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June 24, 2024

On The Wagon

By Tyler Willson

Evenin'. My name is Karl, and I'm an alcoholic.

I have been dry for three weeks now, though I did have a close call the other day with a half-empty I found under my bed. Thank heaven I made it to the bathroom to dump it in the toilet before I lost the strength. That's what made me decide to come up here tonight and tell you all what finally drove me to give up the bottle.

It's a hard story for me to tell, cause a lot of people laugh at me when I tell 'em this story but I... I uh... I have come to love you guys like the family I ain't never had, and I feel like I can tell you guys.

See, I was down by the creek watchin' the fish jump... and I was spending some quality time with my buddy Mogen David (and I think y'all know what I mean...) I liked watchin' the fish jump. It makes me feel good knowin' that they are still alive after that horrible spill at the plant. Also, the cops hardly ever come down there for the smell. So I could sit there and get bombed out of my skull, and nobody would hassle me about public drunkenness or nudity or anything. (I did tell you guys about how being drunk also tends to make my skin real sensitive?)

Well, I was well into my third bottle of Mad Dog when the creek got real quiet. The fish stopped jumpin' and everything. I felt a little chill, even though I hadn't started taking my clothes off yet. I looked out over the creek, and even the water in there seemed to have stopped flowing. I know it's kinda hard to tell whether it's flowin' or not under that foamy stuff, but I couldn't hear the normal gurgles and splashes of the creek sliding over the old car bodies anymore.

The sudden quiet and chill made me so nervous that I killed that bottle right then and there, before I realized that it was my last. I used to be pretty good at timing my drinking so that I passed out before the booze was gone, but here I was still conscious and with nothin' more to drink. And it was still a couple more days before food stamp day, at least two of which I'd been plannin' to sleep through here by the creek. I started to thinkin' a who I could bum some money off real quick to get just one more bottle. Old man Devereax come to mind, he lets me rake his leaves for money ever once in a while, so I stood up and started walking back up the trail towards the road. I dint get too far though, when I heard the sound.

Now, before I go any further, I need to warn you -- this next part gets kind of bizarre. I know y'all have been in similar situations before and you might think you kinda understand. But even so, in all my years of being a drunk, I ain't never had anything like this happen to me. It was just so real! Most of the hallucinations I had while drunk were the normal kind, six-foot rabbits in bikinis trying to seduce me, the fire hydrant outside the bar telling my fortune. The kind of thing you laugh about when you sober up, you know? But there ain't nothing funny about what happened that night. I am getting some goose bumps just thinking about it.

Someone got a smoke I can bum? I just need sumpin to calm my nerves enough to finish my story. Thanks brother, I will get you back next week when I get my paycheck.

That's much better.

I know, I'm just transferrin' my addiction, but a man's gotta have a crutch while his broken bone is mending right? There ain't no way I'm a gonna go back to drinking now anyhow. Not after what happened next.

That's when I heard the sound. It was kindly like a cross between a whine and a rattle, like a car with squeaky brakes and worn out shocks going over the railroad tracks. Only it kept rising and falling, getting louder then quieter. I stopped to listen, and whether I was froze with fear or hypnotized by the rhythm I can't tell you now. All I know was that I froze like a statue. My back was to the creek, and I was about ten feet from the treeline. It was long past sundown, and the moon wasn't up yet so it was pretty dark. But all of a sudden, I could make out every leaf on every tree. But it was a strange light, just like the sound. You know how a spotlight looks? Like you can tell where it's coming from? Even if yer scrunched way down on the floorboards of your car you know the light is coming from the spotlight on the cop car? This weren't like that at all. Everything was light as day, but there weren't no shadows, no way of telling where the source of the light was. And it was this weird purple color; not enough to paint everything purple, just enough to be noticeable.

Then the sound got real loud, like it was real close. I realized that it was coming from right behind me and my legs just kind of turned me around without me even thinkin' about it at all.

Give me a second brothers and sisters. I got to take a minute. This is the worst part. My hands are shaking so bad right now I can barely drink my coffee. Did they replace the coffee with espresso or something?

Huh? You know? Espresso? Cause it's makin' my hands shake? No?

Sorry, just trying a joke to lighten the mood a bit. I guess what Momma always said is true. If ya got to 'splain it, tweren't that funny in the first place! Ha! You Know?

OK. This next bit is the hardest to remember, let alone tell. Bear with me. I got to tell it, cause it's been eatin' me up inside and if I don't get it out it's gonna drive me back to drink.

So I turn around to look, and I see it. I know lots of folks call 'em flying saucers, but this thing don't look like no saucer to me. Mebbe a hubcap off of some fancy car with all the chrome spokes and spinny things like kids have nowadays, but with some other weird stuff hanging off all over it. Not a saucer though. Whatever you wanna call it, it was just hoverin' there over the creek. Makin' its weird noise and that weird light kind of, whatcha call it? Emanatin' from it. Like I said, there dint seem to be any one source for the light, it just kind of... yeah, em-nated from it. I wanted to run, wanted to run bad but my legs was frozed again. I just stood there, watchin' it rotate slowly and kind of bobble up and down a bit.

I ain't ashamed to tell you folks right now, that the only thing on my mind at that moment was another bottle of Mad Dog. I mean, I needed something to calm my nerves quick, and I wasn't even really sure that my buddy Mogen had what I needed right then, mebbe something stronger even. Some of that expensive stuff that I don't normally get to drink. Just when I thought I couldn't get any scareder, just when I thought I was gonna to pass out from holdin' my breath while my heart was poundin' a thousand beats a minute, this door opens up in the side of the thing.

I see a couple of you out there are looking a bit skeptical. Henry, if you want to laugh, you ain't gotta hide it behind your hand. I can hear just fine. That bad batch of moonshine messed with my vision not my hearin'. You go ahead and act like you ain't never had a bad trip afore you got on the wagon. I heard some stories about you, so you can just knock it off right now. I got to tell this story before it drives me insane, so if you can't control yourself, just go ahead on and take a smoke break outside or somethin'. Cause I'm gonna tell my story and I don't give a hoot who believes it.

I said the door opened up, but I guess that ain't exactly the way to describe it. You know how doors usually open up and swing out, or in, or even up or down sometimes like a doggy door. Or they'll slide off to one side like them automatical doors down to the Krogers. But this door just kindly... umm, well it just kindly opened up. I can't really describe it too good. One second there was a smooth spot on the side of the... umm... the thing and the next there was this big square hole in the side with more of that weird purple light streaming out. That's when... that's when...

Whyn'cha just leave Henry! Get on outa here, and take that floozy Tara with you! I thought you guys were my friends, my brothers and sisters! I thought we could share our stories with each other without judgment and without ridicule. Ain't that the rules?

Marsha? Ain't them the rules?

Dint you tell me those was the rules here?

We sat here for hours last week listening to Henry whine and whine about how he misses going to the racetrack and I didn't say a single word. I din't complain when Tara whined about how she can't hardly find a date now that she can't go into the bars anymore. Who wants to date you anyway? You used up, old...

Sorry Marsha. I just got a bit worked up. Yer right. I just been havin a hard time this week. You always did say that the third week is gonna be the worst, that I jus' gotta hang on for one more day. When I decided to tell this story to y'all tonight, while I was dumping that half-empty bottle down the toilet, this is what I looked forward to, to give me the strength to finish. So I guess y'all can understand if'n I get a bit touchy about that big mouth...

No. I'm sorry Henry. I won't call you any more names. You been a good friend to me. Afore tonight anyhow.

Mebbe you been having some troubles of your own.

OK Marsha, I'll just go ahead on and finish my story. Whether Henry and Tara keep on laughin' or not, cause I need to get this out and I don't rightly care what they think about it.

So that's when it happened. I don't know for sure how I got on board the thing, I don't remember moving or walking or anything, but just like the door when it opened -- one second I'm standing there in the purplish light on the bank of the creek, and the next I'm standin on a smooth floor in a round room. I know how crazy it sounds, but it was just like being in an elevator, only instead of square it was round. I was still paralyzed, whether outta fear or with some kind of brain control ray or somethin' I can't tell. But I stood there staring at the wall in front of me and feelin' that feelin' in the pit of my stomach like you get in an elevator. These lights on the wall in front of me even looked like the buttons in an elevator, flashing on and off one at a time from bottom to top.

I just stood there tremblin'. I had heard stories like this before, but just like you Henry, I laughed them off. I could never believe that little green men in flying saucers came to earth and kidnapped folks. I mean, what would they want to do that for? But here I am, and for all I know it's happenin' to me. I tried to remember all of the stories I had heard, about people getting stuff poked into 'em, having experiments done on 'em and stuff but pretty soon I realized that was just makin' me more scared. So I tried to calm myself down. It must have worked pretty good, cause in a minute I could start to move again. I turned in a circle, lookin' around me and tryin' to figger out what was happenin'. Then I saw 'em.

Henry, I forgive you for being an arrogant arse. No, really. Were I in your seat I would be laughing just as hard as you. Don't worry about it. I understand.

The little guys were only about three feet tall, and their skin was the same purple color of the light that filled the ship. The weren't wearin anything as far as I could tell, but mebbe their spacesuits were just really tight or somethin' like that. Anyway, they was just standin' there watchin' me. We stood there like that for what seemed like hours, just starin' at each other. I must have really been feeling calmer now, cause all of a sudden I got the urge to just stick out my hand to 'em like Gramma taught me. "Karl" she used to say, "if'n you're feelin shy, just reach out your hand and say: Howdy" So that's what I did. I said "Howdy" and stuck out my hand. I must have scared the little buggers though, cause they all jumped and started running around like crazy little ants. Openin' little doors in the walls and pulling weird lookin' tools out and wavin' 'em at me. Not in a threatenin' way, like them damn kids do with their guns when they're muggin ya outside the liquor store, but kind of like the bailiff waves the metal detector wand thingy at ya' when ya' have to go in the courthouse. Then, afore I could figger anything out, one of 'em snuck up behind me and poked me with a needle or something. I never did get a look at what he stuck me with, but I've had plenty of shots down to the free clinic in town, and I know what it feels like! After that, I don't remember much else. I jest woke up on the bank of the creek with the sun was shinin' and the birds singin' and the fish jumpin' again like none of it happened at all.

Now, I know what y'all are thinking. Yer thinkin' that good ole Karl just had another bender, and passed out and slept it off on the banks of the creek and had a bad dream. And you know, for a few hours, that was what I told myself too. That it was all a dream. That I just needed some "hair of the dog" to he'p me fergit it all. I thought that so much that I decided that I would wander down to the Krogers and see if I could steal a bottle or two and do just that. I'm kindly ashamed to confess this, folks, but I did lift a couple of bottles of wine. I ain't too sure it really counts though, since it was just Boones. I mean that stuff is barely wine anyway, ain't it? I mean, it weren't really what I needed, but the idea was just to get drunk again, and I figgered that if I slammed them down fast enough I could at least take the edge off of it. But that was when I discovered what those nasty little purple men had done to me!

I went down to the park, even though the cops have warned me not to drink down there anymore. I jes couldn't stand the thought of heading back down to the creek again. Also, I know that the cops don't start patrolling the park real hard before lunchtime anyway. Well, I found myself a good hidden spot way in the back where they park the maintenance vehicles and I popped the cork on the first bottle.

Yes Henry, I should have said unscrewed the cap. I was speaking figgerative-like, not tryin' to impress anyone. Now shut up and jes listen!

So I unscrewed the cap (Happy, Henry?) on the first bottle, and tipped it back. But no sooner did that pink liquid hit my tongue than I started to retch and gag and it all came right back up. I sat there gagging and choking for a minute, jes figgerin at first that I done swallered some air and that's why I'm chokin' on it. So's soon as I gets my throat cleared up a bit, I tips the bottle back again and again, no sooner'n that pink candy wine hits my tongue than I start chokin' and coughin' and such. That's when the little purple feller appeared again. No flyin' hubcap this time, he jes appeared there at my side. And he had somethin' that looked a bit like a megaphone pressed up to his lips and I realized that he was hollerin' at me. It took a second to unnerstand him good, his voice was all tinny and chime-ey, like if a wind-chime came to life and started talkin' to folks. Well, once I got what he was sayin, I realized I wouldn't never drink another drop, no matter how bad I wanted to. Cause that little purple feller told me...

Sorry Marsha, can you pass those kleenex up here? I always get a bit emotional thinkin about this part. I mean, why did those little purple fellers choose me? Karl Lindbergh, the town drunk? I mean, there's lots of folks in town that would be much more suited for this kind of thing than me. But they came down here and chose me.

What? I thought I told you? I didn't? Oh, well, that little feller told me that I shouldn't ought to be drinkin', cause even with our primitive medical technology it was well known that alcohol can harm the developin fee-tus. Said some Army doctor been tellin us that for years, and why didn't us Earthlings never pay attention to anyone that...

What's that Marsha? How could my drinkin' harm a developin' fetus? Well doncha get it? I'm gonna be a Momma! Er, I mean a Daddy, er... what I mean to say is... well that little feller told me that I was his last hope to continue his race on a new planet.

Marsha? Are you laughin at me now too? What's wrong with you people? I done bared my soul to y'all, and now your makin' me a laughingstock! Well, that's it. I ain't takin' it no more. I'm leavin'.

Nope. You can't talk me out of it. I'm outta here. I'll take my chances with the bottle on my own. You can call me when Henry and that wilted flower with him aren't here and I'll think about coming back. But when my baby is born, and takes over as your new world leader, don't come cryin to me lookin' for a plum job or anything. Cause all I'll have to say to ya then'll be: I TOLD YOU SO!


-- Tyler Willson

Article © Tyler Willson. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-08-24
7 Reader Comments
10:57:05 PM
Well told! But does it make me want to get drunk or swear off the stuff forever...
04:11:58 PM
*hands over the sherry*

Like you don't already know the answer?

good Twilly!!!!
10:54:05 PM
I cannot in good conscience condone the consumption of alcoholic beverages under any circumstances... but that has never stopped you guys! :-)
08:57:03 AM
A lot of fun to read. My favorite so far. Love the ending. (Greater Tunna Memories...)
07:23:04 PM
I really liked this one. I can almost hear Karl's voice.
09:25:50 AM
I visit Piker Press to see what IDEAS people are playing with. If I make a comment such as "I really liked that!", I am referring to the story idea itself and I am not being patronizing. I will cheerfully help people with grammar and spelling, but only if they ASK for that kind of help.
10:38:17 PM
Fair enough. I say I am in accounting. But in my case that pays the bills.
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