Mar 5, 2018

The Man Who Drinks

The shaking of his hands stopped only at the third glass of whiskey down his gullet. He poured a fourth glass and told himself to take it easy. Still, his foot tapped the sawdust encrusted wooden floor with a maniac rhythm that would put a flamenco dancer to shame. He looked at the door of the dinghy excuse for a pub for the umpteenth time.

The person he was waiting for was still not here and the man was getting impatient. One more glass, he promised himself. That’s only how long I will wait. He looked down into the golden brown liquid, wishing it was filled with some poison that would save him the misery of this encounter, but it remained the same old whiskey that swirled in the glass slowly as he picked it up.

Then something strange happened. The color of the liquid in the glass deepened by a shade. The looked at his fingers and his bitten off cuticles, the skin took a healthier shade of pink and the wood on the table looked more wood than any kind of wood had right to look like. The man took a deep breath and steeled himself for what was about to come through the door. He did not look at the door, but he heard the door’s hinges swing as if well oiled and felt his contact walk in like a summer breeze flowing through the flowers in a graveyard.

“Is this chair taken, friend?” his voice, a singsong melody, drifted through the noise in the pub to be heard perfectly clear. The man spread his hand in a please-take-a-seat gesture and the stranger pulled the chair back and sat down. To say he was an attractive man would be a lie. He was not. Not by any means. He had one of those faces that you might see every day on the street and never think about again. He was the John Doe of faces. The template on which others were based. His basic clean-shaved look framed by the delicately combed hair and brown eyes that seemed pedestrian by every standard. His clothes didn’t attract attention to him. They were functional and smooth and nothing that could not be bought from any market in any town.

And yet, the man commanded attention. You felt like respecting him. You wanted to listen to him when he was looking at you. There was this ancient urge to make the man happy. To please him in any and every way possible if only to have him look at you with an appreciating eye.

The stranger smiled and offered his hand across the table. “I am Jay.”

The man loosened his hand on the whiskey glass that he had not realized he had been holding too tightly. “Smith.” He shook the hand and then paused, “I saw the ad.”

Jay smiled at this the room shook with an explosion of color for a second. Like a glitch in the mainframe of universe’s existence.

“Of course, you did, Smith. I am sure that’s not your real name, but let’s roll with it for now.”

The man wanted to blurt out his real name there and then. It rose in his throat like vomit from a night of drinking too much, but he locked it down with a resolve he didn’t know he had.

“I need it. My life is a mess and you are my only hope.”

Jay pretended to look at his immaculately clean nails. “That’s understandable, Smith. We can make it work for you. Fix up your life. Get the wife back. Make the boss call you back on the job. The neighbors will respect you and we might even put your childhood dog in the package.”

Smith’s eyes shone with a greedy glow for the first time that evening.

“But are you willing to pay the price?”

Smith looked in his glass of whiskey. The memories came rushing at him like a stampede of wild horses. He choked down a rush of tears and nodded at Jay. “Yes. Yes. I am willing.”

“Give me your hand,” Jay said and put his hand on the table palm upwards.

Smith put his hand in Jay’s and felt the squeeze of Jay’s hand on his own. In that one moment, everything ceased to matter. There was a sensation of floating in warm ocean currents while the sun blazed somewhere above him and was just a shimmering ball of light seen through the lens of water. There were fish in the water. Leviathans, bigger in person than he had seen them on TV. One of the floating behemoths swam closer to him and opened up its mouth to swallow him. Smith was not afraid. That was alright. That was the way of the things. That was how it was supposed to be. Once in the whale’s mouth, he sat down on the whale’s tongue and started to clean the teeth with his fingers. A voice called his name from deeper into the whale but he ignored it. For now, his only task was clear to him. To clean, clean, clean and clean the best he could.

Someone was calling his name still, but it was far away, deeper than deep and he did not care for it anymore. It was not even his name and he did not remember what his real name was anymore. He was happy in this moment and he was happy in his task.

Jay held the man’s hand in his own. He looked into the man’s eyes and blinked as the man’s head smashed into the table, knocking over the fourth undrunk glass of whiskey. Then Jay calmly signaled to the barkeeper.

“Please call an ambulance, my friend here seems to have suffered from a heart attack.” As the panicked barkeeper dialed the emergency number, Jay put his hand on Smith’s head and patted it like one would pat an obedient dog’s head.

“Happy cleaning, little fish.”

Hang on to your hats. We are going old school weird here.


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  2. I'm hoping this is another series. Nice way to start.

    1. haha, thanks man! not a series. Thinking of writing some single shorts this time :) different flavor in each one!