The Ticket: A Short Story in Seven Parts (Part III)

Illustration by Emma Crevier

Part Three: Everything to Live For

The Ticket is a work of short fiction written by former Three Rivers resident and local author Charles Thomas. The story has been split into seven parts, all of which will be published on Watershed Voice in the coming days/weeks.

Everyone in second ward was surprised when Daryl was sentenced to three years in prison. He had always been such a good boy. 

They were right, too. Daryl was a nice boy, and he wouldn’t even hurt a fly. But Daryl was also an addict and addicts sometimes do terrible things to feed their addictions.

It had all started innocently enough. Daryl was working as a carpet installer for the father of his girlfriend, Melody. He was happy, making good money and making a name for himself in the trade. Even though he was only 21 at the time, Daryl was driven. Most weeks, he worked over 50 hours so he could set money aside to buy Melody a nice engagement ring. 

But eventually the long hours and hard labor caught up with him, and he threw out his back installing a cut pile up in first ward.

Melody was wonderful and did everything she could to help Daryl heal on his own, but after a week of being nearly bed ridden, Daryl broke down and went to the Insta-Med downtown. He’d never liked doctors, but he couldn’t be without a paycheck for another week when rent was coming due.

“I don’t like taking pills,” Daryl told Melody as he drove his F-150 to the pharmacy. But as much as he hated the feeling of pills going down his throat, he hated being out of work more. 

So, Daryl took the pain pills as the doctor prescribed and got back to work.

When Daryl’s first prescription ran out and he didn’t feel 100 percent yet, he went back to Insta-Med and got another. He pledged to himself he’d only take a half pill a day, just for a while. He got very upset when Melody pointed out he’d doubled his dose instead of cutting it.

It wasn’t long before Daryl was getting turned away at Insta-Med and started getting his pills from friends instead. Lots of the guys on the job site had extra Norcos, and they were more than willing to sell them, no questions asked.

As Daryl took more and more pills each day, he transformed into another man. He wasn’t as interested in spending time with Melody anymore. Instead, he was spending more and more time with his new friends who hung out in the woods behind the WLKM building.

Eventually, Melody told Daryl she was done with him, and soon after their breakup her father fired Daryl. It was then, out of work, broke and desperate for a fix, that Daryl started breaking into the homes of his elderly neighbors while they were sleeping. He’d rifle through their medicine cabinets looking for something, anything, to take the edge off that old carpet injury that never seemed to go away.

Finally, Daryl’s nighttime excursions came to the attention of the Three Rivers Police Department. They had no problem catching him and the justice was swift.

Prison was hard, but it gave Daryl the chance to detox and get treatment. He learned a lot about himself and about addiction behind bars. He learned eternal vigilance was the price of recovery and you were always an addict even if you weren’t using.

When they let him out, Daryl returned home determined to stay clean and sober. He went to meetings and stayed away from his old friends, but he was very tempted to started using when he couldn’t find work. 

So, it was nearly a miracle when after his thousandth interview, Brittany said she would give him a shot at the Triple Ripple Café. He beamed with pride, and his parents, for the first time in years, were proud of him, too.

Buzzing after Brittany told him about the winning lottery ticket, Daryl couldn’t sit still. He wanted to tell someone about his windfall, but he also didn’t want to break his promise. To ease his nerves, Daryl went for a long walk around TR. He didn’t have a plan where he was going; he just started walking.

When he found himself nearing the woods behind the WLKM building, Daryl couldn’t say he was really surprised. Besides, after all that had happened that day, he deserved to celebrate a little. He’d just take a few pills. A few never hurt. He told himself that he’d have just a little fun and then go back to normal tomorrow. 

As he walked into the woods, Daryl was sure that it would be different this time. He wasn’t trying to forget about losing Melody anymore. He was just going to have a little fun with old friends. 

Daryl did only take a few pills that night. But the next night he went back and took more than he’d planned. I’ll just push things back a few days, he told himself. Once everything was out in the open, he’d stop again. 

He had everything to live for now.

Charles D. Thomas is a writer and psychotherapist who made Three Rivers his home for over a decade. Feedback is welcome at Charles@charlesdthomas.com