Lately, Lary's level of usefulness has been called into question. Take, for example, the fact that his former favorite pastime was taking acid and climbing scaffolding — not separately, but both together — and notice I said former. Back then there was always some really interesting byproduct of this behavior, like how he'd regain his wits only to be greeted by an entire giant billboard leaning against the chain-link in his carport right as the television was broadcasting a news story about how an entire giant billboard mysteriously got pilfered from the freeway.
Or take the time he called me from jail because he threw a metal wrench at a police car from the top of the old Omni Stadium in Atlanta — and he hit the police car! From a block away! "I still can't believe I hit that car," he says to this day, marveling at his aim, which you gotta admit is pretty amazing. So amazing, in fact, that all the cops had to do to bust him was simply follow the gazes of admiration coming from the bystanders below.
"I should have thought a little further ahead on that one," he admits. In the end it worked out, though, because while in jail he met a guy who was in for gun-running and struck up a friendship that lasted an entire decade before that man disappeared, leaving nothing behind but an old convertible Fiat with the engine running and a tattered Hawaiian shirt in the backseat, allegedly.
But if I am giving you the impression that I always came to Lary's rescue, let me dispel that right now. That time in jail? He was just calling me to brag, not to make his bail. And the time that Tijuana hooker led him by the hand down a dark alleyway? I was more worried about her (if it was a her) than him. In fact, Lary has never needed any of us for anything except possible fodder for amusement. But make no mistake — the day will come when he needs us, yes it will.
In the meantime, we continue to question his usefulness lately. Granted, those doing the questioning consist solely of me and Grant, minus Grant. "Goddammit, what the hell good is Lary these days?" I gripe. "When my crawlspace flooded last month, all he did was lend me a sump pump."
Seriously, I can't believe Lary passed up the opportunity to wallow in swill. "You gotta come with me," I whined as he handed me the box of sump pump parts. "I can't operate this thing. What is it," I asked, holding up a grody hose, "some kind of giant electrical enema?"
"You're on your own," he'd chirped, ushering me out the door. I was astounded, because not only had he passed on the opportunity to wallow in swill, he'd passed on seeing me wallow in it.
"What the hell is wrong with him?" I asked Grant. "And when was the last time he did anything entertaining like take drugs and steal a billboard?"
"Bitch," Grant snipped. "Lary has better ways to waste his time besides cleaning up after you."
"Seriously," I said. "Don't you think it's time we break into his house again? He's got something in there that's keeping him occupied. We need to see what it is. What if he really did take up taxidermy like he keeps threatening? We need to check out his basement. He probably has a population of dead hobos down there, all splayed out and polyurethaned like those poor Chinese corpses in the Bodies exhibit. ... Oh, my Jesus goddamn God! That's gotta be it!" I continued excitedly. "We hardly ever see Lary since that exhibit came to town."
In fact, not too long ago, there used to be a funeral home next to Lary's house until the funeral home got torn down to make room for a cookie-cutter loft complex. I always thought Lary maintained an odd friendship with that undertaker. One night, an agitated mourner set fire to a corpse as it lay in the coffin, and those two hooted about it afterward like two neighborhood hens gossiping over the fence. I tell you, it would not surprise me at all if Lary picked up a few insider secrets and started an amateur undertaking trade all on his own.
At that Grant stopped arguing, because he will take any opportunity to break into Lary's house. We are a lot alike in that regard. The last time we broke into Lary's place, it was because we had to save him from his alleged meth addiction. We didn't find any meth or any drugs of any kind — that we recognized, anyway — and we certainly didn't find Lary strung out on the floor. But what we did find was his place in a very orderly condition, which confirmed our suspicions that Lary was on some new drug. We don't know what it is — yet — but we'll find it. We will rescue Lary whether he needs it or not. That's what friends are for.
"I think I saw some embalming fluid in the back of his truck the other day," Grant surmised.
"We can be in and out in minutes," I reminded him.
"It's for his own good," Grant said, grabbing his keys.
"Of course," I agreed, "his own good."
Hollis Gillespie is an award-winning humor columnist, NPR commentator, "Tonight Show" guest and author of two acclaimed memoirs, Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood and Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories. To register for her writing workshops, The Shocking Real-Life Writing Seminar, visit www.hollisgillespie.com.