[Nat moves to wipe away the circle of whisky from Don Birnam's glass]
Don Birnam: Don't wipe it away, Nat. Let me have my little vicious circle. You know, the circle is the perfect geometric figure. No end, no beginning.
Don Birnam: It shrinks my liver, doesn't it, Nat? It pickles my kidneys, yeah. But what it does it do to the mind? It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar. Suddenly I'm above the ordinary. I'm competent. Extremely competent! I'm walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I'm one of the great ones. I'm Michaelangelo, molding the beard of Moses. I'm Van Gogh painting pure sunlight. I'm Horowitz, playing the Emperor Concerto. I'm John Barrymore before the movies got him by the throat. I'm Jesse James and his two brothers, all three of them. I'm W. Shakespeare. And out there it's not Third Avenue any longer, it's the Nile, Nat. The Nile and down into the barge of Cleopatra.
Don Birnam: [to Wick and Helen] Most men lead lives of quiet desperation. I can't take quiet desperation!
Nat: One's too many an' a hundred's not enough.
Helen St. James: We're both trying, Don. You're trying not to drink, and I'm trying not to love you.
Don Birnam: Love is the hardest thing in the world to write about. It's so simple. You've gotta catch it through details, like the early morning sunlight hitting the gray tin of the rain spout in front of her house, the ringing of a telephone that sounds like Beethoven's Pastorale, a letter scribbled on her office stationary that you carry around in your pocket because it smells like all the lilacs in Ohio. Pour it, Nat!
'Bim' Nolan, Male Nurse: It's like the doctor was just telling me - delirium is a disease of the night. Good night.
Don Birnam: Do you ever lie in your bed looking at the window? A little daylight's coming through and you start to wonder. Is it getting lighter? Is it getting darker? Is it dawn or is it dusk? That's a terrifying problem, Nat. Because, if its dawn, you're dead! The bars are closed. The liquor stores aren't open until nine o'clock and you can't last until nine o'clock! Or, it may be Sunday. That's the worst. No liquor stores at all and you guys wouldn't open a bar until one o'clock. Why? Why, Nat?
Nat: Because we got to go to church once in awhile, that's why.
Don Birnam: Yeah. When a guy needs it most!
Don Birnam: You know, in college I passed for a genius. They couldn't get out the college magazine without one of my stories. Boy, was I hot. Hemingway stuff. I reached my peak when I was 19. Sold a piece to the Atlantic Monthly, reprinted in the Readers Digest. Who wants to stay in college when he's Hemingway? My mother bought me a brand new typewriter and I moved right in on New York. Well, the first thing I wrote, that didn't quite come off. And the second I dropped, the public wasn't ready for that one. I started a third and a fourth. Only, by then, somebody began to look over my shoulder and whisper, in a thin, clear voice, like the E-string on a violin, "Don Birnam," he whispered, "is not good enough. Not that way. How about a couple of drinks to set him on his feet, huh?" So, I had a couple. Oh, what a great idea that was! That made all the difference. Suddenly, I could see the whole thing. The tragic sweep of the great novel, beautifully proportioned. But, before I could really grab it and throw it down on paper, the drinks would wear off and everything would be gone, like a mirage. Then, there was despair and the drink to counterbalance despair and then one to counterbalance the counterbalance.
Wick Birnem: If it happens, it happens and I hope it does. I've had six years of this. I've had my bellyfull... Who are we fooling? We've tried everything, haven't we? We've reasoned with him. We've baited him. We've watched him like a hawk. We've tried trusting him. How often have you cried? How often have I beaten him up? Scrape him out of a gutter and pump some kind of self-respect into him and back he falls, back in every time.
Helen St. James: He's a sick person. It's as though there was something wrong with his heart or his lungs. You wouldn't walk out on him if he had an attack. He needs our help.
Wick Birnem: He won't accept our help. Not Don, he hates us. He wants to be alone with that bottle of his. It's all he gives a hang about. Why kid ourselves? He's a hopeless alcoholic.
Don Birnam: Let me have one, Nat. I'm dying. Just one.
Don Birnam: [after buying two bottles of rye whiskey] I'm not a minor, Mr. Brophy, and just to ease your conscience, I'm buying these to refill my cigarette lighter.
Wick Birnem: You better take this along, Don. It's gonna be cold on the farm.
Don Birnam: Okay.
Wick Birnem: How many shirts are you taking?
Don Birnam: Three.
Wick Birnem: I'm taking five.
Don Birnam: Five?
Wick Birnem: Yeah, I told them at the office I might not be back until Tuesday. We'll get there this afternoon. That'll give us all Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. We'll make it a long, wonderful weekend!
Don Birnam: It sounds long all right.
Don Birnam: If that's going to be your attitude Nat, I shall have to drown my sorrows with a jigger of rye. Just one, that's all.
Nat: Can't be done, Mr Birnam.
Don Birnam: Can't? Now, let me guess why. My brother was here undermining my financial structure.
Nat: I didn't tell him nothin' about the wristwatch you left or your cufflinks.
Don Birnam: Thank you very much, Nat. Today you'll be glad to know we can barter on a cash basis.
Nat: One straight rye.
Don Birnam: That was the idea.
Don Birnam: I can't let her see me, not when I'm off like this.
Nat: Why don't you cut it short?
Don Birnam: Don't talk like a child. You can't cut it short! You're on that merry-go-round, you got to ride it all the way. Round and round till that blasted music wears itself out and the thing dies down.
Nat: Ain't it amazin' how many guys come down from Albany just to see Grant's tomb?
Don Birnam: Like the last one, Nat. Pour it softly, pour it gently and pour it to the brim.
Nat: How the heck did she ever get mixed up with a guy who sops it up like you do?
Don Birnam: That's a problem, isn't it. That nice young man who drinks and a high class young lady and how did she ever get mixed up with him? And why does he drink? And why doesn't he stop? That's my novel, Nat. I wanted to start writing it out in the country. Morbid stuff. Nothing for the book-of-the-month club. A horror story! The confessions of a booze addict. The log book of an alcoholic. Oh, come on, Nat, break down, will ya?
[Nat pours Don another drink]
Don Birnam: You know what I'm going to call my novel? The Bottle. That's all. Very simply, The Bottle. I've got all here in my mind.
Mr. St. James: Oh, that wasn't enough, not for New York. They gave me a shampoo, scalp massage, and a manicure. I thought they were going to tear off my shoes and paint my toenails.
Helen St. James: There must be a reason why you drink, Don? The right doctor could find it.
Don Birnam: Look, I'm way ahead of the right doctor. I know the reason. The reason is me - what I am. Or, rather, what I'm not. What I wanted to become and didn't.
Helen St. James: What is it you want to be so much that you're not?
Don Birnam: A writer! Silly, isn't it.
Don Birnam: Another drink, another binge, another bender, another spree!
Don Birnam: I've never done anything! I'm not doing anything! I never will do anything! Zero! Zero! Zero!
Don Birnam: She knows she's clutching a razor blade; but, she won't let go!
Gloria: Save your saliva! I've had enough of you.
Gloria: Don't be ridic'! Get out of here! Make with those stairs. Go on!
'Bim' Nolan, Male Nurse: Are these yours? You and the colored fella were being undressed at the same time. They fell out of somebody's pants.
'Bim' Nolan, Male Nurse: Listen, I pick an alky with one eye shut. You're an alky. You'll come back. They all do. Him, for instance. Shows up every month. Just like the gas bill.
'Bim' Nolan, Male Nurse: Prohibition - that's what started most of these guys off. Whoopie. Now, be a good boy and drink this.
Don Birnam: I don't want it.
'Bim' Nolan, Male Nurse: Better take it. Liable to be a little floor show later on, around here. It might get on your nerves.
Don Birnam: Floor show?
'Bim' Nolan, Male Nurse: Ever hear of the DTs?
Don Birnam: No!
'Bim' Nolan, Male Nurse: You will, brother.
Don Birnam: Not me!
'Bim' Nolan, Male Nurse: Like to make a little bet? After all, you're just a Freshman. Wait till you're a Sophomore. That's when you start seeing the little animals. You know that stuff about pink elephants? That's the bunk. It's little animals. Little tiny turkeys in straw hats. Midget monkeys coming through the key holes. See that guy over there? With him, its beetles. Come the night, he sees beetles crawling all over him. Has to be dark though.
Mrs. Deveridge: He's off on another toot! And you know I'm darned right.
Helen St. James: I'd rather have you drunk than dead.
Don Birnam: [Last lines] Out there in that great big concrete jungle, I wonder how many others there are like me? Poor bedeviled guys on fire with thirst. Such comical figures, to the rest of the world, as they stagger blindly towards another binge, another bender, another spree.