(Click here to go to our previous chapter; the curious may go here to return to the first chapter of Uncle Buddy’s House©. “An epic of our time, which isn’t saying much.” -- J.J. Hunsecker, in The Cape May Pennysaver.)
Saturday morning was stormy, rain was falling hard and the palm trees on Venice Boulevard were swaying in the wind as Buddy drove Deirdre down to the Ancient Mariner’s. His cellphone rang and it was Joan.
“Babe, I’m gonna be there in three minutes, relax.”
“I’m just calling to make sure you’re staying for lunch.”
“You’re staying for lunch, right?”
“Wait, let me put you on hold a second, I just got another call.”
He punched in hold and looked at Deirdre.
“You know about this lunch deal?”
“She called me twice yesterday, asking me to get you to come to lunch. I didn’t bother asking you, ‘cause I knew what you’d say.”
“Even he called me once. Which was weird. But everything he does is weird.”
“He’s a dickwad.”
Buddy punched Joan back on.
“Sorry, it was work. So, anyway --”
“Buddy, I want you to stay for lunch.”
“Uh, no, sorry, I’m busy today, Joan --”
“Give me Deirdre.”
He passed the phone to Deirdre. He could hear Joan’s voice.
“All right, look,” said Deirdre. “All right. All right. Hey, Mom, I never said I was gonna talk to him. You said I was gonna talk to him. I never said that. Oh. Oh. Okay. Yeah, sure, Mom. All right, Mom. Mom, I said all right. Mom, will you shut the fuck up please? I said all right now give me a break. Christ.”
She snapped the phone shut and dropped it onto the dashboard.
“So what’s the scoop?”
“Look, Uncle Bud, I know it’ll be agony for you, but dig it, it’s agony for me every fucking weekend. Do me a favor, stay for lunch just this once so she’ll leave me the hell alone. Okay? I know it’s asking a lot, but I’ll try to make it up to you.” She took a breath, then said quietly, “If you say no I don’t blame you.”
“Well, in that case I’ll say no.”
“Hey, watch your mouth --”
“I did you a favor.”
“What? What favor?”
“I told Jeremy to fuck off.”
“Jeremy? Oh, right, the child molester.”
“Right. I notice we haven’t seen him around the house lately. Good thing for him, too.”
“Would you kick his ass?”
“I would -- no, I wouldn’t kick his ass necessarily. I’d have a fucking word with the little would-be statutory-rapist --”
“But, see, I did you a favor.”
“You did yourself a favor, kiddo.”
“Oh, okay, and I ask you one tiny little favor, and now that cunt is gonna make life miserable for me all weekend --”
“Oh, Christ, Deirdre --”
“What’re you, in training to be a woman already?”
There was a long pause.
“Fuck it,” she said. “I don’t blame you. Forget it.”****
The Mariner’s block, rain lashing in from the ocean; the street deserted, the beach beyond empty, the sky grey, the ocean blue-grey flecked with white-grey, and before Buddy had even stopped the car the Mariner came striding out of the house barelegged in his cowardly Yankee general raincoat and slouch hat, unfurling an enormous black umbrella.
“Look at this fucking nitwit,” said Deirdre. Buddy looked at the fucking nitwit. Deirdre unsnapped her seatbelt. “So are you coming in?”
Oh fuck it. Fuck it fuck it. Fuck.
“All right,” said Buddy. He turned off the ignition, pulled out the key. “Fuck it,” he said, aloud this time.
“Oh good. Do you have to call work?”
“No.” He unbuckled his seatbelt. “I was lying, I don’t have to work today.”
“Watch, he’s gonna come around to your side, ‘cause he doesn’t give a flying fuck if I get soaked.”
Buddy took off his glasses, folded them, and put them in his shirt pocket.
“What a dickweed,” said Deirdre.
Through the streaming glass they watched the Ancient Mariner come out into the street to the driver’s side with the umbrella.
Joan was standing there smoking a cigarette just inside the open doorway when they came in.
“Hi, Buddy,” she said. “So you are staying for lunch, right?”
“Of course he is,” said the Mariner, shaking out the umbrella and closing the door, but at least not padlocking and bolting it.
“Hi, sweetheart,” Joan said to Deirdre, and she presented her cheek.
Deirdre came over and kissed her on the cheek, quickly.
“I have homework to do. I have a paper to write.”
“Okay,” said Joan, and Deirdre went away somewhere with her backpack.
“Let me take your jacket, Buddy,” said the Mariner.
“That’s okay, Stephen, I think I’ll keep it on for a while.”
There was a fire in a fireplace that Buddy didn’t remember noticing before, but the room was cool and damp. The Mariner took off his raincoat and hat and hung them on what was probably an authentic Breton coat stand. He was wearing an imposing grey turtleneck sweater, khaki shorts with lots of pockets, and wooden clogs with thick brown woolen socks speckled with red blotches.
“Would you like some coffee? Tea? Oh! What about a Bloody Mary!”
“Yeah, I could go for a Bloody Mary, thanks.”
“Splendid! Come with me into the cuisine!”
Joan stayed in the main room, but Buddy apparently had to, and did, go with the Mariner into the kitchen and watch him make the Bloody Marys, with accompanying boring commentary. The recipe involved V-8 instead of tomato juice, and fresh grated horseradish as well as -- and the Mariner said this was essential -- fresh grated ginger. He was liberal with the vodka, which Buddy couldn’t help but notice was Ketel One, and when Buddy tasted the finished drink he had to admit it was a great Bloody Mary.
Next up, Buddy had to look at the marinating pompano and listen to some boasting about how great their lunch was going to be. Then --
“Why don’t we take our drinks into my den?”
The Mariner gestured toward a door that Buddy would have thought led to a pantry, if he had thought about it.
He didn’t want to go in there.
“Okay,” said Buddy.
(Continued here, whether Buddy wants it to be continued or not.)
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