No matter what kind of game you find yourself in, no matter how good or bad the luck, you can change your life completely with a single thought or a single act of love.— Gregory David Roberts, author of Shantaram, a novel.
Well, heroin isn’t exactly gone however, it’s not exactly true “junk” either. This Fentanyl thing has crept into the scene and seems to have overpowered life on the ‘nod’ side. As an old time junkie, who hasn’t used for over a decade, ,the kill rate of this new not-junk thing, is kind of terrifying. I mean, who would want to relapse after many years in abstinence, if you couldn’t find real heroin. I hear of people taking a shot and then blacking out for a few hours, then waking up when it’s time to trundle off and get some more. Really, if you can’t enjoy the high, what’s the sense in it? If all your friends are taking the big “dirt nap”, well that’s kind of a drag. In the beginning, way back in 1964, I remember the time that Joey Marantino and I went into the Newark Projects in the hellish state of New Jersey. We only had enough money for one dime bag ($10), and we were sweating it because we usually buy one bag a piece. But as things go with junkies, we were broke and lucky to have the gas money to make it to Newark.
We saw the guy who we usually buy from, made the deal, and headed to the gas station, where we always go to shoot up. Grudgingly we split the bag. After we cooked it up and prepared it, we shot it. The next thing we remembered, we were picking ourselves off of the floor of the bathroom. We were lucky that we couldn’t afford a bag each. If we had shot a whole bag, we would have been dead. But back then, it was heroin and we could count on that for the most part. Never fentanyl. Sometimes, if we got beat, ( mistakenly bought a bag of chalk or flour) we would know it as soon as we tried to cook it up.
I used heroin for over three decades and for most of that time, I never wanted to stop using. My first detox was in Alice Peck Day hospital near Lebanon, New Hampshire. I left on the third day. I remember arriving and laying down on the bed and then the resident came in and handed me a schedule full of meetings for the next day. I was a bit taken aback and said, “All I need is a detox and some bed rest. No meetings please.” Then, when I found out they didn’t give methadone for detox, I knew I wasn’t going to stay. My wife Sascha had dropped me off and I had no vehicle, otherwise I would have left right then. My wife called me the next day and told me she had picked up our paychecks from the New Hampshire State Hospital where we worked as Mental Health Technicians. The checks were big due to all the overtime we had worked during a two week period. I told her to pick me up the next day and we would go to cop some dope. Back then we had real heroin, which was truly a gift in my insane thought pattern. Now, even after being clean for so long, every now and then I get the urge to go out and buy some junk. However, all there is around here, in the Boston area, is fentanyl which I have no urge to use. So the presence of fentanyl and the lack of true heroin is quite a deterrent to me. Heroin is my drug of no choice for sure.
Of course, in the way back of the 1970’s, opium would sometimes arrive when I lived in New Hampshire. It would come shaped like a tootsie roll with paper and Chinese lettering around it. I loved to eat opium and then have a cup of hot coffee to rush it through my system. When one eats opium it creeps up on you over the period of an hour or so and the arrival of the feeling is quite nice. I always worry, even in my double digit sobriety, what would happen if I ran into some real opium. I don’t know if I would have the wherewithal to turn it down. In the parlance of recovery jargon, I guess that means I have a reservation. Usually the reservation is for a place in hell but the journey, lies my monkey mind, would be quite pleasant. Addiction is the illness with a voice. The one thing I can count on is that “this monkey is a liar,” a phrase that I have used in poetry and in my story called “Getting Fixed In South Carolina,” which is sometimes available on a CD or a download. It is performed by the Jeff Robinson Trio, a great jazz band, who also wrote the music. Believe me, it does not glorify the life. You could probably find it on-line somewhere.
It would probably be easier to find that CD than to find real heroin around here. This fentanyl is lethal. From my experiences in San Francisco in the 1980’s, where Fentanyl was called China White, the high was never as good as real heroin. Additionally, it’s much easier to shuffle off this mortal coil with a careless bang of fentanyl, which is really a synthetic narcotic. It takes Mother Nature to make the real thing. I’m not recommending anyone to go out and try it. I truly believe that narcotic addiction is a one way trip to hell whether or not you get to live through it. They call it junk for a reason, you know. And it will cycle back. It always does. Actually heroin came by the name junk because, in the way back, junkies would strip the copper pipe out of abandoned houses and sell it to the metal man as junk for money to score dope. It also has the nickname “dope” because if you fall for the false promise of heroin then you become the dope you shoot.
Sorry about that. No insult intended. I just don’t want anyone to fall for the illusion that took me down that long road. I was one of the lucky ones. I lived through it. At least, so far. Like my doctor says, “just because you don’t want to pick up, doesn’t mean that you won’t.” And he has wisdom that doesn’t come from my monkey mind, for sure.
After more than three decades of heroin addiction, I was on my way to detox again. I had been to at least 40 or more detoxes, some of which I completed and some of which I bolted out the door before they wanted me to, or as they call it “A.M.A.— Against Medical Advice. Addiction is like that. I’m sure that my monkey mind had come up with a good excuse to ‘take it on the run baby,’ however, as one of my friends always used to say to me, “That’s probably not a good idea,” He said that to me very often. Well, I was on my way into a detox in West Boylston, MA, in March of 1994. I had two bags left, and stopped in a gas station to bang them up because I didn’t know how long it would be before they dosed me. Actually, that was just another excuse for getting higher.
When I arrived there, I was counseled and asked if I would complete a rehabilitation that they had, which meant that I would be there for two weeks after they stopped dosing me. I’d be going to relapse classes, meetings, etc. My counselor was a wonderful woman who had been my counselor previous times there. This was my 9th or 10th time at this particular detox. I was comfortable for the first couple of days and then they drastically reduced the methadone they were administering to me. Life is like that. You can’t get out of an addiction to opiates painlessly, no matter how hard you try. Finally I was reduced to nothing but my regular psych drugs for PTSD, Major Depression & Severe Panic Disorder. I don’t know what came first—the mental illness or Chasing the Dragon, as they call using the junk.
Finally I had an appointment with my counselor and she asked me, “What are you going to do different this time?” I looked into her eyes for a bit and then tears welled up in my eyes. You see, I was thinking that I was caught on this treadmill and nothing would happen upon my release but the same old thing. I was honest with her and told her I thought that I was just in for another tune-up. She smiled easily at me and said, “A tune-up! Tell me Marc, how long has it been since you blew the engine? It’s been a while, eh.” At this point I was feeling pretty hopeless. And then my counselor starting telling me my story. She asked if I remembered the motorcycle accident that took place in South Carolina while I was on a drug run at 2am in the morning? And then she told me the truth. I had told her the events of that story and how I was unable to walk after the accident. They started sending me to physical therapy and I hated it because it wasn’t easy and it was painful even though I was on a methadone clinic at the time. I told my physical therapist that I just couldn’t do it anymore. My physical therapist asked me a question. She said, “Marc, how badly do you want to walk again?” I really wanted to walk again. My P.T. said, “Marc, to be able to walk again, you’re going to have to do things you don’t want to do, over and over again. Or you can choose not to walk again.”
It was kind of a no-brainer. Of course I was going to do those things I didn’t want to do, over and over again because I really wanted to walk again without crutches and braces on my legs. So, over a period of one year, I did the work. My counselor, at the detox looked at me and asked me, “Marc, how badly do you want to stay Clean? This is the same deal as learning how to walk again. You’re going to have to do, every day, things you don’t want to do, over and over again. Like you’ll have to go to support groups or meetings every day, sometimes three times a day. You don’t have to like it at first. But I’ll tell you that, in the end, when you stay clean, you’ll begin to get gifts back in your life. Probably more than you can imagine at this time. I know, from past experience with you, that your “monkey” talks a good game. It’s not a matter of arguing with this monkey—you’ll need to overcome it with facts that it will try to deny.” At first I couldn’t see the connection with learning how to walk again and staying clean but then it hit me like a newsflash and tears ran down my cheeks. This was the beginning of my rude awakening.
I walked out of her office with a lot on my mind. Then, later, I was making aftercare plans on their telephone and the people put me on hold. I waited 30 seconds, then a minute, then my mind said, The hell with this and I went to hang up the phone. Suddenly a thought came like a bolt out of the clouds in my head. The thought asked, “If this was the dope man and he put you on hold, how long would you hang onto the phone?” I realized that, if this was the dope man and I was trying to cop, I would hang onto the phone so long that a spider could spin a complete web between the phone and my ear!
This was a total revelation and it was the beginning of fighting back against my addiction. I held onto the phone and was able to arrange for aftercare. Of course, this was just the beginning of that long road but I had become willing! This was how my Recovery began. My addiction was talking but I was talking back. And I did do things I didn’t want to do until, suddenly, I realized that my life was coming back to me. I knew that old monkey was a liar. I realized that “Addiction only remembers what it needs.”
The Farm is nestled in the hills of scenic Merrimack Valley. It is honeycombed with semi-sealed tunnels where the vicious Merrimack Mongeese are raised. They are tended to by bipedal lizards known as dragons by the population at large.
These dragons are hopelessly addicted to the bone marrow powder of the mongoose. Incisions have been made on their necks into which tubes have been inserted into the main vein. Two liter skin sacs have been surgically grafted on to their scaly shoulders. These sacs contain potent solution of powdered marrow and it is constantly released into their blood flow.
The Dragon Keepers are entrusted with the care and feeding of the Merrimack Mongeese. Their lives are always at risk due to the vicious nature of these animals. The Dragon’s loyalty is insured by their addiction and the potential for them to become Chief Tenders. This is a cosmic state that can be achieved by only 1% of those who ingest the precious solution. More on this later.
“from the books of Tending: Births of Major and Minor Queens—by InsectO-War”
Dreams, Dragon-child of the sinister Insect-O-War, slipped through a minuscule crevice. A faint mewling sound eerily made patterns of fear in his flickering eyes. He widened the gap on his flow tube. The sudden influx of marrow cleared him. He probed with scaled phalanges through the inter dimensional mesh; made contact and gently pulled.
Greenspur tingled with the touch. There was a moment of indecision and then she responded, her scales glowing. As they stared at each other, Dreams motioned for her to raise her flow. Unwittingly, she opened it to maximum. Greenspur swayed with dream punch! Dreams quickly enfolded her as she went deep. He tried desperately to close her flow tube. Too late, too late.
She became solution, eyes aglow with visionary light. Dreams knew Greenspur had passed the Veil. And just then, a flock of mongoose entered the catacomb. Dreams began the chant of Passing, in the fervent hope that he could prevent their Spirit-loss as the flock approached with malevolent intent. A gentle humming suddenly filled the chamber. The mongeese paused, then stopped. Still standing, they began to croon; they offered their marrow. Dreams stared at Greenspur. She flickered with the White Light. The mongeese lay down in front of her. A new Chief Tender had been birthed!
“The Breech: First Stages—by the Destroyer, Queen sister of Insect-OWar.”
A dense fetid mist rose out of the multiple sewer pipes which extended into the streets of Innner City. Inner City, the final distribution point of the Marrow, was quiet. It was three hours after the midnight.
Tracks, an Inner City trafficker in the powder, was waiting for a major drop. He reduced his flow-tube to a trickle to maintain a state of steady-sickness in order to facilitate flight through dimensional walls, if necessitated by the appearance of the infamous Wart-Hogs.
The Wart-Hogs were the Dream Police whose avowed goal was to rid the world of the Marrow by tracing it to its source and destroying the mongeese. This would alter both time continuum and the entire fabric of space irrevocably. The Dragons would have no more reason to time-slip, which would mean the end of the world, as we now know it, that is.
Molecule movement commenced. There was wind, a shimmering light, and a Keeper stepped into the alley with a sac of powdered Marrow. Tracks handed him the Sacred Meat and 40,000 gold drachmas. Another shimmering, and the Keeper faded.
Tracks moved into shadow with the sac, dimension-slipped into the Cutting Room and, with a sigh of relief, turned up his flow. He began to drift.
“Insect-O-War: Spinning The Wheel”
Dimmer flicked the tracer on as Tracks began to dimension-slip. A gossamer reality thread trailed off and Dimmer clicked his mandibles gleefully, then radioed home base for an assist. His partner, Cold-Shake, immediately pulled up. The motor on his D-cruise, a high tech slipper, was humming. Dimmer slipped the side-rail and they followed the tracer. They homed in on the Cutting Room.
Tracks, unaware of the closing Wart-Hogs, was traversing a heavy drift. Suddenly, the sensor flashed, signifying an unauthorized presence. Before Tracks could react (due to the drift his reaction time was delayed) the D-cruise shattered the Time Wall, entered the Cutting Room and sparkled to a halt. Suddenly, the room was full of airborne Marrow.
Unaware of the drifting powder, Dimmer and Cold-Shake leaped from their vehicle and snapped a collar on Track’s flow-tube. Tracks realized that, if he tried to slip, he would lose his flow-tube. He tried to cool out but the thought of being tubeless was too much for him. He would be a reptile without a solution. He breathed deeply and then it hit him—-Marrow in the air.
Dimmer flicked on the waver to call for a warrant and then—he began to flake. Dimmer and Cold-S. This was a serious and unique situation. A Cutting Room had been probed, which was unusual in itself, but to make things even stranger, two WartHogs had become addicts. Shit happens.
“Kaleidoscope Eye Bar Chronicles: by Insect-O-War”
While Dimmer and Cold-Shake remained in Dream-State, Tracks set the stage for a coup. He made incisions in the Wart-Hogs necks and inserted electronically controlled flow-tubes. He grafted two-liter Marrow sacs onto their shoulders and set the eclectro-monitors on 70% flow. This was the solution to all their problems.
Dreams, a powerful Keeper now, due to his relationship with Chief Tender Greenspur, surveyed Tracks handiwork and was satisfied. He offered Tracks thirty sacs of powdered Marrow and the Inner City trafficker primed his tube. He delayed the flow just long enough to be sick and he slipped back to Inner City for a meet.
The lights were tracing arcs on the walls. The hum of music webbed the atmosphere. The click of flow-tubes was all around him as he entered the Kaleidoscope Eye Bar. Dragons had glued themselves to dimension-blockers to keep from slipping through in Marrow hunger and their eyes came out on stalks when Tracks slipped in and did a heavy flow.
The room came alive with vibrating Dragons as, one by one, they made the connection. The potency was high. Some Dragons would never leave the bar again. No one would complain.
“Tales Of Communion: by the Destroyer, Queen Sister of Insect-O-War”
The blackness lifted and it was clear. Greenspur could feel the raw pulse of thought spinning through the mongoosian mind. She became as one with the flock. She felt their hunger for the Sacred Meat and she understood why their need must be fulfilled.
In the final stages of the addiction the Dragons become catatonic. The only thing they need to sustain life, of a sort, is the solution. They become the Living Meat. Parts of their flesh are sectioned off and become payment for the Marrow. It is the only currency they have left in the end states of the addiction. This meat is then combined with the regular mongoose feed.
Greenspur knew the craving of the meat by the mongeese. She also knew the intense pull of the powder. She knew that only the Chief Tenders were Dragons with mongeesian minds. Only a female could become a Chief Tender.
No male Dragon had ever survived maximum flow. Greenspur was stunned by the symbiosis, the parasitic nature of need on the part of the two species. It was a unique enslavement.
The mongeese sang to her. She hummed and twirled her flow-tube with wild abandon.
“Fixing The Beasts: by Insect-O-War”
The smell was rank. The two mascot mongeese were snarling and slavering. Their leashes were pulled taut. The green sinews of Greenspur’s forearm rippled with the strain of holding them back. Dreams slithered along beside her, nervously playing with his flow-tube. Tracks moved on ahead of them all, time and again apprehensively glancing back at the mongeese. The mongeese were in Meat Rage. If they broke loose, the closest Dragon would be the food for their habits.
A yellow-tinged Dragon stepped out of a darkened building and waved them on. Their pace quickened. Tracks disappeared into the doorway. Greenspur and Dreams waited. Tracks reappeared and waved them in.
The smell overpowered them all. The mongeese murmured with need.
The yellow-tinged Dragon turned his flow-tube to maximum and held his arm out to the mongeese. As they savaged the pure Meat of his arm, his eyes pinned and he smiled with the satisfaction of need meeting need. He had become the Meat.
Six other Dragons with yellow skin lay about the room. Dreams moved about, turning all flow-tubes to maximum-flow and slipped everyone in the room to the caverns of the mongeese. Their eyes were glowing in the darkness. The caverns hummed with animal sound. The Keepers moved back as the mongeese came forward to feed.
“A Direct Communique from Insect-O-War: In The Solution”
Here I sit under the influence of the mother-lode-mind-flaker. I see twisted spiders dripping green ooze from the walls of Abbey West. There are unidentifiable small creatures spinning helplessly in the webs, the sinister webs of their incommunicable reality.
Listen. Listen. I can hear these tiny trapped creatures cry out into the cavernous reaches of the tunnels while being sucked dry by the between dimension beings that spin lysergic acid webs. These creatures have no eyes yet they can see things that a reptile like me, the simple savage Insect-O-War, can never even begin to comprehend.
Are we not all strange scaly reptilian creatures spinning webs of our own making at warp-light speed while looking for our fatal connection, who sits, no doubt, in a quiet celestial barroom counting his gold drachmas from his last sale of the bitter-sweet solution to the problem which plagues us all. Feelings. Ah, yes, feelings.
I rotate my flow-tube counter-clockwise seeking the lethargic dream state that the powdered bone Marrow of the vicious Merrimack Mongeese produces. I ponder the after effects of the stuff whereby the walls of the dimensions become sticky and penetrable and reptiles like myself must purchase more and more to maintain a solid base within the dream world of Powers beyond. It is a one-way journey to the world of Under-Soil, the home of that great shifting galactic structuring of what is commonly misconceived as the real and known throughout the cosmos as Inner City.
Inner City. The home of the cosmic connection. The final distribution point for the powdered Marrow solution.
Listen. You can hear the clink of coins as the connection counts his gold drachmas. Watch! There is a reptile slithering his way. Look closely. Can you see the packet of Merrimack Mongeese powder in the connection’s hand? Can it be? It seems to shimmer in the glowing dusk light of evening.
Watch! Don’t even blink. They are making the exchange. Marrow flows to its object. Its object becomes its subject. We are all subject to the call. See the reptile. See him run. He is embarking on an endless journey. No beginning. Never-ending. For the reptile, the powder is the solution. It is the only solution. There are many ways to ingest it. There are many ways to die.
“Prey For Us: Priorities Intact Publishing, 8306 Wilshire Blvd., #7076, Beverly Hills, CA 90211, ISBN: 978-0-9850223-5-8, Available on Amazon.”
I was introduced to Geoffrey Neil’s wonderful writing because his first book, Dire Means, was about homelessness in Santa Monica, California where some extremely devious people tried to end homelessness through evil means. In that book, I met a woman named Morana Mahker, who was very skilled at both eliminating people and tracking their movements with sophisticated technology.
IPrey For Us begins with Morana fleeing her last debacle where many people were killed. There is a one million dollar reward for information leading to her arrest. Believe it or not, this situation has very little to do with the events in this challenging story. However, Morana is at her best, dealing with a brilliant man who discovered how ancient Egyptians were able to move the giant stones that built the pyramids.
Just for kicks, dear reader, why don’t you Google Coral Castle and look into the life of an amazing man named Ed Leedskalnin who created Coral Castle in Florida. Now you’ll have some clues as to what this book, Prey For Us, is about!
Geoffrey Neil is one hell of a writer. This is his 4th book and he still kicks ass every step of the way with great characters. First of all, there is the previously mentioned Morana Mahker. Do not think you can mess with this woman; she will mess you up and kill you if she has too. If she doesn’t have to kill you she can still do you in, and you’ll love her every step of the way. Then you’ll meet her fair weather friend, Clay Thorner, who is, and I quote from the book, “a computer hacker and a gun enthusiast.” But can you trust him? Is he only out for himself? Is he always preying?
Another character is Thane Sykes, who is closely related, in the way his mind works, to Ed Leedskalnin of Coral Castle fame. Or did you not Google the guy when I first mentioned him? Let me make one thing clear. Geoffrey Neil, the writer, has no affiliation whatsoever with Coral Castle. Like most writers, he takes an idea that already exists and moves it into the reality of his fiction.
Thane Sykes has enemies. He’s had enemies for a long time, even before he became a reclusive miracle worker. Are his enemies deadly? Well, they are not as deadly as his newfound friend Morana Mahker. But who’s side is she really on? Who are the real heroes in this book?
The talents of Thane Sykes bring Morana and Clay into an uneasy alliance. Geoffrey Neil, the fearless writer, will keep you guessing throughout the book. I started the book two days ago and I’m already up to page 152 and I don’t want this story to end. Certain books are like that. F. Paul Wilson, famous for his Repairman Jack series, is a master story spinner and Geoffrey Neil is just that.
Did I mention the lawyer Waylon Snells? He’s much more than just a lawyer and he happens to hate Thane Sykes. They grew up together and Waylon was Thane’s nemesis all through school. There’s a lot of history there.
Prey For Us is a fantastic read. Once you start, you’ll find little time for anything else. The twists and turns will leave your head spinning. Morana Mahker’s strange and terrible history is part of the story. And here’s an extra for you. Go to http://gneil.co/sublairtour . I hope you can find your way out! I also recommend Geoffrey Neil’s wonderful book named Dire Means, which impacts on homelessness but in a way that will freak you out. All of his books are wonderfully frightening.
I felt my bladder tweak me as I hit the second escalator going down. Too late to turn back. I was getting deeper by the minute into the Porter Square T Station. This sucks big time. Have you ever wondered why there are so few elderly people on the subway? You know, the older one gets, the less holding capacity one has. Urinary holding capacity. And it hit me. How come there are no bathrooms in the underground T-stops? I mean, frack this. I think the cities in the United States of Generica have something against people going to the bathroom. Anyway, the pain circled around my left testicle and traveled to my knee in about one minute. I had to find a bathroom. I didn’t know whether to ride to my destination or leave the T and come back in. And would the guy in the token booth let me go out and come back in?
I decided to chance the ride. It would only be a short hop to Harvard Square Station. The new computer-run train slithered to a stop and I got in. Sleek. Nice red material seats. Soft soothing machine voice mercilessly hissing at me. No place to urinate. We slid down the tracks while I tried to distract myself out of my discomfort. I felt like I was a blocked fire hose about to swing wild like a decapitated snake. Only one stop. Soon. The train was coming to a stop. I stood up and winced to the door but it was still dark outside the train. Damn! We had stopped before reaching the station. I sat down and crossed my legs in the futile hope that this would prevent leakage if things got out of control. I gritted my teeth. I peered about the train with yellow eyes. Everyone in the car knew. They could tell. I knew they could tell. The train started with a sibilant hiss. I silently thanked the god of my misunderstanding. We pulled into the station and I limped out of the train. Gently. Gently but quickly. Walked the ramp to the escalator. Frack! The escalator was shut off. I didn’t know if I could live through the jolt of climbing up the stairs. Was I peeing myself yet? Finally, out of that damned T-stop. Over to the faithful Au Bon Pain bathroom and — lo and behold, there was a damned attendant there asking me if I had the token to get in. Holy flying frackin’ ruckin’ piece of excrement! What next?
Did they mean I had to buy a coffee to go and take a piss? What if I didn’t have the money for the coffee? What then? And if it was a matter of life and death (and by this time I felt that it was) was I a dead man walking or just someone who was about to be arrested for pissing in public? Should I just whip it out and tell them to open it up or I would shoot? But what would I do if I was a homeless woman? Well, I don’t know, but at this precise moment, I did not have the luxury of pondering about equality or the disadvantages of being one gender or another. This was it! The chips were down. The lines were drawn. The bathrooms were locked. It was time for action. Faith without works is dead. I hobbled to the coffee counter and croaked my request for a small coffee.
Okay, now give me a goddamn bathroom token. I held my small coffee at the ready in case he hesitated. The counterperson must have seen the desperation in my eyes (or maybe the yellow staining the whites). He dropped the token in my trembling hand. I walked (hobbled) to the bathroom, tokened the door, and I was in. Good Frith, all this to take a piss. I had waited so long that I stood at the urinal and ——I was in pain but nothing was happening. My whole body was shaking. I had to go into the stall. Dropped my drawers and sat down. Shit! My ass was all wet. I was hurting too badly to be angry and quite possibly the wetness of the seat was going to help me pee! Then——relief! Imagine! A natural act reduced to futility, degradation and desperation. The cities have become chambers of torture for those of us who find themselves needing to eliminate our own waste. Is this the end-product of our civilization? Have we become so fully evolved that we can no longer recognize the need to cleanse ourselves of the by-products of the energy sources that keep us alive?
Is the human animal above the natural laws? Do we treat our bodies and our neighbor’s bodies the same way we treat the rivers, oceans, and land masses of our planet Earth? What the hell am I talking about?
The philosophy, the ecology, the ethology of what? We’ll save the heavy cosmic discourse for the next animal or being to inherit the Earth. After we’re extinct from Global Warming! You know what I’m talking about. Really, all I want is to find a public bathroom. Or am I just going to be pissing in the wind?
*In response to last issue’s great article “Bathrooms For Customer’s Only.”
The South Carolina night settled in on us. I drained the last of the thick liquid hydrocodone and realized that it was not enough. The fingers of dopesickness probed at me. I looked at Bonnie. The cigarette was burning down between her fingers. She did not move. I plucked the cigarette out of her hand and dropped it into the ashtray. Five days and it was all gone. This was one hungry monkey. It was chattering in my mind. I did not decide to go out and cop some dope. The dope decided to go out. I was just going along for the ride.
Bonnie opened her eyes. “Where’s my cigarette?” “I had to take it out of your hand. It was burning your fingers.” She looked at her hand. She closed her eyes. Her head started to droop down like a sunflower getting bigger on a small stalk. She opened her eyes. “Where’s my cigarette?” “In the ashtray,” I said. “Oh,” she said and reached out to her pack on the coffee table. She took one out. Put it in her mouth. Picked up the lighter and flicked it lit. She sucked on the cigarette and then sat back as the smoke drifted out of her mouth and nose. She closed her eyes and sat still. The cigarette burned slowly down to her fingers.
I took the cigarette out of her hand and dropped it into the ashtray. I made a cup of coffee. Smoked a cigarette. Went to the bathroom. Tried to urinate. It wouldn’t come out. I always go to the bathroom before I get high because sometimes I can’t urinate for hours. I’ll feel like I have to go but then I just stand over the toilet and try. Sometimes I sit down on the toilet because I get tired of standing. If I close my eyes I’m fucked. I could be there for hours. I did not sit down this time. I didn’t urinate either. I was just ready to walk out the front door when Bonnie opened her eyes.
“Where are you going?” she asked. “To get some dope,” I said. “But you don’t know the city. Wait till morning.” “I’ll be sick in the morning.” “Please don’t go. I have a bad feeling.” “I’ll be all right,” I said. “You don’t know the city.” “I’ll be right back. If things don’t look good, I won’t keep trying,” was what I said to her. My disease always lies to me too. Addiction only remembers what it needs.
Then Bonnie saw the helmet in my hand. “Oh no, don’t take the bike,” she said. “Please.” I didn’t want to waste time talking. It was getting late and Charleston was a strange city to me. “I’m going.” “Don’t get beat. Make sure the dope is good,” she said. “I’ll wait up for you.” She was lighting another cigarette as I walked out the door. The heat had been beating on the blacktop all day. I could feel the softness of the tar as I wheeled my motorcycle into the street. I popped a tar bubble with my shoe, climbed on the bike. Turned the gas petcock to on. Tweaked the throttle once and then kicked it. It coughed and then roared to life. The straight pipes talked internal combustion at me. I popped down into first gear and headed into town. The light at the entrance to the highway was read. I stopped for a minute. I could feel the sun rising from the street in the dark southern night. Friday night traffic.
In and out. Six exits to go. Bonnie and I had taken a cruise through Charleston the other day. A junkie is like a dowsing rod when it comes to heroin territory. I crossed into a certain area and I could feel it down to my bent cells. The streets had that slowbusy of dope areas. People clustered on the corners. Bars, candy stores, check cashing places, package stores. Some people in New York had told us about copping in Charleston. They said the dope trade was controlled by the Blacks there. In the Big Apple the New Yoricans have the best stuff. In Lowell, Massachusetts the Dominicans control the coke and spillover into the junk. If you cop from a Black person there you stand a good chance of getting beat. If you cop from a white junkie you will get beat unless you know him. Maybe you’ll get beat whether you know him or not.
In Boston the Puerto Ricans have the fair street stuff. The Orientals have the real mother-lode mind-fucker but it’s hard to get an Oriental connection. They only deal to a select few. The Blacks are down a couple of rungs on the dope ladder in Boston. The feet of the ladder stands on the white junkies. That’s how some of the stories go. You can’t believe anything you hear or read when it comes to the racial stuff. They say that dope is the great equalizer. Brings us all down to the same manure pile. Life is like that. Somewhere in the hidden zone are the dealers who don’t use the product. Some junkies meet one of them once in a while. Some junkies disappear. Some are found in bathrooms or condemned tenements with blood filled syringes connected to their veins.
Nowadays every dealer stamps their bag with a name. So it can have a reputation that stands on its own. There are times w and in the newspapers. Every junkie zeroes in on that bag and area. Junk is only a stepping stone to the big high. That’s how it is. Don’t just take my word for it. Ask any junkie. Down the exit ramp. Into the city. Cross into Blacktown. Busy streets. Flashing teeth from night-face as I cruise slow down dope-street. Waving me over. Neon lights flicker, hurt my eyes. “What’s up?” he says. “Lookin’ for the ‘boy’” I say back. “You a cop, white boy?” he smiles in sound at me. I laugh and pull up the sleeve of my shirt. Those railroad tracks running up my veins are great convincers. “I’m not holding but I’ll take you to someone who is,” he says. I jerk my thumb back. “Hop on,” The motorcycle shocks creak as the big man gets on. I feel his hands on my waist as I take off. I try to remember his face but I am at a loss. Black mustache. Teeth flashing. That’s all.
I wonder how many people he has passed dope to in the dark summer nights. I wonder if he remembers any of their faces. Addiction only remembers what it needs. We move through the city streets. There are dragons moving in my mind. I kick the motorcycle through the gears. We’re moving and the red lights don’t mean a thing. The mission is the only thing that counts and there is no stopping us now. My addiction is talking to me. It whispers sweet shit into my ear and I know this monkey is a liar. He motions me out to the highway. I look back at him.
“House connection on the outskirts of the city,” he hisses at me. I throttle down and the dope man’s hands tighten up on my waist. I lean into the back highway curve hard and scrape the footpads on the cement. Sparks kick off like shooting stars and wink out into the night. Just like young men on dope-city streets dancing to deadly drive-by rhythms, the sparks become dark spots devoid of life.. “What the fuck,” says the dope man as suddenly my engine is freewheeling. It screams into the night and the road pressure is gone. The pounding pistons are freed from the confining transmission and I pull the clutch lever in and hit the shifter over and over. I know that the cylinders are frying in boiling oil and I snap the throttle back to idle. I pull the clutch lever in again and tap the shifter; nothing and the dope man is shouting in my ear. My head is with the engine. They both howl in anguish as nothing is happening. I shut the engine down and my addiction is screaming in my ear in multiple voices. My head is a dark and dangerous neighborhood. I hate to be in it alone at times like this. The dope man hops off and I roll my machine to the shoulder of the road.
The night is hot and dark. I am sick and sweaty. I wipe my face and the road dirt grits into my skin. The dope man is asking me questions. He wants to go. He wants to stay. I have the money. He has the connection. We are trapped together by our addictions. I need a flashlight. The clutch cable has broken loose My disease has broken out in my mind like a chattering monkey. It beats on the existential bars of a prison of its own making. The man wants to go. The man wants to stay. I want a fix. I need a flashlight. There is a car slowing down. They ask if they can help. Flashlight. I ask for a flashlight. “This will be quick,” I lie to the Black man from the city. I wonder if he knows I am lying. The dope keeps him locked to me and my money as sure as it sends me out into strange streets to do things that scare me down to my dying soul.
“We’ll go up ahead and make a call for you. Keep the flashlight,” the guy in the car tells us. I nod and they pull away. The man wants to go. The man wants to stay. My addiction wants hime to stay and reassures him with things that might never happen. It knows he is the stellar connection to blisters, pus, disease and denial. Riding high on a dead white horse, I am a knight chasing dragons that whisper lies to me in the middle of the night. I believe everything like a child knowing his parents are lying again but how can the world shake like that. The man from the city leans down to see how I am doing. My fingers are working. The cable seems to slip back into place. I can’t picture the man’s face and I wonder if I should look up to see what he really looks like. My addiction bends me to my task. The man wants to go. The man wants to stay. And his addiction makes him wait. And wait. And wait. My fingers bleed from the fury of the quiet clutch cable. The bike bleeds oil into the street. I need to call my wife. I need to hurry up. I need to get some dope. I need to hook this up. Why does this always happen to me? I need to lie to the dope man. He wants to go. He wants to stay.
I hear the dope man yell but my addiction is talking to me and I do not understand what is happening. Suddenly I am lifted into the air. It is a bluntingfeeling. The air is out of me. I fly. I bounce on the road. My body is remembering something it forgot long ago. Metal sounds crashing. There is a bird bouncing on the road. I am the bird. There are sounds that defy my ears and then—-all is still. In the heat’s silence dead engines and deactivated metal ticks time backwards. I smell the grass and the earth bleeding under me. It is freshly torn and wounded. As I lay there I know. This is how death comes. Like lights in the night bearing tidings of metal pumped by oil and gasoline and misruled by blood beings.
I am afraid to move. I am afraid to think. I am afraid to die. I am afraid to breathe. I am afraid not to breathe. My body feels alien to me and the smell of grass is sweet as my breath comes back to me in shuddering gasps. I think of dead animals crushed on the side of the road and the fear twists my mind into shapes that it cannot sustain. Stop! The thinking. Just breathe. That is all I have to do right now. I remember about punctured lungs. There is no hiss of air whispering through shattered ribs. I laugh and cut it off quick as the pain spits through me. The voices! I hear voices! “Tell them you were driving.” A man’s voice. “No. Not this time.” A woman’s voice. “Please. The goddamn motorcycle is sticking through the engine block. We can’t get out of here.” “No. NO! I’m not going to say I was driving this time. There is too much involved here. This man is dead. That man is dying. No. Not this time.” She said.
Sometimes someone says something that changes the way you look at things. Anger. I want to rise to this occasion. Shake them. Tell them. Kill them! For caring so much. They don’t want to get in trouble. I don’t want to die. Not right now. But they are in trouble. And I know that things are a little worse than that for me and the dope man. Just then I notice that something is different. The voice in my head. The chattering monkey. Quiet. My addiction is wanting me to know that I am in this one all by myself. When I was in prison it would leave me alone in my cell. Up. I want to get up. I try to move my legs. Something is wrong with them and they will not work. And deep within myself I know that there are other things that are not working well.
There is a man and a woman standing by a truck that has parts of a motorcycle embedded in the radiator and engine block. He is drunk. She is well on her way. There is a man lying in the middle of the road. Blood spills from his body and his head is twisted at such a crazy angle that, just by looking at him, I know he will never rise again. I am in a prone position on the grass by the side of the road. I want a cigarette but I cannot move well enough to reach them. Cars are stopping and people are standing around me. None of them seem to know what to do, But they’re not leaving just now. Sometimes I wonder about whether we are sort of psychic and emotional parasites. What draws us in, like visual vultures, to an accident scene to stare at the dead and the dying? I am drifting and try to will myself back. I know that the only will that will work here is God’s will, whatever that may be. There is a woman leaning over me. Her eyes are beautiful.
A man comes running up and says to me, “The ambulance is on the way. Everything is going to be all right.” I know that what he is saying is not exactly true. My addiction always fed me bullshit too, but she had a more convincing argument. I never liked to be confused by facts anyhow. The man ran away. He probably wanted to tell the dope man that the hearse was coming and everything will be all right. Who the fuck knows? The beautiful lady was still there. “Is there anything I can do for you?” she asked.
I thought of a number of things but I just wasn’t up for it at the moment. I could hear the man who had been driving the pick-up truck that had turned me and the dope man into road kill tell the police that we were broken down in the middle of the road. That wasn’t quite right either. I thought it would be a good idea to smoke a cigarette while I waited for the ambulance ——or to die—-whichever came first. After all, my lungs were okay.
“Smokes. In my pocket. Could you light one for me?” The beautiful woman didn’t give me any shit about it being bad for my health. Pulled them out of my pocket. Put it in my mouth. Lit it. I sucked in the smoke.
The dope man was dead. I did not remember what he looked like. The man who hit us was drunk. His girlfriend would not say that she was driving and he was worried about the trouble he was in. My motorcycle was wrecked. My wife was at home waiting for me to bring in the dope. I remembered that I had been dope-sick and I had been in a big hurry. I realized that I was not in a hurry anymore. I took another drag. This was the best cigarette I had ever smoked.
On the day I had been
released from prison it was
over 12 weeks since I had used
heroin. I was waiting for a ride
to a halfway house when a couple
of guys from the tier strolled out.
“Where you guys going?” I asked,
and they said, “Great Brook Valley
Projects.” Where the dope is. Where
this dope wanted to go, and then their
ride pulled up. “Got room for one
more?” I asked. “Hop in,” they answered.
I got into the car and the cramps of dope-
sickness hit my stomach. I gagged and
almost threw up, my joints ached, my gut
flipped upside-inside. Junk sickness.
A junkie’s body never forgets. If it was
just physical, I would never use dope
again. It is not my body, it is me, all
of me, my body, my soul, my mind
interlocked in heroin hypnosis, even
clean I will never be free again. This revelation
hit me many years later, post-millennium
junk-yen rocked my being, I had everything
a man might want yet still I yearned
to trade my kingdom for a pile of dust.
Ask me about power, I will begin to tell you,
my breath will stink of death.
First published in Bad Ass, The Boston Poet Journal, Vol. 2, Issue 1, 2007.
We were running next to the railroad tracks and it seemed like we could run forever. I felt the gun banging against my leg as I ran. The garbage dump was up ahead and the daredevil branch of our gang, which we called the River Rats, was on a rat patrol. The fumes from the dump overpowered the sweet smell of the Jersey meadows and we raced faster, laughing, as the summer sweat poured down our faces.
We came to a halt and marveled at the mountains of garbage around us. Andy, Alan, Phil and I walked into the dump and Phil gave me push towards a messy looking mound of crap. I swore at him and pushed back. He fell on clean ground and gave me the finger. Then he laughed. I extended my hand and he took it and jumped up. I pulled the gun out of my pocket and Alan handed me the bullets. He was the ammo carrier this week and I was the shooter. I popped the cylinder and fumbled the cartridges in, clicked it shut and pulled back the hammer. Andy pointed at the trash mountains and we moved forward into another world. Suddenly there was movement. I fired at the furry motion and a small body leaped into the air and dropped. It kicked tiny legs at the universe in protest and then it was still. More rats appeared and I handed the gun to Andy and he blasted away. The click, click of the empty guy echoed eerily in the dump. Two hits, one kill.
Alan handed him some bullets and he reloaded and offered the gun to Phil. Phil shook his head and we teased him. Tears welled up in his eyes and he turned away, embarrassed by the emotion. We backed off and let him be. Andy tossed off a few more casual bullets into the garbage. Cans flew and bottles shattered and we moved on. We became bored and walked back to the tracks. I held my hand out for the pistol and, after Andy handed it to me, I checked it for bullets. Three left. I clicked the gun shut. We came to a giant tunnel that ran beneath the tracks and we ran down the mound to check it out. An enormous sewer pipe snaked through the tunnel and an old decrepit mattress lay on the pipe. There was a body on the mattress. Alan moved towards it slowly and waved us on. We hesitated and then went forward. The body moved and we stiffened in fear. We watched with the dread of the unknown as it stood up and swayed. The hobo had a bottle in his hand. Andy picked up a rock and threw it at him. The bum started to curse and moved towards us. Andy was yelling something at me as we moved back. I heard somebody tell me to shoot the bum. Without thinking, I pointed the gun at him. Time seemed to slow down.
I cocked the hammer and stood stock-still. The hobo and I stared at each other. It was only the track bum and me in the whole wide world. Where the hell do they come from? Didn’t everybody start out in houses with parents and all? The guys were looking at me, waiting. I lowered the gun and ran. Why didn’t I shoot him? I did not know. Something inside me twisted my stomach and I felt like I could not catch my breath. Everyone caught up to me and at first they were making fun of me for not shooting. I felt another twisting in my gut and pointed the gun at Andy, then Alan, and then Phil. I asked them if they wanted me to shoot now. I had three bullets left and I pointed the gun at Andy again and held it steady. I felt like I was looking at someone else’s hand holding the gun and an alien finger started to put pressure on the trigger.
Andy laughed kind of funny and said that they were only kidding around. Suddenly I realized that the gun was still in my hand. I smiled at my friends and lowered the gun but I could feel that some balance had shifted. Things were changing and would never be the same. I felt a sadness in my chest that seemed to come from a place that lived outside me. We walked down the tracks and Alan pulled some cigarettes out of his knapsack and we all lit up. Suddenly, Phil pointed off into the distance and we saw it. It was a giant chimney, bigger than any chimney we had ever seen. Andy talked excitedly as we ran in the direction of the smoke-stack. He was saying something about copper mines in the meadow. They mined the copper here and then melted the ore in giant ovens. We stood looking at the chimney. It extended from what looked like a big oven. I walked in and looked up the stack. It seemed to stretch upward forever and the sky was a tiny blue light up at the top. The others came inside and looked up and then Andy pointed to the side of the chimney. The iron climbing rungs went all the way to the rim of the stack. Someone, I don’t remember who it was, said we should climb the damn thing. I was scared of being high up and shook my head. I heard the word “chicken” echo through the chimney. We looked at each other, hesitated for just a moment, and Andy jumped onto the rungs and started to climb. Phil started next and I followed him. Alan brought up the rear. It was hot and stuffy in the big stack and the sweat dripped from all my pores. My eyes stung from the salt. I looked up and the chimney seemed to go on forever. I saw Andy and Phil just ahead of me. They would pause for a moment, look up, and then continue. I kept hoping they would change their minds.
Spider webs caught on my face. My god, where were the spiders? My hands were sweating and I was frightened of the spiders and of losing my grip! I looked down and, no no, I didn’t want to do that again. How the hell were we going to get down? Shit, I didn’t want to think about it. Suddenly, I heard a high pitched sound. Phil’s screech filled the chimney and little pebbles were spraying my face. I saw Phil hanging from a broken rung ant then it slipped from his hand and he fell. He was on me and clutched at me desperately. I swung one hand loose and grabbed him and he screamed and would not stop moving. My hands were all wet and it was hard to hold him. I yelled for him to drum my rung, any rung! For Christ’s sake, now, now before it was too late. The sweat was making my hand slip from the rung. Andy was shouting something that I could not understand. His voice seemed to get closer. Phil was sobbing in fear and suddenly I felt the weight of him ease up.
Andy was there and we were both holding on to him for dear life. Phil grabbed the rung and I swung down so I could get some footing. Alan yelled and his hand yanked itself out from under my foot. I almost lost it and then it was over.
I could hear everyone breathing heavily into the air and the sound echoed in the chimney. It was the only sound I could hear. I said that I was going back down and no one argued. We started the descent. No one spoke on the way down. I felt with my foot for each rung. I couldn’t look down. After an eternity we were all at the bottom. We sat on the ground and Alan pulled out the smokes again. My hand was shaking a little as I held the match to the cigarette. I sucked in the smoke. I exhaled and lay back on the ground. Small clouds drifted across the sky. At that moment I thought we would be together forever. I shifted my position because the gun was digging into my leg. I blew a smoke ring into the air and the wind tore it apart.