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Authors: Walter Dean Myers

Dope Sick

BOOK: Dope Sick
Walter Dean Myers
Dope Sick



MY ARM WAS HURTING BAD. Real bad. The bone could…


THE DUDE CLICKED THE REMOTE, and all of a sudden…


I'M SITTING THERE WATCHING the whole thing on television, watching…


KELLY LIFTED THE REMOTE and my eyes automatically went to…


KELLY TURNED DOWN THE VOLUME and I could hear the…


“YO, KELLY, YOU WATCHING the street?”


“What you think?” I asked Kelly.




“SO YOU WANT TO CHANGE what happened to you in…


“I CAN USE A HIT,” I said. “You holding?”


“THIS IS GETTING TOO HARD for me,” I said. “You…


I COULD FEEL MYSELF GETTING mad, wanting to go upside…


“SUPPOSE THE GUN I GOT was the one he shot…


“WHAT YOU DOING? WHAT YOU doing?” I heard myself screaming.

Real bad. The bone could have been broken. I couldn't tell. I just knew it was hurting and swollen. I felt like just taking the gun out and throwing it away and giving up so I could get the mess over with. I opened my mouth so I wouldn't make so much noise when I breathed. Down the street I saw the patrol car was still at the corner. He had his lights flashing. I didn't know if he'd seen which way I was running or not. I knew I was too tired to keep running much more.

I started to lift my arm to look at my watch and
the whole arm just lit up with pain. The bone had to be broken. I figured it was two or three o'clock in the morning. Skeeter had called me just past midnight and told me they got Rico. I knew Rico was going to punk out. In a way I was glad they got him, but I knew he was going to blame everything on me.

I was in the shadows in a shop doorway and I knew I couldn't stay there much longer. I had to lie down or sit down or something. Had to get my head together. There was an old building across the street, and it looked like the front door was open. Maybe some juiceheads was in there. I didn't know, but I couldn't stay on the street much more. My arm was hurting too bad, and if that cop had really seen it was me, there would be more cops coming soon.

I felt like crying, like just running down the street and letting them shoot me—anything and everything at the same time. I was messed up big-time and I knew it.

I saw two women walk over to the police car.
Probably hookers out doing their stroll. The cop in the car was talking to them and then he got out and went around the back of the car. I looked to see if he had his gun in his hand. From where I was in the doorway I couldn't see too clear. He might have. I could feel my heart beating fast and my right hand was shaking in my pocket. The cop and the two women walked a little way down the street, and he was up on his toes, trying to look into one of the building windows. I took a deep breath and moved from the doorway to behind a parked car. The street wasn't big and half the buildings didn't have nobody living in them, so it was dark except for the streetlight, and that wasn't working right. Nothing wasn't working right in my life.

I got across the street and into the doorway of the building I had been scoping. Looking down the street, I saw the cop and the two women were still together. The sound of another siren scared me. I couldn't tell where it was coming from. Keeping my eyes on the cop down the street, I pushed on the door behind me with my foot. It opened and I
eased into the house.

The smell was terrible. Like somebody had been using it as a piss hole. It was dark except for the light from the cracked-open door. I saw some steps and started thinking about the roof. If I got to the roof, I could come down in another building, maybe even on another block. My left arm was pretty stiff and I didn't want to move it too much. I let go of the Nine I had been carrying since I left my house and fished around in my pockets for some matches. When I found some, I was scared to light them. Maybe the cop had seen me come into the building. Maybe he was just waiting outside for some backup before he came busting in the door.

I put the matches in the pocket with the Nine and started up the steps, walking close to the wall so they wouldn't creak too much.

The smell wasn't no better, but it changed a little as I got near the second floor. It was just that musty smell that old buildings have sometimes. I smelled some vinegar too, so I thought there might have been some dopeheads shooting
up in one of the rooms.

I stopped and lit a match, holding the book in my left hand and striking the match with my right. There was garbage on the floor and some piles of old plaster. I seen where the next steps was and started for them. I was being quiet because I didn't want to run into no dopehead or crazy homeless dude.

When I got to the third floor, I heard a sound. It was people talking. I held my breath, trying to figure out if it was somebody who had come in after me or somebody already in the building. My heart was pumping big-time, a mile a minute, and I was feeling sick to my stomach as I leaned against the wall.

Maybe there was a way to figure out where the sound was coming from, but I didn't have that way in me. I was too scared to think good. I knew that if the sound was in the building, it wasn't no cops, so I started up the stairs again. Halfway up the next flight I saw a light coming from under one of the doors. Then I heard the sound again
and knew somebody had a television on.

If it was a homeless guy, it would be okay, unless he was crazy and had a knife or an axe or something. If I had to shoot him, the cops might hear it. If it was a doper it would be better. A doper might just be on a nod and might not even wake up.

When I got to the landing, I saw the open door and heard the sound from the television. Somebody talking about how to get some CDs for only $9.99. I slipped past the door and up the last flight to the roof door. I lit another match and saw crack vials and empty Baggies on the landing. I tried to turn the knob on the door leading to the roof, but it didn't move. I got long legs, so I put my back against the door and my foot against the post and pushed hard. Nothing. It didn't move.

For a moment I went crazy inside. I was in the building and couldn't get out to the roof. If anything went down, I knew I'd be trapped.

Calm down, man. Calm down.
I tried to talk myself down.
Breathe slow. Breathe slow and get yourself together.
My mouth was dry, but I could feel
the cold sweat dripping down my side. My arm hurt real bad. What was the use of keeping on running? If I got infected and had to go to the hospital, they would have me. The bullet was still in my arm and they would just call the police. I imagined being handcuffed to a hospital bed and the cops bringing Rico in to identify me.

Yeah, that's him,
I imagined Rico saying.
That's Lil J. He the one who shot the police officer.

My eyes were closed and I opened them. Had to get out my head and get into the now. Had to think. Maybe there was a fire escape. If I could hit a fire escape, I could still make the roof.

I went down the stairs quick, but still near the banister so I wouldn't make too much noise. If there was a doper in the apartment, he would know how to get out in a hurry. My hands were sweaty and I wiped them off on my pants leg. Had to look cool. Had to look confident.

I took a deep breath outside the door, then pushed it open quick.

It was a long room with a small television on a
table in the corner. There was a dim light on the wall with one of those little yellow lampshades. About six feet in front of the television there was a chair and I could see the back of a dude's head. He could have been on a nod, or just sleeping. He wasn't moving.

I looked around to see what he was about.

“Stay where you are!”

I stopped, realized the Nine was still in my jacket pocket, and took it out. I couldn't see any mirrors so I didn't know if he was seeing me or not. I knew I didn't want to have to shoot this sucker and get the cops pouring into the place, and with my left arm messed up I knew I just couldn't take him out if he had any heart.

“Who you, man?” I asked.

“Kelly,” he said.

“Yo, I'm sorry I busted in on you,” I said. “Some dudes said I did them wrong and they was chasing me. How I get to the roof?”

The guy didn't turn or nothing, just kept watching the television. I couldn't see his face, but his
voice was young. He could have been just a little older than me, maybe eighteen or nineteen.

“There's a chair over there,” he said. “Why don't you put your piece away and sit down.”

“Man, I ain't got all day,” I said, trying to get some bone in my voice. “The fire escape go to the roof?”

“You want to see yourself on television?”

I looked at the windows. There were shades over them and I figured maybe nobody could see the light from outside. I went over and looked out. There was a fire escape. I put my Nine back in my jacket and tried to lift the window.

“It's nailed shut,” the guy said. “People don't be leaving their windows open in this neighborhood. You don't know that?”

“Yo, man, what you say your name was?”


“Well, look, Kelly or Smelly or whatever your name is—I ain't nobody to be playing with,” I said. “I'm the one with the Nine pointing at your head.”

“Yeah, and you the one stuck in this building
looking for a way out, ain't you?”

Kelly talked street, but I wasn't sure. Something about him wasn't from the 'hood. I wanted to go over to him and put the Nine against his neck, but for some reason I didn't think it was going to bother him. The sucker might have been crazy.

“You know a way out?” I asked.

“Why don't you cop a squat and check yourself out on the tube,” Kelly said. He was looking at the television.

I looked at the television and saw the street below. It looked empty.

“You got the television hooked up to security cameras?” I asked.


“Then how come…?” On the television there was a person moving across the street, wearing a dark jacket. He had one hand up by his side and the other in his jacket pocket. It was me.

“What is this, a movie or something?”

“Yeah. I guess it's a movie. What part you want to see next?”

“You ain't got nothing better to do with your ass than take pictures of people in the street and watch them?” I asked.

“What's your name?” Kelly asked.

“Roger,” I said. “Roger Jones.”

“Yeah, then why they calling you ‘Lil J' on television?”

“That was on the news?”

“They said you popped a cap in a cop.”

“They said he died?”

Kelly pointed the remote toward the screen and clicked it twice. A white guy with blond hair came on.

In the news today: Yet another officer shot in the line of duty. Thirty-three-year-old Anthony Gaffione was shot on Harlem's east side during an undercover drug bust in what police officials identify as “drug alley.” Gaffione, a seven-year veteran, is reported in critical condition at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital,
where he spent three hours in surgery this afternoon. One suspect, nineteen-year-old Rico Brown, was captured in the Bronx. The shooter, identified as seventeen-year-old Jeremy Dance, known as ‘Lil J,' is still being sought.

In Basra, Iraq, yesterday…

Kelly clicked the remote and the television was showing the street again.

“I didn't do the shooting,” I said.

“What happened?” Kelly asked.

“What difference do it make?” I said. “If he dies and they get me, I am never getting out of jail. If he doesn't die and they get me, I still am never getting out of jail. My life is just flushed, man.”

“If you could do it all over again, and change something, what would it be?” Kelly asked.

“Shut up with that bullshit!” I said.

He shut up and neither of us spoke for a while. On the television the picture of me standing in the doorway, looking down the street, played over and
over again. I didn't know how Kelly had taken it, but it was depressing to see. I looked scared and I was holding my left arm folded up high by my side. I hadn't realized I was doing that. You could see it was hurt and something was wrong with the way I was looking around. Maybe that was why the cop in the patrol car had pulled me over. Maybe he hadn't recognized me.

I went over and looked out the window. There was nothing right down front, but there were at least two police cars near the corner and some more flashing lights from other cars parked around the corner reflected off the windows of the buildings across the street. It was October and getting kind of cold, and the cops had their hands in their pockets. I pulled down the shade. Every cop in New York was going to be looking for me. They would have their guns out too.

“Hey, Kelly, you live here?” I asked.


“Look, you seem like you okay,” I said. “I didn't shoot that cop. Rico shot him. Square business.
You know a way out of this building?”

“Ain't no use running,” Kelly came back. “Where you going to go?”

“I'll take my chances if I can get to the roof,” I said. “See what happens from there.”

“You want to see what happens?” Kelly reached for the remote again. He pointed it at the television, and now the picture showed the street again, but this time the street was full of police cars.

I ran to the window and looked down. Nothing.

“It's on fast forward,” Kelly said. “It's what's going to happen.”

“Yo, what kind of spooky crap is this?”

“You want to see what's going to happen?” Kelly asked. “It don't make me no never mind. You don't want to see, it's okay.”

I didn't say nothing, just nodded toward the television. The chair that Kelly had told me to sit in was wood, and one of the legs was a little wobbly. I rubbed my left arm as the image of the street below, full of cops and police cars, played over the set.

Some of the police had on SWAT suits, complete
with helmets and rifles. Then I came on the screen. Somehow I had made it to the roof. I saw me looking over the side. Then there was an image of a SWAT team coming up the stairs. Then there was me again. I was sitting against the low brick wall at the edge of the roof. Then the SWAT team had reached the roof landing. And then I was lifting the Nine, but my eyes were closed, there were tears running down my face, and I was holding the Nine against my own head.

“Stop it!”

Kelly clicked it off quick. “You okay, man?” he asked.

“No.” I was shaking.

“So if you could take back one thing you did,” Kelly asked, “what would it be?”

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