8 minute read

al•co•hol•ic \ˌal-kə-ˈhȯ-lik, -ˈhä-\

Saturday last, my number one daughter suggested I was an alcoholic.

Now that did grate a bit. I closed my laptop, set my glass to one side, cleared my throat and locked my gaze upon hers.

It was a bad idea to try and stare down an eight year old. Those dark beady eyes showed no fear and glared straight back. I felt my sphincter tighten, as I peered within that little mind, knowing that in its depths a series of questions were being prepared, sharpened with a surgical precision and carefully laid out to inflict painful incisions aimed at cutting me down to size. First win to her.

She broke her gaze and glanced to one side.

“A win for me”, I crowed within.

“Now finish your breakfast” I told her.

She stared down at her bowl.

She looked up again.

Eye contact. “What now?” I thought.

“What is an alcoholic, daddy?”

I relaxed. It was just the paranoia kicking in on a Saturday morning. Just because she sews her teddy bears together as conjoined twins, removes limbs from her dolls and has an unhealthy interest in road kill is no reason to be worried. “She might not turn out like you.” I thought.

Calm down and take a deep breath. In…., Out…. Now count, One, Two, Three.

“Where did you hear the word alcoholic?” I asked back calmly locking my gaze upon hers once again.

“I heard Mummy say it. She said you were an alcoholic and had polished off a bottle of whiskey. What does it mean?”

“No, No, No, My Dear.” I replied, sphincter tightening again. “You picked it up wrong. No, No, your mummy was just asking about me polishing the drinks cabinet. No, No, that thing about the whiskey bottle, that’s just to do with my work. Do you see the way your mummy is a teacher and I’m a writer, well an Alcoholic is a special type of writer.”

I reached out and took a sip from the glass. This had better be good.

“Some writers have to spend ages thinking about a subject before they can write about it. Others, the best ones, their minds are always full of great ideas, always so sharp and funny that there isn’t enough time in the day to get these ideas down on paper. That is why there is whiskey. Whiskey helps your Daddy get his ideas down.”

“Does it not just get you drunk?” she asked coming out from behind the table.

“No, it only gets you drunk if you use it wrong. For writers it’s a tool, just like a notebook, a pencil, or spending your day lying in bed thinking.”

“But Daddy, when you are lying in your bed, you’re sleeping. Sometimes even, when we come home from school we can even hear you snoring when we are doing our homework down here.”

That one did cut a little bit.

“But munchkin I do most of my work when I’m asleep, I’m not wasting my day, I’m researching, honestly, I am working.”

“When you get older you will understand. There are some people who never look up at the sky, never look at the stars, and never think. They get up, trundle off to work, come home and go to sleep. They never think of asking the important questions in life like ‘Who am I?’, ‘Why am I here?’ and ‘Where am I going?’ Thinking about questions like that takes so much out of you. It’s much more difficult than the type of work they do. That is why we have writers and that is why we have whiskey.”

“What does the whisky do?” She asked, coming closer.

“Look, when I wake up after a night of thinking hard, I have to start writing down all the stuff that is racing around in my head. For that I need the whiskey or as I prefer to call it the slow me down juice.”

“Slow me down juice?” she asked, with a hint of a smile.

“Yea, it’s a bit like a medicine. It turns all those streaming, racing thoughts in my head into a nice gloopy porridge. You like porridge don’t you?”

She nodded, with a widening grin.

“What’s your favourite bit of the porridge?”

“The raisins” She shouted, skipping towards me.

“Well once my thoughts and ideas have been turned to porridge then your daddy can start digging through it picking out all those lovely raisins. Well the lumpy bits anyway, some might turn out to be raisins, some might turn out to be twigs, that up to the reader.”

“So you see, an Alcoholic is a special type of writer, one of the best types, searching for what makes us happy, searching for what makes us sad but mostly searching for what makes us want to shout out at the world.”

“Like Mr Smith” she cried climbing up on my lap.

“No, not like Mr Smith. He’s a drunk. Swinging pissed from our garden gate and shouting at the passing cars and buses, doesn’t count.”

“Us writers, we are the voice of those unable to speak up for themselves. We’re here to help them express their thoughts, tell them, what they really think. And to do that your daddy needs whiskey.”

“Look, come on now, finish your breakfast and back to your dolls, I’ve work to do. My blog isn’t going to write itself you know. Now keep quiet and let daddy work.”

She reached out behind me, took a bottle from the cabinet and handed it over. I smiled back at her and stared lovingly into her dark beady eyes. Somewhere, in there someone was taking notes, version 2.0 of a writer in the making, an anal retentive, gathering material, filing it away for another day.

“Have some slow me down juice” she said petting my head. She slid off my knee and walked towards the breakfast table. “My little alco-pop” She giggled to herself.

I took another sip.

Game, set & match to her.

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My name is Liam Robertson. I live with my four children in the village of Rostrevor. I had a wife, Niamh, but she died not that long ago. Most days you will find me writing code to feed my family. Most nights I write prose and poetry to prick and prod that ragged tear loss leaves behind.
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