Short Story Fiction
The Bench Part Four:
Cleaned up and Sober

Wesley accepts the deal and starts the process toward a new life.

Wesley sat in silence as Corey laid out the deal. It was more than he expected. Having it thrown at him all at once made his head spin. He didn’t know what to think. “That’s a lot of money. How am I suppose to pay it back?”

short story fiction / The Bench part fourJohn Tuesday/Unsplash

“The money is for you and you don’t owe us a dime in return. All we ask from you is that you remain sober and you show up for your gigs on time.”

Wesley was having a hard time understanding the generosity he was being shown. “Why are you doing this?” He asked.

Corey pulled a pack of cigarettes from his front shirt pocket and offered one to Wesley. “No thanks. That’s one thing I don’t do.”

“Probably for the best,” replied Corey as he leaned back in his chair, lit up and took a drag. He blew the smoke out slowly and watched it float through the air. He looked over to Wesley. “Here’s my story. Maybe this will help you understand. About ten years ago I was a musician touring with a band. I played a saxophone. You might recognize the band if I told you, but this isn’t about me and my success. It’s about me and my downfall.

“We partied heavy and often. I did my share of drugs and drank more than my share of booze. It was a dangerous lifestyle but I didn’t realize it at the time. Even if I did I probably wouldn’t have cared. I was having the time of my life. Eventually the booze became more important to me than the music. I was addicted and it soon took over my life. I dropped out of the band. No, to be honest, the band dropped me. Thinking back on the situation I don’t really blame them. Over time I lost everything I held dear. I ended up on the street just like you. And just like you, I drank my share of cheap wine and ate my share of other peoples garbage.

“The street was my home for about five years. I wanted to quit drinking in the worst way and finally got up the guts to throw myself at the mercy of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was a difficult thing to do but they helped me get and stay sober.

“I was one of the fortunate ones. The base player in the band I played with had the foresight to convince each of us to set up a personal investment account. Each month our manager made sure funds were deposited into those accounts. Somehow, after I started with AA, word got to him that I had gotten myself sober. He contacted me and reminded me about the account. I had totally forgotten about it. I was fortunate enough to have such honest people in my life.

“There was enough money in the account to start this coffee shop.

“I knew I wanted to somehow give back to society. Several years ago I got together with a few other members of AA who I knew were financially well off. We were of one mind in that we knew we wanted to somehow give something back. We decided the best thing we could do would be to help get others off the street. It was my suggestion to concentrate on musicians.

“We’re not a big operation. We’ve helped around nine or ten people so far. It’s not a write-off and we don’t accept donations. We use our own money. That way it keeps the government off our backs. So far our success rate is 100%.

“So, that’s my story and that’s what I and a few others do. We’re interested in helping you, but you need to be willing to help yourself. We won’t force you. You need to want this on your own. So what do you think?”

Wesley stood up and reached his hand out to Corey. “How can I say no. Looks like you’ve got yourself a new piano player. Where do we go from here?”

Corey stood up and grabbed Wesley’s hand. “Wonderful. I’m looking forward to helping you. The first step begins tomorrow. For now, head back to the barber shop. Al has a spare room for you to stay the night. I’ll let him know you’re coming. Tomorrow morning I’ll be by to pick you up and we’ll start the process.”

“What’s the process?” Asked Wesley.

“A trip to AA where you’ll begin a period of drying out.”

Wesley was hesitant to go through that process but he was desperate to get away from the bottle and he liked the turn his life was taking. He agreed to give AA a try.

He went back to Al’s place and the two of them stayed up most of the night talking about music and their past careers. Wesley needed a drink but Al refused to give him one. “I told you yesterday that the one I gave you would probably be your last. I was serious.”

It was a long and restless night but Al stayed right with him until Corey showed up the next morning. The two of them took Wesley and got him checked in. They assured him they wouldn’t be far away and when the time was right they would be back.

~~~~~

The first week was hell but Wesley stuck it out. The second week went much better. By the time Corey picked him up Wesley was a new man.

“We’re going to celebrate tonight, Wesley. Once a week several of us ex-musicians get together for a jam session. I’ve invited Al and another friend of mine, a base player named Franklin, to come by the shop tonight. I thought we might have a homecoming for you. Can you play any jazz?”

“You bet, I love jazz,” replied Wesley.

Corey got Wesley settled in a halfway house for musicians he and Al had set up. Corey decided to give an open invitation to several of the others.

That evening with Al on guitar, Corey on sax, Franklin on base, a trombone player named Toby and Wesley on the piano, the five of them jammed for the few late night coffee drinkers who happened to be in the shop. The musicians weren’t polished but they had a good time.

Wesley had been dry for two weeks and he was enjoying every minute of it. Even so, there was something on his mind about his life on the street that he just couldn’t shake. Early one morning he decided to do something about it. He took a walk down to where he used to hang out when he was homeless. He headed for the very bench he spent so much time on. As he walked the streets, the area brought back some very negative feelings. So much so that he almost turned back, but he persisted. He needed to follow through with what he had on his mind.

© Copyright 2023 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.


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