Empty Bottles

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
When a man loses everything, what else is there to live for? Simply living to survive with nothing ever changing. A dead man walking.

Submitted: April 21, 2019

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Submitted: April 21, 2019

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Beep! Beep! Beep! A alarm clocked whined in a single, continuous, monotone. Going on for nearly a hour before a sleepy arm slung at it. Knocking over several bottles in the process. Almost another hour passes before the figure on the dirty mattress rolls out of bed.

Bloodshot eyes squint at the clock showing 2:45 without much concern. A tiny little revolver sat next to it with a single shot loaded. That’s all he would need. Slight growling from his stomach pushed him up on his feet, shambling over to the small kitchenette in the corner. It’s a small room. Just large enough for a twin bed, a bathroom, and the tiny kitchen. The only other furniture is a dingy table with a single chair and a torn recliner facing a T.V.. Spray paint blacked out the single window in the room.

Empty beer bottles lay scattered like soldiers on a battlefield, carelessly tossed aside with paper plates and pizza boxes. He had exactly one bowl that currently held a day old sample of cereal frozen in thick, curdled milk. Dim light flickered on from the refrigerator revealing more beer and a carton of eggs.

He gave a small sigh as he saw that the egg carton was filled with nothing but empty shells, casually tossing it on the floor with the rest of the garbage. Now he would have to find his pants, somewhere. He couldn’t remember where he left them, or even when he  took them off.

They were hiding in a pile of other filthy clothes in the bathroom. Discovering a crumpled up twenty after fumbling through the pockets. He paused as he saw his reflection in the mirror. His face was thin, hidden in a mess of unkempt, greasy hair falling over his eyes, almost reaching the equally distressed, short beard. He didn’t linger on it.

He’ll have to get more money soon if he didn’t want to be kicked out of another motel. But first, food. He pulled the on the pants, grabbed a shirt the top of the pile, and slipped into old moccasins.

Light blinded him as he stepped out of the cheap motel room on the second floor balcony. Overlooking a old pool filled with sewer green water and a reef of bottles. Condoms and shit (real, human shit) floated on top. A bum slept at the top of the stair clutching a bottle in a paper bag like a infant. He paused for a moment to kick the guy with the tip of his shoes. Earning a slight moan but nothing else.

He bent down, ripping the bottle free from his desperate grip. Yanking harder than you might think was needed to steal from a drunk man. Without even looking at what was inside, he leaned back into the bottle, draining what little alcohol was left.

Wine. He hates wine, but booze was booze. He finished the bottle, tossing it in the pool with the rest. A woman snuck out of a room as he passed, wearing a one piece, leopard print dress and pumps up to the clouds. Lipstick stained her face haphazardly, matching her frazzled hair sticking up like the bride of frankenstein. He could clearly see where the needles have collapsed the veins in her arms and the red patch of skin under her nose.

He’s seen it plenty of time before, never really caring.

Diners have become overly romanticized by the public thanks to television. Living in the glory of the American fifties when they were in their prime. A local little dive where you could grab a quick bite and some coffee. Banter with the jolly waitress in a bright uniform and pay less than a dime for the whole thing.

They’re not like that anymore. He was greeted by a portly woman wearing a hair net and a greasy apron. The kind of woman who can’t get a job anywhere else. She eyed him as he walked in and sat down at a booth. Wasting no time to waddle over as her black, plastic shoes clicked on the dirty tiled floor.

“You got money?” she demanded with a slight growl. Her name tag read ‘Maggie’. She seen his type before. A mangy cur from off the streets. A bum. The kind of guy who runs at the sight of a bill and never leaves a tip.

He slapped the wadded twenty on the table. Not acknowledging her tone.

“Hmpf,” she grunted like a pig. “What do you want?”

“Coffee,” he said with a raspy voice. “And whatever I can get for ten bucks.”

Maggie didn’t even try to hide her scowl. Scratching something on her notepad before turning away. Returning five minutes laters with old, burnt coffee. He chugged it down in a single go. Scalding his throat without really noticing. Whiskey burns hotter.

Another ten minutes passed before Maggie dropped a plate with frozen hashbrowns that managed to be both burnt and undercooked at the same time. Scrambled eggs that are as tough and chewy as bubblegum, and a few strips of cheap bacon. Like the kind you find on a fast food burger only without the fanfare.

Maggie stepped back, watching him the entire time as he shoveled the food in. Not pausing to appreciate just how terrible it all tasted, washing it down with another cup of coffee. She snatched up his plate the second he sat the mug down, replacing it with the bill with a slap.

He scowled at it. His total was $12.32 but he didn’t fight it, passing the twenty just barely in her reach before she snatched it like a snake lashishing at a mouse. Swallowing it whole in her fat, sweaty hands.

`She came back quicker than she did with the coffee, holding out his change with her elbow on her hip. Glaring at the man like a wolf over its prey. He didn’t pay her any attention, stuffinging the money back in his pocket.

Maggie grunted loudly, “Fucking bums.”

Again, he acted as if he didn’t hear her, walking out. He figured that he should hit the streets today. Rent was due in a few days. The same drunk was still sleeping at the top of the stairs. Or at least he thought he was sleeping. He didn’t really care to check, stepping over him without a second thought.

He did the same as he left again. This time with a banged up guitar in one hand and a cash box in the other. Heading downtown where people with jobs and money are. Sitting down outside of a café where people with money go. The kind of people who act as if they care about people like him just to make themselves feel good. They make good marks.

Then he started to play. A little rough at first, but he warmed up quickly. He’s no Jimi Hendrix, but he made a good Johnny Cash. Playing with the skill of a man who has had a guitar in his arms their lives. Then he started to sing.

 

You look at me

And all that you see

Is the shell of the man I used to be.

I knew the joy

Of holding my daughter in my arms

I knew the happiness

Of my wife laying at my side.

I had a life

I had a dream

I had a family

Until a bottle took it all away from me

Driving down a road late at night

Been drinking since since dawn's first light

Wheel in one hand

Whiskey in the other

My wife pleading to stop

My daughter crying

Tears in their eyes

But I was blind

I couldn’t see the signs

Crashing through the waves

Down. Down in the darkness

Never to see the light

You look at me

And all that you see

Is the shell of the man I used to be.

 

He opened his eyes. Blinking away tears. A small crowd of people in expensive clothes gave him a generous applause, tossing their loose change in the cash box. Walking off to live their own lives. A few stuck around for the next song but rarely did they stay for a third. Not everyone can spend all day on the street.

 


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