The Legend of Drunk Uncle Stanley
This is a tale of my Drunk Uncle Stanley (D.U.S.). A man inside an enigma inside a bottle inside……a man. Or something. When he's not drinking, he's just Uncle Stanley – a man with a heart the size of Aroostook County. When he is drinking, however, he morphs into the D.U.S., a man well-educated in the fine art of carousing.
The phone rang, much as it always did. Before everyone had a cell phone. Before you could be reached any time, any place. I picked it up. Not so much as caller ID. If only I had known.
D.U.S.: "Yut. Ya know George?"
I only knew one George. Uncle Stanley's somewhat newly acquired pee-on-the-carpet-happy dog.
Me: "Your dog? Yes."
D.U.S.: "Yut, Ya know George?"
Me, again: "Yes, your dog."
D.U.S.: "Nawnawnaw, ya know George?"
By this time I figured out that he wasn't asking if I knew George, he was merely introducing his topic.
Me: "What about him?"
D.U.S.: "He had puppies."
D.U.S.: "He has puppies."
D.U.S.: "HE had PUPPIES."
Now, this is where I figured out that Uncle Stanley and I were communicating on two different planes. I was saying "what" in disbelief. Uncle Stanley thought I had a hearing impairment.
Me: "Really now?"
D.U.S.: "Yut. Nine"
Me: "Why are you calling me?"
D.U.S.: "Gutta do sumn' 'bout 'em."
Me: "Nope. Any other ideas?"
D.U.S.: "Well, I ain' got enough money to feed the little bastards and the pound wans ya to pay twenny-five bucks a dog to drop 'em off. Thas aleest a hun'red bucks an Mac don' pay me til the 25th."
D.U.S.: "John tol' me they've got a twelve foot fence over there at the poun' an' if you can get the dog o'er the fence, you ain' gotta pay."
Me: "Like shot put."
Me: "What do you want me to do about it? I'm not dog-tossing."
D.U.S.: "Nawnawnaw, I'll chuck, you drive, see? My registration on the pickup is out and Bev borrowed the woodsplitter, so I jus' need a ride."
I thought about driving the get-away vehicle for my dog-chucking, pet-abandoning Uncle. I played out all the different scenarios in my head. They included the County Police Department holding floodlights and .40 caliber handguns on us in the middle of the night. Us squinting, hands in the air. An officer steps forward, into the flood of lights.
Officer: "Keep your hands up! You're under arrest for animal cruelty!"
D.U.S.: "Yut, ya know George?"
I flashed back to reality. I'm in. I told Uncle Stanley that I had to work until 11:00.
D.U.S.: "Thas' okay, the bar don' close til two."
"I'll be at your place at 2:30."
I finished out work thinking just a little about the risk involved. I'd managed to outrun the law on many occasions. Having a drunken counterpart might just end that streak. Then I thought about how I'd tell my dad, who'd been known to threaten murder on me and had actually attempted it on the D.U.S. when they were teenagers. My Uncle Dale told me about it. He was horrified. Somehow, the thought of being indicted for a crime with an older family member took the taboo edge off the whole situation.
I arrived at Stanley's at 2:30. I stepped out of my 1987 Nissan 2WD pickup and lit a smoke. The air was dense and there was a bit of fog. I dragged on my Marlboro and took in the moisture and peace of my surroundings.
My instincts kicked in and I ducked. I realized that the windows in Stanley's trailer were open. He was doing his usual "INCOMING!" war-whoop. I'm not sure why he does it, but when he's really loaded, he seems to think that B-52's are dropping bombs over our little town. Mind you, the closest to war that he's ever been is the time he shot himself in the buttocks. Accidentally. I think. Let's hope.
I entered the trailer and much to my surprise, the D.U.S. had company: A woman in her early 30's, extremely overweight, mall hair (This is 1999, not 1989), with a blank look on her mug stood in the bedroom/living room. Stanley was mixing a drink in the kitchen/dining room. I said my hellos and went to the bathroom/hallway/laundry room to take a leak. When I came back out, the D.U.S. realized I was there.
""J'ya meet Marla?"
"Darla." She chimed in happily.
He just looked at her. Like she was wrong.
She looked back at him as though he might be right.
"Yeah, a minute ago."
"We gotta go. I'm gonna get back here and chew on Marla." He said.
"You must be starving" I mumbled.
"I said let's get on with this darn thing."
The D.U.S. grabbed the oversized cardboard box with George and the pups in it and I opened the door for him. Darla put out her smoke and moved towards the door.
"Whoa,whoa, whoa," I stammered, "This is a two-man operation."
The D.U.S. kept walking towards the truck and yelled out, "Whassamatter? Her butt is only two axe handles wide!" I looked at Darla. She looked back. The strange thing was that she appeared totally sober. She said she could fit. I said I doubted it. She said she'd prove me wrong. I said we needed to spare the weight in case we had to outrun the cops. She looked over at my Nissan. She knew it had a raging 4 cylinder. She looked back at me. I looked at her. She walked toward the truck.
Now, I don't know if you've been in a small Japanese-made truck, but it fits two regular sized people. I went 160 at the time, the D.U.S. about 230, and Miss I-painted-these-jeans-on-ten-years-and-five-sizes-ago must've been pushing at least 300 pounds. Getting all three of us into that pickup defied science. The D.U.S. tried to close the door three times. Marla squished up against me. I couldn't reach the shifter without entering Marla's nether-regions.
"Stanley, you shift."
"Yessirybob, I'll put 'er in first and Marla in third!"
"Darla." She chimed happily.
The ride to the pound was uneventful. My truck struggled to make it over Haystack Mountain and, Stanley, being drunk, had a harder time focusing on proper shifting that he did giving Marla the "Cooch-coochy-coo".
When we managed to find the pound, things went much slower than I had planned. I guess that was my problem: I planned. We pulled to a stop around the corner from the pound. Uncle Stanley pulled the handle to open the pickup door. Imagine how vacuum-sealed marshmallows look when you cut open the pack. That's how the D.U.S. looked piling out of the pickup and then slowly falling to the ground. The D.U.S. stumbled towards the back of the pickup. Marla scooted over to the new free space in the pickup.
"So, Marla," I started….
"Darla." She chimed happily.
"Darla…..how'd you meet Stanley, anyway?"
"He went to school with my husband." She said smiling innocently.
I put my hands in the 10/2 position on the wheel and looked forward for a minute. This conversation needed to end before it started.
The D.U.S. grabbed the oversized cardboard box and stumbled over the landscaping to the fence. There, he began to spin around and around. I watched as his lit cigarette made a glowing tracer in his circle trance. He kept spinning for about 30 seconds. Then, he stopped, dropped the box, bent over and nearly hacked up a lung. He stumbled backwards and fell directly onto the backside that he had shot himself in nearly ten years prior. He lay on the ground, arms spread, cigarette pointing directly skyward. I thought he was dead.
Suddenly, from behind, headlights. Bright headlights. Practically floodlights. I started the truck and looked over at Darla. Stanley lifted his head and shuffled to his feet. George stuck her head out of the box. Scotty grabbed the box and hurled it over the fence. Out flew George and her puppies through the air in a big, flying puppy mess. They landed in the soft green grass, stunned and illuminated by the lights behind us.
Stanley put his cigarette between two fingers and cranked down his hat as though he was going to run really fast back to the truck. It proved difficult with worn out duct taped cowboy boots on. On his fourth stride, he slipped to the ground in a near split.
By this time, I was freaked out. The lights were not moving. To me that meant the police were exiting the vehicle and pulling their weapons.
Stanley scurried to his feet, opened the door of the truck and jumped in, only to bounce against Darla and again fall to the ground. He mumbled something about lard and too much beer and tried again. Darla scooted close to me. Stanley put the stick in first gear and I hit the gas and cut to the right, sending Darla over on top of me. I shoved her back to Stanley and yelled something about selling her by the pound at the county fair. Stanley attempted to light a smoke as I cut left. His head rammed into the window, crushing his smoke and setting his hat off-kilter. The lights followed closely behind for ten blocks……then disappeared.
I looked over at the D.U.S. He lit his crushed cigarette, which went up in a mass of flames. He took it out of his mouth and blew out the flame, then continued smoking. I was angry that we'd almost been caught. Instead of accepting that it was part of the risk, I blamed the D.U.S.
I looked over and yelled at him.
"Don't you have anything to say for yourself!???? You almost got us caught!"
He looked back and grinned.
"Well, what then!?!"
I expected nothing less.