Fremont, California is home to a bar/dance club called the Saddle Rack. Based on the name, the casual observer would be absolutely correct to infer the atmosphere is decidedly twangy. However, since this is the Bay Area version of country, the odds of finding an authentic shit-kicker are about the same as booking a hunting trip at Urban Outfitters. Mechanical bull and Weekend Country Girls aside, my brother Jake and I took our chances one chilly December night and sallied forth to what we understood to be the final night of this oasis of songs about heartbreak, hard luck, and hating Mexicans.
Jake had arranged a few days in town on his way to Guam, so I took the opportunity to come up and kill several visits with relatives with one stone. Our cousin Maria was back for Christmas break from some little Podunk college neither of us had ever heard of, and we all met up at our aunt’s house. Aunt Paula was not thrilled at the prospect of her two barbarian nephews whisking her virginal daughter away for a night of carousing.
After much begging, pleading, and promising of the maintenance of her twenty-one year old virtue while Jake and I warmed up with whiskey sours in the kitchen, Aunt Paula relented. We had resolved to leave Maria behind if she was unable to unlatch herself from Aunt Paula’s teat, but the promise of some friends of Maria to accompany us on our adventure convinced Jake and I to allow our financially dependent cousin some latitude.
“Any of these chicks worth a shit?” I asked Maria, as I poured a third drink. I held it out for her. Maria caught herself reaching for the libation and forced her hand down to her side.
“They’re nice,” Maria replied. “They’re lots of fun.”
“Does that mean they put out?” asked Jake. We stood peering at Maria as we quaffed our drinks. She stood in silence as she processed the unfamiliar query.
“That will have to be between you guys,” Maria replied. “But I warn you. One of them has a big ass.”
“That’s fine,” I replied. “I like big asses.”
“You don’t understand, Carlos,” said Maria. “This girl has got a really big ass.”
Maria and I went back and forth in this fashion a couple more times until I decided to put an end to the silliness.
“No, dear cousin,” I replied, “you do not understand. I like really big asses.”
“You’ll see when she gets here,” Maria said, as she threw up her hands and walked away.
Thirty minutes and two drinks later, what should darken the lower half of my aunt’s front door, but a four foot, thirteen inch tall Portuguese girl with pancake batter makeup spackled over her pockmarked face, a bad home perm, and pumps that looked like she was baking bread in her shoes.
I kept my game face during the introductions. There was no need to frighten off the quarry unnecessarily. Besides, I was unfamiliar with the evening’s hunting grounds and tired from travel. Going ugly early was a definite possibility under the circumstances.
As Frizzy Head passed Maria and me to enter the house, I turned and realized my cousin had not lied to me. Stuffed into a pair of Levi Straus sausage casings was a posterior the proverbial two axe handles wide. Short of a well-muscled thoroughbred racing horse, it was the biggest ass I have ever seen. It looked like a pair of denim pillowcases stuffed with doorknobs.
“Jesus Christ, that’s a big ass,” I whispered to Maria.
“I tried to warn you,” Maria said, as she punched my shoulder and followed her friend.
As luck would have it, friend number two flaked out. Perhaps she sensed trouble. Whatever the reasons, we carried on without her. After final promises of not becoming embroiled in any sort of shenanigans, hijinks, or mischief instigated by the Scandalous Cunha Boys, we found ourselves seated around a table at the Saddle Rack. The girls sipped Zimas or some other noxious concoction from their bottles through straws. That should have been a clue to Jake and I that things would go from bad to worse, but bottle beer was literally being served by the bucket at ridiculously cheap prices. So we stayed. My cousin Maria was a good sport. She didn’t seem to be having a great time, but she seemed to be having a good enough time watching Jake and I thoroughly enjoy our intoxication. I suspect her college experiences had ill prepared her for watching a pair of professionals.
Frizzy Head did not appreciate either our sense of humor or our war stories. She became more sullen and surly as the evening wore on. Why she stayed despite offers of rides home, cab fare, or simply ending the evening was beyond me. As the evening wore on, Frizzy Head’s fiancée make an appearance. Her face lit up for about a minute and a half before she went back to being bitchy. I was starting to believe this was her default setting. Some people are just chronically unhappy. To this day, I am still unsure whether the meeting was prearranged or a rescue attempt. I’ve always leaned toward a prearranged meeting because he joined the party. And that was probably a mistake on his part.
If you’ve ever lived and worked in an all-male environment for months on end in the middle of some shithole location, you may have noticed a coarseness that develops.
Civilization is a fragile concept. It doesn’t take too long of eating MREs, showering from plastic water bottles, and being on the receiving end of rocket attacks before you stop caring about little things like feelings. And that night, Jake and I cared nothing for anyone’s feelings. Maria did her best to keep a straight face, but Frizzy Head and her purse carrier were not amused. I thought I saw him begin to smile a couple times, but a quick, hard glance from his dream-killer reminded him with whom he had to go home.
When Jake leaned over to Frizzy Head and said, “I thought you people were supposed to be jolly,” the festivities were pretty much at an end.
This is the point where my memory becomes a bit hazy. Reliable reports indicate Mr. Fiancée issued an invitation to both Jake and I to engage in fisticuffs. These same reliable reports further indicate the brothers Cunha were willing to handicap themselves out of a sense of fairness by engaging in said fisticuffs from the chairs they occupied and Mr. Fiancée was welcome to commence the pugilistic display at his leisure.
Of course, reliable reports also indicate:
- An impromptu diving competition from an indoor balcony onto the safety mats surrounding the mechanical bull (Remember kids. Safety third.)
- Sundry feats of strength (I was a magnificent physical specimen at the time.)
- Me being physically removed from a bouncer, and Jake defusing the situation by blaming PTSD (This was clearly not the first time he had pulled that trick out of his hat, but an acceptable lie in order to avoid a trip to the county jail.)
- A 2 am four-wheeling excursion through an empty field (Don’t ever buy a used rental car.)
- And me yakking in my Aunt’s driveway (Thank you for hosing that down, Maria.)
The next morning, I awoke to Jake and Maria shaking me awake for breakfast.
“Wake up, Sleeping Beauty,” Maria said, in a sing-song voice.
“Get your ass up, Princess,” Jake growled through his own hangover.
I mumbled something both incoherent and unintelligible as I pulled the covers back to realize that sometime during the festivities I had been stripped down to my underwear and deposited into a very comfortable bed in my Aunt’s guest bedroom. The one eye I was able to open focused on Jake, shifted to Maria, and then slid down to my skivvy-clad middle area. I raised my head and squinted at Jake.
“Where are my pants,” I asked.
“You know it was a good night when you have to ask that question,” Jake shot back.