All Stories, General Fiction

My Plea For Solitude by Harrison Kim

Right out of high school after Dad died I inherited eighteen acres down the road from Mom’s house.   Raye,  who I now call “The Old Crow”  married me quick after that.  I started building for our great future.  I framed the house around and over top of the trailer, then took the inside trailer wall out.  We trucked in water from Mom’s place.  My friend Elton and I constructed the septic tank, a fifty gallon drum with pipe holes at both ends, pushed down in a rocky hole.  My brother Jackson helped lift the roof trusses. My life pinnacle topped there, Raye and I bouncing on the bed by the wood stove, sex and drink and rock and roll in the custom made residence,  and then came three kids, Raye and my mighty sperm created them two girls and a boy.

They say love everyone, no judgement, hold the hate and blame.  That works if everyone loves you unconditionally, but they don’t.  There’s always something they want to change or replace or crap on, usually your decisions or your ego or your attitude.  I borrowed thousands from Mom, Jackson, and my friend Elton.  They told me “get an education, get a trade,” but I didn’t need advice givers. I needed cash.  Did I piss everything away?  Sure, but God and Dad’s heritage passed along the chromosomes. I met all holy and genetic expectations.  I became a drunk.  After years of putdowns and negativity,  I now want only solitude.

I’m talented at outwitting the nay-sayers.  I know their motives.  When they keep dissing I push all their buttons in return.  I love watching them descend into the anger and insults they’re always accusing me of.  Judgement underlies all their so-called good intentions.  My wife Raye, my daughters, they turned on me, the savage bitches.  Their lives are full of self righteousness, because at heart they’re self-centred.  They can’t walk in anyone’s shoes but their own.  They judge with no mercy and that’s God’s job.

Last year, my daughter Julie and her boyfriend Luke headed off to Playa del Carmen for a privileged getaway.  I looked after Luke’s Presa Canario mastiffs, did it as a favour, for free.  Dogs like me, they don’t snap back. 

Luke said “don’t let them out of their cage” but the mutts whined and howled as I drank vodka and orange juice from the liquor cabinet.  After I flipped their latch they ran for the hills and quiet reigned.  Julie picked them up at the SPCA a week later, when she returned from her sun spot. 

“Dad, you’re damn lucky they didn’t attack any kids,” she said, and wouldn’t talk with me for a month but really I had nothing to say.  She’s into eyelash extensions, makes quite a bit of dough.  She could pay the loose dog fine, it was less than half her air fare to the south.   Those howling animals wrecked my solitary ambiance and they needed freedom.   

I lived in my daughter’s basement then, did some wildlife sketching and paid for my lodging with clean up and handyman tasks, until she said I smoked too much in my room, she didn’t want her house ruined by the smell. I scoured the walls with bleach and sprayed the place with lavender essence. She still said it stank.

“Smoke penetrates right into the drywall.,”she said “You’re gonna have to puff outside.”

“That’s pretty damned arrogant,” I told her.  “Telling your own father what to do.”

That very night I put my cat K. D. in his special cage and moved us into an orchard picker’s cabin on Kalamalka Hill. John Scott, the farmer and landlord, owned two pit bulls.

“Pretty friendly,” he said, though K. D. disappeared within a few days.  I came back from work and couldn’t find her.

“I don’t think it was my dogs, Kyle,” said Scott.

“No, of course not,” I said.  “She was skittish, she was very skittish.” 

I couldn’t stop thinking about the cat.  I took off that night at 3 a. m., packing what I could into a couple of garbage bags. I left the rest behind for Scott to deal with, and rode the bus back to my brother Leo’s trailer in Doe Lake..  It was the only place I could think of.

Leo’s a bully and a crack addict.   Right away he wanted money which I didn’t have “you can’t freeload off me just because of familial ties.” he said.  He made me do his drug pickups, in lieu of rent.  In between, he ran round spraying insecticide to get rid of the bugs under the floor.  I told him I was allergic to that poison but he kept insisting “those creepy crawlies are gonna die” and throwing the empty cans in the sink. 

My Mom moved out because of Leo and his drugging and his rages.  She lived uptown with a stooped over old man she met at bingo.  She still paid all Leo’s bills.  I didn’t want to bother her in any way.  She’s always been soft, and I owe her almost twenty grand.  That all went to the kids, for their food and clothes.  I am proud to say I paid for my own liquor, from my own wages.  Raye the Old Crow never appreciated my Mom and what she gave.  Raye always complained “Why are you away all the time?” and I told her “I have to earn a living.”

Then, when I quit my job and stayed home, she whined “We don’t have any money! How am I going to buy the kids school supplies?”

“Well, you said you didn’t like me being away,” I answered.  “So here I am”.

Raye smoked and watched T. V. and grew her pot belly, she was one of the two sinkholes in my life.  Fifteen years after our separation she lazes on the couch up in her apartment roost and squawks trash about yours truly over the phone to my grown kids.  Only Julia kept in regular contact with me, until the mastiff incident.  Now I barely hear from her.

I gave The Old Crow half the dough when I sold the property and house.  It wasn’t weakness or

goodness on my part.   The government garnisheed my cheques.  I didn’t want any taxman problems.  With the cash left over, I bought a trailer and an acre of land from my older brother, real estate man Jackson, the brother with the big smile and the love of whiskey. 

I don’t understand how he became a real estate agent success.  He drinks almost as much as me, but that didn’t stop him.

“What are we gonna do about Leo?” he asked, and I said “Nothing, let him rot.”

You can give and give and give and get nothing.  That’s what happened between me and the old Crow and my kids, and my Mom and Leo.  I am sick of parasites who always want want want.

My new trailer stood at the top of a slope, on a hill made of clay.  After a year I noticed a growing sinkhole beneath my home.   The place was sliding into the canyon.

“You ripped me off, Jackson,” I told my brother.  “Even Leo hasn’t stolen that much.”

He shrugged, “The ground looked solid, bro,” and offered to be my real estate agent for free if I wanted to sell the place. I had no choice but to accept his twisted offer.  I sold the property to his son Dale for half of what I paid for it.  With that money I bought a large shiny truck, a two year old black Ram.  I sure enjoyed driving it around, drinking and sleeping in the back on summer nights by the river, with the moon shining down.

It was my so called friend Elton who gave me the sleeping pills that caused the accident on Ski Hill Road.  He popped them in my beer when I wasn’t looking.  We drank in the evening up at his place on Star Mountain.  Elton was always jealous of me and my freedom.  He operated a one-truck garbage and recycling service, something only a loser would persist at.  Anyway, Elton didn’t like how I always talked about him being a failure and though I didn’t see him put the pills in I knew.  He forever tried pushing benzos on me.

“Kyle, You’re kinda bipolar,” he kept saying.  “You need to relax.”

 It was that grin, that smile after he gave me the bottle that convinced me later he dosed it.

In my life, anyone who’s called me “kinda bipolar” has turned out to be not only a loser, but a  betrayer.  They all want to change me, they all want to play God, and take away my suffering.

That is, what they believe is my suffering.  I have news for them.  Drinking’s my joy.  It takes me to my solitude.

The night of the accident, Elton talked on and on about how I could live up to my true potential if I just believed in myself and tried harder.  He said he didn’t want any of the money he lent me back, he  wanted me to find counselling help.  It wasn’t the alcohol that was bad, “it’s your attitude,” he told me.  “You could be an artist.  I’ve seen your sketches.”

I finished my drink, laughed in his face, and took off down Star Mountain in my new truck and man, I felt sleepy.  Not drunk.  So tired, as I thought of my descent from property owner and family man to single friend of a garbage truck operator.  I looked up and I think there was a gremlin on the hood, you know, one of those mischievous goblins that’s always there for cursed individuals and it opened its yellow lips and said “you’re gonna crash.”

At that moment the truck wheels slid off the road and I saw a tree coming, deked around that but ended up crunching through a series of low bushes.  I blanked out, then after quite some time looked up.  A cop tapped the window with a flashlight, I opened my door “any thing I can do for you officer?”

He said “You’ve gone off the road your truck is totalled.  You’re very lucky to be alive.”

I wasn’t even hurt, barely a scratch above my eyebrow. I think the tranquilizers relaxed my muscles so that I kind of jerked around loosely and didn’t have anything tense enough to break.

The cops wanted me to take the breathalyzer.  I refused. They charged me with dangerous driving and refusing to blow.  I remember standing in the hospital emergency ward and the doctor saying “it’s for your own good to take this test.”

“No, it’s not for my own good to kowtow to the cops and the medical profession.” I told him.

I had to appear before a Judge and she suspended my license for a year.  

“You don’t seem to care about anyone but yourself,” she said.  “You could have killed a child.”

She didn’t believe Elton put pills in my beer.  That’s the way it is, they believe a garbage man over me.

That’s when I ended up at my daughter’s place taking care of her dogs, and then at Leo’s, where I phoned my brother Jackson and he lent me five hundred dollars.

If I lowered my pride, I’d ask him for some more money now that I’m sleeping by the river.  It’d be nice to rent a cheap hotel room somewhere.  The problem is Jackson’s superior attitude.  He moved from landscape labourer to first aid man, then construction supervisor to millionaire real estate agent. He’s always been upwardly mobile.

When I tell him about the descent of my life he thinks its funny, “kind of funny tragic,” he says.  “The main problem was never your drinking,” and he keeps diagnosing me like everybody else.  “You might be partly bipolar, Kyle.”

If I can find a place to re-charge my phone, I’m cutting him off Facebook tomorrow, I’m blocking his number and email, and I’m not telling him where I’m living or how long I’ll stay. 

 “I’m trying to help you gain some insight,” he told me last night. 

He has all these friends, he owns his own home.   He’s divorced, but his kids are success stories, like Dale who bought my sinkhole trailer, a developer who owns half the town of Doe Lake.  Jackson’s rubbing his triumphs in my face.

The last thing Jackson said was “You might be happier with another cat.”

“No, man.  It’ll get lost like K. D.” 

“You shouldn’t have had K.D. live there with all those pit bulls.”

“The pits had nothing to do with it.”

He kept on sticking it to me.  He never ever caught on that I wasn’t listening.  I let my bottle take all his bullshit in,  swallow after swallow of talk and liquor going into me and I pissed it all out this morning.  I don’t see why I need a brother in my life who’s wants to mess things up.

As for love, yes, I love my daughter Julie, despite all this. She’s human. She has her flaws, so its best to keep her distant.  She’s annoying and holier than thou,  but other family like Leo are  parasites and soul suckers.   If Jackson or Julie ask me for anything,  an attitude change or connection, I’ll amuse myself about giving to them but I can’t.  They should leave my life to God’s will, or my own solo nature.  I’m drinking by the river, with the stars above on a clear summer night and I hear the current swirling as I’m swallowing down the vodka.  Letting that liquor flow is my destiny, and no one is going to tell me any different.  It’s beautiful and quiet here, with the moon shining.

As I stand, I sway, and with that sway I shout out “Yes, it’s me here, it’s me, you bastards.”

I kick one foot out, then the other.  I continue kicking all their lovely good intentions into the stream.  May its waters disperse them into nothingness.

Harrison Kim

Image by AIAC Interactive Agency from Pixabay 

10 thoughts on “My Plea For Solitude by Harrison Kim”

  1. Hi Harrison,
    I really did enjoy this.
    The MC rants but it’s not the usual I wish / I want rant for materialism. He did feel sorry for himself but that was all about him blaming everyone for him not getting solitude. And when you think on it, that is an obvious argument. It played out that this was his vicious circle as he still needed people but he probably didn’t want them, but he needed them and that was what fucked him up.
    There is something very sad about a lone drunk.
    Very early on he mentions all those that he knows as being selfish. In a weird way seeking solitude is the most self-centred thing that you can do if you have ties to other people.
    The line about there being two sink-holes in his life was very good. One was how he perceived his wife (She would probably have been just as complimentary about him) and the other was a factuality on where he lived.
    I really do love the line, ‘Drinking is my joy, it takes me to my solitude’ – That is an absolute belter and I thought that it was probably the crux of the story. You do wonder whether the striving for solitude caused him to seek out his solitude from the bottle or did the bottle cause him to seek out solitude.
    The other drinking line that I loved was ‘I let my bottle take all his bullshit’. He could have used an opposite idea by saying ‘My bottle wouldn’t accept any bullshit.’ To be fair, that is a transference that not many addicts would admit to.
    All throughout there were mentions of the idea of him being Bi-Polar. I think that this idea is an observation on any drunk. Their moods become totally opposite – Wanting solitude / wanting a party, being happy / being miserable, contentment with their life / blaming others for their life.
    All in all he is like any addict, he is blaming one thing for him doing what he is doing. He is maybe a wee bit more complex than the norm.
    This was well thought out and beautifully put together.
    All the very best my friend.
    Hugh

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    1. Thanks Hugh for the very comprehensive comment, much appreciated. True, it’s a sad story and one I think about often. That is a precise and correct analysis regarding selfishness. I hadn’t thought of it that way, that his solitude is part of self-centredness. That is also interesting what you say about drinking moods and their relationship to bipolar moods. One person I’m thinking of did stop drinking, but still wishes solitude. Stopping drinking was an outstanding, admirable thing. I hope this person can get back to his art, but the residual persona remains. What’s paradoxical about drinking is that people initially do it to be social, but if you become an addict, you often begin to drink in solitude and end up way worse than you started.

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  2. You did an outstanding job of becoming this character and never once did I see you trip up and break character. Harrowing and tough. Moreover you do not glorify that cheap sort of honesty that is nothing more than telling the truth, not out of virtue, but because it’s the best way to tell everybody to fuck off.

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    1. Thanks, Irene Allison, I know this character well, spent a lot of time with such people. Like most of us, they’re full of contradictions. The consequence of bad choices leads to bad circumstances and worse choices. I’m very glad I didn’t get into that sphere, luck and fear helped.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Harrison, this is a terrific story. Following the descent of Kyle was painfully truthful and so well expressed. We all know a “Kyle”, and it was interesting for me to feel like I got in his head to see how he denied his own flaws while magnifying those of others. Wow.

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    1. Thanks, Sharon….. It’s based on some reality. That is an astute observation about how Kyle magnified others’ flaws. I think he couldn’t face his own. One character I based this protagonist on did stop his drinking, which was quite a heroic act, but he continued to distance himself from others. The wish for solitude was part of his denial. So far, he seems able to live with his self. A person’s never alone, there’s always that self around….

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  4. An expertly drawn and well-written character study. I particularly liked “let my bottle take all his bullshit in, swallow after swallow of talk and liquor going into me and I pissed it all out…” The sinkhole under the trailer was an excellent metaphor for the MC’s life. There were several references to sinkholes, and the motif worked well. Fine story.

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    1. Thanks, David H. a very aware comment, you read the story well…. I knew a guy who had a trailer sinkhole, talk about bad luck. In fact, it was his brother who sold him the land, he must’ve known it was clay soil on the edge of a cliff. After the trailer sank, the rest of trailer man’s life went further downhill than it already was, a combination of bad luck, addiction, and impulsive choices.

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  5. This was a great read and like others have commented I think I know Kyle. I really like how you developed his self-involved character and that I could visualize him so clearly. I liked when his brother said, ‘you might be partly bi-polar?’ It’s true, we are all medical professionals sometimes, but the irony of that statement was not lost on me. Great story.

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    1. Thanks, Monika R. Martyn. Glad you were able to perceive this character clearly. He’s of a certain type, indeed, as am I. People’s behaviour is often subject to amateur psychological diagnosis. The couple in a bitter divorce battle name each other “psychopaths,” the jilted lovers call each other “narcissists.” Partly bi-polar is a rather unique diagnosis, for sure, I’ve been called that myself he he.

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