Just a short little story I came up with while making dinner one night. One warning to you - be careful what you put in your mouth.
Thanks to jo for the fantastic comments and editing.
Copyright 2012 by the author.
Do you know what water tastes like?
Think about it for a second. It's something so everyday, so mundane, that we take it for granted. I'm not talking about the water you swallow while swimming in the ocean or the neighborhood pool, I'm talking about supposedly the purest form available in these modern times -- bottled drinking water.
Bottled water has a very distinct taste; at least it does to me. I can easily tell the difference between bottled and tap water and even between brands, somewhat like a wine connoisseur can with bottles of Chablis. I can tell when a bottle has been previously opened too. There's something about the flavor, or lack of flavor, that makes the taste memorable. Now this isn't some kind of weird super power, it's just a quirk that I've come to appreciate over the years and a whole lot more lately. My friends and family don't know about it and I've never even told my wife about it, and there lies my story.
It was last year when Lauren, that's my wife, started buying this little squirt bottle of flavoring to put into a bottle of water. It's supposed to 'Add Zing to the Ordinary.' Myself, I'm not too fond of it. To me it tastes like someone spit their bubble gum into the bottle and shook it up. Anyway, she's been on me to try it. I did and told her that "I prefer my water neat." She didn't get the joke because she continued to sneak in a bottle of the flavored stuff every so often. This off and on substitution has been going on for a couple months now. I try to be polite about it but when she's not looking I exchange it for an unflavored one.
It was at our annual summer barbecue for the whole neighborhood that something I hadn't expected happened. While I was manning the three cookers and not paying too much attention to anything but the steaks and hamburgers, Lauren passed by and shoved a bottle of water in my hand. When the party is at our house I don't like to drink alcohol so I pull on a bottle of water all evening. Without thinking too much about it I took a sip and realized it was one of her flavored ones. I didn't swallow any but bent over to check the propane tanks and spit it out where no one would see. The reason I spit it out wasn't because of the blackberry flavoring but something else, something that I didn't recognize. There was a faint metallic taste along with a hint of something that reminded me of sulfur. I didn't know what it was but I certainly wasn't going to swallow it. I put the bottle between the propane tanks and went about my cooking. But an alarm started going off in my head for some unknown reason.
As nonchalantly as I could I looked around at the gathering in the back yard, smiling and continuing to serve the food. Everybody was either in deep conversation or feeding their face or bobbing up and down in the pool, everybody that is except for Lauren... and Bob. They were sitting on a lounge chair surreptitiously watching me. Watching me for what, I wondered? They seemed to be in some kind of serious conversation with occasional glances over at me. And how did Bob get here? I don't remember inviting him. Bob is one of Lauren's coworkers who lives a few blocks over and has recently been showing up at events where we were. I never gave him a second thought until today. The alarm was still screaming.
When all the steaks were served and the hamburgers piled on a plate on the picnic table, I turned the burners off and closed the lids. Lauren was watching and I caught her eye and pointed to the kitchen door. I went inside and got another bottle of water from my private stash. When I took the cap off I noticed that it had been opened before and after smelling it I found the same metallic quality and hint of sulfur. "Maybe it's just a bad batch," I thought. I set it on the counter and turned around smack into my wife's face.
"What's up Chuck?" she said with her cute little crooked smile.
"Aw nothing, just getting a refill. I think we've got a bad batch of water, they taste kind of funny."
"Oh, I don't see how that can be; it's probably just something you ate that's leaving an aftertaste. What did you do with the one I gave you?"
Thinking quickly so I didn't get in trouble, I made up a little white lie. "Oh, I finished that one. I came in to get another one."
She smiled and ran her fingers through my hair all the time looking me in the eye. "Good," she said taking the bottle I just put on the counter and holding it out to me. "Take this one and go on outside and see to our guests. I'll straighten up in here a bit."
As I walked down the path toward the pool Bob got up and went inside. I noticed because that damned alarm in my head was louder than ever and whenever I looked his way it went up an octave. Something damn strange was going on, but what? I walked through my throng of friends and around to the side door that led to our bedroom. When I went in I could hear voices coming from just outside the door, in either the hallway or the bathroom. It was Lauren and Bob. As quietly as I could I tiptoed up to the door and listened.
"I don't know," Bob said. "The guy that gave me the stuff said it works differently for everybody. Some people feel the effects right away and some in an hour or two. Be patient."
"Well I'm too fucking horny to wait," Lauren growled. "I want your pants off right now and that giant cock of yours inside me again."
"Damnit Lauren, don't screw up a good thing. As soon as good-time-Charlie is out we can have our own private party. Be patient. It's you that wanted me to fuck your brains out while he's asleep in the bed next to us. Why, I don't know, because he's been nothing but a good husband to you."
"Yeah, he's been a good hubby, but he's too vanilla, too predictable in the sack. I want a little excitement, a little danger, without jeopardizing everything I've worked so hard to get. And you sir are that little danger, and definitely not vanilla."
"Yeah, well I don't want to do anything to loose that tight pussy of yours either. And remind me to never get on your bad side. You have one evil mind."
"Well then, if you want me to be patient you're going to have to give me a little kiss to tide me over until later."
There was silence and then a moan that I've heard many times before, usually at night.
The feeling in my gut was like nothing I've ever felt before. My insides were burning and my heart was thumping harder and faster. The images in my mind were like a poorly dubbed Asian movie as the years passed in front of my eyes. Every moment since I first saw Lauren across the room in our European Literature class was playing on the screen in my mind with every scene reciting the same dialog. Lauren saying over and over, "I want your pants off right now and that giant cock of yours inside me again." My head was about to burst.
"Will that hold you until hubby's asleep?" Bob asked in a whisper.
"Ummmm, you bet lover," Lauren said returning his whisper. "Now get out of here before someone sees us together."
I retreated out the side door again but didn't go back to the party; instead I went around the front of the house where everybody parked. I needed to be alone and think about what I just heard so I sat on the front porch steps to ponder my life. For some unknown reason I was still carrying the bottle of water that I pulled out of the refrigerator just minutes before, before my life changed. When I realized what was going on, and what was in the water, I threw it into the yard.
I sat there for the longest time and nobody disturbed me. Memories of the past were mixed with dread of the future as thought after thought tore through my mind trying to make sense out of recent events. I knew what was going on, NOW, but I had to figure out what was going to happen next. I had put an end to the games being played at my expense and I had to do as much damage as I could to the perpetrators. One of which is now, and may not be much longer, my wife. That's when I spied the bottle of water I threw onto the lawn.
An idea formed. Then a smile formed.
It was time to get up off my ass and do something.
I picked the bottle of water up and walked around back to the party. With all the control I could muster I found Lauren and said, "I've got to make a beer run. I'll be back in a few minutes."
She put her arm on my shoulder. "Do you think you should be driving?"
I looked at her and said, "Why, I haven't had anything to drink except a little water. I'll be right back." I turned and left her standing there. I got a glimpse of Bob coming up beside as I closed the garage door.
In the garage I emptied out half of the bottle of water, added a couple extra ingredients, shook well and put it in the cup holder on the center console. I had to stop at the drug store before going to the liquor store. Something I remembered that my grandmother always kept in her medicine cabinet, and threatened us kids with, was called Syrup of Ipecac. I've never dared cross grandma because I knew what Syrup of Ipecac was for. It was ideal for my situation now.
When I got to the liquor store parking lot I took a mouthful of water from my bottle and swished it around in my mouth. I spit it out on the front seat without swallowing any. Then I took my new purchase and walked over to the dumpster next to the building and drank half the bottle. The rest I threw in the dumpster. My stomach was turning flip flops as I stumbled into the store on very wobbly legs. When I was about half way to the counter Mount Vesuvius erupted. Everything that I had eaten in the last 24 hours was spewing out all over their nice clean floor. I fell down and curled up in a ball shaking like a leaf. The vomiting continued as the clerk tried to walk around the puddles to see if I was alive or not. He gave up quickly and called 911 when the moaning started.
One of our town's finest police officers arrived before the ambulance. I'm sure she thought that she was just going to find another drunk who fell out in the liquor store. But when she saw me and the convulsions that my body was going through she changed her tune, or so I imagined lying there.
"Sir, sir, can you hear me?" She shouted in my ear.
"Sir, what happened? Did you have too much to drink?"
"Nooooooo, just bottle of water. Wife gave to me. In the car. I..." I threw up in her direction; luckily she jumped out of the line of fire in time.
I saw the cop carrying the bottle of water from my car as the attendants loaded me into the ambulance and sped away to the hospital. Once at the hospital they did all sorts of blood tests and pumped what little I had left in my stomach. I passed out after the degradation of having a tube stuffed down my throat and into my stomach.
Some time later the same police officer and what I guessed was a doctor came into my room and woke me.
"Huh? Where am I?"
"Mr. Berry, I'm Officer Park and this is Dr. Wojohowitz. Can you answer a few questions for us?"
"Uh, yeah, I guess so. I'm a little light-headed though. What happened?"
"Sir, you passed out at ABC Liquors. Do you remember being there?"
"Yeah, I went for some more beer."
"How much did you have to drink today?"
"Nothing! When we host the neighborhood barbecue at my house I don't drink. I might have to drive some of the guests home at the end, so the only thing I had was a couple bottles of water that my wife gave me. That's all. Honest!"
"You're sure?" she said with a questioned look.
"100 Percent. Oh, and just a couple bites of a hamburger."
"Okay, then I think we might have a problem here. I'll let Doctor Wojohowitz tell you the rest."
The man in the white coat began. "Mr. Berry, the water bottle that the officer took from your car contained a mixture of a sleeping agent called Triazolam, a strychnine based rodent poison that can be bought at just about any hardware store, and Digitalis Purpurea, or a common plant called Foxglove. All three were in high enough doses to have caused your seizure and if you hadn't been brought here when you were then you would probably have died within a few minutes. We are going to have to keep you here for a couple days to ensure that there are no neurological or organ problems related to ingesting such a combination of toxins. You're getting intravenous fluids now to flush out whatever's left behind. We'll be able to tell you more in a couple days, but for now all you need to do is rest. Let the nurse know if you feel anything strange. And I mean anything.
And Mr. Berry, I have to say that you're one lucky man. It's fortunate that your body rejected the toxins when it did otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation right now. Frankly, you're lucky to be alive. Putting together this mixture of poisons couldn't have been an accident, in my opinion. Somebody had it out for you in a big way."
The room became eerily quiet.
Officer Park excused herself to go into the hall to answer her cell phone. The doctor just patted me on the arm, smiled and left. I just turned away from the door and smiled again, but the smile turned to a frown when I thought about Lauren.
When Officer Park came back she looked worried. "Mr. Berry, I just talked to another officer that went to your house to talk to your wife. When he told her what happened to you she ran out into the backyard and started screaming and yelling at one of your guests, a Mr. Robert Michaels. From what the officer told me they both accused the other of putting something in your drinking water. Things got a bit physical between the two of them so the officers had to restrain them. There was a lot of screaming and yelling and other accusations that I can't talk about right now, but after they calmed down a bit, both were taken down to the station. Your wife and Mr. Michaels will be questioned so we can ascertain what their involvement in your predicament was. Depending on their statements, charges may be pending.
Whoever did this to you is in serious trouble. They're looking at charges of attempted murder. You can't get any more serious than that. Right now you just do what the doctor ordered and rest and don't worry about anything. I'll leave you my card and if you have any questions or remember anything helpful you can call me at any time. Oh, and you should be safe drinking the water here, or so they tell me. Have a good night sir."
I didn't have a good night. But they did get better.
Lauren and Bob received three to five years in state prison for 2nd degree assault. I asked the State's Attorney to be lenient because I didn't want revenge, just justice. They accepted the plea bargain when offered otherwise the state would have gone forward with attempted 2nd degree murder charges. They'll probably be out on parole in two years, assuming good behavior.
The guy that gave Bob the sleeping pills got one year for distribution of a controlled substance. He has to walk around with an ankle bracelet monitor for the year.
Bob's wife filed for divorce after sentencing.
Everybody at the party heard Lauren and Bob's screaming accusations at one another about who put poison in my water and who was screwing who. News of their affair spread fast.
I've been divorced for a while now too. The only time I talked to Lauren was a thirty minute meeting after sentencing. She apologized about a thousand times. All I asked her was if this is what she had in mind for "a little excitement, a little danger?" I haven't seen her since. I haven't talked to Bob. I'm waiting for him to get out of prison before having a little heart-to-heart with him, or should I say baseball bat to his nuts conversation.
Now, every time I take a drink of water it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.