“Just one more double, Pal.”
“Sorry Jack. You’ve about doubled yourself right off the stool. Come on. I’ll drive you home.”
“But, but…wait jes’ a minute.” His voice volume increased with frustration.” I’m tellin’ you I need one more. It steadies my nerves.”
“What’s wrong with your nerves, Jack? Just tell me straight out. What is it that needs so much steadying?”
The older man, reeking of old and new alcohol, tried to focus on the young, sober face beside him. He squinted one eye and stared.
“Uh…what’s your name? Why are you trying to take me away?”
“You know who I am. You were married to my mother. Now, what would that make me?”
Jack blubbered nonsensically the way only a wasted drunk man can. “My son, my son, my itty-bitty bee bee son. What do I call you, boy? “
“Lean on me. My car is right outside the door. You need some fresh air and coffee.”
The inebriated, unshaven, unkempt man let himself be led from the dark room whose neon signs and beer drinking music punctuated the thick smoke and raucous laughter. He almost made it to the curb before the smelly contents of his stomach spilled on the sidewalk. He jerked loose from his rescuer and pitched forward, striking his face on the pavement. He didn’t move. The young man knelt down and felt for a pulse, praying the old sot was not dead.
“Ah, man…why’d you pass out now? By the way,” he whispered,” sometimes you call me JJ.”
The cut was bleeding and needed attention. An ambulance would have to move his heavy and unwieldy body. In five minutes of the summons, two burley rescue squad men leaped out of the big white van with flashing red lights. They scooped unconscious Jack up like so much trash and popped him into the back of the well-stocked vehicle. One of the men drove and the other checked the patient’s vital signs and administered some oxygen through a nasal cannula. This was a routine Saturday night for them. They had replayed this same scene so many times, the stench and stupidity hardly registered on their disgust meters anymore.
JJ followed in his sedan and arrived in time to provide the usual paperwork. It didn’t take long, since the old man had a record on file from many previous admissions. The clean-cut offspring of the confused and pitiful excuse for a father wandered around until he found the right cubical. A nurse had washed Jack’s face and applied a temporary bandage until the doctor could suture the rather deep gash.
Jack moaned and opened one eye. “Oh God! What happened?”
“God knows what happened…but do you?” JJ was so tired of the same song, hundredth verse.
“Gimme a drink of ice water. My mouth feels like dirty cotton.”
JJ held the paper cup and straw and Jack gulped as much as he could hold.
“Okay, let me have the details, boy.”
“When you didn’t come home I knew I had look for you, just like every time before. I tired the other dives first. This was a different one for you. Why the change?”
Still under the influence of the alcoholic spirits, Jack bellowed in anger, “You idiot! Starting at 4 o’clock that new place gives you two drinks for the price of one.” His demeanor changed abruptly and he smiled in memory,” That’s some deal now, ain’t it?”
The foolish man began to laugh at his good fortune to find such a great buy. His giggle had an evilness that sent a chill through the son.
“Wha-ha-ha,” Jack roared, “And guess what they call it? HAPPY HOUR!”
Without warning, the thoroughly soused man on the stretcher began to have seizures. Blood streamed from his mouth. JJ flattened himself against the wall as the code blue team ran in to attempt resuscitation.
The kind physician took the young man by the arm and led him into the hall. “I’m very sorry. That’s the way it happens with many who abuse alcohol. They just don’t realize how fragile it makes their insides and how easily the gastric tract can rupture. At least he went out laughing.”
JJ sat in his car for a long time, dry-eyed and numb. Tonight he had planned to talk to Jack about the Lord and where the old self-proclaimed atheist supposed he would spend eternity.
Jack’s last HAPPY HOUR: Two men -- two victims -- too late -- too sad.
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