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News & Features » August 2013 » “Counting Backwards” by Caroline Bock

“Counting Backwards” by Caroline Bock

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, Caroline Bock uses alcohol to count backwards from 10.

Counting Backwards
Caroline Bockby Caroline Bock

10. If you can count backwards from 10, you are not drunk.

9. It now takes two bottles of wine to get drunk. I only drink wine. Today the Wall Street Journal confirms that women drink more wine than men do. Unlike Joanne, who changed her name for the Wall Street Journal story, I don’t hide my wine bottles. The garbage men who sling our cans from curb to truck before six in the morning are fine, lusty men.

8. I never drink Monday to Thursday. Those are school nights. Sometimes I cheat and drink on Thursday nights because, fuck it, I’m not in school anymore.

7. I am horrified to read about mothers caught driving drunk with their children. This week, a forty-two year old grandmother in our nearby suburban town was caught drunk with her grandchildren in the car. I’m not sure if I’m more horrified that she was drunk or that she was forty-two and a grandmother. I had twins at forty-two. I hate my smugness.

6. I know I should eat a little something when I drink. If I were French or Italian, I’d naturally have a glass of wine with dinner. Pregnant women in Europe even drink wine. I don’t drink with dinner. Sometimes I don’t even eat dinner. I didn’t drink at all when I was pregnant, not one drop.

5. I watch my husband eat steak: very well done, not an ounce of blood. He cuts into the meat with the sharpest knife in the house and grins at me. He likes when I cook for him. My son and daughter eat sticky macaroni and cheese with their fingers. I want to lick their fingers clean, but they will think Mommy is weird.

6. My husband joins me in a glass of chilled white wine, a summery Moscato. We open all the windows in the living room and turn off the lights. The scents of cherry blossoms and cut grass sieve through the screens. We ask one another again if we miss our other life, in the city, before the kids, and neither of us answers because we do.

7. We say to one another for a hundredth time that we have done the right thing: moved to the suburbs, had me freelance, had the kids (asleep now). They are the most right. The most right, my brain repeats in the dark. I re-fill my glass. My husband groans: What a week. I say: I expect sex. He pushes his glass away with a dramatic, I’ll-get-ready flair: Do you want to make love or drink? If I had sex every night like we used to I wouldn’t need to drink, I say, and recognize the rationalization like a punch in the gut. I finish off his glass as well as my own.

8. I once drove my car to Shopwell after drinking two or three glasses of wine—no children in the car. Buzzed, I suddenly had the urge for French vanilla ice cream. At the traffic light, I blared a classic rock radio station. I stroked the cold box of Breyers. I saw a shadow with a turban cross the road from his Sikh temple to the Dunkin’ Donuts. Ahead of me, at least fifty yards, a car careened down the street, a fat car. I swear I heard the crash, the peel of tires, but saw nothing else in the blur of the evening. The next day I read that a Sikh was killed crossing Main Street and anyone with any knowledge should call this special hotline number. My head hurt.

9. We have sex and afterwards I pour myself another glass of wine. He’s sleeping. I’m still horny. I count backwards from ten. I’m not drunk enough.

10. I had no idea who Sikhs were. On a morning without any other projects, I researched: “The essence of Sikh teaching is summed up in these words: Realization of Truth is higher than all else. Higher still is truthful living.” A neighbor reported that his neighbor’s car, which had always been meticulously cared for, had a broken headlight, a dent, and scarring. A sixty-five-year-old long-time resident was arrested for involuntary manslaughter and driving while intoxicated. I felt sick. I never ate French vanilla ice cream again. I licked my children’s fingers. They tasted like dirt and butter. I even stopped drinking wine, for a while.


CAROLINE BOCK is the author of the critically-acclaimed young adult novel Lie (St. Martin’s Press, 2011) and the forthcoming Before My Eyes (St. Martin’s Press, February 2014). She is a novelist, poet, and screenwriter and lives with her husband and two children in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. More at www.carolinebock.com.


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 to info@akashicbooks.com, 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: Aug 22, 2013

Category: Original Fiction, Thursdaze | Tags: , , ,