It came out to $350 for 40 vicodin and a half-ounce of mid-grade green--expensive. But this is New York; police state that it is, flophouse that it is, flickering light bulb of a state with the power to attract single-minded (I want to say, self-destructive, yet, it’s in a subconscious way, it’s a deep and rooted glitch of the back brain, the seed planted during the embryo stage, an innate bend…) flickering light bulb of a state that it is, swinging on a back porch, attracts single-minded moths- 350! New York! Where a man’s standard of living decreases in direct relation, I’d say a 1 to 1 ratio, to the thinnest hand on his wristwatch. Where you can see (without squinting, peering over a fence, or even having to buy a ticket) the cost of comfortable, chemical lifestyle swell up to so many grams per dollar, so many shots in a bottle, only so many nights to a paycheck… New York!

       The vicodin ran 5.50 a pop but supposedly it was worth it; big, pink capsules, hundreds heaped upon hundreds of milligrams, enough to get your pupils dilated, enough to make you sit back, stare off into space… comfortable, chemical lifestyle. We pulled up to the ATM machine (I was with the blonde, the infamous, 3 feet, of chain-smoking long hair) one of those drive up tellers, March 2nd, bank accounts like full gas tanks, the both of us, and she took out 180, no problem.

       I saw an old model Jeep Wrangler pull up behind us, painted grey, pop music spilling out of the window, runs down the side of the car and floods the parking lot…a large puddle of nauseating sound, 92 cents below the lowest octave of E-flat…I gave the blonde my bankcard and told her my pin number. She fumbles with the card- between lit cigarette, incessant motion of hairbrush, adjustment of volume, counting of cash and answering of cell phone- it isn’t surprising. The card drops and she has to open the car door, lean out, stretch…the retrieval, “What’s your pin number again?” I tell her.

       “Checking or Savings?”


       “How much should I take out?”

       “200.” (Bank accounts like full gas tanks! The both of us! Vicodin!)

       “What the hell is taking so long?” She asks while the ATM machine whirrs, buzzes, clicks in its native tongue: modulate-demodulate…

       “I don’t know.”


       Behind us the grey Jeep Wrangler, guy’s lowered his radio in order to start honking. It’s only been 5 minutes.

       “What’s that guy honking at?” I ask. Meanwhile, Blonde’s got her head out the window, turns to the Wrangler.

       “Just a second buddy.” Then turns back to the machine, “Shit” she says, the whirrs, clicks and all have stopped, and across the screen: You have reached your maximum withdrawal limit for today. We are sorry for the inconvenience.

       Behind us the grey Jeep Wrangler, guy’s stopped honking in order to start yelling.

       “C’mon damnit! Let’s fucking go already!”

       “Relax asshole, can’t you see we’re trying to get money?” Blonde’s got no tolerance for the rudeness of strangers. I’m quiet about the whole thing. Mind occupied: Maximum withdrawal limit? Inconvenience? What do you mean?

       I tallied up all the purchases I had made since my check cleared: 1 tin of Drum tobacco, an extra pack of rolling papers and 300 Top filter tips, a large bag of Gummy Rattlesnakes, 2 sticks of peppered beef jerky, a box of Japanese condoms, a 9ft steel rail with a kink in the middle that I planned on using in the snowboard park I’ve been building in my parent’s driveway, 1 case- Bud cans, an order of buffalo wings, 30 dollars for gas, paid insurance, credit card bills and car loan…but still, March 2nd, I should have close to 1,800 bucks, plus my line of credit and 8 o’clock meeting with this pill kid 10 minutes from now- Shit! I get out of my head and rejoin the scene in the parking lot. Blonde’s in a full-blown screaming match, guy in the Wrangler’s foaming at the mouth, they’re going back and forth, cursing, insulting one another, middle finger and the guy in the Wrangler makes a mistake.

       “Fuck you, you stupid cunt!”

       “Did he just call me a cunt? John? … John?”


       I’m already out of the car (Maximum withdrawal limit?), fast as all hell (10 minutes from now, three hundred and fifty bucks, all those milligrams; pink, ready, waiting for me to come along with my strong teeth, with my single-minded moth self, with my deeply rooted glitches, my natural bend, my instinctive reaction and who’s this guy think he is calling her…) I start moving towards the jeep…New York!

       (A tangent!

       New York breeds all types, all kinds, every variety and species of man you can think of. From muscle bound street fighters that carry screwdrivers in their glove compartments, to the closed/locked closet door debutantes, pirouetting in sister’s high heels, trying to look past chin stubble and Adam’s apples- New York!

       More then a melting pot, more then a point of intersection on a map, not just a place where different cultures, foreign races, strange colors, alien eyes, teeth and bone structure collide, not just an integrated society made up of ship jumping immigrants from all parts of the globe, more then a meeting ground for extraterrestrials with slanted eyes- New York!

       A pool of primordially insane jism and egg; the recipe calling for the semen milked from a thousand deranged and ancient pricks mixed with the ova spilled out of a thousand imbalanced snatches- New York!

       The breeding area for everything from pill popping young screw-ups that write under a name like John Dempsey to loudmouthed, nut-less and gut-less wonders that are blessed with grey Jeep Wranglers, fine vocal cords and a wide ranging, gutter-mouth vocabulary but not a Cervical, Dorsal, Thoracic or Lumbar vertebrae in sight when they get under the x-ray machine of a street lamp (my instinctive reaction and who’s this guy think he is calling her a…).)

       I’m moving, carrying myself forward, into the situation, my instinctive reactions, my New York upbringing…I take note that there’s a girl in the passenger seat- that’s good, better than it being one of his buddies- and she looks harmless, a bit chubby, wearing glasses. The guy doing all the honking, cursing and cunt calling, the driver of the Wrangler, the loudmouthed, nut-less wonder, all of a sudden, (it’s the way I approach the car that does it; calculating, steady, my eyes fixed, it’s the lethal determination of my movements, like, like rockslide, avalanche, like flash flood, like auto that’s been parked on a steep hill and the E-brake gives out…I’m the cycle of a perfectly balanced wheel spinning off into eternity. I’m the inevitability of Newton’s gravity. I’m a process that once set into motion cannot be stopped until some pre-programmed goal has been accomplished) like, like sugar cubes in hot water…all of a sudden guy crumbles in his car seat and turns whitefish pale. I see him jerking at the stick shift and hear grinding gears. Guy can’t move forward without slamming into the blonde’s car, and he just can’t seem to get it into reverse, the whitefish gone even whiter, a bone soaked in Clorox then left out in the sun, he sticks his head through the open window, March 2nd at 8 pm, 26 degrees and the sweat ((regardless of the weather) who’d this guy think he was dealing with…) stands out fresh in big drops along his forehead.

       “What’re you gonna do? Hit my car?” In a new voice, he had picked up a quiver while trying to get into gear. And of course, me:

       “No, I’m going knock your fucking teeth out.” real calm, too, like I’m talking about the weather, fishing tackle, the shape of a cloud…my deliberate motions, my deliberate intonation, a slow moving landslide, the sluggish avalanche (from street fighters to cross dressers, from Johns to jellyfish…it breeds all types).

       I reach in the driver’s side window as the Jeep’s bucking back and forth, grinding gears, sweating fish, bunch up the guy’s shirt in my left hand while cocking back with the right, planning to put my shoulders and back into the swing…Dempsey vs. Sharkey- 1927! I can hear the blonde in the stands, laughing her ass off--

       “No one calls me a cunt and gets away with it!” She loves it. I’m the white knight (sure!) defending her honor.

       Nut-less, gut-less, spineless, loudmouthed driver finally gets the car into reverse. He punches the gas and I’m forced to pull my arm back out of the window. Then he finds first gear. Comes at me, fast. I jump out of the way, last second, would’ve clipped my thigh if I hadn’t.

       He pulls out of the parking lot and stops the car. I start moving towards him again. The whitefish, finding a hole in the net, spitting out the hook, slipping off the gaffe, back in the safety of the ocean so to speak, regains those fine vocal cords…

       “You think you’re tough? You’re nothing but white trash! And your bitch is ugly too!”

       I’m no longer the deliberate, slow moving landslide. I pick up speed. No longer the sluggish avalanche. No longer walking. I’ve become full blown raging river, white water rapids and all, running at the Jeep, fast as my legs can carry me, twice the amount of lethal determination as before…I’d be scared of myself in that situation. Whitefish gets the picture, a squeal of tires, guy peals out onto the main road, a strong scent of Summer’s Eve in his wake.

       Blonde pulls up alongside of me, money in hand- turns out I was overdrawn on my checking account, savings, on the other hand …- and I hop in the passenger seat. “Follow that fucking Jeep Kitty Kat! He’s not getting away with this!”

       In the blonde’s Mitsubishi, “I love you John.” 60 miles an hour down badly lit roads, “You’re absolutely-” tight turns and he’s got a lead on us, quarter past 8 with enough money for a binge “-fucking crazy.” and the pill kid waiting for us…5 minutes later without a blink of tail or brake light of hope…our comfortable, chemical lifestyle …we said screw it.

John Dempsey lives in New York, and has spent the last twenty-five years trying to figure out how to write. John makes a living as a professional tech monkey for a University in Manhattan, as well as various freelance writing assignments. The author of three books, two of which have been published in paperback, John’s work has been featured in numerous anthologies, journals, and websites. His books can be found at: http://www.iriswhite.com/authors/jd1.htm

Contact him via email

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