Running On Empty In Vermont

I kept drinking the wine so the withdrawal from the Klonopin wouldn’t hit me. I didn’t want to have a seizure out here in the boondocks. My wife, Debbie, has already gone into detox at a place called Scatterberry Farm. St Dismas House said that they had an opening for me but it would not be until Monday. It was Saturday morning and they might as well said eternity.

I thought it would be a good idea to see if I could make a doctor. I pulled out the phone book and flipped to the yellow pages. There’s not a hell of a lot of doctors close by in the hills of Vermont. I felt a chill and threw a couple of logs in the wood stove. I came back to the phone book and dropped my finger on a doctor that was in the town of Ludlow. A woman doctor.

Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes not. Usually a woman doctor can be conned the first time, but every now and then you can run into a real bitch. I crossed my fingers and then dialed the number.

Two rings. Click. It was her nurse or secretary and she said she had an open time at 1:30pm. I looked at the clock on the wall. Almost 11 o’clock. Fuck. Two and one-half hours. And not even a sure thing. But I had to stop drinking the wine because she’d never come off with the script if I smelled like a boozer. I thought that I would try for both cough syrup and the pills. That would hold me until Monday.

I smoked a joint of the homegrown and walked outside. The rabbit cages were covered with snow again and I brushed them off and put fresh food inside the little bowl. I brought their water bowl into the cabin, popped the ice out if it, filled it with warm water, and brought the bowl back out. I looked into the hutch and realized that there was only one rabbit left. I decided to eat the last one. I pulled out the black and white bunny by the ears and put it down on the ground under my foot. Held it tight while I pulled out the .38 and pumped one bullet into its head. It jerked for a moment and then lay still. Slit it and cleaned it and pulled its skin off like taking a foot out of a wet sock.

Then I brought it inside and made some sauce for it to soak in. Usually I like to let it soak for a few days to improve the taste but I was out of food and didn’t want to waste money on food that I might need to cash the scripts. I’d cook it tonight if I was loaded. If I couldn’t get any drugs I wouldn’t be hungry anyway.

I looked at the clock. Almost half past twelve. I figured I’d pull out and go to the doc a little early. Maybe her first appointment wouldn’t show. Maybe I could just catch her going in and she would take me first. Maybe maybe maybe. Three miles of dirt road in the snow and seven of country highway. Good to get a start on things anyhow.

I grabbed my props: an old bottle of syrup from a previous script and a vial of pills with just the right run out date on them. I always could come up with them because I had a satchel of them saved just for this purpose. A lot of doctors would come right off with the drugs if they saw that another doctor where I used to live gave them to me. Chronic medical conditions. Bronchitus. Anxiety because of the respiratory ailments. I’d chain smoke non filters all day before the appointment and my lungs would sound like I was really congested.

I used to love it when I came down with a real bad chest cold because then I would travel all over the countryside making doctor after doctor. I could even get people to come and bankroll me on the scripts because they knew I was almost a sure thing. It always seemed funny to me how, when I was high, the doctors would come right off for me but if I was dope-sick, that’s when I would have the most trouble.

I was dope-sick. And I was nervous. I tore apart the dresser drawers just hoping to come up with a pill or something. I went through the satchel with all the Tussionex and Hycodan bottles to see if maybe I had left the wash in one of them. No luck. I guess I had gone through them and already done that. The thought crossed my mind that this seemed all too familiar.

I put the rabbit in the pan up on top of the fridge, got my hat and coat and boots on and grabbed the keys to the truck and crunched down the drive to the pickup truck. It cranked slow because of the cold but it kicked over and I rolled down the incline into the dirt road. I had snow tires on all four wheels and the back of the truck was loaded with sandbags so the going wasn’t too bad. I smoked a joint and then ate a lifesaver to kill the smell. I don’t know why I smoked the joint because all it did was make me more paranoid. By the time I got to the doctor’s office I felt like my head was going to explode.

I really wanted to smoke a cigarette to calm down but I didn’t want to walk in there stinking of tobacco, so I just took some deep breaths and listened to the phlegm in my chest rattle. It sounded great. When she put the stethoscope to my chest she was going to hear all the right noises.

I walked into the office. There was an old woman sitting there. Doctors that treat old people sometimes are easier to make than others. I nodded to the old lady when she looked up at me and then sat down and picked up a magazine. I flipped through the pages but I couldn’t keep my mind on the articles, because I was thinking of what to say to the doctor to get the drugs. My stomach was all nervous and I could feel it gnawing at itself. I had to urinate and I looked around for a bathroom. I didn’t see one and I hoped it wouldn’t be too long before I could go in.

The door opened and the doctor came out. She looked to be in her late thirties and wore brown glasses. Her hair was brown and hung loosely onto her shoulders with a little wisp over her glasses. The thought crossed my mind that I was glad that her hair wasn’t tied up in a bun. An old man followed her out of the office and the old woman sitting near me smiled at him and stood up as he walked over to her. My heart leaped in my chest. They were together and I was next. The old woman was just waiting for her husband to come out of the office. I saw the scripts in his hand and I wondered what the doctor had given him.

They all talked for a few minutes and then the doctor motioned me in. Good. No nurse. I chatted with her as she took my weight, my blood pressure, and my respiration and pulse. I looked as she charted my blood pressure and I was happy to see that it was elevated. That always helped me get the pills.

She got up and left the room for a minute and I looked around to see if there was anything worth taking. Then she quickly returned. I told her how my chest was all congested and I had trouble sleeping at night with all the coughing.

“This happens to me every winter. Maybe I should move south. I don’t know. I just like the change of seasons.”

“Maybe you should quit smoking,” she said.

“Well, I’ve cut down a lot. I only smoke a few cigarettes a day.”

“You should quit altogether.”

“I’m planning on it soon. I haven’t smoked yet today.”

“I smell cigarettes on your clothes.”

“Oh, yeah. My wife is a heavy smoker. It would be easier for me to quit if she didn’t smoke so much.”

“I see. Well-” she paused.

I held my breath. My props were in front of her. My heart felt like it would pound out of my chest and my stomach felt like it was full of ice-cold water.

She pulled the prescription pad out and I watched the pen move. Yes. Yes. Yes. She wrote for the Tussionex. Only four ounces but I didn’t have to share it with my wife because she was in treatment so it would be enough. She wrote for an inhaler. Screw the inhaler — I would trash that scrip. And she wrote for the Klonopin. The benzo’s are great opiate boosters and my heart was dancing and leaping around in my chest. She pushed the papers to me and I folded them up and put them away quickly. I was afraid the doctor would change her mind at the last minute.

She made out the bill and I paid part of it and told her that I would mail the rest of it in. She took down my address. I always paid part of the bill if I had the money because it was better in case I went back there again. I could pay it off then and owe a whole bill next time. If a doctor kept writing I would keep paying. If they didn’t write I wouldn’t pay at all.

I left the office and drove over to the pharmacy. I hated this part. Some pharmacists were real assholes and would do their judgment thing and say they didn’t have the drug in stock just because they didn’t want to give it. I pulled into the parking lot, turned off the truck and got out. I took a deep breath and walked into the store.

The pharmacist had grey hair and his glasses rested down on a bump in the middle of his nose. The counter woman came over and I handed her the scripts. She asked me for my address and wrote it on the scripts. I hated when they did that if they didn’t cash them because then you had to take it to another pharmacy and the evidence was there that one pharmacy had already turned you down.

She walked them back to the guy and he looked at them for what seemed to be an eternity and then he started to type. He walked to the back and I saw the yellow thick liquid in the Tussionex bottle. He shook the bottle. I feel as if I might have said something if he didn’t shake the bottle because it says that the active ingredients settle to the bottom and to shake it before you take it on the prescription instructions. He poured and it came out slow and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I heard him shake the pills into the dispenser and then he finished typing and he handed the two packages to the counter woman.

She called my name.

I can’t describe the feeling when you walk out of the drug store with the stuff in your hand. It is like the whole world is yours and you got over on the best of them. I wanted to dance out of the store but I just walked. I strolled over to the coffee shop next door and took that piss that I had been holding since the doctor’s office and then ordered a coffee to down with the pills and the medicine. The hot coffee pumps the drugs into your system and there’s nothing so good as the cigarette with your coffee after the medicine slides down your throat. Then the high comes on.

I looked around the parking lot to see if anyone was watching. No one seemed close. I threw three 2 milligram Klonopin into my mouth and lifted the Tussy jug to my lips. I held it up until the last of it spilled into my mouth. Put the cap back on it and stood it upside down on the seat for the residue to drain into the cap so I could suck it out later. Lit a smoke and sipped my coffee as I decided what to do next.

I figured that I would visit my wife. That was my first mistake.

Right away she could tell that I was high and was pissed off that I didn’t save her any. I told her that I still had Klonopin to give her but that wasn’t good enough. She started yelling at me and the people at the treatment center told me that I had to leave and she said she was coming with me and that I better have another croaker all lined up for a script so she could get high too. I just wanted to enjoy my high and all hell was breaking loose and I knew that it was going to be a big hassle to cop for her and she would bitch the whole time there until we got it. I wished she would stay at the treatment center and I wished I hadn’t gone to see her there but it was too late now.

I don’t know how I always keep making these mistakes over and over again.

They told her that if she left with me that she couldn’t come back and that if she stayed they didn’t think it would be a good idea for me to come any more. I knew that if she stayed they would try to turn her against me and tell her that she should find another place to live, so even though I wanted her to stay I told her to come with me.

I was high and so I knew I would be at my best now for making doctors.

She threw her shit in her bag and we blew out the door of the treatment center. She ate two Klonopin as soon as she got into the truck and made me buy her a beer to wash it down. We stopped at a phone booth and looked in the book for another doctor. There was a doctor in Brandon and I called him and he said that he had one appointment left and could I get there by 4:30. I said yes and let her drive so I could dig my head.

She bitched at me for the entire ride. I chain-smoked and nodded while she talked.

Finally we pulled into the parking lot. The office was in an old colonial house and I went in. The waiting room was empty. He came out and beckoned me in and I laid my rap on him. He took my vital signs and listened to my chest. He thought it sounded terrible and wrote me a script for four more ounces of Tussionex and gave me one of those garbage inhalers and some antibiotics.

We raced to the drugstore because sometimes in these little hick towns in Vermont they close real early. I filled the antibiotics with the cough syrup but I threw away the script for the inhaler. I had learned that those inhalers cost a lot of money from past experience.

I got back out to the truck and I told her that I was going to do one ounce of the syrup because I went in to make the croaker and did all the work and she complained but there was nothing she could do about it. I ate two more pills and did a heavy ounce and then let her do her three and she drained the bottle and took a few more pills.

I took over the wheel after we had coffee. We were turning into Route 7 heading into Rutland and I heard a screech of brakes and this guy almost hit us as we came onto the main highway. Then the creep starts riding my ass. I just hadn’t seen him and it wasn’t my fault and he was beginning to piss me off so I turned around and flipped him the bird. He had an older woman in the front seat and someone was sitting in the back seat too.

My wife said to let it slide but the dude was riding our ass real close so I slammed on the brakes just for a second and he came up on me and freaked because he though he was going to hit us and he locked up his brakes and his car spun sideways as I hit the gas and pulled away laughing like a loon.

He was on us again like maggots on garbage. Coming real close and looking real grim when I peeped into the rear view mirror. We were coming into town and the lights on the highway were green. I saw that the light by the Mobil gas station by one of the main roads into the shopping section of town had changed to orange and he was still coming up on us so when I stopped I looked into the rear view mirror and I saw him ripping out of his car with a crow bar in his hand and he looked like this giant woodsman over six feet tall and I knew that we screwed the pooch.

I figured I’d have as much chance as a pigeon in a wolf pack if I went physical with this Vermont mountain man and I was so frightened that my bowels felt like they’s been turned to oil. I hit the gas and turned the steering wheel and flew through that Mobil station like it was an interstate. My wife yelled at me as we pulled out into the adjacent roadway as an oncoming car swung wildly around us blaring on the horn and I told her to “just shut up” and she did. The guy chasing us jumped back into his car and was on us again.

He had anger fueling his jets but I was running for my life so I had some edge on the creep. The light turned red ahead and I flew through it like it was bumper-car city and pulled a sharp right with my wheels screaming for mercy. Looked back. Heart pounding. Debbie yelling at me. The guy was coming but he’d lost a little ground. The thought of the gun back at the house ripped through my head and I knew just why I never carried it with me anymore.

Red light ahead. Cars stopped in my lane. Debbie screamed as I crossed the line into the oncoming lane and took a left through the traffic. Horns blowing and the screech of brakes and I didn’t look and I hit the gas and the stores and people were flying by the truck in what was once the quiet streets of Rutland. I looked back for a second and didn’t see him. I kept going making rights and lefts and found myself in the residential section of town.

I slowed the truck down and my head and heart was still racing. Time to head home. I felt like my head from the drugs was almost gone but I figured that if I ate some more pills that it would creep back. So I did.

The next thing I remember was we were back at the house and the rabbit was in the wood cook stove. I had a glass of wine in front of me and Debbie was rolling a joint and talking about calling the detox tomorrow to see if she could get back in. We nodded out and the rabbit burned all on the outside and we picked away the burnt flesh in the morning and cut up the meat that wasn’t burnt and ate it for breakfast. It was one hell of a good rabbit.

Debbie called the detox and they said the only way she could come back was if I didn’t’ come there to visit or call her. She decided to go and I dropped her off at Scatterberry Farm.

The next day, sick and shaking, I checked into St. Dismas House and that put another forty mles between me and Debbie. They had to medicate me heavily for about five days so I wouldn’t have a seizure.

I was still being withdrawn slowly from the Klonopin and I had been at St. Dismas House for seventeen days when they called me into the office. My counselor was there and they told me that they had something important to tell me and they sat me down. I knew it was about my wife.

I was right. They said they had to tell me that my wife had left treatment this morning. She left with someone else. Another guy.

I felt like my whole world spun into black holes and I got dizzy and didn’t know what to do. I wanted to run. I wanted to get high. The counselors talked to me for a while and I don’t remember much of what was said but my throat hurt all the time they were talking.

They kept talking and then gave me an extra dose of medication and they said that I could stay an extra 21 days because they thought I needed it. I said I would stay.

My wife and the guy had rented a small place in Ludlow and after eight days the police came and picked him up for violation of parole because he was court committed to the treatment center as a condition of release. They lugged him back to prison.

Debbie started coming around to St. Dismas House and asked me if I would go back with her. The counselor there said he thought I should go into a halfway house and keep away from my wife for a while. He started the process to get me into a halfway house that was affiliated with them. Right before the interview for the house I left treatment and moved back in with my wife but things just didn’t seem the same.

Three days later I cashed a refill for some Klonopin and then went to a doctor for some Tussionex. We didn’t have enough money to fill the script so we pawned the guy’s tools that he had left in the garage behind the apartment house. On the way back I was too messed up to drive and sideswiped a chain link fence. A section of it came down and my wife took over the wheel and we sped away before anyone came.

Two days later when my retroactive disability check came I went to a doctor to get another script and he said that the pharmacy had called him and that I had been going to doctors all over the northern part of Vermont to get narcotics and everyone had my name. He told me if I ever came back again he was going to call the police and I was through around there. He was still yelling at me and I gave him the finger as I left the office.

Debbie and I went to a bar and had a few drinks so we could think straight and we decided to move to South Carolina with the $9000 we had. This way we could start fresh and make a new life for ourselves. That night we loaded the truck with the stuff that we wanted and left for South Carolina at sunrise. I was starting to get dope sick so we stopped in the Great Brook Valley Projects in Worcester to buy some heroin so we could make it into New York City. We figured we could get enough heroin in New York to hold us for the entire trip.

The stuff we got in New York was so good that we stopped in a motel just past Washington DC and didn’t leave the motel until the dope was all gone. We started hitting doctors in the small towns on the way down. Once Debbie fell asleep at the wheel on Interstate 95 and we scraped a cement bridge and the truck spun around on the highway but nobody hit us. I took over the driving.

When we got to South Carolina we found a place to rent really fast and it was a lot cheaper than up north. We were really excited as we moved into the new place and I went to a small medical center and got a script for Tussionex and Klonopin and we celebrated that night.

I fell asleep with a cigarette and when I woke up the couch was smoking and I could barely see. I opened the windows and the door and poured water on the couch. I fell asleep next to Debbie on the bed with my clothes on and that night I had a dream about being in a church. The church was empty except for me and I woke up crying. The crucifix was upside down and there was a pool of blood beneath it with a bent motorcycle wheel in a slow spin.