From the moment George, aged twelve, tastes alcohol, he is destined to be in its thrall all his days: there is nothing so sublime, as comforting and exciting as booze – especially if it’s stolen. At this early age, he’s too young to imagine what his destiny might be; the immediate present is enough.
By the time he’s an adult, George no longer needs to be a thief; he’s successful and can afford to service his addiction. Nevertheless, he wishes his life were otherwise. On Sundays he performs a ritual. After breakfast, he writes a note on a piece of paper – My name is George. I’m a fully functioning alcoholic and I hate it. There’s no one I dare tell.I hate my weakness. He places the note in an empty one-litre bottle of Smirnoff Red and screws the cap on really tightly.
At high tide, on a Sunday in November, he stands at the end of the pier and casts a final bottle over the sea: as it arcs and spins through the air, he sighs, That’s the end of it. What’s the point in useless gestures? By the time he reaches home, all that matters is a glass of vodka, quickly followed by a second glass with ice and lemon added. Sip this one, he thinks.
As a ‘bachelor of means’, with no dependants and aged sixty-six, he’s easily able to afford three weeks in a luxurious beach house on an isolated tropical island. No motor vehicles are allowed and the number of visitors is severely restricted to ensure the privacy of the rich. Best of all, the servants are deferential.
In the mornings, after breakfast, when it’s cool, George beachcombs along deserted white sands searching for shells and driftwood that he carves in the evenings. Beneath the now burning sun, George watches a Ghost crab, bloated with turtle eggs, as it relaxes on a rock. You’ll cook yourself doing that, George thinks. Time I made my way home to the shade and a glass.
To keep cool, he walks back through the gently lapping waves. As he returns, his eye is caught by something glinting in a large rock pool he’d failed to notice before. Good God, is that one of mine? he gasps. Kneeling in the water, he removes an empty one-litre bottle with the word Smirnoff embossed in glass on its side. Shit, there’s a message inside. Is it mine? Can’t be. Can it?
The screw top is rusted on. He smashes the bottle on a rock. In his frantic desire to get the note, he severs his ulnar artery. He screams. Blood flows. He reads the note. My name is George. He can’t help himself. He weeps and squats in the water as it turns red. George lies down. It’s now or never, he thinks. Better make sure. Holding the broken bottle, he slashes his left wrist. The water covers him. He’s warm. I knew it would kill me in the end, he sighs.
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© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.