The Back Forty, Ch. 1.3

Mary Anne's house

Cain sat on the bench for 10 minutes, staring at the clouds as they swirled to the south. Then, as if broken from a trance, he stood up abruptly and walked around to the other side of the house from the one he had taken to the back yard. He pressed down and lifted up the overgrown bushes that had muscled their way onto the path that led to the front yard until his boots crunched on broken glass.

Squatting down, he pulled away the brush to find what had been the window to his father’s study, along with a pile of shattered LP’s on the ground. He pulled up the first shard that had a label on it. It was Someday My Prince Will Come, one of his Dad’s old Miles Davis records. Whoever had started the project of hurling his father’s beloved jazz and blues records out the window had apparently tired of their game quickly and started flinging empty beer bottles too as they were at least two dozen mostly empty Busch Light bottles sprayed among and around the shattered records.

Cain had been sometimes dry, but mostly not, for over five years. He attended AA meetings with the same lack of commitment with which he approached staying dry. Sometimes he went to meetings and left with such a high that he would vow to never drink again. Of course, he had heard all of the conventional wisdom about never saying never, that it’s an almost certain one-way ticket to “going back out.” But try telling that to an addict or alcoholic in the leathery embrace of false confidence. But it seemed like he didn’t require much of a trigger at all to suit up, get pretty, and go out to one of the 19 million bars that populate the north side of Chicago. If he was on his game and having a good sales month, his mood reflected it. He shot great pool. He was charming and charismatic and he always went home with a pretty girl 10 years his junior. When sales were down, he would, subconsciously or not he didn’t really know, go out to with the express purpose of getting hammered. He would inevitably succeed and, libido sufficiently quelled, stumble to the street and catch a cab to El Norte to eat chips and salsa and burritos until he stumbled out to the alley to puke it all up.

Often (more times than he cared to admit, actually) Cain would blame genetics. He was an Irishman, for Christ’s sake. Asking an Irishman why they drink is like asking water why it’s wet, his thinking went. Even when he was talking to Luther, the sponsor he consulted about as often as he went to meetings, he insisted that it was in his blood. When that didn’t sate the old bastard, Cain would switch it up and pull out one of the other 20 excuses he kept in his Alcoholic But Trying goody bag. Growing up, it was unthinkable that every family gathering wouldn’t have a wet bar, every wedding an open bar, ever wake Irish. Sometimes he would draw from his history of drug and alcohol abuse, insisting that what he was doing now was way better than what he did 1 or 10 years ago. The excuses went on and on and Luther, with 23 years of sobriety in his corner, had heard every one. Cain was made painfully aware of when that time had come because Luther would hang up in the middle of his sermon. Sometimes Cain would call him back, apologize profusely and promise to go to two meetings tomorrow. Sometimes he didn’t and got drunk instead. Inevitably, the next day, the two would meet for breakfast (Cain would just have coffee as John Barleycorn was still having his way with Cain’s intestines) and they would go through the Why’s and Who’s of last night’s bender. But no matter what he offered, at some point, he and Cain would look each other in the eyes and silently acknowledge the truth. Cain was chasing a buzz he would never have again. That all those years of the good and great times he had drinking and doping were gone and he was never going to get them back. Than these days, he was nothing more than an adequate salesman and substandard boyfriend, brother and son.

This last one always stung the most. His mother and father had never drank to excess, at least in front of him and his sister. As far as they were concerned, Cain and Tanny were the products of a loving, if distant, household. Their father worked diligently doing whatever it is you do at a top New York City hedge fund. Cain never really bothered to ask his father what he did for a living and his father never offered it up. Really, his parents never offered anything up. That was kind of the problem. Cain and Tanny never lacked for anything. There was never a baseball glove he wanted but didn’t get for Christmas and Tanny’s playroom was riddled with enough dolls and stuffed animals to keep Toys for Tots stocked for 10 years. That’s how Cain’s parents thought they were supposed to do it. Keep the kids happy by buying them everything they wanted so they could play with their toys and leave the adults alone. On that rare occasion that his father would have three Manhattans instead of his usual two, he would go into his study after dinner to read and listen to jazz.

And things kept on that way until Cain was 8. On that birthday, his parents surprised him with a Burnese Mountain Dog puppy who Cain named Sasquatch.

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