Words by Fishspit
I’m not very sharp . . . simple things ain’t so simple to me. I’d poured over the book “Alcoholic’s Anonymous” a number of times . . . drunk and sober. Finally, a time came when I was thoroughly whooped. I found me a seat in this beat up old hall and stayed there. An A.A. hall. After a few months, the dilly-lathered brain of mine sorted a few things out.
Sure I’d gotten drunk nearly every day for 30 years . . . sure I was homeless . . . sure I was licked . . . but there was one damned thing in that book that didn’t make sense to me . . . separated me from the “real” alcoholic. The passage in which Bill W., talking about the trials that may come with taking an alcoholic in, speaks to some of the rigors one might encounter . . . where he mentions burning mattresses. Mattresses on fire!
The way my brain figured it . . . the doop-noodle way my brain thinks . . . I pictured a drunk, mad at the world, dousing his mattress with gasoline and lighting that baby a-flame. I sure as hell hadn’t gotten that bad! No! I hadn’t hit bottom! Obvious to me! When that day came . . . and come it certainly would . . . where I took the gasoline can to some bastard’s mattress . . . on the floor I’d made my home . . . lit it up . . . then your mama in plaid pajamas, I’d know I was an alcoholic! Little did I know . . . I was long past that point!
I was reading the book with a gentleman, and we got to this part . . . I spoke up! “Chris! What in Beelzebub’s name is it with these drunks lighting their mattresses on fire?” And the old boy explained . . . it had nothing to do with intent . . . no! It was about unconsciousness. A drunk falling asleep with a cigarette dangling from their mouth. Whammo! Flames a lappin’! It was then I realized . . . yes . . . I had . . . I’d passed this part of the exam years ago! I’d gone with one tough gal for about 8 years of my drinking. Of those 8 years, I must have spent 4 of them sleeping on the couch . . . because I was in trouble . . . I was in the doghouse.
That was one awfully goddamned uncomfortable couch! It was short! Fit a midget comfortably! But I ain’t no midget. Waking up from a hangover on that short couch, colored a grotesque, sickly orange, squished up into an unnatural posture, was not fun in the best of times . . . but I had me a tough little gal . . . and she wanted me to suffer! No enabler, this kitty cat! Good lord no! She knew the liquor stores didn’t open until 6 a.m. . . . so as early as 5 I’d come out of a rotten, sweaty, slumber to a hellcat making as much noise as she possibly could in the kitchen.
Bang, wang, smash! She was frying up extraordinary amounts of bacon while making a regular horror show of clashing and crashing and beating and bashing . . . those poor pots and plates. Bacon fat frying may be a fine smell to some people . . . but if you were hungover like I was hungover . . . it just made me want to hurl. That little vixen knew how to make me suffer! If it wasn’t the pots and pans and frying bacon . . . it was the vacuum cleaner. She sure liked to clean around my head on those wretched mornings. Good golly miss molly! She knew I had an hour of the alcoholic heebee jeebees on me before I could get more vodka into my shattered being!
I’m not here to tell you my hangover woes though. I do want to tell you that an old street drunk (who’d had plenty of women problems of his own) taught me how to beat the little she-devil in this battle of wits. How to kill them willy wonkas from the time she golly wobbled me to the time the liquor store opened.
He taught me. It was two blocks to the Piggly Wiggly which was open all night. What the old timer clued me into was that I could go on into the Pig and buy a carton of chocolate milk . . . then go get me the largest bottle of vanilla extract they sold . . . 20 percent alcohol! No laws against buying vanilla extract at 5 in the morning. Mix it up . . . and sip away. It ain’t the finest cocktail in the world, but it works. The liquor store was only 4 blocks from the Piggly Wiggly. I’d cruise on over there and sit with the other drunks out front, waiting to put an end to the misery on the brain. It mellowed me out . . . took away the shakes . . . which was important to me because I was ashamed . . . of the little cutie at the liquor store . . . the tremors could get so bad I had a heck of a time giving her the scratch and getting my change. I didn’t want her to think I was a two-bit wino!
This story . . . lord love a duck! It’s getting way off track! Let’s pull it back in . . . that disgusting orange couch . . . me with the dipso blues . . . my “in the dog house routine” again . . . me and Hank Williams . . . Miss Audrey must of given him some hell . . . I had my feisty little wop making my existence unpleasant. Always sleeping on that goddamned couch!
The drunk lighting the mattress on fire? That would have happened! 3 times! If I’d have been allowed to sleep on the mattress! But no! It was the couch for me! I lit that baby on fire three times! Passed out! Cig dangling from my lips . . . I’d be dead if it wasn’t for my little feisty puss . . . the smell . . . woke her . . . she’d come in screaming like a banshee! The couch! On fire! I’d slap it out. I wonder if she ever seriously considered just letting me go up with it? It might’ve crossed her mind . . . I was no picnic. Surely I’d be dead . . . if not for my little sweetie. Replace that orange couch with a mattress . . . poof! Up I would’ve gone . . . if not for her.
But the couch wasn’t the only victim of my drunken, spindly-bopping about. Oh no! Hell no! What about the back yard? Must of dropped my cig . . . in a drunken stupor. There I was . . . sotted and potted to the couch. Admiring that intense sunset . . . coming through the windows facing the back yard. Wow! Brilliant! You don’t see ‘em like that every day. Not much could have induced me, that drunk, to go have a look-see, but I wanted to spock that brilliant of a sunset! I stumbled up . . . to have my little gaze at nature’s beauty . . . oh good god! It wasn’t a sunset at all! The back yard was a-blaze! No tiddledy winks fire either!
I stood in a stupor . . . too drunken stupid to call the firemen. But somebody had . . . as I stood in awe . . . about 400 firemen attacked my back yard! 4000! Firemen popping out of the mole holes! More firemen than you could shake a stick at! And the neighbors! No! Those assholes weren’t going to be left out! Conflagrations bring out the peeping tom in folks. 40,000 firemen! And 20 neighbors . . . no . . . 200! Must have been . . . all pointing at me . . . as I stumbled about. Maybe not so many . . . seeing triple? Quite possible . . . I was pretty tidily bummed. Those goddamned neighbors! Free entertainment! The firemen spraying down my yard . . . me standing about . . . not so sure what to do.
The chief! Oh my! He wanted to have a little chat with yours truly . . . not a kittenish chat either . . . no . . . not so friendly . . . “I thought it was the sunset!” Dizzy dean . . . shoulda kept my gob shut. Blurting out inanities. That old fire chief had a lot to say to me . . . beginning with the line, “Son, the sun don’t set in the south.” That’s what he said . . . took me for a dipshit! I suppose I was. Great balls of fire that chief gave me the what for!
One would think that I’d have learned my lesson . . . oh no! I was thick . . . dumb as a shark . . . well . . . stupid when I drank . . . which happened to be all the time. My little tet a tetes with old grumpy puss fire chief weren’t over yet . . . not by a country mile. The next time that old boy and me had a chat . . . well . . . hell! I didn’t even get to enjoy the action. Stumbling around again . . . lost another cigarette somewhere . . . but I was inside . . . with the punk cranked up on the box. Bang! Bang! Bang! I wondered later, after the neighbors had dispersed, the firehose rolled up . . . how long had they been banging on my door? The Exploited on the turntable, “Fuck the USA!” Awful loud . . . Bang! Bang! Bang! “Hold your horses!” I screamed. “Where’s the fire?” I was joking of course . . . drunk and jovial . . . laughing . . . when I opened the door. Oh Son of Sam! It was my fire chief . . . with a pretty sour look on his mug. He wasn’t alone . . . 25 neighbors were backing him up . . . all getting an eyeful of the pyro! The drunk! The sot!
That fire chief wanted me to come look at something. I wasn’t so keen on the idea. I had a sickly sort of lump in my gut. But he was especially pushy on the subject. Him and me, followed by all them neighbors, went around the side of the house . . . the little patch of lawn that used to be there . . . black as coal! My little sundried yard had gone black on me.
That chief! He wasn’t in no toasting mood . . . spoke all sorts of calumnies against my good name! What an ingrate! Jesus forking a pork chop! I was keeping him out of the soup line! Keeping him from collecting flap on his ass! I tried to explain to him . . . I had to water the tomatoes! It was his humble opinion that I could do such a task without a cigarette dangling out of my mouth. I wasn’t so sure . . . but sometimes you gotta be humble . . . keep the gob closed . . . sort of crawl into some crack somewhere. Poor fire chief . . . “No more!” I swore to him . . . it was time I quit anyway! No way to go through life . . . swilling booze . . . a cigarette dangling from your lips. “I’m a changed man, Mr. Fire chief! You can take me out of your pack of worries! Never again will your big boots have to grace my porch!” I swore it was the last time we’d have a little conference. It wasn’t.
My little town was becoming progressive! Recycling bins! A bin for the yard waste . . . grass clippings . . . dead branches . . . that sort of thing. Certainly no place for a cigarette! But one found its way there. Poof! There went the yard waste . . . regular bag of tinder. And, ah hell! I was completely oblivious to this little inferno as well. I heard the sirens this time . . . “Oh dear god no!” I thought, “No! No! No! Please . . . not this time!” I sprinted on outside . . . yes indeed . . . they were coming to me . . . those delicious red fire trucks . . . firemen falling off . . . jumping into action. Had there been a crack, I surely would have found a way to squeeze into it . . . no matter how small . . . and there he was! My dear pal! The fire chief!
He looked at me like I was a bug. I’ve seen that look many times in my life . . . it’s when I know I’ve been written off as a complete nincompoop. A drunk gets that a lot in his life . . . that look . . . “He’s got wet brain! A menace to himself and society! Let’s get 2 shock doctors . . . sign him up! Only safe place for him is the booby hatch!”
“Fishspit . . . let’s go on inside.” We sat down at the little supper table. He sighed. Jellyroll, the cat, came in for a few pets . . . that snaggle-toothed son of a bitch . . . the only being left in town that didn’t think I was a stinker. As the chief rubbed Jellyroll’s belly, he told me of the fine in the works. He said that he didn’t like to take such measures, but the mayor was on his ass . . . “That Fishspit fool! We gotta get that pederast to pay for some of this! That gypsy, dildo-sucking, dipso!” The mayor’s sweet words . . . his humble opinion of yours truly.
They didn’t know what else to do! Poor old fire chief! You get to the point, as a drunk, where you quit fighting. You start running. Rent’s in the arears? Skedaddle! Owe the dentist for the teeth you lost in a fight? Skedaddle! Bar tabs? Make yourself scarce! Try somewhere on down the line . . . where they aren’t sick of looking at you yet.
A few days later the fine came in the mail. My gal opened the mail . . . I’d quit bothering with that nonsense a long time before. She held the bill, “Is it a fat one?” I asked. “It ain’t spare change,” she replied. She held the bill in her pretty little hand . . . gave me a sad look, “We’re moving again aren’t we?” she finally asked. “Yup,” I said, “Let’s pack it up . . . try somewhere else.” And we did.