Getting Alcoholism, part 2

In writing my newly published novel, What Happens to Us,, I chose a protagonist who was a recovering alcoholic.  Not coming from an alcoholic family, I had to work hard to get alcoholism, so to speak.

But today, while reading a biography of the famous double-agent Kim Philby, I came upon a scene of such genuineness that you knew you were reading about something real.  That was what I was striving for in my own novel, so it riveted me.

It was a scene from 1971.  Philby got a call from Vitaly, a KGB friend who wanted to come over and visit.  When he got there, he pulled out an open bottle of Hungarian red wine and started drinking.  En route, he had spilled the wine all over his pullover sweater, and when he realized that, he pulled it off and gave it to Philby’s wife Rufina.

“Wash this,” he ordered.

Bob Greer variation 2a

The Philbys weren’t in the mood for drinking, so it was just a drunk Vitaly and the exhausted Philbys, who had just returned from a months-long trip.

“It’s boring here!” Vitaly suddenly said.  “There isn’t even any music!”

Then he turned to Rufina.

“Make me some coffee,” he said.

Rufina did, but when it arrived, he pushed it away for the wine.  By this time, Vitaly had gotten to the point where he couldn’t stand up.  Rufina offered him sandwiches and coffee.  He reached for the coffee, but because it was cold, he pushed it away.

“Make me another cup,” he said.

Rufina did.  That one got cold, too.

“Make me another,” he said.

Finally, Philby made an announcement.

“We’re out of coffee.”

Philby tried to get Vitaly to leave, but as they tried to lift him up, wearing a wet pullover and pondering the weather outside, which was 20 below, he muttered a truly frightening thought.

“Maybe I’ll spend the night here.  I feel faint.”

The Philbys redoubled their efforts at exfiltrating him, but in the process, Philby reached into Vitaly’s coat pocket.  He found a melted bar of ice cream.  That ice cream, I feel, is the most telling detail of this amazing story.  (The Private Life of Kim Philby, pp. 134 – 136)


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