Choices A short story Written by Tessa B.



Tessa B. Dick PO Box 1942

Dick / Choices Crestline, CA 92325 (909) 338-3036

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Dick / Choices Tessa B. Dick PO Box 1942 Crestline, CA 92325 (909) 338-3036 Choices Stephan Jarles caressed the syringe in his pocket, fingering the plastic cover that protected the piercing end of the hollow needle, rubbing the warmth of his fingers into the cold glass barrel, touching the plunger in anticipation of making love to his drug of choice. A bead of sweat broke out on his forehead and his eyes began to sting. He blinked involuntarily and his entire body trembled with desire for the piercing of the needle through his skin and into a vein, the burning surge of narcotics flooding his body with passion, the rush coursing throughout his entire body from the center of his heart to the soles of his feet, the relief so fulfilling as to surpass any woman’s physical presence. He skittered through the dark alley behind the row of decrepit shops -– a liquor store, a second-hand shop, other suppliers of the poverty-stricken, some open for business, others boarded up -– headed to the darkness behind the dumpsters where he might quench his desire without interruption by passersby or the officers of law enforcement. Stephan watched a fat gray rat waddle across the alley and squeeze under the chain link fence that separated the alley from a drainage ditch. He wondered how such a large creature could fit though such a small space. His world was filled with wonders, like how the straights managed to get through each day without Copyright 2007, Tessa B. Dick 3

Dick / Choices the aid of mind-numbing substances, feeding their hunger with meat and bread and vegetables, never reaching nirvana, never even making the attempt. They could never know the adventure of scrounging for enough scratch to purchase another dose of heaven, the patient search through trash barrels and dumpsters for bottles and cans that might be traded for coins at the recycle center, the keen eye always peeled for money dropped in the street or stuck in the bushes by some fortunate wind, or the thrill of snatching an object of value not too closely guarded by its owner. The greatest challenge, of course, was the hot burgle: entering an occupied home, usually at night when they would be sleeping, and prowling around for money and small objects of value. Sitting on the asphalt pavement behind the dumpsters with his back propped against the rear wall of a closed shop, Stephan pulled the object of his passion out of his pocket and examined the yellowish fluid inside the barrel of the syringe. It reminded him of the yellow hair of his wife -- ex-wife, he reminded himself. He hadn’t thought about her in years, he couldn’t say how many years, since the drug haze had captured him in its embrace. He seemed to recall a baby, a strong, dark-haired baby boy who had grown into a toddler and than a handsome first-grader. Tears welled up in his eyes and began to roll down his cheeks. He contemplated the drug, spending more time with foreplay than he ever could remember doing before, picturing in his mind the comfortable

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Dick / Choices home that he used to have, how warm and inviting it had been. The little tract house in an anonymous suburban neighborhood suited a young family and offered far more comforts than the make-shift tent that he had set up for himself in the bushes at the county park or the rooms in flophouse motels that he could sometimes afford for a night or two. Back before he had found his true love, his drug of choice, he had walked the path of a straight. Every day when he came home from work, his wife would greet him with a hug and lay out a nutritious, if inexpensive, dinner on the table. Their little boy would hop up on his leg to be hoisted into his booster seat, and they would all laugh and talk about their day while sharing the evening meal. After a couple hours spent watching television, the three of them cuddling up on the sofa, Stephan would tuck in his child and maybe tell him a bedtime story, and then have some quality time with -– what was her name? Brenda, or Barbara, or something like that. His mind was so muddled from long-term drug use that he couldn’t remember. He began to hear someone sobbing. It took a few minutes before he realized that the sobbing was coming from his own mouth, that his lungs were racked with sorrow, his nose stuffed up and his eyes shedding pools of tears onto the pavement. He remembered the daily ritual of kissing his wife and child goodbye, driving to work and spending eight hours or more at desk with a computer that spilled out numbers and names. What was it he used to do? Images of cars flashed into his mind, but no, he wasn’t a car

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Dick / Choices salesman. Oh, yeah, insurance! The sobbing began to subside, and he peered through blurry, tear-soaked eyes at the syringe. Time to stop daydreaming and numb his mind once more, to get through one more day. The alley looked blurry, the dumpsters began to dance and he stroked the glass barrel of the syringe with the frenzy of a lost and dying man. Suddenly, a cloud of smoke rose into the air in front of his face. His mouth dropped open. “Drugs are not supposed to catch fire,” he said aloud. “I am not a drug,” the cloud told him as it swirled and eddied, currents of blue smoke and brown smoke dancing in the embrace of intertwining swirls that circled and twirled, forming the shape of a face and torso, with smoky arms wrapped around it as if it were hugging itself. “Who are you?” Stephan asked. “What are you?” “I am the fulfillment of your wish,” the genie said. Its transparent, smoky body began to coalesce and become more solid, but Stephan could still see through its translucent shape to the fence beyond. “You are an hallucination. An effect of the drugs.” “On the contrary, I am the key to the door of enlightenment.” “Baloney. I must have read that in a book somewhere, and now my own mind is throwing random thoughts back at me.” “I am as real as you. Go ahead, touch me.”

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Dick / Choices Stephan tried to stand up, but his wobbly legs refused to straighten up under the weight of his body, so he sat back against the wall. Reaching out toward the genie, he said, “Come closer. I can’t reach you.” The genie obliged and floated so close that he seemed to be sitting on Stephan’s lap. “Hey! Not that close,” he said, clutching the syringe with one hand and pushing at the genie with the other. He felt a soft, pillowy form moving away from his hand as he pushed it. “Okay, so you’re real. What do you want?” “The question is, what do you want?” “If you think you’re going to steal my high, you’ve got another think coming.” With that, the genie burst out laughing. “I mean it! I’ve got a knife. I’ll cut you.” “Mr. Jarles,” the genie said, crossing its arms and speaking with the voice of authority, “I do not need to use any substances to reach the state of nirvana. I am already in heaven.” “What do you want, then?” “Why, simply to fulfill your wish. You summoned me forth from that glass bottle, and now I must grant you one wish before I can return to heaven. So what do you want?” “I’ll have to think about it.”

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Dick / Choices “Please don’t take too much time thinking. I have a cribbage game to get back to.” “Cribbage?” Jarles lifted a skeptical eyebrow. “What’s so extraordinary about that? We all have our favorite activities up there, just as you do down here.” Stephan thought and thought, but all that kept going through his mind was a mountain of hypodermic syringes, all filled with the lovely yellow substance that made each day a bearable burden. Here and there, he heard a woman’ voice or a child’s cry of delight. Time passed, and the syringe grew warm in his hand, its heart throbbing with anticipation of the act, the piercing, the throbbing, the thrill and the satisfaction. But then he would see reflected in the mountain of syringes himself at home, watching television with his wife and child, their bellies full with a cheap but nutritious dinner, all of them smiling and laughing just because they were together. “I’m waiting,” the genie reminded him. The vision vanished with the words, and Stephan could not recall what he had been seeing in his mind’s eye. “I don’t know. What do you suggest?” “It doesn’t work that way. It has to be what you want.” “Well, if you’re really a genie, then you can read my mind and see what I want.” “I am not allowed to make the choice for you. You must do that for yourself.”

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Dick / Choices “Can you at least give me a hint?” He was getting exasperated with the whole idea of making a choice, figuring out what he wanted, and he was very close to saying that all he wanted was for the genie to go away and leave him alone. “Very well,” the magical creature said at length. “You have two great desires in life. One is to return to your home and family, to have the life you once enjoyed. The other is to acquire an endless supply of narcotics. Which do you prefer?” Stephan Jarles made his choice, and the genie fulfilled it and vanished in a cloud of smoke. He awoke in the cancer ward of the county hospital, too weak even to lift his head, with a needle taped to his arm, with plastic tubing leading from the needle up to a glass bottle that fed him an endless supply of narcotics as he lay dying from terminal cancer.

-- END --

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