When he woke again, it was morning and the house was quiet except for rustling in the kitchen, the drip-drip of the coffee machine, and the sound of his mother frying eggs in a pan.

He felt hot and his armpits were sticky. He’d worn a sweater to sleep, but now it was warm and dry and he could feel the steady exhale of the heat vents.

When he joined his mother in the kitchen, she wanted to know if he’d been talking to himself last night.

He said that he hadn’t.

“I heard you muttering in the kitchen last night. It was odd. I heard this sound, very strange, like metal or something, and you talking. Are you feeling okay?”

“Yeah, Mom. I’m all right.”

“Okay,” she said and she looked at him, but not in the eyes.


Ben drank his coffee and paced the living room. He looked behind the sofa and the papasan chair. He waited until she went to the bathroom and he checked behind the rocking chair and in the cabinets.

There were no signs of the thing he’d met last night.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

He looked up and saw his mother standing over him. He’d dug his arm deep between the sofa cushions in search of the thing.

“Yeah, Mom. I was just…”

“Looking for change?”

“Yeah,” he said.

“Benjamin, you should have just asked.” She reached into her purse and retrieved a twenty-dollar bill.

“Thanks, Mom.”


Soon she left and he was alone to search for the monster.

He called Gerald and asked him to drop by. He smoked a few cigarettes and made a second pot of coffee. He put his headphones on and listened to music. He muttered to himself quietly over the music about nothing in particular.

Soon enough, Gerald texted him that he was out back in the alley and Ben shuffled outside to meet him.

“Man, you look shittier every time I see you,” Gerald said, an unlit cigarette hanging from his lip.

“Oh? Oh, I don’t know,” Ben said.

“You gotta get some rest. Get some exercise or something. You look like you’re dying.”


“Really, man. Your skin is all weird,” Gerald said. He stared at him. He pinched the skin of Ben’s forearm and said, “Yeah, your blood flow is total shit.”

“Oh, that’s a family condition.”

“Having total shit blood flow?”

“My dad died of a massive heart attack.”

“Well, shit, man. You gotta get that blood flow fixed or something.”

“You got some stuff for me?”

“Yeah. They’re really good shit.”

Ben handed him the twenty his mom had given him that morning, plus another twenty. Gerald dug around in his backpack and handed Ben a baggy with eight Vicodin in it.

“Cool, man. Thanks.”

“Get that blood flow checked out, man. You look like shit.”

“Yeah, I will. Thanks for the heads-up.”


Ben didn’t plan on seeing a doctor and he wished Gerald would stop talking shit about his health.


Inside, he fished out two pills and swallowed them dry. The edges rounded and blurred. Smooth. Humming along. And he nodded to himself. They were weak pills but enough to soften things.


He wondered about the gas station down the street, if they ever needed employees to work the night shift. When he went there for cigarettes, it was always the same man with the same greasy mustache working the register. Maybe he needed an apprentice.

But maybe they’d want him to start off working days. There he’d be, chasing after an uptight middle-aged woman who barked out instructions he instantly forgot. And he would ask her to repeat herself and she’d look at him like he was stupid and he’d regret filling out an application, showing up for an interview. He’d be standing there in a red polo shirt with the company logo and he’d want to go home, but he’d be too afraid to walk out.

And they might drug test. He could quit, sure, but he didn’t take that many and they were something to do. They passed the time. This is what he told himself.


He sat on his bed and turned on the TV and he thought to himself that he should do something with the day. Something beyond drugs and TV.

Read a book, maybe. Learn a foreign language. He could study math or physics or economics. He wanted to learn something specialized and become useful in some sphere. Maybe learn to program computers or play Go or chess or poker. He could start an Internet business, he figured. He could earn passive income, travel the world, fly around in a private jet.

you have. an interesting way. ben. of approaching problems. of life.

He didn’t hear the words. He felt them plunge into him.

He looked up and saw it, resting on its metallic hind legs, front paws resting on its belly.

i am. not back. i never left.

“Well then, where were you? I searched everywhere.”

really. ben. you searched. everywhere. do you really believe. that you searched everywhere.


you stuck a hand between sofa cushions. you looked behind a chair. searching your house. did you spend. even three minutes.

He shook his head but knew it was true. He’d looked around a little while his mom drank her coffee and after a few minutes he’d convinced himself it had moved on, or been a dream. Something.


“Are you going to leave?”

my whereabouts. why are you so concerned with them. a foreign language. were you really going to teach yourself. do you think. you have. the discipline. internet business. were you really. going to start one. today.

It scuttled off into the kitchen and Ben heard the sound of crunching, a squeaking sucking sound of metal compressed, chewed.

The monster slowly wobbled back into the room, half a Diet Coke can hanging from its teeth.

what would the. business be. selling something. what. are you. consulting. teaching something. what. how to live off your mom. into your mid-twenties. while spending her money. on pills.

“Okay, I get it.” He stood up. “I get it. I’m a loser. My mom gives me money and I have no plans and my drug dealer says my blood flow is shit.”

The monster laughed. now that is funny. even your drug dealer. he is worried about you.

Ben didn’t want to think about that.

relax. it’s not like. you actually cared. if you were really ashamed. you would change. you’d quit. doing drugs.

“I don’t know where to begin is all.” He wanted more coffee.

somewhere. anywhere.

“But that seems impossible. I don’t know what to do. Should I look for a job?”

do you. want a job.


then ben. get yourself. a job.

“But drug tests.”

so you. just give up. why not quit.

Ben looked at his feet. They were filthy from walking in the backyard, in the alley, without so much as socks. He didn’t want to quit pills. If he gave them up he’d have nothing, just maybe a better shot at a job. But if he didn’t get the job, he’d have nothing.

“Yeah, maybe.”

that’s the spirit.


the passion. i feel it.

“Will you quit bullying me?”

It raised one carpeted eyebrow.

“You come into my house, in the middle of the night and you chew my cans without even asking. And you turn the air conditioning so it’s really cold. And on top of all that, you talk to me like you know me. Well, you don’t, actually. You are some carpet-faced thing. You think you look healthy? Your blood flow is probably shit too.”


air conditioning. do you mind. if I turn it down. sixty-eight is. rather hot. for me.

“Anything chillier is quite cold for me.”

yes. well. you can add layers. i cannot. remove skin.

Ben adjusted the dial so it read 66, and then watched it turn itself to 55.

that’s better. 


“I need to get things done.”

like what.

“I haven’t decided yet.”

He heard the monster laugh long and hard inside his head. It trailed off into a wheezing cough.

busy day.

It was hard to enjoy being high with the monster around.

ben. there are squirrels. jumping from power lines. outside. who are superior. to you.

“Shut up.”

ben. they have responsibilities. they survive. on their own. you rely. upon your mother.

It hurt to think of them, the gutter rats and squirrels, dodging barking dogs and running up and down power lines, returning to their homes with a day’s payment in the form of nuts and trashed food. Where did they find the energy?


The monster crawled across the floor. Ben followed it into the kitchen and watched it retrieve more cans. They rose, then hovered, then descended into its metal paws.

really good. cans. you want one.

“I’m good.”

activities. what’s planned for today.

“How should I know?”

plans. you have none.

“I don’t know yet.”


Ben thought about this, his simple days, unplanned. Coffee, painkillers, cigarettes, then TV. Occasionally, books. But books bored him and he lost focus. So TV.

sad ben. if you can’t. focus. enough to read. how do you think. you’ll build. a successful internet business.

“That was just one idea. I wasn’t even sure that’s what I wanted to do. Maybe I could start a blog or something. I could teach people and build ad revenue. With all that ad revenue I could, well, who knows.”

you really don’t. know. do you.

He stood there in the kitchen and thought. He imagined himself packing boxes of books he’d collected over several years, books he’d enjoyed, records he used to listen to, his laptop, maybe a couple of movies. The few scattered belongings he’d held on to. Saw himself stepping into a clean apartment. Fresh carpet and paint. All those empty spaces waiting to be filled.



when you think. of moving out. you think. you’ll be lonely. starting to make sense.

“Hey, now. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Its crooked aluminum mouth curved into a grin.

you don’t want. to move out. because you’ll be. alone.


“I will move out as soon as I have a job.”

right. and you’ll never. get a job.


For all installments from NEET, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1