Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must live.
Charles Bukowski

Max Fisher opened his eyes, looked at the blurry mess around him, thought, Where the fuck am I? He managed to turn his head, stare at a wall. It was a white wall. The walls in his apartment were white—okay, he was probably home. What day was it? He thought it was Monday because yesterday was Sunday, right? Didn’t he see a football game on TV, at the bar he was drinking at? Or was that two days ago? Wait, it wasn’t football, it was baseball. It was July for Christ’s sake. The Fourth was just, what, last week? He remembered loud noises, explosions, fireworks. Yeah, it definitely wasn’t football season.

He rolled over toward the night table, misjudged it, fell onto the floor. Right on his hip. Must’ve been a bad fall because the pain killed even though he was still smashed.

"Aw, Christ," he said, wincing, tasting vomit.

He stayed like that for a long time, might’ve passed out, then managed to struggle to his knees. The pain in his hip was excruciating, but he figured if he’d broken something he wouldn’t be able to move.

Using all his energy, he squinted, trying to focus on the digital clock. There was a 7 there and a 1 and was that a 5? No, it was an 8. 7:18. There was light outside behind the curtains so it was morning—okay, things were coming together. Then he made out the letters above the numbers: W E D S. Fuck, it was Wednesday morning—a workday. He had meetings to go to, people to see, deals to close.

Holding onto the bed, using all his might, he was able to stand. It was hard to stay upright, though. What was with the floor? He needed to shower, put on a suit, get to the fucking office. He took a couple of steps, almost fell, then a voice reminded him, You don’t work anymore.

Then it all came back to him, how his whole life had been ruined by his former executive assistant—and, briefly, ex-fiancée—that Greek-Irish whore, Angela.

Angela. Max wished he could strike that name from his brain, like they did in that Schwarzenegger movie, Total...what the fuck was the name of it? Max couldn’t even watch TV anymore. Angela’s Ashes, Angela Lansbury, Angela Bassett. Suddenly Angelas were fucking everywhere. Even on the street there were reminders—the hair, the tits, the sickening Irish accent. One day Max heard a tourist near Rockefeller Center go to his friend, I’d fancy a pint me own self, and Max wanted to strangle the Guinness-loving fuck.

The first time Max had laid eyes on Angela and her incredible bust, he should’ve known how things would turn out. Big tits meant big trouble; every guy knew that. Max always listened to his instincts, but the one time he let his guard down—kaboom.

Things had been great before she came along all right; yeah, his life had been hopping. He was the fucking man, the head honcho, the big enchilada, you ask anyone. He was a player and he had freaking mega plans, he was riding that gravy train all the way to the goddamn zenith. He owned a successful computer networking company, lived in a spectacular town house on the Upper East Side. Then Angela came along. Fucking Angela. She was like a living curse, a goddamn virus.

And not only had the cunt wreaked havoc all over his perfect life, she’d given him herpes! When you see those blisters in the morning while you’re having a long lazy piss, you see agony, you see fucking terror.

After Angela ran off to Ireland—charging the flight on his AmEx—he’d gotten revenge. One night he was drinking at some bar in the Bowery and he met a witch, Glinda. Her name wasn’t really Glinda—he didn’t know what the hell her name was—but that was what he’d called her in his mind. Anyway, Max went to her, "You mean you can cast spells?"

"Of course I cast spells," she said, as if offended. "I said I’m a witch, didn’t I?"

Max glared at her, then said, "Yeah, well, I want you to put the evilest spell you can come up with on my ex-fiancée. Make her life and everybody’s life around her a total living hell."

The witch cast the spell, said it was the harshest she’d ever done. Did Max sleep with her afterward? He vaguely remembered some wild, crazy woman, babbling about Wicca while he was banging her, but that could’ve been a dream.

The witch’s spell might’ve ruined Angela’s life, but it didn’t make Max’s any better. So Max had been trying to drink Angela out of his mind. It had been working, too. Or at least he’d thought it had been working until he wound up here. Wherever here was. And the sad truth was this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. Blackouts, those holy rollers in twelve-step programs called them. But this was worse than usual. Before now he’d never gotten fucking lost.

After stumbling and wobbling into the bathroom, Max looked at a mirror, almost not recognizing the bum with swollen, bloodshot eyes and strings of greasy gray hair hanging over his face. And why were his teeth all yellow, and was one missing?

"Aw, Jeethus," he lisped. Or Jaythus, as that Irish cunt would say. "Not a toof gone. Gimme me a fucking break."

Max’s big problem was, despite all he’d been through over the past few months, his ego was all there. He might’ve looked like a cesspool on the outside, but inside, he was still the same happening, suave, debonair, hip Max Fisher he’d always been.

He splashed some cold water onto his face and toweled off and something clicked. The towels—they weren’t his. And the vanity and tiles—this wasn’t his bathroom. Where the fuck was he?

He stutter-stepped back into his bedroom. Wait, it wasn’t his bedroom, it was a fucking hotel room. He parted the curtains and brightness stung his eyes like he was Dracula getting out of his coffin. His eyes finally adjusted and he saw a parking lot. He was in a motel, on the ground floor.

"Jeethus H," he said.

It took him a while to find his pants on the floor—they had stains all over them. He put them on, inside out first, then the right way.

"Shirt, shirt, hell’s my shirt?" he said, fumbling and stumbling around the room.

Finally he found a wife-beater T slung over a chair and put it on.

When he opened the door, the sunshine stung his eyes again. He went to the front of the motel, to the office. A young unshaven blond guy was on the phone.

Max stood there, rolling his eyes, as the guy took forever to get off the phone with his girlfriend or whoever. Max felt like raising hell for this kind of treatment—write letters, make phone calls, get this jackass fired. Firing people, this was Max’s gig, how he’d risen to the top. And, by Christ, he’d rise again.

Finally the guy hung up, said, "Can I help you?" and Max went, "Where the fuck am I?"

The kid gave Max a look like he’d never heard the word fuck before, then said, "The Golden Star Motel."

"Where the fuck’s that, Jersey?"

Another long look. Max wondered if the guy was retarded, had one of those learning disabilities. Or maybe he was dyslexic, was hearing everything backwards, like he thought Max was speaking Hebrew.

Finally the kid went, "You’re not serious are, you?"

"Do I look like I’m not fucking serious? I don’t see buildings anywhere so I know I’m not in goddamn Manhattan."

No pause this time, just, "Sir, you’re in Robertsdale, Alabama."

Max looked at the him like he was full of shit, said, "You’re full of shit."

The kid showed him a business card, a brochure. Shit, Alabama. And the kid’s accent wasn’t Jersey; it had southern hick written all over it. That also explained why he was so slow, like everything Max said seemed to have to bounce off a satellite before reaching his brain. Didn’t they fuck sheep or their sisters or both down here?

"How the hell did I get here?"

Long delay then, "Well, according to what it says here on the computer, you checked in yesterday afternoon."

"But how?" Max said. "I live in fucking Manhattan."

The kid didn’t have an answer to this, just stared at Max with a stumped expression.

Max said, "So where is..." He squinted at the brochure, holding it arm’s length away because he didn’t have his reading glasses. "...Robertsdale."

"About forty miles from Mobile, sir."

Jesus, sounded like the name of a freaking Glen Campbell song. And gee like that really helped. Like the whole world knew fucking Mobile.

Baffled, Max returned to his room. He sat on the foot of the bed, racking his brain, trying to piece together the last few days of his life. He didn’t make much progress. He remembered seeing that baseball game on TV at a bar in New York. It was definitely in New York, he was sure of that. Wasn’t it that place in Hell’s Kitchen he’d been drinking at? Yeah, he remembered the bartender, the black guy, trying to cut him off, telling him he had a drinking problem. Max, who’d been schmearing the guy for weeks, must’ve given him five hundred bucks in tips, said, "Are you fuckin’ kiddin’ me?" He realized he wasn’t when the bouncer carried him out of the place, dropping him on a pile of garbage.

Max had no idea why the bartender wanted to get rid of him, but the idea that he had a drinking problem was the biggest joke ever. Max Fisher couldn’t handle his liquor—yeah, right, that was a good one. Max knew he’d been drinking a lot lately—well, pretty much all the time—but he knew his limit; he knew when to stop. He was just in an alcohol phase that’s all. He was de-stressing, doing what he had to do to get by till it was time to get back in the game. Look at all the big players in every sport, didn’t they all have a time out for abusing something? Fuck, it was almost mandatory. It was freaking un-American not to have some issues. Dr. Phil built a career on it for chrissakes. Besides, Max knew he was in total control and he could kick the habit whenever he wanted to. That was the key.

All this thinking about drinking was making Max crave one. The few empty bottles of vodka and scotch strewn on the floor whetted his appetite even more. He went around the room, going, "Booze, booze, where the fuck are you? Come out, come out, wherever you are." He needed the wag of the dog, or whatever the hell it was called. Finally, under the bed, a bottle of Stoli, one quarter full. To hell with the glass, it tasted best straight from the bottle. Mmm, yeah, like that. Yep, it was hitting home big time. Max Fisher was back all right.

Re-energized, Max formulated a POA—get to Mobile, fly back to the city, figure out some way to straighten out his life once and for all. But, whoa, big problem: his wallet was on the dresser, but there was no cash, no credit cards. For all he knew, somebody had stolen his identity, was going around New York, pretending to be him.

Max tossed the wallet away, grabbed the bottle of Stoli, muttered, "Welcome to fucking Robertsdale," and went bottoms up. The booze started weaving its dark magic almost instantly—reason you drank the shit, right?—and Max thought, Okay, you need a plan, Maxie, that’s all. One simple plan and get back in that goddamn saddle, let the suckers know Maxie is back. Think, Maxie, think.

At that moment there was a knock on the door—talk about kismet—and a Mexican woman outside went, "Housekeeping."

Then it came to him out of, like, nowhere. He sat up, energized, muttered, "But have I got the cojones?"

The last gulp of Stoli assured him he had.

Copyright © 2007 by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr.

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