A Tale of Inner City: The Virus (Part One)

[Taken from the Diaries of the Damned—written before the Tales of Communion——Insect-O-War.]

The day was grey on the interstate to Inner City and Dean sat in the passenger seat fitting a new collar onto the dropper. He stripped the edge of a dollar bill, ran the thin strip of paper through his mouth to wet it thoroughly, and then painstakingly wrapped it around the narrow end of the eye dropper.

“Want to hand me a new point, Peddlar?’

Peddlar grunted, took his hands off the steering wheel as they hurtled down the fast lane at more than seventy, tucked the wheel gently into stability with his knees and dug a new Yale stainless steel point out of his tattered overcoat.

Dean took the point and fit it onto the saliva-soaked collar-wrapped dropper. He pulled the rubber bulb off the top of the dropper, rummaged around in the glove compartment for a newly boosted pacifier, found one, moistened the inside of it with his finger and put it on top of the glass tube. He took some string from a spool of sewing thread and wrapped it around the neck of the pacifier to complete the seal.

“Look at this baby. The croakers at the hospital couldn’t make ‘em better, eh?”

“Yeah, you right about that. Now let’s get somethin’ to put in that rig. I’m sick as a dog,” sniffed the Peddlar.

The station they were listening to started popping static and Dean played with the dial. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand. When he was dope-sick, that nose was a marathon runner. He got the news and paused, with his hand on the dial.

“. . . . .and the new virus has spread through Inner City at an alarming rate. Its source is unknown. The onset is rapid, starting with watery eyes and drippy nose, then the fever kicks in and the shakes start. Within three hours the infected individual leaps up and runs madly through the streets of the city spraying toxic bodily fluids from every orifice and screaming for relief. Only successive shots of morphine delay the final stages of the disease. The hospitals are warehousing victims and stacking them like cordwood in rooms, corridors, cafeterias and waiting rooms. The entire city is waiting for a cure and doctors are talking about seeking street dealers of junk to alleviate the . . . .” Dean twisted the dial until he found some music. The acapella version of “A Sunday Kind of Love” hummed into the car.

“Traffic into the city is kind of light for a Saturday afternoon, huh?” said Peddlar.

“Yeah.” Dean scrunched down in his seat and wiped his nose.

“Whaddya think of that virus?” asked Peddlar.

Dean was yenning for a shot and took a long time to answer.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

When they walked into the Kaleidoscope Eye Bar they saw that Sky was already there. The big man sat at the round table in the corner and looked up at them with his one good eye. With his long hair and patch over an empty eye socket, Sky looked like a pirate from days of old. Three of his followers sat at the table and moved exactly the same way he did. Peddlar and Dean sat down. Sky slipped a bundle of packets out of his shirt-cuff and Dean and Peddlar leaped up and ran into the bathroom of the bar.

There were three stalls in the bathroom. Two of them were empty. On the floor of the third a yellow-skinned man lay on the floor with his head drooping into the toilet. A blood-filled rig lay on the floor next to him.

“Yow,” said Dean. “Check this out, another hype.”

He scooped up the bloody fit and immediately ran hot water from the sink through it.

“Still good, no clog. We got here just in time.”

They each pulled handkerchief-wrapped spoons out of their pockets, laid the dirty wraps to the side, and with precision made of daily repetition they slit the tape sealing the bags and shook the powder into the spoons.

There was a glass on the sink that Dean filled with water before they each stuck the nozzles of their gimmicks into the glass and sucked up the liquid. Dean sprayed the water onto the powder in the spoon and a couple of flecks of tobacco rose to the top of the water. He found an old Q-tip in his shirt pocket and pulled a small piece of cotton off the top. He rolled it around in his finger to ball it up.

He dropped the cotton into the liquid, pulled out a pack of matches, struck three at once and held them under the cooker. The liquid began to bubble and he lay down the spoon on the edge of the sink and shook the matches out as they began to burn his fingertips.

“Hey, watch my cooker,” he yelled as Peddlar put his down on the sink.

“Don’t worry about a thing,” said Peddlar.

“Yeah, easy for you to say,” muttered Dean through gritted teeth as he bit down on the belt that he had tied around his arm.

The dropper was full of junk. Dean probed the old hole in his vein and pushed the needle into the familiar place. He felt it pull a little.

“Shit,” he thought, “a fucking burr on the point.” He knew he would have to sharpen it on a matchbook but hoped he could get the hit. It was a lot easier to work after the dope made him well again.

Peddlar sagged to the floor. He looked up at Dean with eyes like slits and pupils like pin-points.

“Not too bad,” he said. “But I shoulda done three, ya know. I remember when the quality was much better than this.”

Dean moved his head slightly to agree but he was totally focused on the sprig of blood that shot up the dropper’s neck as he made the hit. He squeezed the pacifier. The contents of the dropper had almost disappeared into his arm when he paused and let up on the pressure. The blood and water booted back into the glass tube and then he squeezed again as the rush hit him and he sent it home.

His nose stopped running, his teary eyes dried up, all the muscles in the back of his neck relaxed, and the tightness in his stomach just unwrapped like magic. He stood still, eyes half closed and his knees bent slightly. His fingers loosened on the bulb of the pacifier and the dropper began to fill slowly with blood.

Dean heard a voice coming from far away. It took him five minutes to respond.

(Continued Next Issue)
Marc D. Goldfinger is a formerly homeless vendor who is now housed. He can be reached at

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.

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