The Game: Chapter 13

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Chapter 13

Everything after the restaurant was a blur.

The first place James took notice of was his own living room, as if he had appeared on the couch in a puff of smoke. Open in his lap was the dog-eared notebook that someone had handed to him the first day at the hospital, probably intended as distraction for his writer's mind; instead, he made it the bible of his mother's prognosis and care. When the months and years dragged on, through habit it became simply a bankbook, a personal statement of account with the medical gods. Looking through it now reiterated an intuitive truth.

Without Angela, it was impossible.

Every cent James had earned for seven years had gone to living expenses or Joseph Stenton. Each paycheck was spoken for as it came. Loans or credit would only prolong an untenable situation.

He calculated what he could earn by working seven day weeks and squeezing in extra shifts from a fifth job, or by aiming for the type of managerial position he had long avoided. However he manipulated the figures, it wouldn't come anywhere close. It wasn't physically possible with the earning potential of a university dropout.

One month. Then he would no longer be able to pay the full amount. The support systems would be cut off soon after.

James laid his head back over the top of the couch, staring at the ceiling, and through to the sky beyond it; and the heaven beyond that, if there was such a convenient place.

He had sworn to keep on by any means necessary. If he gave in now over something so damnably stupid as money, what had it all been for?

James closed his eyes and slept, heedless of nightmares. He had no strength left to fight them.

***

His cell phone jarred him awake. Morning sun trickled through the gaps in the blinds, the previous night's flurry only a memory.

"Hello?" James said, more a groggy slur than a greeting.

"Mornin Prez!"

"...Casey?"

"Yeah, yeah! Ain't seen ya in a while. How ya been?"

"Busy with work ... what time is—" James took the phone away from his ear and squinted at it. "Six in the morning?" It was impossible to suppress a groan.

"Aw, man, sorry if I woke ya. Just, y'know, couldn't sleep much 'cause I'm so pumped."

James rubbed the bridge of his nose. "How'd you get this number?"

"The big D gave it to me." Casey's cheerful tone fell. "Sorry ... he said ya wouldn't mind..."

"It's fine. What's the occasion?"

"Ah ... well ... just, big day 'n all with the concert 'n stuff, and I was feelin kinda nervous, but then I 'membered the Grand Prix is today too, so ... thought I'd see if ya wanted to come with ... or if you're too busy..."

The previous night's episode had blanked his mind utterly. If not for the reminder, James might have spent the entire day on the couch with the notebook in his lap, not even realizing it was Friday.

"When does the Grand Prix start?"

"Umm, like two o'clock? My time?"

That meant 3 PM in New York, and he had a shift at the arena from 2 to 6 that he couldn't skip. He needed to be adding shifts, not subtracting them.

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