Last Call

(Note: the following is an excerpt from my debut novel, Canswer. It is a work of fiction and based on no one of any note. It is a comedy about death and how society deals with it. It is available as an ebook from Amazon.)

I’m as drunk as I’ve been in well over a decade, however I’m fairly certain that I didn’t ask the guys to come back to my hotel and continue drinking.

We were kicked out of the bar ten minutes before closing – something about us being too loud and obnoxious – which if my admittedly elementary mathematical skills serve me, means that it took almost an hour to walk from the bar to my room. Fifty-five minutes to cover maybe three hundred metres at best. In addition, it would appear that we lost one on the journey. Sam was with us when we exited the bar – of this much I am positive – but, alas, he is no longer, his whereabouts evidently neither a surprise nor particularly troubling to Russell and Scott.

“Fuck him,” Russell says without even a hint of remorse. “Cunt’ll turn up eventually. Always does.”

Before we cross an unusually busy Albert Street, I look up at the night sky in wonder. “I forgot how many stars come out in the Busselton sky at night. It really is beautiful.”

Scott snorts. “Does your husband like them too?”

Inside, I sit on the couch in my temporary abode, remote in hand and flicking between stations aimlessly. I am grinding my teeth without consciously giving it much thought at all and I suddenly feel a wave of a mild…something. I’m not quite sure what it is initially – it’s not a feeling I’m accustomed to experiencing on even a semi-regular basis – but if pressed the first word that springs to mind would be ‘euphoria’. I’ve broken into a cold sweat and my mouth and throat are as dry as the Gibson Desert.

For the first time in several decades I don’t feel overwhelmed by the minor details of my life; I am free from the crushing weight of paranoia that had invaded my every waking hour and if I’m totally honest with myself, I almost feel happy. If not, it’s the closest I’ve felt to happiness since I was young enough to get away with it. Surely alcohol alone cannot be responsible for this?

Russell and Scott are in the kitchen, engaging in a suspiciously hushed exchange as they open and close the cupboards overhead a little too loudly for this time of night.

“What’s going on in there?” I ask, sounding ominously like an inconvenienced parent. There is no response. I resume channel surfing, completely dulled by what late night regional programming has to offer, when I happen upon an advertisement for a film called A Few Hard Men. I’m informed that for the very reasonable fee of ten ninety-five I can have access to this film for twenty-four hours, to make use of as I see fit. Having long been a fan of politically charged courtroom drama, I order it. I am told via a message along the bottom of the screen that the aforementioned amount will be discretely added to my bill for the room and is payable upon checkout.

The credits start to roll and before long, uniforms are removed as the courtroom becomes a veritable hotbed of softcore debauchery.

Scott enters the room. “What the fuck are you watching?”

A Few Hard Men,” I explain without taking my eyes off the action. “Will you two keep it down in there? I’m missing important plot points.”

“You better not be getting your dick out!” Russell shouts from the kitchen. “Otherwise I’ll fucking pound you!”

“It’s not that kind of party,” I reply. I get up and head over to the minibar refrigerator and grab a can of weak domestic cat piss marketed as lager at nine dollars a hit. I sit back down, crack open the can and resume watching. Scott heads back to the kitchen. I soon grow tired of the exaggerated, contorted orgasmic faces of the men and the pneumatic chests and pumped-up lips of the women. Not to mention the awful fake tans and blonde hair dye, crudely shaved pubic regions and trashy black tattoos. Receding hair lines and curious sweat stains aplenty. When did porn become this unsexy, I ponder internally.

“What’s the deal with soft porn?” I express. “It’s without merit. It truly is the non-alcoholic beer of the adult film industry. It’s decaffeinated coffee, only with cameras and bad lighting. Am I right?”

“No clue, Seinfeld,” Russell says. “Hey, come into the kitchen for a moment, will you?”

I enter the kitchen where three perfectly formed lines of a white powder lay in wait on a mirror roughly the dimensions of your standard issue envelope. I don’t ask where they got the mirror, though I want to.

“Welcome back, Dylan!” Russell says, patting me on the back a little too hard. Scott takes a twenty-dollar note out of his pocket and rolls it so tightly and with such dexterity that I’m convinced he’s done this a time or two before. He bends down and snorts his line like a human Hoover, then thumps his chest and exchanges a ridiculously alpha high-five with Russell, who in turn follows suit and inhales his allocated line, pounding the counter with his fist afterwards. “That,” Russell says, “is some astoundingly fucking decent blow!”

“Amazing right?” Scott says. Russell nods emphatically.

It’s at this very moment, face to face with these sweaty, desperately miserable men, that I see what I would have become if I didn’t escape this place at eighteen.

They both look at me. Russell holds out the rolled twenty in front of my face. “No thanks,” I wave him off. “I’m not hungry.”

“Seriously,” Scott pushes. “It’s good shit. Do it.”

“Yeah, Dill,” Russell urges. “Trust me mate, you won’t regret it.”

Fucking drug users: always in recruitment mode. They’re no different from religious nuts in their unwavering persistence. Constantly trying to push their product, always trying to get you to be just like them. Misery loves company. That old chestnut.

I’ve just never been a drug person. I was handed a joint once at a party and proceeded to get so high that I tried to eat my own hand. I had to be restrained by three large men otherwise I was liable to end up swallowing myself whole. Imagine the headline in the following day’s newspaper:


That would’ve been an anti-drug campaign in and of itself, enough to scare the fuck out of even the most wayward of teenagers from imbibing.

“Nope,” I reiterate. “I’m perfectly content to just stick to the booze.”

“What the fuck, Dylan?” Russell whines. “Don’t be an asshole.”

I take a long pull from my can. “Is your girlfriend aware of your little habit there?”

“No, she isn’t,” Russell says, “and it’s going to stay that way as long as her new best friend doesn’t run his fucking mouth.”

Scott’s eyes roll into the back of his head as he braces himself on the counter.

“Dude, this is the fucking bomb!”

Russell chortles and thrusts the note under my nose, dangling it. “Come on, man. Do your line before it goes cold.”

“I’m not a drug guy,” I plead. “Let’s just leave it.”

“You are tonight!” Scott grins. “You’ve already indulged in some activity of the narcotic variety.”

Scott glances at Russell and they both break into hysterics.

“What are you talking about?” I ask. “I’ve had nothing but shitty beer all night.”

“And Rohypnol,” Scott smirks. “Otherwise more commonly known as ‘roofies’ or ‘the date rape drug’.”

I grab Scott around the collar and slam him up against the fridge; a colander strikes my head on its way to the floor. “You slimy fucker! You spiked my drink?”

“Technically,” Scott chuckles, “Sam did. But we certainly didn’t object.”

Scott pushes me off him and fixes the creases in his shirt, then raps: “Life’s a bitch and then you die, that’s why get high…”

Russell laughs, continues. “’Cause you never know when you’re going to go!”

They high-five again and laugh.

“How utterly profound,” I snarl. “Is that Keates by any chance?”

“We just wanted you to have a good night, Dill,” Russell says. “We’re all equally fucked up. Me and this stooge dropped some X back at the pub, as well as the blow we’ve just had. Granted, roofies will knock you down and around a bit, but it’s all for the giggles.”

I shake my head in disbelief and storm off to the upstairs en suite and slam the door. I turn on the light and sit on the toilet with the seat and lid down. I am having trouble keeping balance. The light feels abnormally bright so I turn it off, relying solely on the natural light of the moon coming in through the small frosted window above my head. I place a hand on my warm chest and feel the dull thump of my increasingly rapid heartbeat. My mouth is so dry it feels like I am swallowing golf balls when I swallow. I get up – no easy task in my present condition – and head over to the sink and turn on the tap. I let it pour into a cupped hand and I bring it to my mouth. My jaw is clenched and aching. The relative darkness fills me with paranoia, so I turn on the lights and hope that the rising panic will dissipate. I catch my reflection in the mirror – I look a complete and utter shambles. My face and neck are slick with sweat and my hair is jutting out at obtuse angles. Some of it chooses to stay matted to my head. My pupils are pinhead small and my skin is drained of its natural glow.

A sudden knock at the bathroom door startles me to the point of frenzy. “Go away!” I say without conviction to the person on the other end of the door. I turn out the light again and hope that the knocker will take this as a sign to leave me alone. I take a seat back on the toilet and bring my legs up to my chest, rocking back and forth and whispering nonsensical utterances to myself as some kind of drug-addled grand plan to calm down.

Along with the powerful feelings of anxiety and sheer panic that threatens to overload my system, I catch myself starting to feel unusually good. My entire being feels like it’s entering a state of climax. I have to remind myself to breathe. Like it or not, I am getting higher than I have ever been in my life. I feel free, unencumbered by everything. I want to laugh in the face of Death. He has no power over Dylan Higgins at this moment. He’s had it every day for the thirty-three years previous to this, but now, higher than a motherfucker, this is my time.

While I bask in my newfound euphoria, the contents of my stomach decide to make a sudden and rapid appearance all over the bathroom floor.

Purge. Purge. Another knock at the door. Purge again. Slip. Thud. Blood. Darkness.