Inspirational Story About Life: Every Bottle
To My Oldest Son Hunter,
I know I haven’t been ‘round much these last couple of years. I know it must be rough being raised by your granddad. Not much he can do at his age to entertain you. I understand what it’s like to feel abandoned; to want to act out and ignore the rules. That’s why, when your pap called me today, I wasn’t angry with you when I found out he caught you stealing that old bottle of whiskey I keep beside my bed. Hell, I’m angrier with myself; for not being around to keep you away from those sorts of things; for not telling you what that life leads to.
These are hard times, son; Economic collapse, failing businesses, costly wars. All things you won’t understand right now. The bottom line is that your daddy has to be on the road to make sure yins kids have food on the table, water for showers, and a life to look forward to when you get older. I used to be home, I know, and I miss it dearly. When the Shawville Power Plant shut down a couple years back I had nowhere else to go but truckin’. I wish I could tell you why life does this to us sometimes, but I don’t have all the answers. Hunter, just know, while I’m out here, drivin’ this 18 wheeler cross the country, living off coffee and cigarettes as I travel from dirty truck stop to dirty truck stop, I am thinkin’ about you, your brother, and your little sister. I love ya’ll just as much as I did the first time I seen your faces.
I’m in Indiana right now. Boy is it flat. From my cab I feel like I can almost see Frenchville calling back to me in my side view mirrors. It’s November now. I should be back home with you kids in Pennsylvania, takin’ you on your first Hunting trip. But instead, here I am, held up in a small powerless room at some Truck Stop covered in snow along route 70. Can I tell you a secret? Your daddy gets scared sometimes. I seen this one truck near Wichita, Kansas last winter. It was a day much like today. Must have been going too fast, or the wind was too strong to drive; looked like it had flipped ten or twenty times before it rested on its side at the edge of the road. A scrapper could have made a fortune off the mangled chunks of metal that lined that old highway. I pray to Jesus every night hoping that doesn’t become me. I couldn’t imagine not being there for your first deer, your graduation, and hell eventually even your marriage.
Sometimes I get so scared that I haven’t done my job as your old man. When I was young my daddy left me too. You see, your pap and gram didn’t get along very much; made me a very angry kid; spent half of my damn youth in probation. Hunter, your daddy wasn’t always a good man. What you done was wrong, I can’t let you off on that, but I can tell you I understand, I was 14 once too. More than you know. If there’s one thing I want to do before I leave this world, is teach you the same lesson I was taught when you were born. Miles and Bailey are too young for this now. I can see Miles chasing around his sister right now, trying to scare her. One day, Hunter, they will be old enough, and I need to trust that you can teach them if I am unable.
Where I Come From
Your grandmother died a long time before any of you were born. She was only 37 years old, ten years younger than the man who left her. It was 1992. I was fourteen and working on a local farm when it happened. It was like any other Pennsylvania winter; cold, muddy, and overcast. Yeah, that’s right Hunter, at your age I was already workin’. See, my daddy left me and my ma when I was only four. She struggled between raising me properly and keeping some food on the table at the same time; so, when I was old enough and able I eagerly took up some work to make our lives a little easier.
It didn’t last though. My mother had a drinking problem. I remember when I came home from work sometimes; she would be passed out on the kitchen floor, the smell of piss and beer clashing with the burnt apple pie baking in the oven. Watch your language, Hunter. Just kidding. The house was always a mess when I would get home, a mixture of garbage, cigarette butts, and spilled pill bottles covering the tables, empty bottles of whiskey and beer lining the floor. It was about 22 years ago yesterday; that I tried my routine of yelling at her, splashing some water on her face, and helping her up, and instead of yelling at me to leave her alone she just sat there, that dumb look on her face, no life in her baby blue eyes.
I was mad; hurt; annoyed. I skipped her funeral a week later to go out with some of my buddies from town, got an older friend to grab us some Busch’s, got pretty lit up. My pap wasn’t very happy with me, made me clean out his shop three times in one day. But I didn’t care. I didn’t need the friends my grandparents made me stay away from, or the guidance the courts said they were responsible for. I had new friends, and new role models. I hung out with Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam, and looked up to good old Captain Morgan. Sounds like every country tune your old granddad listens to, I know; but don’t make it any less true. I did all those things I tell you kids not to do; I got in fights; stole things; lied and cheated my way through everything.
Your Mama and You
Met your mother, god bless her soul, when I was way too young. Before I was ready to be a father, at the ripe age of 21, I had you Hunter, a baby boy who was supposed to be my responsibility. I was born for the road; too angry to stay in one spot. So I tried to run. Hopped up on my old V-Twin 1953 Indian Chief motorcycle – that old girl was a beauty, pieced it together myself – and drove as far as I could before I needed a drink. Made it all the way up to Salamanca in Cattaraugus, New York where I stopped at one of the bars on the Indian Reservation. Rumors were that they had some cheap drink deals. I sat down at the counter inside the kinda-run down establishment. The sort of place that you might imagine Clint Eastwood frequented in one of those old Western films.
I ordered a Jack on the rocks from the stone faced Indian behind the counter. Boy did he give me the willies. Coming from Central Pennsylvania, there wasn’t much diversity for me to deal with. Well, I drank until I was almost able to forget that I had a child back down home. I was there for a couple of hours. I don’t remember how much I had drank, or exactly what was on my tab that night, but I do remember being pretty buzzed and very angry; looking back now I think I hated myself as much as I hated all the loud obnoxious patrons around me.
An Old Bastard
I seen this older man sitting almost three stools down from me just watching, laughing, eying me up like he had something to say. Now Hunter, your daddy always had a fightin’ spirit. No matter how much I tried to ignore him, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. So, through the swirling smoke, the musty dry heat of that bar, the laughing, cussing, and music playing, I called that son of bitch out, ”Hey you, what the hell you looking at? Can’t a man drink in privacy?”
I would regret that decision. See, this stranger gave me a smile back, refusing to back down; his old stained and crooked teeth punching me in the gut like a prize fighter. What nerve did this old timer have? Well, he got up, walked down to the seat next to me and plopped himself right there in the wobbly bar stool. I gave him that look I used to give people before I knock them right straight out. Still, that old bat didn’t even blink; just turned to the bar tender and ordered us another round, handing a frothy mason jar full of beer in my direction. Accepting the offer of free booze, and not wanting to be the guy who beat an old man to death, I looked at him and waited to see what he had to say. Hunter, I will never forget what that old kook said to me. Listen up, and listen real well, because that old timer changed my life.
He said “Now, son, let me give you some advice,” as he lit up a cigar, sipped the head off the top of his beer, and grabbed an empty bottle of whiskey that I had finished earlier in the night. Lifting it up to at it more closely the man continued, “You know something, son. If these bottles could speak, I bet you they could tell you some pretty damn good stories.” He took a long drag on his cigar, puffing the smoke into my face before setting the bottle down and lifting his mason jar. “Hell, every one of these glasses has its own little tale to tell. I bet yours would tell me a whole lot right now.” He smiled as my face got red with anger. “Son, I can tell you have yourself some troubles; the smell alone comin’ of ya tells me you’re a runner.”
I was impatient and tried to hurried him along, told him he had five minutes before I got out of my chair and beat the livin’ hell out of him. He laughed and continued, showing no fear for my threats, “Listen, kid, out on that road you’ve been riding you have left turns and right turns, and each road goes both ways. Now I know, every now and then you take a right turn even though left was the right way; hell I got 54 years of making the wrong turns to prove it.” I found myself listening despite my desire to ignore his babbling. I couldn’t help it however. I seen something in that old man’s eyes that made me feel as though I was staring right into some mildew covered restroom mirror. He said, “What you got to know son, is that no matter how many wrong turns you take or how many wrong roads you find yourself driving on, there is always another turn coming. It’s never too late to get back on the right track.”
I stood up, done with the bull he was spittin’, angry that he was insinuated I wasn’t making good decisions. But I wasn’t, and I knew it. The man calmly talked me down and looked me in the eye, “Boy, you might not be ready to admit it yet, but someday you will. Everybody learns a lesson from whiskey someday.” I shrugged it off, tried my best to disregard all he had said to me, stood up and laughed at the man. I said, “Ol’ man you’ve had too much, Think you ought to make that your last beer,” but that old devil dog just looked me right in my eye and said “Now boy, my patience is growing thin, so you sit your ass and that chair right there, and I’ll try to make this clear.”
His face turned to stone, that irritating sideways smile on his lips had faded; I sat down like an old scared coon hound and listened for the first time in my life. He spoke soft yet somehow I knew he meant business; “There’s two kinds of people, I’ve met along my way; those who try to like hell to live their lives and others who just stand in the god-damned way. Son, we all seek redemption in our own way. The key to change isn’t in looking back, but standing tall and driving on down straight ahead.” I had no words to answer him. My mind was dizzy from the liquor and the smoke and the words that thoroughly scrambled my brain. His smile returned while he leaned on back and asked me a question. “Now, boy, can you answer me, which kind of man are you?” I sat there silent, trying my damnedest to put some words together, stuttering almost inaudibly in the loud barroom.
The man just gazed, a grin on his face, before answering for me, “I can see it in your eyes. You can’t seem to look away from whatever life you have left behind you. Sure, I know your momma was a damned old drunk, and your daddy was yella, but boy, I’m telling you, you got to look ahead. If you won’t just listen to anyone, would you listen to your father?” The old man motioned to his chest, and smiled bright and wide. It took a while for it to hit me; I don’t know if it was the booze or the shock; but finally, I realized that this old man beside me was in fact my own dead beat daddy.
Now Hunter, your daddy was mad, confused, betrayed; hell I stood up and started to shout, anger and alcohol directing my every move and word. But instead of standing up to him, I stumbled and fell upon the floor. Unexpectedly my missing father didn’t leave me on that dirty ground. No, the old yella’ bellied, dead beat of a daddy reached his hand to lift me up as he pulled me close for a hug. He whispered in my ear, his voice on the verge of tears, “My boy you drink too much and I know that you are scared. But I know what it’s like; I’ve spent my life running away. And I know you’ve got no reason to trust me, but let me make this clear. If you won’t learn from me or your mother, please learn from this last bottle of beer.”
Author Bio and Intentions
I graduated from the Pennsylvania State University in 2012 with a Bachelors of Arts in English Studies. Focusing on creative non-fiction, poetry and fiction writing genres, I have been trained and educated in many forms of rhetoric. My passion for writing has always been the most important thing in my life. It is my hope and desire to get my original work out to the community, in order to generate a following an eventually replace tradition employment with a freelance career. Please, follow, comment, and share as nothing is possible without the support of this wonderful community of artists. Thank, you. Cheers, folks!
My Love For You
Hunter; I know sometimes it may seem like things are too hard, or that the things you've done are too bad to undo; but take it from your pops, you can always find that right road. When I left that bar, after drinking coffee at some road side diner to sober up, I turned that bike around and drove right back to the hospital where you were, Hunter. I went in and kissed your mother and picked you up and swore that I would never leave you again; and, now, I’ve never been a happier man; doesn’t matter that I lost my job at the power plant; that after having your two younger siblings I lost your mother to cancer; it doesn’t even matter that I’m stuck here in some Indiana motel missing my two boys and my sweet little darlin’ girl. I love you all very much and know that I would do anything to make your lives better than mine ever was.
Your pappy; that no good old timer, the one who is probably asleep right now, letting you kids get away with all kinds of mischief; he saved my life. That bottle you tried to steal, the one on stand beside my bed, is the last trace of alcohol I ever tasted. It’s half empty. The same as it was the day I drove back to that hospital. It reminds me that I can change; that it’s never too late to take the next exit and turn that bike around. Hunter, life may seem hard. You may feel as though I have abandoned you. But I want you to know that I love you more than anything. And you don’t need to act out. Life is never too hard to change.
I need to get some sleep, I have a lot of driving ahead of me if I want to get home to see you kids. Just remember what your pap taught me. “Every bottle has its story; every glass has its tale. Every left turn has a right turn, and every road goes both ways. We all will take right turns, even when left is the right way. Hell, even I learned a lesson from whiskey that day.”
Your Daddy, Wesley Harrison Jones