The Last Fix
by Roynon Howes
I crept across the koppie in the early hours so that my silhouette would not show against the rising sun behind me. The night was completely black as only the nights in Africa are, like a magician's cloak draped across the sky and the stars merely moth-holes in it. Despite it being in the tropics, the night was cold, and I pulled my thick jacket round me and settled on Eagle Rock nursing my trusty Kalashnikov.
I had about three hours to wait until sun-up but I dared not fall asleep in case I missed my quarry, or worse, in case he saw me before I saw him. I had to be vigilant. I knew he would be up soon after daybreak and the first thing he did would be to settle on the veranda with a glass of gin and tonic in his hand. He always had a sun-upper and sun-downer.
The thin light of morning spread over the land. Dawn was breaking. Soon the temperature would be in the upper twenties Celsius and the relentless sun would be burning my neck.
The cicadas started chirruping and the incessant buzz of the African bush had begun. The familiar smell of hot grass and elephant dung wafted up from the valley below me. The weaver birds began their incessant noisy chatter, fighting for the best position to build a new nest.
At about half past six a light went on in the shack, which was still bathed in the shadow of the koppie cast by the rising sun.
My man was moving.
The door to the veranda opened and a shadowy figure stood there with a glass in his hand as usual.
I knew it was him although I could not see his face. It was his large bushy red beard which stood out a mile. You would think that a man like him would dye his beard some other colour. There were few red-headed people in this part of Africa and even fewer bearded ones. It was as though he wanted to be recognised.
I pulled the rifle towards me and snapped off the safety catch. The slight sound in this wilderness of silence disturbed a small green lizard that had been nestling in the long grass in front of me. He stuck his head up and took one look at me before vanishing into the undergrowth.
I switched the gun over to automatic and raised the telescopic sight to my eye. The air was still, uncannily still. I focused up and swung the gun to move the crosshairs to his chest, a big hairy chest with a gold medallion hanging on a chain.
I squeezed the trigger and gave a ten-second burst. I felt the butt of the gun hit my shoulder like a kick from a horse. A split second later his mighty body shot backwards into the gloom of the shack, out of sight. The noise had stopped the cicadas momentarily and all was silent.
I waited for a few minutes to see if the noise of the shooting had wakened anyone, but this was Africa and not the leafy lanes of Kent. Even if they had heard they would not stick their heads out in fear of getting them blown off.
I got up and climbed warily down to the valley and walked across to the shanty. Still carrying my rifle at the ready I stepped up onto the veranda and went over to the body.
He was lying on his back. There was surprisingly little blood. The bullets had ripped a hole in his chest the size of a small melon, taking his heart and most of his lungs out instantly so there was nothing to pump out the blood.
The ridiculous hat, like a cowboy Stetson, which he always wore, had fallen over his face.
I walked over and lifted the hat to see what this ogre really looked like.
I gasped and let out a piercing scream like a woman being raped.
It was my face.
I am still screaming when I wake in the dingy bed-sitter I have come to call my own. It was always the same dream, ever since my wife, Janette, left me ten years ago to shack up with that black guy in the Lesotho bush. She had a wonderful career ahead of her lecturing at Witwatersrand but she chose this worthless black.
Three years later she dies of AIDS in a mud hut miles from civilization.
Up till then, I suppose I had hoped she would come back but now it was final. I sold up the farm and returned to England. Although I got a good price for the farm, what with the poor rate of exchange, the backhanders I had to pay to the lawyers who got my money out of the country and those who got my money into England, I could only afford a small three bedroom house in Surrey.
It was then that the dreams began. At first it was just crawling over the koppie with a gun in my hand and then it got more complicated. It wasn't helped that my son kept phoning me up and saying “You're killing yourself, Dad.” I knew that without being told.
First it was women – any women. I got through my money at an alarming rate. There was always a party at my house. I had friends galore. Then my bank manager called me one day.
“I think you had better come in and see me,” he said.
I knew what it was. My overdraft was getting out of control. So I sold my house for a good profit and moved into a smaller house in not such a salubrious neighbourhood. I made a tidy sum and decided to invest this but I couldn't get any work so I had to live on my income. It was not enough to keep me going so I tried working the stock market and for a while I lived in luxury. Then things started to go wrong. I got depressed and miserable. Nothing seemed to go right.
I think it was at Jeff's party that I met Fiona and she introduced me to Andy, her partner. Andy was a shifty character and I should have known better. I had had a few drinks when he offered me the tablet. He said it would help me to get over my depression. I took the tablet but didn't use it.
When Holiday Homes, Inc. went down it was the last straw. I had just put most of my money in it as it seemed like a good bet. I sat and drank my way through a bottle of gin, but it did no good. When I woke from my alcoholic sleep things were just as bad. I remembered the tablet. I went through my suit and found it wrapped up in a tissue. I took it and washed it down with a beer. The effect was remarkable. Life seemed worth living again. I would get out of this mess I had gotten myself into. I found a telephone number written on the tissue and phoned it. I was right. It was Andy.
“That tablet you gave me is marvellous. Have you got any more?”
The answer was, of course, yes, but it will cost you. I asked how much. Ten pounds a tablet. It seemed a small price to pay for happiness. I ordered ten.
“See you tomorrow at the Royal Oak. Bring the cash in used notes.”
It was only a week before I needed some more.
“OK, but I have something better. Cheaper too. Five pounds a dose. I'll let you have a dose as a sample. See how you get on with it.”
When I met up with him again he passed me a small box. “The only trouble with this stuff is that you have to inject it for it to work properly.”
He explained that he had let me have a syringe and needle and these would cost me fifteen pounds. I paid him and took the goods.
I tried it that night. It was wonderful. I seemed to float on air and to be at peace.
I wanted more but when he offered it the price had gone up. The price of needles went up too. I didn't feel like work and I got into debt again. Once again I had to sell up and this time in such a hurry that I got a bad price. The market in houses had fallen. I decided to rent, but gradually things got worse and now I live in this bed-sit. Even my son doesn't phone me any more. I suppose he is ashamed of me. The last time he did it was with the usual, “You're killing yourself, Dad. You'll have to stop it.” By “it” he meant drink. He didn't know about the drugs - I don't think so. I gave my usual reply. “OK. I'll do it just now.” To which I got the answer, “Not ‘just now'. I mean right now. Now, now.”
I pull back the covers and swing my legs out, sitting on the edge of the bed staring into space about a yard in front of me. There is a faint smell of stale vomit. I can't have cleaned up properly when I threw up the other day. My hands are shaking as I reach for the bottle beside my bed. I lift it to my lips and take a long swig. I cough as the strong alcoholic liquor hits the back of my throat and the bitter oil of juniper bites into my tongue. I take another swig and put the bottle down. I close my eyes to let the alcohol have its effect on my stomach. I see the scene at the shack again and scream once more.
“Dad, you're killing yourself.” It is my son's voice. “Not ‘just now' I mean ‘now, now'.”
I've got stomach cramp and my heart is thumping irregularly. The sweat is pouring down my face. I know the symptoms and search for my kit.
I open the lid but there is no more. I must find Andy.
I pull on my jeans and slip my feet into my trainers. My tee-shirt is stained but I pull it over my head. I look in the tin where I keep my money. There's still a few notes in it. I was saving up for the rent but this was more important.
I take out the notes and count them. About fifty pounds. That will more than cover it. I stuff them in my back pocket and set off to find Andy.
I pause outside his house. I know it's his house as I followed him back the other day. He won't be up yet. It's too early. I knock on the front door. There is no answer. I knock louder. I hear murmurs. Someone comes to the front door.
“Who is it?” It is a female voice. Perhaps his wife or more likely a girl for the night.
I am just about to give my full name when I hear Andy's voice.
“I told you not to come here.”
“It always is.”
I hear a bolt slid back. The door opens a crack.
“What's so urgent?”
“I must have some gear.”
“Have you got some money?”
“How much do you want?”
“I'm not selling now but I might be able to get you some.”
“I'm desperate. I need some now.”
“OK, OK, I got some. Just a fix, but no more. I'm not dealing now. I'm clean.”
Like hell, I think.
“How much you got?”
“No way. This is top class stuff. There's enough for ten fixes.”
“How much you want?”
“For you, a ton.”
“I ain't got a ton.”
He slams the door and I knock again.
“I'll give you fifty.”
“What do you think I am?”
“Give me half then.”
“I tell you, I don't deal no longer.”
“Yeah, sure, and I'm Mother Theresa.”
“OK, I'll give you half but no more. OK?”
He closes the door briefly and returns with a small plastic wallet with some white powder in it.
“How do I know it's the right stuff?”
He dips a rather dirty finger into the powder and offers it to me to lick. It tastes right.
“OK, here's the money.”
I count out fifty and it leaves me five for the rent. I take the packet and hand him the money. The door slams in my face.
I hurry back to my pad to get the gear ready.
Once inside I sit on the bed and get the meths burner out and light the flame. I make a small boat out of some foil and put a little water in it. I add a little of the powder and some more for luck. I really need this fix. I'm going to clean up after this. This will be my last fix, but I must have it. I boil the mixture over the burner then put it on the side to cool while I get the syringe out and find a needle. There's only one that doesn't look too bent and I fix it on the syringe and suck up the liquid.
I find a vein in my leg and rub it to get it up. I got to get this in fast. I must mainline. I slip the needle in and push down the plunger.
Oh the bliss. Straight away I feel a warmth flow over me. This is good stuff. Andy said it was.
My eyelids feel like lead. I can feel my eyes closing and I can't keep them open. This'll be my last fix. Last fix. Last fix. My last fix. I can hear my son's voice. “You're killing yourself, Dad.” I must stop just now, right now, now, now, now, now, now, now… Everything is going black. My last fix.
©2004 Roynon Howes
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