Three words. That's all it takes to derail me.
"Mike's in jail."
And who would deliver this solemn and all too serious message? Well obviously, it wasn't Mike. It was Matthew. His (for all intents and purposes) stepson. Which would be cool. If he wasn't 7.
It started as an innocent call to check in on my n'er-do-well brother in Florida. He and I had a less than amicable split both personally and professionally last fall. We owned a business together, then he decided that we didn't. And I was left holding the bag, as usual.
But that's par for the course with Mike. I'm the one who gets the short end of the stick with him. He's 9 years older than me. He's damn near 40, for Christ's sake. He has a family, a house, a good job, and not one bit of common sense.
But, he's away from here. Which was his only goal when he decided to leave. Anywhere but here was the de facto destination of choice.
There's only one little thing... his pesky drug habit. Now I'm not here to throw stones at anyone. My struggle with addiction has been discussed more than few times on this blog. But my brother has elevated dissembling and enabling to a science. He somehow managed to covince me that his main rationale for leaving was so he could get clean, which was something, he said, that he could never do if he remained here. However, I know that the drugs are MUCH cheaper in Florida than they are here. Trust me.
But it was on this basis and this basis alone that I finally acquiesced and agreed to dissolve the business and we would both go on our merry ways. It was his steadfast earnestness that he was only trying to start over and get clean. And, as an addict, I understood that. In familiar surroundings, one can aasily regress to old behaviors and adversely affect the detoxification process. (I'm not a doctor, but I've watched one on TV. So this is definitely some legit knowledge I'm dropping here.)
He left last September. A lot has happened since then. To me. To him, most apparently. And to everyone.
Weeks would go by and we wouldn't speak. Months. Christmas rolled around and amazingly, I received a call. He wanted to leave me his mailing information so the family would know where to mail the presents.
Are you shitting me?
Nary* a phone call for months, and now you expect presents?!
OK. I admit, a fair amount of unnecessary information was just offloaded here. I'll try and refocus.
So I call to talk to Mike. Only he's not there, and Matt answers. And no, his mom wasn't home. Excuse me? You're 7. Where the fuck is everybody, leaving you all alone?
"Oh, well," (And here are those three little words) "Mike's in jail."
"What? For what?"
"He had a suspended license."
I won't get into my brother's criminal history here out of respect, but suffice it to say he has a history of doing very stupid things, and then thinking that he doesn't really need to go to court, because he can "...work it all out later", which is shorthand for "I'm not fucking going to court", which is all well and good, except for the fact that the criminal justice system is a stickler for their rules, and they frown upon you taking matters into your own hands. (Wow, that's quite the run-on sentence. Is there a world record for a run-on sentence? I'd like to try to get in on that if there is.)
So now I'm receiving collect phone calls from the Valucia County Jail. (If I'm spelling that incorrectly, I really don't care. I'm sure they'll spell it right on the phone bill.)
Oh. I see. Now you want to talk. Well, I'd love to talk to you, but the kind old gentleman who recorded that message has just informed me that this collect call will cost $5.84 for the first minute, and $.89 for each additional minute. Great.
So, like the idiot that I am, I talk to him. For about four minutes and 37 seconds. I'm only estimating there, my watch doesn't have a second hand. So, if you prorate the 37 seconds, I owe... about $42.19. (I was always terrible at math. Is that even close?)
Want to hear something even more entertaining than the story I've just told you (Yes, it was meant to be entertaining. How could you not get that?)?
He's called 5 times. FIVE FUCKING TIMES!!!!
According to my calculations, I've talked to him for $29.20 worth of first minutes alone! Adding in the additional minutes, that puts the bill up to right around $675.46.
(That just seems wrong. Man I really suck at math.)
Why don't I just stop answering the phone, is what my sisters have been telling me.
You know, the thought never occurred to me.
Let me put it this way: If I was in prison, I would certainly like my family to answer my phone calls. Unless I did something really heinous, like murder a hobo who was murdering another hobo who was murdering an elderly gentleman who was murdering his wife who was talking to her friend Dolores on the phone about how awful the neighbor's new landscaping job looks. If I did that, then I could understand my family's resistance to my calls.
And yes, I know Michael used up all of his "Get Out Of Jail Free" cards (delicious pun fully intended) a long time ago. But I love him. The only decent and proper thing to do is to answer his calls, talk to him, because he's probably going crazy in there, and then tell him no, he can't have any money. He'll just have sit there until his court date comes, on August 4th.
And I feel even worse, because his birthday is July 30 (Or is it the 31st? Doesn't much matter right now, does it?). He's gonna be in jail on his birthday. Now that just sucks. But I think I finally now know what I can get him for a gift:
A fucking phone card.
Good luck, Mikey. Hoard those cigarettes, remember to hang on to the soap, and watch your cornhole buddy.
* Yes, I really do talk like this. It's not an act.