The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Fiction
the fliers didnt seem like a chore at all on days like this,
Whisky thought; days when everything came together: mild weather,
tight hanging (the houses close together), easy routes, the time
passing fast. These were the days he had excess energy and his feet
werent sore or blistered, when his sneakers had stayed dry.
These were the days when he could think of no other job hed
rather do (except for mail carrying perhaps, which was similar but
paid much better).
his job wasnt as official as the postal workers; it
wasnt illegal, but it wasnt necessary (in fact, it was
often frowned upon by residents, a nuisance to be grumbled about
like junk mail). It did help to promote business for whatever company
he hung the fliers for, and it kept him in pocket cash most days.
The miles Whisky
walked kept him in trim shape and his breathing was good. It also helped
him to sweat out the previous nights alcohol, or, as on days like
this one, that mornings beverages.
This was a day on which his boss, the driver, came around on time to
check on him and reload his bag, chuckled with him about something (it
was an easy day for both of them), and didnt bother to sniff at
his breath. He had gotten the tag Whisky from the other guys on the
truck, after passing out in the woods one day and being left to thumb
Yeah, ole Whisky got his five dollar draw and went and found himself
a store one guy told it the next day. Hell, he got on the
truck with a bottle in his pocket. The way he smelled, Im surprised
the boss man took him. They all laughed when he told them about
waking up under some trees, with his bag of fliers under his head for
a pillow. The sun was low enough in the sky for it to be late afternoon.
Next to him on the ground was a bag with a couple of beers in it. He
drank those and started walking to the highway.
Today wouldnt turn into a farce like that one, Whisky thought.
He could hold off on the drink now until he got rid of his paper. The
small, neat lawns and low bushes made for easy and fast walking, and
at times he found himself moving at almost a slow trot, and slowed down.
There was no sense in going for some kind of time record, like some
of these fools who pushed themselves so that they could brag about it
on the truck. He wasnt getting paid enough for that kind of shit.
The regular walkers knew enough to keep a steady pace - not strolling,
but not killing themselves either. If you did it right you even had
time for smokes or beer breaks.
Today, the crew would get home a little earlier than usual - or they
should anyway. Whisky couldnt recall who, other than the regulars
like himself, filled out the crew that morning, but he was pretty sure
there were no rookies. No guys getting lost, or quitting because their
feet were sore, or getting caught throwing away paper and then fired.
No, they didnt need any bozos to ruin a good day like this, Whisky
thought; or rather, spoke to himself. It was a habit he had gotten into
while walking fliers, speaking aloud as if he had a companion with him.
Sometimes he was overheard by someone he didnt see at the side
of a house or behind some bushes, someone he walked up on unknowingly
while engrossed in his own talk. There was always that puzzled look
as they waited to see someone else walk by with him, and Whisky never
waited around to see the expression that followed.
He recalled one embarrassing moment when his boss and some of the guys
on the truck caught him singing as he stepped along in good spirits
through the yards. They wanted to know what song he sang, and if he
had stopped at a beer store.
Whisky had songs going through his head all the time as he walked (he
didnt use headphone radios that some others carried). He didnt
have to think about a particular song; a tune or lyric would come to
him. Something from the vault, he called it. And once a song came back
to him - a pleasant surprise that usually prompted nostalgic feelings
- it usually ran through his head for a while, sometimes most of an
afternoon. Those nostalgic memories often made his life at that time
seem more innocent and full of possibilities than the present day. Until
he thought a little harder about it. Whisky knew how to appreciate memory,
but not rely on it. Not with his drug influenced lifestyle over the
years going hand in hand with a lively imagination.
Whisky liked getting a glimpse of other peoples lives in the various
neighborhoods, or subdivisions, or estates - whatever they were called
- that he walked through daily. Cutting across yards - be they wide,
well trimmed expanses, small plots or dirt patches - offered him a brief
but close look at what people presented to the public eye: how their
homes were decorated and property landscaped; how clean the people were
or if there were kids about; what their taste in dogs or other pets
was. Often enough, there came a glimpse of the interior of a place through
an open door or a big front window, at how furniture was arranged and
what colors were used on the walls and floors, artwork and other possessions,
the shape of rooms. He often surprised people in their daily routine,
not being expected. He was quick to smile and hold up the flier: just
a flier (or coupons, even better), maam, or sir. Sorry to startle
you. A comment on the weather or the flowers.
Smother any annoyance with politeness. And most of the time it worked.
He was just a guy trying to make a few bucks; he had nothing to do with
whatever service or product was being advertised. He worked for a subcontractor
- just a pair of strong legs to get the paper out.
Once in a while, someone got mad when they saw him. They were tired
of taking the paper off their door; tired of seeing strange men going
through their yard (sometimes very early in the morning). Just keep
on going, he was told, which he gladly did. There were always plenty
of other houses to hang.
If Whisky saw a loose dog in the yard, he kept going. Any kind of dog,
any size. He knew that some walkers entered a yard if the mutt wasnt
that big or mean looking, and they laughed at Whisky when he avoided
even the smallest dogs. Not that he was afraid of the little yapping
ones, but it was just an annoyance that he (and usually the owner) didnt
want to deal with.
Hed had plenty of nasty little dogs (that the owners laughed at
fondly) nip at his ankles with enough force to puncture skin. Three
times, Whisky had been bitten by good sized dogs. Two of the bites hadnt
been bad (though frightening enough), but the third, received from a
small pit bull in pre dawn darkness, left a permanent scar on the inside
of his thigh. The dog had been on a long chain that extended the length
of the driveway, and came out from under a car to surprise Whisky. The
dog knocked him on his back, tearing Whiskys pant leg from ankle
to crotch. He managed to roll out of reach, after getting his cloth
bag up for the dog to chew on. The owner, a burly Hispanic, was more
upset with the flier hanger than the dog, wondering what Whisky was
doing on his property at that hour.
Whiskys boss at the time, as much of a drunk as anybody on his
flier hanging crew, was upset that Whiskys bag and some of the
fliers had been torn by the dog. He didnt seem all that concerned
that blood was running down Whiskys leg. He would not drive Whisky
to the nearest hospital, not having the time on this busy day. Instead,
he stopped at a store and purchased alcohol, medical and non (a couple
beers), for his wounded walker; dug behind the seat of his truck for
a rag to tie on the leg.
Just dont get too drunk on me today, he said.
Whisky had worked for three different drivers since then, all of them
picking up their crews downtown in the city. The drivers had different
personalities of course, and the work trucks varied in quality, but
the job was the same. Whisky had impressed all of them with his well
paced walking and sense of direction, yet every driver soon learned
to keep an eye on him for signs of drunkenness.
Why do you have to get so fucked up? one boss asked him.
I know most of these guys arent sober in the morning, but
youre really gone some days. Your minds not in the game.
I cant use you on those days. Another boss suggested that
he go to church. Youre just drifting now, the man
said. You need a foundation for yourself. The word foundation
made Whisky smile, for at that time he bedded down at night inside an
old crumbling foundation.
Whisky never did make it to church; he couldnt see spiritual sustenance
in that direction. He did enter a halfway house for a month, but it
turned out to be just a postponement of another binge.
Lately, with his current boss, Whisky had, out of necessity, controlled
his drinking somewhat. He had almost run out of trucks to work on, having
earned a reputation for unpredictability - and that was saying something
in a business that was full of it. He stopped bringing hard liquor to
camp with him at night. Just keep it to beer, his fellow workers told
him. And thats what hed been doing for the last few weeks,
smoking grass and drinking cold ones. Hed worked out a deal with
one of the guys on the truck to keep himself in joints during the week.
That very morning, along with two beers for breakfast, Whisky had smoked
a big roach, and the buzz had gotten him through to late morning. Now
it was early afternoon and Whisky was on his last bag of paper. He was
familiar with this route, or run, and knew that hed be done in
an hour or so. He also knew that there was a small shopping plaza at
the end of the run, where he could buy himself a drink before getting
on the truck for that hour ride home. It helped to be relaxed and feeling
good when packed into the back of the old truck with nine other men.
Nine other tired and sweaty men working on short fuses after a day in
the sun. Still, it wouldnt be too bad today, he knew. The humidity
had been low, and most of the runs easy. Both the crackheads and the
drunks would be eagerly looking forward to getting their fix money in
town. The whole group of them would pile out of the truck in the supermarket
parking lot, as they did every day. They would turn in their orange
vests with the company name and their cloth bags, in order to get paid.
When they trudged, wearily yet satisfied, away from the truck with their
cash - forty dollars on the best of days - the sun was at three oclock
or later in the sky and the supermarket was ready to take some of their
money right away.
Whisky decided that he would eat well that evening. It was the smart
thing to do before he guzzled too much and forgot about food for the
night. Not eating was what led him to getting too drunk and falling
down and hurting himself, or passing out in too public a place so that
the cops were called. No, today he had an appetite (the reefer?) and
his stomach didnt feel queasy. A big burrito sounded good, one
of those five dollar specials at the Mexican restaurant that was popular
with all the guys. Hed get himself a window seat, have a couple
cervesas with his meal. Eye the plump, quiet, smooth skinned waitresses.
Maybe hed buy a bus pass and go to a movie, or just ride out of
the home neighborhood for a change. Perhaps hed go to his favorite
park or the library and hang out until it was dark. One thing Whisky
didnt do was tag along with the crackheads after work. That habit
was too expensive for his liking; he didnt want to end up broke
every morning. At the shopping plaza, there was the liquor store he
had been in more than once. Whisky already knew he was going to buy
a half pint of something and mix it with a soda. It had been a good
day so far and he didnt want to blow it with his boss. Beer was
too strong smelling, and hed have to guzzle it fast. He knew that
the truck would be coming around anytime now, and he wanted the boss
to see that soda can in his hand.
Behind the store, Whisky got rid of what paper he had left in a dumpster.
If this boss knew you had fliers left, hed drive you somewhere
else to hang them, which Whisky wasnt going for today.
He took two quick pulls off the half pint - the first hard booze hed
had in days - and chased it with soda. His eyes watered and he laughed,
drooling some of the soda. Before he left the rear of the building,
Whisky poured the rest of the vodka into the soda can. Then he chewed
up a couple pieces of fruit flavored gum in his mouth.
He walked to one side of the plaza parking lot and sat on a curbside
to wait. He estimated the time to be around two oclock, at the
latest. Lets hope everyone else is finished hanging, or close
to it, he thought. It really burned him up when the boss asked him to
help some slacker finish with his paper - for no more money.
Whisky felt the heat of the booze just behind his face. He knew it would
bring more sweat out of him.
The truck was later in coming than he expected, for the boss had picked
up most of the other guys before him. Whisky showed the boss his empty
bag so that he didnt have to stand close to the window.
How long you been down? the boss asked, looking hard at
the walker for a couple moments. Bout fifteen minutes,
Whisky lied (it had actually been twenty-five minutes at least). Whisky
gave a little shrug of his shoulders before the boss nodded toward the
back of the truck.
Okay, Whisky, the boss said, as if suspicious of something.
Get in here, Whisky, someone said, and one of the guys helped
to pull him in.
We gotta pick up two more, another guy said.
Whisky, you look a little done in today, one of the regulars
commented. You feelin all right?
Im feelin just fine, Whisky answered, and then a low
belly laugh gathered force inside him and he let loose with his familiar,
high-pitched cackle. This got a couple of the others laughing and, glancing
toward the front of the truck, Whisky noticed the boss looking back
in the rear view.
Is that red face from sunburn, Whisky? someone asked.
Oh, that sun was bad today, he said, and kept laughing with
You sure you didnt find you one of those stores?
Oh, I found a store all right.
Hell, he was sittin right outside of one, one guy said.
Thats right, Whisky said. That guys got
the coldest and strongest soda around.
I bet he does.
Are we gonna see you tomorrow, Whisky?
Sure. Im on my program now. My burritos and beer diet. And
a couple of cigarettes on the side. He winked at one of the guys.
© M. Blake June 2004
The Man Outside
M . Blake
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