Something About Good Decisions
There was something about the small town of Ashville that worried Howard. Since Howard had been in the south, it was the quiet of small Southern towns that had always been of concern to him. Maybe it was his imagination, but then again, maybe it was something about the place. It was the fact that it was too quiet. Eerily quiet. A quiet that seemed forced upon people, and not something that was wholesome and town-like.
However, Howard no longer cared about that so much. He was going to move on one way or another, and it was time to make a choice about what he was going to do, now that he was jobless and about to be without female companionship. His girlfriend of two years had been with him since he moved from Savannah, and had wanted adventure and change. He had yet to be able to provide any of that.
Howard made it home that evening, a large bottle of Jack Daniels underneath his arm and another pint in the brown paper bag to his home on 8th Street in downtown Ashville. Ashville is a picturesque town in central Alabama, seated in between Gadsden and Birmingham. Its quiet streets are lined with homes of a bygone era and oak trees whose leaves fell in the middle of November and blossomed with full life of green by April. It’s a small town, and the other towns in the county are just as small. Each one has a high school. It was quite boring, really, to live in Ashville after living in Savannah for that a long time. Savannah was not metropolis by any means, compared to New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. But on the other hand, it was the all that Howard had hoped for when he decided to write again.
For a while after he was fired from the Savannah Morning News, Howard was depressed. Much as he was now. Howard had never really understood why he was so depressed, only that he was bored out of his mind in this sleepy little southern shit hole, and that now he was going to need some sort of change. It had taken a year for him to start writing again after the incident as many people have begun to call it in southern newsprint circles. He remembered that during his year, he sat in front of the typewriter every morning for an hour, trying to figure out what to write. He tried everything from writing prompts to going to see a shrink. Nothing seemed to work for him, and now he was feeling much as he did then.
Howard went into the kitchen and grabbed a tumbler glass and some soda water. He opened the freezer door, pouring some ice cubes into the glass and opened the bottle, ever so methodically. It was his opinion that Jack Daniels could only be had by the lips of connoisseurs in a few ways. One of these was Whiskey and Soda with a cherry or lemon. Unfortunately, he was out of both. The other was straight shots with either a coke or beer chaser, and finally a whiskey and coke. Howard, being from a somewhat snobbish family, had learned early about the ways a whiskey was to be drunk, along with scotch, gin, bourbon, wines from all over, sake, and vodka. His parents never allowed rum and tequila in the house, saying that it was not a civilized drink. Personally, Howard knew why they had problems with rum and tequila. It was what they were drinking the night he was conceived. Being an only child, his parents never made that mistake again. Of course, he knew it was the alcohol talking again, and that his conception was with scotch and tequila, and that rum was involved in his Cousin Sarah’s conception, not his. This, he reminded himself, was a very potent intoxicant.
He was glad in some form or another that this had happened while Mel was around. Mel would have some answer for him, he knew. She had to. She is the only woman he could ever or would ever love. Maybe, just maybe one day they can be married. But for now, they prefer things just the way they are. Howard thought this over for a few more moments and decided that he was going to make Mel his wife soon enough, and that this thought could slide for now.
Just as his mind was coming off the subject of their inevitable engagement, Howard heard Mel come into the door. She was carrying a sack full of groceries into the kitchen while Howard sat at the table with the large bottle of Jack Daniels sitting next to him and looked at her while she entered. Mel looked at him, and said only one thing.
“Why are you getting drunk?”
* * *
Melissa Mary Ligsint is her full name. She was from a middle class family who lived on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia called St. Simons. Her family moved there after her father retired from the Navy as a destroyer captain. They had moved from Norfolk, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina when she was younger to St. Simons, and she had spent her High School years in a private school on the island. Mel was considered an unhappy girl in High School, preferring to be alone rather than with the group of girls whom hung out with the football team after school.
Mel had enjoyed her years in Charleston the most out of all the places she has lived thus far. They had moved there when she was nine just when her father got command of his destroyer. When they moved, she had to leave a lot of her good friends. Mind you, Mel doesn’t remember a lot of what happened around that time of her life, except for the few embarrassing events that happened to her.
Her family was messed up. Her mother is a drunk. She sits around the house all day, watching soap operas and doing menial chores. At around five in the afternoon, the cocktail hour begins with Gin and Tonics, moving on later to vodka or a little rum in her sweet iced tea at dinner. Her father downplays it of course, mentioning to Melissa that she’ll eventually cool down with the liquor and not drink as much. Melissa privately thinks that her father is full of shit, but then again he doesn’t know about her mother’s tennis instructor. Lucy, if Melissa remembered correctly, still paid by her mother for ‘tennis lessons’ after five years of still playing tennis horribly.
Of course, knowing what Melissa knew about her mother, she was never supportive of her efforts to leave home. Of course, for fear that her father would find out about the little affair, and would end their happy marriage. But, when Melissa graduated from high school, she went of to Savannah College of Art and Design. Her mother had secretly hoped that she would go to a private school so she would meet a man to marry, and not some starving artist whiny shit. But, fortunately for her mother, she met Howard Newberry.
They met at a bar in downtown Savannah on River Street. Howard had just been out digging for clues in his latest story, and had proceeded to find something of interest to the government’s case on the shooting he was reporting on. He was hoping, without much to back it up, that the story would make page one tomorrow. Unfortunately for Howard, it did.
While in the Bar, they talked. He smoked his cigarettes, she smoked hers. They both liked the same kind of drinks; both enjoyed the same kind of music, movies, books, and even preferred cheap clothing over expensive. They were perfect for each other. So, as all people who are perfect for each other do, they went back to his place that night and made the relationship official. The details are not important, just the fact that it happened.
A few months later, they were in Ashville, Alabama. And now, he had lost his job again. And he was drinking. This was basically the story of Melissa’s life, up to this point. Everyone she had ever known, knew, was related to or loved, was drinking at one point or another right now around the globe.
* * *
“Well, I’m drinking, my beautiful lovely Melissa, because they fired me over an editorial piece I wrote about the two richest cocaine dealers in the south.” Howard slurred the last few words, trying to make the part about them being ‘cocaine dealers’ feel more important than the rest.
“So, I take it your day was better than mine my honey cup?”
“Not really. At least, that was up until now. This is excellent news,” she started to say in a sarcastic tone, “because now I can get you to finally move out of this fucking hellhole they call a town to someplace bigger. We need to get to New York dear. I can’t work here.”
“And I can’t get a job at the New York Times. Hell, I probably couldn’t work for the fucking Village Voice at this point.”
“That’s irrelevant and you know it. You could go work for a publisher. You could finish your book while I go work at an ad agency like I should be doing.”
“So everything is my fault, is that what you’re saying?”
She stopped what she was doing for a moment, which was unloading the groceries from their bags into the fridge and cupboards. She turned and looked at him straight in the eyes, and slapped him across the face, leaving a large red mark across his left cheek and the imprint of a ring.
“Well, fuck. Tell me how you really feel.”
With that, he walked outside and lit a cigarette.
She sat down on the couch in the living room after unloading all the groceries. She sat there and cried for an hour. Then, she heard the sound of a bottle breaking, which she guessed was Howard either dropping it or throwing it at something. If there was a gunshot associated with it, it wasn’t heard by her ears. Finally, she got up and looked outside to see if Howard was either throwing things at the makeshift rock garden in their backyard or face down in the grass after passing out and vomiting. Howard was of course, passed out on the ground face down. At least he wouldn’t choke on his own vomit.
She stepped outside and propped the door open so she could drag him inside. While he wasn’t that big, he was still heavy to her small stature. She pulled him inside, and after dragging him down the hallway to their bedroom she stopped and laid him on the floor and rested on the bed. She stripped him of all his clothes, careful not to hurt him, and then drug him into their bathroom and into the bath. She turned on the showerhead, and let the cold water flow over his body. He immediately came to and vomited in the shower. She looked away, knowing that just the smell could trigger her to need a trip to the toilet. However, her stomach held, and he was fine. She left the water on him until he was on all fours, and then turned it off. She handed him a towel, and went back to the kitchen to make her some food.
Around an hour later, after she had her fill of a sandwich and chips, he walked into the living room while she was reading his first book. It was a small distribution, a small book. She sat on the couch, laughing at his little jokes that only Howard and herself would ever get. And then, he lay down in her lap, and she read to him one of the jokes. They both laughed.
“I’m sorry,” he opened the conversation with in an attempt to get her to listen to him. “I’m sorry for getting drunk and saying things I shouldn’t have said. It’s no excuse, of course, for me being drunk and saying things, but I shouldn’t have said them regardless of my state of mind and body.”
“Don’t talk right now, I’m reading. You know how much I hate that.”
“I know, but I’m trying to apologize. And you’re making it difficult.”
“You can apologize later on tonight after you’ve had food in you. Don’t worry, you’ll be apologizing for a lot of things tonight. But for now, that will do. Now go fix yourself something to eat while I sit here and eat. We have bacon by the way, fat boy.”
“Hey, I’m not fat, I’m big boned,” he said in his best Eric Cartman from Southpark voice.
“I love you,” she mouthed. He simply blew a kiss back.
Later on, they talked. And they decided to go to New York, and he would get a job at one of the publishing companies doing editorial work through one of his friends. He wouldn’t be happy, but he could still write, and she could still do work in whatever she felt like doing. Probably marketing or advertising. It didn’t really matter. It was New York, and not the south. Even the concept of living somewhere other than the south was appealing to her, as long as she got out of it. The concept of the lifestyle, the people, everything, was getting to her. So, inevitably, it was time to move onto a better place.
And now, the story ends for these two lovebirds, as it just begins for the two men who were sitting at the coffee shop reading newspapers and smoking cigarettes. Their story begins with a murder, a theft, and a 1972 Dodge Duster.
Copyright © 2004 Kevin Myrick