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David Casabonne

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Cohoes the summer of 1980 (Revised)
By David Casabonne
Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rated "PG13" by the Author.

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This is something that I will never forget.

I heard him click the safety off of the .357,the barrel aimed at my fore head.I stood there,frozen in the moment.Not moving,not blinking,not breathing.As if my very life depended on it. Cohoes the summer of 1980. I hadn’t heard from Harold in a while since he had moved down to Cohoes, after his mother and father had divorced. He called and said that his mom was getting remarried, and that he and sisters were having a small get together. So that Hot humid Saturday in mid August I got out on Rt 9 and stuck my thumb out and headed for the Mohawk River road. I made it there in record time (Walking and Hitching).I met Harold and his sister Vicki down town in front of the bowling alley. After the obligatory hello how are you asshole greeting, (This was a must greeting between friends) we headed up the steep dirt path, to the Garner Street apartments. I had never met Harold's mom Shirley, I had talked with her briefly on the phone. I had a picture in my mind that wasn't too far off. Shirley was in her mid to late thirties, she looked like she was aging a little quicker than she would like. She was about her son's height, a little on the plump side, graying hair. It was late afternoon and Shirley was in the process of cooking dinner. After saying hello and introducing myself, Harold grabbed a few beers and we sat down at the table and talked. We swapped stories about what had been going on in our lives, and who we had seen recently, told a few jokes and laughed. I asked Harold how his cousin Connie (His cousin Connie had an incredible crush on me when we were in Middle school)was doing, how she had been. He told me that she was doing quite well, she had gotten engaged, and was living across the river in Waterford. I smiled and said I thought that was great, even though inside it made me a little sad, I had missed my chance with her. That night we ate like kings, we joked and talked, Shirley looked at the clock and noticed the time and remarked that Dennis would be there soon. Harold and I decided that we should get some more party supplies (Beer, Chips and Dip) we went across the street to the convenience store. We came back from the store with a 12 pack of beer and four Quart bottles of ale. About 5 minutes later Dennis walked in. He was already half in the bag, reeking of whiskey, sweating like a junkie needing a fix. Dennis was in his mid thirties (35 to be exact) he was thin and lanky, dirty blonde hair parted to one side. His shirt soaked with sweat, he slumped in the kitchen chair closest to the door, something was wrong. Dennis looked like he had been crying, as if someone or something had ripped his heart and soul from him. As he began to speak, his voice barely audible and shaking. Dennis told us that he had received a phone call about an hour ago, and was told by his ex wife that his then 8 year old son was diagnosed with leukemia. Shirley tried to hold him to console him, he pushed her away, and Harold put a beer in front of him he threw it against the wall. Harold looked at me and nodded towards the door, grabbing a few beers as we walked out putting the rest in the fridge. Harold his sisters Vicki and Deb and I walked around downtown for about 2 hours. We talked a lot about Dennis, we tried to think of ways we could help him. I came up with the idea of possibly getting some local bands to do a benefit. Harold shot down the idea "that would take too long, and cost money that none of us have" he said. The look on Harold’s face gave me the impression that he didn’t completely believe Dennis's story. We walked back up the hill to Garner Street, no one said a word, except to curse the heat and the deer flies. From the top of the hill, you could see the Mohawk River just below the Cohoes falls. I stood there for a moment and watched the river peacefully float by, until I felt Harold tugging on my shoulder "come on". When we got back to the apartment, Dennis was in the living room watching a movie on TV. Shirley had already gone to bed. Dennis was slumped on the couch, and had done a good job of polishing off 3 of the 4 quart bottles of beer. We all sat and watched the movie that was on TV, drank beer (except for Vicki she was still a minor) and smoked cigarettes. One by one the others began drifting off to sleep and to bed. Harold was the last one to finally call it a night at about 3:45 am. Dennis and I sat and watched another movie, some B flick I've long forgotten the name of. For the longest time we didn’t say a word, I could see the immense pain in his eyes. Then there was a scene in the movie we were watching that provoked his ire. He began telling me about how he used to hunt and fish up in the Adirondack Mountains, and named some places that I had been. He told me that he would go up there for days on end, after he came back from Viet Nam and just sit in the woods. I told him about some of my camping trips to Pharaoh Lake and Blue Ledge and hiking along the east branch of the Ausable River just south of Lake Placid. We combination of the beer and no sleep began to get to me. It was about 6:00 am, and Dennis talked drank beer smoked and watched the rest of the movie. I was starting to feel tired, the decided that we should go get some more beer. We walked across the street to the convenience store to get some more beer; the clerk behind the counter wouldn’t sell it to us. We had forgotten that it was Sunday, and because of the blue law in New York we couldn’t buy beer before noon. Dennis looked at the clerk and said "Fine Bitch" looked at me and said "let’s go". Dennis said I know where we can get some booze. We walked out of the store and started walking down town. I asked where are we going to, he mumbled something about the clerk in the store and then said "My Apartment... Irish Coffee”. We walked down Garner St to division. Dennis peered in the window of the VFW post as we passed, saying that some times there were people in there “after hours” on the weekend. We walked for about 5 more minutes and came to a street lined with row or factory houses. In its hey day Cohoes was a booming mill town, with 6 or 7 fully operational textile mills. What used to be housing for the factory workers, had become low income and rent controlled flats. We came to the building and walked up to his 2nd floor flat, it reminded me of the apartment that my grandmother used to live in on Green Island. Dennis asked if I wanted to listen to some music, I said sure what are you going to put on. He looked at me with a bit of a sheepish grin, Shuffled through his albums put one on, and headed for the kitchen. As he headed for the kitchen, the familiar anthem of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" came pouring out of the speakers. I heard Dennis putting water in the coffee pot and putting it on the stove, then he walked back into the room lit a cigarette and sat down. should be ready in a few minutes. Dennis started to tell me about how he and his buddies, would listen to CCR and Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix on the radio while he was in the Nam. He showed me a picture of his platoon and pointed out those who didn’t make it back. Just as he started to call off some of the names of brothers lost in battle, we heard the sound of the water coming to boil. As Dennis got up to go to the kitchen I asked "where’s the can", "first door on the right" he said. I could here him making noise in the kitchen, opening and closing cabinets…...then it got quiet. I don’t think in my half hung over stupor I realized that something was terribly wrong. I came out of the bathroom, heard the music playing looked towards the living room expecting to see Dennis, he wasn’t there. I called his name as I poked my head into the kitchen to see if he was there, he wasn’t. As I walked towards the living room, I looked in the bedroom to see if he'd passed out. Dennis was sitting on the bed, he had something in his hands, his elbows resting on his knees, that’s when I realized what it was, he was holding a gun. "Dennis put the gun down" I said to him my voice was wavering. Dennis looked at me; the look in his eyes said everything that he couldn’t say and more than he wanted to. Please don’t do this, this isn’t.... Before I could even finish the sentence he interrupted and said "Isn’t going to solve anything" right. Bullshit this is going to solve a lot of things he told me. He started raising the barrel of the gun to his head; I took a step towards him. He looked up at me with a look of both rage and sadness in his eyes. "Dave" he said quietly "I Think you'd better go I don’t think you want to see what going to happen". I fumbled for something to say, started to take another step forward. He looked at me and said with A Snarl filled with rage and resolve, tears coming from his eyes "Go God damn it get the fuck out of here now"! I left the room walked across the apartment, out the door and half way down the stairs. I suddenly stopped. I’m not sure if it was divine intervention or sheer stupidity (I tend to think it was the latter and not the former.) That made me turn around. The one thing that I was sure of was that I couldn’t let Dennis do this to him self. I walked back up the stairs through the door, I heard Dennis startle with surprise from the other room. I walked across the room to the bedroom, he looked at me with a look of surprise and anger. Dennis looked at me and growled "I told you to leave, get the fuck out. I looked at Dennis and said, with a calmness in my voice that even surprised me a little. “If you’re going to do this then you’re going to have to shoot me first. He looked at me with a bit of shock in his eyes. Then in one fluid motion he raised the barrel of the gun so it was aimed at my forehead. I heard him click the safety off of the .357, the barrel aimed at my forehead. I stood there, frozen in the moment. Not moving, not blinking, and not breathing. As if my very life depended on it. I was taken aback for a moment, shocked that he would really do this, and realizing the consequences of my actions. Dennis looked at me, he looked at the gun and then his hands, and they were beginning to shake. "Don’t make me do this just walk out the door he said". No! "either shoot me or put the gun down Dennis". He steadied his hand and began to slowly tug at the trigger, then it seemed as if his body just let go. His hands now were shaking almost uncontrollably, he looked at me tears streaking from his face, and he lowered the gun. I took the gun from his hands and strapped it back in the holster. We looked at each other for a moment totally dumbfounded over what had just happened, I then offered him my hand and said "come on lets go back up to Shirley’s". We walked back up the hill to Garner Street with out saying a word, funny how things tend to repeat themselves. I would have gone up the dirt path, but Dennis was still shaking and unsteady. It was about 7:15 am when we got back to Shirley’s, she was already awake sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee. "Where have you been" she asked, Dennis slumped in the same chair as he had the night before. I could tell by the expression on Shirley’s face that she knew something was wrong. I pulled her aside and told her what had happened, she let out a cry of shock, and Immediately went to Dennis. The commotion must have rousted Harold from his sleep, he came down stairs to see what was going on. Before he could even ask what was happening his mother told him, with that she lifted Dennis out of his chair and took him to bed. Harold looked at me half awake and said "I’m going back to bed you should probably get some sleep". I went up stairs and crashed on the mattress that Harold had laid out on the floor, sleep didn't come easy. I laid there tossing, turning sweating from the heat, and finally drifted off to sleep. I woke up shortly after 1 pm that afternoon, the air felt cooler I assumed it must have rained. Harold had already been awake for some time and was down stairs watching TV, Dennis was still asleep.” You really must have been out" he said,” we had a major thunderstorm and you didn’t even flinch". I kind of half heartedly laughed. We sat around and watched TV for a while; Shirley was in the kitchen and asked if I wanted any thing to eat. I politely said no, I wasn’t really feeling very hungry and that I should get going soon. Shortly after that I said my goodbyes gave Shirley a hug and told her to take care of Dennis. I walked out the door, as I left I turned to Harold and said "see you around". It was more than five years before I spoke to him again. I headed down the dirt path towards Mohawk Street and the river road. I stuck my thumb out waiting for some one to stop. I got as far as Rt 146 stuck my thumb out again as I walked. A car pulled over, it was a car I recognized, It was Andy & Jack. Andy asked where I was going "home" I said. Jack asked where I was coming from I told him I was down In Cohoes, hanging out with some friends. Andy & Jack dropped me off in the driveway, I told them they could stop by later if they were around. Andy pulled out of the driveway honked the horn, and took off squealing his tires. I walked into the house, it was empty. My parents were up at the lake and wouldn't be home for several hours. I decided to sit and watch some TV, as I started flipping through the channels the phone rings. It was Diane a girl that I had been seeing over in Mechanicsville. Diane was a typical small town girl, school during the week, hanging out and partying on the weekends. She was a little taller than me skinny as a rail(but then so was I)dirty blond hair, hazel eyes. She wanted to know what I was doing, and asked if she could see me. At first I kind of balked, I told her I was tired and hung over, she said "I have something that will remedy that I scored some Robins eggs". I told her that I would meet her, in the empty lot by the shopping plaza at six thirty. Ten Minutes later I was out the door on my way to Mechanicsville. I made it to Mechanicsville in about 45 minutes, walked over to the empty lot and waited for Diane. About 20 Minutes later I could see her walking up the street, carrying a bag in her hand. She walked up to me gave me a hug, handed me the bag, it had a beer in it and said to me "you look like shit Dave are you ok?" Just hung over and tired I told her. I wanted to tell her what had happened, but I couldn't. She reached into her pocket, and pulled out a small baggie with two white and blue speckled pills in it and handed it to me, I downed them. I said thanks and tried to kiss her she pulled away. Dave ...we need to talk she said. I half jokingly asked her if she was seeing some one else, she said yes. I got up and walked away. I was semi passed out on the family room couch when my mother and father walked in the door. I remember my mother crouching down and gently shaking me, trying to wake me up. In my stupor of semi sleep and intoxication I blurted out what had happened. Both My mother and father looked at me, half in shock half believing what I had just said. My mother looked at me, sat me up on the couch.” Why don’t you go to bed and we'll talk about this tomorrow" My father told me. The look in his eyes told me, we would never speak of this for a long time. March of 1986 I came home on a Saturday night after going out to dinner with a girl that I had been seeing. There was a message for me to call Harold with his Ph #. The next morning I met Harold and a friend of his to go fishing down at the river. We swapped stories about what had been going on in our lives, and who we had seen recently, told a few jokes and laughed. I asked Harold what ever happened with Dennis and his son and if he was still around. Harold looked a me in the rearview mirror with an annoyed frown on his face, "It was all a bunch of Bullshit" he said. I smiled at him and shook my head, sat back and watched the landscape and other cars go by as we headed for the river.                    

 


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