| He wore a fake-gold plastic party hat forced down onto his big skull. The hat was split in the back because it was too small; or rather his head was too large. He carefully balanced a double jack-n-coke in a Cheri glass in one hand and a strong dark beer in the other. He was drunk. Wonderfully drunk. New Years in the city. Within the bar from which he had emerged he had sang and yelled. He had slapped friends on the back and doubled over in exaggerated laughter. He bought drinks, like someone with money. And when all the fun was used up in that place he wriggled toward the door negotiating his way between the men who continued to yell all the way out of the stuffy intimacy of the bar and into the free diaphanous night, darker than when he had gone in. He was surprised to see his drink still in hand. He smiled again. Armed he was for the night ahead. All week he had been warned: "It is gunna rain...it'll be miserable...Newz said..." It was warm and still outside, like a revelation. "Nothing brewing on the night of New Years," he thought regarding the night and it's potential. "Nothing weather wise anyway." People wandered around him in clumps of heads and shoes scurrying and wandering everywhere. "Happy New Year!" they yelled. Big smiles.|
Two friends arrived as he looked down at his watch. "Fast," he thought. 9:45. They needed to buy more drink now. Maintain. And as they trudged toward liquor marts unknown the crisp air and off-balance stride of his walk revealed to him how drunk he was. He was wonderfully drunk. The peak of inebriation just before the inevitable and precipitous fall into sloppiness. The time of regrets. As the three wandered into a spotted liquor store they all caught a view of a cop in dark navy blue cuffing two had who had seemingly passed the stage of fighting, and anger flushed out, wanted to hustle back into the New Year night. The cop pushed down on top of their heads like a child stuffing Jack back into the box and took them away in a car. The cop seemed unable to cope with a resolution in which he was not instrumental. He had felt the impulse to intervene on the dunderheads behalf. A simple smile and a polite request. "They seem pretty calm now officer. How ebout letting 'em run off in different directions?" No, his brain had correctly quashed that Samaritan impulse. The cop thought in timed straight lines and rattling off that cops steady beat would create a nervous vitriolic element more combustible than any the two kids who had initiated the trouble could have caused. He would have been rapped on the head and felt two thin bars of cold steel in the palms of his hands.
The absurdity of the scene had momentarily thrown off the deliberate rhythms of the evening and filled him with self-consciousness. "If those two fucks were being hauled away..." The inside of the liquor store was bright and square; and filled with bottles. Bottles on shelves on every wall glistening polished, resplendent, waiting to add to the night. iWhiskey? Tequila? Wine?i He scanned the walls as his brain processed all the potential variables and memories associated with each label. Wild turkey seemed proper and as he gazed at the foreign looking clerk with thick black hair and eyes hassled enough, he felt the clerks tired resentment. Another inebriated shit, with narrowed lazy eyes, slurry, ill- formed words and a herky-jerky slouch. The clerk took a baby step back from the counter. "Damn thatis expensive," he thought reaching back for his wallet. It was New Years though, so what the hell? He felt his wallet thick with twenties that broke up into thicker bundles of random fives and tens and ones. And with his wallet that inflated like someone had left it and his money in the washer overnight, and there are more twenties to be split, well, money didnit matter. Still, it felt like a lot. "Do they raise prices on New Years?" He wondered leering at the clerk and giving him the stink neye. He was just about to inform the man that it is highly illegal to raise prices during an earthquake, so... When his friends started mumbling about it "getting late". He looked down at his watch, looked squarely at the bottle and raised his head to the eye level of the clerk, smiling, widening his mouth into his best used car salesman smile. "Thanks." He iced as the word plummeted onto the counter like a shot glass of razorblades. He pivoted, looked at his two friends and slid the smooth bottle into a little pocket in his jacket where it rested snugly in itis new found womb, perfectly obscured. "Perfect." he said. A nod to the cop and they were back outside. Prowling the streets.