"Uncle Mickey has a lot in common with a deejay. They both scratch." I said that to my mother about her brother.
Her reaction was a stare equal parts anger and astonishment. No sooner had the words left my
mouth when Uncle Mickey raised up off the couch in the den and walked outside. I wondered if he heard me.
"Go clean your room," my mother snapped.
I went to my room and thought about what I said. It was true, only a deejay spins a vinyl album back and forth to blend the sound with music
playing on another turntable. Uncle Mickey scratches his arms up and I don’t think he’s even aware of it, ‘cause he keeps dozing off. His
scabbed arms look like a zipper that you can pull down and look inside
him. Later that night I overheard my mom and dad talking. Mom said Mickey was a junkie. First I thought she meant he was like the old man
on Sanford and Son. A few months later, I learned it meant he used dope, something we learned about in school and were urged to Just say ‘No’
to. Apparently it ain’t that easy saying ‘no,’ not if some adults can’t. My mama said doing dope was “dumb.” I remembered Uncle Mickey use to be the Mailman. You can’t be dumb and be the Mailman. *** I went to school and after the three o-clock bell sounded, I went and spoke with my favorite teacher, Mrs. Dunnegan. I asked her to tell me
everything she knew about junkies. She looked at me a long time before she responded in a low voice and spoke as if every syllable had to be
just right, or I wouldn’t understand. For thirty minutes I absorbed a lesson in dopedom. I found out they VOLUNTARILY stick needles in their arm and inject the dope into their veins.
They start out doing it to get away from their problems. I told Mrs. Dunnegan it would be easier for them to move somewhere else far away. She looked at me, hung her head in contemplation, and finally began to explain addiction to me. *** The next day I was home with Uncle Mickey, just the two of us. He’d wakened from a long nap, but still looked hella sleepy. He sat there with his
left arm extended and scratched it like he was a cat who’d found the perfect post. I decided to ask him point blank about his habit, and if
he took offense, so be it. I figured he wouldn’t remember any of it, so there was no way my parents would learn I’d been disrespectful, So I asked him, “Unc, are you crazy?” He stared at me as if I’d hauled off and spit on him. “Why you ask me some shit like that, li’l nigga?”
“The fact you’ll jab a needle in your arm sounds crazy.” “Don’t worry about what I do. Go sit your little ass down somewhere.” “I gotta worry about you. You’re family.” “Go on, now!” “I ain’t done asking questions.” I matched his fiery gaze with one of my own. “Why do you poke yourself with needles? Is that how your arms got
so messed up?” “Getting fixed helps me forget. You satisfied?” “No. What is ‘fixed’? What are you fixing on?” “My life.” “What happens when you can’t get fixed? Or you go to jail? If your veins dissolve like Jell-O in a bowl of hot water? Would you keep shooting?” Uncle Mickey’s fist balled, but I held my ground. “What’s it to you?” I needed to understand. “Have you ever heard of Mexican tar?” “Yeah.” “Do you share needles?” “No.”
Mickey ran his hand over his face. “You ask a lot of crazy questions. Are you high?” Mickey cackled and did some more scratching. “I’m serious.” The sharpness of my voice brought an end to his laughter. “Now, have you ever seen anyone O.D.?”
“What, you thinking of becoming a user?” “Ha-ha.”
I was mad, so I turned up the heat with a slew of questions. “What if you wake up and find yourself lying in a coffin? Do you hate yourself?
Have you ever considered suicide? You believe in God? What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done for dope?” “None-a that is your business! Now get your ass outta here!” “I live here; you’re visiting.” I pushed out my little chest, not knowing why. “Now if you don’t want to see me doing it when I’m grown, you need
to answer my questions.” I saw his eyes open all the way, at least, as far as a semi-high junkie’s eyes could open. They were red, but full
of recognition. He discovered I wasn’t being nosy, just child-like, inquisitive and eager to learn. “You ever think about going to church?” I asked. “Naw.” “Can I pray for you?” “Naw.” “I’ma do so anyway.” “Then why’d you ask?” “You should be praying for yourself. Such a life… I don’t know Unc.” I sat next to him and he put his arm over my shoulder. “I know one thing you know,” he said. “What’s that?” “I have a lot in common with a deejay.” When he heard me swallow audibly he chuckled. “A deejay and I both scratch a lot.”
Timothy N. Stelly Sr. is a novelist from Pittsburg, California. His HUMAN TRIAL trilogy (2008-12 All Things That Matter Press) earned a SORMag (Shades Of Romance Magazine) Book of the Year nomination. His second horror series, ZOMBIE FACTOR debuted in 2013, and ZOMBIE FACTOR II: THE WALL will drop this fall.