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Monday, November 1, 2010

The drunk.

The man sits on splintery wood, painted long ago but now abused to the color of week old bruises. The steps behind him lead to nowhere and the staircase railing tower on each side of him, creating a sad throne of sorts. The smell of alcohol surrounds him, like a coiling dragon, purring sweet lies to his body and his soul. His once carefully groomed hair is in disarray, like the mind beneath it. For a second he glances up in response to the noise of a car passing by, his head lolls to the side and a single gleaming trail of drool wets his chin. For a moment you can see his eyes as they darted about in panic, normally brown and clear, they held focus on nothing as the whites of his eyes gleamed in the coming dark. Like an animal of sort, he was lost in the darkness of the unaware.

He felt as he should feel some inkling of shame, and yet he felt none.

A whisper of danger coming, was quickly snapped up by the dragons claws.

He let his gaze wonder in front of him, and fought down the bile that was the dragon's payment. In front of him stood an old woman, her hair neatly braided on each side of her weathered face, it gleamed silver in the waning light. Her clothes were made of caribou skin, and seemed odd to the man. Her voice was patient and warm, "Why does an Inupiaq man sit here when the geese are flying, and the caribou walk?"

The man gargles on the spittle in his mouth for a moment and then replies in a slurred and whining voice, "My life is too complicated old fool, I have too much to think about, too many problems." And with that he flung a hand in front of him and she disappeared like fog.

And in her place stood a child, boy or girl you could not tell. The child's hair was a black as a raven's wing, and small brown hands were shoved into dirty jeans. Its face was smooth and rounded, and wide brown eyes stared at the man. The child's voice was sweet like the singing of the snowbirds in the spring, "Why does an Inupiaq man sit here and not make a place for me to live, so that I can love what is around me? Who will teach me to care?"

The man grew angry and his voice growled into the night, "Go home fucken kid, I don't care and neither should you!" And again his hand clumsily waved the child away, and it disappeared like fog.

And in the child's place arose a beautiful woman. Her long black hair smelled of the tundra and snow, and her arms promised warmth from cold nights and harsh words. Her voice was soft and concerned, "Why does an Inupiaq man sit here and not create a place for us to be proud? What mark will we place in this world?" The man blinked and his hands flexed, "If you want to party you can stay," he laughed a little at this, "Don' expect me to keep any promises though." And he laughed a laugh filled with phlegm, and the woman turned her face from him and disappeared.

And in her place stood an old man, his face worn from sunlight and lined from laughter. His body was still well muscled and he carried himself with pride and knowledge. His voice held strength and courage, and challenged the man like a crouched wolf, "Why does an Inupiaq man sit here and shame our ancestors? Why does he become less than man and more like beast?"

The man's face became red with drunken fury and he lashed out with awkward blows and grunted his reply, "Get away! Don't care about me! Fucken don't even know what I go through!" But the old man had disappeared long ago into the fog.

No more visions appeared for a moment, and the drunk settled himself against one of the railings, sloppily wiping drool from his chin. He waited for friends that would not come, because they had already used him for what money he had. But he did not know this and so he waited. People walking the street avoided him and walked on the other side of the street, teenagers snickered behind hands and yet they feared they too would become him one day.

And yet the man waited.

When the street cleared a young man appeared in front of the drunk. His body was lean and filled with the confidence of youth. Laughter sparkled in his eyes and his voice held the excitement of the first hunt, "What's up man? Why does an Inupiaq man sit here drunk?" The man frowned at the youth, his muddled mind confused, was this one of his friends? The youth sat down next to the man, swift as a cat. Again the sparkling voice asked, "Why you get drunk man?"

The man snorted and giggled a little, "A man's gotta relax, get away from life you know. Fucken stress tomorrow though." And thinking this was funny he laughed again.

"Why you stressed?" The youth asked quietly.

"Why? Cause' I got no life, no job, no nothin'. Jus' bills and stress, fucken everybody looking down on me like I'm a loser. Gotta' relax and let it just go away you know?"

The young man stood up so fast the drunk couldn't focus his eyes on the lean figure. His back was taut with anger. His voice sparkled with regret this time and his next words were said slowly, as if he was speaking to an infant,"You ain't got nothing cause no one gives anything to a drunk, and you need others to be me. You drink cause you have nothing, and yet you get nothing if you drink. Sad, sad man will never be me." And before the drunk could reply the youth was gone.

Alone and sobering up the drunk paused and blinked. That Western dragon called to him in a slow welcoming voice. The dragon was quieting and this made him worried. In his head he heard the voices, felt their need in his bones, and yet he was afraid. The dragon got rid of fear.

Alone… he wanted.

an older piece I wrote. One I think about a lot. I always wonder what happened to him. Where he ended up. Just thought I would share. I apologize for the swear words but when I put 'clean' words in there it never seems right.


  1. I had a friend once when I was fifteen, he was an Aleut fisherman. He is gone now, the "western dragon" got him. I remember pouring out the bottle and crying, but I didn't know anything else to do.
    This writing made me see him again as he was, thank you.

  2. This made me cry
    It made the hole in my family , the place B used to be, large and wide again...
    The swear words are ok
    He was a gentle man until he took up dancing with the dragon
    then he was not.
    And then he was dead.

  3. Whether it be Inupiaq or western Iowa, alcohol is so very destructive. It sorrows me to see young people of my community loving this dragon, thinking it makes them 'grownup'. And it sorrows me to see the old ones who have dedicated their lives to their own destruction.

  4. There is a good, good root named Tabernanthe Iboga, and this good root removes alcoholism. No joke. 20 years I drank daily, wanting to be free of it, now I don't. And I think about alcohol about as much as I think of zebras buying cars, which doesn't happen often. Iboga is a particular helper, most who hear of it, never remember. But some hear and know. Iboga works with our histories, our ancestors and is a powerful healer. It's easy to google.