Last Call

by Peter Fodey

On the warm August night of his fiftieth birthday, Des Jenkins had reached his crossroads.

"What can save me?", he muttered to himself, the summer breeze flowing through his rapidly graying hair. He stared across the street at the large brick building, the place he knew he should step toward, but couldn't. It was a place of understanding and support, yet one that scared the shit out of a man like Des Jenkins. It was the local chapter of Alcoholic's Anonymous.

Des watched the busy flow of traffic before him. He wanted a drink like never before, but it was this type of urge that had led him here in the first place.

"I've gotta end this," he told himself. His personal vow to put a stop to over twenty years of whiskey-soaked madness had brought him to this point. The large brick building loomed ahead, whispering with invitation.

Des watched, with envy, the regular people strolling the Friday night strip. Many of them disappeared into the Lucky Lady tavern, one block up, where Des knew it was 'Dollar Draft Nite'. He wondered if one more evening of swallowing beer for a buck might help him make his ultimate decision. He wasn't sure if he was thinking straight.

Fifty years old, contemplated Des. Half a goddamn century! Considering the number of benders he had endured in that time, and the countless blackouts and hangovers, Des felt as though he'd only really been alive for about half of those years. The rest was a blur, which terrified this hollow shell of a man.

"Just do it," he told himself, as the night wind picked up dramatically. He stared hard at the A.A. building across the street. It was ten minutes to eight as he watched a pair of men, smoking cigarettes in front of the place. They checked their watches, tossed their butts following a final haul, then went inside. Des Jenkins knew it was decision time.

Considering his options, the Lucky Lady tavern was beginning to look pretty damn good. That was the easy way, though. It seemed the only way he had ever known. He tried to convince himself that, perhaps, drinking wasn't his real problem. His booze-starved brain presented him with the perfect word just then - moderation. That was the key. How hard could it be? Just don't let the hooch get in the way of the important stuff.

But it always did, eventually, and even a full-blown lush the likes of Des knew that. Without question. He'd been down the moderation path many times before, and always gotten lost. Like so many alcoholics, he usually followed his dry periods by coming back stronger than ever, with even bigger binges. Two divorces, several lost jobs and an eighteen-year-old son who regularly passed him on the street without a glance, told the story.

"What can save me?", he muttered again.

A surge of now-or-never bravery suddenly pushed the indecisive and slumped Des Jenkins upright. His decision must be made now, and he became comforted by the thought of freedom from alcohol.

He looked back up the street, at the Lucky Lady tavern. He looked back at the A.A. building. It was time to commit.

"Here goes nothing," he spoke aloud, stepping forward.

The disgusting splash of a human body, crushing into the sidewalk from eighty feet above, was the last thing pedestrian Tim Shannon had expected on this Friday evening. His cologne-scented blue shirt was now speckled with blood and gray matter. A mob of horrified bystanders began arriving at the scene, then pulling back with revulsion. A shock wave rolled up the strip like a tsunami, as curiousity seekers appeared from every direction.

Wailing sirens soon approached from the distance, with even the A.A. people now filtering out to view the commotion.

The sickening mass that had once been Des Jenkins lay in a bloody, crumpled heap, motionless in its final resting place. So many times he had been the life of the party, and was now the center of attention yet again. He had managed to keep his promise, though. Des had always maintained that he would never take a drink, beyond the age of fifty.

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