Storytime: Placebo.

October 13th, 2015

The phone came in and the diagnosis was ‘dead,’ which was at least pretty inarguable unless you got religious on it but granny had always been the one in charge of that sort of stuff so everyone else just went with it and got down to the material matters.
Who was paying for the hole and the box.
Where the wake was.
Who was getting invitations.
Stuff like that.
who got what.

Jenny got the car.
Jessie got the house.
Johnny got the cat.
Jimmy got the box.
Jimmy was somewhat unhappy. The box was tape, held together with cardboard. Its lid was sealed with seven generations of labels stuck on labels, most of which had decayed and left only their indelible marker to remember them by and smear all over his hands. But on the topmost, decades-old layer, he read a word:
So he popped the lid to take a look, and inside he found….
Well. Junk.

A little car a big truck (metal) a wooden ruler (wood) a plastic telephone (small) a small airplane (small) a big metal pencil (small) a squeaky rubber chicken (dried up) a spider that had been dead for longer than Jimmy had been alive and a little bottle whose lid wouldn’t come off.
Jimmy furrowed his brow in a gradual and extensive sort of way, picked up the box and shook it to make sure it was empty, then put everything back in and took it out to the curb and left it for the dump truck before he remembered he was late for work and his brother had driven him here and he’d already left. With his new cat.
Jimmy opened up the box again. He picked up the car. He considered the car.
“What the hell,” he said. And he took it.

“You’re late.”
“And out of breath.”
“And I just saw you run into the parking lot.”
“And then you left a small car in the parking lot.”
“That’s littering.”
“And you left it in the handicapped spot.”
“Sorry. It’s not a real car though.’
“You drove it in.”
“It’s just a placebo.”
There was a gently thud as the palms of Jimmy’s Manager slid comfortably into their owner’s eyesockets.
“Just stop. Just stop. The presentation’s about to start. Now shut up and take notes.”
Notes. Yes.
Jimmy remembered notes. Jimmy remembered his phone. Jimmy remembered leaving his phone at his grann – at his SISTER’S – house twenty minutes by placebo away and felt very foolish.
Pen and paper. He had a napkin, that was paper. He had a…
He opened the box on his lap and slid out the skinny metal pencil. Well, it was a rod that had ‘pencil’ etched on the side.
But what the hell.

“Your handwriting is appalling. Your grammar is a war crime. Your margins are as marginalized as they can be without being outright pogromed.” His manager shuffled the napkin again, as if hoping better notes would fall out. “But this does exist, and I suppose that’ll do. What’d you write this with, a paintbrush?”
Jimmy held up his pencil.
“That’s a metal rod.”
“It’s just a placebo.”
“Right. Go home. Now.”
Jimmy went home. Or rather, Jimmy tried to go home, but was held up in the parking lot by an annoyed man with a tow truck.
“Give me back my car.”
“Illegally parked.”
“It’s just a placebo.”
“In a handicapped spot.”
“But it’s not a real car.”
The tower sighed. “Did you drive it here?”
“If it works, it’s a car. Now kindly fuck off.”
Jimmy fucked off, but reluctantly. He was twenty minutes from home along a busy highway, and fucking off was not a speedy form of rapid transit. He looked down the road and up the road then down the road then up the road then checked the box again.

“Do you know how fast you were going when you flipped?”
Jimmy focused both his eyes on the same thing and was very proud of himself until he realized the thing wasn’t a doctor but was a police officer.
“Too busy joy-riding to check, eh?”
“There’s no speedometer, it’s just a placebo.”
“Right. Well, you were travelling at a hundred and twenty-nine kilometers per hour when you hopped the guardrail, just barely missed an SUV with a full family aboard, then skidded through the curve above highway six.”
Jimmy felt his neck. “How am I alive?”
“But it’s just a placebo.”
The officer rolled her eyes. “Right. Great. I’m sure we’re all very happy that you didn’t crash a REAL truck. Which you aren’t authorized, licensed, or able to drive. At all. For reasons we have just seen reiterated to the tune of….oh my. A SUBSTANTIAL fine. I’ll come back when you’re sober enough to face the consequences.”
Jimmy sat alone in his hospital bed avoiding the consequences and the lumpy mashed potatoes both and felt underneath his bed, where there was a familiar lump.
“What I need,” he said to himself, “is a phone call.”

The headset was meant for a toddler, but he managed, with some squashing of ears.
“Hello? Hello? Jessie? This is Jimmy. I’ve been in a serious accident and I need your help getting a lawyer. I mean, just bail would be nice. No, I’m not really telling you this, it’s just a placebo. No, don’t hang up. C’mon, I promise this is the last time. Yes, yes, of COURSE you’re not LISTENING to me, I just TOLD YOU it’s just a pl – shoot.”
Jimmy hung up, examined his lumpy potatoes and suspiciously smooth gelatin in silence. He was hungry, but not that hungry, but with no other options.
The box beckoned.

“Trying to dodge the trial, eh?”
“I was hungry.”
“Hungry enough to eat raw chicken? Christ, this isn’t the third millennium BCE anymore; salmonella is WIDESPREAD in domestic avian livestock.”
“But it was just a placebo.”
“Great. So the fever, diarrhea, cramps, diarrhea, dehydration, and diarrhea were all in your head. That’s so much better.”
“You said diarrhea four times.”
“Three. And you produced three times as much as you would’ve if you hadn’t eaten the whole damned thing. Who eats a raw chicken ENTIRE, bones, beak and all?”
“But it was just a-”
“Save it. You’re under observation now. No more malarkey.”
Jimmy sat alone and boxless. But he had a trick up his sleeve.
He shook his sleeve and the spider fell out. He held it in his hand, gingerly, then tossed it out the window.
It was a very light carcass and it took about twenty seconds for it to flutter to the ground, most of which he spent feeling very foolish. Of COURSE the spider wasn’t a placebo. It had probably just crawled in there and died. How very foolish of him.
Besides, the web would’ve been too thin to hold his weight anyways. What he needed was something a whole lot bigger. Something that was…hmm.
Jimmy shook his other sleeve and pulled out the wooden ruler, which he quickly measured the whole hospital with.
Something about two hundred feet wide and a little bit longer would do the job nicely. Not only would he be able to climb out with it, it would remove most of the wall so he wouldn’t need to open the window. Brilliant.
He was a bit unsure of the math involved, but then again he was using a placebo, so any results at all were evidence of failure.
Jimmy shook his other other sleeve and the plane dropped out. Thankfully, it was very small and vague, capable of representing anything from a single-man bushflyer to a 747 jumbo with a 200-foot wingspan on a 230-foot body.

Seven miles away and one up, Jimmy remembered that he couldn’t drive a plane either.

The crater was huge. Smouldering wreckage dotted the landscape in a two-foot radius of the crash. Jimmy lay half-senseless in the snow and drifted in and out. His stitches seemed to have opened up; there was a lot of pain.
“A miracle you’re still going, fella. Your parachute went out awful low.”
Jimmy opened his mouth and told the farmer that there was no parachute because it’d just been a placebo but his mouth wouldn’t shut again once he opened it and it was making noises that weren’t words, so he just let it fly.
“Wait here – phone’s indoors. I’ll call an ambulance and get out here with the first aid kit. Back in a second. You hold on, you hear me? Don’t quit.”

The snow was thick and fast but he was getting cold faster than it.
He took the little glass bottle in his palm, shook it three times, heard the cheery twinkle of broken glass, realized the bottom had broken off, and picked up a single, solitary pill from the white drifts that had so casually camouflaged it.
It said, in tiny stamped letters: PLACEBO.

The farmer came out with a blanket and a drink and thread and needle, bent double. The blizzard was setting in now, but he’d have to check to make sure he could move the man before he took him indoors. Body heat and hot water bottles and warm fluids would have to-
He stopped, then put everything down and checked the pulse.
“Anything I can do for you, buddy?” he asked, quietly.
Jimmy blinked up at the world.
“Nah…” he sighed. His jaw didn’t hurt anymore. “S’nt. Yurfault.”
He looked resentfully at the outflung corpse of a little bottle in the snow. “D’n’t haav reael medddishinn anywahs. Jus’”

“Just what?”

The farmer took him in, light as a bird on his shoulder. The pill fell into the snow.

His siblings felt bad about it, but consoled themselves with the memories of their brother’s careless lifestyle.
After all, they said, it wasn’t as if he’d had any real options.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.