A couple of things needed to be in place for me to ignore the can. I didn't know what they were. I felt them though – deeply.
I'd tried ignoring the can once, momentarily. The rattle came, I watched the can. Nothing happened. The rattles didn't intensify. But then I began to shake. Not like the back-shakes that were my lot, but my teeth.
It was as if the can-rattles became gum-rattles. My teeth. My ... I picked up.
Ha-la, said Jones.
Jones had something in his mouth. I could hear it. Something squelchy. Eating, or anything analogous, was bad form on the can, and wasn't done. I'd been keeping notes – in my head – of Jones' unorthodox behaviour: eating-while-draining was part of a pattern.
My markers were dropping faster than normal. Jones was hungry. And happy. I knew by the squelch, the speed of the delivery.
That's to the good, yes, yes, I said.
I'd like to thank you in advance, said Jones. And then, what sounded like a squelchy smile, a wet grin.
Jones' happiness pleased me only in the sense it would provide a stark contrast to the hurt that would stab into him while I was destroying him fist by fist. I liked imagining that our emotional lines would cross at some point in the middle: me surging upwards from drained to ecstatic, Jones plummeting from joy to despair.
I'd kill Jones. I would. I could. I might. But ...
I lacked what at some point had been known as "pep" – not the wherewithal, although who knew where Jones resided? I lacked the "juice". Especially when I most needed it.
Anything more than five minutes on the can and I'd be raisin-dry. Not empty as such, but no grape. Swiping at Jones, even in my mind, would be ever harder, until the inevitable flatline of intention.
So you got all that? Jones would say.
Yes, I'd say, nearly vacating myself.
And you'll do it as we've discussed?
And you'll report back when it's done?
Anything more than "yes" was beyond me. Not least because I had to keep something in reserve for the final, two syllable sign-off.
Yalum, Jones would say.