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Chapter 77: Aftermath

May 27, 1904
Jacksonville, Florida

Oh, God, my head.

I awoke gripping my head between my hands, in a fetal position on the bed. Somewhere, there was this loud pounding that was echoing and resonating on the inside of my skull. The pain was so intense; I opened my eyes a tiny slit — the light coming around the closed window shade was bright, blinding white, and it felt as it if burned my retinas.

I turned away from the light and looked into the dim room — I didn’t know where I was at first — and then I remembers. I was in my hotel room.

How did I get here?

I looked down at myself — I was still dressed in my clothes from the night before, but they were badly soiled. Sometime in the night, I must have gotten ill, because there was vomit on myself, my clothes, the floor, on the bed running down the side of the mattress — my clothes and bedding also smelled of urine. I looked down at my trousers, which were done up unevenly, they were soaked.

My head was throbbing so badly, I felt like it was going to crash through my skull. I sat up, and the room spun, badly. I felt bile rise – there was a washbasin in the room, but it would require getting up and going over to the basin. Rather, I bent over and tried to throw up on the floor; nothing but clear liquid was coming up.

I actually wished for death at that moment, I felt so bad.

The pounding started again — I realized that it was someone knocking on the door.

“Quiet,” I shouted, as I held my aching head between my hands, trying to press the pain out of my brain.

“It’s Butler,” said a muffled voice on the other side of the door. “Open up.”

Somehow, I slid out of the bed and creeped across the room to open the door. Butler looked bleary and tired, but at least he was standing upright, not in agony, as I was. He came in, closed the door. I sat back down on the bed, the springs creaking, and the noise making me cringe.

This is the only photo I have been able to find so far with a photo of James Turner Butler that’s clear. Butler is noted with the arrow, all the way to the right. Butler was a Florida state congressman in 1911, and there are several photos of him in groups, but the images are not clear to identify Turner when he was Emmett’s age. Source: Florida Memory.

Butler gave me a pained look, as he took in the room. The window shade was down; Butler went over to the window, snapped the shade up with a quick flick of his wrist. The light flooding into the room made me cry out, and cover my eyes, like a madman.

“You look bad, Wilson.”

“No kidding,” I mumbled, still covering my eyes. “What time is it?”

“It’s 11:15. You have to be on the noon train out of here to Marianna.”

“Oh God,” I groaned.

“Get moving, Wilson. If the housekeeper catches you in this disarray, and in this mess, they are going to tell the manager to charge you.” Butler then reached into his coat pocket. “Here,” he said, handing me a small flask of whiskey.

I took the bottle and upended it, a small amount dribbled down the side of my mouth. I clenched my teeth. My eyes watered.

“God,” I said, gasping, grateful, handing the bottle back to Butler. “I feel like I’m going to die.”

Butler laughed. “After last night, Wilson, I am not surprised.”

I picked up a washcloth from the table, and plunged it into the water pitcher next to the soiled basin, then washed my face. I put the cold water cloth on my eyes. That felt better.

The whiskey was starting to work. I could feel my stomach settle down a little bit. My head was still pounding, but less so.

I heard Butler going around the room and shoving my things into the small satchel I had brought with me to Jacksonville (my other belongings had been shipped back to Marianna, to Ceph and Lula’s house). He opened the closet and handed me a clean shirt and pair of pants. “Thank God there’s another jacket in here.”

I picked up my soiled suit coat off of the floor and pulled out my wallet from the inside pocket — I looked inside — it was empty.

I started to panic.

“Oh my God,” I said. “Even my railroad pass is gone —

“No matter,” Butler said. “We’ll get you on the train, and Crawford will advance you some funds. Your girl likely cleaned you out last night.”

“What girl? I don’t remember…”

Butler looked at me with surprise, as he put my toilet case into my carpetbag.

“You don’t remember any of last night?”

“Not really — no.”

That’s too bad, Wilson. You appeared to be enjoying yourself immensely.”

I did one last check around the room; it would be vile for the housekeeper, but I was so tired and strung out, I didn’t know what else to do….I pulled the sheet up over the mess of the bed, picked up my bag, ran my fingers through my hair quickly, and left the room with Butler.

William Bloxham Crawford, also known by Emmett as “Billy.” From The Argo, 1902.

Somehow, I made it onto the noon train. Crawford and Butler were as good as their word — they hustled me out of the hotel, and to the station. Butler pressed a five dollar bill – and his small whiskey flask – in my hand before I boarded the train at the last minute.

“I owe you both,” I told Crawford and Butler, before we went our separate ways at the Jacksonville depot.

Crawford chuckled. “Consider this a pro bono case. But we’ll be in touch again soon.”

“Yes,” I said.

We shook hands all around. We made promises to visit and call upon each other when we could. As I waved goodbye to my friends left behind on the platform, I wondered how this boded for me, starting my new life off in the haze of the worst hangover in my life.

Categories: Addiction Book In Emmett's Words


Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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