At the age of eleven he was ahead of the curve with the drinking. He would mimic what he saw in the movies. It was all he had to go on.
On the television would be some guy had a bad day at the office and hunched over at the bar, staring down at a bourbon like he was having a conversation with it.
He had taken a rocks glass from the cabinet, dropped two large ice cubes in it, and poured the cola. He filled it to a height not taller than the cubes. Just like the movies.
His mother, she was unsure what to make of this at first.
Walking in the door, coming home from work and seeing him sitting at the kitchen table all slouching over a short glass of soda, no more than a quarter full, turning it in his hand and staring at it contemplatively.
She hasn’t a clue in Hell what to say when he looks up at her, rotating his wrist to swish the fizzing liquid around in the glass, ice cubes clinking, and saying, “Buy you a drink, ma?”
His eyes squinting, his voice slurred, he says, “Better make it a double, woman.”
Coming from the living room is the sound of her record player. Hearing Neil Diamond singing “Love on the Rocks,” she wondered for a moment if she should call a counselor.
The next morning, about to leave for work, she’s in the living room looking down at him sprawled out on the couch. Lying on his back, his arms contorted in wild directions, he is wearing only his tighty-whities and a white wife-beater rolled up enough to expose his belly.
Standing over him, her arms crossed, she asks, “Why are you sleeping out here like this?”
He opens his eyes and says, “Had to tie one on last night.”
He holds his hand up, palm out, as if to block some direct source of bright light in his face, and asks, “What time is it?”
“This needs to stop,” she says.
He mumbled something about Tylenol, then rolled onto his stomach and went back to sleep.