by Spencer Bauman
My father was home on a two day leave for the New Year. The snow was a foot deep so my dad made me walk to the store to get more brandy for him and my mom; it was more of an excuse, so they could screw without worrying about how loud they were being. I wasn’t old enough to purchase the alcohol but I knew the guy down at the liquor store and nobody around here cared that much anyway. I didn’t mind the mile walk to the store through the country side; it took my mind off the two drunken rabbits at home and I could use the fresh air, plus I needed a pack of cigarettes.
My dad was scheduled to leave for the base tomorrow and I wish he would never return. He comes home twice a year and when he is at home, he is either drunk, on top of my mom, or both. To tell the truth I could care less about my father; he was the typical military type: strict and always disappointed in me. He has never been in my life and he won’t ever be, I am graduating next year and as soon as I get that diploma I am getting the hell out of here.
My mom was not much better than my dad; she drank more and screwed more. I never saw her; she was usually at a bar or working, doing god knows what. She had a reputation around town for sleeping with anything that can walk, even the catholic priests. But I never really blamed her for any of the things she did, I mean; after all, she is married to my father.
I started my walk through the deep snow; wearing nothing but jeans and a sweatshirt, I made my way forward. I walked down the middle of the road; there wasn’t a whole lot of traffic but snow was always falling from the evergreens and it was a pain in the ass when it hit you. As I started to get into the more residential area of town, I walked into homeless Jack while he was digging in some trash. I liked Jack; he was seen by the community as a no good dirty scoundrel, but the people that say those things don’t even know him. He is a genuinely nice man who is no different from any other human being. “Hey Jack! How’s it hangin?”
“Oh hey Red! Today is great, I found three full cans of tuna and I am not even an hour into my day yet. What are you doin out in this baron weather?” He barely has any teeth left and he is very hard to understand if you weren’t used to his voice.
“Just goin to the liquor store to get the old man’s brandy and some smokes for myself. Do you want some whiskey? My old man gave me some money and I feel like spendin it. ” As I asked him, his face lit up as if I was a naked supermodel and saliva had already began to drip from his toothless mouth onto his raggedy beard.
“That would be just dandy! Are you sure your pop won’t care? I don’t want you to get a whoopin over some booze.”
“Naw. He won’t even notice, plus, I could take him if he tried anything. You will be around here in about half an hour?”
“Alright, see ya in a bit,” and with that I continued to the store. Jack doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves; sure he is a bit of a drunk and may eat some bazaar and unethical foods but inside he is just as good as anyone else, if not better. With the money in hand and the list of liquor growing, I was beginning to feel the day getting better.
I was now nearly to the liquor store and I could use a break. I stood outside the store enjoying my last cigarette when Ms. Nelson drove her car into the empty spot in front. She was wearing a black pea coat and these tight blue jeans that made her ass look perfect. She teaches home economics and I was scheduled to have her class for spring term; not that I wanted home economics, but it would be nice to have a class where I have something nice to look at. She walked passed me and we made eye contact and smiled at each other as she entered the store. I thought about her and how lucky I was to see her every day during the spring. Then I remembered my father; I took a long drag from my cigarette and went inside to get the goods.
I walked into the store, greeted the clerk, and headed to the hard alcohol section. I searched through the different bottles looking for my dad’s favorite brand, Burt’s: Straight and Smooth. I grabbed a bottle then reach for a cheap bottle of whisky for Jack. I felt bad getting Jack such a cheap whisky but my father’s brandy cost a lot of money. I got in line, and fortunate enough, I was behind Ms. Nelson. My eyes looked up and down her body but it was short lived when she turned around and caught me staring at her. “What are you looking at pervert?!” She yelled which was an attempt at embarrassing me, but I didn’t care.
Deciding not to lie, “I was looking at your butt.” Quickly changing my mind, “I thought I saw a bug.”
“Really?! A bug?! We’ll why don’t you keep your eyes to yourself and I will take my chances with bugs,” she didn’t seem that mad; I think that she was bit flattered.
“I am sorry,” I smiled at her and turned my head. She bought some wine and a chocolate bar, probably another night alone watching some chick flick. As she left, I took one last hard look at he from behind, closed my eyes and thought about the possibilities, then stepped up to the counter. I set my bottles down and asked for a pack of cigarettes.
“Hey Red! Man I swear you continue to look more and more like your old man. How ya doin?”
“Pretty good Earl, how bout yourself?” The answer was subconscious and routine; I wasn’t even listening to Earl, I was still thinking about Ms. Nelson and her tight jeans. I had managed to start a fake relationship with Earl so that I had a place to get my booze. Earl was nobody special; just a person that was completely fake and thought way too highly of himself. I was getting out my money to pay making sure I had enough from what dad gave me.
“Just another day; Burt’s: Straight and Smooth huh? Your dad must be in town?” he set down the cigarettes and began to ring up the bottles. I looked around at the cigarettes behind the counter so I didn’t have to make eye contact with him.
“Yep, came into town yesterday and leaving tomorrow.” After saying this, I realized that the New Year won’t be so bad after all.
“Well, that is good news for you, right? I mean judging by what you’ve told me, still the same ol’ shit?” He put my items in a paper bag and I handed my money over.
“Yes, it is great news, but I wish it would come a little sooner,” he handed me my change. “Thanks Earl, have a good one.”
“You too my friend, you too.” I grabbed the booze and exited the store. As soon as I got outside, I opened up my new pack of smokes and lit one up. I started my walk towards my house but I didn’t make it far before I started drinking Jack’s whiskey. Drinking helped returning home to my dad easier, plus it made the walk easier. I was only three blocks down the street when I ran back into Jack. I started to walk over to him, looking down at his bottle that I had been sipping on and seeing that I had drank a little more than I thought. Homeless Jack pops out of the dumpster with what looked like to be some dirty magazines.
“Why look here Red! I’ve come across some old nudie mags,” I thought they were disgusting but who was I to judge, Jack was just a human looking for some entertainment.
“Nice find. I have your whiskey. I took a few hits from the bottle; hope you don’t mind?” I was starting to feel the effects from the alcohol.
“Not at all! Let’s have some more and look at some girls.” I walked up next to him and we sat down against a tree and shared whiskey. The naked girls weren’t anything special, at least compared to what you see in the magazines nowadays. The whisky was rough, but I kept drinking because it made going home a lot easier. I was having a really good time with Jack; just sitting around, getting drunk and not having a care in the world.
Jack and I had would do this from time to time; just sit around and talk about anything that comes to mind. Jack had helped me through most of my schooling and had always been there for me, willing to talk. I liked Jack and he was really easy to talk to; I could tell him about home and my father. Jack would follow up with stories of his childhood and tell about his time in the war and encounters with certain ladies he meant. Somehow, Jack always seemed to make me feel better; I don’t know how he did it, but he always seemed to know what to say and how to make me forget about my life.
I would guess that I was with Jack twenty five minutes before I decided to head back home; by now my dad was probably getting pretty pissed off that his brandy wasn’t in his hand. By now I had a strong buzz and was ready to deal with my parents. I told Jack farewell but he was nodding in and out of sleep. I walked back towards my house; I was walking slow and slightly stumbling here and there but I didn’t really care.
On the way back to my parents, I noticed the tall trees covered in snow and thought about how life as a tree would be simple and easy; living on the countryside, by a river, or in the backyard of a nice family being the main support for a child’s tire swing. Year by year you would grow tall and tall, live among other trees, be the home for many furry creatures, provide scenery for families on their Sunday drive, then , one day, be cut down and have your body be the home for a novel that will last for lifetimes. Being a tree would be so perfect and divine. I wish I was a tree.
I was closing in on my house; I lit up another cigarette and thought about how my father would react to my tardiness. Thoughts of violence entered my mind at first but then I remembered that I was bigger than him and he wouldn’t take his chances; he is a coward like that. The most likely outcome would be verbal abuse about how I am not good for anything and how I will never make it in life. I never cared for what he said about anything and it really didn’t matter anymore what he said to me, no matter what it had to do with.
I finished my cigarette and made for the house. I could see through the front window that my dad was watching the football game in his robe while my mom was eating some sort of food in the dining room also in her robe. Their hair was a mess and they appeared to be tired as hell. I started to think about how I would rather be anywhere but right there. I was really stumbling by this time and I knew they would both smell the alcohol; but they were going to yell all ready so what difference would it make.
I walked through the door and before I could do anything I heard, “What in the God damn world have you been doin? Is that whiskey I smell? If you touched my brandy, you are dead?” I walked towards him and gave him his brandy, tripping over myself as I walked across the messy living room floor. “You are drunk. You are a helpless drunk at the age of 17 and will be nothing more than that.” I didn’t want to say anything because it would just add fuel to his fire, so I turned and headed for my room. “You aren’t gonna do good at anything you do. You might as well go join Homeless Jack now and be a failure like him.”
“YOU DON’T KNOW JACK!” Who did my father think he was, insulting Jack when he had not even met him? I couldn’t take it anymore; I turned and looked at him. He kept talking but I wasn’t listening anymore. My mom sat there in silence, watching; just like she always had. I turned towards the door when I saw my reflection in the mirror. I didn’t know if it was the whiskey in me or just the lighting but for a split second I could have sworn that I saw my father looking back at me in the mirror. I needed to leave. I needed to go be with Jack.