Judge Santiago Burdon

I Should Have Known Better

The beer is just as warm as the stale air blowing lazily from the swamp cooler. Cooler my ass, it’s 107 degrees outside at 9:30 in the morning and the thermometer drips upward.

I’m sitting at the Meet Rack on Miracle Mile in Tucson. Safe bar, nobody ever fucks with me. And today would be a bad day to challenge my patience. I haven’t had a fix in thirty-nine hours. The “Heebee Jeebeez” are starting to crawl under my skin. The condition of my stomach comes into question. Here I am like Jean-Paul Sartre’s character dealing with Roquentin’s curse.

Feeling nauseated, trying to hold back my wanting to vomit, and I occasionally gag loudly. Got kicked out of the Pussycat Lounge for puking on a table earlier this morning. It feels like cats scratching at me from the inside. And I have no idea when relief will arrive.

It’s dry. The whole city is dry. I can’t even locate a fucking mandrax or quaalude to take the edge off. The Chicanos on the Southside can’t scare up Xanax and there hasn’t been any decent heroin around in weeks. Swear I’d shoot cough syrup right now if it contained enough Codeine.

She said she’d meet me at the library on North 1st ave at 9:00. I’m late and now a no-show. Just can’t muster the energy or enthusiasm to walk that distance in this scorching, merciless solar torment. Besides, I’m not hard to find. It’s not like I have an active social agenda. I am similar to a homing pigeon. It may appear that I am wandering from my confines, but I always find my way back.

Especially when dope is involved.

She enters the dive bar, gliding across the floor with the grace of a swan. Her tits are like ripened mangoes and easily visible through her sheer summer dress. I was sure she was created by the gods from sea foam, navigating her half shell through calm seas.

Nope, she was born to Jewish parents in New Jersey.

“Hey baby, how ya feeling?” she whispers as she slides her fingers gently through my hair.

“I said  library not libation,” she continues, lecturing me.

“How the fuck ya think I feel?” I say. “I’m  sick from withdrawls and need a bump bad, baby…”

“Okay, let’s get outta here. Did you pay for that beer you didn’t drink?”

“I”ll pay Jimmy later. He’ll be happy just to get rid of me.”

We head out to her MG with the convertible top down. The heat slaps me with intense sincerity and I ask myself why I live in the desert. Almost every plant that grows and survives in this wasteland has some type of thorn or quill-fashioned brier or barb on it as protection from scavengers. There’s a variety of venomous snakes, lizards and insects sharing this ecosystem. These are my neighbors.

I sit down on the black vinyl seat of her MG with the top down. Instantly I let out a scream to rival those which echoed throughout the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition. My legs exposed from sporting cutoffs make contact with the seat and they are instantly fried, burnt, charred to a crisp. Suddenly I forget about my other symptoms, concentrating solely on the ravaging pain in my legs. I swear I heard the sound of sizzling.

She throws a towel over the seat while giggling, attempting not to laugh. I think, I should’ve known better. She pats my leg affectionately and says… yes, you guessed it.

“Silly, you should’ve known better.”

“Where we headed?” I ask as she starts the engine and puts in gear.

Her dress dances in the breeze, occasionally providing me with a brief glimpse of her trimmed pussy — elegance defined. Sex is the farthest thing from my half mind at this time, however. She smiles, her hand on my shoulder as we drive along.

“Pascua Yaqui reservation,” she finally answers. “Black tar baby, Mexico’s finest just arrived!”

On Grant Road, just east of I-10, is the Indian reservation best known for its fat women in black dresses, Indian fry bread, and incredibly potent heroin. I cringe with anticipation as we race past the Multiplex Movie Theatres and into Geronimo’s neighborhood. A small dust devil sweeps past us as we park near the elementary school. I can feel the souls of a thousand warriors resting their eyes on this Dago kid from the south side of Chicago.

But enough with the mysticism; back to the main theme.

“Okay, give me the money,” she says. “How much ya got?”

She’s not gonna like my answer.

“Fourteen dollars and like sixty four cents,”  I respond, sheepish like a guilty child.

I think, she should’ve known better.

And then, just like it was possibly rehearsed, she grabs at the dollar bills and the CHANGE as well and says, well, what else?

“I should’ve known better! You know it’s twenty dollars! Guess I’ll cover ya again…”

No smile on her now.

“Still love me baby?” I call after her.

“YEAH, LIKE A TOOTHACHE!” she screams over the sound of a ringing school bell.

I hear her mumbling obscenities as she walks towards the brightly painted, multicolored schoolhouse that looks as though it belongs on Sesame Street. She enters the yard where the young braves are gathered. And with the swiftness of Elvis leaving the building, she’s back with the cache.

“Just smell this shit baby,” she giggles in anticipation.

I open the cellophane and inhale the scent of redemption.

She slams the gear shifter into 1st, and we are on our way back to her apartment on North Campbell.

Once arrived, I light a candle, unwrap my kit, and I draw some water from a red Bugs Bunny cup.

“What’s up Doc?” I chuckle sarcastically.

The smoke from cooking the dope wafts off into Heroin Heaven, and I fill the syringe with the remaining brown liquid. I slide the needle under my skin, into a vein that I fondly refer to as ‘the ditch’.

Blood billows into my gun and I push the plunger.


Quietly I sing along to the Beatles’ song in my head.

I hear her voice faintly in the distance, calling to me from the kitchen.

“Hey asshole, don’t shoot that whole twenty-dollar bag. This is strong shit, not that street dope you’ve been used to!”

My answer, a loud THUD as my body hits the floor.

Guess I should’ve known better.

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