Yup, you’re at the right place. Come on in. I’m officially 890 Bay Shores Drive, but everybody just calls me the Bay Place. Mind that first step — got a couple of loose boards that’ll kick your ass if you step on ‘em just right.
Bobby’s over there in that busted-up recliner swapping lies with his old cronies. They’ve been at it since early this morning reliving their Hail-Mary-passes and their glory days of drinking and fighting and women. Most of these guys knew each other in grade school and worked together in or around the oil fields their whole lives. They tell stories about the fortunes they made and wasted during the oil booms and the scrambling they did when the booms withered and died. The tales have been told so many times they all know the punch lines and share the same belly-bouncing laughs. Can you hear ‘em?
Do you know Bobby’s wife, Mary Ann? She’s over there in the middle of all those beefy old men laughing at the stories she’s heard a hundred times herself. I heard Bobby say more than once that the most important thing he ever did in his life was court and win the prettiest girl in Alice, Texas. He had to wait a long time before he could claim his prize, but he said she was worth every minute.
Make yourself to home. There’s tons of food and coolers loaded with cold beer. A couple of Bobby’s friends are out on the deck cooking something dead on the grill, fortifying themselves and the meat with generous applications of beer and tequila and whatever else is handy. Smell of mesquite smoke making your mouth water? There’s a bunch more folks out on the deck: friends, family, son, daughters and a couple of grandkids.
Bobby cried when they first laid his new grandson on his chest. It was a New Year’s Eve. He stared down at that baby and said he regretted never knowing his own kids when they were growing up, always too busy out on the road brokering deals, scrambling to make a living.
There’s been some wild parties here over the years. My favorite was when Bobby and Mary Ann hosted a high school graduation bash for their son. Truckloads of hormone-riddled teenagers full of piss and vinegar descended on us for a whole weekend of raising hell. Bobby wisely confiscated all their truck keys so they couldn’t drive into danger, and there were bodies strewn every which way all through the house.
I was pretty rough looking when Bobby first bought me as his hideaway, a lot more “fishing camp/man cave” than Mary Ann could appreciate. He eventually won her over by building a deck, replacing the wheezing window air conditioner with a central unit, knocking out a few walls, and giving me a fresh paint job. Quite the cat’s ass now, don’t you think?
Here, grab yourself another beer out of this cooler. There’s plenty more where that came from.
My happiest times were when Bobby came down here by hisself. I watched while he spent hours cleaning and stringing his fishing poles, then he’d head out to the pier in pursuit of the “big one.” Man, what a sight he was, dragging his homemade trolley loaded with fishing gear and an ice chest, shirt half tucked in and half spilling out, head tilted to the side like he always held it to keep his hat from blowing off. His shabby once-white tennis shoes flapped as he shuffled along, scanning the water for signs that a school of fish was just waiting for him to get out there and catch them.
Bobby spent a lot of nights out there on that pier. He kept an old lawn chair out there and liked to drift off to sleep with the stars brilliant all around him and the bay breeze keeping him cool. I always kept a close eye on him, made sure he was safe.
This is the last chance I’ll have to be with Bobby. He’s selling me to some folks with grown kids and a passel of grandkids. The wife plans to tart me all up – chandeliers, white wicker furniture, maybe a pastel paint job. Sounds like putting lipstick on a pig to me, but hell, a facelift at my age might be something to marvel at.
Bobby’s letting me go because he knows he won’t be able to take care of me much longer. He’s run into something bigger and stubborner than him. It’s the cancer’s got hold of him, and that’s why he invited everybody down here to the Bay today. He wanted to hear the old stories again, see the old faces, re-live bits and pieces of his life. He was right, too. It is one helluva party!
Bobby watched hundreds of sunsets from out there on the end of that pier. I’d give anything if he could get back out there for just one last cast and one last look, but it’s too late now.
Damn, I’m gonna’ miss that ole boy.
(In memory of Robert “Bobby” Lee Hans, b. 28 Nov 1944 – d. 24 Aug 2012)