Joseph E Bird

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drug addiction

into the night

When the last lingering light of day had finally disappeared, she waited another twenty minutes. Then she walked through the automatic doors of the ER, completely unnoticed, into the night.

She headed east, toward the homeless shelters. She had driven through that neighborhood many times during the day, where ragged men with shopping carts gather under the interstate bridge, where young kids, barely in their teens, mingle with older addicts on the steps of the treatment center, where the women who would later stroll the streets sat on the curb smoking cigarettes outside their run-down apartment buildings. In the light of day, they were there, but the street belonged to those whose lives were comfortably insulated from the stench of unwashed clothes and grimy hands with broken fingernails and shattered liquor bottles and needles in the gutter and the ever-present hint of mind-altering chemicals breezing through the air. It belonged to those who shopped at the open-air market and dined at the sidewalk cafes and visited the plush offices of medical specialists that appeared like satellites around the hospital, not far from the free clinic or the street doctors who offered their own cures for those who had no other choice. In the daytime, they were all there together, some living, others waiting.

She walked the first block away from the hospital as she always walked, quickly and with purpose. She crossed the street and onto the sidewalk that fronted a medical office building. She began to slow, not completely sure of her destination. At the other end of the block, behind the office building, the parking lot was almost completely vacant. In the next block, where houses once stood, was another parking lot, this one unpaved and ungated, sometimes attended by a man in small hut, but now the hut was empty. Across the way near the opposite corner two men stood smoking cigarettes.

She kept walking, her hands stuffed in her jacket pockets.

Another block.

A man pulling a hand cart, slight of build with long, stringy hair passed by her without even looking up.

In the next block, a woman stood near the corner, another in the middle of the block on the other side of the street. Heather crossed the street at the corner, avoiding the first woman. The second woman at the middle of the block stepped back, giving her room to pass. They made brief eye contact, each sizing the other up. After she had passed, Heather slowed and finally stopped. She turned back to the woman. She stared back at Heather.


Heather took a step toward her. The woman didn’t move. Heather took another step and saw that the woman was too young to be on the street.  A runaway, no doubt. She looked like she hadn’t eaten in a week. Her eyes were wide, accentuated with heavy eyeliner and too much blue eye shadow. She shifted from one foot to another and kept her arms crossed, a habit Heather surmised was developed to hide the needle tracks.

“What do you want?”


“Get it out lady. What are you looking for?”


“You a cop?”

“No. I’ve got a serious health condition. It affects my nerves. I’m just looking for some relief.”

“Right. Can’t help you lady.”

Heather could see that she didn’t trust her. Not that getting busted by an undercover cop would ruin her life. More like an inconvenience.

Heather glanced around and then pulled a bill from her jacket pocket. She made sure the woman saw that it was a hundred, then folded it and tucked into the woman’s hand which was still gripping her arm. The woman didn’t hesitate. She took the bill and stuck it in the back pocket of her jeans.

“You too stupid to be a cop. Hang on.”

She pulled a phone from her front pocket and made a call.

“Hey, Bobcat. I got a woman here looking for tabs. Can you set her up? She’s legit. She’s too scared to be a cop.”

She turned to Heather.

“How much you need?”

That’s something Heather hadn’t considered. She had no idea.


The woman spoke to Bobcat, then back to Heather.

“Two hundred bills. You got that?”

Heather nodded.

The woman stuck the phone back in her pocket.

“Two blocks down, take a right. Bobcat’ll be on the front porch.”


“Don’t thank me. Curse me.”

copyright 2018, joseph e bird
from the novel, Heather Girl

keep walkin

i’m not dead    i don’t think i’m ded    my head is killing me    if i were dead there be fire    but i’m wet    water everywhere

thirsty hungry

damn sun hurts my eyes    i must have slept all night    got to get up

what the hell is this thing    heavy    can’t push it    dumpster    its a dumpster

its not the sun in my eyes    streetlight    railroad tracks    must be behind the stores

gotta get some    gotta score

legs are stiff    got to go to jimmers    just one hit    then i get my hed together    do a score of my own    steeal some cash    neeed cassh

dumpster smells sweet    like food    yeh haf a donut    burger bag    maybe some fries    dammit

jimmers is a long way

its rainin a little    ok    just walk, red    you be ok    just walk

people ever where    pay no mind red    i must be somethin    they look at me and scared of me    i aint hurtin nobody    i aint taking you money    not now    better be out here than in the jail    i score out heer

somethin on my hand    its covered in wire    cant get it off    im wrappin the wrong way    get off!    other way    no other way    get off!

someone blowin a horn    guy in a truck    he looks mad    waving at me    the horn blows    up yurs i tell him    get outta you truck and i beat you good    yeh    i didnt think so

keep walkin red    just keep walkin

rain comin down real good    so wet    cold    keep walkin red

road is black and wet and shiny    cigarette butts    i hate that people be so inconsiderate

where am i    the bridge    shelters down the road a piece    maybe get som ssoup

Hey, Red. You ain’t lookin so good.

weeble    weefle    weasel    weasel, got any smack

I don’t do that stuff, Red. I give you a drink, though.

whats this    it aint taste like nuthin

Vodka. Take it easy. I said a drink, not the whole bottle.

thanks weasel    they got food down there

They won’t let you in looking like that.

im going to jimmers

No you ain’t. Jimmer done got hisself killed.

jimmers dead

Yeah, man. Got into it with one his dope heads. No offense.

i need a score

You ain’t gettin it from Jimmer. You get outta this rain, Red. Go on down under the bridge. They’ll have a fire going tonight.

i need a score

Damn, Red. You gonna be dead yourself if you don’t slow down.


Take my bottle. It’ll get you through the night. I’ll get more.

thanks weasel

Get down there, now.

weasels all right    straight up dude    i hate the bridge    all them weirdos    but i gotta get dry    all this rain    all this rain    all this rain

copyright joseph e bird, 2016

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