Owen Woods is a full time creative writing student and book junky. He lives in Orlando, but keeps true to his Colorado lifestyle. Owen has been published for his story, ‘Till Next Time. His writing covers all bases of drama, horror, comedy, and everything in between. You can follow him on Twitter, @spitefulwoods
The shadow lurched from behind the garbage can, claws and blade bearing their gnarled teeth. Oliver was thrown off his own equilibrium and she was now standing over him. The knife showing itself in the midnight hue of street lights.
“Get up!” she yelled, almost shrieking.
“Look,” he said. “Just put the knife down.”
“Sh-sh-sh-shut up, shut up!” she said, slouched over, like a vile hermit. A meth-toking hermit.
The sores on her cheeks swelled and ebbed like lungs taking in a long, raspy breath. He was afraid that they would burst onto his face. He imagined the yellow coagulant exploding into his eye, stinging and blinding him. It wretched around in his stomach.
She moved closer to him, pushing the knife against his neck.
The smell was worse than the knife.
She needed another hit, another bowl, another toke, another piece of crystal. It was sad, pathetic even. If anything, he was feeling pity for this woman. When he looked at her, he saw what she once looked like. She was beautiful with long brown hair that curled and rested on her shoulders, full red lips, and a body that was beautiful with healthy curves.
As he looked at her now, her hair was thin and greying at the roots, her eyes were bloodshot, her lips dried and split down the middle, her skin was like stretched leather, and her hips jutted out from underneath her tattered hoodie.
“Just give me your wallet man, and-and-and-and, you-your shoes, too.”
Oliver stood and watched her shake and shiver with the knife hanging with desperation in the hollow of her palm. It looked more like a shiv than a pocket knife. It was rusted and jagged, pricks of dried blood rested on the bottom of the blade, blue flakes were sprinkled on the edge of the blade from where she’d used to it to crush the meth into a powder fine enough to travel through her nasal cavity with ease.
“Fine. Fine. Can you just get that thing out of my face? I don’t feel like losing an eye today.”
“Yeah, yeah, j-j-just hurry,” she said. “I don’t have all fucking day.”
“All right. All right,” Oliver curled his arm around his body to reach for his wallet, the woman reeled back and hit him with the butt of the knife. “What the hell was that for?”
“M-m-mmm-move slower. Don’t pull any fast ones on me.”
He rubbed the cut on the back of his head and saw a hepatitis shot in his future.
Oliver hoped some good samaritan or hopeful police officer would walk by this street and step in. He knew those chances were slim. Who would save a junky from the clutches of another? Perhaps a third junky? A junky vigilante? Saving the streets from junky on junky violence, sweeping the streets with the faces of all the laughable heroin dealers and crystal whores.
What made him better than her?
Oliver took pills.
He snorted them.
Took ‘em with whiskey.
Took ‘em with vodka. (That was his favorite).
He’d do anything for a pill when he was low. Suck a dude off. Kill some crystal crackhead without a name. Hold up an old couple off Broadway Avenue. If it meant getting his fix, he’d do it. The real difference between he and the woman was that he could function on his medicine. He knew what he was doing.
Oliver didn’t recognize that he had a problem. For all he cared, he didn’t.
“Okay, yeesh. Just… I’m gonna reach behind me and grab my wallet, I’m gonna hand it to you, then I’m gonna bend down and take off my shoes. I’ve got Converse on so, if you want ‘em soon, I’m gonna have to unlace ‘em. Can you trust me long enough to let me to do that?” he spoke to comfort her, to make her less on edge.
“Yes,” she said.
“Then can you back up just a few feet and let me do this. Please?”
“Y-y-y-y-y,” she stopped herself. “Fuck. Y-y-y-y-y,” again. “Fuck! Y-y-y-.”
“Yes. I get it. Jesus Christ.”
“Hey, fuck you, man! You try doing this with this f-f-f-fucking stutter.”
Oliver had to hold back his laughter. It showed on his face and the woman cowered with embarrassment.
His eyes shifted up to her face, he felt emotion welling in his tear ducts. He caught himself from showing her sympathy. He’d rather withdraw for a whole week than care for a meth junky. The lowest of the low.
Next to the heroin addicts.
Oliver handed over his wallet. There was no less than a thousand dollars in cash in the billfold. That was a month’s worth of Xanax, two weeks of Oxy, six months of Adderall, or a year of high powered Ibuprofen. It wasn’t worth his life. He was sober enough to realize that. Just high enough to not care about being materialistic. It was just paper after all. She had taken the beautiful cash from the billfold, tucked it into her bra, which, by the looks of it, didn’t conform to her cup size any longer. Or it was a bra that wasn’t even hers. Whatever the notion, it made Oliver queasy.
The woman had lost focus of the task at hand and lowered the knife to a comfortable resting place at her side. Oliver made sure he was out range. He bent down to untie his shoes. He wanted to be rid of this woman and in a hurry, but if he moved too fast she would get jumpy.
Meth’ll do that to a person.
One shoe off.
It went under her arm. Safe and sound.
Another almost off and Oliver lost his balance. He reached out to catch himself, just happening to catch her bony, sore riddled leg.
She cried out.
Her arm went to the sky.
The knife came down with a hollow thump.
It found its new home in Oliver’s brainstem.
Not wanting to recreate The Sword in the Stone, the junky woman took the remaining shoe and left the knife.