Winston & Libby
Trigger Warning. The following is a black comedy that features profanity. It also involves substance abuse, mental health issues, suicidal thoughts and violence.
I gaze out the window. Another bleak day, rainy and grey. I've been correcting papers since 7 am. I eye the name at the top of each paper. That moron. She’s lazy. He’s obese. Fucking beatnik. Who? And so forth. Then I wade through them, one by one. Relentless monotony. Usually, after minutes have crawled by, it occurs to me that I have no idea what I've just read. I force myself back to the start but the process repeats itself. My brain shuts down in self defence, perturbed by the onslaught of poorly constructed arguments and general nonsense. Too much opinion, not enough fact. I’d jump out the window if it were higher. I teach history in a college and a town that you've never heard of. Mostly to idiots. The one exception to this is Libby, my prized pupil. Libby is blonde, beautiful, and a terrific student. She smiles at me each day as she leaves. I see her five hours each week. I scan through her text. Brilliant work. B+. That way, she'll inquire how it could be better and I’ll get to chat with her. Libby is genuinely interested in history, so shows interest in me. The happiest moments I've had in years are the ones I have with her.
My wife left me. She was having an affair with the postman. She absconded with my dog, Winston, and moved in with him. The court makes me pay her alimony. I asked the Judge if I could have custody of Winston. She said no. God damn bitch. The judge that is. And my wife. The postman lives three doors down. I see them regularly. What a wonderful arrangement. He always says hello to me. I always answer with a head down mumble, then spend the rest of the day thinking of garrotting him. I never confronted him, or even her. She won't speak to me anyway. Hopefully, one day, Winston will rebel, murder them both as they sleep, and then race triumphantly home to me! Winston's a chihuahua. I still have his bowl. A silver bowl, with his name, which I bought when he was a puppy. That bitch could have bought a pack of dogs with what I give her every month. No, she had to steal my dog, whom I trained, and take him for walks in front of my house. It’s noisy outside. The students are cheering. The football team. Something. I don't follow sports.
It’s 5:11pm. 71 essays done. I need a smoke. I became a smoker while married. My wife always hated smoking so I decided to start. I didn't like them. My throat burned. Winston barked at me. The stench. I coughed when I inhaled deeply. I thought of quitting. But she nagged, whined, and complained, so I persevered. It drove her mad. I used to stare blankly at her, puffing away, as she lectured me about cancer and how she couldn't get the smell out of the house. Inside, I was ballroom dancing while a triumphant orchestra played celebratory music. Cancer was a worthwhile risk if I could annoy her. When the tramp left me I made no attempt to quit, even with the alimony. Perhaps I'll get cancer and croak! The postman can support her.
I stand beside the main building steps and smoke. I'm wearing a horrendous brown suit I purchased while attempting to capture the look of a real college professor. Uncomfortable black dress shoes. White shirt, brown tie. A rather dour look. My fellow professors, most of whom I despise, know about the postman. In the days after the news broke, I received looks of pity and a deluge of worthless advice. One biology teacher moron had the insight to say that there’s "plenty more fish in the sea". I remember nodding sadly. My ex fish bitch stole my dog you fucking dimwit. I wanted to hit him but didn't. The students knew too. I told them. An oddly supportive bunch. Even the do-nothings extended support. Probably just looking for better grades.
I often stayed late. My classroom is my office. In the early days of marriage, when the wheels were first detaching from the wagon, I'd often stay in that office until 1, 2am. Reading about battles, conquerors, great men. I love the Mongols. I'd stay late, drive home and hope she was asleep. If I woke early, I'd be off to a diner for breakfast and not see her at all. She used to mock me for this. Tell me I wasn't a man. Scream at me in her shrill, accusatory voice. The Mongols wouldn't have put up with such a vicious harpy. Silence was my only defence towards her.
Cigarette four beside the steps. It's dark now. Mack appears as I’m halfway through five. Mack is the janitor. Mack hates his life too. Mack's marriage collapsed. Mack drinks a lot. Mack talks endlessly about quitting his job, but never does. Mack and I often smoke together, relay our issues. Therapy for both of us. Just like in real therapy, nothing ever gets resolved. "I never did get my dog back, Mack''. We blow smoke in unison and watch it drift upward, until the rain effaces it . Mack comforts me in his own way. "God damn, lowlife bitch. To steal a man’s dog". Mack leaves me. Back up the steps I go.
"Sir?" I turn. It's Libby, looking resplendent as ever. She wears a red hat and the school's football jersey. Number 7. "How are you, Libby?" Libby smiles. I try to extend my back legs to look taller. I shift to a manly pose. "A little tipsy, sir", she tells me. A wonderful idea enters my mind. Nope, I'd be fired. "Did you grade the tests?" She has to ask a second time as the wonderful idea races from my mind. "Some of them, Libby. Not yours yet. I'm about to head up to finish them". Libby nods and smiles. "Do you want to get a drink with us, sir? Most of your class is there". Staff often drank in the college bar. I think. "Why not, Libby?" I smile nervously. Libby claps her hands. "Great!". "I'll just be a few minutes, Libby. You go ahead." Libby heads for the bar. I head up the stairs. Wallet. Students have asked me to drink with them before. I always politely declined, but this was Libby asking. I always tried to behave professionally, even as everything fell to pieces. I wanted tenure. It never happened.
I brush my teeth and change into a dry shirt and suit. A more impressive blue and black combo. Mouthwash, then I go. My class, and many others, cheer loudly as I enter the college pub. I trudge to the bar, shaking hands with my students as I go. What the fuck am I doing? Everyone is drunk. No Libby. I order a beer. I love alcohol but have no friends to drink with. Now and then, when I’m at my lowest, I drink alone. Half the beer down in one gulp. Yeah! Jack, another of my students, fist bumps me. "Respect sir". I finish the beer as Jack thumps his chest. "YAAAH, sir! Fuck yeah!" I decline Jack's polite offer of a shot. Where is Libby?
Another beer. My students are delighted to have me with them. Everyone says hello, many more come over to chat with me. Libby’s back. Libby walks slowly towards me as the jukebox plays. Towards me! Fuck it, I'm buying her a drink. Libby steps besides me. "Hello professor, thanks for coming." "Thanks so much for the invite, Libby" My forehead feels warm. I ask her what she wants to do next semester. She'll be in my class again, how wonderful. I'm buying her a drink, here we go. "Have you met my boyfriend?" Fuck. I didn't know she had one. She’s always with the same two girls. Libby's boyfriend stretches out his arm. I want to cut his fucking head off. He's taller than me. "Very nice to meet you, sir". Fuck. I shake his hand. "You too, son". You better treat her well you hulking brute. Fuck, why did I come here? I better excuse myself and leave. Somewhere in the recesses of my brain it occurs to me that it's for the better. How embarrassed I would have made her.
"Jack!" I roar. Jack is at the other end of the bar. "Jack!" A few of my other students call him. Jack stumbles down to me. Shots. "Barman, two double brandy's," I yell. Jack thumps his chest. Libby is dancing. My students are laughing. I buy them brandy too. Libby's friend is with her, the one from my class. They dance slowly, then quickly, matching the music. I'm transfixed. Jack slaps my back. Shots. Jack can drink. Some of my meeker students politely decline my brandy. No problem. Jack divvys the rejected drinks up amongst us. Mouth burning. I pull off my tie and wrap it around my head. We switch to whiskey then I tell Jack all about Winston the chihuahua. Screwdrivers next. The orange juice is delicious. It energises me. Libby is spinning around. I approach her as I head for the bathroom. Oh Libby, you are one of the best students I have had the privilege to teach. "Oh Libby, you so amazing history," I blurt. Libby is laughing, I'm laughing, her fucking boyfriend is laughing. Jack has ordered something green.
This was as drunk as I've been since Winston was kidnapped. I'm in Jack's house. Many of the class are back there too. I meet some of the football team. I high five everybody. Libby's wearing my tie around her head. I wander around, holding a can with a cartoon crocodile emblazoned on it. Hmmm. What are they doing? Some of the party is in the kitchen. I gaze through the door. They’re leaning on the table. Powder. They're snorting something. I throw open the door. Everyone panics. "Relax, dudes" I say. Relax dudes? What in the fuck? I shut the door.
I've never seen cocaine before. I go from dead drunk to wide awake as an invisible shotgun blasts off my nostril. I shake violently then hug my new drug friends. I have clarity. I know what must be done. I exit the kitchen. Libby. "Good night, Libby. Thank you for the kind invitation. I know what must be done!" Libby is bombed. She gives me a hug. I journey through the crowd, refusing their attempts to keep me there. My head is clear. I finish my can in one gulp. Jack hands me another fox can as I leave. He slurs incoherently as his legs sway from side to side. I feel invincible. Libby has my tie. She can keep it. I hope she likes it. I walk back to college, and my car, in the rain. My eyes are wide open and my spirits are high. My goal is pure.
I've never drunk driven before. Or drug driven. I blare the music loud and drive hard. Man on a mission. I pull up at the postman's house. I stride up to his door. I sip my fox drink as I wait. The door opens. Postman looks at me with concern. "Everything ok, buddy?" I gaze at him for a few seconds, then carefully lay my can down. Post man looks up his stairs. "Honey, could you come down here please?" Honey? The gall. I whack the postman in the face. He remains upright, and looks confused. I splash my can towards his face. "Stop saying hello to me, homewrecker! Winston!?" My beloved dog emerges. "Winston!" I cry out as my ex makes her way down the stairs. Winston is at my feet. My ex is shouting. No more of this. I carefully place a cigarette in my mouth and ignite it. I laugh at her, my eyes still wide. The postman is stunned. He stands there and does nothing as she implores him to grab me. I pick up Winston. I put my hand up to my ex, commanding her to stop. "I am taking my dog home. You stole him!" I glare at the postman. “Fuck you, you fucking letter deliverer, you fucking postman!” Postman’s eyes are as wide as mine now. I walk away, victorious!
Winston and I go back to the college. Winston wags his tail and leaps excitedly in the front seat as I drive. One more task to do. The security guard eyes me as I wander past him with Winston by my side. “Good night, sir”. He nods and returns to his paper. I smoke in my office while regrading each paper. Everyone gets bumped up. Libby gets an A+. Drinking buddy Jack, I hope he's alive. Fuck it, Jack A+ too. All's right with the world. I sleep under my desk and use my jacket for a pillow. Winston sleeps beside me again. My hangover threatens to split my brain in half the next day. That bitch will no doubt call the cops. Fuck her, fuck the courts, I’m keeping my dog. I was wrong. My ex never called the police. The postman never said hello again. I quit cigarettes to keep Winston happy. The chats with Libby are now much longer. A great day.