… I know, I know, I know. He’s had way too much to drink—and he just got his 100-day chip last week! The poor bastard, all that 12-step work just down the toilet … … You didn’t know? Yeah. I mean, he used to be pretty good at hiding it. I think he’s probably been a functional alcoholic for most of his life. He started going to AA after he got arrested for driving to work totally wasted at seven in the morning. … … No, no, just leave him alone. I’ll drive him home and let him sleep it off. We shouldn’t have come; being here just brings back tormented memories for him, and I was afraid it may be too much too soon. I can’t blame him. … Well, you can call it PTSD or panic attacks or whatever, but the bottom line is I don’t think it’s possible for a human being to recover from something like that. He held him, you know. He watched his best friend die while cradling him in his arms. It just looked like a scratch, he said, but then things got worse quickly. They were like brothers, you know. He was suicidal for weeks afterward—did I tell you that? Weeks. … … Yeah. The whole family. Murdered. Don’t believe the propaganda. It wasn’t SARS or the flu or whatever the media says. They never arrested anyone, but personally, I think the uncle started that whole fiasco rolling. The whole family is crazy as hell. I never liked him hanging out with them. They just wallow in their own dysfunction, trying to pull everyone down with them. That’s when I told him he had to quit that government job. Get as far away from those politicos as possible. Then the drinking started, or rather, that’s when it became really obvious. He wasn’t abusive or anything, but he just wouldn’t stop talking about it. He became obsessed, analyzed every little detail of the tragedy like one of those CSI guys. At first I thought it was therapeutic, you know. Talk it out, write stuff down, go to therapy. But then I’d wake up in the middle of the night and find him sitting on the outside patio, staring into space, three empty wine bottles beside his chair. “I’m looking at the stars,” he’d tell me, though it was too cloudy to see any stars. He started talking to himself, saying he could see ghosts … … He’s tried all the meds – our bathroom looks like a freakin’ pharmacy. We nearly went bankrupt shuffling him from specialist to specialist. No one had any answers, or rather, they did have answers, but none of them seemed to work. … … Oh great. He’s spiking the punch bowl. Right there, see? I thought I had checked his pockets—he’ll sneak a flask everywhere we go, even putting Jack Daniels in his coffee at breakfast. I swear, he’s going to implode. I feel like I can’t stop him. Like he’s drenched in gasoline and trying to light a match. I don’t know what to do… … Yeah, he was upset over that, too. You know, I think she killed herself. Don’t listen to the spin the royal family PR machine sets in motion. Those people make me want to vomit. … That’s not a rumor, I’m afraid. It’s true: He did put pictures of the crime scene on Facebook. The whole grisly thing. I was mortified. Can you imagine what the poor relatives went through, seeing pictures of those they cherish sprawled out on the floor, cold and dead, tongues hanging open like something out of a horror movie? It was sick, I tell you. Just sick. He said it was the quickest way to get the word out. Don’t ask me what that means. Of course, people think he Photoshopped the whole thing. I just can’t understand him anymore. He used to be so earnest, so compassionate—that’s what attracted me to him in the first place— but now it’s like the world has just sucked all the goodness out of him, like a vampire feeding and leaving an empty shell. But you know what they say, for better or for worse. Anyway, it’s good to see you. I know it was a long journey for you, but I’m so glad you made it to the reunion. It feels good to talk this out with someone who has not been saturated with the news —the press has hurled it at us from every angle. Seriously, every other week there’s something bizarre in the tabloids. …. Well, no, of course they’re not coming to the reunion. You didn’t know? … … Oh, I am so sorry to break the news to you, but Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.
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Dawn DeAnna Wilson of North Carolina is the author of three novels: Saint Jude, Leaving the Comfort Cafe, and Ten Thousand New Year’s Eves. This piece is a variation of a story from her collection, Welcome to Shangri-La, North Carolina. She enjoys painting, kayaking, and drinking way too much coffee.
Her other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.
Guest edited by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke