As a bartender, I’ve seen it all, heard it all. I’ve heard the most intimate confessions from a dizzying spectrum of drunken humans. I’ve heard their fears and deepest darkest secrets. It’s amazing what a few shots of truth serum bring out in otherwise well-guarded people. Most of them are harmless; just lonesome, or sort of lost, it seems. I don’t have a gun, but I have a hammer under the bar. I figure a couple of half-moons in someone’s forehead ought to slow them down, if need be.
Some people, you don’t know what to think of them. Like this guy last night. He sat there the whole night quietly sipping brandy cokes, until it was almost closing time. Then, with just us two left in the place, he lifts his glass and blurts out, ” A toast! A toast for my brother Danny!”
I poured up a tapper, clinked it against his, and drained it. It was like a sauna in there, and the cold beer felt good all the way down.
“My big brother Danny,” he slurred, obviously quite intoxicated, “who died with a smile on his face and a funnel up his ass!”
Now the BS in a bar on a Saturday night can get pretty deep, but bartenders hear so much of it, it’s like we have hip-waders on, and we’re immune to it–but this one caught my attention. “A funnel…up…what?” I stammered.
“His ass,” he replied, and, finally making eye contact, ” a funnel up his ass…and I put it there.”
“Okay,” I said, “you got me. Let’s hear it.” I poured him another drink, and pulled up a stool. “This one’s on the house.”
And there we sat drinking together til 5:00 AM. I make it a rule to not do that very thing with drunken patrons, but this guy really needed a drinking partner last night.
He told me how his big brother Danny gave him his first sip of booze at 12 years old (a scenario that would play over and over through the years), and how they’d raid the old man’s wineracks in the cellar, pouring out half the wine and filling the bottles with water and kool-aid. And getting in trouble with the police as teens, DWI’s, unplanned parenthood, and then marriage.
You would’ve thought that marriage would’ve put an end to his and his brother’s epic drinking binges, but alcohol was their real mistress (and a harsh one at that), and their marriages went the same way everything does for a drunk: away.
He and Danny moved in together in an old trailer out of town and proceeded to drink themselves into oblivion, month after month, year after year, “living” on Danny’s disability check he received for arthritis. Danny was still taking care of him. And everything was great. Until the cancer, of course.
Last year, Danny got stomach cancer and it had spread like wildfire. Last week, he was no longer able to keep any booze in his guts long enough to get drunk. And so he didn’t want to live anymore. He begged his little brother to kill him. Or find a way to get some alcohol in him. A needle, a brandy enema, ANYTHING!
At first he refused, but after some deep thought, he said, “Okay Danny, drop your shorts.” He went into the house and returned with a funnel. Danny seemed to come alive. He propped a pillow under Danny’s bare ass, and inserted the funnel. Then, he poured half the bottle in.
Danny’s body began to slump immediately, and a huge smile spread across his face. He mouthed a “thank you”, and lapsed into unconsciousness. A few minutes later, he stopped breathing, the smile still on his face.
“That’s quite a story,” I said when he finally finished, “but I gotta say you should have known that half a quart of brandy up his rear would kill him.”
He finished his drink, turned to me, and said, “I knew, mister, I knew.”