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January 15, 2014

(originally published in THE ARTFUL MIND)

     I don't remember if I took Red. If I did I shouldn't take another. The doctor told me just one in the morning and one at night. If I didn't take the red pill how will I know before something happens? I can call the doctor.

     If I call the doctor he will tell me to come into his office and I will have to sit in a room all day just in case I didn't take the red pill. Then, if something happens, he can give me a shot. If nothing happens, he will give me one of his looks, but not one of his lectures.

     He is finished lecturing me. He told me so. "If you cannot handle the few responsibilities that you have," he said gravely, as he twirled his glasses by their stem, "then we will once again have someone handle them for you. Is that clear, Richard? I won't give you any more warnings," he warned. "I will just do it, and then it will be too late, and that will be that."

     I don't want that to be that, so I sat at my kitchen table staring at the little round red pill. It is flanked on the left by the brown bottle that holds the red pills and the label says to just take one in the morning and one in the evening. Must be taken with food, it says. To the right side of the pill is a paper cup with water. I sip the water without taking my eyes off of Red. I am afraid to touch the pill because I might automatically pop it into my mouth and then possibly I'll have taken two red pills. The water cup has been sitting a while. It is soft as I pick it up and the water is warm. No matter.

     I know that before I got out of bed I took the white pill. No water, just brought saliva up from my throat and popped Whitey in and swallowed. Green Guy I took while brushing my teeth, because I always leave a Green Guy on the sink next to my toothbrush before I go to bed. But Red stays in the bottle and I take it after breakfast. Take it only with food the doctor told me. Must be taken with food the pharmacist tells me, and types it on the label. I remember eating the banana and the pretzels but I can't remember taking the red pill.

     I can't sit here all day. I'll take the pill. What's the worst that can happen? I'll get sick, maybe nauseous, or could it be worse? If I call the pharmacist to ask him what the worst thing that can happen is, he will call the doctor and the doctor already said no more warnings. I can tell the pharmacist that I'm calling for my brother but if he asks for my name then I'm screwed.

     I am sure that I didn't take the pill.

     I grab the soft cup of water, push back my chair from the table, and toss Red in my mouth. Just as I lift the cup to my lips I panic and spit the pill out. I can taste the wetted remnants on my tongue and I realize that I don't recall that remnant pill taste from this morning.

     I look at my watch and only forty-five minutes have passed since my usual breakfast time. Make a decision, I tell myself. Make a decision. Did I or Didn't I? Hurry up, I tell myself. Finally in a fit of desperation I pop the pill and wash it down with all the water that's left. Just at that moment I remember. I took Red after the banana and before the pretzels. I never took two reds before. I'm sweating and I have to pee. I run to the bathroom and after I pee I wash my hands and stick my fingers down my throat and lean over the toilet. I will try to throw up Red. Instead I go into a coughing spasm and all I bring up is spittle. My insides hurt from coughing and I keep my fingers deep in my mouth and still don't bring anything up. Of course not, you fool, I tell myself. It's not like a hunk of food--it's dissolved.

     I start to pace around the house, afraid to go out, afraid not to. I continue to sweat and now I start shaking also. I run to the phone and call the doctor. The nurse wants me to tell her what is wrong but I will only speak to the doctor I tell her. She puts me on hold and my hand is trembling so badly that I'm knocking the phone against my head. Finally the doctor gets on the phone and with my voice quivering I tell him what I have done. He listens without interruption and I hear him mumble loudly to someone and he tells me to stay on the phone and talk to him. He asks me how many red pills I took and I tell him that I am not sure. Think, he tells me, and I tell him that I'm not sure but I think that I took Red when I was supposed to, and then forgot and might have taken another and then I forgot again and took another. I'm really not sure, I tell him.

     There's a banging on the door and I tell the doctor that someone is at the door and he tells me to not hang up but to go open the door. I go quickly and open it and look past the man standing there and see an ambulance in the driveway. I rush back to the phone. As I'm telling the doctor that an ambulance is in my driveway and the ambulance guys are coming into the house he tells me that I am still not ready and he hangs up. The ambulance men wrap me very tightly in a blanket and I feel warmer as they drive me off. I listen, but I'm not sure if I hear the siren or not.

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