MARLENE DEE GRAY
An entry in the Rivers Prize
ALCOHOL IS NOT A PROBLEM. The problem arises in the one who consumes it. A lot of it.
At 11 pm, Alphonse was thrown out of the bar.
He was totally drunk and was annoying the other drinkers. He tried catching a taxi, but one by one the taxi drivers kicked him out.
His language was foul and his breath reeked of beer that had gone down and landed in an empty stomach. He belched as loud as Triton’s conch shell and farted. A loud rasping thunderous fart that rocked the CRV with a dead rodent odour.
‘Get out! Walk home you bastard!’ the driver yelled. So much for Christian love.
‘Walk home, you kanaka spak sense!’ the taxi driver shook his fist back at Alphonse.
‘I’ll get you!’ Alphonse screamed at the cab driver. ‘I’ll get you!’
Alphonse swayed and bobbed on the footpath. His unbuttoned shirt hung loosely. His tight pants made a squishy noise. Alphonse was not a skinny man.
Every other partygoer made way for him as he sashayed down Angau Drive and suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to sit down and snooze.
He sat on the footpath.
‘Hey! Can’t you read. NO STANDING OR SITTING!’ a Brian Bells G4S guard bellowed.
‘To hell with you,’ Alphonse murmured.
‘Get up and move before I crack your skull.’
‘Am moving man!’ Alphonse stuttered as he struggled up and wobbled down the street singing, ‘Naamukarama tamm, ure,iau…iau’.
Car horns honed and drivers yelled to get off the road.
Again, he felt a sudden urge to just sit but his bit of conscience that was still normal told him this area was not safe.
He always followed the road down through the old airport but on this night he rounded the bend and went the Angau Hospital way.
He hobbled past Angau and sat on the concrete in front of the maternity wing. The security guards called to him to go home.
‘I’ll get you! Tomorrow, mark my words,’ he shouted.
‘Good night bro,’ the guards laughed and mocked him. They often saw him drunk.
He decided to take the short cut through the cemetery and started sing as he stomped across the lawn to the waist high iron fence.
And then he saw it.
A cement bed with a pillow like hump surrounded by flowers. Oh yes, just what I need, Alphonse thought.
He sat on the cement, yawned, stretched out and went to sleep.
Alphonse loves his beer.
Every pay week, he gives the food money to his missus and then heads to the Pipe Hole Bar in top town. The beer quenches his week-long thirst. He is a good bloke who engages in decent conversation with people around him. When he’s had a few he is full of laughter and gets generous, volunteering to buy drinks for those in his drinking circle.
But he becomes a nuisance. The friends leave him and disperse.
He shouts at the live band and swears. Any unlucky woman who walks past gets a hot description followed by a cackling laugh. The waitresses scream and run to avoid his roving hands. When the guards move in he turns a chair over or smashes a bottle.
Then he gets thrown out.
Penniless on the road side.
So, he usually walks home.
His wife worries about him when he goes drinking so waits for him. When he arrives, Constantina opens the door gently and gives him his food. They never argue. Theirs is a good marriage.
Constantina does not mind his drinking, but silently she worries.
But this one night changed Alphonse.
When he awoke he was cold.
In fact he was freezing.
And it was pitch dark.
He pinched himself. Must be a dream. He pinched himself again and cussed. The air was cold and icy.
Alphonse knew this was not where he was last night. This was a locked area.
He screamed and ran forward and hit his head on some kind of wall. It was iron. He fell down and saw light through a small hole at the bottom of the wall. He screamed. He banged his fist.
He felt the air drain out of his lungs and knew he would die.
The cold was unbearable. He didn’t know where he was, but the atmosphere around him made him sense death. This place was worse than he had ever imagined.
This is his punishment.
He yelled and screamed.
Suddenly the iron wall started moving.
It kept moving.
Then, bright light embraced his frozen face and body.
He squinted. He saw people pointing at him and screaming. There was a crowd in front of him and a man towered over him.
Alphonse crawled out.
He stood straight and let out an animal roar.
Then he felt the adrenaline flow through his frozen body. People kept pointing. Alphonse stared back blankly.
‘Water, water, please give me water’, Alphonse sobbed and fell on the grass.
The man who towered over him came with a bucket full of water and poured it all over Alphonse. Then he was given some water to drink.
‘Where am I?’ he asked no one in particular.
He heard a woman scream.
He was dazed and couldn’t work out what made sense.
‘Brata, yu orait ah?’ asked the guy who gave him water.
‘Mi stap we yia?’ Alphonse shivered.
‘Brata, yu kamaut lo container morgue blo Angau yia,’ a man in blue overall helped him up.
A tall man in a white coat arrived with two nurses.
‘His forehead is badly swollen. Take him to the ward,’ the doctor instructed.
As the nurses held his hands he could hear the onlookers talking in confusion.
‘Man die yia, kirap gen yia’
‘Ssssssh nogat yia, ol ting em die na ol putim em lo morgue yia, nogat em kirap gen’
‘Aiiyaa, mi poret yia! Nogut tewel blo em yia.'
‘Harim, lukim pes blo em solap yia. Ol rascal bin kilim em na ol dokta ting em dai na ol putim em lo morgue yia, nogat col blo morgue wokim na em kirap gen.’
He thought of nothing but his beloved wife and children.
His heart ached from deep in his overweight body and his torn and tattered attire.
He had been in the morgue at Angau.
But how did I get there? I was walking home last night and sat on a stone. Did I sit on a stone? Alphonse was confused. He decided not to think about it. It was too unreal and weird what had happened to him.
That was my punishment. This is not good. No one will ever believe my side of the story, he thought.
Alphonse asked the nurses to show him the rest room. When the nurses left, he slipped out through some broken fibro.
He never told his family what happened that night. A few months later, he got a transfer from his job and moved to another province.
He never touched alcohol again.