RELAPSE - CHRIS BENTON
I wake up with my tongue swollen again from the same dream of Jesus Christ pissing blood into countless crystal goblets carefully lined up along a dark, infinite shore. I’m amazed how my Lord and Savior could reach them all; I mean, in the dream, his dick is like mine, mid-sized, nothing to brag about but the pressure of his stream is indeed miraculous. I remember millions of men on their knees before these glasses wearing the same face as my own; men who begin guzzling down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down, the burning red milk of inhuman kindness.
My wife Helen is still asleep, and I pull back the sheets and slowly mount her like a monster. I try to slip inside her gently but that doesn’t work so I start working without remorse and she moans and murmurs something before suddenly shouting, “HEY!” I ignore her curses because my muscles are screaming the old wrong songs again. When I roll off her, she rises instantly, calling me countless breeds of fuckers and suckers before stomping off into the bathroom, slamming the door and turning on the shower.
The sun doesn’t give a shit about any of us and never will but it still smiles like a grandmother through the kitchen window on the shoulders of my wife, who is eating breakfast and reading the paper. She hasn’t fixed me breakfast, which is a good thing because, after two bites, I would probably puke it out along with half my stomach. I didn’t refill my Antabuse five days ago, which may or may not be the reason why I began to strangle my supervisor at the print factory which, consequentially, got me fired. I haven’t told Helen I was fired because I’m wondering how long the truth can survive being buried alive.
I kiss Helen goodbye because I love her enough to kill her and walk down three flights of dirty green steps out into a world that has never stopped wailing billions of years after its birth.
I buy a paper and a coffee at Water Street Bean. I give up on the classifieds and tried to drown my gaze in the Cape Fear. My gaze ends up drinking it dry instead. I walk the ratio of downtown for hours, smoking cigarettes, being eaten alive by the countless eyes of assholes. Where is the thought, the emotion, the image, the god, which gave me sanity eleven months ago? Maybe it got the fuck out of the universe as soon as the coast was clear.
I buy a bottle a scotch and shove it behind my belt and pull my shirt over it. My dick feels its presence and hardens to the bursting point. I drive around town, looking for a place where I can comfortably cheat on God and my wife, a nice secluded space with ample shade and bird calls. I settle for Green Field Lake. I walk around the lake, past families and couples, feeling like a suicide bomber. The bottle under my shirt is as hot as a lava rock and I can feel the booze boiling within. I find a tall wall of pines just off the path and take the bottle out, mumbling long distorted equations of inevitability which delude me enough to crack the cap open. A tiny inaudible hiss escapes from the bottle’s mouth.
I close my eyes and raise the bottle to my lips, smelling its sweet smoky perfume. And deep within the night of my mind my wife’s face suddenly appears, as bright as the moon. She is wearing the sad smile of a survivor; her cold blue eyes nesting within small dark pouches. Without a further thought or vision, I pour the bottle out onto my bed of straw. I decide to call my sponsor Frank, Frank my guardian angel who had been on the wagon for six years now, Frank who would change my mind with fists if words failed.
I find a phone booth in the park but Frank’s line is dead. This bothers me, because he didn’t show up at the last meeting, something to do with the flu, someone said. I hang up and walk back to my car and drive to Frank’s trailer.
It’s four in the afternoon and Frank’s truck is in his driveway, as well as his wife’s car. The curtains are closed and the front porch light is on. I get out of my car and a dog starts barking from behind the neighbor’s house. I’m soaked with sweat even though a cool autumn breeze is blowing and my muscles are screaming the old wrong songs again.
I knock on the door and wait for a minute, but no one answers. I knock again, with a fist I no longer recognize.
The door swings open and Frank is standing before me, naked. There is a burnt cigarette filter in his mouth. His eyes are red and wide with revelation and his body is encased in a bright suit of sweat. There’s a large, nasty-looking gun in his left hand, looks like a magnum. I believe Frank, like me, has stopped taking his meds, only Frank’s meds treat worse diseases than alcoholism. Blood begins to roar in my skull down into my balls and toes.
“Hey, Paul, come on in, man,” he says with warm surprise. He stands aside and bows like a butler, ushering me in with his gun arm.
I enter slowly past him, my eyes burning with the reek of whisky from his pores and find his wife, Vickie, gagged and bound to a chair at the kitchen table. Vickie is six months pregnant. Vickie is wearing a blindfold. Vickie is nude like her husband. Vickie is shivering and whimpering. In the center of the kitchen table stands a half-empty quart of Jack Daniels.
“So, Paul, what brings you to this side of the planet? You need a little pep-talk? A little stress-is-what-our-soul-eats-for-breakfast reminder?”
Frank’s voice is eager and childlike and I am afraid. Not for my own life or Frank’s life or Vickie’s life. I’m afraid because I should have stopped by Frank’s trailer shit-faced with guilt.
“I just wanted to say hi, Frank, was wondering if you and Vickie wanted to come over for dinner tomorrow night.”
Frank blinks a couple of times and nods towards the kitchen table. “You’re just in time for the greatest game on earth; you know what the greatest game on earth is called, Paul?”
“No, Frank, what’s it called?”
“It’s called God Is A Cocksucker. Have you ever played this game before, Paul?” he asks while he empties the gun’s chamber on the floor. The bullets go scurrying like roaches and he catches one and loads it back in and spins the chamber, locking it shut with a flick of his wrist.
“No, Frank, I haven’t.”
Frank looks amazed for a second, nodding his head at nowhere. “My son is going to be a monster,” he says, still nodding.
“What do you mean, man?”
“I mean, the doctors told me and my beautiful wife that our son’s heart is pumping strong, but there are signs of multiple deformities.”
“Is that what this craziness is about, that you’re going to have a gimp son? Fuck, Frank, give him up for adoption, sell him to a circus, but don’t slip over and under, man. People need you, your wife needs you, I need you.” And this is a lie because all I need now is for Frank to put the gun down and pour me a drink.
“You mean just choke on god’s shitty little joke like a good little boy? After getting my ass shot off for my country, losing my first wife, giving up the booze and preaching the precious word for six fucking years, this is my reward? A fucking four-eyed one-legged freak?” He turns around and flashes the spidery steel support-brace which holds what’s left of his ass together. “Do I look like fucking Job to you?”
I don’t know what to say so I say nothing.
Frank puts the gun on the kitchen table and spins it round and round and round and round and round before it comes to rest. The barrel is pointing at his wife. He picks up the gun and points it at her and pulls the trigger and the hammer snaps with disappointment.
He spins the gun again, until the barrel finally points towards the bottle. He aims at the bottle and squeezes the trigger and the hammer finds nothing again. He spins the gun again and this time its tiny black mouth is pointing directly at me. My heart begins jumping around in my ribcage as Frank takes aim at me. His face is blank for over a century until it suddenly melts into a smile. “Just kidding,” he says and puts the gun to his temple, blowing half his brains onto a picture of his mother hanging on the wall behind Vickie.
I’m shaking pretty bad and my head feels emptier than Frank’s. It takes a few seconds to realize Vickie is squealing and pissing herself. I take a steak knife from the drawer and cut her bonds and remove her gag and command her to keep the blindfold on as I carry her into the bedroom. I lay her down gently on the bed and put a blanket on her and whisper soothing lies into her ear before walking back into the kitchen with rubber legs and dialing 911. As I wait for the sirens to bloom in the distance, I fill half a tall glass with tap water, half with Jack. Frank is lying on the floor, looking worse than dead. I drain the glass with tearful relief and pour myself another neater one. I know I should be taking Frank’s fate as some sort of wake up call, but you’re mistaking me for someone else.
BIO: Chris Benton was born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina where he still resides. He can be found on Facebook.
K.J. Howe stops by later
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