The Other Side of the Parable

(The gospel reading today was Matthew 20:1-16, the parable of the generous vineyard owner. As I listened to the Lector reading the parable, another story came to life in my head.)

I wake late, as usual, and reluctantly. And with a splitting headache, also as usual. And a dry mouth. And a foggy memory of the night before. How many beers? How many shooters?

Damn those sounds from the kitchen – my noisy, needy family at breakfast, clattering and squabbling. Soon, soon, Joy will be off to work and the kids to school and the world will be ignorable again.

Did I drive home? What time did I get home? She will be mad again. Please God, let her just leave without a lecture. I am so goddam tired of her lectures, so tired of promises, so tired of trying.

I like to drink. I need to drink. Goddammit, I need to relax after work, I need to be with men who like to drink.

Footsteps coming down the hall. I pull the covers up, turn on my side, close my eyes. Do not respond as she opens the door and calls my name. Do not respond to her loud sigh. Do not respond as she shuts the bedroom door, just short of a slam.

Much later I wake again, pull on boxer shorts and lurch to the kitchen to grab a can of beer, some bread and baloney from the fridge. To the family room for some channel surfing.

Early afternoon, I get dressed. Why shower when I am going out to try to get work? I’ll just get dirty; showering can be done tonight.

I get to the work center without really focusing once on anything much. Stand around, smoking and exchanging nods, the occasional half wave, the even less frequent few words, with the other men.

Then, just as I am about to head back home, grateful and ashamed to have spent another day not working, already rehearsing the story for Joy, some guy pulls up in a big van and hires a bunch of us to work in his fields for an hour.

Lots of men are already working; some have been working in those hot fields all day. Incredibly, at the end of the day, the end of just an hour’s work for me, everyone gets paid the same.

Man, were those who had been working all day pissed! “What kind of shit is this? We busted our balls in your fields all day and you give these jerks, these one-hour wonders, the same pay?”

The guy who hired us didn’t give a shit about their complaining. “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?”*

What a windfall for me! I start home, but with all that money, much more than I counted on, I realize I have enough for a few drinks and then some. I put $20 for drinks in my right pocket and the rest, for Joy and the family, in my left pocket. Just a few drinks, then home. Maybe we’ll take the kids to Mickey Ds for dinner.

The next day I wake late, as usual, and reluctantly. And with a splitting headache, also as usual. And a dry mouth. And a foggy memory of the night before. How many beers? How many shooters?

There was no money for Joy and the family. There were no more chances. Joy left and took the kids.

That was twelve years ago. It’s taken me twelve years, twelve years to stop blaming that generous man for giving me so much money for an hour’s work. Twelve years to stop being envious of everything and everyone.

Twelve years to get here. “Hello, my name is Gary and I’m an alcoholic.”


*Matthew 20:13-15

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