Mike laid back on his bed staring at the afternoon sun crawling across his wall. The bar would need to open soon, and he would have to unlock the doors to let the bartender in. He was already out of sync with his routine. He had spent the whole morning with Joey and now he was tired again. He should be in the shower but the soft allure of the mattress and the silky touch of the satin sheets held him. He would need to do a line and leave soon.
Joey wasn’t the first kid Mike had scooped up off the streets. Mike knew from the moment Joey walked by the bar that there was something special about him. That tiny kid looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. It was a look Mike knew well.
Mike arched his back up and reached into his back pants pocket to pull out Joey’s school ID. Mike pulled it from the boys’ clothes the first night. The Northbay Highschool student ID was a laminated black and white card with a grainy picture of Joey saying 86-87 school year. The corners were still sharp.
By now Mike would have normally gone to the library and looked at the local papers to see if there were any red flags. The Northbay Republic, the local news rag, would have noted a missing child, and who was looking for him. The dimming sun moved slowly across the wall unaffected by his failing initiative. Mike was late. He popped up off the bed and shoved the ID back into his pocket.
Mike should have checked the papers first; he should have made some calls. He should not have taken Joey to the loft, showed him the bar, walked him into his life until he vetted the boy. If anyone was looking for him, if anyone found him, it could be bad for Mike. Arron was right, Joey was going to be trouble, but Mike had a feeling that Joey would work out.
Mike blew a quick rail, cleaned up the mess, and walked to the bar. He had a routine with coke, six weeks on, three weeks off. It was a powerful motivator, but it could get ugly if it got out of control. It had nearly killed him before, but his routine saved him.
Part of it was his own paranoia, his fear of relapse, was stronger than his need to use. It always showed up when he got too far in. An echoing worry, an irritating nag, reminding him of his past overdoses, and the things he had lost.
Mike was so close to getting out of it, so close to making his escape, but if he got too fucked up, he could lose it all. The creep needed to play, and he needed to pay off his debts. No matter how insane it got Mike only needed one more to getaway.
“Diamond, you’d have OD’d, and then what?” Mike said to the fading light.
He realized it was getting late and he rushed off to his bar. The sun was setting on the Castro and as Mike walked up there was already a small crowd of guests standing in front of the bar.
“Sorry I’m running late,” he said as he unlocked the door.
There were a few good-natured grumbles as Mike hit the lights and the patrons strolled into their posts. The bartender jumped behind the bar as Mike walked into the back and unlocked the office.
“Vance, get’em started, I’ll get a drawer and ice for you,” Mike said to his bartender with a cheery smile.
As he walked into the back there was a figure he recognized walking through the unlit kitchen.
“Why didn’t you let Vance in?” Mike asked as he walked into the small office.
The figure moved like silk and leaned in with a wry dark smile, “Why don’t you give da mon a key?”
Star was thin, maybe just a little too thin, and had dark caramel skin. His hair was long and relaxed but currently was an unkept poof with curls licking off in random directions. Two braids woven with red string ran off the left side. He had an unopened bottle of gin in his hand.
“You look like shit,” said Mike.
“You look older today, my brutha,” the young man smiled and spoke with a slight Caribbean accent.
“What did you think of the new kid?”
“You say we got a new kid?” Star asked with concern.
“Don’t start, I don’t have time for this.”
“Mike, you promise, my bruhta, you fuckin promise.”
“I didn’t make you any promises! Your school ain’t cheap mother fucker!” Mike hissed as he stepped into Star’s face.
Star didn’t move back, just closed his eyes and said, “DJ, been gone for what; a month? Two? Why you be replace’n him? You said we done,” he opened his eyes and looked directly at Mike, “You said we out; we need just a little more dough.”
“I said,” Mike stopped and held his finger up as he battled his own rage.
“This be too much, mon. God don’t be looking away foreva” he said.
“I’m doing this because I love you. Just one more, and I promise, no creep this time. That was crazy, nobody could have known. He’s cut off. This kid is cash, get him in the rooms, and just get some cash.”
“And you fuck him, mon?”
“Yeah, I tried out the goods, I never said I wouldn’t. Look, he’s young like Joystick, dumb like Bourbon, Hispanic like Aztec; perfect fit,”
“You an you fuck bais. We need no mo’ bais, bruhta,” Star said angrily.
“Speak clearly, or shut the fuck up,” Mike commanded.
“You and your fuck-ing boys, we don’t need no more boys, bro-THer,” Star said slowly, and over pronouncing each syllable.
“I need you to get him up to speed. He ain’t worked before, but you know what to do. He don’t do coke so give him some of these, get him in the right mindset,” Mike said and handed a bottle of prescription medicine to Star.
“What do you mean, he ain’t worked?”
“You know, he’s like Deej was,” Mike said and kneeled by a small desk in the office and opened an unlocked safe.
“Mike, you can’t be doin dis. You make me da bad mon,” said Star.
“I know. But you know how it goes. He loves me, it gives him someone to come to. He gets mad at you he’ll come to me. It’s a safety net. But look if he ain’t gonna playball, use these,” Mike said and handed him an envelope.
Star took it, but Mike didn’t let it go at first, then continued; “Only if you have to. Here’s what I know; he was getting banged by his cousin, and he ran away because he was worried his grandparents were gonna find out. He likes to drink, so you know, you can get him drunk. He’s from Northbay High, he’s, like 15, and you can punk him, he’s still a kid. He ain’t figured out how to stand up for himself yet.”
Star peeked into the envelope and shook his head, “Dey be a spot in hell for boht of us.”
Mike started to say something, but time was running out. He gently drew Star in and whispered, “I’m late, but I love you Star, you’re my everything. This whole thing don’t run without you, baby. We’re gonna cash-out by Christmas, and we are gonna travel the world, just you and me. I promise, babe, I promise. No more boys after this one, no more box, no more bullshit. Now, there’s some blow in the desk. Use it if you need, baby.”
Mike rushed off into the music-filled bar and Star wandered back into the darkness, left holding empty promises, pills, a bottle of gin, and a ticket to hell.
Okay, seriously, Mike is bad news. I mean if you hadn’t figure it out yet, this guy is horrible. I feel like he’s got some love for Joey, but this is all bad. Next chapter we learn why DICK HOWSER is the most important baseball card, why Jayce is the Jayce, and what a Mocha in 1986 was like. Stay tuned my rainbow readers, there are some twists and turns yet on this ride.