My sober companion, Tommy, decides he needs his own sober companion, so he calls up Rob and Rob drives over quick. Rob’s a great sober companion. The first thing he does is handcuffs Tommy and me to the radiator in the kitchen. After that he makes a microwave pizza and goes into the living room to watch baseball.
“Rob doesn’t mess around,” Tommy tells me.
“He most certainly doesn’t,” I say.
Tommy’s been a good sober companion to me. He’s got some funny stories. While we’re shackled together, he tells me about that time he stole that church van. Unfortunately when he got the church van back to his house, someone had stolen his pickup.
“That’s some biblical shit right there, huh?” he asks.
Tommy’s not the only one with stories. I’ve got some good ones too. I tell him about that time I shoved a letter opener though my palm when a man at the post office said I would not.
“We were both pretty wild,” Tommy says. “Not too many people can outcrazy us.”
While we talk, Rob comes into the kitchen, grabs a soda from the fridge. He’s a big guy, like 6’3”, with large calves, spiked hair.
“You’re the best,” Tommy tells him.
“No doubt,” Rob says.
After Rob goes back into the living room, Tommy’s tells me he just found out his girlfriend Lanie is pregnant.
“It’s a lot of stress,” he tells me. “That’s why I called in Rob to watch over me.”
“You did the right thing,” I say.
Tommy starts in on another story – one about the time he was so wasted that he ran into a police horse with his moped, but when he gets near the end of it, he trails off.
“Listen,” he whispers. “I’ve got a baggie of coke stuffed down the back of my shorts. If you can reach it, I’ll share.”
I’ve been sober nearly two months now. At first I shake my head no, tell him no way, I can’t. Soon though, Tommy swings his legs around and I see the wonderful sight of that Ziploc baggie wedged into his ass crack. Before I can stop it, my hand moves out of my lap and slips down the back of Tommy’s jean shorts.
“This time I’m going to quit before I hit rock bottom,” Tommy whispers to me as he pours a bump out on his knuckle. “This time I’m going to quit before I have to pawn my jet ski.”
“This time I won’t cut off my sister’s hair and go sell it to a wig shop,” I tell him. “This time I won’t have to sell stolen grocery store steaks out of the trunk of my car.”
I watch as Tommy brings the coke up to his nostril. Before he can snort it, the television remote flies in from the other room and nails him in the face.
“Shit!” Tommy screams, grabbing his face.
Before I can get the baggie off the floor, Rob snatches it up. He walks over and dumps it down the kitchen sink. When he’s done he takes out some lunch meat and some bread and makes himself a sandwich.
Tommy’s nose is bleeding all over the linoleum so I help him tilt his head back. We sit there silently, me staring out the window, him looking up at the ceiling. I’m wondering whose story this will be to tell. I’m wondering at what point we are in it. Are we at the beginning of another downward spiral? Near some sort of triumphant end? Or are we churning forever in some endless goddamn middle? I pinch my fingers at the top of Tommy’s nose, try to get the blood stopped.
“You’re really good at this,” I tell Rob as he spreads mustard on a piece of bread.
“No doubt,” he says.
John Jodzio’s work has been featured in a variety of places including This American Life, McSweeney’s, and One Story. He’s the author of the short story collections, Knockout, and Get In If You Want To Live. His first book, If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home will be re-released by Soft Skull Press in March 2017. He lives in Minneapolis.