And although, as the narrator begins to record his observations, he seems to be looking at these people as a kind of freak show, it isn't long before he finds himself in much the same condition. His is the story of a man's descent into the depths of an alcoholic oblivion and then his somewhat futile attempts to dig his way out.
While the subject matter here smacks of 19th century naturalism, Ablutions is no Zolaesque social treatise. This is black comedy. These may not be loveable drunks of the Foster Brooks variety, but they are ridiculously laughable in their inadequacies. Attempts at relationships disintegrate into ineffectual sexual encounters at best and disgusting humiliations at worst. Friendships last as long as the drinks and money hold out. More often than not a night's drinking ends up in vomiting and passing out, bleeding and passing out, or just plain passing out. Vows to quit drinking are treated as jokes one beer at a time. Whether it is the narrator or the people he describes, these are not tragic figures; they are overwhelmed by a world they can't handle. Drugs and alcohol merely disguise their inadequacies, and not for very long, at that.
Ablutions is a nightmare vision that will have you chuckling and then wondering what you were laughing about. The story reeks of honesty, but it is the honesty of nausea and excrement. It gives you a view of the nightmare from a distance, and from a distance is most surely the best way to view it.