“Lola Gets Sober,” by Stephanie Gibbon

Apr 20th, 2021 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Lola Brandy Hicks made her wobbly way down the baking, summer sidewalk hell-bent on the bar she could see two copies of 100 feet ahead. People were staring but Lola told herself she didn’t give a shit. She was used to this kind of attention and figured she knew what it was about. She was funny looking, as more than one slurring, anonymous suitor had pointed out. One of them, a pockmarked man with a cubic zirconia-encrusted eyepatch, had actually stopped mid-thrust to remark that her body looked like a potato with pipe cleaners for legs. Lola who at the time was flat her on back atop a vintage 60’s chrome and Formica table in the middle of someone’s wood-paneled rec room, stifled a sigh and decided to pretend she hadn’t heard him. It was a plausible lie—the party was in full swing and somewhere nearby some guy was playing “Stardust” on an out-of-tune guitar.

It was harder to ignore it when the man took advantage of his grip on her thin calves to bend her legs at the knee several times and observe to a passing friend that this chick had legs like Kermit the frog.

Love is now the stardust of yesterday,

The music of years gone by…

Quite a romantic song, Lola remembered thinking.

She was now at an intersection, leaning against the pole and trying not to barf. A car honked as it whizzed by and Lola aimed a belated middle finger at the empty space left behind.

And then she did barf. As she critically examined the orange splatter of partially digested Zoodles and Reese peanut butter cups, she made a mental note that morning gin and two hits of Salvia extract did not combine at all well. A young mother pushing a stroller in Lola’s direction did an abrupt about-face and aimed her chubby, Ralph Lauren-swaddled child back towards respectability.

The little walking man appeared and Lola staggered across the road. It took all the time that pedestrians were allotted and then some to cross this particular intersection because Lola travelled back and forth sideways just as much as she went forward. Matters were not helped by Lola’s predilection for sparkling platform sandals, atop which she minced and tottered like a vertigo-struck Geisha girl even at the best of times. When she was at last on the opposite curb, she had to stop to catch her breath.

Then she did what Lola did: she barfed.


Hours later as the fat sun was setting Lola stumbled from the bar. That guy who’d been so generous with the tequila shots followed close behind, made it two steps, and collapsed. Lola tottered on through the parking lot and was suddenly very dizzy but fortunately there was a bit of lawn here separating the sidewalk from the plaza’s parking lot. Seemed as good a place as any to fall facedown. She did not go down in one smooth motion though—rather, it was a sort dance involving two steps to the side, then one forward, then a pirouette of sorts, and then finally a collapse earthward. Her noodly-thin arms reflexively stretched forward did little to break her fall but it was ok, she was beyond pain. As she lay there a moment or two, actually starting to feel better, she became dimly aware that her unexpectedly flat, little bottom was sticking up in the air. Her upper body was flush with the ground but only her shins were also pressed into the grass and so since she was nearly in the correct position, only tipped forward, Lola decided to pray.

“Just one little sign, God. So that I know that you’re real. Just one little sign and I promise I’ll change.”

At that moment two teenaged boys were walking down the sidewalk. One boy looked to the other, smiled, and then stepped off the sidewalk and gave Lola’s unexpectedly flat, little, spangled, Lycra-clad bottom a vigorous smack. The boys laughed loudly and went on their way into the failing light.

Lola’s eyes flew open.

“Sweet Jesus,” she said into the grass.


Jed, an alcoholic luthier with neck tattoos and a heart of gold, led the applause after Jackie, a leather- and stud-covered sober biker, gave her brusque, no-nonsense interpretation of the slogans. He resumed his position behind the podium and said, “Thank you, Jackie. And now we come to the highlight of this meeting. I always love hearing this woman speak. She’s got one hell of—sorry, heck of—a message. She’s someone I admire very much and have learnt so much from. Would you please help me welcome tonight’s speaker, Bertha Q from this group!”

The applause was loud and genuinely heartfelt. Bertha stood and strode to the front of the room. She was a large woman nearly 25 years sober and currently in the employ of the men’s treatment centre just outside of town. She was a crackerjack counsellor who chewed her tobacco and maintained order during group therapy sessions by challenging any misbehaving male to an arm wrestle, which she always won. It was she who had piloted the recommissioned school bus emblazoned somewhat less-than-discretely with the light-reflecting words “Serenity Glen Men’s Rehab” here tonight. She was adored and feared in equal measure by her charges, who occupied two rows of seats near the back of the auditorium. There were one or two wolf-whistles from that part of the room as Brenda gripped the sides of the podium and launched into her spiel.

Before she had found recovery in AA, Bertha had lived a chaotic and friendless existence of odd jobs and dodging warrants. Her only enduring employment had been in a travelling freak show associated with a music festival in the 90s. She’d entertained otherwise disaffected Gen Xers by breaking bricks against her forehead and eating syringes. This brought a small measure of celebrity and an even larger measure of notoriety. But, in spite of the attention, it’d been very lonely being a freak. Hence the endless flood of alcohol until that glorious morning Bertha had awoken to Pedro the Ninja Midget gently draping a tarpaulin over her plump, booze-rouged, and naked bulk.

“Well Bertha,” Pedro had said, “I reckon it’s about time you got sober, huh?”

By this point in Bertha’s narrative, there was hardly a dry eye in the house. Everyone present, even those who had been fairly sure that all this AA stuff was bullshit, sat listening with rapt attention. There was something undeniably endearing about the honesty and earnestness of this remarkable woman. She spent about fifteen minutes of her talk speaking of the epic journey that began with her first meeting of AA. The result was a life that Brenda could have never imagined for herself. She dwelt especially on the importance of service. She waxed eloquent on the subject of the Responsibility Pledge which states that ‘Whenever anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA to always be there. And for this, I am responsible.’

“I want us all to remember that,” said Bertha. “How much more effective we will be in spreading recovery, if we remember that the next broken-down drunk who walks through that door was once us and that that person is completely deserving of the same chance to recover as we had.”

Bertha punctuated this last sentence by indicating the door to the fire escape, which given the heat of this summer’s night, was open to create a bit of a through breeze. And at the very moment Bertha’s gesture caused the entire room to turn its head, Lola appeared. She was still completely inebriated and spent a long moment staring at the audience with her mouth agape and her body swaying.


Then she fell face forward over the threshold but never hit the ground.

A hand had caught her.


Stephanie Gibbon will NOT share her recipe for overnight oats under any circumstances.

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