Young World War II veteran George Edwards needs a drink-all the time. Although it is a new year-1952-in New York City, George's life remains the same. As he centers his daily routine around a whiskey bottle, George begins to drive both himself and his devoted wife, Margie, straight into the depths of destitution.
George is bitter. Once he was a star ballplayer with lofty goals, but his dreams have been shattered by the injuries he suffered while serving in North Africa. Now George entertains himself by insulting others, including Margie, a devoted Catholic who is torn between the demands of her faith and the need to escape the verbal abuse she endures daily. Desperate for love and attention, she somehow finds herself in bed with Doc Hayden. But even though George is a drunk, he is no fool. Now it appears that the only way George and Margie will ever survive is to go their separate ways.
I Really Wanna Go Home is the compelling tale of a young couple's struggle to escape poverty and the effects of a debilitating disease destined to transport both on distinct journeys that soon meet in a catastrophic collision with destiny.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.61(d)|
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I Really Wanna Go Home
By Raymond J. Radner
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Raymond J. Radner
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGeorge Edwards had just completed one loop of four blocks in the city's morning stillness. He had walked uptown to the border of Little Italy, back down Mott Street through Chinatown, and then wandered over to St. James Place. He wasn't about to try another round in the biting cold. He had started his trek when it was very dark; he'd guessed that Dave would not be opening the bar until about the time the sun began to show itself. Maybe Dave still hadn't even gotten dressed and had his breakfast. He always liked two fried eggs, sunny-side up, and bacon before opening up for business.
George didn't want to disturb Dave's routine, but he needed a drink.
Whenever he thought seriously about it, he couldn't make up his mind if he was a trapped alcoholic or he was perpetually depressed about being cornered in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It didn't matter at the moment. It was too damned cold to think about anything but a drink.
He grumbled at the crisp dawning air while tugging at his coat collar, too short to cover his ears. He slipped on the gutter ice and grabbed for the metal post of the St. James Place street sign. His right palm nearly stuck to the pole, causing a burning freeze sensation on his skin. He cursed the signpost, pulled his jacket sleeve down over his palm, and glanced up the street searching for an indication of life. It was a long way uptown to where St. James split into Third and Fourth Ave.
From the corner where he stood, he could see only gray sun-shaded buildings and empty sidewalks under a uniform glaze of ice. The rows of flat-faced buildings, staring at each other through the streetlights, made irregular lines of two-and-three-story-high rooftops against the dim sky. The lines converged to a point in the distance. Somewhere just beyond that was the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, but no sign of life. Too early, he thought, the only person not still in bed would be Dave.
George puffed bursts of vapor. Above him a torn white banner hung tangled atop the street sign pole. The ragged letters spelled out Happy 1952. Shaking his head, he blurted into the air a frosty, "goddamned unbelievable. Another one. Where the hell did the last one go?"
He wanted to give Dave a little more time to get himself ready. It was a very late-night party. In fact, it couldn't have been more than three or four hours ago that it ended. He figured it must be somewhere around six a.m. now.
George wished it were springtime, when he could wander the few blocks to the east to the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges in a T-shirt and watch the barges and ferries sloshing along in the current toward the confluence of the Hudson and East Rivers. He'd often fantasized that was his reason to live here—Manhattan, Brooklyn, the great bridges securely framing the East River. Who else had such an interesting place to spend the days and years? This place was short on trees and grass, but you can't have everything. It gnawed at him that the bridges and river were much less an important part of his existence than his lack of motivation and inability to be too far away from a bottle of whiskey.
He kicked the curb, stinging his frozen toes. The concrete and brick of Manhattan seemed more rigid when the air was so cold. It was a wonder that the streets and buildings didn't crack and break apart under the stress of the city traffic during the day.
George refocused on his journey and skated almost gracefully across the sidewalk to the brick step in front of Dave's Bar and Grill. Still have the reflexes, he thought.
He banged his shoulder against the old wooden door, turning the knob with his sleeve-covered left hand, and kicked the base to crack the ice sealing the threshold. He was careful not to touch the knob with his bare hand, fearing another flash-freeze on his palm. He yanked at the door, able to pull it open only a bit more than a slit.
"Hey, is that you in there, Dave?" he yelled through the slim door opening. "The bar open yet?"
"Yeah, c'mon in, George. Happy New Year. Didn't you get enough of this stuff last night, you goddamned souse?"
The air inside was still and reeked of soured beer and stale cigarette smoke. It formed a familiar, musty vapor that tranquilized George and beckoned him into the dimness. It was warm inside, welcome protection from the icy cold. The sunlight breaking into the room as he opened the door guided him briefly, but disappeared abruptly when he shut it. He stood still for a moment, shivering and squinting to find his way through the scattered tables and chairs. Suddenly the flash of ceiling lights startled him, and a red neon Knickerbocker Beer sign over the chrome register flickered brightly before dimming into a steady glow. George slid his hands away from his eyes when he heard Dave apologize for turning on all the bar lights at once.
"Jesus, that was a party last night, wasn't it, Dave? What are you doing, cleaning the bar? The place looks like a cyclone hit it or something. You should get my old lady in here. She's always cleaning. Give her something to do. Keep her off my ass."
Dave was a cherry-cheeked Irishman. He was shaped like a pear. Slivers of what once was a thick head of red hair stretched sideways across his freckled bald head. He had on his usual white, full-length apron, wrapping him snuggly from his chest to his shoes. It was meticulously cleaned each day along with his starched white shirt. A black leather bow tie peeked out under his chubby chin. Straight rows of bright teeth glistened through a constant smile. George always referred to him as a sparkly snowball.
Dave often told George that if he'd just pay some attention to a daily shave, straighten his shoulders, and get a new shirt—the look he had just a few years ago when he was decked out in his army uniform—he'd be a really handsome guy. They had been friends for a long time, but George couldn't bring himself to emulate Dave's neatness. He wouldn't part with his wrinkled red and black plaid shirt and dungarees.
George searched the bar area until he identified his favorite chrome-legged stool. It had a stuffed seat with a worn, red plastic cover. He dragged it along the wood-planked floor from a far corner of the bar and wiggled it into its rightful position, mumbling obscenities about someone else having used it. He was angered that the thing was left at the open end of the large U-shaped bar near the drink condiments—lemons, limes, and cherries—where it might be splashed with beer and whiskey. It was supposed to stay at the closed end. He probed at the center of the seat cushion to assure himself there was no damage other than the familiar crack in the vinyl near the black piping.
George had his own bar-sitting system. He liked to tilt backward on his stool and lean against the wall so that he could comfortably survey the activities of all the customers while maintaining an unobstructed view of the nineteen-inch black-and-white TV that sat on a shelf above the cash register. He was vested in this bar. Dave owned it; he was its king. George was the prince, since he was always there and he was an old friend of Dave's.
Dave growled, "Talkin' about gettin' Margie in here to help me clean up, she's got too much to do already, cleanin' after you. For a young guy, you ain't exactly no spiffy sport yourself, you know. If I was her, I'd a left you a long time ago. You know I always tell you that. What're you drinkin'? I don't know how you can drink this stuff so early in the mornin'. Your goddamned stomach must of give up a long time ago—or it's made of iron."
"Cut the preaching, Dave. This is the new year, for Chrissake. It's 1952 now. Didn't you make some kind of New Year's resolution last night about staying off my ass? Ain't I good for your business?"
George tilted the stool back and fell against the wall with a bang, then flailed his arms to thrust himself forward, grabbing the bar and completing a safe recovery. He remounted the stool after casually picking it up and checking its integrity by rocking it a few times. Dave looked up from his floor sweeping and sneered, shaking his head.
"You're good for business when you pay. That's what a customer's supposed to do. It ain't no good if you're just drinkin'. It ain't no business when you don't pay."
"You know I always pay, Dave. Don't give me no crap now. I'm your best customer. You got some tomato juice there? Nobody was drinking tomato juice last night, were they? Too much of that champagne shit. That stuff's for queers. You shouldn't have that stuff in here; just makes you sick."
George repositioned the stool and sat again, balancing against the wall more carefully this time.
"Stick to your regular booze, George. Anybody'd get sick when they drink as much as you did. Just 'cause Doc Hayden was buyin', you went and made a pig out of yourself. Can't leave free booze alone, can you?"
"Ahh, go to hell. Let me have a shot of whiskey; some Kessler there, and some tomato juice and a beer."
George watched Dave put down the broom and shove a cardboard coasterunderalargeglass,slidingthembothonthebrownlinoleum-covered bar in front of him. Then Dave picked up the glass again and wiggled the coaster, which was obviously still too wet from last night. Dave searched quickly for one that was dry and repositioned the glass on it.
"Why don't you call Doc Hayden, George? He'll give you somethin' for your big head. Better than this stuff."
"I'd rather treat myself any day than let that damn quack give me something."
Dave snorted, "You're a real nitwit. A real, jealous bum. Doc Hayden's a damn good doctor. One of the best. I think he's even a surgeon or somethin' ... does somethin' wit' muscles and bones. Some kinda expert. I don't know what they call it. Some long, fancy name. Starts wit' a O. Ortopodics ... pedics ... somethin' like that."
"That's a crock-o-shit. If he knows so goddamned much, what the hell's he doin' hanging around here all the time?Tell me that, you smart-ass, huh? So goddamned smart, big-shot doctor. Hey, fill that thing up a little more there, Dave. Don' be cheating me now. You can cheat on the tomato juice, but not that Kessler."
"You're just jealous of the doc. Pisses you off 'cause you can't figure out what he's talkin' about most of the time. Got some real smart people comin' in here now. Real smart," Dave grinned proudly. "You could learn somethin' if you kept your mouth shut and listened sometime. Here, don't spill that drink now. You spill it, and you're still gonna pay for it."
George reached for the glass, trying to stop his hand from shaking uncontrollably.
Dave grabbed his arm, demanding, "Goddammit, George, lean over and sip it out of the glass without touching it with your hands. You're gonna spill it if you try to pick it up. You know goddamned-good-and-well you need two or three of them in you to get rid of the shakes before you can pick the glass up."
George leaned over, bumping his chest into the bar before he could steady himself to sip at the edge of the glass of whiskey without touching it. He sipped gently, but then jerked away with a puckering wince that turned into a shudder, rippling from his head and growing violent as it reached his shoulders. "Oh, shit. Aaghh. Oh, Chrissake. That doesn't taste like Kessler. Aagh, yuk." He grabbed for one of the other glasses and gulped the beer.
He shook his head and took a deep breath, saying, "Margie should be here. She's home sleeping it off. She ain't no help. She drank too much of that frizzly shit last night, too. Them people you got coming in here are nothing but a bunch of losers, Dave, you know that? Wanting all that fancy, frizzly wine and stuff. Them college kids—that stupid quack, Hayden, always preaching about everything. And that goddamned whore, Jennie, she's nothing but a goddamned whore."
Dave flicked his fingers at him, "Never mind about Jennie. Pay attention to what you're doin' yourself."
George carefully touched his lips to the edge of the whiskey glass again and sipped. He sucked in a stream of the fiery liquid, burning his lips and mouth. After another one, it wouldn't burn so much.
"That's the way, take it easy now," Dave cautioned. "Sip it slow. Here, let me fill it up again. You need more than one to steady you."
George began to feel relaxed. "What time is it, Dave?"
"Quarter after seven. Why? You got someplace to go today?"
"Hell, no. Pretty soon you can put on the television. Them parades come on today. Sometimes, they come on early, then all those football games. That's why I really like New Year's Day. They got all kinds of good football games on the radio. I think they got four. One after another. Sometimes a couple at the same time. They try to spread them out, but there's too many. Yeah, they're even supposed to put the Rose Bowl on the TV this year, and there's the Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and what the hell's that other one ..."
"The Orange Bowl."
"Yeah, that's it, the Orange Bowl. How the hell you gonna clean all them glasses, Dave? There wasn't that many people here last night."
George paused, contemplating his mind's image of the large numbers of people uptown at Times Square last night. "You know all those people that were up there celebrating the ball coming down last night? I bet there was as many as we got soldiers in Korea. Them poor bastards in Korea are freezing their asses off over there now. Here we are celebrating something. Bet them guys would appreciate a shot of this Kessler. Poor bastards. They shouldn't be over there. We got no business there. Much as I like Truman, he should get them out of there. Screw MacArthur. He wants to keep going. Screw him. Bring the guys home."
For a brief moment, George was back in North Africa ten years ago in World War II. He could almost feel the heat of his rifle barrel and the hot desert sun on the back of his neck. A drop of sweat seemed to drip off the tip of his nose, and another trickled into his right eye, clouding his vision of a German tank swirling dust as it rumbled toward him. He shook the thought from his mind and raised his glass to the ceiling before he swigged, "Here's to them guys over there fighting. God bless you. Hope you come home soon. Don't get hurt. Hope you come home in one piece to see your families again."
He contemplated the toast he had just made. "Too many of them ain't gonna make it, Dave. Bless 'em."
Dave clapped his hands and blessed himself. With a big smile, he said, "Okay. Enough of that for today. We gotta worry about the poor sufferin' boozers that'll be coming into the bar today. Everybody's always drinkin' different junk here on New Year's. Tryin' stuff they never drank before. That's why everybody's always so sick—all that sweet stuff—Singapore Slings and all that. I should open up the bar just for Alka-Seltzer and tomato juice today, except for you, you souse."
"Don't give me that crap, Dave. You wait and see—they'll all be in for a pick-me-up pretty soon. They won' be drinking no goddamned Alka-Seltzer, neither. Give me another shot of that Kessler. Yeah, you'll see, they'll be looking for good whiskey. A shot 'n a beer. It's better for you. That other stuff gives you gas. This stuff gets rid of all that poison that's mixed in with that fancy wine.
"Hey, Dave, I heard you're supposed to drink vodka. Vodka and tomato juice, they say. Supposed to shrink your brain or something, so it don't hurt so much. Ouch! It hurts just to think about my brain shrinking. What do you think, Dave? Think we need to shrink our brains? Aahh." George waggled his head between his hands rubbing at his imagined pain and began laughing.
"Your brain can't shrink no more, George. Guess you ain't gonna change none this year. You're gonna do the same stuff you done last year, just sit here and keep me company? For Chrissake, you spend more time here than I do. You ought to tend bar for me once in a while. Do you some good to be useful sometimes."
George cringed at the thought of his attempts to help Dave tend bar. His work invariably wound up in a chaos of drinking glasses he'd leave behind him that kept Dave busy for half a day just to straighten out the mess. Dave's system was to pick up a glass, use it, clean it, put it back to where he got it. George's system was to pick it up, use it, move it out of the way, and get a clean one, never looking back to see what he had done. The pileup never fazed him until he ran out, forcing him to wash them one at a time as he needed them.
Excerpted from I Really Wanna Go Home by Raymond J. Radner Copyright © 2011 by Raymond J. Radner. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Seems good I cant afford too buy it though i ran out of money on my gift card but when i get another gift card I will buy it
Friends, After reading this novel, I was very impressed with the variability of the author's writing style, from a scientific/character based novel, having a mixture of non-fiction and fiction style portrayed in "Kill the Blackbird," to the current character-based novel, "I Really Wanna to Go Home." The new novel is very well written, "a page turner", and the characters seemed very real. The novel progresses with friendly characters in mid-America and advances from that point. This novel also provides the reader with two distinct, separate stories centered on the following characters: George and Margie. Each of these characters take their own path following martial separation, then to different, interesting careers, and then to new positions where the novel ends....... As the novel progresses through many pages, this reader is "patiently hovered" around each page waiting for the phrase "I Really Wanna to Go Home" to be used. And finally, this reader was very pleased with the use and timing of this statement. The novel is an excellent read and this reader hopes that the author will continue with many novels in the future.