The beer can silently slipped from her limp fingers and fell to the small pile of cans beneath it with a sharp metallic clang as the can joined it’s brethren on the filthy, soiled carpet surrounding the couch. With a snore that resembled the snorting of a pig than any noise from a human, Pam drifted off into another night of inebriated slumber in front of the blue-white glow of the television. With a sigh that only she heard, Penny stood up from her place at the table and moved as quietly as she could to her mother’s bloated side, tiny hands gripping at ruddy flesh as she slowly, gently moved her mother’s upright form into a prone one; making sure that she was turned on her side just for safe measure.
“Goodnight, Mom” Penny whispered to her mother, muting the television and moving the small trashcan sitting by the side of the couch, apparently forgotten, to rest in front of the couch where her mother could easily reach it, in the likely case that she would need it. With a nod Penny moved across the small trailer and into her bedroom, leaving the door cracked just enough so that she could hear if her mother needed her in the night. The pink walls glowed slightly as they caught the light of the town’s streetlamps and the light from the living room, a pale shard of flickering pale blue that seemed to bisect the otherwise cozy bedroom. Turning on her desk lamp for just a moment, Penny quickly got undressed, discarding the clothes she had worn all day for the faded pajama bottoms and top that looked in dire need of replacement. Knowing that her mother’s sleep could sometimes be fickle and the rage that came with being disturbed great, Penny moved as quickly as she could to prepare herself for bed, pulling back the sheets of her immaculately made single bed and switching off her reading lamp. As the pink-tinted darkness enveloped her once more, Penny slid into bed and pulled the blanket up to her chin as she turned beneath it to face the door. From the other room her mother’s pig-like snoring grew louder as her mother dove deeper into the realm of sleep.
“Another night in paradise” She muttered to no one but herself and slowly drifted into the familiar embrace of light sleep, her body resting but her mind always listening for the tell-tale signs of her mother’s alcoholism attempting to kill her. In the few moments before her consciousness faded to the formless black, Penny wondered, not for the first time, what it must be like to sleep in a house where only the natural ambience of the world outside filled the otherwise silent rooms. She smiled beneath the covers and kept the image in her head as long as she could, these little moments and flights of fantasy in bed were the closest she ever got to having dreams.
Pam, on the other hand, was oblivious to the world and her own deafening snore.
Her mind rocket from one blurry image to the next, half forgotten memories, distorted laughter from a sea of a hundred voices, a world spinning in the reflection of foam bubbles from a never ending tap. Drinking, dancing, here and there a twisted image of her home laid out before her in pale blue, ice and frost coating piles of garbage, the furniture, everything save for a small, pale pink splotch in the middle of the room that almost looked like a withering flower. And then the image was gone again as sand poured in through shattered windows and the sound of howling wind overtook everything and it swirled around her legs, pulling her down as the air filled with the smog and smell of exhaust.
And then everything was quiet. The sand was gone, replaced by the asphalt on which she now stood and the wind had settled to a gentle, warm breeze. It was still night, though something impossibly bright was shining into her face, making her eyes throb in agony as Pam raised a heavy arm to block the assault. Her sense were dulled, her movements slowed by alcohol, her stomach churning as it’s contents threatened to return the way they had came. The light was almost overpowering and Pam turned away, trying to escape it but found her feet could not move. A stench filled her nostrils and the urge to vomit grew as bile formed in her throat. She let out a low groan. And then everything changed again. Now Pam was sitting, cold air blowing in her face, her eyes dry as it whisked it’s way down the rows of empty seats lit by rose lights behind her. In her hands was a worn out steering wheel, faded leather giving way to something smooth and white beneath. The world outside was black save for the large wedge of illuminated road, and the figure that stood, hands in front of her face, her heavy body frozen in a half turn that allowed a stomach of flab to slip out from a raggedy violet overshirt, spilling over the lip of jeans a size too small and cankles that threatened to overwhelm the flip flops that were trapped beneath her feet. Pam realized it was her, but her eyes flickered to the rearview mirror and someone entirely different yet familiar stared back at her, eyes glittering and clear, a single chin in place of three and hair that was styled and highlighted, not a limp, dead looking mop like the version of her standing in the road. Pam realized that everything about her was different, better.
Pam felt her smaller, lighter foot press down on the accelerator and the bus surged forward, rushing towards this nightmarish version of her frozen in the road ahead, the bloated form growing ever larger in the windshield.
Pam closed her eyes and waited for the impact. The roar of the engine filled her ears and the asphalt rumbled under her feet. Gold filled her vision.
Pam’s eyes slowly fluttered open as the mid-morning sun’s rays reached the couch. With a groan the heavyset woman slowly, painfully pushed herself into a sitting position before lifting her heavy mass to her feet, tottering as her head mercilessly pounded away at her conscious mind. Pam’s beady eyes narrowed once more to mere slits, her vision still blurry and swimming as the drunkard’s stomach rumbled in protest and threatened to riot. But this was not her first hangover, nor would it be her last. Already her sense screamed out for relief and she knew just where to find it. Her feet moved with a plodding slowness, the clattering of disturbed cans echoing in her skull like breaking glass and screeching tires as she moved from the couch towards the fridge; her throat aching for the distilled liquid that waited just inside the door. Through blurry, half-shut eyes Pam could see her daughter sitting at the kitchen table, her small hands clasped beneath another book, her face passive but green eyes betraying the worry hidden within. Her daughter said nothing as Pam reached the fridge and grasped the handle with a swollen hand, sausage like fingers curling as her muscles acted on reflex to open and retrieve the prize just inside. Pam gave a bovine-like grunt and began to pull the fridge door open when she saw it.
The sun had shifted ever so slightly, it’s rays sliding through the small kitchen window and through her daughter’s red hair, illuminating the interior of the small trailer in rosy pink for just a brief, silent moment as Pam’s vision cleared just enough to lock eyes with her daughter, her books, her clothes that were always cleaned and pressed. Eyes that glittered less and less like emeralds every day. Pam felt her fingers lose their grip on the fridge’s door handle, her arm going slack before once more falling to her side, fat impacting fat with only the slightest plop.
And then the sun moved ever so slightly, and the rose-pink was gone, a haze lifting to reveal the constant squalor of the living room, the stains on the kitchen floor that would never come out. The floorboards creaking under a constantly shifting mass. Bile rose in Pam’s throat and her hands curled into barbell like fists as she stared down at herself, denying the voice that was screaming in her head to open the fridge and grab the drink that she deserved.
“No.” Pam muttered. “I haven’t. I don’t.”
Penny’s face scrunched into full blown worry from the deviation in her mother’s morning routine. She moved to stand but just like that, her mother had turned and waddled towards the trailer’s door, her steps focused, determined, if only ever so clumsy as the hangover clung to existence. Something was different but Penny couldn’t tell what. It was too early in the day for the saloon to be open. Usually she would try not to engage her mother in conversation until Pam had had at least one drink, but this behavior was so odd that worry overrode the engrained caution. The young woman stood up from the table, the pages in her book flopping lazily back to their bound positions as the slender hands left them.
“Mom, are you okay?” Penny’s voice cut through the silence in the trailer and caused her mother to stop just at the door.
Pam sighed and forced a lazy grin onto her face as she turned to face her daughter, hoping she could dissarm and allay the fears on Penny’s face. She unclenched a meaty fish and brought it gently to Penny’s face, trying not to lose her composure as her daughter flinched as her hand made contact.
“I’m fine, darlin’. Just felt like I should get out and take a walk. Seems like a beautiful morning, be a shame to miss it.” Pam’s voice was hoarse, but she spoke the truth as she gave her daughter a quick peck on the forehead and plodded out the door. Pam wasn’t sure where she was headed, but anywhere was better than where she had been. The sun beat down on her face and her eyes still cried out in agony at the glaring brightness of the world, but she pushed through the pain, moving towards town with a determination she hadn’t felt in years. She heard the door to the trailer creak open behind her and she turned just enough to see Penny standing on the steps, a small smile on her face, her delicate hands waving a soft goodbye. Her green eyes glittered in the sunlight.
Pam felt her forced smile change, becoming genuine as she lifted a heavy arm behind her and waved back to her daughter before turning back to face the day. But in the back of her throat she could feel the tingle, and in the back of her mind she her a voice very much like her own whisper;
‘Everyone needs a drink eventually.’