“Tar” by Scott Kaiser
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, Scott Kaiser has one cup too many.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah! Ummm, this will work . . . I’m sure I can quit this time,” muttered Steve under his quickening breath while rapidly striking his index finger against the table before him.
“Here come the temple spasms, Steve.”
“Gah!” Steve exclaimed, unsure if he had just heard, or simply imagined, some kind of warning. “There they are. There they are, indeed! Indeed, indeed, indeed!” Steve continued without thinking.
Just then, Steve arose with a start and commenced pacing around the mammoth mahogany table in his kitchen. Wait now, was he still in his kitchen? Was this table even made from such a material?
“Cue inability to focus, buddy boy.”
“Damn! Damn, damn, damn!” Steve shouted absently as his golden retriever Teddy sluggishly and momentarily lifted his head in order to briefly entertain Steve’s outburst.
The presence of some strange and distant voice notwithstanding, it had been hours since his last one. Perhaps it had even been days! Okay, probably not days.
“Cue grumbling stomach, friend-o.”
“Shit!” Steve began. “Food, food, yeah. I prob . . . probably need food!”
Why was he shouting? Further, why was he so evidently passive as to the origin of this curious dialogue that was continuing to snake through his frantic mind? Suddenly, Steve’s focus began to divide as he found himself rifling through his fridge in search of any sustenance that could simply blunt the edge of the hunger now arresting his consciousness. But wait—how did he arrive here? Wasn’t he just . . .
“Ah yeah!” Steve shouted, violently thrusting the first available piece of white bread he could find into his overly eager mouth.
“Perhaps this will do the trick. It has helped in the past, hasn’t it, Steve?”
“Hell yeah it has!” Steve yelled, not exactly sure who he was speaking with.
“Though here come the shakes, Steve.”
Steve froze. How long had it truly been since his last one?
Just then, in another frenzied start, Steve shot a glance at the wristwatch clinging lazily to his left arm:
“Fifteen, fif, fif, fif-teen!” Steve began, now hardly aware that he was yet again unable to control his inflection. Steve’s golden retriever Teddy, at Steve’s latest verbal eruption, simply proceeded to roll onto his back and sigh heavily—thereby, in the same motion, fully exposing his junk to Steve’s face.
“Furry bastard doesn’t even . . .” Steve began, only to be abruptly cut off by a piercing:
The phone was ringing? Now? Of all times, now?
“Cue shakes and temple spasms. Buckle up, Steve.”
Just then—had even another minute passed?—Steve noticed that his car keys had been moved. Not only this, but his keys, phone, and hat were not in their proper places!
1. Hat: on chair, not rack!
2. Keys: on counter, not table!
3. What was the other thing?
Steve’s mind, weakening by the second, was now beginning to fracture.
“Or is it imploding?”
“Both, you ass!” Steve yelled once more, apparently at himself.
“I’m not talking to myself, you know. I’m yelling at him! That stupid jerk! He always knows right where to find me, doesn’t he?”
Things must have been deteriorating more rapidly than Steve had realized—for here he was, now apparently dialoguing with his own coffee cup?
“You can hear me again, Steve?”
“Yeah, you’re kind of, you know, everywhere . . . though it would seem that I tend to be the one who puts you where you are,” Steve muttered, index finger once more twitching steadily on the surface before him.
“Then why don’t you come back to me, friend?”
Steve—complicit beyond all recourse at this moment and now entirely aware of the source of the voice that had been attempting to gain an audience with him this whole time—at once turned to fully face his longtime acquaintance.
There it stood, just before his collapsing gaze, still steaming: the remainder of his fourth cup of coffee that morning; evidently, it hadn’t been very long since his last cup after all.
“Tomorrow,” Steve whispered, his bitter breath now rippling the surface of the hot liquid before him. “Tomorrow I’ll quit drinking coffee for sure.”
SCOTT KAISER lives with his wife Joyce in California. He holds a master’s in curriculum and instruction, as well as a bachelor’s in Spanish. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @scottkaiser4, and click here to read his previous Thursdaze story, “Booger’s Big Grab.”
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: May 14, 2015
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