He had attended wild parties and the best people in the business had all watched as Dr. Joe Stern M.D. rose to the top with a flare and a finesse rarely seen. The ladies kept coming and eventually Curb had responded in a head over heels fall.
He had settled on Eleanor Biscun. She had been tall auburn and great in bed. He grimaced for a moment, and she had taken most of his money in the divorce. Eleanor, Eleanor if only I knew you he thought reflectively. Eleanor had been the end of his career as well. The publicity had all been bad and in the end they had accused him of spousal abuse. He thought again for a moment. He had been on the move, the fast track to stardom. He knew he had done the right thing in the end, after all she had taken that from him. No one had noticed her disappearance, her family knew she was fickle and prone to leave on extended trips to Morocco and St.Croix. They had never questioned it. The News blared insistently as the announcer mentioned the tainted lot numbers for the coffee. Standing he went to the living room and got a pencil. “……..Lot# 254987 and Lot# 34891 Fire Roast Solo Brand.” Curb wrote the two numbers down and returned to the kitchen. Finding the jar of Solo he looked warily at the label. The lot number was missing, the label was torn near the seem where he had removed a $1.00 coupon, he was a frugal shopper.
He put the jar on the table and stared at it, he had just opened it and the steaming cup was nearly empty. “Anthrax!” he said aloud to himself, “laced with Anthrax.” He ran to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. Sticking his tongue out he noted the brownish hue the coffee had left on his tongue. “Great, “ he said to his reflection, “I’ll be doing the two step with death! Come on doc think, what to do.” He turned the faucet on the cold water and began scooping handfuls of water into his mouth. When he was finished he moved over to the toilet and took a deep inhalation, he could smell the cherry air freshener he had bought for the bathroom. He took another deep breath and stuck his finger down his throat making himself vomit, forget the Syrup of Ipecac his finger would do.
The toilet bowl swam a dark brown as the coffee came up. After he had finished he hit the plunger on the toilet three or four times and watched the tempest go down the drain. “Anthrax…..I could have Anthrax!” he said as panic welled up from within him. He wiped his mouth with a piece of tissue and went to the sink again, the water was still running and a cold steam had formed on the mirror near the bottom. He rinsed his mouth again and coughed as water went up his nose. The liquid burned as it poured back through his nostrils and he sneezed into his hand. Blood, was that blood he thought looking at the crimson smear on his palm. He ran to the tissue dispenser and grabbed a wad of the white paper. Holding it to his nose he thought about all of the news reports he had heard about Anthrax, envelopes and packages laced with the deadly toxin, never Coffee.
Curb stumbled out of the bathroom with the toilet paper to his bleeding nose, along the way he tripped over the bathroom rug and fell headfirst into the doorframe. Thump and he saw stars, he sat there for a minute waiting for his head to clear as a dull throb pounded in his bruised head. Touching the surface of his scalp carefully he noted the goose egg that had formed there. “Dammit!” he cursed aloud as blood dripped from his nose onto the tile floor.
Standing on wobbly legs he went back into the kitchen to get the jar of coffee. He grabbed it off from the counter and heaved it with all of his might. The glass jar sailed through the kitchen window with a loud crash and splintering of glass. Something popped in his arm and he screamed. He had pulled a tendon in his arm and the pain was a piercing ache. He groaned and dropped the toilet paper wad as he rubbed his shoulder. “I’ve got to get to the hospital!” he yelled at the broken window, “A friggin hospital,…….before I DIEEEEEEEEEEE!” The doctor had taken a vacation, Dr. Joe Stern was definitely not in control. His voice was a cloud in dark panic as it echoed against the nothingness of enlarging vortexes. There was a hissing sound coming from the kitchen window and Curb smelled the odor of garlic. He went to the window and looked out into the shady back yard. The coffee jar had hit the small tubing that fed into the gas pig and somehow it had come loose. Curb ran into the living room and looked around furiously for the portable phone. It was nowhere to be seen.
The television set was exclaiming the wonders of Sunder Lawn and Garden as he began to moan in great heaving gasps. The doorbell rang a second later and he leaped at the door to answer it. It was his neighbor Favor Lug.
He swung the door open and collapsed into Lug. Lug said, “What the hell is wrong Curb, what happened?” He had looked at curbs blood covered face and his dismayed appearance in scolding wonder. “ The AnTHRAAAAAAAAAXXXXXXXXXX!” Curb moaned.
“What the hell is……….” Favor trailed off as the house exploded with a loud booming burst of flame.
Both men flew into the air nearly to the center of the front yard and as miracles happen they were uninjured except for a few cuts and bruises.
The fire trucks were there for five hours before Curb awoke on Lugs living room sofa. He had dreamed and the dream was full of dark shadows cameras, stage lights, and blood.
“Lights, Camera, Action!” Someone shouted from the end of a long dark tunnel. Curb looked at himself, he was wearing a knee length lab coat with the name Dr. Joe Stern stitched into the left breast. “DR COFFEE., DR. COFFEE COME FILL MY CUP. I’M SO THIRSTY DR. COFFEE.” He saw the 10 Carrot diamond ring on his left hand and grinned. It sparkled and glowed with an evanescent light. Smoke swirled about his feet as he listened.
In the dream Eleanor had been calling him, “Dr, Dr. Joe Stern the anthrax is going to kill us all and…THAT WILL BE FRIGGEN EXPENSIVE BONE HEAD!” she screamed from across a set strewn with broken stage lights and great puddles of blood. She walked toward him in a cloud of gray smoke and sparks. The sparks were electrical cords connected to several stationary cameras and they were coiling and uncoiling. Eleanor moved closer her mouth moving and no sound coming from between her sure pouty lips. Suddenly the air caught fire and she slipped in the pool of spreading blood. She landed with a loud thump as her head split open and the cloud swallowed her up.
She screamed from behind the veil as the pool of blood became ankle deep. “YOU FRIGGEN BONE HEAD LOOK WHAT I’VE DONE!” she poked her head through the cloud and the split in her skull clearly showed the gray matter that resided there. “I”VE HURT MYSELF DR. JOE, I’VE HURT MYSELF, WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE FROM THE BUG TUG, THE BUG TUG, THE BUG TUGGGGGGGGGG!” He stood there and a flock of sparrows swooped across the dimly lit stage filling his vision with flittering black birds. The blood became waist deep and Eleanor was in the distance surrounded by a cloud of smoke, she was doing the backstroke and singing, “DR JOE, DR.JOE HOW WE DANCE WITH THE STARS AND THE GREAT BIG FRIGGEN CARS AND THE RINGS THAT MAKE US SING WITH PARTIES AND TRUFFLES AND CAVIAR JUST LIKE THAT GREAT BIG GOLD BAR…DR JOE YOU”LL REALLY GO FAR!” A vine sprouted from her head and wrapped around the edge of one of the cameras. She screamed, “SMILE FOR THE CAMERA JOE, SMILE FOR THE CAMERA DR. JOE!” the vine had elongated and was lifting the camera toward him in wavering ripples of ease. The blood rushed at his neck as it threatened to swallow him. “THE ANTHRAX SWEETIE, REMEMBER THE ANTHRAX FOR YOU AND ME TO SEE THE END OF THE WORLD IN TOW DR. JOE!”
Eleanor continued to swim in the rising tide as he struggled to breath the water nearly to his nose, something was holding him down. He reached down and grabbed at a thick knot around his ankle, the vine had wrapped around his leg and was pulling him under. Just before he went under he saw Eleanor dangling from the vine by the top of her head above the lake of blood, she was grinning viciously as the vine swayed back and forth, “WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE DOC, ALL GONNA DIE…” As he drown he felt himself pulled back, back, back.
He awoke to the sound of fire trucks and men yelling. His house, suddenly he remembered his house and the explosion. Deep down inside the actor in him was telling him everything was going to be alright, Dr. Joe says everything is going to be OK. He flashed back to the day he had met Eleanor, her bright red hair and the way she had smelled, like Lilacs in the summer, she had tasted good as he had his first kiss with her. You can never go home something called to him from the back of his mind, you can never go home. He cried for a few seconds and took a deep breath remembering acting 101 he focused and found his motivation. Got to move ahead he thought, got to move ahead.
The evening news was on and suddenly he remembered the coffee. “The Anthrax.” he whispered to himself. Lug was next-door at his house with the fire trucks and sweating firemen. Curb listened as the story came on again.
“The Anthrax scare that we reported on earlier has been called off. To the drinkers of Solo Coffee, The coffee was found to be untainted and the initial reports were false…….we are working in earnest to find the source of the rumor and reports that were given earlier this afternoon. Solo coffee is offering a free jar of Joe to every customer who had the Lot Numbers #254987 and #34891. In other news………”
Curb closed his eyes for a moment and sighed, remembering the dream. He had always been one to panic, thinking of his house and the disaster that had occurred he realized that he was lucky anyway. He could have died in the explosion. Curb sighed again and prayed briefly. He could use a cup of coffee, shaking his head and ignoring that notion he decided on tea instead.