Guide Lad on a Softened Stoop (Four Fathers Book 4)

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About George Pritchard Harris: The Four Fathers octology project was conceived For Whom the Book Tells (Fo. Lad on a Softened Stoop (Four Fathers #3).
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Dennis told Patrick he could no longer live with him and urged him to seek help. Patrick scoffed. He did not even look at his parents. As a young teenager, Patrick had been bullied, and later he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, his parents said. He said he started self-medicating at age 14 with beer and marijuana, then moved on to cocaine and crystal meth. The meth made him vomit, so he turned to prescription painkillers that his friends stole from their parents. When the government tightened the supply of painkillers, Patrick sought out heroin and fentanyl.

Years later, he was diagnosed with major depression and borderline antisocial personality disorder, his family said, and more recently, post-traumatic stress disorder, illnesses that often go hand-in-hand with substance misuse. He has worked with mental health counselors for years, his family said, and has been on and off antidepressants. For anyone in New Hampshire seeking heroin and fentanyl, a ready supply awaits, just over the state line in Massachusetts.

The old mill towns of Lawrence and Lowell have long served as hubs of major drug distribution networks that funnel opioids throughout New England. Law enforcement officers say that dealers there often drop baggies of drugs into the open passenger windows of cars stopped at red lights.

Back when Patrick had a job at an auto-parts store and as a banquet server, his morning routine involved driving to Lawrence before work and scoring his daily fix. Then he would shoot up with heroin or fentanyl at the wheel of the car while driving back to New Hampshire. At one point on that steamy day in July, several hours into the family intervention, the conversation reached a lull.

Patrick stepped out of the room and padded down a hallway in his bare feet. Ten minutes later, he returned. His eyes drooped. He slouched on the sofa. He twitched and tugged at his goatee and plugged and unplugged his cellphone, an unlit cigarette in his hand. Yes, he acknowledged a few minutes later. As his parents despaired over his future, he had been getting high. Patrick was high again a day later when he was arrested at a Burger King with a bag of Xanax bulging from one of his socks.

He was charged with possession with intent to distribute, then blacked out.

An Intervention

He awoke in a small, concrete cell, charged with three felonies and two misdemeanors. In jail, he was kept from all drugs, including Suboxone, an opioid substitute that eases withdrawal symptoms and that Patrick had been prescribed by a doctor years earlier as part of an effort to transition him into treatment.

New Hampshire is among several states that have banned Suboxone from prisons because inmates often sell it to each other, sometimes leading to overdoses. Patrick went into an intense withdrawal, with extreme vomiting and diarrhea, in a cramped 6-foot-byfoot cell that he shared with another inmate. His cellmate, who stayed on the top bunk, faced the wall and tuned him out, Patrick said. He said a second mattress was placed on the floor next to his lower bunk in case he fell out during a seizure. And I was so sleep deprived, I was seeing things.

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The wise man, a short story by Donal Ryan

The aroma of food made him nauseous. Patrick, who is 5-foot-9, dropped to pounds. He spent seven weeks in jail, then 28 days in an inpatient treatment program as his legal case made its way through the courts. By early October, the program was done, he was temporarily released on his own recognizance, and he had been drug-free for almost three months. And yet his family churned with anxiety. Having him locked away in jail was gloomy and unsettling. But it was nothing compared with the dread of having him out.

Patrick and his father joined a gym and began working out together. Patrick muscled up and put on 30 pounds. Color returned to his gaunt face. But without drugs, Patrick said, he felt lost. He was not in treatment, had no mental health counselor and no job. If he wanted treatment to help him keep his resolve, he could not afford it. He had no insurance — incarceration automatically cost him his Medicaid benefits.

His parents had long ago spent their savings to pay for lawyers, counselors and legally prescribed medications. But she is in recovery now and her life looks far different. She has a job working at an animal rescue shelter. She bought a car and started community college this month, her sights set on becoming a veterinary technician. All of it raises a question: Why is one person from the same family, the same background, and who has the same attraction to drugs, able to stop, but another cannot seem to?

Sandy and Dennis have an older daughter, Jane, 37, an apprentice carpenter, who is not addicted. She has tried to distance herself from the family drama and has moved out of the area. She thinks she was spared because she never tried opioids in the first place. Knock it off. Sandy said that Betsy, who completed a highly structured treatment program and underwent cognitive behavioral therapy, seemed more motivated than Patrick to quit. And Betsy, who started using drugs at 19, said she suspected that Patrick had a harder time quitting because he had started when he was It was especially difficult getting clean while her brother was still using, Betsy said, as she cuddled a frisky mutt outside the animal shelter.

Now, Patrick stays with his father and Betsy lives with her mother; everyone is wary that if the siblings lived together, they could drag one another down. Patrick said Betsy had succeeded where he had not because she had found passion in her work. She saw glimpses of herself in the shelter dogs and their painful pasts; when she was 8, her parents divorced and her father was drinking. She said she sometimes had to take care of him. He said that during periods when he has been clean, he tends to take on too much, as he did last year when he signed up for multiple coding courses at community college.

He said the heavy caseload left him frustrated, with failing grades. That preceded the relapse in May when he overdosed four times in a single afternoon. Like many parents in families torn apart by drugs, Sandy has blamed herself. For a time, she wondered if she was too permissive, even as she reported her children to the police and kicked them out of the house. Patrick lives with his father, but he often feels crowded by him and visits his mother a lot, usually for supper.

As a late fall day turned to dusk, Patrick lounged on an overstuffed chair in her living room. He said he had not used drugs since he went to jail in July and had applied for a job at a local packaging plant. But he also said he had no self-confidence and no idea how to break free from his cravings. He said he knew he was not a sympathetic figure, that people may look at his life and wonder why he cannot pull himself out of this hole, especially with so much family backing.

His eyes welled with tears and he scraped them, hard, with his open palms. I have a hard time asking for help. On an unseasonably warm night in late October, Sandy attended a support group for parents of addicted children. Sit up now at the table.

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She watched him while he ate, quickly, trying to remember his manners. And yet she seemed possessed of a kind of wisdom, an ancientness, like she was a shape-shifter, a witch in disguise. She sat with her fingers laced together, examining him, smiling slightly, her head tilted a little, away from the window light.

I was tired so I lay down. She made no reply, only sat smiling at him, and he noticed how her eyes changed colour with the shifting light as broken clouds passed across the sun. He held her gaze until she lowered her eyes to his hands, and his wild notions about her dissolved, and he knew she was only a girl playing a woman, and he felt bolder.

His eyes dropped to the swell of her chest and rested there until he realised where he was looking and so he raised his eyes again and saw a mocking expression on her face and so he closed his eyes altogether in panic, and covered them with his hands. She had defeated him, without speaking or moving, she had bested him. Maybe she was a witch after all, a piseog, or a fairy queen.

Slowly, he lowered his hands. I know enough about you. That you got into some kind of trouble. That you have wounded feet. That you lie down in fields. That you call out for your mother in your sleep. Until I heard you snoring. It mattered not one bit to me which or whether.

Syd Barrett

In fact it would have been easier had you been dead. He noticed then a notebook on the table, open to a blank page, and a pen beside it nibbed and inked. He felt as he had when the rector of the college called him to his office. As though he was being studied, like he was a new species, something to be taken apart and looked at from the inside out.

He felt his temper rising, from his stomach to his chest to his head, a sick and burning feeling, and he tried to damp it, to clamp himself shut. He looked past her and up at the mahogany cupboards with their glass fronts, and he noticed for the first time the height of the ceiling, the size of the kitchen, the depth of the bay of the window and the thickness of the curtains. He saw no sign of a Sacred Heart or a Blessed Virgin.

It was a Protestant house, he suddenly knew. He rose to leave. I have to be away now.

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I thank you for your hospitality and for attending to my feet. She seemed taken aback by the abruptness of this, and her eyebrows moved upwards, and something flashed in her eyes, and her mouth opened as though she was about to speak, and her lips, he noticed, were red and full, and her eyes now were the colour of the farthest part of the sea, the blue just below the horizon, and her hair was coming loose again and a strand of it was curled against her cheek, and something happened in his chest, some kind of tightening, and his head felt woolly and his lips were dry, and he wanted to sit back down but now that he had stood he could see no way back to his previous position and his two feet burned beneath him and neither of them would move for him.

What kind of a person sets off walking from Wexford to Tipperary? What sort of an impulse overtook you? There was no going back. And so he stayed. And she told him what her notebook was for. She was writing a play and had all the tools to do so except for one: an idea. She was going to Paris to live on the left bank of the Seine, to be among bohemian people, who had a different sensibility to the people she lived among now. She wanted to hear his story, all the things that happened to him up to the point where he had lain down beneath a willow tree to die.


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So he told her all the things about himself that he could think of that might interest her. Every day she wore the same blue dress. It never seemed to crease or grow shabby or worn. A round and red-faced lady cooked for them and did for them each morning and evening and she spoke little but when she did her voice was soft and refined, and he grew ashamed of his frayed clothes and awkward manners and his accent that must have seemed strange and rough. Please, Michael, stay. He was after twisting his back and had hardly the use of himself at all. The man dropped him near Nenagh and wished him a peaceful Christmas and sent regards to his parents and his family and he walked the final miles as the sun reached halfway along its short winter arc.

And finally he stood at the cross of the four roads at the top of the hill and looked down into the valley. A neighbour drew beside him in an ass-drawn car, a man who laboured summers for his father years before. A Christmas babby, begod. Have you no bag? And he hupped the ass and gave him a lick of the switch on his matted rump and they moved off across the brow of the hill and down into the valley. Go on ahead without me. Tell my mother and father you met me and I was well.

Tell them that, all right? With my wife. And before the man could form a reply he slid off the car and onto his feet and started again to walk, back up the hill and onto the main road. A waxing moon lit the earth and the North Star blazed above it. She was sitting in the window looking out.

A candle glowed on the low sill, lighting her face and her loosening hair. His feet were blistered sore. He was home.

The title story won the Writing. Morten Morland is a political cartoonist and illustrator.

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