You've probably heard the reports about America's alcohol consumption skyrocketing during the pandemic. Well, my personal imbibing never even got off the ground. Actually, I find reading Dickens to be my quickest method of intoxication. You knew I'd find a way to drag my favorite author into this essay. But take heart--my topic here is not my reading but my retching.
First, a brief literary allusion. Dickens considered David Copperfield his favorite novel. I personally find Chapter Twenty-four, which contains David’s account of the first time he became drunk, especially delightful, perhaps because it makes me recall my own youthful pathetic attempt at intoxication.
My total consumption of liquor in high school would not have registered a 0.002 on a breathalyzer. I decided to remedy this situation shortly before graduation, on a Friday night when my parents were out for the evening. I was limited as to choice of liquor since my mother and father would have a drink only in a restaurant on a very special occasion. Our home “bar,” therefore, consisted of one ancient bottle each of no-name scotch, cherry brandy, and vodka kept in a corner cupboard and trotted out only when requested by a guest. Oh, we did possess a stock of all the Manischewitz wine you could ever want to swig -- which would be a total of zero, if you’d ever tasted that wretched stuff.
Anyway, I decided on the vodka since it looked and smelled as innocent as water. The label was so faded and the cap so sticky tight that I feared the last time the bottle had been opened was to celebrate my birth. Since I still had a passion for chocolate milk, I wondered if a concoction of half vodka and half chocolate milk might be the sweetest way to achieve intoxication. Let’s call it a “Surely-Not-A-Shirley-Temple.”
I downed an enormous amount of the gruesome brew in an astonishingly short period of time; I then upped the exact same amount, followed by my earlier dinner, lunch, and breakfast in no particular order but at frequent intervals over the next two hours. I never understood until that night why miserable people were called wretches. My introduction to booze had quickly become an introduction to bulimia. For this kind of entertainment, I could have skipped the vodka and simply tickled the back of my throat.
Nauseated and dizzy, I decided that drinking alone was indeed a sad experience. Rather desperate for a drinking buddy on short notice, I shakily poured a bit of the liquored brew into my dog Bobo’s water bowl. She sniffed it suspiciously, gazed up at me with a disappointed stare, and then sauntered off, her indication that the term “dumb animal” should occasionally be applied to the owner.
After all my retching, I barely had enough strength to clean up the considerable mess in both kitchen and bathroom. First, I refilled the vodka bottle with water, figuring that even if my parents did imbibe at some distant date their inexperience with drinking would keep them none the wiser. I then scrubbed and deodorized with an energy and thoroughness that would have amazed my mother, had I been able to share with her my cleaning frenzy. Finally, I crawled into bed, sick but secure in the knowledge that the kitchen counters and bathroom facilities were as spotless as when my parents left hours before. Who says that a drunk can’t successfully cover his tracks?
I say, that’s who. I awoke the next morning with a throbbing head. My mother greeted my wobbly arrival in the kitchen with one pressing (and depressing) question: “How in the world did fermented chocolate milk get into Bobo’s water bowl?” Even I, an astonishingly imaginative and spontaneous liar when the need arose, was bumfuzzled by the situation. I had been foiled by “Fido”, man’s best friend, perhaps, but a tee-totaling traitor to his tipsy teenaged master.