“Clog. You are going to clog your rig.”
“Oh.” Dean pulled the needle out of his arm and pressed down on the bulb to spray the old blood into the sink. There was a brief hesitation and then the grimy porcelain sink was covered in red. He ran water through the point. He put the needle into the water again and began to draw the water up, but his eyes closed, his head drooped down, and he stood like a statue.
Peddlar touched his arm and he opened his eyes.
“How long have we been in the bathroom?” Dean.
“Too long. Let’s clean up and get back out there,” said Peddlar.
“What about him?” Dean pointed to the guy laying on the floor of the third stall.
“Wow. I forgot about him.”
Peddlar walked over to him and began to go through his pockets.
“Hey, you got to split anything you find with me,” said Dean.
Peddlar looked up at Dean and smiled. He held up a bundle of bags and a few dollars.
“Yeah,” said Dean and they walked back out into the bar.
Sky was still sitting at the table with the young men.
“None of these statements are facts,” said Sky. “We can only assume what is true.”
The young men bobbed their heads as he talked. One of them spoke.
“We believe them all,” he said.
Peddlar and Dean sat down and ordered drinks from the waitress.
“Did you hear about the virus?” asked Sky.
“Something came on the radio about it as we were driving in. I didn’t really pay attention to it because I was looking for some good tunes,” Dean said.
Peddlar turned to Dean. “Yeah, just when I started to pay attention, that asshole changed the station.”
“You could have told me to go back to it,” said Dean.
Sky tapped on the table to get their attention. He leaned forward and spoke softly. Their heads all leaned in over the table like the petals of a flower closing over the button in the middle.
“This might be the best thing that ever happened to the city. Soon we may be the only people left. Junk is the only cure.”
“But I thought the junk only held the virus in stasis,” said Dean.
Peddlar was watching as someone walked into the bathroom. He smiled when they came out quick and went over to the bartender. He saw the bartender lean his head toward the man and nod a few times as if he were listening intently. Someone ordered a drink and the bartender put a shot glass on the wooden counter and spilled the amber liquid into the thick glass. There was an exchange of cash and the patron poured the shot down his throat.
The bartender turned back toward the other man and his mouth moved. The man shook his head and walked over to the pay phone. He used the phone and left, shaking his head.
The bartender went into the bathroom and came out dragging the man from the stall. Someone opened the front door of the bar and they dumped the man onto the broken cement sidewalk in front of the bar.
Suddenly there was yelling in the street and everyone looked up. A woman ran down the street screaming. It seemed like saliva was spraying everywhere as she fell and ripped her knees while the patrons of the bar watched. Her eyes were rolling wildly in her head.
Sky turned to the others at the table. “She could use a shot to straighten her out.”
“We all could,” said Peddlar and everyone laughed because they knew it was true.
The woman disappeared down the street. They could no longer see her but her screaming still echoed in their ears. Suddenly there was the sound of sirens. The sound seemed to come from everywhere.
The bartender shut the door and walked behind the bar. He poured himself a drink, tossed it down, grabbed something wrapped in a handkerchief from under the bar, asked Sky to watch the register and then disappeared into the bathroom.
Dean closed his eyes and began to dream. Someone turned on the television set. None of the channels were on. There was that humming sound.
Someone said it was because the whole city was shut down and no one was showing up for work. Peddlar got up and put some money in the jukebox. The music came on. It was a song by a group called the Jesters named “ So Strange.”
Five songs later the bartender came out of the bathroom. He sat behind the bar and lit a cigarette. His head drooped down on the bar and the cigarette burned down between his fingers. He did not move for the next half hour.
One of the young men asked Sky where he thought the virus came from. Sky leaned back and did not say anything for at least five minutes. Suddenly a screamer burst through the door of the bar and ran about the room falling over tables and chairs and spraying everyone with saliva.
Sky jumped up and punched him hard and his head snapped back and blood splashed in every direction. The man fell heavily to the floor and lay there, twitching and jerking.
“My god,” someone said. “It’s the end of the world.”
Dean picked up his head, looked around through slitted eyes for a moment and then slipped back into a nod.
Suddenly an announcer came on the television set. He was talking frantically about the spread of the virus and the extreme shortage of narcotics to combat the sickness.
“Across the city people are looting pharmacies and the hospital drug rooms. No one is safe and the official estimate is that in 23 days the virus will. . . .” There was static and then the humming resumed.
Dean looked up and turned to Peddlar.
“What time is it?”
Peddlar opened his eyes and looked at his watch.
“I don’t know. My watch stopped.”
Sky smiled at Dean and said, “That’s the best thing that ever happened.”
“What’s that?” asked Dean. “The watch?”
“No,” said Sky. “The virus.”
(to be concluded)
Marc D. Goldfinger is a formerly homeless vendor who is now housed. He can be reached at