Grief
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“Fucking telephone.”

As usual Ben woke up with a headache, and only fragmented memories of what had happened the night before. It had been this way for a while now, ever since that fateful night. The night that his world turned to shit. Since then Ben had grown accustomed to waking up in pools of his own vomit and recovering from the strange, undesirable side-effects of an assortment of strange, indescribable drugs.

Shaking his head to clear his shattered mind, he started rummaging through piles of filthy laundry and long overdue bills in search of the still ringing phone. With his search turning up negative, he located the wall jack and trailed the cord until he was rewarded with the noisy little pest.

“What?”
“Hello! I’m calling on behalf of AT&T, and I’m looking for a Mr. Ben McGraw-”
“He’s dead.”

With that and the slam of a receiver, the conversation ended. The only thing that Ben hated more than bill collectors were telemarketers. Well, them and punk teenagers.

A little more aware of his surroundings now, Ben opened his desk drawer and produced a bottle of Whiskey. The cheap stuff that you would usually see a hobo counting quarters to afford, and one of his best friends next to his gun. Pouring and downing a glass immediately, he helped himself to another… and another after that. Somebody had once told him that people often turn to drinking to fill a void in themselves. Ben never denied this. After all, if misery deserves company, then why the fuck should he be alone?

Pouring a fourth glass, Ben walked over to his couch, where his “roommate” was sitting. Offering the glass, he was ignored. The guy was staring at the wall where the television used to belong, eyes wide open like he was in some sort of a trance. With a questionable look, Ben snapped his fingers in the man’s face, and then waved his hand. Nothing. Still curious, Ben checked the man’s pulse. Well, at least he was still alive. Ben decided to take the glass for himself and leave the guy alone.

guy was wacked out. Some sort of hippie or something. He was always doing things like this, going off on spiritual journeys into himself or some nonsense like that. Ben had found him hitchhiking one day and he just kind of stuck around. Ben didn’t mind. The hippie made for some interesting company, and it wasn’t like Ben had anyone else to talk to these days. The guy rarely spoke, and never said if he had a name or not. Ben just took to calling him “Dayglow”, because he reminded him of a character from a movie, in which the protagonist described the world as being bright and interesting, where nothing can go wrong and everyone smiled. That man was a liar.

Lighting up a cigarette and taking a seat, Ben found himself tracing the outline of the scar on his chest with his fingers. A painful reminder of what happens to people who do the right thing. It’s funny how after all these years it still hurts sometimes, like a cold pit deep in the center of his stomach. A hole that can only be filled with booze. A pain that can only be suppressed with heavy doses of Vicodin, or whatever else he could get his hands on.

Three years ago. Christmas Eve. The day Ben stopped living. He had been on the case of a big shot Mob boss who went by the name of “King tony”, and finally had what he needed to put him behind bars where he belonged. Ben had received numerous threats from Tony’s goons, and even a few hefty offerings if he purposely botched the case. But Ben was a good cop. A family man. Good cops and family men didn’t take bribes from lowlife assholes. That night Ben came home to the screams of his wife and daughter, and he ran right into a bullet. Two inches above his heart. His family was murdered right before his eyes, and all he could do was lay there and bleed. King Tony was eventually put behind bars, but at a heavy price. That was the day that Ben died and went to Hell.

Ben didn’t like to dwell on the past much. All it ever brought him was pain. The past is something best forgotten. He didn’t have any special remembrances or keepsakes to reflect upon, and that’s just the way he liked it. Well, except for that goddamn scar, but that’s something that he would just have to live with.