Wednesday, June 17, 2015

365 Project - Day 168 - "The Rum Story"

June 17, 2015 - "The Rum Story"

It was December... and I'm pretty sure the year was 1996. There were three of us working: My brother Peter... a really awesome guy named Manny... and myself. That's it. No one else. At least not in the framing part of the business. It was hell, to say the least... as we were getting overloaded with framing orders for Christmas and it was a struggle just to keep up. Peter and Manny were constantly on the selling table taking in orders... meaning I was pretty much the only person actually framing most of the time.

The frame shop usually closed at 5PM... but in an effort to try to get as many orders done in time for Christmas as we possibly could, we decided to stay open late. I was catching a train from Danbury to Greenwich at 7:00 in the morning... and not getting on the train home until after 9:00 at night.

One night was particularly stressful. Peter was stuck on the selling table for hours on end... and Manny and I were trying to pump out as many of the easier framing jobs as we could. We were getting burned out... since we had been at this for days on end. Finally I mumbled something about how I really needed a drink. Manny - a former bartender, by-the-way - perked up and turned to me and said "Do you think we could get away with it?".

Suddenly we were planning this whole scheme: Manny would go out the front door and take a left, heading down Greenwich Avenue to the liquor store to buy some Rum. I would head out the back door and take a left, heading in to CVS to buy several small bottles of Coke to mix with the Rum and a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos to mask any hints of alcohol on our breath.

We got back to the work room at just about the same time. We each chugged a bit of Coke from our bottles... then Manny filled the empty space with a very generous serving of Rum. Each bottle had at least three shots worth of alcohol in it... and we were chugging it down as if it was nothing... and munching on Doritos, while trying not to get any Dorito residue on the artwork and such.

After a while we were both feeling the effects. We were each on our second bottles of Coke... when all of a sudden Mr. H - the owner of the shop - came into the room. Manny and I just froze. Everything became quiet as we tried to avoid eye-contact and just focused on the jobs we were each working on.

Mr. H came and stood directly beside me. He leaned in to look at the piece I was working on... and began to ask me questions about it... as well as about how we were coming along with things in general. For a good five or ten minutes he was talking with me... and I was desperately trying to avoid looking at him or breathing in his direction. Manny had his back towards us... and I could tell by his posture and movements that he was about to burst out in laughter. He was doing a good job holding it in though... and everything seemed to be going OK.

Finally Mr. H began to walk out of the room... and both Manny and I sighed with relief. We did it! We were safe!

Just then Mr. H popped his head in the door again and said something to the effect of "It has been a long day... I'm heading down to the liquor store. Would you fellas care for anything, on me?".

Manny lost it. He completely broke out in laughter, which had Mr. H VERY confused. I just smiled and thanked Mr. H and said that we were good and didn't want anything, but that we appreciated the offer. He left again... and headed out to the liquor store.

Manny turned to me with what was basically a "What the fuck just happened!?!" sort of expression. We got a bit nervous... wondering if perhaps Mr. H knew what we were up to - and threw that whole "I'm going to the liquor store" bit in just to let us know that he knew.

The room got quiet as we continued to work... both pretty much assuming that we had been caught and were going to be in trouble at some point.

After what seemed like an eternity, Peter (who did not drink, by the way) walked into the room and looked at both of us, smiling a big goofy smile. Peter said to us "I meant to tell you guys... Mr. H has a habit of going to the liquor store when we're open late... so if you want a drink, let him buy it next time." Manny and I looked at each other... looked at Peter... looked at each other again... and once again completely lost it with laughter.

Peter settled in at his workbench... we cranked up the stereo... and the three of us continued framing and laughing on into the night.

Almost twenty years have passed... and I'd give almost anything to be back in that room framing and laughing with my brother.

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