My Life On Rye

Written by
Nathaniel Kressen

My Life on Rye | The First 20 Episodes

Commissioned by At Large magazine | Told in weekly serialization



In the wake of his failed marriage, a former artist / rising executive hunts down forgotten passions, unexpected alliances, and bottle after bottle. Even as the costs-benefits of numbing himself come into startling focus, he feels alive for the first time in years — navigating a mad dance that leads him from the financial depths of Manhattan to the lilting lights of a foreign city.

Episode 1: Basil Hayden’s

I swore I would never be a man who looks for meaning in a bottle.

Episode 2: Interboro Negative Space

The work day starts with stalking my wife on social media. Online, we are still together. A framed picture of our wedding sits atop my desk, monochrome and timeless.

Episode 3: Baileys

Spud yips and twitches in his sleep, chasing rabbits. I watch the digital numbers as Friday succumbs to Saturday.

Episode 4: Beefeater

The news spreads like a punchline through the office. Morris Stump, deputy head of Client Relations and all-around vanilla-flavored human being, was struck and killed by an amphibious tour vehicle while traveling on business in Dublin. “Right,” goes the joke, “If anyone was going look the wrong way stepping off a curb.”

Episode 5: Jack Daniel’s

Guitar flaccid between my legs, I watch a kid half my age own the stage at this open mic. He plays mandolin. He’s able to last full verses without taking a breath. He finishes up with his third homespun masterpiece in a row.

Episode 6: Peach Schnapps, Part 1

It was freshman year. I harbored plans of becoming a vet. And my assignment one Wednesday was drawing blood from a white Himalayan.

Episode 7: Peach Schnapps, Part 2

Everything in town was walking distance and within minutes we reached her off-campus apartment – a large room above someone’s garage. Kitty had decorated every inch of the place with tapestries and lamps and strange thrift store furniture. It was like stepping into a Moroccan blanket fort.

Episode 8: Calvados, Part 1

Her voicemail lasts eight seconds. “It’s me. I heard you stopped by, and…” There’s a silence, then, “We should talk. Call me.” I play it twice before calling back. As it rings, I try to subdue my hair in the mirror. Given recent weeks, I have a full revolt on my hands.

Episode 9: Calvados, Part 2

Her left hand emerges at last to cover her face, wedding band missing.

Episode 10: Jameson

“Not going to lie, Champion. This role involves late nights, drinking, and women. You’d travel the world, earn a crack salary. Game changer, pure and simple. Question is, are you a feller who would fuck it up?”

Episode 11: Laphroaig, Part 1

In life and sex, compassion goes a far way.

Episode 12: Laphroaig, Part 2

Twenty minutes later, I take my first sip. Nail polish and citrus. Wonderful indeed.

Episode 13: Basil Hayden’s II

Vets are roughly six times more likely to off themselves than the general population. That’s right. Six.

Episode 14: Natural Light, Part 1

There was a time when I thought the world was split into two groups of people. Those who cheat, and those who don’t.

Episode 15: Natural Light, Part 2

The doorknob to my dorm room had a sock on it. A white gym sock on a steady slog toward grey.

Episode 16: Natural Light, Part 3

She was a girl who never stopped half-dancing, and her red triangle tongue flicked into view in slow sweeping motions.

Episode 17: Booker’s

Money and power are not things to which I aspire.

Episode 18: Bulmers Cider

I’m horizontal on the living room floor, Spud by my side. The minutes lift into hours as the liquor leaves my system. A car idles outside, blaring radio. A parade overtakes my ceiling — crip-walking giraffes and twerking rhinoceri.

Episode 19: Guinness, Part 1

First class is filled with bottomless booze, top notch cuisine, and endless movie selections, both foreign and domestic. God bless and God damn my company for paying for this unnecessary luxury. A mild-mannered passenger is better off not knowing what lies beyond the curtain.

Episode 20: Guinness, Part 2

I walk through public art that belongs in a museum. Captivating bronze sculptures that nonetheless manage to blend in with their surroundings. Perhaps all of us are gaze-worthy. Every last soul.


My Life on Rye is a serialized fiction experiment by Nathaniel Kressen for At Large magazine. New installments are published weekly, each based around a different liquor.
Nathaniel Kressen is the author of two novels — Dahlia Cassandra (named Best of 2016 Fiction by Entropy & Luna Luna Magazine) and Concrete Fever (Bestseller, Strand Book Store) — as well as the co-founder of Second Skin Books and the leader of the Greenpoint Writers Group.