Nobel Prize-winning author and screenwriter William Faulkner wrote one short story about Hollywood: a 1930s real estate tycoon is driven to drink after his daughter becomes a scandalous starlet. First of two parts. 3,555 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
If he had been thirty, he would not have needed the two aspirin tablets and the half glass of raw gin before he could bear the shower’s needling on his body and steady his hands to shave. But then when he had been thirty neither could he have afforded to drink as much each evening as he now drank; certainly he would not have done it in the company of the men and the women in which, at forty-eight, he did each evening, even though knowing during the very final hours filled with the breaking of glass and the shrill cries of drunken women above the drums and saxophones the hours during which he carried a little better than his weight both in the amount of liquor consumed and in the number and sum of checks paid that six or eight hours later he would rouse from what had not been sleep at all but instead that dreamless stupefaction of alcohol out of which last night’s turgid and licensed uproar would die, as though without any interval for rest or recuperation, into the familiar shape of his bedroom, the bed’s foot silhouetted by the morning light which entered the bougainvillaea-bound windows beyond which his painful and almost unbearable eyes could see the view which might be called the monument to almost twenty-five years of industry and desire, of shrewdness and luck and even fortitude: the opposite canyon-flank dotted with the white villas half hidden in imported olive groves or friezed by the sombre spaced columns of cypress like the facades of eastern temples, whose owners’ names and faces and even voices were glib and familiar in back corners of the United States and of America and of the world where those of Einstein and Rousseau and Esculapius had never sounded.
He didn’t waken sick. He never wakened ill nor became ill from drinking, not only because he had drunk too long and too steadily for that, but because he was too tough even after the thirty soft years; he came from too tough stock, on that day thirty-four years ago when at fourteen he had fled, on the brake-beam of a west-bound freight, the little lost Nebraska town named for, permeated with, his father’s history and existence, a town to be sure, but only in the sense that any shadow is larger than the object which casts it. It was still frontier even as he remembered it at five and six: the projected and increased shadow of a small outpost of sod-roofed dugouts on the immense desolation of the plains where his father, Ira Ewing too, had been first to essay to wring wheat during the six days between those when, outdoors in spring and summer and in the fetid half dark of a snowbound dugout in the winter and fall, he preached. The second Ira Ewing had come a long way since then, from that barren and treeless village which he had fled by a night freight to where he now lay in a hundred-thousand-dollar house, waiting until he knew that he could rise and go to the bath and put the two aspirin tablets into his mouth.