Tim cleared his throat and broke the bottle’s seal. He tapped his work number into his cell phone slowly, planning his side of the conversation to come. He sniffed the bottle’s open neck. His eyes began to water.
He hit send and put the bottle to his lips. The timing is crucial, he thought, looking around his bedroom nervously. The line rang in concert with the clear liquid’s first penetration of his throat. He retched, trying his best to stifle the noise. The line rang twice more before it was answered.
“911 dispatch, non-emergency line,” the voice in his ear droned.
He pulled the bottle from his lips. “Janice, this is Tim. Is the boss in yet?”
“Tim, you sound horrible! Are you okay?” Janice asked.
Tim rolled his eyes and forced a quick drink before answering.
“Laryngitis. Is Mr. Salinsky in?” Salinsky came out a little too normally, Tim noted. This ball game better be worth it.
“Hold on, hon’. I hope you get better soon,” Janice chirped.
He responded with a half groan.
Silence held for a few minutes. Tim eyed the bottle with disgust.
“Salinsky,” a voice chock-full of authority stated. Tim took a swig and grimaced.
“Mr…” Another swallow. “…Salinsky?”
“Yes.” Mr. Salinsky’s already sounded impatient to Tim. And suspicious.
Tim tried to hold a small sip on the back of his tongue, thinking this would change the quality of his voice for a longer period of time.
“Gristh-” Tim’s throat contracted. He coughed loudly. The liquor found its way into his nasal passage. He moaned and tried to think through the pain.
“This is Tim.” He coughed again.
“Hell, boy. You sound terrible.”
“I’m sick, boss.” He gingerly swallowed more of the rotgut. “Laryngitis, I think.”
“Then you’re no good to us on the phones today. I’ll get someone to come in to cover you.”
Does he mean to sound condescending? Tim thought.
Relieved, Tim endured one more gulp. “Thanks, boss.”
“Just get better. Drink lots of fluids or something,” Mr. Salinsky said.
“Uh huh.” Tim turned toward his closet to collect his old glove and Milwaukee jersey. The room turned faster than he expected it to. His finger started to press the disconnect button.
An emergency swallow. “Yeah, boss?”
“Did you turn in your call log on Friday?”
“Always do, boss.” Am I talking loud? Tim wondered.
“It’s not in my pile,” Mr. Salinsky continued.
“It should be — ” Tim remembered his bottle trick. ” — be there.”
“I’m gonna look around at your station, if you don’t mind,” said Mr. Salinsky.
The bottle bounced against Tim’s front teeth. He didn’t notice.
“No problemsky, Salinsky.”
“What was that?” Mr. Salinsky snapped.
“What was what?” Tim spoke automatically.
Mr. Salinsky sighed. “The call log. It’d be in your top drawer?”
Feeling witty, Tim laughed and took another drink. “Maybe it’s on your office floor.”
“Now why would they be there?” Mr. Salinsky demanded.
Tim’s phone beeped. He held it at elbow’s length and squinted. Jason’s calling. He must be downstairs. He put the phone to his ear and the bottle to his lips.
“Maybe Janice knocked it there?” he asked, amused.
“Why the hell would Janice knock your call log onto my floor, Timothy?” Mr. Salinsky’s hackles were up.
“Maybe she had to climb up on top of your desk,” Tim said helpfully.
“Tim, get better. I want to see you in my office first thing tomorrow morning,” Mr. Salinsky ordered.
The line went dead.
Tim frowned and lifted the bottle close to his eyes. A lonely half-ounce swished back and forth in the bottom, charming him. He swayed.
The bottle fell to the floor.
Tim’s vision blackened. He landed halfway onto his bed, face down. His cell phone bounced out of his hand and landed on his pillow.
It rang for quite a while before Jason gave up and drove to Miller Stadium.
Christopher Floyd has much to be proud of, though little involving publication. He is a husband and father, an avid reader, a traveler, and occasionally a part-time deli worker. A constant student, his interests include history, physics, single malt scotch, Arabic, and poker. Chris was in the first grade when his teacher predicted he would be a writer. Many subsequent writing teachers have found him to be bull-headed, non-formulaic, and annoying. He notices from time to time that writing a submission bio is not all that dissimilar to writing an obituary.