The late teenage years are times to experiment, to flirt with chance-taking and laugh at near-misses. Jason and Brian are invincible, with miles to go before they sleep, and their good times are bacchanalian. This Friday afternoon is no exception: Jason, ignoring the fact that he is on the brink of failure, leaves school early again to begin the party. He and Brian drink into the afternoon; the warning of blue lights is not enough to end the hilarity,
and as lucidity morphs to black-out, Brian must make a decision between carnal desire and adult responsibility. His sodden mind is in no condition to deliberate, and the night turns tragic. Having now to deal with the reality of prison, the loathing of a community, the screaming of his demons and the battle with his conscience, Brian is forced into very serious self-analysis, while Jason uses his best friend's plight as a justification to continue his own insane drinking behavior which could, ultimately, lead to his need to find a bottom. Written by a recovering alcoholic, this fictitious story contains would-be scenarios relevant to all mature readers, for there are few degrees of separation between it, and you.
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THE DEVIL SPEAKS LOUDER
WE STOOD AT THE TURNING POINT
By JEREMY STEVENS
AuthorHouse LLCCopyright © 2014 Jeremy Stevens
All rights reserved.
1. Jason, Brian, and the Ride
Word was the guy's name was Brent, that he attended a local prep school, and that he had been accepted to Cornell, only because his father was a platinum contributor to the alumni association; for Brent was, according to my best friend Brian, a "slacker pothead."
Word also was that the guy's parents were "summering" for a week on some Cape Cod island---Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard, whatever---and their high school graduation gift to him was the option not to go.
A little taste of independence before University, eh, boy? A noogie to the head, a playful tousle of his Abercrombie hair.
Rightee-O, pops. A punch to the arm. Rightee-O.
By the standards of my crowd---accustomed, as we were, to gatherings at the abandoned airstrip, or at developing cul-de-sacs illuminated by strategically-angled headlights---a house party was a house party, wherever it was held. However, a year-end bash at the Country Club was very, very attractive, and excited chatter began weeks in advance.
There really were only three in that "crowd" of mine. First, there was my best friend Brian, a rising second-year at the community college but whom I had met during his senior year at Premier. Brian had overheard two hottie check-out chibs at the mall's J. Crew gabbing on about the Brent gig, and because I had already told him about the party he had his introductory conversation piece, which found him leaving the mall with a sharp new outfit and two phone numbers.
Then there were Jed and Chat, my other "close" friends, who had opted out of higher education in pursuit of upward mobility through telemarketing for a home improvement franchise. Jed and Chat were regulars at the mall's food court and adjacent arcade. It was their daily outlet from the tedium of telephone sales-pitch and inevitable hang-ups. It was also the contact and social information mecca of the tri-county area, so they were privy to the party long before either Brian or me.
It was at the food court that Jed and Chat met Slang (not a friend at all), who sold fake ID's, among other black market commodities, from burned bootlegged concerts to authentic Grateful Dead smoking paraphernalia, and for $150 a piece we were all of legal drinking age as declared by the Great State of Wyoming, unanimously chosen not only because of its distance from everything, but also for its awesomely cool Latin motto, cedant arma togae, or "yield to the toga."
Although neither Jed nor Chat appeared destined for great things, they were resourceful, and they did have their people. And Brian had the ride, an aged Ford Taurus but a ride nonetheless, as well as a few connections to college frat life.
And I, a rising senior at the city's honor school, aptly named City Premier, was the perfect counter to this mediocrity and deficiency, the Brains of the outfit: from future Yalie to Peace Corps volunteer, master's to PhD, laureate to emeritus.
Father could see it now.
But first, I had some work to do, beginning with the intensive summer SAT prep courses in critical reading and mathematics that most assuredly would help better my initial 1780 fiasco earlier that spring---Jason, what on earth were you thinking?---by at least 200 points, as the program boasted; then, to boost my GPA while it still mattered, and to pick up some extracurricular interests that did not involve my base friends---they being Brian, Jed, and Chat--- whose names Father either mispronounced, or forgot altogether, but to whom as a group he always referred as Huey, Dewey, and Louie.
* * *
I had sociology last period of the day, and as there were only three days of classes left, and this was Friday, I bailed early, again, accepting with bitter remorse that there was no way to improve my 38 average. Not now, not at this late date.
Brian met me outside the cafeteria of the school, his alma mater, the Taurus rumbling softly, wheezing asthmatically.
"I've decided to name her 'Rocinante'," Brian satisfactorily declared when I entered, as if having pondered the issue at great lengths. He handed me a beer. "Whatcha think?"
"The car, dumbass. It is a Taurus, after all, and she and I have traveled many great, mysterious roads together, just as that Quixote dude did with his horse. I saw it this morning on A&E. Now, seatbelt, dude. She's been bucking a bit lately. Been a bit orn'ry."
Brian always wore his seatbelt, and insisted that others do the same. I clicked mine, and drank deeply as we pulled away.
"Bri, I'm pretty certain I've failed soash." I looked at him, though by his glaze and petrified smirk it was obvious his thoughts were still on his car. "I mean," I continued, "there's really no extra credit to be done with a 38, especially not with three days 'til exams."
"Dude, listen," Brian said, snapping out of his reverie. "A, sociology's an elective; and B, you have the test. Ace that, and you're fine. Markowski'll probably even boost you up a couple points, thinking he made a mistake in his calculations somewhere. Everyone loves a success story." Brian placed his empty in the cardboard twelve between his ankles, groped around for two more, and handed them to me. "And C, finish your damn beer. You got some catching up to do."
"Are you sure he gives the same exam every year? I mean, positive? We're talking serious shit here, Bri. I can't be failing anything." I handed him his opened beer and he propped it between his legs.
"D, E, and F, abso-fucking-lutely, and I have your copy. We've discussed this. Now shut up about school and let's discuss Ro-ciNAN-te." He rolled the R. "So, whatcha think? The name?" His eyes and smile were wide and he nodded his head spasmodically.
"Brian," I sighed, impatiently shaking my head. "Taurus is a fucking bull. If the piece of shit deserves a name, call it Babe." I wiped beer foam from my mouth with my sleeve. "Or shit. There ya go. Call it 'shit,' as in 'Bull-shit,' which is exactly what it is and exactly what you're full of."
I slammed my second beer, washing down the week and the reality of failure; and, adding the two empties to the MacDonald's-large-fry-container-and-junk-mail clutter at my feet, I shifted uncomfortably in the silence.
Rocinante my ass. Damn car didn't even have a radio.
How did I get so deep in this thing? What happened? Too many damn Fridays, leaving school early. Always an excuse. Even IF Brian has the test, which he'd better, there are still so many variables. You don't just fail an elective. It doesn't happen. That's supposed to be the gimme grade, like gym.
A 38. Damn. Bill's gonna shit.
"Jay?" Brian asked sheepishly after three stop lights, handing me the rest of his beer as a peace offering.
"Sorry, man. Really. I know your old man Bill's been riding you pretty hard. Let's just try to have fun tonight, okay? How's about it?"
"Sure, dude. Sorry too." I slapped and shook his knee and dismissed the future, finished his beer and grabbed the case of empties from between his ankles and pointed to a convenient mart.
"Oh, and Jay?"
"Don't worry, I got some cash for the next round."
"No, that's not it, but that's cool too."
"Babe won't work either, man. Dude's an ox."
2. Moderation is the Key
Brian worked what he called "three quarters time" as an assistant manager at the Silver Bullet Luxury Carwash Service to pay for his apartment and his college tuition, which was an absolutely perfect job for one vain enough to think a fully detailed ride heightened score potential with the ladies.
So, the afternoon was spent sunning ourselves on the benches outside the Bullet, drinking the second twelve from forty-ounce strawed thermoses while Roz got her extreme body make over for an evening with Country Club high society.
"Bri, no matter how you dress her up, she's always gonna be a '92 Ford Taurus." The absolutely best way to rid my mind of academia was to toss around weighty topics after several beers with Brian. He was good for that. "Breed her with a Porsche, a 911 Carrera, and the best case scenario result might be a Honda Civic. Best case, Bri."
"Jayman, I'm shocked. I truly am. Roz could meet a, a Pinto, you know, one of her own kind---I'd like to keep it in the family---and through gross complications she could bear an El Camino. An El Camino, Jay. And you know what? You know what? I'd buy that little baby spic mobile some dice and spinners and I'd drive him myself, proudly, flashing my pearly white grill, waving at all the pretty chiblets as if he were my very own, Jay. Sometimes you really worry me. Fine father you'll make."
"Carl, sand the floor, man. Sand the floor. Like this," he called in his best Anglo-Japanese, making quick circular patterns in the air with his palms facing the boy, who was working feverishly on the car's lustre.
Brian loved his extended cable, and often made obscure references to old television and movie reruns.
"Wax on, wax off. On, off. That's better, Carl San." He slowly, silently pantomimed the routine a few more times. "Sorry, Jay. Sometimes I gotta bust out the Mr. Miyagi Karate Kid action on the new boys. Anyhow, what now?"
"Him. Why is the El Camino a 'him,' and your precious Taurus a 'she' as if it were a fucking ship on its maiden voyage?"
"'El,' my friend, is masculine, as is 'camin-O,' Spanish for 'the road.' Comprende' amig-O?"
"Amazing. You know your Spanish, but you thought Taurus was a horse. You're a fucking miracle."
"Jason, the zodiac is for the weak that need direction. Now, gimme."
Brian sucked up the remaining piss-warm foam from his thermos while motioning me to do the same. "Moderation. Moderation is the key, Bri. You taught me that. Long night ahead of us."
"Jason Ottomar Braswell," Brian continued, imitating my father's instructive voice, "the beer will get warm, and you know how irresponsible it is to waste what has been graciously bestowed unto us via the one they call Slang and the Great State of Wyoming. That is not sound Ivy thinking, son. Cogito, my boy."
Brian went to give his finished car a once over---from my standpoint, a hard rain would have done the same job---and I went to his broom-closet office to pour into our sippees the remaining six beers and to discard the evidence in the Arby's dumpster next door.
I had drunk eight beers in three hours; finishing the sippee would make it eleven, and drinking through a straw pronounced the effect. I hadn't anything to eat in five hours, and that was three Premier fried beef nuggets, boiled summer squash and a fruit cup. I needed something solid in my stomach if I wanted to stay glued.
3. The Pull
I tossed the bag of sandwiches into Brian's lap and put both sippees into the large cup holders Brian had the foresight to buy specially from Wal-Mart to accommodate sippees.
"Smells nice. Shiny too. Nice, shiny plastic."
Brian pulled out into traffic. "Vinyl, dude. Quit hating on the ride." Brian's mood had shifted into survival mode as he both tore into his sandwich and kept his eyes on the road. "Good call on the vittles, by the way."
"Can't beat the Big Montana. Plain, though."
"Definitely plain. Best big sandwich for driving, too."
"I was thinking about the Super, but-"
"-absolutely not. Lettuce and tomato on roast beef? I don't think so. And what the hell is that red sauce? Naw, you did well, Jay. Just mind the foil." For about three days after each Bullet detail Brian was particularly anal about clutter.
"Yes sir. Shit, I'll bet that's Bill. Damn if I didn't forget to call," I said, straightening my legs to get the vibrating cell out of my pocket. "Yup. Bildo."
"Why don't you get a clip for the damn thing? Or do you want people to think it's part of your package? 'Is that a phone in your pocket, or are you ...'"
"... shhhhhello? Hey Dad." I never let on that I knew it was him that was calling, by answering the phone with the 'hey Dad' part first, because I'd tried that a few times, and I spent way too long each time explaining how I knew it was him. I was better off just acting surprised. "Sir? With Brian Dildy. Yes, Dad, one of those three." Brian made a face like the guy on Munch's The Scream, or like McCauley Caulkin in Home Alone if you're not as learned. "Sir? I did tell you. This morning. All evening. Very late. Sir? Who called? Why would Mr. Markowski call you?"
"Shit," Brian suddenly, distractedly whispered.
"I know," I returned, covering the phone.
"No, man, shit. The police, man. Fuck I'm being pulled god DAMmit." Brian's eyes were stuck to the rearview. "Gotta get off and help me man. FuckfuckfuckFUCK." He slapped Roz.
I held one finger up to Brian, hold on a second. "No Dad, I have no idea. None. Dad, I gotta ... sir? Well, I'll think on it and we'll talk tomorrow. It'll be too late tonight. Dad, I gotta, yes, I'll be fine. I know I have SAT class tomorrow. Early, I know.
"Shitfuckpiss," Brian said through clenched teeth, flicking on his directional, keeping both hands at ten and two, looking back and forth over his right shoulder for a good time to switch lanes as if he were back in driver's ed.
"Dad, really, please, I'll listen to his message when I get home I really gotta go love ya bye."
My legs got weak when I finally saw the blue and white lights in my side mirror as Brian pulled to the curb, and I too cursed Rocinante for being so clean because there was no place to camouflage our sippees.
Poor Roz. None of this was her fault.
"Got any gum, man? Mints or something?" I reached again into my pockets and pulled out some Arby's after dinner candies they had in a display bowl by the register, the ones in the white wrappers with Arby's in red on the side. "Here." I quickly unwrapped him four. "Suck fast, dude." I grabbed his sippee, and mine, and again straightened my legs to stuff them down the front of my pants. Cold beer shot up through the straws onto my belly and into my crotch as the cups bent when I sat. I loosely untucked my shirt to cover the bulge and the stain.
"If I get out of this I will be forever loyal to the Big Montana. Maybe even write her an ode." Brian crunched and sucked on all four mints, looking in his rearview as we sat on the shoulder, cars slowing as they passed in both directions for a chance to spread some news.
"Good thing she's a Taurus, huh? Plenty of those around." Brian tapped on his steering wheel and glanced now into his side view mirror. "Pick up that foil, Jay, the one by your feet." I'd never seen the guy so nervous.
"Brian, I can't move. I've got about 24 ounces shoved in my waistline and six more soaking my balls."
"Good thing your dad called when he did." Brian tittered. "What a shocker, huh, the phone in your pocket? Bzzzzzz. Actually, sounds kind of kinky okay here he comes. Just chill man. I'll talk." He straightened up.
"Don't talk too much," I said quickly. Brian unrolled the window.
"License and registration."
"Of course," Brian stammered, leaning across me to the glove compartment. "Forgot that part." The officer bent down with his arm on the hood and stared across at me, at the floors, at the back seat. "Here you go, sir. Sorry for the wait. What seems to be the problem?" Brian had rehearsed that one.
"Reason for the pull's your left tail light's busted." The officer examined Brian's information.
"Fucking Silver Bullet."
"Sir?" The officer's voice inflected a bit as he leaned down to face Brian.
"Officer, I'm sorry. Just that the car was just detailed and before that the light was fine. Got some people to talk to, is all."
"I see. Okay, then, Mr., uh, Dildy. Daddy's name Pete?"
"No sir. Pete's my uncle. Always called him Uncle Petey, though haven't been out to their place in a while since Skip moved away. Skip, that's his son, my cousin."
"Alright, Mr. Dildy, just sit tight while I check on this information here."
The officer walked back to his car and Brian let his head fall against the steering wheel. "Fucking hate my last name. Dil-dy. One fucking vowel away from a vibrating sex toy."
"Dude, the name might actually help you here. You did go a bit far, though, with your life, like the cop hadn't seen you since you were this tall. You might have ended with, 'Pete's my uncle.' Period."
"Jay, now's the time to boost the ol' morale, ya know? Not bring it down, dammit."
"You're right. Sorry. Just don't fucking talk so much. You've been drinking, and those are only Arby's mints. Probably don't have that Retsyn shit."
Brian just stared into the rearview, repeating "fuck" as if to ward off evil spirits.
Excerpted from THE DEVIL SPEAKS LOUDER by JEREMY STEVENS. Copyright © 2014 Jeremy Stevens. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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The Devil Speaks Louder really helped me understand alcoholic behavior in my teenage son and gave me a glimpse of where he might be headed.
This book was incredibly well written. The reader is given a glimpse into empathizing with an addict and understanding that not all crimes are committed by criminals.I would encourage anyone going through recovery to read this. If you know someone in recovery or someone who hasn't quite gotten there yet this book is eye opening and thought provoking. High school students and parents of high school students NEED to read this story. it will open the door to necessary conversations. The author opens up a world that many do not understand but needs to be understood. Looking forward to Book Two!