Eric was standing at the intersection waiting for the lights to change, the ‘tock-tock-tock’ noise a comfortable addition to him nervously jiggling his change in his pockets. He knew the lights would halt the city flow when they were good and ready, but this didn’t stop him from glancing edgily up and down the street. If he concentrated on the traffic maybe he could will it to stop. It didn’t happen of course.
As he saw the opposing lights turn from green through orange he unconsciously touched the inside of his coat pocket. The book was still there, weightily, reassuringly there. He pushed his glasses back up his nose and readjusted the weight of his briefcase. These were a seamless set of compulsive movements completed without thought.
Eric was late. He hated being late. He once read a book about how to cure lateness, but it hadn’t really helped.
He needed to stop at the ATM to get the cash out, but this part of town with its narrow laneways and smell of lettuce wasn’t one he was familiar with. It made his hands sweat a little, his skin clammy.
His wife had hissed at him between her teeth last night. She knew he’d taken money out again of the household account to pay for it.
“You selfish fucker, you’re hooked,” she’d spat at him. “You’re a bloody idiot.”
It wasn’t something he could explain. I need it, was all Eric could say. He had read everything he could find to cure himself. He was almost proud of how many books he’d accumulated in his quest to rid himself of this addiction.
The book banged against Eric’s chest as he scanned the unfamiliar doorways, and he looked over his shoulder before entering. Racing up a couple of flights of badly carpeted stairs with dim lighting, he was panting and sweating slightly as he pushed the grotty door open.
“Welcome back Eric,” said the blonde behind the desk, taking the money from his outstretched hand.
Eric breathed out. He wasn’t too late after all. He went through to the therapy group, his latest self-help manual gripped between his fingers.
for the Twisted Tales 37, Talisman