Sunday, April 10, 2011


Wayne was mildly inebriated. As the entire restaurant sang Happy Birthday he accepted the tribute with ethyl-assisted good cheer.
“Are you going to blow out that candle or just let it wax your cake?” asked Fulbright Norvak who was full-fledged drunk. His friends most often called him FN, eliding it as Eff’n. The primary effect of the alcohol on him was to exaggerate his native lack of tact.
“What? Oh.” Wayne strained to focus his eyes on the cake in front of him. He successfully blew out the single candle even though the main force of his puff was off target. “Thanks for the birthday dinner, you two. I can’t believe I’m the big Three-Oh.”
Allen stole from Oscar Wilde: “You look weeks younger.” Allen, as usual, was sober. The single glass of wine that had accompanied his dinner qualified as a bender for him.
“Right. I like this place. Le Beouf a la Mode. I actually can pronounce that better when I’m drinking.”
“The name had me worried. What flavor ice cream do you scoop on top of beef?” Allen asked.
“Pistachio. So what’s the plan guys? It’s only 10 o’clock. It’s still my birthday for two more hours.”
“I guess we go drink some more,” proposed Fulbright. “I don’t think we have to walk far in Manhattan to find a bar.”
“I drink in bars every night,” Wayne said.
“And the man is still single.”
“Asshole! I like to do shit.”
“Well, let’s keep any coprous behavior for more private moments, if you don’t mind,” said Allen.
“Shoot pool? Movie?” FN suggested.
“Bullshit to both of you.”
“We could go to a bar with some scenery,” suggested Allen. “Spikes is over by 10th.”
“A strip club?”
“Guys have been known to go in them on birthdays,” Allen observed.
“You’re so annoyingly uptight about booze and drugs, but at least you like sluts.”
Allen shrugged. The waitress, however, tabled the check with rather more force than strictly was necessary. Neither Wayne nor Fulbright noticed. Allen dropped cash on the check, overtipping her.
Allen was the most settled of the three, even though he was presently single. He had married soon after college, but his wife Andrea had left after only two years. All the same, his marriage had left him with a Cape Cod out on the Island with a leafy yard and a gas fired barbecue. He drank modestly when at all and avoided drugs altogether. He drove a Chevy.
Wayne and Fulbright both had moved to the city after college and remained unattached. They teased Allen for his lifestyle, but one or the other was likely to turn up at his house on the weekends and hang out.
The three left the restaurant. Fulbright and Wayne insisted Allen play chauffeur. Even though taxis and the subway were more practical transport in Manhattan, in his car they could light up a joint even though Allen grumbled about it.
On the drive from the restaurant to 10th Avenue, traffic was light, as is typical Saturday night in New York except for the theater district and the Village. Allen was able to find a parking place on the street less than a block from Spikes.
Just inside the entrance of Spikes a spectacled young woman stood behind a counter. “Hi, Al. You can go right in but I have to charge your friends the $5 cover.”
“They know you here by name? They let you in for free?” Fulbright asked as he paid for himself and Wayne.
Allen shrugged. They walked cautiously toward the bar while their eyes adjusted to the black light, which did little to illumine the black-pained walls and ceiling. Past the bar, an elongated stage stretched along one wall. Smudged mirrors on the wall imperfectly reflected the two girls dancing on stage.
“Buy your first drinks at the bar,” ordered a curvy bartender who overflowed her skimpy black uniform. “Then you can take them to the tables in the back if you like. Hi, Al.” Fulbright eyed Allen for a moment and then ordered two beers. He handed one to Wayne. Allen ordered a Coke.
            Despite the city’s “no smoking in bars” ordinance, there was a distinct odor of tobacco in the air, barely disguised by aromas of various perfumes. Huge speakers blared contemporary pop music. Allen preferred basic rock-and-roll, but he knew most of the young dancers thought it old-fashioned and didn’t much like it.
They sat around a tiny table while assessing the girls on stage and at the bar. Wayne’s mood turned suddenly surly. He scowled, swigged from his beer bottle, and pounded then it on the table.
“What’s with you?” asked Fulbright.
“All these people here lead such totally worthless lives.”
“That’s a pretty sweeping statement, Wayne. Besides, so what? Just enjoy the scenery. Pick a girl. Al and I will spring for a lap dance for you. Like happy birthday, man.”
“Why bother? These girls don’t give a shit about me. All they want is my bucks.”
“So, what’s your point?”
“My point, Half-bright, is that it would be nice to like know someone.”
“You want one of these women here to love you for yourself? Tonight? I think you’re kind of expecting a lot, buddy boy.”
Allen looked up as his named was called. A tawny haired dancer in a purple microdress literally threw herself on his lap. She wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Allen’s been holding out on us,” laughed Fulbright. “Who is the human overcoat?”
“Cindy, this is Fulbright. We call him FN. That’s Wayne. It’s Wayne’s birthday.”
“Happy birthday, Wayne.”
“Thanks, Cindy. You two go out or something?” asked Wayne whose slur had thickened. His current beer had pushed him past tipsy.
“Shush! We’re not supposed to date customers.”
“But you do?”
“Thanks so much for bragging about me, Allen.”
“Only a couple times, so far,” Allen said. “I had tickets to Broadway and Cindy accepted when I asked her to go.”
“Broadway? Are you sure you’re not gay?” asked Fulbright.
“He’s not FN gay,” Cindy said.
“I haven’t been on a date in months,” Wayne stated sullenly.
The Night Manager Barbara walked by. There still were beatniks in the twenty-first century and Barbara was one. She dressed in black, wore shoulder length black hair, and used no make up, but still came off as pretty. Allen had spoken to her a few times and found her interesting. She was a nihilist.
Wayne pointed at her. “I like that one better than these tarted up strippers,” he said.
“Your friends are charming, Allen.” Cindy gathered her antiphrasis was lost on them. “Buy Barbara a drink,” she suggested to Wayne with a sigh. “She’ll talk to you. Most guys don’t pay attention to her.”
Wayne frowned as though solving a quadratic equation. After a few moments he summoned up courage and walked over to Barbara at the bar. He tapped her on the shoulder.
“Do you mind if I talk to you?”
Barbara shook her head. Without prompting, the bartender put a drink in front of her. From the steam it appeared to be hot coffee.
“That’s the dog boy!” exclaimed Fulbright to Cindy.
“We call Wayne the dog boy.”
“I don’t know.”
“I see.” Cindy was accustomed to this sort of irrelevancy from drunken patrons.
They watched Wayne from the table. He spoke animatedly while Barbara sat on her barstool and sipped coffee. None of their conversation was audible at the table over the loud music. Barbara remained expressionless throughout the encounter.
After a few minutes, Wayne stomped back to the table. His sullen mood had been replaced by a murderous one.
“Wasn’t Barbara nice to you?” asked Cindy mischievously.
“That shit face! I kind of opened up to her, you know? I told her that there really was romance in the world. I told her I believed that true love was really possible and I’d like to find it.”
“My. How did she respond to that?” queried Cindy.
“She said that life is shit, that I was living a total fantasy, and that I’d never find love because nobody does. She all but called me an idiot. It really pissed me off.”
“Don’t worry about it. She is kind of a dark person.”
“That was rather an amazing thing to say to her,” commented Allen.
“Yeah, well, you’re all bitter from your divorce bullshit. You probably agree with her. I’m going to go back and tell her off.”
“No, Wayne. Calm down. She’s the manager,” Cindy warned. “You’ll get thrown out.”
“I’m not going to do anything to get thrown out. I’m just going to tell her to fuck off!”
“That will get you thrown out.” Cindy started to pet Wayne on the back.
“No, listen,” he continued. “I’m just going to say to her, ‘You are wrong. You are a total asshole. Go fuck yourself!’ I’m going to tell her right now.” He rose unsteadily to his feet. Cindy grabbed Wayne by the shirt and pulled him to his seat.
“No! Do you want me to dance for you?” Suddenly feeling awkward in front of Allen, she waved to another dancer. “Vanessa! Come over here and dance for Wayne. It’s his birthday. Al here is paying.”
Vanessa was conventionally pretty bleached blonde. She walked up to Wayne, casually stripped off her top, bent over him and wiggled. Wayne’s agitation subsided.
“You see, Allen? Men calm right down with boobies in their faces. This is what I have to deal with every evening. It’s why I find you relaxing. You don’t need therapy from me every minute.”
“I like the therapy though.”
“I noticed.”
By the time Vanessa was done Wayne had forgotten Barbara completely. Wayne squinted at Allen in an unsuccessful attempt to clear the image. “I’ve been drinking too much. I’m all fucked up. Hey Cindy. You have any coke?”
“I’ll get you one.”
“No! I mean blow.”
“Shhhh! Don’t even talk about that. There are always narcs in here. I’d be out on my ass if the owner saw me with it.”
“So you have some, then. I’ll pay you for it.”
“Shush! No, I don’t have any, and I can’t call my connection in here.”
“I’ll go see my dealer then. I’ll be back.”
Cindy shrugged her shoulders. “Suit yourself.”
“Al, you can stay here. Just give me the keys and I’ll go.”
“No! Allen, don’t give him the keys! He’ll kill himself,” Fulbright warned.
“I wasn’t planning on it.”
“Screw all of you. I’ll go by myself.”
“You should go with him, Al. He shouldn’t be wandering alone on the street like that,” advised Cindy.
“Me? I don’t get involved with dealers.”
“So don’t get involved. Just go with him.”
“Yeah, Al. Don’t be such a pansy,” chimed Wayne. “Let’s go.”
Fulbright chose to stay behind. They promised to return to Spikes after the buy.
Out on the street Allen put his arm out for a cab.
“Why aren’t you driving?” Wayne asked.
“I like my parking spot.”
A taxi pulled to the curb. The two climbed in.
“Onward, Abdul!” shouted Wayne. “First and 80-something.”
“80 what?”
“I don’t remember. I never looked at the cross street when I went there. 84th will do.”
The cab driver, whose name was not Abdul, took them across town.
Once on the sidewalk, Wayne knew where he was and led the way to a door next to a pool parlor. He repeatedly pressed the buzzer. An irritated voice on the scratchy speaker asked “What?” 
Wayne! Blow!”
“Shut your mouth Wayne! This is my neighborhood. Come on up.” A buzzer sounded and the lock clicked. Wayne pushed the door which opened onto a narrow staircase. Wayne took the single flight of steps two at a time and then charged down the short hallway. Allen followed. Wayne twisted the knob of the door at the end of the hall. The door was unlocked. Wayne swung it open so that it banged loudly against the wall.
“Hey, take it easy! You bust the plaster and I have to fix!” called out a voice inside.
Wayne strode in. Allen walked in behind him.
The studio apartment was long and narrow with a single window at the far end. A full sized mattress was on the floor in the center of the room. An unconscious, dark skinned, and apparently unclothed young woman lay curled up on it with her shoulders exposed above the blanket. A table and couch occupied the space by the window. On the table was a pharmacist’s scale. Next to the table stood a trim black man in his 20s with a shaven head, white shirt and crisply creased pants.
“Hey, Harvey, this is my friend Allen,” Wayne announced. “He’s cool.”
“Hello, Allen.”  Harvey extended his hand with the businesslike formality of a bank officer reviewing a candidate for a loan. Excuse the mess, Allen. I’ve had a busy day.”
“You’re talking to a single man. Everything looks neat to me.”
“Excuse my mess, too” Wayne interposed, wrapping his arm around Harvey. “I forgot the neat white sheets I usually wear.”
“Hey! Hey!” Harvey shoved off Wayne’s arm. “I’m in no mood for your crap! Tell me what you want and get out!”
“Keep your voice down.”
“Chill out!”
“And something for Allen. Some horse maybe.” Wayne dropped cash on the table.
“No thanks. I don’t do anything – not even weed,” Allen said
“Hey, that’s cool, man,” responded Harvey. “I respect that.”
“The dude hardly even drinks. Just hangs out in the burbs and watches the Disney channel or something.”
            Wayne pulled all of the cash out of his wallet and dropped it on the table.
Harvey glanced at it quickly and went to work. He pulled a bag out of a drawer and spooned a small amount of cocaine on one end of the scale until it balanced a metric weight on the other.
“I’ll grind this stuff up,” Harvey said.
“That’s it, Wayne.”
“Pay me more!”
“That’s all the money I’ve got, Tall, Dark and Ugly. More! Look, I’m you best customer.”
“Don’t say that! I hate that word, man! You’re my friend.”
“Well, if I’m your friend, friends don’t have to ask.” Wayne leaned over the table and reached with thumb and finger for the bag of clumpy coke.
            Harvey grabbed the back of Wayne’s neck and yanked him away from the table. “I'll break your neck man!”
            “More!” Wayne ducked down and escaped the grip on his neck. He shouldered Harvey hard in the stomach. They fell together onto the couch. None of this disturbed the sleeping woman on the mattress.
“That’s it you crazy bastard!” Harvey elbowed Wayne off of him. “Get off of me and get the fuck out!”
            “All right! Here. Here’s more!” Harvey got up and added a small scoop to Wayne’s pile in the mortar. He poured the lot into a small baggie and threw it at Wayne. “Now get out before I kill you.”
Allen was astounded. The death threat he understood better than the extra scoop.
“Hey, Allen,” said Harvey with forced calm. “Good to meet you. Sorry about all this bullshit. Wayne’s really all right. He’s OK when he’s sober. He just gets wild and out of control when he’s high.”
Allen realized Harvey was actually apologizing to him for Wayne’s behavior. He apparently did think of Wayne as a friend.
“I noticed.”
In the back of the cab on the ride back to midtown Wayne rolled a dollar bill and snorted directly from the small plastic bag. The driver ignored him.
“How did you become friends with Harvey?”
“I was in Hogs and Heifers downtown a couple years ago and I wanted blow but it’s hard to score in there because it’s too crowded. So I went to a sleazy bar around the corner, bought a drink and said loudly, ‘What I really could use tonight is some blow!’ and then went to the bathroom. I figured someone would follow me. Harvey did. He’s all right. He stayed at my place for a couple months.”
“Your dealer stayed with you? Why?”
“His mother threw him out. She was pissed at the drugs, I guess. He needed a place.”
“You never mentioned it.”
“What? I was supposed to call up all my friends and say, ‘Hey! I’ve got a coke dealer in my apartment?’ Shit! They’d’ve all been banging on my door every single night.”
They re-entered Spikes where Fulbright waited.
“Where were you guys? It’s almost 3 in the morning.”
Despite her earlier caution, Cindy was attracted by the presence of cocaine. She leaned over the table. “I’m off work in a little while. Chill out until closing time and we’ll go to an after hours club.”
Bars in New York close at 4 AM. This causes a sudden surge in traffic. Allen’s Chevy was part of it. In the back seat, Wayne dug the baggie out of his pocket and helped himself to another snort through a rolled up dollar bill. Fulbright took the bill from him and sniffed from the bag as well. Wayne held the bag forward. Cindy, reaching back over the front seat, dipped into powder with a long fingernail and lifted a small scoop to her nose.
            The after hours club was located on a commercial stretch of 30th Street. It once had been an upscale restaurant, but now was unfit for the purpose. The decrepit but once fashionable decor was stained by water leaks. Damaged tiles hung from the ceiling and the walls sported large holes. Cindy was allowed inside for free. Wayne, Allen, and FN each paid $10 to the burly doorman. After hours clubs are illegal; they typically feature gambling and open drug use. The police raided them frequently. Allen glanced around at the other people in the club. Two very large bouncers flanked the bar. The patrons included aspiring musicians with their girlfriend financiers, bikers and their girlfriend financiers, drug dealers and their customers, compulsive gamblers, suburbanites on a lark, those strange men who wear conservative business suits and gray pony tails, and unsleepy nightclub employees whose workday ended at 4:00 AM.
Cindy ordered a Smirnoff from a waitress. She pulled a porcelain pipe from her bag, stuffed it with a marijuana bud, and lit up. The mixture of pot, cocaine, and vodka aroused paranoia in her.
“This place is hot tonight. It’s gonna get raided. I can tell. It’s too crowded,” she said.
A beefy man wearing stained denim, a two-day beard growth, and an impressively powerful body odor brushed Wayne’s arm on his way to the gaming tables. He scowled with obvious disappointment when the bump did not provoke an assault from Wayne. Wayne was not so out of control as to start a fight he would lose.
“A lot of these guys just come in here for a fight,” he grumbled as the other man walked away.
“I start some fights myself,” Cindy bragged. “The bouncers watch my ass.”
“I’ll bet they do. They’d watch our asses get stomped. Men are much more likely than women to be targets.”
This evoked a moment of chemically enhanced protectiveness from Cindy. “Everyone remember that the game plan is to protect Allen. He is just humoring us here. He shouldn’t be hauled in with us if we get raided either. If you’re not doing anything illegal in these places the cops just let you go. So we don’t know him.” She laughed. “Actually the cops once let me go when I had a packet of coke hidden in my mouth. I paid 100 bucks for it. I wasn’t about to throw it away. Hey!”
Cindy jumped up and hugged a man in dreadlocks. He glanced at her table companions, whispered and left. She then looked around the room and approached a balding thin man with a ponytail. He shook his head. Cindy returned to the table annoyed.
“No one will sell me any blow,” she said. “They say some narcs might be in here tonight.”
“The dealers probably think we’re the narcs.”
“No, they trust me. This place is hot tonight.”
“Let’s go back to my place”, offered Wayne. “I have enough to share.”
As they walked down the sidewalk toward Allen’s car, three police cruisers and a wagon entered 30th Street.
“Shit, that was close,” Cindy said. “Let me run into that 24-hour deli for a case of beer.”
“A case?” Allen asked.
Wayne held the case of Busch in his lap in the back seat. Allen drove south past City Hall. He pulled into a parking space on John Street less than a block from Wayne’s apartment on the fourth floor of one of the rare residential buildings in the financial district. Wayne looked fleetingly in the direction rising Freedom Tower as he exited the car.
In the apartment Wayne spilled a portion of the powder onto a hand mirror and chopped it finer with a razor.
“Want to boil it into crack?” he asked. “I’ve got some bake in the cabinet.”
“No,” FN answered quickly. “I like it too much that way. I don’t want to make a habit of this.”
Wayne shrugged and held out the mirror to Cindy.
She shook her head. “Just hand me the bag,” she said.“
Wayne handed her the baggie, still more than half full. She dipped a long fingernail into it and lifted the nail to each nostril.
Wayne snorted the line he had cut on the mirror with a rolled dollar. Cindy dipped into the bag again and extended the digit to Fulbright. He inhaled from her finger deeply.
“I love this shit!” he declared.
The three settled into a pattern of feeding their noses while drinking cans of Busch from the deli. Allen found a Cherry Coke in the refrigerator.
“There’s caffeine in that you junkie!” shouted Wayne.
            “So I hear.”
            “Allen is disgusted with his fucked up friends,” laughed Cindy.
Actually, Allen didn’t mind their frolics, although he valued more than ever the quiet life in the suburbs to which he could return.
“I don’t know what he hangs with us sometimes, unless he’s jus too lazy to make new friends” said Wayne as though Allen were not in the room.
“We rely on Allen,” answered Cindy, “but he knows that he can rely on us, too – maybe not all of us all the time, but he knows that somebody will be straight enough to be there for him.”
“That Barbara really pissed me off,” Wayne said.
“Are you still on about that? She’s a black witch. You shouldn’t go anywhere near her!” Cindy evidently had forgotten her earlier urgings to buy Barbara a drink. “Those people will destroy everyone around them for stupid worldly gains.”
“We all do many things for stupid worldly gains,” said Allen. “But living without those gains is not good either. So, you make your choice, heads or tails.”
“I’m a tail man,” said Fulbright.
“I like head,” countered Wayne.
Cindy ignored them both. “But it is not an equal choice, Al. Karma.”
“No such animal.”
“I don’t think you believe that. There would be nothing to stop you from pillaging, and you’re the most honest and kind dude I know.”
“You don’t have to believe in cosmic retribution to not want to be criminal.”
“Watch those double negatives. I agree with Cindy,” said Wayne. “The white light shit is no joke. Once I snorted some heroin was purer than usual.”
"The typical street purity is about 3%, isn't it?" asked Allen who had read this in The New York Times.
            "How should I know? Anyway, before I passed out I really saw that bright white light they talk about and felt I was floating to it."
            “Were you staring at the ceiling fixture?”
“You are such a jackass sometimes, Allen.”
“I think Cindy is right too,” said Fulbright, whose furtive leers Cindy noticed but ignored.
“Look, I just don’t buy into witchcraft or karma or waving chickens over your head.”
“I never said anything about chickens,” interrupted Cindy. “You really should unbend enough to get fucked up with us. It doesn’t hurt anyone else and it will give you a deeper perspective on things.”
“I don’t think deeper is the right adjective. But do what you like. I’m not moralizing. I favor legalization.”
“I don’t,” grunted Wayne.
“Wait a minute. You’re the one stuffing cocaine up your nose and you want to outlaw drugs?” Allen asked.
            “Yeah, I’m telling you man, you can’t trust people. If they could buy this shit they’d be fucked up all the time. Cab drivers and all.”
“They can buy this stuff. You buy this stuff. We can buy booze legally. Most people aren’t drunk all the time.”
“Some are.”
“They were when it was illegal, too.”
“It’d be worse, man.”
“I agree with Wayne. Except for pot. That should be legal,” said Cindy as she refilled her fingernail.
“Why, Cindy? Cab drivers can’t can get high on pot?” Allen asked.
“Yeah, but it’s a mellow buzz.”
“OK, you don’t mind drivers with mellow buzzes. But keeping other drugs illegal turns neighborhoods into war zones, overloads prisons, turns ordinary people like you into criminals, undermines civil liberties…”
Fulbright laughed. “Still trying to save the world. Shouldn’t you have outgrown that back in college?”
“Besides, you’re wrong, man,” insisted Wayne. “I’m telling you. People would be all fucked up everywhere. Most people have real jobs, not some family business, and they'd never be able to do them.”
Allen chose not to argue further.
“Mind if I use the facilities?” he asked.
“Go ahead. I don’t want you peeing out here on the floor.”
Allen closed the door to the bathroom behind him.
“Family business? Al’s got money?” Cindy asked.
“His walls are papered with it,” answered Fulbright. “That’s how he kept the house after Andrea left.”
“No shit? He didn’t mention it. Most guys brag about that.”
Fulbright walked to refrigerator to get another beer.
Cindy reached over to Wayne who sat next to her on the couch and gave him a quick squeeze on the crotch. “We think a lot alike, head man. If you ever want to share a bag, come and see me.” She released Wayne as Allen exited the bathroom.
“Look guys,” said Fulbright “it’s 8 o’clock in the morning and I need some sleep. Give me a ride home, Al?”
“I don’t want to leave yet,” said Cindy to Allen. She walked over to Allen, sat on his lap, put her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply. Allen knew this was just so he would agree to stay, but he was happy to be persuaded.
“Do I need a bucket of water? Like I really need to go home!” Fulbright insisted.
“So go! Take a fucking cab!” Cindy shouted.
“I’m broke. I blew my wad in that clip joint where you work.”
“Then take the subway! Al, give him a couple bucks!” She put her hand to her forehead and calmed down. “Shit! Never mind. It is late. Early. Whatever. OK. Take him home, Allen. I’ll stay and talk with Wayne. You don’t mind, do you? I won’t screw him.”
“You’re a free woman.”
“I know. But you don’t think I’d try to hose your friend, do you?”
“No, I believe you.”
Wayne interrupted, “Actually, I need to get some sleep, too, and we’re out of blow. So, see you all later.”
“That’s the thing about this shit,” said Fulbright. “You can have a flour sack full and it won’t be enough. You’ll keep doing it until it’s gone.”
“I can call my dealer,” Cindy offered. “Besides, I owe him a couple bills.”
“No. I don’t mean to be impolite, but like all of you go.”
Wayne, do you know how many guys try to get me to stay at their apartments? No one ever has tossed me out. Say something, Allen. He’s just worried you’ll be jealous.”
“The man has a right to go to bed sometime.”
Cindy hit Allen on the arm but dropped the argument. She grabbed her bag and stood up.
Several minutes later Allen’s car headed north with Cindy in the front and Fulbright in the back. The sun shone brightly. Even though it was Sunday, traffic was because of a bicycle rally. “Turn onto Murray so I can buy some blow!” Cindy demanded.
“The street is blocked off because of the bikes.”
“Then pull over. I’ll walk.”
There were no legal parking spaces so Allen pulled up to the curb and stayed at the wheel with the engine running. Cindy got out and walked fairly steadily down the block and out of sight. Allen and Fulbright waited for what seemed to them too long a time.
“Maybe you should sit behind the wheel while I go find her.” Allen suggested.
“Uh. I shouldn’t even be sitting behind the wheel fucked up like this.”
“OK. Then would you go see where she is?”
“Just leave the bitch. I need to get home.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Shit! All right, I’ll be right back.” Fulbright exited and walked down Murray Street.
Allen waited. Several minutes later Fulbright and Cindy hurried to the car together. “Pull out!” Cindy ordered as she jumped in and slammed the door.
Fulbright slammed the back door. “Go!” Fulbright shouted.
Allen pulled out into traffic.
“What’s the excitement?”
“My dealer wasn’t there. Or maybe he didn’t want to answer his door or his phone. I saw his girlfriend’s car outside so, you know. But I needed to pee so I went between two cars.”
“Yeah. I was all bloated up too” Fulbright added, “so I did the same thing when she was done. Some guy ran out of a store yelling ‘Hey! Hey!’ So, we ran back here.  We were about to be busted for pissing.”
“You’ll have to remember that story for the dinner table next Thanksgiving.”
“Thanks. You know, Al,” Fulbright tauntingly but seriously, “Wayne didn’t kick Cindy out because he was worried you’d be jealous. He ordered her out after she said she wouldn’t lay him.”
“You assholes,” Cindy said. “Hey Al, you were at Wayne’s dealer before, weren’t you. Let’s go there.”
“Cindy, it’s 8:30 in the morning. Isn’t it time to call it quits?”
“I’m buying some coke, with or without you. Are you going to be a friend or am I doing it alone?”
“OK, OK. You shouldn’t be wandering the streets in your condition. Maybe Harvey is still awake.”
“Of course he is. He’s a coke dealer.”
Allen dropped off Fulbright on West 10th. He pulled back into traffic and worked his way cross-town to the East Side.
Allen found a parking space on 1rst Avenue. He walked with Cindy to Harvey’s building. Allen buzzed. He was surprised when the lock buzzed open without any queries over the intercom. They climbed the stairs and approached the open door at the end of the hall.
They entered. Three clean cut white men stood next to Harvey. One wore a black raincoat even though the sky was clear and the day was warm. The mattress on the floor was empty. The men waited for the new arrivals to say something. Cindy nearly did so until Allen quieted her with an admonitory tug on her arm.
Finally, Harvey spoke. “Maybe now is not a good time. Come back later man.” Allen and Cindy retreated.
Back in the car, Allen slammed the door. The interior of the car was already hot from the sun so he opened the window. “Those were cops. They were waiting for us to ask for drugs. You nearly got us arrested.”
“Oh, lighten up. Nothing happened. Let’s go up to West 110th. I know some dudes on the street there.”
“No, that’s it. We’re done. We’re going home.”
“I don’t want to go home.”
“I do! I’ll drop you off at your place.”
“I’ll just go out again.”
“Suit yourself.”
“You ratted on Harvey,” asserted a voice by the open window. The man’s face was above the level of the door window.
“What? No. I just got here.”
“Right. That’s why they let you go, huh?”
Allen slumped onto Cindy when the bullet entered his chest.
Cindy shouted out the window at the vanishing gunman. “I need some blow!”

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