The Great Green Goblet by Cindy Pereira

My missus held a position of considerable power – at work as well as, much to my disgruntlement, at home.

At that time, she was the assistant director of Security at a multinational bank; sometimes when lolling on the sofa with one eye closed and a dribble of drool slipping down my chin, I would note her leave for work, or return, all smartly suited and booted with a pair of snazzy glares – something like that lady cop in that Hollywood movie who entered some beauty pageant and won a place.

So, I thought hoodwinking my missus was not just difficult. It was next to impossible.

Now a great green goblet of whisky was my wife's treasure. She didn't drink – never touched alcohol, except perhaps a glass of homemade wine, and that too she'd make a face at and gulp down like it was medicine – but this goblet of Scotch Whiskey was her prized possession. It was a tall, litre and a half, green bottle, already 12 years in the blend when it was gifted to her by a distant cousin.

With it came a tiny bottle in the shape of a golf ball – it contained a sample swig of the said drink, and I, who made up amply for the vice my wife didn't share, was allowed to glug this down.

I did, in one shot and I proclaimed the drink to be the finest in the world, though to be honest, I hardly tasted it. Then I broadly hinted to my missus to allow me another swallow from the great green goblet.

After all, what was the volume in a bottle the size of a golf ball going to do to me? Fill a tooth?

“No chance,” said my lady, placing the bottle back into its box with its characteristic mosaic of a pair of black and white dogs. “This is for our little one when she gets married. That's when I'll open the bottle,” she added firmly.

“How do we know if our little one will ever get married,” was my low grumble, and the missus turned sharply toward me.

“This bottle will not be opened till I say so,” she said firmly and when I nodded with a shrug, she pushed it into her closet and locked the door.

Well, it was her cousin’s gift and I wanted to respect her desire to horde it away, but really! Wait for the next 20 years to see it cracked open? My heart ached. My tongue dried and the devil, in the shape of a green bottle, took up abode on my shoulder.

Now I am a mechanical engineer. At least one when I'm not drunk, and I can do anything with a lathe. So, in my cunning mind that placed no limits on what I needed to do to obtain a drink, I hatched a plan, which took the greater part of three months.

I had to behave. I just had to!

But executing the first part of my master plan was hard – it was terribly hard. I swear I could have committed suicide instead. Keeping away from the bar was plain torture. Not having a nightcap drove me crazy. My hands started to tremble and I gnawed at my lips thirstily. Still, I dragged myself to my workshop and busied myself everyday, stoutly fashioning things for our home and repairing stuff.

Sometimes, the missus would drop in while I worked, and she’d carefully avoid the sparks from the metal or shield her ears from the screeching sounds.

“And what's this?” she asked one day, picking up a bar of soap. “It has a weird indent in the centre.”

I shrugged and continued to work, but in truth I was sweating.

“The soap is for washing up once I finish,' I explained lamely. “I think the indent is a manufacturing defect!”

“Hmm,” she grunted. “Looks like the image of a key or something.”

“Really?” I asked, looking up from my work and scrutinizing the bar with a tremor. “Will you look at that!”

When she left, I wiped the sweat from my neck. I then hit upon a plan, which resulted in me painting the doors and windows of our home, and even the fence, much to the wife's pleasure.

In my desire to please, I even painted the closet that held the great green goblet!

Now, this treasure appeared forgotten in the months that followed. A non-alcoholic is not likely to remember where a drink is hidden, and I found, to my utter satisfaction that the missus had lowered her guard, right down to rock bottom

And that’s why, while that last painting chore had been underway, I had started to tipple again – a little here and a little there, when the wife was not at home; but it wasn't much. It just kept my nerves from jangling too much and brought out some fine compositions by way of nonchalant whistles while I worked. By then I had decided to paint the whole house!

Now that devil, that green devil had firmly taken root on one shoulder. Sadly, there never had been an endearing, opposing angel...perhaps in the shape of a bottle of milk to counterbalance the fiend. It's incumbent on me to state that a full half year after my ‘semi-sobriety,’ when the house was all painted, I decided to celebrate with a solid fix one evening.

I had hardly tasted my drink! I glugged it down like a man who had wandered the desert with no water for days before chancing upon an oasis! The poor missus! When she came home from work that day in her smart suit and high heeled boots, she had been flabbergasted at first, and then furious. I had been prone on the floor by the door, brazenly singing Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White.’ With one eye open and my gaping mouth, which dribbled thickly and stickily down my neck, I ceased my crooning and slurred as she stepped over me into our home:

“Hello shweetart. Shoot anyone t’day?”

“Not yet,” she answered ominously and I shut up.

And thus, I hit the bottle again. But I had painted the house, the windows, the doors, the closets and the fence. And I had made some snazzy stuff with iron to decorate our garden…among other things.

Mission Accomplished.

The years stacked up and perhaps, drunkards are prophetic as well. Our little one, having now grown up into a fine young lady, with a ‘snooty nose’ university degree...two in fact, never found the time to get married, but the missus had obviously forgotten about that green goblet and her plans for it.

So, one sultry evening, while I sat in my chair, chin drooping on my chest and drivel rolling down my chin, as I contemplated another drink and wondered which stash to attack because the missus was watching me like a hawk, the ladies of my home decided on a spring clean. They were in our bedroom, pulling away at old, frumpy dresses, suit coats, off-white lace and various bits of female finery when I heard a peal of laughter.

“Mum! Gosh! You still have this bottle of booze,” my dot said.

“Well, look at that,” replied the missus and I could picture her, holding the box with its black and white cocker spaniel motifs, and looking upon it with all the love in the world. “I had forgotten all about this! It's been what? Almost 25 years now.”

“It must have evaporated,” suggested the dot.

“Not a chance!” scoffed the missus. “The seal is unbroken to this day.”

“Don't you ever want to open it?”

“With your father around?”

I smiled upon my chest.

I heard some shuffling and some soft chatter and I thought they had moved on to some other old relic in the closet.

But no!

I heard a loud gasp and an unprintable oath. Then I heard the bounding of feet and I tried to escape, but I was too damned sloshed to even move!

The next instant the missus and the dot were standing before me, and even with my one eye open, I could tell that the older one – the one that looked like a fatter version of that Hollywood actress who played that cop in some beauty pageant – was glowering over me.

Honestly, she was foaming at the mouth. In her hand was the great green goblet, as empty as the devil’s heart.

The dot had gone hysterical with laughter.

Me? Years ago, I had emptied that bottle steadily over a week, celebrating with one final, whopping guzzle when I had been done with painting the house.

In fact, I had become a superb locksmith and painter, making duplicate keys for desperate neighbours or painting fences and windows.

But the best job I ever did was when I fashioned a key from a mould in soap, and painted the closet that contained the great green goblet of whisky.

Selected: Short Story #23

Published in Booklet #28

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