The Eric Wendell story

May 1, 2009
By diane metts BRONZE, Cranston, Rhode Island
diane metts BRONZE, Cranston, Rhode Island
1 article 0 photos 0 comments


Damn, another day in the misty state of Massachusetts. A typical Friday afternoon at Martha’s
Vineyard was ready to take place. Waking up every morning at five thirty wasn’t a habit, but a necessity.
Across the street lived an old man named Conrad, who, when he first met me, stressed how his name
meant “bold” and was given to him by his German parents. Like all old men he was full of stories. Every
chance that he got he made a point to educate me on the economy, his war experience, his family and
most of all, his father. For some reason, in every conversation, his father would come up. We could be
talking about how bad the economy was getting and he would say “ See, that’s why I loved my father,
cause know matter how bad things were, he would always provide to the best of his ability.” After those
words he would bite his bottom lip, look down at the ground, and force his tears to stay put. Mr.
Conrad always ceased to amaze me. Not with just his conversation, but with his ways too.

Every morning at six, Mr. Conrad would walk out his front door and look directly at me as I sat
on my wooden porch reading the Daily News. For twenty -two years he has always come out the same
way. His grey thin hair was always pressed in every direction, his pale wrinkled skin remained covered
with a powder blue robe, and he wore these old, soiled, brown moccasin slippers. He would walk down
his walk way to fetch his paper that I always beat him to. At the end of the walkway he would make a
simple and short statement to trigger a long, dragged out conversation. I, myself, was only thirteen
years younger than him. We related about a lot of things that had to do with the economy. One thing
that we didn’t agree on was children. He cherished children, admired them, and thought that they were
all little angels. This came from him having seven children of his own. I never liked children. To me they
were all ungrateful brats that were handed everything they wanted in life. Thank god for me there were
none that lived in the neighborhood. Hearing Mr. Conrad talk about them like angels made me sick. But
not once did I interfere with his belief, out of respect.

After talking for a couple of hours, Mr. Conrad and I would give each other a powerful
handshake and go our separate ways. This happened every morning, without failure. Every time
I left his presence, something that he said would be left in my mind, and it was usually a statement that
he mentioned about children. Eventually, I would dust it off and make myself a drink. Whiskey was my
preference in the morning. One thing that I noticed was that if Mr. Conrad said something that struck a
nerve, I would double the amount of drinks that I had that morning. When the whiskey was doubled, my
mind would go crazy. My past would sneak up on me and make me reflect on my life. The pictures of my
deceased wife would bring back so many old memories. After the tenth glass of whiskey I looked at
every picture and recapped the time period in which the photo took place. One picture was my wife and
me when we first got married. That was truly the first day of the rest of my life. Then I looked at the
pictures that we had in Europe, Italy, India, Russia, Los Angeles, New York and Hawaii. We were so
happy together. I bought this four bedroom home for her after we got married. Tears formed in my eyes
and I knew the emotional side of my alcoholism was coming out. The last photo that I looked at was of
her pregnant. I can remember when we first found out how happy I was. I knew that it was going to be a
girl, so I went out and got everything that my infant daughter would need. In my wife’s seventh month
of pregnancy was when the complications began. Staying up all night to watch after her became a
requirement. The doctor let us know that she did have cancer. It was spreading through her body and
destroying her tissue and organs. In her last month was when the doctor said that the baby probably
wasn’t going to make it out alive. When it came time for the delivery, I was asked to leave the room.
About an hour later the doctor came out clutching a pink baby blanket. With little eye contact he said
“Sorry Mr. Wendell, but we lost both of your girls.” My knees weakened and I fell to the ground. My
heart stopped and I thought that I was going to die. I lost all I had in life. Loss of breath snuck up on me
that day, and I could have sworn my life was over.

Once the funerals were over, I found myself feeling unnatural cravings for alcohol. It became a
physical and mental dependence. It was now a primary focus in my life that disrupted my world. When I
finally got the courage to go into the nursery that I created for my daughter, I took all the stuff to the
backyard and burned them. It took everything in me not to kill myself. Every day seemed like it was
written in stone. Drinking whiskey in the morning was like drinking orange juice to a normal person, it
was normal for me. It took me three years to begin to leave my house and go to a place where there
would be people. Over that period the only one that I associated with was Mr. Conrad. When I left my
house it was to go to Martha’s Vineyard for the afternoon special. At twelve -thirty everyone was
entitled to one free glass of wine. Even if I had to pay for the rest after that first free glass, I was willing
to, as long as I got one for free. On average I spent three hundred dollars on alcohol a week.

When I finished reminiscing, and the whiskey had settled in my stomach, I lay down on the king
size bed that once was occupied by both my wife and I would lie on my back and look at the ceiling for
hours, just thinking. Hours would pass and I wouldn’t want to break my train of thought by looking at
the clock, but the thought of missing my free glass of wine almost gave me a panic attack.


I jumped into my dusty, red Chevy still feeling a little buzz from the double whiskey. It was five
past twelve, so I knew that I should hurry to Martha’s Vineyard. Looking up at the sky made me sick. It
always remained the same. There was no sun, breeze, or color. It was flat, boring, and meaningless. One
thing that it never did was stop me from going to Martha’s Vineyard. There was a place there called
Owen Park that had a bar where I received my treat. Every time I went there the bartender would
always say how I reminded her of Clint Eastwood in the movie “In the Line of Fire.” I would simply shrug
my shoulders and wink at her. She knew that I didn’t think that I looked like him because she always
said, “Seriously you do. You have all his features.” That’s when she would go down the list of what we
eyes that always looked squinted.” I would sit there and just listen but never agree.

I got to the Vineyard five minutes before the wine was served. Once in the bar I made myself
comfortable at the last stool in the corner. I liked to be as far away from people as possible.
When the bartender spotted me she gave me a wink and held up her index finger to indicate
that she would be right with me. Tourists swarmed into the bar awaiting their glass of wine.
Memories of once being a tourist rushed into my brain. Traveling to all those places with my
wife, enjoying samples of soups, cheese, breads, meats, and wine, when I could walk away with just
having a sip. Being at the bar exposed me. I felt like I was alone and everyone else was against
me. Sometimes it seemed they didn’t even notice me. “How can I help you Mr. Eastwood?” the
bartender would say with a chuckle. Then she would look me in the eyes and say softly, “Those
eyes tell a story that one day I wish you would share with me.” The mid- twenties bartender
walked away without taking my order because even she knew what I wanted.
As the chatter built up, I began to finish my eleventh glass of wine. The bartender shot me a look
that let me know she wasn’t serving me anymore, because I passed my limit. I paid the ninety
five dollar bill and walked out. Back into the open was children running around the park with their young
and full of life parents. I hated them so much. Rushing to my car in panic was something that happened
regularly. It had been seventeen years since my wife has been dead and I still can’t block out the
memories. Once again I realized that the alcohol was making me emotional. As soon as I got into my
Chevy was when the tears fell. I tried my hardest not to let them out but they were tired of being
prisoners. After a couple of sniffles I started my car up and drove back to the only place that I felt
comfortable. Home.


The rest of my day usually consists of lying in bed. That was the only thing that kept me sane
and away from people. While lying in bed my mind would think of alcohol. If I tried to think of
something else, the ending result would be the whisky in the cabinet. Besides a few stale crackers,
booze was my main diet. Sitting up on my oversized bed I decided that I was going to go into the nursery.
Down the hall was the door that would have been my daughter’s. I opened it and looked at the solid
pink walls. The room was empty and bare. There was no kind of movement of any kind. My heart started
to pump harder and harder. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead causing me to take a step back. I
took a deep breathe and envisioned a crib. From the crib came a high pitch screech that startled me.
Taking small steps I made my way to the crib that I hoped would hold my infant daughter. When I
looked down and into it, I myself screeched. Looking down I saw a naked pale infant wrapped in a pink
blanket. I soon realized that it was the same blanket that the doctor held in his hands when he told me
about my losses. As soon as I blinked my eyes the crib that was holding my daughter was now gone. I
was left looking at the brown wooden floor. Before I lost my mind I walked out the nursery and closed
the door behind me. I returned back to my empty bed to look at the ceiling and think.

The next morning I woke up five minutes before six. I jumped up and raced to the front door.
Mr. Conrad had not retrieved his newspaper yet. I grabbed mine and like always sat on my wooden
porch. As soon as I sat down Mr. Conrad walked out his door. He walked down the walk way and instead
of grabbing his paper he came towards me. This was unusual. Not once had he ever done that. The fact
that he surprised me and did something that was out of the ordinary amazed me. For this I could say
that he was bold. “Good morning Mr. Wendell,” he said holding his hand out. I took his hand in mine
and held it. “Good morning to you too Mr. Conrad.” For about two minutes we looked each other in the
eye and I could tell that he had something to tell me. “Mr. Wendell, I want to let you know that I have
been diagnosed with lung cancer. It’s been three months that I have been living with it now and I can
see the affect that it is having on my body. What I really wanted to tell you was that you have been an
amazing friend. The hospital is admitting me in, so in case I don’t come back, goodbye.” With that, a
single tear drop fell from my face. Once again he did what he always did. Held his head down, bit his lip
and forced the tears to stay on his eyelid. He turned around with a limp in his step and didn’t look back.

My whisky had been tripled that day. Leaving the house wasn’t an option. Thinking about life
without Mr. Conrad was impossible. All direction had vanished from my mind. I poured one more
glass of whisky and went to sit on my front porch. A couple minutes after finishing my glass I saw a nurse
walking out of Mr. Conrad’s house. Close behind her was another woman that looked to be his
daughter, because of so much resemblance. Mr. Conrad limped out of his home wrapped in a pale pink
sheet. Before I could blink, everything in my vision turned pink. I stood up, causing my glass to fall and
shatter. Running into my house was like a nightmare that I couldn’t get out of. Cries began to rush
through my head. I went into my daughter’s room and ran to a corner. I pressed my knees against my
chest and rocked back and forth. The room started spinning. Before I knew it my alcohol obsessed body
went numb.


“Mr. Wendell? He is awake!?” When I opened my eyes I was surrounded by three people
dressed as doctors. My body felt heavy and useless. I sat up and balanced myself with my elbows and
looked around me. “What’s going on?” I asked. “Mr. Wendell, my name is Dr. Harris. Last night you were rushed
here because a relative of your neighbors said that you ran into your house in panic and was screaming.
She automatically called the ambulance. We, the doctors here at Cherish Hospital, have done a number
of tests on you. It has been shown that you drink an excessive amount of alcohol. What you might not
know is that alcohol is a toxic substance that affects your bodies’ cells. On the other hand, alcohol is a
stress factor for the entire body causing an increase of blood pressure. Mr. Wendell, what I really want
to tell you is that you have Liver disease.” The doctor looked at his team and then to the tiled floor. I
didn’t know what to say. With tears in my eyes I asked “What are some symptoms of Liver Disease?”
“Let’s not go down the list. The symptoms that you are having include mental health problems that deal
with depression and anxiety. Your biggest symptom is alcohol dependence.” I lay my head back on my
pillow and looked at the ceiling. That’s when the tears had come to a point of know return. “Mr.
Wendell, I will be back to give you and injection of medicine. Just relax and I will have someone come
and talk to you real soon.”

A knock at the door caused my eyes to jolt open. “Hey doc”, I said adjusting my pillow. “How’s it
going Mr. Wendell?” Doctor Harris sat next to me in a white jacket.

“I just came back to give you the injection that will help you relax and rehabilitate your body.”
With that he went into his pocket and pulled out a syringe filled with pink liquid. “No! No! No! Get away from me.”
“Mr. Wendell you’re having another symptom. This will not hurt, I can promise you that.”

I screamed and swatted when he came next to me
“Can I have some help in here?” I heard him yell towards the door. Within thirty seconds three nurses ran into the room.

“My legs were now going in every direction, making it hard for them to hold me.

“Mr. Wendell, Calm down!”

The split second I looked at the syringe, I was hammered down. Before I knew it, the liquid was
in my body causing my eyelids to ease there way shut. The last thing I remember seeing was a poster on
the wall of a mother holding her infant child.

The author's comments:
This piece will make you think, maybe even cry.

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