During a three month stretch back in the summer of 1999, Baby and I got addicted to smoking crack and gambling at the race track. It was a dizzying cycle of wagering longshots for drug money, only to win enough just to keep us high until the next day when we scornfully repeated this 95 day long, sweat filled, blistering nightmare. It was nowhere near one of the finer points that I proudly highlighted on my resume.
Pharmaceutical Sales and High Stakes Wager Consulting
I handled large sums of cash for various financial transactions with multi-national and international drug “corporations” in Canada, Mexico, and Columbia and provided timely and up to the date information and statistics on the Pacific Northwest Greyhound dog racing circuit for wealthy individual clients.
That was better than my other job working part-time in the stockroom at Border’s Books in Portland. I only made $6 an hour, but the bulk of my income was supplemented by stealing expensive art and photography books (some of them worth over $140). I sold them for $20 a pop at a used bookstore outside of Eugene, Oregon. The owner, a cowboy-beatnik from Colorado, knew they were stolen but his greed for the greenbacks silently made his conscience disappear.
I expected to get caught, but that day never came. I got fired for something completely different. One afternoon in July, Baby ran into Border’s feverishly looking for me like a swarm of angry yellow jackets. Before she got halfway in the store, I was fired on the spot by our incompetent manager. Unfortunately this wasn’t her first incident. I had gotten a stern warning and a heavy lecture because on six prior occasions she rushed into the store hellbent on finding me, every time causing problems. Twice the cops had to be called, and not once did she ever repeat her previous performance.
One night just before closing time, Baby launched into her best Sylvia Plath imitation, an overly theatrical and menacing feat with rambunctious multiple suicide threats. It was yet another razor slashing and gun wielding manic episode as she stood on the check out counter and cried hysterically. The very next day a hyper drugged up Baby, drenched in sweat, nervously paced throughout the store. She chewed up the tips of her fingers and pulled out random chunks of her purple and pink dyed dreadlocks while she foolishly attempted to steal over $300 in trashy romance novels that she unsuccessfully tried to hide in a stolen baby’s stroller.
The paramedics were called one lazy Thursday morning when a strung out Baby fittingly passed out in front of the Self-Help and Addiction Recovery section after she puked in the aisle and shit all over herself. My favorite incident occurred when Baby and her half-sister Beatrice stumbled in drunker than skunks after they got free drinks when they crashed Kenny Kleinman’s Bar Mitzvah that was being held at the Marriott Hotel down the road. A frisky, sexually excited Baby went down on a reluctant Beatrice for ten minutes before any of the security guards stepped in. Border's security force enjoyed the quick peep show on the closed circuit cameras and didn’t want to stop them. When a Bible beating blue haired great-grandma threatened to call the cops, the guards sprung into action. Oh, and I almost forgot about the time when Baby seductively pranced into the store looking skankier than Billy’s Topless strippers and desperately tried to give away handjobs to anyone who had $20 and a cigarette.
I bailed Baby out of jail every time she fucked up and each time she convincingly promised me with a tear riddled apology not to return to Border’s. I felt sorry for her. Due to a series of nasty falls during her tempestuous and incestuous childhood in rural Alabama, Baby tragically suffered from serious short-term memory loss and random migraines. Her mother, the voluptuous Dixie Lee Spoonhauer, was a Blanche DuBois clone with a fondness for mixed drinks before noon and a unhealthy penchant for rogue, teen-aged boys. The cranky, former beauty pageant winner from Biloxi was filled with rage and scorn most of the time and jealousy and Jack Daniels all of the time. She dropped Baby on her head twice while she pathetically tried to balance her precious seven month old daughter on a bar stool during the always crowded Happy Hour at Fat Fred’s Bar and Grill. And sometimes I think Baby was a little off due to the excessive psychedelic usage during the last trimester of her mother’s pregnancy. Yes, 37 hits of acid was a large number, but as her mother said, “Hell, it wasn’t all at one time! I might be a blonde, but I ain’t stupid!”
I was forgiving because I needed Baby’s help. After I got fired, she was my only means of making enough money to gamble at the dog track and to secure enough cash to fund our crack habit which ballooned to over $250 a day. I got a hot tip that a champion hound from southern California was going to run in an upcoming race at the local track. Sexual Chocolate was her name and she won 26 consecutive races. The Dork Brothers got the tip from Crispy Lineta when they bumped into him in Reno. They called me to let me know that “the fix was in.” Sexual Chocolate was going to tank the next race in Portland and we were going to get paid off if we bet on any of the longshots. I didn’t have enough cash to place any bets. That’s why I turned to Baby and bailed her pathetic, scrawny, chain smoking ass out of jail.
I knew she occasionally turned tricks to make rent, and fucked drug dealers to buy 8-Balls of cocaine, or let the clerks at Blockbuster finger her for a free rentals. I was cool with that. I was pre-occupied with my own fraught demons about my shivering drug habit that needed immediate quenching. Money was the priority. Baby preferred getting it on with lonely, dorky, nervous computer nerds, since they had the most money to blow when Portland was flooded with hundreds of those cash heavy cyber morons. Sometimes the uncomfortable thoughts and graphic images of Baby sucking those guy’s dicks for cash distressed me and gave me awful chest pains that stifled my breathing and almost made me black out. But I had to be realistic and I always clamed down. I had drugs to smoke and if someone had to suck cock for cash, it wasn’t going to be me. So it might as well be Baby. Right?
Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.