For a good long while, I didn’t care ‘bout nothin’. Lettin’ myself go. Gettin’ drunk for weeks at a time. Gettin’ to be a bum. I’d wake up in the mornin’ and not remember how I got where I was. I was sleepin’ in alleys and places where you gotta be drunk to fall asleep, they’s so damn scary. Not eatin’ right. I’d get a hold a my food stamps and peddle ‘em for cash; get half their face value and spend the money on drinkin’. Think I’d about givin’ up on livin’.
One night I stumbled into Ray’s, and Ray an’ everybody seen what kinda shape I was in. Ray come over to me and says, “What the hell happened to ya. Where’s your pack and bedroll.” I musta looked like a damn school-kid the way I stood there hangin’ my head. Had no answer, and to tell ya the truth, I don’t know what did happen to my pack and bedroll. Maybe I left ‘em somewheres or sold ‘em or somethin’. That’s how bad things was. Rays says how he hates to see a guy kill himself on the stuff, and he offered me a job to get myself straightened out. He give me a razor, some soap, and a towel and said I could have the back room as long as I worked there; under one condition: that I don’t touch a drop of whiskey. That ain’t easy, livin’ in the back of a tavern and workin’ in the joint without touchin’ a drop. It sounds like a damn backwards thing to do, let a drunk work in a tavern, but I’ll tell you this: it got me straightened out. Got my self respect back. Got so I could look people in the eye again.
All kinds of tramps come into Rays. On a good night you’ll see twenty or more bedrolls stacked by the door. I got to tending bar and guys’d come in I hadn’t seen in a long time and we’d get to tellin’ about shit we’d done at one time or another, and we’d get to laughin’ about it. I started feeling pretty good and after a few months passed, I got back on my feet. Got a new bedroll and a pack and headed out feelin’ alright. I owe Ray for that. I dunno what I’d a done if he didn’t pick me up like he did. Drank myself to death, prob’ly. When I left, he told me I could have my job back anytime I wanted. Might be, in two, three months I’ll head back that way and take him up on it.