Race to the Bottom by Chris Rhatigan

I know that Chris Rhatigan’s Race To The Bottom  (All Due Respect Books) will bring back nightmares of working retail, dreams of the endless standing, moving product from shelf to shelf and back again, and the questions, the goddamn mother-fucking stupid questions. If anyone ever says that there is no such thing a dumb question, you know that they never worked retail.

Rhatigan’s novella tells the story of Roy, a drunk that’s been kicked out of his girlfriend’s place and ends up on the couch of a drug dealer who, oddly enough, doesn’t sell drugs. Roy’s addiction to whiskey and cigarettes, usually Ten High and GPCs, is supported by a shitty job at a retail chain, the not-so-deceptively-called Bullseye.

Though Rhatigan writes well about Roy’s constant emptying of liquor bottles, it is Rhatigan’s understanding of  what it is like to be part of the working poor, having one’s life ruled over by petty people, that stands out.

He went back to the front staircase, sat down, and smoked. Okay, he had to cough up $300 a month for rent. Banksy didn’t say anything about bills and Roy would fight him if he did. He wanted to charge that much to use his couch, fine, then that’s all he gets.

He figured about $200 a month on food and booze, leaving him with about $650 each month to play with. Well, about $135 would go toward meeting his credit card minimums. And the government was getting up his ass about the student loans he’d taken out for those two-and-a-half semesters he’d attended college. Not to mention that his car broke down every few weeks with a problem that always cost him north of $400. He could sell the car for a few hundred. Then he’d be back taking the bus.

That meant waiting in the rain, in the cold. That meant being late to work, as the bus never followed the schedule.

He ground out the butt on the staircase. Can’t think about this shit. Not getting him anywhere good.

He glanced at his watch. 2:30. Guess he wasn’t getting that shower or change of clothes. Time to go to work.


Roy hated every part of his job. But the part he hated most was walking into the store at the beginning of a shift.

Race to the Bottom is broken into three story lines: Roy’s minimum wage job that he clings to hoping that he won’t get fired, his constantly failing friendships, and a crime or two. All of these story lines are soaked in bad whiskey, stale cigarettes, and reckless decision making. Rhatigan’s writing in Race to the Bottom excellently tells the sad but believable story of a man deteriorating page by page, bottle by bottle, till his world comes to an end in a pathetic whine.

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