Don’t Spill Your Tea
by Josh Roby
I fling out a desperate hand, none too coordinated, and feel it make contact with something hard. Things clatter, fall to the ground. The lights jiggle around me, and I squeeze my eyes shut to make it stop. The blaring klaxons keep wailing, sending hot pokers into my temples. I flail again, and this time my fingers find purchase, groping blindly, until they reach their target. The alarm suddenly squelches silent, but I know it’s only a short reprieve.
The snooze button only quiets my alarm clock for nine minutes. Bleary-faced, I poke my head up over my pillow to see how many
times I’ve already hit snooze. The red readout tries to hide behind the bottles of prescription sleep aids (as close to horse tranquilizers you can get while still being intended for human consumption), but my sleep-addled brain is still able to put the digits together. 6:57. With a mutter and groan, I swing my heavy arms under me and push. Time to get up.
Adelaide is of course already awake and waiting for me, sitting on the edge of her bed and playing tea party with Pooh Bear, Off-Brand Barbie, and Optimus Prime. Sometimes I worry about her toys giving her body image issues: when she grows up, will she be disappointed that she isn’t a truck? But this early in the morning, I’m going on auto- pilot and with the lingering effects of the sleeping pills I mostly just register excited morning hugs and the need to make breakfast.
The next half-hour is mostly a blur that ends with me watching her board the school bus, lunch box in hand, and waving. I wave to her through the window and I wave to the woman holding on to the top of the bus, dressed in a trenchcoat and holding a katana in her hand. She gives me a short nod, and I turn to head back to the house. Everything is right with the world.
On the way, my phone buzzes in the pocket of my bathrobe and I fish it out. The calendar is telling me that the First Client of the Day is at 8am. Why are all the words capitalized, I think as I thumb open the appointment. But there are no details. Just First Client of the Day. And that’s when I start to wonder what I do for a living.
There’s a woman at my front door, rapping on the metal screen and making it rumble like tinny thunder. I cast a quick glance across the street, where a bum is leaning against a fence. He indicates her with a dip of his head and gives me a thumbs-up, which is somewhat reassuring.
I scuff my feet on the walk so my visitor hears me coming, and she whirls around, eyes crazy. “Are you Joe Fix?”