Running On Empty In Vermont: Part One

I kept drinking the wine so the withdrawal from the Klonopin wouldn’t hit me.  I didn’t want to have a seizure out here in the boondocks. My wife, Debbie, has already gone into detox at a place called Scatterberry Farm.  St. Dismas House said they had a room for me, but it would not be available until Monday.  

It was Saturday morning and they might as well have said eternity.

I thought it would be a good idea to see if I could make it to a doctor.  I pulled out the phone book and flipped to the yellow pages. There aren’t a hell of a lot of doctors close by in the hills of Vermont.  I felt a chill and threw a couple of logs on the fire in the wood stove. I came back to the phone book and dropped my finger on a doctor that was in the town of Ludlow.  A woman doctor.

Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes not.  Usually a woman doctor can be conned the first time, but every now and then you can run into a real bitch.  I crossed my fingers and then dialed the number.

Two rings.  Click. It was her nurse or secretary and she said she had an open time at 1:30p.m.  I looked at the clock on the wall. Almost 11 o’clock. Fuck. Two-and-a-half hours. And not even a sure thing.  But I had to stop drinking the wine because she’d never come off with the script if I smelled like a boozer. I thought that I would try for both cough syrup and the pills.  That would hold me until Monday.

I smoked a joint of the homegrown and walked outside.  The rabbit cages were covered with snow again and I brushed them off and put fresh food inside the little bowl.  I brought their water bowl into the cabin, popped the ice out if it, filled it with warm water, and brought the bowl back out.  I looked into the hutch and realized that there was only one rabbit left. I decided to eat the last one. I pulled out the black and white bunny by the ears and put it down on the ground under my foot.  Held it tight while I pulled out the .38 and pumped one bullet into its head. It jerked for a moment and then lay still. I slit it, cleaned it and pulled its skin off like I’d peel a wet sock off a foot.

I brought it inside and made some sauce for it to soak in.  Usually I like to let it soak for a few days to improve the taste, but I was out of food and didn’t want to waste money on food when I might need cash for the scripts.  I’d cook it tonight if I was loaded. If I couldn’t get any drugs I wouldn’t be hungry anyway.

I looked at the clock.  Almost half past twelve.  I figured I’d pull out and go to the doc a little early.  Maybe her first appointment wouldn’t show. Maybe I could just catch her going in and she would take me first.  Maybe maybe maybe. Three miles of dirt road in the snow and seven of country highway. Good to get a start on things anyhow.

I grabbed my props: an old bottle of syrup from a previous script and a vial of pills with just the right run out date on them.  I always could come up with them because I had a satchel of them saved just for this purpose. A lot of doctors would come right off with the drugs if they saw that another doctor where I used to live gave them to me. 

Chronic medical conditions:  Bronchitis. Anxiety because of respiratory ailments.  I’d chain smoke non filters all day before the appointment and my lungs would sound really congested.

I used to love it when I came down with a real bad chest cold because then I would travel all over the countryside making doctor after doctor.  I could even get people to come and bankroll me on the scripts because they knew I was almost a sure thing. It always seemed funny to me how, when I was high, the doctors would come right off for me but if I was dope-sick, that’s when I had the most trouble.

Today I was dope-sick.  And I was nervous. I tore apart the dresser drawers just hoping to come up with a pill or something.  I went through the satchel with all the Tussionex and Hycodan bottles to see if maybe I had left the wash in one of them.  No luck. I guess I had gone through them and already done that. The thought crossed my mind that this seemed all too familiar.

I put the rabbit in the pan up on top of the fridge, got my hat and coat and boots on and grabbed the keys to the truck and crunched down the drive to the pickup truck.  It cranked slowly because of the cold but it kicked over and I rolled down the incline into the dirt road. I had snow tires on all four wheels and the back of the truck was loaded with sandbags so the going wasn’t too bad.  I smoked a joint and then ate a lifesaver to kill the smell. I don’t know why I smoked the joint because all it did was make me more paranoid.  

By the time I got to the doctor’s office I felt like my head was going to explode.

I really wanted to smoke a cigarette to calm down but I didn’t want to walk in there stinking of tobacco, so I just took some deep breaths and listened to the phlegm in my chest rattle.  

It sounded great; when she put the stethoscope to my chest she was going to hear all the right noises.

I walked into the office.  There was an old woman sitting there.  Doctors that treat old people sometimes are easier to make than others.  I nodded to the old lady when she looked up at me and then sat down and picked up a magazine.  I flipped through the pages but I couldn’t keep my mind on the articles, because I was thinking of what to say to the doctor to get the drugs.  My stomach was all nervous and I could feel it gnawing at itself. I had to urinate and I looked around for a bathroom. I didn’t see one and I hoped it wouldn’t be too long before I could go in.

The door opened and the doctor came out.  She looked to be in her late thirties and wore brown glasses.  Her hair was brown and hung loosely onto her shoulders with a little wisp over her glasses.  The thought crossed my mind that I was glad that her hair wasn’t tied up in a bun. An old man followed her out of the office and the old woman sitting near me smiled at him and stood up as he walked over to her.  My heart leaped in my chest. They were together and I was next. The old woman was just waiting for her husband to come out of the office. I saw the scripts in his hand and I wondered what the doctor had given him.

They all talked for a few minutes and then the doctor motioned me in.  Good. No nurse. I chatted with her as she took my weight, my blood pressure, and my respiration and pulse.  I looked as she charted my blood pressure and I was happy to see that it was elevated. That always helped me get the pills.

She got up and left the room for a minute and I looked around to see if there was anything worth taking.  Then she quickly returned. I told her how my chest was all congested and I had trouble sleeping at night with all the coughing.

“This happens to me every winter.  Maybe I should move south. I don’t know.  I just like the change of seasons.”

“Maybe you should quit smoking,” she said.

“Well, I’ve cut down a lot.  I only smoke a few cigarettes a day.”

“You should quit altogether.”

“I’m planning on it soon.  I haven’t smoked yet today.”

“I smell cigarettes on your clothes.”

“Oh, yeah.  My wife is a heavy smoker.  It would be easier for me to quit if she didn’t smoke so much.”

“I see.  Well-” she paused.

I held my breath.  My props were in front of her.  My heart felt like it would pound out of my chest and my stomach felt like it was full of ice-cold water.

She pulled the prescription pad out and I watched the pen move.  Yes. Yes. Yes. She wrote for the Tussionex. Only four ounces but I didn’t have to share it with my wife because she was in treatment so it would be enough.  She wrote for an inhaler. Screw the inhaler — I would trash that script. And she wrote for the Klonopin. The benzos are great opiate boosters and my heart was dancing and leaping around in my chest.  She pushed the papers to me and I folded them up and put them away quickly. I was afraid the doctor would change her mind at the last minute.

She made out the bill and I paid part of it and told her that I would mail the rest of it in.  She took down my address. I always paid part of the bill if I had the money because it was better in case I went back there again.  I could pay it off then and owe a whole bill next time. If a doctor kept writing I would keep paying. If they didn’t write I wouldn’t pay at all.

I left the office and drove over to the pharmacy.  I hated this part. Some pharmacists were real assholes and would do their judgment thing and say they didn’t have the drug in stock just because they didn’t want to give it.  I pulled into the parking lot, turned off the truck and got out. I took a deep breath and walked into the store. 

To Be Continued…

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.

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