FRIENDSHIP by Ryan Vuckovich

“Doug Riotree!” Ac’Am exclaimed, “So good to see you again old man. How was your vacation?”

“Somewhat well…I hope I did not interrupt anything, Hiro.”

“Oh nothing at all. I was just hanging out with Charlie for a bit but he left just about the time you arrived. Please, sit down. Tell me about the types of things you have been doing and the friends you have been hanging out with. Did you make any new friends?”

“Well…No, Hiro, I have not…I — ”

“What’s wrong with you Doug? You are acting like you haven’t seen Amy in a long time.”

“Well…to be honest, I’ve stopped seeing her completely.”

“Well then get yourself another woman Doug! There are plenty to choose from. Lucy has been performing really well this month and she — ”

“No, Hiro. I haven’t just stopped seeing Amy. I’ve…I’m done with women.”

“Well there is nothing wrong with that pal. I haven’t touched a woman in two years. Now I’m all about men. Charlie is my favorite to hang with so far, but I felt about partying with Henry and Matt. Why don’t you — “

“Damn it Hiro! Stop speaking to me like I’m one of our customers!”

“Easy Doug, easy! No need to be rude. You of all people should know how people get when they stop seeing someone like Amy.”

“My tone has nothing to do with Amy but everything to do with what I discovered over my vacation.”

“Doug, are you telling me you finally found us a way to sell hermaphrodites?”

“No Hiro, I have not. And I have completely given up that search once my head was finally clear and I spent my entire vacation by myself.”

“Doug, don’t lie to me. There is no way you could have spent your — ”

“ — vacation alone? Oh but I did Hiro. I truly did. And yes, it was difficult. Every day was like razor blades in my veins and power drills in my stomach. But I did it. And you know what happened after I recovered from the loneliness? I educated myself about the harmful effects of having friends like Amy.”

“Sounds like a waste of time Doug since you know full well that there are risks to every relationship. After all, you founded this company.”

“Yes, Hiro, I did. And with my time spent alone I’ve come to regret ever starting this company and taking you under as my partner.”

“I refuse to hear anymore. You obviously are suffering from severe loneliness. I mean look at you Doug, you have been shaking like a baby’s rattle. Now just relax and I will have Alfred sent up — ”

“Alcohol!”

“What did you say?”

“It’s alcohol, Hiro! Not Alfred!”

“What are you talking about?”

“It’s what I have learned over my vacation time, Hiro. Alfred is not a person, it is a substance. A depressant. A thing damn it, Hiro! A thing!”

“How dare you refer to Alfred as a thing! What the hell did he do to you?”

“He took my son away, don’t you remember. My son, a living breathing human being who was murdered by that…that thing you think has feelings.”

“All people have feelings, Doug! And all people make mistakes. Alfred did not kill your son, Doug. Jim’s loneliness just could not be beaten. No matter who surrounded him; Amy, Lucy, Angel, Henry, Charlie, Mary Jane, no one could help Jim.”

“You mean amphetamine, LSD, PCP, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana could not help Jim.”

“Where are you getting these weird derogatory words to call people?”

“It doesn’t matter where I’ve gotten them, what matters is that I know them. I know the truth. And the truth is that a long time ago, corporations like ours wanted to capitalize on the growing belief that ‘All people should never be discriminated against’. So, playing off this new movement, they began calling their drugs people’s names. ‘Henry has the right to not be publically harassed slanderously’. ‘Stop assaulting Charlie with such negativity’. ‘They are our friends’. ‘They make us feel good’. Society was conditioned to believe all this Hiro and I’m guilty of feeding that belief system. I sold cocaine to a 10 year old boy. I told a mother that she could inject her 8 year old girl with heroin. I even gave Jim his first drink of alcohol at age 6! I’ve killed children, Hiro! I’ve killed children!”

“Doug, please calm down. You did not kill anyone.”

“No Hiro? I haven’t killed anyone?”

“Yes, old man. Lucy must have shown you a movie where you saw yourself doing such a thing. But it was only a movie, Doug. Only a movie.”

“You just don’t get it.”

“Get what, that my friend has been feeling pain?”

“Yes, Hiro. That is a fact. I am your friend, because I am a person. All the drugs you have taken and sold are not your friends, Hiro. They are lies. Lies we keep telling ourselves will never harm us or our loved ones because we think they are friends. But they are not.”

“Doug, if you truly believe that I am your friend, let me help you fight this loneliness you are feeling. Take some more vacation time with Amy.”

“No, Hiro. I cannot unlearn what I have discovered. And I can’t continue on knowing what I have created.”

“What are you talking about, Doug?”

“I took a young 18 year old man and turned him into not only a drug addict, but a murderer. I brought you into this company and made you the person you are today. I cannot continue on living knowing that you, the chair of this company will continue to sell drugs to children. So with that being said, I brought you something to help both of us. It’s not a friend, Hiro, nor is it a drug. She is an acquaintance.”

***

“And then officer, right after Mr. Ac’Am stopped yelling about killing children there was a moment of silence. I was just about to knock on his door to see if he was alright and then I heard the gun go off.”

“Do you happen to know which one of his friends was with him before he died?”

“Well, he was with Charlie for a while, but then he wanted to spend time with a new friend the company was ready to introduce to the world.”

“Do you happen to know the name of this friend, Ms. Umtipo?”

I think the name was…Drug…no, Doug! Yes, that’s it. Mr. Ac’Am named his new friend Doug.”

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