It’s pretty hard to type those words. I think I’ve known for awhile now that I was but haven’t wanted to face up to it. Looking around the internet that seems to be a common trend. I would tell myself it was OK because I wasn’t one of those cliche’ alcoholics that you see on “very special episodes” of popular TV shows. Stumbling into work drunk off my second bottle of whiskey still dressed in a vomit covered suit. I wasn’t in a trailer park, beating my wife while the kids watched. Those are the alcoholics you see on TV, or else they’re sad men gathered around in a circle telling each other how much they want a drink but know they can’t. I didn’t see myself like that. I just got a little crazy sometimes.
Well my thinking has changed.
Let me back up a moment and say what I mean when I say alcoholic. To me, an alcoholic is anyone that physically can not stop alcohol from affecting their life negatively. When I apply this definition then I am most certainly an alcoholic. Those of you that know me might know that I quit drinking for 30 days at the end of October through November. So that means I’m not an alcoholic right? I could quit then so it shows I’m not addicted right?
That’s what I told myself. I told myself that I would get angry and lash out at people that loved and cared for me only when I disappeared into that dark place after a certain amount of booze shut down my higher brain functions. I told myself I had solved that problem as if the emotional scars that lead to that place can be cured so easily.
I learned the other night that I did not in fact have control over that part of me. I remember being happy and singing karaoke. The next thing I knew one of my best friends is pushing me and yelling in my face. We were outside now, I was confused and thought he was being an asshole for no reason. We changed locations and confronted each other again. I felt shocked and hurt and so lashed out. Told him to go fuck himself. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the fear I felt after that. I went to the police in my confusion who were no help, maybe rightly so. I went on facebook later with a lot of wild accusations and scary pronouncements that rightfully worried my friends.
Turns out it was all my fault. I went to that dark place. The lights went out and I have no memory of what I did. I don’t really want to know any more details I’m so ashamed. I’m also not trying to make excuses. There is no excuse for the things I’ve done and allowed myself to do through total lack of control. The only thing that gives me the courage to move forward rather than slide back into the darkness and drink even more is the people around me that have seen this side of me, have been abused by this side of me, and yet still want to remain my friends. I know that can’t be easy. It’s not easy for me having this dark place inside me.
So what’s next? There is really only one choice that I can see at this point. I must give up alcohol completely. Here we are on January 1st of 2012. A rather easy date to mark and keep track of how long I’ve been sober. I wish that I could control my drinking. I know a lot of people think that it’s easy to control. This is something that I don’t think is possible for people to understand unless they are affected by it as well. But that’s why I go back to the definition of alcoholic I stated earlier. Unable to control it from affecting your life negatively. I wish it were possible for me to do that but evidence has proven that I am incapable of doing so.
After my 30 day dry out I was able to slow down my drinking a little. However, I so easily and slowly fell back into my regular drinking habits it was almost like I had never quit in the first place. The entire thirty days I was thinking about how much I’d like to have a drink. But it was easy to hold out because I knew that I would be able to again after my preset goal. Anytime anyone asked me if I would be giving it up for good I was quick to say “Hell NO!” “I can’t wait to start drinking again!”
Then why the fuck did I quit for that time in the first place? Because it was becoming a problem. I need to realize that now and I do. It’s not going to be easy to do here in Japan. The culture is just not set up for it. This is the city where all you can drink specials are usually far cheaper and more common than all you can eat.
That being said, I don’t want to leave. I’ve made a home here and I’m good at what I do. Most importantly are the friends that have shown support and care for me during this last ordeal. Not to say that other friends from back home haven’t been great either but it’s hard to keep up with people you can’t have regular face to face contact with.
I want to apologize to everyone I’ve hurt. I hope you can forgive me. I will need your help most of all in the future.
There can be only one goal for me now as far as remaining sober goes. That is death. Hopefully after many, many happy and healthy years from now but if I want those years to be that way, then this finish line is the only option.
Don’t be afraid to invite me to your drinking parties from now on though. I’ll still go. But actually there might be less reason to worry now. 🙂
Happy New Year 2012
As promised yesterday, (I hope because this is the first time I’ll try delayed posting trick) here is the next piece of the story of Nick and Tom, Yokai detectives.
Nick and Tom arrived in Roppongi close to an hour after they got the call. By that time the body had been roped off and most of the reporters lost interest. Nick recognized one from a particularly seedy gossip magazine. Usually they dealt with celebrity sex scandals and corporate shenanigans but no newspaper or magazine could resist the scent of a murder story.
When most of the reputable outfits find out it was a sex worker from Roppongi they pack it in early. The people down here dying were a dime a dozen. Only upstanding citizens; housewives, office workers, high school students, and the like made for good stories that sold copies. So the big players left these stories to the gossip rags that were more interested in client lists rather than life stories. Nick made sure to bump hard into the reporter as he passed. The whip thin man started to curse Nick when Tom knocked him to the ground with a casual nudge. Tom bowed low and offered his apologies but not a hand up. The reporter made a stumbling excuse about how he must have tripped and waved Tom off with a smile. Tom might dress like a clown on LSD but he was still seven feet tall and three hundred pounds of scary blue muscle. Tom nodded at the reporter then turned to join Nick at the police cordon.
Nick was chatting with his friend that gave him the tip. The officer looked the same as most do, broad shoulders, buzz cut, neat and clean uniform, but this one had a smile in his eyes as well as his face. Most cops Nick knew would smile at someone but couldn’t hide the contempt or even outright condescension they felt.
“Nice one Tom,” Nick said. He jerked his thumb in the direction of the reporter, who was busy dusting off his pants. “Have you met my friend Shin before?” The cop bowed at Tom who returned the gesture.
“I think we met at the end-of-the-year party last year,” Tom said. Shin stopped to think for a moment, hand on his chin.
“That’s right!” he said, snapping his fingers, “That was one hell of a party. I can’t remember the last time I drank so much.”
“Do you know a lot of Oni, sir?” Tom said, “I figured we’d be hard to forget at a party.”
“Like I said,” Shin punched Nick on the arm, “I can’t remember when I drank so much or even how much I drank. But forgive me,” he bowed again, “it’s nice to see you again Tom.” Tom returned the bow and Shin responded. This set off a small feedback loop as both bowed several more times to each other before breaking out into laughter.
“So,” Nick said, “are we going to get to see the body anytime soon?” Shin looked at him, wiping a small tear of laughter from one eye.
“Did you remember to renew your license?” Shin asked. Nick started to say something, stopped, then turned to look at Tom. Tom gave a small nod.
“Of course!” Nick said. Shin laughed but let them through the cordon and into the crime scene anyway.
The stairs leading up were narrow to the point of claustrophobia. Tom hit his head on the low ceilings twice. It was his only choice though, he wouldn’t fit in the elevator. Nick had wanted to take the elevator and avoid the seven flights of stairs but Tom had threatened to quit if Nick left him to climb alone. When they reached the seventh floor the door by the stairs had no markings except for three chinese characters written in the complicated traditional style.
“What’s that say?” Nick asked. He was breathing heavily through his nose though it was clear he didn’t want to let on how winded he was.
“Seems they didn’t take clients of my size into consideration when they chose this place,” Tom said. He was hunched over, the ceiling too short for him to stand up straight. Shin laughed again.
“Sorry Tom,” he said. Then he pointed a thumb at the door. “As for this,” he said, “It’s gibberish. ‘Happy Luck Day’ or some such. Come on, let’s go in.”
The massage parlor was rather typical in Nick’s opinion. Soft leather couches lined the walls underneath long plate glass windows. There was what looked to be a reception desk, papers and notebooks scattered across the surface. An office phone with multiple lines sat on one corner, the receiver dangled off the side, resting on the floor. A large TV hung on the wall. It was showing a re-run of a popular variety show. The sound was off but Nick remembered the human interest piece about a five year old kid that took the bullet train all by himself. On the opposite wall, facing the door, a security camera looked down at them.
“Was that thing on?” Nick said, pointing at the camera.
“Yeah but the first run through didn’t show anything obvious around the time of death. The footage is back at headquarters by now,” Shin said.
“You’ll get me a copy?”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Shin then led them into the back of the parlor. Heavy curtains made of cheap fabric hung in large ovals. Some were open, revealing the flat massage beds covered in clean white towels. Nick had been in some less hygienic establishments before so this place was a step above the rest. Shin kept walking to the very rear of the massage area. There were two forensic workers standing off to the side comparing notes.
“About damn time,” one of them said when Nick and the others came over to the scene. The one who spoke looked like he was about to continue his complaint when Tom coughed. It was a deep rumbling noise that sounded like a spoon in a garbage disposal. The forensic workers went back to their notes. Shin smiled.
“Let’s finish this quickly, I’m already overstepping my authority letting you two in here,” he said.
“I appreciate it,” Nick said, clapping his friend on the shoulder. Nick turned to look at the body. It was already in a bag, resting on one of the tables. A softer pillow and heavier blankets than are typical for a customer were crumpled on the floor next to the bed.
“We think she was in here sleeping off her shift, waiting for the trains to start running,” Shin said. “Other than the bag, we found her pretty much just as she is now, flat on the bed, no signs of injury.” Nick unzipped the bag and looked at the corpse for a few moments. He zipped the bag up again.
“She’s human,” Nick said. Shin said nothing, his expression hard to read. “Why did you call me about this?”
“You didn’t recognize her?” Shin said.
“No,” Nick said. He stopped then, thinking. “Give me a light.” Shin handed Nick his flashlight. Nick unzipped the bag again and flicked on the light.
“Is she?” Nick asked.
“That fox we found the other day. She worked for this one,” Shin said. Nick said nothing as he continued to look at the corpse, trying to find a hint of familiarity in the features swollen by death. What he did notice, however, was the same yellow discoloration as his friend the fox had. It was harder to pick out on human flesh than white fox fur, but it was there.
“Did you get the results from the lab on what killed Lin, I mean, the fox?” Nick asked. Shin raised an eyebrow. Tom looked anywhere but the corpse. He had a weak stomach for death.
“Funny thing that,” Shin said, “Toxicology said she died of acute nicotine poisoning.” Nick sniffed the air. Out of the ordinary actions are just as contagious in yokai as they are in humans. Soon both Tom and Shin were sniffing the air and even the forensic guys started as well. Shin shrugged his shoulders.
“Smells like an overripe corpse to me,” he said. Nick looked at Tom.
“I can smell tobacco smoke though,” Tom said, “Even over that.” He waved a hand in the general direction of the corpse. Nick could smell it too. He had just given up cigarettes. Two months clean after seventeen years at a pack a day. People told him often that the sense of smell was the first thing to come back. Shin still smoked, however.
“I smell it too,” Nick said, “which is odd. They usually don’t let customers smoke in a place like this. At least, not in the rooms.” Nick saw the forensic team writing down new notes at a furious pace. They avoided his gaze when he caught their eye. Nick was used to it, the incompetence of your average crime scene investigator in this area of town.
“Might be something to follow up on.” Shin said, “If there’s nothing else you want to see, I’d like to get this body out of here and down to the morgue.”
“Of course,” Nick said, “I’ve seen enough for now. Hope you can get me that video though.”
“I’ll try,” Shin said with a small laugh, “but you’re going to owe me a beer or two if I come through on this.” Nick just smiled and followed Shin back to the exit. At the elevator Shin turned to Tom.
“Why don’t you head down ahead of us big guy,” he said, “I want to talk to Nick alone for a moment.” Tom sighed.
“More chatter about human females and their ample rear ends?” he asked.
“Exactly,” Nick said patting Tom on the arm, he couldn’t reach high enough to get his shoulder, “we’ll take the elevator and meet you down there.” Tom stomped off down the stairs muttering about “yokai discrimination”. After he disappeared around the corner of the stairwell Nick hit the elevator call button.
“So what did you want to talk to me about Shin?” he asked. Shin hesitated, unsure of how to begin.
“I know you and Lin were close,” he said. Nick shoved his hands in his pockets and began shifting his weight from foot to foot. His eyes locked onto the lights above the elevator signaling which floor it was on.
“And I know you had a falling out,” Shin said. Nick threw a sharp glance at Shin then went back to the elevator. He reached out and stabbed the call button a few more times.
“I’m not saying you’re a suspect,” Shin said.
“A suspect?” Nick said. His outburst echoed down the stairwell. The elevator arrived and Nick immediately stomped inside the car. Shin grabbed the door as Nick was pressing the button for the first floor.
“You’re not a suspect yet, Nick,” Shin said, standing in the doorway so it couldn’t close, “Yet being the key word. I’m just saying you should be careful.”
“Thanks,” Nick said. Shin’s shoulders slumped, hurt apparent on his face. Nick sighed deeply.
“No seriously,” he said, “Thank you. I know you’re trying to help.” Shin smiled. He stepped out of the way of the door.
“You still owe me a beer for the file I gave you,” he said as the elevator closed. Nick gave a thumbs up as the double doors slid shut.
Outside, Tom was waiting with his arms crossed.
“What took you?” he said to Nick as he entered the street.
“Slow elevator, should have taken the stairs,” Nick said. He paused to take a small flask from his coat. He opened it then took a long drink. He offered it to Tom who took it.
“Why does Shin help you out so much anyway?” Tom asked after he’d taken a swallow of the whiskey.
“I saved his life once,” Nick said. He had another long drink on the flask then put it away. “Come on,” he said, “let’s go talk to the kappa.”
“This should be fun,” Tom said.
Remember when I said something about this crazy idea called NaNoWriMo. No? Really? Allow me to refresh should you be so inclined.
Did I win? Well if you mean write 50K words then no. If you mean getting in to the habit of writing everyday, however, then…still no. Writing more? Yes, a little. Fooling myself into thinking I could make this a career and claw my way out of the depths of English teaching? (Which really isn’t that bad to be honest, my schedule is sooooo slack.)
Well yes and no. I did learn this kind of thing [Writing] is a slow pot to boil and you have to heat it with book matches you picked up from a scummy bar on the bad side of town. And you have to do it one at at time. Forever. It’s enough to make a person go insane.
Anyway, how far did I get? Just over 25,000 words. Which is more than I’ve ever put down about anything. For comparison the novel I started last year for NaNoWriMo currently sits at about 9000 words. And I’m thinking of putting a bullet it its metaphorical head and sweep it away. No sir, I don’t like it.
But this one I like and think I could finish it. I just committed an ultimate sin by letting other entertainment take precedent over writing. This is because I wrote myself somewhere that just made my motivation go limp like over cooked spaghetti. Anyway, to boost my own ego somewhat (and provide a little meat to this pity party) I’ll attach the second ‘chapter’ to my novella down here at the bottom. You might remember the first part, if not here. Look at it!
Just a warning. I still haven’t edited any of this so it could be crap. Especially since it’s completely new. The first chapter was about a third old material. This one…is not. Well anyway, enjoy.
Yokai Blues: Chapter 2
Tom smacked the side of the printer with one giant blue fist. A small panel on the side of the printer said “Built Oni Tough!” Tom cracked it a few more times before it resumed spewing out paper. The hulking blue figure, dressed in the latest color vomit Harajuku calls fashion, nodded once at the offending computer equipment.
“That’ll teach you,” he said. Tom gave it another light thwack for good measure. When he turned back to his desk he saw Nick standing in the doorway, sipping a can of vending machine coffee. Tom looked back at the printer, then to Nick.
“How long were you standing there?” he asked.
“Since about three smacks ago,” Nick said. Tom turned back to the printer and narrowed his eyes at it. The bangs of his spiked, bleached-blond perm dipped low over his plucked eyebrows.
“It’ll get some more if it doesn’t behave,” he said.
“If you break it, it’ll come out of your paycheck. Not mine,” Nick said as he crossed the small office to his desk.
“Don’t worry,” Tom said, “This one’s got a year warranty against abuse by ogres.”
“And how long have we had it?” Nick said. He sat down in his chair with a small grunt. He reached down to open the lowest desk drawer. The sound of shuffling papers and cursing soon followed.
“About 11 months,” Tom said, still glaring at the printer as it calmly printed off reports like nothing had happened. He turned back to Nick.
“You finished that bottle last Friday, remember?” Tom said. Nick popped his head back over the top of his desk.
“Damnit, you’re right,” he said, standing up. Nick pointed a finger at Tom. “Just make sure when you do break it, it’s still within warranty unlike last time.” Tom started to say something but Nick cut him off.
“And no more about how you forgot it was a national holiday or whatever. You had the day off for a reason.” Nick scanned the room looking for more whiskey.
“Actually I was going to ask if you’d like me to go to the liquor store for you,” Tom grinned at Nick, showing off two rows of perfectly white, pointy teeth. “Because we’re out of whiskey.” Nick dropped back into his chair.
“Yes, please,” he said, waving Tom away, “You know where I keep the hooch money.” After Tom had shut the door, Nick pulled his hat over his eyes and leaned back to take a nap.
Nick stumbled awake when Tom came back to the office. He gave his head a vigorous shake to scatter the dreams of pencil thin metal claws. Tom pulled out several bottles of whiskey, a large one for general use and guests, two smaller ones of higher quality for Nick’s personal stash, and two cans of cold beer.
“To take the edge off the afternoon,” Tom said, gesturing to the beer. Nick glanced at his watch. It was already after three in the afternoon.
“How long were you gone?” Nick asked.
“Only about ten minutes,” Tom said, “You’re the one that staggered in here so late. What kept you?”
“Didn’t sleep well, woke up late,” Nick said. He grabbed one of the beers, cracked it, then took a few hearty swigs. A satisfied sigh, straight out of a commercial, escaped his lips. “Also,” he took another sip of beer, “I had to stop by the local police box to return something.”
“That file on the massage fox?” Tom said. He opened his beer. Nick looked at Tom, eyes sharp. He’d assumed both beers were for him. Tom either failed to notice or chose not to react so Nick let it go.
“That’s the one,” Nick set his beer down on the desk and began to twist it back and forth between his fingers. He tapped on the sides of the can a few times before taking another swallow of the crisp brew.
“She the one you were always talking about?” Tom said, “The one that’d let you sleep it off at her place for the minimum fee?” Nick nodded. He didn’t want to say anything at the moment so he just drank his beer to avoid it.
“Terrible way to go,” Tom said in that detached way most people talk about the dead they didn’t know.
“Yeah,” Nick said between sips of his beer. It was almost half empty by now. He would have to switch to whiskey soon. The sat there for awhile in silence, drinking. Outside several emergency vehicles drove by, sirens at full volume. Nick liked to try and guess which kind they were just by the sound; police, ambulance, or firetruck. He was never very good. Even after all of these years he had trouble telling the difference. The variations between them were more subtle than back home.
Tom finished his beer and crumpled it in one great hand. He took aim at the recycle bin from where he was standing like he was about to shoot a free-throw. Nick could almost hear the crowds cheering in Tom’s head from the serious look on his face. Tom let the can fly. Nick watched it arc perfectly and land two feet short of the bin. Nick laughed.
“Your form is great but you have to work on your range,” he said. Tom stomped over to the can. He picked it up then stomped back to Nick.
“Think you can do better?” he said, offering the can to Nick. Nick took it with an exaggerated bow. He leaned back in his chair and raised his arm. A casual flick of the wrist and a second later the can hit the bottom of the bin with a solid clunk. Nick raised both arms over his head, hands balled into victory fists, and looked at Tom. His face was deadpan, no expression except the light of success flashing behind his eyes. Tom shrugged his knotty shoulders then went back to his desk.
“Lucky shot,” he said over his shoulder. Nick put his arms down and picked up his beer. He finished it with a smile. Crushed the can between both hands then took aim again.
“1000 yen says you miss,” Tom said from his seat.
“You’re on,” Nick said. He took the time to calm his nerves. Every beer can that went from full to empty because of Nick ended up getting tossed at the recycle bucket. He usually made more than he missed but that was always at night after Tom had gone home.
“Either shoot or get off the bowl,” Tom said. He still had trouble with some English idioms. Nick flicked his wrist and let the can fly. This one too found its home in the bottom of the bin. Nick left his shooting arm in the air, slowly raised his other above his head, and then swiveled his chair around to face Tom. Nick’s face was the same expressionless mask. Tom looked like he had just tasted a sour milk and fermented soybean smoothie. Nick lowered one hand and made the time honored, hand over the money gesture. Tom walked over to Nick, muttering and cursing in Japanese as he pulled out his wallet. When Nick tried to take the bill Tom offered the big blue ogre clenched it in his fingers.
“You know I could snap your neck like a chicken,” Tom said.
“And you know that I spend all my train fare on booze so how about you let me enjoy my triumph?”
They stared at each other for a heartbeat before both started laughing. Tom let go of the money and Nick was quick to put it in his wallet before Tom changed his mind.
“So what’s with the interest in this fox?” Tom asked once he was back behind his desk. Nick reached for one of the smaller bottles of whiskey. He looked around but the only things on his desk were random papers of a long forgotten nature and wrappers from various quick and unhealthy food type products.
“I’ll tell you if you bring me a glass with some ice in it,” Nick said. Tom stopped typing on his comically large keyboard. Nick saw Tom roll his eyes but let it slide since the brute was getting him what he’d asked for. When Tom came back with a glass dotted with water spots and three weak looking ice cubes, Nick accepted it in an overly polite manner. Tom chuckled a little at Nick’s antics. Nick poured about two shots worth of whiskey into the glass and swirled it around to chill. He took a slow sip, savoring the burn on his lips and tongue. Nick sank back into his chair. It was then that he noticed Tom sitting on the edge of his desk, looking not unlike a child waiting to be read a bedtime story.
“So,” Tom said, “You and the fox? Did you…?” He made a rude gesture with his thumb and pinky. Nick tried not to rise to the bait but his denial didn’t sound honest enough for Tom. The Oni slapped his knee and laughed.
“I knew it!” he said. “You always had a thing for those types!”
“Need I remind you that whatever our relationship was, she’s dead now?” Nick said. He sipped his drink. Tom’s smile came crashing back to Earth and he apologized. Nick shook his head.
“No worries,” Nick said, “But yes, I did know her. So when I heard she was found stuffed into a trash can yesterday I called in a favor and borrowed the investigation file for the night.”
“Find anything interesting?” Tom asked.
“Strangest thing,” Nick said between sips of whiskey, “The report said that all of the physical damage done to her happened after death. Due to trying to fit her into the can.”
“Cause of death?” Tom said.
“Suffocation apparently. But no signs of strangulation. We won’t know more until the toxicology comes back.”
“All in all, it doesn’t sound that out of the ordinary,” Tom said.
“Well the kicker is,” Nick paused to refill his glass, “Her entire body, head to paw, was stained yellow. Like she’d been soaking in lemon juice or something.”
“It wasn’t paint?”
“Didn’t appear so. From the photos I saw the stain wasn’t covering her fur, it had seeped in right down to the root. The officers at the scene seemed to agree with me.” Tom crossed his arms in thought.
“That’s pretty strange,” he said. Then he pointed at Nick’s whiskey, “Think I can get a dose of that?”
“You’ll have to get your own glass,” Nick said, smiling. Tom lumbered off to the kitchen area once again, cursing under his breath. While Tom was in the kitchen the phone rang. Nick checked his watch, almost four o’clock. Technically he was still open. He swirled his glass again and decided to let it go to the machine.
“Answering machine’s broke, remember?” Tom yelled from the kitchen. Nick cursed and answered the phone. It was his friend from the station. Another stained fox had turned up in Roppongi. Nick thanked his friend and hung up.
“Skip the whiskey Tom,” Nick said, putting on his coat, “We’ve got another one.”
It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Chuck Wendig flash fiction challenge. This time was to come up with a title that has alliteration in it and then write out about 1000 words from that. I pulled “Jimmy’s Job” out of thin air while taking a shower. The story below took a little longer than that, but not by much. Enjoy and comment if it so pleases you.
Jim pressed down on his truck’s loose brakes and screeched it to a halt. He’d let the pads wear down well past the warning sliver of metal that scraped against his wheels like fingernails on chalkboard mixed with a touch of reverb. Jim had gotten used to the sound over the weeks. Money was tight these days and he had better things to spend a hundred dollars or so on than a new set of brakes. The old truck still stopped when he needed it and that was good enough for him.
Jim popped open the door and gave it a shove. The heavy steel door swung open, locking its hinge with a well made ‘clunk’. Dust and the stale smell of old foam padding rushed up through Jim’s nose as he climbed out of the seat into the hot summer sun. He slammed the door shut before moving around to the bed of the truck. His mud-flecked boots crunched over the dry patches of grass that clung to life amidst the rock-choked clay dust this field called soil.
In the back of his rusted yet dependable pick-up were all the tools and self respecting man of the South needed and kept. Two shovels both long and short handled, caked in dried mud and clay. A length of sturdy rope and a coil of wire. A battered toolbox. Two car batteries that were dead and one that still worked, probably. Last but not least, a plastic cooler full of beer. Jim grabbed the handle of the cooler and slid it towards him from the center of the truck bed. He popped open the top and fished around in the icy stew inside until he came up with a can of booze.
Jim walked over to the back of his truck and then leaned against the tailgate. He snapped the beer open. The foam boiled up from the mouth of the can as Jim stood there for a moment, looking out across the field. The rough land stretched out for at least a mile, in Jim’s estimation, before it was swallowed up by a pine forest at the edge of the property line.
Jim drank his beer as he listened to the cicadas kick up a strong whine against the breeze that blew in from God knows where. Once he finished he grabbed the long handled shovel from the back of his truck and set about digging the hole.
Jim was about half way done with the ditch and close to two beers further along when he saw the dust cloud rising up from the old access road that led into the field. He glanced at his watch, a beat up plastic digital number that wasn’t fancy but did the job of telling time pretty well. According to it, Jim’s appointment was two hours early.
He kept digging as the cloud drew closer, but Jim didn’t stress himself. Another pair of hands had almost arrived after all. After about two or three more bites at the rough dirt with his spade, Jim’s appointment rolled into the field on a pick-up with a slight bend to its axel. The front left corner lifted up and down as it came to a slow stop near the back of Jim’s truck. After it came to a rest in the hot dust and the crackle of the emergency brake split the air, the driver shoved open his door then stepped out.
The man was too fat for pleasant euphemisms and wore a pair of mud splattered overalls that strained against his bulk.
“Ain’t it finished yet?” the overalled man said, punctuating his displeasure with a healthy spit of tobacco juice.
“You’re early,” Jim said, not taking his eye off the widening pit or his shovel. “Cooler of beers in the back there.” Jim jerked his head in the direction of the cheap plastic container.
“You’re welcome to one if you like,” he said, “Might take me another hour or two to finish here. ‘Course there’s another shovel back there if you’re in a hurry.”
The heavy man waddled over to the edge of the pick-up bed and peered over.
“Reckon I’ll have a beer first then help you with the pit.”
Jim just nodded and wiped the sweat off his brow before turning back to the work.
An hour later the fat man and Jim had made a decent pit. Six feet deep as is standard.
“Help me out with him,” the fat man said, “Starting to turn in this heat.”
They swatted at the flies, thick as quarters they were, that swarmed around the burden sitting heavy in the back of the fat man’s truck.
“Where’d you find this one?” Jim asked.
“Down near the river,” the fat man said as he and Jim grabbed the dingy cloth that wrapped the bundle and slid it across the rusty truck bed.
The two men grabbed each end of the load and crab-walked it over to the lip of the pit they’d dug. On a three count they pitched it into the depths. Some of the canvas tarp came loose, exposing a patch of dark skin here, blood-matted hair there. The fat man spat a final disgrace on the bundle as it sank into the cool sandy clay at the bottom of the hole. The thick glob of nicotine laced phlegm splattered against the shroud.
The fat man in the overalls patted Jim on the back before returning to his rusty vehicle. As his client drove away down the dusty road, Jim went to his cooler to get the last beer. He stood there as he drank it, looking down into another unfortunate ending to a day’s work. When he was finished, he chucked the crumpled can into the pit and slowly set about filling it in once more.
You might remember this band from the last time I talked about them. Everybody’s first time at anything is usually a rough experience. I mentioned what I felt was a lack, or let’s say a lower than expected level. These are my good friends though, I don’t want to be mean. But yeah, felt a little flat.
Of course, two people were having serious colds and it was the first time in front of a live audience. Also, earlier in the week I had gone to a crazy wild 80s fueled jump fest. Different vibe for sure.
That’s why I was happy to see them pull it off so well this outing. The band seemed far more settled and energetic. I’m not good at understanding or talking about music. It’s like art, I may not know it but I know what I like. Or something along those lines. I think what I mean is, it doesn’t matter what level of energy that you’re going for, it matters if you get there. Punk rock to classical the audience is going to notice if you’re off and things aren’t clicking. A lot of people I know that play will sometimes complain about levels being off or missing a beat on the upturn with a half step. Or I could be just making those words up.
Point is, it’s good that artists focus on the little things. I like to write, sometimes people tell me I’m good. I think everything I do is garbage that I smear on the page with hands covered in matters unspeakable. More to the point, if I use the same word in two separate sentences in the same paragraph I freak and have to change it. I’d compare this to missing a note in a song even though I don’t know anything about making music. The energy of the group is more akin to the mood of a piece of writing. An out of place note or word can startle the viewer but as long as they’re enjoying the work as a whole then it’s easy to forgive. But when everything is off it’s harder to get into something.
I’ll let you make your own decisions on that part from the media below but I thought this show did a lot better capturing the “mood” than the first one. Good job guys. You can like their facebook page over here.
I haven’t been updating near as much as I used to or wanted to. Gonna try and fix that tonight by using the delayed publish gizmo WordPress has. Since it’s an experiment you might see nothing, or an extra bonus post or two depending on how inept I am at the process.
So there it is. My halt on all alcohol at the border of my metabolism has been lifted. The thirty day quarantine has passed. So what have I learned? How do I feel?
Good questions. It has also been three months since I gave up smoking, another notoriously difficult vice to part with. I will admit that alcohol was more difficult to do. I suppose that it’s due to the fact that I knew I was able to drink again at the end of the time limit. I thought about it a lot more. Put myself in situations where I would be tempted more often. Smoking was a choice I had to make forever and more obviously a good idea.
Therein lies the problem though. Alcohol is far, far, far more socially acceptable than smoking is nowadays. When I told people that I quit smoking, the response was always immediately positive. Smokers were surprised, but not that I would quit but that I was able to do so. Reactions were almost completely reversed with drinking. Immediate shock followed by the inevitable question “Why?”. As if it was unfathomable that I would even consider doing such a thing.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that this got annoying very quickly.
However, to be fair, everyone I met felt I was doing a good thing and actually treated my choice as something to be respected, far more so than smoking. Smoking was always more of an “it’s about time” vibe compared to drinking’s “I’m impressed you can pull that off.” Again this probably goes more to the social acceptance of drinking in my peer group. Not that this is a bad thing, I certainly hope I didn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable about showing up to drink events trying to be sober.
I think I learned some things about myself and about alcohol. I learned a little about what I was like when I got too deep. I should probably be pretty thankful that I still have as many, or any, friends as I do based on that knowledge. I learned that I don’t need to be drunk to be a fun person to be around. I do take longer to warm up to a crowd than I think I used to, but that is likely just because I’d usually show up everywhere already two or three in the bag.
I saved a fair bit of money this month. I hope I can maintain that. Lost some weight, not much but I noticed if no one else did. I’m still pretty lazy which is the next thing I need to work on I wager. Blamed the drink and the smokes for that in the past but it’s hard to shove off on them completely. I did a lot more writing but that drifted off due to other things. (*cough* Skyrim *cough*) But I don’t need to be drunk to write, just drunk to think it’s good!
Actually I’ve gotten some lovely feedback recently so I’ll try to provide more. Thanks everyone.
In closing, my goal was not to give it up forever, but to try and reign back the amount. I could see myself approaching the proverbial cliff on the metaphorical runaway wagon train. I think I’ve managed to steer away from the edge but now I’m just moving parallel, once false move and I could be headed there again. If that happens I suspect I’ll have to jump off all together.
To cut through the tired cliche’ I don’t plan to give up alcohol completely. That could be a mistake on my part for sure. My goal was to stop drinking at home, alone, building my tolerance so that when I go out with my friends I drink to the point of blacking out. If I can’t manage that then I’ll have to face facts and give it up for good. That would be hard I suspect, but I think that the people around me are good enough to support me in that.
Thanks to everyone that supported me this last month. If I start to lose it again, or go to far, please tell me to cut that shit out. Maybe this time I’ll listen.
It has begun. The NaNoWriMo is upon us. Don’t worry I won’t be constantly talking about it but since this is the first day and I got my word count goal finished (Though I did cheat a little by taking about 500 words directly from another story I had written) I thought it would be a good post to put up. I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee at home so I was thinking of doing a review about instant coffee here in Japan. If you have any recommendations let me know.
Anyway as a special treat here is the complete first scene from my novella. Only 26 more to go!
Nick shoved his front door open. It sticks in the humid summer heat. He put a little too much force into it so the door crashed against the opposite wall of his cramped entryway. It was late but the other residents of the tired, worn out guesthouse were prone to slamming doors at all hours, so Nick didn’t care about his noise.
Despite the trouble, he did try his best to slide the door shut with some degree of courtesy for the neighbors. It didn’t work too well but he knew the short bang could have been worse. Nick set his keys on a dusty ledge next to the sink and slipped off his shoes. The light in the kitchen was an old fashioned pull string switch, hanging from a frayed main wire. When Nick turned it on the kitchen was bathed in a depressing yellow glow. Nick paused by the sink to gaze at the stack of dirty dishes sitting there, stagnant water making a foul soup from his left-overs. He glanced at the files in his left hand, then back to the sink, then to the grocery bag in his right containing a bottle of cheap red wine and nothing else. There was no need for clean dishes if he didn’t plan to cook anything.
Nick went into the main room and sat down on his uncomfortable couch and turned on his 32’ plasma TV. Nick was a man of simple pleasures and a strong tolerance for filth. It came with the job. His penchant for electronic gadgets, however, is where most of his disposable income went. He flipped through the channels and settled on a shampoo commercial. The file still in his hands was choaked with papers, wrapped with a thick, red rubber band. Nick dropped it on the table. He pulled the bottle of wine out and tossed the bag aside. With a practiced twist of his wrist he cracked the screw top. He didn’t waste his time or money on wine fancy enough to have corks.
Nick leaned back on the couch, resting his legs on the short, IKEA brand, wood-like coffee table. He had the file on his lap and his cup of cheap wine in his hand. The rubber band took some deft movements to remove it without spilling his drink, but eventually he got it open. On top was a stack of typed reports. Dry, boring affairs that Nick had read at the office. Some parts were redacted, however, as his source within the department wasn’t exactly at the top of the ladder. Still, he always came through when Nick asked for a favor as best he could. Nick set the reports aside carefully, he needed to return the file before work in the morning, then picked up the first of the crime scene photos.
It was a close up shot of her face. The patch of fur under her throat was once white but had turned a deep yellow. Not the kind of yellow that they use in commercials for lemon scented cleanser. No, that was a happy kind of yellow. Fresh and vibrant. The yellow on the fox’s neck was dull and dirty. The color of phlegm during a strong cold. Nick remembered a time in high school chemistry class when he spilled some iodine solution on the floor. Those tiles were stained instantly. He was just happy that none got on his shoes. As far as he knew, the stain was still there. This shade of yellow staring back at him from the photo brought all these memories back from deep corners of his brain.
The next photo in the stack was a picture as he remembered her. A modest pose, perhaps part of a modeling portfolio. She’d mentioned that sort of thing a few times while she was walking on his back, working the stress from his shoulders with her delicate feet. The picture was likely the one the police would take around the neighborhood. Potential witnesses don’t react well to gruesome photos of corpses. He knew this first hand but sometimes those kind of shots were all he could get his hands on. Nick set the good picture aside. Massage girls that turn up dead don’t often get the full attention of the Metropolitan Police. That goes double for foxes. Nick was sure this one wouldn’t be missed.
The rest of the pictures were shots from every angle of her, the alley she was found in, and the recycle bin she had been stuffed into. No visible wounds or damage except those suffered from the gymnastics required to fit into such a small container. Coroners report suggested that she moved into her new digs post-mortem. Took the boys an hour to get her out she was crammed in there so tight. Every inch of her was stained the same horrible yellow color.
Nick closed the file then finished his glass of wine. When he reached for the bottle he was a little surprised to find it already empty. He glanced at the clock in the bottom corner of his TV. It was late, so the grocery was closed, but there was another convenience store a minute walk from his place. He stood on unstable feet, struggled into some pants, grabbed his keys, then headed out to buy some beer.
Nick arrived into that haze between sleep and waking. His sheets were twisted around his body in a corkscrew, the covers long since kicked to the floor. The air conditioner coughed on the wall above. It had given up on it’s duties to make the room comfortable and had instead chosen a path of dripping foul smelling water onto the floor. To describe the air it belched forth as mustier than a desiccated corpse would be doing it a service. The many layers of padding scrounged from friends that made up his bed had shifted during the night and had arranged themselves into a mosaic of lumpy uncomfortableness. That spidery, itching feeling Nick had on his arm could have been cockroaches wandering past or just the imagination. At this point Nick was unsure which and had long since crashed through the wall of not giving a shit.
He tried to sit up and reach for his water glass that he kept on a nearby table. However, this was impeded by a heavy weight sitting on his chest. Heavier than a cat and lighter than a box made of iron it sat there in the dark, restricting Nick to his unwashed prison of sheets.
He rubbed the gunk from his eyes and tried to figure out what the hell was sitting on him so casually. Dirty gray sunlight was starting to filter through the nicotine stained drapes but it was hardly enough light to clarify any detail no matter how obvious.
I killed your friend.
The amorphous darkness on his stomach had spoken. Though not quite speak as much as echo inside Nick’s skull. He attempted to engage it in conversation.
The shape came closer and against all laws of physics as Nick understood them, he saw the pale morning sunlight flash off of five slender steel claws. Thin as a pencil lead they were. The beast, as he now considered it, dragged these filaments across his cheek.
The friend you always kept with you.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Nick said.
The beast withdrew his thin claws from my face but Nick could hear them in the dark. A smell of honeyed wine drifted through his nostrils. Other scents lingered there. Freshly poured beer over cut grass. The smell of a concrete sidewalk after he’d sprayed it with a hose. Smells of summer back home. What torture was this?
You abandoned her.
“This is so not what I need right now,” Nick said, “I’ve got work in the morning.”
The creature rushed him. All Nick could see was a darkness that deepened but the smell hit him with the power of a subway train. It took a brief moment to place it but he knew the stench all too well. It was the smell of a third dry heave, head stuffed firmly into a porcelain bowl. Praying to anything that will listen to please release him from this horrific pain. Then it came, the muscle pain and acidic bile rushed up his whole body.
That is what this creature smelled of now. What it made him experience again in vivid detail. He tried to look at it’s face but saw only a swirling black. It grabbed Nick with those thin metal claws and twisted his head around, as if it was searching for something. The thing leaned down and Nick heard it sniff him. Rapid and broken like a dog searching for a treat hidden inside his skin.
She wasn’t the first. She won’t be the last. I have your scent now. Sleep well.
Nick’s eye snapped open and he shifted around in his bed, trying to regain his sense of place. He was covered in sweat despite only having a thin sheet over his body. He stared hard at the shapes in the room, frightful things that he knew by instinct were nothing dangerous. He just had to let his eyes adjust. After a dream like that it was difficult. The sinister figure with bat-like wings eventually coalesced in to his laundry, hanging up to dry. The evil clown face on the ceiling turned back into his overhead lamp. After much internal coaxing, Nick’s brain woke up enough for the world to return to normal. Nick swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat up. He massaged his eyes in the still dark room. He checked the time on his nearby phone. Still several hours until sunrise. Nick knew he wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep though.
He went into the kitchen to set a kettle boiling for coffee. While he waited for the whistle he searched underneath the sink for his emergency bottle of whiskey. It was set all the way in the back, past the pipes, to discourage unnecessary use. In Nick’s opinion, nightmares on the level of the one he just had qualified as a whiskey emergency. The kettle went off, spewing hot steam into the air. Nick turned off the burner then poured his cup. The coffee was instant but the decent kind that included the milk and sugar in the powder. Three steps, boil water, open package into cup, introduce coffee powder to water. He usually didn’t have to stir it either. Three steps was about the most that Nick was interested in when it came to food or drink.
He tried to take a sip but soon regretted it. Still too hot, the coffee burned his tongue. Nick went to check the front door while he waited for his coffee to cool. What he saw almost made him drop the cup. Only the strong repulsion to cleaning lodged deep in his lizard brain kept his fingers around the handle.
On the inside of the door, five razor thin, equally spaced lines were carved into the poor quality wood.