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An Alcoholic Case
by [?]


‘Let–go–that–Oh-h-h! Please, now, will you? Don’tstart drinking again! Come on–give me the bottle. I told you I’d stay awake givin’ it to you. Come on. If you do like that a-way–then what are you going to be like when you go home. Come on–leave it with me–I’ll leave half in the bottle. Pul-lease. You know what Dr Carter says–I’ll stay awake and give it to you, or else fix some of it in the bottle–come on–like I told you, I’m too tired to be fightin’ you all night…. All right, drink your fool self to death.’

‘Would you like some beer?’ he asked.

‘No, I don’t want any beer. Oh, to think that I have to look at you drunk again. My God!’

‘Then I’ll drink the Coca Cola.’

The girl sat down panting on the bed.

‘Don’t you believe in anything?’ she demanded.

‘Nothing you believe in–please–it’ll spill.’

She had no business there, she thought, no business trying to help him. Again they struggled, but after this time he sat with his head in his hands awhile, before he turned around once more.

‘Once more you try to get it I’ll throw it down,’ she said quickly.’I will–on the tiles in the bathroom.’

‘Then I’ll step on the broken glass–or you’ll step on it.’

‘Then let go–oh you promised–‘

Suddenly she dropped it like a torpedo, sliding underneath her hand and slithering with a flash of red and black and the words: SIR GALAHAD, DISTILLED LOUISVILLE GIN. He took it by the neck and tossed it through the open door to the bathroom.

It was on the floor in pieces and everything was silent for a while and she read Gone With the Windabout things so lovely that had happened long ago. She began to worry that he would have to go into the bathroom and might cut his feet, and looked up from time to time to see if he would go in. She was very sleepy–the last time she looked up he was crying and he looked like an old Jewish man she had nursed once in California; he had had to go to the bathroom many times. On this case she was unhappy all the time but she thought:

‘I guess if I hadn’t liked him I wouldn’t have stayed on the case.’

With a sudden resurgence of conscience she got up and put a chair in front of the bathroom door. She had wanted to sleep because he had got her up early that morning to get a paper with the story of the Yale-Dartmouth game in it and she hadn’t been home all day. That afternoon a relative of his had come to see him and she had waited outside in the hall where there was a draught with no sweater to put over her uniform.

As well as she could she arranged him for sleeping, put a robe over his shoulders as he sat slumped over his writing table, and one on his knees. She sat down in the rocker but she was no longer sleepy; there was plenty to enter on the chart and treading lightly about she found a pencil and put it down:

Pulse 120

Respiration 25

Temp. 98–98. 4–98. 2


–She could make so many:

Tried to get bottle of gin. Threw it away and broke it.

She corrected it to read:

In the struggle it dropped and was broken. Patient was generally difficult.

She started to add as part of her report: I never want to go on an alcoholic case again,but that wasn’t in the picture. She knew she could wake herself at seven and clean up everything before his niece awakened. It was all part of the game. But when she sat down in the chair she looked at his face, white and exhausted, and counted his breathing again, wondering why it had all happened. He had been so nice today, drawn her a whole strip of his cartoon just for fun and given it to her. She was going to have it framed and hang it in her room. She felt again his thin wrists wrestling against her wrist and remembered the awful things he had said, and she thought too of what the doctor had said to him yesterday: