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A Bottle of Vodka and a Pack of Cigarettes, excerpt

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Old 09-20-2012, 03:39 PM
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Default A Bottle of Vodka and a Pack of Cigarettes, excerpt


So I'm walking out of the liquor store with a black plastic bag in my right hand. I have to switch it over to the other hand as I reach for the keys in my pocket. There's a pen in there I used to sign off on a planogram at Jerry's earlier that day, since I get up at three-thirty in the morning. That's when I get up for work. It's twelve-thirty in the afternoon – just after noon, now.

The keys jingle as I slip them out of my pocket. I press the little button on my key chain that says unlock and you can hear the car locks on my 2001 Toyota Corolla click from pretty far away. The inside of the car smells like an ashtray was rolled around in it for a while. I do my part. I light one up and roll down the window.

The drive home goes over Beach Boulevard. The road likes to act up between drives and put more cars on the road one way over the other. But really, the time of day shows on Beach like it were a great big yellow-striped sundial. The work rush between seven and nine o'clock clogs things up wonderfully so you can't get anywhere on time. My favorite is the traffic at four-fifteen in the morning where sometimes I don't get a single car behind me for at least a half-mile. In the morning I listen to a mix of classical, romantic, baroque and the like of music on a single radio station that I really like, because it also hosts news when it's not so early.

I get home which is a nice little place off Commerce that I share with two friends I have known since high school. One of them, since grade school. The grass is untrimmed and it's my fault because it's my week but I don't plan at all on mowing today. Not today. Inside I grab a glass and head for the back porch. It's screened in nice so there aren't any bugs or anything, except for the occasional cockroach. I crack open the vodka and pour myself a straight shot. Drinking warm vodka may be an acquired taste for some in Russia but for whatever reason I haven't acquired it. Maybe it's in the genes. My head jerks as the shot goes down. I make that exhaling sound and feel the alcohol burning on my breath. I set the glass down because I know what I have to do next and it isn't drinking. Probably more of that later, though. I pick my phone out of my pocket and dial my father. The phone rings for a bit and then I hear the other line pick up, but no sound.

'Hey, pop?'

*

I hear the front door open and close and I know it's Rich. He gets home first. My arm wobbles in trying to sit myself up on the couch. The majority of the bottle is gone and digested. I palm my forehead like I'm already hungover. But I know I'm not – it's just another drunk movement like every movement I make now. Not much of it will make sense.

Rich opens the door to the back porch and asks me what day it is like he won't be surprised when I answer, but he's not indignant about it or anything. More weary. I tell him what he already knows and he sighs. He goes inside and comes back out with a glass of his own. He pours himself one, tips it at me and takes the shot.

'You wanna talk about it?'

'Not really.'

'You should probably leave the rest of the bottle for later tonight, so you're not hungover 'til morning.'

'Solid logic.'

'You talked to your dad?'

I look at him then gesture my eyes at the bottle of vodka. He nods understandingly. I burp noxious gas and taste the stomach acid on the back of my tongue. Rich waves it off.

'You write anything in the last week?'

'Yeah, just one story...'

I can feel the words slurring on my tongue like an alcoholic slushy. As if my mouth were the dispenser and Rich were the one pulling the knob. My mouth feels gas station-dirty as well with the taste of cigarettes and vomit.

'Let's hear it.'

'You really want to hear this crap?'

He nods his head yes.

'It's about a man who ruins every great relationship in his life with a single phone call. Except, he wants to say it's not his fault – it was the phone. The buzz. The reception, whatever. When he wants these relationships back and nobody believes his story, he decides to bring the cell phone to life so it can tell everybody it was its' fault. You want me to keep going?'

He nods yeah. I light a cigarette.

'Alright. The phone turns out to be a she in life – a female – which causes some communication problems between the guy and this girl phone. They don't talk on the same wavelength, right? So this guy is parading the phone around to his ex-wife and his used-to-be friends trying to say, 'See, see, it's the phone!' The problem is nobody can hear the phone talk but him. He takes the she-thing home defeated. Now, at this point the phone is only speaking in fragments. Eventually, though, the phone starts remembering all the ways people talked over her in the past, before she was alive. The phone and the guy start having real conversations, right? They communicate differently – the phone is all digital, you know what I mean – but they really receive each other. The relationship speeds up. They start getting intimate. He texts all over her keypad, obscene words all typed as fast as possible. That really gets her off. More than turning her on, right? He does this so much an so often he starts running down the battery to the point where she can't hold a charge. She knows she is dying and tells him so. He has had her for years. He refuses to acknowledge it. They start having fights because she wants to go out and see the world before she dies and he wants to spend time inside with her. But he has the control. They become distant, having less time to talk while she is charging. One day she tells the guy she doesn't like it like being turned on any more, which the man takes as a sign of depression. So he takes her to the doctor. The doctor says he can't do anything – that he's not familiar with electrical medicine. You with me?'

Rich nods and makes a continuing motion with his hand.

'The man decides the only course of action is to replace the battery. He tells the phone this idea and the phone says nothing. The man panics, assured that his companion has finally died. Scrambling to the local Radio Shack, the man buys a new battery for his phone and brings it home. He pops the old battery out, throws it in the trash, and puts a new one in. Powering the phone on, it speaks to him but in a voice that is assuredly alien. This is not his old phone. He refuses to talk to the new friend, placing the phone in his closet. Confused for days, he goes on ignoring the incessant ringing in his closet, conjuring up theories as to why his method failed. He eventually figures it out and knows it in the back of his mind for the rest of his life. That phone had to die, as is the lifetime and nature of phones.'

'So the battery was like it's soul.'

'I guess. That contrived?'

'No, it sounds good. You going to publish?'

'We'll see.'

Rich picks the bottle up and pours himself another shot of vodka, choking it down.

'Cheap shit.'

'Can't afford anything else.'

'I thought you were going to ask for more hours.'

'To buy better vodka?'

'What better cause?'

'Feeding starving African children.'

'Starving African children don't get you drunk.'

'That they don't, my friend.'

I pour the last glass of vodka, smiling big after I drink it.

'You want to get more?' He asks.

'Yeah, let's go.'

It's dark as we drive up to this party at one of Rich's co-worker's apartments. Sue, he says her name is while we're walking around to the door. The place is pretty standard lower-middle class with a small lake dividing the complex where we can see somebody is out on their canoe. Little black PVC fountain in the middle. Some ducks and ducklings glide over the reflected lamplight.

We get to the door and you can already hear the music is loud enough to get a police call. But they won't be called because people here understand it is the order of the universe that students will have parties. And I know the equation. Let x be parties per complex per night, a the distance from a university in miles and b the university populace.

x = b/1.5(10^3)-a

I realized not long after making up this equation that you can end up with a negative number of parties, but I'm no mathematician.

So a kind of big girl answers the door – the kind who's got cheeseburgers for breasts bursting over a big bowl of vanilla ice cream. Her nostrils open wide like she's smelling something she likes. She flicks her greased auburn hair under a straw hat.

'Sue, Michael. Michael, Sue.'

'Pleased to meet you.'

She reaches her paw out in my direction and I shake it like thanks I'll be drinking all of your alcohol. Need anything else? She lets us in and while Rich is stuck behind saying hi to the rest of his co-workers I head straight for the bar. There's a keg in the pantry. Cheap whiskey. Cheap rum. Cheap vodka. I pour myself a vodka tonic. Suddenly, Sue.

'So you're Rich's friend?'

'Yeah.'

'How do you know him?'

She grabs a cup and taps out some beer. I look over my shoulder and see Rich chatting it up.

'Uh. Well we're roommates. We've been friends since high school, though.'

I look for an exit but she's in the way like I'd have to squeeze past her mongo tits just to get though.


'So what do you do?'

'I'm a writer. But that hasn't played out yet so I'm working at Jerry's.'

'Oh, the arts and crafts place?'

'Yeah, I specialize in ribbon. Red ribbon, blue ribbon, cupcake ribbon. You name it. I'm a regular ribbon connoisseur. I thought about writing a story about killer ribbon once. On Halloween the pumpkin ribbon raps around your neck 'til you've got pumpkin seeds bursting from your eye sockets. Your private parts become a crusty mold, incubating the pumpkin king and his underlings, ushering a new seedy world era.'

'Oh.'

She looks a little confused so I make my exit, bumping into her belly as I go. I find Rich who introduces me to Sarah and Kelly. He tells me they work in customer service. I smile and introduce myself. Michael. Starving artist. No, arts and crafts major. What? Neuroscience major, currently pre-med. That's what I go with. Rich pats me on the back and goes for a drink. I'm not lying about being interested in neuroscience. And it could always become my major. I tell the girls I once paid a visit to New Haven and got to tour about Yale for a while. Stoic buildings and museums. Best burgers in the country. If I I could, I would go. Though I wonder if my beggarly writer brain could manage lectures in the ivy league. One of the girls – I forget her name already – mentions she's pre-med too – going into nursing. Rich returns with what looks like a rum and coke and asks openly if I've started hitting on either of the girls yet. We all laugh a bit but secretly I'm thinking about what one of them – Karen, was it? I'm thinking I wouldn't mind see her naked. Then I remember I'm already full-on drunk and do not plan on stopping. Oh well. It's the prozac, I know. If I wasn't taking prozac I'd attempt to sober up and play choir boy for the rest of the night just at the chance I'd get in her pants. As is, I'm looking to refill my cup.

So I do, and what do you know, there's Sue.

'I thought about your story and I think it's funny, because it really reminds me of something I wrote.'

'Oh yeah? You're a writer?'

I take a sip of my vodka tonic and notice I poured it stronger this time. Not on purpose, of course – must have been a slip of the hand.

'Well, yeah. Sort of. Personally, I really like vampires. I know, I'm such a nerd.'

'No, no. Vampires can be chic. Cool. Whatever. Tell me a story.

'Well, right now I'm doing this fanfic thing about a girl who lives in a house with two vampires. The part I'm at now, she gets attacked by this wicked rogue vampire. But she learned voodoo in a previous chapter, so she uses a voodoo doll to get him against the wall. That's when her vampire friends – Locke and Vermin – come running into the room to protect her. They get in a fight with the rogue guy and accidentally end up biting him. This sort of turns him into a super-vampire.'

'What powers does a super-vampire have?'

'It's pretty cool. They grow to twice their normal size and over time they learn mind control. Also, they have very long fingernails.'

'Cool. You going to publish?'

'Probably not. It's not really that good.'

'No, it sounds good. You really should. Hey, there's Rich.'

I flub past her and realize my drink is already half gone, slip back by her to pour more vodka and then back by again. I join up with Rich, who is now smoking a cigar on the balcony. He's talking to a guy who he forgets to introduce, but that's okay because I introduce myself and find out his name is Derek. Another co-worker. Programming jockey like Rich. They're going off together on tangents about programming which I know very little about so I keep myself out of their business and light a cigarette. Rich says he would have offered me a cigar but I tell him I'd say know anyway so it's alright.

Across the lake there's another party where some sorority girls are screaming their lungs out to pop songs.

I go back in after my drink's empty and find the vodka bottle missing from the bar. I look around and see it nowhere. But here come Sue. I ask her if she has seen the vodka and she tells me the last time she saw it, it was in the laundry room. I don't know where that is so she kindly offers to show me the way. When we get there she abruptly pushes me up against the dryer so now I'm sitting on top of it. And she unbuttons my pants and grubs at my zipper hastily like I'm about to get away and I'm very well thinking of it. But with her blocking the way I only see one course of action. I fall back behind the dryer, head cracking on the floor but I didn't feel it I was so drunk. She yanks on my pants and manages to pull them off. Panicking, she calls for Rich to help her get me out from behind the dryer. If I could have only seen his face. He pulls me out and I get my pants on. I tell him it's time to leave, so he says his goodbyes and we get out of there.

While we're in the car, I tell Rich what happened. He laughs his ass off.

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Last edited by Futureblues; 09-20-2012 at 06:45 PM..
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Old 09-20-2012, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Futureblues View Post

The keys jingle as I slip them out of my pocket. I press the little button on my key chain that says unlock and you can hear the car locks on my 2001 Toyota Corolla click from pretty far away. The inside of the car smells like an ashtray was rolled around in it for a while. I do my part. I light one up and roll down the window.
like an ashtray was rolled around in it?


I get home which is a nice little place off Commerce that I share with two friends I have known since high school. One of them, since grade school. The grass is untrimmed and it's my fault because it's my week but I don't plan at all on mowing today. Not today. Inside I grab a glass and head for the back porch. It's screened in nice so there aren't any bugs or anything, except for the occasional cockroach. I crack open the vodka and pour myself a straight shot. Drinking warm vodka may be an acquired taste for some in Russia but for whatever reason I haven't acquired it. Maybe it's in the genes. My head jerks as the shot goes down. I make that exhaling sound and feel the alcohol burning on my breath. I set the glass down because I know what I have to do next and it isn't drinking. Probably more of that later, though. I pick my phone out of my pocket and dial my father. The phone rings for a bit and then I hear the other line pick up, but no sound.
Just wanna say at this point. Feeling a little bit bored. Maybe a lot of this stuff was necessary but I'm thinking that maybe this story could have been started later. Very few times does the reader wanna travel with the character on his way home you know?

Who was it that said start the scene as early as possible, end it as late as possible? Wasn't hitchcock was it?
'Hey, pop?'
interesting ...


'Alright. The phone turns out to be a she in life – a female – which causes some communication problems between the guy and this girl phone. Awesome. They don't talk on the same wavelength, right? So this guy is parading the phone around to his ex-wife and his used-to-be friends trying to say, 'See, see, it's the phone!' The problem is nobody can hear the phone talk but him. He takes the she-thing home defeated. Now, at this point the phone is only speaking in fragments. Eventually, though, the phone starts remembering all the ways people talked over her in the past, before she was alive. The phone and the guy start having real conversations, right? They communicate differently – the phone is all digital, you know what I mean – but they really receive each other. The relationship speeds up. They start getting intimate. He texts all over her keypad, obscene words all typed as fast as possible. That really gets her off. More than turning her on, right? He does this so much an so often he starts running down the battery to the point where she can't hold a charge. No!!! She knows she is dying and tells him so. He has had her for years. He refuses to acknowledge it. They start having fights because she wants to go out and see the world before she dies and he wants to spend time inside with her. But he has the control. They become distant, having less time to talk while she is charging. One day she tells the guy she doesn't like it like being turned on any more, which the man takes as a sign of depression. So he takes her to the doctor. The doctor says he can't do anything – that he's not familiar with electrical medicine. You with me?'



'So the battery was like it's soul.'

'I guess. That contrived?' No way, bro! That's beautiful man!



'Starving African children don't get you drunk.'
that's dark, I like it.


It's dark as we drive up to this party at one of Rich's co-worker's apartments. Sue, he says her name is while we're walking around to the door. The place is pretty standard lower-middle class with a small lake dividing the complex where we can see somebody is out on their canoe. Little black PVC fountain in the middle. Some ducks and ducklings glide over the reflected lamplight.
lower middle class, sure. But that's a hell of a landscaper.
We get to the door and you can already hear the music is loud enough to get a police call. But they won't be get called? called because people here understand it is the order of the universe that students will have parties. And I know the equation. Let x be parties per complex per night, a the distance from a university in miles and b the university populace.

x = b/1.5(10^3)-a

I realized not long after making up this equation that you can end up with a negative number of parties, but I'm no mathematician.
This sounds sarcastic but it's not, I'm serious ...

That would be hysterical if I knew how to do that equation ...



She looks a little confused so I make my exit, bumping into her belly as I go. I find Rich who introduces me to Sarah and Kelly. He tells me they work in customer service. I smile and introduce myself. Michael. Starving artist. No, arts and crafts major. What? Neuroscience major, currently pre-med. That's what I go with. Rich pats me on the back and goes for a drink. I'm not lying about being interested in neuroscience. interesting. he didn't lie to the unattractive girl .... And it could always become my major. I tell the girls I once paid a visit to New Haven and got to tour about Yale for a while. Stoic buildings and museums. Best burgers in the country. If I I could, I would go. Though I wonder if my beggarly writer brain could manage lectures in the ivy league. One of the girls – I forget her name already – mentions she's pre-med too – going into nursing. Rich returns with what looks like a rum and coke and asks openly if I've started hitting on either of the girls yet. We all laugh a bit but secretly I'm thinking about what one of them – Karen, was it? I'm thinking I wouldn't mind see her naked. Then I remember I'm already full-on drunk and do not plan on stopping. Oh well. It's the prozac, I know. If I wasn't taking prozac I'd attempt to sober up and play choir boy for the rest of the night just at the chance I'd get in her pants. As is, I'm looking to refill my cup.



'No, it sounds good. You really should. Hey, there's Rich.'
I think this could make a great on going series. Writers giving synopsises of their work. It's different, quirky, really cool. Room for a lot of variety.
I flub past her and realize my drink is already half gone, slip back by her to pour more vodka and then back by again. I join up with Rich, who is now smoking a cigar on the balcony. He's talking to a guy who he forgets to introduce, but that's okay because I introduce myself and find out his name is Derek. Another co-worker. Programming jockey like Rich. They're going off together on tangents about programming which I know very little about so I keep myself out of their business and light a cigarette. Rich says he would have offered me a cigar but I tell him I'd say know anyway so it's alright.

Across the lake there's another party where some sorority girls are screaming their lungs out to pop songs.

I go back in after my drink's empty and find the vodka bottle missing from the bar. I look around and see it nowhere. But here come Sue. I ask her if she has seen the vodka and she tells me the last time she saw it, it was in the laundry room. I don't know where that is so she kindly offers to show me the way. When we get there she abruptly pushes me up against the dryer so now I'm sitting on top of it. And she unbuttons my pants and grubs at my zipper hastily like I'm about to get away and I'm very well thinking of it. No your not ... But with her blocking the way I only see one course of action. I fall back behind the dryer, head cracking on the floor but I didn't feel it I was so drunk. alright, maybe he is. She yanks on my pants and manages to pull them off. Panicking, she calls for Rich to help her get me out from behind the dryer. If I could have only seen his face. He pulls me out and I get my pants on. I tell him it's time to leave, so he says his goodbyes and we get out of there.

While we're in the car, I tell Rich what happened. He laughs his ass off.

Great ending.

I'm ussually very plot driven but this piece is entertaining as hell despite not having one.

Like the character a lot, a real complainer but witty.

Best part was the cell phone story. Would have made a great story by itself but the idea of listening to this guy explain it to his friend, and later on having Sue do the same thing ...

I don't know what it is but it's cool.

Great work.
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Old 09-22-2012, 04:47 PM
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Pretty much agree with what Rooster has outlined except for the opening scene setting. For my tastes I would have liked this to have been explored a little more engaging the senses and mood in more depth. For example, the sound of the cockroach (even creeped me out just writing that word I hate them things so much) scuttling about or generally using language to create atmosphere instead of rushing into episode, but then I rarely read plot driven books.


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