In my debut novel, novice vodka entrepreneurs win industry acclaim thanks to a provocative branding strategy, which entails writing stories on labels of Misery vodka that express contempt for life and promote redemption through drinking Misery. These stories are reproduced here.
Misery label, Batch #4
The stable of horses was Jack’s only escape from a life of perpetual psychological turmoil. The emotionally shriveled deformed hunchback would run off to see his beloved horses, feeding and petting them for hours. It was his only salvation from a life of misery, his only reason to not end it all. But the half-life of a novelty is short indeed. Eventually, the novel morphs into the mundane. What once offered relief, was precipitously losing its potency. Jack was again on the verge of suicide, when a stable hand, an alcoholic who claimed his name was Peter, but it was John, offered Jack a taste of Misery. Jack mused that he had consumed enough misery to last a life time—what could another liter accomplish? Still, he took a sip, and was overcome with a joy he had never before experienced. From that day forth, Misery was his escape from misery.
Misery label, Batch # 1
Life is an endless array of suffering. Some orthodox Buddhists say this, but they’re cunning in their condemnation of life. They lead happy lives, unencumbered by tangible hardship. Look at the palaces they call temples. Surrounded by majestic gardens and fountains, the Buddhists live carefree. They have no wives who incessantly nag them, no husbands who excel at wasting oxygen and little else, no overbearing bosses who discipline them. They are like opium addicts, oblivious to the harsh realities of this cruel world. True suffering is what you deal with: spouses, work, traffic, and stupid old men. That is Misery.
Misery label, Batch #39, limited edition
He who lives a life of anguish may not know true Misery, but he who lives a life of pleasure may. For when Misery is your closest and dearest friend, it does not trouble you. But when Misery is a distant cousin or worse, an enemy, its presence will rattle and shock you. Befriend Misery, and all will be well.
Misery label, Batch #15
Misery begets Happiness. Casey the Chiropractor pressed bones for a living, but it was his soul that needed an adjustment. Angry and vile, he hated his patients and colleagues alike. He hated getting up in the morning. He hated looking into the eyes of the girl who sold him coffee at Starbucks. He was miserable. Until one day, he discovered Misery. A college roommate, who used to be every bit as miserable and hateful as Casey, invited him out to lunch one fateful Wednesday afternoon. “Barkeep, two rounds of Misery for me and my friend, stat!” the friend barked his order. When Casey tasted Misery, he was overcome with joy. After 6 glasses of Misery, Casey was a changed man. That day, when he returned to work, he promptly lost his license for practicing medicine while drunk. But what he lost in licenses (he also lost his driver’s license driving home drunk) he gained in love of Misery.
Misery label, Batch #2
Casey walked into his boss’s office feeling anxious. He was nervous by God’s design, and self-aware enough to recognize that his innate diffidence was driving him to failure and holding him back from his goal of mediocrity. “Casey,” his boss began. “I decided to let you go. You’re just not good at sales. Thank you for your time here.” Casey cleaned out his desk, exited the building, and walked heavy hearted down the busy street. He had no job, no money and no confidence. He entered a tavern occupied sparsely, primarily by the lunch crowd, and sat in the corner of the bar. “What will it be,” the aging bartender queried unoriginally. “What do you recommend for a man who has nothing?” The bartender’s sunken eyes lit up: “Ah, there is only one spirit for that. What you need is Misery.” Casey consented, and upon drinking the heavenly potion, he was infused with a sense of confidence he had never before experienced. He was also infused with a loathing of life that was perplexingly soothing. He lived the rest of his very short life in abject poverty, but he was confident, unafraid, and above all, happy.
Misery label, Batch #13
She hadn’t left her apartment in days. Living off Chinese delivery and sorrow, Vanessa felt thoroughly defeated. Why had that scumbag cheated on her? Why did she get laid off? Was God responsible for this? If He was, then what did He have in store for her now? Or was her misfortune the work of the Devil? If so, when would God step in to remedy the situation? A knock on the door. “Open up Vanessa. It’s Rachel.” Rachel was a good friend from Marymount University. Vanessa unenthusiastically opened the door, dour look on her face. “I have something for you. Here,” Rachel handed her a bottle of vodka. “You really think I should drown my sorrow in liquor?” “This isn’t just any liquor. This is Misery. Have a sip.” Vanessa took a swig right from the bottle. Her mood was instantaneously transformed. “My God, thank you!” Vanessa exclaimed. “You’re welcome,” said Rachel. But it wasn’t Rachel whom Vanessa had thanked.
Misery label, Batch #31
I came to see early on that I was not destined for greatness or mediocrity. I was destined for failure. And if failure were my destiny, I would embrace it and derive from failure strength and happiness. The challenge was to focus on one thing to fail at, for military commanders value the concentration of forces principle. After weeks of agonizing reflection, I decided that I would fail at sobriety. But what liquor would be my glorious undoing? I walked into the liquor store, and as I browsed the aisles, I saw what I had come for. I saw my destiny. Misery. And so I lived the rest of my life in a Misery-induced state of euphoria.
Misery Label, Batch #103
On a pleasantly chilly November night in Vermont’s Killington ski resort, Michael and Deanna snuggled inside a wooden cabin, on a off-white rug, in front of the fireplace. They were drinking hot chocolate out of boring mugs and laughing about their first three months of dating. Deanna mentioned that she wanted three kids, and Michael confided that he didn’t want kids at all, because he hated the little bastards. Deanna was taken aback having never heard Michael express such virulent emotion. He had always been so even-keeled and non-confrontational. They got into an argument that escalated into unhinged yelling and insult slinging. Then, Michael calmly excused himself and walked into the kitchen. He returned with a bottle of Misery. “My dear Deanna, I don’t want kids, but with Misery, I can withstand the misery of child rearing.” Deanna was the happiest she’d ever been. Three months later, Michael was stabbed in the face during an altercation with a humongous tow truck driver at an Irish pub near Fenway Park in Boston.
Misery label, Batch #218
I came home after a long day of failing to sell anything. I was the Assistant Manager at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. I was a competent operations guy, but a lousy salesman. I couldn’t sell insurance to people who didn’t really need it, and so I was regarded as a manager with potential, but not considered a super star. If I wasn’t promoted to corporate accounts manager or branch manager within the next two months, the suits would see me as a failure. These thoughts overcame me as I crashed on the couch. When I reached for the remote control I noticed my roommate’s bottle of Misery sitting on the coffee table. Could Misery be my salvation? I took a swig. I was a good manager, an average salesman, and a decent man. So what if I wasn’t the best at paddling insurance? My other strengths more than made up for my sales shortfalls. No longer would I allow dissident pessimistic thoughts to infiltrate my mind.
Misery label, Batch #50
I came in to work Thursday morning feeling very good. I was confident and optimistic. The week had gone swimmingly well. I had crafted a strategic plan for an online fundraising campaign that my boss swiftly approved. I was caught up on all the busy work. I was a woman in my mid-twenties. Successful. Not bitter. Not resenting men. I was genuinely happy. Then I got the phone call. ‘Jen, you have cancer,’ my doctor said in the trademark calm monotone of the medical profession. I had always trained myself to prepare for the worst, and to take every bit of bad news with grace and strength. This was about the worst thing a hot, successful, young woman could hear, and the fact that I was able to activate that stoic mindset made me swell with pride. “Very well, doctor. What now?” There was a pause on the other end of the line. “There is one thing I need you to do for me.” “Yes?” I asked. “Consume Misery.” I beat cancer.
Misery label, Batch # 101
The brooding old man sat in a cramped kitchen, halfheartedly trying not to die. After an unspectacular 40-year career as a floor manager at a tire factory, the question of why he lived plagued his psyche like Fermat's Little Theorem plagued mathematicians. He was going to die soon having not known why he had lived. One day, his nurse stopped by to take his vitals. He shared with her his torment. Smiling, the nurse took out a bottle of Misery. ‘The meaning of life,’ she said, can be found in salvation. Salvation through Misery. The old man drank. He died that evening believing to have lived a fulfilling and purposeful life.
Misery label, Batch #190
‘Ladies and gentlemen, dinner is about to be served,’ the butler gracefully invited a group of high-society guests gathered around a spacious, expensively decorated family room. The Baron stood up and motioned for his guests to enter the dining room. There were four couples, including the Baron and his unattractive wife, and two bachelors. They sat around a long mahogany table, as caterers briskly walked out of the kitchen to serve the first course: an octopus salad with beats, arugula, and feta cheese. A nineteen year-old caterer, who was a part-time culinary school student, tripped and spilled the salad on an elite art dealer and morphine addict. ‘Oh God, I am so sorry, I didn’t mean it. I tripped. I don’t know how,’ the young caterer mumbled in terror, certain he would lose his job. The art dealer let out a hearty laugh. ‘Young man, Misery is your God now. Drink up and never experience fear again.' With that, he took out a flask of Misery from his suit pocket, and handed it to the young believer, who drank greedily and was saved.
Misery label, Batch #5
The depth of my hatred for him could not be concealed. We had been married for fifteen years, I had known him for twenty, and I hated him for eternity. He had robbed me of my youth. When I could have been courting better men, I came home from work to a slothful degenerate sprawled on the couch, reeking of pickle juice and skin cancer. Oh he was a detestable man with no admirable traits. I contemplated killing him, for divorce would have been too stressful. Then my mother, an elegant woman with a short temper, advised me to consume Misery throughout the day. And so I did. Day by day my husband’s repugnant appearance irritated me less and less. Then I introduced him to Misery. Now he reeked of pickle juice, skin cancer and vodka, and my feelings for him shifted from the zenith of hate to the equilibrium of tolerance. Such is the power of Misery.
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