Almanac Short Fiction: ‘Bostell’s Lager Man’

Invalid Stout, by Julian Di Martino, oil on canvas, 2002. (Used with permission of the artist.)

 

Bostell’s Lager Man

 

Drago Starovic had for a long time been plagued by nightmare-riddled sleep and dreary, despondent days. He blamed his lot on anything and everyone except himself. And misfortune was attracted to Drago like iron filings to a magnet. He wallowed in his unhappy life. “Oh poor me,” he forever moaned. “Poor, poor, me!”

 

Every evening he could be seen with a stubby of Bostell’s Lager in his hand. And almost every night he went to bed half-pissed, his mouth tasting of the beer and the small Dutch cigars he smoked incessantly.

 

One morning, he woke up and noticed a faint oval outline on the front of his body, extending from below his neck to just above his groin. Thinking it was merely a passing rash and no reason to worry, he went about his daily routine, which consisted of hanging about the house and doing little else, except watching TV and working occasionally on the plastic model aeroplanes he never seemed to finish.

 

That evening, as usual, he went to bed half-whacked and woke up from a nightmare at about three a.m. Just as dawn filtered through his threadbare, nicotine-stained curtains, he fell asleep again, exhausted. At ten o’clock he awoke, threw back his eiderdown, and lay there, trying to psych himself to get out of bed. He happened to glance down at the front of his body, and what he saw gave him an enormous shock. The oval outline that appeared on his torso the previous morning had become much more defined. An entire “Bostell’s Lager” stubby label, including the distinctive blue “BOSTELL’S LAGER” lettering and the well-known gold bottle top symbol, was clearly visible.

 

Drago leapt out of bed. Highly anxious, he covered himself with a towel before heading to the bathroom. With the water streaming over him, he desperately tried to wash off the Bostell’s Lager label using heavy duty soap. He must have been in the shower for a full half-hour, but it was of no use. If anything, the label had become clearer. Even fine details, such as the tiny indentations in the gold bottle top symbol, had begun to appear.

 

He paced about the house that day in a state of great anxiety. “What am I going to do? What am I going to do?” The question revolved in his head. “Go to the doctor? Speak to Tom about it?” (Tom, his only real confidante, if not actual friend, was one of the guys in the house.) He didn’t know how to resolve what was going on.

 

So he didn’t say anything to anybody. He went to bed that night after a bout of drinking which was exceptional even for him. At around 2 a.m., his racing nerves dulled by alcohol, he fell asleep.

 

As usual, he had a bad dream. It was much more powerful than normal, though, because he had the distinct feeling that what was taking place in the dream was actually happening to him physically – he felt his head shrink until all he had left was a neck, his legs join together and round off at the bottom, and his whole physical being reduce to a tiny size. Finally, he sensed that he no longer had skin, but instead a hard, compacted exoskeleton.

 

The next morning, his fellow house-sharers went off to work. It was nothing unusual to them that Drago wasn’t out of bed when they left.

 

The guys noticed his absence that evening, too. But they went to bed still thinking that nothing was particularly out of the ordinary. Drago often went away for a night without telling them what he was doing. “Probably with Lulu,” said one of the guys, just before turning in. “Yeah,” replied the other. “Don’t know what her story is.”

 

After two days had passed, however, they began to get concerned. They checked his room but found nothing odd, except that his Abyssinian cat, which always slept on his bed at night, was locked in there, and its kitty litter tray badly needed changing. It looked up at them from a plate of half-eaten pizza and meowed inquiringly. “Sorry, puss,” said one of the guys. “Still no Drago.”

 

When three days had gone by without his reappearance, the guys decided action must be taken. After phone calls to his parents, sister and various acquaintances, they established he was definitely missing. As a consequence, Drago’s parents called the police, who examined his room and checked out his known associates and haunts. They didn’t find a trace of him. For a while, Drago’s forlorn countenance gazed from “Missing Person” posters on the walls of various police stations, but to no avail.

 

In time, everyone gave him up as either dead, or not wanting to be found.

 

The guys in the house helped his family clear the stuff out of his room. One of them, in the process, found an empty stubby of Bostell’s Lager in his bed. “Must’ve been having a drink while watching late-night TV,” he thought, well aware of Drago’s nocturnal habits.

 

He put the stubby in one of the canvas bags down the side of the house, most of which were full to overflowing with Drago’s empties.

 

Nobody ever discovered what happened to Drago. His last moment of consciousness occurred on a conveyor belt, just before he, along with thousands of other bottle-shaped companions, was about to fall into the gigantic melting vat at the local glass recycling plant.

 

“So it’s come to this,” he thought resignedly, the moment before the heat of the furnace overwhelmed him.

 

 

 

For more of Kevin Densley’s work, click HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

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About

Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His work has appeared in print in Australia, the UK and the USA, as well as on many online venues. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, has just been published (late 2020) by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Recent other writing includes screenplays for educational films made for tertiary students.

Comments

  1. Colin Ritchie says

    You become what you are! Loved the story KD.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Col!

    This one’s something from left-field!

  3. You are what you eat (and drink!). I like it. Kafkaesque with an Aussie bent.

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, DB!

    I don’t write many short stories – as opposed to poetry and short non-fiction – so it’s good when one sees the light of day occasionally.

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