the parables according to beer

the parables according to beer

A Story by D.G.
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nothing quite like being hungover at a funeral. just one more reason why my brother no longer talks to me...

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The parables according to beer.

 

For those of you that have worked a lifetime of stupid fucked-up jobs, especially the six-day a week kind, then you will understand just how important a Sunday can be. And for those of you that drink, well, you certainly know how favored a Sunday morning is.

And there was I just feeling the sun come by the window. Wondrous moments of a cool contentment, until I coughed and fully remembered how much my body hurt and that I still held to a fierce cold. And worse, within a few hours I would be at the funeral of my sister-in-law. How anyone could drop from cancer like a heart attack I’ll never get. But my major problem with the whole deal is that she was my age- forty-five. Long time to live but not really long enough.

I closed my eyes, brought the covers up. Was warm in that room. A painfully warm October. The electricity to that room didn’t work because the wires had finally given up in the walls and the landlord didn’t live there so what did he care? But I could hear the birds talking, the slightest hmmm of the butterflies wings. The hedges and trees chuckling with life.

A slight turn of the head and I could see a part full beer just inches away on the table. It was warm and flat from the night before. I reached over, brought the can toward me.

Wasn’t terrible. Wasn’t anything but another flat Sunday morning beer. The phone rang and that was a surprise. Thought it woulda been shut off by then. It was my brother William. I heard him inhale a cigarette.

“You up?” he asked.

“Sure. Drinking from a left over beer.”

“This early?”

“But of course.”

“You ain’t gonna be lit for the service are you?”

“You know me. I’d never do that.”

“I do know you. That is certainly why I asked.”

“That’s quite a question, coming from YOU.”

“I been dry for two years now, if you didn’t remember.”

“O, I’m so sorry.”

I heard him exhale smoke with a sigh. And just think, I’d quite the sticks a few months earlier, again, and here I was getting s**t for a morning beer. It’s a wild f*****g world we got here. I’ll tell you.

So,

he gave me directions to the church, and I found it a little peculiar that it should be a Baptist church. Didn’t know my sister-in-law all too well, but I do know that she was Mexican, and I’m pretty certain that those folks are catholic.  Made a mental note and hung up the phone.

I didn’t mind warm beer so much. I’d gotten used to the thing. You see, the kitchen was the other side of the house and I’d have to walk past old gal Charlotte’s room on the way. I think she was boning the old landlord on the sly for a better rate, she’d got to really be his right-hand guy. Especially when the rent was due. So I just stayed in my room, seldom ate or shat, and drank the warm stuff. I managed to my feet. Went and pissed through the window onto the walkway at the side of the house, and the phone went off again. It was Suki. Most recent x old lady who liked to f**k strange men when she wasn’t with me.

“Isn’t this the day of Nancy’s funeral?” she asked.

“Yeah. A few hours off.”

“Well, give your brother my regards, wont you?”

“I will, Suki.”

“Are you okay?”

“Sure I am.”

“It’s just that you sound kinda down.”

“This damn cold I got. And the warm beer. If I don’t piss out the window I get no privacy.”

“What else is new?”

“Yeah.”

“Give your brother my best. Okay?”

“I will.”

“And baby…”

“Yeah?”

“F**k off, won’t you?”

“You too there Suki.”

She hung up. I listened to the dial tone. What a sweet sound.

I dressed slowly and finished off the beer. There was another twelve-pack in the closet. It too would be warm, but it would not be flat. I pulled a t-shirt over my head. O yeah, funeral. I had a shirt with sleeves… somewhere. I reached for the box of beer in the closet. Ah, my long sleeve was there, wrapped about the box for insulation. What luck. What a wondrous life it can be.

I dressed and cracked the door. Appeared safe. Charlotte’s room was at the opposite end of a short hall. The door was closed. The floor creaked bad but I figured that she wasn’t home. She usually left the door OPEN when she was home. But still, I moved quickly.

I was at the outside. My car was parked up the curb and in the bushes. Tore up a large foxtail plant. That plant musta had a hell of a constitution with what I put it through. It was a BMW. But hell Jesus to god it musta been the oldest still functioning BMW in California. The electrical system didn’t work at all except for the headlights. The power windows didn’t work- the two front were permanently down, the rear permanently up.  At least the sunroof was closed when it quit. The muffler and tail pipe had a tendency to become loosened and drag on the ground. Had it shored up with a twisted coat hanger and always kept an extra in the trunk for when it finally broke through. Except the trunk didn’t open most of the time. The glove box was busted and I swear I had it propped up with an old racquetball racquet I’d found laying in a parking lot. The alternator had gone bad and wouldn’t charge the battery. I had to carry a charger and extension cord that I’d borrowed from an acquaintance. Always an experience in driving. You never could tell what would happen or where you’d end up.

I turned the key and was onward. Moving forward. A fast food place down the way sold various foodstuffs for a dollar. This month it was spicy chicken. I got two, knowing full well what it would do to the gut and bowels. But just like everything else, I would deal later with that.

The day was really becoming warm, but a clear sky. Very strange. A sky, a day, that had a kind of feel to it. Like an old memory. Like a quiet and simple peace laid over a mouthless scream. It was up the on-ramp to the freeway. Hot and dry coming through those open windows. Yet still, this quiet.

Down the 605, across the 10 a short ways. Was it La Puente? Baldwin Park? O hell, I drove till I found an off-ramp that sounded familiar, and followed a route that seemed to have a memory attached to it.

Well, to my amazement I found that church, which really looked rather as a junked house with a large and broken lot next to it and a large and extremely weathered wooden cross stuck out on the roof. Not being a Christian I couldn’t judge it too well myself but I figured it woulda been a far run off from what Jesus would have been into. But I’d heard Christ sucked a donkey’s c**k and that’s why the Romans REALLY strung him up so who was I to even guess about any of it.

I entered the lot, the brakes making this horrible and embarrassing grinding sound and pulled into the back. My brothers were there- Douglas and William. They waved in what nearly appeared as appreciation. The church was stuck right in the middle of a residential area. Houses all around. Now, I’d seen this before and always did I like that kind of a breakup of suburban planning. I pulled up the parking brake though there was absolutely no reason to do this for that brake did not work in the least, but I always did it. We can’t fight habit. Habit is the idea that things will change on their own when we have no intention one way or another.

I followed them in. William, despite being the husband of the deceased, sat in the very back, Douglas and myself next to him. Seems her family and him didn’t get along all so well. That’ll happen when a man is slow at the income. I come to find out soon enough that some of the family didn’t even know they were married. What the f**k? Seems I may not be the lone dark lamb of the family after all.  Well, at least I got talent. And as soon as I figure out what it is I’ll be able to write about it.

I placed a hymnal in my hand. The preacher had just stepped up and asked for a song. I opened the book, then realizing, placed it back down to the pew.  “I’m glad you showed,” said William. “I’m glad you don’t smell of beer.”

“Give it some time, brother dear.”

Douglas was a Christian fundamentalist. Real hard-core.  He watched me with a pitiful glance and sighed. The song began.

The preacher went into about five or six songs in a row. All about sheep and a flock and any wayward action found that sheep being fucked up pretty good. With love, certainly. I took the chance to get a little more shut-eye.

I awoke to Douglas speaking. Something about Catholics being heathen but being in a Baptist church really compounded the problem. He stated this loud enough to be easily heard. I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t being immediately belt whipped. Never underestimate the value of luck. The padre pushed on.

For me, it was just more mumbo jumbo. Nothing but heaps of horse s**t of the lowest caliper. Catholics, Jews, Muslims. Jim Morrison, Ken Keysey, Mother Theresa. Only Murrow seemed to have gotten it right. ‘Good luck,’ is what he said. No crazy ideal. Just a simple plan.

At last the padre quit. A greeting line formed at the back of the church. All the smokers headed for the door. Instinctively I moved. Habit again.

It really was not a bad day for death. Clear blues and a civil sun. Butterflies tossed through the sky. I stood at a low wall dividing the church from the front yard of a residence. There were these large azaleas and other blossomed plants just the other side of the wall.

I felt tired and restless. Like things should somehow be decent. Like things should have a chance. Moths and butterflies and flying insects were all through the blossoms. An older man approached me. He was in a dark grey suit.

“Did you know Nancy well?”

“No. She was my sister in law.”

“She was your sister in law but you did not know her well?”

“No. Only met her twice.”

“Don’t you find that a little strange?”

“Well, I don’t see or talk to my brother much.”

“Where I come from family is everything. It’s all we have.”

“Where I come from you don’t have a damn thing but yourself.”

“That’s kind of a sad way of looking at things, mister.”

“Maybe. But I still stand by it.”

“Don’t you believe in god?”

“If god’s around HERE, then he’s a DICK.”

The man looked sick and frightened. He crushed his half done cigarette out and stepped to a crowd of people that I figured were all he had.

I turned back to my flowers and insects. It almost seemed that there were moments of ease. Maybe there were. Maybe the dead had the greatest of ease. I let the sun strike me again and again. My brothers were standing beside me.

“That was kind of a stupid service,” said Douglas.

“O, how’s that?”

“Minister didn’t talk enough on the almighty if you asked me. Too many vagaries.”

“Thought that’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“Now, see, THAT’S your problem. You don’t have enough fear of the lord. It’s all about the proper fear. When you realize this you’ll be on your way.”

“To where?”

“To eternal life.”

William was puffing on a smoke. I reached over, took it from the lips and had a hit myself. I felt kinda bad about it. Like I had failed. I handed the smoke back over.

“Didn’t you quit?” asked William.

“A temporary relapse. I just now felt sick for some reason. Terribly sick.”

Douglas pursed his lips. “You can ridicule me all you want. But GOD knows. He hears all. O, how I’ve prayed for you, for years. Did you know that? I’ve really prayed you’d see god’s light. That you’d get some insight on how things really work.”

“Listen, any insight I get comes from the REAL. Ain’t living in no damn Disneyland. Mickey Mouse sitting on a cloud. Pluto sucking him off. REAL world’s got drunks and hookers that’ll roll ya and murders. Car payments, a*s payments. A great big warm sun and some nights wrapped around another you might be able to stand come morning. Here, we WORK for change. Ain’t no getting’ on your knees twice a day for god’s lotto.”

“You suggesting prayer is like the lottery?”

“I know these folks, see, quite a few. They play five days a week. Dollar tickets. Plan whole life around when their finally gonna win the thing. They seem to have forgotten about work and education along the way.”

“I see the work thing is going well for you.”

“Yeah. Funny. But see, you have merely proven my point. I am a lazy useless slob. And praying for other ain’t gonna change it.”

“You tried?”

“Just last week. Put two hands together hoping the lady down the hall would leave so I could sneak to the kitchen to get some ice for my bourbon. That b***h sat the whole night staring at my door. I had to drink warm whiskey.”

He pointed and shook an irritated finger. “You mark my words or you will feel the sting of hell’s flames for eternity!”

“Eternity? We give even child rapists a second chance. That would put the old mighty on a level below even us. Almost like an a*****e or something.”

He was silent. He slowly shook his head back and forth in an absolute and all encompassing disgust.

“You shall not use the lord’s name with such vulgarity around me. I will pray for you and forget this. I hope god can.”

“If he can forget about the fourteen year old cheerleader and her step mom, then I’m sure there’ll be no problem here.”

“You… are DISGUSTING. Come on William. We’re getting out of here.”

“I’ll call you,” said William. “I’m moving to a little room in South Pasadena.”

“Call soon, or the phone may be shut off.”

They were toward the parking lot. I turned and leaned against the wall. My hands, they were so wrinkled and dried and mummified. The sun was warm and pleasant. Yes, we can have peace. But ain’t no free ride. Maybe later I could hit a bar and get out some of the greatest works of literature. I could forget on this cold. Forget death. Mine. Theirs. Forget the disfavor of not enough fear. And perhaps, for a moment, live.

© 2009 D.G.


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Added on February 28, 2009
Last Updated on March 11, 2009

Author

D.G.
D.G.

los angeles, CA



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