Editor's note: This is a selection from Readers Writes 2017, a collection of reader submitted material.
Frasier Crane awoke from a deep slumber, a soft tongue lapping his face.
He sighed, gently shoving his father’s Boston Terrier, Eddie, off the bed. Another day had begun, one more in a life that had long ago seen its ripeness flee.
He rolled to his side and rose out of bed, putting on his robe and heading to the living room for breakfast. His venture to San Francisco had flamed out; the free-wheeling nature of its younger demographic didn’t quite suit the erudite nature of Frasier’s radio psychiatry, and he soon became the target of street shouting and near-daily mooning via passing cable car. He had returned, defeated, to Seattle, after just six months and moved in with his father and step-mother, Martin and Ronee, a cruelly ironic outcome after years of carping due to his father’s occupation of Frasier’s apartment.
His brother Niles was seated at the dining table, looking nervous.
“Giddy-up, Frasier, the rooster’s been crowing for near an hour,” he said with forced cheer and a twang.
“Why the hell are you talking like that?” Frasier said, barely interested in the answer.
“Daphne’s signed us up for mechanical bull riding lessons and I don’t want to seem out of place,” he answered. “She already vetoed the bejeweled underside of the brim on my 10-gallon hat.”
“Fantastic,” Frasier grumbled.
They headed down the stairs and hopped in Niles’ car. Frasier, embracing the cable car system that had quickly become his worst enemy, had sold his car and had been unable to acquire a new one since moving back. He was saving money, though, and now it was just a matter of making his way to the dealership.
By the time he had returned to Seattle, he was unable to regain his normal mid-afternoon timeslot on the radio. Offered a late-night show instead, Frasier declined and opened up his own private practice. It was hard though, and the feelings of loneliness and futility that had initially forced his move to San Francisco were creeping back into mind despite his best efforts to keep them at bay. He had joined a gym, started yoga, tried out for a choir, yet nothing was sticking. He had even begun volunteering in the local police department, partially as a way to reconnect with his father after the senior Crane’s long career as a detective. That had at least helped give them something to talk about at dinner, and it gave Frasier some desperately needed sense of direction.
After a short ride, they entered Seattle Shopping Mall, where Frasier’s new office was. Keeping a psychiatry office in the same building where the teens would routinely go to brawl while skipping school on Fridays wasn’t ideal, but it was an affordable rent and a notable location. The dreary site, plopped in the middle of a frantic and festive mall, seemed to mirror Frasier’s own life in a way that he felt taunted him. He hadn’t noticed until he moved there, but he hated the sight of the place now.
After giving Niles a short tour of his office, they revisited the previous night’s dinner conversation.
“I keep telling you, I can help, I have the money,” Niles said as he grabbed his coat.
“No, no, come on, I’ll be fine,” Frasier said with genuine appreciation. “I’m going to be back in my penthouse before the fall performance of Pagliacci, we’ll have our opening night soiree there and I can debut my new pickled pheasant a la coquillage recipe.”
Niles huffed. “Last time I had pheasant my cheeks swelled so much I almost needed to get my molars realigned, but for you, I’ll take my pills beforehand and pack some ice.”
He closed the door. Frasier sat back behind his desk. He was running out of time with his brother; such a skilled psychiatrist could only miss depression for so long. Soon after, his first client came in. Because of doctor-patient confidentiality regulations, only certain details can be published here about said client: he was a narcissistic narcoleptic who mixed bursts of braying braggadocio with prolonged moments of dozing. With a lunch break from 12-2, Frasier headed out after his first appointment and to grab a cup of coffee at Cafe Nervosa, his old stomping grounds. It seemed like the only thing that was familiar since he had moved back.
After his coffee, he stepped out onto the street corner for the brief walk home. Frasier took one step off the curb before leaping backwards as a blue flash screamed by him, grazing his stomach with its side view mirror. Before Frasier realized what had happened, the flash was gone, having turned the corner and roared off down the street.
“What in God’s name was that?” he shouted, dusting the sidewalk dirt off his backside. He had narrowly missed spilling coffee all over himself. His heart was beating, his hands were shaking. His hand went to the small kids sheriff star in the pocket the guys at the police department had given him as a hazing ritual. Regaining himself, he turned and trudged toward his office, his flirtation with tragedy quickly fading from memory.
As he arrived outside the mall, the same blue flash caught his eye, but this time it was stationary. Frasier took a second to examine the flash, but as he approached it morphed into less of a flash and more of a car. A bright blue car, with flames painted on the side and large, obnoxious metallic fixtures on the hood and trunk. It was pristinely kept, the blue looking nearly majestic if it wasn’t encasing something so grotesque and ugly. Frasier sneakily spat on it, and it felt good.
He turned and walked to his office, arriving just in time for his 2 p.m. appointment. The patient, on a pre-visit form, had described himself as an adrenaline junkie who wanted to calm down before he hurt himself. His name was Dom.
Dom entered the office shortly after Frasier. He was muscular, bald, with a deep voice. Like many men, he was nervous at the prospect of seeing a psychiatrist and the vulnerability that could come along with that. The discomfort lingered into their session; Frasier attempting to probe his brain, Dom throwing out empty answers and cliches. He brightened at the mention of his career, though: while he maintained a coy vagueness about the specifics, he explained a fast-paced lifestyle of glamour and danger. He would only call it his “family business.”
It awakened something in Frasier, a feeling he couldn’t quite describe but cautiously enjoyed. Dom kept talking, at this point a monologue as Frasier had stopped asking questions. He grew more and more curious -- Dom didn’t appear particularly smart or charming, though he was well-groomed. Whatever job he had must be something Frasier too could do. Frasier was no longer interested in helping Dom. He wanted to be Dom. Forget the yoga, forget the sheriff’s department. That was his way out.
After an hour, the two were laughing like old chums. Dom’s nervousness had left him; he liked Frasier’s interest in his craft and being around him made Dom feel more stable, like things could slow down. Frasier enjoyed Dom’s rough-and-tumble je ne sai quoi, so vastly different from the crowd Frasier had used to admire, though admittedly he would have preferred that Dom hadn’t worn a sleeveless undershirt to their appointment. Frasier, acting on his better judgment, did not mention his casual involvement with the police department to Dom, sensing it might rebuild the barrier between the two.
Frasier’s schedule was free the rest of the day, so he decided to walk Dom out to his car. As they came closer to the vehicle, still locked in conversation, Frasier glanced around and became nervous. They were heading directly for the blue, metallic and flamed flash car.
“How didn’t I understand this?” he thought to himself, still hoping they passed the blue flash. “The fancy life, the mystery stories, the adrenaline. Of course this is his car.”
They stopped at the blue flash, and Dom unlocked it.
“Well, I guess this is bye fo--,” he stopped short. Something had caught his eye. “Who the hell did this?”
He made a beeline for the right side of the hood, where Frasier’s saliva had crystallized under the cold clouds of Seattle. Frasier was now dripping anxious sweat – this new friend had sparked a vigor inside him that he thought was gone forever. And already he had befouled something clearly important to him.
“Gosh, I--” Frasier stuttered.
“No, nobody gets away with this stuff, not with me,” Dom said.
“Remember, your adrenaline!”
“Too late, Doc,” Dom said, waving off Frasier’s objections.
He looked around quickly, analyzing his environment. His eyes stopped on a clean white cylinder at the top of a pole. “There’s cameras. Thank God, I’m getting security.”
“Dom, wait, please,” Frasier said. Dom did stop. The urgency in Frasier’s voice caught him. “Look, I’m sorry. That was me. You almost hit me outside of Cafe Nervosa and when I saw your car here in the lot, I just let loose. I’m sorry, I’ll pay for a new paint job.”
Without a word, Dom reached back and punched Frasier in the left side of his jaw, knocking him down. Frasier, with his heart beating in his ears, for the first time in his life felt anger overtake embarrassment and shame. He rose back up and head butted Dom onto the hood of his car. Dom rolled off and landed on his feet across the car. The two men stared back at each other, fists clenched. Suddenly, Dom’s gaze relaxed, and he released his fists. Four cars came screaming up to them in the parking lot, seemingly out of nowhere. Each one was as gaudy and sounded as ferocious as the next.
“Welcome to the family,” Dom said.