The doorbell rang while I was on my second cup of coffee, which was after I had tried all the pies. The caterers had set up a big pitcher-Thermos sort of thing with the last of the coffee and had just left, so when it rang everyone assumed it was them coming back for something they forgot.
Remo opened the door and let out a force-yet-surprised-sounding “Well, hey!”
I could hear Digger’s voice before I could see him. “It’s Thanksgiving, you know? So I thought I’d drop by with this.” He handed Remo a bottle of what was probably scotch. It was the kind of bottle that came in a fancy box, so I assumed it was expensive. “You got some kinda party going on here?” He failed to act surprised.
The stereo was still playing but everyone else had gone quiet as Digger stepped into the room and took his jacket off. For all my complaints about there being no weather here, it was actually started to get a bit chilly that night.
Insert joke here about how cold it got in that room at that moment. Seriously. At first I thought it was just me, but no one said anything to him, no one else went over to shake his hand. Remo’s place had this wide-open floor plan where the kitchen was more like an area off to the side of the living room, and instead of walls separating the kitchen, dining room, living room, and family room there were changes of level of one or two steps, most of it covered in white shag carpet. I was standing behind the island in the kitchen at that point, everyone else scattered across the space, everyone looking toward the door.
They all knew I’d fired him. They all knew I thought he’d sold me out. They also all knew that Remo had turned him down–more than once–to manage Nomad. I remembered Remo telling me, not that long ago, that one of the reasons he’d moved the band to LA was to leave Digger behind.
Most important for the silent treatment, though, was that they clearly all knew that Digger hadn’t been invited tonight. Remo made appreciative noises about the scotch, apologized that dinner was done with, but said hey, come in for a cup of coffee. One of the wives made nice then, getting him a mug, and people started talking again while he and Remo sat down.
Fine. We could all pretend there was no white elephant in the room. I started a game of pool with Martin, but I couldn’t concentrate. Digger looked as bad as he had earlier in the week, dark circles under his eyes, his skin sallow.
I wondered for a second if Remo had dropped the hint to him that I’d be there and was going to try to play peacemaker between us. If so, I wondered if I would let him. But Reem just sat on the couch talking with him, never looking my direction.
Digger gave me a couple of dagger-eye glances. Maybe he really was rude enough to drop in, in spite of the fact he must have known he wasn’t invited on purpose.
Whatever. Martin and I finished–he beat me pretty quickly actually–and then we set to making hot buttered rum in the kitchen, except there wasn’t any rum, so we used bourbon instead. And maple syrup instead of sugar. I guess what we made then was pancake syrup with bourbon in it. It was delicious, even if I wasn’t really relaxed anymore, with Digger there.
I went to the bathroom then, which was down the hall by the bedrooms, and Martin followed me.
“Hey,” he said. “Thinking it might be time to tell Remo he’s gotta choose between you or Digger.”
“I would never tell him who to be friends with,” I said, leaning against the door frame. “What kind of drama queen bullshit would that be? ‘Him or me!’ Can’t picture myself saying that.”
“No no, I mean it might be time for ME to tell him he’s got to choose. No wait, even better, time for me to tell him to kick that guy to the curb, regardless.”
“Don’t go rocking the boat on my account.” I shrugged. “They go way back. You know that. Digger’s his oldest friend.”
“How’d they meet again?”
“In the army. Drafted at the same time, I guess? Neither of them ever talks about it so I don’t even know, really.”
Martin shook his head resignedly. “Shitballs. They probably had some kind of indelible bonding experience during basic training or something.”
“Probably.” I then shoved him in a friendly and loving manner back toward the living room so I could shut the door to the bathroom and take a leak in peace.
Thus I was not in the room when the shouting started.
Maybe it doesn’t matter what Digger shouted, because he was drunk, and the rest of us were not exactly un-soused either. Maybe he would have spouted anything he thought would hurt regardless. Maybe he didn’t mean any of it.
But maybe I was done making excuses for him. Here’s a taste of what he was spewing:
“Listen to me you goddamned piece of shit!” (Unclear whether he meant me or Remo at that point.)
“You wouldn’t have got anywhere without me! You’d still be playing fern bars on the Jersey Shore for fifty bucks a night!” (Amusingly enough, decent restaurant gigs down the Shore paid more than that, but whatever.)
“Don’t you dare fucking blame me, you faggot, it’s your own goddamned fault. Everything’s your fault.” (Okay, that one was definitely aimed at me.)
Remo apparently had some kind of mental three strikes you’re out going in his head, because on the third time Digger used the word “Faggot,” he went ballistic.
“Don’t you dare talk like that in my house,” he roared. It was weird. He didn’t yell, but he was loud enough to drown out Digger. I guess when you’ve got the lung power to fill up Giants Stadium you can do that. “Don’t you dare talk to my guests–your son–that way.”
“My son? It’s my fault, then? What a fucking joke.” Digger was still sitting on the couch, a glass in his hand. “I did all I could to keep his mother from turning him into a girl like his sisters, but he was always a crybaby, I always knew he was going to end up taking it up the ass.”
Remo was on his feet then. He was a bit drunk, too, as I might have mentioned. “Fuck you you fucking fuck,” he said, which seemed to me an excellent point to make. “You know who raised your kid to be who he is today? I did. We did. For chrissake, Martin over there who was barely over being a kid himself probably took better care of Daron than you ever did!”
Digger pointed at me then with the hand that held the glass. “Who put a fucking roof over your head, huh? Who fed you? Who–”
“Who bought him his first guitar? Oh yeah, I did.” I had never heard Remo so angry before. “Who paid for his lessons? Oh yeah, the kid paid for them himself. Gee, who put the kid through school? Riiiight, he got himself a scholarship–”
“Fuck you, Mr. Sarcastic, you don’t know shit about raising kids. But you wouldn’t, would you.”
Remo’s nostrils flared and I thought he was going to belt Digger then. He sputtered. “You dare bring that up?”
“Don’t get all high and mighty on me, Remo Fucking Cutler. You stuck around all those years just because you wanted to keep an eye on the kid? Yeah, right. I think it was Claire’s ass you wanted to keep your eye on.”
“You’re out of your mind.” Remo pointed to the door. “Get out. Get. The Fuck. Out.”
Digger clucked his tongue while he leaned forward to set his glass on the coffee table. “Touchy, touchy! The truth hurts, don’t it?”
“Out. Of. Your. Mind. OUT!” Remo bellowed and charged him. Digger scrambled over the back of the couch, skirted a big potted plant and ran right into the pool table.
Kids, don’t try to flee from friends you’ve enraged while drunk. Drinking and baiting only leads to accidents. Digger hit the pool table at top speed and fell to the carpet with a thump and lay there not moving.
I swear my first thought was: if he’s dead, I hope Remo has a good publicist.
He wasn’t dead. He was unconscious, and one of the wives checked his pulse and pupils and called an ambulance.
Remo seriously considered not going to the hospital. We discussed telling the EMTs that he was a party crasher. But as he sobered up, Remo decided he better go. If nothing else, it would cut down the chance of Digger suing him later. Besides, someone had to bring back the news of what happened to him.
So Remo went to the hospital, the Mazel brothers and their wives went home, Martin crashed in the bed in the office, and Jonathan and I took the guest bed.
And Jonathan put his arms around me and said, “Wow.” Which about summed it up. Oh except for this: When Remo got back we found out why Digger looked so terrible. Liver failure.
Couldn’t’ve happened to a nicer guy.
(By the way, today’s title comes from a minor 1989 hit from Adrian Belew of King Crimson, who did this very very cute song, with even cuter videos, with his daughter Audie. Here’s the original video and a live version. -ctan)