“I was looking fer a cab!”
“Looking fer a cab!? You’re two kilometers down ta street! Why didn’t ya tell me you were leavin?”
“Where ta fuck were you?”
“I was lookin for you! I tot you’d been killed. I called Mum.”
“You called Mum!? Why ta fuck would you call Mum!? Are you a fucking gobdaw?”
“I tot you were dead!”
“What the fuck’s ta matter wit you?”
“I tot you were fucking dead!”
“Mum’s gonna think we’ve been pissed the whole time.”
“We have been pissed the whole time! You better call her and tell her you’re alive.”
“No way am I callin’ her.”
This bickering went on for almost the entire distance of the stretch, neither one agreeing to call their mother. But as we began to climb the small rolling hills that peaked at two separate points overlooking both the bay and the ocean, they grew quiet, as if their bodies had sensed the change in topography and suffered the engine’s struggle as it pushed the old van uphill. A truck approached from the east and I looked in my rear view mirror, waiting for its headlights to light up the inside of the cab. In a passing flash, I caught a glimpse of the brothers, fast asleep, one resting his head on the other’s shoulder.
From that point on, I found myself driving like I was carrying a newborn baby home from the hospital. I had let the uphill climb defeat the engine and when we were almost down to a roll, I softly tapped my foot against the gas giving us just enough of a push to take us over the peak of the second overlook. On a clear day, they say, you can almost seeIrelandfrom here.
As we came into each bend in the road, I turned the wheel as slowly as I could, as if we were driving on ice. I was afraid that any sudden jerk or tilt would disturb this miraculous moment. We safely glided into Montauk pastOceanside, pastKirkParkBeach, past Puff’n’Putt and the IGA. Girls barely dressed were standing in the middle ofMain Streetin stilettos, their arms outstretched as if trying to regain balance on their tightrope walk from one side of the street to the other.
We pulled into the parking lot of The Memory, which, this time of night, served as a hangout where bar crawlers like my two Irish brothers got the word on where the party was headed next.
I parked the van in front of one of the rooms at the far end of the motel, a one-story L-shaped building. The door to the room in front of us was open and unattended – nothing out of the ordinary for The Memory, where each room seemed to be an extension of the bar. I got out and walked around the cab and opened the door. The brothers were still in the same position. “Scotty,” I yelled, but to no avail. “Jimmy,” I tried. Still nothing, so I tapped the cheek of the one closer to me and his head rolled over to his other shoulder. After a few more taps and a little shaking, his head rolled back upright, until finally he opened his eyes, looked around, and realized where he was. His phone was ringing. He fumbled for it in his pocket and after checking the screen, dropped it on his lap and let his head fall back against the seat cushion. A few seconds later, the phone started ringing again. “Mom” was flashing on the screen. On the fourth ring, I picked up.
“Jimmy?” cried a frantic voice.
“Hi, ma’am, this is Jimmy’s friend. Jimmy’s right here with me. He had a little too much to drink, but he’s okay.”
“Oh Christ, is Scotty there?” Her voice was shaking.
“He’s not feeling too well, either. But I’m taking care of them. Don’t worry.”
I told her that they’d call first thing in the morning. When I helped the brothers out of the cab, a young girl about their age noticed and came over.
“Do you know these guys?” I asked.
“Scotty and Jimmy,” she said, shaking her head as if this was becoming a routine. She took over as caretaker and helped them into a room before I could mention the $35 fare. I thought about pursuing it, but decided to just be thankful for the quiet drive back toEast Hampton.