Authors: Robert Decoteau
All rights reserved.
No part of this work may be reproduced
the consent of the author.
This is a work of fiction.
Any resemblance to persons (alive or
places, or events is coincidental
This ebook is licensed for your personal
enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to
other people. If you would like to share this book with another
person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If
you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not
purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy.
Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
The alarm clock chirped its disapproval of
me; I glanced over to see that it was right on time, 9:00. I
slapped it quiet and then laid there on my back for a moment
longer, organizing my thoughts. Today was the big day. Today I
would break my routine and venture out into the world for the first
time in nearly ten years. My task today was to meet Dr. Harriet at
my local Starbucks and have my first face to face therapy session.
Just the thought of it made my fingers tingle and my heart pound a
Agoraphobia is an irrational fear of wide
open spaces, a fear of crowds, or a fear of uncontrolled social
situations. For me it was all three. I don’t leave my apartment…
ever. Some agoraphobic people are plagued by panic attacks. In
fact, many psychotherapists believe the phobia is a byproduct of a
panic disorder. In my case, this is not true. My condition is a
result of conscious decisions. I don’t leave my house because I
don’t want to die. It’s that simple.
Some might say I’m the luckiest person on the
planet, there was a time when I might have agreed, but now I
believe I’m cursed and one day that curse will be the end of
Climbing from the warm comfort of my bed I
pulled the sheet off and tossed it into a basket with yesterday’s
bedding. I removed my pajama bottoms and underpants and deposited
them in a separate hamper.
Lined up on top of my chest-of-drawers was
everything I would need for this part of my morning routine. From a
large box, I removed a single handy-wipe, peeled away the foil
packaging, and sterilized my hands before squeezing them into fresh
latex gloves. I put on my surgical mask and cap. The spray can of
Lysol that I kept on the nightstand was getting low. I would have
to remember to add that to my shopping list. I sprayed the bare
mattress, flipped it, and coated the bottom side as well.
Next, I used the wipe on the outside of the
Lysol can, focusing heavily on the dispenser button. Finally, I
treated the alarm clock. Each of the buttons was meticulously
scrubbed and I used a folded corner of the wipe to get in all of
the cracks and crevices.
With the gloves, handy-wipe, and foil wrapper
deposited into the proper disposal receptacle, I moved on to my
bathroom routine. First were the teeth, always the teeth. I
unwrapped today’s toothbrush, applied paste, and began:
twenty-seven little circles for each tooth, spit, rinse,
The brush and its wrapper were deposited in
the trash and I moved on to scrubbing my face. I washed my hands,
put on my second set of latex gloves, and started the shower.
When I was eight years old, I almost died.
One Sunday we left our little town just outside Dallas, heading for
the country. This was back when my father loved to go on Sunday
drives. About an hour into our trip, my mother saw a sign
proclaiming that the largest petting zoo in the state was just
“Oh, George, that looks like fun. The kids
will love it,” Mother said.
Of course we stopped. My mother was an animal
lover after all and she wanted her three children to be animal
My older brother Lenny was ten at the time,
just reaching that point when he had no interest in siblings,
parents, or family outings. He spent much of that afternoon leaning
against a fence post with a grim expression. No amount of coaxing
from our mother would get him excited about our little
Sally and I on the other hand, were ecstatic
about our unplanned stop. Sally, my younger sister, was six years
old. She had been obsessed with bunnies and chicks ever since
Easter a few weeks before. Sally spent the majority of our short
visit folded over the large bin of floppy eared rabbits.
Growing up in Texas, every little boy
experienced a cowboy phase; some never grow out of it. I was in the
middle of my cowboy phase. I spent the hour long deviation from our
Sunday drive petting the ponies and miniature horses and wishing I
had brought my cowboy hat and cap guns.
By the following morning, I had developed a
boil on my arm which was surrounded by an angry red rash. Mother
kept me home and made an appointment for me to see the town doctor.
I remember watching out the window as Sally and Lenny got on the
bus. Mom stood next to the driveway waving to Sally and ignoring
Lenny, per his request. The bus pulled away and that was the last I
ever saw of my siblings.
Mom began to worry at about 4:15 when the
school bus still hadn’t arrived.
It turned out she had good reason to worry;
there had been an accident on the east bridge of Highway 922. A
drunk in a pickup had veered out of his lane and the bus driver
swerved to avoid a head on collision. The big yellow vehicle
smashed through the guardrail and plunged seventy-five feet into
Ray Roberts Lake. The bus driver, Margret Pearson, managed to
escape a watery death, but all twenty-seven children perished,
including Lenny and Sally.
“Cutaneous anthrax,” Dr. Michener had
declared two days later.
He asked my mother about contact with animals
and nodded his confirmation as she informed him of our recent
excursion to the petting zoo.
“Don’t you worry; Mrs. Granger, little Teddy
here is going to be just fine. This form of anthrax is transmitted
through contact with infected animals, but is rarely fatal with
treatment, especially since we caught it so early. I’ll do a
culture to confirm and notify the authorities, have them close down
that little animal farm.”
He took a culture from the black boil on my
arm, but prescribed a round of antibiotics instead of waiting for
the results. Mom took me to the drug store straight away and we
headed home. Two weeks after the double funeral, we moved out of
Texas. Mother needed a change so we headed for Colorado.
After scrubbing down the shower tiles, my
bathroom time was complete. I moved back to my bedroom long enough
to dress, deposit my towel in the soiled linen basket, and then
went to the kitchen. Strawberry was my yogurt of choice for
breakfast. I added a half of a cup of granola cereal and disposed
of the little plastic cup, the lid, and the foil seal I had peeled
off the top. My third set of latex gloves was reserved for my
There was stomping on the staircase outside
of my apartment. I rushed to the peep hole and watched Tommy, the
stoner kid from upstairs, gain the second floor landing. He spit on
the floor before continuing up the next flight.
I went to my journal and flipped to the page
reserved for the pothead. I made a note about his break in routine;
he was supposed to be at work. I put a star next to the note,
reminding me that I would have to keep a close eye on his movements
over the next few days. I also noted that he spit on the floor.
That would be included in my weekly complaint letter to property
I finished my small meal and washed my bowl
and spoon thoroughly before placing them in sealed Zip-Loc bags for
storage. After trading my used gloves for a new pair, I moved to my
computer station and prepared to get to work.
Thanks to the computer age, one no longer had
to be independently wealthy to be an agoraphobe. The internet
allowed me to work from home as a copy editor as well as providing
me with virtual stores from which I could order practically
anything I would ever need. A very reputable laundry company
handled my cleaning. The grocery delivery boy gets a five dollar
tip every time he runs my trash to the dumpster for me. Gone are
the days when a person with my condition needs a handful of
enablers to sustain themselves.
My next brush with death was a few years
later. Colorado was much as you might expect it to be. Winters were
severe and summers were mild. Mother loved the snow. We lived
pretty far out of town, up at the top of a steep old logging road
that led to nowhere. Mother refused to let me set foot on the
school bus so I rode down the hill with my father everyday on his
way to work. It meant getting to school almost a full hour early
every morning, but I didn’t mind. I became something of a teacher’s
pet, helping to set up different projects and staple handouts
One February morning when I was ten, my
father and I were working our way down our little mountain in his
old Ford Econoline van and we hit a patch of ice. The rear of the
van slipped over the embankment and we tumbled nearly 200 feet down
into a ravine. All of the windows shattered and I could hear the
glass tinkling as the van crunched, rolled, and crunched some more.
Finally, we came to a stop upside down.
Dad’s legs were pinned under the steering
column. One of his femurs was broken and protruded from a hole in
his blood soaked jeans. I managed to undo my seatbelt and crawl out
of the wreckage. Once my father regained consciousness, he
instructed me to go for help. He told me we were two miles from
Route 27, there should be morning traffic. Just follow the road
down the hill and flag down the first car I see.
It took me nearly an hour to get out of the
ravine and almost another hour to get to the highway. My father was
dead and cold before I finally got a car to stop. The autopsy
report cited blood loss, shock, and hypothermia as cause of death.
I had the Chicken Pocks on the day of the funeral.
My screen saver popped up and I blinked,
realizing that I had been sitting at my computer with my hands
poised over the keyboard, not working. There was shouting from down
in the courtyard. I went to investigate. From my dining room
window, I had a perfect view of the scene unfolding below. I stayed
back a few steps, slightly behind the curtain to avoid being
Just as I had suspected I saw Mr. and Mrs.
Grimly facing off. I glanced at my watch, 10:13. I flipped through
my notebook to the “Grimly” page and recorded the incident. I would
note the duration of the argument and the number of times profanity
was used, English and Spanish.
“Why do you doing this every time?” Mrs.
Grimly demanded in her shill voice, “I tol’ you it is jus’ a job,
jus’ work, Charlie. Now get out of the way so I don’t be late
“But, baby, we talked about this,” Her
husband responded calmly. He always seemed to keep his cool. “I
have a lot of money, I have enough that you don’t have to work
“I know, Charlie,” said the Hispanic woman,
“but I need to work, I always take care of myself.”
I flipped back a few pages in my log, this
was the seventh such argument this month; twice in their apartment
right above me, once on the third floor landing, and three times on
the stairs. This was the first time they had made it as far as the
Mr. Grimly was a rather rotund fellow with a
perspiration problem. His marriage to the striking, young brunet
was not at all stable. At first glance, one might think that Mr.
Grimly had married high above his station, but a few moments in the
company of the young woman would dispel that notion. She was
obviously very high maintenance and shallow, not to mention, the
vulgarities that she spewed detracted greatly from her beauty. In
the end, I counted it as a wash. They may not be the perfect
couple, but they were equal in their unpleasantness.
“Charlie... Charlie!” The wife bellowed,
“Awe, forget it, I’m going to be late.”
“Baby, please, just give me a few minutes to
talk,” Mr. Grimly pleaded,
“We’ve been over this a dozen time!” his
spouse shrilled, “I’m sick of this chit, Charlie, you know who I am
when we get marry.”
“Baby, please, don’t make a scene.”
At least the portly man was sensible enough
to consider his neighbors and keep his voice down. His wife was
yelling at the top of her lungs in Spanish. I couldn’t tell you
what she was ranting about, the only Spanish I know are the major
swear words, and she was using them a lot.