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One Day At A Time

by Patrick Parker about a year ago in Short Story
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A New Day

One Day At A Time
Photo by Taras Chernus on Unsplash

The sun was shining upon the frost bitten city of New York. It was three days before Christmas and George was warming himself by the fireplace with a hot cup of coffee.

His wife Margaret fussed about in the kitchen. She always cleaned the house when she was full of anxiety. It did not matter that it was 6:25 in the morning. She was also in the midst of preparing more coffee for George’s two friends and who were due to arrive any minute.

George sat quietly in his reading chair, staring into the fire that was rumbling in the fireplace. He began daydreaming about his son Peter as a child playing in the park. There he was with his ten year old boy throwing a baseball in a game of catch. He had no idea that eight years later his son would be drafted to fight the great devil and his vicious followers all over Europe.

Peter was drafted into an armored division that was a key to liberating worn torn France.

He saw the worst and best of his fellow human beings during those years.

The buzzer rang out, waking George from his pleasant game of catch. George’s wife Margret came into the living room and with s somber eyes said, “George, they are here.”

George hugged Margaret and wiped the tears from her aging cheeks.

“Everything is going to be okay. Bill and Bob are going to help our boy like they did with me,” George said.

Margaret reaches for the handkerchief in her apron to wipe her tears. A knock hit the door and George stepped towards the door to open it.

Bill and Bob were standing there with serious, but warm smiles upon their faces. They both knew that this was a serious matter. A matter of life and death for George’s son.

“Good morning George,” both men said in unison.

“Good morning gentlemen, thank you for helping me with Peter,” George replied.

Bill and Bob followed George to the kitchen were Margret was waiting with a fresh pot of coffee.

“It is our duty now to help those who ask for a hand in living a new life,” Bill said.

“Coffee gentlemen?” Margaret said.

“Yes, that would be delightful on this frigid morning,” Bob said.

Margaret began to pour the coffee. Her hand shook, spilling splashes of coffee on the table. She was nervous that all of her effort to help Peter would end in disaster.

“Thank you both for coming to help Peter. He is really a good boy,” Margaret said.

“Margaret, I want to be clear that only the grace of God and Peter’s willingness to live a new life can create a miracle,” Bill said.

Margaret sat down and nodded her in agreement. She was a loving mother who if God asked would give her life for her only son. She cherished him and was willing to go to any lengths to free him of the pain.

“I am here to lend a hand in that miracle. Bob is here as proof that together we can free ourselves of the past to become renewed members of society. Peter must only be willingly to put down the bottle and want the new lives all three of us have created,” Bill said.

Bill could tell Margaret was concerned and did not want to get her hopes up that he could cure anyone of this abnormality.

George put his arm around her as more tears began to stream down her face. Her diamond blue eyes were now red and puffy.

George gently kissed her on the cheek and said, “It will all be okay.”

Margaret shook her head and rose from her chair to continue to clean the kitchen.

The men stayed put at the table discussing how to tell Peter about their own miracles as they sipped on their coffee.

“We have to hit him over the head with the truth about alcoholism,” Bob said.

“Bob, I agree the facts must be told, but I think this time we should tell our own stories,” Bill said.

“That worked with me, I felt as if I had found two men who understood me after all those years drowning myself,” George said.

Bob banged his hand on the table. “If he is not afraid of dying with a bottle in his hand in the gutter, he may go get drunk tonight,” Bob said.

“Is it possible to do both?” George said.

Bill sipped on his coffee and was disgusting the possibilities of George’s suggestion in his mind. Bob was eagerly awaiting his response.

“Yes, that is what we will do, but gently with the facts,” Bill said as he glanced at Bob.

Bill tapped his left pointer finger on the table top and touched his chin with his right hand.

“We want him to want what we have and not to resent us in the process,” Bill said.

Margaret quietly looked on and was listening to the entire conversation. Her fidgety hands clutched a dirty towel as she unexpectedly entered the conversation.

“Tell him how you were all hopeless with nowhere to go, but together you found hope to start new lives,” Margaret said.

No one in the kitchen heard Peter opened his bedroom door. The time was now 6:30 in the morning and he stumbled across the hall to the bathroom.

He was still intoxicated from the night out with his tank crew. He stood before the toilet in his underwear and half unbuttoned Army uniform.

His achievements were all disbelief and some dangling. He relieved his bladder of the bottle of whiskey and moved to the sink to wash his face with cold water. His eyes caught a glimpse of his current physical state and his head pounded as if it was a timed artillery strike.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

He scoffed at himself and said out loud, “You are a pathetic soldier. You deserved to die in the war.”

He attempted to wash away the disgust with another handful of water. Peter’s disdain for his failed actions on the front that cost the lives of his fellow brothers haunted him every day.

If his eyes could kill in a single glance, he would be dead on the floor. Peter was not adjusting to home life and began drowning himself in liquor since his return stateside. He returned to a victory parade and women dangled on him at every corner. It was a great distraction for a few weeks.

Owners of pubs showered all veterans in alcohol and grateful citizens saluted him with shots of whiskey. They all wanted to hear a first hand account of the war and share a stool with a decorated war hero. Women fought over handsome Peter, but he never had an interest in settling down. Scores of his friends found their sweethearts and many weddings were attended.

The drifting thoughts lifted and Peter was again staring himself in the face. He dragged himself back into his bedroom and as he crossed the hallway he heard three male voices in the kitchen. One of the voices he recognized as his father and he worried something was wrong.

He hurried to put on his pants and quickly discarded his dress shirt to reveal a white undershirt.

“Less clothes for them to grab,” he thought.

Peter grabbed the wooden baseball bat from under his bed and slowly stalked the sounds of the voices. Element of surprise was key to victory if the two other men decided to cause any trouble. The adrenaline pumping had lifted the drunken fog from his mind and body.

His eyes and head peered around the entrance to the kitchen as his body hid behind the wall. All he could see were two unfamiliar faces, older but bright eyed sipping coffee with his father. Peter’s mother suddenly came into his line of sight and her eyes grew wide as she saw him.

“Oh Peter, you scared me!” yelled Margaret.

George, Bill and Bob stopped talking and looked up at Peter.

“Ma, it’s okay. It’s just me,” Peter said.

Peter looked at Bill and Bob suspiciously.

“Everything all good here?” Peter asked.

Peter’s grip on the baseball bat tightened in a reactionary measure.

“Yes, come and join us for coffee Peter,” George said with a smile.

Peter released the bat with relief and left it leaning against the wall.

“I want to introduce you to my friends, Bill and Bob,” George said.

Peter shook hands with both of them and sat down next to his father.

The smell of alcohol leaking from his pores began to noticeably fill the room. Peter did not notice it, but everyone else did. Margaret places a cup of coffee in front of him and fills up the others.

Peter nodded in gratitude and said, “Thank you Ma.”

“Peter these are the gentlemen I told you helped me put down the bottle,” George said.

Peter sipped his coffee as he eyed them up. Inside Peter had given up hope of putting down the bottle and hated when his father brought it up.

Bill and Bob looked Peter over discreetly. He had all the signs of a long drunken night. Bags under his eyes, cuts on his hands and that awful smell pouring out of him.

“Margaret, could you give us a few moments to talk as men,” said Bill.

Margaret nodded and quickly exited the kitchen for the warmer living room. Snow began to fall outside and she thought it looked lovely upon the city streets. A peaceful white Christmas was upon them.

Bill looked at Peter and sincerely asked, “Peter, do you want to stop drinking your life away?”

Peter’s face began to flicker with anger as he turned to look at his father.

“What is this shit Pa?” Peter said.

“Now Peter, hear these men out. They have a solution to it all” George said.

“I nearly die in the fucking war and have to wake up to this garbage because I had a few shots of whiskey!” Peter said.

“You are lucky you woke up Here. You could have woken up in the street gutter, a jail or worse, dead by yourself. You reek of a bottle of whiskey. A bottle a day will kill you.” Bob said.

“Fuck you! I will bash your face in right now! You have no idea what it is like to live with myself after all I have seen in the war!” Peter said.

George jumped up to hold Peter back. Peter began to struggle against the restraining arms of his Father and nearly broke loose as Bob pushed back in his chair for safety. For George it was an attempt at restraining a bull who was fighting in an arena in Spain. Peter thrashed about, hitting the table, and finally stumbling backwards into the cabinets.

“Easy Peter, it is all going to be okay,” said George.

As George reeled in his son for a hug, something magical occurred at that moment. Peter’s breathing got heavy, his muscles released the tension and he began to cry in his father’s arms.

“I told you not to do that Bob!” Bill scolded.

Bill stood up behind the table to look Peter in the eyes.

“What my friend is trying to tell you is that the life of a drunk always ends the same. You may not want to hear it because deep inside you know it is the truth. I understand, we all do. I have worn those shoes too. Matter of fact I can put them back on tonight if I choose to pick up a bottle because those same demons you are fighting are in my closet too.

Everyday I get the choice to live a new life or go back to my miserable drunken self. That is what this about Peter. We can help you. We can show you that one day at a time you can choose to be a new man. We can show you the way out of the depths of despair and into the glory of a new dawn.”

Peter pulls out his chair and sits down without saying a word. He wipes the tears from his cheeks. George sits down next to him.

“I am listening,” Peter said.

Bill continues to speak as he rejoins everyone seated at the table.

“Bob and I are nothing more than recovering alcoholics who have found a new way to live. Your father is the third and together we are staying sober. You have to make a choice now to not drink one day at a time or to continue down the path of drinking.

We have each other and together we stay dry everyday with the help of each other. Before you answer, we are going to tell you our stories and how hopeless we once were in our own lives. All you have to do is be willing to listen to us and see if you can find any commonalities in your own life,” Bill said.

Bob had a smile that was beginning to grow slowly on his face. He knew Peter had reached the point of no return and that he was willing. It was time to tell him how they climbed out of the depths of hell.

Bill began to tell his story as Margaret was pacing in the living room. Her hands moved from her face to her apron pockets every few steps. She heard Peter’s yelling and worried that all of this was going to end in him drinking again tonight. Lois told her yesterday at dinner that Bill and Bob would tell her son their stories to help show him a new way.

She could hear Bill telling his story now, it always began the same way. She did not believe it when she first heard it six months ago when she went to Lois about George’s drinking problem. Lois had stood by Bill in all his years of drinking just as she did with George. It was a miracle he was able to put the bottle down.

Margaret often blamed herself for everything, but Lois said that was no good for herself. Lois was right about most things. She brought herself to sit beside the and the warmth of it began to rock her to sleep. She began to stare at the fire with a thought repeating in her mind, “Please God help my son. Show him the way.”

The men in the kitchen had become silent. Margaret’s eyes began to flutter as the heaviness of the entire situation weighed on her mind. Her body woke her from drifting to sleep when she heard Bill say the following.

“What do you say Peter? Will you join us in not drinking one day at a time?”

Margaret listened carefully and held her breath as she made the sign of the cross. A silence filled the entire apartment as everyone was waiting to hear Peter’s response. Peter looked down at his hands and placed them palm down on the table.

“Yes, I do not know how, but I am willing to try,” Peter said.

“All you have to do is be willingly and not pick up a drink one day at a time,” Bob said.

“I am, I want a better life for myself,” Peter said.

Bill and Bob looked at each other with big smiles. George had a grateful look in his eyes and all the men could see he was holding back tears of joy.

“Today is the start of your new journey in life. Come to my house tonight with your parents. We will have dinner, talk with each other and I will introduce you to a few others who are just like us,” Bill said.

“Take time to rest, drink plenty of water and get a good meal in you for lunch. Hug your mother and father because you never know when it may be the last time,” Bob said.

Bill and Bob rose from the table. Each extending a friendly hand to Peter who was now one of the few who were willing to find a solution to their drinking problem. George showed Bill and Bob to the door as Peter stayed seated at the kitchen table. He felt different after hearing their stories, but could not put efficient words to the feeling. He sat in silence as the others said goodbye.

Margaret heard the commotion and came out of the day dreaming. She rose to say goodbye with a worried look upon her face. Bill hugged her and thanked her for the coffee.

“He is willing,” Bill whispered to Maraget.

Her eyes opened wide and tears of joy began to stream out of them.

“Thank you Bill,” whispered Margaret back to Bill.

“I am just a messenger Margaret, see you all tonight at dinner.”

“Yes, Tell Lois I will bring a pie.”

Bob gave Margaret a hug and then a wink as he turned towards the door.

“Good day gentlemen, thank you again,” George said.

“Good day George,” both men said in unison as George closed the door.

A smile of gratitude was now upon George’s face and he shined with joy. He turned to see his son and wife hugging in the doorway of the kitchen.

“I am sorry for all the trouble,” Peter said.

“You are no trouble my love,” Margaret said.

“I am going to be a better person, I promise you both,” Peter said.

George hugged them both and kissed Margaret on the cheek as he rubbed Peter’s head.

“You were always a good kid,” George said.

That day started a new life for Peter and his parents. Peter never again picked up a bottle of alcohol and went on to help many others who thought they too were hopeless. George and Margaret got to see their son live a new life as Bill and Bob promised could happen if he lived one day at a time.

Short Story

About the author

Patrick Parker

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