Short Fiction

The A-to-Z Challenge — Winter’s Breath

Lou woke up in his car, still running, in the bitter cold of an early New Year’s Day. Head pounding, mouth so dry, he could hardly believe no cop woke him to move. Or maybe the cops had bigger issues than rousting sleeping drunks off the Ocean Grove oceanfront on New Year’s Eve. The wind was strong. It made his old Honda shimmy a little as it blew around it which in turn made him queasy.

He turned it off and heaved himself up onto the boardwalk. Far off in the distance was a virtuous jogger, but other than that there were no people, no colors, both sky and water were grey. A landscape of dun. Stark brown, grey, some off-white foam churned with sand. From inside the car it looked silent, but it was really a loud silence created by the monotonous waves. Lou turned his head into the wind and screamed into it, a raw sound from the back of his throat that made him forget the headache, the nausea, and the disgust he felt about himself.

Why didn’t he go to a meeting last night? Why did he fall off the wagon? He thought he didn’t need a higher power anymore, but that was clearly a crock. He looked down at his hands, bruised and shaking, and remembered a scene from last night. He tried to go back to Rachel and she wasn’t even home. The wind blew into his face and he could smell his own nasty, alcoholic breath. It was so bad that even Old Man Winter would reject it from mingling with the salty sea air. There were tears in his eyes now — from the wind, his breath or regret? At this point, it didn’t even matter. He hung his head and watched the boardwalk blur.

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