John’s property rests hiding from people and winds self-centered and protective of the ones it knows. The green, secluded valley steeply falls into a manmade pond soaking the hem of the forest. Trees and brush wildly surround the lot, making it invisible from the dirt road, dusting the sky on the top of the mountain. Here we spend our summers tanning and swimming almost naked, our bodies sun embraced, our minds spoiled in nature’s giving.
John, a longtime friend has opened his heart and the gates to his property our summers loaded with sunshine, joy, laughter, arguments, and booze. For over a decade the four of us retreat to the hills in the sky as soon as the first spring sunrays lick our foreheads. A pack of misfits: members of the same eastern European immigrant clique John and his new bride, Drag and I share a friendship closer than family.
A quiet introverted man, John is bubbly fresh and humorous when within the green enclosing of his paddock, “The Johnny-vile.” He’s happy with or without company, as he can sit in front of an open fire, even on hot July day, smoke his Marlboros, and stare into the infinite; its forest, the pond, the insects, the birds and the sky. We love John, even though we disapprove of his decisions and choices; he is a kind soul, a troubled one, too. A man of many talents, John had it hard and came to have it all: a family, wife, and two sons, businesses, houses, cars stashes of money in his pockets and large bank accounts.
Then his choices broke him piece-by-piece. A lady’s man, John chased and scored with every skirt in town until it broke his family apart. A heavy drinker and gambler, he lost his investments and his home but held on to his upstate land, the only solace, and his greatest joy. He kept smoking and drinking until a stroke hit him on a high barstool, horny and intoxicated Budweiser in hand. A blonde, blue-eyed shiny smile girl took his order she turned away to fetch his beer and John’s lusted for her youth and drooled in her scent. She bent over the ice sink, picked up a cold one, and returned to place it in front of him. He blatantly placed a mound of cash on the bar next to his coaster and asked for a frozen glass, and when she poured his beer slowly, he watched her every wince in awe. His demeanor produced the same results each and every time; girls let their guard down, and he’d slip through the platonic friend door and slowly conquer the desires.
But on this particular day, fogged and tired, John sat in front of his beer held it with his right hand and brought it to his ear. From a far corner, the bar owner realized this was serious and leapt to his rescue just as he was about to hit the linoleum floor. They called an ambulance, and he was hospitalized, treated for his stroke but never fully recovered. John is now a dissipated hint of what was once a sharp success driven entrepreneur, generous and fun loving man.