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Writing Fiction - Chapter 26
Here's where Chapter 25B left you...
For some reason this annoyed me. I mean even if Millie was my BFF, what right did she have to criticize my son? The poor guy had been crazy with grief, right? It wasn’t really his fault that he came to the funeral home drunk on his butt with grief. It wasn’t really his fault that he said all those horrible things to me. It wasn’t really his fault that he tried to drive home and…
Millie interrupted my thoughts. “Pearl? Are you OK? You look kind of white. And we’re not even drinking pale ale! Get it? Pale ale? White?” Millie started cackling like a demented hen.
I looked at they pyramid of beer cans in dismay. Darn. Darn, darn, darn. I realized I had been sitting here for who knows how long spilling my guts to Millie! Darn! I’d told Millie my son was expelled from high school for drinking. I’d told her about his craziness at his Dad’s funeral and that he really wasn’t on a crab fishing boat in Alaska. Oh my darn! What else had I told her? How long had we been sitting here drinking Bud Light together?
I tried to think of a tactful way to shoo Millie out of my house so I could think this through but my stomach decided that tact was over-rated. The vomit I spewed all over the kitchen table persuaded Millie more quickly than any argument I could think up, that it was time to flee!
And so she did.
AND NOW WE CONTINUE WITH THE NEXT CHAPTER!
After she ran out the kitchen door, I don’t remember staggering up the stairs to fall onto my bed fully clothed and reeking of vomit, but somehow I did.
I don’t remember a small mammal giving birth inside my head to a whole nest of screaming babies and then dying inside my mouth, but judging by the way my head and mouth felt that’s exactly what must have happened.
It might seem like I’m exaggerating how I felt when I woke up the next morning, but I assure you that any words I share with you now are totally inadequate to the level of misery I felt when the morning sun blazed into my tender eyeballs like white hot daggers.
I lay on the bed for awhile trying to gather my courage to move. Every single part of my head and face hurt…even my eyebrows. Finally I talked myself into going to the bathroom, both for necessities and to find a gallon size bottle of aspirin to ingest.
The walls seemed to be spinning just a bit as I staggered across my bedroom.
I have no idea who that crazy haired, witchy looking woman was in the bathroom mirror. I avoided her gaze while I used the potty. I shunned her scrutiny while I rummaged through the medicine chest and in the vanity drawers looking in vain for aspirin. I kept my eyes squinted shut while I threw cold water on my face and brushed my teeth several times hoping to remove the dead animal flavor from between my molars.
Removing my vomit-scented t-shirt made me so queasy that I grabbed a rumpled up dirty one that had missed the hamper and pulled it quickly over my head so I could return to the horizontal comfort of my bed. As I lay there praying for a meteor to fall out of the sky and smash my house, I started hallucinating. I swear I could smell fresh coffee wafting up the stairs.
I don’t remember hearing anyone rattling around in my kitchen while I remained unmoving in my bed in an alcohol-induced near coma but when I finally got to the bottom of the very, very long staircase I was surprised to see a brand new bottle of aspirin sitting on top of the fresh, steaming pot of coffee in the coffee maker.
I was even more surprised to find no remants of my Millie moments from the night before. There was no vomit covered table or floor and no epic number of empty beer cans stacked into pyramids. My kitchen was as tidy as an unrealistic TV commercial.
If it wasn’t for the pounding in my head or the fact that the morning sunshine was attacking my eyeballs like laser beams, I would have almost thought I imagined the night before.
Millie, God bless her soul, must have come back over and tidied up the kitchen saving me the shame and embarrassment of looking at the evidence of my stupidity.
Millie! Oh my heavens. Little snippets of my conversations with her from the night before came back to me. Surely I hadn’t really told her about my son not being in Alaska. It couldn’t be possible that I divulged the fact that he had climbed into the coffin at calling hours, right?
I shook my head at the memory, which turned out to be a painful mistake.
I inhaled five aspirin and grabbed my “From Texas with Love” mug from the cabinet. Filling it with a generous glug of fat-free Half and Half and steaming brew, I wrapped my hands around the comforting ceramic warmth and took a small sip.
It tasted terrible. Obviously Millie’s ability to make beer cans and throw-up disappear was greater than her ability to make drinkable coffee.
My head was pounding. I needed coffee. Strong coffee. Good coffee. And I needed it fast.
Glancing at the clock, I realized I would have time to run to the coffee shop, grab a big old “to go” brew of something sweet, and totally miss Jay’s regular time there.
Don’t be giving me that look. It’s not like I memorized what time Jay usually went to the coffee shop. I just don’t have much of a life so the whole coffee-shop-Jay-drama-thing was pretty memorable for me.
Because I was so certain of my timing, I made a very bad, very common tactical error. You know the one? The mistake where you tell yourself, “I’m not going to change or comb my hair because I’m just going to run in and out really quick and I won’t possibly see anyone I know”?
Double checking the time once again, I realized I had well over an hour to get to the coffee shop, order, get my drink and escape. I quickly grabbed my coat and buttoned it from hem to collar. There was a pair of over-sized black sunglasses in the basket of keys and I disguised myself with them before walking out the door.
Right when I went to get into the car I realized I didn’t have my shoes on. I’d learned to double check such things after my shameful visit to the grocery store a few weeks back. Somehow navigating the eccentricities of the locked door eluded me, so I just slipped on my bright orange gardening clogs from the porch. They weren’t that bad, really. After all, didn’t famous chefs wear them all the time?
Mindful of the time ticking away, I jumped into the car and drove the short distance to Main Street. Just to be cautious I scouted the street for the silver SUV. It was nowhere to be seen so my mission to get sugar and caffeine was a go.
The jingle of the bell seemed incredibly loud when I went inside the coffee shop. I wondered if Walden or Griffin had bought a bigger bell. I also wondered if they had somehow made it brighter and more echoey inside the cozy room.
I was relieved to see that the coffee shop was empty and the person behind the counter was a curly haired girl covered in freckles that I didn’t recognize.
As I approached the counter, she tipped her pointy little face up, looked up at me, did a small almost unnoticeable double-take, and then backed up a few steps.
“Hi,” I said as brightly as my pounding head would allow, “I thought maybe Walden or Griffin would be working today.”
“Ummm…Griffin comes in at noon,” the elf-like girl answered, “What can I get you?”
I noticed that her name tag read ‘Julia’, so in a friendly way I gritted my teeth against my headache and replied, “Well, Julia. Just surprise me, OK?”
I didn’t understand what Julia said then, it was something like “how about a hair-of-the-dog latte?” but I just smiled at her, told her I was in a hurry, and said whatever she wanted to fix would be fine with me.
I noticed that not only had the jingle of the bell above the door gotten louder, the strange hissing sounds from the shiny coffee machine seemed amplified as well. My head started to pound harder and it seemed like suddenly the room became hot and filled with a rocking motion.
Could this be an earthquake? Our little town had never experience tremors before.
I grabbed the counter in alarm and asked Julia if she could feel the floor shaking. Julia’s blue eyes widened somewhat and then she gave me an odd look. “Ummm….lady, are you all right? ” she asked in that specific, gentle voice reserved for addressing old or mentally handicapped people. I had an odd sense of deja vu. I swear I had heard that tone of voice more than once lately.
“Julia, I’m just fine,” I said briskly, “I really just need a large coffee drink to go and I’m really in a …”
I never got to finish my sentence because just then my stomach rebelled against the five aspirin I’d taken at home. I covered my mouth and made a mad dash for little hallway that led to the bathroom.
“Never again, Pearl,” I told myself after I did the nauseating deed. I drank water from the faucet and splashed more cold water on my face after dabbing some of the residue off my jacket with damp paper towels.
I leaned my aching forehead against the cold, tile of the bathroom walls for a moment and tried breathing through my nose until I felt less nauseous.
Plastering a bright ‘everything is just fine’ smile on my face, I shoved open the door of the restroom.
I stopped for a moment to swallow down another round of queasiness and then I froze in place. Surely it had to be my imagination. Surely that wasn’t Jay’s voice ordering a double shot of expresso from Julia.
To be continued, Tuesday, March 15.
(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
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