Saturday morning I tossed and turned as the sunlight beamed through my bedroom window. As I drifted in and out of consciousness I realized my wife had left for work with my cigarettes in the car, and if I were to wake, I'd have to walk to the store. Staying in bed seemed much easier and I nodded back into a blissful dream. But I received a rude awakening. My wife burst through the door sobbing and collapsed on the bed. "What's wrong, why aren't you at work?" I asked.
"Charlie Voss was killed this morning in a car accident."
She got the call at work. She wasn't going to do anyone any good, so her boss sent her home. She tried to call me, but I was doing my best cat impression and never heard the phone. She filled me in on the details and we immediately decided we needed to be with our friends and his family. In an hour and a half we were southbound from Bellingham on our way to Wenatchee.
Charles, Charlie, Chuck-o was one of our dear friends. He was part of our tight group of friends in high school and beyond; a common patron of our parties, role playing games, and camping trips. Actually, five years ago at one such camping trip he helped shape our identity. Our friends were (are) fanatical about amine, samurai, ninjas, kendo, and basically Japanese culture in general. So you can imagine a bunch of drunken geeks sparring with shinai around the camp fire whist up-talking their samurai abilities. But it was this trip, Charlie decided he was no longer a samurai, but a pirate. Ah, what a delight this was for me. I hate amine. As much as I loved the sword fighting, I couldn't stand all the Fist of the North Star bull shit that went along with it. But the swashbuckler was something I, with my piracies on the information high seas, could really relate to. Though there were a few holdouts it wasn't long before we all shunned the way of the samurai for the way of the pirate.
Charlie was also involved with founding a back-yard wrestling group called the Piss Drunk Pirates. Though I was not involved, the crew consisted of my best friend, my brother-in-law, and other high school palls who took on pirate aliases and costumes in order to beat each other senseless for the video camera. Additionally, my friends founded a troupe called Pirate Theatre Ensemble which my wife and I were very involved. Though Charlie was only on stage for one play, he was active backstage, on the writing table, and of course at the cast parties.
It didn't happen all at once, but over the years we have all assimilated. You will always see a bottle of Captain Morgan's at our parties or see us drinking Morgan's Silver and Seven with a lime, the closest thing to pirate's grog one can get in a bar. We all have shirts, tattoos, and jewelry to adorn ourselves with skulls and crossbones. We exclaim "Yar!" and "Ahoy!" in each other's company. We are most definitely a salty crew, but Charlie was truly the greatest pirate of us all.
It was pure tragedy. Charlie's family was on their way home from a fishing trip. He rode with his older brother Larry Jr. At two o'clock in the morning one of their tires blew out; the car veered off the road and struck an electrical poll. Their sister, Little Larry, and others were following their car and were able to respond instantly. However, attempts at CPR and first aid were futile and the two brothers, 25 and 38, died at the scene.
Our three hour drive from Bellingham to Wenatchee was somber to say the least. My wife and I talked on occasion but we mostly left each other to our own thoughts. Honestly, we were waiting for the call. A call that would tell us it was all a big mistake, simply vicious gossip, and Charlie was truly ok. I guess we are still waiting. On our trip over the mountains, we spotted a flag at half staff. Both our eyes fixed on it as we passed. "That's odd," I said, as I wracked my brain for any reason someone would have their fag at half staff on this particular Saturday. We talked about it for a little while. I told my wife that it doesn't always take a national tragedy for someone to be honored in such a way. Perhaps a local firefighter or police officer was killed, we thought.
We arrived at his sister's house and our friends were already gathering on the lawn, telling stories and throwing back some Pabst Blue Ribbon and Captain and Coke. We all just dropped what we were doing and came home from all over the state (the Portlanders should be here today) to pay our respect to our fallen friend. We left briefly to have dinner with my in-laws and learned why the flag was at half staff, and today it is all I see. So Chuck-o, say hi to the president for me, he should be just behind you in line.
Our standards be at half mast fur ye, matey!