Ricky was fresh off his latest stint in rehab. This time it was the cut rate kind. His latest batch of clean time reached 16 months. It was an all time record for him. But it vanished in a cloud of coke smoke on a crisp fall evening near the Bronx. Now he was living in a halfway house sponsored by the church in eastern Ohio.
How he wound up there he’ll never know. But spring was just coming into bloom now that the latest blizzard blew through. He had landed a job fixing boilers around town for parishioners and old folks. He never worked alone. Junkies couldn’t be trusted. Everyone knew that. Well, except the homeowners. But his sponsors knew it. They were there to hold the tool chest and make witty conversation. Fuckin’ pricks.
April In Ohio
Ricky much preferred to work alone. He put up with the annoying company because he liked the warm dry bed he got in exchange. Plus, he didn’t have to cook at the house. He only had to clean the dishes and sweep the floors. It was a fair deal. He didn’t mind because he would be leaving soon. All this – this work, this bed, these meals; it didn’t matter much to him. He never thought he could stay clean again. In fact, he knew he wouldn’t. He knew he probably never could. He only knew Florida was calling him home.
Getting high started all innocently enough for him when he was 12 or 13 years old. Mom was ‘entertaining’ again and Ricky was content to watch TV on the couch. Some of the older kids (who were always so much cooler than boys his age) came and knocked on the door that one Friday night. He tagged along smiling on the inside glad just to be included.
The first one for him was a hash pipe. It had a chamber bowl loaded with still more hash coated in resin and dripping with possibilities. It was, by far and away, the single greatest night of his life. Everything went away that night. His troubles. His anxieties. His loneliness and his fears. He didn’t know that’s what went away. He just knew everything was better. It was as if none of those had ever existed and never would ever again! As far as he was concerned that was just fine with him.
Ricky was an only child. His Mom adored him as only a loving and adoring junkie whore could. Junkie whore. That meant one thing to everybody else. For Ricky those words meant something else.
Like … the moments they spent together were priceless. The endless memories meant so much to him. They meant dark nights crying himself to sleep during deep Florida thunderstorms. They meant frozen TV dinners in the microwave. They meant Holidays alone with a brief hug from his Mom as she ran out the door to the next party, the next fix, the next drunken binge from which she would return days or sometimes weeks later.
School was a breeze for Ricky. He had an aptitude for taking tests. Memorization was done without even thinking. He just pictured the answer. He made friends easily too. But it was hard to really know who his friends were. He kept moving schools and towns and districts because they never stayed long. So even tho he got along and was well liked, Ricky always felt uneasy in his own skin.
At 15 Mom croaked. Needle in the arm, face down in the toilet. Her cold, blueish body finally at peace. He was quite surprised really. She was always so careful to check for purity on a match head first. But this was a bad batch of brown that no one would have gotten out of.
There was no funeral. He just watched them carry her away in a dark plastic bag. He didn’t have to hide her shit this time. There wasn’t any stash left. He stayed in their crappy rented house for another 4 months before he found work moving furniture. He quickly landed some OTR work and soon after (with the help of a fake ID) he was driving truck long haul. It was easy work.
The uppers did their job so he could do his. He would listen to books on tape and he learned mounds of information through them. Rack time consisted of reading technical treatises he would ‘borrow’ from libraries across the country.
He never owned his own rig. He came close a couple times. For awhile it was furniture. Then he drove food trucks. There was a couple years pulling ‘bull racks’ with livestock out of Texas. That didn’t last long. Animals creeped him out. He eventually started yanking freight out of Long Beach and made Cali his home for awhile. A series of junkie girlfriends and one arrest in NC was all he needed to know that flying solo was the best way to go.
He lost the gig after he got pinched for possession. He avoided jail time by criss-crossing the country on temp labor jobs, But eventually the wheels fell off the whole thing completely.
His first rehab was court mandated in Wisconsin of all places. He got out and glommed on to their fantastic welfare program. Worked dairy farms. Lived on a God Farm. Got busted again and so on and so forth. Now he found himself surrounded by some more church going prick do gooders and their happy little families.
The church fund raiser was being held tonight. Ricky had helped prep by cleaning. It was a cold April night. Down to 30 again. He could tell in his bones. Anything below 40 was another achy night for his knees. He enjoyed the buffet that was spread out. He wasn’t really hungry anymore but those ravioli thingeys were wonderfully warm and comforting. He stayed with the red punch and didn’t even try the wine. That was never his thing even though it helped sometimes when the weather got too cold.
The raffle and the prizes were the usual crap. Free home cleaning. Free plumbing inspections, auto tune up, and there was even some massage therapy being given away by some broad with really big knockers.
Ty Gordon came up to him during the early part of the evening to say hello. He was the top salesman down at the Chevy dealer and he was always checking up on Ricky. Never felt good around that guy. Ty owned a ton of rental properties down by the tracks next to the trailer parks which probably made him a scumbag landlord by default. Plus, Ty was always talking about all the shit that he did when he was using. All of it sounded interesting enough. But why the hell would he ever admit that crap to anyone, especially to someone like Ricky – who he barely knew. Some weird shit he guessed. Trying to get him to go to those meetings or something. Those meetings that never did him or anyone any good except for those grinning glad handing pompous pricks that Ricky hated.
He was just about to leave to go get his mops ready when the last item in the raffle was drawn and given away. It wasn’t anything he’d ever heard of being given away at a church raffle before. It was a house. “There’s gotta be a catch?”, Ricky thought. Who cares. A few more days and he was out of here. He slowly started toward the broom closet in back by the boiler looking forward to the warm air on his joints.
And then it was as tough he got sucker punched. In one single moment he couldn’t breathe and he wanted to check for his wallet but he didn’t have one anymore. The noise was deafening. He turned around and saw everyone standing and applauding for him. The room actually swirled which was kind of cool except he wasn’t using anymore. So it kind of freaked him out. Why were they so happy and why were they pulling him over to the podium? Back slaps and people shouting in his ear. Ty and his wife Cheryl were there on the podium handing him keys. What the fuck just happened? He was not going to live in some rat infested mold trap in Ohio. No fucking way. This was the kind of shit that happened to other people. He wanted to give it back. He wanted to go where it was warm.
They all just kept cheering. He couldn’t get away.
A Short Story — (c) D.C.Gillogly April 27, 2015