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The Drunk Logs by Steven Kuhn - Fiction
The Drunk Logs is a narrative of life within the walls of Stone River, an addiction treatment center found among a picturesque countryside. The serene setting belies the frenzied mindsets of those who, for a short time, call it home.
Matt Hoffman is the newest arrival at Stone River. In a state of denial and with his defenses on high, Matt comes to realize that he has been a longtime member of society’s outcasts, though he never wanted to admit it. Alleviating the pain of his situation, Matt focuses on the darkly comical side of addiction as he is befriended by an odd assortment of patients, resulting in funny, pathetic, and surreal experiences.
Through this last chance at recovery, and indeed life, Matt discovers that in the end, it is the experiences he both learns and shares from the other patients that transform his life.
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With a long yawn, I awoke, thankful for the amount of rest I had been given. Even Barry Eugene, whose bed was empty, was kind enough to let me sleep. It was 5:15 p.m. and I was only late for dinner by fifteen minutes. I stood and tried to shake out my cramped muscles, wandered over to the mirror on the wall, and stared at my face. The swelling had gone down and the black and purple color seemed to be fading. I poked around my eye and felt it was still tender. That part might take a little longer to heal, I thought.
I exited into the hall and listened to the clatter that came from the cafeteria, which sounded like it had a full house. But then it was always a full house here, I thought.
There wasn’t a line in the cafeteria, only patients going up for seconds. As I came back around, I found my friends as they pointed to a seat they had opened for me. I grabbed a tray and felt confident that I’d be able to eat much more than at lunch, until they handed me a plate of a roast beef sandwich dripping with gravy and cream of corn. The smell rose up and into my nostrils, before I had time to turn away. I began to get queasy, but remembered what the doctor said and grabbed a small carton of chocolate milk to settle my stomach on my way over to the table.
“So did you get some sleep like most of us?” Sam asked.
“Yes, finally…ever since I got here, they’ve been taking my vitals or giving me pills. With that and having to deal with Barry Eugene, I’m lucky to get any sleep at all.”
I sat down and noticed that everyone was almost done eating.
“Who’s your roommate?” Sam asked.
Sam choked a little on his food and covered his mouth while he chuckled.
“Sorry, I forgot,” he said.
Jack Jack saw an opportunity and cleared his throat to tell a story.
“Hell, remember the one that Bobby had when he first came here?”
“This is a good one,” said Father Tom as he wiped the gravy from his beard.
“Well Bobby comes in here all high on, what was it? Oh yeah, coke, booze, and weed. Anyway, they put him on a bunch of stuff to bring him down and shoved him off into his room. His roommate was this sloppy, heavyset guy who snored constantly and was always tossing and turning all night. Now you saw that the beds have wheels on them right?”
“Yes,” I said as I lowered my small carton of chocolate milk.
“Well Bobby, since he’s all drugged up, fell asleep, and when he woke up, his roommate was lying right next to him snoring in his ear. Since he was tossing and turning all night, it made the bed slide all the way over to Bobby’s side.”
Everyone laughed except Bobby.
“Tell him the best part, Jack Jack,” Bobby said, disgusted.
“I will, Bobby. Well, along comes Carl to do his normal wake up call and sees both of them lying together. So, he looked at Bobby and in his feminine voice says, ‘well apparently being sober has its advantages.’ Bobby freaked out and it took Carl and a couple of nurses to finally calm him down.”
Immediately, I felt a presence behind me as the entire table stopped laughing. I became apprehensive from turning around just from the expressions on my friends faces.
“Why is it that I cannot have a meaningful, intelligent conversation with you gentlemen every time we meet? Instead, it is usually a certain individual’s lack of civility and manners to the individuals around them, that prevents the group’s growth.” The figure said. “Furthermore, it puzzles me, that with my extensive education and professional experience, I do not comprehend why a ‘Father’ would even participate with such an individual. For how quickly some are drawn into the good times this person has to offer.”
Startled, I felt the touch of a stiff hand on my shoulder. I looked at Jack Jack for help, but none was given. He was more concerned to stand his ground.
“Patients are here to receive help to combat their afflictions, and we at the hospital frown on anyone who does not complete the program in its entirety. It will pain the institution for me to brandish my authority and revoke your care here. But, I need to be concerned about the individuals who are sincerely seeking help and release the bad ones from spreading their disease. Furthermore, if any one is released from this institution without our written successful completion, the insurance companies will want their money back…and they will not be asking us.”
Nothing was said as the presence of the figure vanished and their blank expressions were the only things left.
“Screw Lyedecker, my father pays for everything,” Jack Jack said.
Sam threw his napkin on his tray. “Yeah, but the rest of us aren’t as lucky as you. So, let’s just cool it for a while and not give him any reasons.”
“He’s just bluffing, you guys. He’s not going to do anything. I mean, come on, all we’re doing is telling a story and getting a little loud.”
Meanwhile, I realized that through all of the commotion, I had eaten all of my dinner. Content, I decided to treat myself to an after-dinner cigarette and left, unconcerned with the soap opera that had played in front of me. The others followed, to Jack Jack’s apparent surprise.
The tobacco leaves crackled as I lit my cigarette and felt the smoke roll down my throat and into my lungs. I put away my lighter, careful not to burn my pants with the lit cigarette, situated my ass one more time on the edge of the picnic table, and watched the bubbles float away from the fountain in the pond. With a few deep breaths, I felt the thump of my heart, and heard the rustle of the grass behind me as the table creaked from a heavy weight.
“So what did you think of Dr. Lyedecker?” Sam asked.
I stared at the bubbles and released another cloud of smoke. “It seems like he’s tired of looking at Jack Jack,” I said as I yawned and moved next to Sam.
“In a way, Lyedecker is right, Matt.”
“I know…it’s like training a dog not to run in the middle of the street. The only way that it will learn is when the car kills it.”
The Drunk LogsBy: Steven Kuhn