• • •
“Yeah, I guess… I guess I just want to set myself free, in a way. I’m taking seven DoperMe pills every day now, do you believe that? Seven! That’s too many, that’s way too many… and, and my doctor tells me to take more because they aren’t working, but I don’t want to take more. If they worked I wouldn’t need to take more. An–”
“And you are absolutely right, Mister Blumfeld. I think the Aw-Tea-Matic will solve all your problems. I’m very sorry, but I have seven other clients on hold right now, do you believe that? Seven! That’s too many, that’s way too many clients on hold, and I need to break off the call with you immediately so I may go service them. I eh… I hope you find what you’re looking for, buddy.”
Lester sighs heavily, then scratches his tummy. “I do too. Sometimes I wish I could just leave, let the Universe figure out the rest, you know? But it might kick me off the ride if I do that, and I don’t want to risk getting kicked off the ride! I’m twenty-five and I’ve worked seven jobs already, seven! And you know what? That number just popped up for the third time in this conversation, that must mean something! This Aw-Tea-Matic is going to save me, it’s going to set me free! The sevens are a sign! Thank you, Sir, thank you so much!”
The TICC salesman hung up between Lester’s sigh and his tummy scratch, but that’s all right. Lester said all that more for himself to hear it than for it to be heard by another human. In just two days the answer to all of Lester’s problems will arrive at his doorstep – no more dopamine pills, no more mornings of chugging down glumpy mud that has the nerve to call itself coffee, no more… well, Lester’s getting tea. And not just any tea, either. The perfect tea, the exact tea Lester needs whether he’s conscious of that need or not. He even got the deluxe model that comes with the tiny weekday mugs – an entire cup of tea in one concentrated gulp. Technological innovation at its finest.
Feeling thankful and slightly daring, Lester decides to take himself off the DoperMe starting tonight. He goes for a jog that was supposed to be a run, stays in the shower forty minutes longer than he meant to, then hits the hay. Tomorrow will be a struggle – the first day off DoperMe always is – but the struggle will be worth it. Come Monday morning, the struggle will have been well worth it.
Lester springs out of bed and prances across the dirty clothes which act as a carpet over the wooden floor of his bedroom in a way best described as maniacal. He glides through the living room, glimmers in the light shining in through the window in the front door, sings along with the squeak of the hinges as the door opens, then his energy drops like soggy mashed potatoes out of a cracked plastic ladle.
“Well…” Lester says to himself, then swallows nervously. His Adam’s apple dances a jig. “I suppose they wouldn’t deliver it first thing in the morning.” A measured breath. “Fine, it’s… it’s fine. You know, I actually feel good this morning. Maybe I don’t need the tea. Maybe all I need is already on the inside.”
A moment passes, then, “Yeah. Maybe it’s all on the inside.”
Lester closes his front door, gets dressed up to sling filthy bowling shoes to filthier maggots and filthiest of all, the flies who bring them to the bowling alley, then opens his front door again and heads out.
Lester gets out of bed and though he can’t quite touch his toes, he does stretch. He was so wired after working overtime last night that he cleaned all the clothing off his bedroom floor and put it through the wash. The load is waiting in the dryer now, and it’ll stay there until after work today.
Speaking of which, Lester has to get to work soon… but he’s sooooo tired. The Aw-Tea-Matic poured him some chamomile lavender tea after he put his laundry in its place last night, and it knocked him out so fast he didn’t get a chance to brush his teeth. Crazy how he’s still feeling it now.
‘Well, at least it’s not the depression making me feel slow.’ Attaboy.
After getting dressed, Lester inserts the Aw-Tea-Matic’s ear sensors into his ears, as one does. The Aw-Tea-Matic, sensing that Lester needs a little pick-me-up this morning, pours black tea into the little black Tuesday mug. Lester drains it, replaces the mug, then heads out the door.
Lester crawls out of his bed, throws his unwashed uniform on, ‘Shit, the dryer is still full,’ then heads into the living room to doze on the couch for a few minutes. Usually overtime is scarce at the Q-Bowl – so scarce that Lester’s co-worker usually gets it before Lester has the chance, and more power to her; girl’s got a daughter and a senile mother to take care of, she needs the cash – but it’s been flowing like water this week, and today will surely be no different. At least he’s getting paid well, time and a half ain’t too shitty when you’re paid twelve an hour.
Lester’s eyes burst open. Small tears fly off the ends of his lashes. “I have to be there in an hour! UP!” He stands and slaps himself across the face, though incredibly softly. “C’mon Lester, get into the game!”
By game he meant kitchen, evidently. The Aw-Tea-Matic, sensing that Lester needs a big pick-me-up this morning, pours double-caf’ green tea spiked with a shot of Kahlua into the little black Wednesday mug. Lester drains it, replaces the mug, then heads out the door.
Lester rolls out of bed, forcing his feet to catch him. His eyes are burning and his head aches like nobody’s business. Miss Jenny didn’t even show up yesterday, Lester had to work the Q-Bowl all by himself for twelve hours straight. He was so tired that he didn’t even fold his days-dry laundry.
“It’s funny,” Lester mumbles, feet dragged into the kitchen. “I wanted to set myself free, and I’m free from my pills, but… oh never mind, nobody can hear me. Look at Leaky Lester, talking to himself first thing in the morning. Sheesh. Today’s going to be interesting… well, as interesting as it can be. After all, I work in a fucking bowling alley.”
The Aw-Tea-Matic, using Lester’s brainwaves, determines that he needs a change in perspective, a key to the doors which he locked within his own mind. It pours a concentrated gulp of psilocybin tea into the little black Thursday mug. Lester drains it in one quick shot. He replaces the mug in the machine so it may be cleaned, then heads out the door.
She quit. She wasn’t getting paid enough, so she decided to get paid nothing. Why bother giving yourself the free time, Jenny? It’s not like it’s going to help you. We all need to work. When we don’t work, that’s when the bad things happen, and besides, how are you going to be free if you don’t work?
How will Lester be free if he works at the bowling alley?
How will the bowling alley continue to stay open if Lester, its only remaining employee, decides to quit too?
How will Lester get to work if he stays in bed all morning?
Lester falls out of his bed and hits his head on the floor. He doesn’t want to go to the fucking bowling alley today, he would rath–… he puts on his grimy bowling alley uniform and goes to the kitchen to use his Aw-Tea-Matic, his savior, the only thing that gets him through the day anymore. He puts the ear sensors in and slumps forward a bit.
The Aw-Tea-Matic, sensing how Lester feels like there’s no way out for him aside from the big way out, how he just wants to set himself free, pours a concentrated gulp of hemlock tea into the little black Friday mug. He drains it, replaces the mug, and heads out the door.
This has been the eleventh story from Highdeas: The Lost Stories from the Seven Earths, a flash fiction anthology hidden in the back of the book Over the River: The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox. Here is everything you need to know about it:
Over the River
The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox
Over the River is the third book in a trilogy called The Fall of the Seven Earths. I’ve also released that trilogy as a single book called The Fall of the Seven Earths. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
The Fall of the Seven Earths
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~