NUMBER ONE JOE By Carol Smuts

I really had to pee but first, I needed a drink. I pulled open the liquor cabinet and reached for the Grey Goose.

“Motherfucker.” The bottle was about empty.

I was pissed. For once I stepped up to buy the good stuff. I was finally making a good living so I could justify Grey Goose in place of the bottom-shelf rubbing alcohol I usually choked down.

“Joe… Joe! Are you home?”

Of course Joe was home, Joe was always home. But Joe didn’t answer; probably asleep again.

I called him my roommate but in truth, Joe was a glorified homeless guy who slept on my couch. We’d been close since high school and mostly, he didn’t bother me. He never cleaned, but he also didn’t make messes or leave dishes in the sink.

We had a nice working relationship–an understanding. I’m a single girl and I felt safer having a guy around. He occasionally stocked the fridge and whenever the state loaded his

unemployment debit card, he’d spring for dinner. And I let him crash in my apartment. Occasionally, he showered.

As time passed, the fridge-stocking became rare and Joe spent the bulk of his day loafing with the remote pointed at the TV. It was irritating, but it pissed me off royally picturing him there, head tilted back, lips wrapped around my Grey Goose.

Two months back, I noticed my liquor levels dwindling. I first chalked it up to forgotten imbibing after Ambien. Then, I walked in on Joe with his mouth on a bottle of tequila, chugging like a teenage boy from a milk carton. I knew why my stash was disappearing.

So Joe was there for me when my 11th grade boyfriend dumped me, and so he fronted me some cash for college tuition when times were tight, but that was ages ago.

Vodka was my special thing, the one luxury I occasionally allowed. If it was anything else– granola bars, toilet paper…hell, I WISH Joe stole my soap more often—I wouldn’t care, but not the vodka.

I didn’t want to kick him out–he was like a brother–but I needed leverage. I needed revenge.

I poured what remained of the Goose then carried my glass to the bathroom. I still had to pee.

As I sat waiting to wiz, I pondered the nature of liquid. Did vodka turn into urine? Was Joe just pissing away my expensive alcohol?

Bingo.

I drank my booze in one gulp then squatted carefully over the toilet bowl, aiming my stream at the empty glass in my hand. The mess was minimal and when I finished, I had six useable ounces.

I sauntered back to the kitchen pleased with myself; I was my own self-contained distillery. I could call my product Yellow Goose. No, Ketel Number One.

Maybe not.

I dumped the contents of the glass into the empty Goose bottle.

Nobody, not even Stoner Joe, was going to believe the yellow liquid in the bottom of the bottle was vodka. But, once I added the triple charcoal-filtered gut rot–the stuff I drank when I couldn’t afford Goose–it looked perfect. Appealing, almost.

I tucked the bottle into the liquor cabinet then rinsed my glass and popped it in the dishwasher.

“What’s up?” Joe offered as he meandered into the kitchen with a sleepy face and a dirty t-shirt.

“Not a thing!” I answered. “You thirsty?”


Carolyn Smuts taught history before trading academic life for corporate America. She’s been writing for business and pleasure more than 10 years and recent fiction works were published by Akashic Books, Jitter Press, Wordland, Dual Coast, and Omnific. She spends weekends studying weird local history, running, drinking, and hiking the hills of Southern California with her family.