512 Words

Comfort Call

Jeffrey N. Johnson

A dull bell rang in Nick's head and spread, sending rude wakes down his body. A second bell sounded, and he threw an arm in its general direction, shattering a glass of bourbon and sending a sharp pain through his ring finger. He pulled his hand, wet and sweet from the spill, back to his face and let the bell ring again.

An answering machine muffled a greeting in the next room as Nick clicked on the lamp, cringed from the light, and clicked it back off. The room lay lazy in the daylight glow around the curtains. Pictures hung off-kilter and laundry scattered on the floor. He placed his hands on his temples as though his grey-matter might start leaking, then rubbed his eyes in circles to shear the contact lens off each pupil. Nick wavered between the wonder that he had made it home, and his relief that the bell had stopped ringing.

The answering machine clicked off. He swung his feet to the floor and limped to the next room, dragging a pair of underwear on one toe. He fell into his chair and leaned on his desk, littered with more foul smelling glasses. The bottom drawer of his desk, which was usually locked, hung open. He plucked a tissue and wrapped it around his bloody finger. In front of him, his ego wall, a high school diploma and bowling trophies, screaming for his validation. He tangled his good hand in his hair, then removed it and fumbled for the button.

"Beep... Hi Nick, it's Miranda. Hey sweety, I just wanted to check in. I guess you're probably sleeping it off. You weren't doing so well last night. You've got to get your mind off her, Nick. You had us kind of scared with all that talk, but maybe you don't remember?" She gave an uneasy laugh and paused. "Uh, anyway, Paul and I are thinking about you, and if you want to give us a call, we're here. As a matter of fact, you're invited over for dinner tonight if you want. Six o'clock or so? Give us a call, okay? Bye."

Damn, what was I saying last night? Nick wondered. When in the hell was the last time I blacked out?

He lifted himself up and walked back to the bedroom. He sat on the edge of his bed and started smelling for a clean pair of underwear. A spot of red seeped through the tissue as he picked up a used Haines. Beneath it was his Smith and Wesson, lying cold near his shattered glass of therapy. He touched it, and wondered for a moment, childlike, why it was there. Nick shivered and pulled his hand away. Both arms wrapped around his torso, as though holding his organs in place, and he struggled back to his desk. He picked up the phone and held it as though for the first time, carefully pushing the buttons.

"Hey... Miranda?" his voice said, as he lowered his head between his knees. "Hey... uh... dinner at six? I could do that."

Copyright ©2002 Jeffrey N. Johnson. All Rights Reserved.

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April, 2002
Issue #72

512 Words