“Johnny Was” by George Dimos
Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuana, cocaine, speed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)
This week, George Dimos tell the story of a young man.
Johnny was barely fourteen when he started drinking. Every weekend he’d drive up to Washington, DC, with his friends from his native Richmond. He would steal a beer from an outdoor restaurant table or go to a house party only to get wasted for free. Once, walking down 18th Street NW with his friend Willy, he found a pill container lying on the sidewalk. Before Willy was able to stop him, Johnny put one of the pills in his mouth. The pill turned out to be high blood pressure medicine that caused Johnny to faint and be admitted to a hospital.
Johnny lived for rock ’n’ roll. The Rolling Stones, the Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin. He would try to imitate them and had made a few unsuccessful attempts to form a band with himself as the lead singer. When I met him—it was during my first year in college—he would from time to time clumsily scratch his Fender guitar and warble a few bars entirely out of tune. I was never sure whether this was due to lack of talent or because he was blasted on Georgi vodka all the time. Often, he would be drunk as early as ten in the morning.
Johnny didn’t care about his appearance. He never combed his hair—or washed it, for that matter—and when he was drunk he reeked of booze and slurred his words, as if he had forgotten his mother tongue. He was a forlorn drunk. His face would turn red, like an overripe tomato, and his eyelids would become heavy, as though he was about to slip into a coma.
It wasn’t always hell getting drunk with him. We had had some really good conversations while sipping on six-dollar wine. Johnny felt more comfortable when he was buzzed, like he had gotten rid of society’s burden and was finally free to speak his mind. Personally, I didn’t pass judgment on him, but I could tell others disapproved of his outbursts of unabashed honesty. Johnny felt the need to say what was on his mind. How his parents wouldn’t let him pursue a career in music, and how they made him come to New York City to become a writer because they thought he would have a better chance of finding a good job that way. Alcohol was the means for him to let it all out.
It was one cold February night when Johnny and I were sitting in my room, utterly frustrated with just about everything. I could sense that Johnny’s depression was affecting me, but there was nothing I could do to prevent it. Suddenly, I got an idea. Johnny and I walked through frozen hell to the local liquor store and returned to my room with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. It is strange, but it didn’t occur to me back then that this was the most expensive drink Johnny had bought—or at least had pitched in money for—since he came to college.
We started drinking and soon had a buzz. It was probably the only time when we were drinking that Johnny didn’t turn catatonic. Instead, he was surprisingly lively and fully engaged, asking me questions he had never asked me before. He asked me if I had any ideas for a story, and what did I think about Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley. He strove to extract some sort of information from me, and he was convinced that infiltrating my mind was the answer he was looking for.
I don’t remember exactly how the night ended—probably with one of us puking our guts out in the toilet. The day after, Johnny announced he was leaving for good. Before I knew it, he transferred to a school in Virginia and never came back to New York. After that night, I stopped drinking. I applied myself to school and soon got an internship with an independent publisher. Now I have a job there and I get to work with young writers in New York, which is part of what we seemed to aspire to during those drunken nights. I don’t know what Johnny is doing with his life now, whether he is satisfied or not, happy or sad, alive or dead. In my mind I can picture him drinking some cheap liquor out of a dirty cup in some dorm room in Richmond, alone and somber as he had been since I first met him.
GEORGE DIMOS is a writer from Athens, Greece. He moved to the US in 2012 to study creative writing and philosophy at Pratt Institute. He currently lives in New York City.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected], and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series, Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry Stahl, Lydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).
Posted: Jul 16, 2015
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