John Patrick Robbins

The Death of Sobriety

Frank awoke to the smell of Boozer’s putrid breath blasting him in the face as the rotund bulldog mix just glared at him from his neighboring pillow. Frank said nothing, as like a car wreck victim after the initial shock of impact. He waited for the pain to arrive—along with the rumbling that preceded his initial stomach cramping—which always surely summoned his dash to visit the porcelain God. But as the pain slowly crept in, the lard-ass little dog just stared at him as he burped, letting out an elongated fart that was followed by an enormous shit on the pillow where so many part-time loggers had once rested their heads.

The dog just stared at Frank as it slowly got up, heading out before the flavored aroma hit the room. And Frank, if not in the mood to purge, was given some high inspiration as he ran to the restroom, emptying out his stomach’s contents as the most intense pain hit him in the gut.

A drunk becomes accustomed to puking and seeing his stomach’s blended contents on full display. But as he continued to wretch, Frank noticed a sight most all true drunkards are familiar with. Blood is normal from straining, and when you turn your gut into a nightclub it just goes with the territory from time to time. But when that said blood appears like coffee grounds you know you’re in trouble.

Frank was about to release yet another onslaught when the pain hit like a freight train. It was if a damn Mack Truck had just crashed the party and parked itself upon his chest.

“Oh shit!” Frank managed to blurt out as he strained. Trying to make it to his feet as the room began to spin, he soon felt his body begin to crash to the floor as everything went dark.

Frank had no idea how long he had been out. He choked in pain as the distant sound of the heart monitor awoke him. He was beyond weak and it seemed like there wasn’t anything upon his body that didn’t hurt.

“Mr. Murphy, you need to try to relax. You have suffered a heart attack. I know this is all alarming, but you’re in the hospital and you suffered a heart attack.”

Frank struggled to remove the oxygen mask, but even that action seemed impossible as the words the nurse had just spoken resonated in his head.

The moments after would all seemingly blend together as doctors did what they did best: bitched, fussed, and racked up the bills as they attempted to put your highly intoxicated ass back together again.

Frank’s head was splitting. Apparently, on his visit to embrace the floor, he had collided with the thunder mug and busted open his skull.

Days later, Doc Miller stared at his ever-so-frustrating patient, shaking his head. “You know, I’m amazed you are alive, you prick.”

“So tell me, Doc, what’s the bad news? I mean, besides the bar here being permanently closed. I mean, really. First you don’t allow my sister to visit me, then you tell me no drinks either. You are killing me, pal.”

Miller didn’t even seem to notice his patient’s humor as he looked over his file.

“That wasn’t your sister, that was a hooker. And being your liver looks worse than an old piece of charcoal, I think your drinking days are behind you, Papa.”

Frank attempted to laugh, but the pain in his ribcage only served to drag him into yet another coughing spell.

“How did you know that wasn’t my sister?”

“Because no female in her right mind would ever mourn your ass. And you forget about that party? We both shared Amanda.”

“Yeah, I thought you looked familiar. Hey, you pay an escort enough frog skins, she’ll pretty much be anyone you want her to be there, old sawbones.”

Miller just stared at Frank; for once in his existence, unfazed by his friend’s sarcasm. He took a seat, then stared out the window.

“You know, I wouldn’t wish this fucking job on my worst enemy, dude. Every day, I have to look at people with a straight face and tell them, sorry, sir, but your train’s leaving and no matter what I do, or how much money you do or don’t have, there isn’t shit I can do about it.” 

His friend and doctor fought back the tears as he looked off into space.

“I see people all looking to me for answers when at best all I can do is throw them treatments. I hate this fucking job! And now I’m treating a friend I can do absolutely nothing for. Trying to figure out just how the hell I’m going to break all this shit to you.”

Frank for once did not have a snarky reply, but he honestly felt bad for the man he knew outside this environment.

It seemed like forever until Frank broke the awkward silence.

“So, am I, like, bad enough to get, like, one of those Make A Wish requests? Like you give these dying dwarfs, or whatever?”

His friend fought back the urge to laugh. “Sure, you heartless prick. What will it be?”

“Well, I was thinking maybe they could shut down The Magic Kingdom for me. Maybe hire Ric Flair to hang out with me, and some Russian hookers with a sack of blow. I mean, sure he looks like a piece of beef jerky, but fuck, he is still The Nature Boy, after all.”

“Wow, and you call yourself a writer. Honestly, I expected more.”

“Well, I figured, being it’s a kid’s charity, asking if they could sequester Sofia Vergara to sit on my face would be a bit much.”

“Would you settle for a Snickers bar and a hand-job instead?”

“I swear, you’re really not my type, you tubby bastard. But if I can have your stethoscope and prescription pad, you got a deal.”

They both cracked up at that one as Frank broke into yet another coughing spell.

“Look here, Bill Hicks, you gotta take it easy as possible. I’m serious. Your body has been through hell. I’m shocked you even got through this shit.”

The two friends continued to talk about all the usual shit that goes along with having a heart attack, the ‘dos and don’ts’ that Miller largely knew his kamikaze friend would pay little to no attention to.

“You know, that batshit agent of yours has been here the entire time.”

“Has he been miserable and distraught?”

“That kid’s been a total train wreck. I swear, he seems to never sleep, and lives off coffee and cigarettes alone.”

“Nice.”

Miller shook his head at his friend’s reply as he stood up, making his way towards the door.

“Hey, you want me to let him in?”

“Yeah, sure. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t been through enough hell. I can’t wait to listen to this dipshit complain about page counts and other crap I could truly give a fuck about.”

His friend didn’t even bother to reply as he headed out the door as no sooner his high-strung agent, Simon, was in the room.

“Fuck, man. How are you?”

“Well, I suffered a heart attack. Just about cracked my skull and got more tubes running out of everywhere, minus my ass. So, yeah. I’m doing great. And yourself, dumbass?”

“Fuck you, man,” Simon replied. “You know I don’t word things right. I was kind of worried about you.”

“Come here, kid,” Frank said, his arms open as his awkward agent-slash-best friend opened his arms in return, moving towards him.

Just as they were about to embrace, Frank landed a hard nut-shot as his agent—and literal punching bag—doubled over in pain.

“Fucking weirdo. Look at you. I always knew you wanted to blow me. I swear, I think you were semi-hard, you nutcase. Hey, you got a flask on you?” Frank asked his doubled-over agent. “I’m thirsty as a motherfucker in this place.” 

“You fucking asshole! Why do I even give a shit? Goddamn, that hurt.”

“Stop being a pussy. It’s not like I popped your cherry there, princess. Hey, you think this bought us some slack with the publisher?”

“Being you owe them five books and haven’t delivered one in almost three years, I think it would have been easier had you just died, you bastard.”

Frank had to crack up at that, and as Simon finally took a seat the two friends largely spoke about everything but what loomed upon the horizon. For Simon, he knew it was largely pointless. His client and friend was always one foot in the grave, so to speak. He had grown as jaded as Frank himself. But no matter the assured destination, Simon knew he would go down with the ship.

And as the hours passed, they went over everything; from reflecting on the miles behind them, to the shitstorm that lay ahead.

“Dude, I got to ask, what the hell kind of shit were you doing that you took a crap on your pillow, man?”

Frank looked at his semi-braindead agent, and marveled at how he literally existed on this plane of existence.

“Well, I tell you, kid…sometimes you just get tired of having sex with beautiful women and enjoying the best drugs, so you got to mix it up. I mean, you wouldn’t believe how far Shelia got her hand up my ass. At least, I hope that was her hand.”

Simon looked at Frank, his demented brain working overtime as Frank knew full well his agent was a full-blown pervert unlike any other.

“Yeah, man, but what about the shit on the pillow?”

“I meant to let it cool, then I was gonna stick it under the pillow for the Poo Fairy to give me some money for it, you dipshit.”

“So it wasn’t some strange sex thing?”

Frank just rolled over on his side, not even bothering to reply to his friend’s question. He knew soon enough what awaited him at home, and although he hoped Simon had the sense to have cleaned up the mess, he knew that was really placing a high hope upon someone who at best was a subpar low standard.

Frank would soon be sitting once again at his desk facing the ocean, attempting to pen his last few pages as Simon kept the wolves at bay—who by now would smell the blood as the critics circled the waters like sharks. The true game was on, with the highest stakes possible. 

Sure, Frank could slow down and try to milk what last few days or months, or even years, out of whatever he had left. But instead, he preferred to pour another drink, press the gas pedal, crank the music, and pen his truths; going down in flames with glee. Much like the heroes of his past, he knew there truly was no easy out for people like himself.

Anyone could silently fade, but the best go up in flames, casting the illusion to inspire those to live in spite of the odds.

Life is a gamble, and the house always wins…so they say.

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