Contemporary Sad

This story contains sensitive content

## Substance abuse, mental health, language##

I awoke to the high pitched screaming of a baby in distress, or hunger, probably both.

I had the beginnings of a grade A headache, and the piercing infant’s cry certainly wasn’t doing it any favors.

Groggily took in my surroundings. Unfamiliar bedroom, female, sour smell of old sweat and vomit. Beside me on the bed lay a naked woman, red hair straight from a bottle. Sleeping?

Shaking her produced no response. Shit. I breathed a sigh of relief as I found a pulse and noted her chest was moving. Passed out then, I wouldn’t have to add manslaughter to my list of transgressions just yet.

As I fumbled around for my discarded clothes, recollection of the night before dropped into my mind like shards of glass from a mirror.

Dive bar, red head being impressed with my snooker skills, invited me back to hers for some blow and a blowjob.

The shrill baby’s wail cut through my reverie.

A baby? Damn, she didn’t tell that little nugget of information. Not that it would have mattered last night. I was on a one-way mission to get wasted and get laid.

What sort of mother would go out looking for a one-night stand and leave her child alone, anyway?

The answer flashed in my head like a neon sign. The kind of person whose standards are low enough to find you an attractive proposition, Petey my boy.

A black wave of depression washed over me as the hangover started to dig its claws in.

“Fuck gotta get outta here,” I said to no one in particular. Pulling on my clothes, I stumbled into the living room. A baby sat in the middle of the floor, surrounded by empty take-away containers and coffee cups, diaper sagging and soggy.

Oh Jesus, I can’t handle this. Surprisingly, though, I must still have a shred of humanity in my ethanol soaked soul, as I found myself picking the baby up and placing him gently beside his comatose mother.

Ah St Peter, the patron of junkie single mothers everywhere. Pulling out my wallet, I saw that I had two twenties left from last night’s bacchanal. I placed one on the pillow next to her. Maybe she can buy the kid some food. I doubted it, but hey you never know, right? People can change.

Bus stop. The chill autumn wind swirled leaves and rubbish around my feet.

Had left my phone in my trailer, which I thought was a pretty wise move considering how I usually ended up when I went out. So back to the park, Happy Acres, it was called, which I thought was a highly optimistic name.

Also had my emergency booze stash there, and by god I needed to wipe this morning outta my head. There is always an emergency if you look hard enough.

My trailer was astonishingly neat and tidy. I was a messy drunk, but not messy. It helped that I had sold most of my belongings beyond the essentials.

Phone check. Couple of messages from Tony, saying he had some shifts for me if I wanted. I worked as a casual line cook at Tony’s Diner down by the docks. Very casual.

But I was good. Tony said I made the best omelette and hash browns this side of the state line. So he would throw me some work when I could manage it, and paid me in cash.

He knew what I was. He would say to me, “You aint a bad guy Pete, you’re just in a bad situation.” He’d raise his hands. “Maybe one day…”

I saw the last message and my heart jumped at the same time as my stomach plummeted. An odd feeling. Don’t recommend it.

It was from Jacky.

“Hey babe, haven’t heard from you for a while. Hope you are ok. Don’t feel that you can’t reach out to me for help if you need it. I worry. Call me when you can.”


A huge feeling of longing and hopelessness welled up inside me like a tsunami of emotion, threatening to overcome me until I was a babbling mess.

I punched the nearest hard surface. Get a hold of yourself, asshole.

I reached under the kitchen sink and pulled out a half empty bottle of rotgut whiskey.

A swig, “just to take the edge off” as my father used to say.

Jacky, my true love, my soul mate. At least that’s how it would have been had we come straight from the pages of some dime-store romance novel.

Feeling somewhat mellow, I recalled that old Rod Stewart song and sang out the chorus, badly.

You’re in my heart, you’re in my soul

You’ll be my breath should I grow old

You are my lover, you’re my best friend

You’re in my soul.

Nice right? However, what I didn’t know was that there is a part of my heart and soul that can never be filled.

I looked down at the bottle in my hand. Empty. Looked across at the only artwork I owned, a cheap oil of a snow-capped mountain range with a forest in the foreground. It would usually give a sense of peace, but not today.

I texted Tony and headed out.

Ah, the docks. I stepped off the crosstown bus and slipped on the familiar smells and ambiance like an old glove. A dirty, greasy glove.

“Hey Pete!” Tony greeted me as I slunk into the diner. Bushy grey hair, 70s porn stache. “We’re down one tonight. You wanna sling some burgers?”

“Sure thing, Tones,” I said, grabbing an apron from behind the counter. The diner was pretty full this evening.

As I headed to my cooking station, Tony came up and clapped me on the shoulder. “You doing alright?”

“Yeh, same old same old.”

Tony frowned. “You know, that’s what worries me.”

Turning away, I began frying. You know, it was kinda hypnotic, burger, slap on the cheese, tomato, toast buns. It stopped that other part of my mind from intruding, and I could relax in the repetitive mundaneness.

My phone rang. Jacky. Shit.

“Hey Tony gotta take a call.”

Tony waved in the affirmative.

I stepped out into the alleyway behind the diner.

“Peter, how are you?”

“I’m doing ok Jacky, keeping myself busy, you know.”

My yearning for what we once had was like a concrete block wedged in my throat. It was all I could do to keep my voice from trembling.

“Look Peter, I need to tell you, I have been seeing someone. He’s an accountant from the Central Bank, great guy.”

All the colors around me faded.

“We’re getting engaged. I know this is hard for you, but we both need to move on.” I heard her hitch back a sob. “I will always love you, but we can never go back.”

That line from a Don Henley song ran through my mind.

“I’m happy for you, Jacky.” What else could I say? You are the final lifeline in my fucked up existence, the one thing I would imagine we could return to, one day?

Even though deep down, in that part of me I forever denied, knew could never be.

“Oh, Peter, that means so much to me. Please stay well.” A sigh.”Maybe after the wedding we can catch up, have dinner together.”

“Sure, sounds great.”

“Ok, take care Peter, stay safe.”

The phone dropped onto the cracked pavement from my nerveless fingers.

The dirty green water beckoned me. I stepped off the boardwalk, and as I sunk into oblivion, I could see the yellow city lights swirling in circles above me.

March 13, 2023 12:54

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Michał Przywara
20:37 Mar 13, 2023

Definitely a dark ending here. The big theme is depression. The dwelling on the past, the irritation and frustration when Jackie says he can reach out if he needs too. Even Tony's asking after him is something to be ignored and waved away. We add to that self-destructive behaviours, like the drinking, and it paints a bleak picture. It seems this poor narrator finally had to face the truth that he never could go back - perhaps that was the one thing that kept him going - and it was too much to bear. "red hair straight from a bottle" - I l...


Darryl Roberts
23:02 Mar 13, 2023

Thanks, this is certainly not meant to be a pleasant read, but what happens when you stray from a path you once thought was inevitable, and find yourself lost in a dark place. Appreciate the pickup on that line, it was clumsy.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Amanda Lieser
16:43 Apr 13, 2023

Hi Darryl, What an incredible portrayal of a crushed human spirit. I loved the way that this story had such an outstanding way of introducing these characters. That opening paragraph will stay with me. I also really liked the way this story ended. I thought it was tragically beautiful. Nice work!


Darryl Roberts
00:03 Apr 14, 2023

Thank you for reading. I actually submitted this but for some reason it didn’t get approved, maybe the content was too dark.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Mary Bendickson
21:10 Mar 27, 2023

Oh, such a sad ending. You had me rooting for him.


Show 0 replies
Michelle Oliver
11:09 Mar 14, 2023

Definitely a dark journey into addiction and depression. Your prose is so reflective of the emotional and mental state of your MC. I like the way you have used songs to really help paint a picture of his emotions. We really get a sense of where his feelings and thoughts are. Love the Don Henley reference. Thanks! Now I’m singing The Boys of Summer in my head. -There is always an emergency if you look hard enough.- true -like a concrete block wedged in my throat.- I can almost feel it, great image Thanks for sharing.


Show 0 replies
Viga Boland
03:14 Mar 14, 2023

I like your chosen style of writing in this piece. The short paragraphs and cryptic sentences almost mimic what is going on inside the protagonist. He is unraveling as he tries to hold himself together. Well done.


Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.