Here’s to Rufus – Jack Den

It was over the moment it touched his lips. It wasn’t always this way. Rick did remember a time when the juice used to not do it for him. Back when he was a teenager. The troubles weren’t real back then and it didn’t taste the way it did today. But that all changed in university after his biology final. Rick came back and shared a six-pack with all the guys. There was a distinct memory of it tasting, for the first time, like nectar straight from the gods themselves.

So he’d show up places where everyone knew him well and laughed at his jokes. Then he’d have a few more and everyone would really be laughing. All it was, was following the cycle, you know. The one that makes it a bit harder to remember and a bit easier to forget. Though the longer it went on the more difficult it got to keep up with the pace of things. A fifth had made its way into a bottle and then the bottles starting working their ways into god-knows-what.

There had been a stretch there where things had been real rough. Rick had been going off on a few benders and honestly everything was okay until that night he came back home and his fucking dog was dead. The dog must have eaten something he left out or something like that. This was bad… ol’ Rufus had been Rick’s only real friend… or at least that was one of the places Rick’s mind went when the booze was calling. And now Rufus was fucking dead. And it really was his fault. He had left some superglue out or something like that and he knew it because he found the canister half chewed up in his living room. MAN. Rufus was fucking dead. The guilt was pounding as he looked at his brother slumped over on that green shag carpet.

So the next day Rick, determined to make a change, moseyed on into the meeting of his local AA. It had taken a while to get the nerve up to walk on in to a place like that. But he did it and he did it for ol’ Rufus. He sat down in an old rickety plastic chair with the metal legs. Here at the meeting they had’m all sitting around in one of those circles, the same kind they make you sit in your whole life. Rick’s eyes were going from side to side taken everyone in. Some guy wearing blue jeans and a Chicago bears shirt saying he was sober 3 years now and everyone clapped. An attractive woman in what must have been her late twenties started saying something but she trailed off in Rick’s mind as his other vices for dealing with the rattle started up… there ain’t much use in fighting reality. Soon though, it was Rick’s turn. He stood up with his handles trembling. It was like asking out Rebecca Longford in the 7th grade gym all over again. Everything was swimming around in there calling out his failures one by one, making it hard to think.  It did all come out though, even with his voice cracking.

And my god, if Rick didn’t leave that little circle feeling like a million bucks. He burst out of the meeting right into a chilly fall night. There was something about the brisk air that made him feel like he was on his way! This was the change he had been looking for.

It was great for a few months. Rick had taken to showering and general hygiene again and each AA meeting he went to left him feeling more and more empowered… “If only Rufus could see me now!” Rick exclaimed as he pulled on a dress shirt in preparation for his first date in 3 years (he was headed to a little coffee shop with a woman he met on one of those free online dating sites. She was in her late forties with two teenagers and she had sent him more than a few heart emojis).

Slowly though, that rattle started thumping up and down again and nothing seemed to stop it. Rick picked up a few packs of cigarettes, as he decided this was more than a fair trade, but what they gave him was short lived and the burden he was placing on them ended with him puking on his back porch. And then there was that woman at the sub sandwich shop who, when he placed his order, had just not given him that positive enough reaction. It was something in the way she nonchalantly acted like it didn’t matter and kind of acted like he was just another person who she really wasn’t interested in. “Ah fuck this place and these people, man”, Rick’s mind boiled, and that boil rolled. Before he knew it, he was walking through that same brisk air straight into “Apollo’s Wine and Liquor”.

He paced up and down the isles and after some deliberation decided on a bottle of Jim Beam. He didn’t even like Jim Beam but it was on sale. Money was on the counter and Rick was out the door. “To hell with it. Here’s to Rufus” as he took a pull.

And just for a moment, all was silent.

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