The Abused is about eight addicts who go to rehab and one starts murdering the others. The complete novel will be available this summer in an eBook-exclusive release by 3L Publishing (www.3LPublishing.com).
After coming out of detox, Kevin was shaken. He had detoxed on his own many weeks before arriving at rehab. He wasn’t really gay. He just liked sex and gender didn’t to matter to him. He thought of himself as more sophisticated than the average guy. He had never had enough money to go to school, but he had been good with engines and machines and managed all right.
When he met his former wife he should have felt lucky to have this educated, beautiful woman want him, but he was arrogant. He thought she was lucky. He bragged to his buddies how this poor desperate chick wanted him. He had always been good with women, acting like their best friends and listening to boring drama-queen shit about friends and boyfriends. Merry though was always quiet and reserved. She never whined about stuff. He liked that about her. At the same time her coldness was hard to deal with, too. She could be nice and all, but she had this layer of iciness about her.
He wondered about her every now and then. Jude had quit talking to him after their drug bust. She had so expeditiously divorced him and never contact him again. He wasn’t surprised. She could be decisive and quick when she felt burned. Once her sister lied about their mom’s Christmas present, a food processor, costing $200 to get an extra $100 out of Merry, and when Merry caught on she never spoke to Carrie again. Of course Kevin knew they had a long contentious history. She had shared some of her tortured childhood with him, but judging by her ability to detach and cold people out, he figured the abuse went pretty deep.
He received her alimony checks each month right on time without question. It made him feel almost bad in a way. He knew it was court-ordered, but the way the checks so faithfully arrived made him think somewhere in that ice-cold heart of hers she still felt something … maybe. He honestly couldn’t say. Yet the checks arrived on time each month. With two grand in his account it allowed him freedom to work at his leisure. But truthfully it had given him too much freedom, which is how he wound up getting deeper into drugs.
The addiction had become at first a welcome friend to ease his mind from daily burdens. Drugs and booze made him feel good. It made him forget the ever-growing coldness in his marriage. It made him able to tune out Merry when she asked him to help around the house or at least put his shit away after using it. His drug-fueled binges left his memory foggy, but he did recall taking a Bic razor to her throat once and then laughing like a hyena at the ridiculousness of a cheap plastic razor being able to do any real damage. Merry though was shockingly distant and unaffected. She just stared coldly at him while he cackled on and on. He thought she would make a great dictator or something. Nothing ever seemed to bother “her-coldness”.
And then he had started up with Jude, a man. Most women got confused by the whole homosexual thing. It’s hard to compete with genitalia that is unlike your own. Merry though – she had no fight in her when she caught him with Jude. He saw the light in her eyes dim even more. Jude was callous but also insecure. He had worried that Kevin’s meal ticket would leave them high and dry, and that Kevin would go back after her. Jude had fantasies of a gay life with his lover at his side. And really Jude wasn’t such a bad guy. He was handsome and caring when he wanted to be. On Valentine’s day he bought Kevin those “tickets” where you pick one and have to do that to your guy. The first one was “suck his cock” and Kevin obliged even though it made him gag sometimes. He refused to swallow as that was so “gay” to which Jude cracked up.
“What you’re not gay?” he had chuckled.
“No, I’m pansexual,” Kevin had flatly replied.
Jude’s response was continued laughter. He thought pansexual sounded like an airplane ride straight to “Gay-ville” as he referred to places like The Castro or Guerneville in the redwoods. Kevin remembered a particularly perverse and fun weekend spent in the redwoods running naked along this stream bed that was empty (it was late summer), but absolutely beautiful with ferns and plant life lined along the edge of it. He remembered the banana slug and even the snake hidden in a tree trunk all coiled up.
His memories of Jude were also corrupted by drug-fueled homosexual orgies with Jude’s various buddies. By this time his marriage to Merry had transformed into a farce. They quit having sex even though mechanically speaking it was pretty good sex. But when Kevin tried to connect with Merry on an emotional level, she was vacant. He would stare into her dead eyes and hope for something more than physical relief to show her feelings and pleasures. All she did was moan and close her eyes to her husband. She could blame him all she wanted, but she had checked out of the relationship long before Jude came along.
Jude wanted them to do a commitment ceremony, but Kevin wasn’t interested in the gay lifestyle. He liked Jude, but his preference really was with women. He did want a family, too. And since had been raised by a Protestant minister, he felt a slight twinge of disgust at the idea of raising children with another man. Of course, he never mentioned this feeling to Jude, but he figured Jude might have sensed it. So when they started doing heavier and heavier drugs, Kevin felt sure Jude was truly checking further out of their relationship, too. The drugs enabled them both to avoid reality. And once Merry was gone, Kevin no longer had any barrier to going as deep into the drugs as he preferred.
Now here he was in rehab. Jude was gone. Merry was gone before Jude. His life was vacant, and he was facing forward as a sober man with a shameful past. But he often smirked, he still had his charm to get by on. He could charm any woman and even the most devout lesbian out of her panties. He was good looking and sweet when he wanted to be.
On this day, he was supposed to start individual therapy with Craig. He liked Craig. He seemed like a down-to-earth guy who understood more about drugs than most. His frankness in their group therapy made Kevin feel like there was someone out there who could maybe help him stop. He did want to stop. Drugs were ruining his life, and he hoped to shape up and find normalcy, whatever that was for him and no one else.
He found himself knocking on Craig’s office door and being asked to come in. He walked hesitantly in and sat down on the toupe-colored sofa. He noticed all these shrinks had sofas and blankets. What were the blankets for? So you could cuddle your “blankie” while you confessed your sins, he thought to himself. Craig motioned to him to have a seat, and Kevin plopped down. Craig walked from behind his desk and took a seat in the chair across from the sofa.
“Hey, you know they put me in detox, man.”
“They put most people in detox.”
“Yeah, well I was straight, dude, and that sucked. These drug heads were like screaming at the top of their lungs and shit. I was like the only sober dude in the joint.”
Craig glanced at his file. “Hmm… well our executive director ordered it.”
“Why? And who the fuck is this person?”
“You don’t get to meet her. In fact, she doesn’t work with patients and she prefers no close contact to keep her objectivity with you all.”
“And she gets to tell me where to go?”
“Someone who won’t even look at my face?”
“Who the fuck makes these stupid rules. What is the dude like Ghandi – too good for the rest of us addicts?”
“He is a she.”
“Look, let’s talk about you. How are you doing.”
“I hate this shit.”
“You will for a long time.”
“The rest of your life.”
“Are you fucking serious.”
“As a heartbeat.”
“You know they want you to cut the profanity, right? It’s part of self-respect.”
“How’s that? And who f— … shi— crap, whatever! Cares!”
“We do. We are going to retrain your way of being. We want you to value yourself. To love yourself enough that you would never think to pollute the body, the temple God gave you, with drugs. And when we’re through we hope you will return a reformed man to society. A man who understands what it means to be a man. And how a man should behave and treat others. We don’t promise for one minute you will ever stop craving the drug, but what we do promise is it will get easier over time. And we’ll give you the tools to help.”
Kevin shifted uncomfortably. “Yeah, okay.”
“All right let’s see … you ready to relearn your life skills?” said Kevin as he sat forward and clapped and rubbed his hands together.
“F— um, yeah.”
“Turn to step one of the 12 Steps. ‘Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addiction and that you life has become unmanageable.’”
“Ah, come on doc. Only the cops think that.”
“Oh, so your life was so great that you got busted, thrown in jail, and wound up here. Is that right?”
“No,” said Kevin sullenly.
“The first step doesn’t mean you’re less of a man, Kevin. It means you’re actually more of a man by admitting you’ve got a real problem. Do you?”
“Do I what?”
Craig stared at him.
“Yeah, yeah, fine.”
“You have to mean it for this program to work.”
“F— um, okay … yeah! Yeah, yeah!”
Craig got up and opened the door. Kevin looked at him in confusion.
“I want you to go. Go to the rose garden. Sit in the bastion of nature. And I want you to think about the first step. And when I see you tomorrow, we are going to discuss it.”
Kevin stared at him. He reluctantly got up.
“I fu— shi—, huh!” he sighed searching for better words. “I hate roses.”
“Grow to love them. And don’t forget to study the aphids. No go.”
Kevin looked once more at Craig. “Aphids? Are you for real?”
Craig just stared at him. Kevin had a fleeting thought of blowing him to get out of the rose garden. This thought almost made him chuckle aloud. He miserably obeyed his new “master,” which is how he would come to think about Craig, the counselor, the therapist, the guy who told him to sit in a fucking rose garden to search for answers.