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The International Writers Magazine
: Dreamscapes Fiction

Whisky Walking
M. Blake

Walking the fliers didn’t 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 weren’t sore or blistered, when his sneakers had stayed dry. These were the days when he could think of no other job he’d rather do (except for mail carrying perhaps, which was similar but paid much better).
Yet his job wasn’t as official as the postal worker’s; it wasn’t illegal, but it wasn’t 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 night’s alcohol, or, as on days like this one, that morning’s 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 didn’t 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 home.
“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, I’m 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 wouldn’t 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 wasn’t 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 couldn’t 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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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 didn’t use headphone radios that some others carried). He didn’t 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 people’s 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), ma’am, 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 wasn’t 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) didn’t want to deal with.
He’d 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 hadn’t 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 Whisky’s 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.
Whisky’s boss at the time, as much of a drunk as anybody on his flier hanging crew, was upset that Whisky’s bag and some of the fliers had been torn by the dog. He didn’t seem all that concerned that blood was running down Whisky’s 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 don’t 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 aren’t sober in the morning, but you’re really gone some days. Your mind’s not in the game. I can’t use you on those days.” Another boss suggested that he go to church. “You’re 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 couldn’t 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 that’s what he’d been doing for the last few weeks, smoking grass and drinking cold ones. He’d 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 he’d 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 wouldn’t 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 o’clock 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 didn’t feel queasy. A big burrito sounded good, one of those five dollar specials at the Mexican restaurant that was popular with all the guys. He’d get himself a window seat, have a couple cervesas with his meal. Eye the plump, quiet, smooth skinned waitresses.
Maybe he’d buy a bus pass and go to a movie, or just ride out of the home neighborhood for a change. Perhaps he’d go to his favorite park or the library and hang out until it was dark. One thing Whisky didn’t do was tag along with the crackheads after work. That habit was too expensive for his liking; he didn’t 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 didn’t want to blow it with his boss. Beer was too strong smelling, and he’d 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, he’d drive you somewhere else to hang them, which Whisky wasn’t going for today.
He took two quick pulls off the half pint - the first hard booze he’d 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 o’clock, at the latest. Let’s 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 didn’t 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?”
“I’m 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 them.
“You sure you didn’t find you one of those stores?”
“Oh, I found a store all right.”
“Hell, he was sittin right outside of one,” one guy said.
“That’s right,” Whisky said. “That guy’s got the coldest and strongest soda around.”
“I bet he does.”
“Are we gonna see you tomorrow, Whisky?”
“Sure. I’m 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

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