In the mood for a story? Iíll share one of the many tales of my times spent living with the Thomasí... Iíll start at the beginning.|
When I was fifteen I moved out of my parents house. ďMovedĒ should be visualized as my mother and father dropping off a suitcase with some of my things in it off at my friends house and asking me not to come around anymore. But thatís part of a different story and only important to set the stage for what was to come later on. I wandered through a few homes and families of friends for a while until I ended up at the Thomasí humble abode.
A bit about the Thomasí... The Thomasí were a family I stumbled upon who took me in as one of their own. There was Adrian, the son and my friend. There was Jack, Adrianís father, and Beatrice, Adrianís mother. There were a few other additions and side shows that came and went such as Jack's second wife Betty (Beatrice being the third); Jackís second son, Adrianís half brother; Jeff and Linda, some drinking buddies of the family; and a few others. I can sum up the entire circus of a family in two adjectives: insane and dysfunctional. Where to start?...
Adrian was a teenage alcoholic metal head with coke-bottle glasses and long frizzy hair. He was a bit on the insane side and often found joy in the torment of his mother (Iíll get to that later.). Adrian also fancied himself a musician and would spend hours on end playing his out-of-tune guitar slightly off time and off key to Doors songs on the radio while smoking his generic-brand cigarettes to the filter. He prided himself on his introverted behavior and would go out of his way to abuse anyone who would allow him...sort of like a hundred-pound bully who would drink too much at a party then get his ass kicked by some trailer trash, because Adrian would call the other guyís girlfriend a ďfat-ass bitch who needed to suck him off right now.Ē But for all that, Adrian had a small charm about him and could be tolerated, for the most part, if you just got past his ďI wanna be a rude boyĒ faÁade...and besides, with Adrian around, something entertaining was bound to happen.
Then there was Jack. Jackís real name was John, but he opted to adopt the alternate name, ďJack,Ē for obvious reasons. He was a sort of intellectual old hippy type who had a degree or two in human psychology and philosophy and wound up putting them to good use in the moving industry. Jack drank too much and spent a majority of his time sitting downstairs in the living room with all the lights off humming along to old Neal Young or Sonic Youth albums. To describe Jack is difficult, to say the least. He was a saint and a bastard all in the same breath, but he had taken me in and fed me mustard sandwiches and cheap beer so I couldnít complain too much.
Adrianís mother was a different story. Beatrice was completely insane. She was a diagnosed schizophrenic paranoid who could be pushed over the edge at any moment by something as simple as a light switch. She was an irritable bag who had thick calluses on her elbows from years of just sitting at the kitchen table drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. She rarely bathed and could be heard most of the time yelling obscenities at Jack while he hum, hum, hummed along to Sonic Youth. She had been in and out of institutions over the years, but due to lack of state and personal funds she was unable to get the real care she needed. Between Jack and Medicare she was able to maintain a steady supply of medications...except of course when the beer money ran low. Then we would get to see Boyd, Jackís second son, and the pills would be replaced with some cash.
Which brings us to Boyd. Boyd was a true drug addict who peddled and used any controlled substance he could get his hands on. He had done so much LSD that his spine was permanently damaged to the point where he had to wear orthopedic shoes and pee while sitting on the can. He died a few years back after popping a handful of his dead motherís (Jackís second wife, Betty) lithium pills and wandering outside in the middle of a blizzard. They found his body in the spring about a hundred yards down the hill behind his house. He had fallen, hit his head, and then froze to death while being covered with four feet of snow.
This was the Thomas family. My family. This household could have been a poster child for dysfunctional families, and the whole time I lived there, about two years in all, was like some horrible dream filled with drunken insanity and all I could do was sit back, watch in rapt horror, and try not to laugh to hard.
So it was late summer, and I had been away for a few days and had returned to find a small party in the making. A friend of ours had managed to dig up a few guys to come over and drink some brew with us that night. John, the friend, had informed us that there might be girls in the troupe, and we expected his prophetic enlightenment to prove true. Adrian was suddenly a bustle of activity. Ashtrays were emptied and bookcases were straightened in the anticipation of the fairer sex actually being present in his room. Floors were vacuumed and beer was ordered and everything was made just so for the proposed arrival.
And wouldnít you know it, just as the candles were being lit for mood lighting a car full of youths pulled up and amongst the group were indeed two attractive young lasses. I use the term attractive fairly loosely. In this case, attractive meant showered and female, and Adrian was in heaven. At last he could strut and pomp around and show these wonderful young ladies the time of their lives. I approached the whole situation with a bad mood because I knew what was coming, and I knew these poor girls would not have a thing to do with me within the hour.
As everyone made their way to Adrianís room I grumbled something about a long day and made my way to my own room in hopes of escape. I made it for about a half an hour, but then succumbed to the desire to at least witness the failure in progress instead of having to listen to alternate stories told by Adrian over the next week. I walked into Adrianís room to find him sitting on his bed with a stoic ďIím a bad ass, worship meĒ look on his face and the last part of a bowl going around while some jazz musician played just one click over the comfortable volume level on the radio.
Things seemed to be going well for Adrian. One of the girls seemed to be genuinely interested in his ramblings about musical theory and the quality of his new Ernie Ball guitar strings that he spent twelve dollars on at Percyís music shop earlier that week. But then things took a bad turn for Adrian when she turned her attention to another one of the guys in the group. I could see it on Adrianís face. He had to think of something fast. He had to keep this girlís attention on him or she might be lost to him forever. So he did the only thing he could think of. He picked up a bottle of rubbing alcohol from his nightstand and popped the cap off. This seemed to get the girlís attention again, which in retrospect was probably not so good for him as he was now bound into doing something stupid in a misguided attempt to show off for this fine peach of a girl who sat here in his room directly across from him.
So Adrian takes a quick survey off the room and discovers everyone is now watching him. He looks at the bottle for a second then tips it back and takes a mouthful in. With his head tilted back he turns to me, and while looking out from under his glasses, he gurgles ďlight me upĒ to me. It just so happens that Iím in the process of lighting a cigarette and have a Bic lighter in my right hand. I look over to my friend John for a moment and see he has a stunned, almost ďyouíre not really going to do this are you?Ē look on his face. My gaze then travels back across the room to Adrian and along the way I see mostly puzzled looks. Itís like no one can see this coming. They canít seem to fathom the idea that in the course of about six seconds Adrian has a mouth full of a combustible liquid and I have a lighter in my hand. I would under normal circumstances tell Adrian to quit being an ass and spit that shit out, but I was feeling a bit pissy that night so I leaned in and gave the flint wheel on the lighter a spin.
Sure enough a small flame appeared out of his mouth. I think I heard one of the guys start to say ďcool,Ē but before he could get it all the way out the two-inch flame in Adrianís mouth has turned into a four-inch flame. At this point all Adrian had to do was close his mouth and the flame would have been extinguished, but the flames had burned his lips and he panicked. He started to make this weird gurgling noise and leaned forward to spit the mouthful of alcohol out. Wrong move. Within seconds his whole face was ablaze. His hair crackled and shrunk away form his face as the molten liquid dripped from his chin and onto his chest and lap. He was making this ďuuunnnngggĒ noise as his shirt caught fire, so I grabbed a blanket from the foot of the bed and made my way over to help him put himself out.
Itís amazing how hard it is to put out a combustible liquid fire once it gets going. Put one part out and another part springs back up. At about the same time I sprung up to put my friend out, his love interest started shrieking, ďOh my god! Oh my god!Ē over and over. I gave half a thought to just letting him go to see just how crazy everyone would get, but I figured Jack would be pissed at me for torching his son, so after a few tries I finally managed to extinguish poor Adrian. It turned out that he was only lightly burned on his face, like a sunburn, as rubbing alcohol doesnít burn all that hot. He had some pretty good sized blisters on his chest where his shirt had melted through, but all in all he would be able to sleep it off, and as soon as his eyebrows grew back he would be tip top again...except of course for his love interest.
For a while afterwards everyone just sat quietly in the room trying to think of funny things to say that would direct thoughts away from what had just happened. But in the end I think it was the lingering smell of burnt hair that prompted the early departure of our guests. I think it took about fourteen minutes from the time he popped that cap off until the doors on their car closed, which left Adrian, John and I alone to discuss the height and color of those flames in detail for the next few hours over a couple six-packs of beer. Later that week John slept with Adrianís love, and their friendship was never really the same again.
So thereís a brief insight to one of many, many crazy happenings at the Thomas household. Iíll tell some more stories in the future, as I happen to reminisce about them.