“Well Elle, I’ve went and done it again.
I should be lying there beside you right now and part of me really wishes I was. I don’t know who saved me. Maybe an angel. I like the sound of that. But with my past sins I really don’t think no angels be visiting me.
And that’s fine. Leaves more of them to spend their time with you.
And Elle. It does me no good to say I’m sorry, although I am. You can’t hear me buried there beneath the frozen ground. I don’t know why you stayed with me for all those years. I put you through so much. I was so cruel. Such hard words I laid on you.
You were right. There’s no amount of whiskey in the world to hide away in.
The kids still don’t want anything to do with me. I don’t blame them. Little Johnny has picked up the bottle now front what Ol’ Red told me.
Elle…I’d laid down here right now and give my body, my soul. Lay it on down right here in the cold. If I could just take back my sins. Does me no good talking bout’ that now I reckon.
You meant the world to me Elle. Even though I never showed it.”
It was the winter of ’65
And Goodtime Charlie was found frozen to the sidewalk outside his favorite dive.
His body had to be scraped off the concrete. He had passed out and pissed himself and froze to 7th street like some sad whiskey piss popsicle. There’s no way explaining how he survived but either by the grace of God or the orneriness of the devil that ran through him.
He woke up the next morning,
or more likely afternoon, naked on some strange man’s couch. No clue how he had got there or where there was. He saw his clothes crumpled on the floor. He sat there not moving for a minute and once content the silence was a sign that no one was home, he made for his pants and hat and hit the door.
His head was pounding. His hands shook. He fell down the last set of steps of the apartment building and promptly vomited where he landed. As he stood up and wiped the spit from his lips with the back of his hand, he noticed the dried blood caking his knuckles. “Must’ve been a helluva night,” he mumbled as he hit the streets. The winter wind cut his bare chest and feet.
Goodtime Charlie had one place to go.
By the look of the sun it was already noon. Too late now, he was already on his last leg at work and knew being this late he was done there. So with just his pants and his flat cap pulled low he went to see his wife.
He cut through the alleys and hitched a ride for two blocks and found himself standing in front of his wife. The headstone simply read “Wife and Mother”. He knelt down and wiped the snow off the grave. Took one handful of snow and wiped off his face with it and another he put in his mouth. His mouth was so dry; his lips were cracked and chapped. He took off his cap and with his hands still wet from the snow he slicked back his hair.
He sat there. In the snow. Shirtless. His body shaking from the booze or the cold. And he nodded off.
He woke up the next morning,
or more likely afternoon, naked on some stranger’s couch. No clue how he had got there or where there was. He saw his clothes crumpled on the floor. He sat there not moving for a minute and listened to the silence. He closed his eyes and crossed himself and thought about angels.
Today you can find Goodtime Charlie’s headstone next to his beloved Elle’s. His grave though is still empty. He is 89 years old and sober. Their son Johnny’s grave is right there with theirs. He passed at the age of 28 from liver disease. His other children still do not speak to him.
About the Author
Aaron, after 18 years "out there," is now in recovery from alcohol and opiates. He is an aspiring artist and a writer who is currently working on a novel of lost little things, writing poetry when it decides to randomly spill out, illustrating and writing a children’s book about forgotten fairy tales and gods and most importantly, he's raising his son as a single father.