Last updated August 29, 2018
The first of November and three years later in San Francisco, Abel Erikson folded his arms across his chest not enjoying a view of thick grey fog. He swung around eyeing two decanters, one full of gin, another brandy on top of a sideboard. No one in sight. He could really do it, could pretend to fool only himself. He wiped his mouth hurrying across the room and picked up the shaker with sweaty palms. He wanted to scream.
Once upon a time, he could drink until he was literally blue in the face. There were no hangovers then, no problem. Now he went to therapy and made special appearances at AA meetings upon his therapist's suggestion. He hated the meetings, having to sit there in that melancholy room, half listening to their stories, thinking he wasn't as far gone as those people. Drinking out of control and waking up in a gutter was not something he had in common with any of them.
He closed his eyes silently admitting he was powerless over alcohol-that his life had become unmanageable. The second step he whispered but at mid-sentence hesitated his eyes popping open hearing her coming up the hall. An annoying patter like little feet. He put the shaker down glaring at the French door and her in the threshold gasping with snow-white hair erect like an electric bush and a beige gown clinging unnaturally making her look naked.
She didn’t see anyone in the room staring up at the chandelier and switched off the lights.
"Farchrisake, turn that light back on,” Abel said. “Turn it on, now."
"Ahab," the woman clicked the switch back and, squinting, saw that it was not Ahab but Abel, and she shivered.
"That’s right, it is I. Abel. The one you ardently hate.”
"I don't hate you so much,” she said.
"I’m flattered. As usual, you’re as useless as a knife without a blade.”
“I’m your mother.”
“Then be a good girl. Do us both a favor, go back to your room.”
“I don’t understand.“
“Of course, you don’t. Now, get the hell out.”
“How dare you. I get a pension every month, young fellow. Ahab deposits it in the bank to take care of this house-."
"Ahab made those deposits of your measly pennies into his own personal account right down to your last nickel.”
"Ahab wouldn't have.”
“He would have let this house foreclose from right under your nose if-"
"Why must you make up filthy lies?"
"I just can't get it," he said throwing his hands up in the air helplessly and looking up at the ceiling as if expecting an answer. "After all the miserable years you've spent with Ahab you insist defending him against me when it was Ahab who defrauded you to fund his vile obsession."
"I'll get Ahab. Right now. He'll tell the truth! Unlike your lies."
"You'll have to go all the way to 6th Street to find him. That idiot. That's right. He's been evicted and will never again set foot in this house."
The thought of Ahab being evicted had never actually occurred to her. It seemed so remote. Finally, some truth of Ahab’s eviction sank temporally, and she was sick about it. She shook her head remembering until she got a headache. "Ahab can't be gone," she snapped. "He simply can't be. Why would you evict him? Your own brother? It was because of her, wasn’t it? That woman?"
"You are that woman," Abel said.
"I don't hate you so much."
"Get out. Or shall I remove you myself? Dearest mother, you wouldn't prefer that..."
"All right,” she said recoiling. "I am leaving...now." She made her way out of the living room and down the hall feeling her hands along the wall like a blind woman until she reached her bedroom. She went inside and mustered the strength to slam the door.
"Wretched bitch!" Abel said biting his bottom lip and tasting salty blood. He quickly grabbed a cloth and dabbed it at the cut. That metallic taste intensified. The bottom lip stinging and throbbing so gave him a sensation in his crotch. The thing bursting to explode. He looked down into a full-length mirror on the opposite wall holding his mouth. Effortlessly, he touched it with his free long fingers and burst into naughty laughter with tears welling in his eyes and hugging himself in his arms like a lover.
The front door banged open downstairs. Footsteps pounded, rushing up. Abel tucked the cloth into his pocket, squirted club soda into a glass, his face glowing hurrying over to the sofa.
"Darling, I’m home," the boy's breathless voice from in the doorway.
His boy had come safely home. He wouldn't complain or question him about his day away from him. Besides, he had argued long enough with Zelta, his scraggly mother, about those goddamn cats. That had exhausted him. "Well, don't just stand there,” he said wiping his eyes. "Come on in my boy."