Woman As Art
It’s a lovely, sunny and mild (52) late morning in Pittsburgh today. It’s wonderful to be with all of you. After this is posted, the Old Soldier is going for a nice walk.
The Steelers don’t play until around 8:30 this evening. So, I have plenty of time to relax, read and to watch television.
If you haven’t checked the front page lately, you may want to do that today. I do keep certain posts on the front page because the Pittsburgh Flash Fiction Gazette is constantly getting new visitors and these posts tell new visitors what the magazine is all about.
But new posts are also being constantly added. So, check it out.
Well, last Sunday the Old Soldier neglected his duty and did not post a story. I won’t bore you with the details why; but this Sunday it’s back to the regular schedule. What can I tell you about this old story of mine?
It’s 90% true.
My younger brother is an alcoholic. His name is Robert. He’s also a very generous guy. He’s helped me financially lots of times. He use to work on a garbage truck but the City of Pittsburgh gave him the option of early retirement at age fifty-one because of his arthritis and gout and other ailments, and with SSI he does okay. His ex-wife remarried long before he retired and he never had children so he does okay. Hell, I never married or had children, either. Our family name will soon die out.
Robert can’t take care of himself. When he drinks he can’t take his meds. If he doesn’t take his meds bad things happen to him. He forgets where he lives and wanders the streets. He gets robbed and beat up. He hears voices. He shouldn’t drink at all. He needs supervision.
He was lucky his social worker found him another place to live so soon after the assisted living residence he was living in closed down. The nicer a place is the longer the waiting list to get in. The old place was an institution. The new place is like a private home. I’ve been there. It’s nice. He hates the place.
So, when I phone the new place to touch base with him and the woman in charge tells me he hasn’t been around in five days I start to worry. That’s five days without his meds. That’s five days missing the 9pm curfew. That’s enough to get him kicked out. Two days later he does return and when I get him on the phone he says, “I wish Mom and Dad were still alive.”
“Bob, don’t get kicked out.”
“Everyone here is old. Everyone here is just waiting to die. How’s your money?”
I’m surprised he’s broke but who am I to say no to him. After the call I stand at the window, the only window, of my one room apartment in North Oakland and sip a glass of beer and watch these two gray headed guys amble about on the fenced-in tennis court three stories below. It’s Sunday, a sunny day. Around and beyond the tennis court are houses and apartment buildings and trees in full leaf with small birds chirping in the trees. Above the houses and apartment buildings and trees is the bright blue sky. The breeze coming through the window screen is warm and pleasant. I’ve finally made a life for myself. I don’t want to mess it up.
Giant Eagle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
After awhile I go out and walk the three blocks to the ATM in the Giant Eagle and use my debit card to get $120. I pick up lunch meat and bread and tomatoes. I have everything else I need in the min-fridge. On the way back to my room, I pick up two six-packs of sixteen-ounce beers at the bar on the corner. It’s nice to have a bar two blocks from home.
Back in my one room apartment the phone rings. It’s Bob in a cab out front. I go down. The back door of the cab opens and he says, “What’s going on big brother?” and I tell him not much and give him five twenty dollar bills. His cab fare is less than ten dollars. He thanks the cabbie for letting him use his phone and pays with a twenty and tells the cabbie to keep the change; and then Bob works his way out. He carries much too much weight and all his joints are stiff and he uses a cane.
Pirate Cher (Photo credit: zorro013)
In the apartment we sit down. I only have two chairs. I have my old footlocker covered with newspapers to use as a table. On the small color TV/VCR that sits on the chest-of-drawers, the video of Cher’s 2003 farewell concert tour that I got from PBS is playing. Bob and I both have a can of beer. I’m disappointed he doesn’t want me to make sandwiches. The ceiling fan spins above our heads. We drink our beers and watch Cher. She’s good to listen to but even better to watch. I figure she’s got to be as old as I am.
Bob says, “How’s college?”
“College is good. It’s real good. It’s great.”
“How’s the j.o.b.?”
“Work’s okay. You know. Work’s work.”
“No. No, not gettin’ any.”
We watch the video. The music makes me feel young but sad.
Bob says, “I’m never going to stop drinking.”
“Why do I have to stop drinking? You drink. You drink all the time.”
“I only drink beer.”
“You drink all the time and you cut classes. You call off from work.”
“But you do.”
“Are you sure you don’t want a sandwich?”
“I got no appetite.”
“You ready for another one?”
“Sure,” he says. “Let’s have another one.”
I get the beers. I sit back down and open his can and give it to him. With difficulty, because of the arthritis in his hands, he drinks the whole sixteen ounces down. He puts the empty can down on the newspaper on the footlocker. He leans forward carefully, resting his elbows on his knees. He folds his stiff fingers together and then eyeballs me.
“Listen,” he says. “I’m dying in that place.”
“You can’t live on your own. You won’t take your meds. You’ll die if you leave.”
“You’re my older brother,” he says. “Help me.”
“You’re in the best place you can be in.”
“We could get a real nice place together. I got the money. Why do you want to live in this little room?”
“A room with bath.”
“Look at this closet. You’re so neat. Loosen up. Have some fun. Live. How old are you now?”
“I need things to be neat.”
“Okay,” he says. “All right then. I just thought I’d ask.”
We each drink two more beers while watching the Cher video. He’s really not interested in Cher. It’s 7pm and still sunny outside. He has me phone for a cab.
“Got to make that curfew,” he says.
After he leaves and the Cher video is over I put on my new Musicology CD by Prince and prop myself up on the bed with two fat pillows and read some Chekhov and finish off all the rest of the beers. I get a good buzz going. When all the beers are gone I go out and walk the two blocks for another six-pack. It’s a lovely night in Pittsburgh.
It’s dark, smoky and crowded inside the bar and I’m on my way out with the beer in a brown paper bag under my right arm when I see Bob sitting at the end of the bar. He’s drunk. He has bills and coins scattered over the bar top in front of him and he’s trying to pick up this mug of beer sitting next to a double shot of whatever the hell it is that he drinks. He never sees me.
Outside, I sit on the shiny black metal bench at the bus stop on the corner across the street from the bar and wonder what I should do. I look at my wrist watch. It’s nearly ten o’clock. A bus goes past. Another bus goes past. I look at my watch. It’s nearly eleven o’clock. He never comes out. Feeling like hell, I get up and start for home.
I’ve walked several steps away from the bus stop before I realize I don’t have the six-pack. I stop and look around and see the brown paper bag on the shiny black metal bench. Without hesitation, I go back and get my six-pack.
Filed under: The Sunday Flash Fiction Story | Tagged: 18 November 2012, Cher, college, erotic fiction writer, Giant Eagle, Heather Kinnane, PBS, Pittsburgh Flash Fiction Gazette, Steelers, The Sunday Flash Fiction Story | 2 Comments »