I drove back to Rhonda’s apartment where I was satisfied to find that things had not appeared to change an awful lot since had I opted for sleep on the Sunday afternoon prior. Rhonda asked briefly about Bull’s case, but seemed a little too high to absorb anything more than the idea that it ‘went well’. I sat down to join her and the increasingly familiar faces of her friends. I had been introduced to all of them several times, but I still insisted on associating them with the names I had given them in my head: 'Randa', 'Randa-Two' and her man, 'Rando'. I found a great deal of secret, personal amusement in the witty (if only to myself), dismissive way I had begun to associate with the people coming and going from Rhonda’s home with derivatives of the word ‘random’. Even though they all seemed to know exactly who I was, and would use my name when they talked with me, lately I never went out of my way to learn new names. In hindsight, this rapidly developing quirk in my personality might have signaled my own impending, deteriorating desire to salvage any sense of normalcy in my life. All the same, at the moment I just didn’t care about anything except getting high and making sure I paused with enough time to ensure I was straight enough to help Bull during the times he would need me to represent him in the role of ‘sponsor’ that he was expecting me to play.
The afternoon passed in what seemed like a moment. The apartment was buzzing with several different conversations that I was struggling to stay part of when Rhonda’s phone rang. When she saw the incoming number she tossed the phone into my lap.
“It’s the jail… probably Bull wanting to chew your ear,” she returned her focus to the tangled web of conversation.
“I’m gonna take it in your room, okay?” I got up and began walking towards her bedroom.
“Sure… yeah… that’s cool.” She waved her hand, unconcerned and preoccupied.
When I finished navigating the automated requests I was relieved to hear the sound of Bull’s voice saying, “I don’t have time for small talk, Rhonda. Put him on the phone…” Bull demanded.
I smiled. “It’s me, boss... Can I call you Willis?”
“Fuck no you can't… never. That was a freebie you fucking comedian, and you're lucky I'm not close enough to knock you on your ass." Bull sounded pissed, but he let it pass after a moment. "Thanks for not letting me down today.”
“Well, duh…” I grunted. “Thanks for worrying that I might.”
“Don’t be a dumbass. Look at it from my perspective, brother. I’m expecting you to carry a heavy load right now… keeping in mind the tragic turn of events in your life. I never doubted that you would come through for me…”
“Oh?” I interrupted him.
“Nah… I was just worried about what condition you would show up in.” He laughed cautiously.
“I told you that it wasn’t a problem.”
“Yeah, you did.” He paused before continuing, “It went pretty well today wouldn’t you say?”
“That might be kind of an understatement. That wasn’t the public defender, though. How’d you get that guy?” I asked.
“He’s something else, isn’t he? When NewLife told me that my application had been approved, the first thing they asked me to do was fire whoever was representing me. I guess his sole responsibility is making sure that the path is clear for people who get hung up legally, like I am right now. It was pretty cool how he shut down the State’s Attorney, huh?” I could hear him smiling.
“NewLife sent you a lawyer?” I was awed. “I never would have imagined it. That information wasn’t available on the website.” I laughed a little.
“Yeah, I wish I had the time right now to fill you in on all of the things that guy told me before court this morning.” Bull sounded energized. “I will tell you that he went through the program about ten years ago. Now he only defends non-violent drug offenders, and works for NewLife… pro bono.”
“No shit? Lucky you…” I was amazed. “What brought him to them?”
“Oxy I guess… dude was a junkie. Coke too.”
“Fuck me…” I stammered, “…a junkie lawyer.” I reflected on it for a moment before continuing, “Alright…what’s next, boss?”
“Well, I’m being released on an O.R. bond whenever the judge signs the paperwork. That’ll probably take a couple of days. NewLife expects me sometime Monday morning. In the meantime I need you to pack a bag for me. Since I’ve got nothing, and the State claims that the farm is still being processed for evidence, that means you’ll have to work some magic. I’m about your size I think… so help me out with some of your stuff. Go to second-hand shops for the rest. I don’t want any of your old underwear though… or socks.” Bull laughed at this.
“Um… right.” I laughed along.
“Toiletries and stuff too,” he added.
“Rhonda will pitch in if you need cash, right?” He wasn’t really asking.
“I would imagine.”
“Right… then that’s it for now, I guess.” Bull sounded like he had more to say.
“Are you sure?” I asked hesitantly.
“No…” I heard him sigh heavily. “I got a letter from Dayna.”
“Oh… what’d she have to say?” I could sense some tension.
“An awful lot really… but most of it boiled down to the idea that she really wants her kid back, and in order to achieve that…” He stopped.
“Boss…” I didn’t know what to say, but I knew what was coming.
Bull continued, “I guess it’s been made pretty clear to her that I can’t be part of the picture if she wants to get him back… ever.”
“That’s regrettable.” I offered.
There was a long pause.
“Nah…” Bull continued again, “I expected it… but it still felt like a ton of bricks.”
“I’m sure.” I briefly thought of my own recent, comparable loss. Bull must have sensed this.
“Still… It kinda feels small when I think of you losing your wife.” He sounded awkwardly compassionate.
“Yeah… maybe…” I choked on the words. “But, listen… don’t let it dull your focus right now. You’ve got other obstacles to navigate at the moment. Nobody knows how any of this will play out after NewLife gets you. She’s still alive… ya know?”
“Point taken… I shouldn’t have brought it up,” he replied quietly.
“Anyways… I’ve got this on my end, boss. I’ll plan for Monday.” I changed the conversation’s direction.
“I’ll call you before then.”
“Thanks brother,” Bull concluded the conversation and hung up.
I closed the phone and left the bedroom. My buzz had faded in the short time I was talking to Bull and I was anxious to pick up where I left off. The only thing that had changed in the other room was that now in addition to a pipe being circulated, 'Rando' was preparing several needles for the group.
“Just in time,” he said as he noticed my arrival.
“I don’t know about all that…” I felt a chill crawl up my spine while sharp craving consumed me. I crushed the thought by remembering my promise to Bull. “You guys can throw down. Don’t mind me. I’ll just smoke with you.”
“Are you sure?” He persisted.
“No,” I sighed loudly, “but I made a promise,” I conceded.
“Your loss…” he handed the needles to the rest of the group.
This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo