Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Saturday, January 08, 2005


Health Care, Chapter One, Part 1

Just as the angel was about to grant him the ability to read people’s minds, Ben’s head snapped up and he had to jerk the wheel hard to avoid a guardrail. Claire, maybe because she was snoring so loud, didn’t wake up. Ben wound the window down and leaned his head outside, catching some sleet in his hair. Was it sleet? It wasn’t snow and it wasn’t rain and it didn’t seem to be freezing rain, but…what the hell was sleet, exactly? Ben was not clear on the whole thing, so he pulled his head back in. Driving with the window down would wake Claire up even if she was snoring, so he rolled it back up. But there had to be other changes he could make to his immediate environment to keep himself alert. The last sign had said thirty more miles to Issaquah and that was practically Seattle, he thought. Had somebody told him that or had he read it in the AAA thing or what? Anyway, not that far to go.

Man, there were some weird fucking names here. Issaquah. Snohomish. Snoqualmie. Tukwilla. What else? There was a Bellevue, like back in Iowa, although God knows it had to be bigger and a little nicer than that. Ben’s grandma lived in Bellevue and it was a dump. Bigger than Otter Creek, but nothing to shout about. They had a Shoney’s. Ben thought a girl that Chuck dated might have worked there. Chuck hadn’t dated her for long. It’d be cool to see Chuck again. Wasn’t that Chuck up ahead? What the hell was he doing here? And why was he driving a sandwich? Was the sandwich honking?

Ben’s eyes shot open and the sandwich became a Chevet with a bunch of boy scouts in it, who were now flipping Ben off. This was not good.

He looked around the front seat for something he could do/undo/ingest that would perk him up. For starters, the fucking music needed to go. Claire didn’t notice him almost ditching. Twice. She wouldn’t notice that Concrete Blonde wasn’t playing. He popped the tape out and felt around on the seat, not risking the eyes-off-the-road time to actually look for something. He pulled up an Indigo Girls tape and tossed it back down. Fished around again, this time coming away with Dark Side of the Moon. Great album, but it would not keep him from driving off the road. Back it went, into the unseen pile. He grabbed again and got the same fucking Indigo Girls tape. This was the thing about hanging out with lesbians: you had to put up with their music. Ben glanced at the tape and wondered what lesbians listened to in the forties. Was there a k.d. lang who had a swing orchestra? Wait, were there lesbians in the forties? Why did he care? He tossed Indigo Girls in the back seat so he wouldn’t pull it out again and, trying again, grabbed onto Check Your Head, which would definitely keep him awake, and therefore alive, until well past Issaquah.

Problem solved. Except now he was bored. He blamed Montana. When they’d left Otter Creek, they’d both enjoyed the driving. Seeing new shit. Checking out the scenery. Getting the fuck out of Iowa. But, man, Montana just seemed to take years to get across. Seriously, it felt like they’d never fucking get to Idaho, they’d just spend the rest of their lives on I-90, til they got too old to drive and had to pull off to the side of the road and slowly turn into dust.

Okay, time for some new thoughts. What could make the rest of the drive more interesting? If Claire would wake the fuck up and talk to him, that’d help. But that wasn’t going to happen. She’d made it windex-cleaned clear that, since she’d taken the night shift, he was on his own. So that was out.

Ben fished around on the seat and found his Bucks. One left. Shit. Maybe Claire’d left one of her Marlboro Lights in the ashtray. He pulled it open. Nothing smokeable, but—thank you, Jesus—there appeared to be the tiniest of roaches.

He wouldn’t smoke enough to put him back to sleep or anything, but one or two hits might make things a little more interesting. He lit up, gave it a couple of puffs and put it out. He cracked the window just a bit to clear out the smoke. Claire shifted around and mumbled something which sounded like, “Get my girdle blazing,” although that didn’t seem to Ben like something she’d say.

He listened to “Blue Nun”, which always made him think of Simone. It was going to be so fucking nice to see her. Two fucking months was too fucking long. It didn’t help that she was so lousy at phone sex. Better than nothing, Ben supposed, but it just seemed like he did all the talking. Well, that was behind him. Thank god. No more phone sex. For that matter, no more sneaking out of her parents’ house at four thirty in the goddamn morning. Sex whenever he felt like it! Okay, whenever they felt like it. Not just his needs, here, but whatever. Living with Simone. This was going to kick ass. This gave him energy.

Another sign. Issaquah, five miles.