Drew stood in front of a narrow window in the foyer of the inn in Yellowstone and stared at the darkness. No taxi would come for him. No busses ran now. And he did not have a place to stay. In the early evening moonlight the deep piles of snow gleamed eerily, taunting him with his own stupidity.
It didn’t help that now and again the snow seemed to undulate like waves far out to sea. At least he knew very well that it wasn’t really moving at all. Just a few weeks ago when he had seen such hallucinations he couldn’t be sure that they weren’t real.
So, talking the long way home must be the right choice. He wanted to be as much like the man Suzie had fallen in love with as he could when he saw her again. There was simply no sense in hoping she could accept him when he couldn’t even accept himself.
“Are you waiting for someone?” The voice behind him was a high alto and a little gravelly with the hard “r”s of a westerner, like an old rancher’s wife.
Drew looked at the shadowy reflection in the window, but could only tell it was a woman. He turned around. It was the woman from the couple he had followed around the paths by Old Faithful. She had changed into a gauzy skirt over jeans and hiking boots. Her husband stood a few feet back, looking at a display of pamphlets for local attractions.
“Maybe the snow is hampering them.”
“Huh?” Drew sounded like an idiot to himself.
“The person you’re waiting for?” The old lady said. Old, but not elderly. She’d allowed her hair to turn gray, and she had the deep wrinkles of someone who spent a lifetime out in the sun, but she didn’t have the papery thinness of the elderly. She smiled helpfully.
“I guess you could say the one I’m looking for is myself. That and a room. I should have made reservations but I didn’t realize I was really going to end up here.”
“Ah. I thought so.” The woman nodded, her smile knowing and satisfied. “I’ve seen the look in your eye before. Why don’t you stay with us tonight?” She put an arm across his back and a hand on his shoulder, and guided him toward the elevator. “We’ve only got the one bed, but we might be able to get a roll away. If not, then I’m sure you can sleep on the floor. Right Dear?”
“Hmh? Oh. Right.” The old man, still wearing a baseball cap, nodded in the vague way of someone who didn’t really listen to the conversation and doesn’t really care. “Let’s go.” He followed them into the elevator.
“Are you sure?” Drew cleared his throat. He was relieved and grateful, but also guilty because there was no way for them to know he wasn’t some serial killer or crazy.
“Yes. Of course.” The old lady smiled.
She seemed so down to earth and grandmotherly. But when they were all on the elevator and going up, Drew was assailed by a particularly bad hallucination. The two of them lay in pulverized masses on the floor of the elevator and blood splashed all over the slick walls. This one even extended to his skin, making him feel like he’d been slashed too. He thought he saw the flash of a knife coming down on him, aiming for his eyes. He inhaled sharply and took a step back.
The hallucination went away as quickly as it had come, leaving him staring at the older couple and them staring at him with wrinkles of concern.
He took a deep breath. “The truth is I am, or was and FBI agent. I was on a case involving designer drugs, and got hooked myself. The treatment normally given for drugs doesn’t work on this one. So now I’m wandering around, trying to detoxify myself. Sometimes I have hallucinations. So I may act a bit strangely. Please excuse me.”
The couple looked at each other, then at him, and then nodded.
“Makes as much sense as anything,” the man said.
“Yeah, I’ll buy that. The drug part, anyway. Not so sure about the FBI agent business.” She glanced at Drew, then patted his hand. “Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing we can’t handle.”
They stepped off the elevator and moved down the hall, clearly expecting him to follow. What kind of people were these? Could they really be so open and naïve? Except that he really had told only the truth, but shouldn’t they be more suspicious? Or should he?
They opened the door to their room, which had just enough room for a cot to the added. While the husband made a phone call to the front desk, the wife perched on the bed and gestured to the chair by the desk for Drew.
“You’re probably wondering just who we are. My name is Sonoma and this is Trent. We were both Deadheads back in the day. I do some dabbling in the arts, mostly ceramics. Trent likes to program computer games. We do all right by ourselves. We have a son about your age. If he ended up without a place to stay in the middle of winter, I like to think someone would help him out. So we’ll put a little bit of good karma into the world by helping you.”
She smiled as if it all made perfect sense.
“So. Tell me about this drug. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve, and might be able to help.” She opened up a plastic case- the kind handy craft people used to hold beads or embroidery floss. Inside was a bunch of plastic bags with labels like “echinacea” and “golden seal”.
Oddly enough, Drew started to think he might really be able to get clean with these people. Not because he believed in herbal remedies, but because he believed they would be able to accept him in whatever form he took while he got his head back together.
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