Call me Smith.
I’m a forty-year-old social degenerate with no particular story to tell. Nevertheless, it appears fate has passed the quill and ink to me now, so I suppose the one I am about to tell will have to do.
I was born and raised in our nation’s greatest cosmopolitan blunder, whose image has become so synonymous with that description, it would be terribly redundant to call it by name.
What most Americans don’t realize however, is that the city itself is unofficially run by a group of corporate swine known as the Social Degenerate Police (all us in-the-know just call ’em “DeGens”, after the for-profit org that dreamed them up), who cruise the city hoping to find unsuspecting junkies and other low denizens, to “rehabilitate” at the best facility tax payers can afford. It was a place only whispered about between social degenerates.
A place of silence- hypothesized and wholly elusive- known only as, The Pit. And once you’re thrown into it, you’re never seen again.
Anyway, I cop in a dilapidated hole on the corner of fifty-second and third. It’s a shit of a place — a towering derelict building that’d been inappropriately sandwiched between mid-century ranches with bluegrass lawns, and the usual flash of consumer wealth.
The windows of the place had been boarded decades ago and the large weathered cuts of wood bore tags of profanity mixed with religious propaganda; “Jesus was a terrorist” or, “I’m Proud to be AMerryCunt” and so on. As it happens, I also live there.
Squatting really, with no future, money or otherwise employable prospects.
For years, the neighborhood made complaint after complaint to the city, the DeGens, hell — probably to their local fucken parish for all I know. It wasn’t necessarily the traffic, or even the tenants themselves, as it was the smell.
It defined the atmosphere for two or three lots in radius; sour like an old shoe used to carry fish after being passed between marathon runners who, for whatever reason, all had their period.
Everywhere you looked you saw filth. Old filth, some so old it would give an archeologist a terrible erection if they ever stepped inside. But because no one was ever there during a raid (absolutely-fucken-miraculous, I know!) the DeGens quit coming altogether.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, it was Saturday- the weekend. And the only person who worked the hole on the weekend was a short disheveled black man known solely as “Half-Pint”.
Now Half-Pint was always dressed in the same faded tee-shirt that’d been tie-dyed in the Jamaican colors. He wore torn bleached jeans, and reeked of cheap shoe polish and stale generics.
His small face didn’t match the enormity of his balding head, and he knew this. Truth is it perturbed him greatly whenever someone stared too long- so he always greeted you with a deep and foreboding stare to discourage this.
Adding to this wise appearance was a mass of dreadlocks which themselves had long knotted together into three, maybe four clumps hanging in a horseshoe about the base of his skull. In truth, he looked more homeless American than Rastafarian, which he claimed to descend from.
He loved to tell the story- always in a proud, southern accent — of how his great, great grandfather stowed away on one of Columbus’s ships to spread the Rasta culture throughout the New World.
Physical appearance and harmless anecdotes aside, I liked Half-Pint — the man was a character for sure. Not so much because of the description I just gave you, rather, because he swore he never pinched a score, and yet his weight was never accurate.
He swore, with the utmost affinity, that he despised bomb and the very the site of a rig could send him into violent reminiscences of his time in Our Mother of the Hopelessly Insane; a nonpermanent, nonprofit answer for struggling schizophrenics, homosexuals, and other junk addled wretches, like myself. And yet, he had no problem dealing it out all day, every weekend.
In a tombstone summary, he was full of more shit that’s ever been shat in the history of god.
But like I said, it was a harmless, funny shit, so who cares?
“Muda’ fucka’s bring dat shit with ’em askin’, ‘can we shoot here?’ I tells ‘em Smit-Bahee, e’very goddamn time, I tell da’ sonsofbitches, ‘Dar’s a Walgreens across da’ street. Piss off!’ but dey insist! In ma house!”
He shook his head pouring a shaky teaspoon onto a little brass scale of a nude Lady Justice.
It wasn’t his house of course. It was a derelict building allowed to exist only because the city was too busy evicting defaulting homeowners to notice.
“One time, Junkay Bill wanted to use da’ baht’room, remember Bill?”
My eyes were glued to his shaky hand dumping another teaspoon onto the scale. I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. I didn’t care. I couldn’t concentrate between sick flashes and the site of all that junk. I started to rock while purposely inching my face closer to the scale to emphasize my disinterest.
This was the one thing I hated about copping from Half-Pint, he always rambled on about the dumbest, most monotonous shit. Just lonely I guess, but loneliness isn’t an excuse to send your clientele into a reeling fit of nausea.
“Anyway bahee,” he continued, “said he had a terrible run of da’ shits. Who da’ hell am I to deny a man his rights? Afta’ ten minutes, Smit, I kicked open da’ door and found dat dirty-fucker sprawled in front of da’ toilet wit’ a goddamn syringe still hangin’ from his testicles. I musta’ wedgied his pants up t’ his nipples in a rage, rig an’ all! No Shit! An’ den I dragged his ass to da neighbor’s porch. Ten minutes later, mudafucken ‘DeGen wagon pulls up, trows da bastah’d into da’ back and den kicks in da’ neighbors’ and drags de old fucker away in his baht’ robe an’ slip’pahs. Haven’t seen ei’dah of ‘em since. I tink dat was… two- maybe tree monts, now?”
He finished blathering and handed me my weight, only by this time I was so sick I blurted, “Can I bang here?!”
Walgreens is a shit of a place when you’re sick, which is great considering it is a store for sick people.
It’s bright, damn bright. And there’s always a repulsive tinge of medicine coated diapers in the air.
Mirrors line the top of the walls to discourage the very thought of crime. Of course, they can’t see you when you’re sandwiched between aisles with your back turned, but it’s the thought that counts. Sometimes you’ll run across a screaming, snotty kid clenched in the grip of some unforgiving mother who hasn’t had a decent fuck in months. ‘We’re in it together, ya’ little bastard!’
When you want to use the bathroom in the Walgreens on 52nd, you must request the door be unlocked for you, usually by some zealous security guard ready to earn his keep.
So, after formalities I made my way to the back of the store, only to find a wall of muscle behind a man with a terribly hunched back and long, gangly arms- hanging from his khaki short sleeves like awkward serpents. One hand was gloved in black latex and cupped toward the back so I couldn’t see what he held. His face was a pasty mask with a pencil thin sneer and his eyes were sunken and malnourished.
This was his life. Long hours, no vacation and often seven days a week. Black coffee and cigarettes, and anything containing pseudo ephedrine had become his nutritional pyramid. It was shit work for shittier pay and he knew it, but somewhere in this meaninglessness he chose to displace all his natural carnality for pride, order and duty- everything you expect from a model manager at one of Americas most junk-ridden drug stores.
“I got you now, you sonofabitch!”
I was sick. Too damn sick to play “Gotcha” with a man who thinks he’s border patrol. My stomach bubbled and churned and every muscle in my body began to ache and shiver uncontrollably.
“I really gotta take a shit. Like, really! Could you please unlock the goddamn door?” the wall of muscle jabbed at each other, laughing and nodding with intrepid eyes.
Then the manager revealed his gloved hand and there, erected between his forefinger and thumb was my rig. I knew it was mine, skinny diabetic syringe whose dose measurements had long since been rubbed away in a rage. I always kept it stashed in the black toilet paper container. It was the perfect spot seeing how the only patrons to use the bathroom were junkies looking to bang and none of them wiped their ass.
The toilet itself had been stopped up for as long as I had frequented the stall. Waste smeared its walls and pooled in rotting crevices. Urine soaked paper dried around the toilet base and somehow, on the ceiling.
Naturally, I was surprised, no, shocked to hear: “A young child found this, syringe, when he pulled for some tissue-paper.”
I nodded impatiently. “And?”
Whenever some shirt corners you with a fist full of accusations and no hard evidence, it then becomes your civil duty to deny everything that comes out their mouth. The best form of denial is ignorance.
The man smiled, pushing back his shoulders to straighten his hump, and then asked matter-of-factly;
“Don’t you frequent this stall?”
“Every day about this time. Regularity’s next to godliness, or whatever.”
“So, I’ve seen. Can you tell me how such a device might end up in a tissue dispenser?”
I shrugged and leaned in. “This is a drugstore.”
Suddenly, a corner overhead chimed above its usual whisper: DeGen — degenerating degenerates one generation at a time!”
Then he pulled his shoulders back again in a proud display, lightly cocking his head.
“Very well. It is my responsibility to inform you that under article V-106i, the Social Degenerate Act of ’72, clearly states; ‘any person(s) suspected of lewd and immoral acts (whether of an intoxicant nature, or otherwise) must submit their self(selves) to a vigorous screening under threat-”
“This is bullshit! I’m not the only person who uses that fucking stall! In fact, you led this interrogation with ‘a child found this’, right? Why the fuck didn’t you screen that little bastard?” this whole time the manager struggled to talk over me, continuing to recite the article dash-what-the-fuck-ever and by my conclusion, I couldn’t stand his drivel any longer. My stomach was on fire, so in midst of his triumphant recitation, I pulled down my pants and sprayed shit all over the dry goods end cap. When I had finished, I pulled up my jeans and inadvertently stumbled forward, spewing half-digested eggs and black coffee all over the man, and his goons, proudly announcing; “Please, take all the screening that you need!”
—– Jonathan Renfield