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Awry by Ray Printer Friendly

Sitting at my desk, fighting terminal yawns. My red glass is full of bright white ice cubes, and there’s a shot glass full of amber dreams right next to it. Organized thought isn’t so organized, and my eyes are drawn to the five-dollar harmonica that I’ve traveled with for years. I don’t feel like playing it, but it’s still very shiny.

I just now bumped my elbow hard, but it didn’t hurt, which seems to me like a pretty bad sign. It made me think about once when I was a teenager. I was on my way to Kansas to visit my dad. From my house to his, it was about a six hour drive. If you’ve never been to Kansas, just let me tell you that you’re on the right track. You shouldn’t go to Kansas unless you have a debilitating fear of everything that is not flat or corn. I’m not kidding, man. I’m sure the people there are nice and all, and maybe there are parts of the state that are pretty to look at, or whatnot, but I recommend just playing it safe and avoiding the place altogether.

I hit the road early that morning, so as to avoid the wicked-bad Kansas traffic (that’s an inside joke, kind of—about the only traffic I ever encounter on my drives to Kansas is a few tractors and maybe some old guy in a Cadillac that’s swerving all over the road). Okay, actually I had started early because I wanted to get to my dad’s at a reasonable hour. The thing I didn’t count on, though, was having a fever. It had seemed like allergies the night before, so I didn’t worry about it when I woke up feeling a little weird in the head, a little tired, a little hot, whatever.

As I drove, though, I realized that my head was messed up. The thing about getting a messed-up head, though, is that that's the part you rely on to keep you out of trouble, for the most part (although, I generally just depend on my big toe and my left kidney—if they’re tingling, that means there’s some serious shit ‘bout to go down).

So instead of thinking, “Hey, my brain feels like it’s melting—perhaps I should pull over and rest for a bit,” I thought, “I need some music.”

I stopped at Wal-mart, walked in, and bought some music. All this time, I thought I was in my right mind, at least a little bit. I remember walking back to my car, swaying a little, and sweating like it was the only way to survive. I remember getting into my car, opening my cassettes, and putting one in the tape player. And then I was on my way. I don’t remember much about the trip, but I remember really digging the music. I got to my dad’s, and went to bed.

The next morning, the fever had broken—had vanished, actually—and I felt a hundred percent. I went out to my car to check out my new music—I couldn’t remember what I had purchased, only that I had really liked it. When I got to my car, I was perplexed. I looked all over for whatever else I might have purchased, but reality was having none of it. Reality was forcing itself right in my face, the same way that a school bully will force dog shit into a nerd’s: Hootie and the Blowfish; Mortal Kombat: The Album.

Yep, that’s what I had purchased the day before, that’s what I had jammed out to for like four hours.

Terrible story, isn’t it?

I’ve lived a lot since then; I have abused myself in ways you don’t want to imagine, I have experimented with things that you can’t even think about without getting a buzz. But since that day, I have never found myself in such a bad-off position where I was so out of it that I bought Hootie and the Blowfish and Mortal Kombat.

I’ve even had insane fevers since then: once I was standing out in someone’s front yard, digging a ditch (this was when I was a plumber) and my step-dad pulled up. “I thought you were sick.”

“Yeah, I’m okay now.”

“You look sick.”

“I’m okay.”

“Go home and take your temperature.”

I told him I would do it at lunch, which I did. A hundred and eight, that’s what my temperature was that day. No wonder I could hear the earth worms screaming. And even then I didn’t have the inclination to listen to Hootie. The bright side of the story, if can consider any tale such as this to have a bright side, is that I threw both of those cassettes away, and I have never gone shopping while under the influence of a fever again.


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