"Why must I be a teenager in love?" Mario Petrino Jr. sang, the words slurring together.

"You're going to be a teenager in trouble if you don't shut up," his cousin Nick hissed in his ear. "You're going to wake the whole neighborhood." Nick had one arm around his cousin's waist as he supported his inebriated person up the steps to the porch of the Petrino home.

With his free hand he fumbled in the pocket of his jeans for the house key. Finding it he managed to unlock the door, open it and get him and his cousin safely inside.

Nick put on the light and returned the key to his pocket. From his view in the entryway he saw a note taped to the light fixture over the dining-room table. He closed the door and still acting as a human crutch for his cousin went to the table to read the note.

"Hey, Salam, you lucked out. Your folks are staying over at Aunt Rita's for the night."

"Nicky, I'm going to be sick."

"Not here you're not," Nick told him. He steered him gently yet quickly to the bathroom. He helped him to his knees in front of the commode and not a moment too soon. Immediately Salami was vomiting his guts out.

Nick held his cousin's hair with one hand while resting the other supportively on his shoulder. When Salami gave what appeared to be a final heave Nick asked quietly, "You done?"

Salami nodded and sat back resting against the tub. Nick selected a dixie cup from the dispenser, filled it with water and handed it to his cousin. "Rinse your mouth," he told him.

Salami obliged spitting the water into the toilet. Nick flushed the entire mess. He then helped his weakened cousin to his feet and bracing him guided him to the bedroom where he sat him on the edge of the bed.

"Don't ever do this again," Nick told him. "I can't believe it. Thorpe coming to get me on my date. Lift your arms." When Salami did not respond Nick took his arms and raised them over his head. "I'm sorry, Linda, I have to go get my drunk cousin. Can you get home by yourself?" he muttered as he pulled his cousin's shirt off. He pushed Salami into a lying position, sat on the bed, lifted his legs onto his lap and began to untie his shoelaces. "She'll probably never go out with me again."

"I love you, Nicky," Salami said softly.
Nick pulled off one shoe and laughed to himself. "I love you too," he responded pulling off the other shoe.

Without any warning Salami sat up, kissed Nick on the cheek and flopped back to the pillow.

Nick raised his cousin's legs and stood dropping his legs back to the bed. "Why do you have to be one of those people who gets lovable when he's drunk? Never mind. You won't be so lovable in the morning when the hangover hits." He pulled the blanket up to his cousin's shoulders. "Goodnight, cous."

Salami awoke to intense discomfort. His eyeballs were too big for their sockets, his stomach was doing the jitterbug and the dust particles floating in the room were landing way too loud. He tried to let out a groan but his throat wasn't working.

Nick appeared in the doorway. "How ya feeling?"

"Swell."

Nick entered the room carrying a glass. "Got just the thing for ya. Here drink this."

Salami sat as best he could and took the glass. "What is it?"

"Aunt Gina used to give it to Uncle Tony. Fixed him right up."

Salami tried to laugh remembering Uncle Tony's nights before. But it was too uncomfortable. He sniffed the contents of the glass and deciding it didn't smell too bad drank it down.

"You know you got lucky your folks being gone all night," Nick told him. "Last time you got snockered your pop said he'd give you the whipping of your life if it happened again."

Salami swung his feet to the floor. "He won't do that. I'm eighteen, an adult."

"Don't bet on it," Nick said tossing a shirt to him. "When he finds out your backside's going to be as red as your eyeballs."

Even though the morning after concoction helped alot Salami was still feeling the effects of the previous night's events. The knock on the door seemed amplified.

When he opened it he found his friends who had been at the party with him. They entered like the team they were.

"Looks like your cousin got you home okay," Thorpe said.
Gomez cocked his head and leaned back slightly as he studied his friend. "Loooking Bad!" he said in his best imitation of his favorite yet late comedian.

"Very funny."

"Hey, your old man find out yet?" That was Coolidge.

"Nah, he ain't home."

Wardell clapped Salami on the back. "Ya caught a break there, my man."

"Not so hard."

"Yeah, he's still feeling the effects," Nick told them as he ruffled his cousins hair.

"Salami, Salami," Thorpe began, "how many times I gotta tell you? It's suppose to be WHITE wine with cheese doodles."

"I think it was the beer he used as a chaser," Gomez offered. "Now you really should try tequilla. 'Cause you have the lemon and the salt. You suck the lemon, lick the salt. Between the sucking and the licking you don't drink as much."

Salami put his head in his hands. If Gomez did one more routine... Lowering his arms he said, "You guys tilted back a few yourselves."

"Yeah, but none of us had to be carried home," Coolidge pointed out with a laugh.

"Why don't you carry yourselves home now?" Salami said.

"Okay, okay. Chill out," Wardell told him. "We're outta here."

"Yeah, we know you don't want any witnesses to the massacre," Thorpe chided. "When your old man gets home look out."

"There won't be any massacre," Salami assured them while Nick nodded, silently indicating that indeed there would be.

"Tell us that when you're STANDING up in class tomorrow," Wardell joked.

Salami cuffed a hand at him. "Get outta here."

There was a chorus of "Later, Salami" as the four left. Irritated, Salami shut the door after them. "Jerks!"

"Hey, Salam, take it easy."
Salami headed for the bedroom. "Why they so anxious to see me get clobbered?"

Nick followed. "Cause you deserve it."

Salami dropped to the bed. "Et tu Brute."

Nick stood over him. "And old lady Simon didn't think you were paying attention in Lit class."

Salami looked up at him. "It just gets me mad."

Nick sat on the other bed. "I'm the one who should be mad. Having to ditch my date on account of you."

"No one said you had to."

"You're my cousin."

"So what d'ya wanna see my old man lay into me for?"

Nick shoved his hands into the pockets of his warm-up jacket. "Do you even remember the last time you got plastered?"

"Kinda. Refresh my memory."

Six Months Ago


"You're a bit late getting in." Nick Vitaglia was greeted by his uncle.

"Sorry about that," Nick offered. "It's cause I had to walk."

"Walk! Where's Mario and his motel cassanova?"

"California," Nick told him. "And I don't know. He and Amy left me and Denise sitting there at Sizzler. I had to walk her home first."

Mario Sr. relented. "Okay, I'll let it pass. But next time call."

Nick nodded an agreement and saying goodnight went to the bedroom.

It was two hours later that the front door opened again and in staggered an obviously intoxicated Salami. His keys landed on the floor. His father leaped from his chair to grab him before he fell too. Deciding he was too drunk for a proper discussion he took his son to his room to sleep it off.

Salami did not wake until mid afternoon. And when he did he found his cousin watching him intently.

"Nicky, you made it home."

"Like you really care. That was a really crummy thing to do you know."

"Sorry," Salami managed to push out.

"You should be." It was his father's voice in the doorway.
"Suppose you share with us the reason," he said entering and sitting beside Nick.

"Amy had some Old Harper in her purse. Sorry," he said to his cousin again. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

"You know you're lucky," Sr. told his son. "The two of you are going to get to hug and make up. See you chose to drive last night too. You could have been killed." He suddenly turned solemn. "Like Nicky's mother."

Nick's mother had been killed by a drunk driver. His father couldn't handle the loss and a teenage son so he sent Nick to live with the Petrinos, his late wife's brother and sister-in-law.

"Sorry," Salami said again. "I didn't think."

"Well, I'll give you something to think about," Sr told him. "That was a dangerous thing to due... and thoughtless. If you ever pull a stunt like that again I'll take my belt and lay it on you like I never have before. Got that?"

All Salami could do was nod. His father was serious.


Back to the Present



"I guess that does ring a bell," Salami admitted. "But it's not like I drove this time. And I'm eighteen."

"It's still pretty dangerous," Nick told him. "What if I didn't get to you. What if you passed out somewhere. And I don't think you being eighteen is going to stop your father. If you were acting eighteen for real you wouldn't have done it."

"I couldn't have put it better myself." It was Mario Sr. in the doorway.

"Pop," Salami was startled. "When did you get home?"

"A few minutes ago."

"Where's Ma?"

"Still at Aunt Rita's" He entered the room. "I heard the basics. Are you going to fill me in on the rest."

"I was at a party with some of the guys from the team. I had some wine. Then I had some beer. Then I had some more beer. The rest is fuzzy. I kinda remember Nicky showing up." Salami gazed affectionately at his cousin remembering that he had come to get him home safely. "Did I thank you?" he asked him.

Nick smiled slightly remembering what his cousin had said to him. "Yeah, you did."

"I'm glad I didn't forget that."

Mario Sr. put his hand to his belt buckle. "I've got something else you won't forget."

He had definitely been serious.