July 28, 2014

Ransom in a Bottle
by Michael Price (short, PG-13)
Cover image.
Image credit: Sand Pilarski. More info.

Just me, you, and the elephant in the room...cozy, isn't it?

~~~

"Ya know, that's a very good question."

"It wasn't last night."

"Whad'ya mean?"

"Nothing."

"How long has it been, anyway?"

"About twenty-four hours."

"I mean way back ..."

"Actually, almost exactly twenty-four hours."

"No seriously, I'm talkin' about ..."

"I know, I know. Uh ... summer after fourth grade. You tried to hold my hand walking home from the park."

"I did?"

"It was almost dark."

"Really? That was awfully nice of me."

"You'd been drinking."

"Oh yeah. Dad passed out on the couch. I remember."

"Your breath was terrible."

"Barely."

"It's okay."

"Sorry about that."

"Ach ... long time ago, forget it."

"Yeah ... yeah, dad and I used to ..."

"... tie one on pretty good every once in a while, I know. Laugh-In reruns on the VCR. He poured, right?"

"Of course. I was just a kid. He let me. Oh! And Hogan's Heroes, too: 'KLINK, YOU ARE A BLUNDERING FOOL!' Addams Family, Lurch: 'YOU RANG!' Thing: always the helping hand ..."

"Bad."

"God ... great stuff."

"Uh-huh."

"Hm ... Remember your graduation party?"

"Uh, well ... yes and no."

"How I had everybody convinced that the best way to get rid of the hiccups was to stand on your head and hold your breath?"

"I do remember that."

"And when the cops came, there were about fifteen, twenty of us idiots out on your front lawn, tryin' to stand upside down?"

"Hard to forget that."

"At like, midnight?"

"More like one-thirty."

"And how everybody kept tipping over? It was hot, I remember that. Really humid, right? I don't think any of us ever made it totally vertical."

"Probably not."

"I had a lotta 'splainin' to do to da po-licemans in da back seat of dere car, Lucy."

"Okay, now no, I don't remember that."

"But hey, it worked, they let me go. And nobody got hurt, everything turned out okay."

"Well, I got grounded ..."

"Party broke up kinda quick after that, though."

"It really wasn't my fault. Not all of it."

"Helluva party though, thanks again. And ... sorry."

"Haven't touched a drop since."

"Booze?"

"Yup."

"Really? That's incredible ... oh wait, I think you told me that once."

"Or twice. Or three ..."

"Good for you, really. How long?"

"Twenty-five years, tomorrow."

"Wow."

"Actually, wait ... what time is it now?"

"Twenty-five years?"

"Today. Twenty-five years, today."

"Congratulations. I can't even imagine ... and I think that kind of intestinal fortitude should be rewarded with ..."

"Don't -- even ..."

"Ha! -- yeah, awright. Ya know, I did that before, too."

"What's that?"

"Quit. I've hopped on the wagon a few times."

"Really."

"Quite a few, actually. Hopped off every time."

"Uh-huh."

"Damned if that ol' wagon weren't goin' in the wrong di-rection."

"Ah yes."

"Every time. What are the odds, huh?"

"Hard to say."

"I think the longest was about nine months. A very long nine months."

"Well, that's pretty good."

"But then I got caught takin' a whiz behind a pick-up in the mall parking lot."

"Why?... were you doing that, I mean?"

"Well, first of all -- stupid me -- I missed the midnight bus, big mistake. Busses don't run very often that late, ya know. And the gorilla at the door wouldn't let us back in the scuzzy bar we were at, across the street, it was so packed; I was out there with a buddy of mine from college, we both got nailed. And, most importantly, when ya gotta go, yuckety-yuk-yuk, ya gotta go."

"Gotcha."

"But ... get it? Behind a pick-up? Across the street from a scuzzy bar? A pick-up bar?... I guess it's not all that funny, is it."

"Not really."

"Anyway, something was about to happen that hadn't happened since I was about six."

"Gotcha."

"A tad bit embarrassing, at the time. I mean, I can laugh about it now. Nine months isn't too bad, though. I mean, for me."

"Not at all. Have you ever considered ..."

"But let me tell ya, when I got off the wagon that time ... I mean, I dove off, literally ... ha! You shoulda seen me that night. Big time chuckles."

"I have a feeling, no."

"I used ta have that Dee-Jay gig at The Hole, ya know, and, that night, everybody kept wantin' to buy me drinks for playin' their tunes, so -- what the hell, right? -- I had the waitress pourin' Black Russians in a coffee mug and bringin' 'em up to the booth. More than a few times, too. 'Cause see, Black Russians look like coffee -- it was a glass mug -- they even smell like coffee, which is all very funny, 'cause I don't even drink the shit."

"That actually is kinda funny."

"Anyway, at midnight, I tried to jump over the top rail of the dance floor -- seemed like a good idea at the time, go figure -- caught my damn toe on the rail, fell flat on my face -- boom! -- smack in the middle of the dance floor."

"Ooh, ow. D'ya get hurt?"

"Out cold."

"That's not good."

"Yeah, like I knew. Woke up in detox. I'm tellin' ya, though, it was hilarious, ask anyone who was there. Flat on my frickin' face. Almost worth it, losin' my job and all."

"Sounds like a bit of a problem."

"Naw. I think ya only remember the good stuff. All that other crap ... ya wanna hear somethin' super ironic?"

"Hit me."

"I actually ended up working at detox. Right after that. Not for very long, though."

"Doing?..."

"Yeah, it was a pretty shitty job. Cleaned up some pretty disgusting messes."

"Ish."

"That's not all. Wanna hear some more fun irony about that lovely joint?"

"Sure."

"About a month later, I actually quit my job and got tossed in a cell simultaneously."

"Oh great. Ya know ..."

"I actually remember that."

"... I know this group that meets..."

"Speaking of remembering stuff, I almost forgot your original question."

"Which was..."

"And the answer is ... yes. I've thought it over very carefully and I've decided that I definitely would like last call. One more for the road, as it were. Yeah, like I'm driving."

"Same thing?"

"Sure. Another shot, too, as long as you're at it."

"Gotcha. Call you a cab tonight?"

"Ya know, I really like coming here late night, after the crowd thins out a little."

"I know."

"The service is fabulous."

"Thanks a bunch."

"Hey, wait ... am I the only one in here?"

"For the last forty-five minutes."

"You waitin' on just me?"

"In more ways than one. I was about to lock the doors when you showed up."

"Oh man ... I'm sorry."

"'It's okay. It's why I'm here."

"Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait ... what'ya mean 'tonight'?"

"What'ya mean, what do I mean?"

"You asked me if I wanted a cab tonight."

"Well ... last night you didn't."

"I didn't?"

"Oh no ... oh my God, don't even tell me."

"How did I get home?"

"No, no, no ..."

"What did I do?"

"... not again ..."


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Article © Michael Price. All rights reserved.


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