“Tell me again why we’re going to this thing,” said Nash, as he buttoned the blue collared shirt he saved for special occasions. He looked down at his chest. “Ah, shoot, there’s a stain on this.”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Justin. “Your sports coat will cover it up. Anyways, I told you, I kind of liked the guy.”
“No, you didn’t,” retorted Nash, “You thought he was a dick.”
Justin sighed, sat heavily on the bed, lit the bong on the nightstand, and inhaled deeply. “You’re right,” he exhaled blue smoke. “I didn’t like him. But I did like messing with him. He was a funny guy; not on purpose, of course. I’m going to miss that.” He patted the spot next to him. “I gotta tell you something. Come ‘ere.”
“Hang on,” said Nash. He grabbed a hand towel from the bathroom, soaked the edge of it in water, and sat down, daubing at the blemish.
“So, you know the last time we saw Pete, at the Yankee?”
“Uh huh,” said Nash, concentrating on the stain, which had turned into a tiny shallow pond with a blue-green dot in the middle.
“Well, I got him stoned before he came in.”
Nash paused his patting. “You get everyone stoned. What’s your point? Wait, do you think he fell off the bridge ‘cause he was stoned? When was the last time we walked over it when we weren’t stoned? And, the police say it was a hit and run.”
“Yeah, there’s that…and…” Justin held a hand over his mouth, muffling the sound, “We mure ave lured him ere in ert ace.”
“Oh,” said Justin, shifting to place both hands over Nash’s ears. “We may have lured him to the bar in the first place.” He dropped his hands. “He wouldn’t have been out at all except for us.”
“Whose ‘us?’ What’re you talking about?”
“Jordan,” said Justin, “We were chillin, maybe looking for a little illin, before you got home. Let’s be honest, that boy doesn’t know which way is up. Anywho, we decided to make some prank phone calls.”
“Prank phone calls? Who does that? What’re you, in seventh grade? Maybe you should check out Minecraft…”
“Prank phone calls have a noble lineage,” snapped Justin, “Some say they date to Jesus’ time, when people would “knock on wood” and then run away…”
Nash threw the wet towel at Justin. “Just get on with it.”
“Okay, so, we called Pete, and told him to come to the Yankee. Except, we didn’t say who we were, and we acted like we were Deep Throat, or something, using that voice thingy you gave me for Halloween. Not that Deep Throat is a bad thing, in the sense of the actual meaning of the phrase, which is kind of confused now, given the film and the Watergate…”
Nash squinted at Justin. “You’re starting to talk like Jordan, which is a turnoff.” He got up. “So, you prank-called Pete, he went to the bar, you got him stoned, and, later that night he was killed in a car accident. As a consequence of your bad behavior, we have to go to his funeral. I think the universe will forgive you, though I may not. Now let’s get this over with.”
Pete’s memorial service was held in St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church’s large basement. Pete, a lapsed Catholic, had only entered the building on a couple of occasions while he was alive; once for a story he was doing on spirituality on the Hill, another time to pitch an advertisement. His sister, flying in from Michigan, had made the arrangements, choosing the basement as a low-cost, and available, alternative to the main sanctuary.
The room was half-filled when Nash and Justin entered. They were the youngest people by at least thirty years. Folding tables had been set up along the room’s edges, laden with pizza, triangular sandwiches, pastries, and coffee urns, each item announced by a hand scrawled sign, along with its source: donated by Goat Hill Pizza, Klein’s Deli, Chats. The placards featured colorful Emoji-like, though cruder, drawings; a rainbow, unicorn, and what could have been an angel or a large bat.
“Thank you for coming,” hoarse-whispered a tall, skinny, white-haired woman wearing what looked like a narrow purple sack, who stood in the entryway, bobbing as she bent to shake people’s hands.
Justin stepped back, bumping into Nash behind him. “Is that Pete, in drag?” he mouthed over his shoulder.
Nash grabbed his bicep, and reached an arm across to grasp the woman’s outstretched palm. “Sorry for your loss,” he said, and pushed Justin into the room.
“Really,” Justin murmured, craning his neck to look at the woman. “Maybe Pete didn’t die, but just, transformed,” his voice rose as he gesticulated upwards.
“S.T.F.U,” Nash breathed through clenched teeth, steering Justin towards a table occupied by Chester and Maggie, who was talking to another couple next to her. “Sit down. Say nothing.”
Chester nodded in their direction, a full plate of diverse food items sitting untouched in front of him.
“Mind if I…” Justin said, reaching to grab a pizza slice from Chester’s plate. “You got a regular UN of cuisine going there,” he chewed. He gestured towards the food. “Except it looks like Italy might be gearing up for war with the French pastries…”
“I think I’ll get a beer,” said Chester, pushing his chair out.
“Hello, guys,” said Maggie, turning towards Justin and Nash.
“Hey,” said Nash. “Is that Pete’s sister?” He thumbed towards the door, where the skinny woman was talking to an animated City Supervisor, bobbing slightly. After furrowing her brow meaningfully, Rebecca stepped into the room, waved at no one in particular, spun back around and walked directly out.
“Yeah,” said Maggie, smiling at the Supervisor’s performance. “Her name’s Eloise. She and Pete sure look alike, don’t they? And it’s as if they went to the same school of bobbing.”
“Bob U,” quipped Nash, pursuing his lips to suppress a grin.
“Everything but the Adam’s Apple,” said Justin. He turned to look more closely. “Or maybe…”
Nash punched him lightly on the arm. Chester had returned, a plastic pint in hand. The mummering in the room had reached a new intensity, though plenty of tables remained unoccupied. Eloise was making her way to the front, toward an elderly African-American man wearing a clergy shirt.
“Let us begin,” said the man, after Eloise arrived next to him.
After a benediction, the priest explained that, according to the family’s wishes, the service would consist of testimonials from Pete’s friends and family, the latter of which solely consisted of Eloise, who spent twenty minutes stammering out a brief history of Pete’s early life, highlighting not-that-funny incidents, all of which revolved around Pete being clumsy, which the audience fake-laughed at.
“After he moved from Michigan I didn’t see him much,” Eloise said, tapping at her eyes with a tissue. “Our parents died,” she bobbed. “Neither of us had any money for travel. Oh, and I was wrapped up in my greeting card business,” she brightened, and pointed towards the signs on the food tables. “Please, feel free to take the notes as remembrances of Pete.” She looked out at the audience, scanning the small crowd with a hopeful look. The room was quiet but for the sounds of suppressed chewing.
The priest placed a hand on Eloise’s shoulder, and ushered her to a seat in the front. “Now is the time for anyone who has anything to say,” he said, and stepped aside.
Maggie examined Chester, and placed a hand over his. “Time to make the donuts,” she whispered.
Chester got up, and shuffled to the front, nodding at the priest as he leaned over and gripped the sides of the podium.
“Pete and I were friends…For quite a long time,” he said, glancing at Maggie. “I didn’t always agree with everything he said, or published in his paper. Particularly that story about my hosing down dog owners who didn’t clean up after their animals in front of my shop.” Smiles started popping up in the room, like fire flies. “Or the one about the State Legislator taking bribes, which turned out to be an allowance from his wealthy mother. And the funny photo section, which highlighted people’s backsides, well, I’m not sure much needs to be said about that.
“But, Pete had a good heart, and his heart was with the community. He did a lot of solid stories, and his paper helped hold us together, through all the changes, and the development. He wasn’t always right, but he was probably right more times than wrong. Many more times,” Chester paused, looked down at the podium, and back to the audience. “He had a kind of deep integrity, so deep that sometimes even he had a hard time finding it.
Pete’s dead now. More than likely, his paper is dead, too. That’s something…that’ll be missed. Both of them.” Chester nodded at Maggie, and walked back towards his table.
Each month, the View has published a chapter from Gold, a serialized tale of politics, capitalism, and corruption in San Francisco. Previous chapters can be found on the paper’s website, www.potreroview.net. Unless advertising and/or reader support can be secured for future installations, this is the final installment until the story is published in full in book form.