Friday, August 7, 2015

Lord of the Winos

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 16 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My prompt is: write a post about a desert island, a book report, and a box of wine. It was submitted by:

I might have said a few swears, loud ones, when I first read this prompt, but then slowly the story started forming, changing, morphing in my brain over the course of several days. When I sat down to type it, it flowed, and I really, really dig it. I hope you guys do, too. 


Boxed wine isn’t as bad as you might think. Well, it certainly isn’t all that bad when you can’t afford much else. Plus, it’s easy to hide at the bottom of a shopping cart under the rest of your stuff. That little spigot makes it pretty accessible even when it’s hidden under 2 feet of dirty clothes. That’s really what seals the deal—not having to worry about it getting stolen if I don’t drink it all or getting busted by the cops for drinking in public

These are the crowded jumble of thoughts running through Pepper’s head as she digs out a tomb for the brand new box of Franzia merlot near the bottom of her beaten shopping cart. The cart has definitely seen its better days. It needs a new set of wheels. Rims, maybe or a sporty metallic paint job. And it definitely needs the bottom rewelded so half her shit isn’t constantly in danger of spilling onto whatever dirty sidewalk she’s traversing that day during her panhandling adventures.

After begging all day for spare change and mostly getting spit on, she knows she should probably spend the money on something, anything other than a box of cheap ass wine that dyes her lips a deathly shade of purplish and gives her a bitching headache, but it’s like a cycle. She say s “I’m not going to do buy booze tonight” under her breath all day long like some sort of inspirational mantra, but after dealing with absolute dickheads all those hours, she really can’t imagine doing anything else but drinking herself to sleep. And, the next day it starts again.

So here she is, box tucked safely under a pile of clothes and her (along with the cart) tucked not-so-safely under a bridge she often sleeps under. She has a fire going and lays out a makeshift pallet for the night. “I raise this dirty Taco Bell cup full of wine to the half a dozen people who gave me a few bucks to get this wine and the pack of peanut butter crackers I had for dinner with enough change left over to maybe hit up a hotel vending machine to get another pack of crackers for breakfast. Yay, protein. Let’s fill another cup and get this party started,” she says to no one and nothing in particular, the wine already starting to warm her a little against the coming cold. She’s *only* wearing 4 shirts, 3 coats, a pair of long johns, a pair of sweat pants, and 3 ½ pairs of socks. Plus boots. And, it’s still freezing.

“Wine was definitely a good idea,” she mutters against the wind, all her resolve completely gone with the first brain fuzzies she starts to feel.

Just like always, a few cups in, she starts reminiscing about old times, about the home she ran away from, the family that she had thought was so lame, schoolwork she couldn’t be bothered with, the choices she had made along the way. She is only 24, but she had already been on her own for 8 years, and the vast majority of those she spent living on the streets. Hindsight brings clarity you don’t have when you’re in the midst of a situation, and of course now when she thinks back about everything, it wasn’t nearly as bad as she always made it out to be. Sure, her parents were annoying, but that’s because they were concerned. They weren’t perfect, but they wanted the best for her, and now…well…now she couldn’t face what she had done. Sometimes she dreamed about going back, sleeping in her old bed, her clothes smelling like the detergent her mom always used, but even in her drunkest fantasies, she knew it would never be as good as it was in her head.

Another cup, and she thinks of school, of all things she could have done if she had given half a shit. Right now, she would trade it all in to gladly be sitting back in Mrs. Sproul’s class working on another book report. The last one…something about a deserted island. She struggles through the fuzziness to remember what the name of the book was. Something flies. Of the Flies. Flies. Lord of the Flies? Yes, that’s it. Lord of the Flies. God, she hated that book, but she would read the fuck out of it right now. Maybe once this box of wine is empty she can put a stake through it and put it out by the cart for all to see. Her Lord of the Winos.

She giggles at that out loud, a drunken slur of a sound, which inspires her to refresh her cup. Lord of the Winos. In a moment of self-despair she thinks perhaps she should draw a caricature of her own face on the box. Surely, the description fits. She lifts her cup drinking to that truth before her mind wonders back to that book, that deserted island full of children running amok and the parts of society they were supposed to represent. That story has always seemed to stick because she told Mrs. Sproul at the time that the whole assignment was bullshit—that anyone in their right mind could figure this guy just wrote a crazy fucked up story about lawless kids just trying to survive instead of it being some deep commentary about societal archetypes.

The memory comes back to her now and then between the 5th and 6th cups of drink. “Ha! Societal archetypes,” she had said. “What a load of shit, isn’t it? Do you think this guy really wrote this story thinking ‘hmmmmm…what characters can I make up to represent societal archetypes?’ or did he just sit down and have a drink and write a story about some shithead little kids who had no idea how to act without their mommies telling them what to do?” The class had erupted in a nervous sort of laughter ensuring a smug smirk spread across her face in triumph.

Sproul had sent her out of class immediately, of course, and even though she had read the book and had every intention of doing the report (okay of barely doing the report), she didn’t go back after that. She had really wanted her question answered. She had needed that question answered, but no one would engage her. Her mom had always told her that her mouth was destined to get her into trouble, and she supposes now that her mom was probably right about that. She had given it a lot of thought since then, since that class, and maybe that author hadn’t written it intending the story to necessarily represent general groups of people in society, but that doesn’t mean in hindsight that theory doesn’t apply. And maybe if she hadn’t been such a little shit back then, she could have gotten that question answered. If she hadn’t acted like she knew everything maybe…

Either way, she knows she’s seen those some types of people in her life living on the edge of lawlessness. She has seen the parallels with her own eyes which makes a difference to how you take the book. When you’re 16 and still living at home and have no idea what people are really like, it becomes hard to digest, .but now she knows some people think the law doesn’t protect the homeless. She knows that to some she is faceless, a body to be abused; she’s been abused, beaten, raped, spit on. They’re like the torturer on the island, the one that put the stick up the pig’s bum. Hurting her is good for a laugh for people like that kid. She’s seen well meaning people pass her a buck or two and forget her 30 seconds after passing, and in way she thinks that’s like the one who tried to pull them all the kids together and give them some rules to guide them. He meant well, didn’t he? But he was more about idealism than action.

The 7th and final cup is poured and sipped, her ruminations growing fuzzier and less coherent. The Lord of the Winos. She knew at the 6th cup that she could start over. She could start by going to the library, checking out that book, and writing the report she never wrote. She could show it to someone. But then with cup 7, she loses all that motivation, forgets she ever thought about that book, about society, about the message of it…she forgets that she wants to be something more drowning, instead, in a burgundy sea of mindlessness and falls asleep.


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there: Baking In A Tornado The Momisodes The Bergham’s Life Chronicles Stacy Sews and Schools Dinosaur Superhero Mommy Spatulas on Parade Southern Belle Charm Never Ever Give Up Hope Sparkly Poetic Weirdo Silence of the Mom Someone Else’s Genius Confessions of a part-time working mom The Angrivated Mom More Than Cheese and Beer Searching for Sanity


  1. Heavy. Inspiring. Beautifully written as always.

  2. As always, your fiction pulls me in. I'm rooting for her, I have hope that she will some day turn it around.

    1. i like to leave it up to the reader to make of it what they will... for that story to kind of stick in their mind for at least a few moments afterwards so they can imagine where the character might go and do. But, if this one were left up to me, i think i'd want her to turn it around and get help, find a shelter and a job and make something more. I dont see her ever swallowing her pride enough to go home and ask her parents to take her back in, but i think i would like to see her reconcile with them once she has a job and a place of her own.

  3. You got me hooked again this month. Love the "burgundy sea of mindlessness"

  4. You got me hooked again this month. Love the "burgundy sea of mindlessness"

  5. First of all I hated book reports for that very reason. I'm convinced that writers never think as deeply about their books as others do. Secondly, after this story I'm glad I wrote all my crappy book reports anyway despite feeling the same as your hobo. Who knew refusing to do homework was a gateway to living under a bridge...

    You weaved such a vivid picture with this story, I was absolutely hooked the whole time.

  6. The only thing worse than book reports are picture descriptions. I'm like WHY?

    I wonder if / how it's possible to make it back to a life with a roof above your head and food in the fridge. Wine would be a plus.

  7. captivating, and beautifully detailed post...

    Can I admit I feel this way when I have to read and write weekly comments for my online class...HATE IT...but I so need that grade

    1. I am in that same exact boat. I absolutely HATE that mess. I would rather have a whole nother paper to do rather than have to respond to people. And it always makes me feel like I'm in some academic version of Chotsky's on Office Space. They tell you that you only have to write one response or maybe two responses but when you do that, they count off points for only doing the minimum. I want a pull a Jennifer Aniston, flip them off, and yell, "if you want me to do more responses, then just make the minumum 4 responses instead of 1!!!"

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. This is, as always, amazing and bothersome in the best way possible. Your writing is not only detailed but realistic. It is so easy to get sucked into the story and before you know it-it's over and you are jonesing for more.

  10. Book reports were always a nightmare for me. ARGH!!!!
    I love your writing. I always get so pulled into it.

  11. Well done. To see a way to string those random thoughts together into a cohesive story is a true talent.