Home-Brew and Shoulder Hand

“Ah… dawn… You gotta love it. Makes everything look better, don’t it?”

Greg says this as he places his right hand on the shoulder of his friend Mark. His left hand brandishes a cup of Mark’s semi-famous home-brew, “semi” meaning that the cops haven’t caught him yet.

“You’re not famous til you get caught!” Mark always says.

“Yeah, man. Makes the sky look like one of them paintings that Bob Ross guy would do,” Mark says as he glances at the unexpected shoulder-hand.

Greg takes notice of Mark’s glance and snatches his hand away. Greg scratches the back of his neck. He doesn’t know what to do with his hand. He shoves it back in his pocket and starts playing with his keys.

“So, uh… Mark… what’s been up with you lately? Anything interesting?”

“Not really. Just been working at the shop and paying off bills. The usual.”

“Oh, OK. Well how’s everything with Sarah?”

“It’s good, I guess. We went on a date just recent.”

“Oh yeah? Where?”

“That new Mexican place downtown. Mar–Margaritas, I think it is?”

“Yeah, I think that sounds right. It any good?”

“It’s alright. Nothing special,” Mark chuckles,”but Sarah had a good time. That’s all that matters. Got to keep the missus happy or–“

“Well, not necessarily. You gotta be happy, too.”

“Why don’t you tell her that.”

Mark pauses, then he says,”How about you and Jess?”

“Ah, she’s been ridin’ me ever since she found out about the strip club. She won’t shut up about it. All I did was throw a couple of twenties at this sexy black chick–“

“You learned your lesson: Women are jealous… some of ’em, anyway.”

“Yeah… some of ’em.”

Both of them are standing on the front porch at Greg’s house. The two decided to step out and ramble to each other. Greg’s house is in the middle of nowhere, so not often do the two get to talk. Greg was able to get his wife to go on a girls’ night out so he and Mark could have a guys’ night in.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. By the way, this brew is fucking great, man.”

“Thanks. I imagine I should go inside and get my buzz on… can’t end the day without it.”

“Damn right.”

Greg opens the screen door and they both walk in. Mark’s home-brew sits on his kitchen island. Mark partakes of his brew and they both sit on the couch in the living room. Sportscenter plays on the television.

“Time to get a little,” Mark takes a big gulp, “inebriated… damn, that’s good.”

“These pricks make me want to get wasted,” Mark says as he turns the volume up on the television.

“Nothin’ but a bunch of elitist ass-hats who think they know more about sports than everyone else. A journalism degree don’t mean you’re more qualified to talk about sports. Sports are sports.” Mark takes another swig of his brew.

“Shit–ain’t that the truth,” Greg says.

The two watch SportsCenter in disgust for about twenty minutes in silence. Greg speaks up again:

“Mark, man… when are you gonna get your balls out of your wife’s purse? I mean, I wouldn’t let my wife control me like yours does. You need to let her know that she can’t control everything. I bet she even picked where y’all ate on your date, didn’t she?

Mark isn’t sure how to react to Greg’s bluntness.

“It’s supposed to be a relationship, two people working together. All I see is a dictatorship. I’m not saying that you have to go ‘Raging Bull’ on her ass, but you have to let her know that she ain’t gonna control you no more.”

Mark’s hand tightens around the television remote control. He mutes SportsCenter.

“Well you’re one to talk, Mister ‘My Wife Is Houndin’ Me Because I Got Caught at a Fuckin’ Strip Club’. Don’t forget to leave out the part where she told you that you couldn’t leave the house for a damn week–“

“Don’t even go there, Mark. You’re a fucking puppet for Sarah. She pulls all the damn strings, don’t she? And you just keep dancin’ for her. You keep like this and–“

“You know what, Greg?” Mark says, raising his hand to silence Greg,”You’re fuckin’ right; but you know what? I sure as hell won’t do well in a custody hearing. They’d take away my son in a heartbeat if it meant sweet, innocent Sarah was happy. You know I’m right. They don’t give a shit about the father. You know how they do; they go ‘Fuck the father–the kid doesn’t matter to him,’ and then I have to break my back trying to pay child support. Like she needs it. I can’t get a divorce–unless you want me to go broke just trying to see my boy. That what you want?”

Greg says nothing back.

“That’s what I thought. I appreciate your concern, Greg, but keep your damn mouth shut about my family. I don’t need your help. I don’t need anybody’s help. I’ll handle my problems on my own… like always.”

Greg still says nothing.

They sit in more silence. The silence is heavy, like the whole room is soundproof. They both feel its weight, its awkwardness. SportsCenter is still on.

Greg breaks the silence:

“You don’t have to do everything yourself.”

Mark’s hand tightens around the television control.

“I–I know,” Mark says.

“I’m here for you, man,” Greg says as he puts his hand on Mark’s shoulder.

Mark doesn’t glance at the hand.

“I know,” Mark says as he holds back the pain and embarrassment.

Mark is glad only his friend is here to see this.

“C’mon, Mark, let’s finish off this brew and talk.”

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