This was another day where I spent several minutes staring at the screen, waiting for the first sentence to come. Once it did though, everything seemed to come together. I’m pretty satisfied with how tonight went. If I weren’t trying to keep up a word count, I might have spent more time polishing the dialog, but I can leave that for editing.

The word count was good today. I added 2126. I’m hoping to pass the 10,000 total word mark tomorrow. It will be tough though. Tomorrow is a much busier day. Good luck to everyone who is working on a novel this month!

Just a reminder. This is most definitely a draft. I’ve done some minimal cleanup to make it less excruciating to read, but for the most part it is unedited.

Marshall Cooper

Day Five – 9259/50000 words

Marshall had walked by The Gaslamp a few times, but had never gone inside. In his twenties, Marshall had often gone to bars with his friends, but that had slowed down in his thirties, as his friends from high school and college either moved away, or got married and had kids. After the accident he had simply stopped drinking entirely. His doctor had advised it, and it was no real sacrifice to him.

The inside of The Gaslamp was nice inside. True to Rainman’s description, there was a brass rail around the bar. In fact, there were many brass fixtures. The bar was about half full. Marshall noticed a few older patrons, but overall it seemed like a normal enough crowd. The place was well-lit, and had a wide selection of beers on tap. Rainman ordered an IPA, and Catrin ordered a stout. Marshall got soda. The coveted Back booth was free, so they sat down. The topic quickly turned to tips and Marshall pulled out small roll of bills. A quick count put Marshall’s total at $210, which included the hundred Shelby had tipped at the end. That topped Catrin, who had only gotten $120, but Shelby hadn’t seen fit to add to her tips. “She doesn’t like me,” Catrin said, “She told me I don’t smile enough. She never tells the guys to smile.”

Rainman just had the hundred. “No tips for the harpist,” Rainman said. Marshall counted out a hundred and five, and handed to him.

“Not necessary”, Rainman said, but Marshall insisted.

“You got me the gig. You should get a share of the reward.” Rainman didn’t put up too much of a fight. He thanked him and put the money in his pocket.  There was a jukebox in the corner, the kind that can find and play just about any song off of the Internet. Rainman walked over and fed a few dollars into the machine. After a minute, Black Coffee in Bed started playing. Above the bar was a line of TVs showing baseball and football games. A couple of the older men at the bar were watching the baseball game. Marshall tried to remember if the playoffs had started yet, but he wasn’t sure. He didn’t know what team they would be routing for around here anyway.

Catrin asked how long he had been in town and told her he had been here about a month. “I grew up here,” she said, “My mother and father own a State Farm agency. I’m still at home while I finish college.”

“They have a college here?” Marshall asked.

“God no. I mean, there’s a community college branch, but that’s mainly for retirees and such who get bores. I do all my classes. It goes faster that way actually. I’ve never done less than 18 credits a semester. If I didn’t have a double major I’d already be done.”

“What are your majors?”

“Business administration and Public Planning.”

Marshall nodded. “I have a business degree,” he said, “But then I went back and got a programming certificate because that was where the work was.”

“Is that what you normally do?”

“Yes,” he said, “Mostly database work. There are always openings if you know SQL. I could probably get a job here if I looked.”

“But you’re not looking.”

“I needed a change,” He told her, not wanting to rehash his woes again. “I had some money saved up, so I came here.”

Catrin made a bit of a face, but then shrugged. “I’ve probably been here too long.” she said.

“Why didn’t you go away to college then?” Marshall asked.

“Reasons,” she said, but didn’t elaborate.

Rainman came back to the table and they spent the next few minutes debating his music choices. Rainman seemed to have an affinity for new wave, preferably from the UK. Besides Squeeze, he had put in Elvis Costello, The Clash, The Jam, and Madness. Catrin preferred more modern indie rock bands like My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses. Marshall tried to make an argument for mid-nineties bands like Green Day and the Offspring. It was a friendly debate, and lasted through two beers each for Catrin and Rainman. Marshall let them talk him into having a beer after he finished his soda. Catrin convinced him to have a stout. He liked the bitterness. For some reason, bitter still tasted correct to him, while most other flavors never came out right. Still, he took only a few sips. He had put his brain through enough for the day.

When Marshall noticed it was midnight, he got up to go. Both Rainman and Catrin seemed disappointed, which made Marshall feel good, but Marshall knew his limits. His body and mind did not respond well to being pushed outside of their comfort zones for too long. As they were leaving, Catrin asked for his number in case any gigs came up needing a bartender. He gave it to her and watched her dial it into her phone, then he headed out the door.

It was cool and damp when he got outside The Gaslamp. The Gaslamp was along Seaside Avenue, about a block further from his house and Seaside Espress. The fog has settled in, though it wasn’t so thick that he couldn’t see. There were a number of cars on the street, cruising slowly. Marshall assumed they were teenagers, still waiting out the time before they were old enough to go to bars. Marshall crossed at the first light he could and headed up a couple of streets to get away from the traffic. He was happy to get away from the traffic. With the fog, the residential streets took on a slightly sinister look. At one point, his own footsteps startled him. He could feel a headache coming on. He knew he was still well away from his apartment, and started to worry that he would get confused. He pushed on though. At first, there were a lot of lights on at the houses he passed, but then he reached a stretch where the lights were either out, or the houses were obscured by fences and plants. He started to feel a little blind. He took out his iPhone and turned on the flashlight function, which set the camera flash to stay on.

His mind began to lay with him. He became convinced that he was going to stumble upon a dead body, or somebody was going to attack him. When he got to the next cross street, he put out a hand and held on to the stop sign, then he started to his breathing, One, two, three, four, in and then one, two three out. He tried to picture the blue steam moving in and out of his lungs, but instead he just saw the fog. He felt his lungs filling up with the damp fog. That made it take longer. It was a good five or ten minutes before the panic subsided and he could move on. He looked up at the sign and tried to read it. He had to back up, and accidentally stepped in a pothole, twisting his ankle. He took a couple steps to confirm that it wasn’t broken. It hurt, but not so severe that he couldn’t walk. Reading the sign, he figured out that he was only a one street south and one street east of his apartment complex. That made him feel better. He crossed the street and started walking again. His headache was now full force, but he didn’t see any choice but to push on. After a few steps, the pain in his head seemed took up all the space that the pain in his ankle had been occupying, and in a way he felt better.

It took was seemed like another hour to get the remaining block to his apartment, but as he got to the door he looked at his phone and saw that it was just 12:30. The entire walk had taken less than a half hour. Marshall forced himself to go through his routine, getting the ice wrap and mask out of the freezer, even though he was already cold, and undressing before he got into bed. The throbbing lasted a long time, and his breathing exercises did little to lessen it. For the next three hours, he tried and failed to get his headache under control. It wouldn’t stop though. At about four in the morning, with some regret, he made himself get out of bed. He went to his medicine cabinet and got out two pills from a prescription bottle. He had to take the pills with food, so he went to the kitchen and got out a bag of mixed nuts. He ate a handful and washed them, and the pills, down with tap water.

He knew now he had about twenty minutes before they kicked in. Once they did, he would most likely sleep for at least fourteen hours, so he went to the bathroom, and then he ate another handful of nuts and drank a half a glass of water. He went to the door and latched it, and then he moved his couch in front of it, just to make sure he didn’t wander off. As he headed back to bed, he checked his phone and noticed that he had gotten a text message. He opened it up. The text was from a number he didn’t recognize. It simply said, “We should get together sometime.” Marshall stared at it. He started to write a reply, but then the pills kicked in. He didn’t remember hitting send.

 

Chapter Three

It was almost seven in the evening when Marshall woke up. It was a slow, dull awakening. He was still tired, and he knew he could go back to sleep with almost no effort. It was a tempting thing to do too. He knew that if he took another pill, he wouldn’t need two this time, and he could sleep another ten hours and then it would be five in the morning. He would be somewhat on schedule then. That was the problem with the pills though. When you took one, you wanted another. You could easily sleep away a week or two. He fought the urge though. Instead he got up and headed to the shower. He took a long, hot shower. Now that he was free of the headache, he was aware of the pain in his ankle again. It wasn’t a sharp pain, it was more like his ankle had rusted and each movement had a silent screech of metal on metal. The heat of the shower seemed to help the ankle a bit, but it did little for his energy levels.

He thought about coffee. Unfortunately, he didn’t have his own coffee maker. He always got coffee at the Seaside Espresso. Right now though, the thought of walking that far on his ankle while he was still half asleep seemed a little too ambitious for him. Everything seemed ambitious. He noticed that his couch was still blocking the door. He considered moving it, but he couldn’t quite convince himself that he was fully back in his right mind yet. “I might still do something stupid,” he said. That was when he remembered the text message from last night.

Marshall picked up his phone, but it was dead. He realized that he had forgotten to charge it the night before. It had been on all day, and then he had used it as a flashlight for the walk home. He plugged the phone in and then he went into the kitchen and checked the freezer. He had bought a few cheap TV dinners a couple weeks back, and sure enough, he found a Michelina’s stroganoff, “Made with Real Sour Cream.” He didn’t feel in the least bit hungry, but he knew it was important to eat something, especially if he planned to take another pill, which was something he was still not willing to rule out.

He sat at his little table, eating the pasta. It didn’t taste like much of anything to him, but he enjoyed the textures of it in his mouth. As he ate, he stared at the phone, wondering how long he should wait before trying to turn it back on. Something was nagging at him. He was pretty sure he had had an entire conversation, but did he really have it, or was it something he dreamed in his sleep. He made up his mind to check it as soon as he finished his food. Before that could happen though, he heard a knock at his door.

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