“8 Up” by Mori Glaser
Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuana, cocaine, speed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)
This week, Mori Glaser cheers up an ailing friend.
Inkspot Hurricane’s eyes light up when I walk in. We go way back—I used to play music to his poetry on the folk scene. He was a slight man with a big voice, called Inkspot after the singing group, good name for a poet. I don’t recall how Hurricane came about.
My eyes smart as I look at his wasted face against the crumpled pillow. I sit to avoid towering over him, reach for his hand, and squeeze. He laughs a little—what have we come to? His old spirit flickers.
“Shoulda brought my banjo,” I say.
“Yeah, I want to hear you again.”
“I was playing some of the stuff I backed you with.” I tell him about my son the street musician, and my other son who likes to play but hates an audience. It’s peaceful talking to my old friend, and I nearly forget why he’s here.
Nurse pokes her head through the doorway. “Need anything?” He says no and I bring my eyes back from her warm-looking body, see his are red and teary. He presses the morphine pump.
“Didn’t want to get drowsy. Good hearin’ you talk,” he mumbles, and I get that he’s been holding off on the medication.
“Gotta go man. Anything I can bring tomorrow?”
I grin. “8 Up?” Vodka and a 7 Up chaser was his drink, any hour of the day or night. 7 Up plus one.
He twitches a smile. A squeeze on his shoulder and I haul my backpack out the door, put on my helmet, and take off on my motorcycle before my face crumples.
Next morning I fix the frets on my banjo. After I finish I go and find my eldest son tinkering on his old Honda. Another guy, a yeshiva bocher in a white shirt and black polyester pants, squats to work on the carburetor. There’s a clang and a muffled word that doesn’t quite sound like a curse. The yeshiva bocher holds two pieces, moves them around a little in his hands, meditates on them, slowly slips them together, and hands the part to my son, complete. Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance.
This old motorcycle belonged to Hurricane’s son, only fifty when he died of a heart attack not long ago. I hang out for a while, then go and buy vodka. Hurricane grins when I walk in with the brown paper bag.
I fill a plastic medication cup that I find beside his bed. 8 Up is nothing compared to what’s pumping into his arm—heavy stuff neither of us ever touched. His mouth pulls away after just a sip and he can’t take more, although he tries. I put down the bottle—I’m no drinker—and pour 7 Up. He likes that.
“That ole 8 Up,” he recalls. “I overdid that a few times.” I try to fill him up but he can’t drink more, so I let it trickle down my dry throat.
“Where’s your banjo, man?” he asks.
“Drying out,” I grin. “Not like you. I glued my fifth string tuner today. I’ll play for you real soon.”
He’s tired now, smiles a little, and drifts off without pumping morphine. I finish my evening on the porch, my Russian neighbor downing the vodka. Looking at the desert sky, I think, That’s poetry. Gotta be something to do with where Hurricane’s going. He might have some idea about that—a few years back he became newly religious and changed his decadent ways—except for the 8 Up. His poetry got a new edge, although it was always spiritual.
Next day I work late. Day after, Hurricane passes. We bury him that same afternoon, the Jewish way. Couple hundred people attend. Not everyone knew him—about half came to help send a soul on its way. I get home alone and feel very blue.
Late that night my son calls, elated. He got his motorcycle going! Tomorrow I’ll collect my wages and buy a new battery so he doesn’t have to jump start it, then I’ll watch my son ride away, or maybe I’ll ride behind him through the desert where Hurricane’s son used to ride that same motorcycle, and I bet his dad watched him go feeling just as proud as I do.
In memory of Inkblot Hurricane, with thanks to Bruce Brill.
MORI GLASER grew up in the UK and moved to Israel thirty years ago. She has written a variety of articles, blogs, and creative nonfiction throughout her career in cross-cultural facilitation, community development, and international relations.
Mori writes poetry and fiction as a member of a leaderless creative writing group in Jerusalem. Her poetry has been published in online lit mags: Writers Hub, Persimmon Tree, and Women in Judaism; also the 2014 Voices Israel anthology.
“8 Up” is her first published fiction. She wrote it to comfort her friend folk musician Bruce Brill, who was thousands of miles away grieving for his old friend. Inkblot Hurricane inspired the story; however, he was never addicted to vodka. Hurricane, please forgive the poetic license.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected], and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series, Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry Stahl, Lydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).
Posted: Jan 29, 2015
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