I feel myself drift away. My body is no longer mine, and the words coming out of my mouth sound foreign and out of character. The car starts to pick up, and my friend’s laugh sounds as though it is light-years away, even though she is so close her hand is on top of mine . . .
The American walked the ancient Italian countryside on unsteady feet. It was a familiar path, but he had been up very, very late with guests from the States, toasting to liberal optimism with liberal quantities of Tuscan wine. They had, essentially, drunk all night, waiting for election results from the States, which didn’t report until three a.m. Italian time that Barack Obama had become the forty-fourth president of the United States . . .
Johnny was barely fourteen when he started drinking . . .
Inkspot Hurricane’s eyes light up when I walk in. We go way back—I used to play music to his poetry on the folk scene. He was a slight man with a big voice, called Inkspot after the singing group, good name for a poet. I don’t recall how Hurricane came about . . .
In her poky hotel bathroom, Sallie filled up a glass with water from the sink. It wasn’t until she’d swallowed the pill—some generic form of Valium—that she stopped to wonder if the water was okay to drink. Oh well, she thought as she stepped into her red bikini bottoms. Too late now . . .
Psychics are fake. They are lying bullshitters who make a buck conning the stupid and the naïve. I’m no psychic. He thinks I’m intuitive. I’m not; he’s just a drunk . . .
Nancy took the job at the new liquor store to supplement her shitty government salary. The liquor store allowed her to work weekends and in the evenings after leaving her regular job—only a two-minute walk from one to the other. Every morning when she walked from her car to her office, she would see the same cast of characters posted up in front of the gray-and-beige county government building, which was situated only a few blocks from the homeless mission . . .
Tater. His real name was Willam Francis McKinny III, but he got the name Tater because he was about as useless as a potato on legs when he drank. His best friend Nick Plakowitz named him that soon after the two of them started stealing Jim Beam from Nick’s dad’s liquor locker in the basement that was set up like a pool hall. Nick poured water in the square booze bottle so his dad wouldn’t know.
Tater said, “He’s gonna know.”
“Nah, he don’t want to deal with it. He too busy with that paint business of his.”
Tater shrugged. Nick’s dad never said a word . . .