November 2002
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Him and His Empty Bottles
By Jade S., Grade 10 student, Delta Secondary School, Delta, BC

There is no irritating buzz of an alarm clock to wake him from his drunken slumber. No wife to kiss him on his cheek and a whisper " morning honey." No excited children that call to him "wake up daddy, wake up, lets go play." It's just him, him and his empty bottles.

He wakes himself. Pounding thuds blast through his head. But in reality the only sound that can be heard is the low humming of the fridge from the kitchen. There is no need to have a shower or get dressed as he is still wearing yesterday's clothes. His throbbing headache continues as he makes his way into the bleak kitchen. His feet stick to the cold linoleum and a smacking sound rises with every departure from the floor. He opens the door to his avocado green fridge, leans in and is overcome with head rush. The sensation is more than he can handle and he slumps towards the cold floor, bashing his head on the open fridge door and blacking out on the freezing linoleum.

He wakes up about twenty minutes later; he has forgotten about his waking before and can't remember how he got to the kitchen. Then again, most of the time he can't remember how he got home the previous night. He rises to his feet and rubs his eyes. The fridge door still hangs open on its loose hinges. It doesn't matter though; there is little food to spoil. He stumbles over to the kitchen table and sits down on one of the rickety wooden chairs. Bottles empty and in-between join him at the table like an awkward Alice in Wonderland tea party; and, like Lewis Carroll, his head spins. Elbows on table, head in hands, he sits at the table until his mind clears. Once it is cleared, he decides to leave for the liquor store and gathers his guitar.

He steps down the two or three porch steps to his blue bike parked at the back of his shingled house. He hops on and rides down the street until he reaches the main drag. From there it leads him to the "Save-On-Foods" shopping center. He hugs the painted yellow curb as he pulls up to the liquor store. Then he parks his bike in the regular spot next to the shopping carts. He lugs his guitar from his back and releases it from its case. Gently he places the open case on the cement in hopes of passersby's pocket change. An out-of-tune note flows from the strings of his guitar as his fingers strum against them. Then, his raspy voice joins his one-man orchestra and belts the words to a popular country song.

Many people pass him. Most walk by and ignore him, their stubborn egos refusing to acknowledge his existence. They stare at the nothingness in front of them and with cold unfeeling eyes pass by. To them he's like a penny on the ground, not valuable enough to stop for. Occasionally, though, pity change does drops into his guitar case. But mostly the people just pretend not to take notice.

His singing continues until enough coins have been collected to buy a cheap bottle of vodka. He enters into the liquor store and heads directly over to the hard stuff. He knows which one is the cheapest and there is no reason to waste time. He grabs the bottle of vodka and goes to the cashier.

Once bought, he leaves on his bike for home. He arrives at his little blue house and goes in. No sweet call of "hello dear," no concerned "where have you been dear," no "how are you dear." No one cares. He goes to his kitchen and is instead greeted by his bottles. "How are you?" they ask tritely. He joins them at the table and pours himself a blissful shot of straight vodka. He throws his head back and swallows it down like cough syrup, and again, and again, and over and over again.

Finally, he's so drunk that when he tries to stand up his legs give out from under his body. He falls hard to the ground. He lets out a drunken laugh; the alcohol pads him from his fall and blocks out the pain. Mind spinning, he gets to his feet and in a crazed manner goes outside to his bike.

There's no one to tell him to tell him "stop, you don't know what you're doing". No worried "where are you going?" No one's there and his bottles don't care. Mumbled words drool lazily out of his mouth as he stumbles to get onto his bike. Finally, after a struggle with the blue medal, he climbs on lurches off.

He makes his way out of his driveway, gets down the street, and steers his bike unknowingly into a curb. He falls and hits the cement hard. No shocked "oh my god, are you ok?" No frightened "do you need some help?" No one seems to take notice. He spends the rest of his night riding awkwardly around the streets of town. He stops occasionally to talk to wandering teens. But he can't hold a conversation and it usually ends before it starts. In a sad attempt for companionship, he yells out vulgar remarks to women who pass by him. But they're all disgusted and ignore his comments.

Finally, although he probably won't remember it, he manages to find his way home and passes out. No gentle "night honey," no tender "sweet dreams daddy," no warm "see you in the morning". No "I love you". The only place he will ever find love is at the bottom of an empty bottle with its harsh words inscribed in blood.

It has been this way for most his life. Him and his bottles, like husband and wife. To the outside world, it is a horrible marriage. His bottles beat, control and enrage. He abuses, misuses and manipulates. But to him, his bottles are his last drop of insane humanity. His invincible thread against the Fates' ever-snipping scissors. It's his golden elixir, like the Tuck's immortal pond. His malevolent angel.

Comments on article:

Sarah King, Age 17, Bay Roberts, Nfld.
This is AMAZING! Jade, do you mind if I submit it to my school paper? Our school has a real problem with teen alcohol abuse and I think this piece would really turn some heads. Congratulations on a great piece!


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