V. Joseph Racanelli
You think Ricki is a narc. Then again, you think she isn’t. You don’t know because every decision you’ve ever made has sucked, right from the time you dropped like a brick from Alice’s womb. You remember her vaguely, from before they took her--long dark hair and tracked arms.
Ricki sits across the Parkside Lounge from you, almost every night. She sells you little pills of joy. She says she’s small time. She’s a marriage counselor by day, but, you know, she tells you, with that little turn of her head and almost shy smile, that a girl’s got to make ends meet. I’m not gettin' any younger. Manhattan costs, she says.
She doesn’t live in a squat like you do on Attorney Street.
You think she can’t be a narc. What cop would go undercover as a marriage counselor? No. She tells you she’s been divorced five times, so she knows what she’s talking about.
Long ago, you told her you were married once and she laughed. Not “ha ha,” but a who-the-fuck-would-marry-you laugh. She made a joke to veil her surprise. Maybe trying to hide that she just doesn’t believe it, along with all the other shit you spill.
When you whisper, “You’re a fucking narc,” she gets mad for a sec. Even just an accusation like that sinks business. But then she doesn’t take you seriously. You are smaller than small time to her, lower than a rounding error to even her piss ass commerce.
Tuesday night you go to Ricki because you need what Ricki has. She’s cheap, she’s easy and she’s around. And she’s not a narc.
She’s dealt you for three months and never busted or nicked you. You haven’t been feeling well for months. The stomach likes less and less what you shove down into it. You hardly sleep. You can’t even shit right. Even the lowest fucking rat has no problems shitting. But you do.
Ricki tells you to lay off the pills for a while. They’re gonna kill you, she says. I like to keep my customers, she laughs.
That increases your paranoia. Why would a dealer tell a customer that you should stop buying? What the fuck is that you ask yourself. Now you think she’s a narc again. She’s afraid of killing you by accident, you figure she figures. That would get out and ruin her chances of a promotion, right?
But you can’t trust yourself. You haven’t had a useable thought beyond how to get the money you need each day for your little ride and not get caught, because most times you steal for it. Sometimes you help Jimmy out with club security. But the owners don’t want customers to see your knuckled face while they wait at the velvet ropes, so you’re the man in reserve, inside the club’s doors. Never out front. But you are good at that. That is the one thing you excel at.
Yesterday, you took that kid’s skateboard. You notice it says Destructo on it and you think that’s funny because that was your nickname for the couple odd years you wasted in high school.
So you clothes-line the rich kid while he’s wheeling fast with his stupid wool cap pulled down over his head, even though it is 80 degrees out. He goes flying into the low iron railing circling a tree in Tompkins Square Park. A red jet stream explodes from his nose like it couldn’t wait to leave his body.
His friends are such faggots that they go to him instead of going after you like they should. But you know that. Absolutely know. You only run half a block before you see they aren’t coming for you. You figure the board is worth $200 new and you get $20 for it from Leo. You think that’s a good deal.
At the Parkside you give your money to Ricki. She looks at you with pity. Right there you’d like to break her face, but you don’t have another dealer you trust so that’s out. For now. You walk back to the bathroom and drink some water and down the happiness. All four of ‘em.
When you come out your nerves are better. You see Ricki for what she is. Just a little bit less of a fuck up than you. Not a narc. As you pass, she says only heroin addicts are worse at breaking their habit than speed freaks.
You don’t care. You mouth the words, “Fuck you,” in her direction.
You still have…what is it called? Amphetamine…psychosis? she says and downs her rum and coke.
They nab you for heating glass in a parking lot near on Norfolk St. You think sitting between cars on the ground would hide you, but the smoke gives you away to the attendant. When you are fiending you get anxious and hallucinate. People who are talking to you sound as if they are yelling at the top of their lungs. Passing trucks sound like a TNT blast. You see a lot of things out of the corner of your eyes that are not there when you look straight at them. But you see them.
You got sprung for telling the DA what he wanted, even though you knew the dealer you snitch would eventually get to you. And you lie for the DA anyway. You need out. You’re tired of being bitched by the bulls and the cons.
Haitian Gerard is out on bail now, you hear, so you stay away from his turf.
You remember you came into the bar once with a blue hospital bracelet on your wrist, fresh out of Riker’s infirmary. You tell Ricki you don’t have that psychosis thing even though that’s what the Riker’s nurse warned you about, shaking his head, knowing you were a lost cause.
You want to kill Ricki but you don’t want to lose your source without a new one to replace her.
You go to your seat at the bar, the far end away from the door. Lazlo, the bartender kid, lets you sit there and nurse a Bud all night. You know he feels sorry for you, but you don’t care. He’s in college. So fucking what.
Then, out of the corner of your eye, you see the Haitian come in and the bar lights go out. Gerard is coming for you. You duck quickly behind the bar and roll under the wash stand. There’s just enough room. People are yelling. A bang. Just one. People scream.
The lights go back on and Ricki is on the ground with one little black hole right in her forehead. But big enough. A thick, shiny rivulet of blood seeps from it, rolls along the top of her right eyebrow over her ear and mixes with the sawdust on the ancient parquet floor. People run out the door dialing 911 on their cell phones.
You pull yourself out from under the washstand and the grease from it slicks your t-shirt. You feel the shit on your back.
You head for the door. Wait. Ricki’s purse is laying on the ground, a beautiful nugget. You rifle it and score some pills and rock. You run away, but wait, was that reflection that blinked at you for a moment from inside the bag a gold badge? Maybe Ricki was a narc after all? Or maybe she wasn’t small time enough. This is the Haitian’s turf. Fuck, you think, now you have to find a new dealer, far away from here.
V. Joseph Racanelli’s short story, “A Ride to the Trees Place,” published by http://www.brilliantflashfiction.com, was nominated for a 2016 Pushcart prize. “Do Days,” was broadcast in 2015 on BBC4 as part of its Sunday afternoon story series and was also performed at Liar’s League NYC at KGB’s. He has published in “Dark Corners,” a pulp fiction quarterly, and his work has also appeared in Akashic Books “Mondays are Murder” series; The Literarian published by the Center for Fiction; and in The Boiler, a literary journal, among other publications. He is a 2013 and 2018 Fish Publishing Flash Fiction Story Prize finalist, had a “notable” story in the Gemini 2016 Short Story contest, and was a participant in the 2013 Pen World Festival.