The Drinking Buddy.

"You know, you're pretty social when you're drinking. Are you sure you really need me?"

"Just shut up and down the shot."


Lester St. Charm. The only people who called him "Lester" were his parents and fans - the people who loved him the most. Jokingly, his older brother whom he saw once a year - every year on June 14th - always took to calling him Les Charm. Everyone else simply called him Les. "Everyone" being his manager, agent, publisher, and landscaper.

Had he built up any real friendships over the years, "Les Charm" would definitely be (pardon me) less apropos.


"Do you know who I am?"

"Should I?"

"No, I guess not. Some people would say I'm famous."

"You ever been on The Sopranos?"

"How would you have seen The Sopranos?"

"I have friends."

"No, I've never been on The Sopranos. I'm a writer."

"What'd you write?"

"I wrote a novel."

"Which one?"

"Doesn't matter. I doubt you've read it."

"You think just because I'm homeless I don't read?"

"Do you?"


"How would you like to work for me?"


Richard Bryan Smalls. Hold your jokes until the end of the program. He's heard 'em all. Dick B. Smalls, Small (a)S(s) Dick, Dick-Balls, Mr. Teeny Weenie, Smurf Hung. And that's just from his ex-girlfriends (insert rim-shot here). Most people called him Rich. Rich Smalls. Again with the apropos name.

Rich ran out of money shortly after college and had to move back home. When he announced his vast illegal music & movie collection in a chat room, his parents kicked him out. Since it was their computer, they had to settle out of court when the lawsuit came a'knockin'. The house was a'rockin' that night.


"I'm sorry about this, but the owner gets a little weird about people buying 'rounds of drinks' for everyone. Because, when they sober up and find out they've spent so much money, they refuse to pay and then lawyers have to be involved."

"Oh, I've seen Les much worse than this, believe me. He still knows what he's doing."

"Get your ass over here, Rich! We're doing belly shots!"

"Seriously? Is he really rich?"

"He's got it made. Just, here, take this and ring it up for everyone."

"Doesn't he have a better way to spend so much money? I don't know how safe this will be, getting everyone in here completely shit-faced."

"This is just his way of making friends. I'm sort of the only one he has."

"Rich! Fuck man! You're laggin' behind!"

"I better get over there."

"All right. Wait, hold on. I'll go ahead and do it, but only for the people who mention it. And, they have to know his name."

"That's fine."



Rich received a standard $10 an hour starting salary. Plus all the free alcohol he could drink. There were only three stipulations.

Number 1. Handle all finances. Rich would pay for all expenditures with Les's credit card, and he would make sure not too much was spent. This, of course, was relative. Buying drinks for the patrons in the bar was all right. Buying the bar was not. Ordering shots or hookers or shots on hookers was okay. Ordering gunshots by would-be assassins towards the hookers who didn't play along was not. Les sometimes couldn't control his emotional outbursts when he drank past the point of non-remembrance. So, Rich had to use discretion when discussing the possibilities of hired goons.

Number 2. Make sure Les gets home safe. This wasn't always as easy as it looked. Les never liked to shit too far from where he slept, which meant his favorite bars were near his house - by design (that being his only major requirement when working with the real estate agent). However, whenever the time came for walking home, Les didn't always follow the principle of: "The drunker you are, the slower you become." Rich had to make sure he was in good shape so he could chase down Les whenever the Steve Prefontaine bug started digging into his toenails.

And when he ran, he did so with little-to-no regard for anything potentially body-crushing. On more than one occasion, Les narrowly missed demise because drivers on the road were more alert and aware than their potential target. Also, as he ran, if he saw someone on the street/sidewalk, he'd try to force a confrontation. Big or small, strapped or not, there was always the potential for fisticuffs.

Number 3. Rich must drink as much as Les in the process.


"Do you think I have a problem?"

"With what?"


"That depends. Are you asking your employee or your friend?"

"Let's start with employee; I think I know the answer to that."


"Really? Friend."


"Well, who asked you?"

"Someone who wants another drink."

"Yeah, but I don't wanna go out."

"You want me to call the ladies?"

"No. No hookers tonight. I'm gonna keep this whore-free."

"What do you wanna do?"

"I want to line up my shot-glass collection on this here table: fifty for you, fifty for me. Here's the rules. One shot per minute, we go until the first person passes out. The winner calls 9-1-1."

"I'll get the tequila."

"Good man."


First shot out of the box, Les had a hit. He took his mother's advice and placed all the money he made into a bunch of lucrative properties, so he could live without working. Les offered the same deal to his brother, but Larry declined. Instead, he opted to be on the payroll. Property manager. Every year on the birthday they shared (born two years apart), Les would fly down and check in on operations. Les would have visited more often, but Larry thought it better to keep their lives separate. That way, it appeared like he was less dependent on his rich brother.

On June 14th, Larry greeted Les at the airport.


"You look good, bro."

"You look . . . ravaged by age. What happened?"

"Oh, you know. I'm living the lifestyle I missed out during my first 25 years."

"Yeah, I've heard stories. You actually made some of the back pages of the tabloids."

"My assistant showed me those. I guess I'll have to marry Jennifer Lopez to make the cover."

"Are you sure everything's all right? Mom's worried about you."

"That's nothing another bottle of Valium and carton of cigarettes can't handle. Tell her doc I say it's OK to up the dosage."

"Actually, I got her to kick the habit three months ago. You'd know if you called her once in a while."

"Look, you and me, we see each other once a year. We get by just fine with that."

"I agree."

"We're adults now. My life's mission wasn't to be mom's lapdog. If you want to-"

"More wine, sirs?"

"No thank you."

"If you want to be her bitch, be my guest. My purse strings are cut. I appreciate all she did for me: having a razor-sharp vaginal wall that broke dad's condom and opting to not stick my ass with an abortion needle - at the last second, mind you - but as for everything after that . . . let's just say I repaid my debt to society."

"Yes, yes you did. And we're both grateful. I guess she just wants-"

"She just wants another Mexican pool boy on the payroll. She needs a hobby."

"She needs you to love her again!"


"Because she's dying."

"Oh bullshit."

"You don't think so?"

"No I don't! Remember when she had 'cancer'?"

"That was a cry for attention."

"Yeah, and emptying a bottle of Valium into her stomach was a cry for help. And kicking dad out of the house when we were kids, that was her just crying foul. Except, you know what? I don't think dad was a bad influence at all."

"You don't think getting trashed every night was a bad influence? Look at yourself."

"He also had his shit together. He never let it affect his job performance. We had an allowance and all the Adams peanut butter sandwiches we could eat. Shit man, we went to private schools! There are sober dads who couldn't even get one out of three of those things for their kids."

"There are also sober dads who are still alive today."

"And those dads provided the same quality of life we got after ours left. Public school and Skippy peanut butter."

"Well, it doesn't change the fact that mom's still dying. I talked to the doctor myself."

"What's she got?"

"Does it matter? Do you care?"

"Not really. How long does she have?"

"Could be a month. Could be a year."

"Hold on, this is Rich, I have to take this. If you see a waiter, tell him to get me a to-go box."


Les knew the people close to him thought he had a problem. That didn't bother him too much. It couldn't be helped. As long as he thought otherwise, then everything was fine.

Didn't help his writing career much. He stalled after the initial, rapid success. The book went to movie so fast. Everything that followed only compounded the success. Critical praise didn't really sit well with him, though. And he never thought about the money. As long as there was enough, then it was fine. No, it was the negative press he received that he really enjoyed. If a critic panned his work, then he clipped it out and tacked it to his wall. As the stories, nay legends of his drinking started to leak out more and more, he couldn't have been further delighted.

But, he still found, two years later, that he was unable to write a word of worth. Not for a potential op-ed piece in Time; not even for Beer Drinker's Monthly. Not even when he tried giving up the sauce for a full month.


"I know. I'll just become one of those recluse-type people. I'll go into hiding, maybe move out to some cabin on a lake and have my food delivered by scouts and Sherpas."

"You'd most likely fall in the lake and drown, you know."

"Well, I wouldn't be a complete hermit. I'd still have you there."

"Yeah, but-"

"Think about it. All the alcohol we could want, just running around the woods. We could throw parties all the time, as long as they could make the hike . . . I think that's a plan."

"Yeah, but-"

"I'm gonna make some phone calls. Don't worry, I'll get you a nice room at the other end of the house. You can invite whoever you want and won't get a peep out of me."

"Yeah, but-"

"But, you don't want to."

"I just . . . don't want to be doing this when I'm fifty, you know?"

"You like it right now, though, right?"

"Sure, and I'm grateful. This has been the most fun I've ever had and the best money I've ever made, but I want more."

"You want success, right?"

"You remember me saying that?"

"Sure. I'm not a complete blackout every time. You said you wanted a writing career too. I'm cool with that. I've even got an idea for your first book."

"What's that?"

"Write about my exploits while drunk. I'm sure you have enough stories to fill five volumes."

"That's true."

"And, here, I'll tell you what. I'll start my own publishing company and we'll do it all in-house. Of course, it will be your book completely. I'll just help you with distribution and rights and-"

"Stop. You're getting way out of control there. I'm still the keeper of your finances, right?"


"Well, as my final act, I'm ordering you to stop this crazy spending talk. Now, if you want to turn me on to an agent or something, I'd appreciate it; even though I think I'm well-known enough to get one on my own. And, you know, the book about you might be a winner, but I think I'm gonna try something out for me and see how it goes."

"So, that's it?"

"Yeah. I'm sorry, Les. I don't mean to leave you like this. But, you've come a long way. I've always said you're one of the most friendly drunks I've ever seen. You really don't need me."

"No, I guess not. I can always find another bum to help me out. You sure you don't want one last drink . . . for the road?"

"Why not?"


In losing Rich, Les regained his inspiration for writing. In fact, the first thing he wrote was a letter to his mother. In it, he expressed regret over their estrangement. He hoped amends could be made.

Les followed this literary masterpiece with his Last Will and Testament. Everything would go to Larry after his death.

He ended up writing one more thing. He mailed that to the tabloids, which had been so kind to exploit his drinking problem for profit.


"Hey Les, where's Rich?"

"He's off the payroll, Jim. Why don't you go ahead and set me up with five shots of your finest whiskey and . . . five shots for the next five people who walk in that door?"

"Who's gonna take care of you tonight?"

"Could be anyone. Tonight, I go solo and see where it takes me."

"So, what happened? I haven't seen you in a while. You two get in a fight?"

"Not really. Guess he couldn't take it. I couldn't tell you of an easier life. He had it made."

"Maybe it was the feeling of his liver inflating to the size of a basketball."

"May be. How 'bout them shots, Jim?"

"I'm sorry, there must be something wrong with your card. It's not giving you clearance."

"You realize that the limit on that card is insanely high, right? I mean, richer than rich here."

"I'll go ahead and call this in, see what the problem is."

"Naw, you know what, forget about it. I've got cash."

"Don't you want to know what's wrong with it?"

"No. I know."

"What is it? . . . If I may."

"My brother. Gave him power of attorney."

"Why'd you do that?"

"Thought I'd clean up my act for a while. Rehab wasn't for me, though. In fact, right about now I should be discussing how alcohol has affected the lives of my loved ones."

"You can always tell me, if you want. I'm always here to listen."

"You're telling me this is your finest whiskey? What is it?"

"Crown Royale. Sorry, it's the most expensive we've got."

"That's okay. So, how has my drinking affected you?"

"What's that?"

"You see, I have no loved ones. You're as close to a steady companion I've ever had. Ours is the longest working relationship I've held consecutively anyway."

"I'm sorry to hear that. You're so good with the people who come in here, though."

"Oh, that's an act. That's the persona I've created so I don't repulse every person in the joint. Because, when they really get to know me, they get the fuck outta Dodge."

"You shouldn't be so hard on yourself, Les. Thing's will turn around for you."

"Maybe. Jeez, I wonder what's taking them so long."


"They should have realized I've been gone by now. And, knowing my pattern, I figured they would have beaten me here."

"Lester! Lester St. Charm! You'll have to come with us, Lester."

"There they are. Jim, can I see that bottle, please."

"I . . . I don't think I should."

"Don't worry, this person's empty beer bottle should be fine.

"Lester, please don't make this difficult. Put down the bottle and come on over. We won't hurt you."

"Jim, you hear that? They called me 'Lester'. They always call me 'Lester'."

"Les! Why'd you do that? Les! Stop it!"

"No! Lester, don't!"

"What's going on?"

"Did he just?"

"Oh my God, he sliced open-"

"Call 9-1-1!"

"His jugular!"

"Get out of the way! We're professionals!"

"Lester, stay with us. Stay with us, now! Lester!"