“Tell me about the scrumpy, Vin.”
Vin takes a smiling drag from his cigarette, squints at me through the exhale. The night is warm and dark, and the party is at its peak. “Scrumpy? Who told you about the scrumpy, love?”
We grin at each other through the crowd that has gathered on Kathy’s deck.
“I learned about it from you, Dad! I learned about the scrumpy from you!”
“Ahh,” he says. “So you did.”
“When was it?” I prompt. “Remember? You had just left one school and went west to another…”
Vin stands up, goes to the cooler where he pulls out a beer. “Well, it had just been suggested to me – and rather forcefully, I might add – that I take my educational pursuits elsewhere.”
He returns to his seat, takes a short pull from his bottle. “Naturally, I was compliant.”
The crowd on Kathy’s deck leans in.
“So there I was, just a mate and myself, with time on my hands and naught to do but waste it.”
“Naturally,” I say, “you were compliant.”
Vin nods. “Mmmm,” he says. “Compliant. Isn’t that a nice little word?”
The group on the deck, an inebriated collection of eight, maybe nine souls, ponders “compliance” and what Vinnie would look like in such a state.
“Aw, leave off!” he says, laughing. “I’m a right angel when I’ve a mind to!”
The laughter intensifies.
“So there I was,” he says, shouting over the crowd. “There I was! Going to school in the West, and a far cry it was from
But me and – what was his name? Hmmm.
What was his name? – we made due. And by ‘made due’ I mean
that we found ourselves at a little bar.”
He looks at me. “You know how they make scrumpy, don’t you?”
I do know – he told me this story almost four years ago, initially, but I shake my head ‘no’.
“There’s this meat, see, on a hook, lowered down into apples. The meat and apples work together like, fermenting. Produces a cider.”
“Vin, you are pulling my leg.”
“On my honor, I am not.” He takes a drink of his beer. “It’s a matter of record.”
He takes another quick sip of his beer, lights a cigarette. “So we’re drinking, aren't we? Scrumpy, served up in rinsed out detergent bottles –“
“ – so you know it’s good, right there,” I interject.
“It’s a mark of distinction, iddin it?” he confirms. “We’re drinking. And drinking. And we’re just not getting drunk. So we get up, walk out of the place and up to a kebab shop.”
He pauses, recollecting the night in question. “So there we are, kebabs wrapped in paper and pressed against our faces – rowr rowr rowr” – Vin imitates what would be labeled, in many circles, as “scarfing” – “when my legs go out from under me and I fall to the ground.”
He looks around the deck, the better to impress upon us the seriousness of the situation. “I am entirely legless!”
The cry goes up “He’s legless!” “Vin’s got no legs!”
He shakes his head. “Dead from the waist down. And so’s my mate. There we are, laying on the ground.”
“Just laying on the ground?”
“Right there on the sidewalk,” he says.
“What’d you do?”
He shrugs. “What could we do?” he says. “We crawled along the sidewalk, pulling ourselves forward with our arms…”
He shakes his head, the memory warm.
“It never got to me head,” he says, chuckling. “But me legs were dead drunk.”