Review: "Out on Bail"

“Out on Bail” by Denis Johnson is a vivid look into the gloom and doom of the millions of watering holes across our planet. Often known as bars or pubs, a place where the selling of liquor is permitted. In this story, the bar is called the Vine. 

Millions succumb every day to the power of alcohol. Some lose their jobs, some their families, and these are considered the fortunate. For some have lost themselves and cannot even remember a sober time in their life, the alcohol completely clouding every aspect of their lives.

In this dark bar story, Denis introduces us to several memorable characters. My favorite is Kid Williams, a former boxer who is so caught up in drugs and booze he has totallylost focus of himself and who he is. Everyone knows someone who is a fully fledged alcoholic and Kid is him mixed with a dose of Amy Winehouse (may her soul rest in peace). Despite the many years of abusing his body with drugs, Kid maintains a towering figure and his lack of self-awareness has him walking around like a zombie ready to pounce. The erratic change in his tone of voice shows a war going on within his consciousness. He has lost sight of who he is. 

Denis holds back nothing, painting the picture of the numerous victims to the holy drink. “Glitter like cheap jewelry” is Denis’ way of waking up from a dope overdose. The same overdose that took the main character’s fellow victim, friend Hotel’s life.

“…monitored his breathing by holding a pocket mirror under his nose from time to time, making sure points of mist appeared on the glass.” If after reading that sentence, you do not envision mirrors being held under the nose of a Walking Dead zombie, your imagination has forsaken you. 

I am unsure what was more sad, Hotel’s death or the fact that Denis never gave the main character a name, making me become him in my mind’s eye.

Everyone has endured the message in this passage. Do not become a slave to your circumstances before it is too late. Hotel was only eighteen or nineteen and one of this country’s baddest epidemics claimed his young life. Addiction is a very difficult fight, and the many who have overcome their addictions can very easily relate to this story.

-Cesar Rivera