I wanted to share chapter 1 of AnguiSH with you. I hope you love Breaker and Ash as much as I do. You can find a copy Here!
It’s disgusting,” I said, parroting my mother. She always got nasal when referring to all things pestiferous. Everything was icky. Everything was gross. Except, of course, for her Louboutins. The top items on her list of foul objects: ground beef, roaches, crickets, carpet of any kind, and lately, me—or rather, my growlery. Her hand popped up to rest on her hip—I could hear the motion even over the phone—and I knew a shitstorm was about to rain down on me. “Don’t you sass me, Breaker James. I could care less about your detest for my meddling. Get it cleaned up before I show up next week, or I will hire a maid myself,” she quipped. A shudder ripped through me at the thought of someone being in my space, anyone at all—even her—and she knew it. She couldn’t hire someone—she wouldn’t. Damn her for knowing how to hit below the belt. I counted to ten and made myself do those stupid-ass breathing exercises that Pencil Skirt always made me practice, like I was pushing out a baby instead of acting like a baby. The edges of my vision began to blur a little as the panic took root in my chest. Even the mention of someone being in my house weighed on me like a two-ton anvil. No one except my mother, and sometimes my father, came here. It was the way it had to be. If they thought I was crazy for being here alone, they had no idea what would happen if there were other people here. In my head it all sounded stupid, but the rest of my body disagreed. The fear of other people and any social situation in general was beyond terrifying. I would have to clean the place up. No way was I letting her hire some outfit with a feather duster. “Fine. I’ll take care of it, Mom,” I groaned back at her. I looked around to assess the damage. It wasn’t that bad. Yes, the dishes were piled up in the sink, and something was growing a fur coat on one plate in particular. I think it was spaghetti—was being the operative word. Maybe the dust could be seen flying in formation when the sun shone through the splice in the curtains. There was no soap-scum ring around the bathtub, but that was because I never took baths. Still, that had to count for something. If I were a regular person, I would keep up with the everyday chores and simple tasks like emptying the dishwasher and washing my clothes. If I were a regular person, I could actually walk out of this prison—house, it’s a house. But to me, the windows and doors were like portals to hell. “Test me not, Breaker. I will not be moved on this. And I get what you’re going through, I do. But no son of mine will live in filth. Period.” She hung up the phone, unwilling to hear my response. She understood what I was going through? Such a liar. I had to clean this place up. I had a week. I didn’t used to be like this. I was that guy who did the dishes after dinner because my girl had cooked. I spent Saturday mornings cleaning the house and making sure the grass was mowed. I got dressed and went for a run in the mornings, breathing fresh air. I went to visit my mom and my sisters. I went to school, to a real classroom where the phrase virtual classroom was unheard of. There were lots of things I used to be and do. That was all before Heather. After Heather, I was worse than Bilbo Baggins—at least he could go on an adventure if he wanted to. Gandalf could paint invitations on my door all he wanted. My feet were firmly planted in this house. Don’t get me wrong, I would have given anything to go to a movie or even shop for my own groceries. I just couldn’t. During the week that followed my mom’s phone call, I did some things, none of which I would’ve called cleaning. I wrote. I journaled. I stayed in chat rooms constantly, my only method of social interaction. I expected a knock at the door telling me I’d been fooled any day now. I studied and worked on classwork. I didn’t clean. In fact, I would say the mess doubled in volume and stench that week. I just didn’t care. Why should I have? In this chasm, I was not quite alive and not quite dead; no one but my mother gave a rat’s ass if my house were clean. There were black holes in the universe dedicated to how many fucks I just didn’t give. I did my laundry, but mostly because I was out of things to wear. I didn’t wear real clothes anymore, just basketball shorts and old band and sports T-shirts. Who was gonna see me? And my bedroom was clean for the most part. The rest of the house… No one came over, so why would I care if it were presentable? Anyway, she wouldn’t hire a maid. She knew how I felt about… people. I really didn’t mind them one on one, but eventually they would want to go out into the world. That was where my part ended. I never left this house, not even to go to the mailbox. I never went to the gas station or the park. I didn’t get to hear concerts or leave a lame party early. It had been two years, three months and nineteen days since the party. Subtract three days spent in the hospital for monitoring, and that’s the length of time since I’d been out of these walls. It didn’t all happen in one night. No, that would have been too easy. Pencil Skirt called it the snowball effect. One by one, snowflakes of depression and anxiety added to the ball, and before long it was something I could no longer carry around. My snowball rolled over me the night of the party, crushing my will to live a normal life—maybe crushing my will to live in general. Before I knew it, a week had come and gone. I would be calling my mom’s bluff today. I threw a T-shirt on since Mom would be at the house any minute and scrolled through excuses in my head, perusing my options as to why I hadn’t obliged her request as I tore down the stairs. I plucked I had a ton of schoolwork out of the mental pile and decided that was my story. She wouldn’t believe it, but maybe I could dig deep and pull a few tears to the surface. It had been years since I’d cried. I heard her car in the driveway— only hers—and smirked to myself. A sudden rush of boastfulness took over. She was soooo not hiring a maid. I had this in the bag. Wearing a suit that cost more than most people made in a month, Mom walked in and I hugged her, kissed her cheek, and smiled that gushy, sweet grin I knew she loved. Her nose scrunched, and she reached up to pinch it closed. “It smells like a garbage dump in here.” The look of determination on her face terrified me. She was dressed like a high-level executive, all pencil skirt and pearls, even though everyone knew she was a country-club rat. I laughed it off. “Come on, you’re being dramatic.” She closed her eyes and exhaled. “Breaker, I have to.” Shaking her head, she looked down at the floor. “No, Mom. I’ll take care of it.” I could feel my innards begin to quake and quiver at the thought of a new person in my house. An elephant sat on my chest, and my tiny little mouse heart thumped furiously against the weight. My breathing shallowed, starving my lungs, and a faint ringing in my ears made me cringe. What if I have a panic attack in front of them and they think I’m a freak? What if Mom warns them ahead of time and they tiptoe around me, not knowing when my head will spin around and spout green slime? “No, Breaker, I’ll take care of it. This,” she pointed to the kitchen behind me, “is what happens when you take care of things, and this was not part of the deal. I’m sorry if you don’t like it. It’ll just be one more thing to talk to Angela about. Tell her your mother forces you to be hygienic.” My mother was on a first-name basis with Pencil Skirt like they were sorority sisters—except when she attempted to call her and realized that, in fact, Angela was a professional who took the privacy of her patients seriously. Imagine that. Mom was convinced all I did with the psychologist was talk about how bad a mother I had, and that that must be the root of my challenge. That wasn’t it at all, but there was no convincing her. She’d persuaded herself that she could’ve prevented my downfall if she’d paid more attention to Heather’s antics. But hell, if I couldn’t stop it, how could she? Come on logic, work your magic. “What are you gonna do,” I asked, “put an ad on Craigslist? What would it say? ‘Wanna clean for a guy who’s a slob and… insane?’” She rubbed her temples with her fingers, her pristinely painted red nails making tiny, circular motions on the sides of her face. That shit never worked. “Don’t do that, Breaker. Don’t label yourself. But yes, that’s exactly what I intend to do. I’ll have to ask Allison about it since I’m not good at computer stuff. She’ll know what to do. I’m also going to put some flyers up at LSU. So, I will narrow the people down to a few, and then I will send them over here for interviews.” She held up her hand before my mouth could protest. “I will schedule it so you know they are coming, but this is happening, honey, so just get over it.” She left me silent and stunned until the reality of what she’d said crashed down on me. “Shit!”