This weeks’ story, on the theme of holidays, comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Her most recent publication, BETWEEN THESE PAGES, is a compilation of 18 short stories. The book is available on Amazon and Smashwords:
New Year’s Eve usually ends with a bang, the New Year rolling in like an eel on a waterslide. Funny how everyone’s so gung-ho that last night of the year—ready to give up cigarettes, booze, and everything fattening that tastes oh so scrumptious. Then, barely before one’s eyes are open that first day of the new year, resolutions are flushed down the sink, just like that half-empty bottle of wine you dumped the prior night after several too many, when you knew you were going to make that resolution to quit drinking and figured you’d get a head start.
That’s the way it is with me, at any rate.
I needed to quit drinking before I ended up like my dear, sweet mother—drunk pretty near every day of her life, sloshing words, stumbling about the apartment, sleeping with a different drunkard every night—dead at forty-nine of cirrhosis of the liver. But she didn’t care. She believed life was to be enjoyed to the fullest, and she’d live her years doing whatever she wanted. Drat the consequences.
Like Ma, I had too many sexual partners; unlike her, I hated myself after each encounter. I had never taken a sip of an alcoholic beverage until I was in my fifties, long after Ma had passed on. Perhaps I had always worried I’d end up like her and had been afraid to drink. Like mother, like daughter.
Despite my sexual escapades, I first needed to reform my drinking. Later, I’d tackle the sex problem.
I started my New Year’s resolution early. After Boxing Day, when the stores first reopened after the holidays, is when I quit cold turkey. That morning after my shower, I dumped the four unopened bottles of wine and the two half bottles—one white and one red. Down the drain they disappeared, the liquid gurgling from the bottles like a belching boozer. Then I attacked the boxed white wine. I dug the knife into the cardboard flaps, pulled out the bag, and slashed a hole in the plastic. The liquid gushed from the bag like a faucet without bladder control.
Relief and a sense of satisfaction washed over me. I skimmed above the clouds, like a hundred bricks weighting my chest had been lifted. Unfortunately, the euphoria lasted only until two o’clock that afternoon. Just one drink. Just one.
I hopped in the car and headed to Sunnyfield Mall, where I parked in the lot just outside the liquor store. The flashing neon lights, bright and tempting, were blazing, even in daylight, likely on purpose. I hesitated several seconds until my willpower won.
The cashier knows me by name, which is embarrassing. I’m the type who likes to lurk, sight unseen, in the background; throw a dark, all-encompassing shroud over me anytime and I’m happy. I nodded at her greeting, certain she knew of my New Year’s resolution, certain she knew I was in the process of breaking it, certain she knew I’d be a drunken toad yet another night.
I continued to the wine section, where I ambled down the aisles. My mouth salivated. I licked my lips, savoring the taste of the sweet nectar which was sure to come once I had made a selection and was back in the privacy of my home. I picked up a bottle of merlot, put it back, and picked up a bottle of chardonnay. No particular brands. I was like a kid after Christmas with grandparents’ money to throw away on candy or useless toys.
I eyed the boxed wine, but a bottle contains less than a box, of course. If I was careful, I could make a bottle last the week, unlike a four-litre box of wine, which could be stretched for a month—not under normal circumstances, mind you, just with my new, half-baked resolution gone astray. Surely I could ration a half glass a night and keep to some sort of plan. Couldn’t I? I snatched a bottle of sauvignon blanc and headed to the cash, my New Year’s resolution gone “somewhere.”
Standing behind several people, I scanned the various items on the racks either side of me— small inconsequential items, meant to entice one while waiting—miniature bottles of liquors, fancy gift bags, corkscrews, and wine nozzles. I selected a glaring red corkscrew, which I fingered while watching the two people ahead of me, one an obese woman with unruly gray hair. I peered around. No one looked my way. Nonchalantly, I slid the small item into my coat pocket. No one saw. No one paid any attention to me; no one ever did.
You dumb fucks. I could steal a dozen of them if I had wanted. No one would have been the wiser.
“Excuse me,” I said. I inched my way around the two individuals behind me—an elderly gentleman and a teenager who likely wasn’t a teenager since he gripped a bottle of rum—and returned to the wine section where I replaced the bottle.
Still no one paid any attention to me. The cashier who had called me by name was nowhere to be seen.
Back in the car, I removed the flashy corkscrew from my pocket. I stared at it for several minutes before I tore it from the cardboard backing. I liked buying new items and discarding the excess materials. What a waste, I’d think many times, but manufacturers continued to wreak havoc on earth’s ecosystem.
I felt oddly exhilarated and refreshed, just as I had when I dumped the wine earlier that day. I had never stolen anything before, not even a lollipop or a pack of gum that my friends used to brag about. I was on a high, like I had smoked several marijuana joints. Perhaps I could keep my New Year’s resolution after all.
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