Skeeter and Balbo
Skeeter and Balbo sat cocooned in the ease of having known and tolerated each other for decades.
Skeeter took a swig of whatever sloshed around in his white 70's ceramic mug - the one with the bald cartoon Ziggy and the stale avocado-brown bubble letters that said:
“SUGAR - How Sweet It Is!”
Then, he said - “You realize you can have sex forever.”
Balbo blinked three times. Now, out of context this might seem like a cocky thing to hear from your best friend of 27 years (a guy with a receding brown head of locks that curl up a bit only in the back). But Balbo was unfazed. He just thought for a second.
“If I'm lucky.”
“You know what I mean! You can get off whenever you want. Isn't that a fucking gift?!”
Balbo didn't see it that way.
“You were just saying a minute ago that you're worried you might never do what you want. You might never build that goddamn boat. Lucy might get sick of your moody bullsh-”
“I know what I said.” Balbo always felt simultaneously wounded and intellectually elevated by Skeet, whom he'd met in the trailer park up in Bridgewater decades ago. Quite a few homes, including Balbo’s, had been infested with bedbugs, and Skeet’s dad was the resident bug guy. Skeeter was an exterminator, too; he knew everything there was to know about pestering critters in the area.
Skeeter was quite literally a mosquito aficionado. Every time they’d get bitten out in the yard, he’d tell Balbo, “Giv’er a break. She’s only got one month to live!” He'd taken over the family business fifteen years ago when his dad died, and run it straight into the ground.
“Look, you’re going to build that boat. And Lucy's probably going to stay with your ass forever.” Skeeter took another sip of his-
“What're you drinking, Skeet? It stinks!”
Balbo examined Skeet like he was a species of house spider he’d never come across before. He knew Skeeter hated that - being looked at closely, all squinty-eyed and curious. “That’s some bullshit.”
Skeeter readjusted his positioning in his aluminum folding chair. The bright green and sunny yellow plastic webbing made a slight ripping sound in protest. “When you wanna go fishing again?”
“Don’t change the subject.” Balbo grinned as he sipped his own coffee.
“Weren’t we talking about you anyways? ‘Bout how, no matter what, you always have yourself. As long as you’re alive, you can feel good. You can drink. You can fuck. You can destroy a Boston Cream. You can go out on the lake-”
“Not if I’m broke. Or in jail.” This was a very pointed jab at Skeet, who rolled his eyes and said,
“That was the dumbest fuckin’ shit-”
“You were there! You were just too fuckin’ pussy to close the deal with me.” Skeeter kicked off one of his battered and peeling brown boots, revealing the grey-stained sweat sock that clung to his toes. He muttered with a bit less confidence “You’re lucky I forgave you, you little shit.”
“If I got charged, Lucy would be gone. She’d be back up in Tata’ with her stepmom. She’d already have had two kids with some other guy.” Balbo took his last long gulp of triple-cream, triple-sugar, then crumpled the red paper takeout cup and threw it on the patchy grass next to his own creaking lawn chair.
Skeet smirked saucily, his eyes lingering on his friend’s for too many seconds. “Not to mention, you’d lose your mansion!”
Balbo couldn’t help but smile. He lived with his tiny brunette girlfriend in a shitty apartment building in Spryfield that had only recently - coincidentally - also been overrun with bedbugs. Skeet had since “retired” from the pest control business; otherwise, he’d have been the first on the scene. Instead, he got to hear all about the ineptitude of the exterminators that Balbo’s landlord had hired to treat all the units on his floor. Balbo offered, “Don’t forget, Lucy might have to return her boobs.”
“Man,” Skeet shook his mud-and-grey mullet, sprinkling dandruff onto his Molson Canadian t-shirt like always. “I still don’t know how the hell you paid for those sandbags.”
“A gentleman never tells.” Balbo stood and stretched, knocking his aluminum chair over with a clatter. Somebody honked and yelled out of a shiny black Dodge Ram idling at the drive-through-
“Hey! You guys aren’t allowed to camp out here.”
Balbo bent over to pick up his chair without blinking. Skeet took a more verbal approach. “Go back to the car wash, bud! You missed a spot.”
The early-September sun coaxed sweat beads out of Skeeter’s pores as he hoisted his chair under his left arm, waving to Balbo as he walked across the field to his apartment.
The men snickered while they carried their things and headed in opposite directions, each of them wondering how much longer the other was going to live.