Millard and Me

Millard and Me on a mug


When I moved onto Greenville Lane, Millard welcomed me with a steady supply of Bourbon-and-sevens—light on the seven. Like any well-mannered guest, I accepted his offerings with gratitude. In the warm shade of his patio, he dipped a pinky into the afternoons fourth libation, tasted, smiled, and embarked on another drinking story.

Some guys’ll quit the sauce and others won’t. take Frankie Balducci lived down the street next to your new place. Little guy. About five-five and you never saw him but his hand was wrapped around a beer. Cancer got him a couple of months back. Just our age, too. Well, he took off one night drunk like always in this Plymouth he had and run a motorcycle cop off the road. Killed him. It wasn’t like today. Oh, there was a big to-do and all, but they didn’t lock him up for life. He got a fine and probation and lost his driver’s license and he did quit driving. But drinking? Nossir. Got himself a bicycle and went around on that, but he hung out Dutch’s bar like always till they got fed up with him carrying on about how wasn’t none of it his fault. Then he went over to Meyer’s till they threw him out of there too.

One night I was driving off to get some KFC or White Castles or something and I seen him wobbling down Westside road on that bike with the beer trying to steer one-handed and he run wham—Millard’s palm slammed the table, sloshing Bourbon on my lap—into that big oak tree on Ridgeway Drive. Poor guy flew off into the street, but that beer bottle just spun around and never broke or nothing. I run over, handed him the beer, and helped him up. Offered him a ride, but he wouldn’t have it. No, no, don’t need none of that. He stumbled over and picked up the bike but that front wheel was so bent it wouldn’t roll a foot. I said come on Frankie let me take you home. But he said I’ll get the damn thing myself. So I said all right and went on. On the way back—I remember now I got KFC ‘cause the bucket spilled on the seat and Connie was madder’n hell about the grease spots. Anyhow, Frankie was carrying that bike under one arm—still had the beer—staggering down the street.

Millard drained his glass, dug a roll of mints from his pocket, and thumbed one into his mouth. Got to pick up Connie from work. Want to come? He passed the mints, fumbled through his keys. Better cover up, he said. You know how they get about a little afternoon conversation. I hesitated, weighed my eagerness to hear Millard’s next story against the pain of Margaret’s you’re-late-for-supper-again lecture. I knocked over my glass reaching for the mints, swiped at the puddle, and hurried to catch Millard, who was already halfway to the garage.