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Words by Samer Alrayes
Image by Claudio Parentela
“Cheers Fitz.” Hem says holding up his glass of Absinthe in the air.
Fitz stops himself with his glass at his lips. “Oh yes Hem, cheers.”
Both take a deep breath as their shoulders lower and they become more relaxed. The ring of the two glasses colliding lingers in the room while the two men sip their green color liquids.
“So Hem, have any new ideas? Or are you going to try taking this drink away from me and make me write to fulfill my full potential?” Fitz says.
“Thinking about two waiters in a bar and an old man.”
One of Fitz’s eyebrows raises, “Really? Not doing Africa, or hunting, or anything like that?”
“Going to make it a café. A clean one.” Hem breathes through his noise taking in the stale alcohol and plethora of assorted nuts. He looks up at the ceiling. One of the lights flickers on and off while the second is dim and ready to burn out. “A well-lighted place.”
Fitz sighs, “Maybe that’s what you should call it then, A Clean Well-Lighted Place.” He takes another sip of his Absinthe.
“Curious to hear my idea? It’s a good one. I bet they’ll want to make a mover out of it.”
“Busy with other stories. This one will have to wait.” Hem takes another sip.
“Really, not even going to ask?”
Hem turns and looks at Fitz, “A novel about a rich man in a mansion, sounds new for you.”
“Don’t you remember the old Shakespeare days? All they wrote about was the upper-class because they have the farthest to fall, and they live the most interesting lives.”
“That was long time ago.”
“Anyway, this novel, it’ll be more than that.” Fitz says, “I’ll take the glitz and glamor to its highest level yet. It’ll be like a dream everyone wants to be a part of. This novel will reflect our times of drinking and partying and everyone having so much money they don’t know what to do with it all,” Fitz says while waiving his hands up in the air. He finishes his drink as he speaks and prepares to pour another one. “I bet that they will even hire one of the most popular men in the music industry to sing music for my mover.”
“A mover with sound? Moving pictures are astonishing, but soon people will get bored of it.” Hem says.
“Wait and see Hemmy. Movers are the future.” Fitz says with his eyes wide and a smile on his face.
“Unless the economy crashes. Then no one will want to read it, and no one will have money to see your mover.” Hem hands him an absinthe spoon.
Fitz takes it and puts the sharp tip on the table while pressing the top of the handle with his index finger. He spins the spoon.
“Look how things are now, Hem. Everyone is happy and drunk this is how it should have always been. This is how it will always be. Just watch and see.”
Hem grabs the spoon away from Fitz’s spinning wanting to drink some more. “First, you should keep your ass out of bar stools and into a chair with a typewriter in front of you. By doing that you can actually write this fantastic idea of yours.” Hem rests his sugar cube on top of the spoon then pours ice water on it turning the absinthe into a cloudy louche.
Fitz raises his glass, “To my name being remembered for eternity.”
“Wow, you guys are just, AWESOME. Is this real?” Gerald says. “Or maybe this isn’t me seeing things at all. Oh my god, are you real?” Gerald pinches both Fitz’s and Hem’s cheeks. “Holy god of writers they are!”
“All right that’s it for you. Don’t pinch my customer’s cheeks,” the bartender says as he reaches over to take the drink away from Gerald.
Gerald swings his hand and takes his drink right before the bartender gets to it. “One last shot!” He stomps his feet on the ground and tries to drink the rest, but half of his shot waterfalls onto his shirt. Gerald then falls face first into a woman’s breast.
“Get off me you perv,” She says as she slaps him across the face.
Gerald stumbles over himself ending up seated in a chair, “Ms. Big Knockers, I require my shot glass.”
She looks down and sees an empty shot glass in between her boobs. “Hurry and blackout loser.” She says as she throws the shot glass at Gerald’s head. The cheap glass shattering on Gerald’s forehead. Gerald smiles and he skips out the door.
Fitz and Hem take a shot.
“Gerald! Gerald wake up you useless buffoon!” Isabell says, looking like a bottle of champagne from a cartoon show ready to burst.
Gerald’s eyes shiver as he tries to wake up from his sleep.
“Unbelievable.” Isabell is shaking an empty glass bottle in her hand. “Instead of working on that book of yours to get us out of this dump you’re too busy blacking out, again.”
Gerald rubs his eyes and uses his fingers to force them open.
“You’re just a pathetic loser,” she says, “and I’m tired of being the one who has to take care of you and this shitty place you call home. This shithole always reeks like a dumpster at a brewery.”
The table has three other empty bottles, one is upside down and not quite centered, and the other two are on their sides at the edges of the table. The shot glasses are in a perfect line connecting the three empty bottles. Clothes are all over the once white carpet floor and brown paper bags cover the two lights in the room. Gerald’s long legs are spread out one on top of the couch while the other one is on the floor.
“I’m leaving you Gerald. This’ll be the last time you ever see me.” Her fist is gripped around the handle of her brown suitcase turning her knuckles white. Her other hand holds her buttonless trench coat together and the empty Absinthe bottle.
Gerald drops his hands letting his eyes close. “Okay, but you’re a bit loud right now darling.”
Her face reddens, “You ungreatful piece of shit!” She throws the bottle at Gerald’s stomach and stomps out the door. “Mother was right, I glad I didn’t leave you anything.”
Gerald holds the sour burning taste in his mouth as he swallows it back down. He lets out a deep sigh releasing the stench of stale alcohol. For a moment you could have sworn the belch released some sort of green gas. For a moment at least. The smell of a dark alley right next to a dive bar that hasn’t had its trash picked up in a month engulfs the room. “That bitch. Now, why would she go and do that?”
He gets up and steps on the not so dry floor feeling the carpet release some of its cool drink in between his toes. “Fuck me. How did I even get back here? I shouldn’t even be awake. It’s still AM.” Gerald stumbles his way to the bathroom and stabs his toe on the corner of the wall. “Come on man, at least let me shower and have coffee first. But that’s just too much to ask for, isn’t it?”
He steps in the shower and turns on the heat. Out comes freezing cold water, and an endless shiver goes through Gerald’s body.
He jumps back away from the icey spray. “Karma, get your sharp teeth out of my perfect ass already. I’m not the one that through a bottle at you when you had a belly full of alcohol.” He reaches for the green and black luffa then pokes out his chest to reach the water. Gerald moves back and forth so he doesn’t spend too much time in the cold. He rubs his skinny chest with peach scented shampoo. Once a beautiful bright orange, now scarred like a rotten juice sacs. The over exaggerated sparkling color seen in orange juice commercials around the world is now mixed with grays and blacks.
Gerald grabs the towel that’s on the floor and dries himself off. “Worst break up ever. No one else can top that.” He says while looking into the mirror. Gerald rubs his forehead squinting with confusion on the dry blood. He shrugs it off, and grabs his blue toothbrush the bristles pointing in every random direction. “Why would Isabell end it with me? I was the one that was going to get her out of this place. So what I like to drink a little, who doesn’t? I mean who does she think she is? My name will be remembered forever. While hers will be forgotten by the time her grandchildren die. HA! Her getting married? That will be the biggest idiot ever. I can see it now. My name will be all over the news and she will come running back to me begging me to take her back. They will have some sort of superlative in front of my name and all shall envy me!”
Gerald acts as Isabell using a high pitched voice. “Please Gerald take me back. You were right you are just as famous as Fitzgerald.”
He turns his back towards the mirror. “Too bad Isabell. You missed out on your chance to be with greatness. My supermodel girlfriend and I are getting married, and you’re going to be all alone. And I am even more famous than Fitzgerald.” He flips his shaggy hair off to the side, and does his dramatic runway model walk in place.
Gerald laughs out loud wiping a tear from his eye, “Damn, I’m so stoked for the future.” Gerald feels little needles poking his foot. “Hey there Roachie, some girls suck don’t they?”
The roach twitches its antennae’s and circles around Gerald’s foot.
“What do you mean that’s not completely true Roachie? Oh I see, Roachie found his supermodel. Did you two have some bow-chikawowow time?”
The roach wipes its head with its legs then runs away.
“Oh yeah, go get some more Roachie. Uhn tiss uhn tiss uhn tiss.”
He walks out picking some clothes off the ground and sniffing them. “Wait a second. I have this place to myself. I can totally walk around naked.” He jumps out of his boxers and tosses them on to his chair. “I can save that for another day.”
Gerald looks down at the table, “Why is that middle bottle off center?” He looks up and sees the empty bottle on the couch that was thrown at him. “Ah, that’s why!” Gerald tip toes around the alcohol stained clothes and reaches over to the bottle. He places it on the table next to the bottle that is off center. “My drinking table ship is now complete again. I am now the Captain of my drinking table ship. My shot glass crew members shall call me Captain Gerald. Now crew sing me a song. Yo Ho Yo Ho a life on a drinking table ship for me.” He laughs at his own joke. “Damn, I’m so funny, who wouldn’t like me?”
Someone knocks on the door. “Who is it?” Gerald sings. “Izzy have you come back to me?” His arms open wide as he spins.
“It’s your landlord. Open door.” Her high pitch squeak rips through the cheap dry wall.
Gerald walks over to the door cracks it open and pokes his head out. “Oh, Ms. Pops.”
Her eyes narrow as she glares at him. “Rent. Give me.” She holds out her hand waiting for her check hiding the other hand behind her back.
“You know Izzy takes care of that Ms. Pops. You should go find her.”
“Ms. Isabell does not live here anymore. She pay out of contract. Now rent. Give it,” Ms. Pops says moving her fingers up and down.
“I’ll get it to you later.” Gerald closes the door behind him and locks it with the chain.
A loud slap vibrates the door. “Enjoy your eviction Mr. Gerald. I hope you refuse to leave. It be nice to see officers drag you out.” Her tiny feet clank as she walks away from the door.
“Holy crap, Izzy why would you do this to me? It’s all her fault. She’s the one that distracted me from writing my book and now
I’m going to be penniless and homeless.”
He walks over to his new smart phone and calls Isabell. “Pick up the phone you bitch.”
“Hello this is Isabell—"
“Isabel pay the god damn rent or I’ll be homeless. Baby please I’m so sorry.”
“You know what to do when you hear the beep.”
“EHHHHHH” Gerald falls to his knees. “I need a drink.”
“Hello Mr. Bartender. I would like a shot of Absinthe,” Gerald says.
The bartenders lips press together and his eyes narrow as he is cleaning a glass.
“Don’t worry about it I’m a writer and this is what writers drink,” Gerald says.
He takes a deep sigh. “Coming right up.”
Gerald looks around the bar. “I have a feeling service will be fantastic today. I’m the only one here. Finally my luck is turning around.” He drinks the full shot all and once and slams the drink on the wooden table. “Another Mr. Bartender.” He finishes the shot in one gulp again. Gerald puts his glass down.
“You know you’re screwed right?” Hem says.
“Hey look it’s Fitzgerald. Oh my god it’s Hemingway too.” Gerald turns his head to his right and left seeing both of them next to him.
“No I’m Hemingway.”
“And I’m Fitzgerald.”
“Woah, did you two switch places while I wasn’t looking?”
“Look here Gerald.” Fitz says wrapping his arm around Gerald’s shoulder. “I know I was an alcoholic, but even I wasn’t this bad. If you keep this up you’ll achieve…” Fitz points towards Hem.
“And you’re a fantastic writer. You have an amazing idea that’ll have you remembered forever. But if you don’t get it done your life will be all for…” Fitz points at Hem again.
“Nada, and when that happens the ‘Nada prayer’ that I made would be the prayer said at your funeral.” Hem says taking a sip of his drink.
“How can I argue with you guys? The best ever.” Gerald slams his hand on the table. “Bartender I take my leave to eternity.”
Gerald opens the door, “My eyes! It’s okay I can cross the street with my eyes closed.” He turns back to Fitz and Hem. “Come on guys it’s time to go.” He waves them both over.
“He’s so screwed,” Hem says.
“No, he’ll get his work done, watch and see,” Fitz replies.
The bartender runs around the table and towards Gerald. “Wait, what kind of idiot are you? You shouldn’t walk across any street with her eyes closed.”
“You’re so correct Mr. Bartender. Wouldn’t want to get hit by one of those cabbies. Gerald taps the bartender on the cheek leaving him awestruck. “Such a wise man. Now eyes wide and forward march good sir!”
Horns honk as cars come to a screeching halt. “Get your wobbly boots off the street you drunken fool.” The cab driver says while giving Gerald the birdie.
“Thank you kind sir for your support, I sault you! Now onward legs!”
A silver bell rings as Gerald enters the apartment building’s door.
“Gerald.” Says Ms. Pops.
“Yes, oh Ms. Great Landlord warden of the New York Villas.” Gerald says while tapping on the white granite countertop.
“Yay! A package for me. It’s from Earn. He’s sucha good brother. Feeling oh so special.”
“Only if you don’t evict me.”
“By 6:00AM then.”
“Such a grand lady lord of the New York Villas.” Gerald says while skipping away.
“Issieboo knock, knock are you back yet? Oh my! Issiebear why leave me such a mess? That girl needs to control her partying ways. To the computer of writing greatness!” Gerald says. Tip-toeing past his dirty clothes and his empty bottles. “Roachie! What’s going on homie?”
The roach looks up at him twitching its antennae’s left then right.
“Oh poor you Roachie, family problems must be terrible. You gotta get Bert and Simmy in line! Oh no almost forgot! I must go Roachie, the best book ever must be written.”
The roach looks away then runs into the kitchen.
Gerald opens the door into the bedroom. “Look at how clean this room is, Bellzy should take a page out of my book and keep the living area clean too.” Gerald sneezes. “It’s dusty but still clean!” He takes a seat in front of his computer, takes a deep breath pumping out his chest as he does it, and blows air mixed with spit at his keyboard. “Just like how you fix those old gaming cartages.” Gerald places the package on the desk as he turns presses the power button on his computer.
The distinct sound of an old box computer comes back to annoy and frustrate people even in the twenty-first century. The screen turned blue saying ‘WINDOWS UPDATING 0%’.
“Well this is going to take a while. Let’s see what the big bro sent me.” He rips open the brown wraping to see a dark blue cover with a wizard, with no long beard, holding a clock titled The Eternal Wizard. “This must be his new book. It’s even a New York Times best seller. Coolio bro. Hey look a note! What does it say?”
“To Gerald: Sorry Gerald. From Earn.
“Yeah you should be sorry, for not sending me this sooner.” Gerald starts to read the book. Flipping through the pages with his eyes widening and his jaw dropping. “That fucker!” He grabs his phone and looks through his contact list. “Should change his contact name to fucker after this call.”
“Hello?” Earn asks.
“Earn you fucker! I’m going to kill you!”
“Gerald? I see you got my package.”
“I did and my day was going so well before I got this atrocity. How could you steal my idea? I thought we were, partners, hell brothers.”
“We are it’s just that that book needed to get done it was a fantastic idea and—“
“And I was the one who was going to get my fantastic idea done! How could you betray me like this?”
“When was the last time you worked on that book?”
“Well uhmm, the last time I sent you those chapters of course. And I sent you those to edit them and show them to that publishing company you work for, not steal them!”
“Gerald that was over ten years ago and that was only three chapters. Plus, the way that you live your life. You were never going to pick it back up.”
“What do you mean? I don’t remember that many years going by.”
“Gerald you’re twenty-eight years old. You started that book in high school. You haven’t been the same sense you got rejected from all those M.F.A. programs you applied to. I don’t want to have this same argument again. I have to go eat dinner with my family now. I’m sorry little bro, but I did what I had to do. Good-bye.”
Gerald hunches over, frozen, listening to the silence of the phone, while staring into his torn yellow wall. “I ruined myself.” Gerald mumbles.
The flies buzz around Gerald’s stained suitcase. He places the key to his apartment down on Ms. Pops’ front desk without looking. Gerald drifts out the door into the mass of people on the sidewalk.
“You getting in, little man?” A cab driver asks.
Gerald looks up from his feet to see a yellow cabby. He tilts his head thinking that the taxi is talking to him.
“Look man, either get in or I’m driving off. Make a decision already.”
Gerald opens the back door in a daze and takes a seat. The driver is a white bold man with a viking beard. His tubby body seems squished in the driver’s seat. Gerald mumbles an address just outside of the city.
“Look man, you on something? I don’t want any of that shit in my cab.”
Gerald leans his head back and closes his eyes, refusing to speak.
“You better not be too stoned to pay. That’s all I gotta say.” The taxi driver shifts into gear, honking his horn repeatedly as he forces his way back into the busy street.
Gerald has his blank stare looking outside of the window at the stillness of each car. The taxi driver is going on his monologue starting with how amazing his parents are for some reason or another. Gerald fazes in and out of the monologue paying less attention to him than a guy at a bar looking to get laid does when a girl is talking to him.
“My parents are amazing. My daddy helped this old man cross the street. And oh my mother got me this prestigious job.” The cab driver says.
As the cab driver makes his way out of the city the cars begin to have a steady forward movement. His forehead and the tip of his nose are pressed against the window. The noise of the cars deaf to Gerald’s ears. The taxi driver changed subjects to Subway being the answer to his weight loss. The marinara smell from a meatball sub has been soaked in by both the front and back seats. Have no idea how he transitioned from his lovely parents to his diet.
“Jared, you know the Subway guy, I'm going to be him one day. He’s an inspiration for all of us. Subway needs to bring him back to their commercials.” The cab driver says.
They make their way outside of the city and the cars are more of a blur as each drive past them. The taxi driver is now ranting on how terrible his boss is, and how he would be so much better. Now it’s from his inspiration to his worst enemy.
“You know, people complain about their bosses all the time. But you know what? I got the most awfullest of bosses. The smallest of damages and he takes it from my paycheck!” The cab driver says.
The taxi comes to a slow stop in front of a red brick house with a dark brown roof. The grass is a dark green. The front lawn has an oak tree not even two decades old. The humming birds and bees make their way through each of the different colored flowers.
“That’ll be twenty twenty-eight, my man.”
Gerald takes his suitcase and walks out the back door. He strides towards the blue door, ignoring the taxi drivers yells for his payment. He comes to a halt then hesitates for a moment. His hand shaking as he rings the doorbell.
Earn opens the door wearing an orange shirt with thin classy glasses before he even rings the bell. “Gerald wh—”
“I need a place to stay.”
“What happened to you and Isabell?”
“She left me, and I can’t pay the rent.” Gerald looks down at his shoes. One of them isn’t tied up.
“Daddy, who’s that?” A little girl with golden hair and pigtails laches on to Earn’s leg.
“It’s daddy’s old friend. Why don’t you go inside to mommy?”
“Who is she?”
“She’s your niece.”
“Oh, so you had a kid. That must be a handful. She seems like a little angel with that white shirt she is wearing.”
“Gerald, you can’t stay here.”
The taxi driver slams his hand on the car horn and doesn’t let go.
“You couldn’t even pay the taxi man?” Earn closes the door behind him and walks over to the taxi driver. “How much does he owe you?”
“He owes me twenty-eight, man.”
“What? It was twenty dollars not two minutes ago. And this is a quiet neighborhood can’t you just shut up!” Gerald says.
“Well maybe instead I should make it thirty-five.”
“Here’s thirty-five, just go already.”
The taxi driver takes his money and screeches away. Leaving behind a smoky gust from his exhaust.
“What is he doing here?” Ashley states with her arms folded. Her dark brown hair is tied up in a bun. Her eyes giving Gerald an unwelcoming glare.
“He was just leaving.” Earn says.
“Earn please, I have nowhere else to go.”
“Did Isabell finally kick your drunken ass to the curb? About time she came to her senses.”
“Earn please. Don’t kick me out onto the streets. I need you.”
Earn’s shoulders slouch as he turns towards his wife.
“No way. He will be a bad influence on our children.”
“I quit drinking. Here Earn smell my breath.” Gerald opens his mouth and breaths onto Earn’s face.
Earn closes his eyes and his face scrunches. “No alcohol, but you could use some mouth wash.”
“See I’m good. All I need is a couple of days to get back on my feet. I promise.” Gerald faces towards his brother. “Don’t leave me when I need you the most. You finished my book. Don’t make me play that card.”
Earn turns again towards Ashley. She stares at Earn unblinking taping her foot.
“All right Gerald, but only for a couple of days.” Earn says.
“Yes!” Gerald gives his brother a hug. “You won’t regret it, I promise you.”
Earn walks back to his house not making eye contact with his wife.
“Gerald one, Ashley zero.” Gerald says as he passes by Ashley looking like a statue with moving eyes, not taking them off of Gerald.
“Here’s our guest bedroom.” Earn says.
The room is relatively empty and small. The walls look to have a fresh white coat on them. The bed is a small queen size and the sheets are a light green. There’s a small desk next to the walk in closet.
“Gerald, please don’t screw up. I’m in the dog house for letting you stay here.”
“Oh yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if I see you tomorrow morning sleeping on the couch.”
“That’s why I went out and bought a really comfy couch.” They both laugh.
Right before Earn leaves the room Gerald says, “One day at a time, right Earn?”
Earn smiles and nods his head. “Just remember what father always said ‘Don’t you idiots know by now? You do what you want to do. Just that simple.’” He quotes doing his best impression of father’s deep nasally voice.
“I thought it was, ‘I won’t be soft on you like your bookworm of a mother.’” Gerald says while taking a seat in his new desk.
Earn closes the door behind him leaving Gerald alone in the room.
Gerald puts the suitcase on the top corner of the desk. He opens it and pulls out a fresh stack of papers and a black pen. It’s time to get to work then. Gerald looks at the blank page in front of him. As he continues to stare at the page, Gerald’s eyes widen and his pupils begin to dilate. He blinks multiple times and rubs his eyes.
“Now what am I going to write about?” Gerald asks to his pen and paper.
Even a graveyard is louder than the silence of his empty mind. His left hand begins to shake as the fingers begin to curl. Gerald clenches the left leg of his desk, and starts to rub his forehead with his free hand.
“I’m telling you. He can’t do it.” Hem says.
“Just wait and see. Not drink has been drank.” Fitz replies.
Gerald gets up and starts pacing around the room. “So, how did I do this before? Like back in college. Okay, me and my friends would all get together and drink.”
“That’s the old Gerald. You’re new and improved.” Fitz says.
“He won’t be able to prove me wrong Fitz. All three of us will be back at that bar stool in no time.”
“Shit, shit, shit.” Gerald whispers. Using his unstable hand, he covers his face with his chin down. “We all do it. What’s so bad about drinking to get over that blank page fear?”
“See he thinks like that. How can I not be pessimistic about this ‘change’?”
“No drink has been drank.”
His niece cracks open the door and tip-toes into the room. This time her bright blond hair is down going past her shoulders. She is wearing a pink shirt with a mermaid on it and matching pajama pants with an infinite amount of white kittens.
“Hi there.” She says.
Gerald spins around to face the door thinking that it’s Ashley. He looks down to notice that it’s not Ashley, but instead her little girl that’s up past her bed time. “Hello.”
“You’re daddy’s friend right?”
Gerald gives her a nervous smile. “Yes.”
“Are you going to be staying with us?”
“For a little while.”
“Here comes the innocent to save the day!” Fitz says.
“Poor girl. It’s too soon to corrupt her with him.”
She fiddles with the locks of her hair.
Gerald bends down and says, “You know, you’re one little ninja. I didn’t even hear you coming down the hallway.”
She smiles showing off her little teeth. “Don’t tell mommy, please.”
“It’ll be our little secret.” Gerald the pulls up the collar of his shirt to cover his mouth and nose. He makes a ram ninja symbol and says, “Ninja! Ninja!”
They both laugh. She runs over to him on her toes like a ballerina and gives Gerald a hug. She tip toes her way out not making a sound. Before she closes the door behind her she sticks her head through the small opening and lifts her shirt over her mouth and nose. She creates the same hand symbol and whispers, “Ninja! Ninja!”
Gerald goes back to his desk. Picks up his pen. And faces the piece of paper. Gerald whispers as he writes, “THE RECOVERY.”
“Now how can you not root for this guy Hemmy?” Firtz asks.
“His past makes me pessimistic.” Hem replies.
There’s a five piece beige leather sectional sofa facing an oversized television. The white carpet floor is flawless. The light in the room even makes the china glow inside the mostly glass cabinet. Every item is strategically placed to match with everything around it and the entire room.
“Sweetie, I’d like you to officially meet someone.” Earn calls out to his daughter.
Hope skips over with her pig tails bouncing back and forth.
“Gerald, I’d like you to meet Hope. Hope this is my brother Gerald.” Earn opens his palm towards me.
Hope looks up at her father then towards Gerald. Her pony tails fling at Earn’s thighs. “Uhm, hi there, again.”
Gerald looks down at his plaid shirt and khakis. “I feel like I should’ve worn a suit. I mean, how often do you officially meet, the Ninja Queen Hope?”
Hope and Gerald giggle while Earn and Ashley exchange weird looks. Hope lunges over and wraps her arms around Gerald’s legs. “Hi Uncle Gerald.” She looks up and smiles. One of her front teeth is missing.
“Maybe I should be more optimistic.” Hem says.
“I’m telling you Hemmy. He’s got this. Everyone wants a happy ending.” Fitz replies.
“Here it is!” Gerald yells so the entire house could hear him. Gerald is holding a bright green hard cover book with a title in golden letters, THE RECOVERY.
“First copy ever made, right here.”
“I’m proud of you man.” Earn says.
“You know what, I’m proud of you too. I’d be even more proud if you moved out of my house.” Ashley says while holding what she says to be grape juice in a wine cup.
“Haha, the jokes.”
“That should become reality, haha.” Ashely gives Gerald a firm tap on the shoulder. “But really, good job. It was touch and go there for a while, but I’m glad Earn has his brother back.”
“You know what you’re right. Screw congratulating me. Yay for baby Earn. To having his brother back.” Gerald raises his water filled glass.
Ashley follows suit and says, “Cheers to baby Earn. Because even though his brother is now a year sober and has published his first book. It’s all about my husband, baby Earn.”
“Yeah, can you two go back to hating each other?” Earn says looking down at his feet.
Hope walks up and tugs on Earns pants. “May I have more fruit juice please, baby Earn.”
Ashley and Gerald start to laugh using each other for support.
“The burn is oh so real.” Gerald says.
Earn sulks as he drifts his ways towards the kitchen in defeat.
“Look at this! He did it! My main man has been published.” Fitz says.
“It’s a fucking miracle.” Hem replies.
“I thought you said you’d be optimistic?”
“I said more optimistic.”
“Well you know what, I was right and you were wrong, and the man of the hour just proved it.”
Ashley and Hope have gone to bed. Earn and Gerald are sitting next to each other on the counter top. Both yawn and rub their eyes to keep themselves awake. The banana cream cake leaving a lasting taste on their tongues.
“All right man, time for me to go to sleep.” Earn says as he places his palms on the table to help him get up. “You should too.”
“I will in a bit.” Gerald says as he looks towards the house phone.
“All right, night Gerald.”
“Night baby Earn.”
Earn stops at the entrance of the hallway and hunches over. He pauses for a second then walks away without saying anything.
Gerald watches Earn until he gets into his room and closes the door behind him. Gerald looks back at the phone and reaches for it. He types in a number faster than most people type on a keyboard. The distinct beep each button makes almost overlap. His thumb hovers over the green call button. He glares at the button while biting his lower lip, and his leg shaking under the counter top table. Gerald presses the call button. Its lingering beep echoes in his mind. Raising the phone to his ear, he takes in quiet deep breathes. Each ring the phone makes seem endless. Gerald starts to count them in his head. One. Two. Three. This is taking too long. As he moves the phone away from his ear a familiar gentle voice comes out of the phone.
“Hey Isabell it’s me, Gerald.”
“Oh hi Gerald. How’ve you been?”
“Good, just got published.”
“Congrats. Knew you could do it.”
“Yeah, been sober for a year too. Funny how those go together, right? Haha”
“Good for you.”
“I’m living with my brother and his wife, but all is good.”
“Would you maybe want to grab some coffee with me? Will be better than old times.”
“I don’t think so Gerald.”
“Oh well, we can just talk on the phone till you feel comfortable getting together again.”
“Look Gerald I’m happy for you and everything, but I don’t think we will be talking again. I have a fiancé now. I’ve moved on and so should you.”
“Good-bye Gerald. I’ll be sure to buy your book.”
She hangs up before he could reply. The endless tone made when one hangs up and the other stays on reverberates in Gerald’s ear. He gently places it on the countertop unable to hang up the phone. As he gets out of the chair he straightens himself up. Instead of walking towards the stairs to go back to his room he faces the door. Gerald charges towards the door, opens it, and slams it shut. As he turns on his car, the faint sound of Gerald’s name comes from the house. But he either doesn’t register it or simply doesn’t care.
“Called it.” Hem says.
“Nooo, why are we back here?” Fitz replies.
A blond woman in a black business suit sits next to him. Gerald looks at her as she takes a seat.
“Ms. Big Knockers?” Gerald says.
“Hey look it’s the perv. It’s been what a year?”
“Yes, haven’t drank sense.”
“No shit? You probably shouldn’t drink that then.”
“Probably right, but I feel the need for it. I see you traded your slut outfit for something more professional.”
“Yup upgraded to a big girl’s job. Needed new threads. It’s Emily by the way.”
“So, did a girl ruin you?”
“Oh yes. Shows how much power a girl really has over a guy.”
“Yeah. One year sober about to be down the drain.” Gerald wraps his fingers around the glass. The brown neat liquid reflecting the terrible lighting in the room.
“I’m not going to stop you. Not my job. But I will say again, you shouldn’t do that.”
“Well we all make terrible choices, right?”
“Right when I started being more of an optimist.” Hem says.
“No drink has been drank.” Fitz chants.
Gerald begins to tremble. His drink spilling onto his fingers and landing on the table.
“Don’t do it. You know you don’t want to.”
“Screw it Fitz. He’s a drunk writer. One miss step and we would’ve been just like him. A drunk and not a writer.”
“No drink has been drank.”
Earn bursts through the bar door. He is wearing his wives pink bath robe, but it’s untied and is showing his white t-shirt and white boxers.
“Gerald! Don’t you dare do that.” Earn says, drawing all the attention in the bar to him.
“Apparently it’s his.” Emily says as she looks at Earn.
Earn charges over with his index finger pointed at Gerald. “Look, I know it’s hard, but deep down you don’t want to do this.”
“Part of me really does.”
“And that part is what’s going to win.” Hem says.
“That’s the part you’re supposed to fight against! You don’t want to go through this all over again.” Earn’s eyes don’t seem to blink.
“There won’t be an all over again. There was no point in stopping in the first place.”
“Just drink it already.” Hem demands.
“Think about Hope. How’s she going to feel when she finds out her favorite Uncle is gone?”
This is when a cliché montage comes up in Gerald’s mind. Thinking back to the all the times he had with Hope. The tea parties, the nights she was supposed to be asleep but was awake with him. Gerald then lets out a loud deep scream. It almost sounded like a scream singer, almost. He flips the drink upside down spilling the rest of it onto the bar table.
“What the fuck? You’re sober and you’re making a mess. Get the fuck out of my bar.” Mister Bartender yells as he gets a towel.
“No drink has been drank tonight!” Fitz jumps in the air in excitement.
“Hey Emily,” Gerald says, “Thanks.”
“You know you could’ve done the more practical thing and given me the drink.” Emily replies.
“But you know, a character in a movie would’ve done that. I mean the liquor would’ve stayed in the cup. Plus that dramatic effect. But you know, it’s not as easy as they make it look. In my head it looked awesome.”
“Gerald.” Earn says.
“I think it is time to leave. The bartender seems very angry. I don’t know why. Drunk people do this all the time. Right?”
“Yes, best we get home.”
“And thank you for whatever my brother thanked you for.”
Emily raises her glass as they leave the bar.
“Onward in the soccer mom vehicle!” Gerald says, giving Earn a nervous laugh.
Earn does not laugh. He instead gives him the disappointed glare.
“Well at least in the end I didn’t drink it.”
The disappointment does not leave his face.
The two stay quiet in the car. Gerald notices that they are not going home, but decides not to say anything given the vibe coming from Earn. He didn’t even to look at Gerald with his disappointment glare to give Gerald close to the same effect.
The two come to a stop at a parking lot. A church to the left and a closed flower shop next to it.
“Let’s go see mom and dad.”
Two trees stand next to each other under an old oak tree. Probably as old as the church itself. Both are a granite gray. The one of the left has carved into it: RIP AMANDA BELLAMY THE WAS SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING INSIDE HER HEAD. The one of the right says: RIP RICHARD BELLAMY THE FATHER WE NEEDED. The ground in front of the headstones are a bright green. Both have daffodils placed on top of the headstones.
“You came by recently huh?” Gerald asks.
“Yeah, two days ago. I started coming more often when you came back.” Earn replies.
“Glad you didn’t use chrysanthemums. Mom would’ve hated that.” Gerald changes his voice to do the best impression of his
mother. “‘You boys better not put chrysanthemums on my grave. Don’t need a flower that represents death already going to be too much of that around me and your father.’”
They both laugh looking down at their parents.
“Oh how they would’ve scolded me now.”
“What was worse was father’s disappointment look.”
“How could I forget? That look makes you feel worse than you really should.”
“Yeah, trying to perfect it for when my daughter gets older.”
“Based on firsthand experience, you’re getting there.”
“Good, all boys shall fear me.” Earn says in his most convincing evil doctor voice.
Both laugh for a moment killing the tension between them. They both stand in front of their parent’s graves. Earn starts to shiver and finally ties up his robe.
“You walking into that bar in that robe. Not going to lie, strangers are going to be telling that story for awhile.”
“Yeah, sooner or later it’ll make its way back to me. But yeah, who was that girl. She seemed nice.”
“Gorgeous for sure.”
“That too. So you going when you going to go stalk the bar so you can get her number?” Earn teases.
“Oh shush.” Gerald pushes Earn with his shoulder.
“Hey Gerald, the publishing company wants you to publish a book about writing.”
“Do I have to? I mean we make fun of those books.”
“A writer’s gotta write.” Earn says as he shrugs his shoulders.
Gerald is looking at the blank screen on his laptop. He starts typing on the screen:
HOW TO MAKE IT AND HOW TO FUCK IT UP FOR YOURSELF.
CHAPTER ONE—THE BLANK SCREEN.
How to Fuck it up: Drink till you start singing “Yo ho yo ho a drinking ship table for me.”
How to get Pasted the First Page:
“Hemmy are you okay? Fitz asks.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Hem says as he snuffles.
“Then why are you in the corner?”
“Nada. Just leave me alone.”
“Stop calling me Hemmy. I’m not a pussy.”
“Hemmy, what’s wrong?”
“It’s just such a happy ending!”