He woke up in jail and he was sober enough so they let him go. The night before they’d found him passed out on the steps of a church, half finished bottled of cheap gin in his hand, lying in a puddle of what one could only assume was his own piss, with a spittle of drool rolling out of his mouth, wearing only one shoe.

The bright sun was yet another reminder that he needed a drink. He was broke. He’d have to get some money. The best shot was to just head toward Union Square, hit up a few tourists, enough for a bottle, and start all over again. He was shaking, delirious, dehydrated. He had to walk fast but he had nothing in him, except for the desire to drink again. That’s all he needed most days, and this would be no different, though he would try to also get another shoe.

He came across a bus stop and asked a few people for money. Some guy on his phone gave him a dollar. No one else acknowledged him. At least he had a dollar. One more and he could get a beer and be normal enough to get more attention, earn more money to buy a bottle.

He walked into South Park and asked a young woman in a dress for change. She quickly gave him a dollar, likely put off by his disheveled and dirty appearance. “2 bucks, enough for a a beer!” he thought and he turned around to go pick up a can of whatever at one of the stores on 3rd Street.

He wound up buying a Tecate from a store run by an old man who was giving him dirty looks. “I’m giving you fucking money, man. Go fuck yourself” is what he wanted to say, but he kept it to himself. He really wanted to say it.

He headed back to the park, sat on a bench, and cracked open the cold beer. After a few sips he started to feel normal. His thinking became less cluttered and erratic, and he could focus on the day at hand. He needed to beg for enough to get two bottles, or one big bottle, because he needed a short day today. He’d finish the beer, head up to Powell near the cable cars and collect the money he needed to resume a productive day of drinking.

He began the trip from South Park, up 3rd street toward Market. At the corner of Mission and 3rd he asked a father who was standing with his family, tourists from England, if they could spare some change for something to eat. He dialed up the fake sincerity to an 11 and the dad, undoubtedly to set an example of generosity for his children, reached in his pocket and gave him the smallest bill he could find, a 5.

“Thank you, sir. You’ve really made my day. God bless” and the family followed after their hero father, who had just saved the world one act of meaningless kindness at a time.

With the great luck he’d run into, he decided to get a small bottle right away to assist him with the further panhandling he’d need to do to acquire the necessary amount of alcohol needed to reach his daily goal. He headed straight into a liquor store and got the largest thing he could get, being certain to do the math regarding alcohol content. He settled on a plastic bottle of Skol vodka that was on sale for unusually cheap, handed the cashier the money, and raced out to the sidewalk to get his first taste of the delectable nectar.

Life made sense again.

He put the bottle in his pocket and raced up to Powell with a new sense of determination, and a newly kindled optimism about life. He was going to have a great day. He just knew it. He also remembered he still needed to get another shoe. That wouldn’t be too difficult.

He spent the next hour or so without a whole lot of luck. A few quarters and some change, one dollar. All in all, he had only 3.55, not nearly enough to party like he wants, and he was already halfway finished with the first bottle.

At that point, his luck changed. He was sitting on the sidewalk in front of a bar that hadn’t opened yet on Geary, when a woman walked by, pulled something out of he purse, and dropped a 20 dollar bill. She didn’t notice and he scooped it up before she would have had the chance to see if she’d turned around, but she did not.

This changed everything. He quickly raced to the liquor store, bought a bottle of cheap gin, a bottle of whiskey, a Snickers bar, a bag of Peanut M&M’s, and a stick of beef jerky; a regular party.

He wanted a relaxing spot to enjoy his day of getting even more drunk than usual, so he found an alley that led to a dead end; the perfect place. He sat down, looked at his feet and remembered that he forget to find another shoe, but he wasn’t too concerned now. He had everything he needed. He ate some M&M’s and took his first swig of the gin. He was saving the whiskey for later.

The day moved fast. His head spun around and around. Cars kept driving by. He was about 30 feet from the sidewalk, and he watched the people walk by. He ate some beef jerky. He saw some used syringes across from him. He fell asleep. He woke up. More people walking by now; must be after work. He’d had jobs; never much cared for it. He’s hearing sirens, horns. Now someone’s sleeping at the other end of the alley, body propped up against the building. The building is red, brick, 6 or 7 stories, he can’t tell right away and quickly loses the thought. It’s getting dark, cars are driving by, their headlights playing shadow tricks in the alley. He drifted off to sleep, where he’d remain until the light of the next day.


The Bottom Shelf Of Life

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