Hope Idiotic | Part IX
Hope Idiotic is a serialized novel. Catch each new part every week on Monday and Thursday.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org<Chuck Keller>
Subject: Re: Re: Could Sure Use a Drink at Bella’s
Lexi moved out. I helped her pack up her stuff and move into her new place. It’s not bad. Your typical Vegas apartment. She’s on the first floor and concerned she’s going to get raped or murdered. I told her she should get a gun. She didn’t think that was funny. I told her to pray. She didn’t like that either.
So I’m living in your house by myself, and I understand why you loved living alone so much. You weren’t kidding about the routine of cleaning the pool. It’s that immediate gratification we crave, and I get it now. I actually look forward to cleaning it. I’ve never looked forward to cleaning anything. Ah yes. The Master of the Domain. I am a king!
Except that my kingdom may crumble. Melvin — you remember, my new boss — is a fucking nightmare, and my mom is still… well, she’s my mom.
I can finally stop stressing over hiding Gina now. Have I done the right thing? Is Lexi moving out good for me? Am I capable of being by myself like this, left alone with my vices and desires? It’s what I’ve always wanted. Why does it feel so uncomfortable?
Sit on that one, my man. I’ll call you later. Another meeting with Melvin and Neal. I’m afraid Neal is about to blow a gasket. Or shit himself in fury. This place is ridiculous. It misses you.
The meeting ran two and a half hours long, and neither I nor Chuck could pinpoint what was accomplished. It was nearly six thirty at night when it wrapped up, and Chuck tried to convince me to join him at Bella’s for a drink.
“I can’t,” I said. “I’m just going to go home, sniff my baby’s head and drink a beer while my wife shops online. Be safe out there.”
Gina was busy having dinner for a friend’s birthday, so Chuck seized the opportunity to have a few drinks on his own. He drank at Bella’s bar until it closed at midnight. He only spoke to order another drink. By ten o’clock, he was reduced to grunting and tapping the bottom of each empty beer can on the bar as a sign for the bartender to serve him another round.
He managed to make it out of the place on his own and drove his car far too fast along the bends of Horizon Drive that sent him back to the house. Inside, he grabbed a can of beer from the fridge, opened it and took a long pull as he collapsed onto the couch. The half-empty can of beer fell and spilled onto the carpet. As Chuck lay passed out in his work clothes, a sizeable stain formed while the carpet soaked up the alcohol.
THAT NEXT MORNING, IT TOOK ME CALLING CHUCK THREE TIMES AND LEAVING TWO VOICEMAILS BEFORE HE FINALLY PICKED UP.
“Where are you? Are you coming in today?” I asked.
“Yeah, later,” he said. His voice was raspy from his dry and tired throat.
“When? Because Melvin is looking for you. We have a meeting with him this morning.”
“The usual time. Eight thirty.”
“Chuck, it’s nine forty-five.”
His eyes sprung open. “Fuck. I’ll be right there.” He leaped off the couch and stepped on the empty beer can. “Jesus fucking Christ.” When he noticed the stain, he regretted drinking so much. Lou wouldn’t be happy about the dirty carpet. His meeting with Melvin was at ten thirty. “Where the fuck are my goddamn glasses?”
Chuck regularly passed out wearing his glasses and just as regularly would lose them in the middle of the night. He’d either pull them off his face and throw them across the room or lose them in the pillows and sheets of his bed or cushions of a couch. But they weren’t in the cushions.
Looking around the room with impaired vision, he saw them a few feet away in front of the television entertainment center. He picked them up, then ran upstairs to change his clothes, brush his teeth and throw some water on his face. There was no time for a proper shower.
Melvin was waiting in Chuck’s office, which startled him as he entered.
“Running late today?”
“Is your mother alright?”
“Why the long night?”
“Just a long night. I couldn’t sleep.” Chuck scrambled through his desktop to find the appropriate papers for the meeting.
Melvin looked at him long and hard. “You feeling okay?”
“Your eyes look terribly bloodshot.”
“I didn’t sleep much.”
Melvin stood up, and together they walked into Melvin’s office where I was waiting. Melvin took his seat behind his desk, and Chuck sat down next to me.
I leaned in and whispered, “You look like shit.”
“Christ, man. You reek.”
“Didn’t have time to shower.”
He managed to make it through the day. As he was packing up to head home, Melvin stopped him at his office doorway.
“I didn’t want to say anything during business hours today, but I think now is an appropriate time for me to speak up.”
“I really need to get home. I’d like to catch up on some sleep. Will get in a little early tomorrow.”
“I could smell the alcohol on you this morning. All day, really. Miriam, you know, our vice president of human resources, told me she saw you in the employee dining room. You two had a short conversation. She smelled liquor on you, too.”
“I don’t think so.”
“This isn’t the first time you’ve come into work smelling like a brewery. I can’t let it go on anymore. You were late today and now I have my supervisor breathing down my neck because she thinks a Tigris employee is a wino.”
“A wino wouldn’t smell like a brewery.”
“Something has to be done about this behavior, Chuck.”
“Look. I couldn’t sleep last night, so I had a couple beers in hopes of helping me doze off. That’s all. No big deal.”
“I don’t think that’s the truth. I have enough justification to terminate your employment here, Chuck. But I don’t want to do that. Here’s what we’re going to do. I will keep this quiet, but you must get some help. I’d like you to enter Alcoholics Anonymous.”
“I’m not an alcoholic.”
“Denial is the first sign that you are.”
“I’ve taken the liberty of printing out this list of AA meetings in town. Pick any one that you like. You do that, you attend AA and complete the program, get yourself better, and you can keep your job.”
“I really don’t think AA is for me, Melvin,” Chuck said.
“Make sure this happens, Chuck.” Melvin pushed the list into Chuck’s chest and walked away. “See you bright and early tomorrow.”
CHUCK WENT TO HIS FIRST MEETING. He sat politely through the introduction and listened to the speaker talk about a time, years ago, when he took his family on a trip to Disneyland. He was drinking so much at the time, “because the illness had me in its grip,” that while on the Teacup ride, he vomited all over his wife and two young daughters. The man thanked God and crowed that he had since been sober for eleven years and maintained a great relationship with his daughters and their mother, who divorced him last year. She served him the divorce papers the same night he came home with his ten-year chip.
People clapped for the man. Chuck laughed. He stood up and walked to the door, snagging a doughnut on the way out.