County Lines by Bob
Editor's Note: This week's North County Lines is an encore presentation
of Bob's first runner-up award winning entry in the 2000 Tennessee
Press Association contest.
The clock next to the bed blinked 4:27. Moonlight dripped through
a motel window. His cotton tongue tasted like kerosene. The pain
inside his head felt like hot razor blades ex-ploding in every direction.
The woman sleeping beside him exhaled a breath in his direction.
The smell reminded him of dirty socks.
Oh, no, please, he thought, don't tell me I've picked up another
Perhaps they did look better at closing time. But he knew, in the
harsh reality of morning light, most looked worn out and hung up
He'd deal with her later. But first, he needed to do what he called
a systems check.
When he crossed the line from intoxicated to completely drunk,
he functioned on an auto pilot that had developed over the years.
While in this mode, he did things unconsciously during black outs
to protect his self interest, like hide his wallet under the mattress.
There it was. All his credit cards were in order. He checked his
money supply, $480 in ascending denominations.
At least whoever she was wasn't a thief, or maybe she was too drunk
to rip him off before they reached here, wherever here was.
He needed a drink fast. If his auto pilot had functioned properly,
a bottle would be under the bed.
There it was, a large bottle of tequila.
He used to drink beer, wine, gin, whiskey, rum, vodka. But somewhere
along the way, he discovered tequila. More kick. More pounce to
He knew tequila wasn't for those who lacked fortitude. But he could
drink it by the bucketsful without ill effects. He was tough. The
scars on his forehead from numerous barroom brawls proved that.
He always dished out more than he received, though. Thanks to his
father, an Army boxing champion, he knew how to fight.
He knew a left jab delivered properly did more damage than a sloppy
roundhouse right. He knew how to stand correctly so a punch would
achieve maximum power. Like his father said, "A good boxer
relies on his legs as much as his fists."
No doubt about it, he could fight and drink tequila. But never
straight from a bottle. Only alcoholics did that.
Staggering into the bathroom, he found a glass and tore away the
paper wrapping. He twisted the lid off his bottle, filled the glass,
and gulped it down.
Resisting the urge to vomit, he filled the glass again and followed
the same routine. A switch flipped in his head. He started feeling
warm and fuzzy again.
He sat on the floor, poured the glass half full, and sipped the
tequila with his head hanging over the toilet.
He knew he wasn't an alcoholic. He hadn't spent four weeks in a
treatment center without figuring that much out.
His supervisor forced him to go. "You're one of the best engineers
we have when you're not drunk or hungover. Get help or hit the road.
We'll pay for any alcoholism treatment you require."
They paid okay, $12,800 for 28 days of psychobabble, cardboard
food, and an A.A. meeting every night.
He liked most of the people from A.A. They were more real than
the so-called certified counselors. They didn't rattle off a bunch
of psychological jargon. They spoke straight. He sensed a kinship
with A.A. people, an understanding of a shared misery beneath the
But he couldn't get past the first step. How did it go? "We
admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become
His life wasn't unmanageable. He wasn't powerless over alcohol.
He felt vomit rising again. He couldn't choke it back. He wrapped
his arms around the toilet and held on as it gushed out his nose
What had he eaten? He must have stopped somewhere for a 20 course
meal. What were those green and yellow gobs? Peas and corn? Pieces
of his liver? Part of his intestinal wall?
The smell of vomit made him feel like throwing up. But he had nothing
left to dispose of. Not an ounce. Not a drop. Not a dribble. His
buzz was gone, out and down the toilet.
He poured three fingers of tequila and sipped it slowly. He had
to get out of this stinking bathroom, out of this stinking motel
He'd have to call a taxi. He never drove when he was drinking.
Only alcoholics did that. When he arrived home, if he arrived home,
his fully restored '68 fastback Barracuda without a scratch would
be in the garage, exactly where he left it.
Calling for a taxi without knowing where he was presented a problem.
But he solved that by phoning the front desk. The clerk knew the
location of the motel, which room he was in.
Quietly opening the door, to avoid waking the sleeping figure in
bed, he stepped outside and waited. When the taxi arrived, he slid
into the back seat.
"Where to?Ó the driver asked.
"The nearest bar," he replied.
The driver said, "Bars don't open 'til seven."
"Drive around until then,Ó he replied.
As soon he paid the driver, he hustled into the bar and began slamming
back double shots of tequila while observing the early morning drinking
Everyone in this stinking place, he thought, is an alcoholic. Everyone
except me. Maybe he'd request Not an Alcoholic be put on his tombstone.
In the end it didn't work out that way. The words, etched in stone
beneath his name, were simple and precise:
Father, Son, Brother, Gone Too Soon. We Love You.
Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570