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Episode 96: Assorted Sordid Sorts, Part 1

Steel Bolt walked slowly toward the bar in his study at stately Bolt Manor.  He went behind it and lifted a crystal decanter full of a golden liquid from the shelf.  The weight of it surprised him.

He brought the decanter and a glass back across the room, placed them in the middle of his desk, then sat down and stared at them.  It’s odd that I’ve never been tempted to have a drink before.  Especially considering how much the rest of my family loved their booze.  Actually, that’s probably why I’ve never imbibed: I was a first-hand witness to what alcohol can do to even the most strong-willed, intelligent people.

Steel thought about the alcohol-aversion therapy that was his youth.  

His mother, every day, digging her nails into the armrests of her chair, rocking back and forth, staring at the clock, waiting for it to hit 3:00 p.m.  

Even though Marian Bolt spent the majority of her life drunk (at least the part of it after she got married), she managed to convince herself she didn’t really have a problem as long as she didn’t start drinking until 3:00 in the afternoon.  She’d stew in her chair, waiting for that seemingly interminable 2:59 to go away, repeating to herself over and over, To delay gratification is to intensify it.  Once 3:00 o’clock came, it was non-stop gin and tonics until she passed out.  

Late afternoon and early evening she’d be an exuberant drunk; squealing with laughter and flopping around the house, trying to be a fun parent, a best friend to her kids.  Later on, however, moroseness would set in.  She’d end up weeping sloppily, cursing her husband and his “cheap sluts.”

Perhaps even more disturbing than the consumption itself was the hopeless pattern of Marian’s drinking problem.  

Every year she would make her husband take her on a month-long vacation.  And no generic, pre-packaged getaway, mind you.  She would organize a rock climbing expedition in Nepal, a bicycle trip across Australia, orienteering in Tunisia, kayaking the Nile, or some such exotic, always alcohol-free adventure.  When she came back, she’d be so revitalized, everyone would marvel at how vibrant and young she looked.  But inevitably, within a couple of weeks, she’d slip back into the routines of stately Bolt Manor, the most prominent of which was the soaking of her internal organs with gin.

As painful as it was to watch her, it wasn’t nearly as bad as seeing my father drunk.

On the rare occasion that Howard Bolt spent an evening at home, Steel would sit on the floor at his feet, just staring at him.  Surely, the young lad thought, this is the most wonderful man in the world.  

But then, after 15 or 20 glasses of that golden liquid, things would happen (things that would have been imperceptible to anyone but the small, intent observer).  Howard Bolt would slur a word, or he’d weave slightly on his way to the bar to get another drink—and young Steel would be forced to admit that his father wasn’t perfect.  And the reason he wasn’t was that stuff he continually poured down his throat.

Steel shivered at the memory of those traumas.  

He was still looking at the decanter when he thought, Of course, those examples pale in comparison to what alcohol did to my brother and sister.