Chapter One: A Wake-up Call
Gainsville, Florida - November 1990
I woke up to find the message in my left hand. It had me trembling. It wasn't a fax, telegram, memo, or the usual sort of missive bringing disturbing news. In fact, my hand held nothing at all. The trembling was the message.
I was feeling a little disoriented. I'd only been shooting the movie in Florida for a week or so, and the massive, pink-lacquered, four-poster bed surrounded by the pastel hues of the University Center Hotel's Presidential Suite still came as a bit of a shock each morning. Oh yeah: and I had a ferocious hangover. That was less shocking.
It was a Tuesday morning, so while I couldn't recall the exact details of the previous night's debauchery, it was a pretty safe bet that it had something to do with Monday Night Football. In those first few seconds of consciousness, I didn't know what time it was, but I could be fairly certain that I hadn't overslept. If I was needed on set, there would have been a phone call from my assistant, Brigette. If I had to leave the hotel at 10:00A.M., let's say, she would have called at 9:30, again at 9:40, then at 9:50 she would have taken the elevator from her floor up to mine, let herself into my room, propelled me to the shower, and slipped into the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee. None of that having transpired, I knew I had at least a few minutes.
Even with the lights off, blinds down, and drapes pulled, an offensive amount of light still filtered into the room. Eyes clenched shut, I placed the palm of my left hand across the bridge of my nose in a weak attempt to block the glare. A moth's wing - or so I thought - fluttered against my right cheek. I opened my eyes, keeping my hand suspended an inch or two in front of my face so I could finger-flick the little beastie across the room. That's when I noticed my pinkie. It was trembling, twitching, auto-animated. How long this had been going on I wasn't exactly sure. But now that I noticed it, I was surprised to discover that I couldn't stop it.
Weird - maybe I slept on it funny. Five or six times in rapid succession I pumped my left hand into a fist, followed by a vigorous shaking out. Interlocking the fingers of each hand steeple-style with their opposite number, I lifted them up and over behind my head and pinned them to the pillow.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Like a moisture-free Chinese water torture, I could feel a gentle drumming at the back of my skull. If it was trying to get my attention, it had succeeded. I withdrew my left hand from behind my head and held it in front of my face, steadily, with fingers splayed - like the bespectacled X-ray glasses geek in the old comic book ad. I didn't have to see the underlying skeletal structure; the information I was looking for was right there in the flesh: a thumb, three stock-still fingers, and out there on the lunatic fringe, a spastic pinkie.
It occurred to me that this might have something to do with my hangover, or more precisely, with alcohol. I'd put away a lot of beers in my time, but had never woken up with the shakes; maybe this was what they called delirium tremens? I was pretty sure they would manifest themselves in a more impressive way - I mean, who gets the d.t.'s in one finger? Whatever this was, it wasn't alcoholic deterioration.
Now I did a little experimentation, I found that if I grabbed my finger with my right hand, it would stop moving. Released, it would keep still for four or five seconds, and then, like a cheap wind-up toy, it would whir back to life again. Hmmm. What had begun as curiosity was now blossoming into full-fledged worry. The trembling had been going on for a few minutes with no sign of quitting and my brain, fuzzy as it was, scrambled to come up with an explanation. Had I hit my head, injured myself in some way? The tape of the previous night's events was grainy at best. There were a lot of blank spots on it, but there were a couple of possibilities too. Woody Harrelson was in Gainesville with me on this film, and he had been in the bar the night before - maybe we'd had one of our legendary drunken slap fights. Woody and I were (and remain) close friends, but for some reason after an indeterminable amount of alcohol consumption, we'd find some excuse to start kicking over chairs and stage elaborate mock brawls. No harm was intended, and the majority of punches were pulled, but Woody is a foot taller and fifty pounds heavier than me, which meant that whenever the game got out of hand, I was always the one that took the most serious ass-kicking. So maybe I'd caught a Harrelson haymaker to the side of the head.
Copyright 2002 Michael J. Fox. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the Publisher, Hyperion Books.
Blood at the Root
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