One To Talk

Ben Fowler just doesn't know what to make of things. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Ben Fowler just doesn’t know what to make of things. (Monte Dutton sketch)

This is the fifth episode of a short story that’s working title is “Getting to Know Darin.” In order, from the beginning, the first four segments were “Feeding the Line,” “Make Room for Daddy,” “The Kids Are Evil,” and “Recovery in Various Forms.”

5. One to Talk

Finally, Ben Fowler was able to outlast Maxeen Breslow. Sleeping wasn’t easy with a pair of female legs wrapped around a man’s head. It could cloud judgment. Ben still wasn’t right. He’d tried to pray himself to sleep, beginning with the Lord’s Prayer, but then he’d started asking the Lord to bless and forgive his son, Darin, and his mother, and then his mind had wandered off in the most unusual of directions. He couldn’t remember the details now, but he’d realized, after an indeterminate period of fantasizing, that he was supposed to be praying, so he’d tried to take up where he left off, but it all got hazy, and, at last, he’d tumbled off to sleep again, and when he awakened, Maxeen was gone.

Somehow, that Ben could remember, but hadn’t a clue what else had happened, and he thought his fantasy might have had something to do with some far-fetched scenario that might result in being in bed with a married woman at five in the morning. He didn’t think it was something that would have happened from drinking beer alone, but something had caused his blackout. When he walked through the den, Ben couldn’t help but notice that his son and his girlfriend – he barely remembered her being there, couldn’t recall her name – were passed out on the chesterfield, lying naked and intertwined. He stared blankly, walked over, pulled the blanket up over them. The girl rustled a little, sort of tucking the blanket around her breasts, and Ben walked into the kitchen, where he managed to remember how to work the coffeemaker.

He sat at the table, waiting for the coffee, feeling awake but still dull. He was suspicious of Darin, thinking the boy surely must have something to do with it, drugging him or something. On the other hand, he couldn’t say. Whatever had happened, Darin and the girl were likely going to know more than nothing, either that or they’d gotten wiped out dabbling in the same stuff that had waylaid him. Occasionally, he caught a whiff of something in his nostrils. What was that? It reminded him of his youth, one of those smells that seem so familiar and evoke memories. The smell of manure at a cattle barn. The sour odor of a high-school locker room. The aroma that shoots out of a Pabst Blue Ribbon when the top is popped.

Something like that.

When Ben started to pour the coffee, he realized he hadn’t put his glasses on. Until then, the blur hadn’t registered in his consciousness. He shuffled slowly back to the bedroom and found them in the sheets. It was a wonder they hadn’t been broken. It was the first time he felt lucky. When he returned to the kitchen, the girl was sitting at the table.

“Good morning,” Ben said, trying to hide that he couldn’t remember her name. “Cup of coffee?”

“Don’t mind if I do.”

He got up before she could, reached up in the cabinet for a cup, poured it, sat it in front of her, and pushed the sugar, Sweet ‘n’ Low, and creamer in her direction. Then he sat back down, hoping she’d say something, and, with a little luck, something that included her name.

“Are you all right?”

“I’ve been better,” he said. “I can’t see how it’s possible I got that drunk.”

“Are you on medication?”

“Yeah,” he said, “I take something for blood pressure, and cholesterol, and, oh, yeah, something for my back and knee pain. It’s not a painkiller. I won’t take them. It’s for, what, inflammation, I think.”

“It could’ve been some kind of reaction, you know, the alcohol with the medication.”

“I never had that problem before.”

“Do you drink fairly often?”

“I generally keep some beer in the Frigidaire,” Ben said. “I don’t often drink more than a couple most nights.”

“Well, you never can tell,” she said. “By the way, lest you think I’m some kind of know-it-all, I am studying pharmacy, though it’s just undergrad.

“Mister Fowler, you were pretty wasted last night.”

“I gathered as much.” He thought her beautiful in the frail morning light. Hair tousled. Unmade up. Even in the shadows, her skin had the radiance associated with the aftermath of lovemaking.

“How’s Darin?”

“He’s dead to the world. We stayed up real late. A long time before you and …”

“Mrs. Breslow.”

“That woman’s crazy, Mister Fowler. I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s a lot of fun.”

“Um, yeah.”

“Are you two seeing each other?”

“That’s the first time she’s ever been in this house. I don’t know why in the hell she came.”

“I mean, this is none of my business, Mister Fowler, but does she, like, sell pot to you?”


“Oh,” Ellen said. “I just thought, since she brought that big bag with her …”

That was one mystery. Ben knew what the smell in his nose was now.

“This sure is good coffee, Mister Fowler. I’m so tired, though, I don’t think it’ll do a bit of good. I’m gonna tumble right off to sleep again. Would you mind if I, like, went back to sleep in Darin’s bedroom. I’d kind of like to spread out.”

“Be my guest,” Ben said. Jesus. It’s the Redneck Playboy Mansion. The Playboy Cabin.

He smiled to himself. At least he was getting a sense of humor back. He was still in a poor bargaining position. He couldn’t very well make any accusations because, literally, his own house was in disorder. He didn’t want to reveal how little he knew. He had his pride, but, also, his instincts, and he could call bullshit on the girl’s suggestion that he’d taken a trip from drinking beer and taking medication. Sitting on the table in front of him was the little pop-off container where he kept his nighttime pills.

He’d never gotten around to taking them. He figured it might be a good idea to take them now. The girl’s theory might have been innocent. Maxeen might have been responsible, though he’d never figured her for a rampaging woman of the night who went off looking for unsuspecting men to drug and rape.

He’d just thought Maxeen was a lot of fun.

Many thanks for reading my fiction. My writing is also displayed at Read all about my two novels, The Audacity of Dope and The Intangibles, at, and all my books are available at


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