Chapter 1

Written by: Joe Labrum

Max immediately recognized the unmistakable swagger in the man’s bearing. Framed by the doorway, he leaned nonchalantly against a post, his arms folded across his chest. The black beret tipped forward covering his left eye and the pipe he held in his teeth, his lips parted in a half smile, gave away his nautical background. Max Hogan felt a flutter in the pit of his stomach. He leaned closer with the glass to study the man’s face. Then back to the woman.

Hogan reached for the bottle and picked up his glass to ease the shaking that was starting again.

“Damn,” he moaned at finding his bottle empty, and he tossed it to the floor.

His attention no longer on the mysterious man in the photo, Max Hogan’s foggy brain was now consumed with his need for a drink. He stumbled into the kitchen and checked the pantry but his stock of Jim Beam there was exhausted. Max looked in his secondary location, his closet, but that, too, was empty. The shaking was getting worse and Max’s desperation grew with each failed attempt to find whiskey. Finally he remembered the bottle he stashed in the back of the toilet tank. Driven by craving, Max stumbled through the obstacle course that was his apartment to the bathroom to retrieve his security and ease his pain. Max filled his glass and let out a sigh as he took a mouthful and swished it around then ceremoniously swallowed.

His mind began formulating a train of thought that originated with the photo of the man in the boat shed and the woman staring at him.

“I know this guy,” Max said to the empty room.

His thoughts went back to the summer of 1997 when he crewed on an American container ship carrying electronics from Asia. After forming a close friendship while serving together for two years, the two had a falling out suddenly. Stevenson became one of the few seaman on the ship that Max really didn’t like. The trouble with Stevenson, like most squabbles between sailors, was over a woman, the one Max courted and planned to marry. The last time Max saw Stevenson was that summer before he jumped ship during a port call in Seattle. Within a week Max lost contact with Mia and always believed that she and Stevenson were together… until now.

With the alcohol wearing off, Max fell into an overwhelming melancholy and began to weep. He swept his hand over the picture of the woman as tears traced grimy streaks down his face and fell on the table. Max refilled his glass and drank down a comforting mouthful, taking a long time to swallow, savoring every second of its flowing down to his belly and warming his whole body. Max Hogan vanquished his ghosts in the only way he knew. With each drink he pushed them further into the shadows of his mind. Soon he again lay comatose on his tattered sofa.


I found this a good study in one of the outward signs of alcoholism. The characterization is first class. Here we have a moment in time; no more than two minutes, yet in that time and in 500 words we can see, hear and know what kind of man Max is through his habits and thought processes. It is hard to portray this in words yet Joe has succeeded and also created something else that only good writers are capable of. He has created an atmosphere. I could not make up my mind if I felt pity or anger for Max coupled with a little sympathy. The point is I felt a range of feelings and that is what we writers are all aiming to achieve - 'make the audience laugh and cry.' Well written Joe.