"There's not enough whiskey in the world."Submitted by Tom Sorrell at 2014-08-03 19:26:14 EDT
Rating: 2.0 on 9 ratings (9 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
Hi there. My name is Publius Vergilius Maro. Virgil, for short. You may have heard of me: I wrote The Aeneid. It’s epic. I was epic, once – the most famous writer in all of Rome, some said, but few folks know I exist these days. Even less recite my poetry. My messages are no longer heard, or they’re misinterpreted. I’m in Limbo, literally and figuratively – an anonymous face in a sea of souls, toiling from year to year, patiently awaiting the end of days. The only difference between the others and me, aside from poetic flair and the understanding that I’m deceased, is every so often some lost, tortured soul shows up in my home and asks me to guide them on a journey of self-discovery and realization, blah-blah-blah. It’s tiresome, really.
This is all Dante Alighieri’s fault. The man was so inspired by my work he wrote me into his Divine Comedy as Hell’s Tour Guide. Me, a simple poet and farmer from Italy. I couldn’t believe it. The whole premise was ludicrous. Speaking of which, can anyone guess where I live in Dante’s poem? Yep: Limbo. Why? No idea. Dante claims it’s because I was born before Christ, but didn’t I predict His coming in 40 B.C. when I wrote The Ecologues? Yes. Yes I did. I’m that guy. That was me. Did that matter to Alighieri? No. And why? Because…
Dante Alighieri is an asshole. A solid writer, yes, but back when he was out of money and nearly out of his mind, off in exile, desperately trying to figure out how to become relevant again, the fool plucked me from my happy afterlife and dropped me into his nightmare of allegory, celebrity, mythology and blatant “borrowing” of my work. I never asked for any of it. It was all his idea. He loved The Aeneid … really loved it. It’s all he wanted to talk about. After the 38th question I finally got fed up and told Dante I hated the damned thing. I told him wanted it destroyed before I died, but Augustus wouldn’t hear of it. I told him how it was my greatest failure as an artist and how I had basically sold my soul by agreeing to write it in the first place. Dante was speechless for about 10 seconds. After that he grinned, strangely, and fell to his knees.
Visualize my reaction when this surly Florentinian started weeping, and through his sobs begged me to guide him through the depths of his personal pit to reach a woman he barely knew. I laughed until I turned blue. I couldn’t help it – it was funny … and I was drunk. Very drunk.
This, of course, was my undoing. In my amber fog of inebriation I agreed to his request. As I began to sober up I realized I’d made a terrible mistake. I wanted to leave Dante in Hell to the monsters of his creation, but I’m a man of my word, so I stayed with him through the horror. I got the man to his beloved, a woman he’d met only twice. I did this because I said I would. For my trouble, Dante disappeared into a bright white light without a word, leaving me behind.
I’ve been here ever since. It was difficult at first. Living in Limbo is very much like living in reality, inasmuch as time has passed, technology has changed, people have come and gone and I’ve been forced to adapt. I work in a call center these days. Prior to that I was a switchboard operator. Before that it was a telegraph. I have some excellent conversations. One minute I’m telling some lad in England to spell Beatles with an A, the next I’m listening to John the Baptist tell off-color decapitation jokes. It’s wild. I never know what I’m going to get.
My home life is simple. I live in a two bedroom house where I drink, eat, sleep, watch movies, drink, read books and desperately miss my farm in Naples. It’s not a terrible life, but it’s not great either. Most of my time is spent looking towards my hallway, waiting for the next broken soul to stumble into my living room, asking where they are and how to get home. It’s funny how all of them can quote Dante, but ask them what they think of Aeneas as a model of Roman Nobility and they look at you cross-eyed. People. Pffft. Forget about that for now. What you need to know in this moment is...
Bob Mishkin is an idiot. He works with me at the call center and has been “Mostly Dead,” for 20 years. I’m not entire sure what happened to him. He just showed up one day at the call center and sat down next to me. For some reason Bob thinks we work in Cincinnati, Ohio. He also thinks he’s 30 … and alive. Like I said, he’s an idiot. Right now he’s in his “basement,” nursing a bottle of whiskey and lamenting the loss of his childhood crush. It’s pathetic, really. And melodramatic. And…
“She doesn’t even know I exist,” Bob slurs, “and even if she did...”
Bob sighs, drops a yearbook on the desk, leans back and drinks from a bottle. As he shifts in his seat the chair’s iron springs sync with the driving bass line of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face thumping through the ceiling. Bob sighs, closes his eyes and finishes the whiskey.
Four facts while we wait:
1. Trudy Eau Claire, Bob’s “girlfriend” and self-proclaimed “Artist Extraordinaire” is painting in her studio on the second floor of their house.
2. Trudy is insane. When they met she told Bob her top five artistic influences were Bob Ross, Maude Lebowski, Yoko Ono, Andy Warhol, and John Cusack.
3. Bob stopped loving Trudy about a year in, but she’s much better looking than him, so…
4. They’ve been together for five years, according to how Bob sees time.
“There’s not enough whiskey in the world,” Bob mutters, dropping the empty bottle into a trash can next to the desk. Deep in the subterranean cavern he once called a writing room, he can hear every word to the song. It’s the sixth time Trudy’s played it tonight. A high-pitched shriek pierces the music, followed by the sound of something fragile colliding with a stationary object, probably a wall. Trudy’s breaking things again. Bob closes his eyes and sinks into the chair.
“I just want to go home,” he moans, rubbing his face with his palm and exhaling forcefully, the way drunks do before telling you their best sob story. Bob’s bleary eyes scan the desktop, pausing for a moment on the yearbook, eventually moving to a notepad sitting closed open on the corner of the mahogany. He opens the top drawer, searching for a pen, and finds only a red one.
“What kind of asshole writes in red ink?” he says, shaking his head and digging through the rest of the drawers, finding only a green pen with no ink and a highlighter.
Bob frowns and pulls the notepad over, takes the cap off the pen and, with his trembling right hand, writes a salutation. When he’s done, the man leans back and stares at the paper.
“Dear Grace,” it says.