It’s Ten O’Clock Somewhere
“Are you sure you want to do that?”
Pablo stared at the bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream. It was the perfect compliment to a cup of coffee but he’d never had it speak before. Nancy had been bugging him about his drinking. Hard for the last year or so. Said it was a leading cause of divorce, heart disease and hallucinations. Hallucinations being the operative word here. His drinking problem wasn’t that bad.
He picked up the bottle and examined it. This one was full and his hadn’t been. The cap hadn’t even been cracked. There was something off about the label, too. Pablo knew the labels of his alcohol containers like he knew the back of his hand. He set the bottle back down and wiped his damp palm on his pajama pants. Good thing, too, because the bottle spoke again.
“You’re not imagining this.”
“Huh?” It sounded just like Nancy. How could that be? He snatched it up again and turned it upside down, this way and that way. Uh huh. Just below the cap was a raised ring and he could now see tiny computerized parts in it and a miniaturized speaker hole. He put it on the countertop once more and held his hands out as if to keep it at bay. “Okay. Saying I can swallow the fact that a bottle of liquor is talking to me, why do you sound like my wife?”
“They can do all kinds of things with AI now. I’m just one of the latest examples, an effort to combat alcoholism.”
“Really? Well, you’re going back in the cabinet.” Pablo plunked the Irish cream in the cupboard and yanked out a bottle of Jack Daniels.
“That won’t help, either,” the bottle said. Pablo might have dropped it if it didn’t contain such precious liquid. Unbroken seal, same computerized ring around the neck. Another one. “We’re all the same. Nancy switched us out before she left.”
“Switched you out? You mean there’s no liquor in any of you?” What was he doing? Talking to bottles?
They even got the smirk in Nancy’s voice right. It was just as irritating in AI. “It’s the same brand as the label claims, just a little different packaging. Check the back.”
Pablo did. At the bottom in small gold print was the disclaimer: Re-bottled by SD Tech.
“Stop Drinking,” Nancy’s mechanized voice clarified. “Your wife went to SD a week ago and had us made. They recorded a few hours of her voice print and made me and my friends. I hope we’re good company. That, of course, depends on you. We could be here for a while.”
Cursing under his breath, Pablo put the whiskey back in the cupboard, reheated his coffee in the microwave and took it out on the deck. It slopped over the rim when he put it on the side table a little too brusquely. The rocking chair creaked beneath him as he sat and glowered at the pretty mountain scenery before him. That sneaky woman. Of all the rotten tricks to pull, this one took the cake. AI liquor bottles…
He hardly noticed the taste of sugar and cream. All he kept thinking about was how good it would be to have a shot of Bailey’s. Well, maybe two. The desire wouldn’t leave him alone. A little voice kept saying, Go on. Who cares what the bottle thinks?
Pablo grabbed the coffee cup and went back in the house. No AI was going to tell him he couldn’t put some toot in his morning mug. Opening the cupboard he got the Bailey’s out. “Oh, here we go again.” It really sounded like Nancy now. “You realize it’s just nine in the morning.”
“I realize that!” he snapped, right in the label’s face. “It’s ten o’clock on the east coast.”
The bottled voice came out sharper this time, angry just as Nancy would be. “Yeah! Right about the time you’d normally be finishing off the pot of coffee and moving on to a beer or Jack and coke. Are you really going to start drinking at nine now?”
Pablo put his elbow on the counter and his head in hand. “Why is she doing this to me?”
The voice this time was softer, sympathetic, and what it said broke his heart. “Because she loves you, Pablo. This is her last ditch effort at saving your marriage.”
“Am I really that bad?” he asked Bailey’s.
“You don’t get falling-down puking drunk. Yet. Give it time, though. Work has suffered. Your friends are talking about how you slur your words and can’t walk a straight line. When she told you she was leaving last night you couldn’t even come around enough to stop her.”
Pablo flushed with shame. The bottle was right. He’d barely heard her and thought, Good, let her go if she wants to. Who needs her?
He did. Eight years together, the first six of them really great. The last two had been filled with her increasing disapproval as he exercised his arm more and more. “I love her, too.”
“Then do something about it.”
He imagined not having his crutch and felt like a cripple at just the thought. No more reaching over for that sweating tumbler or an ice-cold beer as he sat at the computer and wrote his articles. Life without that warm burn going down the esophagus, the taste of bourbon on the tongue. Too many things crowding in, making it impossible to order his mind without a little nip to shut them down. To make it all go away in that comfortable haze.
That harsh word jarred him out of his reverie. “Just shut up!” he screamed.
“Pour me down the sink and I will.”
“Screw you.” He took hold of the cap and twisted it open.
“Pablo! Please!” As soon as the metal seal was torn open he knew the voice that followed wasn’t Bailey’s. A broken sob convinced him this was actually Nancy. “Don’t.”
He took his hand off the cap. In his mind he heard a little wheedling tone say, Just sniff it. Ignoring his own desire, he whispered, “Is that you? The real you?”
“Yes, it’s me. The bottle’s designed to call my cell phone if you open it. I’ve been holding it all this time. Didn’t even let it get a full ring.” Nancy began to cry in earnest.
He thought of his wife, sitting all alone with her phone clutched in her hand all night. Waiting for him to do the wrong thing. Again. He’d totaled his Benz in a one-car accident. That had made it easy for her to leave him here alone. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too. I tricked you into going to the cabin, knowing it’s miles from anywhere and you wouldn’t have a way to leave. I put those bottles in the cabinet and took yours with me to throw away the first chance I had. You can be angry if you like but I’m at my wit’s end with you.”
He ran the back of his hand under his nose. “What do you want me to do?”
“Tell me you want some help then pour the liquor down the sink.” The sobbing had ended. Her voice came out firm but soft. “Do that and I’m on my way. Take another drink and I’ll leave you where you are.”
Pablo wiped his eyes and swallowed so his words would come out with conviction. “I want help.”
“I got a room in town. I’ll be there in half an hour.” He could hear the smile in her voice. “I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
Pablo pulled the bottles out of the cupboard and went to the sink. He upended the Bailey’s first. “Thank you, Pablo.”
“Thank you, Pablo.”
“Thank you, Pablo.”
“Thank you, Pablo.”