatever — not and make it to Kelly’s for the first match, which I didn’t want to miss since I knew it would be between Tito Santana and The Executioner. I was starting to get a little pissed off: I mean, if Featherly hadn’t invited Tom, Russell and I would already be at the bar, prime seats probably.
And, yeah, Tina wouldn’t be sitting shoulder to shoulder with him on the couch.
But I figured it was best to leave Featherly be; he was taking this badly, like this was serious shit, way more important than a party, which, in retrospect, it probably was. With all the craziness going on around me, I’d sort of put out of my mind what Anna had said about our jobs, but it did cross my mind that since his band had dumped him, Featherly actually thought he’d have a chance to impress Tom enough to move up the ladder. But that was crazy; I mean, yeah, he could cook like nobody’s business, but hell, it wasn’t like he knew anything about managing a business.
He looked at me and opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out; his whole face seemed to sag, and I couldn’t tell if he was going to cry or scream.
“Hey, Kenny,” Russell shouted, lifting himself off the couch, “we gotta go.”
Sure enough, it was 7:15; it’d take probably ten minutes to hustle over to Kelly’s and park.
“Just a minute,” I yelled back, and I rushed out to the landing.
Featherly had barely moved, but his face had turned all blotchy and red, and for a few seconds, I didn’t think he knew where he was. “I could leave a note,” I told him. “Maybe write the directions for Tom; it’s only a few blocks.”
He looked at me and opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out; his whole face seemed to sag, and I couldn’t tell if he was going to cry or scream. Finally, he turned away and said, “I should’ve kept my mouth shut… I’m such an idiot; he thinks we’re just a bunch of stoner grease heads, that’s all.” He started to drop down the stairs and added, “Sorry, Kenny.”
“No, wait,” I said. “You’re wrong. I bet he’s on his way right now.”
And just then the screen door flung open behind me, and everyone started spilling out of the apartment. When I turned back toward him, Featherly was already at the bottom of the stairs.
“You’re the best,” Anna rasped, and grabbed hold of my shoulder to steady herself. “See you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, Kenny,” Danny said, “too bad Tom’s such an asshole…next weekend, dude.”
“Hold up,” I pleaded. “Aren’t you coming to Kelly’s?”
“Nope,” he said. “That wasn’t the idea.”
The other weekend waitresses and busboys pushed past me and waved, said thanks. Then it was Russell and Tina’s turn, banging out through the door with arms wrapped around each other’s waist. “Come on, man…” Russell said. “Let’s do this.”
“Yeah, okay,” I said, watching them stomp down the stairs. “Save me a seat,” I yelled, even though I now felt totally lost.
I went back inside, turned off the stereo, and locked the door on my way out. Just like that the party was over. Fuck me, I said and headed down the steps.