Better Living Through Better Chemistry by Adam Kluger


Roderick liked the no-nonsense approach of this new psychiatrist. She went to an Ivy League school and she had an aloof air about her. Sexy too…in a frigid, bitchy kind of way. Roderick wondered if her pussy smelled like mothballs or like his grandmother’s old country house. Her office felt like the interior of the space station from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. You could almost hear the air pumping in.

The little white pills were described as “clean.”

The only real side effect was that it would take 5 minutes longer to ejaculate.

“It might make it feel like work,” she had told him without a trace of emotion.

Roderick, a failed screenwriter, couldn’t help but note to himself the irony. He had long equated his own writing to a futile exercise in mental masturbation resulting in wasted efforts for an audience of one. The pills probably wouldn’t take effect “for about two weeks,” according to the kind Israeli-born pharmacist echoing the prediction of the shrink. Roderick wasn’t sure he liked being a guinea pig—but if it meant getting out of the rat race he was ready for some sort of help– any way he could get it. He was already quite familiar with the effects of various recreational drugs but he had never thought about getting a pill to help with his anxiety. He thought that life required dealing with a certain amount of stress every day. The knot in the pit of his stomach he carried throughout high school was simply a way to stay sharp and keep pace he had told himself. The feelings of terror and depression were just the way a normal person was supposed to react to the daily challenges of daily existence. One would have to be a robot or a lobotomy case not to feel what he felt. Sure, he was afraid to drive a car on the highway having grown up in NYC and sure he didn’t want to change his brand of under-arm deodorant or get 13 dollars in change from any cabbie. But that was just silly superstition.

Roderick had just been brutally dumped by his pseudo-girlfriend Genevieve as she left their apartment forever to take a job on the West Coast.

“As far away from you as I can get… you fucking loser” she had told him. “Go see a fucking shrink…there’s nothing more I can do for you, you fucking psycho.”

Roderick had to admire her way with words. She had just told him to go fuck himself in a concise, elegant, non-romantic way. Almost Hemingway-esque Roderick thought to himself. If only he could write that same way.

He didn’t think his habits were that weird or “psycho”. He was sure that plenty of other people cried watching TV commercials and would refuse to sit in a restaurant if the temperature was too warm. Why shouldn’t a person get disgusted if someone is walking way too slow in front of them? What was so wrong about cursing under his breath at people who talked too loud on their IPhones or tried cutting him on line at the bank or movie theatre? Maybe it was New York City that had made him so unhappy and on edge all the time. Either way, he was alone again and it was time to make a change.

The first day he took the little white pill there was a little dizziness and nausea. Nothing more than that. Two weeks later he started to notice small changes. Instead of being wracked by fear when the envelope for the overdue rent check arrived with a threat of eviction and legal action, Roderick opened the envelope and nodded. He then e-mailed the landlord an apology and promised payment as soon as possible. It was a simple thing. He was sure millions of other Americans did something similar every day. When he was gainfully employed he had almost always paid his bills on time. As he sent the email, a calmness washed over him. He thought to himself that moving out of his shithole apartment might actually not be such a bad thing after all. He picked up one of Genevieve’s old thong panties that she had accidentally left behind and sniffed it. Still smelled  like her… 2 weeks later. He saw the framed photograph on the wall of Genevieve, took it off the wall and brought it to his lips and started to French kiss the glass while he inhaled deeply from her pungent, soiled panties.

Walking down the street in the cool air he felt liberated and ebullient. He was sure the pill was producing its desired effect. He was fearless and able to put a brake on his violent emotions. He laughed to himself as an old lady on the street cut him off rudely with her walker. He even smiled at her and said “good day, Madam!” The fish in the fish store window seemed to eye him jealously as Roderick was feeling glad to be alive. Maybe he could win back Genevieve after all. It was simple. He would finish his screenplay; jump on a plane to Hollywood. Sell the script. Get a studio apartment in Venice, where Jim Morrison had lived. Then, when it was time to cast a gorgeous but obviously bat-shit crazy aspiring actress, he would, as the director, insist on a fresh face. One with red hair, pale skin, green eyes and a perfect ass with a tattoo of an angel in the crook of her lower back. Genevieve would be sure to take him back. Roderick smiled as he made his way into the Copy store. Since his printer at home was broken—he would have to print out a new copy of the screenplay for about $50. Some small price to pay to win back the love of his life. Bartelby if it was going to be a boy or Siobahn if they ended up having a little girl. It felt so real that Roderick wanted to cry tears of joy. But he couldn’t. For some reason the tears would not come. Just an exquisite thought. The emotions that had stirred inside him for 35 years were there…but bottled up. He felt in control and he liked it.

Pleasantly, he inquired if the printer would be free soon of the busy young woman with what looked to be notes for a fashion magazine. Probably an office intern Roderick thought to himself. I remember when I cared about my first job too he thought magnanimously.

“Oh, I just have one or two things to print…I should be done in less than 5 minutes,” she replied cheerfully. Roderick usually hated waiting…but for some reason he was feeling fine to wait.

“No problem, I have a lot to print. “

Fifteen minutes later Roderick went back up to the intern and asked, “how much longer do you think it will be?”

“Oh, just another 5 minutes.”

“Ok great thanks, I have a screenplay to print and it might take a while.”

The intern ignored Roderick and cast her gaze back upon her screen. It looked like she was putting together a packet of fashion news from various different websites and printing each one out after she highlighted some item.

10 minutes later Roderick, with arms crossed now went back up to the  intern.

“Umm, sorry to bother you but you said you were going to be done in a couple of minutes and that was about a half hour ago. I could have walked to another copy store if I knew you were going to be busy for so long.”

The intern looked up at Roderick as if he were some sort of disgusting insect.

“I’m sorry but this is for work… and you said you had to print something of a personal nature…so I changed my mind and decided I would finish my project … because it’s for work.”

Roderick felt the anger coursing through his body…and he heard his voice tremble as he said…”That’s totally not cool…this is a public printer…you are not supposed to Bogart the printer for half an hour.”

Cool as ice, the raven haired intern looked back up at Roderick and said, “Listen asshole, I was here first and if you don’t get away from me I’ll call the police.”

Roderick smiled. Then as loud as he could he screamed, “Call the police if you want you liar!!!…this is a public printer and I’ve been waiting 30 minutes…you said you would only be five minutes that was 30 minutes ago.”

“Why don’t you get a fucking job… you loser,” the intern said, not backing down an inch.

“I have a job. I’m a writer…and that screenplay is probably the best way I can illustrate to you the difference between someone with actual talent…and an intern who is so scared about losing her job…that she’s lost her ability to tell the truth.”

Roderick felt unafraid.

“Hey you jerk, why don’t you leave her alone… she was there first,” offered a large guy in a football jersey sitting nearby watching the whole exchange.

“Yeah, man, just calm down,” came another voice.

“Hey, why is this matter any of your business,” said Roderick to the big guy in the green jersey whose neck seemed to be quite red.

“Because I say it is.”

“And what does that mean exactly?” asked Roderick, liking the bravado of his voice in response to a threatening person twice his size.

Almost in slow-motion, quite cinematic in fact, the green giant spun around and cold-cocked Roderick right in the face. The huge fist had felt something similar to getting rammed in the face by a tree trunk. Roderick could hear the cartilage in his nose explode and his front teeth become unmoored in his mouth and a bitter, metallic taste of blood on his tongue before the darkness came. When he came to, the store manager helped him up politely and informed him that he would no longer be welcome back at any of their copy-store locations around the U.S. The intern and the football fan were long gone and nobody still in the store seemed to know anything about the incident. Roderick suddenly realized that he had shit his pants. Or was that shat his pants Roderick puzzled for a moment in his dazed condition. No, it’s probably I shit my pants, Roderick told himself, just like it’s more proper to write he lighted the candle than he lit the candle.

The hospital was only two blocks away so he limped over to the emergency room his face awash in indescribable pain. The waiting room was full and no one seemed to care about Roderick’s predicament. That’s when he decided to pretend to faint on the floor in front of the admitting window so that someone would help him. It worked. He eventually got patched up, cleaned up and was given the name of a decent plastic surgeon and dentist. He was sure they would both send him back at least 10K.

Too bad he had no health insurance.

But despite the fight (some fight he thought) and his current situation, Roderick actually felt pretty good. Better than he had felt in years. The world around him was still annoying but thanks to a little white pill he was confident that everything would work itself out one way or another.

While he couldn’t actually feel it…he certainly thought it.

Adam Kluger

Banner Image: By Pöllö (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

5 thoughts on “Better Living Through Better Chemistry by Adam Kluger

  1. I am sure many of us have had similar experiences as Roderick. He seems to have slipped on the stairway of life and needs reassurance by the way of a clean white pill. I enjoyed mush of the writing in this, in particular how I formed my image of the psychiatrist through the thoughts of Roderick. I saw an elderly spinster lady, old fashioned, and yet attractive.
    An engrossing read over all.


  2. Somehow gratified to read about someone more delusional than I. Other interesting fact – I wrote ‘Better Living Through Electronics’ available through my website. I hope that self-promotion is OK here.


  3. Hi Adam, great to see you back on site doing what you do best.
    You are compiling quite the back catalogue.
    All the very best my friend.


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