Protection Against the World

Distilled: A shot of life

click to enlarge JESSIE SPACCIA ILLUSTRATION
Jessie Spaccia illustration

Like an old drunk who's forgotten his address, the flask can't stand up without leaning on something. There's a fatal wobble even on a flat surface. Years ago, its stainless steel was dimpled one night when, in the middle of a mosh pit, a man fell flat on his ass, and the prized flask in his back pocket was personalized with a deep butt print. It's been suggested that he replace it, but it's only become more precious to the man.

It was a gift from his kid brother. The man can't remember the occasion; at the time, he was living in the putrid cesspool that is Florida, and one day a brown box arrived at his tangerine-colored cottage. In the center of the polished steel is an engraving: "The East is making you soft." The man recognized the quote immediately. He and his kid brother had watched the movie A River Runs Through It to the point of memorization. It's about two brothers, one a newspaperman, the other a professor, who, despite their differences, find common ground while fishing the river of their childhood. The man and his kid brother had also grown up on a river, in Spokane Valley, swimming and fishing until they moved apart as adults: the man to newspaper jobs, the kid brother to the Army and Iraq.

The kid brother wasn't a writer, at least not as far as the man knew. Yet there was a letter explaining the quote, which in the movie is delivered by one brother goading the other. "I smile when I think of you getting pissed at this flask for accusing you of being weak, yet forgiving it right away because it is a gift from me. There seems to be some delightful truth that rises to the surface when I think of you loving and hating something at the same time — it's very Jacob.

"Outside of the engraving, I hope that you enjoy having a flask and that you carry it with you always. I have a feeling it will save your life. ... Placed in your jacket's inside pocket, it could stop a bullet."

In reality, flasks don't protect the hearts of heroes, but rather help someone blunt the awfulness of life: awkward dinner parties, shopping at phosphorescently lit megamarts, birthdays and funerals. And in the case of the man, felled by sweaty beasts late one night, a flask saved his ass the full weight of the fall. ♦

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About The Author

Jacob H. Fries

Jacob H. Fries is the editor of the Inlander. In that position, he oversees editorial coverage of the paper and occasionally contributes his own writing. Before joining the paper, he wrote for numerous publications, including the St. Petersburg Times, the Boston Globe and the New York Times. He grew up in Spokane...