The End of the Beginning, Baltimore, September 1964.
I’m not surprised this happened. Not at all. I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen now for the past three years. When he shoved me half open into the back pocket of his kakis, I knew I wouldn’t be there for long…I just didn’t think I’d end up in pieces sticking outta his ass. Oh boy. Glad I was in the car though to tell you what happened, cause Peter sure as hell won’t remember. Not after passing out at the steering wheel, all due to me…You know who I am. I get carried around by black waiters on silver trays at Country Clubs. You toast to me at weddings. You keep me in kitchens, in offices, or even in the car. I get you giddy, poison your mind, and because of me, your darkest secrets come out to play. I can get you laid, or have you thrown through your car windshield, like Peter. I’m bitter, but once you’ve had me enough, you won’t taste it. You’ll begin to like it. You wanna know why? Because of me, you’re confident, you have no pain, no insecurities, and you forget. Everything. That’s why Peter loves me. I’m Alcohol, and because of me, you’re one fuckin’ step closer to heaven.
So, you wanna know how seventeen year old Peter Zouck almost dies? It all starts on January 5th 1961, the end of one life and the beginning of another, with me.
The Beginning of the Beginning, Baltimore, January 1961.
5 Elmhurst Road, Roland Park, Baltimore, Maryland 21210. The North Residence. Peter Sr., 42 years, Kitty, 37 years, Nina, 16 years, Peter Jr., 13 years, Timmy, 8 years, and Robby, 7 years. Don’t get the zip code confused with 21211, that’s Hamden, a blue collar neighborhood, and the Norths certainly don’t live there. Roland Park is pure paradise…if you are white, Christian, and upper- middle class. Just from being sipped at the North’s house, I can tell you certain things about the city, Baltimore, or Baldamore if you really wanna feel of the town. I say any old mouth who wants to take a swig outta my bottle is good by me, but here in Baldamore we got ourselves some good racists and bigots. Downtown by the Zoo is for the blacks and west of Falls Road is for the Jews. Segregation is the word of the town, but not for me. Everyone likes me. Different types for different folks of course, but it’s all the same.
When my bottle is sealed, I don’t see any action from the closed cabinet, but once Peter Sr. opens me up, I sit out on the push cart bar and I watch it all. At dinner time, I make my way out onto the table. On Saturdays, I watch the strawberry man ride up and down the street on his horse and wagon yelling “STRAWWWWWBERRIES”. I see Peter and his brothers, Timmy and Robby, run up to the drug store Morgan Millards. Sometimes they’ll find a quarter or two on my push cart, and get real excited about all the candy they can buy. On Thursdays, Kitty sends the kids to school and then runs off to her various tennis, card playing, house wife activities.
Today is Friday, January 5th, and Kitty just bundled up Timmy and Robby for ice skating. There isn’t any snow, but it’s cold. I know because even I feel a little frosty sitting in the living room this morning. As I said, there isn’t snow, but it is cold enough for ice to form on Lake Roland. Mid-morning, Kitty, Timmy, and Robby leave. “Don’t forget your skates! Oo, I love ya!”, Kitty yells at her sons. The car, a Chevrolet wagon, pulls out of the driveway. Well, I’ve got a quiet house to myself today. No kids, no drunk adults. Just me and that Grandfather clock ticking in the corner. Don’t get me wrong, I like to have a good time, after all, I am “spirits”. Every now and then though, I prefer peace and quiet to those boys, especially Peter and Robby. Always running through the house and knocking me over. Those two are trouble, but man do they love each other. They’ve got this special bond, or spark, that I don’t see with the other kids. A couple of hours have passed; I can tell by the way the late afternoon sun streams through my bottle. And I hear Kitty’s wagon pulling back into the driveway. Kitty, come on in and have an afternoon cocktail! She opens the door and Timmy follows inside. Where’s Robby? Why isn’t he there? Why is Kitty crying? Timmy doesn’t say anything and just walks up stairs, silently. Peter Sr. comes home shortly. “Why weren’t you watching him!?” They don’t talk after that. What’s going on? Then Peter comes home.
“There’s been an accident,” Peter Sr. says. An accident? Oh god, what the heck does that mean? “Robby, he…he fell through the ice. They found the body and—
Before he can even finish, Peter is running up the stairs, tripping on each step. Each thud reverberates through his body like shock waves screaming “Robby, your best friend, your closest family member, is saturated with water on the bottom of Lake Roland. Your brother is dead.” Kitty and Peter Sr. don’t follow him. I wonder how long it will take Peter to find me. It’s two hours later and the doorbell rings, again, again, and again. For the next couple of days, people bring in food–casseroles, pies–everything tastes good with me, at least that’s what Kitty and Peter Sr. think. No one peeps a word about what has happened. No one. Only one person calls for Peter, his oldest friend Skip Murgatroyd. One person.
After what seems to be around 3 or 4 days, there’s a funeral. I watch the family, now one less, dress in suit and tie, silently. Each face wrinkles in pain. Take a sip of me, you’ll feel a whole lot better! The family packs into the wagon and drives out to St. John’s church in the posh Worthington Valley. Now, I’m in a much more grandiose position- the blood of Christ, swirling around in a goblet, sitting on the altar. The funeral is typically Episcopalian, but with a smaller casket than usual. Silent and still. Grave faces. The service is over quickly, and Peter can’t breathe. But not for long…
Everyone drives down the road to Peter Sr.’s sister, Eleanor’s, house for lunch. The mass of people dressed in black enter Aunt Eleanor’s country home and run right to me: the booze. Outside it’s overcast, cold, and somber. Inside it’s the same…wait a minute…no it’s not. Everyone is jovial.
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