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Falling off the wagon
by Matt Arnold

There’s nothing like falling off the wagon, that insane thrill of a free-fall without a parachute. In spite of the oncoming splat, the euphoria is limitless. I should know. I cannot count how many times I’ve had to utter, “My name is Matt Arnold and I have a problem.” I’ve forgotten how many times I’ve walked some of the twelve steps; never have stood atop the last I’m sorry to report. I once made it to seven. Something always throws me off of my game. There’s always a sandcastle in my rear window, as my grandmother used to say.

I made it almost ten months this time. Not too bad; not too good either. Today was a crappy day at work. It is a long story but let’s just say I won’t be using that set of keys anymore to open any doors. On my way home, I knew the all too familiar feeling. The anticipation of throwing it all away, the realization that tomorrow will be another day and I can deal with all the ramifications then.

I’ve been around. I know where to get the stuff. One of my students told me his sister has been dealing and told me where I can find her. He could see I was down and after all I’m the Mr. Kotter at my school; tight with the kids I mean, not that I tell stories about strange relatives, or have curly hair, or am Jewish, or work at the high school I went to, or teach social studies for that matter. Actually, I guess I’m nothing like Kotter. But back to topic.

Anyway, this student’s sister, she sells the stuff, to anyone willing to pay. I drive around for awhile after work, as though I haven’t made up my mind. Finally I swing by her corner. It's a lost cause. I wish she weren’t so damn cute. That makes it even more of a crime. She doesn’t actually handle the money. The old hag with her does the financials; the girl is just the mule. They always make me ask for it. That is the only way they know I’m not a cop. It is humiliating, but I’m the one buying the junk after all.

I look down at the ground and mumble, “How many boxes of thin mints can I get for $20?”