100 Cocktails Later

Entry by: Godai41

21st August 2015
Contest title 100 Cocktails Later

Title of Story: Neal’s True Cocktails

Neal’s long city workdays fraught with hectic, routine, repetitious, even automaton-like unchallenging details familiar to underlings at his workplace impel him to find solace in the frequent short but vibrant after-work meet-ups with colleagues to share light talk and, of course, cocktails. Except for most Fridays when they hustle to cover the distance to their suburban residential homes and secure the fullest possible weekends away from the tedium, they share weekday talk and many many more than 100 cocktails per annum.

Neal emerges from the sharing cocktail and verbiage consuming stunned physically and cognitively, quizzical of all his emotive meanderings. He recognizes the urgency to take charge of the tavern of his self and readies himself to begin.

Bearing the flow of post-travail cocktails absorbed, the energy of the words, feelings, and ideas exchange, and most of all the urgent call to grasp the flow of life experience past and present, Neal whisks himself to his Center City to suburban bus, fleeing Philadelphia for the northern suburbs where he resides. En route he mixes his own much more potent cerebral, non-liquor cocktails to relieve and process the root causes of his anguish.

These true-to-life, not merely real, “cocktails” containing not one iota of liquid and no alcohol he prepares en route utilize and contain the ingredients that made him drink in the first place before leaving work, the lingering concerns he has. Created and mixed by his own palpable need to understand routes taken, these self-mixed cocktails of the soul offer some clarity and even solace.

He mixes his own visceral yet cerebral cocktails, far more than 100, on his way home numerous weeknights. Although yet drunk but still clearer than he was before, he bartends for himself alone as the bus claws on.

These intricately mixed cocktails contain doses of the person he married, what he had wanted to but didn’t do before marrying, the kids and what they do or don’t do (athletics, early relationships they have, etc.).

The hot toddies that shake his corpus en route home even more than the bus finding all the potholes available to find have as their main ingredients the three offspring spawned too rapidly following his marriage to Lena. Images of his spouse amidst any naps she could catch watching, playing with, feeding, entertaining, screaming at, and a myriad of other drops pour through his being already soused from after work colleague meet-ups at a local pub convenient to the Center City bus station. Full portions of guilt at thwarting the once hopeful, ambitious, delicate personage to whom he had vowed lifelong faithfulness appear as hot liquid filled images of himself as her chief incarcerator.

Neal draws another mélange from his foggy ruminations following one of his post-drinking meet-ups: his own pituitary manufacture of a Singapore sling. Into his mug he pours the guilt-ridden images he mixes of his once utopian damsel now spouse cornered into the hometown’s newly birthed school system. Squinting through what remained of his eyes leaden with actual booze and that pumped from his imagination sodden with cherry brandy, grenadine et al he brings to more than life Lena’s back twisted in pain from bending over to hear, help tie shoes for, drag to the kindergarten bathrooms. I, I, and I alone have deposited her in this prison house of the soul he simultaneously drools and murmurs. He draws the attention of his fellow passengers on the bus bumping its corpus through Elkins Park.

Almost at Jenkintown. Time, Neal somehow recognizes, for the masterpiece of his cerebellum, Hangman’s Blood, yes, with all its rum, gin, brandy, and porter vying for his attention. This mixture he merges with the raison d’etre of his very slavitude: the massive, extensive, ornate, tree-surrounded castle on Lakescape Road that own Neal, Lena, and their three offspring. As the metaphorical distilled portion, M. Hangman maneuvers the angles and blockades of whatever awareness Neal can maintain as he tries to ponder how, why, and when he had paved their entire financial and domestic existence into the abode to which the very town had not yet applied even a house number. The allure of the trees, the lawn, the immense quiet almost quell his nightmare until the price, both monetary and daily to-and-fro time seep from his life, flowed unabashed through his brain. “I have outwalked the furthest city light” (Frost) affirms the Hangman’s Blood as it squashes his consciousness, eking out every droplet of pain ensconced therein.

He recalls the acerbic tale he had read as a child in the urbanized setting he then treasured. The Hangman’s Blood elicits memories of the books he then bravely and hopefully set out to explore. Among them peers the words he deploys from Edwin Howe’s Kansas petit town, probably even more haranguing than his current domicile he declares to himself to comfort himself about his own estranged condition. The words themselves appear before his eyes pointing at him stating his mother’s account of how “. . . my father stormed for an hour because I was born at all, I concluded that I had never been very welcome and regretted that I had ever come into the world” (Edwin Howe, The Story of a Country Town).

He turns now to his late-voyage favorite concoction, the Black Russian. That suave invention of his thoroughly sponged head brings solace but solace mired in brine. The bus makes its way silently through the Jenkintown environs. The soft, dark, weighty flow links as it moves each end-of-work-day journey with his recalling of his oldest child. From the start the visage of the offspring had revealed his insights even into what he could not yet speak. This child, both Neal and Lena instantly grasped, understood, knew, yes thought. He effused brightness, not mere light but insight. Why, then, Neal asks himself, even interrogates his very sinews, did he hew the boy the way of the body: blocking, bumping, throwing, catching, bumping, all for the end of the prolate spheroid body of a brainless football? He returns to the Black Russian, “. . . as though of hemlock. . .” he had drunk or “emptied some dull opiate to the drains.” The bus bumps on. Neal yearned for “a draught of vintage! that hath been/Cool'd a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,/Tasting of Flora and the country-green, /Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!” (Keats).

Soon he will arrive home in Willow Grove. An Alabama Slammer always fits well into this last lap of the journey terrain. He throws together as best he can the metaphysical immaterial Southern Comfort, sloe gin, orange juice, and amaretto. Surely these will assuage the fretting he reserved for this slice of the trip. The youngest daughter, the one for whom he had designed this last bouquet of hope and aspiration, she who would right the wrong of the occupational route he had so touted, would rectify all. The four ingredients ensconced in the Slammer can, can’t they, heal all? The daughter, though, soft, suave, and principled, intensely loved whom she loved. Her love likewise loved and shared his intensity also with her; then he left, choosing to continue on his selected route, a spiritual career commitment to which he had previously soldered himself.

The bus and Neal its five-times-a-week master-concocter of metaphorical brain fluids at this juncture of his daily voyage come to understand that the obsessive tunneled move to a secure work situation has landed him only in a mindless, dreary, and ultimately to him meaningless daily duties, maladies of 100 cocktailed capped quotidians, without any truly lasting value to himself or his emotional, intellectual, and human environs. He comes to know through his masterly creation of imaginary beverages that he has landed in the unimaginative terrain of mechanical work duties merely to support the more roving minds, spirits, and creative centers of other of the species.

I’ve come a long way, experiencing my many cocktails o’er many nights, surpassing, he consoles himself, even Mr. Flood’s paltry zeroing in on himself so many eves back. "Well, Mr. Flood, we have not met like this/In a long time; and many a change has come/ To both of us, I fear, since last it was/We had a drop together. Welcome home!" (Robinson). The bus shoots down Jenkintown’s quiet main thoroughfare; he consoles Mr. Flood. Just another eve, then, I suppose, he silently retorts.

On the last bus leg of Neal’s homeward-bound post imbibing route he reviews, edits, and polishes his suave, sophisticated art of preparing faux but aggressive cocktails to help him refine his taste and understanding. He calls on himself to practice this challenging art in a way his daily mechanistic earning duties rarely elicit.

To Lena, Neal’s arrival appears only the recurrent return of the too predictable drunk.

Neal himself, albeit tired and prone only to sleep, still the recipient of his own outpourings, his subtle melody of the quotidian, perceives himself as a more profound, more seasoned, self insightful personage.