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Cherry
Author:Nico Walker

Cherry by Nico Walker



Such use these times have got, that none must beg, but those that have young limbs to lavish fast.


—THOMAS NASHE, SUMMER’S LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT

    And it feels like the whole wide world is raining down on you.


—TOBY KEITH, “COURTESY OF THE RED, WHITE AND BLUE”





AUTHOR’S NOTE


   This book is a work of fiction.

   These things didn’t ever happen.

   These people didn’t ever exist.





PROLOGUE


Emily’s gone to take a shower. The room’s half-dark and I’m getting dressed, looking for a shirt with no blood on it, not having any luck. The pants are fucked too—cigarette burns in the crotches. All heroin chic, like I were famous already.

I go downstairs. Livinia pissed in the living room. There’s a lake of piss. I say, “Livinia, goddamn,” yet low enough that she won’t hear me. She’s a good dog; just we’ve been some fucks about house-training her.

I get the paper towels and a bottle of spray. There’s a pack of Pall Malls on the kitchen counter. I shake one loose and light it on the stove. I check the rigs in the cupboard. The rigs in the cupboard are all blood-used and crooked, like instruments of torture. And there are two lengths of nylon in the cupboard, and a box of Q-tips and a digital scale, two spoons with old cottons in them. The needles on the rigs are dull, but they’ll have to do. Emily has to be at school by ten, and it’ll be a close-run thing. There won’t be time to buy new rigs till afterward. It’s twenty to nine but I think we’ll make it. Black should be on time today, and he’ll have something for us, so I’m not worried. I soak the piss up with the paper towels. I wipe the spot down with disinfectant, throw the used paper towels away.

Black pulls up in the driveway, and I let him in the side door. He hands me a .45 caliber pistol wrapped in a blue rag; and I say, “Let me hold another gram.”

He says okay. “This’ll make it seven twenty,” he says.

“No problem.”

    I get the scale for him, and he sets to weighing out a gram. I say, “It was three light yesterday.”

He knows. But he doesn’t say anything. That’s how they do it: they short you, they know they shorted you, and then they act like you’re the one who’s fucked up.

“Remember I called you about it?”

He remembers. But he’s got to make things stupid because he’s a dope boy.

I say, “C’mon. Don’t be fucked up. You said I owe you money for it like it was right. And it isn’t like I’m not gonna have you together real soon.”

He says okay.

I go to the stairs and call up to Emily. “Hey, sweetheart. Black’s here. Come down and do some of this dope with me.”

She says she’ll be down in a second.

I split the heroin up and set out some clean spoons: one for me, one for my best girl. I fill a glass with water and draw some out with a rig. I press the water out hard to break up any blood clots in the needle. I draw some more water out and add the water to the spoon. I hear Emily on the stairs, and I stir the heroin up with the water and go over to the stove. Emily says hi to Black. Black says hi. I say to Emily, “That’s you over there on the counter.”

She says, “Thank you, baby.”

I turn the burner on low and cook the shot on the flame till the shot starts to hiss a little; then I take it off. Emily’s rolled up a bit of cotton for me. She knows I’m in a hurry. Her hair is still wet. I take the cotton and drop it into the spoon. The cotton turns dark and swells. I draw the shot through the cotton and flick the air out of the rig. What’s left in the rig looks pretty dark.

She says, “Are you doing all yours right now?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Are you sure that’s wise, baby?”

    “It’ll be alright. If I can’t get more real soon then I don’t see as it’ll matter.”

It hurts a little extra when the needle’s dull like this. It can make it hard to hit a vein. But I hit a vein no problem, and this is a good omen. It’s going to be a lucky day.

I shoot it.

The taste comes on first; then the rush starts. And it’s all about right, the warmth bleeding down through me. Till the taste comes on stronger than usual, so strong it’s sickening. And I figure it out: how I was always dead, my ears ringing.



* * *





I’M ON the kitchen floor and my balls are cold.

Emily’s over me: “Come on.”

I lift my head. I look at Emily. I look at Black. Black is backed against the counter. I want to laugh in his face, but I can’t.

Emily’s hands are cold. “Talk to me!”

My pants are undone and there are ice cubes in my underwear.

“Did you put ice cubes in my underwear?”

“I thought you were going to die,” she says.

“The day’s still young.”

And I see she’s about to cry. I say, “I’m sorry. I was only kidding. It was good of you to do that. There’s no reason for you to be embarrassed. You did a good job.”

“You fucking piece of shit!”

“Goddamn, lady. What do you want from me?”

I get up off the floor and I go to the sink and start digging the ice cubes out of my underwear. My cock can be seen; it’s cold, not making a good show of it.

“If I’d have known this was gonna happen I’d have cut my pubic hair.”

Black exits the kitchen.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Do yours, babe. We’re gonna have to get you to school and it’s almost nine.”

    I pick the ice trays up from off the floor. There are three different kinds of ice trays: green, blue, and white. I fill them all up in the sink and put them back in the freezer.



* * *





I FEEL bad about the dog sometimes. We had said, We’ll get a dog and we won’t be dope fiends anymore. So we got the dog. But we stayed dope fiends. And now we’re dope fiends with a dog.



* * *





BLACK IS in the living room. I draw a picture for him: “This is Lancashire, this is Hampshire, this is Coventry. I’ll park here, up past the stop sign, up past where it’s one-way. You pick me up and take me over to Lancashire. Stop a couple buildings back from the corner and let me out. Then drive to the parking lot behind this storefront. Wait for me there. I’ll be in and out real quick and I’ll come around through here. Then all you’ll have to do is drive me up to where I parked and let me out and that’ll be that. We’ll meet back here, split the money up, yada yada yada. Sounds good?”

“Yeah. Sounds good.”

“So you’re up for it then?”

“Yeah.”

“Alright. Just give me a second and we’ll go. Emily has to teach a class at ten.”

She’s in the kitchen, feeling better now.

I say, “I’m heading out. I’ll be back in a minute.”

She says, “Be careful.”

I say I’ll be careful.



* * *





WE LIVE on a street of red and white houses, where we don’t belong, Emily and I. But we’re happy enough, though we’re often sad because we feel like we’re losing everything.

Sometimes she gets to carrying on real loud and screaming at me about shit like I can help it; and I have to say to her, “What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you fucking crazy? Why are you making all this noise like you’re being murdered? Are you being murdered? Am I murdering you? The neighbors will think I’m murdering you. And they’ll call the fucking police. And the police’ll come over here, and they’ll see me, and they’ll say, ‘This guy looks like the one’s been doing all these fucking robberies.’ And then I’ll go to fucking prison, and you’ll feel terrible.”

    And sometimes she says she’s sorry. Or sometimes she doesn’t say anything. Or sometimes she punches me in the neck. And I’ll say, “Ah, shit! Baby, why’d you punch me in the neck?”

And she’ll run upstairs and lock herself in the bathroom and not come out for hours while I’m downstairs crying my eyes out over her. I love her so much it feels like dying every time she does that. She’s a beauty and I tell her so all the time. I think she’d do anything for me.



* * *