“Happy New Year” Anthony said, holding the bottle of Bushmills Irish Whiskey up and waving it around. For a moment I worried that he was about to club me over the head with it, but then I realized it was unopened and full. Anthony wouldn’t dare break it over anybody’s head until it was completely consumed. It was a nightly ritual for Anthony, the ceremonial draining of the whiskey bottle, followed by the sacrifice of the bottle by breaking it in some supremely violent manner. Two nights ago he broke it over his own head, and told me next time it was my turn. I had never been so terrified of a whisky bottle in someone’s hand.
“Well,” he asked, “are you going to drink for New Year’s, or what?”
“Maybe,” I said, despite my best intentions. I had so far avoided drinking with Anthony by explaining that I only drank for special occasions. I had yet to claim illness, and since I was suddenly feeling a little sick I considered this new excuse. I was terrified to drink with him, because when he drank he turned into a homicidal maniac, and I didn’t want to become his next victim. He liked to fight, a lot. He hadn’t tried to fight me yet, but I figured it was only a matter of time.
I once asked him why he liked to fight so much, and he told me he didn’t really like fighting. It was the drinking that made him want to fight. I told him if he didn’t like fighting then he should just stop drinking. Then he told me he liked drinking way too much for that, right before he punched a hole in the wall, because of course he was already drunk at the time.
Anthony grinned and I saw the dead, dark tooth splitting his smile like a dim ghost in a well lit window. When he had first come to interview for the room for rent he had informed us that his nickname was Spooky Tooth. Some people actually called him that like it was his name, though I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’d had mixed feelings about taking him on as a roommate, but he had actually seemed pretty normal at the time. Also, he had shown up with cash, fifteen one hundred dollar bills folded into the wallet chained to his belt. Our rent was almost a month late and we were desperate. He showed us the money and we took it, and he had moved in immediately and begun tearing up our lives like a wrecking ball.
Anthony held the bottle up for me, and when I didn’t take it he opened it up himself and took a three second swig. When he was done he lowered it down and he wasn’t smiling anymore. He squinted at me, and then raised his hand that wasn’t holding the bottle. He clenched it into an enormous fist and squeezed until three of the knuckles cracked. “I don’t like drinking alone,” he said. Then he lowered his fist and offered me the bottle again. I took it without thinking, and he flashed his spooky tooth smile. I decided that if he had a good side I wanted to be on it, so I took the bottle and gulped down a burning swig. I figured the more whiskey I ingested the less would be left for him, and the less violent Spooky Tooth would become.
Also, it wouldn’t hurt as bad when he finally broke the bottle the over my head later.