You stop to say hello to Stan Packer because it's just good karma. And because one day you're going to be old and creeky, wishing someone would stop by and say hello to you.
"Erin!" he says as he opens the door and immediately, twenty five years fall away from his face.
"Hey Stan," you say. "Was in the neighborhood picking up sausage down at the market and I thought I'd stop by."
"Hell yes, you did," he says. "And I've got a couple of good cold bottles of beer for you and me."
He offers you a seat at the yellow and chrome dinette that has gone out of style and is back in style as kitsch, although such a word is not in Stan's vocabulary. You sit. He shuffles around the musty kitchen retrieving glasses and talking about what a shame it was about your daddy passing on the way he did so sudden and could it really be going on four years? He pulls a quart of Pabst beer from the refrigerator.
"Good and cold," he says. "You like beer, right?"
"Sure, Stan," you say. "I love beer."
"Your daddy sure liked his beer."
And then you are drinking beer with Stan Packer and eating stale pretzels and life is fine.
"That's some good cold beer, Stan," you say.
Which unleashes the less palatable particulars of the afternoon.
Because the next time you bring the glass to your lips, you notice the bottom of the glass is opaque and white, quite unlike the rest of the tumbler, which is clear, albeit a bit wavy. You swallow the beer in your mouth and slosh what's left back and forth like a miniature wave machine in order to further inspect the cloudy bottom of the glass.
Which right then sort of billows up, revealing it to be an entity in and of itself, and not at all inherent to the corporeal make-up of the tumbler. Having been liberated by Pabst, the white blob undulates in its beer bath like one half of a couple dancing the samba, with parts of its matter still secured to the bottom of the glass.
"It was your father and Baker and Lutz--who we all thought was an asshole--who decide they're going to start a goddamn knife throwing contest."
You are fairly certain the white beer booger swaying at the bottom of the glass is some sort of dairy residue, and a sizable amount of it at that.
"Now the rest of us are playing poker like nothing. Till we hear this string of cussing from hell to breakfast and next thing we know, here comes your daddy around the front of the cabin about as drunk as a lord with his goddamn hunting knife speared clean through his goddamn palm."
And Stan snorts a laugh and you snort a laugh and Stan drinks his beer and you drink your beer only to find that the beer booger milk floatie is still gleefully dancing around in its pool of Pabst by just one tenuous and delicate tether.
"So we take him down to the town doc and the doc pulls the knife out of there and tells him he needs to stitch the hand up."
And you are telling yourself: self, consider all the miserable toxic things you've ingested on purpose. What the hell difference does one goddamn milk floatie make?
"And your father says to the doc, 'Wait a minute, there, doc, aren't you going to give me something for the pain?'"
You have successfully completed fellatio for chrissake.
"The doc takes one look at your father, who stinks like Molson and Canadian Club and Metaxa, and tells him, 'You don't need any more of anything, buddy' and starts sewing up his hand."
Despite the fact that you have heard this story countless times before, you say, "Holy shit, Stan, that's the funniest goddamn thing I've ever heard," trying not to think about the effects of aqueous carbon dioxide, alcohol, and the other ingredients of Pabst beer have on milk floatie tethers.
Stan laughs. You laugh.
"I'm so goddamn glad you stopped," says Stan, who then heaves himself up from the dinette chair and refills your glass. You open your mouth to stop him, but he says, "And I've got the homemade tomato juice you like. Plenty of it, so you can take some home."
"Not one thing could make me happier, Stan," is all you say as you watch the golden stream of Pabst pour into the tumbler.
And you make a decision.
You decide you are going to drink this beer as if it was not inhabited by a milk floatie. You are going to laugh and swear as needed with Stan and if the effing milk floatie comes loose, you're just going to gulp the mother effer down.