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TRASHMOUTH BREAKS DOWN

Comedian Richie Tozier has been MIA following what is assumed to be a public breakdown on stage late last month. After nearly three weeks without content and a manager refusing to answer questions everyone is asking one thing: is the comedian finished? We’re taking a look at Tozier's career and where he can possibly go from here.

 

“Are you reading tabloids again?” Beverly asks, breaking the uneasy silence between them. Her fingers turn the page of her own magazine. Her tone was  a bit unfair considering she was doing the very thing she banned him from. 

Richie shoves the magazine under the pillows and smiles innocently at her. She watches him above the pages in front of her. “Of course not,” he says. The magazine is probably crumpled and ripped under the pillows with how he shoved it. A shame, really. It wasn’t easy to get, it took bribing three nurses before one relented and purchased the first one she saw in the giftshop that featured his image, there were better tabloids he could have been reading but he wasn’t going to fault Nurse Jones when she did what she could.

“You really shouldn’t be reading that garbage,” Beverly says, marking her page and setting down the magazine. “It’s not good for you.”

“Neither is smoking but we both do it.”

“Correction, I do it. Doctors’ orders, you’re to stop smoking.”

She looks smug while saying it, something Richie doesn’t understand. They both know smoking is bad for them so why does she look so happy that no one’s told her to stop?

Well, Richie thinks, that’s not quite true. Ben has been trying for years to convince his wife she needs to stop; she’s doing much better than she was three years ago but better doesn’t mean it’s over. 

“I don’t see how my smoking habits have anything to do with why I’m here.”

“Richie, sweetheart, you know exactly why.” 

“That doesn’t mean I have to accept it,” Richie says, pouting and crossing his arms over his chest. It isn’t easy with the IV still in his hand and the heart monitor still in place on his finger. Really, he shouldn’t be doing anything of the sort having already accidentally pulled a wire one and startling the nurses. “I think everyone is overreacting.” 

“This isn’t overreacting, Richie, we all care about you . Do you know how worried Ben was when we got that call?” 

“I wasn’t worried,” Ben says, entering the room. He’s carrying two cups, one he hands to Beverly and the other to Richie. “But she was. Wouldn’t stop crying and didn’t go under eighty the whole drive here.” 

Richie sips from the cup. Coffee. He hadn’t had coffee in weeks, the nurses refusing to let him have it in the morning. It wasn’t even against the doctor's order, but rather their own after seeing Richie under caffeine the first time. He savors his coffee; if Ben wasn’t married he’d propose right now. “It’s okay, Ben, I know you’re the only one who cares about me.” 

“Ouch, Richie, that really hurts.” Beverly passes her coffee to Ben. The two of them are in sync, they like the same things, and as a result will often share everything. Richie teased them once about it and Beverly teased right back on Richie’s single status. He’s learned not to tease her about that anymore. “Here I was, being a loving manager and doing damage control, and you’re telling me Ben cares more?” 

“Well, Ben did bring me coffee, you won’t even let me read my tabloids.” 

“That’s because you don’t need to see what they’re saying.” 

“The fact that you’re telling me that means that I do. What are they saying? Is my career really over?” 

“Nope, we’re not talking about this. Ben, he’s got a magazine under his pillows.” Richie didn’t get a chance to fight, Ben had the magazine and was passing it to Beverly before he got a chance to set down his coffee. Oh well, he continues to sip at the warmth in his cup. “Orchid’s, really? I might have let it slide if you were at least reading something good.” 

“It’s what the nurse bought, trust me I would have loved to have literally anything else.” 

“Hmph.” 

“Bev, please, you must believe you.” 

“Oh, she does,” Ben says. Richie isn’t sure if that makes things better or worse because on one hand, yay Beverly believes him but on the other she’s choosing to continue judging him despite knowing the choice was out of his hands. Richie pouts, because it’s all he can do while Beverly and Ben read over the articles of the magazine. He can tell when they get to his, their smiles drop and the laughter ends. They’re silent as they read and Richie, despite neither of them looking in his direction, squirms as if they were. 

“Is it that bad?” he asks softly, afraid of what they might tell. Richie never got the chance to read it, the nurse brought it minutes before Beverly and Ben arrived that morning and Beverly hadn’t given him the chance to. She was good at keeping him from reading the negative reviews, did her best to hide that side of the industry from him, but they still slipped through the cracks. Richie knew he wasn’t doing as well since coming out, knew that the media tore him about for jokes from his past that were a coping mechanism, not like the media knew or cared. All they wanted was a juicy story and right now Richie was sopping wet. 

  “It could be better,” she answers honestly. Richie appreciates that about her, even when trying to protect him she was honest. “If you let me give a statement this would all blow over, probably.” 

“See, that ‘probably’ is exactly why I don’t want to give a statement. It’s fine, really.” 

Beverly and Ben share a look. They do this a lot, silent communication in front of them as though their his parents and he’s a rowdy child. Maybe that’s how it is, Richie knows he acts like a spoiled brat enough to warrant the attention. 

“Richie, honey, it might help.” 

“Or it could ruin my life, and I think I’ve already done enough of that.” 

It was unreasonable, it whining, and it was childish, but if Beverley was anything it was stubborn and she wouldn’t let this go until Richie agreed or made it clear he would never. 

“Alright, fine, but I still believe that it would help.” 

“Can’t I just focus on not dying right now?” 

“You’re not going to die, sweetheart,” Beverly says, taking his hands and squeezing them tightly. She might believe he’s going to survive this, but Richie knows he won’t. He’s always been a powder keg waiting to explode, and right now the fuse is lit and no amount of water is going to put it out. 

“I could die, I already almost did.” 

“But you didn’t, and that’s what we’re going to focus on. You get to take this time to heal, to work on who you want to be.” 

“I thought I knew who I wanted to be.” Richie looks over to his friend, both of them watching him with so much concern and so much love in their eyes. He doesn’t deserve either of them. “But now I don’t even know who I am.” 

“And that’s alright, we’ll figure it out. Ben and I? We’re here with you, as much as you need us.” 

“I just want to be okay,” he admits, rubbing at the bandages on his arms. Richie can’t think about them, about that night, without wanting to break down. He had been so close to losing everything, and sometimes he still feels like he should have. 

“I know, honey,” Beverly says, and then she does something she’s not supposed to. She climbs into the bed with him, wraps her arms around him, and holds him. Richie tries to hold it together, he really does, but when Ben gets in on the other side and holds both of them he can’t hold it together because they care about him and they want him to live and Richie feels loved in a way he hasn’t in a long time. “It’s alright, cry all you need to, we’re here.” 

“What’s going to happen to me?” Richie asks, his words muffled where he’s pressed his face into Beverly’s shoulder. He can almost imagine the look Beverly and Ben must be sharing above him. He wonders if they even know what’s going to come next. 

“We can talk about it later, right now  you just need to focus on feeling better, okay?” 

“Okay.” 

 

2

 

It only takes Eddie fifteen seconds after sitting down to start talking about Richie Tozier. He’d like to think it’s an outlier, but he knows better; whenever there’s Trashmouth news he’s always the first to know and the first to start talking. 

“Richie Tozier is in the hospital,” he says to Mike across the table. They’re meeting at Starbucks, an oddity in the small town they claim as their home, but Eddie loves it. It reminds him of New York, the good parts and not the horrid ex-wife. 

“I heard,” Mike replies, sliding a cup towards Eddie. After a year and a half of friendship they’re built a routine which works for them, the first to arrive bought the first round of coffee and after they would go back and forth until both were ready to leave. “They’re saying it’s some sort of breakdown, yeah?” 

“I don’t believe it.” Eddie sips from the cup. Richie used to like vanilla flavored things, Eddie sometimes wonders if he still does or if that’s something which has changed with time. Eddie’s own preference changed after leaving Derry; he exchanged the peppermint for vanilla in an effort to stay closer to his friend and it stuck. “Richie’s a lot of things, but an addict isn’t one.”

“How do you know that?” Mike asks, and Eddie doesn’t know what to say. He’s never told Mike about his sort of relationship with Richie, he’s never even told Mike that he and Richie grew up together, and somehow it seems distasteful to do so now. 

“I don’t,” Eddie says instead. “But I believe in him.” 

“Hmm,” Mike hums. He looks as though he wants to say something, but instead says nothing, leaving Eddie to wonder what he could be thinking. For a second, Eddie asks himself if Mike knows. How would Mike know? Eddie hasn’t said anything that might give away a secret past relationship with Richie, or at least he doesn’t remember saying anything of the sort. Sometimes Eddie talks without thinking, and he could have easily said something he shouldn’t have. Oh God, Eddie thinks, Mike knows that Eddie used to know Richie and was totally in love with him as a teenager. This is it, Eddie thinks, this is how I die.

Except Mike doesn’t say anything of the sort, instead he says: “A friend of mine knows someone who’s going through Richie’s situation.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, his wife’s best friend is having some problems, and spent a few weeks in the hospital.” 

“Jesus, are they okay?” 

“I think so, Ben’s not been saying much, but he did say that the friend’s coming here for the holidays to get away from everything.” 

“Well I gotta say, Schley is the place to be if you want quiet.” 

“Mhm, partly why I’ve never left. There’s something about Schley that I couldn’t bear to leave.” 

“Do you think you ever would?”

“I don’t know, maybe under the right circumstances, but right now life seems too good here to abandon.” 

“Yeah,” Eddie says. He loves Schley, the quaint little town was exactly what he needed after his messy divorce. He would say that his journey here wasn’t the best thing he’s ever done, but throwing a dart at a map hadn’t been his idea but Stan’s, then again it was his fault for listening. Still, Eddie loved it and wouldn’t trade his new home for the world. “I’m forever grateful I found it. I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t.” 

“You would have done great things with or without Schley. We just got lucky to have you.” 

“I’m lucky to be here. I can’t imagine ever being anywhere different.” 

“Well, as long as you’re willing to stay, the people of Schley are thankful.” 

“I don’t know for what, I don’t do much.” 

“You’re easily one of the best nurses, certainly my favorite on the staff.” 

“You have to say that because we’re friends,” Eddie says, ducking his head to hide the blush rising on his cheeks.  

“Nah, because we’re friends I would say you’re my least favorite nurse on rotation, but I can’t because I gotta say, you are the best we have.” Mike sounds so sincere and Eddie believes every word he says, partly because he’s worked with all of the other nurses on their floor before and while most of them are good, they don’t do their job like Eddie can. That doesn’t mean he still won’t say Mike’s unfairly picking him as the favorite, he always has been bad at taking compliments. 

“I refute thee, but I suppose I don’t know what’s going on in your mind and therefore am unable to properly argue.” 

“Damn, that’s poetry. Here I am, trying to make you feel better and accept that we’re lucky to have you, and you’re acting like Shakespeare.” 

“I wouldn’t say it’s Shakespearean.” 

“Uh huh, which one of us has a minor in English? I think I’m the only one validated in what can be considered Shakespearean.” 

Eddie huffs and looks away. He knows his cheeks have flushed red, somehow Mike always manages to put him in these positions. Eddie would say it’s not fair but he doesn’t mind the praise. He spent years yearning for it and while he argues to the point of being irritating he lives for the moments when Mike or another says good things about him and his work ethic. It doesn’t mean he won’t try and change the subject, Eddie is lucky Mike likes him and knows at what point to stop teasing. 

“What about you? I feel like we haven’t talked outside of work in weeks.” 

“Not much has been going on, a lot of the same things.” 

“Are you still considering the part-time work at the library?” 

“I’m thinking about it. That friend of mine, Ben, he’s been pushing me towards it. I think it’s because he holds the library in a special place for our friendship.” 

“It might be something nice to do during your free time.” 

Mike laughs. “Free time,” he says, putting the words between quotations. “But yeah, I get what you’re saying. It’s the same thing Ben has been telling me.” 

“Ben sounds like a smart man.” 

“He is, you’d love him.” Mike goes silent, staring at Eddie. “Actually, Ben’s coming home for Christmas this year. That friend of his I mentioned is going to stay with Ben’s parents for a few weeks while getting himself back on his feet, Ben hasn’t said much about him but I think you two would get along.” 

“Mike, we’ve been over this, please don’t try and set me up on any more dates, they never go well.” 

“I think this one might.” 

“A date with a guy you’ve never met? Yeah, I’ll pass.”

Mike hums, the same one he uses while thinking. Eddie doesn’t like that hum, it means Mike is planning something and usually that something involves him. 

“Mike? Mike, whatever you’re thinking, don’t do it. I will fight.” 

“Alright, fine, no blind dates with strangers, but I do think you two would get along.” 

“I can decide that for myself.” 

“Is that an agreement to meet him?” 

Ah shit, Eddie thinks. Mike’s going to think he actually wants to go on a date with a random stranger, he should have just said no. Then again, going on a date with a stranger wouldn’t be the worst thing he’s done, and they’re not a total stranger, being Mike’s friends friend after all. 

“I’m not saying yes, but I might consider it.” 

“You won’t regret it, Eddie,” Mike says with a smile. Eddie doesn’t like that smile because he’s seen it before, that’s the smile Mike wears when he knows something Eddie doesn’t. 

“I feel like I already do,” Eddie says. Mike waves him off. “You seem awfully excited about the prospect of a date you won’t even be on.” 

“What can I say? I’ve seen you single and lonely for three years and I want the best for you.” 

“Hmm,” Eddie hums. He raises the cup and chugs the rest of his coffee. “Same thing?” Eddie asks, standing and holding his hand out for Mike’s mug. 

“Yes, please.”