Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wednesday Night Post

I don't have time to post any new reviews or musings tonight. This weekend I will be going home to camp on the beach with my friend and some dogs. Then it will be Easter Sunday. Next week I will give you some good album reviews and then a preview of the NBA playoffs, which are starting soon and will be some of the best playoffs in years: Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Howard showcase. Tonight, though, another entry in "From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt." Enjoy.


Who first invented the shape of a bottle? It’s really an ingenious design. It must have been the Egyptians when they were fooling around with the mason jars. I’dve liked to have that as a gift: a collection of mason jars with Egyptian godheads on them. It would’ve been fun to scare the kids by putting fake organs in them. I could’ve made up plenty of lies about them. Haunted hearts, livers that were still living. Tom would’ve been the most scared. My jokes and pranks always worked him up.

But I think there is just something terrific about the shape of it. It’s romantic in a way whether full or empty, though I suppose the empty bottle has been romanticized more in movies and in books as a symbol. Everybody loves a hapless drunk, a haunted loner who lives in the shadows. We want our heroes to fall almost as much as we want them to succeed. I’m not sure I’d know what a hero looked like on the street if I met him. Or her.

I should turn the lights on in here to read but the windows in here and the skylights always give enough real light to see. it doesn’t matter to me whether I carve up a Christian or the first fowl that comes my way. That was always one of my favorite quotes. You could use it as armor when dealing with patients. I’m not that cruel, but it’s nice to pretend it’s possible. I never bothered to read Bovary before. She was the one that told me to read it. It had to be a little bit after James was born. We’d sit here after we put him and Mags to sleep and both read underneath those overhead track lights, which were too bright then so I had the dimmer put in right over there by the back door. We’d sit like two kids back in the college library, except instead of being awkward or passionately fighting off the urge to have sex in public we were married and reading together, tired and I can always remember wanting a drink. I didn’t want to drink; I just wanted a drink to relax with the pages in front of me and nothing but sleep then and patients the next day. She wouldn’t let me. She kept me to that promise and made sure I stuck it out. We are both stubborn people. Well, she was and I still am stubborn.

The island. So many times she’d lean against the marble when I’d get home. I’d see James’ cleats by the back door, dirt on them, maybe a little round mold of mud clay lying on that back door rug. Someone’s notebooks on the table. My mind draws up the era when Mags was out of the house. What imprints that on my memory? Marble countertops and Rose standing there, gray on the edges of her auburn. Her and Mags with the shining auburn. Rose was auburn always. Always auburn. I’m pushing the bottle along the wood table. My bottle of Cutty Sark. Sark the sequel revenge of the sark.

The left leg of my khakis is missing. The most comfortable pair of pants I ever had. My skin all bashed up and black and blue. My ribs wrapped up and my arm draped around Connor. His long hair over the collar of his brown leather jacket. I’d always thought I was more handsome, but that night he seemed the older and more confident brother. Maybe because he saved my life. And Rose rushed over to me; her hair long and auburn and she just leaned into me a bit. Just that little lean made the ends of her hair touch my leg. Something that soft should’ve never touched that injury. Although I was proud of it afterwards - gave my thigh and knee a nice definition even if I had a strange crick and limp when it was too humid. She looked at me. Her face young. I was young too.

“You’re drunk.” She smelled.

“Yes I am.”

“I’ll step in the other room,” Connor said.

“Thank you.”

“A scholar and a gentlehand.”

Connor smiled at me and flicked my ear, his leather arms squeaking. The leather later cracked but worn and comfortable. I wore it.

“This is a long time coming.”

I nodded.

“The motorcycle?”


“Who was it? Billy?”

“No, not that piano playing drunk.”

“Who then?”

“It was this guy. His name was Nicky Schwartz. He was going to introduce me to this comic who’s supposed to be on Saturday Night Live next month.”


Her hands were always so cold.

“This is going to stop.”

“C’mon, mom.”

She narrowed her eyes. Oh, when her eyes were narrow and gray. What could I have possibly done but to listen? But then she grabbed my right hand, which was wrapped up too and put it on her stomach. The white wrap of my bandagehand on the purple the soft purple of her dress. There were darker purple flowers on it too.

“You almost died.”


“It has to stop.”

“But I don’t want it too.”

She gripped my hand. I could feel the pressure and I saw her nails digging into the bandage. Her eyes grey and round storms. The old house with the round wood table that had marks from hot plates I put on it without trivets because I didn’t know any better. I could feel her stomach round and my hand looked round.

“Will you?”

Round the cycle spun and round I fell onto the pavement and I’d put a lot of money into that bike and I loved taking care of it but it turned into mangled metal. All of your dreams turn into mangled metal I’d thought then. It’s not true now. I thought of the first time Connor and I got drunk in the field by the barn. I’d stolen the gin and we didn’t know what was what. We drank it without thinking and of course we threw up side by side in the weeds next to the red painted wood.

“Will you?” She asked again.

“Yes,” I said. And that was the beginning of the end. I slept that night in pain and spent the next thirty and more years in pain without a drink. I could’ve made people laugh and I did resent her for that for so long even when I saw the fluid and the blood and James in the artificial light of this world for the first time. I resented her in the off-white porcelain of the jacuzzi and her auburn hair and I resented the fruit smell of so many of her clothes because I couldn’t and I could’ve…

In comes Tom from the back door and he’s wet and his coat is wilted. He pulls off his boots and they thump on that back door carpet. He’s got a beer in his hand. There’s a scrap of brown paper bag clinging to it. His hair is soaked and black.

“Hey, dad.”

“What’s the weather like?”

“What do you mean?”

“Do I need a coat?”

“No, it’s warm.”

I think you might find a lot of answers from the drooping and full flowers and bushes of September in the rain. The square divisions of the window make leaves and branches look like pictures. I hold my hands up and pretend to take a picture of Tom, my second son. He looks at me and sips his beer. He wipes rainwater off his chin. Or maybe its beer.

“A little early to be drinking,” I say.

“What about you?”

“I’ve earned it.”

“Me too.”

I laugh because I like when my kids are quick. It makes me see myself in all of them. It’s a humane mental insurance policy.

“What are you always riding the train for?”

He sits across from me at the table. He stretches his right hand out and touches the golden and curved knob of the right back door. His left arm sweeps back and touches one of Rose’s plants on the sill.

“I like the rhythm of the train. I like looking out the windows.”

“You always liked this one too. Didn’t you?” I point outside at the rain and the leaves and the rocks and the water in the pool and then the fence and beyond that the woods and beyond that the Smith’s house through the woods.

“One of the better ones I’ve looked through.”

“You were at church?”

“Yes.” He sips.

I sip. “They mention your mother?”

“Not that I heard.”

“The bastards.”

I’m quiet thinking of that damn church and how Rose wanted to go every Sunday. My mother wanted me to marry a good woman well I married a good woman a god-fearing woman just like my mother.

“Dad?” Tom says.


“Are you going to be alright tomorrow?”

“I’ll be fine.”


“Don’t tell James or Maggie.” I wink.

Tom laughs and takes another sip of his beer. I look him in the eye and nod my head. He slides his beer across the wood and I slide my bottle. The can is cool, wet, and slick. I lift it. Cold beer and carbonation. We make eye contact and laugh together.

“Dad?” He says.


“Why don’t you keep the house?”

I lean my neck back, look up at the skylight, and see the drops forming a momentary perfect circle and then splash and slide down the glass. There are streaks running in every direction from perfect symmetrical natural liquid circles.

“Because if I couldn’t save her, why would I save the house? It wasn’t ours anyway. It was hers.”

I feel hot and angry but that’s not the way I mean it and that’s not the way I want it to sound. Tom slides the Cutty Sark across the table at me.

“I don’t believe that.”

“Now you’re getting the hang of it.”

He moves to get up. His hands are poised on the table, his forearm muscles are contracted and a vein runs up from along the joint of his thumb’s distal phalange. But he sits back down again, wet with strands of dark grass hair hanging low on his forehead.

“You’re alright, dad.”

“You too?”

“I think so.”

“At least you’re that far.”

Tom and I drink together. I’m not quite sure what time it is but it has to be after noon. Although, I’m not quite sure what the difference is.

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