By Marc D. Goldfinger
“Well folks,” the Troll would say, “now that I got your limited attention, let me tell you a true story that nobody will believe if you take it out of here. You can try, but remember, who believes a junkie? Heh, heh, no one with any damn sense, and you can put your fix money on that any day of the week. I’ll be glad to take it off your hands.”
“Did I ever tell you about the four years I spent clean? Hey, I can see the looks you’re giving me,” and he winked his good eye shut. When he opened it, the light flashed out of his pinpoint pupil and he gave a soft chuckle. “Really, I’ll tell you, I was a card-carrying member of Narcotics Anonymous going from meetings to detoxes to carry the message of hope for the sick and suffering addict. I chaired meetings and even sponsored people. I kind of do that here, too, sponsor people into dreams, let ’em meet the Dustman themselves before they go permanently into the angel’s dreaming in deathtime.”
“My life was going along quite well during that period. Sure, there were times that I felt like a little tickle from the old poppy dust would lighten the load. Probably every day it crossed my mind; but you know, if you don’t pick it up, you don’t get high. Which is why I make sure that Ron here picks it up.” He pointed to the sleeping woman at his feet. “ ‘Cause I sure ain’t in the shape to be rolling up the stairs in those dope houses. I like to stay right here where my dreams live and keep safe.
“You might wonder why I stopped a good run of reality, just like that, when everything was right as ice cream on apple pie. Maybe you’d like to know what it was that kicked me back into the life and made it so that I never want to have an undusted moment again as long as I live.
“Well, if you don’t want to know you can just slip out the door back into the cold and hang out at the auto-mat. See if Jimmy the Greek will take care of your needs and find yourself fixing in an alley or busted by the man and crying the blues in a shit-stained cell out on Rikers. Or you can just sit back, shut your eyes, and let the ole’ Troll tell you why he took this ticket to ride, got on the horse and never looked back.
“It was because of Ar Lain Ta. Maybe you heard old Casey over there speak of him. Maybe you’ve run into him yourself or heard the stories in the other places. I’ll tell you my story about him and then we’ll let Casey tell his, if he’s up to it. Yeah, old Casey met him too.”
Right then I saw Casey pull out another glassine envelope, slit the tape with a cutting blade, and shake it empty into his cooker. Just hearing the man’s name, Ar Lain Ta, that was enough. Casey’s hand shook so much that I reached over, took the gimmick out of his hand, traced his vein with my finger, tapped it once with the point and then slid it in. The fresh blood made a spot at the bottom of the slide and I pulled up on it for a second and then, when the blood plumed up in the barrel, slammed it home.
The Troll continued.
“It was like this. I was sitting in the church in my wheelchair after confession, you know, being in recovery and all had brought me back to the church of my childhood. I was alone there just contemplating my future, like in a state of meditation, when I first caught the scent. You know the smell, that smell when the fire first hits the pipe, or when you walk in the door of an opium den, that sweet smell that lets you know that, no matter what tragic circumstance is on you, you’re going to be all right as soon as your lips kiss the pipe. It had been a long time since I caught a whiff like that and so naturally I looked up to see where it was coming from. Maybe the priest was coming back around with the incense burner to chase the stench of hell out, or whatever.
I looked up and he was standing right in front of me. A man of Asian extraction dressed in a dark suit, very natty, smiling white teeth beaming from his lips and soft eyes looking at me. Where he came from or how he slipped up on me as quiet as the breath of a mouse, I just don’t know.
“Lloyd,” he said. That was the name I went by in those old days.
“Huh, how’d you know my-” I started, and he interrupted with, “Shh. It’s okay.”
But right at that moment it just felt all wrong, Even the wheelchair I had spent all my time in since the war went odd on me and hurt me in places I had forgotten since the last sickness, the last time I kicked in the dark damp cell out at Rikers Island.
“Son,” he continued, “you have some unfinished business to attend to. Remember the first time you hit up? You swore to the swamp flies that were buzzing around your head that you would do this the rest of your life. I believe you’re not quite done yet.”
“Hey,” I responded, “I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, but I do.” His eyes pierced mine, and again I smelled the scent of dope sizzling in the cooker. I looked around to see where the odor was coming from. Then I realized, by God on the crucifix, that the scent was spilling from his body. It was at that moment that he touched me on the head with his hand and the rush came like I was shooting the pure right from the back hills of Burma.
To be very honest with you, I did not pull away. His hand rested on my head and the rush came and came and the Dustman had me in his kingdom. The dreams. Oh my God, the dreams. And then he lifted his hand away and it all came to a stop.
We all know what it’s like when the dope starts to leave and the sickness starts to kick in, that melancholy feeling, and then all of the senses sharpen up and the tears start in the eyes, that empty feeling in the stomach when you know that if you had enough time, you could write the blues for every junkie, every man that ever cried out to the deaf Gods in the night. That’s just what happened.
Then he pressed an object which I could not focus on into my hand and whispered an address into my ear.
The last words I heard him say were, “The basement is yours for as long as you like. Leave the angels on the three floors above to their own tortured passage but let your basement be a sanctuary for those at the end of the road, those who, due to sundry losses in their life, need the extreme unction delivered by the opiates. It will be your kingdom, you will be the Troll, you will be the gatekeeper, the one who will grant these souls deliverance. And their numbers will grow as the unrest in the world increases and there will come to you one day a man who will tell you of my doings. However, the knowing will not be for you alone. Another will come to tell the tale to the world and he will write it in the form of a book. Of course, no one will believe him. Who believes a junkie anyway?”
And then there was laughter that echoed through the church. Suddenly I realized that my eyes were closed and I looked up and he was gone. A dream. It must have been a dream.
Just then the priest, Father Michael, came up to me.
“Can I help you out, my son?” he asked.
I nodded my head and he began to roll my wheelchair up the aisle when I noticed that the fingers of my right hand were clenched tightly around an object. I opened my hand.
In my hand, God help me, God save me, was a brick of heroin with a key taped to the outside. The key fits this basement door. And here we are, all of us, touched by the poppy till death do we part.”
The Troll bowed his head and the quiet clogged our ears. Then the Troll, a grotesque creature sitting in a wheelchair, looked over at me and winked. He winked at me, may God turn my next fix to chalk if I lie, with his bad eye, the drooped one, the one that never moves. And he began to laugh.
Marc D. Goldfinger is a formerly homeless vendor who is now housed. He can be reached at email@example.com and via his web page MarcDGoldfinger. Marc also has books on www.smashwords.net that can be downloaded for $2.99.