By Jim Bates
My phone rang and I checked the screen. It was Mom. I answered, slightly peeved, “What?” I was in the middle of a wicked game of Fortnite with three other guys I’d met online, and I might have been a little short with her.
Her response told I had been, and she wasn’t going to let me off the hook. “I’ve told you this before, Trey,” she stated like a drill Sargent admonishing a wet behind the ears recruit, “and I’m going to say it again: Don’t you go using that tone of voice with me!”
Mom had a way about her, I’ll tell you that, and right now it worked like it had worked my entire life – it got my attention. Plus, I felt bad for acting like a jerk, so I took a deep breath to calm down and concentrate on what she was saying. “Sorry,” I said, as I blew up a stone house, blasting one of my partner’s players to kingdom come. “What’s going on?” I grabbed a slug of my Red Bull.
“Just checking up to see how you were doing,” She said. Then, before I could answer and say that I was doing ‘Just fine, thank you very much for asking,’ she sighed and added, “Your dad’s in a manic phase right now. He outside in the backyard building a deck.”
My face broke into a grin. “Sweet,” I said, picturing my old man actually doing physical labor. I loved the guy but ordinarily he was the epitome of the definition of a couch potato, a slightly overweight accountant who spent his free time sprawled out watching television in the basement looking for all the world like a beached whale. But when he was in manic phase, watch out. He became a whirling dervish of energy, scurrying from one project to the next, measuring, sawing, hammering and nailing like there was no tomorrow. We had more bluebird houses scattered around our yard than bluebirds. There was no doubt in my mind the deck would be done in a day. Easy. That’s if he could stay with it. When he was manic, he sometimes lost his focus.
“Good for him,” I said, watching my screen intently, looking for an opportunity to…Damn. I got blown up. Oh well.
I took another hit of Red Bull.
“No, not, ‘Good for him,’” Mom said, drawing my attention back to our conversation. Now it was her turn to be testy. It’s a trait that runs in our family, at least for me and her. Dad was a little more mellow. Usually.
“You know how it is,” she continued. “When he’s manic and charging around like he is now, it’s not good for his heart.”
She had a point. Dad had been hospitalized a couple of times over the past few years for heart related issues, so he had to watch out. Plus, you know, at fifty-eight he wasn’t getting any younger. I made a snap decision right then and there and asked, “Want me to come over? Be with him and work on the deck with him? See if I can get him to calm down?” Even though we had our differences, Dad and I had always been close. Since I’d moved away just over a year ago, I didn’t see him as much as I’d like to.
I could hear the relief in Mom’s voice, “Would you, Trey? That would be wonderful.”
“Sure. I’ll be right over.”
I said good-bye to Mom and my buddies and turned off my laptop. I put my phone in my pocket, went to the frig for a couple of Red Bulls and tossed them in my backpack. My bicycle was propped by the door and I was just about to leave when I remembered something. I turned back and went into my tiny bathroom. I opened the cabinet above the sink and took out my prescription bottle. When was the last time I’d taken a pill? I’d be so engrossed in playing Fortnite lately I couldn’t remember. A day or two I guessed. Maybe three.
I’d been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder like Dad when I nineteen. That’d been over three years ago. The lithium helped as long as I was diligent and took it like I was supposed to. I’d had my apartment for just over a year, now, proving to myself that I could make it on my own. I had a job at the local big box store, too, stocking, so I was doing good. As long as I took my meds. I made a mental note to do a better job of remembering.
I popped a pill and shouldered my bicycle and carried it down the two flights of stairs to street level. I was feeling on top of the world and had lots of energy. It was a nice day, perfect for building a deck. Instead of driving, I’d ride my bike over to my parents. It was only about twenty miles. Dad and I would knock out the deck by the end of the day, tomorrow at the latest.
I hoped on my bike and started pedaling. Twenty miles? Piece of cake. The way I was feeling, I’d be there in no time.
Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories have appeared online in CafeLit, The Writers’ Cafe Magazine, Cabinet of Heed, Paragraph Planet, Nailpolish Stories, Ariel Chart, Potato Soup Journal, Literary Yard, Spillwords and The Drabble, and in print publications: A Million Ways, Mused Literary Journal, Gleam Flash Fiction Anthology #2 and The Best of CafeLit 8. You can also check out his blog to see more: www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com.