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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksiesilk Classic Group

Featured Review on this writing by Nite-Owl

An alcoholic tries to reconcile his life.


My father, Manny, used to tell me, “Never lead with your chin, son.”

I lay on the linoleum with my cock soaking in a puddle of piss. I pulled the liquor bottle toward my broken jaw. Clooney purred and touched my face with her wet nose.


A day before, I'd planned on buying the morning paper, then tossing back a few at my favorite watering hole, The Dolphin.

I combed my hair and took a shot before stepping into the hallway. The air stank of boiled cabbage and a trail of blood drops led from the stairs to my neighbor's door. He was a junkie poet and a leaky one at that.

Stepping to the sidewalk, I saw a contemptible bum on the other side of the street. The Mayor of Bank Street had a potato nose and a flutter of rags about his elbows. He'd been a circuit judge once. The shitter was weeping and trying to pull his fly up.

I pushed open the door to Fatone's News and Smoke Shop. Bells jingled. The smoke was thick and acrid. Display cases filled with cigars ran along a side of the narrow room. Newspaper stacks sat on the other. I grabbed a copy of The New London Day and headed to the counter. Fatone cocked his head, regarding my approach with his single good eye. The other lay lightly poached and motionless in its socket, the undercooked whites ready to drool down his cheek. He squished at that horror with a tissue; then his lips pulled into a quivering smile.

"Hello, Alfred," he said. 

I dropped the paper on the counter and fished some coins out of a pocket.

"I saw the cigar Indian out front," I said. "It's new?"

"There's nothing new in the world, Alfred, only things that've come back from the past."

"Another quote from Schopenhauer?" I asked doubtfully.

I stuck the paper under my arm and walked out.

A kind of cleanup was underway on Bank Street. Security gates clattered, bar doors flew open, disinfectants fumed, and mop carts rolled over terrazzo tile. Degenerate birds pecked the gutters. I quickened my pace, seeing my building up ahead, the Dolphin, and then the restaurant where I usually ate my meals. The Hygienic. 

I pushed past the monotony of my flat and opened the Hygienics door. I sat in a booth, looking for Norma: her warm brown eyes, the pencil in her hair, and her flawlessly neat uniform. She arrived at the booth. I wanted to compliment her, but her smile stirred up my loneliness, and my throat tightened. She put a hand on my shoulder.

“Would you like some french fries, Hun?”

My spirits lifted, and I nodded my head. Perhaps I wasn’t companionless after all.

But then I ruined the moment, turned it dirty by imagining her sweet young cunt. I was crazy. Had I forgotten my place, my soiled clothing, swollen face, and blistered nose?

She brought the fries and a soda with no ice, and I managed a smile. I shook the catsup bottle, and something fell out with a slimy pop. My stomach turned as it had when I stepped barefoot on Clooney's warm puke. Some jackass had spindled a tab and jammed it into the bottle. I went cold inside, dropped a ten-dollar bill on the table, and left through the exit.

Crossing the street, I headed down a paved embankment, jumped a fence, and started along the train tracks. Waves rolled in from Long Island Sound and crashed onto the beach. I'd hoped the shore breeze would make my troubles smaller, but it was no good; the creosote-impregnated rail ties smelled like Manny’s jacket. He was a brakeman for the Union Pacific.


He'd learned English on the streets and taught it to his immigrant parents, earned a partial scholarship, and worked his way through college. He was a towny, a brawler, and a heroic figure to my way of thinking.

My mother, Iris, came from Mayflower stock, a woman of high-powered perceptions. She found me distasteful, sensed my oncoming disorders, my impending malcontent. She taught English literature and spoke many languages.  She'd grown up in Greenwich, Connecticut, and met Manny at an art fair in Mystic. For some little time, they'd shared a mutual admiration for Gabriel García Márquez. As the saying goes, he knocked her up higher than a kite. Two years later, my younger sister arrived. She soon surpassed me in every sense of the word.

Beautiful Miranda was statuesque with perfect carriage and porcelain features, thick tumbling hair, pearly teeth, and profuse charm; she was my opposite, prophetic, and explicitly my superior. She pitied me, and I envied her, but my envy gave way to hostility, immutable antipathy, and in the end, self-destruction.


I'd bought the newspaper out of habit. But the paper made me remember the breakfasts I’d shared with Iris and Miranda, the way they’d traded newspaper sections while I sat with my oatmeal and silent resentment. I dropped the newspaper, watching it tumble apart on a gust of wind. Then I grabbed a rail spike off the ballast and heaved it hard into the sawgrass. I glanced at the circling gulls and down the track. There was a vanishing point where the track took a slow curve, then disappeared between felspar cliffs. My misfit buddies and I used to test our bravery. You waited in the mouth of the narrows, and as a train approached, you walked steadily through. My buddies warned that the sucking train vacuum would pull you under the wheels if you ruined the timing. There were three feet between the rails and the shear walls. Trains coming blindside from the rears were the most dangerous. You couldn't see around the curve. You gauged the train's proximity by putting an ear to the track. The narrows were two-hundred yards in length. You wanted death whispering in your ear before starting through. 

 I'd gotten a shot at proving my courage. I failed. I'd talked myself up to my buddies; then I'd glued an ear to the rail while they stood on the cliffs and pissed. When the hum got fierce, I jumped up with a hoot. That's when the coward in me turned my legs to rubber. I stood there trying not to shit myself as the train rushed by. One of my buddies spat on my shoes when it finally passed.

 "You're a pantywaist," he said.

"You're the one whose dog died in there!"

Who knows what happened to those guys? Some might have ended up badly, others not so badly. I'm sure about one of them. He's the Mayor of Bank Street. I'm a pantywaist, or so he said.


I found another spike and chucked it as far as I could. My arm felt numb after that one. It was scary knowing how much like Manny I’d become. Beautiful Miranda had him institutionalized. She was living in D.C. and had hired a nurse to check in on Manny every couple of days.

Nurse Liz found a sloshy piss pot and a loaded luger under Manny's bed, and she brought the house down.

Miranda cleared her fundraising schedule, then flew in to clear the mess.

She demanded my help getting Manny processed into the psychiatric facility. I resisted initially; I told her to chase herself, then I caved and went along with the plan. It was shameful. I was half-drunk, and my gloom was twice its standard size. Manny panicked, stumbled sideways down a hall, and tried hiding in a closet. I stood there and watched while they manhandled him. A strapping psychiatric nurse put restraints on him. The nurse's boss, an austere bitch with Ayn Rand's face, gave Miranda a form to sign. Manny's brain was gone, and it got ugly when they tossed him in the transport van. He struggled, he kicked, and then he sobbed. I shouted that I'd visit him as they slammed the door shut. In the end, I saw him once more.


It was a morning in June. I took a train upstate and then got a cab at the station. The cabby, who wouldn't stop yammering, drove me out of the city and into the country. We reached the sanitarium. A security guard handed the cabby a visitor's pass. He swung the gate open and pointed to a parking lot. The lot had pieces of feedlot straw that had blown in on a shifting breeze. I asked the cabby to wait. When I stepped from the cab, my eyes teared from the dust in the air. The main building was a hundred yards off, rising from the ground in hopeless brick layers.

 There was a sign: The Eastern Sanatorium. I noticed a cemetery on the grounds. A broken fence surrounded it. Manny was broken, too. When I entered the building, the nurse at reception glanced at me from behind plexiglass.

I spoke to her through a metal baffle in the pane, telling her I was there to visit my father, Manny Silva; then I took a seat and waited on an orderly. I sat for a long while, rubbing my palms on the tops of my trousers. An orderly with nasty teeth came and led me through a side door that led down staircases. I got a dose of the fear. Why had I even come here? I grabbed at the handrail and missed. I was short-circuiting, all right. Bile and dizziness, shortness of breath, I shot a backward glance, then looked back at the orderly.

"This doesn't feel right, pal. Are you sure about where we’re heading?”

"He's in the West Wing, so we're going."

When we finally got to Manny's ward, the poor man didn't recognize me, and his appearance made my skin crawl. I couldn't speak. I moved closer, hoping to jog his memory. But I saw his eyes were sinking. It seemed to make the odor stronger.


Soon after I’d proved my cowardice in the narrows, Iris and Miranda disappeared together. Once a year, I got a Christmas card that smelled of Miranda’s perfume.

Iris contracted the Ebola virus and croaked.

She'd taken a sabbatical and used it to volunteer in Sierra Leone. She took Miranda with her. They wanted to save the world, but Iris sat in a chair two days after they arrived and died. Miranda had her cremated, then returned to her loft in Foggy Bottom. 

Manny died weeks later. I accused Miranda of being responsible and called her a cunt. She told me she was the executor of Manny's estate, then let me know I would receive a split. 

That one shut me up. "Estate?" 

"Yes," said Miranda, "Iris made investments for him. They were successful for the most part. You're entitled to a sizable amount. Hardly the course I'd have taken," she added.

The news turned me into a wet sparrow. I drank steadily and lost my job.


The Dolphin would soon open its doors, and I was getting dry. I started for Bank Street.

I pushed the Dolphin’s door. There was little action. A boozy moll sat at the far end of the bar with an empty glass. Some sailors were shooting pool in the back. I sat on a stool near the entrance and ordered a bunch of shots. I was getting lousy, and I could have bested a hyena with the stupidity of my laughter. I called the bartender over.

“Set me up,” I slurred, “No need to cut me off. I'll leave when I deem it necessary…and of my own accord.”

The sailors ducked in and out of the restroom. The stink of urinal bars wafted out like diseased gardenia.

I kept up the drinking and sent one to the moll. The bartender put the glass in front of her. She tossed it back. I ordered a double and downed it.

I kept looking at the moll as she gazed into the mirrors. Then I got doubly obnoxious. I slid off my stool and approached her with a leer on my face.

"Why give yourself such a hard time?" I asked nastily.

“Get the fuck away from me.”

I stumbled up to the sailors.

“Can any of you boys tell me why the dyslexic killed himself?”

They glanced at one another.

He lost his faith in DOG…Get it? I don’t call him God, though. He’s Shorty in my book. How about Pearl Harbor? Who wants to hear how I survived the bombing?”

“Don’t get reckless shit-heel.”

I suppose I was cruising for it because I ignored the warning.

“Well, there I was, sitting up against a gun turret, and the next thing I knew, Shorty started crushing volcanos and hurling down the slag. A wall of fire turned my hair to soot. I stumbled away from the inferno. And then a bomb punched through the deck in front of me. Black smoke and my shipmate's cries poured out of the hole. I couldn't breathe. More bombs and my ears quit; I was deaf, but vibrations shook the deck, and pressure shocks tilted my equilibrium. I felt bulkheads tearing apart. I took off running. No direction. No reason. A three-hundred-pound hatch blew into the air. It came down in front of me so hard my feet went numb. The ship's bridge took a hit and exploded. An anchor chain tore loose and helicoptered over my head. Fuel washed over the deck, and my feet went from under me. I tried getting up, but I kept landing on my ass because of the fuel. It's ridiculous, I know, but I was worrying how foolish I must look going ass over bandboxes on the same piece of deck. I told Shorty I'd swear off if he let me live. You swabs might think that's funny—laugh if you want, but I'm talking about death. Hell, I could have already been dead for all I knew. That’s when my body took over. It started crawling for the ship’s rail.  Something jagged and hot slashed my hands open. I didn’t know. I couldn’t see because of the fuel in my eyes and the choking smoke.  I reached out and felt the ship's rail. I dropped over the side. That’s how I escaped that tub. She’d been a proud ship once, a heavy cruiser with eight-inch guns.

“Six months later, I shipped out on a destroyer. A U-boat sent her to the bottom with a single torpedo. Down she went, and back into the water, I went. I was sure the sharks were going to rip me up. Instead, a rescue operation came along….”

One of the sailors called me a stolen valor sonofabitch; punches came at me from all angles. I took it like a man until a haymaker caught me flush and sent me crashing to the floor. I was bleeding badly, but I got up. The sailors stood back, figuring I was nuts or I'd had enough. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted more, so I lunged straight at the moll and tried to grab her ass. She slapped my face, and the sailors gave me the heave-ho into the door. It didn't open like in Westerns, though; down I went. They dragged me up and pushed me outside. The sidewalk rushed up to meet my face. I bounced and rolled into a sitting position with blood and broken bridgework in my mouth. The Mayor of Bank Street stood smiling at me. Once a pantywaist, always a pantywaist. Was that it?

"You're nothing better than me, just as bad off." I managed to say. 

I crumbled over sideways, slipping into unconsciousness. Norma came out of the Hygienic. She pushed the sailors back and lifted my head off the sidewalk.

"Leave him alone," I heard her say. "Can't you see he's had enough?"

Submitted: August 26, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Laird. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:



That was a hell of a story ! Enjoyed the read
: )

Fri, August 26th, 2022 11:27am


Thank you, Nite-Owl!


Fri, August 26th, 2022 8:04am

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