Price Breaks And Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
Al And Tallulah’s Wild Ride
(The following story is true, even the part with the Fresca)
“Al... I think I’m pregnant.”
I don’t know what surprised me more, how well I reacted to hearing those words or the fact that I wasn’t hearing them from a mail order bride.
“Uhm.” I said, “But we we’re, I was wearing…”
“Not every time,” Tallulah said, “and they’re not foolproof.”
I was aware of those things but I had hoped the rhythm method and condoms would perfectly in combination with the fact I masturbated so much that I partially ejaculated dust.
You might say these were strategies that went hand in hand.
On the TV Four To Doomsday was winding its way towards its all-dancing, cricket-ball-in space, shrink-juice ending.
She still wouldn’t look at me, “Are you mad?”
You know I'd once had a guidance councilor ask me the same thing but the context was completely different.
“What are you thinking?” Tallulah asked, “Please say something.”
“I love you,” I said, “we’ll figure this out.... somehow.”
She was two weeks late by the time the second semester of college started up and we had both decided to keep the whole matter a secret until we knew for sure. Tallulah also explained to me that we would have to wait just a little bit longer before we could get an accurate reading from a pregnancy test.
I went through the next week and a half almost woozy with terror and excitement. I had school and work to keep me busy but I called Tallulah at least once a day. Every time we spoke it was like waiting for the other shoe to drop. Had the morning sickness started? Was she getting weird cravings? And most important of all how the Hell was I going to take care of a wife and baby when I couldn’t balance a checkbook or tell detergent from fabric softener?
It was enough to drive a man to drink.
I had found a bottle in the back of the refrigerator. I was sure it was one of my grandmother's but I was also sure she wouldn't mind that I had taken it without asking. I smuggled it into my room- along with some leftovers and an entire box of chocolate chip cookies.
Just thinking about the possibility of a bouncing baby Bruno made me all the more self-conscious of the way I was living.
But how was I living? Out of my parents’ pockets that’s how. And my grandmother's pocket. And my great grandmother's pocket. And did I mention that my uncle paid for my college textbooks?
And while we're at it lets not forget that my Dad was footing the entire bill for college. If it had been up to me to pay for classes all hope of a higher education would have been washed away in a tide of impulse purchases and take out food.
Sequestered in the relative privacy of my room I opened the chilled glass bottle and started drinking from it. My first sips were wincing and tentative but it didn't take long for me to start taking long swigs every few minutes. I only threw up in my mouth a few times but the cookies were more then enough to wash the taste away.
I had already decided that if Tallulah was pregnant I was going to marry her, assuming of course that she wanted to marry me, and that we could both get a full day off from work. I was sure Tallulah’s parents would be furious at this turn of events but I knew I wouldn’t have much trouble on my end of things. Shotgun weddings were so common in our family that we got a bulk discount on shells.
Please don't think I had made these decisions out of nothing more than a sense of honor or responsibility. I was crazy about the girl, I said it I was going to love her forever and I had meant it.
Still my mind kept coming back to the question of how I could support a wife and kid while keeping my own dreams alive. All the decent paying jobs I knew were either physical or intellectual labors.
Neither my body or mind were particularly skilled so that limited my options considerably but I was determined to do the right thing. But who could I turn to for advice in this my time of need?
I took another hard pull from the bottle as I considered. I couldn't speak to my father, all I would get was a condemnation and a lecture and I couldn't speak to my mother, all I would get was disappointment and tears and I certainly couldn't talk to my grandmother because all I would get was some Bactine and a bent up wire hanger
There was a knock at the door and my brother was in my room before I could hide the bottle.
“Hi P-P-” I stammered with surprise, “Hi Phil.”
“Yeah. Whatever.” He was wearing his ragged jeans and workboots, his leather coat was slung over one arm. “Can I borrow your car or... What are you doing Al?”
“I'm just... I was...”
He grabbed the bottle and looked it over, “Whiskey Sour mix?”
“Yeah. It isn't very strong. I don't even feel dizzy.”
He nodded, “Is that so?”
I nodded back, “So much for forgetting my problems.”
“Problems?” he handed the bottle back to me, “What kind of problems? You still upset they fired that Doctor Who with the crazy coat?”
“Yes but that's not what I'm upset about right now.”
Phil sat down beside me, “What's wrong? Someone giving you trouble?”
One of the many screwy aspects of my relationship with my brother was that for all our feuding and fighting he wouldn't stand for anyone picking on me.
Apparently he wanted to keep it in the family.
“No.” I said, “There's no one giving me trouble. It's just that... you can keep a secret right?”
“Sure, sure. I didn't tell anyone when Mom accidentally spilled orange juice on your comic collection.”
He waved his hand, “Don't worry about it. Just tell me what's wrong.”
“It’s my girlfriend…”
“Oh I knew it! She’s a dude isn’t she?”
“She is not. In fact I think she’s pregnant.” It felt weird to blurt it out like that.
I sighed, “Oh yes.”
“Wow!” He said, “You’re fucked.”
“I don’t know what to do.”
“You gotta get out of town.” He said, “Join the Army maybe.”
I had to laugh at that, “I couldn’t even get into the KISS Army.”
“Maybe they got like a nerd brigade or somethin’.”
“You know I used to wonder why we didn’t talk anymore,” I took another drink from the bottle, “now I remember why. And yes you can borrow my car, I’m in no shape to drive.”
“Yeah.” He grabbed my car keys from the dresser, “About that, you’re drinking whiskey sour mix.”
“I know but like I said it doesn’t have much of a kick to it.”
My brother’s tone was almost pitying, “Whiskey sour mix is just the mix, the booze isn’t included.”
“What? But it says whiskey sour mix.”
“Yeah it’s the mix. It’s like a batteries aren’t included kind of thing. Don’t they teach you anything in college?”
I have to say that I found humiliation far more dizzying than whiskey sour mix. Alone in my room again I spent a few minutes cursing my stupidity, then I realized that I could probably still get drunk if I swiped one of those bottles of Fresca I had seen in the upstairs fridge.