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How the Bottle Let Me Down: Short Story by Fiza Pathan

January 27, 2016


I’ve been typing my novel without getting up from my computer table for the past three days. I can’t sleep because if I don’t finish typing & then editing my manuscript, my Stalin of an editor will not go through it & the publication of my book will be delayed. So with only a huge supply of beer & a cigarette or two, I continue to type.

I always wanted to be a published writer & earn my living via this medium. I’ve read a number of books over the past 40 years including attending professional creative writing classes which drained my pocket of all its green notes, but no job, not even as an author for hire. I’ve always wanted to get published…produce a bestseller…& then maybe kick the drinking habit by getting into a rehab…for I am getting really ‘sick’ & if I do not succeed this time…then…?

I take the fifth beer can of the day in my hand which stands beckoning mercilessly to me at the side of my computer monitor. I continue to type with my left hand & chug down the frothy drink with my right. After I finish the whole can, I place it below on the tiled floor near my feet, where it joins its other empty companions of past three days & then I continue to type…type…type…

I can’t tell you the plot of my novel, for I fear you may steal it from me. I’ve experienced this treachery once & I certainly don’t want to go through that again.

My mouth is reeking with the stench of stale breath, I should wash it & then floss it, but that can still wait…type…type…type….

I’ve written a number of books over my lifetime…seven novels, fourteen novellas, five volumes of poetry & a memoir about my years as a graduate student of literature. I was 21 years of age then…seemed like such a long time ago & yet in reality, what is time to a struggling writer at the wee end of his middle age. I had friend then & a lover…her name was Fiona & it was needless to say that in spite of a courtship of four years when I asked her to be mine forever, she walked out bag & baggage. No one likes a loser that is often stated, but to tell you the plain truth, more than that…no one likes a struggler with an alcohol problem. So Fiona left & so left the last traces of my sentiments for people, now it is just me & my writing…type…type…type….

Mother died when I was 29 & still without a book published. Father had already been dead ten years. I have an elder brother who left town to migrate to the U.A.E to work on the rigs…he never liked me because I did not join him, often emails me to quit the fruitless typing & get a part-time job in town. He knows I would not be able to join him now, he knows about my drinking…type…type…type….

I’m a writer who gets the infamous ‘writer’s block’ often, especially when I’ve not been smoking or drinking for days. That is why I’d rather spend the cash in the bank my mother left me on drinks & Four Square rather than food. I can’t afford a ‘writer’s block’ now; this may be my only chance. For once the well formulated request letter & email did not go unanswered…for once good news was sent to me in my inbox…one literary agent had faith in me…she was going to get me published…all I had to do was to change the ending of my novel a bit…my editor has been in touch with me sparingly but has tried to spruce my main characters up a bit…red marks in the margin…so many red marks but what else can I do except accept it all & type…type…type….

My eyes are bloodshot due to lack of sleep. I know this is not going to make me type better, but what do these professional publishers care about the limits of the body, especially a drunk & malnourished body.

I need to get to that rehab before something worse happens. I’ve been pouring down whisky & cheap country liquor down my throat since I got my 89th rejection letter. There was blood in my urine three days ago & I’ve got this weird uncanny cough that makes me fell weak at the end of it. However bad it is, I cannot afford to stop…type…type…type….

I pick up a half smoked cigarette from the ash tray sitting next to the HP printer. I like the way it fits in between my fingers so neatly, as if it belonged there forever, as if it had been away for many years & has at last come home. I take a few drags from it but continue at the same time to type.

My landlord is a great guy & never pesters me for my monthly rent. So often have we not read or heard of landlords & landladies driving you insane with constant reminders about their rent, but not old Jeremy. No way, Jeremy is a saint where landlords are…76 years old & still going strong. He once did a stint as a journalist during the Partition of India in 1947. Doesn’t talk much, walks in the garden & is generous with the booze.

I know that about Jeremy…I know about the booze…very generous guy…left me a bottle of neat country liquor which was gifted to him for his birthday last week…the bottle is in my sitting room…on the torn sofa…so shiny…so elegant…so tempting…it makes me….

No-no-no, I’ve got to type & keep focused on my work. I am on my 52nd chapter & have two more to go. Then only will I be done. My editor has given me a deadline, if I miss it…. I should have taken some legal advice before going through with this, but that’s just like me where writing is concerned…too hasty…too eager…too desperate.

Ah! If only I could have a rest & have a sip of that country liquor sitting there like a voluptuous woman on my couch. Fiona was gorgeous & when she told me I could move in with her, I couldn’t help but do as she asked…now she is gone, got married to a business man…Fiona…Fiona…type…type…type….

Suddenly, my fingers start to shake & tremble. My old fashioned alarm clock strikes 1:00 a.m., & I hear the squeaking of a mouse somewhere near my feet. I swallow my spittle in gulps & start to sweat at my temples; I think of mother who used to say I was the best writer she had ever read & blink my eyes several times to stop the tears…that bottle on the sofa…that bottle….

My elder brother, he never read a book in his life other than the textbooks we had at school. He did not even go to college, but he is the one who is rolling in wealth while me, an honors student in English Literature…that bottle…that bottle….

I all at once get up from the computer chair with a jerk. I wet myself & dribble at the mouth…the bottle…the bottle….

The lines on the computer screen go hazy & I feel the dampness in my jeans chill my loins, so cold it seems that I start to shiver…the bottle…the bottle….

I remember mother on her sick bed in our old two roomed flat in Mumbai, she was dying of Cancer which emptied our father’s savings in the bank. I was so helpless; the medicines & chemotherapy had not worked. She breathed her last while I held her frail body in my arms…she could not speak & died in silence…that bottle…mother…Fiona…that bottle…


In the end the bottle left the writer down,

In it his ambition of old drowned.

Blood so red inked his literature to a halt,

Uncontrolled emotions put his writing to a stop.

Image courtesy:

Copyright 2016 Fiza Pathan



From → Uncategorized

  1. Beautifully portrayed.

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