Drifting in One Spot I

Now this guy Doug always seemed to think that no statement could be made that did not deserve a rejoinder by Him in this world-as-a-stage drive to keep the spotlight from swinging around too much, but we forgave him half the time because as Voltaire said, it’s okay to talk about yourself provided you can be entertaining. But if Doug talked too much, Ben Jordan talks too little, and they both talk just a tad too loud. It’s a mercy neither of them ever got an idea that they should be telling the rest of us how to live because they both possess this mighty Word Power, the kind that can swivel every head in a coffee shop without even trying. If they learned a few opinions about anything of consequence they could have been revival-tent preachers, chautauque politicians, rock stars or coaches with heart conditions.

So anyway Doug took off for Kansas City a little while back; the night before the final deadline him and me and Brent polished off a fifth of Yukon Jack and had a terrible argument about everything from Tits as opposed to Ass and on down to nuclear physics and the gold standard, with plenty in between, including two lightning chess games the first of which I lost miserably and second of which I kicked butt. The final terrible conflict raged over Perkins Cake and Steak vs. some bullshit snack shop and it woke up the neighbors; all the way down to Perkins Doug was doing his wild Caledonian Pict schtick in the street and nearly getting killed screaming Nazi slogans: “Arbeit Macht Frei!” for the benefit of some Ford Truck spiritual essence. He ate a book of matches, staple and all, with his bowl of chili.

In the morning I decided it was vitamin day, recalling back when I was in Ansonia living with drunk Vets who would retell gook murder exploits at every party. I was in the height of my phase of health cult membership and couldn’t get these fools to eat a hundred different pills in the morning. But one night I told the assembled group I had this weird drug to turn them red as lobsters and make them feel like they had sunburns with wood straitjackets on.

“Ah, ah, what is this,” they told me.

“Yeah,” I said, “and it comes on in fifteen minutes, it lasts fifteen minutes, you get this total rush, then it’s gone! like that!” I got the bottle, Niacin 250 milligram hits, and just started pushing it at everybody. Someone broke and then they all had to be macho and go through the initiation, so about ten minutes later they’re going, “Ah, this is just some candy-ass vitamin he tricked us into taking,” but they began to sit up and have wild looks on their faces. They tried the shower but it felt like getting stroked with a wire brush, and I told them to drink a bunch of water to make it flush out.

They threatened to kill me after inquiring again about how long it lasted when I said, “Oh, two, maybe three hours… ” and started laughing: this was a worse trick, to give them this drug for pain and agony, saying it wouldn’t last too long.

But after that this guy Bob started to believe in the Power of the Pills, and he was all worried about his tremor after being drunk about four years. I said it was all just magnesium and the B stuff being depleted, and one morning he was hung over and wanted something, “don’t you have anything that will help… ”

“Yeah, sure thing!” says I, the happy recruiter. I poured out about twenty capsules and pills and gelatin oil balls going through the routine to make it look as bad as possible like This Is Only The Beginning, and he told me to change my name to Elvis, but later in the day when he came home he was convinced I’d given him acid: the tremor was gone, he was tripping all day with clear thoughts and pure Mental Power! and give me another dose right now! After four years of beer and Burger King food you can bet that it will have an effect. I was the Doctor.

I sent Doug off with a similar treatment, since hitchhiking throughout cold empty spaces toward your brother’s whore of an X-wife plus being broke and with no drugs can only be helped by miraculous healing chemicals circulating through starved brain cells and liver sores to make for a chipper, bright and alert confident feeling of being the Master of your Destiny, that kind of thing. You can talk to truckers about anything and not feel as if they have a knife hidden away for when the moment comes to perform terrible acts of sex murder.

Now he’s gone for a while and Ben Jordan is still here, so either way we have a loud mouthed son of a bitch wandering around saying stupid things for effect. Ben’s the town’s biggest junkie now that Ed Gardner is dead, being so utterly wasted on pure V.A. Hospital drugs that he doesn’t know what year it is. My favorite thing about him is when he’ll be sitting alone or pacing in the lobby, and cut loose laughing. I know that feeling and sometimes I’ll start laughing too, and he looks at you like he just communicated the joke by silent inter-mind drug magic. It is only an event that can happen to the most self-contained of characters, and I guess it is disturbing to bystanders who fear self-starting mechanisms of any kind, but it is harmless power and very tricky I will mark one good mark for any stranger that I see who will get hysterical just by thinking about something, and try to get to know him, even if he has bizarre gestures or old clothes.

Originally appeared in Inside Joke #26

archive: minifictions

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