Losing Control (Ginger Man 18B)

Tired, drunk and annoyed, Rick fought the impulse to throw Mike out of his trailer. But there was an urgency, a desperation he saw in his friend that he wasn’t accustomed to seeing. Mike never asked anything of him, but there he was, sucking on a beer can (Rick had never seen his friend do that either) and bouncing unsteadily on his feet, waiting for an answer. He couldn’t articulate why, but he felt certain that kicking him out was the worst thing he could do at the moment.

So he thought, rubbing his stubbled chin with his hand. “Hell, Mike.” He rubbed his chin again. “I dunno. Been years, think I threw all them stories away, long time ago.” Rick lowered his arms, shrugged. “Sorry.”

Mike stared back, his body swaying around like ice cubes in a glass. A frown descended on him, and he staggered backwards, his body losing control and falling into a wall behind him. Rick walked over to help him stand up again, but Mike let his body slide down the wall until his ass landed on the floor with a fump. He blew air through tight lips, letting them vibrate, frrrrrrrrrrbt.

Rick looked down at his friend, and knew better than to ask if he was all right.

“Dammit.” Mike raised the beer can to his lips, tipped it up. Drew his head back, letting it hit the wall. Raised the beer car high over his head, as if to demonstrate it was empty, then threw it across the room. “Mary Lou really wanted to see them stories.”

Rick’s face brightened with inspiration. “Why don’t you bring her in here?”

Mike rolled the back of his head against the wall, left to right, then back left. “Nah. She’s passed out in the back seat. I was going to wake her up if you had anything.” He lifted his head, seemed to look around in the dark. Then threw his head against the wall again, closing his eyes. “Dammit.”

“I’m sorry–”

“Gotta go,” and suddenly Mike was standing, walking quickly to the front door of the trailer. Rick followed him out the door, to a car he didn’t recognize. He saw a girl sleeping in the back. She had red hair (when Rick told the story to Charlie nearly six months later, he insisted on this detail of the red hair).

Rick heard a sound behind him. He turned, saw Mike leaning his back against the front fender, his head buried in his hands. He looked like he wanted to cry, but was now filled with regret over having forgotten how.

“Hey Mike — ” his friend did not move — “why don’t you just go to your place, and get one of your own stories?”

Mike was silent a moment. Then his head rose slowly from his hand, was illuminated faintly in the moonlight. “Don’t have them no more.” His voice sounded distant. “Got rid of them–about a week ago. Right after I got back from college.”

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