Clichés of Life
While taking a writing class, the instructor informed us of the danger of the common cliché. A writer uses a cliché at the risk of being round filed, or maybe even death. This got me to wondering, just how common are clichés? I started looking for clichés in the books and magazines I was reading and seeing bloviating where a common cliché could make the point much more efficiently, I decided clichés are getting a bum wrap. Don’t they hold a special place in writing? I decided clichés are not all that bad and wrote this short story as an ode to the much dreaded cliché.
Once upon a time, on a dark and dreary night, I was stranded in the most god forsaken part of the city. Mark my words, I was down and out, more than up to my ass in alligators. I was in way over my head, so to speak. I was homeless and penniless, in the coldest time of the year. I had better shit or get off the pot or I would freeze my balls off. I picked up my belongings and made a bee line, for the nearest shelter, though I was going nowhere fast. Time flies when you’re having fun and this was about as much fun as having my teeth pulled. I was drowning in a sea of debt, and it looked like a long and bumpy road to recovery. I knew it would be all up hill from here and as luck would have it, I came upon another poor lost soul.
“You’re a sight for sore eyes,” I said. “I haven’t seen another living soul out here in this storm. I could see, he too, had hit rock bottom, lying there in the gutter, drunk as a skunk, higher than a hawks nest, shit faced, plastered; He was white as a ghost. He must have balls of brass to be out here all by himself in the snow, I thought. It was cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey so I knew, like me, he’s up shit creek without a paddle. I wanted to help him, but I was fit to be tied. No way was I in a position him. Am I my brother’s keeper?, I asked myself. God helps those who help themselves, I mused. Whoever said, Life is just a bowl of cherries, wasn’t living in this cherry bowl, for sure. Maybe, in another life I could have helped. I tried to speak, but the cat had my tongue and to make a long story short he was a blithering idiot anyways, and wouldn’t have understood a word I said. You can imagine my shock when he spoke. He said, “I’m colder than a well digger’s ass, sitting on a brass toilet seat on the north side of an iceberg.” As it turned out, he was a bald face liar; there was no well digger, brass toilet seat, nor iceberg, for that matter. He was completely spaced out. No harm no foul, I thought, mind your own business, don’t butt in, he made his bed now he has to lie in it, my mind said to me.
But alas, I couldn’t help myself. “Penny for your thoughts,” I said, wondering if he would stop whining and sniveling, long enough for us to get a fix on things. He looked older than dirt and must have had a cast iron stomach the way he guzzled the booze. I was dry as a bone and still wet behind the ears when it came to drinking, but that’s another story, a tale for another time. I asked him for a drink and he gave me that deer-in-the-headlights look, you know, the look you get when you catch someone, red handed, with their hand in the cookie jar, so to speak. Then he smiled as if he wasn’t sure if he had stolen it from me and handed me the bottle. You’re a new man on the block,” he said. “You drink this stuff, you’ll be drunk as a sailor, in no time.
Most of my life I never had a pot to piss in and what little money I had was burning a hole in my pocket. Maybe my down fall was my nothing ventured, nothing gained, attitude. “What the hell, live and let live,” that’s what I’ve always said. We all gotta go sometime. Maybe our number was up. I had always lived one day ahead of yesterday anyway. Let the devil take tomorrow. Eat drink and be merry. I took the bottle from the old timer.
“Down the hatch,” I said.
That drink was smooth as silk and made me feel warm and fuzzy all over. It wasn’t long before I was tight as a tick, green behind the gills, shit-faced and having a bad hair day even though I’m bald as a billiard ball. That’s just a figure of speech, but you get my drift. I passed out dead away. I’ll bet he thought I was deader than a door nail, lying there tits up on the sidewalk.
That’s the last thing I remembered until I woke up. It was pitch black, blacker than the ace of spades and hotter than Hades. My mind was racing a mile a minute. Have I died and gone to hell? I thought of turning over a new leaf, no time like the present but reality set in and I knew this hunk of humanity, tough as nails, brave as a lion and proud as a peacock wouldn’t let that happen until hell freezes over.
Outside it started raining cats and dogs. That’s when I realized I was inside, sound and secure. I’m not usually fainthearted and I never thought if I wet my whistle I’d be climbing the walls, maybe bouncing off the walls, but nevertheless, I didn’t know shit from Shinola. My daddy always said the proof of the pudding was in the eating and if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem and I’ll be the first to say that goes double for drinking.
At the crack of dawn I realized I was in a trailer house. Then I saw her. Trailer trash, I thought. She must have read my mind. If looks could kill, I’d be dead meat, but she must have looked at me through rose-colored glasses and that caught my eye. Somehow I knew she had saved my sorry ass.
“Where am I?” I asked. “And where’s my drinking buddy?”
“It was a million to one that you didn’t bite the bullet and only once in a blue moon I am able to save lost souls like you two,” she said.
She seemed pretty keyed up, up-tight, but some how not put out.
“If you and your friend had brains you’d be dangerous,” she continued. “And I’ll bet you, dollars to donuts, you’d be stone cold, frozen like a Popsicle, waiting to meet your maker, if I hadn’t gone bananas and taken that walk in the storm of the century. You two were huddled up like two peas in a pod. Someone reported the two of you asleep in the street. It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. But it wasn’t rocket science, locating you. I just followed my nose. Just the same, it was like trying to find a piece of paper in an e-book, but it was your lucky day, you escaped the grim reaper, stared death in the eye, beat the odds.”
I was hoping she’d wind down and wrap it up when I got the first good look at her. She was a bit more than pleasingly plump, to say the least. She was as big as a battleship. I know, you’re thinking, don’t judge a book by the cover and beauty is more than skin deep and I should be more grateful, but the truth be known, the story she told had me quaking in my boots and I knew she was right as rain. Only time will tell if she did the right thing by saving us.
My partner in crime walked in from the other room. He looked fit as a fiddle. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“Oh no! The Bible thumper,” he shouted. “The lady preacher from hell. Did she find all the skeletons in your closets?”
I know we all have our crosses to bear and I shouldn’t criticize, but he was a few beers shy of a six pack, not the brightest bulb in the bunch, truthfully, he was dense as a doorknob, so I gave it little thought. I wasn’t exactly as sharp as a tack myself, so I thought gave him the benefit of the doubt and considered he might be putting me on.
“Are you shittin’” me?” I asked.
“Wake up and smell the coffee,” he said. “I’d rather be dead than hear her pound the pulpit again.”
“Why don’t you go?” I asked.
“I’m Damned if I do, Damned if I don’t,” he replied.
Our conversation fell on deaf ears. She went to a podium and started to preach. “We are each the keepers of our own soul,” she started out. At first she went fast and furious then slow as molasses in January. She used phrases like, there is no time like the present, you’re playing with fire and it’s now or never. “hell is filled with people with good intentions,” she yelled. She was really ranting and raving.
I’ve heard my share of preaching and when the fur flies and you hear the fire and brimstone you can bet your bottom dollar she has only just begun to turn up the heat and sooner rather than later she would be fanning the flames. I wasn’t going to wait until the shit hit the fan so during a pregnant pause I yelled, “I’m starving to death, I could eat a horse.” This was just a figure of speech, of course, but then my partner chimed in, “I could eat the ass out of an elephant.”
She gave us the evil eye and continued on, for what seemed like forever and a day. She must have had her knickers in a twist over something, but eventually she hung it up and said, “We’ll eat after I sing the closing hymn.”
Now, I know the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I should give her the benefit of the doubt, but I think any preacher worth her salt, to coin a phrase would have fed us first. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink and you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. We were starving to death. Not only were we lean and mean we were getting meaner by the minute. It was either feast or famine with us and we were literally famished. We were ready to pig out. My buddy, who had his own rags to riches story, only visa versa, was starting to squirm, like he had ants in his pants. “This is like déjà vu all over again,” he said. “Will it ever end?”
I leaned over to comfort him. “Patience is a virtue, my friend. It’s not over until the fat lady sings.”