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. I had slept nearly forty-seven minutes the night before, and it was only my twenty-second cup of coffee. I felt like I was starting to go soft. I panicked a little bit. I signed onto AIM, but nobody was on. I waited almost a minute, hoping that someone was invisible and won’t notice I’d showed up. It didn’t happen. I refilled my coffee and went for my cell phone. I dialed Stephen’s number and was amazed that it only rang twice. “What!” he whispered forcefully, although I could tell I had woken him from a dead sleep. “Hello?” “What!” “Stephen?” “What the fuck? It’s four in the morning!” He was waking up, a little. “I know, man. It’s really four-oh-four. Four o’clock seems like an eternity ago. I’m bored as fuck.” “What the hell do you want? I’m gonna wake up Anne.” “I’m just bored, man. This really sucks. I’m all jumpy and paranoid and shit. I think it’s the fuckin’ coffee, but I really haven’t even had that much.” “So go out and knock over some parking meters. I gotta get back to sleep; I have a class at nine-thirty.” Patience had always been one of Stephen’s virtues. That was why I always called him first. “Fuck, so do I. What’d you got? I got a fucking English 1. I hate the little bastards in that section, too. I could tell them we were taking a field trip to the circus, and they’d still bitch. It’s totally fucking unnerving.” There was no response. “Will you tell Anne I said hi?” “She’s out. I can’t believe the phone didn’t wake her.” “Well?”
“Well what? What the fuck? I’m tired, man!” “Well will you tell Anne I said hi? It doesn’t have to be right this second.” “Why don’t you tell her hi?” “Okay, I guess I really did mean that it should be right this second. Sorry.” “Don’t sweat it.” “Will you put her on?” “What?!?” “Will you put Anne on? Maybe she won’t be as grumpy as you. Fuck.” “Dude, I’m goin’ to bed. This is fucked up.” He sighed. “Every fucking night.” “It’s the coffee, I think. Really. I’m gonna try to get off it.” “No you won’t.” “I know I won’t. I just can’t deal with all this grumpy shit.” “I gotta sleep. Call me tomorrow.” “Okay. What time do you—“ He hung up. I finished off my mug and went back to the first coffeemaker to reload. I was drinking Chase and Sanborn that came in a fifty-five gallon can. I picked it up at Eckerd. I used to have a thing about getting coffee at department stores and drugstores and such, but it didn’t really much bother me anymore. I hit redial on my cell phone. It didn’t even ring once this time. “What!!!” “Can I say goodnight to Anne? I’m kinda scared and shit. Her voice is all soft and comforting. I think it would help.” “So would a carton of Sominex.” He hung up again. I contemplated calling back but decided against it. Stephen used to be such a trooper. Back when we were both single, the four a.m. phone calls were routine. We’d get so overly caffeinated that we’d hallucinate and vomit. It was great. We’d start out at a diner around six or seven, then hit two of our regular coffeeshops, maybe duck in back home to watch a bad movie, and never stop with the coffee. Then he got diagnosed with the heart palpitation. No more caffeine. It was really— My phone beeped. Four times. A text.
Please call. Aug 4, 4:09 a.m.
I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I hit redial. I didn’t even hear a ring. “Are you okay, honey?” It was Anne. “Stephen said you couldn’t sleep again.” “Hello? Anne?” “It’s me, sweetie. Are you alright?” “Anne? I don’t feel so good. I tried to tell Stephen, but he got all grumpy and swore at me again.” “Aw, honey. It’s okay. Do you want us to come over?” I could hear Stephen grinding his teeth. I tried not to laugh. “I dunno.” I paused for dramatic effect, but I sighed a little bit to make it sound like I was reluctant. “It’s really late.” “Give us fifteen minutes, okay? We’ll be right over. Do you want us to stop at Wawa? I’m not going to get dressed, but Stephen can run in and get you a coffee. How’s that?” “You don’t have to do that. That would be really nice.” “I’m putting my sweats on now. We’ll be there in fifteen minutes, okay? I’ll bring along Trivial Pursuit.” “You know I love you both, right?” “I know, honey. We’ll be right over.” She hung up. To be honest, I didn’t know if I was so crazy about the company, but it was hard to resist the Wawa coffee and a good game of Trivial Pursuit. Anne always read the questions, and she really did have a soft and comforting voice.
Randy Boone Week 10 – Open (Fiction) Detox (a continuation) [Note: If you want to read the first three pages of this story, just check out the scribd website or email me.] “Four. One, two, three, four. Roll again. Two. I guess it looks like green. Fuck. I hate science.” “Oh come on. This one might be easy. I have a hunch.” She said it so convincingly that I thought I might actually have a chance. I took a slug of coffee. Stephen sighed. “What inert gas—“ “Radon.” “Trip! Come on! At least let me read the question. I thought you liked when I read the questions!” “I’m sorry. I just know that when the question starts out with ‘What inert gas’ I’m not even gonna have a chance. At least I know that radon is an inert gas.” I felt somewhat vindicated with my logic. But Anne was right; I did like to hear her read the questions. “Wait a minute. Radon is an inert gas, right?” “What inert gas—“ “This is stupid,” Stephen interrupted. He really did look exhausted. I felt kind of bad, but then again, if he wasn’t so whipped, he never would have had to come along with Anne in the first place. “It’s almost five-thirty. If I’m not going to get any sleep, I should at least try to get some work done.” “Did you bring anything along with you?” asked Anne. “Maybe you could grade some papers.” “Radon,” I said. “Why would I think to bring papers when I’m leaving the house at four a.m.? I still haven’t even figured out why the hell I did leave the house at four a.m. What the fuck are we doing here? Trip, quit drinking coffee. Sleep. Be a normal person. God
damn.” He got up and went outside and lit a cigarette. I emptied my mug. The twentyfour ounce coffee from Wawa had bitten the dust earlier, back before anyone had more than one wedge. Anne looked for Stephen out the window. She was obviously concerned. He didn’t smoke often anymore, and when he did, it bothered Anne. She looked a bit worried. “I’ll be back in a second,” she said, and then she stepped gently out onto the porch and closed the door just shut behind her. “Radon?” I asked the room’s still air. I seized the break period to hit the bathroom and refill my mug. Before I could sit back down, Anne reemerged. “Trip, honey, this really isn’t working out. We’re really worried about you. Stephen plays it off, but we really think you ought to get some kind of help. You don’t sleep anymore, and…well…” She stared up into the air, apparently looking for just the right words. “Trip, you don’t have moods anymore. It’s like we see you when something good is going on, and you’re wired and calm. And when see you when your life is real shitty, but you’re still wired and calm. You’re like a walking oxymoron. You’re so juiced up on caffeine all the time, but yet you’re always so mellow. You don’t get angry, and that’s really cool. We love that. But you never get happy anymore either. I mean really happy. Do you?” I felt kind of humbled. I wasn’t really sure how to react to that. All I’d noticed was that Stephen had gotten a whole lot grumpier, while Anne was still Anne. I fumbled for something to say while I took a slow sip of coffee, pretending that it was a lot hotter than it really was. I could feel tears welling in the corners of my eyes, and I didn’t even know why. “Can you just tell me,” I mumbled, “was it radon?” “It was nitrogen,” she said. “Son of a bitch.” I sniffed back some wet snot and blinked the tears from my eyes. “I really wanted it to be radon.” “I know, honey,” Anne said. She reached over and held my hand. “Maybe the next one will be radon.” She squeezed my fingers between hers. “Thanks,” I said. “I mean thanks for coming over. I know I’m kinda fucked up and all. I don’t know what’s going on with me these days. I think it might be the coffee.
I think I’ve been going a little overboard the past couple weeks. I just can’t seem to stop.” She squeezed my hand tighter. “It’s alright. But we do worry.” The door opened, and Stephen swung his lanky body inside, coughing the cold and smoke from his lungs. “Are you okay?” Anne called over. “I don’t have emphysema or hypothermia yet, and I still haven’t figured out what the hell I’m doing here before the sun came up, so no, I’m not okay.” I gave Stephen my annoyed British guy look. “Thanks for enlightening us with that startling revelation, Commander Grumpy McGrumpington. Why can’t you just chill out and play a little Pursuit?” Stephen sat back down. I let go of Anne’s hand and took it and placed it on Stephen’s thigh. “Now where were we,” I asked. “Oh yeah. Nitrogen.” “Nitrogen?” Stephen’s face twisted into an inquisitive prune. “I thought you said radon.” “I don’t even think radon is an inert gas,” I sad. “Nitrogen. Final answer.” “Trip.” Now Anne looked exhausted. She looked to Stephen. “I told him the answer when you were outside.” “I’m never gonna get a green wedge. Fuckin’ science.” I was legitimately pouty. I wondered if pouty counted as a mood. I hadn’t been pouty two minutes before. It was certainly some kind of change, even if it was relatively subtle. I sucked down some more coffee. Nobody said anything.” “Trip.” Stephen stood up. He was at his wits’ end, but in a tired way, not a crazy way. “This is stupid. You need…” We all knew what was coming. We all hoped he wouldn’t say it. “You really need to call Emily.” The moment froze. Even as I finished off my mug of coffee, I felt like nothing else around me had life. He really did it. It had been almost a week since I’d heard the E-word.
Randy Boone Beyond Detox (continued)
[Note: This story picks up on page 7, as there are two earlier installments. If you want to read them, just let me know and I’ll email the first 6 pages. Oh, and if you did read the first two installments, one big change I made was shifting from first to third person.]
Trip sat in the waiting room, anxiously flipping through an outdated Entertainment Weekly magazine. He tried to spend at least a few seconds on each page so that he wouldn’t end up having to go back to the pile on the corner table. What he really wanted to read was an in flight magazine, but the corner table only held the most obvious waiting room choices—Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated, People, Woman’s Day. The selections made Trip feel pretty ordinary. Maybe that was a good thing. He started to read a short insert of celebrity fashion faux pas. He had wondered himself whether he needed to dress up today. He was unsure, so he didn’t. “Trip Shepherd?” Trip stood, startled a bit. A woman stood just inside the doorway next to the reception area. She looked fifty-ish, in a neat blue skirt that went past the knees, smart blue heels, a white blouse, glasses. She could have passed for anything from a sexually frustrated librarian to a nun. “I’m Elizabeth Morneau. You’ll be working with me today, if that’s alright?” Trip shook Elizabeth Morneau’s outstretched hand. “Come along back to my office,” Elizabeth Morneau said. “Hopefully it’ll be a little more comfortable there than it is in the waiting room. It’s so dreary in there.” Trip followed Elizabeth Morneau to her office and took a seat at a small wooden table. Elizabeth Morneau sat across from Trip, leaning forward in her chair, a legal pad and expensive pen poised ominously before her. “Make yourself comfortable, Trip. It’s okay if I call you ‘Trip’?” Elizabeth Morneau was smiling. She seemed interested.
“Yeah, ‘Trip’ is fine.” He sat stiff against the cushion of his chair; Elizabeth Morneau could sense trip’s anxiety. “Have you ever been to a therapist before, Trip? You look a little nervous.” “No, it’s cool. I haven’t been to a therapist before, but I’m good. Really.” “Okay,” Elizabeth Morneau replied. “If you need anything, just tell me, alright? Do you mind if I tape record our session today? It’s a standard thing that we do; after the first minute or two, people generally forget the recorder is even there.” “Tape recorder?” Trip inquired. “It’s really just so I can have a record of our session today, and of course it’s a precaution that we like to take for ethical reasons, too.” Elizabeth Morneau hadn’t made a move toward the recorder. “Ethical reasons?” asked Trip. “What if I say something really dumb or vulgar? It’ll be on the tape, right?” “Do you feel the urge to say something vulgar?” asked Elizabeth Morneau. “Oh, no,” Trip replied. “I just meant… You know, sometimes it slips out. I’m not a pervert or anything. And I don’t think you think I’m a pervert. I’m just afraid that if something slips…” His voice trailed off. “It’s okay, Trip,” Elizabeth Morneau reassured. “It’s all confidential. It’s like confession. Nobody gets to hear the tapes but the priest.” “Oh,” said Trip, relaxing just a bit. “Then sure. I doubt that I’ll give you anything very interesting to listen to, but why not. If I start to get boring, I can tell you some of Paris Hilton’s problems. It’ll be like psychoanalysis karaoke.” Elizabeth Morneau looked confused. She pushed buttons on the tape recorder. “So what brings you here today, Trip?” The question took Trip off guard. He hadn’t really thought about why he was there. He knew he had to say something. “Well, Stephen and Anne made me promise I would come. They said it would be good for me.” There was a long silence. “And who are Stephen and Anne?” asked Elizabeth Morneau. “Oh, they’re friends of mine. I guess they’re worried about me and stuff.” Elizabeth Morneau looked intrigued. “And why are they worried about you?”
Trip thought for a minute. “I think they think I need someone to talk to, you know, besides them. I think they want me to tell someone else about my problem, you know, someone who maybe can help me.” “And what problem is that?” asked Elizabeth Morneau. “Well, it’s really two problems,” Trip said. He was beginning to feel more comfortable. Elizabeth Morneau seemed to have a genuinely good spirit. She was certainly more school teacher than sexually frustrated librarian or nun. “The first problem is the coffee. I know they worry about how much coffee I drink.” Trip paused. He looked at Elizabeth Morneau as if it was her turn to say something. “How much coffee do you drink, Trip?” she asked. “I don’t know,” Trip said. “On a typical day? Maybe thirteen of fourteen pots.” For a split second, Trip saw Elizabeth Morneau’s eyes go from surprised, to concerned, to professionally accepting. At least he knew she was human. “Do you have any candy?” Trip asked, before Elizabeth Morneau could comment on his coffee intake. “I’m sorry. I normally wouldn’t ask something like that, and you can delete it from the tape if you want, but I’m really craving some kind of candy, and I was hoping that you’d have a dish of Hershey kisses or M&M’s or something on your desk.” Trip glanced around the small room. “But you don’t even have a desk, I guess.” “You know,” said Elizabeth Morneau, “maybe I ought to invest in a bowl and a bag of Hershey kisses. That actually sounds very welcoming. I think I have some Mentos in my purse. Would you like a Mento?” “Are they the minty kind or the fruity kind?” asked Trip. “The fruity kind,” replied Elizabeth Morneau. “No kidding?” said Trip. “I didn’t know anyone ever bought the fruity Mentos. I always thought of them in the same category as butterscotch pudding, you know? Everybody knows it exists, and it’s there on the grocery shelves, but nobody ever really eats it.” “That’s an interesting theory,” confessed Elizabeth Morneau. “I never really thought of it that way. But I guess that makes me an oddball, huh? I like the fruity Mentos. And butterscotch pudding, too.” They both chuckled. Elizabeth Morneau held
out two-thirds of a roll of fruity Mentos. “You might not want the top one. There could be some lint or dirt on it. In fact, let me throw that one out—“ “No, no, no,” said Trip, stopping her short. “It’s cool.” He took the Mento off the end of the roll and popped it in his mouth. “In fact,” he said, holding Elizabeth Morneau’s hand gently across the table, “I’ll give you a dollar for the rest of the roll.”
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