brian m. carlson brian m. carlson Fiction version 2 of the GNU General Public License the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License

The alarm went off just in time for NPR to inform me that it was seven o'clock. I sat up, and immediately could tell it was only a two-aspirin morning, which all in all, wasn't too terribly bad. As I sat up, I realized it'd been six months.

I stumbled down the hallway and toward the kitchen. For the first time in four days, I managed to avoid stubbing my toe on the mirror that was propped up against the wall. For some reason, I had taken it off the wall when I moved in, but had never done anything with it.

I decided that it was a cereal day. Then again, every day was a cereal day. Cereal is cheap, easy, and doesn't require a lot of thought. No eggs to avoid burning and no pots to clean. And it doesn't taste nasty with aspirin.

The house I lived in is two story. From the outside, it doesn't look that big, but it's actually quite large. It's been in my family for some time: it originally belonged to my great-aunt. Since she died, it's been occupied by several of my siblings. As each of us has gotten clean, we've moved into the first floor until we could get back on our feet. All that's on the second floor is just a lot of old stuff of my aunt's that no one really wants to sort through.

After work, I decided to head to an early meeting. I walked down past Canal and up Elm, which I like to joke is Church Row. There are probably at least a dozen of them there, I'm not really sure why. St. Michael's has a five-thirty AA meeting every Friday, and I usually meet Claire there. She's pretty good, as far as sisters go.

On my way home, I stopped by City Market. The grocery list was starting to get a little long and I knew Jake and I would need stuff for Sunday's dinner. Most nights, Jake would come over, and we'd cook and hang out, maybe play some Rummy or, on occasion, Monopoly. Over the past three months, we'd become pretty good friends, and he was teaching me the basics of cooking, things like how to boil water and sauté vegetables. And honestly, we had made some pretty good stuff. Fridays, though, were the day that Jake went out with some of his other friends, usually to some bar or another. I usually found something to do on my own.

But as I was walking up to the door, the bag tore and my blackberries landed all over the sidewalk. I've always loved blackberries, ever since I was a little kid. Neither of my sisters ever liked them, and so the only time I could ever eat them was when I went over to my grandparents'. My grandmother would give me a dish of fresh blackberries, and she'd make a wonderful blackberry cobbler for dessert.

Putting the bag down, I picked up the ones that didn't look particularly dirty and put them back into the container with the ones that hadn't fallen out. I couldn't throw away a pint of blackberries. I went inside and rinsed them off. I ate them as I put the groceries away. Since it was Friday, I ordered a pizza—green peppers and onions, of course—and put on the TV.

I figured that I'd probably better take a quick shower before the pizza arrived, so when the commercials came on, I headed to the bathroom, careful to avoid the mirror lurking in the hallway. I got out of the shower, put on some shorts and a t-shirt, and headed into the living room. By the time I got back to the TV, the killer had already been captured, so I changed the channel and waited for the pizza to be delivered. It ended up not being as good as I'd hoped, but I ate it anyway.

The next day was Saturday, so I figured I'd sleep in. It also happened to be my birthday, so I figured I could go one day without running and instead do some goofing off on the computer. Around two-thirty I heard a key in the lock, and I figured that it had to be Jake. It was, and he called down the hallway. Are you decent? he asked.

Yeah, I am. I'm in the computer room, I called back.

He came into the room. I was thinking that we might go to the park and play some frisbee golf. And what would you think about dinner afterward? he queried.

Sounds good. Where are we going for dinner? I asked.

Wherever you want, he replied.

Let's do that Italian place. You know which one, I said.

Yeah, I do, he said. I can never remember the name, either.

We headed out to Eyvan Park. It's not in a particularly good neighborhood, but since it's only one of two parks in the city with a disc golf course, and the only one with a half-pipe, it's of course quite popular. And it was cool and not too windy: a perfect day for frisbee golf. The parking lot ended up being full, of course, and we were forced to park some ways away in the nearby neighborhood. All in all, that was probably better, since it meant my car wouldn't get dinged.

One of the things that I've always liked doing is going fast. It doesn't really matter what the actual vehicle is as long as it's fast. So when I got out of rehab, I decided that I'd save up to get a used Toyota Celica and deck it out. I also discovered that running every day and driving a little faster than the speed limit (okay, almost twice as fast) helped stave off the intense, wracking cravings for crack.

When we got to the park, we played the course for a while. Jake was usually the better player, but I was beating him easily. I figured it probably had something to do with my birthday. When we finished hole twelve, Jake pointed out that it was starting to get dark and we needed to shower and change before dinner. On our way back to the car, Jake decided to stop at the bathroom. I told him that I'd bring the car around.

I pulled the car into the small U-shaped driveway, and then pulled off to the side, putting on my flashers. I rolled down the windows and turned off the engine. My head throbbed, and I was annoyed with myself for leaving the aspirin at home. I opened up the center console to see if I could at least find my can of Altoids, and to my surprise, there was a bottle of aspirin.

I figured I could take one dry, so I popped open the cap and shook a couple out into my hand. Along with the three aspirin, out came a rock. Things took a second to register. Crap, I thought. I so do not need this right now. But at the same time, I had this urge: there was suddenly nothing I wanted to do more right then but smoke it.

I saw Jake walking towards the car, so I put everything back in the bottle and shoved it back into the console. When he got in the car, Jake noticed I was a little frazzled.

Everything okay? he asked. You don't look so good.

Yeah, I said. I just got this killer headache. I'll take something when we get home.

Okay, he said. He seemed a little more at ease.

We got home and I told Jake he could shower first. Feel free to grab something from my closet, I said. I'll get the frisbees.

I put the frisbees in the garage, and took in the the bottle of aspirin. I turned on the faucet to get a glass of water, poured the contents of the bottle onto the counter, and stared.

I wanted it, the smell of it burning, the insane rush that I knew so well, the shivers of ecstasy. I needed it, had to have it. Nothing else was important. This was it: my life's purpose.

In one motion, I swept the pills off the counter and into the sink. I turned on the garbage disposal and listened to it crunching and grinding away. I took a deep breath and then a swallow of my water. My head was still pounding.

Jake stuck his head out of my bedroom. Next! he called. Then, after a second, Are you all right? You look really pale.

It's just the headache, I said. I think this is going to be one of those four-aspirin ones.