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Her Favorite Color: Chapter 1

Graham Massey was a poet who famously drank. In fact, he credited his writing ability to his daily drinking habit. One day, he met a woman who he learns is the love of his life and asks her to move in with him. Will his drinking come between them and instead hurt his career?

Her Favorite Color: Chapter 1

I have written poetry my entire life. Words dancing together on paper, creating stories with but a few words; the thought has always brought me a sense of peace. The manuscript was my canvas and the pen was my brush.

When I was a young boy my father would say, “Graham, you need a man’s job! Writing poetry isn’t a job that will make you rich one day!”

My peers would pick on me because of my appreciation for writing but I did not care for what they thought. Writing was fascinating and thirty years later it still was. And my father was wrong about my career selection. I published several collections of my work and was currently working on three different poetry books. The publisher’s loved my work and several fans have expressed their love for my writing. I worked for commission as well and my customers were always satisfied with the product I gave them.

I recall working on a poem for a young couple who were about to be married. The groom wanted to describe his fiance’s eyes as beautifully as possible. And in his rough draft he described them as “Luscious pools of crystal water.” My speculation was that the line was too general. I suggested instead, “My beloved’s eyes are as deep and eloquent as clusters of lapis lazuli.” They agreed that was much improved to include in their wedding poem. Happiness overcame me when I could provide my assistance.

Despite my father not having the same ideation on writing as I did, we did share a similar interest. We were both indulgent of alcohol. I thought that drinking helped inspire my work. The words flowed better. The words rhymed better and my usage of strong, vibrant words popped off the page. The visualization of the poetry in my mind looked wondrous. I was proud of my work and if drinking was helping me accomplish my dreams then so be it. My favorite drink was whiskey but I also liked gin.

Unlike my father my mother relished my poetry. I would leave her a poem in the kitchen every morning before I left the house. She kept all of them inside of a scrapbook that she made. She was proud of my gift and exhibited my poems off to her friends when they would come over to the house for a social event. But when I started drinking at the age of fifteen, she discovered the habit I picked up from my father. She was so disappointed and she wept. My father was abusive and she didn’t want me to end up like him. I didn’t want to develop into him either, he was an appalling drunk and was abusive and resentful most of the time. I never wanted to be like him and I wasn’t. I was successful, I made decent money and I was adored in the community. I had established myself as a successful writer and I was proud of that as was my mother.

I did not think my drinking was a dilemma at all. I was actually looking for something a bit stronger, something that could give me new inspiration for my work. One day I was at the home of a close friend of mine. We had collaborated on poetry in the past and went to school together since we were children. His name was Mark Harney. He was a few months younger than I was and he was a great writer. He focused on fictitious stories while writing poetry on the side. He was very creative and adventurous, he once got us into a lot of trouble for sneaking onto a train. It was ignorant of me to go with him but his sense of adventure was far too fascinating for me to pass on. We were only twelve years old at the time.

We both lounged around in his home office that day I was visiting. We laughed and discussed the past while we enjoyed our drinks.

“You know what Massey? Remember the time when we were eighteen and stole that motorboat from the old farm that used to be next to the lake?” Mark said as he took another sip from his glass and snorted. I couldn’t contain my laughter, we were crazy kids.

“I remember those times, Harney! And then we took it over to the island in the middle of the lake and realized we were out of gas!” I said. Mark gagged on his whiskey.

“And then we had to wave down that fisherman from the island! Oh, Graham, we got in so much trouble for that!” he was sobbing with laughter.

“They made us work in the field to pay back for the gas we wasted!” I laughed along with him. We both sighed.

“Boy, were we stupid kids!” Mark yelled out as we clinked our glasses together.

I enjoyed spending time with my good friend. We were both way more mature than we were as kids and we were both doing very well in life. Mark married a beautiful woman named Laura who he met at a party and had three outstanding children. Two boys, Jason and Paul, and one daughter, Caroline. She had her mother’s eyes and Mark was very proud of how beautiful his children were.

“So Graham! When are you going to settle down and get married?” Mark blurted as he continued laughing. I just looked at him and shrugged.

“Well, I don’t know. I guess as of right now I’m not interested in finding a wife. I’m much too occupied with my work.” I didn’t like the personal questions.

“Come on!” Mark hiccupped, “You’re an exceptional looking fellow! You need to settle down and have a family! I don’t want you to die all alone!” At this point Mark was blotto to the core. He was a cheerful drunk.

“Mark, I assure you, I will get there when I get there,” I chuckled. “I’ll find a woman for me in good time. But for now I am submerged in my writing.”

Mark shrugged and guzzled down the rest of his whiskey before pouring himself another glass. Before we even could come up with another subject to discuss he had guzzled down an additional drink. I believed that Mark was a worse drunk than I was but he did appear happier when he did it. Mark glanced at the whiskey bottle and the expression on his face turned sour as if he was disappointed. He got up out of his chair with the bottle and made his way to the window. He opened the window and a warm breeze rolled past the drapes and touched my face as well as rustling the papers on his desk. He poured the rest of the whiskey out of the window.

“What are you doing?” I asked. I swallowed the last of what was in my glass.

He sighed, “You ever think about wanting a better drink. I’m so sick of whiskey. It’s always whiskey!” He ended up dropping the bottle out of the window but he didn’t seem to hear the shattering noise that followed.

I shrugged, “Do you have anything stronger? Or are you just pouting?”

A smirk was drawn across his face as he shook his index finger at me. “As a matter of fact, I do. I do have something stronger!” He wandered over to a cabinet across the room. He fumbled through old books and figurines. He threw a number of the books to the floor, not caring about damaging them. He was really determined to find what he was searching for.

“Here it is!” he exclaimed.

He spun around with a wooden box in his hands. He brought it over to the desk and dusted it off. The box looked very old and possibly made from rosewood. He opened up the box and set the lid gently to the side. Inside the box was something wrapped inside of a red silk cloth.

“This must be really good.” I laughed.

“Oh it is! Just you wait!” he unwrapped the object and placed the cloth on top of the lid and revealed a fancy crystal bottle. “Take a look.” He handed it to me. It was filled with a bright emerald green liquid. At first I thought it was some sort of medicine.

“What is this?” I laughed, a bit confused.

“This wonderful liquor is known as ‘absinthe’, my dear friend. It’s very strong stuff!” Mark looked proud that he had this in his possession.

I just shook my head and smiled, “I’ve never heard of this before.”

He laughed, “Well, it’s a rare type of liquor. They say it can make you see things.”

“Well why don’t we try some?” I joggled the bottle to stir the liquid around inside.

Mark howled, “Oh no, no, no! I can’t drink that stuff again here. My wife will make me sleep outside. I’m already wasted enough, Graham!”

I sighed and placed the bottle on the desk as I watched the green poison settle. Mark jolted up and picked the bottle up from the desk. He held it in front of me.

“Graham, I want you to have it.”

“What do you mean, Mark? I thought this absinthe was hard to come by? I can’t just let you give me this.”

He smiled back calmly, “Massey, I want you to have it. You’ve been my best friend for a long time! Think of this as a present. Maybe it’ll help you get your poetry together!” he started laughing.

I nipped the bottle from his hand, “Are you insulting my writing, you big drunk?” I laughed at him.

“No! Of course not!” his tone turned sarcastic, “You are the best poet to ever come into existence! I wish I could write as amazing as Graham Massey!” He burst into laughter as I nudged him in the arm.

“Well, thank you for this, you stupid drunk.” I patted him on the back.

“You, my good man, are a drunk as well!” he was still laughing. He could never stop while he was under the influence. You could tell when he was wasted.

Later on we said our goodbyes and I left his home. I was invited to dinner by his wife Laura but I did not wish to bother them. I wanted to get home to write some more. Seeing Mark again gathered memories that I could use in my work. I strolled down the street as the sun started to set on the horizon, the streetlamps flickered on one at a time. The air felt crisp and warm that evening. I passed by a bakery and the smell of freshly baked bread and other delicious baked goods came from the open window. I patted my coat pocket which contained the bottle of absinthe I received.

“Mr. Massey!” I heard a voice call out from behind me.

I turned to see Mr. Parker locking up the publisher’s office. He was an assistant publisher at Sunset Publishing for several years now and I’ve worked with him many times and he was a huge supporter of my work.

“Good evening, Mr. Parker!” I said cheerfully.

He made his way over to me with his hand out extended for a handshake and I happily shook his hand.

He sniffed the air, “Dear lord man, you smell like a brewery!”

I chuckled a bit, “I was over an old friend’s house and we had a few drinks. Nothing too extravagant.”

“I’m sure.” he responded, “Well yes, Mr. Massey, Mr. Monroe wanted me to let you know that we are expecting your next drafts by Tuesday next week.”

I was a bit puzzled when I realized that it was only three days away. “But Sir, I may not have them all ready by Tuesday. Can we say I’ll have them done by about Wednesday afternoon?”

He looked annoyed, “Now Graham, we’ve talked about this before. Your deadline for this current project is aimed for Tuesday of next week, we cannot accept any late work even if it seems like an insignificant amount of time.”

I nodded.

“I apologize Graham, but if we are unable to have the drafts by Tuesday, we will have to cancel the publication of this project. We would have to create a completely new schedule for this.” He placed his hand on my shoulder as he struggled with holding stacks of folders.

I sighed, “No, no, I do understand. I do, really.”

He gave me a smile, “You’re an intelligent man, Mr. Massey. I have no doubt that you can meet this deadline. Do not disappoint me!”

I smiled back, “Yes Sir, of course!”

He gathered the folders in his arms together and began to walk away. “Do not forget, Graham! I expect the drafts to be on my desk first thing Tuesday morning! See you then.”

I nodded and waved to him as he walked out of my sight. I was close to finishing the drafts. I only needed to fix a few errors and they would be all set. I just hoped I could catch a little break. The publisher would rather have me produce as much work as possible. And honestly, I did not want to fail them. I always met the deadline no matter what it took. Getting the drafts to them Tuesday morning wouldn’t be difficult.

As soon as I got home I set to work on finishing the drafts. One of the poems I really did like, it was the third one in the project. It was a short, simple poem that described the affection I had for my mother. She’d be proud to read it.

I was nourished and given the world through her arms.

Her voice gave me laughter and strengthened my soul.

She bared me with great affliction,

But mostly with indescribable tenderness.

She deserves augmented adoration.

She is by my side, always.

My mother, she is blessed.

After only a couple of hours I felt exhausted. I was ready to go to bed for the night. I realized that when I got home I didn’t even take my coat off. I dropped it on the coat hanger in my office and remembered the absinthe in the pocket. I took the bottle out and looked at it for a moment. I took the cap off and smelled it, it was definitely strong. I placed the cap back on the bottle and placed it on my desk. I cleaned up a little and organized my drafts. I thought about working on the rest of it in the morning to get the work out of the way early, that seemed best.

I took a look at the crystal bottle again. The green liquor was so vibrant. It looked like it was calling out to me to try it. It was a gift from a good friend after all. I thought about saving it for the next day but something made me walk up to the bottle and hold it in my hands.

Taking the cap off once more I swirled the liquid around lightly in the bottle, sniffed it again and took a sip. My eyes widened for a moment. That little sip burned into my tongue and heat ran down my throat. I shut my eyes tight as I couldn’t help myself and took another sip. After that second burning taste I placed the cap back on and set the bottle next to my books.

“Wow,” I whispered to myself.

Finally deciding it was time for bed, I shut the light off in my office and made my way to my bedroom. I got changed and went into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I examined my face as I took off my glasses and placed them on the edge of the sink. My mustache needed a trim as did my beard. My eyes looked tired and the bags under them didn’t flatter me at all. I splashed water on my face and dried it with a soft towel.

“I need to sleep more,” I sighed as I got into bed and faded out of consciousness.

fiction
Anna LaFountaine
Anna LaFountaine
Read next: I See You
Anna LaFountaine

Author • Illustrator • Cartoonist • Photographer • Freelance Copy Editor

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