When I first saw you, you were shuffling down the aisle of a crowded train, pausing every few seats to check in—

“How do I get to Myrtle?”

“How do I get to Myrtle?”

“How do I…”

I’ll admit to feeling a prick of annoyance (not another one), but it passed on realizing your compromised condition—a slight allover tremor, eyes milky with age. You were lost, and without assistance. When you got to where I was, it was time to step out. Thinking fast—Myrtle… Myrtle Avenue?—I said I could help you; I reached for your arm, and you gave it to me. As we stood together on the platform, I asked you for more, for anything. But all you could give was “Myrtle,” plus a few extras like “want” and “need,” conjuring an image of Myrtle not as place but as woman pined for. I consulted a subway map anyway, a matrix of colored strings to confuse the spriest of us. Pointing out various neighborhoods Myrtle Avenue traverses, I looked for signs—an affirming nod, flicker of recognition: home. None came. Instead, a new word, faint but there: “Lewis, Lewis and Myrtle.” Energized, I trailed a finger, inching east, and… Lewis. Lewis Avenue: a mere three complicated train transfers away. Daunted on your behalf, I did my best to explain the complexity of what awaited should you attempt again the train, next asking softly if you had money for a cab home. You were keeping up well enough, because you pulled out a billfold, which you opened and held open for me, revealing a brave sad emptiness. I told you it was okay, I could pay for your ride, and you followed me silently, slowly up the stairs and out into the circus that is downtown Brooklyn during rush hour. As you waited somewhere at my back, I watched cab after cab clear the intersection, every last one taken. An irrational desperation crept steadily in, erasing relationship woes, that problem at work, until the only thing left to care about was getting you out of all this. I chanced a quick look behind—your face, that impossible read—and a second later a yellow car was slowing at the curb. I filled in the driver, paying in advance, in approximate, and he gave you a kind smile, understanding. “We’ll getcha there.” You took some time getting situated, organizing your tired bones in that backseat, and I stood there wondering about so much… Your solemn “thank you” caught me unawares, struck deep, though I don’t believe it changed anything important.

Years out, certain evenings when I’m feeling lost, lived up, I take to Brooklyn’s quieter streets and think of you and our exchange. I hope you made it home alright,

home to your Myrtle.

One night, Tony went to a bar to have a drink.

That drink lead to another drink. Then to another bar. Then people bought Tony drinks and Tony can never say no to drinks. One bartender refilled his beer without even asking, and Tony, one never a fan of wastefulness, made sure to keep drinking.

Tony decided to go to another bar and another bar, then Tony took a cab home. On the way he realized that he didn’t want to pay more than $5 for a cab ride, so he stopped the driver at $4.40. It happened to be at an intersection of a bar where Tony knew friends and he drank more.

The next thing Tony knew it was noon the next morning and he was in bed, sleeping next to The Herring Fairy. The Herring Fairy surprised Tony with a tale more embarrassing than David Hasselhoff trying to eat a hamburger on the floor.

The Herring Fairy woke up hours earlier at 2:30am to witness a stumbling Tony. She filled in the gaps from his alcohol soaked memories. She saw Tony taking off his rings. He was bent over the table, with his face two inches from his hands as he negotiated the intricacies of removing his four rings. The rings fought with him and dared to stay on until The Herring Fairy lifted Tony’s head to help him. A string of drool finally broke from the table to Tony’s open mouth.

They gave me free drinks, Tony said.

You need to learn how to say no, The Herring Fairy said.

Tony paused and stared at The Herring Fairy and said, I don’t know how.

There was sadness and desperation in Tony’s reply.

I’m hungry, Tony said. I haven’t eaten all day, Tony said. And said. And said. And said.

After The Herring Fairy listed the meager food inventory in the cabinets, Tony chose Herring and crackers.

The Herring Fairy fed Tony a full cracker with herring. Tony was too drunk to chew. The Herring Fairy pushed Tony’s chin up and down to help him eat.

You need to chew, you’re going to choke, The Herring Fairy said.

After repeated use of those pesky, alcohol saturated jaw muscles, the cracker and herring finally went down.

Whatever happened to that writer who died? Tony said.

What writer? The Herring Fairy said.

The one who choked on a cracker, Tony said and laughed as The Herring Fairy decided to bypass the crackers and just get herring into Tony’s stomach.

Down the long hallway Tony walked, gripping onto the walls, like he was Samson between the pillars. Then he did a face plant onto the bed, giving The Herring Fairy enough space to work at taking off Tony’s shoes and pants.

She finally rolled him over and he fell asleep.

At 5am, The Herring Fairy heard a huge thump. Tony sat on the floor next to the bed.

Did you fall? The Herring Fairy asked.

I have to go to the bathroom, Tony replied.

Hoping Tony meant to use the actual facilities and not go on the floor, The Herring Fairy was relieved to see Tony hold onto the walls and chairs as he stumbled to the bathroom.

Tony learned a valuable lesson that night. A lesson that may help others if they chose to accept help. A lesson that he’ll forever be thankful for.

Tony learned that everyone should have a Herring Fairy.

The End.


Starring

Lia Garcia as The Herring Fairy
Tony DuShane as himself