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 off of a dollar bill, ran the 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, Casey?”

Casey grunted, took his hands off the steering wheel as they hurtled down the fast lane at more than seventy, tucked the steering 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 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 something to put in that rig.  I’m sick as a dog,” sniffed Casey.

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. It’s 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 cord wood in rooms, corridors, cafeterias and waiting rooms. The entire city is waiting for a cure and doctors are talking about seeking out street dealers of junk to alleviate the …” Dean twirled the dial until he found some music. The a cappella 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 Casey.

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

“Whaddya think of that virus,” said Casey

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

When they walked into the Kaleidoscope Eye Bar they saw that Buddy was already there. The big man sat at the round table in the corner and looked up at them with his one good eye. Three of his followers sat at the table and moved exactly the same way he did. Casey and Dean sat down. Buddy slipped a bundle of packets out of his shirt cuff and Dean and Casey 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 stall, a man with yellow-tinged skin was lying on the floor with his head drooping into the toilet. A blood-filled rig (hypodermic needle and dropper) was on the floor next to him.

“Yow,” said Dean. “Check this out. Another hype!”

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

“It’s 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 packets and shook them into the cooker. (To Be Continued.)






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