All it takes

Written in response to: Write about a character driving in the rain.... view prompt

11 comments

Fiction Sad

I sing, 

"With each drop

Drop

Drop

I think of you.

With each

Drop

Drop

Drop

I think of you.

With each drop, drop, drop

Every drop,

Drop

Drop

With each drop, drop, drop

It's only you."

And I haven't drunk for nine years, but I think tonight's a good night to relapse. 

The rainwater on the top of my Audi's moonroof holds a hundred irregular spheres that jiggle with the bumps in the road, which I should be paying more attention to. I took a picture of the water bulbs once, then pinched and widened my fingers on my phone's screen to see what to make of the weather's beauty. Zoomed in, the droplets didn't look real; they looked animated like something you might see in a dramatic cartoon. I showed the image to my child, who was in the car with me at that time, and said, "It looks fake."

Who am I to tell a youngster something like that? My words implied that nature shouldn't produce something so wonderful; they showed my ignorance. 

I am not a singer, but I will sing. I don't like being a father, but my wife is pregnant again. 

I go to bed wondering if things might be better if I were dead, you know? 

When I was drinking all those years ago, I never thought like that. All those years ago, when I binged on booze, that's when my wife fell in love with me; that's when I had friends. Now I'm just a guy who screams at his family and drives around the neighborhood in the rain. I've got six months before this second child comes and destroys everything that I've built. 

Bullshit! The child will help you build; create more, teach you things you didn't know; it will help you grow. Yes, perhaps. Maybe it will be just like the rain; another drop of rain; something so-

There's something about bourbon that's attractive to me; its caramel seduction, its sweetness; its burn that teases the back of your throat before you let it swim down to your belly. 

Who is my wife to make these decisions for our family? Who am I to call it the other way? Why does driving in the rain make me whisper? Who am I talking to in this goddamn car that costs me seven hundred dollars a month? 

And I've got to put another car seat in it? Dammit! What's the point of nice things when you have a kid? Kids*

I can buy a bottle of bourbon, and she won't know. I can sit in the downstairs office at night with all the lights off and drink it. The only thing that would brighten the room would be the security system's floodlight on the side of the house; the rain would trick it into thinking a robber was lurking outside. The truth, of course, would be that the robber was already in the house, taking up space in my crystal glass. 

Maybe I'll get a pint of Jim Beam and a bottle of coke right now. I could pour out half the coke and fill the rest of the bottle with Jim Bean. I could drive around my neighborhood real slow, drinking and peering into the windows of the houses whose front yards are nicer than mine. If your front yard looks more expensive than mine, your life is probably better than mine.

I've spent a lot of time behind the wheel, inebriated. Jack and Matt are both dead now, but we each took a triple-stacked pink dolphin in high school and thizzed our fucking brains out. I drove from Blackhawk to Castro Valley, took the 580 to Oakland, and returned to San Ramon. They died of drug overdoses much later in life. Maybe I was part of the problem. 

But we're not talking about pills, old man, we're talking about booze: the legal stuff; OTC. Don't you deserve it? You're closer to forty than thirty.

And you've never gotten a DUI.

And you're in a nice car. And it's raining. 

And you've got a baby on the way. 

Why can't you just have some bourbon like a gentleman? 

All these energies at the dinner table, and I'm supposed to drink water for the next eighteen years? Why's my wife get wine, but my treat is a kombucha? Why do I have to exercise and do strength training when she's about gain thirty pounds? 

Why the fuck am I still trying? 

You want me to be a dad (again)? A two-kid family and a white picket fence? Then let me watch football on Sundays and drink beer. Cancel my subscription to the New Yorker, and get me a Sports Illustrated, one of the ones with the girls on the cover. Take some money out of savings, not for a coffee table or another rug, but a Lay-z-boy for my man cave we're going to build. Let me drink bourbon again, and don't ask why I'm doing it or tell my mom afterward. 

The rain, this second kid on the way, and this red light I'm stopped at can make a man very resentful. I have three pairs of shoes that are perfect for the rain, but I was such a spaz when I left the house that I'm wearing my slides, so I guess my feet will get wet when I get out of my car to buy the liquor. I've already passed a Safeway, 711, and an old-time-looking booze shop that's stacked full of things that can kill you if you've got an ID that says you're old enough to die. 

The rain slashes sideways through the air in front of a Honda's headlights. I stare at it, thinking of how sharp it looks, and the visual makes me focus on the raindrops drumming on the hood of my car. The bastard behind me honks his horn, and I scream, 

"You fucking want a piece of me!? You fucking want to go, you fucking fuck!" 

I've been surrounded by my kid for so long I can't even cuss well anymore. 

I'm out of the residential area now. There will be another Safeway on my right, then a Rite Aid, then a liquor store, and across the street, there will be another one. 

This is it for me. 

Enough of this muttering and sputtering. Enough of this whispering and humming. I have to pull the trigger and do it if that's what I want to do. 

And isn't it what I want to do? Otherwise, why would I have left the house? 

I pull into a spot in the liquor store's parking lot. I turn the car off, and these red lights on the interior door panel light up like a spaceship. I turn the keys one click to get the wipers going; they swipe to the left, and I see a man come out of the store. He has long, unkempt hair covered by a camouflage hat, and he's wearing cargo pants. He's clutching a brown paper bag with a bottle inside of it close to his chest. I contemplate.

Soon another patron leaves the store. This time it's an older woman, and she's holding her keys and a carton of Marlboro lights. These people, they're all older than me, and they probably make less money than me too. 

Why do I think like that?

What right do I have to judge them for what they're buying when I only wish that I could give in just like them?

"Fucking get the bourbon," I whisper with my thumb's fingernail between my teeth.

I make myself a deal; If one customer comes out of the store with a bottle of whiskey in the next five minutes, I will buy a bottle too.

 I glance at the clock on the car's dashboard and wait. 

I'm watching the time change like I'm back in the seventh period, and I'm waiting for it to be 3:10 pm, so I can run to the parking lot, get in my car, pop open a tin of Skoal mint and throw in a dip. That's life; the raindrops are talking to me. Each patter carries a memory, and when the bulb breaks, you can catch a tingle of your past, a flash of the-

A person exits the store carrying a brown paper bag. In it is a rectangular bottle. 

"C'mon," I whisper, "C'mon, c'mon." 

I lean close to the steering wheel so I can get a better look.

"Oh my God," I say. 

That's all it takes.

Inside the store, my heart's racing. I haven't been in a booze shop in almost a decade, and I'm nervous. I walk past an aisle that holds wine, and another, then one that contains the clear stuff, and after that, I see the whiskey. I turn and look at all the options: Jim Bean, Jack Daniels, Wild Turkey, Gentleman Jack, Buffalo Trace, Crown Royal, Jameson, Maker's Mark, Evan Williams, etc. 

I pause and look at all the bottles like a general might look at missiles before they get loaded onto a plane. There's something manly about smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and drinking whiskey. I've done it, and I'm a man, I should know. 

The webbing of my hand between my pointer finger and thumb starts itching. I scratch it. It burns like the taste of bourbon in the back of my throat. I've drunk all of these liquors, and they've brought me plenty of joy (and suffering), but tonight I must play favorites. I pick up a bottle of Gentlemen Jack and cradle it with two hands to feel its weight. I salivate, then put it back. I don't want something that sweet tonight; I want to feel the burn. 

With the neck of the bottle of Wild Turkey 101 in hand, I start making my way to the cashier. As I step out of the aisle, a massive wave of guilt washes over me.

You weak bastard. Is this what you want? After all those years of sobriety, you're going to give it up for this? 

But I think of drinking from the bottle in my car and driving around the neighborhood; I think of the rain falling and what it would feel like to be drunk again. 

Think of your child's eyes. 

Think of your wife's words. 

Think of looking at yourself in the mirror tomorrow. 

After you've had your pleasure, what then? 

Fuck. Goddammit. I walk back to the aisle and put the bottle back on the shelf. 

On the way out of the store, I grab a snickers bar and pay for it.

"Anything else?" The guy asks. 

I glance over his shoulder at the chewing tobacco and cigarettes. 

"Not today," I say. 

Back in the car, I notice my socks are wet from the rain, and my car smells like the purple berry rice puffs my kid loves to eat. 

I tear open the chocolate bar and take a bite. It's raining harder now, and I can't see the front of the store, but I don't turn the wipers on. It's like I'm in a car wash; it's like I'm high out of my mind. I eat the bar and, by the end of it, seem to snap out of wherever I was. It's just like the commercials. 

I whisper to myself," Everything's a cliche." 

I already knew that. 

On the drive home, I feel proud that I didn't buy the bottle, but it's weighed down by the guilt I feel from yelling at my family and storming outside of the house. I've only been away for twenty minutes, but it feels like much longer. 

As I get closer to my house, the song pops back into my head, 

"With each drop

Drop

Drop

I think of you.

With each

Drop

Drop

Drop

I think of you.

With each drop, drop, drop

Every drop,

Drop

Drop

With each drop, drop, drop

It's only you."

And I don't know what will happen in the future, but I'm trying to be a better man. 

I'll need to apologize for my outburst, and this probably won't be the last time I make a fool of myself, but it could always be worse. As I pull into the driveway, I think about what it takes to withstand the rain and how nice it is to be back home. 

September 23, 2021 22:14

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11 comments

Shea West
18:05 Sep 29, 2021

Scott, I was telling Deidra Lovegren and Russell Norman about your incredible stories. They have this rad podcast called Read Lots Write Lots, I just joined them the other day and had a great time. I think you'd be a great guest! You have insane talent, and folks should know your name! Let me know if I can connect you three with one another :)

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Scott Skinner
04:02 Oct 03, 2021

Thanks for thinking of me - I'll check out the podcast, and let you know what I think!

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Cathryn V
04:49 Sep 27, 2021

Oooh Scott— You have such a knack for internal processing. I really enjoyed this glimpse into the mind of an addict. The daily struggles in life that we all have and those of us who use destructive tools to cope. I like this part where the story opens up: The truth, of course, would be that the robber was already in the house, taking up space in my crystal glass. great job!

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Scott Skinner
03:33 Sep 28, 2021

Thanks! I liked that line too. I'm happy to hear you enjoyed reading this one :)

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Jon Casper
09:36 Sep 24, 2021

I could really feel his torment. On top of the addiction, you nailed the self-loathing of the suburban upper-middle class man -- catching himself in his reflexive classism, and wondering why. Those feelings of "why should they be so lucky" to indulge, when they aren't lucky at all. I was gratified when he thought through to the aftermath of giving in -- the guilty morning after. Not wanting to hate himself even more. Very well done.

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Scott Skinner
19:53 Sep 24, 2021

Thank you! I had more lines related to the classism stuff that I cut out, hoping that the point was made without them. I'm glad it was!

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Shea West
05:16 Sep 24, 2021

Well damn. I'm not an alcoholic, but I felt like I was in this driver's seat the entirety of the story. You created a feeling that allowed the reader to easily insert themselves into this battle of "I can stay sober," and "Eh, Fuck it all!" I knew as soon as I read this sentence- I am not a singer, but I will sing. I don't like being a father, but my wife is pregnant again. You don't say, "But I'll continue to parent my kids." Which sets the whole tone for the story. Will he or won't he? And as a testament to sobriety you ended the sto...

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Scott Skinner
19:59 Sep 24, 2021

Thank you! I think you're right about sobriety being one day at a time, and I'm glad that resonated in the story. It was interesting to write the two sides of the coin this guys going through - like how you put it; "I can stay sober," vs "fuck it all" lol

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Francis Daisy
01:19 Sep 24, 2021

Well played out interior monologue...loved hearing the struggle with the monster inside the character's head.

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Scott Skinner
19:59 Sep 24, 2021

Thank you, I'm happy you enjoyed it!

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Francis Daisy
01:19 Sep 24, 2021

Well played out interior monologue...loved hearing the struggle with the monster inside the character's head.

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