While in Champaign at the University of Illinois, Aidan and I decided to stop at one of our favorite places to buy alcohol.
Booze Liquors. That’s it. That’s the name. Booze Liquors with a sign above the door that said just that but in between the “Booze” and the “Liquor” was a characterization of a drunk man in a top hat with a big shiny red nose.
Our old friend Kentoff still worked there. But now he ran the place. We knew Kentoff from making beer runs there in college. His dad, who owned the store, died six months ago and left it to Kentoff.
We tried to shorten “Kentoff” to “Ken” but he would have none of it. Sometimes we would call him Jackoff because we were young and drunk and stupid and thought it was funny and sometimes it was. Or it was a joke back in the fraternity.
“I’m going back to my room to Kentoff.”
Kentoff had a droopy, sniffling face to go along with scraggly hair and faded, sweat-stained baseball cat. He looked like a guy who was still sad and pissed off that his garage band never made it big.
“What the fuck are you chodes doing back here,” he greeted us.
The place had changed in just the last few years. No more black and white antenna TV that Kentoff’s dad could watch as he rang up your sale on a vintage cash register with big keys that stuck out an inch. Kentoff may not have changed his look, but he sure changed the look of Booze Liquors (thank God he left the sign, however).
“I couldn’t get that fucking sign down and wasn’t gonna pay some fucker to do it,” he said. “Daddy always liked that sign anyway, and so do I.”
Kentoff had expanded the beer selection, including many craft and imported beers that his dad refused to stock when he owned the joint.
“It’s mostly stale piss but the market calls for it,” he said.
We all stood and stared at each other for 15 seconds. Depeche Mode’s “A Question of Lust” came on. Aidan and I put down our beers and danced together while Kentoff watched.
After that we paid and walked out as Aidan told Kentoff that we had a plan to brew at the old bar we were going to try to get going in Chicago.
“Maybe we’ll name a beer after you,” Aidan said.
“No we won’t,” I said.
“Yea, maybe I’ll name my ass after you,” Kentoff said.
“The market calls for it,” Aidan said.