Week 18: 52-Week Writing Challenge Word prompt: addiction
Laura cringed as his finger found the trigger. Though it was aimed away from her, the blast of the shotgun knocked Laura off her feet.
Scrambling in a half-crawl half-walk, she tried to push past him when another blast rang out. Sinking to the floor, Laura howled in anguish.
“Why? Why did you do that? It wasn’t necessary!”
Without responding, Cory Ganz checked the gun’s chamber, wiped the barrel, and replaced it in its pristine case. He then turned and faced his hysterical wife.
“It had to be done.”
Laura crawled over to the devastation her husband of twenty-one-years had wrought. She reached out an arm but pulled back, glaring at him through her tears.
“You did not have to shoot my laptop!”
“Yes, I did, Laura. And I’m not sorry. I had to get your attention.” Cory left the room and returned a few minutes later with a shovel and a box. He began to scoop up the remains of the still smoldering device.
Laura Ganz stood and paced around him.
“Get my attention? For what? What is so important you had to take out a deadly weapon and shoot an inanimate object? That cost me nine hundred dollars, by the way.”
Cory took a deep breath in an attempt to quell his anger. “Let’s work backward, shall we? When we agreed you needed a new laptop, we also agreed on a price and that we’d pay cash. The very next day, you spent three times the amount decided on and you used our credit card… our emergencies only credit card.” The frustrated husband dragged his hand through his collar-length dark hair. “And you didn’t even tell me, sweets. I had to find out when the bill came in the mail.”
Laura hung her head in shame, then tried to rebound. “But I thought it would be a good investment.” The words rang hollow to her own ears.
“Investment in what, Laura? Neither of us works on-line. We’re not in school or distance learners. Hell, we can’t even get the bill-pay program to work right.” Cory leaned the shovel against the desk and approached his wife.
“But you know what does work for you, honey? Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, iChat, Facetime.” He raised a finger as he named each social network. “You’re LinkedIn, you StumbleUpon, you have Pinterest, and don’t even get me started on your blogs! Enough already!”
Red-faced and defensive, Laura folded her arms across her chest. “I enjoy the Internet. Is that so wrong? Dena Gibbs is out four nights a week spending hundreds to play Bingo. Ann Kemp spends thousands of dollars in Nordstroms and she doesn’t even have a job!” She unfolded her arms reaching out to her husband. “I was wrong to buy the more expensive laptop, and I was wrong for not telling you, but honey, is it really such a bad way for me to spend time? For a few bucks a month, I chat with friends on-line. I’m not like Leslie Van Dyke, hitting the male strip clubs every time Harvey works a double shift.”
He would have laughed if their situation weren’t so serious. “A few bucks? You spent two hundred dollars on Amazon last month! And you upgraded our basic Internet package to premium… that’s an additional forty bucks a month.”
“So this is about the money.”
“No, it’s not about the money! This is about you and us… your family! Donna and I have been on our own for months! She cooks, I do the laundry. She cleans the house, I shop for food. We eat our meals alone… because you’re in front of the laptop, caught up in the personal drama of people you don’t even know!”
“You are upset because you actually have to do some work around the house? Take care of OUR home… take care of yourselves? Excuse me for discontinuing maid service!”
Cory’s jaws were rigid, the timbre of his voice a full octave deeper. “Knock it off, Laura! You know better than that!” He sat on the arm of the sofa, resting his hands on his thighs.
“Your shift begins at six in the morning. You sit on-line until one… sometimes two in the morning. When you fall into bed… if you come to bed at all, you have your cell in your hand. It’s like you can’t miss a second of anything happening on the Internet. When you come home from work, you start all over again. It needs to stop, honey. Your life is here… with your daughter and your husband. Not the world wide web.”
“I think you’re over-exaggerating this-”
“You have a problem, honey… an addiction… to the Internet.”
Backing away, Laura began to laugh. She waved her arms in front of her. Glancing at Cory every few seconds made her laugh harder.
His expression was blank as he watched his wife.
“Oh, Cory… honey! Addicted to the Internet? Really?” She wiped the tears from laughter off her cheeks. “Okay, I may have over-indulged just a tad bit, but, honey… let’s not add to the madness.” Laura motioned toward the box containing her former laptop.
“You called into work twice this month… sick. Only you weren’t. You spent both days typing… chatting… whatever, on-line.”
“Baby, c’mon! You know those days were more of a protest because Rina gave the lead operator position to Willa. I’ve been a 911 operator for ten years. That position was mine. Hell, I trained Willa!”
“And you would have gotten that position and the raise which comes with it… were it not for all the recent reprimands in your personnel file.”
Laura’s laughter was replaced by a smirk. “I only did it twice.”
“That you told me about,” he said. “You know logging on-line at your job is a serious infraction. Hackers are always looking for a way into the 911 database. You opened a port for them and risked your job just to chat with friends.”
Tired and embarrassed by her husband’s lecture, Laura walked toward the kitchen. “Are we done here?”
“You called in today.”
Laura whirled around to face Cory.
“You saw me when I woke up! Eyes puffy and swollen, sinuses draining… and I could barely talk. I need my voice for my job, Cory.”
“Yes, I did, and yes, you do. But I also saw you grab your sinus pills and a bottle of water and park yourself in front of the laptop. I had to call your name twice to get your attention before I left… to remind you of the assembly at Donna’s school this afternoon.”
A mournful groan escaped her lips. Donna was one of four students being honored for maintaining a perfect grade point average for their entire school career. The honor students were to be presented with full four-year scholarships to USC in neighboring California, and checks for twenty-five hundred dollars each. Laura had missed it all.
“I-I… I’m so sorry. So, so sorry. Was she upset?”
“Oh, yes! She said, “Guess I’m not important enough for mom to drag herself away from her precious laptop.””
Laura shook her head as the tears began again. “I was just chatting with friends… updating my blog. Oh, my God. How do I fix this? Can I fix this?” She had missed a very important event for her child and hurt her… all because she was in an on-line book party for an author whose books she had no interest in reading. Because her friends were there. Because she felt empty when she wasn’t logged into a social network.
Cory pulled his wife into his arms. They rocked back and forth while he stroked her long, dark hair. Pulling back, he regarded her. “We can’t do it alone.”
“I don’t see what I’m doing as a problem, Cory. And definitely not as an addiction. But, I don’t see what you see. What our daughter sees.” She rested her head against his chest. “I’m ashamed for what I’ve put you through and my behavior. But most of all,” she looked up into his eyes. “I’m ashamed because even though I know I’ve caused my family pain and possibly jeopardized my job, I’m thinking about how I’ll replace the laptop.”
“I’ll replace the laptop, honey after we get you some help, and they-”
“Some help? What kind of help?”
“Allan says there’s a psychologist who works with the police department and has experience with Internet addiction. He gave me the guy’s number.”
She was horrified. “You told your brother about this?”
“Honey, I just dislodged a firearm… twice! I didn’t want SWAT surrounding our home.”
“And he agreed to this?”
Cory kissed Laura on the forehead and began gathering the shovel and box of laptop remnants. “Yup! My gun is registered and we live outside of the city limits, so I didn’t break any laws or ordinances.” He looked down into the box. “And it had to be done. I didn’t know how else to get your attention and make you see how serious this is.”
He headed toward the garage, stopping to plant a quick kiss on her cheek. “I’ll call this guy in a sec and see if I can get us an appointment for next week.”
Laura frowned. Next week? She was already feeling anxious. She’d never make it.
“What am I going to do until next week, Cory? I’m already anxious and it’s been less than an hour.” She looked around the room feeling trapped. “I can’t do this, Cory, I can’t!”
Re-entering the room, Cory squeezed his wife’s shoulder on his way to the kitchen.
“Yes, you can… we can. We’re in this together. I’m going to call this guy and lock in an appointment time. Donna will be home soon and we’ll go out for a nice dinner… as a family.”
Laura wrung her hands as her husband left the room. She looked over at the desk only to have the char marks remind her of what had just happened.
Evening approached. All her friends would be on-line. They would wonder why she was absent. There would be new followers on Twitter. New posts on Facebook. Charlene would be posting new photos from the author’s convention.
She was missing it all.
Standing in the middle of the room, Laura turned in circles several times.
Tears threatened to reappear when Laura saw her handbag sitting on the vestibule table.
Her cell phone!
She dashed to the handbag, stealing several glimpses over her shoulder to make sure Cory didn’t catch her.
Grabbing the cell phone from the side pocket, Laura swiped the screen several times, confused. Had Cory done something to her phone? She tried again and realized her hands were shaking and the cell screen was wet… because her hands were wet… from perspiration.
This doesn’t make any sense.
Shaking her head, Laura caught her reflection in the mirror over the table. Her eyes were wild and frantic, and her skin flushed. A tiny sheen of sweat was visible on her lips. Dropping the cell as if it burned her, Laura backed away from the hall table until the wall stopped her. She slumped to the floor in a heap, staring at her shaking, sweaty hands.
While this is a fictional story, Internet addiction is real, and is characterized by excessive or poorly controlled preoccupations, urges or behaviors regarding computer use and internet access that lead to impairment or distress. There are no evidence-based treatments for internet addiction. Cognitive behavioral approaches may be helpful. There is no proven role for psychotropic medication. Marital and family therapy may help in selected cases, and online self-help books and tapes are available. Lastly, a self-imposed ban on computer use and Internet access may be necessary in some cases.