A Free Drink of Rum From 55-gallon Drum

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
Story of a night watchman makes a habbit of drinking rum from a 55-gallon drum

Submitted: July 05, 2013

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Submitted: July 05, 2013



A Free Drink of Rum from 55-Gallon Drum

Subba Rao

Joe was the night watchman at the research station. He lived on the compound in a cottage not too far from the main building next to the water tank. Since there was no city water supply or deep wells, rainwater from the building gutters is conveyed to a huge in-ground tank for storing and supply water for the premises.  Joe looks more like a cricket player than a watchman with a physique more suited for athletics; with his broad shoulders and long muscular legs, he could be a fast bowler on Jamaican cricket fast pace pitch. His lack of education perhaps let him down to work as night watchman.

Minding a hog or two was not uncommon at the homes in the countryside in the Caribbean.  A tiny piglet can put weight up to few hundred pounds in a hurry munching on the waste from the kitchen and garden. From green bananas to avocados to papaya; anything green to yellow or red perishables from garden are part of the daily diet. On top of it, a small ration of commercial animal feed can help a hog grow fast.

Joe always had one or two hogs at his cottage with the permission of the research director, he kept his yard clean and no research staff member complained of nuisance from his pigs. An animal like pig with a tendency to put weight easily provides a cash flow to poor families.  A hog is a cash crop, within few months one can make quick money with little investment from selling the hog to a local butcher.

On few occasions, when Juggernaut worked late in his lab, Joe used to wait outside to lock the building after Juggernaut finish working and walk him to his car as a courtesy.  As a night watchman, Joe kept the keys to the every room in the research institute and the main gate.

On occasions, Juggernaut chatted with Joe on his way out from his lab. “How your hogs doing Joe?” was the familiar starter conversation for Juggernaut.

“Well, sir one hog is ready for sale, hoping to make few dollars on it,” replied Joe rubbing his hands together with a broad smile on his face.

Jamaica produces fine rums from molasses made from locally grown sugarcane crop. 100 proof white rum is the most popular local drink at the bars; it contains a whopping 50% alcohol, the maximum amount in any alcoholic drink. Some people drink straight, some like it with milk and others with coke. The research institute has a permit to get 55 gallons of 100% alcohol for use in the lab as a chemical reagent.  Its use in the lab is recorded in a log open for inspection by the government authorities anytime to make sure the alcohol was used for its intended purposes in the lab and not misused mostly as a drink.

On few occasions, when Juggernaut returned to his lab during late evening hours to check on some experiments, he smelled alcohol while talking to Joe.  As a night watchman on duty drinking alcohol on duty was a violation though Juggernaut never reported to the authorities since it was very mild and not a strong smell and Joe never was appeared drunk at any time.  The 55-gallon alcohol drum was kept in the chemical storage room in the basement of the lab and Juggernaut periodically inspected the storage room for compliance purposes. On one such occasion, to check the alcohol level in the drum, Juggernaut shook the drum back and forth with both hands to notice that the drum was light not heavy as expected during the middle of the year; Juggernaut quickly ran to his lab to check the alcohol usage log only to discover that almost 25 gallons was not accounted for; the drum should have at least 50% of its content.  To investigate this further, Juggernaut made a surprise visit to the lab late in the evening.

“Joe, if you will open the storage room for me please, I need to check on a reagent,” said Juggernaut.

“Yes, sir,” Joe headed towards the basement followed by Juggernaut. Joe opened the storage room and switched on the lights for Juggernaut to enter the room.  The storage room was long and wide with chemical reagents arranged on the shelf alphabetically with solvents on a separate designated shelf and flammable and extremely hazardous chemicals at a safe designated area. The 55- gallon alcohol drum was at its designated spot near the flammable liquids area.  Juggernaut while walking slowly stopped at the alcohol drum and shook the drum as if he was checking the level of its contents. “Wow, it was almost empty, I wonder how that could happen, it is only middle of the year, this drum should be half full not near empty,” said juggernaut loudly looking surprised.

“I have no idea sir,” Joe looked surprised too.

“My technicians have a key to the storage room besides you and if any one of them was abusing alcohol from this drum, I am sorry for them,” Juggernaut looked suspiciously at Joe.

“Why that so, sir?”

“You see, the authorities add some toxic chemical to this alcohol to prevent people abusing it, drinking alcohol from this drum could lead to blindness,”

“Loosing eye sight completely, sir?” Joe sounded alarming.

“Yes, complete blindness within few months.”

“Then certainly it would be a big mistake for anybody to drink from this drum sir,” responded Joe.

“Well, I will check the alcohol log tomorrow,” said Juggernaut getting ready to leave the storage room.

“You have trouble with your eye sight Joe?” asked Juggernaut when Joe struggled to find the right key from the bunch of keys to lock the storage room.

“No, sir, it was dark here to find the right key,” replied Joe juggling with the keys.

“How is our hog doing?” asked Juggernaut as usual while entering his car.

“Sir, I am under great stress recently, there was a glut in the market and no butcher wants to buy my hog and I have no money to feed the animal, my hog already lost half of its weight.”

“May be you should consider giving it free to the butcher in return for some meat for your family,” suggested Juggernaut.

“Yes, sir, the hog business was not good for me,” Joe sounded as if hog’s weight loss causing grief to Joe.

Juggernaut smelled no alcohol in Joe’s breathe since the hog was slaughtered for free.  A dead pig was better than a live hog giving money troubles that perhaps lead to Joe’s drinking problem. On subsequent inspections, the alcohol level in the 55-gallon drum was at par with its use in the lab and no uncounted loss anymore. Perhaps Joe thought it was not worth losing his eye sight from drinking alcohol from the drum over debacle in rearing hogs.




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