I have a lot to share but I will get to that tomorrow. I like to do five installments of fiction at a time, so thank you for bearing with me.
Here is part 25 of The Trees. Holy shit...25.
“Hey, Annie. Is your dad, uh, home?”
Annie recognized Anthony’s voice and she was immediately displeased.
“No. He’s not here.”
“Do you want to leave a message, Anthony? I mean, I doubt he would want to talk to you, but I’ll give him a message.”
Annie’s overemphasis of want turned Anthony’s nervousness into irritation.
“What the fuck, Annie?”
“Don’t you mean, ‘I’m sorry for being an idiot,’ Anthony?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You blew off dinner two weekends ago and no one has heard from you since you pulled that shit at the company. That’s what.”
Even though there was a nine-year gap between the two of them, Anthony was never able to pull anything over on Annie. She was about to let him have it but then she remembered that Anthony probably didn’t know. He was as prone to disappearing as he was prone to forgetting to answer his phone.
“I’m sorry, Annie. Allie’s been calling and calling me. I figured it was because I never apologized to your dad. I’m sure that was expected of me at my folk’s house…”
Anthony trailed off. He didn’t want to be explaining this to Annie. She was often the only member of the Lewis family who would call him on his shit. She had no filter when it came to his mistakes, but he often took what she said to heart.
“It’s a bummer you didn’t show. You should come by this weekend, though. I’m sure my dad would like to talk to you.”
“Okay. Tell him I called and I’ll call before I come over. See you then, squirt.”
“Don’t call me that. One more thing…”
Anthony heard the phone hang up and he winced a bit at Annie’s last words. What was she? A freshman now? Where did she get the balls, he thought.
2016 had not been a great year for Anthony Rawls.
He started off the year on a bender in Seattle and for a few days, he wasn’t exactly sure how he had even gotten up there. Sleep always helped in these situations but finding a place to conk out for a few days had been tough and the confusion he felt when he realized where he was at was something he didn’t think he would ever get used to feeling.
Sometimes Anthony would stay up for eight or nine, even ten days without sleeping. He first tried crystal meth in 2009 when he was a junior in high school. At first, he didn’t care for the drug because it was hard to explain to his mother, Hettie, why he was up so early in the morning. Anthony was not historically an early riser unless baseball was somehow involved.
In 2010, though, he had discovered the intoxicating mix of taking multiple tabs of blotter LSD and smoking meth. He had gone up to Flagstaff to stay with a friend who was attending NAU for a weekend and he ended up staying for a week. The first four days of that excursion were spent roaming the halls of his buddies’ dorm pretending to be a ghost. He was the only one, unfortunately, who didn’t realize that he could be seen.
Finally, he had crashed and ended up sleeping for almost 48 consecutive hours. He was hooked, though, on the buzz. He told his friends, “It’s like being insane, but you’re not.” For much of the next year, he traveled around the country visiting friends who had kept it together and gone off to college until he would wear out his welcome and have to head back to Phoenix.
He started a pattern of traveling, staying high as much as possible, then coming back to Phoenix to sleep it off and clear his head. Eventually, he strung together enough sober time to convince his parents to help him get an apartment of his own and a job at Evolve. Meth found a way back into the picture, though, and Anthony would stop showing up for work.
When Anthony could get it together, he was a good kid. He wasn’t particularly good on the phones, but he had some of his dad’s skills with IT and could be of help to the company the system running. He could be incredibly detail-oriented, but this was often an indication that he might be using again. Eventually it seemed to always snowball to the point where he stopped showing up to work.
Because of the depth of his habit, Anthony was an easy mark for fellow tweakers, especially when they figured out he had access to some money. When high, Anthony was not above taking things that didn’t belong to him and he became a fairly capable thief, but the worst of his transgressions were always against his own family, including the Lewises. Hettie and John understood the depth of his problem, but they had also lost a son and were in no hurry to lose another.
Most of the time, Anthony kept his promise to them to not use their money for drugs, but they were still enabling him, and everyone involved knew it. Jan and Dan Lewis occasionally contributed, as well, and Dan was always the first person to want to give Anthony another chance at Evolve until the computer theft. That had been the last straw for Dan.
Anthony’s behavior at Lewis/Rawls family functions had also caused a rift between him and the Lewis children. Both Cole and JR had informed Annie to be very careful around Anthony after being burned by him on multiple occasions. While JR and Anthony had never really been close, Cole had admired Anthony’s baseball skills as a youngster and was always delighted when he would toss the ball around with him.
Since 2013, though, Cole Lewis would barely speak to Anthony unless he absolutely had to do so. During his freshman year, Cole had asked Anthony to get some weed for him and his buddies and Anthony had taken his money and never came back. When he asked Anthony for his money back, Anthony had just laughed and said, “You don’t want to do that anyway. I did you a favor. Consider it a lesson learned.”
JR had written Anthony off when they were both still in high school. Unlike the situation with Cole, Anthony had been more than happy to smoke JR out from time to time, but when he couldn’t talk JR into buying some ecstasy one night, he had gotten pissed and told his father and Dan that JR was asking him to buy him drugs. Even though the truth eventually came out, the drug talk was not one JR was wanting to have at the time and he ended up coming clean about his occasional pot smoking to his parents.
After that, JR didn’t have much to say to Anthony either. By 2016, JR had learned to avoid the subject of Anthony all together and if Anthony had known JR and Brynn were a sometime item, he would not have been capable of outwardly approving of it. Anthony felt the estrangement between himself and his family the most when it came to Brynn, but she was the best at keeping him at arm’s length, outside of Annie.
See you tomorrow.
Look how thrilled Marky Ramone is to be standing next to me.