Apple because the stores that sold hard liquor wouldn’t be open for at least another hour. He walked slowly back and forth between the wine cooler and the beer cooler, debating, and finally decided if he was going to get drunk, he might as well do it as nastily as possible. He grabbed two bottles of Thunderbird (eighteen percent alcohol, a good enough number when whiskey was temporarily out of reach), started up the aisle to the register, then stopped.
Give it one more day. Give yourself one more chance .
He supposed he could do that, but why? So he could wake up in bed with Tommy again? Tommy with half of his skull caved in? Or maybe next time it would be Deenie, who had lain in that tub for two days before the super finally got tired of knocking, used his passkey, and found her. He couldn’t know that, if Emil Kemmer had been here he would have agreed most emphatically, but he did. He did know. So why bother?
Maybe this hyperawareness will pass. Maybe it’s just a phase, the psychic equivalent of the DTs. Maybe if you just give it a little more time . . .
But time changed. That was something only drunks and junkies understood. When you couldn’t sleep, when you were afraid to look around because of what you might see, time elongated and grew sharp teeth.
“Help you?” the clerk asked, and Dan knew
( fucking shining fucking thing )
that he was making the clerk nervous. Why not? With his bed head, dark-circled eyes, and jerky, unsure movements, he probably looked like a meth freak who was deciding whether or not to pull out his trusty Saturday night special and ask for everything in the register.
“No,” Dan said. “I just realized I left my wallet home.”
He put the green bottles back in the cooler. As he closed it, they spoke to him gently, as one friend speaks to another: See you soon, Danny .
Billy Freeman was waiting for him, bundled up to the eyebrows. He held out an old-fashioned ski hat with ANNISTON CYCLONES embroidered on the front.
“What the hell are the Anniston Cyclones?” Dan asked.
“Anniston’s twenty miles north of here. When it comes to football, basketball, and baseball, they’re our archrivals. Someone sees that on ya, you’ll probably get a snowball upside your head, but it’s the only one I’ve got.”
Dan hauled it on. “Then go, Cyclones.”
“Right, fuck you and the hoss you rode in on.” Billy looked him over. “You all right, Danno?”
“Didn’t get much sleep last night.”
“I hear that. Damn wind really screamed, didn’t it? Sounded like my ex when I suggested a little Monday night lovin might do us good. Ready to go to work?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Good. Let’s dig in. Gonna be a busy day.”
It was indeed a busy day, but by noon the sun had come out and the temperature had climbed back into the mid-fifties. Teenytown was filled with the sound of a hundred small waterfalls as the snow melted. Dan’s spirits rose with the temperature, and he even caught himself singing (“Young man! I was once in your shoes!”) as he followed his snowblower back and forth in the courtyard of the little shopping center adjacent to the common. Overhead, flapping in a mild breeze far removed from the shrieking wind of the night before, was a banner reading HUGE SPRING BARGAINS AT TEENYTOWN PRICES!
There were no visions.
After they clocked out, he took Billy to the Chuck Wagon and ordered them steak dinners. Billy offered to buy the beer. Dan shook his head. “Staying away from alcohol. Reason being, once I start, it’s sometimes hard to stop.”
“You could talk to Kingsley about that,” Billy said. “He got himself a booze divorce about fifteen years ago. He’s all right now, but his daughter still don’t talk to him.”
They drank coffee with the meal. A lot of it.
Dan went back to his third-floor Eliot Street lair tired, full of hot food and glad to be sober. There was no TV in his room, but he had the last part of the Sandford