UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION
Jesus Is A Tether Of Light
We decided to get drunk. Nothing else, just drunk. So I drove us up to the store, and we went in
Traffic was still howling on College Avenue outside, a sound that penetrated the walls of our little apartment. The Murphy bed in the wall rattled. The windows shuddered. I tasted dust. Then I said, "To the wino."
"To the wino," Mary echoed, and we drank some more. The wino was the guy who lived in the apartment before we did. He drank himself to death, and the manager found him leaning up against a space heater, rotting.
We finished our glasses and started on another round. The buzz was already coming on, but we still had a way to go. The sun was gone, and through the open door I could see the deep indigo burn of the clouds to the west. No rain coming. The air was dry. So we drank some more. I put on the radio, a little jazz.
"How ya doin'," Mary asked me.
We both laughed.
* * * *
The air was cooling, a light breeze coming in through the door. "You working tomorrow?" I asked.
"Not till Sunday."
"All right. You want to go see a movie?"
"Sure," she said, "What's playing?"
"I don't know. Let's see what's over at the Ken."
"I don't feel like reading sub-titles."
I picked the paper out of the mess on the table: envelopes, bills mostly, magazines, ashtray full of ash and cigarette butts, papers with scribbling on them. "Here we go." I looked through the listings. We drank another couple of glasses, and now I was starting to get the swimming angel feel, making it hard to focus on the print. But I was proud to make it appear as though I were having no trouble at all. "Here, see, The Third Man is playing at the Ken. No sub-titles."
"We've seen it."
"It's a great movie."
"Find something else."
"Here, you pick," I said. I handed her the paper and took the jug of wine and went out onto the steps. I sat down and drank straight from the jug. Cars swept by in a blur. The street lights burned like match heads. The palm trees moved their troll arms. I felt hands slide down around my neck out of the darkness. "Let's skip the movie," Mary said.
She sat down next to me, and I passed the jug over to her. She drank straight from the jug. Then I drank.
"Yeah. Who wants to go sit in a movie seater," I said. I was getting that full belly, swirly head feeling, and I could feel my own words slur as I spoke. "Wha'll we do?"
Mary grinned at me, eyes half-lidded, then she started to giggle.
"What?" I said.
"Wha'll we do," she said, mocking me. I laughed, too.
"Hey, wait, wait," I said, very seriously. "I've gottin idea. Les go get some tacos."
"Some tacos?" she said, puckering her mouth at me.
"Yeah, come on." I stood up.
We started heading down the street. I still had the jug in my hand and tried drinking from it while I was walking, but I mostly spilled it down my shirt.
College Avenue is a very steep street, and we walked down it with long, slapping strides. I felt the strings coming down out of the darkness above, the ones attached to our hands, our elbows, our knees and feet, and of course our heads. Every once in a while I felt one of those strings make a sudden jerk, and I saw my hand fly up or my foot go out. We were laughing, and cars flew by with lights blazing in our eyes.
About half way down the street, almost simultaneously, we both stopped. It was obvious before either one of us spoke that we weren't going to make it to the taco stand. It was about a half mile, and already I was barely able to keep on my feet. "Let's go back," I said. And as if I had pronounced some grim truth about our lives, Mary nodded and turned with me as we headed back up the street.
It was hard going. The street now rose up at us like some funride that was not so fun. I still had the jug, and I still tried to take little sips, but I was wasted drunk. At one point I just stopped, leaning forward. I touched the ground with my hand, but I did not fall. The street was that steep. For a moment, I thought that we were never going to make it. Mary was a few steps behind me, making the same exaggerated, halting marionette steps.
When we got back to the apartment building, we barely made it up the steps to our room. There was maybe an eighth of the jug left, but neither of us could touch it. I sat down on the couch and the room went into rapid spin. Mary collapsed on the floor.
The old wino ghost must have peaked out of the heater then, a little flash appearing at the edge of the ceiling above. “He had died next to that heater,” I said. She knew this, of course, but I said it anyway. “They only found him because of the smell.” I kept my eyes on that little flash, that little flare near the ceiling. I was thinking, Jesus is with us, though I don't know why. "Hey, Mary," I said. She sort of groaned. And as if the words were huge boulders of breath I had to push up through my chest, I said, "Jesus is a tether of light." I laughed. "Did you hear that?" And it kept going through my head like the spinning room, Jesus is a tether of light.Douglas Cole has had work appear in The Connecticut River Review, Louisiana Literature, Cumberland Poetry Review, and Midwest Quarterly. He currently has work available for viewing online as well in The Adirondack Review, Avatar, and the Salt River Review. He won the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry for a selection of work called, The Open Ward. He lives in Seattle, Washington and teaches writing and literature at Seattle Central College, where he is also the advisor for the literary journal, Corridors.
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