Heaven Can't Help Him
By:Glenn Garry MacLeod
This isn't my story, exactly. However before I continue though I wish to make something eminently clear. Everybody I deal with thinks that something outside of them, something external, is going to repair what's wrong with them on the inside. Frankly I blame the media for all of that. It's all of those commercials. They're so bloody insistent that this item or that thing is going to make up for all of the love and recognition that one has never received. It never works but the people I deal with won't realize that until it's too late. Every so often though, as per The Law of Averages, I get some pretty unconventional offers.
And with all of that clearly ensconced in the front of your mind I can now start telling you the story of Bob.
It was about a year ago, last winter. This being Seattle the rain was an incessant barrage as it ratta-tap-tapped off of my Silver Shadow. I had to check my pocket-watch just to convince myself it was actually the noon hour. The sky was a black and grey wall pressing downwards as the rain kept slamming my umbrella while the wind off of Puget Sound tried to push my car back up the steep hilly street that I had just sledded down. I shouldn't have to endeavor this aggressively, not even to appease a personal obsession.
Between blasts of thunder I airily whistled snatches of classic jazz as I pushed onward like an old soldier towards the brown double-doors with the sopping wet paper sign clinging to it. As the black ink coursed its way down the white page all I could make out was two large vowels that were identical. With a stiff tug I opened the main entrance and closed my brolly. From the stairway that led downwards I could hear a lone voice reciting something incoherently as it echoed off of the walls while competing with the thunder. It certainly seemed like the right place to me as I made my way down into the bowels of Alcoholics Anonymous.
From the doorway into the gathering hall I could spy out a dozen sodden souls gripping Styrofoam cups of steaming coffee that was long on caffeine and short on flavor. They sat in a scattered array upon old metal folding chairs while a devoted-looking frau continued reading from a slip of paper that was enclosed in a plastic cover. Half the crowd was already fantasizing about their next cigarette. I was confidently certain that the other half were contemplating one of the more minor vices of a non-lethal nature. It took me less than ten seconds to spot my prey. He was sitting at the very back of the room and I quietly strolled over and sat down beside him.
My potential client was about 5',9". He was in acceptable shape from what I could gather. He was wearing a black C.B.G.B's t-shirt and a pair of grey Gap khaki shorts that only a slovenly sort would wear. No socks, just a pair of black Nike sandals. He didn't exactly dress up for this. Usually they dress up for a meeting. The other attendees were sporting clean shirts, pressed skirts/trousers, and they appeared groomed for some illusion of success. This bloke however looked like he was ready to thrash his mailman for making him wait on his unemployment check. He was unshaven and his hazel eyes looked like death personified. His short thinning brown hair was unevenly combed in a greasy lop-sided crew-cut.
He piquantly smelled like Marlboros and body odor. In my own way I had to admit I was curious. Was I capable of meeting the challenge head on?
"I think today just to be different I would like to hear from the new guy sitting in the back. ", the chairwoman said congenially.
The chap beside me sighed and quietly whispered a dirty word.
"MynameisBobandI'manalcoholic", he blurted in one speedy burst, "I want to quit drinking and I can't do it on my own. ", he said abruptly as he took a deep slurp from his coffee.
Silence hung in the air just then and the rumbling of the thunder made the meeting hall quiver on the sub-atomic level.
"Go on Bob. We're listening.", the chairwoman said with compassionate authority.
Again Bob whispered some rather impressive profanities as he stared inside his coffee cup for inspiration.
"I want to stop drinking forever. Rehab didn't work for me. Interventions didn't work for me. Getting divorced didn't work for me. Not seeing my two daughters didn't work for me. Warnings from my doctors didn't work for me. Getting fired from Boeing didn't work for me. Waking up in jail didn't work for me. So this is it. If this doesn't work then I'm pretty much fucked.", he said in a gravelly drawl that reminded me of Tom Waits.
Again he went mute and he intended to remain that way.
"Are you willing to go to any lengths to have what we have, Bob? ", the chairwoman asked directly. A long minute lapsed as everyone waited for a response.
"Yeah. ", he finally mumbled with a less than vigorous nod.
"Okay, I know I wasn't the happiest girl in the world when I first came here so I'm going to let Bob off the hook and focus on........."
I tuned out the chairwoman then and put the focus back on my potential client. Quietly I leaned in towards him.
"How would you like a spot of lunch after the meeting, Bob?", I whispered discreetly.
As a reply he stood up and touched the sleeve of my London Fog raincoat.
"You don't have to leave Bob. ", the chairwoman said emphatically.
"Don't worry yourself, madam. Robert and I are merely going somewhere quiet to discuss the issue of sponsorship.", I said with the suave assuredness of a young Sean Connery.
We rapidly made our way through the storm to a coffee stand called, The NW Beanery. My potential client stated that he wasn't hungry and we both ordered coffee that was more agreeable to my palate.
"Have you tried A.A. in the past?", I asked curiously as I took the first of many appreciative sips.
"I read their book. It sounds like a fuckin' cult to me. ", he said with a yawn.
I leaned into his personal space across the table as he forced himself to sit still and not recoil from my advance.
"Were you serious about going to any lengths to have what they have, Robert?"
"Who are you?", he asked suspiciously.
Here is where the wicket can get sticky.
"My name is Nick?", I answered with marginal honesty.
"Are you with the program? Are you even an alcoholic?", Bob asked with mounting apprehension.
"Do you ever wonder about the hereafter, Robert? Do you ever consider where it is that you're heading when you die?"
"Oh fuck you're a Jesus freak. At first I thought you were just a fag cruising A.A. like a gay 13-Stepper but this is worse, man.", he shouted on the brink of panic-stricken violence.
"Robert I'm not a predatory homosexual and I'm certainly not a Christian. In fact I'm the very opposite of that.", I said reassuringly.
"What the fuck are you sayin', man"
And here it was, as it has been many, many, many times before.
"It's kind of like this, Robert. I can make people more....powerful. I can implement a new personality into individuals like a piece of software. I can remove your desire for drink. In your case, however, if I take away your desire for alcohol then that leaves the real problem untreated, which in turn would leave you susceptible to a million other problems. You could become a pornography addict, or you could get into real trouble at the casinos. You could end up inhaling solvents. And there's always food. Going to A.A. will prevent you from finding some other ego-fix. "
Bloody Hell, I'm good.
Bob sighed and blew a cloud of stale breath into the dank air between us.
"So what exactly is the offer? You can take away my craving for booze? What do I have to pay you for this?"
"Just a small something that you've felt you've relinquished a long time ago?"
"And this where we get back to the thing about the hereafter, right?"
"That would be an apt assumption, Robert. "
"Okay so let's talk about terms here. ", he stated forthrightly.
"You have to keep going to A.A.", I replied in the same manner.
"Okay but I want to go to one where there's more women. My little ego hasn't been fixed since Christ was a cowboy."
"I have no clue what that analogy means but Alcoholics Anonymous does have a solid reputation for dangerous liaisons of the carnal variety. Accepted. Anything else that we should negotiate? "
"If I relapse then the deal is off. "
"Fair enough. Is there anything else that we should examine?"
"No, pussy and booze are pretty much the only things I can think of. Can you think of anything, Nick? "
I could think of lots of things but I chose to play it ignorant.
"No, I believe that that covers the essentials, Robert. Shall we shake on this? I'm an old-fashioned businessman. I still believe that a man's hand carries more weight than any document.
I was expecting some sort of reluctance at this point.
"Yeah, let's do it.", he said suddenly as he stuck out his hand.
Greedily I reached out and made the grab. Tightly I gripped his hand. It was dry and calloused. "Whoa.", my new client said nervously. His eyes started to clear up as they widened. I could see the hairs standing up on his arm. For just a second the lights in the bistro dimmed as the thunder crashed while massive branches of cobalt-blue lightning forked and slashed their way downwards to the street outside.
"That's just the smallest fraction of my power creeping into your flesh, Robert. From now on you will never ever feel the need to drink as long as you abide by the rules of our covenant. Go to the same meeting hall at the posted times."
"What about you, man?", he asked a little breathlessly.
"I'll be with you, Robert. From now on you are protected. My word is eternal.", I intoned with all of the solemnity that I could bring forth to suit the gravity of this occasion.
And just like that I released him.
TO BE CONTINUED...