SHORT STORIES: A Day in the Life of Charles Bukowski

It’s violent, my wake up. A jackhammer driven straight through my skull, with love. It doesn’t so much as directly drill a path to my brain as it shatters my skull instantly across the pillow. It’s violent, my wake up, but nowhere near as violent as I am; In the morning I bring down the swiftest vengeance, and as it had done to my skull, I do to its entire being. Another alarm clock silenced. Another alarm clock to buy. Another day in paradise.

I roll onto my side and face the rest of the mess. I should’ve turned to face the wall, I wouldn’t have to consider getting up then; no one can walk, let alone wake, through walls. The sun is beaming through the holes in the curtains, and it is a gloriously smug cunt this morning. It knows that I’m suffering, as it does every morning. I roll that extra step to lying face down and my right arm falls off the edge of the bed; its corresponding hand knocking some empty cans on its way. My eyes are open, but the quicksand pillow offers a gentle blindness.

But… but my tongue is dry. Dry as though that cunt sun was beating down on it directly, from a desert sky pasted callously across the roof of my mouth. It’s not though, it’s morning. And though my wake up is violent, it’s not enough to kill me – I kill it first after all, but its foul spectre watches me die, slowly, from injury. The phone rings from the hall. It rings, and rings, and hangs up. Silence. It rings again, and again, and again. I reach for the glass on my bedside table; whisky. The lucky glass that narrowly missed my waking fist.

Legs out of bed, my feet touch the ground. I sit up too fast though, and my eyes rattle side to side. Eventually settling into a dead-and-cockeyed stare. The phone’s still ringing, or started again. I lean off the bed, staring forward, my hands feel around for cigarettes of their own accord. My left hand stops when it finds a pack, my right hand keeps searching; now looking for a lighter – it finds one. The phone stops ringing, then starts again, I light a cigarette and inhale. Before I can exhale I’m interrupted by a fighting dog cough. Soon, I’m retching and with one final cough, among phlegm and God knows what, I spit out a blue feather.


My second bed of the day. I’m sprawled on my back, perspiring gently from every pore as laboured breaths bring my exhausted chest to rise and fall; the sweat stinging fresh cuts drawn by an artist’s claws. I look over to her and she’s gliding around the room to an angel’s march; elegant and wistful but precise and militant. For a moment she floats through translucent and flowing white curtains; the image is complete – the perfect angel. Still, as she sings to herself, and drifts within reach, my devil’s paw comes smack across her ass. Stopped in her tracks, she looks over her shoulder to me, startled in my headlights. She smiles, when I let go of her cheek, and carries on. I think her name’s Drew.

That was probably a lie though. Then again, I’ve probably forgotten. Whatever her name, I don’t think even she knows anymore – internally dressed to the nine’s in any number of narcotic cocktails, I don’t think the intention was to remember. I reach for a cigarette and start to light it. ‘Drew’ suddenly wakes from her heavenly trance.



“No, no. Not in here!”


“You can’t smoke in here!”

“Who says?”

“No, no, no. Not here.”

“Try a full sentence, honey. Besides, it’s not exactly five stars in here, is it?”

“You can’t smoke in here, you just can’t!”

I keep smoking anyway, taking a childish pleasure in breathing out like a spiteful and fireless dragon; tainting the room if I can’t burn it down. As I do so, her feet touch the ground again and she’s no longer floating. I laugh and she runs at the bed. Diving on the bed she tries to wrestle me and take the cigarette, or hit it out trying. There’s nothing to her but drugs and air. I roll her off the bed, easily. She hits the floor full bodied and I laugh, still smoking, cigarette safe from harm.

Before I can lie back, she stands up and slaps me. I look her in the eyes, take a drag from my cigarette, exhale the smoke towards her, and stub it out on the bedside drawer. Staring into her eyes, I reach for my jeans on the floor and remove my wallet. As I pull a few notes from it, she breaks eye contact and glances at the cash. Hello, ‘Drew’, pure and true. I throw the money on the pile I gave earlier, as it lies in waiting in an open drawer. She smiles.

I sit up and with one arm, quickly around her waist, I pull her to the bed, and in one roll I’m on top of her. As I look down on her, I hear the muffled sounds of birdsong.

“Shut up,” I mutter. “Stay in there. I’m not going to let anybody see you.”



I kiss her quiet. I fuck her loud.

To drown out the song.


“Same again?”

“Huh?” I look at my glass. Empty. “Yeah…”

“What’s the matter?”

“Same again.”

Frank makes his way to the other end of the bar to pour me a fresh glass of whatever the hell I’m drinking. It’s like a home away from home in here, though sometimes it’s more like the office, either/or it’s always business as usual; Frank or Joey working the bar, barely any light, the stink of piss in the men’s room, one or two bums scattered throughout, and me, propping up the bar until it starts propping me up. Sometimes though, there’s a ray of light – usually blonde.

Tonight the light is blonde and she’s wearing heels that pinpoint their way through stockings through thighs to a tight red dress and a black jacket; open – to display cleavage. Frank brings my drink, but like a moth I’m drawn to this light. This flame. She looks at me, and a smile teases on her thick red lips. I smile back, her smile widens and she changes the cross in her legs – dress riding up past her stockings. I make a move toward her and it starts again. That song, that miserable fucking song. She can hear it. She’s got to be able to hear it. Everyone can hear it.

Worry across my face, I panic, and I alter in my movement. The glass falls from the bar and before it’s hit the ground, I’m on my way out. I growl.

“Stay down, do you want to mess me up?”

Frank calls out.

“What the fuck, man? Hey! Chuck! What the fuck?”

It’s okay. I’ll square it with him tomorrow.



A bottle of bourbon swings through the checkout.


A bottle of scotch swings through the checkout.


A bottle of wine swings through the checkout.


A case of beer swings through the checkout.

This girl’s attractive. Attractive for a late-night store clerk anyhow. Is she, or is it just late? She looks tired.


The cigarettes she turned to get, swing through the checkout.

Great ass. If she tried smiling and a little bit of makeup, maybe. Actually, quite a good figure – the uniform flatters her tits, needs more cleavage though. She must be finishing her shift soon.


What’s the time?

Wait. I didn’t buy anything else.


What’s she doing? Why is the–




“Excuse me?”

“Sorry, it’s–”

“Tweet! Tweet!”

“Fuck! For fuck’s… fuck!” That fucking bird. “Here, take this – keep the change!”

I throw what’s left of my money at the counter, grab the alcohol and get out of there, beating my chest as I do.

“You want to screw up the works?”


Glass of bourbon poured, on ice. I pour a little more into an eggcup. I’m sitting on the porch, out back, and the streets are silent. It’s a dark and still night, and one by one the lights in the houses around mine have been blown out like candles whilst I’ve lit cigarettes and poured glasses. It looks like the neighbourhood is asleep; it’s safe to let him out now.

“I know that you’re there, so don’t be sad. I know you’re there.”

I rest a cigarette on the ashtray and unbutton my shirt. I walk my fingers up my chest, to that old familiar place just below my neck. Pushing my fingers in, the skin separates like a broken seal and I run my finger down the central seem of my chest like a zip. Peeling the skin back, just like my shirt before it, I expose my ribcage and there he is – the bluebird in my heart.

I jab my sternum and it cracks, so I can open my ribs like gates. Reaching a hand inside he timidly sits on my finger, I bring him out and stroke his head with another. I kiss his head and he chirps up and tweets. He flies down to the table and sings. Sips his eggcup bourbon. Flying up he does little laps of the room. I light a cigarette and he sings a happy song. I let him out at night. When everyone’s asleep.

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