A half-empty bottle of Jim Beam sat on the table next to Ward’s left hand. The glass was in his right hand, pressed to his forehead. He willed the ice to stop the steady throbbing in his head, but it hadn’t helped. Neither had the pills. He’d already taken four Vicoden with bourbon, to no effect.
The sun had come out and illuminated the desert knolls in soft, golden light, but the sunlight just made the psychotic cloggers in his brain dance that much faster.
Celeste was gone. She’d pronounced him demon spawn and left him to his own devices. Morris Sinclair was his father? How could that be? And whose death had she described to him? She acted like he should know, like he’d been there. Had he? She hinted that it was his mother’s death. Maybe she was right. He’d been no more than four when his real mother was murdered. He had no clear memory of her. Once in a great while, he remembered the scent of flowers that he associated with someone with a soft voice and comforting embrace . . .
His adoptive parents were good people. They had taken in a traumatized toddler and raised him as their own. They were loving, kind, respectable people. Did they know his lineage? Did they know the evil they had inadvertently nurtured?
Ward’s head dropped to the table, toppling the bourbon bottle. It tipped over, spilling the dark amber contents on the sleek wood. A trickle wound around Ward’s head, tingling his skin where it touched. He wanted to leave it, but his frugality kicked in. That was Jim Beam Black Label – a Christmas present from his brother. He picked up the bottle, screwing the lid back on with his thumb and index finger. He licked the bourbon off his knuckle and took another sip of his drink. The liquid stung the back of his throat, but he didn’t care. He tossed back the rest of the bourbon and poured another glass.
You can’t just sit here and get drunk.
Get up and do something. You’re pathetic.
Leave me alone!
Ward threw his glass across the room. It shattered on the floor, pooling languidly in the grooves between the tiles. He wanted to leave it, but compulsion drove him to get a mop, broom and dustpan to clean up the mess he’d made.
Aren’t we the good boy, always cleaning up the mess—making things neat and tidy. You’re such a wus! Grow a pair, Ward!
Shut up! Just shut up and leave me alone!
He held his head, the pounding louder and more insistent.
Watch it, little buddy. You’ll give yourself an aneurism.
Stop it. Stop!
Dropping the dustpan full of glass, he grasped his head, pulling at his hair with both fists.
You made a mess again.
Get out of my head.
How ya gonna make me?
Ward picked up the bottle of Vicoden.
Cruel laughter echoed in his head.
Go ahead. Shut me up with pills and booze. Join me in hell.
The bottle joined the bourbon glass. The lid popped off and the pills mingled with the liquid, dissolving into little piles of goo.
This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Pussy!
Ward said nothing more. He left the mess on the kitchen floor and walked out his back door. Standing in his yard, he roared his frustration to the sky as he dropped to the ground. Yanking his hair, he continued to roar his frustration.
Nothing had worked out as he’d hoped. He was just as lost and lonely as he’d always been. He didn’t know what he’d expected to find here, but he hadn’t found it. As before, life’s happiness eluded him, slipping through his fingers just when he thought he’d finally caught it.
A lone bird fluttered out of the tree behind his house. Rising languidly, it flew with confidence toward the dessert. Ward watched its ascent, green eyes lingering on the sky long after the bird was gone.
A change came over him and a decision surfaced—he would be trapped no longer by his fears. He went back in his house and made a list. 1—find someone to rent the house. 2—decide on a destination. 3—Make travel plans. The world was a great big, beautiful place and he was going to find his way in it.