Eddy Pusilli woke with a start. He found himself half sitting, half lying across the sofa with the TV on and Henry Winkler trying to sell him a reverse mortgage. A drunken looking, empty scotch glass lay by a wet spot on the carpet.
"As usual," Eddy mumbled as he rose to an upright position, and he was right, dead on in fact. The first six years after Julie had left him, he had handled things fine. It was only after she died two years ago from brain cancer that he had gone from one scotch and water a night to a half the bottle. Still, he was never that drunk, and it wasn't the Scotch that made him pass out in front of the TV on a regular occasion. It was, simply put, life, just life its fucking self.
Eddy used the wooden arm of the dark leather sofa to push himself up. His bladder was calling his name and was throwing in a few obscene nicknames as well. It cursed at him when he bent over to set the scotch glass back on the heavy wooden coffee table. "Later, motherfucker! I gots to piss. I gots to piss right fucking now!"
He stumbled, half-awake toward the stairs, seven of them that led to the upstairs level of the house. The bathroom was the first door on the right. He tripped over the landing and lurched into the opposite wall of the alcove that led to the door. In doing so, he knocked a gold framed picture of his girls and their mother off of the small table placed beneath a large picture of Bob Dylan in white face.
His bladder screamed again, "Later you clumsy fuck! Later!" He noticed the glass over the picture of his ex and his daughters was cracked before he finally stumbled into the bathroom.
He did his business with one hand on the wall behind the toilet propping him up as his leaned forward to keep his balance.
When he returned and picked up the gold frame, the broken glass cut his ring finger. He held it up to his face expecting to see a paper cut, but instead there was a pretty sizable gash. Good thing he was only a step away from the sink.
He washed out the cut, poured some peroxide on it, and held it closed with a blue washcloth while he rustled through a wicker basket on the shelf to his left. It took a while, but he finally located a bandaid. The wrapping had pictures of Hello Kitty on it. It was the last bandaid in a box that he had bought for the girls back when, . . . . How long had it been?
After wrapping the bandaid on his finger, he looked at his image in the mirror. The stark difference from the image of himself that he had while looking outward towards the outside world and the image he saw in the mirror always made him think of The Picture of Dorian Gray. His eyes were puffier, his gray hair thinner, and his belly bigger. He turned sideways to get a side glance, and it made him sad that he had let himself get so bad.
He always meant to do better but never did. He decided that was what he wanted carved on his tombstone. It might help explain things about himself that he wanted known, and, at the same time, it might serve as an object lesson to someone who needed an object lesson. He could picture his girls dressed in black rolling their eyes in unison.
It was too early too sleep, and he didn't want to read. There was always a stack of books by the side of his bed. Big stacks too. This night, however, he went downstairs opened the door and walked out into the summer night. Just as he did, a shooting star slid across the eastern sky.
"I wish that Dad's breathing problems go away." He turned on the sprinklers and got a lawn chair out of the garage. He had been sitting there thirty seconds before he noticed the man rummaging through his neighbor's trash can.
"Hey! What are you doing?"
At first, the man went on with his rummaging. He pulled some plastic soda bottles out of the can and placed them in the bag that hung from his belt. "Ya got any plastic?" he finally spoke in a gravelly voice.
It was Eddy's turn to not answer. As the man walked toward where Eddy was sitting, Eddy finally spoke, " I reckon there might be some in the blue can over there." He pointed back toward a place where a tall bush blocked the view of the trash cans. " I think I got some more in the house."
While the guy went toward the cans, Eddy walked back into the house, returning moments later with a Target bag filled with plastic bottles, two plastic cups and a half full bottle of scotch.
The guy had finished getting the plastic out of Eddie's trash. He turned nodded toward Eddy and asked, "Thanks, you ain't got a cigarette on you?"
"Don't smoke, dude. But I do got a half a bottle of scotch if you're interested." Eddy held the bottle aloft for him to see,
There was a clouded laugh and then, "Even fuckin better." He caught himself and quickly added, "You don't mind me cussin? I mean I don't have to or nothin like that."
"No fucking problem." Eddy got the second lawn chair out of the garage. It was Julie's and hadn't been used in years. "Have a seat." He gestured toward the chair. "I'm Eddy," he said and stuck out his hand.
"Don't mind if I do. That's funny. That's my name too." He took Eddy's hand but not before wiping his own on his shirt. Then he sat down, and Eddy handed him one of the plastic glasses. Normally, Eddy would never drink scotch out of plastic, but this time it seemed appropriate. "Don't mind me askin, what's someone like you sitting outside this time of night?"
"Can't sleep; got a lot on my mind. If you don't me asking, what brings a man like you to digging in trash cans at night?"
"I don't know. A whole bunch of fucking bad choices I guess." He laughed and Eddy laughed too. "I had family once and two beautiful little girls. My wife took off with them. She married a Highway Patrolman from Las Vegas. I ain't been right in the head since." He gulped the drink down and held out the cup for more. "How bout you? You got family?"
"Yeah. My ex-wife died two years ago. She left me for a dream; told me I wasn't good enough anymore. For some reason, I believed her. I been blaming myself for it. I do got two girls though. One lives in Portland and the other in San Francisco. They're beautiful and creative. One's a painter, and the other's a journalist."
The man nodded as he sipped, "My oldest daughter's a stripper, in one of the nicer clubs though. She makes over $2000 a night. The other's a single mom, takes care of people in a nursing home. I like the stripper better; she's always got money, and she helps take care of the younger one, ya know, like a mother." He was quiet for a moment but then added, "I'm not sure either one particularly cares what happens to me though. How bout you?"
Eddy thought about it for a while, "Naw. They love me. If something happened to me, it would hurt them both."
"Why'd you hesitate?"
" I don't know. I seem to disappoint the people who care about me. Me the most, I mean I disappoint myself the most.
"You?" he turned and looked up at the big house. "How so?"
"I don't know. Sometimes, I drink too much, and lately, I don't handle life all that well."
The other Eddy guffawed loudly, "Well, just who the fuck does? I mean I go through the trash cans on that rich side of town and all I get are liquor bottles and empty pill bottles. We all got our own shit to handle, ya know what I mean?" He gestured at Eddy for a fist bump, and Eddy obliged. Then Eddy carefully divided out the last of the scotch, and they toasted each other before leaning back into the lawn chairs.
They sat there in silence enjoying the stars and the strange beauty of the half-full moon. Handing the bottle back and forth, occasionally one would point out a shooting star passing across the sky.
The man pointed out one spectacular star, and it caused Eddy to break the silence to ask, "What did you wish for?"
"Yeah, me too."