Music City Madness: Chapter 23

Melissa waited in line at her Belle Meade pharmacy an hour before the store closed. She stood behind an elderly man dressed in polyester pants and a wrinkled Hawaiian shirt with a straw Fedora on his bald head and his right arm cradled in a sling.

She clutched her hands and shifted from side to side in Prada wedge sandals, her mood bouncing from impatient to vexatious with the onset of her nagging back pain. She’d challenged herself to stop the prescription pills, but the chronic muscle aches, insomnia, and increasing irritability overpowered her will to quit. Despite mixed results from two surgeries and the best chiropractic therapy in Nashville, she needed the meds to cope.

She retrieved the empty prescription bottle from her purse while the customer in front of her painstakingly scrolled his name on the signature pad. When the counter finally cleared, she gave her prescription to the young man in a white lab coat and glasses.

The pharmacist read the label for the 30mg OxyContin tablets. “Your date of birth?” he asked Melissa.

“December seventh, nineteen-sixty.”

The pharmacist typed Melissa’s information in the system. “This prescription’s expired.”

“Not for two more months.”

“The prescription’s only authorized for three refills. This would be number four.”

“It can’t be.”

“You’ll need a new prescription or an authorization from your doctor to extend another refill.”

“My doctor’s on vacation.”

“He can phone it in.”

“From Australia? I don’t even know what day it is over there, let alone what time zone they’re on.”

The pharmacist put the bottle on the counter. “I’m sorry.”

“I want to speak to your supervisor.”

“He’s not here right now.”

“Then I want the store manager.”

“He’s going to tell you the same thing I’ve already explained. This is a controlled substance. I can’t legally refill a non-refillable prescription.”

“I’ll pay you double.”

The pharmacist gave a disconcerting look.

“Triple? Cash.”

“We sell over-the-counter medications. I recommend you try one of those.”

Melissa snatched the empty prescription bottle. “If that shit really worked, I wouldn’t need these!” She looked away, then snapped her head back. “Do you know who I am?”

The pharmacist glanced at the monitor and read the name in a monotone voice. “Melissa Hamilton?”

Melissa retreated in disgust. She knew people who knew people with the right connections to procure marijuana, molly, cocaine, heroin, or any other hard-core substance. But she had control of her meds, not the other way around. Her lower back hurt, but the chronic pain and insomnia she experienced when she stopped taking oxy, hurt worse. She simply needed her little blue pill and all would be right with the world.

She charged toward the front of the store, searching through her phone’s contact list, almost oblivious to the elderly man passing in front of her with his arm in a sling. At the last second, she turned sideways to avoid a full-on collision but bumped the man against a magazine shelf, causing him to drop his shopping basket and spill his sundry items—including a Percocet refill. “I’m so sorry,” she apologized vehemently when she saw the man adjust his glasses to view his essentials scattered across the floor. “I didn’t see you.” She knelt down to help him retrieve his goods, and in a moment of weakness, palmed the Percocet refill in her purse.

* * *

Tomás advanced his king two spaces on the chess board at the dining room table. “The key is controlling the center of the board,” he told Jonathan, who sat directly across from him.

Jonathan advanced his solid ebony pawn one space. “Why is Mom selling the house?”

“You’ll have to ask her.”

“I did. She just ignores me.”

Tomás advanced his king pawn. He could hear Adam wailing on his electric guitar upstairs. “Your mother has a lot on her plate.”

Jonathan took out his iPhone and read an incoming text from Abby. He sent her a short reply. “What happens if Mom sells the house?”

“We move.”

“But I don’t want to.”

“Does your girlfriend know you’re about to lose a game you barely started?”

“She’s not my girlfriend,” Jonathan replied and put his phone away. He studied the chess board.

Tomás waited for Jonathan’s move before he made his final advance. “I may be an old buffoon, but there is nothing you haven’t seen or done that I have not already tried before. The virtue of age is wisdom and the impediment of youth is inexperience.”

“What does that mean?”


“No way. How did you—”

“Fool’s mate. Look it up.”

“You moved your queen,” Jonathan surmised. “I should have seen it.”

“Sí. You took your eyes off the game.”

Jonathan toppled his chess pieces. “I don’t want to play anymore.”

Tomás leaned forward in his chair and put his hands together on the table. “I know you and your brother have dealt with a lot of change recently. Change can be a good thing, but sometimes, too much change does harm.”

“This is our house. I’m not leaving here.”

“Everything will work out. It always does in the end.”

“Why does Mom get to decide everything?”

“Because she pays the bills.”

“What if Adam and I hire you to work for us instead?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Why not?”

Tomás grinned. He reached out to ruffle Jonathan’s hair. “Mucho dinero. You can’t afford me.”

Jonathan’s expression went solemn. “What do you know about girls?”

“What is it you want to know?”


Tomás lowered his head slowly. “Lo siento. No man knows everything about a woman. They are complex creatures.”

“But you were married.”

“Sí. Forty years.”

“So you know things.”

“Not so much a matter of what you know or don’t know. Women are more about how you feel to them.”

“I met this girl at school, and I don’t know how to talk to her. She’s different, but in a good way.”

“More important you listen than speak. You’ll know what to say when the time comes to say it.”

Jonathan heard his mom return. “What took so long?” he asked when she approached with bags of groceries.

“A little help,” Melissa encouraged him. She brought the bags to the kitchen counter. “I got stuck in traffic.” She looked out at Tomás in the other room. “I hope the boys weren’t too much trouble.”

“Never,” Tomás replied.

Melissa pointed to Jonathan. “Once you get this stuff put away, you and your brother should get ready for bed.”

“One more hour.”

“Your hour was up sixty minutes ago.” She waited for Jonathan to leave the room before she asked Tomás, “Were they good for you, or were you trying to be nice?”

Tomás folded the chess board. “Your boys would be lost without you.”

“Family is everything to me, and you will always be part of ours. Now, I have a favor to ask.”