Many Fine Books
written by: Sterling Pohlmann
Light flooded the room as the ceiling came into focus. My mouth had a metallic aftertaste. I could smell burnt cigarette butts as I fumbled for my glasses on the nightstand. The night before gone. I got black out drunk. Normally, I get my kicks with semi-friendly fist fights, not from drinking. Mostly, the only aftereffects are a black eye or a busted lip. It’s all in good fun.
The first fist fight I ever got into was with my dad. He used to beat my mom. When I would stand up to him to protect her, he beat me. Each beating was harsher than the last. Until the night I was finally bigger than him, he went after her and I beat him so hard he spent 3 weeks in the hospital. When he came home, he treated me with the same respect he reserved for his friends. He never so much as raised his voice to my mother and I after that. It was the first time, but not the last, that I earned friendship and respect using my fists.
My head was still fuzzy as I put on my glasses taking note that they were grimy. I used a disposable cleaning wipe to clean some grime off of them as I sat on the edge of the bed. Flickers of memory began to come back like still frame images in a movie. The smell of last night’s bourbon. The first flash of a man’s face smiling at me from behind the bar as I entered. I got up to walk to the sink and I turned on the water. I drank as much as I could. Another flash, this time the man who had smiled had me pinned down on a pool table, beating me with a cue stick. I drank water too quick and threw up. I collapsed to the floor.
I lay prone on the carpet. I remembered holding a baseball bat and stalking that same man. I heard him crying “No, please, no!” Another memory of bashing him until his cries stopped. I realized that the light that flooded in through the windows was not just purely white, it was red and blue. I picked myself up off carpet and walked to the door. I heard voices. I heard radio chatter. I knew I was going to jail, and maybe to the chair. I didn’t want to flee, only to end this night, pay my debts. I turned the knob and slowly opened the door feeling terrified yet relieved as the light flooded in. Like Hunter S. Thompson said, “Many fine books have been written in prison.”
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