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You started Friday afternoon at the office party, you think. Technically it was Friday morning with the eggnog instead of a second coffee by the fax machine where you started talking to Danielle. Okay, that much you have down. But where are you now? This is not my happy home...this is not my happy office...that is not my lovely wife...and you start singing all the wrong words to that Talking Heads song. My, my...chipper, aren't we? Always a bad sign when you know you passed out loaded. It means you're going to pay very hard and not much later. Think. Put on your pants. Be a man, that's it. Wallet. Four dollars. Oh. C'mon. Look around. Motel. What the? Oh. Angie's after-party party. Where's Angie? That was going good. Your Casio diver's watch -- that's a laugh -- 5:55. What? A.m. or p.m.? Dark.

You stood up too fast. Take a minute, hang on the drapes. Oh, Chri-i... here it comes...see what you ate last. False alarm. Out the window is a parking lot, half dozen cars in the light of an Easy-8 sign. That's almost no help. There's a half dozen of them in your half of San Diego County alone. You are in San Diego, no? Man, you don't even know. C'mon, c'mon.

Looking at the soap wrapper, you see you are in Chula Vista. Why? God only knows. Throwing up in the shower, geez. Aw, that's gross...could be worse. No warning.

Shaking now. You've got to stop the shaking and the paranoia. What did you do last night and maybe Saturday night, for all you know? The money. Hey, the Christmas-bonus check! First a look around. Thank God there's cans of flat, warm Newcastle Brown Ale. No memory of that. Thank God in heaven there is a tinfoil packet of Excedrin in your suit-jacket pocket. Where did all the mud come from on this thing?

Hands trembling out of control, that half-assed shower just accelerated the f-ing hangover. Curse the motherless sadist assholes that made this Excedrin pack. You would kill them right now with your shaking hands around the throat of some geek in a white lab coat and tie in packaging at --what is it? -- Bristol-Meyers-Squibb?

You eye a mostly full bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream, the only evidence you had a chick in here, except...lipstick on the pillowcase and the smell of gardenias long dead and pressed into the pages of an old lady's Bible. An old lady's smell fills the room. Oh, God, did you bang some old lady? A mouthful of Bailey's sends you up against the toilet seat but not quite on target: pizza, some kind of cheese, shrimp, and chocolate cake? None of that stuff was at the catered office party. You launch the Excedrin against the baseboard behind the toilet, floating in bile and spit-warm beer and Bailey's.

After draining every other can of Newcastle Brown, including one full one, you've got it together enough to walk outside and see where you are. The shaking has subsided a little. You figure you've got about 20 minutes before it returns.

You've been in a third-floor room and you see the elevator. At the lobby, the clerk looks at you as if you had slaughtered goats up there last night. A newspaper stand just outside informs you that it is still Friday. That is, of course, impossible unless you went back in time. You are scared. Yes.

Easy. You could have been arrested. Obviously you weren't. As you walk toward neon lights in the fog -- no idea what direction: Like a complete unknown, with no direction home... you half sing, half whimper.

Out of the fog, headlights along a freeway, 805 or I-5, you don't know. Rectilinear patterns of a chain-link fence separate you from oncoming traffic, which seems oddly welcoming now. Stuttering neon AUTO P RTS, and beyond, DONUTS. A wave of nausea almost brings you down. You stagger. Something tries to rise in your throat, fails. A break in the fog reveals a darkened sign, LIQUOR. A metal gate over the entrance. Leaning against the gate you remember to look for the check. Your Casio catches a streaking headlight. It is 6:26, morning. Gotta be. The shaking returns, cold and sugar/alcohol level dropping, and you walk along the frontage road toward a smear of floodlight against a parking lot and a brightly painted wooden sign you can't read except for the word Saloon.

As you approach, timing your arrival at what you can now see is the Boot & Saddle Saloon, for exactly 6:30 when, with God's mercy, they will open the doors, you find yourself weeping for no reason. Absolutely no reason at all.

What the hell is going on? There's one car in the lot. It's 6:32. A place with a name like that has to open at 6:30. What are they, Mormons? You turn away from car lights that enter the lot illuminating your tears and snot. Wiping your face on your jacket sleeve, you see there is dried blood up and down the right arm. It's been there for a few days. No idea.

The man who gets out of the '79 El Camino is a Mexican-looking guy in a white cowboy hat, carrying a newspaper and a coffee from McDonald's. You suddenly laugh and call out, "The good guys in the white hats are here!" The good guy eyes you just like the night clerk.

"You don't look too good, amigo."

"Rough night."

"Rough night?"

Inside, $4 buys you a double screwdriver. You find the crumpled check for $1200; it had somehow gotten wet and the signature is smeared. "There's a Wells Fargo on Jacaranda, three blocks over, but it don't open 'til nine," the barman says. You get credit 'til nine because you help him load bottled beer into the cooler on the back bar. After the double, your shakes are fine, cool. Splendid.

Jaime, the cantinero, gives you some red quarters to play the jukebox. You're a lucky man, there; number A18, is the song you woke up with. You hit it and read Jaime's paper. It's Friday, January 5th, but you knew that pretty much somehow anyway. "Hey, at least I didn't kill anybody...probably. What's the problem?"

"What did you say, man?" Jamie's head is in the cooler.

"Nothing!" And you kind of sing/talk along with David Byrne on the jukebox, "Same as it ever was...same as it ever was."

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