“We lived on the edge of reality. Some nights we were happy.” by Anna Douglass
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, Anna Douglass always comes in second.
I lie on his couch. It’s my spot now. I’ve spent whole days lying here. The cushions remember the arch of my back and the angles of my arms and legs, so it’s easy to find my place again when I move. He sits at his desk—next to the couch, in front of a laptop—and waits for his phone to ring. He is a businessman. His business is crack. He is always on call. The phone rings, he responds, and soon he’s gone for a while. It always pricks me in my gut when he leaves, throws pepper in my heart’s eyes and makes them weep. But he comes back with money and ecstatic words, and he lavishes them on everyone nearby, and always on me. I’m always nearby. He gives freely of his spoils. Except when he doesn’t.
When things go bad he comes back with a temper, and he burns it out of his system on everyone nearby, and always on me. I’m always nearby. I used to try and argue with him, but I don’t bother anymore. Go back to your stupid degree if you think you’re too good for this. Go back to everything you left to be here. He doesn’t say it like that—his words are sharper—but in the sea of expletives that’s what I hear. I never do go back, and I probably never will, because we both know that without him there’s no crack, and without crack there’s no him.
I started for the crack, but I’m still here for him. Or maybe I started for him, and I’m still here for the crack. It’s all so messy now. Though I think it always was. My whole involvement with him has been a mess of contradictory feelings knotted together. It would be easy if I could just love crack or love him or hate him. But I can’t.
When he yells and vents he is a monster, but he is also a genuinely good person. He volunteers for charity and bails his friends out of tight situations, and he uses the drug money to pay for his younger brother’s books and clothes and anything else he needs to get through school, to stay afloat on life’s unpredictable seas. He loves his brother—that much I have never questioned. He loves his younger brother and never gives him drugs, won’t let him fall into this li(f)e. It makes me wonder why he gives me the drugs.
It’s a thought that has occurred to me from time to time—If no drugs is love, why does he give me drugs?—but I always hold it at bay with crack. He is seated at his laptop waiting for his phone as I watch him. I hold out my hand, waving my fingers at him, coaxing. He hands me crack, but what I really want is him. I take the crack.
It makes the world happy. I am swept up in it like a leaf in the gutter carried away on the current—happiness is so easy when crack does the work for me. He explained once what was going on inside my brain, why the crack made me feel all these things, but none of it made sense. All I know is that joy is exhaled smoke and an empty syringe. The universe is beautiful and so am I. We all are beautiful until I descend from the heights. And then the ground is shaking, the whole universe quakes, and I can’t be sure of anything. Watch out for coke bugs. Feel them, but know they aren’t real. Don’t scratch—he bats my hands away from my arms. Don’t give us away. It’s our secret. They don’t understand. They’ll hate us for what we know. It’s us against the world. His words are so pretty when I’m high.
Sometimes I think I should get clean, have this shit washed out of my veins. They are so worn and brittle, I don’t think they can take much more. But the only thing worse than being without crack is being without him. They’re a package deal. I don’t know which one I’m hooked on anymore.
ANNA DOUGLASS is a full-time student and part-time biped currently residing on planet Earth. She has a bachelor’s degree in literature and is completing a master’s by research in English. Anna is a cat person.
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: Apr 2, 2015
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