I can’t remember if it was July or August on the day in question, but it was hot. Our trio had decided to drink that night and once we set our mind on alcohol, there was no turning back.
There was one small problem. We had no booze.
We were seventeen, two years shy of the legal drinking age in our jurisdiction. Usually, it was not a problem. Often an adult would purchase it for us. Not my folks. They didn’t even know I drank. We relied on parental figures that remembered what it was like to have fun in their youth.
Only this summer, we were too out of control. Our frequent partying had the most lenient parents nervous and we found ourselves without a hookup for alcohol.
Plan B rested all hope on Leather Travis. Leather Travis was part of our three amigos and it was a good thing, since he had been shaving since seventh grade. The “Leather” moniker was a reference to his biker jacket that was a little too Easy Rider for day-to-day wear, but was perfect for beer-purchasing attempts.
It was decided that Travis would make the purchase attempts, exuding confidence with his full goatee, leather jacket, and Trent Reznor haircut. He would hit every liquor and beer store until we got what we needed.
Our crew would meet up later, once Travis had the goods in hand.
Only, he never got the goods. He was asked for identification at not only The Beer Store and the L.C.B.O in our town, but in our neighboring town as well.
I got the bad news via a telephone call.
“Well,” I said, “I guess that’s that.”
“I think you should try.”
I can’t remember if it was Leather Travis or Jay MF on the line, but the consensus was I should take my first crack at buying booze while underage.
“Me?” I asked. I knew all hope was lost. I looked like I was about twelve-years-old in those days. No facial hair. High voice. Immature clothing. No swagger.
We were fucked, but I agreed I would give it a try.
I drove up to the L.C.B.O. and parked in one of the angled spots, far enough from the front door not to be visible. We decided not to try The Beer Store first because the guy working there was a hard-ass and even Travis’ success rate there was pretty low.
I got out of the car and walked toward the L.C.B.O. I was already nervous and could feel the physiological effects on my heartrate and breathing. I opened the door and walked in.
I had my list in my head. A mickey of Russian Prince vodka and a case of Vibe blackberry coolers. Now to find the goddamn things.
I had never set foot in there before and I had to get the lay of the land. Fortunately, the sections of the store were well labelled. I felt like the whole world was watching me as I located the “Coolers” section and grabbed the Vibe.
One down, one to go. I gave myself a shot of hope, thinking that maybe, just maybe, if I navigated the store quickly and easily, I would look experienced and would get a pass on an ID check.
I looked at the wall, marked “Vodka”. There at eye-level was the tacky Russian Prince staring back at me. I grabbed a bottle and set it on top of the case of Vibe.
I scanned the checkout area and it looked pretty standard. I had to make certain I didn’t line up in the wrong spot, or this transaction would be over before it began.
The only other remaining customer picked up his bags and left the store. I swallowed hard, not sure how my nerves were going to affect my speech if I had to talk.
The cashier turned his attention to me as I approached the counter. Shit, I knew this guy. He and his wife had rented an apartment behind my Dad’s store when I was five or six. If he recognized me and did the math, he would know for sure I was underage.
His face changed and it had, “I know you,” written all over it.
If it were up to my body, I would have collapsed into the fetal position right there and then. My heart was beating so fast I thought I would have a heart attack.
But I was this close. I set the box on the counter, and knowing I had been recognized, I made the first move, “Hey. Ken, right?”
He was already scanning the products through the cash register as he spoke, “Hi… Black Sheep. You’re not nineteen, are you?”
My voice sounded shaky before, so this time I dug deep and tried to sound confident, “Yep. Time flies.”
Ken chuckled, “You can say that again.”
And with that, I paid the man and got out of there as quickly as possible.