I first met Pinky Anderson in the second grade. We sat next to one another in Mrs. Lewinsky’s class. I knew at seven years old that Pinky was destined for a challenging life. He just had that air about him.
Even though we grew up in the same small town, and lived across the street from one another for several years, we were never really close. Pinky was…well, Pinky. Growing up, he was the kid that no one liked, but didn’t know why they didn’t like him. He was always chosen last to be on any team sport, and then left on the bench where he couldn’t do any damage. The other kids didn’t tease him as you might have thought they would. They just ignored him.
I’m not sure Pinky has too many friends. He’s likable enough. It’s just that…well, he’s Pinky. I’ve grown to like the man, but he does take some getting used to. At one time I’d say that I would have been the closest friend he had. That’s only because our wives are sisters, my first wife and his, that is. As adults, I guess Pinky and I were kind of forced upon each other. One of those in-law, outlaw family things.
In a way I suppose you’d call us both black sheep in a white sheep family. Probably more like a gray sheep in Pinky’s case. He always just thought of himself as a black sheep, though. I’m not even sure he knows what the term implies.
A few years ago I ran into Pinky at the San Francisco airport. It was one of those hot, humid nights that can hit the Bay Area in early fall. The kind where you wish you were in Vegas in July and not the city by the bay in October.
It must have been very late at night, but most likely early morning, probably just after midnight. There weren’t too many people in the terminal, and the majority of those that were had found themselves the most comfortable uncomfortable spot they could find to catch a few winks before flying off to some exotic place. Or, maybe it was just home to a waiting family and another paycheck full of hours at a job they only tolerated. Whatever the case, I was one with them for a few hours more.
I was chatting up the young blonde bartender behind the bar of the lounge at gate 41 when in walked a character straight out of Sleepy Hollow. I hadn’t seen Pinky in quite a few years, but I recognized him immediately.
Let’s see, I’ve been remarried for two years. That means I’ve been divorced for three. So, I must have last spoken to Pinky about the time Rachel tossed my cheating ass out of the house. Yeah, that was a night for the ages. Pinky and Lucy were at the house for dinner. We never made it past the first bottle of wine when Rachel went all ballistic. She had promised we’d have a discussion once the Anderson’s left. It never got that far. The last I saw of Pinky was when he and Lucy were backing out of our driveway. He had that lost look in his eyes. Lucy just looked disgusted.
I had some time to kill before my flight was due to leave. A lot of time. That’s what had me sitting at the bar at SFO. I didn’t have a home to go to, so making time with a lovely bartender seemed like the thing to do. My second wife, Hillary, had found out about Lori, our lovely bartender for the evening, and out my ass went. I was in desperate need of a place to call home for awhile. I had been spending way too much time in cheap motels the past two weeks. That gets old quick. Lori had a large apartment in the Sunset District and I was hoping to convince her that my presence in said apartment would be in the best interest for both of us.
I ordered another club soda and got comfortable on my stool. I really had to hear Pinky’s story. It was bound to be a doozy.
The man’s an Ichabod Crane looking character. Picture this. White dude. Tall, red hair, green eyes, and thin as a stalk of wheat. The first impression most people get is that he’d have to stand twice just to make a shadow. Hell, he could probably hide behind a light post if he wanted to. That night, he looked thinner than I had ever seen him. I was just glad we were indoors. I would have bet a day’s pay that a strong wind could have blown him over, and we’d probably had to chase him to Stockton before we could get him stopped. As it was, the air conditioner appeared to move him to spots that it seemed like he might not want to be.
He has never been the best looking of characters, but this time he was the sorriest looking individual to ever have crossed my path. At the time, I wouldn’t have given you the time of day for his acquaintance, but now…now, several years later, I’m glad to be able to describe him as a friend.
Pinky looked like he’d been in a recent tussle or two. Both eyes had yellowish-purple rings around them and his nose was bent, leaning precariously to the right. Most of his scrapes and bruises appeared to be few days old, except the one on his chin. The one over his right eye looked a little raw, but the injury to his left cheek was the real doozy. It looked to be the oldest of the bunch, but, unfortunately, not too far into the healing process, as though he may have re-injured it in the recent past, probably more than once. It still had a long ways to go to get anywhere close to healed. My guess was that there was going to be some lasting evidence from that injury for quite awhile, maybe forever.
At the time, I was thinking that Lucy was not a happy camper. I didn’t know then that she had not seen her husband in a few weeks, nor knew of his injuries. And, when she finally did see him, all she could do was cry.
I used to think that Lucy was a real prude. I hesitate to say this, but I thought she was worse than her sister. If I’d had known Rachel was going to turn out like she did, I would never have married her snotty ass. Pinky probably felt the same way about his wife. Nah. He loves the lady too much.
I’ve learned so much since that meeting at SFO. You better get comfortable. Like me, you’re going to want to hear this story.
Pinky’s haircut that day left something to be desired. I’d never seen him look like that. His hair has always been neatly trimmed and slicked into place. That day it looked like someone had taken a weed whacker to his head. I’ve never seen anything like it.
His eyebrows…well, his eyebrows were painted on with a magic marker, or maybe even a sharpie. There was some stubble hiding amongst the black marking above his green eyes—maybe a few day’s worth. It looked rather unnerving. Fortunately, the black frame of his glasses hid most of it.
It looked like he was trying to grow a mustache to cover up some lettering on his upper lip, but I think he was fighting an uphill battle. If that patch of fuzz was grass, I’d say stop watering it and just let it die a peaceful death. You had to look hard to read those letters, but….well, to this day I’m not sure what they spelled.
Pinky was usually dressed rather nicely. Not that day. He had on some oversized black framed glasses. Where in the hell did he ever get anything like those? An Elton John concert? At the time I was thinking he was trying to hide his eyebrows, but the effort fell short.
The leather jacket he had slung over his left shoulder looked like it probably cost a pretty penny. I’m not into fashion, or expensive clothes, but just looking at that jacket would have set me back a couple day’s wages. He was wearing tight black jeans, four inches too short for his lanky frame. I think they call them skinny jeans. They’re all the rage with the younger kids—a real European look. They looked out of place on that middle aged man. His pants ended just above a pair of motorcycle boots, the big clunky kind, covering his large feet. The t-shirt he was wearing was some funky color of orange, and advertising a band called “anotherbodyfound”. It hung loosely from his thin frame.
Pinky sat down and ordered a bourbon, double, neat. The cheap kind. That surprised me. He’d always been a cognac man as far as I knew. The expensive kind. When the glass of amber liquid arrived he grabbed the glass in two shaking hands and raised it to his lips. He took a big gulp, and carefully positioned the tumbler in the center of the coaster our bartender, Lori, had placed on the bar in front of him. The man slowly looked my way—four stools separated us—and said hello. He looked rather dazed. He held up his left hand and waved. He usually wiggled that small appendage of his that had grown next to his little finger, something he’d had since birth, as a form of greeting. That day, though, his entire hand was bandaged, preventing such a thing.
“I’d say hi, but they put a gag on my pinky.” Pinky smiled. I smiled. Lori smiled. Then, Pinky laughed, the infectious kind. The kind that begins in the center of the soul, and erupts in great waves of sound, engulfing everything in its path. That made Lori giggle even more, and caused me to actually laugh, and mean it. At that point life had been rather rough. I needed a good laugh. Pinky provided just what the doctor ordered, and then some.
I had time to kill, so the three of us, Pinky, me, and our lovely bartender, traded a few stories. I was interested in his condition. He was interested in my adventures. You see, I’m a pilot. I was flying domestic then, but early in my career I flew internationally. To tell the truth I’ve gotten away from those cross Atlantic flights that can wear out a pilot. The Tokyo run is even worse. Non-stop from the West Coast. Those tend to make you old quick. And I kind of like the idea of staying as young as I can for as long as I can.
At the time I’d run into Pinky in that airport terminal in San Francisco he had never been on an airplane that I knew of. That would have been his first adventure in the air. He may not have done any flying, but he enjoyed hearing about the exotic places I have been to. I just think that poor man dreamed big, and settled for less.
By the time I had finished my club soda Pinky was well into his second double. I had given up hope of convincing Lori that she really needed my presence in her apartment. No, that’s wrong. I had not given up hope. I still had hope. I was just so caught up in Pinky’s story that I had forgotten about my problems. I ordered another club soda and adjusted my position on the stool my backside had been calling home for a couple of hours. Pinky’s tale was beyond believable. If I hadn’t seen him with my own two eyes, I would have had my doubts as to its validity.
I was on my way to Pittsburgh. Pinky was on his way to Idaho. He was going back home. He was taking a little puddle jumper. It’s a helluva way to experience flight for the first time. I was piloting a 737. The bartender was staying put.
At the time, Lori and I had had an on again, off again relationship for a couple of months. I suspicioned that Hillary, my second wife, knew about it, but was in no hurry to give up the life of an airline pilot’s wife. She tolerated my dalliances. As long as we kept quiet about it.
That didn’t last long, though. When my wife arrived home from her mother’s, and found me in our bed with nothing on but a crooked smile and Lori riding high in the saddle, out I went.
Pinky was going home to Lucy. I was looking for a home to go home to. Cheap motels, and saggy mattresses, are as bad as cheap bourbon, and cheaper women. With both combinations, the next morning you feel like hell.
I still had a couple of hours to kill. I can think of better ways to spend my time, but Lori was having none of my persuasive banter. As a matter of fact, I think she would have taken Pinky home herself, and mothered him back to health, if she could have found a way to pry him away from his wife. I would have been left to fend for myself. Not the first time, and it probably won’t be the last.
Both of us, Lori and I, were enthralled with the tale of Pinky Anderson. I’d be surprised if you’re not.
Good night, Mrs. Jackson, wherever you are.