Ball Busters - Ch 1 - The Call

(Authors note: Each chapter will have a theme song.  I am not purchasing music rights but the songs can easily be found online and will help you find the mood easier.  It would be a good idea if you now open a new tab, google search this song and have it ready to play when queued. - Delaware Slide - George Thorogood)

Another long night of homework. Working on her SAT words again, but I know repetition creates success so if I have to flip index cards to help her get a step up, it is worth every second. She now has the water on the stove, just saw her throw salt in the water like Chef Fabrizio, she is off and running pasta night like a pro.

My daughter and I, whom I call Peanut, have always been scary close. She is just like me, strong, smart enough to get her little ass in trouble, and scary independent, just like her daddy. I mostly raised her myself. I am a classic girl-dad. We make a good team. She reminds me so much of my twin-sister Tish. It scares me every day. Having a teen daughter that constantly reminds you of your twin sister, it fucks with your head. Crazy memories, odd ways they both scrunch their nose, the way they say certain words exactly the same. It's just odd the way they remind you of each other, or worse, how each of them reminds me of me. Yet, they are the two closest people family in my world.

The call came in just as I turned on the hockey game to see how the Rangers were doing. I hadn't even sat down yet.

"Hey Bababoy, long time. You got a minute?" Says the voice of my twin. When you are a twin, you don't need to share the emotion behind why you say things. You just know and my heart dropped.

"Hey, Tish. Yeah, of course. One sec." Throwing Peanut a thumbs-up finger with a questionable brow, she properly interpreted me and nodded her head with an upturned thumb in return. That kid had it under control. With the phone to my chest, I kiss her on her head, I say quietly "I'll be right back baby, it's Aunt Tishy. Keep an eye out and don’t let that sauce stick…" On the way into my bathroom, I grab the joint from the hiding spot in the tissue box, turn on the fan and light it up.

"Please tell me momma is ok," I say with more than a smidge of sincere concern.

"Oh goodness, yes. Sorry... You know that woman will outlive us both, I'm sure of it." Long pause. My sister never had an issue talking with me. I believed her that mom was ok. It wasn't that, but there is a missing piece, something is up. "Wow, she's cooking the sauce?"

"Getting big... 10th grade... she's like my wife. No joke."

"Tell her that her favorite aunt is thinking about her." She says solemnly.

"OK, no problem. Tish, what's wrong? Is everything ok?" My heart hurts for her. I can hear her building up the courage internally.


"Tell me what happened." Now, I just wanted to get to the bad news, she never calls me that. There had to be something, and she knows I like to hear it straight. But knowing that doesn't make it any easier to say, I braced more with every second. This was going to be a punch in the gut.

"Right. I'm sorry, it's just I don't know how to tell you this. It is Sully... Sully died this morning..."

Ok, I immediately regret and take back that 'I just wanted to get the bad news' bullshit. The memories fill my brain and rule my thoughts from this moment forward. I never knew those words could be used, and now literally full in my head, empty in thoughts, devoid of emotions or breath, and completely locked in a catatonic place on the inside. It has to be a twisted joke, but she knows better. The flashbacks immediately start flushing in. Playing pool... Playing cards... his laugh... the way he made me laugh... the look on his face the night I scared the shit out of him.

Silence... No movement... Stuck in place... In the background, hearing Peanut singing a song she just invented about making sauce like it's some unseen tether to reality. Finally, Tish reels me back in. "Baba?? I know... I'm so sorry... I had no other way to... You there?"

"Uhmm… yea... yeah... I'm uhh, yeah, I'm here... Wh...what, uhm..." The day at the nude beach. His face when he smacked down a queen of spades. How hard it was to make no noise as we tiptoed in the dark creeping down the hallway waiting for him to turn the corner... Just no complete words form in my brain or mouth, as best, I sputter. She was trying to keep my head on my shoulders but knows me well enough to know I'm destroyed by this news.

"There was a car accident. They said it was quick and he wasn't in pain." Silence... That didn't help... I needed it but want no part of this. No movement. Huge drag, release, surrounding myself in a cloud. She heard this and knows it to be a queue I was ready to continue. "They called me asking about you. They know you two haven't spoken in years, but they really love you too, think of you as part of their family, and want you to be there for the service, thought you would want to be there also... They're planning for a wake on Wednesday and Thursday with the service on Friday."

The day at the beach. The look on his face when I scared him... He must've been carrying 10 things for us... The way he smiled when he slapped the queen of spades down on someone. The night we met Lilly...

Another long drag from my joint. Bad move number two, we cannot go thinking about her right now. Shake that shit off, you need to focus. Staring at the blank bathroom wall like it's a Picasso... The look on his face... get out of your head...

"Honey?? You ok?"

Clearing the lump in my throat then pulling in a huge breath of clean air before releasing… 'Yeah, Tish... Sorry... Wasn't expecting that. It uhm... It hurts... Who called you, his mom?" I cannot stop my tears from starting to spill over, but need to hold it together, and this question should buy me a few seconds to...

"No. Lilly called me. She misses you too." She said gently not planning to share that part, fully aware that name drop will also hit me hard. 

Fuck. She said the name. Its endgame for my ability to hold it together.  Wrong again dumbass. Momma always said, 'Don't ask questions you don't want the answer to'. I hate it when she's right.

A second wave of memories fights against the fixated, catatonic state I was already suffering through. Now her, us and him, us and her, her naked, her smell, the four of us at the beach, the tournament, the color of her eyes, the smile in her eyes, us hanging out in the bathroom back home... no... we cannot follow where these thoughts are heading.

Feeling nauseated, realizing that we're full and can do this no more. I cannot do this now. Taking every part of myself to express to my sister, "I'll uhh... I'll uhh get there... soon... You can tell them I'll get there... Driving... I'll call you back when I know what I'm doing... But, yeah of course. Tell them I miss them too. I love you, Tish..."

"I will. We all want you to come home. I hate calling you for this. They were trying to get in touch with you... ya know... before...' She said knowing this entire conversation rips me to pieces. She had to be the bearer of this news. She missed Sully just as much as I did. I always believed they hooked up on some level, sooner or later. He was more or less our brother. But her pain for me dwarfed her own sorrow.

I interrupted this time carrying a serious want out of this conversation with an added side of migraine, and she knew it. "It's ok. No worries, Tish. Let me go figure this out. Love you."

"Ok, Love you too. See you soon."

I don't move after hanging up for what the clock claims to be an impossible 23 seconds. I take another huge drag from the joint and blow it out, and off in the distance, a loud crash snaps me out of the stupor. Yelling toward the kitchen I say, "You Ok?!?"

"Dropped a spoon! I'm ok!" A yell enters in from the kitchen.

Thinking for a second, before quickly realizing the sound wasn't right. "Make sure you use a clean spoon now!" I yelled back at her.

Immediately followed by the clinking sound of the dirty spoon being deposited into the sink and the opening and closing of the drawer. "OK!!"

I shake my head and take one last drag before dragoning the smoke out and stomping the roach out for later. This just became a long day.


As I open the creaky old closet and look for the shoebox I know to be on the back corner of the top shelf. I have avoided looking at it in a long time. Trinkets, collectibles, and memories are pushed aside to the side and there is the old size 13 box. This is known to me internally as the 'Sully' box. I deposited all the memories from our (nearly) lifelong friendship here with the hopes to lock them away with my anger. Opening the old broken box and breathing the smell reminds me of Vince Vega looking in Marcellus Wallace's briefcase. Winds flowed a bright golden light from within, the whole deal... swears.

I pull out a few of the most special ingredients needed for this drive, the APA token, the mix tapes (all with handwritten labels like 'Lonesome George / Tourney' and 'When U Miss NY'), and then also grab my pool case, and my old trench coat with a blue bandana in the pocket.

There is a mild smell of mildew, sweat, and smoke. But closing my eyes and shoving my nose in for a deep breath, I go back and can literally taste my 20s again.

This is the costume of my superhero persona.  No more Daddy, no more Tom.  This is Baba's suit and now older, wiser, stronger, I want to wear it again.


Kissing Peanut on her head as she throws her bookbag into her mother's back seat. To nobody specific and both of them at the same time, I say, "Thanks for covering me this week... Not sure when I'll be back." Peanut gives me a big hug. I picked up her head and looked her in the eyes, "I am ok, but I need to do this.  And I need to do this alone. This was a past life, and I need to go back to bury a good friend. I won't be that long and when I get back, I'll be... better." She wraps her arms around me and squeezes her bestest hug.  As much as we both need this badly... I need to stop it before it overwhelms me.

"I’m so sorry. I would come too. I feel like I should come too." Hello, worst idea ever, Miss Exwife. That one knew that me talking to her right now would only end badly, so I never took my eyes off the backseat as I felt the last second of my hug.

Finally realizing her words were never going to be accepted, "I know. I'm just sayin'. Know that I'm there in spirit. I loved him too. Give them all my best."

"Thanks, call me when I can." Then to his daughter... "RECOGNIZE, it is IMPERITIVE you memorize those flash cards REGULARLY, if you care to OPINE about being PROSPEROUS on your SAT... capiche?!? ...and you still have that ratios worksheet to do... I'll text you when I can... Love you!"


Packing to leave went well. Any action or distraction stops the flashbacks, if even as long to take to pack five shirts into a leather duffel bag. In goes shirts, tighty-whities, socks and a couple of hoodies. Old trench coat with extremely long scarf is thrown next to the duffel. Pack of cigars, check. Bandana, check. Then the toothbrush, deodorant, hair gel, hairbrush, everything a growing boy needs for a long solo road trip.


I throw the duffel in the backseat of the dark blue, 1969 Chevy Nova I have had since I was 22 years old. Taking the old pool case off my shoulder, I enter the vehicle to a mild rusty squeak of the shocks, and gently place the case on my shotgun seat where she lived for decades.

I put the key in the ignition, pumped the gas and started the car to a roar and small cloud of blue smoke. Something about that roar makes me feel like a man, stronger, masculine, like I'm young again. I can instantly smell the mechanical issues, and just have to ignore that for now as I roar the engine two, okay, three times. There she is... She just wants to roar.

I take my sunglasses out of the glovebox, where there is also an old joint rolled and never smoked. Feeling this sign is similar to when the gods gave Persius the golden shield and sword, this must be the pool gods giving me this godly joint and a pat on the back meant that they were with me on this journey.

With my chariot ready, I pulled out the cassette saying, 'Lonesome George'. I lit my newfound found joint and put the cassette in the player, rewinding side 1.  When I hear the click, I put the car in drive and slowly rolled out of the garage and down the driveway. By the time all four tires touch asphalt, the cassette clicks and starts playing....

(Authors note: Hit play now so you hear it in the background - Delaware Slide - George Thorogood)

      duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum
      I rode a streak of lightening on the night you said goodbye duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum
      I rode a streak of lightening on the night you said goodbye duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum
      Well If I never make it baby you can't say I didn't try

      duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum
      Well I grew up with rock and roll but these blues wouldn't leave me alone duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum
      Well I grew up with rock and roll but these blues wouldn't leave me alone duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum
      I didn't know what they meant 'til I ran far from home....

      Well alright


That this is going to be a long trip, driving instead of flying is part of my strategy. Some ghosts will need to be buried and that is going to take more than a few hours. Other ghosts will need to be addressed, so let's ease into this with a double yellow line of therapy. The drive will take a few days, plenty of time for me to deal with whatever is needed before arriving. The Nova will also help bring me back to my old skin once worn twenty years ago. I know I fit in this once so easing back in my seat, settling in, and cruising in my classic ride should help a bunch. Lonesome George gives me a soundtrack providing aid shifting away from my elder self, and remembering who I was at a far younger age.

I began to think about hanging out and playing pool with Sully in my grandpa's basement. We had to be teenagers, if that. I know he's had a hard on for Tish since as long as I can remember. It will come back to me. The three of us were inseparable for many years before we met Lilly, who was truly the fourth wheel we needed. Tish and I are a team, so my best friend was our best friend. His home was less warm, so it ended up that he was just kind of always there with us. Sadly, I think his mother was relieved by how it evolved, many times he was with us for days. Momma accepted him as one of her flock and he all but lived with us. There was always food for him, and momma even started buying his favorite cereal and ice cream flavors. If we planned a trip, he was assumed to join us and missed when not possible. Sully was one of us from a very early age. We were brothers in all but a genetic sense.

In my grandfather's basement there was a pool table and grandpa's comfy, very nice Lay-Z-Boy recliner, Donna Summer (the black goldfish, don't judge, true story and it was a compliment, she was stunning), Debbie Harry (the person, in single exposed breast pinup form), the armless naked upper torso of a female mannequin (adorned in only nipple pasties, an open black leather vest and sunglasses), and no less than 100 classic record albums from the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jethro Tull, Led Zepplin, Clash, that would be worth a small fortune today.

Grandpa's basement TV had Playboy channel access, and I'm like 14, 'nuf said. As a kid, I hid in this basement where the pool table and boobies were, and the girls and adults were not. It was just me hanging out down there at first, but then with Sully, then Tish started to hang with us when there were no girl cousins to play with. I'm not sure which of my uncles lived down here last, but we are taking it over now. When at Grandpas, we were playing pool, while maybe, possibly, occasionally, viewing the playboy channel...

(just once... ok, maybe twice... I digress)...

      duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum
      Well I went up that highway they call highway 95 duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum
      Well I went up that highway they call highway 95 duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum
      When I cruise back to you baby your heart will come alive
      duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum duh dum de duh dum dum
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