Release Status: It’s Your Choice

I’ve never loved self-promotion, and I like it a heck of a lot less during a global pandemic. However, I also understand that people would like a distraction during this time, and books offer an escape that is welcome. Therefore, I still intend to release One in Ten on 4/21. Pre-ordering is still available now. I can change the release date, but I’m not sure if that’s best. Here’s why.

In order for the world to even recognize my book, I had a plan in place. Students in the area and beyond are currently reading or have read One in Ten. The intent was for them to write reviews on Amazon during release week, 4/21-4/24. Amazon sees those reviews and starts suggesting my book to others, and then digital word-of-mouth grows. Well, all of those students are home now. I don’t know how much interaction they will have with the English teachers and librarians who set up this process. Therefore, release week may come and go without much in the way of reviews. Which, obviously, is not ideal.

However, I have options. One, I can send the manuscript to anyone who wants it right now. Send me an email and it’s yours. Two, I can release early, make the ebook free for  a week and you will all have the same access, just via Amazon. So, here’s the contact link. Let me know which you would prefer, me to send you a PDF now, or for me to release early. Either way, you’ll get the novel for free. Then, if you review, many many more people will realize it exists. And during this time, I think you will absolutely enjoy the escape One in Ten provides. It does, ironically, demonstrate how a government deals with a healthcare crisis. Therefore, it may also be particularly relevant.

So, reach out. Let me know what you’d like. I’m here for you.

Be healthy. Stay well. Happy reading!

Life in the Time of Corona

I am not a scientist and so I will not provide any insight into our current medical crisis. However, I am an author and an educator. I create stories and I explore them with students. We are not living in a tale. This is not a story of a fictional monster. The threat is real, and as adults we need to accept that and move on, appropriately. Arguing over whether the steps taken are “too much” is not the point. Moving safely along the path is. Wait until the dust settles before saying, “I told you so.” Better, when this is all over, just let that statement go. In the meantime, we have work to do.

Today, on this forgotten Saint Patrick’s Day, I begin teaching remotely. I’m prepared, but I know some teachers are not. These are new and uncharted waters, so please have patience as my colleagues begin navigating. The same goes for all of the students out there. Some of you are good to go. Some aren’t even close. Reach out. Let someone know you need help if you do. Trust me, there is a desire among educators, desperate to help. You are not alone in this.

I would normally be touting some facet of One in Ten in order to get you to buy it on 4/21. However, I have no idea if that release date will change or stay the same. It’s currently not my top priority. Helping out is. Therefore, if you are a teacher, and you need something engaging for your students to read, let me know. I will gladly send you the PDF of One in Ten. Certainly you’ll want to read it first, but it’s a quick read, and I think you’ll find it more than suitable for your students (here’s Ch.1 and Ch. 2 if you need a sneak peek). It’s the least I can do. And if this stretches on and you’d like me to Zoom into a class, or record myself answering questions from your students, let me know. I am here and available.

Again, no science advice from me, just one suggestion. Be kind to each other in these ensuing weeks. Yes, it’s going to get worse, and yes, there will be a lot of blame going around. Avoid that and focus on what’s under your control. You cannot control what is going on around you, but you can control how you respond to it. How do you want to be remembered as we lived through Corona? Embrace the obstacle and come out as the hero.

One in Ten, Chapter 2

I hope you enjoyed the teaser video above. Now, if you’d like to read all of Chapter 2, please do so, below. However, if you need a refresher about where we left off with Kenny, click here for Chapter 1. Six weeks until One in Ten is available!

Chapter 2

The party ends with my relatives taking just enough leftovers so that we still have food for tomorrow. Dad walks Theo out. He squeezed my arm before he went, but fortunately didn’t offer any more advice. I don’t think I could have handled it. About all I can handle right now is the sensation of this bag in my pocket. I have to do something with it. This is not a choice. This is addiction in the real-world, not some stupid treatment center where there aren’t any drugs.

Mom’s in the kitchen, tidying up. The sound of the Tupperware lids snapping into place is comforting. I worked in the kitchen at my second treatment center. We packaged a lot of leftovers, and I scrubbed a lot of Tupperware, but I loved that place. It was the cleanest, with the best-looking staff. Strange details like that matter. I was willing to do anything for this one, smoking hot counselor, Hannah. I was fifteen and she was probably in her twenties, and holy hell, every time she smiled, I melted a little. It was like the tiniest bump of H, but it did the trick.

Only for so long, though. The memory of her faded not long after I got home and I needed real drugs, not smiles.

“Do you need any help?” I ask, while holding onto the wall leading into the kitchen. I want her to say no, but I’m trying not to live like the asshole I usually am. Or maybe I’m stalling, trying to stifle the baggie’s voice.

Mom looks around the room. “No, I’ve got it.” She looks at me. “Did you have fun?”

I wouldn’t call that gathering fun, but I say, “Absolutely. So much better than what I was doing this time last week.”

Instead of laughing at my joke her face loses its levity. She looks downright sad for a moment, before saying, “Right. But you’re here now.”

It sounds like she’s convincing herself of this fact.

“Yeah. Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Her head snaps. “No, I’m not upset. Not at all.” She forces a wide, fake smile, and as much as I know what’s going on with her, I don’t really know. I’ve been away and they’ve been here, struggling, for sure. Financially, emotionally, and in ways I can’t comprehend. That’s what therapy gets you to consider, but then baggies and potential scores and old connections help you forget.

The front door opens and Dad comes in, laughing. “Man, Theo is in a great mood.”

Mom raises her eyebrows at me, and we both turn to greet him.

“Seriously, he was just cracking jokes and telling me about this project he’s working on.”

“You believe him?” I ask.

Dad grabs a carrot from the wings’ container. He bites down. “What do you mean?”

How does he not understand? “Do you think he’s really working on something? Not just blowing smoke?”

My parents look at one another. It’s one of those unspoken communication moments. Then Dad nods. He looks back at me. “Kenny, Theo is actually doing well. He’s writing for Netflix.”

“What?” I’m genuinely confused. Theo’s always been evasive about his work, so how can Dad know this?

“I’ll show you. His name’s on the credits for a few of the shows. It’s legit.”

“So why’s he still driving that crappy car of his?”

Another moment of silence, another silent communication between them. Then Mom answers. “He’s still paying off his rehab bill.”

That hurts. But it also makes sense. Theo didn’t go away until he was older. He was an adult, which means he got to foot the bill. It’s not as if Dad’s parents would have helped anyway. They have that mantra of You made your bed, now you’re going to lie in it. Always seemed harsh to me.

“Well,” I say, and don’t have anything more.

Dad clasps my shoulder. “Hey, the best thing is he’s left you with that gift, his journal. You won’t question the legitimacy of what’s there, trust me.”

“Don, don’t push,” Mom says.

Dad squeezes my shoulder a bit tighter. “I’m not, just offering some advice.”

His words echo through me, as do the memories of our meetings with therapists, pre-release. They have all these rules, which makes it feel like they’re trying to bring the facility into the real world. But we all follow them, like New Year’s resolutions, and just as quickly, we fall back into what we know. Dad’s on script, and so is Mom, and so I know my line.

“It’s all right. I actually want to chill for a bit. Maybe I’ll read some of the journal.”

Behind me, Mom says, “That’s your choice, honey.”

Dad nods. I’m in one hell of a supportive sandwich, and yet it feels stifling.

“Thanks,” I say, and take a step toward my room. “And don’t let me forget to call Henry later. I now he’s got meetings lined up.” He’s my sponsor and is probably itching to hear what’s what.

“You got it,” they say, in unison, and then they laugh, which makes me smile, because if they can still do that together, all is not lost. So maybe, neither am I.

I grab Theo’s journal and settle onto my bed. Once there, my leg burns. It’s like having a toothache. You literally can’t think of anything else besides the pain. Until you figure something out, like pinching yourself, or stabbing your arm with a pencil, repeatedly. It was the stupidest thing for me not to tell anyone about the stash. This is my fault. Yeah, I wasn’t one-hundred percent certain that there were drugs there, but it would have been so much better if my parents had found this bag, searching on a maybe, than me, practically willing it into existence.

It’s like I’ve forgotten everything I’ve been through, all that I’ve learned at the treatment centers I’ve been in. Somehow, I’ve seemed to misplace all my logic, because do I really want to lose it all to the government? Don’t I want to be clean?

I grab a pillow and jam it over my face and scream. I bite the pillow and scream some more and the anger outweighs the tears I know are coming next, followed by my self-hatred, which gives me all the excuse I need to use again.

Air. I inhale deeply, fill my belly and count to five. I repeat the process until I’m no longer panicking. At the edge of my dresser sits my uncle’s journal. Beyond it is my closet. This feels like a path, and I’d better start on it straight, because I’ve already started to detour.

I move as fast as I can, so I don’t have to think. My hand’s in my pocket as I reach the closet, but I’ve forgotten the screwdriver, and now the baggie sits in my hand, winking at me. I kneel down and dig my fingertips in and yank. The Velcro budges, but not much. The baggie feels like it’s crawling up my arm, guided by GPS, marking the way to the crook, to my veins, which are healthy again, bulging blue. I put my shoulder into it this time and don’t care that my knuckles are scraping. I push down as hard as I can and the board gives way. The hole from which the baggie came is open. This is like some paranormal movie and I have to return the demon to the other world, and so I do. I play the hero. I toss the baggie in, snap the board back in place, and then hear the scream from the other side, the pain of death.

Except there is no voice and there is no death, and I could be the antihero at any moment. For now, I’m safe, and a certain calmness washes over me. I’ve won the battle. But I’ve fought so many that this one feels hollow.

I stand, grab my uncle’s journal and take it back to my bed. I breathe, and then before I can think another thought about drugs, I open the damn thing and read.

On the inside cover, Theo’s written: The rules are at the end. A list. To understand them, though, you must start at the beginning.

“Okay, Yoda,” I say, and turn to the back. Sure enough, Theo’s five rules are scrawled.

  1. Honesty, at all times, with yourself and others.
  1. A mind works best when it’s open, so drop your judgment and your preconceptions.
  1. You are your surroundings, so be sure that who and what are around you reflect what you want to see in yourself.
  1. Avoid temptations of all varieties, because if there is no spark, you cannot have fire.
  1. Believe in something greater than yourself. This doesn’t have to be God, but it does have to possess the same power as one.

None of these are new ideas. I’ve heard some variation of these ever since I began using, or really since my parents tried to stop me from using. How is this supposed to save me? I don’t even know how to do half of this, and I’ll bet not even sober people do.

I set the journal down and look out my window. Night has fallen and the moon is shrouded in clouds. “Fuck you, Theo,” I say. “Like you have a clue.”

There’s a knock at the door and then Mom’s walking in. “Are you okay?” Her eyes are all over me, looking, searching, praying.

“Yeah, I just started Theo’s journal. It’s got me thinking.”

“Oh.” It’s obvious that she’s not sure how to proceed. Should she leave me with these thoughts or not? She holds out her phone. “Well, this may be perfect timing, then. Henry called.”

It’s like she’s pointing a gun at me. I’d rather her pull the trigger than make me talk to him. Not right now. He’ll hear in my voice that I’m desperate, that my mind’s not like a parachute, and that the only belief I have is that this will not end well.

“Uh, great. That is like perfect timing,” I say and reach for the phone.

Mom holds onto it for a second and cannot contain her smile. “Let me know when you’re done.” She closes the door and I put the phone up to my ear.

“Henry, hey, it’s Kenny.”

“It sure as hell better be you. I don’t want to know if you have anyone else in the room with you.” He laughs at his own joke and I chuckle along because it’s polite. There’s no one else in my life, male or female. Once I started using, drugs were all that mattered. I know I’ve hooked up with people, but I can barely remember what happened. And in rehab you can’t touch anyone but yourself. And even then, you feel so guilty all the time, it barely rises.

“On a scale of one to ten, how much do you want to use right now?” Henry, he cuts to the damn chase.

I know I’m at like an eight, but if I say that, he’ll have my parents sleeping in my room. “I won’t lie, like a five.”

“Bullshit. I talked to your mother. You’ve been pacing the house, you had a party, your uncle left you some words of wisdom. You’re crawling out of your damn skin.”

It sucks to be this transparent. Or obvious. Or a stupid stereotype. “All right, like an eight.”

“Now that sounds about right. There’s an NA meeting in a half hour at the Presbyterian church in town. You’re going.”

“But I’m so damn tired. Let me sleep the itch away.”

“Yeah, because that works. Get your ass outta bed. Your dad probably has his keys in his hand already.” There’s a pause and in it I close my eyes and am thankful. “Got it?”

“I do. Thanks, Henry.”

“Any time, Kenny. Work the steps.”

I hang up. “Screw the steps,” I mutter. I’m not sure if I mean this, but I’ve yet to find someone who has managed to get clean from following those twelve mantras. Yet, who am I to talk?

I take Henry’s advice and get out of bed. Dad is in the hallway when I open my door. “You ready?” he says and holds up his keys as if to punctuate his question.

I pat myself down, out of habit, but I have no wallet or money or phone or drugs—at least not on me. “Yeah.”

We walk out to the car and Dad pulls out of the driveway. I was in the backseat for the ride home, and that was a trip, because it had been so long since I’d been in a car, outside, and free. Now, in the passenger seat, I lower the window a crack and feel the air on my face.

“You feeling all right?” Dad asks.

“Better than I have in a while. It’s the little things, like car rides and open windows. You forget about them.”

He’s quiet, probably wondering what else I’ve forgotten. The list could go on and on. We pull up to the church and a few people stand outside, smoking cigarettes, a sure sign we’re in the right spot. “All right, so I’ll see you in like an hour or so?” I ask.

Dad reaches into the back and pulls a plastic bag onto his lap. “Actually, you can call when you’re done. That is if you still remember our numbers.”

He hands me a Trac phone, which is this shitty Android, but it’s a smartphone, so I can’t complain much. I tap the contacts. There are none. This is perfect, because, yes, I remember my parents’ numbers, but none of my friends/dealers’, whoever they were to me.

I dial and a moment later Dad’s phone rings. He smiles.

“Put me in your contacts in case you want to text,” I say.

“I will, Kenny,” he says, but makes no move toward his phone. He looks me over and I know what he’s going to say before he says it. “I’m proud of you. You did the work, inside, so let’s continue it, outside.”

Because it’s that easy. The problem with addiction is that it’s not compartmentalized. You can’t fix one area, you have to fix them all, and I’m not sure anyone has figured out how to treat the entire person and their surroundings, and their past, and their habits, and every little trigger that becomes an excuse. But I say, “Couldn’t agree more. Thanks, Dad.” I tuck my new phone away and get out of the car, cross the street, and join the group outside the church.

There are no signs, so I ask a guy in his twenties who’s smoked his cigarette down to the filter, “This NA?”

“Better be.” He smiles. “If not, we’re about to learn about Jesus or some shit.”

I laugh and it feels good. The guy laughs back and nods toward the stairs. We descend for the meeting or for Jesus or for something else altogether.

Preorder now:

One in Ten ebook US

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One in Ten hardback

STEM gone wrong: the science of One in Ten

A common tension in Science Fiction is the question of potential outcomes: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. This is the ground on which One in Ten stands when it comes to the science and technology within it. Yes, the government has a program that “works” but should they really use it?

Consider these MIT robots. Should this be? If you’ve seen Black Mirror’s Metalhead” you know the answer.

Yes, while the “Cheetah” robots look adorable and might get rated a 13/10 on We Rate Dogs with “would give all the pets”, in my stories I tend to look beneath the positives and expose the negative. The same is true in One in Ten, and the science it’s based on begs for such exploration.

Consider the fact that the opioid epidemic (pills and heroin and synthetics) have cost the US $2.5 trillion dollars over the past four years. Yes, that’s trillion with a “t”. The incentive to cure–or at minimum produce a better treatment–is not only a social issue, but a financial one. And when there’s money, there’s bound to be corruption.

Therefore, it wasn’t a great leap to consider how technology could be used to provide that cure/treatment, and with my background, having technology running part of the body was an easy and logical fit. 

The country may now be at odds with the Boomers, but thanks to their longevity, we are witnessing a rise in medical devices, especially implants. From new hips, to pacemakers and defibrillators, to stents, and even as you see above, implants to help restore memorySo, why not use technology to cure/treat heroin addiction?

VR and magnetic stimulation are already being used to treat addiction, so what about something implantable, with capabilities embedded into the code that are more powerful than human desire?

Back to the original consideration.

If we could do something like that, should we? What does it mean to interrupt the process of breaking addiction through artificial means? Who is the individual now, if part of the brain (or maybe all) is being run by a machine? Are they still themselves, or a cyborg self? Are they still addicted? And what happens if the technology glitches or just stops working?

The essential question being asked is how much of our humanity should we surrender to technology? You’ll have to read the novel to find out.

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One in Ten Giveaway

Today is my wife’s birthday, and so it only make sense that I should be offering gifts. Therefore, you can win an Advanced Reader Copy of One in Ten, in your choice of hardback or paperback. All you need to do is share this post and tag me in it. That’s it. You have until the end of the week, Friday at 11:59 PM, EST, to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and I will use a random generator to select a winner.

Thanks for helping to spread the word. I’m off to celebrate!

Share Options:

Chances are you are reading this on Facebook, so simply share and tag Eric Devine: Author.

If you want to share on Twitter or Instagram, please tag @ericjohndevine

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Chapter 1 

Here’s the secret no one tells you: drugs are fun. I know a lot of addicts and I can’t think of one who started using because they wanted to feel bad. It’s the opposite. We all know what could go wrong, both long and short term. But that’s a gamble, that’s life. Therefore, it’s worth rolling the dice, because snake eyes are a potential, but so are those double six boxcars. The risk is worth the reward of escaping from this world. Every. Single. Time.

No one really tells you about rehab, either. Not early on, not when you’re partying and able to get through the next day clean. Then, you know of people who had to go, and everyone laughs about them, but secretly we don’t want to become them. So, sometimes we go on little clean stints, mini-sobriety days or weeks, if we can manage them. We still use, but only enough so we don’t lose our minds. So we don’t have a seizure and then have no choice about rehab.

Here’s another secret, maybe the last one, maybe the biggest of all. Being clean is hell.  This is my third time. Who knew by seventeen I’d go through three centers? Certainly not my parents. I’m sure they imagined their boy growing up to be a doctor or lawyer or any of those other cliché things. No one wants a junkie. But that’s what I am, who I grew up to be. That’s why being clean is hell. It’s not who I am, but who I will forever be.

Yet, this clean has to be permanent. The third time has to be the charm. If not, the government owns me.

However, with my relatives pulling into the driveway and parking on the side lawn, all here to celebrate the fact that I’m done, really done, I’m not sure what to feel. I should be thrilled for the support. Excited for the change. But if I’m being honest, I’m scared out of my mind. What am I going to do now? As in right now. As in a day from now. As in, after. I know drugs. I know being high. My way of getting through all my rehabs, including this last one, was the idea that there’s an escape hatch to this real world: I could always use again.

The knock on my door startles me away from the window. Mom walks in, sees me jump. “Did I scare you?” she asks, but isn’t interested in a response. This victory is her victory, too.

“I just wasn’t expecting everyone. Is that Uncle Theo’s car?”

She moves to the window, but places a hand on my elbow, as if to keep me tethered. As if I’m a balloon.

“It is. Don’t know how he keeps it running.” She turns back and looks me over. Her smile slips. “You feeling all right? You’re pale.” Mom touches my forehead with the back of her hand. It’s sad how she thinks she can somehow still take care of me, can understand what’s actually wrong.

“There’s just a lot of people, all that attention,” I say.

“They love you. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” She holds me at arm’s length. “You’re a success story. Remember, your cousin, Gene, he still can’t get clean. And that Bobby you were friends with, he just entered the government program. They haven’t heard from him.”

I hate how she lets this hang, instead of saying what she thinks: I’ll be like Bobby if I start using again. I’d just begun the last facility when they passed the law. Private insurance is no longer allowed to pay for rehab. The government is sick of the “waste.” It’s not clear if they mean us or the money spent. Regardless, we thought this was great news. Not having to break our parents’ banks any more was such a relief. You’d be surprised at the amount of guilt we hold. Then one of the counselors explained how the program works. When he finished telling us, it was as if he’d described how each of us would die, and somehow, we had to find the will to get clean. We watched as they transitioned the center over while we were getting sober. The writing was on the wall: This is your last chance.

“Hey, there you are,” Dad says from the door. I don’t know if he means Mom or me, but the way his eyes don’t meet mine helps me with the answer. “The pizza guy’s here. Which card am I supposed to use?” He lowers his voice when he asks, and I feel the weight of Mom’s answer hang from me.

“The red one. There’s nothing in the account until I get paid Friday.”

Dad nods, looks like he’s about to say something, but then someone’s calling for him from the other room, probably one of his cousins letting him know about the pizza guy at the door. The pizza guy that Dad will pay with a credit card, because each one of my rehabs cost more than any vacation they could have ever dreamed of. And if they did, those dreams went up in smoke.

Mom pats my hand. “We’re fine. You’re fine. Everything’s going to be all right. Take a minute if you need, but then come on out. They’re here for you.”

This sounds more like a threat than support, but I nod and say, “Okay,” and then she’s gone. I look out my window again. It’s a gorgeous spring day, almost summer. I haven’t felt a day like this in years. I’ve been too absorbed in my drug-bubble world. The breeze blows through the window, bringing with it the scent of flowers and grass. It’s too real. I shut my window, take a breath, and walk out of my room to face my family.

“There he is!” someone yells. I look around the room and try to identify who spoke, but it’s useless, they’re all moving toward me now, no regard for personal space. Aunts grab my cheeks, uncles clap my shoulders, cousins say I don’t look so bad for a junkie. This is the third time we’ve done this, and their enthusiasm surprises me. Yet, it’s not as if they don’t know what I know. This time their support has to stick.

I am a junkie. I’m in love with heroin. I do look better than most, but it’s taken me months to get looking this good again, to sleep again, to regain an appetite. This façade is going to be impossible to keep up.

They manage to sit me in a chair directly in front of a table of presents. I can’t remember the last time I had a party with gifts. Was it seventh grade? I wasn’t using then. Drinking, yeah. After. After is a long stretch of blackouts and missing time.

“Open! Open!” They yell at me like I’m eight years old, again, and I oblige. It’s weird, I want to open these gifts, even though I can sense from the size and shape, most will be clothing and gift cards.

And they are. But as I open each one, I take my time. I say thank you. I tally up, in my head, what each pair of ugly shorts and each collared shirt might net me when I return them. I try and fail to restrain myself from equating that money into drugs. There’s a long pause and I look over the table to see if I missed a bag.

My uncle Theo approaches, all beard and beady eyes. He stares for a moment too long and I look away. Before I went to rehab, I said some awful things to him. Called him washed up. Told him he’d wasted his life, that he could have been someone. That he no longer has talent.

He used to write freelance scripts. He’s not connected to Hollywood, but some of his work has been produced, so he tells us. Theo also used. Coke was his thing, but it ruined him as well. I know now that when I was yelling at him, I was yelling at myself, or some version of who I was. Doesn’t matter that I was coming down, and miserable, I still said those things, more than once. Yet, here is my uncle, awkwardly standing before me with a thick gift, his eyes boring into me.

“What’s this?” I ask, taking the package from him.

“You’ll see,” he whispers. Around his head, phones come out. They’re recording this. Shit.

I pull out a journal. Not some new, moleskine one, but an old, slightly warped composition notebook.

I look at Theo. “What?”

He laughs and his beard parts to reveal his teeth. He’s furiously happy, and in a second his arms are around me. Theo squeezes for a moment and then we separate. “It’s my journal. The one from when I finally got clean.”

I open the pages in front of me and Theo tenses. He’s talked about this journal so many times I’ve wondered if it was real. How does a junkie keep track of anything? I guess we do whatever’s necessary for the things that matter most, like our drugs.

“Remember,” he says, “It’s like the Basketball Diaries.”

I remember. I even watched the movie version of the memoir a couple of years ago. That guy got it right, but it didn’t inspire me to quit, just made me realize I’d have great material for a book someday.

“I haven’t read it in a while,” Theo says, “so I apologize if it’s a mess in spots, but trust me, it will help you.”

There’s no way he can know this. I’ve been told the same line by countless therapists and psychiatrists. Nothing has worked. But it would be good if this did. The government’s plans for me are much worse.

“Thanks,” I say. “I appreciate this.”

“We can talk as you go. Just keep me in the loop. Okay?”

His face is inches from my own; it’s all I can see. And I know before I speak that I never want this to be my reflection. “Absolutely.”

A tear cascades into Theo’s beard. “Kenny, it will work this time.”

There’s applause and tears and my family thanks Theo and then someone says, “Let’s eat!” and the room moves toward the table and the pizza and the side dishes that were brought.

I sit, unable to comprehend. Or capable, just unwilling. Mom and Dad come over.

“You okay?” Mom asks.

“Yeah, just, wow. He’s talked about it, but here it is.” I hold up the beaten down journal.

“I’ve read some of it,” Dad says. “I agree with him. It could help you, and so many others. Why he hasn’t tried to get it published is beyond me.”

It isn’t beyond me. I’ve had to keep journals every place I’ve been. If anyone ever read them, or worse, published them? Nope. Just, nope.

“Come on, let’s eat,” Mom says. She slaps my thigh to get me to stand. One day home and the typical routines are falling into place.

I stand and it’s too much. Something about the smell of the pizza or the body heat of the room makes me want air. “I’ll be right back,” I say, holding up the journal as reason for leaving, and go to my room. I close the door behind me and the space is as stifling as the rest of the house.

I don’t want air.

If I really wanted air I would have walked outside, onto the front stoop or the back patio. I wait to see if they follow me. There are no footsteps, just laughter and merriment beyond the door. And why wouldn’t there be? Kenny’s home, and he looks so good, and Theo’s words will save him. My parents should have paid more attention to the instructions they were given. I shouldn’t be alone like this. But there’s pizza and family and happiness, something they haven’t had in quite some time. It’s euphoric, something I understand perfectly.

I rifle through my desk drawer. I noticed yesterday that they’d cleaned it, but they didn’t remove everything. This is not exactly a clean slate. You think they would have learned. Or, maybe I was just good at covering my tracks. Either way, the flat-head screwdriver is still in the bottom drawer. What do they think I use it for?

I take it and go to my closet. The baseboard appears the same, but there’s only one way to find out. My heart begins to trot inside my chest. I can hear them talking about me just beyond the door, and I’m careful to keep an ear trained for anyone calling. I bend over and my face feels like a mask as blood pounds in my ears. My chest is tight and my eyes bulge. I can make out the Velcro from here. I get on one knee and my heart is thrumming.

The screwdriver slides in neatly and I pry. The section pops loose and reveals one of my stash spots. Apparently, one they never found, because either I’m hallucinating, or there’s a baggie still inside.

I rub a hand over my face. It slides over the tacky sweat that has blossomed. The fear I felt is gone, and only in this moment I realize how alive I feel. Not uncertain, not insecure, not bumbling around hospital hallways and cafeterias and therapy rooms. This is me, kneeling before a year-old bag of heroin, happier than Theo was to hand me a future. I’m pleased with my past self. I know him so much better.

My hand goes into the hole. Really, it’s as if my hand is acting on its own volition. I’m merely watching it, and smiling at it, and cheering for it. Like this is some twisted claw game at an arcade.

It returns, and does not let me down. The bag sits in my palm, the exterior smooth and white, some sort of devil image stamped on the front staring up at me. It had a name, but I can’t recall it. My brain is swimming, pleading, moaning. Thought is almost impossible.

“Where’s Kenny?” The voice is clear and well outside my room, but I know where it will lead, and I cannot have that.

I reconnect the Velcro and then slide the baggie into my pocket. It burns, a reminder of possibility, of that escape. But not now. I can’t risk it now. I’ve been clean long enough to recognize that. My heart is still running double-time and I sit on the edge of my bed and hold my breath, try to slow it all down.

The door opens and Mom comes through. “You okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, just a little overwhelmed. I needed a second.”

She sits next to me and I tilt toward her. “I understand, but don’t run off like that. I got a little nervous.”

I don’t look her in the eye. Can’t. “That makes sense. Theo’s gift—I don’t know, the implication of this not working—I’m scared.” The honesty shocks me. The fact that I have heroin in my pocket does not negate the fact that I want to be clean. I do.

She rubs my back. “Be in the here and now. It’s all that you need to focus on. Right now, your family is here. Right now, you are clean. Right now, I am sitting next to you, on your bed, in your room. How long’s it been since we’ve been able to do this?” Her voice drops with the last question.

I don’t want her to cry, and I know she’s about to. She should be happy. I can hold my shit together for a little while longer. Maybe I can even just taste the heroin and then flush it. One parting gift. This thought gives me strength. I take Mom’s hand. “Come on. The here and now says I’m starving.”

She laughs harder than she should and we stand. When we walk into the living room, I see the anxiety on faces slip away. I capitalize on that. “Is there any pepperoni left?”

This brings forth a series of scampering, and in a second I have a plate with two enormous pieces of pepperoni pizza on it. I chomp into the first and the room relaxes. I smile around the dough and look over the room. Dad and Theo are standing together. They have the same look on their faces. They know. Neither is eating. Both stare. Sweat breaks out along my back.

“Huh, it does look like a duck,” Theo says.

“Told you,” Dad replies.

I turn and see the cheap painting that they are looking at. One they must have purchased while I was away. Something, I bet, to cover the holes in the wall behind that frame.

One in Ten, Ch. 1

 

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This post doesn’t need much of an introduction. Here’s Chapter 1 of One in Ten. Enjoy and share widely. 4/21 is coming soon.

Here’s the secret no one tells you: drugs are fun. I know a lot of addicts and I can’t think of one who started using because they wanted to feel bad. It’s the opposite. We all know what could go wrong, both long and short term. But that’s a gamble, that’s life. Therefore, it’s worth rolling the dice, because snake eyes are a potential, but so are those double six boxcars. The risk is worth the reward of escaping from this world. Every. Single. Time.

No one really tells you about rehab, either. Not early on, not when you’re partying and able to get through the next day clean. Then, you know of people who had to go, and everyone laughs about them, but secretly we don’t want to become them. So, sometimes we go on little clean stints, mini-sobriety days or weeks, if we can manage them. We still use, but only enough so we don’t lose our minds. So we don’t have a seizure and then have no choice about rehab.

Here’s another secret, maybe the last one, maybe the biggest of all. Being clean is hell.  This is my third time. Who knew by seventeen I’d go through three centers? Certainly not my parents. I’m sure they imagined their boy growing up to be a doctor or lawyer or any of those other cliché things. No one wants a junkie. But that’s what I am, who I grew up to be. That’s why being clean is hell. It’s not who I am, but who I will forever be.

Yet, this clean has to be permanent. The third time has to be the charm. If not, the government owns me.

However, with my relatives pulling into the driveway and parking on the side lawn, all here to celebrate the fact that I’m done, really done, I’m not sure what to feel. I should be thrilled for the support. Excited for the change. But if I’m being honest, I’m scared out of my mind. What am I going to do now? As in right now. As in a day from now. As in, after. I know drugs. I know being high. My way of getting through all my rehabs, including this last one, was the idea that there’s an escape hatch to this real world: I could always use again.

The knock on my door startles me away from the window. Mom walks in, sees me jump. “Did I scare you?” she asks, but isn’t interested in a response. This victory is her victory, too.

“I just wasn’t expecting everyone. Is that Uncle Theo’s car?”

She moves to the window, but places a hand on my elbow, as if to keep me tethered. As if I’m a balloon.

“It is. Don’t know how he keeps it running.” She turns back and looks me over. Her smile slips. “You feeling all right? You’re pale.” Mom touches my forehead with the back of her hand. It’s sad how she thinks she can somehow still take care of me, can understand what’s actually wrong.

“There’s just a lot of people, all that attention,” I say.

“They love you. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” She holds me at arm’s length. “You’re a success story. Remember, your cousin, Gene, he still can’t get clean. And that Bobby you were friends with, he just entered the government program. They haven’t heard from him.”

I hate how she lets this hang, instead of saying what she thinks: I’ll be like Bobby if I start using again. I’d just begun the last facility when they passed the law. Private insurance is no longer allowed to pay for rehab. The government is sick of the “waste.” It’s not clear if they mean us or the money spent. Regardless, we thought this was great news. Not having to break our parents’ banks any more was such a relief. You’d be surprised at the amount of guilt we hold. Then one of the counselors explained how the program works. When he finished telling us, it was as if he’d described how each of us would die, and somehow, we had to find the will to get clean. We watched as they transitioned the center over while we were getting sober. The writing was on the wall: This is your last chance.

“Hey, there you are,” Dad says from the door. I don’t know if he means Mom or me, but the way his eyes don’t meet mine helps me with the answer. “The pizza guy’s here. Which card am I supposed to use?” He lowers his voice when he asks, and I feel the weight of Mom’s answer hang from me.

“The red one. There’s nothing in the account until I get paid Friday.”

Dad nods, looks like he’s about to say something, but then someone’s calling for him from the other room, probably one of his cousins letting him know about the pizza guy at the door. The pizza guy that Dad will pay with a credit card, because each one of my rehabs cost more than any vacation they could have ever dreamed of. And if they did, those dreams went up in smoke.

Mom pats my hand. “We’re fine. You’re fine. Everything’s going to be all right. Take a minute if you need, but then come on out. They’re here for you.”

This sounds more like a threat than support, but I nod and say, “Okay,” and then she’s gone. I look out my window again. It’s a gorgeous spring day, almost summer. I haven’t felt a day like this in years. I’ve been too absorbed in my drug-bubble world. The breeze blows through the window, bringing with it the scent of flowers and grass. It’s too real. I shut my window, take a breath, and walk out of my room to face my family.

“There he is!” someone yells. I look around the room and try to identify who spoke, but it’s useless, they’re all moving toward me now, no regard for personal space. Aunts grab my cheeks, uncles clap my shoulders, cousins say I don’t look so bad for a junkie. This is the third time we’ve done this, and their enthusiasm surprises me. Yet, it’s not as if they don’t know what I know. This time their support has to stick.

I am a junkie. I’m in love with heroin. I do look better than most, but it’s taken me months to get looking this good again, to sleep again, to regain an appetite. This façade is going to be impossible to keep up.

They manage to sit me in a chair directly in front of a table of presents. I can’t remember the last time I had a party with gifts. Was it seventh grade? I wasn’t using then. Drinking, yeah. After. After is a long stretch of blackouts and missing time.

“Open! Open!” They yell at me like I’m eight years old, again, and I oblige. It’s weird, I want to open these gifts, even though I can sense from the size and shape, most will be clothing and gift cards.

And they are. But as I open each one, I take my time. I say thank you. I tally up, in my head, what each pair of ugly shorts and each collared shirt might net me when I return them. I try and fail to restrain myself from equating that money into drugs. There’s a long pause and I look over the table to see if I missed a bag.

My uncle Theo approaches, all beard and beady eyes. He stares for a moment too long and I look away. Before I went to rehab, I said some awful things to him. Called him washed up. Told him he’d wasted his life, that he could have been someone. That he no longer has talent.

He used to write freelance scripts. He’s not connected to Hollywood, but some of his work has been produced, so he tells us. Theo also used. Coke was his thing, but it ruined him as well. I know now that when I was yelling at him, I was yelling at myself, or some version of who I was. Doesn’t matter that I was coming down, and miserable, I still said those things, more than once. Yet, here is my uncle, awkwardly standing before me with a thick gift, his eyes boring into me.

“What’s this?” I ask, taking the package from him.

“You’ll see,” he whispers. Around his head, phones come out. They’re recording this. Shit.

I pull out a journal. Not some new, moleskine one, but an old, slightly warped composition notebook.

I look at Theo. “What?”

He laughs and his beard parts to reveal his teeth. He’s furiously happy, and in a second his arms are around me. Theo squeezes for a moment and then we separate. “It’s my journal. The one from when I finally got clean.”

I open the pages in front of me and Theo tenses. He’s talked about this journal so many times I’ve wondered if it was real. How does a junkie keep track of anything? I guess we do whatever’s necessary for the things that matter most, like our drugs.

“Remember,” he says, “It’s like the Basketball Diaries.”

I remember. I even watched the movie version of the memoir a couple of years ago. That guy got it right, but it didn’t inspire me to quit, just made me realize I’d have great material for a book someday.

“I haven’t read it in a while,” Theo says, “so I apologize if it’s a mess in spots, but trust me, it will help you.”

There’s no way he can know this. I’ve been told the same line by countless therapists and psychiatrists. Nothing has worked. But it would be good if this did. The government’s plans for me are much worse.

“Thanks,” I say. “I appreciate this.”

“We can talk as you go. Just keep me in the loop. Okay?”

His face is inches from my own; it’s all I can see. And I know before I speak that I never want this to be my reflection. “Absolutely.”

A tear cascades into Theo’s beard. “Kenny, it will work this time.”

There’s applause and tears and my family thanks Theo and then someone says, “Let’s eat!” and the room moves toward the table and the pizza and the side dishes that were brought.

I sit, unable to comprehend. Or capable, just unwilling. Mom and Dad come over.

“You okay?” Mom asks.

“Yeah, just, wow. He’s talked about it, but here it is.” I hold up the beaten down journal.

“I’ve read some of it,” Dad says. “I agree with him. It could help you, and so many others. Why he hasn’t tried to get it published is beyond me.”

It isn’t beyond me. I’ve had to keep journals every place I’ve been. If anyone ever read them, or worse, published them? Nope. Just, nope.

“Come on, let’s eat,” Mom says. She slaps my thigh to get me to stand. One day home and the typical routines are falling into place.

I stand and it’s too much. Something about the smell of the pizza or the body heat of the room makes me want air. “I’ll be right back,” I say, holding up the journal as reason for leaving, and go to my room. I close the door behind me and the space is as stifling as the rest of the house.

I don’t want air.

If I really wanted air I would have walked outside, onto the front stoop or the back patio. I wait to see if they follow me. There are no footsteps, just laughter and merriment beyond the door. And why wouldn’t there be? Kenny’s home, and he looks so good, and Theo’s words will save him. My parents should have paid more attention to the instructions they were given. I shouldn’t be alone like this. But there’s pizza and family and happiness, something they haven’t had in quite some time. It’s euphoric, something I understand perfectly.

I rifle through my desk drawer. I noticed yesterday that they’d cleaned it, but they didn’t remove everything. This is not exactly a clean slate. You think they would have learned. Or, maybe I was just good at covering my tracks. Either way, the flat-head screwdriver is still in the bottom drawer. What do they think I use it for?

I take it and go to my closet. The baseboard appears the same, but there’s only one way to find out. My heart begins to trot inside my chest. I can hear them talking about me just beyond the door, and I’m careful to keep an ear trained for anyone calling. I bend over and my face feels like a mask as blood pounds in my ears. My chest is tight and my eyes bulge. I can make out the Velcro from here. I get on one knee and my heart is thrumming.

The screwdriver slides in neatly and I pry. The section pops loose and reveals one of my stash spots. Apparently, one they never found, because either I’m hallucinating, or there’s a baggie still inside.

I rub a hand over my face. It slides over the tacky sweat that has blossomed. The fear I felt is gone, and only in this moment I realize how alive I feel. Not uncertain, not insecure, not bumbling around hospital hallways and cafeterias and therapy rooms. This is me, kneeling before a year-old bag of heroin, happier than Theo was to hand me a future. I’m pleased with my past self. I know him so much better.

My hand goes into the hole. Really, it’s as if my hand is acting on its own volition. I’m merely watching it, and smiling at it, and cheering for it. Like this is some twisted claw game at an arcade.

It returns, and does not let me down. The bag sits in my palm, the exterior smooth and white, some sort of devil image stamped on the front staring up at me. It had a name, but I can’t recall it. My brain is swimming, pleading, moaning. Thought is almost impossible.

“Where’s Kenny?” The voice is clear and well outside my room, but I know where it will lead, and I cannot have that.

I reconnect the Velcro and then slide the baggie into my pocket. It burns, a reminder of possibility, of that escape. But not now. I can’t risk it now. I’ve been clean long enough to recognize that. My heart is still running double-time and I sit on the edge of my bed and hold my breath, try to slow it all down.

The door opens and Mom comes through. “You okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, just a little overwhelmed. I needed a second.”

She sits next to me and I tilt toward her. “I understand, but don’t run off like that. I got a little nervous.”

I don’t look her in the eye. Can’t. “That makes sense. Theo’s gift—I don’t know, the implication of this not working—I’m scared.” The honesty shocks me. The fact that I have heroin in my pocket does not negate the fact that I want to be clean. I do.

She rubs my back. “Be in the here and now. It’s all that you need to focus on. Right now, your family is here. Right now, you are clean. Right now, I am sitting next to you, on your bed, in your room. How long’s it been since we’ve been able to do this?” Her voice drops with the last question.

I don’t want her to cry, and I know she’s about to. She should be happy. I can hold my shit together for a little while longer. Maybe I can even just taste the heroin and then flush it. One parting gift. This thought gives me strength. I take Mom’s hand. “Come on. The here and now says I’m starving.”

She laughs harder than she should and we stand. When we walk into the living room, I see the anxiety on faces slip away. I capitalize on that. “Is there any pepperoni left?”

This brings forth a series of scampering, and in a second I have a plate with two enormous pieces of pepperoni pizza on it. I chomp into the first and the room relaxes. I smile around the dough and look over the room. Dad and Theo are standing together. They have the same look on their faces. They know. Neither is eating. Both stare. Sweat breaks out along my back.

“Huh, it does look like a duck,” Theo says.

“Told you,” Dad replies.

I turn and see the cheap painting that they are looking at. One they must have purchased while I was away. Something, I bet, to cover the holes in the wall behind that frame.

Preorder now:

One in Ten ebook US

One in Ten ebook UK

One in Ten hardback

One in Ten Preorder

One in Ten is now available for pre-order in ebook, paperback, and hardback. Yay?            

So, I’m new to this self-publishing front. I thought I could allow readers to pre-order both ebook and paperback versions of One in Ten on Amazon. Apparently Amazon is fine with ebook pre-orders, but not paperbacks–at least not for the self-pubbers. On 2/5 I accidentally “published” the paperback, until I realized my mistake and had to “unpublish” it.

So, yes, it does it exist, but you can’t pre-order it, which is a bummer because pre-orders matter. However, you can pre-order the ebook or hardback now. Just click on the proper link below:

One in Ten ebook US

One in Ten ebook UK

One in Ten hardback

Why pre-orders matter

In essence, pre-orders matter because they generate attention. If you pre-order, it says to Amazon or B&N, “People are interested in this book.” Amazon and B&N (especially Amazon) may then decide to show a little love and include One in Tein advertising, which should help sales. So, if you’re going to buy anyway, why not just pre-order? The ebook will automatically be available on 4/21, and the hardback will ship on that date as well. 

I am truly sorry that the paperback is not available for pre-order, but it will be available for purchase on 4/21! And here are the price points: $2.99 for the ebook, $9.99 for that pesky paperback, and $15.99 for the hardback (be prepared for a $5 shipping fee, though). I will run sales on all of these, so if you have friends and family who end up wanting a copy, check back here, because I will announce every sale going down.

Thank you for your interest

The fact that you’re reading this post says to me that you have an interest in my work, so thank you. Regardless of your purchasing decisions, I’m glad you’re here. Go check out the links for One in Tenand enjoy the cover. I will do a cover “reveal” with a giveaway next month, and I also intend to provide the first chapter and other insider information. So, stick around. While the pre-orders may not be ideal, the novel is 😉