Then one night he passed a drinking establishment called the Fisherman's Rest and through the window spied a good-looking blonde sitting alone at the bar. She was wearing a tartan skirt that ended at mid-thigh and she looked lonely and he went in and it turned out she was newly divorced and wow, that was a shame, maybe she'd like some company, and three days later he woke up with that same old black hole in his memory. He went to the veterans' center where he had been mopping floors and changing lightbulbs, hoping for a break, but no dice. Don't-give-much-ofa-shit wasn't quite the same as don't-give-any-shit; close but no cigar. Leaving with the few items that had been in his locker, he recalled an old Bobcat Goldthwait line: "My job was still there, but somebody else was doing it." So he boarded another bus, this one headed for New Hampshire, and before he got on, he bought a glass container of intoxicating liquid.
He sat all the way in back in the Drunk Seat, the one by the toilet. Experience had taught him that if you intended to spend a bus trip getting smashed, that was the seat to take. He reached into the brown paper sack, loosened the cap on the glass container of intoxicating liquid, and smelled the brown smell. That smell could talk, although it only had one thing to say: Hello, old friend.
He thought Canny.
He thought Mama.
He thought of Tommy going to school by now. Always assuming good old Uncle Randy hadn't killed him.
He thought, The only one who can put on the brakes is you.
This thought had come to him many times before, but now it was followed by a new one. You don't have to live this way if you don't want to. You can, of course … but you don't have to.
That voice was so strange, so unlike any of his usual mental dialogues, that he thought at first he must be picking it up from someone else — he could do that, but he rarely got uninvited transmissions anymore. He had learned to shut them off. Nevertheless he looked up the aisle, almost positive he would see someone looking back at him. No one was. Everyone was sleeping, talking with their seatmates, or staring out at the gray New England day.
You don't have to live this way if you don't want to.
If only that were true. Nevertheless, he tightened the cap on the bottle and put it on the seat beside him. Twice he picked it up. The first time he put it down. The second time he reached into the bag and unscrewed the cap again, but as he did, the bus pulled into the New Hampshire welcome area just across the state line. Dan filed into the Burger King with the rest of the passengers, pausing only long enough to toss the paper bag into one of the trash containers. Stenciled on the side of the tall green can were the words IF YOU NO LONGER NEED IT, LEAVE IT HERE.
Wouldn't that be nice, Dan thought, hearing the clink as it landed. Oh God, wouldn't that be nice.
Doctor Sleep will be published on September 24, 2013
Also of Interest
- J.K. Rowling and The Cuckoo's Calling
- AARP Best Employers 2013
- Match your interests with AARP volunteer opportunities
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