Three years later in San Francisco on the first of November, Abel Erikson was older with less muscle, yet his hair salt and pepper was as thick as his formative years when his hair was jet black. He was wiser, too, but lonely and bored.
Folding his arms across his chest, he sighed wearily uninterested in drifting fog smothering the city below Pemberton steps and turned to face two decanters, one full of gin, the other brandy on the sideboard. No one around. He wiped his brow and swallowed a dry lump in his throat. He could really do it, could pretend to fool even himself.
Across the room he readied gin and vermouth in a shaker. He drained it carefully over crushed ice and shook the shaker vigorously. He smiled tentatively and grabbed a glass, his right cheek twitching as he filled the glass with alcohol, two olives on a toothpick and abruptly lifted the martini to his mouth.
Once upon a time, he could drink until he was literally blue in the face. There were no hangovers then, no problems. 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 looked dubiously up at the ceiling and closed his eyes admitting he was powerless over alcohol-that his life had become unmanageable. The second step he whispered his eyes popping open at mid-sentence hearing her coming up the hall.
And there in the doorway with snow-white hair erect like an electric bush. a beige gown clinging unnaturally making her look naked, she gasped looking up at the chandelier; then switched out the light.
"Farchrisake," Abel commanded. "Turn that light back on, now."
"Ahab," the woman cried clicking the switch and, squinting, saw it was not Ahab.
"That’s right, it is I," he said screaming silently inside. "The other you so ardently hate.”
"I don't hate you so much,” she blurted out and her throat was very dry, and she coughed.
"Why I’m flattered," said Abel pouring the drink down the drain. "Now, be a good girl and go back to your room.”
“How dare you speak to me in that manner. I’m your mother.”
“Yes, let’s not forget your maternal devotion that's neither here nor there. Now, get the hell out.”
"Why must you belittle me all the time?"
"Because you're a simpleton. Is that not a simple truth?"
“I am not some simpleminded crone. I get an allowance every month, young fellow. Ahab deposits in the bank what I allocate 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-"
"Why must you make up filthy lies?"
"I just can't get it.” He threw his hands up in the air helplessly."After all the miserable years you've spent with Ahab, you still insist defending him against me when it was Ahab who defrauded you."
"I'll get Ahab. He'll speak the truth."
” You’ll have to go all the way to 6th Street to find him .”
“I don’t understand.”
“Of course not. Let me remind you. He’s been evicted and living in a SRO on 6th Street."
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. She couldn’t remember exactly where 6th Street was or this SRO, but the thought of 6th Street and a SRO didn’t sound good; this especially worried her, and she felt helpless, sick about it. "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?"
"Why mother," Abel said, "you are that woman."
She backed up, started to leave, then stopped. "I don't hate you so much," she said.
"Get out or shall I remove you with my own hands? Dearest mother, you wouldn't prefer that..."
"All right,” she said with sudden vivacity. "I am leaving...now." She made her way down the hall feeling her hands along the wall like a blind woman. With a look of disdain she sucked-in her teeth, shuffled into her room and mustered enough strength to slam the door.
"Wretched bitch!" he said gritting his teeth. And the thing in his boxer short pulsated ready to explode. Effortlessly he touched it, biting his bottom lip until he tasted blood, then burst into naughty laughter and hugging himself in his arms like a lover.
The front door banged open downstairs. Footsteps pounded, rushing up. Abel tucked the bloody cloth into his pocket, squirted club soda into a glass and rushed over to the sofa.
"Darling, I’m home," came the boy's breathless voice from in the doorway.
His boy had come safely home looking nice in a leather jacket accented with a Burberry check cashmere brown scarf he wore over a black turtleneck with olive cargo pants and black Chelsea boots. He wouldn't complain or question him about his day. 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 in my boy."