Robert David Roe

Robert David Roe


The fiction of literary author Robert David Roe including published short works and excerpts from the forthcoming novel, Move to the Rhythm



The Work

. . . . Chuck had heard that Silas was, himself, struggling with addiction. Chuck had begun to truly recover by the time that he wouldsee Silas. He discovered this fact--that his True Recovery had begun--in the dank trailer of a typical junkie.

After a morning meeting, John asked Chuck for some help with what was called “service work.” Service work could entail anything from lawn maintenance for some old person trying to recover, to giving a talk in front of younger drug users who wanted to quit or who wanted to remain drug free. Service work was one of the things to be done in addition to going to meetings if you wanted to for-sure stay sober.

In this case the work consisted of aiding a junkie who had called for help, for whom John, by means of a series of connections of the kind that John possessed, had procured a room at a long-term recovery facility. They were going to pick him up and take him to the facility, perhaps gathering and storing some of his possessions at the same time so that the junky would be able to reclaim them upon release. The junky was called “Bandy.”

What was in it for John, besides the chance to stay sober for another day by helping this guy, was that this guy would eventually feel compelled to pay back the favor. He would want to pay the favor back not to John and Chuck, but to some other addict later on.

“So, how will this go? You’ll talk to him about the steps and shit while I grab his junk and throw it in the truck?” Chuck said.

“Somethin’ like that. You want to go with me or not?” said John. Chuck wondered what it looked like to to be an actual heroin junky. He knew that movies like Trainspotting were, reasonably enough, too glorious about the lifestyle to convey a true picture.

On the way to the trailer, John said that Bandy was losing the trailer. What possessions they could not carry away with them tonight and store would be lost. Chuck said, I see.

“He’s probably high. Last night before rehab and all,” said John.

“I would be,” said Chuck.

The trailer was at a dog kennel, which Bandy tended overnight. In this way he earned some money. Who could know, though, from whence came the additional, small fortune demanded by the rigid need–satisfaction schedule for which only heroin was sufficient?

They arrived at the kennel and pulled up to the gate where Bandy was supposed to meet them. His place was in back. They waited a few minutes, honked; finally decided Chuck should hop the fence to open the gate from within. He got out of the truck and found there was no need to hop the fence, for the gate was not locked.

“It seriously smells like dogshit,” said Chuck, when he got back into John’s truck. Innumerable dogs yapped and barked as the two men approached Bandy’s home.

The trailer was charming; Chuck realized he had expected a dirty, poorly kept dwelling. It was a small Airstream-style abode, a little in need of a wash, but some parts of its all-metal body gleamed in the moonlight. Nobody answered their knock. They entered.

Bandy sat on the floor, half lying against the kitchenette cabinets like the thrown-aside toy of some massive inner child. John said Bandy’s name twice, and as Bandy realized that people were in his home, he managed to turn to them in a slow but steady way that made him seem perfectly present and in control of himself. Chuck wondered if he were not in fact sober. When Bandy greeted John, he spoke a little nasally, but quite coherently despite sounding incredibly stoned.

“Time kind of crept up on me,” said Bandy. “Let me just get my stuff and we can get going.” He peered into the screen of his television set; the television was not on. Chuck supposed he was mustering the energy required to rise and gather his stuff. Bandy’s head declined slowly until his face was hidden again by hair.

There was a cacaphony of dogs barking, the noise easily penetrating the thin walls of the trailer. The smell was no better inside. The aroma of shit, in fact, seemed a little sharper.

John laughed boomingly. “I was afraid this might happen,” he said. “You sit here and make sure he don’t jab himself no more. It’d be a shame if he kicked off just before the kind of adventure he’s gonna have. I’ll see what we can get in the way of his personal possessions.”

The trailer was fairly tidy. As John poked around Chuck asked Bandy if he had packed a bag, but received no response. Bandy’s chin lay squarely on the floor now. First John carried the television set to his trunk.

Chuck lifted each sleeve of Bandy’s clinging cotton t-shirt, finding no needle marks. “Where do you stick it in?” he said.

Chuck lifted Bandy’s right pant leg. The ankle was myriad colors. There was the blue of bruises, the yellow of the pus of infection, and the bright pink of inflammation. Dark little red wounds, in various stages of coagulation, formed epicenters amid the otherworldy colors. Bandy did not stir. Chuck lifted the pant leg further to find the leg thus mottled halfway up the calf. The left leg held a few wounds similar to those of the right.

John came back in while Chuck was examining Bandy’s legs. “That don’t look good,” John said.

“Yeah. Ouch.”

John took a few more things out of the trailer. Bandy began to snore. Chuck took the toaster and the only food in the cabinets, two wholesale-size bags of a generic version of Cap ‘n Crunch cereal.

“Thrills of this lifestyle, man,” said Chuck.

“Yeah. You mean bein’ a bachelor, right?” said John.

Chuck returned to the trailer to find that Bandy had fallen flat, now lying on his belly. He touched Bandy’s shoulder, shook him, managed to rouse him to a small extent. “The bed,” said Chuck. He helped the boy to his feet, which took a lot of effort on Chuck’s part. As they rose, Chuck discovered that the back of the boy’s pants were soaked through with shit, and that the pants contained shit. One of the side effects of heroin is that it constipated its users in the extreme. Later, they would find out that Bandy had taken a large dose of laxative, concerned that he had not cleared his bowels in many days.

“Looks like we’ll need to put down some garbage bags before we haul him in the truck,” Chuck said. “Maybe he can ride in back. That’ll make it easy to clean. We can just hose out the bed after we drop him at the center.”

“Is that what we’re gonna do Mister Chuck?” John said.

They discovered more shit on the floor of the restroom, a little pile of it. The toilet appeared to be working all right. They did not know why Bandy had gone to the trouble of dragging himself to the restroom only to shit on the floor.

John brought some cleaning supplies from his truck. He cleaned up the shit in the bathroom, muttering something about the deposit on the trailer. He produced a big tarp and threw it over the bed. “I’ll take his arms. You take his legs.”

They lifted Bandy onto the tarp. His eyes came unlidded, pure cataracts in his lolling head, and pupils like specks of ash. He was limp as a dead body, almost purposefully floppy.

Chuck looked at John.

“Hey, you wanted to do service work,” said John.

“You want me to?” said Chuck.

“I got his arms. You’re the lucky one holding his legs.”

Once a cousin of Chuck’s had shown him how to change a baby’s diaper. At first he tried to think of his task that way. He removed Bandy’s pants and John brought two big towels and two washcloths. “I was wondering what those were for. Do you know everything?” Chuck said.

They cleaned Bandy where they had lain him on the tarp. They decided they needed to get him into the shower.

Bandy’s head flopped onto Chuck’s shoulder. His skull knocked the linoleum wall, and his eyes rolled. Chuck threw away the filthiest of the towels along with the pants. He took soap from the shower and the wash cloth and rubbed him down a little. “Let’s take him to the shower. Take his shirt off.”

Chuck shouted at him numerous times to stand up. Bandy’s groans of narcotic langour produced strange feelings for Chuck, who had just completed certain pivotal rituals of step work. He would later reflect that he’d felt locked to Bandy in some fateful or providential sense at this moment in life, the moment of the boy’s primary cleansing. After feeling strangely, Chuck had reciprocal disgust and fear feelings, and then guilt feelings for having the fear feelings. He thought of times with his cocaine friends. He thought of times with Silas. It should be all right for two men to shower together, getting sober. Drugs made people more amicable—spiritual harmony and all of that. Why shouldn’t recovery work bind people as genuinely, and result in a truer way of knowing each another?

Chuck wondered if Bandy would receive soap in they eye for all he had done wrong; he would feel no pain if he did, so it did not matter. Soon he was finished cleaning the shit from the body of this heroin junky and ready to dress him. He shouted at Bandy once more imploring him to stand, please, on his own two fucking feet.

John had packed the last of Bandy’s stuff, or at least the last of it that would fit into the truck. Chuck rummaged and found a fresh set of clothes. He rolled Bandy this way and that, tugging here and there, and finally, he was dressed. They carried him to the truck and lay him in the back of the cab. Then, Chuck hosed off the tarp and squirted it with a few of the cleansers and hosed it off again. Everything was fairly clean when they left, and Bandy lay like some crash test dummy, limbs strewn, jaw slack, in the backseat of the truck. They dropped Bandy off at the rehabilitation center. They unloaded Bandy’s stuff into John’s garage.

In a week, Bandy was out of rehabilitation and in a meeting, sharing about having begun to use heroin again. He did not seem to recognize Chuck or John at all. They approached him after the meeting, beginning to say encouraging things. Chuck told Bandy it was they, himself and John, who had collected him and taken him to rehabilitation. Bandy remembered, then; but Chuck thought he was only pretending to remember. John had prepared Chuck that this might happen. They encouraged Band. They told him to keep coming back: go to a meeting every day, Chuck suggested.

“How often does something like that happen?” Chuck asked when the two men were alone.

“Like what? Seeing some junkie in a meeting? Not as often as I’d like I guess. Better there than shitting himself.”

They made their way out to their vehicles. They paused as they had paused so many times before parting ways.

“Oh I know what you mean,” said John. “But when they’re awake, they’re ever so grateful, these junkies.”

“If they were grateful, wouldn’t they put down the needle for like, I don’t know, a couple of weeks?”

“All right, now, mister Chuck.”

But after helping Bandy, Chuck knew he had done something good. He learned, then, that the world could give a person that feeling. The feeling was even briefer than the high he could cop off of a single line, and much less satisfying. But he hoped it had given him something deeper, too. . .