Opt for a Better Life

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A story about a painter that makes a life-altering choice.

Submitted: April 06, 2019

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Submitted: April 06, 2019

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Opt for a Better Life

Dave, a struggling painter whose work had gone out of fashion, thought about the advice the doctor had given him. The message had been very clear: “Stop drinking and you may live another ten years. Keep hitting the bottle and you will ruin your life.” He had no choice, he simply had to give up drinking. As he sat behind his easel, he held up the square bottle to let the sunlight filter through it. The amber fluid glowed warm and cosy. There couldn’t be a bigger contrast between the soothing appearance of the booze and the fiery pain it caused in his belly.
This is it, Dave thought. It has to come to an end right now. Putting it off until tomorrow would be a foolhardy thing to do. There would be another reason for not doing it then. He knew himself well enough to know what would happen. If it had to be done, he’d better do it immediately. It was the best thing, the wisest thing, to do.  He felt proud he’d come to a decision. Then a thought struck him. It was one of those things that should be shared with someone. A life altering act of bravery like that deserved it. He decided to ring Stephanie, the one person in his life that always supported him, in more way than one. As she answered the phone Dave immediately blurted out the news.
‘Steph, I have given up the booze. I’m going to get a better life.’
‘Good for you,’ Stephanie answered. ‘I know you can do it. Just be strong.’
‘I’m going to get rid of the booze, right now,’ Dave said and rang off. Then he picked up the bottle again and turned it around in his hands. The best thing to do, would be to flush it down the toilet. He started to unscrew the metal cap, but before it came off, he had another thought. It wouldn’t be very fitting to do it like that. It was the end of an era, it was almost like the burial of a close friend. Unceremoniously flushing the booze would be a bit of an anti-climax. There should be another way, perhaps a more meaningful way. Then it dawned on him, he’d burn the stuff. he had always been fascinated by flames, their colourful dance was magic. Just like the alcohol itself could be magic. What’s more the amber hue of the liquid perfectly complimented the yellow and orange of a flame. It would be like a colourful oil lamp. His mind raced back to his childhood at the farm. On hot summer nights they had always used the old-fashioned oil lamps with the glass containers for the fuel and the elegant glass tops that held the wicks. They were marvellous. All he needed now was some sort of wick and he could improvise a lamp. Dave chuckled as he thought it would be a booze lamp instead of an oi lamp. Funny name, booze lamp, or booze torch, even better. Then he noticed the cloth he used for cleaning his paint brushes. The colourful stains made it look like an abstract work of art all by itself. It would do as a wick, Dave thought, and his now trembling fingers tore of a narrow strip of the cloth, which he started stuffing into the neck of the bottle. As the strip touched the liquid, the booze slowly started to rise through the fibres. Dave was mesmerized by the slow process of the rising alcohol. As it reached the rim of the bottleneck, he took a match and held it under the protruding strip of cloth. The perfect wick, Dave thought. It would burn like those oil lamps, steady and slow.
A two-inch flame rose into the air and performed its little dance in front of Dave’s face. He stared at the elegant movement for a couple of minutes, then the silence of the studio was ripped apart. There was a loud knocking on the door and the neighbour’s gruff voice could be heard.
‘Hey, Dave,’ lay off the booze for a moment.’
The sudden noise startled Dave and he turned his face to the door.  He kept silent. Gregg Greeves was the last person in the world he wanted to be part of his little ceremony.
‘Come on, I know you’re in there. I have got to talk to you.’ There was no friendliness in the voice at all. ‘You still owe me money, asshole. Open that door.’
Dave kept silent.
‘Fuck, do I have to break down that door?’
Still no sound from Dave.
Then there was a dull thud as Greeves’ shoulder slammed into the wood.
Without realizing it, Dave relaxed his grip on the bottle.
 

As the paramedics shoved the stretcher with Dave on it into the ambulance, Greeves bent over him. He looked angry as he said: ‘Now, why did you do that? You’ve burnt the fucking building down.’
Dave turned his head so he could see his studio on the top floor. The flames were dancing around the windows and the roof, and thick black smoke billowed up into the sky.
Good colour, he thought.

 

 

 

 



© Copyright 2019 Bert Broomberg. All rights reserved.

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