He just sat in his desk, wicked smile plastered on his face, silently laughing at the rest of the people in his class. They'd realized they'd been had. His grade would surely suffer for this, but he kept right on smiling.

Man, These Stories Write Themselves.

Ideas pop into Steven's head and he never knows why or how or when they will come. This time, he was at home. He does not visit Tacoma very often anymore; most of his friends now live in Seattle. It had been three weeks since he last went home to visit his family. As usual, his mother was out of town for the weekend, visiting her boyfriend in Kennewick. In the last month, he had seen her a total of five times. Once on Christmas, twice the week before, twice the week after. It would probably be another two or three weeks before he would see her again. His father was asleep. Never much for the night, his father always went to bed early, even on nights before his days off. His brother was downstairs, techno music blazing on the stereo. His dad didn't seem to mind, even though thumping bass could be heard from every room in the house. Alone, in his room, with nothing but boxers, a tank top, and five days' worth of fingernail growth, Steven sat in his broken leather chair watching his favorite television show on a videocassette that his father had taped for him. That's what he does at home, whenever he's not at his computer writing. That's where he was when he got his brilliant idea.

He couldn't wait to get this idea onto paper. Problem: "when the shit goes down, you better be ready." He quickly fled into the bathroom, grabbing a copy of a student's story that he had to read. Pen in mouth, he sat and let loose. In moments, he had written the first three lines seen at the beginning of this story, on the back of this poor student's paper. This made him as giddy as a car-crash survivor. He couldn't wait to wipe, finish his television show, play a game of minesweeper, and start typing what you see here.

Suddenly, a knock at his door swept Steven away from the story.

"What?" Irritated, loud, heard over the thumping bass.

No sound. Another knock.

This time, Steven got up from his hard padded computer chair, bought at the Good Will for five dollars, and opened his door. Like a vision from Heaven, a bottle of Southern Comfort stood majestic on the carpet below. Steven looked down the hall, to the left, to the right. The upstairs of the house remained deserted. "SoCo, you've come back! Oh, how we've missed ye." Steven scooped up his good friend and closed his bedroom door.

"Time for a phone call," he said as he twisted off the black plastic cap. "Time to call Megan." He dialed her number, but like all her Saturday nights, she left it to the answering machine to pick it up.

"Hi, this is Megan, blah blah blah, after the beep."

"It's me. I thought I'd call to tell you that it's been fun these last two weeks, but I wasn't cut out for the sober life. My buddies are here with me now; I think you've met them before. In my right hand, we have a certain Dr. Pepper; and in my left we have - "

"Hello?" A freshly woken female voice answered the phone.

"Megan? It's me, Steven. Did I wake you?"

"Megan's not here! This is Bianca, you tool! Megan's out right now. And, yes! You did wake me up. It's 2:30 in the morning for Christ's sake!"

"Oh, well do you know when she'll be back."

"Not really," an indifferent Bianca mumbled into the mouthpiece.

"Can you do something for me? Hey, wait. Did you want to come over and meet my buddies? I've got, in my right hand - "

"Wait! Steve? Are you drinking again? I thought you'd quit! Didn't you start your AA last week? Why would you want to fuck that up right now? You've been doing so well!"

"No, no. You don't understand. I didn't seek them out, they found me! You can only run for so long. By God, they'll find you. They'll track you down, wherever you go! Liquor and soda: a lethal combination!" Steven laughed for a moment, then grew somber, "Think about it. I'm in Tacoma right now. This is my future. I'm gonna die here. I have to face facts, if I'm not drinking while in Tacoma, then I might as well shoot myself."

"Don't say that, you fucker! I'm coming over there, give me your address."

Steven told Bianca where he lived and she said she'd be there in 35 minutes. "Meanwhile, please, I'm begging you. Don't start drinking again. You remember what happened last time."

Steven hung up the phone and tried to recall the "last time."

"Well, let's see. I was in the dorms, as usual. Boy, those were some fun-ass times! I remember, hmm, this is harder than I thought. I was . . ."

Another knock at the door. A constant distraction for Steven when he was trying to think, he called out, "What?"

"It's your Uncle Stephen. Open up."

"What? I don't have an 'Uncle Stephen.'" He thought about it for a moment then remembered, "Wait, they told me you were dead." Steven got out of his seat and ran to his closed door. "How do I know it's even you? I've never even seen a picture of you!"

"Well, I could tell you that I'm the oldest of your father's brothers. I could tell you that they all thought I died in that train accident thirty years ago. I could tell you that you were named after me, but your dad didn't know how to spell my name, so he got yours wrong."

"And I could tell you that the only real way to spell my name is with a 'V' not a 'PH'." Steven smiled as he opened his bedroom door. A tall, fifty year old man stood in front of him. About four inches taller, very frail, with a light dusting of a beard along the jowls. "Where have you been all this time, Uncle Steve? I can call you 'Uncle Steve,' right?"

"Oh sure. I've been around. Here and there. I just came up from Mexico. That's where I've been for the last three years. You wouldn't believe what kind of shit you can get down there! By God, they have the finest Marijuana I've ever tasted."

"Hey, we should wake up Dad! I bet he'd shit his pants if he saw you again - "

"No, we won't be doing that. I just came to visit my namesake. I'm not here for anyone else in the family. I could give a fuck about them all. They were the reason why I faked my own death. I had to get the fuck outta Dodge."

"OK. So, what took you so long to visit?"

"I've been on one helluva bender, man. The last thing I remember, and it turns out I don't remember much of the past three years, is thinking it would be a cool idea to get on a bus bound for the United States. Shit, the thing ended up taking me to Portland. I've had a TON of hours to sober up, so I decided to come and pay you a visit."

"Well, you're in luck, Uncle Steve. I happen to have some alcohol right here with your name on it."

"You don't say! Let's hit that up; I'm famished."

Stephen grabbed the bottle from his nephew and poured two doubles, into Dixie cups sitting on the desktop.

"Uh, I don't know, Uncle Steve. I'm really not supposed to - I mean, my friend is coming up right now to talk me out of this, so I shouldn't - "

"Bah! Stop it! You haven't seen me in," he stopped to count his fingers, then continued, "ever. You're going to have a drink with your uncle if I have to sit on you and inject it into your veins with a straw!" He flashed a quick smile after this diatribe to console his nephew.

"No, I really can't. You don't know what kind of a problem I have."

"Oh come on! You're young. You're, what? 22? You've got years ahead of you! At this time of your life, you're supposed to be drinking all the time, partying all the time, fucking all the time. That's what you do - in college!"

"Yeah? Well, you didn't see me the last time I got drunk. It wasn't pretty." Steven took a seat on the floor, crossing his legs, head staring at his lap.

"Ooo, you didn't rape some girl, did you?" Stephen's face turned from sour to understanding. "Yep, I've been down that road. When that happens, you just gotta bite the bullet and move on. Take your show to another state, or like me, another country. Just until the heat wears off. Those Mexican broads, let me tell you - "

"No! It wasn't like that at all. I'm just at the point right now, where I'm fearing for my life when I drink. I can't ever enjoy it, unless I go overboard, and I always go overboard."


Dad used to be an alcoholic. Mom's going out with an alcoholic. I've been having that cloud over me all my life.

I didn't even take a drop of alcohol until I was seventeen, for fear of becoming a stupid, rummy drunk. Even then, I tried it and I hated it. That made me happy. I was at a party; one of the high school football players was throwing it after the game. I had a few cups of beer from the keg, got a little tipsy, stumbled around, and passed out on their floor by the toilet for a couple of hours around 2am while they all watched a movie in the living room. After that night, I kept drinking to special occasions, like the infrequent parties I attended, and the yearly camping trips with the family.

Dad's trip was always a dangerous one for everyone around him. He's the kind of guy who'll only drink beer at home, because it's so damn cheap and he doesn't have to worry about appearances. In public, however, it's straight to the strong alcohol. Scotch. Rum. Whiskey. He had to be a big, tough man in front of his friends. I remember hearing stories, mostly from his bragging friends when they would come storming home later in the evening. My dad was the guy who keeps his wife close to him at all times, completely paranoid of some other guy taking her, having his way with her. Whenever my dad felt that someone was staring at my mom for too long, even from across the room, he had to confront the person. "Confronting" usually meant a fist to the jaw, a fist to the stomach, and a kick to the teeth when they were hunched over. My dad's not a particularly strong man, but when he had a sip or two, you'd be in for the fight of your life.

Anyway, that's the reason mom left; or at least, that's what she said. Now that she's with another fucking drunk, I'm not so sure. Boy, she had a tough time getting my father alone and sober to tell him that she was leaving, let me tell you. That night, my father went out alone, and I was forced to pick him up from jail around dawn. That's when I knew that I didn't want to become like that. I think dad got the point right there too.

I guess, after my second year of college, all those memories left me. My dad had sobered up by then, which was good. I was getting acceptable grades for a kid who rarely drank alcohol, even on the weekends. When I started my third year of college, and a bunch of drinkers moved onto my floor, I knew things would change. I knew that the party had just begun. At first, it was just weekly binges. And I mean BINGES. A weekend wouldn't go by unless I had passed out or blacked out at least once. This escalated into three or four binges a week, and from there, I was drinking on a daily basis. All in about a six-month period. I started missing classes, my papers suffered greatly, and I started failing all non-English classes.

My party lifestyle continued into the summer, where I spent three wonderful months in Bellingham. You can't even enter the city without being issued a hash pipe. I bobbed around town, hanging with friends, selling marijuana to keep myself in alcohol. One day in September, my friend came back from somewhere and told me he had just finished his first day of school. That was my first clue that I should return to Seattle.

I had to chill out the first quarter, what with the extra load of classes I had to take to play catch-up. I passed, thank God, but then over Christmas, I was back at it. Drunk nightly, sober for three hours, start drinking again. 14 haze-filled-days. Which brings me to the last week of drinking since I started AA.

After celebrating the first day back, and the first rainy day of the quarter, I knew the first Saturday night of the quarter would be something to remember. Too bad I don't. I got sloshed, let me tell you. For every can of soda I compiled, I would add a full Dixie Cup of SoCo or Jim Beam. That's about two shots worth. I downed about eight of these in two hours, then started in on my supply of warm Budweiser I had cooling on the windowsill. After that, I remember nothing.

I was told. I was told that I had made a fool of myself up and down the hall. I was told that I ran around bare-ass naked into the girls' bathroom, when the door was left unattended and unlocked. I was told that I had taken a shit by the elevator. I was told that I was being most uncooperative when a friend of mine tried to get me into my room. I was told that I refused to sleep in my bed for fear of vomiting all over the sheets. I was told that my friend Megan sat with me, watching me snore and drool my way to blackness. I was told that, as she left the room to pee, I vomited all over myself. I was lying on my back, and I was too out of it to roll over. I was told, when she returned to check on me one last time, there was a shallow pool of vomit in my mouth. I was told that I stopped breathing for a few minutes. I was told that the medics came and revived me. I was told to give up drinking - and so I have.


Stephen wasn't listening to the story. After the first sentence, he had already formulated his next question. He was just waiting for the right moment to unleash it. "So, since you have this big 'problem' with drinking, why do you have this bottle here with you?"

Steven couldn't answer that. He just stared at his uncle. He saw his future. He saw an old, haggard man, with no job, no reason for existing in a real society, no use for family or friends. He saw that frail alcoholic standing there in front of him and he knew that he could avoid it.

"No. You can't avoid it. This is me. You're me. You know you want this drink. You know you don't want to think about how shitty your life is here, how shitty it'll be after college. You know you just want to run away. You want to drink this bottle with me and leave this fucking town. I was you, and I found a way out. All you need, really, is a credible witness, a copy of the train schedule, and a high tolerance for pain." Stephen took off his left glove, revealing a prosthetic hand. "That's all they found - my hand."


42 minutes after their phone call, Bianca knocked on Steven's bedroom door. His brother had taken a break from the Techno long enough to answer the front door for her. Steven was, by this point, on his third drink, his sixth shot mixed with his third can of soda. Bianca grabbed the drink, threw it to the ground, and socked Steven in the stomach. Her deceptively powerful punch from her five feet tall frame dropped Steven to his knees.

"You fucking asshole! What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Hey, man! I was drinking that. Chill out; stop the violence. I'm fragile." Steven couldn't help but laugh at his witty, wasted comeback.

"I can't believe you! You're such a fucking prick. You have all of these people who care about you, who want you to succeed, and all you're doing is drinking. Is that all you can do? Because, you won't get any money for that, you know! Come on, answer me! Is this how you want to live your life?"

"Well, maybe with a little less berating."

"Fine. Go right ahead. We all know how much you love it here in Tacoma. If you can't stop, you'll be living here for the rest of your life. In your father's house. Mooching off of your family until you're fifty. Is that what you want?"

Steven knew he was beaten. His eyes sobered up instantly. He sat down on the carpet and looked up at his friend who now had tears in her eyes. Quickly, he looked down at his legs, crossed them Indian style. Sullenly, he moaned, "No."

"Then, come on. You're coming back to school with me. You can call your family in the morning and tell them what you did. You've got to get control of this. We don't want you to become an alcoholic."

"I know. I know."

They arrived in Seattle around five in the morning. Bianca decided to take her friend to I-Hop for "All you can eat pancakes." Steven managed eight, before declaring his disdain for those bitter discs. She left a two-dollar tip and they were out the door.

Steven sat in front of his computer later that evening, around 10pm, when everyone else in the dorm was partying - drinking and laughter abound - and tried to finish his story. "You know," he thought, "it wouldn't be good to become an alcoholic before you make it big in writing." Steven pondered this for a moment, then thought, "Then again, it might make for interesting writing."

With that, Steven pulled a bottle of warm Southern Comfort from his sock drawer.