Stefan Slater has been down in the dungeons, probably something to do with social distancing – but he has come up with this little gem. This is what he said:
An opening line sells a story. I was hooked on: ‘Beachum stops at the Bi Lo to get his latest prescription filled. While he’s waiting he looks for something to kill the cat, some kind of poison.’ His trip to the supermarket results in arrest, psychiatric evaluation and death. By poison.
Beachum’s the type of chap too pissed to leave home by nine pm, unless he’s out of booze. Written in the vein of lowlife authors, such as Charles Bukowski, ‘The Drinking Hour’ reeks with resignation: ‘The thing about doctor’s appointments is, the more of them you have the more you’ll need.’ And hope: ‘Beachum’s not worried. He’s been dodging these medical bullets for years. […] Erectile dysfunction, on the other hand, is a financial concern. He has to pay the hookers overtime for their heroic and pointless efforts. Hours of tugging and nothing to show for it paid out of his Social Security check. People on fixed incomes need results.’
Conaway’s idiom captures the alcoholic personality with realism (‘the anticipation of the first sip’), humour (‘his heart is thumping, not solidly like a drum, but more like a dying fish flopping in an ice chest’) and a measured lack of sentiment.
I have three questions for the author:
- What inspired this story? I mentioned Bukowski above, did he (or any other lowlife authors) influence this story?
- Beachum’s a likeable character – for want of a better phrase – provoking thoughts as to how he ended up in this state. (The usual chicken-and-egg questions concerning mental health and addiction.) Have you considered featuring Beachum in other short stories?
- Why a cat?!
What inspired this story? I mentioned Bukowski in the submission, did he (or any other lowlife authors) influence this story?
It’s hard to say who, if anyone, might have influenced the story. I haven’t read Bukowski in years. I kept seeing that TV commercial about the old lady who falls down and can’t get up. I think that was the inspiration for the story.
Beachum’s a likeable character – for want of a better phrase – provoking thoughts as to how he ended up in this state. (The usual chicken-and-egg questions concerning mental health and addiction.) Have you considered featuring Beachum in other short stories?
I think Beachum ended up where he is because he’s old, has lived a hard life, and doesn’t take care of himself. He certainly doesn’t follow the doctor’s orders and of course he drinks too much. I thought of the story as a humor piece and not a serious study of mental health and addiction. I haven’t thought about featuring Beachum in other stories. I’m not sure what else I could get out of him. To me he seems to have served his purpose.
Why a cat?!
Dogs are universally loved but I think humans have a complicated relationship with cats. I don’t know what it is about cats that inspires such antipathy. I’ve known many people who love animals but hate cats.
I like them myself. They’re moody, independent and completely unreliable. You can’t count on them for anything the way you can a dog. Someone in a critique group read the story and suggested that I let the cat enter the house and eat Beachum. Although I thought the cat deserved a moment of revenge the suggestion seemed excessive and messy. I decided to allow the cat to witness Beachum’s demise but not participate in it. I think adding the final paragraph and changing the title (it was called Can’t Get Up) really improved the story.