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You do what you can for as long as you can, and when you finally can’t, you do the next best thing.

 

-Chuck Yeager

 

Man, it was a glorious night. I was wasted. Fried. I was high past the sky. Had the place to myself. Took four hits of that Purple Dawn. A straight up and righteous, glorious evening. Just me and Chuck Yeager. I laughed so hard, I got sick to my stomach. It was still a great night. I never laughed so hard in my life.

Okay, maybe “glorious” is overstating it some. And not that Chuck Yeager. A dog. A bloodhound. Belonged to my brother. He died last year. In a plane crash, go figure. Don’t know why he named it Chuck Yeager. But he did. Dog’s not too bright. For a bloodhound, I mean. That dog couldn’t find its own ass with a flashlight.

But man was I high. Took four hits of that Purple Dawn and I mean, I was flyin’—like Chuck Yeager, for real. The walls were singing and the floorboards were laughing and jewels fell into my hands from the ceiling.

Okay, maybe not jewels. They looked like jewels. They fell, anyway, right in my hands. Then all of a sudden, I could feel these eyes on me. Sure enough, in the corner, that dumb dog was watching. Pictures flashed in my mind of Chuck Yeager, running behind me. The dog, not the guy. Chasing me down to the ends of the earth.

Not me, exactly. My soul, or my spirit. That sounds corny to say. But that’s how it seemed, like Chuck Yeager was hunting me down through a dark soul forest, and I got really paranoid there for a while.

I looked in the mirror, and my eyes were black, big as saucers and Chuck Yeager was making all kind of noise. Baying, the way bloodhounds do in the movies. Chuck Yeager doesn’t do it that often. I don’t know what set him off this time. He might not know either. Dog is dumb is as a post.

In the movies, when bloodhounds are tracking, they’re noisy, they’re loud. In real life they’re quiet, except when they’ve cornered their prey. That’s when they howl and that’s what Chuck Yeager did now. He looked in my eyes and he let out a howl.

I put my finger against my lips. I shushed him. Be quiet Chuck Yeager, I said, you’ll wake everyone up. Then I remembered. My folks are gone. There’s no one else here. This place is empty. Chuck Yeager’s a dog.

I mean they split. They left, okay? My folks are alive. My brother’s dead, and my brother did everything right. I do everything wrong, all the time, and I’m here. Go figure. He traveled for business. His plane went down, coming home from Algiers.

It killed my folks. Their whole world ended that day They stayed in this house with me and the memory for as long as they could. Until they couldn’t stand to see me alive.

Now they live in a place across town. I live here alone, except for Chuck Yeager. And most days I’m wasted. Toasted. Fried. They give me cash. Really they pay me to stay away. An allowance, like when I was a kid. Except I spend it on dope. And I’m thirty-five.

I sleep hunched over and I walk with a stagger. I live like a man with a knife in his eye, and I feel all the time like a wild thing runs loose through my insides. Dope helps. Dope keeps it at bay. Long as I’m high it stays pretty quiet, the way hounds really are when they’re tracking their prey.

But you do what you can ‘til you can’t anymore. Then you do the next best thing. I wasn’t really high past the sky. Purple Dawn isn’t dope. It’s really the dishwashing stuff. It’s usually blue but they make it in purple.

Had the place to myself, and somewhere I read that four big gulps would do the trick. I threw up for hours instead. Thought I was finished and threw up some more. I threw up things I’ve never eaten before. I was sick as a dog. No offense, Chuck Yeager.

I threw up in colors. Straight up and righteous. It wasn’t really a glorious night. Really, I just got sick to my stomach, okay? Not wasted, not fried. Not dead and gone either.

I never laughed so hard in my life.

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