I wanted to write a short story so I found a writing prompt online. The concept is that you wake up in jail, with five things in your pocket. You don't know how you got there, and the five things help you figure out what ensued the night before, and what landed you in jail. So here is what I came up with. It's a tad bit long, there are also typos--and I mix up tenses a lot but bear with me.
A Bad Night to Fall Off the Wagon
By Krisserin Canary
My head was throbbing. Either it was a seriously bad case of being hungover or a pretty traumatic head injury. Either way I was in desperate need of some ibuprofen. I could feel the vein in my temple throb against the ground below my head. The surface was cool against my skin, and it was making the pain in my head a little more bearable. I thought about trying to open my eyes, but just the idea made my head feel heavier and my stomach flip upside down.
I tried to orientate myself. "Where am I?"
I thought for a moment that I may have passed out on the floor of my bathroom. But the texture of the cement underneath me told me I wasn't in my house. It smelled different here too, completely unfamiliar. Almost sterile, like a hospital.
In the distance I could hear people chatting, phones ringing and feet scuffling against a floor with the same consistency as that which was under my head.
"Am I lying on the floor?" I asked myself, disgusted by the possibility. That was enough, I cracked open my eyes. Everything around me was alien, foreign. My head spun; completely disorientated I reached out to find a metal basin within my reach. My hands latched onto it, out of what must have been muscle memory, and pulling myself up to the bowl I heaved my empty stomach into the metal toilet.
Nothing came out. It was then that I realized the dryness of my mouth, and the acidity of my tongue which was rough enough to resemble a cat's. My throat was sore and I could taste at the back of my mouth the remnants of cigarette smoke.
"That can't be right." I hadn't had a cigarette since I quit six years ago. I used the little strength left in my body to lift myself off the ground and sit myself down on the toilet.
"Oh, no you don't bitch. Piss or get off the pot, you've been monopolizing that shit all night."
I opened my eyes and took in Rita. All 180 pounds of her 5'1" frame. Her wide eyes mimicked the impatience screaming across her face.
"If you don't move I'm gonna piss in your lap," she continued. If her tone hadn't convinced me enough, she began lifting up her skirt, revealing a tattered cotton thong that was struggling to contain the many folds of her lower belly. I jumped up just in time to get out of Rita's way, the side of her butt cheek grazing the top of my thigh.
"I'm-m so-sorry," I managed to rasp out.
"Whatever bitch, don't stare at me while I'm pissin'."
I sat myself on the bench next to the toilet, putting my head in my hands and letting it sink between my knees. I closed my eyes and tried to breathe.
I opened my eyes and looked around me. I was in jail. The blue parallel bars making up the left wall of our cell reinforced the fact. How in the fuck did I get in here? I can't believe I let myself get to this point again. I fumbled into my pocket and took out my chip. Two fucking years of sobriety and now this shit.
I tried to think about last night. I had met up with Danny for dinner. I remember what Joan, my sponsor, had said to me before I went out. "Are you sure this is a good idea?" She asked me while twisting her hair between her thumb and forefinger. She had been so helpful to me in the two years of my sobriety. She had been there when I almost relapsed. Shot of whisky in hand, I let her pry It from my fingers. She knew about my son, Jacob. But there was still so much about me she didn't know. So much I couldn't tell her. I loved her like a sister but she was weak. I resented her for that. There were things that I needed help with that she could never deal with. I needed someone stronger. I needed Danny.
When Danny called it was like the gods had heard my pleas and were sending him to me for good behavior. I remember waiting for him at the bar of the restaurant. I remember that sitting at the bar hadn't made me nervous. I wasn't at all tempted by the liquor lined up behind the counter, lit up with blue mercurial lights. My head stabbed with pain, I gasped for air, squeezing my temples together with the heels of my hands, trying to keep my brain from exploding. Maybe I had been tempted after all.
I tried to remember what happened after I saw Danny walk through the door of the restaurant. I could see the light piercing the darkness of the restaurant, and the warm air pushing its way through the door. Sand followed Danny in like an unwanted visitor. It was Vegas; there isn't much you can do about the sand in the desert. I remember him sitting down next to me ordering his drink.
"Beefeater straight." I cringed recalling the sound of his voice. I ordered a diet coke.
He smiled at me, "On the wagon, eh?"
"Two years and counting," I said. I felt for the chip in my pocket, it was still there.
"That's a shame. It's a nice night for a drink."
I thought about the night outside. It was twilight—one of those warm desert evenings that always felt better with a beer in your hand, washing away the hot day with a cold brew. But I knew better. As an alcoholic, I was always looking for an excuse to drink. I tried to push the beer commercial out of my mind. I knew Danny was going to make it difficult for me.
The sound of the toilet flushing snapped me back to the present. Rita was wiping her ass, the smell permeating through the cell letting us know she had done more than just pee. A wave of gratitude washed over me, that I had been mobile enough to get out of her way.
Rita was staring at me. I knew her name was Rita. How do I know her name is Rita?
Her expression changed. She was pissed. "Say, what the fuck is your problem? Ain't you seen someone take a shit before?"
Her crudeness made me cringe. Shaking it off without being too obvious, I remembered what was important. "Why do I know your name is Rita?"
"Because I told you, don't you remember nothing?"
"Um, no actually… I can't really remember anything. How long have I been in here?"
"You were here when I got here. I was busted around 2:00 a.m., and…shit what time is it now? Hold on." Rita's thick legs shook back and forth as she made her way over to the bars. She was far more graceful than a woman of her size should be allowed to be. "YO STEVE!" she yelled, hands wrapped around the bars.
Her call brought a tall black man over to the bars. He had his thumbs hooked into his pants. "What is it Rita?" he asked trying to sound annoyed. He was trying to force down the smile spreading across his face.
She fluttered her eyelashes at him and purred, "What time is it baby?"
He lifted his watch to his waist, quickly glancing at it after taking one trip up and down Rita's barely contained body with his eyes, "It's 11:30 a.m. darling."
"Thanks baby," she said winking at Steve before shaking her ass back towards me. She sat and stretched her legs out in front of her. She reached her hands down towards her ankles and groaned as her body released the tension in her hamstrings. "Shit girl, it's too early for me to be awake. Did you hear what he said?"
"Yea, 11:30—that means I've been here for at least…" I did the math in my head but Rita was quicker.
"Was I awake when you came in?"
"You were talking to yourself. Muttering some shit about killing somebody, and you kept saying 'Jacob, Jacob!'". She imitated a distressed tone. "I told that motherfucker Steve that I didn't want to be put up in no cell with a crazy bitch, but he said you were just drunk or some shit, so I figured I could take you if you went crazy on me. I can handle drunks."
"I don't drink." I replied, as if by knee jerk reaction.
"You did last night, girl."
I got back to the point, "So how do I know your name?"
Rita looked away from me, eyes scanning the blank cinder block wall to our right. "You were pretty sick last night. I helped you out a bit."
I tried to swallow the thick heavy lump in my throat. It wouldn't go down. "Thank you," I whispered.
"Don't mention it," she replied running her fingers through her nappy, tangled hair. I took a moment when she was looking away to get a better look at Rita. She wasn't wearing much, a haltered tank top and a too-short skirt that barely covered Rita's round butt. She was a large woman, but proportionally built for her size. She had kind eyes, the kind that were filled with understanding and empathy. Her head swung around. She had caught me looking at her again. It didn't seem to bother her as much this time.
"So tell me, if you don't drink, how did you manage to get so fucked up last night?"
"I don't know," I replied honestly. "I really can't remember anything. One minute, I was meeting an old friend for dinner. The next, I'm half-alive in a jail cell."
It was then that I acknowledged a sharp pain, a pinching feeling against my thigh. I must have been ignoring it—the pain distracting me from the pain in my head. I reached into my pocket and took out a pen. It was from a hotel. "Trade Winds Motel."
"Girl, what you doing at the Trade Winds? You a prostitute?"
"No!" I shrieked out, maybe a little too quickly. I looked at Rita again, hoping my reaction didn't offend her. "Not that there is anything wrong with that. It's the world's oldest profession you know."
"Girl relax, I ain't no prostitute. I mean, I tried it a couple times, but turning tricks ain't my thing. I was asking you because the Trade Winds is the type of place that you rent by the hour, if you know what I mean."
"Oh," I studied the lines of the cinder block wall in front of me. I tried to push the pain in my head aside. I willed it to the back of my head, trying to focus the front part of my brain on remembering the rest of the night.
"I don't drink," I had said again. My mouth felt dry after picturing the idyllic desert sunset with a beer in my hand. Thankfully, the bartender brought our drinks over in time. I picked up my diet coke and sucked it down quickly. Too quickly, Danny had noticed. He had always been more perceptive than most other people. Or maybe it was just with me. He lifted his glass and swirled it in front of my nose, "Are you sure?"
The gin wasn't much of a temptation. I had always hated the way it smelled. It stung my nose and I brought my hand up to block the vapors coming off the glass.
"I don't drink Danny."
"You said that, but it would be rude of me not to offer," he smiled and watched me as he took a sip.
"What would be rude would be if you offered again. Enough of this, why are we here." He put his glass down on the counter with a thud. Tiny droplets flew off in several different directions. "Not that I'm not pleased to see you," I followed up. I looked at him through my eye lashes and tried to force a smile. I didn't want to scare him away. The thought of my anger making him leave made me feel anxious. He smiled at me and my confidence was gone. "I'm just confused, why you wanted to see me."
"I missed you Bean." My stomach fluttered when he used my old nickname.
"I missed you too Danny."
"And I need to talk to you."
"Ok!" I said, maybe a little too eagerly.
"Not here, I need somewhere more private."
I heard Joan's voice bouncing off the walls in my head. 'Just dinner, then you say your goodbyes. Don't go anywhere with him, keep it short.' I understood her concern. It was dangerous allowing myself to get too close to Danny again. But Joan didn't know enough about the situation. In fact, Joan didn't know shit. "Where do you want to go?"
My head began pounding again with a vengeance.
"I think I remember going to the trade winds," I said looking at Rita. She nodded at me, studying my face.
"Do you remember who you were there with? Were you with Jacob?"
I cringed; my stomach which had already felt acidic took a stab.
"No, Jacob is my son. He's dead."
Rita nodded again. "I lost my baby girl about two years ago. I know how that is. I'm sorry."
"It's okay. Why do you keep asking me about Jacob?"
"You kept repeating his name when you were out."
That didn't surprise me. I often said his name in my sleep. I tried to forget about it and moved on. I focused on the Trade Winds.
I had followed him there. He pulled up to the motel and parked in front of a row of rooms. I parked in the spot next to him, and got out of my truck. He jumped down out of his truck and took a key card out of his wallet. With a swift movement he opened the door to the room in front of our cars.
"How did you know I would come with you?"
"I didn't actually. I've been staying here awhile." He didn't look at me as he threw off his coat. He took my jacket and slung it over the back of the chair next to a small desk in the corner of the room. He walked into the bathroom. He was wearing a cut-off shirt, and his arms peaked through as if the sheer size of them had ripped the sleeves clear off. I could see his wide shoulders stretching the material of his shirt across his back. He was beautiful. He always had been. When he reappeared he was rubbing his face with a towel. The front of his curly gold hair just a tad bit damp.
"So you wanted to talk?" He looked up at me and smiled. His swathe body bent over and opened the mini fridge hiding below the television. He took out two beers and twisted open their tops. Taking a swig from his with one hand, he used his other hand to hand me the beer.
"I know you don't drink Bean. I'll just leave it here in the fridge for you in case you change your mind." He sat in the chair by the desk and kicked his boots off, putting his feet up on the bed. I sat down next to his feet and looked around.
"I've really missed you Bean. You look beautiful."
I smiled. Danny used to be so wonderful to me. I used to feel like nothing could hurt me when I was with him. Until that one day he left me. Things had changed since then.
"I'm so sorry Bean. I should have never left you like that."
"You mean left me for dead? Bleeding out, alone in that fucking street? Yea, I don't think anyone should be left like that."
"There was a lot going on back then Bean. I'm so sorry. And Jacob…Jesus. I didn't know."
I knew. The car accident had left me and my son mangled. The last time I had seen Danny he was fleeing from the scene of the accident. I had just enough time to cradle Jacob in my arms and kiss him before he died. Danny made it out with a scratch. Physically, or on paper. The fucker left us there without calling the cops because he had been fucked up when he was driving. The accident was his fault. He didn't want a DUI. My face screwed up in anger. He could see it, but was there before I could say anything. He reached his left hand into my hair and took his right hand, the one which was still holding the beer and grabbed the side of my chin.
"I was a despicable human being back then Bean. I'm changed now. I would never do anything to hurt you." And then he kissed me. My head floated and my eyes rolled back. I could taste the beer on his lips and the gin on his tongue. I knew what I was doing was wrong but I didn't care. The taste of alcohol only made it more dangerous. It had been awhile since I had done anything this risky with my life.
He began unbuttoning my shirt and kissed by chest. My head screamed that what I was doing was wrong, but my body heaved upwards towards him.
He stopped and it felt like my heart stopped. I looked down at him, his head was resting on my knees.
"Bean, I don't have protection. I wasn't planning on something like this happening."
"Oh," I replied. "Do you want to go grab something? There is a 7/11 right outside, I'll wait for you." He smiled at me again, my knees begun to shake. I was nervous.
"I can't really go anywhere in this state Bean." He stood up and I noticed the lump in his pants. I giggled. Half embarrassed and half happy that I could elucidate that type of reaction in him still. It had been awhile since I had felt anything besides disgust about myself.
"Okay, I'll run out. I'll be right back." I threw on my shirt and buttoned it up furiously. I grabbed my wallet and raced out the door. The desert night hit me as if to try and wake me up. A flood of thoughts followed. I got to the 7/11, hands wrapped around my waist. I stalked the aisles for condoms.
"What am I doing?" I asked myself.
I found what I was looking for, staring back at me. A turquoise pack of Trojans—I grabbed a two pack and walked up to the counter. The Indian man eyed my suspiciously as he placed the barcode underneath the red dancing lights of the scanner. "Is that all?" he asked. I looked at the small man, framed by multi-colored packs of cigarettes.
"I'll have a pack of camel lights, please." He reached up and grabbed a pack from the rack above his head.
"Do you need matches?"
"Oh," I looked down at the counter. There were several different types of lighters, different sizes, different colors. 'Which color?' I thought to myself. Like it fucking mattered. I grabbed the purple one and tossed it towards the man.
"That will be $10.75 please."
"Jesus Christ, things are expensive these days. How much were the cigarettes?" I asked while handing him exact change.
"They were $5.75" he responded.
My recklessness was already costing me. I just had no idea how much I would end up having to pay until the night was over.
I walked back to the motel as fast as I could without tripping. I needed to act fast before I changed my mind.
I took the pack of condoms out of the bag, and unwrapping them, ripped one off and put it in my pocket. I tapped lightly on the door. Danny opened the door, and pulling me into his arms threw me on the bed and begun undressing me.
I reached into my pocket and took out the spare Trojan. "I slept with him."
"Who did you sleep with?" Rita asked puzzled.
"Danny. I met him for dinner last night, but we didn't get to the actual meal. We went to the Trade Winds and I slept with him."
"You sure you ain't a prostitute?"
I shivered when I remembered what followed, "Maybe I am."
The sex was different that what I had remembered. Danny had always been good in bed. His body is perfectly built; I had always felt like a lump underneath him. Like it was a sin for someone as plain as me to be allowed to sleep with him.
But this time was different. It was cold. We were both a million miles away.
When we finished I laid back and stared at the wall. I reached into the 7/11 bag and produced the pack of smokes and the lighter. There was an ashtray next to the bed which I took as encouragement. Danny's back was turned when I lit up.
"Since when do you smoke?" he asked incredulously.
"You haven't smoked for…six years. Not since I've known you."
"Well tonight, I'm breaking all the rules."
"Does that mean you'll have a beer with me?"
I looked at him. It didn't seem like he was trying to be antagonizing. He smiled, and I thought, 'You know what fuck it. Tonight I don't care anymore. I need this. I need to be with Danny, and to forget about the last two years of hell I've been through. I need to be distracted and feel comfortable for once in my miserable fucking existence.'
"Yes!" he responded pumping his fist in the air.
He opened the fridge and handed me the already opened beer. I took the beer and looked at Danny. He was smiling at me. He tapped the bottom of my beer with his and toasted, "To making bad decisions with good friends."
I could drink to that. We didn't take our eyes off each other as we both took a swig. My beer tasted sour. It wasn't how I remembered beer to taste. Then I remembered, I am an alcoholic—it never mattered how it tasted. And I took another swig. My head felt light, I put the beer down on the night stand. I took another drag from my cigarette and focused on Danny. He wasn't looking at me now. He had his boxers on and was rifling through his bag.
Danny sat down in the chair next to the desk, with his feet on the bed like before. He was twiddling something in his fingers. I couldn't make it out. It looked like a coin, but larger and the wrong color.
"I always felt bad about that night you know."
"No, I don't know."
I took another drag from my smoke and exhaled loudly. The cigarette wasn't as good as I thought it would be. It was making me far too dizzy. My stomach started to hurt. I reached over and took another swig of beer, hoping it would help. It didn't.
"Well I did. I'll never forgive myself for what I had to do that night. It's just a shame that I didn't finish the job then."
My eyes started to burn, I couldn't see the light around Danny's face. I tried to understand what he was saying, "…job?"
"You were never supposed to leave that car accident alive you know."
I shook my head—partly because I didn't know, and partly hoping to shake away the cloud of darkness that was descending on my brain.
"You didn't think I was going to leave you alive did you? You might have been just a drunk but you knew too much."
My head swam. I had done a lot of shit for Danny in the past—helped him steal things, hurt people. I couldn't imagine what he was talking about, but then it clicked.
Danny had concocted a scheme to steal from the home where I worked. It was the one thing I prided myself on. I was a drunk, but I got up every day and went to work. I worked at an elderly care facility as a maid. I would clean beds and talk to the people who lived there like they were part of an extended family. Once a week the home would take the seniors to a small casino near the facility, the winnings were kept at the home by the staff so that they wouldn't lose it, and would have money to spend the next week. Danny wanted to steal some of the earnings—which, when it came down to it was just petty cash. Either way, I was disgusted by the idea. Not to mention the home had been the one normal thing in my life. The one thing I couldn't fuck up. My job there meant day care for Jacob. My son Jacob, who was dead.
I remember when I came to in the hospital, I heard about the robbery. Someone had broken into the home and stolen several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Unbeknownst to me the home had kept more than just the casino earnings in the safe. The money was keeping the place running, and without it the home had to be shut down. A lot of people who lived there had to leave, and a lot of them had no place to go. It made me shudder. At the time, I had no idea that Danny could have been behind it. I was too fucked up from the accident and from losing my son to think about it. It was then that I decided I would go sober. I was transferred to a rehab facility from the hospital, and it was there that I met Joan.
I tried to focus on Danny. "I didn't know…"
"You would have figured it out. It was only a matter of time. I know how much you loved those old people."
"But that was two years ago."
"Don't you read the fucking papers? It's been all over the news, they are re-opening the case. They're planning on talking to all the staff members that worked there. That means you."
The darkness was taking over. I could barely control my tongue.
"How am I supposed to know that for sure?"
"Why did you bring me here?"
"Well I was just going to kill you. I didn't expect you to be so…eager, for me. That was just an added bonus. I wasn't kidding when I said I wasn't prepared."
The feeling of disgust floored me. I couldn't stand to be in my own skin. I wanted to vomit, but my stomach was too preoccupied with other things to obey.
Then he was on top of me. He stroked my hair. I tried to pull away but I was too weak, he was pinning me down.
"Why don't I help you put on some clothes. At least you'll die with some dignity. I'd hate for you to be discovered…naked. That would be so pathetic."
He got up and grabbed my jeans. He put them back on me with about the same about of force he used to take them off.
"Now we don't have much time, the drug I put in your beer should knock you out pretty soon. But I wanted to give you this," he held a chip up to my face. It said $1,000. "It'll help pay for your funeral. It belonged to one of those old bitties you loved so much. He shoved it into my pocket. Then he grabbed my beer from the night stand and poured the rest of its contents down my throat. I remember sputtering and choking on it. "Bad night to fall off the wagon, eh Bean?"
I closed my eyes and let the warm tears escape down my cheeks. "Ah darlin' don't cry! Just think you get to see Jacob now."
That set me off, "Don't you ever say my son's name again."
"Ah, that's right," he responded. "You won't see your son," he spat out the word like it was poison. "You were such a shitty mom, there's no way you're going where he is. He probably wouldn't want to see you anyways."
He grabbed his jacket and finished his beer before putting the empty bottle into his bag. He swept the room for any evidence that would trace back to him. He took the pen and hotel stationary on the side table and wrote a note. I didn't look at what it said. He purveyed his work.
"I guess it's that time Bean. You probably have…" he looked at his watch, and shook his from side to side, "Ten? Naw, less than ten minutes."
"Fuck you Danny." I managed to say through gritted teeth.
He reached over and pulled my hair back. He looked me in the eyes and kissed my forehead. "See you in Hell, Bean."
The door slammed. I waited for death to overcome me as I got more and more tired. I managed to prop myself up a little bit and look at the note he had left. It was a suicide note. I lifted my very heavy hand and ripped the note from the top of the pad. I took the pen and scribbled the message the best I could.
I blinked, taking in everything I could from the room. Trying to digest everything I had just remembered.
"There was a chip, from the Casino." I mumbled to myself forgetting Rita sitting next to me.
"Shit," she responded.
Startled, I looked at Rita. She was digging into her bra. After a minute she produced the chip. "I didn't think you'd be needing it," she said as she tried to hand it over.
"No, no it's okay," I said distractedly. I stood up and thrust my hands into my pockets. I found the crumbled up piece of paper.
I remember seeing the Indian man again. I must have gone back to the 7/11. I can't imagine how I got there.
I opened the note and read the message:
Danny killed Jacob.
My body shook. Everything came flooding back to me.
"MISS MARIE BEA DEAN?"
My name rung through my ears. No one called me Marie. It reminded me of my grandmother, or of school. Authority figures. Well, I guess I was in jail.
"Yes," I replied.
"You are free to go. We just need you to sign some paperwork."
I turned back to Rita, "Thank you."
"Naw, girl thank YOU," she said, lifting the chip and putting it back into her bra. "Hope you figure your shit out."
I could hear her finish her thought, "crazy bitch" as I left the drunk tank. I smiled. It felt like for the first time in two years I figured my shit out. Danny was going to wish he had finished the job the first time, and the second time.
"Ma'am you sure you are okay? You looked awful sick last night."
"I'm fine—fine enough to go to work actually," I smiled at the officer.
"Well your truck is out front, we had it towed from the Trade Winds," with the mention of the motel he looked me up and down, "Just take it easy for awhile okay?"
"Will do officer."
As I walked out I stuck my hand in my pocket and took out the note again. All those years, I had blamed myself for my son's death.
I put the keys in the ignition of my truck and started the engine. I was going to work. For the first time in a long time I had a job to do.
I was going to kill the motherfucker that killed my son.