I was going out of my mind in this place.
And now, after a long and comfortable silence, Frankie wouldn’t stop talking.
Swallowing pills and shooting up and drinking and talking.
I finally accepted one of his warm beers just to quench my thirst. It went down pretty well so I had a couple more.
Frankie kept talking.
I closed my eyes and just let him go.
“I rented a garage from the old lady that lives next to my mom. I kept my GTO there. 50 bucks a month. She offered it to me for free, but she was getting meals on wheels delivered every day and I felt like I should give her a little something.
And I would cut her grass once in a while and put her trash cans out and shit. She was a nice lady. She was really good to my mom when she got sick.
There was this old fucked up, rusted out, piece of shit Volkswagen Beetle in there that belonged to the lady’s son. One day I was working on my car and she comes out to tell me that her son had died a couple of years earlier and if I wanted the Beetle, I could have it. I thought maybe I’d turn it into like a dune buggy or something, so one day I dragged it out of the garage and I open up the engine compartment and there’s no engine, but there is this old Scooby Doo lunch box wedged in there. So I yank it out and open it up and there’s a fucking loaded Glock 9mm and a kilo of primo heroin staring up at me. A full brick, plus about 50 little 20 dollar bags cut with Similac or whatever and ready for sale.
I was shaking with excitement but then reality hit me. If somebody came looking for this shit, it wouldn’t be hard to put 2 and 2 together and come up with me.
Before I could be comfortable claiming the treasure, I had to find out a little bit about the history of this stash. I asked the old lady some questions.
Nobody else used the garage.
The car had been parked in there for at least 10 years.
Her son was somewhat of a jail bird and fell in with some bad people, and he died a year or so ago from hepatitis.
That made me feel much better.
Not that he died, but that nobody is really looking too hard for this dope…”
He jumped up and ran to the window, peering carefully through the dry and dusty curtains.
“Did you see that?”
I sat up straight as if I wasn’t half asleep, “See what?”
He didn’t answer, just slowly backed away from the window and stood in the center of the room.
Then he started pacing back and forth and resumed his story.
“It wasn’t easy having all that shit around. First of all, I had to keep myself from O.D.ing 24 hours a fucking day and second, I didn’t want to be a drug dealer. Especially smack. I knew there was some good money to be made, but I really wasn’t looking forward to dealing with dope heads, man. A bunch of fucking desperate junkies making plans for my murder and robbery? No thanks. I learned that lesson from Reggie Schwinn. They didn’t call him Reggie Veggie for his dietary philosophy. About 10 years ago, he was dealing coke and some so called friends came over to cop. One of them hit Reggie upside the head with a ball peen hammer for a half ounce of blow. Fucked his shit up good, too. You see the way the left half of his face is kind of droopy? And he stutters and shit and once in a while he seizes out and pisses his pants. It’s fucked up, man. That wasn’t gonna be my fate.
I had that Glock though. That was a nice gun and I was gonna use it if I had to.”
He walked to the window and looked out again.
“So having this kind of weight was bugging me out a little bit. I’m not a fucking drug dealer and I’m not the prison type so this was going to be a tricky process. Besides my girl, nobody knew I actually had the kilo. I put down some story about a dude I met who knows a guy who knows a guy who can get some cheap, high quality heroin. All my junkie friends were interested because they all hated copping on the street in the shittyest neighborhoods in the city and often talked about how cool a local connection would be. I went so far as to go through a whole routine when someone wanted to score. “I don’t know, man. Let me make a phone call.” Or “Good timing, the dude will be here in about fifteen minutes. Let me know what you want and I’ll pick up for you.”
I made up a name for him: Doctor Vine. I made up little stories and anecdotes about the mysterious half Irish, half Chinese, half African smack dealer. And when I realized I could charge more for this really good shit, I just blamed that son of a bitch for raising his prices on me. And since nobody thought I had a lunchbox full of shit, nobody was beating my door down at 4am.”
He took a breath and a long swig of beer.
He looked over at me to make sure I was still following.
I guess he was satisfied, so he continued.
“A fucking kilo. One kilogram. 35 ounces. 1,000 grams.
The first ounce went really fast. I showed incredible will power and I didn’t do more than snort bumps. I was afraid to shoot it. It was so much purer than that street shit, and I had to constantly remind everybody of that fact. Kathy didn’t do so well. She went over to the dark side in a hurry. She O.D.’d on me more than once and finally I had to cut her loose. I gave her an eight ball and five hundred bucks and put her on a bus to Florida with plans to meet six weeks later. Six weeks came and went and… well, you know.
So, long story short, I got over my fear of the needle and ended up completely strung out. But without some of the hassles of the average dope fiend. For one thing, I never ran out of dope.
Good dope. As clean and pure as you’re ever gonna get. I knew exactly what I was putting in my body.
And I always had a couple bucks in my pocket.
But when it ran out, and it finally did, I was in a bad way. Getting hooked on the street shit is one thing. Getting a habit on that kind of purity? Bad news.
Street smack didn’t do it for me, so I ended up chewing pills by the handful. Oxycontin mostly.”
I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up and walked over to where Frankie sat at the table.
I stared at him blankly.
He stopped telling his story.
“Hey, you ok, buddy?”
I took one of his beers without asking and went to the door.
“We’re not supposed to go outside.”
I put my hand on the door knob.
I opened the door and stepped outside. The fresh air felt strange on my face as I gulped it in.
A short path led down the hill to a clearing in the trees where there was a small garden and a bench.
I sat and looked up at the grey sky. A few brave stars burned through.
In my dream I was in Hell. It wasn’t evil and horrible, just really hot.
A loud snap, crackle and pop woke me up. It was hot and my shirt was wet around the collar. A weird light danced across the dark garden. I was a little disoriented and it took me a minute to realize that the cabin was on fire.
I ran up the path to the raging inferno. Orange and yellow waves of flame erupted from the eaves and crashed on the corrugated metal roof above.
I didn’t see Frankie.
I couldn’t get close enough to the cabin to look inside, so I circled around a few times and yelled for him but I didn’t see him anywhere.
I went back to the bench and watched it burn.