Lloyd said he’d already done what his wife demanded and quit drinking during lunch or any other time at work, and even promised not to drink until he got home.
“I’m sick of you drinking here, too,” Clara said.
“Fine, I’ll stick with the boys in the bar.”
“We can’t afford you getting drunk in bars, and you can’t afford DUIs.”
“Only had one.”
“Yeah, and next time you’ll lose your license and do ten days in jail. You’d also have problems at work.”
“I’m the best damn plumber in this town.”
“Not if you’re in jail.”
“I gotta have some fun. With you, I can’t.”
“How would you know? You drink a pint of whiskey a night.”
“Big deal, three drinks an hour till bedtime.”
“You’re an alcoholic,” Clara said, pointing a finger at his nose.
“I’m no alcoholic.”
“For God’s sake, go to AA and get cleaned up so we can have a decent life.”
“Are you hungry? Homeless? You have plenty of clothes and everything else.”
“What I don’t have is you”
“You’ve got me, just not the me you want.”
“I need a sober husband.”
“Then get one,” Lloyd said, and walked into the garage and fired up his pickup truck he drove to his favorite bar.
He’d wasted time at home, and the boys had already left. Lloyd proceeded anyway, drinking several doubles before leaving for the Pink Rabbit, a strip joint where he started buying drinks for the ladies and spent several hundred dollars and still didn’t end up with any company. He wasn’t going to pay for it directly. If drinks weren’t enough, let desperate men screw them.
Leaving the Pink Rabbit, Lloyd forgot to turn on his damn headlights.
“Sorry, officer, but these streetlights are so bright I couldn’t tell.”
“Have you been drinking, sir?”
“Please step out of the vehicle.”
“Don’t you want to see my license and all that other shit?”
“First I want to see you walk a straight line.”
Lloyd spent an uncomfortable night in jail, sharing the drunk tank with criminals who looked like they’d never held a job, and suspected Clara had hexed him into this predicament. And in the morning she called his boss, urged him to come over, and led him into the bedroom where Lloyd was snoring like a buffalo.
He grabbed Lloyd’s arm and shook. “I warned you about your drinking?”
“What the hell? That’s none of your business.”
“It damn well is when I can’t service customers today because you’re hungover. Don’t bother telling me about your skills. You know several people complained you were drunk at their homes.”
“I just had a couple during lunch.”
“A couple what, bottles?”
“Get outta my goddamn bedroom. I’ll see you in the morning.”
The boss met Fred at the office door and handed him an envelope. “Here’s two week’s pay.”
“You can’t fire me.”
“I just did.”
Lloyd went home, slapped Clara, and said, “Thanks for fucking both of us.”
“You screwed yourself.”
“I hope you’re ready to go back to work,” he said.
“I think I am.”
Clara hadn’t worked in more than ten years, never understood computers, and couldn’t find anything. Neither could Lloyd, confronted by people wanting to know why he quit and the phone number of his former employer.
“Lloyd, In God’s name, you’ve got to stop drinking.”
“What the hell else have I got to do?”
“Sober up and keep looking for work.”
“I need time off. You pay the bills.”
“That’s not how it works, Lloyd.”
“New rules, Clara.”
Their savings evaporated fast, then brothers and sisters stopped their loans, gas and electricity expired, the house went into foreclosure, and Clara moved in with her sister in another state. Drinking more each week, Fred put on a heavy coat in winter and lounged in his underwear during summer, shouted at walls no one would take his home, and refused to open the door the day the foreclosure people knocked. Noisily removing the lock, they agitated Lloyd, and he shot the first man through the door before putting the pistol in his mouth.