Do you want a beer or something
with your lunch? my uncle asks.
Before I can answer, he tells me
he also has some champagne he found
on sale at the drugstore when he picked up
his meds this morning. When I tell him
that water would be fine, he screams What?
and I repeat my answer as loud as I can
without quite yelling, Fox news is blaring
on the kitchen tv. My sister guilts me
into stopping in for lunch like this with him
once a month. Get there before he starts drinking,
she advises me. Then it’s not too bad.
When I was a little kid he took me
to Orioles games at the old stadium,
years later drove a long way to watch me
play high school basketball even though
I didn’t get off the bench a whole lot.
When I got older and he was between wives,
on family vacations at the shore, we’d go out
to bars at night together, Batman and Robin
we called each other, a cooler of Michelob Light
between us on the front seat, Elvis blaring
Suspicious Minds on the cassette deck.
What time did you two get in last night?
my mom would ask. We’d just smirk
at each other, pour another cup of coffee.
We sit down to a plate of cold cuts,
rye bread, pickles and potato chips.
He puts the bottle of champagne down
beside him, begins to make himself
a sandwich. I notice his hair is as white
as it can be, that he missed a few spots
with his morning shave. He asks me
how I’m doing, so I give him the same answers
as I did last month, and the one before that.
I’m munching a handful of chips and
glancing at the clock when he pours out
the last of the bottle, shakes it real hard
to get the very last drop. We both watch
the champagne bubble to the top, then settle.
That’s the problem with champagne, he says.
It disappears too damn fast.