Sunday, January 5, 2014


Bella's mom scraped the chipped glass pipe with a sewing needle that Oggy had left behind when he went to find scrap aluminum to fix the hotel room heater circuit board. Her slightly hairy lips were an inch above the pipe and she murmured in meditation to herself softly singing a lullaby, a comforting song her own mother had sung to her back in Bakersfield. The pipe had been scraped within the last week but because Ched's SSI check had been stolen from the mattress by the hotel maid there was no money for heroin. Ched was pounding the streets in the evening rain, shaking down debtors and stray fags for quarters, Oggy was in the alleyway, distracted by those damn cats who were breeding, ranting about sterilization and a capitalist conspiracy, Bella was in the bath tub where the candles burned dangerously close to the off white Chinese imported towels. The couple in the next door had finally passed out after three days of rolling on Ecstasy, babbling about broken dreams and funerals for sock Bella's mom had found time alone to embrace her happiest pass-time scraping the pipe for resin, the slight scratch of the needle on the glass, the audible smacking of the tar building up on the needle head, Bella's playful splashing in the tub, her childish humming, like when she was much younger. The exotic aroma of heroin tar coming from the pipe made Bella's mom's tongue snake out of her lips seeking the saliva trapped inside the resin, that only a flame could release. The monotone hum from the broken television and the sounds of Bella stepping out of the tub were Romantic symphonies compared to the hateful abuse Ched offered and the ponderous philosophic musings of Oggy. The universe would provide, she knew, she was a survivor, her family was important to her and when her son got out of prison then she'd take them back to Bakersfield and really build a life again. Because she would do whatever it took to protect them and give them everything she had.
Bella stepped out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel, her pale skin reddened by the hot water, freckles multiplied, her strawberry blond hair flat against her back, innocent and clean, all the dirt and sand and sin of the city draining into the sewer.
"Bella, I scraped the pipe and I want you to have the first hit."
Bella bounced on her toes and went through the motions of a ballerina move, impressing her mother, reminding each other of classes and performances long gone.
"In a minute," she responded.
"OK, but you know how Oggy gets, talking about Afghanistan exploitation and the costs of drug shipment and donkeys dying in snowy mountains and war..."
"Uh huh." Bella smiled. Oggy sounded so smart and convincing when he opined about global drug trade, spirituality, cults, organic gardening, socialized medicine, non-violent revolution.
Bella toweled herself dry, naked before her mother but unashamed. They could do anything together.
"Anything you need, Bell, and I'll get it for you," said Bella's mom. "Anything."
Bella looked in the mirror, studied her profile, pretended she was pregnant by pushing her belly out and holding it with her hands. The last of the water drained out of the tub, the hair and blood and skin and dirt all washed away. After a bath you could start over and the past aborted.
"Where did you get those bruises on your legs," asked Bella's mom as she saw the blue splotches of coagulating blood beneath Bella's thighs.
"Oh, Oggy beats me at night."
Creative Commons License
Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.