Ralphie rode in the back of Pete’s Chevy Impala, while Pete steered, and Quentin sat in the front seat next to him. They drove up and down the streets of South Philly, slow, keeping an eye on things.
The sun sat on the horizon, below the row homes, casting deep shadows in the neighborhood.
“I need a refill,” said Ralphie, handing his empty glass to Quentin.
Quentin grabbed the bottle of Jack Daniel’s from the footwell and poured a double into Ralphie’s glass, and handed it back to him.
“I’m hungry,” said Pete. “You want to get a cheesesteak, Ralphie?”
“Not now,” said Ralphie.
“What kind of cheese do you like on your steak?” said Pete, looking at Ralphie in the rearview mirror. “Whiz, or provolone, or something else?”
“Don’t be stupid,” said Ralphie.
“Me, I love Whiz,” said Pete. “I won’t eat a steak any other way.”
“You know why they call it Whiz, don’t you?” said Ralphie.
Pete shook his head. “No, why?”
“’Cause it’s got piss in it.”
Quentin looked back at Ralphie over his shoulder, and Ralphie winked at him.
“What?” said Pete.
“Yeah,” said Ralphie. “You know when you want to take a piss, sometimes you say, I got to take a whiz? Well, that’s where they get the name from.”
“No, shit?” said Pete.
“Yeah, why do you think it’s so yellow?” said Quentin.
“Oh, man,” said Pete. “Well, I ain’t going to eat that no more!”
Ralphie and Quentin broke out laughing.
Pete started laughing with them.
“Goddamn,” said Quentin. “That’s the funniest thing I ever heard.”
“Yeah!” said Pete. “I ain’t going to eat it no more!”
Ralphie frowned. He reached forward and slapped Pete on the back of the head.
“You dimwit,” he said. “That’s not why we’re laughing.”
“It ain’t?” said Pete.
“No, you idiot,” said Ralphie. “We’re laughing ‘cause there ain’t no piss in Cheez Whiz.”
“I don’t get it,” said Pete.
Ralphie let out a sigh. “Just drive, will you?”
The car hit a bump, and whiskey splashed out of Ralphie’s glass and onto his pants.
“Jesus, Pete,” he said. “Watch where the fuck you’re going.”
“Sorry, Ralphie. I was just trying to avoid hitting a kid on a bike.”
“Well, fuck him,” said Ralphie. “You made me spill good whiskey.”
“Right,” said Pete. “Good whiskey.”
At the next corner on SouthFourth Street, a young guy in jeans and a black t-shirt flagged down the car. Pete pulled over.
“See what he wants,” said Ralphie.
Quentin rolled down his window.
“What do you want?” he said to the guy.
“I want to talk to Ralphie about a problem I got,” he said.
“Who is he?” said Ralphie.
“Tom from the neighborhood,” said Quentin. “I know him.”
Ralphie took a sip of Jack Daniel’s and rolled down his window. He waved to Tom, and Tom approached the rear door.
“What’s the problem?” said Ralphie.
“I got robbed,” said Tom. “Somebody broke into my house and stole all my money.”
“Why don’t you call the cops?”
“’Cause I stole it from somebody else,” said Tom.
Ralphie nodded. “So what do you want me to do about it?”
“Well, I know who done it,” said Tom. “Can you get the money back for me, and maybe, you know, beat the guy up some?”
Ralphie let out a sigh, thinking about it.
“You’d have to pay me in advance,” he said.