. . . ?
Do you even know where you are?
Cleveland? Charleston? It was one or the other.
As he flushed the toilet, the president’s name arrived in his head with splendid clarity. And Dan wasn’t in either Cleveland or Charleston. He was in Wilmington, North Carolina. He worked as an orderly at Grace of Mary Hospital. Or had. It was time to move on. If he got to some other place, some good place, he might be able to quit the drinking and start over.
He got up and looked in the mirror. The damage wasn’t as bad as he’d feared. Nose swelled but not actually broken—at least he didn’t think so. Crusts of dried blood above his puffy upper lip. There was a bruise on his right cheekbone (the Case cowboy must have been a lefty) with the bloody imprint of a ring sitting in the middle of it. Another bruise, a big one, was spreading in the cup of his left shoulder. That, he seemed to remember, had been from a pool cue.
He looked in the medicine cabinet. Amid tubes of makeup and cluttered bottles of over-the-counter medicine, he found three prescription bottles. The first was Diflucan, commonly prescribed for yeast infections. It made him glad he was circumcised. The second was Darvon Comp 65. He opened it, saw half a dozen capsules, and put three in his pocket for later reference. The last scrip was for Fioricet, and the bottle—thankfully—was almost full. He swallowed three with cold water. Bending over the basin made his headache worse than ever, but he thought he would soon get relief. Fioricet, intended for migraine and tension headaches, was a guaranteed hangover killer. Well . . . almost guaranteed.
He started to close the cabinet, then took another look. He moved some of the crap around. No birth control ring. Maybe it was in her purse. He hoped so, because he hadn’t been carrying a rubber. If he’d fucked her—and although he couldn’t remember for sure, he probably had—he’d ridden in bareback.
He put on his underwear and shuffled back to the bedroom, standing in the doorway for a moment and looking at the woman who had brought him home last night. Arms and legs splayed, everything showing. Last night she had looked like the goddess of the Western world in her thigh-high leather skirt and cork sandals, her cropped top and hoop earrings. This morning he saw the sagging white dough of a growing boozegut, and the second chin starting to appear under the first.
He saw something worse: she wasn’t a woman, after all. Probably not jailbait (please God not jailbait), but surely no more than twenty and maybe still in her late teens. On one wall, chillingly childish, was a poster of KISS with Gene Simmons spewing fire. On another was a cute kitten with startled eyes, dangling from a tree branch. HANG IN THERE, BABY, this poster advised.
He needed to get out of here.
Their clothes were tangled together at the foot of the mattress. He separated his t-shirt from her panties, yanked it over his head, then stepped into his jeans. He froze with the zipper halfway up, realizing that his left front pocket was much flatter than it had been when he left the check-cashing joint the previous afternoon.
No. It can’t be .
His head, which had begun to feel the teeniest bit better, started to throb again as his heartbeat picked up speed, and when he shoved his hand into the pocket, it brought up nothing but a ten-dollar bill and two toothpicks, one of which poked under his index fingernail and into the sensitive meat beneath. He hardly noticed.
We didn’t drink up five hundred dollars. No way we did. We’d be dead if we drank up that much.
His wallet was still at home in his hip pocket. He pulled it out, hoping against hope, but no joy. He must have transferred the ten he usually kept there to his front pocket at some point. The front pocket made it tougher for barroom dips, which now seemed like quite the joke.
He looked at the snoring, splayed girl-woman on the mattress and started for her, meaning to shake her