Audio Tape

By:
09/13/2007

Teddy slips some whisky into his bottle of Coca-Cola. It’s the Coca-Cola generation, as Godard once said, and he takes a swig. He’s in line at a bookstore. It’s another commercial bookstore that looks exactly the same, like a snowflake—different, but still snow. He takes another swig.

There’s this old couple standing behind him, and they’re not in line but they are. They’re browsing while saving a spot to greet the cashier with their merchandise and their retirement money. She’s one of those old ladies who wears sweat pants and lime green track jackets, he’s one of those old guys longing to be young with his leather jacket and black slacks. They seem to be fascinated by audio tapes of Hemingway, Salinger, Clancy, Rowlings, Grisham—it’s a mixture of classics and bullshit. Just like his Coca-Cola and whisky. He’d rather just have just the whisky, but it’s “unacceptable” to drink straight out of the bottle while you’re out in public.

“Honey, look at these—why would they have audio tapes?”

“It’s for people who can’t read or who are blind—”

“Oh, that’s wonderful! I should get one … I can read while doing crochet … oh, how wonderful, honey!”

“It’s fifty dollars! That’s forty more dollars just so you don’t have to read. Do we even have a tape player?”

“We have one in the car, I think.”

“What do you mean? We do? We’ve had that car for thirty years now. What do you mean there’s a tape player? I’ve never heard a goddammed tape my whole life in that car—”

“Oh honey, you’re getting senile. There is a—”

“Don’t say I’m senile, Goddammit!!”

He wants to yell. Teddy, tall and graceful in his drunken stupor, wants to yell—WHY DON’T YOU JUST READ THE DAMN BOOK—WHY DON’T YOU FUCKING FORGET YOUR CROCHET AND JUST READ—YOU’RE IN A FUCKING BOOKSTORE—JESUS CHRIST—but he restrains himself. He’s reminded of when he saw an old man push the Pepsi sign to try to get the drink when there was a “push” sign right above it. Fucking old people, he thinks. Fucking old people waste space and ruin it for others.

He pays for his novel, he gets another Bukowski book—all that drinking and fucking and being lost seems to speak to him in particular—and he goes out. He’s not the only loser, not the only that is misunderstood—but then again—Bukowski fucked a lot of women—and suddenly he’s jealous. He lights a cigarette—the first of the day but not the last- and takes the final swig from his Coca-Cola and whisky. He aims, fires, but misses the old lady on crutches. She doesn’t notice she’s a target.
He keeps walking towards his car and finds a black device on the ground. He picks it up and sees a young boy walking in front of him. What has this fucker done for him? But he decides he needs all the karma he can get—he’s broke, broken, drunk—so he picks up the device and yells out to the kid.

“Hey—here’s your wallet—you dropped it.”

“That’s an iPod, old man.”

The kid doesn’t even thank him. He even manages to mumble—fucking old people—and walks off.

Teddy gets into his car and finishes what’s left of the whisky. He drives to a liquor store and gets another fifth. He pays the usual $25.50. It only used to be $10.75 in the ‘70s. He can’t understand how things can change so quickly. What the hell is an iPod, anyway? Suddenly he wishes he bought an audio tape—you can’t really drink, drive and read at the same time.

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Tae Jung Choi


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