Doc came prepared. He was wearing a parka and a heavy sweater when he got off the airplane. He had two big carry on bags and a huge duffle. Why did you bring all this stuff? I asked him. Doc looked puzzled. I left half of it at home, he said.

The next morning, we got up early and drove up to the property that Jake and I owned in the foothills of the Sierras. Our cabin was on the edge of the forest high above a lake. From the deck, we had a panoramic view oft he lake and the surrounding hills.

I had borrowed Jake’s truck so that I could transport several four by eight foot siding panels to replace the ones on the north end of the cabin that the porcupines had chewed up. Doc asked what porcupines found that was good to eat in wood siding, and I said it was the glue.

We worked all afternoon getting the old siding off and the new panels up. When we finished, it was getting dark. We drove into town and had dinner, and when we came out of the restaurant, it was raining. We got in the truck and headed back to the cabin, and up the grade a few hundred yards the rain had turned to snow. A mile or so out of town, the Highway Patrol had set up a road block. They weren’t letting anybody go through. I stopped and talked to one of the troopers. I told him where the cabin was. We had to go back and shut off the water or the pipes would freeze, I said. The trooper didn’t like it, but he moved one of the saw horses aside so we could pass.

It was snowing hard, but it wasn’t cold, and the snow flakes melted as they hit the surface of the highway. At the roadhouse, five miles north of town, I turned onto a gravel road. At the end of the road, by the lake, I parked the truck. The logging trail that led up the hill past the cabin was a crease in a blanket of snow.

When we got to the cabin, I was muddy and wet. Doc peeled off his rubber boots. He was wearing heavy woolen sox. He was wearing long underwear, too. I could see the hems of the white leggings when he turned up his cuffs to pull up his sox.

Doc built a fire in the Franklin stove while I changed clothes. When I came downstairs, he was making coffee. He pulled a chair up to the fire and put his big feet on the bricks in front of the stove.

I brought a chair over and sat down. I told Doc that there was a bottle of brandy in one of the cupboards in the kitchen. Doc got the bottle and poured some of the brandy into his coffee cup. The brandy smelled like apples and cough syrup.

I went into the kitchen to get the coffee pot. I put the pot on top of the Franklin stove and sat down again. I picked up my coffee cup and held it in front of me with both hands.

It’s cold in here, Doc said.

Fifty degrees, I said. I had looked at the thermometer on the wall by the door when I was in the kitchen.

It’ll warm up, Doc said. This old stove throws a lot of heat.

I shuddered. I hate cold weather, I said.

You have to dress for it, Doc said.

Doc took a sip of his coffee. You look better, Doc said. You’ve got some color in your cheeks. When we got stuck, you were shaking when you got back in the truck.

I should have let you push, I said.

It’s stress, Doc said. You get beat up, and after a while, your body quits. You feel like you don’t have any skin.

Doc wanted to talk. He talked and I listened. I wasn’t listening carefully, though, because after a while, Doc asked me what I was thinking.

I smiled. I was thinking about Mona, I said.

Forget about Mona, Doc said. Put her out of your mind.

No, it’s okay, I said. I told you what she said, that she liked me better when I was drinking. Well, that’s the way I feel, too. I liked her better when I was drinking.

Mona’s a twit, Doc said.

Mona’s Mona, I said.

Let’s talk about something else, Doc said.

What do you want to talk about? I asked.

Tell me about the meetings.

I told Doc what the meetings were like. People sit around and talk, I said, and then everybody stands up, holds hands, and says the Lord’s Prayer.

Is it boring? Doc asked.

Sometimes, I said. Some people don’t know when to shut up.

What about the women? Doc asked. I’ve heard that there are a lot of good looking women in AA.

I told Doc that you got a little bit of everything in AA.

Doc sighed. He didn’t say anything for a while. I didn’t say anything, either. Doc looked as if he had something on his mind. Finally, he spit it out.

I’ve been thinking that maybe I should quit, too, he said.

Drinking? I asked.

Yes, Doc said.

I was surprised. Why would you want to do that? I asked.

I think I’m an alcoholic, Doc said.

I asked Doc what made him think he was an alcoholic, and he said that when he started drinking, he couldn’t stop.

Look, Doc said, we don’t have to talk about this if you don’t want to.

I said it was all right, that I didn’t mind. I told Doc that sometimes I thought that talking about not drinking was almost as much fun as drinking.

Doc said he thought he would be a good alcoholic. He smoked cigarettes, he liked coffee, and he didn’t like to do what he was told.

I asked Doc how he knew so much about AA, and he said that half his friends were in some kind of program.

An hour later, Doc was telling war stories. The bottle of brandy, half full to begin with, was nearly empty. Doc was telling about the time that he and Ed had picked up a girl in a bar in Minneapolis. I had heard the story before. I got up and wandered around the room while Doc talked.

Doc had put some books on a table in one corner, and I picked them up and looked at the titles. One was a book about geology, and the other was about the first world war.

I went over to a window and looked out. The snow was coming down every which way, like confetti, as if someone were tearing pieces out of the sky.

So then I asked her to do something else, Doc said, and she said, ‘Oh, no. I’m saving that for my husband.’ She was going to be married in two or three weeks!

Doc laughed and laughed.

I told Doc that I was going to bed. Doc looked at his watch. What time is it getting to be? he asked.

Upstairs in the loft, I lay on my back and watched the shadows cast by the fire on the angled ceiling. I wondered if I would be able to sleep. If not, I would lie there and rest. Before, I had worried about not sleeping. Then I had learned that the way to fight it was to stop fighting.

I shut my eyes and listened to Doc downstairs poking at the fire.

Listed at Duotrope
Listed with Poets & Writers
CLMP Member
List with Art Deadline
Follow us on MagCloud