Archive for the ‘Post 2.8’ Category

Thursday, March 22, 11:12 p.m.

He’s astonishingly drunk. And on a work night. He drops his car keys as he tries to slide out of the booth. I duck down and grab them. I put them in my purse. He’s so far gone that he doesn’t notice. He scrabbles around on the sticky carpet, hunting and cursing.

“How about I drive you home?” I say. “I’ve got an awesome press car this week. You’ll love it. Where do you live?”

He keeps fumbling around the floor until he clocks his jaw hard on the edge of the table. Stunned, he stares at me as I pull my coat on and beckon to him.

“It’s either I take you home, or you pay for a cab,” I say. “Come on. You’ll feel better once you get to bed.”

“Can’t afford a cab,” he sneers, as he hauls himself unsteadily to his feet. “Your paper doesn’t get delivered to my home anymore. I make way, way, way less than $100,000 a year.”

“Join the club,” I say. “I’m parked right outside.”

I start walking. To my surprise, he follows without another word. He leans on the bar with all his weight as I pay the tab. It’s a horrifying $62.19 before tax. I can’t honorably get out of it once my credit card has been swiped by the bartender. Oh well. Since I aided and abetted Jack’s drinking tonight, I figure I’m gonna have to pay for it. Literally and figuratively.

Out in the drizzly chill, Jack lurches along the gleaming sidewalk as he trails me to my loaner press car. The doors unlock automatically when they sense I’m near. Jack falls into the front passenger seat and rubs his face as if washing it.

“You have no idea,” he mutters.

“Where do you live?” I say.

“Ballard.”

“Can you be more specific?”

“Everyone used to be a drunk Scandinavian fisherman. Then the yuppies moved in,” he says. “We bought our house cheap because nobody wanted to live around a bunch of drunk Scandinavian fishermen. Now they’ve got their own reality TV show and my property taxes are killing me.”

Deadliest Catch
“Jack! What is your address?”

Jack reclines against the plush leather headrest, his eyes closed.

“Mmm…outside your beat, little lady.”

“Little what?” I say, “Okay, just give me your driver’s license.”

Obediently, as if he’s been ordered to do so by many a cop, Jack pulls out his wallet, withdraws his driver’s license, and hands it to me. His eyes stay closed the entire time.

“Your newspaper is probably used to wrap fish in Ballard. Do you realize that?” he murmurs.

I squint at his license, glowing orange in the street light outside my window. It’s five years old and about to expire. Jack is an Aries. His photo looks significantly younger than he does. He must drink harder than a Scandinavian fisherman.

The address is no help. I don’t know how to navigate the wilds of Ballard. Lucky for me, the car can tell me how to get anywhere. As I laboriously key in the cross streets of our present location and then Jack’s address, my passenger laments.

“They started charging for obituaries three years ago, when the newspaper industry tanked,” Jack says. “That’s what I do all day now. Call funeral homes and hustle them to sell the bereaved a space in our paper. Once a day, I call the cops and write up the police blotter from whatever the rookie who answers the phone tells me. God. I was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Did you know that?”

“Yes,” I say, pondering the map generated by the awesome GPS in this awesome press car.

“I’m an ad department tool,” he moans.

“Well, at least it’s job security,” I say, as I start the engine.

“An intern could do it,” he says.

I pull onto the freeway and push the accelerator to the floor. This car is so fast. I hate to think what will happen if I get pulled over. I’ve got very scant proof of permission to drive it. It will give me something to write about in the auto review section, if I’m hauled off to jail for grand theft auto. I’m almost excited by the prospect. I guess I’m an ad department tool, too.

“Lucy’s gonna be so pissed,” Jack says.

“She’s fifteen, right?” I say.

“Fifteen. Going on fifty. She’s so hard on me.”

“Well, weren’t we all at that age.”

“She hates it,” Jack says. “But if I stop, I’ll die. You understand?”

“No,” I say. “Jack, this is your exit, right?”

Jack doesn’t answer. The GPS says it is. I take the exit off the freeway, into the heart of Ballard, land of difficult parking and random intersections.

“I wish you worked at my paper,” he says. “I don’t talk to anyone.”

“Well, you’ve got to make connections and all that, right? For your career. Try to extend your social network,” I ramble, not listening to myself as I scan the dimly lit street signs. Where the hell are we?

“I never do,” he says. “Never. Nobody knows about me. Who are you?”

He is so drunk. I hope the police will go easy on me when I rear-end some Ballardite as I distractedly search for the elusive Leary Way, cross street of 21st Avenue N.W. I’ll plead the designated, but distracted, driver defense.

“I write about dead people all day,” Jack says. “My mother is dying. My father died when Lucy was a baby. I don’t know why I’m telling you these things.”

“You’re drunk. You’re chatty,” I reply. “Yes! 21st Avenue N.W! It does exist!” I turn the car in a sharp right, making the tires squeal. “GPS, I love you!”

Jack opens his eyes, one at a time. He rubs a hand over his mouth twice. He blinks and stares out the windshield.

“Where are we?”

“Less than four blocks from your home. Isn’t GPS fantastic? I love it!” I say.

Jack sits up in alarm.

“Don’t drop me home! Lucy’ll be so pissed. Put me out here.”

“What—why?” I say.

“Stop! Stop now!”

I stop. We’re in front of a bar. Jack fumbles with the door latch.

“Jack, wait—”

He thrusts the passenger door open.

“She’ll raise hell. I’ll sneak in. Don’t tell,” he slurs.

He heaves himself out of the car onto the pavement. He balances himself for a moment, then turns and leans back in, bracing his hands on the doorframe.

“Jack,” I say. “You’re going home, right? Want me to walk you, make sure you get inside okay? You’re not going into that bar, right?”

Framed by the car’s door-jam and illuminated from behind by the retina searing red of the neon beer signs that decorate windows of the bar, Jack stares down at me. His eyes are deadly. I can’t look away.

“God,” he says. “You have no idea.”

He turns and veers unsteadily away from the car. He hesitates at the door to the bar. He shoulders it open and goes in.

I should go after him. I’ll be subpoenaed when he turns up dead from alcohol poisoning. The recurrent King County Coroner Harry Dekins will testify against me.

I lean over and yank the passenger door shut.

He’s a grown man. I got what I needed tonight. More than I needed. I paid his bar tab. I drove him home. I owe him nothing.

Right?

 

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