The Sarah Book
By Scott McClanahan
All rights reserved.
I was the best drunk driver in the world. I'd been doing it for years. One morning Sarah came home from work and went back to bed. I tucked her in tight and kissed her forehead and told her not to worry about a thing. I told her to drift off to dreamland and not worry about her night shift and everything would be better when she woke up. Then I shut the door behind me and snuck down the stairs. I dodged the piles of basement junk and walked to a tiny room where we kept the out of tune piano from Sarah's childhood. This is where I kept the big bottle. I took out my empty water bottle from my back pocket and then I opened up the piano top. The wood creaked eek and popped open like a monster's mouth. "I'm worried about you," Sarah told me a few weeks before. I thought about that now as I reached inside the open upright piano and pulled out the bottle. The piano keys tickled out a tune as I twisted off the bottle top and held the empty water bottle up to it and filled the water bottle full. I listened to its love song. I screwed both lids back on tight and then I put the big bottle back and shut the piano top shut.
It was time for my favorite part. It was time to drive. I drove down the street and through red lights and stop signs shouting stop. I zipped alongside cars at seventy miles an hour and thought "We're all just a few feet from one another. We're all just a few feet from finding out the physics of death." Sometimes I said this stuff out loud and sometimes I didn't. I slipped onto the interstate and watched the white lines pass and remembered my friend who used to laugh like a maniac when I got in the car and shouted, "I'm the best drunk driver in the world" and then hit the gas. And you know what, he was right. It was like his reflexes were improved or something. Or it was like he wasn't all tense and nervous and could drive like he wasn't driving. I asked him once what his secret was to never getting pulled over and he told me to be invisible. I whispered this wisdom now, "Be invisible, Scott. Be invisible."
I drank from the water bottle full of gin and I chased it with water from another water bottle and then I did it again. I reached down into the glove box and pulled out the mouthwash. I popped the top and giggled once and gargled it down. Then I drove towards the blue sky and the purple mountain majesty and spit the mouth wash back into the mouth wash bottle. I listened to the radio and I looked for a CD and I felt what I never felt. I felt calm and I felt glowing and I felt invisible. And so I drove up the interstate hill. Invisible. Then I heard Iris talking.
"Oh shit," I said. I'd forgotten about the kids. I looked into the back seat and there was my son Sam and there was my daughter Iris sitting in the backseat. I was always doing stupid shit like bringing the kids along and forgetting about this or doing shit like putting the kids in the car and not even knowing I was putting the kids in the car. I shouted now, "You guys alright back there? You all just sit back and enjoy the drive. Maybe we'll go over to grandma and grandpas. You want to go to grandma and grandpas?"
They did. I threw my arm in the air and shouted: "Let's go to grandmas." The kids laughed in the backseat and so I shouted it again, "Let's go to grandmas," except this time they didn't laugh. But I didn't care. I wasn't going to let them ruin my day with their grumpiness. So I took a sip of gin again and then I chased it with water again and I saw the whole world go wild. I saw how nervous I was every day that Sarah was going to catch my bottles. I saw how nervous I was Sarah was going to find my hiding spots. And so I drank it down. I imagined myself drinking all of the skin of the world and all of the blood of the world and the spirits of all my friends and I was drinking the air. I was melting my children and I was drinking them too. And they tasted great.
I kept driving to grandmas and that's when I saw a cop car parked beside the road. Shit. Shit. Hit the brakes. Hit the brakes. Speed gun. We passed the cop. I looked up in the rear view mirror and I thought, "Don't move. Please." I imagined myself invisible. Then I saw the cop car inch forward and then pull out onto the interstate. I saw the cop car lights flip on and start flashing. Red. Blue. White. Red. Blue. White. I drove for a moment and then I remembered my neighbor the cop who told me one time, "It's what people do after they get pulled over that gets them arrested." I slowed down and pulled alongside the road just a few feet from the cars whipping past us at 70 MPH. We were all so close to killing one another, always. The cop car pulled behind me. I watched him in the rear view.
He sat in his cop car for a second and so I reached into my shirt pocket and pulled out three pieces of gum I always kept in there. I popped them in my mouth to help cover up my smell and I watched the state trooper stand up out of his car and then he kept standing up more and even more until he stood tall. He walked tall towards me and I watched him touch the back of my car to leave his fingerprints in case I shot him and drove away. I rolled the window down and the cop said, "License and registration please."
But I was ready for him already. I always kept my license and registration and proof of insurance in the passenger seat so if I was ever pulled over I wouldn't go stumbling all drunk through the glove box looking for them. I reached for it now and kept repeating inside my head, "Don't shake. Please don't shake." I always sat in parking lots when I was drinking and practiced talking without slurring my words or shaking my hands. But now here I was and my words were slurring and my hands were shaking too. I was barely able to hand him my stuff without dropping it. The cop didn't say anything. He bent over and looked in the car.
Then he stood beside the car and looked at my registration. He looked at my license. He looked at my proof of insurance. And then he leaned over a little bit like he smelled something on me. I was sure he could smell it. The kids kicked and talked to themselves in the back seat. "Just a second," he said and walked back to the police car and sat down. It was finally over and Sarah was going to know. Iris and Sam started crying a little bit.
"It's okay guys," I said. "Everything is fine."
But I knew it wasn't. I saw him coming back and asking me, "Sir, have you had any alcohol today?" And then, "Would you please get out of your vehicle for me?" I saw Sarah coming to the police station to get the kids and I imagined child protective services showing up and questioning her. I would cry when I told her what happened and how I lied all the time and how I put the children in danger and how I was destroying the life we made together. I would tell her how I was destroying our lives. And so I watched him finally get out of his car and walk back to mine. I waited for him to ask me, "Sir, would you get out of your car?" But he didn't. He handed me back everything I had handed him just a few minutes before. Then he looked in the backseat and instead of arresting me, he said, "Well, hello kiddos. Will you guys help me make sure Daddy doesn't go too fast today?"
I took the license and registration and the proof of insurance. The kids didn't say anything back. And so he walked away. And I wasn't caught. I was too afraid to say thank you. The children were actually crying now. Snot was running out of their noses. I said, "Babies don't you cry" but my words were so slurred you couldn't even understand them. I reached to change the CD playing but my hands were shaking so bad I finally just stopped. I pulled back on the interstate and drove on and I smiled and started to weave between the lanes on the interstate lines. I smiled and listened to the children cry and I felt the world glow. I threw up in a plastic bag from Wal-Mart and I threw it out the window. The children were still crying, but I didn't care now. I was free and I wasn't caught and I was driving our death car so fast and unafraid. I was destroying our lives now and it felt so fucking wonderful.
Excerpted from The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan. Copyright © 2017 Scott McClanahan. Excerpted by permission of Tyrant Books.
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