FLASH FICTION: Drunk

Nine Twenty

I can’t remember why I started drinking, even. I used to be able to remember. Then I forgot.

“You should see a therapist,” Janice told me. My sister.

“It’s not that big a problem,” I said. “Not yet.”

Janice grabbed my neck.

“Just go. It worked for Dad. And for Mom. Do you want to end up like Biscuit?”

I stared at the table.

I was pretty drunk.

We finished our drinks.

On the way out, I grabbed Janice’s neck. Or I would’ve fallen down.
I apologized.

“Thanks for breakfast,” she said.

*

Mom let me taste her margaritas. Growing up. Just one sip from each one. She could knock back quite a few.

“Doesn’t that taste awful?” she always said.

I always answered, “Yes.”

“So you’ll never drink them when you’re older?”

I always said “No.” Every time.

One night, coming back from a friend’s, I found my dad lying on his back on the lawn.

I helped him up. It was minus twenty.

“You forget how cold snow gets,” he said.

I helped him to the bedroom.

Mom was lying on the bedroom floor.

Biscuit and I picked her up and lay her on the bed next to Dad.

She opened her eyes for a second.

“Don’t tell my kids I was drinking,” she whispered.

*

Dr. Hollowood looked the part. He had hardly any hair, just a few scratches on the side. And glasses.

Though his office wasn’t like I’d pictured. There were no bookshelves or sumptuous carpets. There was no couch. There was a chair.

“Why do you drink?” he asked.

“I have no idea,” I said.

“Try to think.”

I thought as hard as I could. I was drunk.

“What are you thinking of?”

“What was the question again?”

We talked for half an hour.

Dr. Hollowood looked at his watch.

“That’s all the time we have today. It’s my daughter’s wedding.”

I was wondering about the tux.

*

The saddest people in the world get together every morning. They wait in line for the liquor store to open.

I know most of them, though not really.

I was waiting in line.

The woman at the front of the line kept rubbing her face.

There was a young guy by the door. Sitting behind an empty guitar case. He didn’t have a guitar. I guess he was hoping for the best.

“It’s 10:01,” said the woman at the front, tapping on the glass.

The door opened.

On my way in, I tossed a quarter into the guitar case.

The guy looked up and smiled.

He still had a few good teeth.

*

Dr. Hollowood crossed his legs.

“Did you have a happy childhood?”

I knew he was going to say that.

“It was pretty happy, yeah.”

“You mentioned your parents were both alcoholics?”

“Yeah.”

“I guess I was happy anyway. I was a kid. It’s strange how that works.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well… You’re unhappy as a kid. But you’ll never be that happy again.”

Dr. Hollowood touched his chin.

The door opened. A man ran into the room. His eyes were enormous.

“It happened again,” he said.

*

I met Janice for lunch.

It was May 23rd. I hoped she wouldn’t remember.

“You’re looking better,” she said.

“I’ve had maybe one or two drinks,” I said proudly.

I’d actually had three.

I hadn’t been that sober in a long time.

Janice looked wistful. She poked her spaghetti wistfully.

“You know, it’s been ten years.”

I knew she was going to say that.

“Hard to believe it. Ten years since—”

“I’ve gotta go,” I said, getting up. “See Dr. Hollowood.”

I grabbed my coat.

Janice rubbed my hand.

“Lunch is on me,” she said.

*

It was just about 10:00.

The woman at the front of the line was trying to rub her face off.

The guy behind the guitar case was sleeping.

The door opened.

When I got to the door, I stopped.

“I don’t want to do this anymore,” I said out loud.

I tossed two quarters into the guitar case.

The guy didn’t even wake up.

*

When I was seventeen and he was nineteen, my brother was driving us home from a party. We’d both been drinking. A car jumped over the median and hit us.

I remember … we were upside down.

I undid my seatbelt and fell down.

I undid Biscuit’s seatbelt and he fell down.

They think his neck was broken already.

*

Dr. Hollowood and I went golfing.

The first swing, I sliced pretty bad.

Dr. Hollowood lined himself up.

“It’s a matter of confidence,” he said. “Imagine the greatest golfer in the world. You’re him—only you’re better.”

He swung.

The ball landed right on the green.

I tried it. I imagined I was the best golfer in the world. I don’t really follow golf. I thought of Jack Nicklaus.

I hit the ball.

I hooked it, this time.

“Now you’re overconfident,” said Dr. Hollowood, laughing.

I lifted my club like I was going to smash it.

“You know what,” I said. “That’s it. Maybe that’s it. My drinking. My confidence. I basically have zero confidence.”

“Genetics is also a strong factor,” said Dr. Hollowood.

“You’re probably right,” I said.

*

I met Janice for dinner. It was my turn to pay—usually I’d pick someplace cheap—but I was saving so much by hardly drinking, I thought what the hell. We ate at Chez Pedro.

“You look great,” said Janice.

“I’m sober,” I said. I was.

A taco shouldn’t cost $30. I ate it slowly.

Janice stared at the table.

“I’ve got some flowers in the car,” she said. “You … want to come?”

“No,” I said. “I can’t deal with it.”

“No problem,” she said. “I understand.”

I stared at the table.

“What the hell,” I said, looking up. “Let’s go.”

Janice smiled.

*

There’s a ritzy cemetery downtown. Biscuit’s buried in the cemetery across from it.

Most of the headstones are pretty small and cheap. When I saw how shitty Biscuit’s looked in comparison—I’d never been there—my parents didn’t have a lot of money—I cried, just about. It was just an iron bar. The across part had fallen off.

Janice put the flowers down and cried.

I felt horrible. I needed a drink.

I hugged her.

It was bad.

It wasn’t that bad.

*

I saw Dr. Hollowood once a month. He recommended three times, but that’s a lot of money.

I had an appointment.

I was waiting to cross the street.

“Is my zipper open?” said the guy beside me.

It wasn’t.

He looked down.

“Is my dick out?”

I shook my head. A couple times.

He looked horrified.

“Then that means … I just pissed myself.”

I didn’t even laugh. It could’ve been me.

It was me. Just a few months ago.

*

I haven’t gotten drunk in a year. I haven’t had a drink in six months.

It’s not a long time.

It’s a long time.

One morning, walking past the liquor store, I was barely even tempted, I saw the guy with the case. He had a guitar now, too.

I’m not sure why. But I smiled.

                                                                           

First published in The Litter I See Project.

 

FLASH FICTION: A Public Library

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A public library is a quaint place to be in terror of one’s life. – Unknown

 

War and Peace was overdue again so I carried it back to the library with both hands.

 

It was October, but it was snowing.

 

Everyone was drunk that day or an old lady. Three drunks asked me for money, though I only had a quarter on me. The first drunk needed antibiotics for his dog. The second was distraught over his dog needing hip surgery. The third said she had twelve pups and they’d all had puppies. I gave her the quarter.

 

“Riffraff,” said an old lady into her scarf as she passed me. I wasn’t sure if she meant them or me.

 

Three drunks were sitting and standing and smoking around the front door of the library.

 

I went in through the side door.

 

I slid War and Peace down the book chute. There was a thud and a scream.

 

I turned. Everyone was staring at a ginger with a backpack. Pacing between the rows and rows of computers.

 

For some reason, I unzipped my jacket.

 

“I feel like breaking things and people,” said a disheveled man to the Reference woman.

 

“Try Nonfiction,” she said.

 

The ginger punched the wall and screamed.

 

The ancient security guard whistled.

 

The previous spring, when the library reopened (it had been a crime scene), I went to look at the new titles.

 

I always read the back covers.

 

“A blinding work of luminous brilliance,” said the one cover.

 

“A deafening work of thunderous genius,” said another.

 

“If talent had an odor, this book would obliterate one’s sense of smell.”

 

On the bottom shelf, a big book with a coming-off spine caught my eye.

 

War and Peace.

 

I picked it up with both hands.

 

The ginger punched the wall and screamed. That brought me out of it.

 

I scanned the bookshelves. I’d pretty much read everything.

 

The librarian heaved War and Peace back onto the shelf.

 

I thought, What the hell. I was curious how Book One ended.

 

“I wish I was dead,” said a wobbly man to the Reference woman.

 

“You might like Poe,” she said.

 

I lifted War and Peace onto the checkout counter.

 

“That’s a good one,” said the librarian.

 

“You’ve read it?” I said.

 

“No,” she said.

 

The ginger punched the wall and screamed.

 

The security guard tipped his hat.

 

“Have a nice day,” he said.

 

Three drunks were lying and smoking and laughing by the side door. I went out the front door instead.

 

Right beside the library, an old man slipped on ice.

 

“My god,” I said. “Are you alright?”

 

“Spare change?” he said.

 

I smelled liquor on his breath.

 

I gave him a quarter.

 

“Pathetic,” said an old lady, passing by.

 

I was pretty sure she meant me.

                                                                            

*First published in The Feathertale Review.

*If you like what you see on my site, you really ought to buy me a coffee (or two). More coffee = more stories, poems, cartoons and drawings for you to enjoy. Without coffee … I don’t even want to dream, of that.

FLASH FICTION: Adventures with Writers

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The Walrus Project continues with a new story. I think you’ll like it. Especially if you’re a writer. Read it here.

Remember: if you like my Walrus stories, let the editor know (letters@thewalrus.ca). Some letters are published in the magazine. Let me know too, if you have the time.