The Millstone

A memory from last Labor Day at my house: I’m hosting a big party. The fire pit is going. Friends are playing corn hole. The dog rests in the shade of the big backyard tree. I’m at the grill, captain of the ship.

It’s a beautiful, sunny day.

My brother arrives with his daughter in tow. “Hey,” I say, after the usual formalities. “Go get yourself a beer; burgers will be done soon.”

He looks at me somberly and relates that he hasn’t had a drink in two weeks. Jokingly, I tell him that it sounds like he has an alcohol problem. After all, this is my older brother, the shotgun beer champion of the universe.

His quiet affect is somewhat disconcerting but it could just be humor. Surely, he’s kidding. He remains quiet, so I press on.

“You know,” he replies quietly. “I think you might have a problem, too.”

I foster my best Johnny Depp impression.

“No way,” I relate as I take a swill. “The only reason I drink is to wash down all this Percocet.”

He laughs, acquiescing. I naively interpret it as some type of triumph, clapping him on the arm and motioning to the cooler, chocked full of Lagunitas and Harpoon IPAs.

As he cracks one open, a tired angel whispers faintly in my ear. I’m not religious, but I remember my catechism days. It’s a verse from Luke.

“It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to fall into sin.” 

How I wish I could take that one back.

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