(Chapter Story, ‘The Drinking Room’)
Jerry fills the glass clutching it, talks, remembers, dreams, thinks, wishes, watches, going in a circle around the table, ends back up looking at his glass, into his glass, the foam within the glass, his mouth unknowingly opens, the bubbles and foam are disappearing, he watching them dissolve, as if it was magic. It is a mustered-seed yellow liquid, cold beer, the same color of his pee he thinks. He puts the glass to his lips, opens up his mouth his throat, his eyes wide open, and pours it down.
He now picks up a cigarette out of an ashtray he had put down, a while ago, a Camel’s, non-filter, relights it, sucks in hard to get the cigarette hot as a pistol, it is red hot on the tip, he now leans over to pick up a card from the stacked deck, in the middle of the table, a cat, yellow as the beer, runs by, it belongs to the house, was a stray cat once upon a time-was I say: was…was…, now the kids adopted it.
“Lor…d…y…!” says Jerry, “what kind of cards are these?” he questions. He pushes his eyebrows up with some hidden muscles seemingly coming out of his eyelids; his holes in his nose-nostrils suck in air as if he’s been running, he’s overweight by a hundred pounds, well, almost a hundred pounds, take or give twenty, he sounds like he’s drowning.
Wistfully, and annoyingly, he rotates his head right to left, a fly is circling his head, he can hear its buzzing it wants to settle on his ear, and wants to land on his nose or eyelash or forehead, his forearms will do nicely also-he shakes his left elbow, smiles at the others, sips his glass of beer some-you can hear the suction, Jim is having a coughing spell,
“Put on a sweater,” he says, “Betty, go and see if you can fine him one.”
“It’s nothing,” Jim says, “just the damn damp weather, I’ll get over it, I always do, don’t bother Betty.”
“The damn damp weather” Ace’s voice stammers repeating Jim’s statement as if soothing: his voice always defeated.
Jim looks at Ace, his armpits smell, the music on the radio grows quiet and then revives, everyone is square mouthed, Bobby Vee’s hit, ‘Take Good Care of my Baby’ is being played and everyone’s humming to it, a 1961 hit; then comes one Evens likes: ‘More Than I Can Say,’ and he stops everything to listen to it, “Shoo…” he says to everyone (perhaps Vee’s most celebrated international song at the time).
“Got some good worms for fishing,” says Jim, as if lacking for something to say.
“Can’t believe it,” comments Jerry, looking at his cards.
The table now rafts with bottles.
A thick smell of tobacco, beer, human skin and bad armpit odors circulates around the kitchen table, mixed with chili smells which tributaries of smells lead out of the kitchen, circulating warmly throughout the kitchen, the drinking room, and into the living room and dinning rooms. The stench being least noticed the lower order of smells, the drunker everyone gets.
There is some laughter, drunken roars, and eyes dimming. They talk, become silent, empty, full, sometimes they all talk at once and nobody can be heard.
Bill has a little headache, ‘I should go home,’ he thinks. Then he thinks, ‘I’m acting ridiculous.’
Ace with his long legs stands up, staggers, wants to stretch them, Evens grabs him holds onto him, supports him until he gets his balance back. He goes forward around the table, step by step, looks out the window, gets some fresh air, his brain is clearing.
Jerry, he now picks up a cigarette out of an ashtray he had put down, a while ago, a Camel’s…
Ace straightens up-pulls out a handkerchief, blows his nose, wipes his forehead with the other side; for a few seconds he’s forgotten he has left his false teeth at home, you can see his red gums, he is back and ready to select a new card, still playing ‘Hearts’.
The cat is licking Aces shoes, he kicks him away, the cat whimpers, while Ace grabs his bottle of beer by the neck as if it’s the annoying cat, or a giraffe, and with two gulps drinks three-fourths of the bottle of beer down.
A dung heap of cigarettes butts are in the ashtray, the ashtray is really a simple soup bowl, low sides to it.
Betty notices a bulge in Aces shirt pocket when he had pulled out his handkerchief, figuring unconsciously, that it was a pack of cigarettes hidden, because he’s been begging cigarettes off everyone else all afternoon, in place of having to roll his, but they are not cigarettes.
By the looks of things, you’d think everyone there was an alcoholic; on the other hand, those that aren’t my very well possibly become one in the near future-to include Betty.
Betty leans her back against the side window behind Jerry. Puts her hands on Jerry’s shoulder, strokes his cold neck, a seeping coldness is coming from under the windowsill. She closes her eyes as if to catch a moment’s idleness, and refresh her stamina.
Out on Jackson Street, running north and south, you can hear engines, whistles from the steel company nearby, tires on the wet road, horns from cars, it is a noisy street this day. You can hear fleeting voices as people walk by on the sidewalk.
Jerry looks out the window over Bill’s shoulder, into the cemetery across the street, there is a grayness starting to envelope it.
Betty moves out into the living room, and kisses Jerry’s neck before her move. The cat has urinated on one of the rugs; you can hear Betty scolding her. Jerry finishes his glass of beer pours the contents of the bottle-what is left of it-into the glass, the foam is all out of it, but it fills the glass up halfway.
Jerry fills his glass back up with bottle of beer clutching it, talks, remembers, dreams, thinks, wishes, watches, going in a circle around the table…
Evens had drifted off; it was as if he was listening to the drizzling of the rain. Door slams-it is a screened in-door, it is next door, Jim’s house, he and his wife Bubbles live with Jim’s mother. Jerry raised his head, “It’s ma,” he says. His heavy hands fall back onto the table.
Jim gets up to use the phone in the other room, “Ma, tell Bubbles I’ll be along shortly, I’m playing cards over at Jerry’s.”
“Yah, I can see the back of you,” she says.
“Let’s not waist any time,” says Jim, “Let’s play for money?”
Nobody responds it is as if it was a statement, not a question.
Mrs. Hino is wearing a blue tunic like blouse, long in sheath that hides her body form, her shoulders to her ankles, and high rubber boots, covering her feet and ankles, a scarf folded twice around her neck; her hands to her side, her head low, fumbling with the keys, barely revealing a movement of her shoulders. A slight grimace, her nose a little dilated from the cold. The leafless tree to the side of her has tentacle branches, and very high peaks. She is sneezing…about to open the main inside door to the house…
Evens, has drifted off, a thin fuzz covers his reality, and is divided between the table and his small apartment room: Sandy is wearing a tattered iliac blouse, sticking to her breasts, tied around her waist, and her knees bare, her cheekbones are rosy, a tattoo on her thigh, a full expression in some peaceful manner, eyes yellow like a cats, lions, restless vibrations, her head is shaved, strange he feels, because noting seems real, but he is the pilot here, some kind of pilot, if only someone could explain to him, if he could understand (he could only hear a few words seeping, a grunt and waving of arms from those around him)…
Jerry fills the glass clutching it, talks, remembers, dreams, thinks, wishes, watches, going in a circle motion with his eyes around the table…
“Come on Evens, let’s play,” says Ace, looking at him.
“Again, say it again,” said Bill, he fell to sleep.
At that, Evens woke up.
“It looked like you were having a tumble with that Sandy or was it the Shadow?” Jerry asks Evens, licking his lips, everyone dying of laughter.
“They always like to be begged, don’t they,” comments Evens.
The telephone rings, and Nancy answers it, it is for her.
“Who was that?” asked Betty.
“Just a friend,” says Nancy. And before Betty could say another word, Jerry speaks up, as if knowing there might be a tug-of-war, “She’s at a foolish age, you have to know how to let go, unless you want to fight with her, she’ll just get all the more stubborn.”
At that, she lets it be.
Jim drinks down the last of his yellow liquid in his glass, looks at Jerry, sees some gray hairs, he fills the glasses of everyone’s up with a fresh cold bottle of beer, to include his, tops it off with mustered-seed yellow, giving it new foam and life, Ace drinks closing his eyes, everyone is taking long swigs of beer, wiping the sweat off with their hands, the kitchen is hot, he tells Ace, to go and buy more beer, another two cases, no, he changes his mind-figuring he might not come back, Bill goes. Jerry is getting a little drunk; he looks at Jim as if Jim is getting deformed ears, big ears as like Dumbo: “Funny what alcohol does to yaw,” he comments.
“Ace,” says Jerry, “it looks like you’re getting craters on your nose,” everyone laughs.
“Things happen,” Ace says, taking it seriously, a little confused, then laughs with everyone.
Jerry puts the glass to his lips, opens up his mouth his throat, his eyes wide open, and pours it down, beer and foam and per near a fly, he hears it buzzing, coughs up the beer, the fly was on the rim of the glass, “Damn thing,” he yells. Now cautiously imploring Betty to get a flyswatter and get that critter before he has a heart attack; then came on Gene Pitney’s ‘Mecca’ and after that ‘Twenty four Hours from Tulsa,’ songs everyone started humming to or tapping their feet to, and Evens doing both.
Feet and socks, and armpits odors-sweat odors, swirling about and chili smells biting everyone’s nostrils-everyone calling everyone buddy this and buddy that, an inner whirlwind of buddy talk. The music blasting now; it must be Bobby Vee day and Gene Pitney day, the song: “Rubber Ball,” is now being played on the radio, his number one hit.
‘My brother likes Jack Scott,” says Evens: a statement more than a question, no one takes notice to his remark, as they pick up cards from the middle of the table, checking their hands out.
#910 (Glass of Beer) 5-22-2012