December 24, 2014
Well, this is a first.
I am giving you the Christmas gift of a short story, written by yours truly.
No hardcore fitness non-fiction or hum-drum scientific geek-speak here. Just a quick 2000 word read about alcohol, or more appropriately, the lack thereof.
What you're about to read is actually some creative writing that I accomplished on a handful of airplane rides last month (something about being unplugged from WiFi gets my creative juices flowing).
So grab yourself an eggnog – virgin if you'd like – sit back, and enjoy. I call this story “The Spirits of Sobriety”.
“Seriously Dick, don’t you think this is getting just slightly excessive?”
Perched on a rickety, wooden stool in the dark corner of the pub, Dick leaned back, shrugged indifferently, took a long, cool sip of his Gerolsteiner on the rocks, and pointed a crooked finger at the pricey cocktail menu, “Actually Charles, my liver feels fantastic. Do you realize how hydrated I am right now – I mean, relative to anybody else in here? And how much money do you think I’ve saved by being sober? You see the price of these signature martinis? It’s like Starbucks on steroids, Charles.”
Charles slowly stirred his scotch with a plastic red straw and peered at Dick with a biting glance, “Dick, you’re a bore. You’re no fun. You haven’t had a drink in nearly seventeen years. For crying out loud, Dick, it’s nearly freaking Christmas and you’re going to go through yet another holiday season without so much spirit as a drop of eggnog. Loosen up, man. Remember college? Remember parties? Remember Betty?”
“Betty? Seriously? Are you really going to play that card?” Dick chomped on a chard of ice and violently crushed a lemon wedge into his water, “You really think she left me because I don't booze?”
Charles had seen Dick’s violent outrages before, and knew it was time to leave his sober companion to lonely, friendless thoughts. He scribbled his signature on the check and stood up to leave.
But Dick kept venting loudly, “Low blow, man. Low blow. Yeah, go. Go home and drink your friggin’ life away Charles.”
Charles pulled his coat and scarf over his shoulders and strode towards the exit, “Merry Christmas, Dick. Enjoy a lonely, sober Christmas Eve as usual, you humdrum.”
Dick slouched over the table and stared aimlessly at the worn brick wall. Humdrum? Am I really that dull? Just because I don’t know the subtleties between a merlot and a cabernet?
As Dick sat silently, pondering the difference between a stout and a porter, a shooter and a cocktail, a Tom Collins and a Singapore Sling, a waitress interrupted his depressed daydreaming.
“Get you something else mister?”
He looked at her, then glanced at her nametag. It said, “Ask Me About 2-For-1 Irish Car Bombs”.
Dick shook his head and stood. He brushed aside two staggering undergraduates, pushed open the big wooden door, and stomped out into the biting cold.
Back at home, Dick sipped a lukewarm chamomile tea and sat staring at the dying embers of the fire. All was silent. Lonely. Dark. The same as it was every Christmas for him.
The stairs creaked as he headed up to his bedroom, and quietly walked down the hallway under the flickering lights, too embarrassed to attend any of the Christmas Eve parties in the neighborhood – but too committed to temperance to let a drop of alcohol touch his lips.
He crawled into his bed, pulled on a beanie cap to keep his head warm, and stared at the peeling wallpaper before muttering, “Maybe I’ll just get sloshed tomorrow.”
Dick rolled over, pulled the covers tight, and closed his eyes.
Dick sat bolt upright at the sound.
Splash. Slurp. Gurgle.
“What the hell?” Dick blurted and leapt to his feet.
“Black pepper and cheap leather, that’s what!”
The pitchy European accent came from the dark corner in Dick’s room. Dick could barely discern a shadowy figure standing in the corner, holding a dark bottle of what appeared to be wine.
“You really didn’t get that?” The thin wispy shadow in the corner adjusted her designer jeans, pulled down the sleeves of her tight turtleneck shirt, and slipped in front of Dick, “You really didn’t get those hints of pepper and leather?”
She waved a stained cork under his nose, and arrogantly peered at him, “Pepper. Leather. Possibly dog piss and wet fur. You getting that?”
Dick stepped back, nearly stumbling back into his bed, “W-what the hell are you?”
“Well I’m the spirit of Christmas wine, you ignorant little prick. I can’t believe you’re not getting any of those notes off this wine. Here, come.”
Before he could even flinch, she grabbed his wrist and they were suddenly outside Dick’s living room window, seventeen years earlier. Dick put his nose to the glass.
Sure enough, there he and Betty were, inside a dank apartment.
“You remember this?” The spirit asked.
Dick nodded, “She-“
“Just watch.” The spirit interrupted him, pressing her turned-up nose against the glass.
Betty was obviously furious. She was ranting, pacing, waving her arms, screaming. The younger Dick sat on the couch, head in his hands.
“What do you mean, Dick? What do you mean you’re done drinking? Just done? Just like that? We have a Christmas party tonight, Dick, tonight. You’re such a little bitch. You’re ruining a perfectly good holiday.”
The older Dick winced. He had forgotten how mean Betty had become. He watched as the younger Dick quietly fought back, “Betty, I just – I just don’t like alcohol anymore. It hurts my head. I don’t feel good. I’m done. I’m just, done.”
Older Dick continued to watch. He knew what was coming next and felt a lump in his throat as he watched Betty throw a coat around her shoulders and storm towards the front door, “Well Timothy will certainly go with me. And Tim knows how to drink, Dick. He’s fun. He knows how to have a good time.”
She slammed the door. Younger Dick wiped away a tear and quietly sipped on a glass of grapefruit juice.
As Dick turned away from the window, the spirit of Christmas wine held a glass of dark red under his lips, “Care to taste? This Burgundy scored a 97 on the latest Wine Spectator.”
Dick took a sip, “Not bad, I guess. That’s what a fine French wine tastes like, huh?”
“Neeeh.” The wine spirit cackled and leered at him, “Gullible, aren’t you? That’s a two dollar merlot. You’re hopeless, you little bitch.”
She touched his wrist again and suddenly he was back in his bed.
Dick took a few sharp breaths. His heart was pounding. What a strange dream. What an asinine wine connoisseur. What a horrible memory of Betsy. He put his head on his pillow and closed his eyes.
This time the sound came from the downstairs kitchen.
Dick rapidly reacted this time, instinctively grabbing an old wooden baseball bat under his bedframe, bounding down the stairs, and throwing open his kitchen door with a violent scream.
Before Dick was a messy spectacle of a tiny man darting about like a hyperactive elf, his head at barely the height of the kitchen counter as he juggled, poured, spiced and sprinkled countless alcoholic concoctions into glass containers of various shapes and sizes.
“Holy hell!” shouted Dick, “What are you?”
The sharp-nosed, wispy man spun around and glared at Dick, “I’m the spirit of Christmas cocktails of course,” he flipped a bottle of rum and winked, “Peppermint Mai-Tai anyone?”
Dick wrinkled his nose in disgust, “Thanks, but I’ve just had wine.”
“Well you know what they say. Wine before liquor, never sicker. Or maybe it’s the other way around. I don't know. Here!” Before Dick could flinch, the spirit flung a shot glass at him, dashed to his side and filled it to the brim, “Schnapps! Drink!”
Dick fumbled the shot glass and impulsively poured the sickeningly sweet drink into his mouth, coughing loudly as it burned it’s way down his throat. Suddenly, the man was at his side with another shot, “Prairie fire! Drink! Cheers!”
And again, “Liquid Cocaine! Go!”
Dick’s head was already spinning. Resistance was futile. He slammed another shot. Lemon drop. Kamikaze. Slippery Nipple.
The room became a fog. Dick’s face was turning green. The little man’s sharp, biting voice was eating a headache into his skull. Dick felt the bile coming up his throat as half a dozen hard alcohols stirred in his stomach, and the shots kept coming.
Dick was halfway to his kitchen trash can and vomit was already seeping out the corners of his mouth. As the little man made some kind of joke about a cheap date, Dick buried his head into the trash and began spewing.
Everything went black.
The loud chuckling sounded like brash church bells inside Dick’s throbbing head. The room smelled sulfurous, as though someone had smashed a dozen rotten eggs against the wall, or farted.
Definitely a fart. A loud, fermented fart. Dick squinted in the direction of the laughter, and the overwhelmingly pungent smell. An enormous, bearded ogre-like man sat perched on a stool in the corner of the room, his giant gut nearly spilling nearly down to his knees. He rubbed his big red nose, took a vast swig of a frosted brew, and chuckled again, holding out an overflowing mug, “Care for a l-l-lager?” he stuttered, obviously drunk;
Dick groaned as the bitter hops wafted under his nose. He suddenly felt even more sick.
The tipsy giant staggered to his feet, adjusted his giant red cloak, and stumbled towards Dick, lurching forward and spilling sticky brew on the bedroom floor. He smiled broadly and slapped a huge hairy hand on Dick’s shoulder while shoving the mug under Dick’s nose, “C’mon, take a nip o’ this from the spirit of Christmas beer.”
Dick tried to pull himself away from the towering spirit, but it was too late. The massive man forced a gulp of beer down Dick’s gullet, suffocating him with the stench of strong brew and fermented body odor.
Dick struggled to escape from the vise-like grip on his shoulder, but the giant just laughed again, his rank breath hot against Dick’s cheeks, “Live a little, my sober friend.” He gave Dick a forceful bear hug and began to laugh again, his big belly jiggling wildly. Dick desperately made one last violent attempt to escape, ferociously shoving the spirit, then realized his horrible mistake as the enormous mass of beer, hair and body odor passed out and came crashing down on him.
All went dark.
Dick awoke to the glow of winter sunshine streaming through the bedroom window. He sat up and braced for a dreaded, splitting headache.
But his head felt clear. Clean. Had it all been a dream?
He jumped from his bed and quickly tiptoed down to the kitchen, cautiously cracking open the door. The counters were pristine and untouched, the trash can neatly tucked away in the corner. He strode to the refrigerator and poured himself a glass of cold, refreshing water.
Dick tap-danced to the frosted window, and flung it open to see the neighborhood children dashing through the snow, cheering loudly as they pulled their sleds up and down the street. It was Christmas morning, and all was right with the world, without a drop of booze in sight!
Still in his pajamas and slippers, Dick dashed outside. He pranced to the corner market, skipped past the holiday wine sale, and threw open the cooler, shoveling handfuls of Perrier and Pellegrino into his basket. He even splurged on a six pack of O’Douls and as he waited in line, he tapped on his smartphone and ordered a Christmas gift subscription for Charlie to a year-long Culligan’s filtered water delivery.
As he pranced merrily out into the parking lot and back down the street, Dick winked, smiled and confidently bellowed to the neighborhood couple passing his way on the sidewalk, “I’ve got spirit, yes I do, I’ve got spirit how ‘bout you?”
He tossed a gift of Gerolsteiner to the bewildered man and woman as he skipped away through the snow, shouting back over his shoulder, “This will go perfectly with cranberry and a lemon wedge, no vodka required!”
The couple stood there for a moment, curiously inspecting the bottle, then the woman looked up.
“This may actually go well with the gin. Shall we start the party before breakfast this year?”
So…what do you think?
Should I toss in a bit of creative writing for you here and there? Or should I stick to my day job? Leave your comments and thoughts below.
Oh, and speaking of sobriety, definitely stay tuned next week, when I'm going to reveal Part 2 of the shocking results from the “30 Days No Alcohol Experiment“.
P.S. I have absolutely nothing against alcohol. I am, in fact, off to drink a very large glass of red wine as soon as I push the publish button.