The night went like it has every other time. The moon high in the sky, fire with its licking flames reflecting in the pond. Some bluetooth device playing music from a phone, and the bottles cracked open, never poured into a cup, but slurped from the neck. The used bottles lay discarded on the ground, all over the yard. One or two may have been discarded in the water, others were shattered against the trees. The results of the infamous Night Train Express, made famous by the band Guns N Roses. For 5 dollars a bottle of bum wine was a great deal, but the taste was anything but great.
It starts off like battery acid, attacking all your senses and a voice in the back of your head screaming, “Why are you drinking this!?” But the voice begins to fade the more you swallow as the taste gets better over time. Soon your body is numb to the pain and it tastes like fruit punch. Once you realized you devoured an entire bottle of wine to yourself, you crack the neck of the next bottle and bottoms up. The stuff was poison, but for a life of debauchery it might as well been liquid gold. At 17.5 percent alcohol you say to yourself, “That is not that bad!” Don’t let it fool you, it will fuck you up worse than most.
Not just anyone can ride the train. You have to be simple, reckless, and a bit unpredictable while hammered. Basically you have to be a 20 something male who is stuck in the divide of boy and man. You drink it for boyish reasons, all the while thinking the drink will add hair to your chest while it shaves your balls for you. Aiden and James drank it the most and usually together while the rest of them sipped it. However, as time grew, they all went to the same level, and the speed of the train sent them far, far out beyond the horizon of reality. Soon, lost loves, stress of work, school, reality, and the pain of the world evaporated and seemed to be gone in the lives of these boys, at least for the night, but sometimes it only takes a night to recharge, just to keep them living.
When the first bottle was cracked it was simple, just four guys sitting around a fire, passing the bottle around in a circle, wincing at the burning in the throat. Conversations were simple and generally sober talk.
“Why are we drinking this?” Aaron said, passing the bottle to Will.
“It’s five bucks?” Aiden said, watching Will chugging the first bottle, drops of red rolling down his chin.
“It could be Mad Dog?” James suggested.
“That shit is juice flavored poison.” Aiden said, ripping the bottle away from Will.
“Then what is Night Train suppose to be?” Aaron said, cracking a beer to chase the next round with the train.
“It does taste like juice after a while.” James and Aiden first drank Night Train when they first started drinking several years back. It was a bonfire drink, and some traditions couldn’t be broken.
Passing the bottle to James, Aiden said, “Well, we got like ten bottles to go through between the four of us.”
The first bottle was finished and thrown into the fire. They watched the glass burst and melt into the glowing embers. Now, sharing enough germs they all opened their own personal bottles, never drinking from cups, better with the neck. Night Train was supposed to be served ice cold, but the longer you drank it the less you noticed. The conversations now were growing in all directions.
Will was dancing around the fire, bottle in hand, and singing along to The killers. His vocals were wild but were actually better than Will probably thought. He then ran off yelling towards one of this pissing trees on the edge of the property. Oddly this was very common behavior drunk or not. Aaron and James were really feeling the booze and Aaron drove the conversation around James’s ex Amber.
“She still dating that other guy?” Aaron asked.
“No I don’t think so. When she comes back I am going to try and hang with her.” The Train was starting to take its toll on James. “Honestly, I would marry her.”
“Who would your groomsmen be?”
“Best man!” He yelled at Aaron. Then he pointed to Aiden, “Groomsman!” and pointed to Will walking back from the pissing posts, “Groomsman! Then I don’t know maybe someone from church or something.”
“Why am I a groomsman?” Will asked.
“James is going to marry Amber?”
“He should probably get back together with her first, Aiden said, slurring a few of the words.
“I’m working on it!” James yelled
“How cool is this chick anyways?” Aiden asked. “I haven’t even met her!”
“Probably a good thing!” Aaron said. “You have already drank half that bottle!”
“True, I don’t leave a good first impression. Ask Kalie!”
“WHO THE HELL ARE YOU!?” Everyone said at the same time, laughing between sips.
“I got to work at 8 in the morning!” Will said abruptly.
“You going to bed?” Aaron asked.
“Fuck it! Last time I was an hour late and my boss didn’t even notice!”
They all began to laugh hysterically over nothing! The night lingered but time was lost on the train, and as the day turned over and the morning was coming in fast they cracked even more bottles, sending the train on a crash course derail in a matter of minutes.
“Where is the lighthouse!” Aiden screamed, bottle 2.5 in his system. “I see it! It! Is! Out! In! The! Pond!!!” Aiden hopped like a frog as he went waist deep in the water, trying to swim out into the middle of midnight waters. James was rolling around in the sand laughing. Aaron broke Aiden’s half drank third bottle to get rid of it. The red death splashed across the deck and shards of glass scattered in every direction, one going straight into Aaron’s thumb. A smidge of a cut was made, but it was carried out by a stream of blood, thinned out from all the Night Train in his system.
“Aiden!” Will cried, rowing in the boat, trying to get to him. He damn near tipped the boat in his drunken state. “There is no lighthouse! Come back!” Will flew past him in the boat and stopped in front of Aiden as he began swimming in neck deep water. “What are you doing?” Aiden asked through slurred words.
“I dunno.” They laughed like loons and went back to the shore. Will nearly falling in the water as he tripped up on the dock. Aiden dragged himself across the sand beach, soaking it all into his clothes.
“Aaron, your bleeding!” James yelled.
“How did I do that!?” Aaron yelled, rubbing his bleeding thumb across his jeans, painting them a fresh color.
“Ryan has a first aid kit in the bathroom!” James screamed. “I think!”
“Where is he?” Aiden said, dragging his face across the sand.
“He is upstairs sleeping, little bitch.” Will said, laughing and pouring more Night Train down his throat, handing the bottle over to Aiden for a fresh sip.
James fished his bottle and through it out into the yard. “Come on!” He grabbed Aaron and they helped each other up into the house.
Will continued drinking and said. “I will make us a frozen pizza.” He ran towards the house and Aiden stumbled to the side of the porch and began throwing up a blast of red liquid. Aiden made it up the deck to a chair and collapsed into it. Only moving a few hours later to throw up again.
Will threw the pizza in the oven but didn’t set a timer. He collapsed on the couch, and slept hard, the bottle of night train resting on the coffee table. The pizza burned black and no one noticed until the morning.
James Crudely placed band aids all over Aaron’s thumb. Somehow this lead Aaron yelling for James to help him with his pants while they fell down when using the bathroom, which turned into James trying to dress him as Aaron threw up into the shower. Aaron slept happily on the bathroom floor pants around his ankles. His blood stained thumb prints were perfectly placed on the mirror and light switch. Being the last man standing, James wondered to the guest room upstairs and took the bed face down. Oddly he would feel the worse the next morning, feeling like an ice pick was stabbing his brain to pieces. He noticed that he had text Amber several messages. All embarrassing and words he would have to eat later. Painful Shame was the definition of the morning. Fucking Night Train!
Night Train Express was a drink build on dumb decisions, mixed and jarred memories, full of regret and shame. Anything could happen when you rode the Train, and it was fun while it lasted. A few years later the drink was discontinued. The train finally retired back at the station. Put your five dollars away, you can’t even find it anymore if you tried.