The Great Whiskey Smuggler

Eventually, everyone needs a Smuggler’s Cove

Tonight I became a whiskey smuggler.

Wait. Let’s back up for a minute.

I like whiskey. Maybe it’s the Irish and Scots in my not-very-distant heritage. Maybe I just like the directness of high-density alcohol. No prancing and pussyfooting around with low percentage drinks. If you want to feel the booze, then use real booze.

But I’m not a snob about it. Scotch tastes, not surprisingly, like smoked dirt. Snobs will sniff that “it’s an acquired taste” which is what all snobs say about nasty shit. Well, Graeme, I don’t want to acquire that taste.

I like Irish better, which would endear me to one set of ancestors, and rile the other. I’ve tried a lot of the flavored stuff: honey, cinnamon, fruit-infused moonshine, and a local favorite made with brown sugar.

Have to say, though, that when I saw peanut butter flavored whiskey, it gave me a shudder. I laughed it off as a joke. Could not imagine ever buying a bottle. It seemed wrong, like putting olives on ice cream.

I’m currently staying at a dry house. No Alcohol Allowed. And it is fine, just about all of the time. Very nearly. Almost. Except for today. On this very evening, I decided that a drink was just the ticket, and whiskey was the train to ride.

Heritage Distillery, makers of BSB (brown sugar bourbon), also makes BSB 103, which ups the proof from 60 to an ass-kicking 103. It’s really good stuff. I saw some on the shelf for the first time the other day. Normally, you have to order online or visit a tasting room.

I wanted that throat-scorching sweetness and — with a smidgeon of cunning — it could be mine. Getting to the store would be the easy part. I loaded the dog up, on the pretense she was getting cabin fever (she does get antsy for a ride, this is a true fact), and drove to the retailer where I had seen the desired bottle just two days ago.

In this state, we can buy hard liquor at just about any grocery store. But you don’t go into a store with thirty-two aisles of food and walk out with only whiskey. Just the way a woman doesn’t only buy tampons. You have to throw the clerks off the trail, even though they don’t give a shit at all. They don’t care, they don’t have enough time to care, and definitely aren’t paid enough to care.

And yet, I know I’m not the only one who attempts Key Purchase Camouflage(TM). Three frozen pizzas and an apple. It’s not much, but it allows for eye contact with the checker. I’ve seen women buy $200 worth of food they don’t need so the box of pads at the bottom of the cart might slip unnoticed past the clerk. Thus, I had to find a few semi-wanted food items, so the bottle of booze wouldn’t have to pass the scanner solo.

Whiskey doesn’t care at all. That’s the great thing about it. Wine leaves the store with its nose up. Beer whoops its way out the door. Vodka gives the clerks a sullen smirk. Tequila raises a knowing eyebrow with a sly grin. Whiskey says, “What are you looking at, punk?”

I just don’t want to walk out with only the bottle. (Though with the plastic grocery bags, you at least don’t get the tell-tale tight wrap around the neck as with a paper bag. The bottle sleeps at the bottom of the bag like it’s already hungover in a hammock.)

Fine, I admit it. I don’t want to look like a boozer, because I’m not. [That’s what they all say. — Editor] [But I really amn’t. I mean, aren’t. — SK] [Whatever you say. — Editor]

So, I found myself in the boozy-booze-booze section of the local food pusher, empty basket in hand, staring at the top shelf. Specifically, at the empty space next to the BSB and the Something Else I Don’t Want At All; the space where the 103 belonged; where it had lived and waited impatiently for my return, ultimately allowing itself to be adopted by a less caring home but at least they showed up in a timely fashion. It was gone, all of it, every last bottle.

I fell to my knees and pounded the linoleum floor with one fist like Chuck Heston, while screaming, “You maniacs! You drank it all up!” Or, that’s what I did in my heart. An objective observer would have seen an old guy with a stupid look on his face, unmoving for far too long. They would have also quickly shuffled off before getting roped into the rant that lurked just seconds away, should a suitable target come within range.

Just as I was ready to settle for the ordinary 60-proof BSB, of which there was still a supply, my gaze fell upon the unmistakable sheep logo of Skrewball, maker of the peanut butter-flavored stuff, and I thought (maybe aloud, maybe not — the lady at the cheese counter is the only one who can say for sure), “Fuck it.”

Quickly adding a bag of pita chips and frozen marrow bones for the doggo, I exited the store without making eye contact with the 22-year-old riding herd on the self-checkout lanes. This was the easy part of the plan. I still had to smuggle the bottle onto the premises.

Parking the SUV, I spied lights and movement in the house. The trip to the store had taken too long, and a clean ingress with the contraband was no longer possible. I hadn’t conceived of a Plan B.

When it materialized in my brain, the genius of the plan lay in the simplicity: stash the bottle outside and get it later. Patton would have nodded in grave approval of the brilliance.

On Whidbey Island, some genius named a spot Smuggler’s Cove. I hope the label became attached to the geographical feature after the smuggling had ceased, because it really shatters the entire secrecy aspect of such operations. Might as well post a sign that reads “Crime Happens Here.” Smugglers’ coves, of which there are no doubt dozens around the world, were places where the goods were dropped along the shore to be picked up later by cohorts.

I need a Smuggler’s Cove. [Just the one time? — Editor] [I can stop whenever I decide! — SK] [Heard that before. — Editor] [Don’t you have work to do? — SK]

Being fully dark out, cleverness was (thankfully) not required for the hiding aspect. I just set it next to the front tire and then took the dog, plus the innocent parts of the purchase, inside. Nobody would find it or disturb it, and the cold air would chill the bottle nicely.

Hours later, when everyone headed off to their rooms for the night, it was my regularly scheduled duty to take the pupper out back for potty duty (she had already done doody duty earlier, so this would be a quick tinkle time).

The stage was set to implement Plan B, Part II: The Retrievening.

Every dog person knows potty routines are strange rituals that vary widely from dog to dog. Emerald must reach the Designated Pee Spot(TM) with an exactitude reminiscent of a bowler’s approach to the pins: the timing and footwork must be precisely coordinated, or she aborts and circles around like a novice pilot after a botched landing. (So what if I’m mixing metaphors like a Vegas poolside bartender slinging drinks? Deal with it.)

Step 1. She must pee in a timely fashion. That’s not a plan requirement, per se. Just that I run the risk of multiple overlapping impatiences. During the first approach, she overshot the target, and had to pull up at the last second to loop around. I think she led off with the left foot instead of the right. Thankfully, she nailed the landing on the second try. [It’s like these metaphors mix themselves! — SK] [But you don’t have a problem…. — Editor]

Step 2. Get the bottle. The key here was to avoid retracing my steps to the rear door of the house, as it passed by too many bedroom windows (any = too many). So my intention was to traverse the back of the house and reach the vehicle while remaining hidden in the darkly darkness of the dark of night. Except Emerald, who was by now pulling me, took a different route that passed through the carport. This required me to tromp up some steps, across a little landing and down the other side. Not at all the stuff of which stealth is constructed.

Worse, in my argon-laser-like focus on Step 1, in which I demonstrated Ghandi-like patience, I forgot a tiny detail about the carport: it has a motion-activated light. This minor point was brought sharply to my memory about 0.01 seconds after the first photons reached my retina.

Nevertheless, I girded my loins (not sure what that is, or means, but there is a lot of loin-girding in the Bible prior to a fight) and pressed on. No retreat, no surrender, as one legendary military leader once said.

In a few steps I had the bottle in hand and stuffed it into the pocket of my hoodie, where it bulged and sagged like, well, a whiskey bottle. It showed a complete lack of subtlety and, worse, disregard for my circumstances. Bitch.

Step 3. So far, this operation had been conducted outside the wire, so to speak. Now, things got serious. I tried herding this half-herding dog towards the back door from whence the adventure began, lo these many months days minutes before, but a massively interesting scent on a rock needed — nay demanded — her immediate and full investigation. She is some 60 lbs, so I couldn’t simply stuff her in the other pocket.

After some very urgent, sharply-whispered encouragement she was convinced to abandon the Rock of Eternal Fascination(TM). The door was mere steps away when out from under a shrub dashed a fucking rabbit.

Rabbits should know better than to bolt in the face of a predator. I mean, come on. How many gazillion generations of genetic knowledge has included that very specific nugget? Don’t run from a predator. It makes them chase you. Dogs don’t think it through, it’s not a thing of careful consideration, they don’t ponder the option of chasing vs. not chasing.

They just go.

Step 3b. Pick gravel from hands and elbows.

Step 4. Allow the stream of curses to ebb. Thankfully, excellent fieldcraft, plus decades of secluding my enjoyment of profanity behind a screen of Decent Language(TM), helped keep them to myself and a dog who seemed to be blushing, if a dog could blush.

Step 5. Jesus, this should have been one step, maybe two. As often is the case, the part which should have been the most dangerous, came off without a hitch: I walked in, unhooked the dog, proceeded to my room, and stashed the bottle. All without questions, attention, or incident. Capone’s got nothing on me, baby.

So, here I sit, relating the story with a splash of fucking peanut butter whiskey at my elbow. And this stuff ain’t bad at all. I like it. [You would. — Editor]

Aye, matie, ye may call me Graybeard.

SK Berit is a writer of fiction, non-fiction, creative non-fiction, semi-fiction, and quasi-fiction. Pretty much anything with the word fiction in it.

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