A Small Black Cigar Box
A Small Black Cigar Box
by Shane Waldo
PART ONE: The Discovery
People live from event to event. Some can’t wait till the party next weekend or that fat paycheck on Friday. Some people measure time between holidays, birthdays or rolling around in bed with their lover. Me, I can’t wait for my next fix. The next high. So anyways, here I sit, waiting, shaking and anticipating. They were supposed to be here half an hour ago at least. I wish there was a clock nearby. I don’t have a watch any more; you guessed it, sold it for smack. You know I wasn’t always a two-bit junkie squatting on a curb in the worst part of town waiting for my next high. No. Not so long ago it was very different.
I grew up in a suburb of Kansas City, normal everyday kid; white picket fence, a dog, two loving parents or some shit like that. Well maybe loving is a bid of a stretch. You know that old saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all” Well my parents were out to lunch when that one got passed around the water cooler. I only saw them during drives to day-care or occasionally the toy store. Oh yea, I had every toy you could think of. He-Man, GI Joe, Ninja Turtles; I had them all. But no matter how many flashy toys I got I still wished, even as a child, that my parents would have paid more attention to me. Don’t get me wrong they gave me lots of great advice. “If you want to be a loser than keep up the work your doing now.” or “You know what an F stands for, it stands for fuck up and that is exactly what you will be.” The basic all American childhood pep talks.
High school. No friends, no lovers but I did graduate with twenty hours of collage credit and a four point one grade point average. I ranked fifth in my class. My bedroom was a testament to my academic excellence. Plaques, ribbons, certificates and many other empty trophies of my wasted youth.
Collage ”Yee, fucking haw!!!” Beer, broads and all night study groups coupled with meaningless relationships and lots of extremists and fags. Well that was the hype anyways; I guess it is a lot different for the nerds and bookworms. I of course was a member of each. I went to MU then to M.Ed. school. One, two, three, four, five, six more wasted years all for some certificate so I could be somebody’s sawbones. Well maybe it was more like five and a half wasted years. Even though now it seems more like even being born was a waste. About half way through my fourth year of M.Ed. school I met a sexy intern with my lust for the finer things in life, study, work hard and get good grades. We fell in love and got hitched after we graduated. That lasted for about six months; see that is when I fell in love for the second time. Hello heroin my new friend. The rest should be self-explanatory. Bad heroin habit = loss of job, loss of wife, loss of life.
Three longs years I have been living day to day, on and off the street. Right now I got a job washing dishes at the local dinner and a shitty apartment on the east side of town. In another ten minutes that is exactly where I am going, to the cold stale air of my little hole in the wall.
“Suppose to be here an hour ago dammit,” I say to myself.
I shuffle my feet in the slush and snow. A thousand pins are pricking my toes and I must have suffered thirty lashings across my ass. I stand up, my knees creek like rusty hinges. My spine pops in small electric jolts sending shivers up and down my body. I wonder how much longer I can go without having these kind of shivers twenty-four seven. As I crack and stretch myself out I take in my surroundings. I am standing on a curb in an ally lit by one frosty streetlight. To my right is a wider alley made between two paper mills. Nothing like the dry smell of farts and wood burning to end an already bad day. In the middle of the alley are milk crates and an overturned oil drum puking out charred wood and newspaper onto the street. Behind all of this over in a secluded corner is a large white metal box with blankets over the front.
“What a shit hole.” I say to any one who is listening but no one is.
I keep imagining that big piece of shit car pulling around the corner, the small fat man behind the wheel, his big-toothed gangly friend with him. Just rolling up, opening up that gym bag and handing me the shit I already paid for. Me going home closing the door then its wham, bam, thank you ma’am. Hello heroin my old friend. But it doesn’t happen that way. I wait another twenty minutes then decide with a resounding, “Fuck this” that I am going home.
The walk to the bus stop, from the bus stop to my basement apartment is too long it seems. I can’t stop wondering what the hell took them so long. So long? Hell they never showed. They had better have a dammed good excuse.
I turn my doorknob, push, nothing.
“God dammed door,” I mumbled.
This door always sticks in the winter, another gift of the holidays. I push with my shoulder; the door finally opens. The door creeks and groans like an old man on a rainy day as it swing open. My apartment, well as much as I can afford anyways. It is one room about fifty feet deep and twenty across. There is a small stove and frige tucked in the far right corner. Beside that is my kitchen sink. Back up ten feet and you are in a small shabbily walled cubical that is my bathroom. A toilet and tub with no sink. My bed is to the left wall and that’s it. But that is really all I need. Wake, work, get high, eat, shit and sleep. An enjoyable life if I do say so. And I do.
I shuffle the mail to my right hand again since my keys are now on the nail to the left of the door. I use my heel to close the door. It lets out another one of those moaning creeks then bangs shut. The light reseeds its pyramidal arch and is no more. I flip the light switch. Florescent lights, they hum like angels. Unless you have just been stiffed by people who push poison to pregnant chicks and little kids. Then they vibrate your eardrums and play with your eyes.
As I go to sit on my bed I remind myself how much I hate the color of the walls. It looks as if instead of painting them they hired the little girl from the Exorcist to come puke split pea soup all over them. Those cracks and peeling wet bunches look more like congealed soup then ever at that thought. My bedsprings hiss and twang as I rest my ass on the bed. I casually toss the mail to my left on the foot of the bed.
One of the letters falls, sliding off the edge of the bed. I reach out to stop it but it’s too late; the floorboards have swallowed it between their gapping spaces. Oh well, I’ll worry about that later. Hasta manyna hombre.
Three pieces of mail left. I quickly thumb through them. Bill, bill, Aunt Mary, good ole’ Aunt Mary she sent me, a two –bit loser, a Christmas card. How did she get my address? Who knows, maybe this will brighten my Sunday afternoon a little. I open it. A gaping mouthed Santa Clause exclaims, “Have a merry Christmas.” as he waves empathetically to the reader.
“Yea, you too grandpa.” I say.
I open the card and a crisp twenty-dollar bill obscures the inscription. Fuck the inscription twenty bucks is twenty bucks. I put the twenty bucks in my front right jeans pocket.
“If that was worth twenty bucks.” I say to myself, “Than maybe the one the floor swallowed…“
Yes of course. It, guessing by my luck was a Christmas card. A little early yet with turkey leftovers still in peoples firges but yes it must be. I bolt off of the bed and scurry over to the kitchen. A stray nail head almost trips me up. Drawer number one, spoon, black from use of course and a butter knife.
“Perfect” I say as I turn it this way and that in the humming glow of the florescent lighting.
I almost snap the knife in half but the board in the floor finally gives and comes loose. Spiders come out along with a rough-dry cinnamon odor that I can’t quite place. I back off until the spiders scat. I am not afraid of much but I do hate spiders. After I am sure no more will wiggle their way out I reach my hand in the whole. Cobwebs tickle my fingers, thud, I hit the cement below me but no this thing isn’t cold. Its warm, I reach my fingers around it and draw it out. Wood. That is why it wasn’t cold it is made of wood. A square box made form ebony wood, a cigar box. I dust it off with the sweaty palms of my hands. I almost choke there is so much dust. The black dovetail joints of the box are exquisitely beautiful. The box only measures two hand lengths across and about three fingers deep. As I run my fingers along its corners I notice the only decoration so far. Initials carved into the lid. LF. It looks as though a chicken engraved the box with its feet. I slide both my hands to the opposite edges and lift the lid.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not even a speck of dust lines the black wooden walls of its interior. I close its lid and set it beside the bed on the floor. I reach back into the hole until my fingers feel the texture of the envelope. I pull it out.
“Another fucking bill, won’t they ever quit coming”
I toss it onto the floor at the foot of my bed where all the other mail bounced when I got up to get the knife. I decided to go to sleep early I have to be at work early anyways. I strip take the stuff out of my pockets then slip under my covers. Before I slop off to never-never land I remember to set my alarm. Click, Click done. Then I get the strangest feeling. It starts like a stray thought in my brain. You know, like thinking of grandma right before you blow your load all over some beautiful blonde’s tits. It gets there, you don’t know how and you really wish it wouldn’t. But here it is. It feels like I am hungry or thirsty. Greed, no, that’s not right either; gluttony sounds a little more like it. Whatever it was I really wanted to put that twenty-dollar bill, my only twenty bucks, into that box I had found earlier. So I did and the alien feeling went away like a summer breeze whisks away a bad smell. Then I slept.
PART TWO: Forty Bucks
My bed is soft and comforting. I can hear the humming of the radiator and those wonderful buzzing florescent lights. My back aches from leaning over a sink all morning and my hands are chapped. I pull out my relatively small bag of heroin. It sits in the palm of my hand. So much fun in such a little space, stimulate your mind man. Maybe I will but first the matter of how the fuck I got the forty bucks I bought it with.
This morning I woke up, with a bit of a headache no doubt, to my hideous sounding alarm. I dressed from the pile of laundry in the corner. Put my keys, wallet and the money out of that black box in my pockets accordingly. I grabbed the money out of the box never minding how much was there (Actually I was wondering how much I might be able to pawn such a nice box.), then off to work.
I wash dishes for a couple of hours then take my lunch with Vinney (He is a scrawny burn out remnant of the sixties with long silvery hair and salt & pepper eyebrows.). I ask him if he has any shit.
“Course I do.”
“How much and how much?”
“It’s all I got left and forty”, he says.
“All I got is twenty can you split it?”
I reach into my pocket to grab my twenty. Maybe if I show it to him I can convince him to do it my way. I fan the two twenty dollar bills in my fingers and begin again.
“See all I have is-
Forty bucks. No fucking way. Don’t over think it, just do it.
“Actually why don’t I just take it all.” I say.
Reluctant and unsure “Sure man.”
We trade stuff. I wash some more dishes then come home.
Now I am just sitting on my bed with a small package wrapped in a cigarette pack’s cellophane.
Duplicated, cloned, doppelganger.
I can’t stop wondering. Well there is only one-way to be sure. I really hope I am not going crazy or that the heroin isn’t finally going to my head, fucking with my conscious thought.
“What to put in that therrre boks.” I say in a horrible hick impression. How will I know for sure? I lean over to look at the box closer.
“Oww, shit” I mutter as my keys poke into my hip. Yes, of course that’s it. I will stick my keys in there. I pick up the ebony box. The blackness of it seems to swallow the light. I open it with my thumbs and sit it on my lap. Kerr-chink, Keys inserted. I close the box.
I open the box after I tap my feet and twiddle my thumbs for no more than five minutes. (Some of my friends at works affectionately call my tapping and twiddling the “Junkie Shuffle”.) One set of keys. I really am losing my mind. I take the keys out and put them on the nail by the door. To think a box could duplicate stuff. Its like I am a kid believing if I put my tooth under my pillow that a wonderful glittery fairy will bless me with a small amount of US currency. Yea right, get a grip. Well now that is settled. What to do? I set the box to my right and look to my left. The heroin.
I prepare it just the way I always do. I have to reuse the syringe this time. I unhook my belt. Tie my arm off. Blue veins, what remains of them, stand out in a spidery web down my track mark littered forearm. I load the syringe. I hiss air through my teeth as the needle punchers my skin. I push the plunger slowly down. Yellow-Clear fluid drains into my arm. I can feel it working through my veins like small tingly crystals. I un-strap the belt. Hello heroin my old friend.
PART THREE: Decent Into Madness
I lay back on my bed of clouds prepared by angels in dusk’s yellow light. Pleasure tingles and pulses through my body like waves made by a rock thrown into a somber pond. I sink deep, deeper into a hole. A sinkhole. My room jumps back at me on steel springs. I sit up on my cloud, my throne of majesty. The angels have departed. I look around as vivid pastel colors fade in and out like far away radio stations in a thunderstorm. I lie back down and fade into a colorfully wonderful sleep.
I awaken dazed and still on cloud nine. The heroin has worn off a little and I can think more coherently now.
“Man I am…” I don’t know. Something is unsatisfied. What? I look on the floor beside my bed. Heroin and heroin accessories. I still have some stuff left but not much.
Put it in the box.
“What” I say.
Where did that come from? An alien voice inside my head; I turn and look at the small black cigar box squatting on my floor. I look at my tiny bag of heroin. I imagine a large puzzle, one of those ten thousand piece ones. But one piece is missing. The piece has a small cellophane wrapped package on it. Strictly on impulse I snatch up my remaining stash and put in the box. With the crack of the lid that strange alien unsettling is gone. I can’t wait more than five seconds before I thumb the lid open again. Two bags of heroin.
I examine the bags in the zombie light of my stale dry apartment. They are identical. Another urge, this one not so alien, tells me to shoot again.
I prep and fix. The accustom sensations fell me to the brink of utopia.
“Hello heroin my old friend.” I say aloud without even being aware. It works through me and I lay back on my bed, hands propped behind my head and I fall. I fall deep this time. Reality fades out. I start hallucinating again as the boiler kicks on.
A train engine revs up. I sit up and don’t see anything but tracers and brightness. I am sweating bullets now and my skin is crawling around on my bones. This isn’t what usually happens, I think to myself. A whistle blows somewhere; a train whistle.
“All aboard” the conductor, a small man with a black and red uniform, says. He smiles and winks beckoning me to get on the train. The train is huge and black as the bottom of a well. Man I am really losing it now I think from a million miles away. I climb aboard. The steel of the handrail is boiling hot. I step inside the coach. Heat swells around me in red pulsing waves. Where am I now? The door I just stepped thorough is gone. There is no trace of a ceiling or wall, just red pulsing waves of heat. I hear a ticking rustling sound all around me. Millions of small black silhouettes swarm toward me from both sides. I step back. Something stops me dead in my retreat. Something springy and stretchy. A huge spider web. Holy fucking mother of Jesus I am caught in a spider web. The black mob is at my feet. There spiders. And just as the thought solidifies in my mind so the amorphous black shapes. Thousands of Black Widow spiders make their way up my legs. Their red hourglass tattoos bouncing up and down. I try to swat at them but my hands are immobile. I can’t move. They now cover my legs. I can feel their soft weight pressing against my jeans. They crawl to my waist and horde down my pants and up my back. Pattering legs tickle the hair of my navel, then my crotch, then OH MY GOD NO, NO. I scream with terror as they fill my pants making their way in a single file line pushing their way up into my ass-hole. Swarms of spiders skitter up my back under my shirt, over my shirt. They reveal themselves running out in small black and red rivers from my shirt collar. Their legs twinge and scratch at my flesh as they crawl through my hair, up my chin. Blackness comes in swatches over my vision. Small black legs tickle and tease my eyelashes. Sharp pains rip through my gut. The spiders wiggle their twisted bodies into my ears, more spiders crawl down my arms. More cover my face, ruffle through my hair. I open my mouth to scream again, prickly warm legs and bulbous bodies fill my mouth, invade my larynx. The blackness solidifies. It embraces me with chilly warmth. I swear I hear the fibers of my sanity breaking. Then I am gone.
The Kansas City Chronicle Dec 3
The police are not letting out the name of a local Kansas City man found dead in his apartment last night. He was found by the police shortly after a telephone call was made to report that the downstairs tenant, a known drug user, was screaming at the top of his lungs. The police apparently found him sitting at the foot of his bed clutching a small black cigar box with both hands. Inside police sources say there were many unusual things about this man’s death. Even though he was only twenty-seven years old, according to his ID, he looked to be almost seventy with white hair and wrinkled skin. His mouth was dropped in a slacked jawed scream of terror. Also, he was clutching the box with such force that the police had to break most of his fingers to get it out of his hands. The box is rumored to be missing from the police evidence locker. As of now they are unofficially calling it an overdose but the autopsy has yet to be performed.