The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Old Country Drinking Songs I: The Alcohol of Fame

You push through the door and head toward the bar. The light is low and warm and the bottles look like little gods of forgiveness on the glass shelf. There's a pungent smokey smell in the air and you see a guy sitting alone at the end of the bar who's bent over his drink. A half smoked cigar rests in the ashtray in front of him and smoke curls up toward the ceiling. Two men at a table behind you suck on their brown beer bottles like a baby sucks his mother's milk.

You order a shot of whiskey and a beer and sit there thinking about her. How many months have passed now, how many years? And still her face. The bitch. What'd she have to go and do that to you for? It was all her damn fault.

There's the sound of change being fed into the jukebox on the side wall. A guy makes his selections slowly, deliberately, like the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance. After an eternity, the music starts.

But you ain't in a hurry, you're just gonna sit here and drink.

You tap the bar by your shot glass and the bartender pours. You remember that night. Her face pops up now into your consciousness like the triangular fortune on one of those black eight balls you had as a child. Her face, your fortune forever, says, "no, not now, not ever." That was the night she couldn't take any more.

It's as clear in your mind as yesterday or clearer since you can't remember yesterday at all. The clock on the dash of your old Ford said four a.m. The bars had all finally closed. You leaned forward and put your head on the steering wheel. The horn blew. Lights went on across the street at the Johnsons. Yeah. You were home drunk again.

You tap the bar again and the bartender gives you another. You toss it back and take another hit on the beer. A woman comes in, a redhead. Her dress is a pale green and it hangs on her skinny frame like a faded and worn out tent. She's in her late forties and her wrinkled face looks like the saddest map you've ever tried to read. She sits at a table in the corner, lights a cigarette, and orders a bottle of cheap wine.

You throw back another shot and wipe your mouth with your sleeve. Then you think about the pint you had earlier. Was that at lunch or later in the afternoon? Or was it just before you came in here? You're not sure. Hell. Maybe you've already passed the Pint of No Return.

You kill the rest of the beer. You look around. The place is empty. Bartender stops polishing a glas and points to his watch. Yeah, you think, I could be that guy, they oughtta put me in the "Alcohol of Fame."


  1. What a brilliant post. You've described what could have easily become my reality in the way-back, and provided a much more than suitable soundtrack. Strangely enough, I'm familiar with all these songs, even though I wouldn't describe myself as a "country fan."

  2. Thanks Buck, I kinda got into a fictional mode last night when I wrote this thing. The songs helped a lot. By the end I felt almost stoned. And depressed.