The Irish demon, called itself Pádraig Sheahan, said, “Drink up little one.” – paused, grinning – “Or give up.”
Larry looked around for Marcy. He saw her sitting in a corner of the dive bar strumming away at her guitar. Jeanie X. accompanied on an electric guitar she’d made out of a hobo’s skeleton and abandoned car parts. No one knew where she'd got either. Marcy noticed her looking to him, desperate for a loving eye to kindle the fire inside him. She frowned, and went back to practicing Take My Bones Away by Baroness. Larry’s eyes aimed at the floor.
His brain said, “Go for it. Crash. Get some rest. There’s always tomorrow.”
He responded by babbling, “Ismis got a stop the pimprov dangle fucker.”
“What?” Pádraig screwed up his face in confusion.
“Dangle fucker!” Larry stabbed a hand into the swarm of shots waiting to sting his liver. He knocked over two before managing to pick one up. Knowing he should use two hands, but figuring fuck-all, now is not the time to look weak, Larry raised the glass.
The crowd held its breath as one. Subtly money was exchanged regarding silent bets as to whether Larry would die. Sophie D., still pissed from a keg standoff wherein her skirt fell down giving the whole of Lincoln Park time to paint a detailed portrait of her pussy, bet on him dying.
In the hushed pub the sizzle of Larry’s esophagus could be heard plain as day. He ground his teeth together, feeling the liquor etch poitín was here like acid all the way down.
Larry set the shot glass down. He growled, “Eadem mutata resurgo.”
The crowd cheered.
George C. flinched, “Since when do you speak Latin?”
Larry replied, “I do what now?”
The next day Larry sat down at a laptop won during a previous pub crawl brawl, intending to write a definitive explanation of the human condition as had been revealed to him during a blackout coma dream; however, instead of anything coherent he simply puked on the keys, closed the machine, and went back to bed. Yet, some might argue he’d said it all in one unwitting symbolic gesture.
When he eventually did resurface from the land of the poitín overdose, crown still atop his head, though slightly askew, he found the apartment empty. At first he suspected having passed out in someone else’s place. Except those were his posters of The Suicide Compromise on the wall, and he recognized Jeanie’s graffiti on the ceiling, a spiral galaxy made of nautilus shells. This was his home, but there was no one.
He went to the fridge. Inside, tapped to a tallboy, he found a note from Marcy:
“Larry, do me a favor. Don’t drink for 24 hours then look at yourself in the mirror. Afterwards, you’ll understand why I left. I’m at Sophie’s, but please don’t come by until you understand. Otherwise I will shoot you with her Colt Python… or at least stab you a few times with the knives we bought her last Giftmas. It’s over. You were great, but this is the end.”
Signed with a kiss in purple lipstick.
Larry carefully folded the note, and put it in his back pocket. He sat down, drank water, napped, ate a huge burrito, and waited roughly six hours until he felt normal. Then he demolished everything in the apartment with a sledgehammer that Marcy used to use to smash guitars at the close of shows. Of course, that was back in the summer of ’04 when they snuck into a pawn store and stole all the guitars. She went through 16 over the summer, and though the practice had to stop, the sledgehammer remained in the closet as a reminder of good times -- their first summer together.
Sweat pouring and heart pounding, Larry collapsed onto the floor.
“Don’t cry,” he muttered through clenched teeth, “Don’t you fucking cry.”
But he couldn’t stop himself. He’d saved Marcy just to lose her again.
Six months later.
The king of the drink-fighters enters. Gentleman Dan the Fairing Man signals the crowd to hush, though the act is more melodrama than necessity. Everyone knows not to speak. Once upon a time the king loved the raucous clamor of the roaring crowd. Now he comes in silence, and leaves the same. The old drink-fighting underground used to be a party of sorts. Now it’s a grand guignol, a grim spectacle wherein two or more competitors face off, and quietly drink each other into oblivion. The pub crawl brawls are no longer a wild band of merry pranksters and punks wandering from one skirmish locale to another, they’re a funeral procession for the livers involved. Perhaps it was inevitable that war would show its despicable face among the bare knuckle boozers, but for a time the old brawlers will always hold dear, the drink-fights felt like gentleman duels.
Sure, one has to have a certain belief that an opponent can be beat in order to battle; however, there was always respect. Now the fights are just a gauntlet for those who want to see the king deposed – the old order restored. Whereas the fights used to end with gladiators leaning against each other at the end of the bar, slurring praise for one another’s brave attempts, nowadays they end with steely eyes firing daggers.
But the current king is going nowhere. He drinks without fear. He’s been seen chugging whole pints of Malort at the start of battles to compel his opponents’ surrender.
Some say he’s drinking to kill himself. Fair enough. Some say he’s muttered drunken babblings about searching for what he calls a vodka wormhole, a portal unknowingly opened in a blackout that allows one to slip through time. Most try not to think about why he remains at the top; they just bet on the crown.
Though if rumors of the vodka wormhole are true no one actually knows where he plans to go. Some say the king is on a quest, searching for a woman. But no one knows which woman. Sometimes he says he wants to go back to a time when he knew platinum selling artist Marcy of LSDelight, how he’ll quote make everything right unquote. Other occasions have him desperate for a quiet suburban house frau named Ann, and the chance to escape the cycle of liquor violence. The point is there are two realities he sounds desperate for.
It would be nice to think Larry is drink-fighting his way to some deus ex machina that'll get him back to the love of his life, whoever that might be.