This is an excerpt from William Penrod’s unpublished novel, A Beer Drinker’s Story: The Mama’s Boy.

This novel is set in the heavily-industrialized region of northwestern Indiana that is Penrod’s home. It follows the efforts of a “beer-drinking dreamer, a fantasist in the extreme,” to write the book that will change his life, as well as his net worth. When his attempts at employment fail, he takes to living in an abandoned passenger station. He continues to work on the book, until the local authorities lock him up for stealing lunch buckets.

Penrod is looking for a publisher.

— Ed.

 

His renewal began with the appearance of that most despised of all the midnight messengers, THE COSELL, and the anguished realization of that most dreadful day’s certain coming.

 

“What are you doing here?” he asked the despicable figure that appeared in the darkness of his cell.

“Well,” the despicable one replied, licking his chops, “you should have known that you couldn’t avoid me forever.”

“What do you want?”

“I have some news for you.”

“What kind of news?”

“Bad news.”

 

“You always have bad news.”

“That’s my job.”

“Everybody hates you.”

“I’m only doing my job.”

“I hate you too.”

“Don’t be mean.”

 

“What kind of bad news do you have for me?”

“Your mother is dead.”

“I didn’t want her to die.”

“Well, she did.”

 

THE COSELL offered as proof a grotesque picture of his dead mother, her dead eyes wounded and puzzled, staring blankly into a forever of nothingness that filled him with a screeching terror.

 

“I didn’t want her to die,” he protested.

“Well, she did,” THE COSELL snapped.

“I didn’t want her to die.”

“You know very well . . . everybody has to die.”

“Why?”

“That’s just the way it is.”

“I don’t like it.”

“Tough.”

 

He examined a second picture, found not even an X marking the spot, and began a panicky inquiry.

 

“Where is she?”

“The Berrie Brothers have her.”

“The funeral home?”

“Yes.”

“They already have her?”

“They came and got her right away.”

 

OK, get ready to roll.

We’re ready.

Got a stiff for you.

Who is it?

Somebody’s mother.

We’re on our way.

We’re rolling.

 

“They’re fast.”

“Yes, they got there right away.”

“They’re really fast.”

“You know their slogan. . . . WE START CLICKING WHEN YOU STOP TICKING.

 

“The Berrie Brothers . . . they say that?”

“Clever, isn’t it?”

 

OK, we picked up the stiff.

Good.

She wasn’t even cold yet.

You gonna bring her in now?

Naw, we wanna get a bite to eat first.

Where you goin’?

The House of Pancakes.

Try the blueberry.

 

“They left my mother out there all alone while they went in and ate?”

“I guess she wasn’t hungry.”

“That’s not funny.”

“I . . . HO, HO . . . know.”

“You’re not funny.”

“HO, HO.”

 

He suddenly felt betrayed and abandoned, the butt of some cosmic prankster’s cruelest joke.

 

“Why did my mother die?”

“It was her turn.”

“Her turn?”

“Her number came up.”

“Her number?”

“Yes, they drew her number.”

 

“They draw numbers?”

“That’s right.”

“Like a lottery?”

“That’s right.”

“They draw numbers?”

“You know a better way to do it?”

 

Whose number is that?

Somebody’s mother.

Good.

Yeah. Too many mothers now.

 

“Who drew my mother’s number?”

“Richard Nixon.”

“Is that what he’s doing now?”

“Yes.”

 

“Maybe I could have stopped him.”

“I doubt it.”

 

“Maybe I could get him to change it.”

“It’s too late now.”

 

OK, we’re finished drawing numbers.

Those are for the people who will die today.

Yep, they’re finished now.

Yep, they’re all through.

It’s final.

That’s all there is.

We’ll draw some more numbers tomorrow.

Right.

 

“Isn’t there anything I can do?”

“Just go in there and see her.”

“I don’t want to.”

“You have to.”

“I don’t want to.”

“The Berrie Brothers have fixed her up real nice. . . .”

 

“I don’t want my mother to be dead.”

“Well, she is.”

 

The teeth of the notion that he was somehow responsible for or could have prevented what happened began their painful, grinding chew.

 

“Why didn’t somebody tell me my mother was dying?”

“Maybe they didn’t want to bother you.”

“Why not?”

“They must have figured you were busy.”

“Doing what?”

“Playing with your prick . . . probably.”

“I quit doing that.”

“Big deal.”

 

He shivered as THE COSELL moved him into the Berrie Brothers green-carpeted Slumber Room where the Berrie Brothers casket with his dead mother in it was waiting.

 

“I don’t like this place.”

“See how nice she looks?”

“I don’t like this place.”

“Come on. The Berrie Brothers have fixed her up real nice.”

“I don’t care.”

“The Berrie Brothers always do such a good job. You know their slogan. . . . GIVE US SOME DOUGH AND WE’LL GET ’EM READY TO GO. . . . Go ahead. Take a look. . . .”

 

Stepping forward gingerly, he forced the confrontation, looked down at his dead mother, searched for evidence that a ghastly mistake had been made.

 

She was still breathin’.

Yeah.

She was just sleepin’.

Yeah.

Her son seen it.

Yeah.

They was gonna bury her but her son stopped them.

Yeah.

He proved she wasn’t dead.

Yeah.

They just woke her up and she went on home.

Yeah.

 

She’s still alive now.

Yeah.

 

Minutes passed, an eternity of minutes, before the stark evidence in front of him took control, dissolving his puny bone of hope into a flimsy powder of eternal dust.

 

“Ohhhhh, I hope nothing hurts her now,” he said.

“Not a chance,” THE COSELL assured.

“What do you mean?”

“The Berrie Brothers took care of that.”

“What did they do?”

“They cut her open and drained all her blood out.”

 

“I hope that didn’t hurt her.”

“She . . . HO HO . . . didn’t say anything.”

“I hate you.”

“Don’t be so touchy.”

“I hate everybody.”

“You’re being difficult.”

 

“I don’t want my mother to be dead.”

“Well, she is.”

 

A man, dressed in black, recently filled with sausages and eggs and cups of hot coffee and toast smeared with butter and gobs of blackberry jam, trumpeted forth into the Berrie Brothers green-carpeted Slumber Room.

 

“Who’s that?”

“Bobby Joe Rant.”

“What’s he doin’ here?”

“He’s the minister.”

“I don’t like his looks.”

“Shhhhhhhhh.”

 

“What’s he doin’ here?”

“He’s here to help your mother.”

“I don’t like his looks.”

“Shhhhhhhhh!”

 

“I still don’t like his looks.”

“Shhhhhhhhh!”

“Why?”

“He can get your mother into heaven.”

“Are you sure?”

 

“Bobby Joe can get her in.”

“I hope he can.”

“Don’t worry. He’ll do it.”

“I hope he can do it.”

“You know Bobby Joe’s slogan. . . . PUT SOME MONEY IN MY HAND AND I’LL DELIVER ’EM TO THE PROMISED LAND.

 

What did you do today, Bobby Joe?

Got some woman into heaven.

Did you get paid?

Sure did.

Want me to put on my baby dolls?

Right.

Why don’t you order up some beer and chicken?

Right.

Don’t forget the corn chips.

Right.

I’ll be ready in a minute, sweetie pie.

I’ll be waitin’, sugar plum.

 

Two Berrie Brothers casket movers appeared and quickly closed the lid of the Berrie Brothers casket containing his dead mother and began moving it toward the side door.

 

“What are they doing?”

“They’re gonna put the Berrie Brothers casket with your dead mother in it in the grand Berrie Brothers hearse now.”

 

OK, you guys get that stiff outta the Slumber Room.

Right.

We got another one we wanna shove in there.

Right.

Get movin’.

Right.

 

“That hearse, it’s sure grand-looking.”

“It sure is.”

“I suppose they have a slogan for that too.”

“Of course.”

“What is it?”

 

GIVE US SOME MONEY . . . PUT IT IN A BIG PILE . . . AND WE’LL SEE TO IT THAT YOU GO OUT IN STYLE. Catchy, isn’t it?”

“Sure is.”

 

He settled in the lead car and watched as the Berrie Brothers casket movers slid the Berrie Brothers casket containing his dead mother into the back of the grand Berrie Brothers hearse.

 

“She’s all by herself now.”

“Yes, she’s cold and stiff now.”

“Don’t say that!”

“Well, it’s true!”

 

“This is a terrible day.”

“Ohhhhh, it’s not so bad.”

“What’s good about it?”

“The Cubs are gonna play today.”

“I don’t care!”

“They’re gonna play two today.”

“I don’t care!”

 

“Boy, look at that girl over there.”

“I’m not interested.”

“Has she ever got a great-looking ass.”

“I’m not interested.”

“I bet she’d really be a great fuck.”

“Stop it!”

“Jeez. Don’t be such a grouch.”

 

As the funeral procession moved through the streets, the quick who were witnesses to the event breathed a collective sigh of relief and then offered an ancient benediction.

 

There goes another one.

Yeah.

That’s the third one I seen this week.

Yeah.

Takin’ that final ride.

Yeah.

Goin’ to the boneyard.

Yeah.

Headin’ for the scrap heap.

Yeah.

Their troubles is over.

Yeah.

 

“None of those people out there even knew her.”

“That’s right.”

“They didn’t care anything about her.”

“That’s right.”

“I care for her.”

“That’s good.”

“I’ll always care for her.”

“That’s your job.”

 

“I hate this day.”

“Ohhhhh, you’ll forget all about it.”

“I don’t want to.”

“You will.”

“Never!”

 

“Hey, look at that girl in the VW.”

“I’m not interested.”

“She’s really something.”

“I’m not interested.”

“Wow, look at her go.”

“I’m not interested.”

“I think she’s giving her boyfriend a blow job.”

“Let me see.”

 

He looked down into the dreadful hole that had been prepared to receive his dead mother.

 

“Who dug the hole?”

“Gunther . . . he dug it.”

“When did he dig it?”

“Last night.”

 

“He works at night?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“He only has one eye.”

 

“One eye?”

“Yes. Right in the middle of his forehead.”

“He sounds like a monster.”

“He is . . . a hideous monster.”

“I hate him.”

“You shouldn’t. . . . He digs nice holes.”

“I hate him anyway.”

“He’s just doing his job.”

 

“I hate this day too.”

“It’s not such a bad day.”

“What’s good about it?”

 

“Well, Miss Kitty Lovejoy’s new movie, ‘The Duchess And The Lucky Wheel,’ is going to start playing at the Calumet Theatre tonight.”

“I’m not interested.”

“They say it’s her best movie yet.”

“I’m not interested.”

 

“You know, Miss Kitty Lovejoy is going to be appearing there in person tonight.”

“I’m not interested.”

“She’s going to bring that lucky wheel she used in the movie with her too.”

“I’m not interested.”

 

“She’ll be spinning that lucky wheel on stage tonight just like she does in the movie too.”

“I’m not interested.”

 

“Just like in the movie, the lucky winner is going to win one long night of love and joy with Miss Kitty Lovejoy herself too.”

“I’m not interested.”

 

“Maybe you would be the lucky winner and win one long night of love and joy with Miss Kitty Lovejoy herself.”

“What time does it start?”

 

He watched as the Berrie Brothers casket containing his dead mother was lowered into the dreadful hole that Gunther the hideous one-eyed monster had dug the night before.

 

“She’ll be down there all alone now.”

“That’s right.”

“I hope nothing hurts her now.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

 

“She’ll be wet and cold now.”

“That’s good.”

“Why do you say that?”

“It’ll make her rot faster.”

“Don’t say that!”

 

“It’s true. . . . She’s gonna rot now.”

“I hate that!”

“It’s gonna happen.”

 

“Does that hurt?”

“What?”

“For a person . . . to turn to dust.”

“You mean . . . for them to rot ?”

“Yes.”

“I suppose it does get kind of messy.”

“I hate that!”

“Stop crying.”

 

“How long does that take?”

“You mean how long does it take . . . for a dead body to rot?”

“Yes.”

“It all depends. . . . A little baby will usually rot real fast.”

“Ohhhhh, that’s awful!”

“Christ, stop crying.”

 

“I wish she wasn’t dead.”

“Look on the bright side.”

“What do you mean?”

“You won’t have to listen to her complaining all the time anymore.”

“I don’t care.”

 

“She won’t try to tell you what to do all the time anymore either.”

“I don’t care.”

“You’ll be able to do anything you want to any time you want to from now on.”

“I don’t care.”

“Christ, stop crying.”

 

“I wish she wasn’t dead.”

“What would you do if she wasn’t?”

“I’d do a lot of things different.”

“Like what?”

 

“I’d make sure she knew she was appreciated.”

“Well, it’s too late now.”

“I’d let her know that I was glad she was my mother.”

“Well, it’s too late now.”

“I’d tell her that I loved her.”

“Well, it’s too late now.”

 

“I’d do something that would make her proud.”

“Well, it’s too late now.”

“I’d do a lot of things different.”

“Christ, stop crying.”

 

He cringed as the first shovelful of harsh dirt crashed down onto the Berrie Brothers casket containing his dead mother.

 

“Stop it,” he cried, suddenly sitting upright in the chilled night air. “Stop it! Stop it!”

“OK, it’s stopped,” THE COSELL said.

“That was awful.”

“It wasn’t so bad.”

“It was awful.”

 

“Just a preview.”

“Of what?”

“A preview of coming attractions.”

“What do you mean?”

 

“You know it’s going to happen.”

“When?”

“Someday.”

“When?”

“I’m not at liberty to say.”

“Soon?”

“Each day the time gets a little closer.”

 

“I’ll fight it.”

“You’ll lose.”

“Maybe . . . but I’ll push it back some.”

 

“You’ll lose anyway.”

“I don’t care. . . . I’ll push the time back as long as I can.”

“You’ll still lose in the end.”

 

‘‘I don’t care. . . . I’ll fight it. . . . I’ll fight it . . . and I’ll still do something that will let everybody in the world know what a good mother she was. . . .”

“What will you do?”

“I don’t know.”

 

The notion that he could still do something that would bring honor to his mother swept through him.

He was momentarily overwhelmed as an energizing tingle whirlwinded through his being.

 

“I’ll write a book,” he managed. “I’ll write a book and everybody will know! I’ll write a book!”

“You’ve already failed at that,” THE COSELL scoffed.

 

“Go fuck yourself,” he cried, his eyes blazing with a furious defiance. “Go fuck yourself! I’m gonna write a book!”

“OK,” THE COSELL placated, “but you know it’s gonna be hard. . . .”

 

“I don’t care!”

“Don’t say that I didn’t try and warn. . . .”

“Go fuck yourself!”

“I was just trying. . . .”

 

He erased that old foe with a withering laser beam of DESTRUCTION born of his new-found fury, and took immediate succor from a glimpse into the future.

 

Calmly and deliberately he addressed himself to the serene and approving madonna that had taken shape and fixed itself over the door of his cell.

 

“I’m gonna write a book!

“I’m gonna write a book!

“I’m gonna write a book!”


The Sun has published two other excerpts of Penrod’s novel: “getting to know HIM” and “Orson And Me.”