We decided during the first few minutes of “Cheers”, I imagine, that it was a good night to go to Mack’s Supper Club. It was not a particularly difficult decision, nor hotly debated, just one of those where somebody might’ve said out of the blue, “I think we should cut class tomorrow and go to Mack’s.” And so by acclimation we settled on the plan, nodded admiringly at Sam Malone’s latest conquest and chuckled appreciatively with Norm, the thinking drunk’s humorist. At 8 30 we piled in to Greekson’s RX7, TB in the passenger side rear seat as usual, oblivious that it was to be the little hot rod’s last run.
Macks ran an ad in the school newspaper every Wednesday. “We open up when everybody else closes down. BYOB.” The Landing closed at midnight or thereabouts. Down the highway a mile or so Doug’s usually stretched it to about 2 am. Technically Macks was open before then, but Mack wouldn’t sing til every cover possible had been collected and the pews were filled. And it was a good twenty miles south on Highway 45 from the crossroads, so you really had no reason to arrive until about 3 am. My friends, the hours between 8 30 pm and 3 am for a bunch of half educated crackers on a mid-semester Thursday evening are rarely empty ones, and for TB and his asshole runnin buddies the time between the making of the plan to go to Macks and the execution of said plan was filled this particular night with whisky.
Macks is no more. It is said the fires of hell itself rose up spontaneously one night in the mid 1990’s to consume the joint, Satan content no longer to leave a place so treasured in his black heart to the pleasures of mortals. When it was still standing the building appeared from the outside abandoned during daylight hours. There were no lights, no sign I can recall. A rickety, heavy door that never closed was the first thing you noticed upon arrival, and immediately thereafter the sign above the little box office–“Mack’s Supper Club–Members Only”. We all knew what that meant. Mack was a purebred sonofabitch. He made us think he hated everything and everybody and I’m sure he hated us college boys. But he’d take our money–wasn’t interested in a hippie’s or a homosexual’s or a Jew’s if he could tell and he damned sure wouldn’t take a black person’s money, at least that’s what they said. I suspected he probably had a black mistress at some point in life and maybe he even liked her, but she probably dumped his worthless ass and he used that to fuel his anger. Most anybody that went to school near Macks has great memories of the place, TB included, because it was fun to stay out all night and raise hell. And maybe he was just a politically incorrect country comedian, essentially harmless, but he seemed like a mean old bastard to me. Still, the songs were funny; funny to a sophomore for sure.
After you got in you saw the church pews that served as seating for his show. The show was Mack singing songs about sex mainly, raunchy and raw, just him and his guitar. He sat on a bar stool behind a chicken wire fence and in front of the biggest pair of red lace panties you ever saw, the ones Roberta put her big legs through. I don’t know if the chicken wire was to protect him or us but I do know when someone chunked a bottle at it that 70 year old cuss would come whip his ass if he saw who did it. There was a wood burnin stove that we’d huddle around on cold nights and when I was a freshman the boys bathroom was behind a piece of particle board stuck out from the wall. When you went around it you were outdoors. He put a gutter in over the next summer though and I thought the upgrade robbed the place of some of its charm. There were a couple of pool tables with missing balls and no chalk and tears in the fabric but nobody ever complained. It was something to do while waiting for everyone to make it over from Doug’s. And yes, there was sawdust on the concrete floor.
We were cruisin in darkness, Axl Rose wailin “Mr. Brownstone.” I, the only one of us that knew exactly where we were going, was “resting.” And so it seems that Greekson thought we may have passed the place and so he wheeled around to make sure we hadn’t. Greekson was a 6 foot 2, 120 pound sack of driving greatness, sober or not. He liked to go fast. But on this night he was imperfect. The computations in his brain missed a decimal point somewhere among his instantaneous calculations. I came alert at the thump. That’s all it was.
There were four of us that night, Smily up front and I believe Quinn in back with me. Everybody froze. Without seeing a thing I knew we’d clipped another vehicle. I looked around and saw nothing but darkness. I assumed the other car had just kept going. “GREEKSON!” I jolted him, stunned and disbelieving back to reality. He turned a glazed countenance, or maybe it was a blank stare, toward my voice. “Hit the gas. Get us the hell out of here!” He faced forward but we didn’t move. “GREEKSON! GO SON, you got to get on the gas!” He was himself again, but there was confusion in his eyes. “I’m on the gas, the damned car won’t go.”
I figured the fender must be holding the tire in place, so Smily and I jumped out to go pull it away. We rushed around the front end of the car and froze. Greekson yelled at us to get movin, but we didn’t. I walked around to Greekson’s door and said “it’s gone.” Greekson said “I know he’s gone”, thinking of the other car. “No”, I said, “the front end. It’s gone.” Greekson got out and looked at his car, his treasure, his companion. Practically the whole front end was mashed up almost square to the windshield. It’s a miracle we lived, much less escaped without a bruise. Greekson was too much of a man to shed a tear, but I know it wasn’t easy to hold them back. The four of us were able somehow to shimmy the car a few feet over to get it off the road. I carefully hid the booze, thinking there was no sense in it going to waste and hoping we’d recover it tomorrow. We’d all seen too many movies and played too many video games I guess because we kept expecting a cop to pull up any moment even though we were miles away from nowhere and in the pre-cell phone era to boot. It was several minutes before a grizzled, unsteady pedestrian came jogging up instead, the guy we’d hit. Poor bastard thought he’d been the one that hit us. In his 18-wheeler.
The truck driver didn’t pull over for a quarter mile or so and he as much as told us he wasn’t sure he’d come back. He knew we’d be dead. Thankfully, he decided to come check before he sent out a call on his CB. As he drove Smily and me down to Macks to find a classmate I could tell he wasn’t right. Drugs, booze, or some combination of them were part of his night, part of his life. He didn’t want any part of reporting this accident, but then, he sure as hell was glad none of us had been hurt either, and not just because of his job. We all agreed to just go about our business. He let us off at Macks and disappeared with a cheerful blow of the horn into the night. We found a buddy who could get us home, but he wouldn’t leave just yet. He gave Smily and me a drink to steady our nerves while Smily and I uttered continual prayers and occasional exclamations of thanksgiving and we all waited until the old bastard played “Roberta”. I even sang along. I’ve always felt a little guilty about doing that while Greekson waited in the night on Sam Hill Road. That place was evil I tell you.
Quote of the Day:
“I used to work in Chicago, in a department store, I used to work in Chicago, I did but I don’t any more;
A lady came in she wanted some pumps, I said what you want is the door,
But pumps she wanted so pump her I did
And I don’t work there any more.”
–Mack Banks (one of the less offensive tunes–Smily don’t write out the ones you’re thinkin of either)