Randy Kohl is a Chicago-based writer and consultant. When he is not developing, creating and executing Marketing
projects, Randy also serves as Senior Writer for the Chicago Bar & Bistro Project and contributor to the Radio and Internet
Newsletter (RAIN). His works have appeared in Backhand Stories, Perigee: a Publication for the Arts, Kaleidoscopic Resonance
and Pology Magazine among other fine publications. His interests include travel, story time with his daughter and anything
with words. http://www.chibarproject.com/ and http://launchpadchicago.blogspot.com/
Last High's the Lowest
Time played tricks in the basement. No clocks there, no windows by which to judge the passing light. Hours stretched like a
drum skin across the shell of eternity. Whole days disappeared like a spoonful of sugar in a cup of steaming tea.
He looked at the vial standing on the bench. One hit to last until God knew when. And she wanted it. Her eyes — glazed, fixed
and unblinking — spoke volumes.
“When’s he coming back?” Her whine an only child’s whine.
“Who knows?” He said. “You know the drill.”
“Why don’t you have a hook-up?”
“Why don’t you?”
“Do you know how much I hate it when you answer a question with a question?”
He finished the Coca-Cola. Rinsed the can in the sink between the junked washer and dryer. He unsheathed a safety pin from its
clasp and fought against the stored energy in its spring, straightening it into a miniature rapier. He set the can down on the
counter, using both thumbs to exert equal pressure near the base. The thin metal skin gave, forming a small caldera in which an
object could lie. He gently stabbed the can with his sword, until a pattern emerged in the deepest part of the crater. A question
He took a ball-point and dealt a death blow to the can’s flank. He touched the opening to his lips, using his index finger to
regulate the flow of air through the carburetor. A fully functional, disposable pipe at the ready and twenty minutes killed.
He only wore long sleeve shirts now. The sores along his forearms had become noticeable, unsightly. He wore bandages
underneath when they wept their infected tears. He willed himself not to scratch, but the itch emanated straight from his
But deep down, despite the uncomfortable shirts and the sunglasses and the innumerable lies, he knew he no longer fooled
anyone, not even himself.
He despised her because he wanted to fuck her. He despised himself because he knew he couldn’t. She slouched semi-prone,
the hem of her sundress fallen to her lavender panties. The creaminess of her inner thighs suggesting a false innocence. She
tapped the sunken futon mattress beside her.
Consent was not an issue. Not when she was high, but only when she was high. It had happened before, another way to pass
the time until the re-up arrived. But the binges had grown in intensity and frequency since the last time. Remorse and no little
bit of rage welled, just as the first bite of withdrawal began gnawing at his insides.
He lit a cigarette and dragged only once. He didn’t really smoke. He tapped the cigarette over the can, creating an ashen nest
over the question mark. In its center, he rested a crystalline egg no bigger than a grain of kosher salt. A ritual like any religion.
The grandeur both more intense and more fleeting.
The drug melted on contact with the flame, a lifetime’s dreams and failures encapsulated in a momentary chemical reaction. The
matter transforming from solid to liquid to gas. A trinity that offered no faith.
The high peaked before the last of the smoke escaped the holding cell of his lungs. Her mouth sealed around his, like a
trembling, needy lamprey. They called it a ‘shotgun’, not a kiss. And if it were a kiss, none had ever been exchanged with more
earnestness or less emotion. It was the kind of empty contact that left him as cold as a leeward stone. The itch along his arms
At least six nonverbal cues announced a change in her demeanor. With the drugs gone, any invitation was withdrawn,
evaporated like the smoke along the floor joists above them. In a way, this made him feel better.
“He’s not coming back is he?” She asked with no expectation of an answer.
“Abducted by cops. Arrested by aliens. Your guess is as good as mine.”
She shook her head with a mixture of puzzlement and frustration. She gathered her bag, smoothed the loose-spun cotton of
her dress where it clung to the symmetrical hemispheres of her behind.
“That wasn’t a question.” He said.
She ascended the warped wooden stairs, the complaints of the treads beneath her feet the only sounds of farewell. And then
she was gone and he could no longer remember whether her beauty was real or only a figment of what she had been an
Perhaps he was high enough to make it home. To find a dark place under the covers where he could fight toward an imitation of
sleep. But he knew he couldn’t leave yet. If he did, he would return and he never wanted to see the basement again.
The Dude would be back, sooner or later, a baggie of sea-foam white salvation in his pocket. And then he could finish what had
begun almost thirty hours ago. He had learned to accept the irony, embrace it as the gospel, after failing so many times before.
It was easier to drive to rehab, if he were good and high first.