One Time in Brooklyn by James Kowalczyk

James Kowalczyk tells a short tale of three junkies in an apartment room in Brooklyn.

Susie Spotless, the old hag from 5B, used to throw buckets of water on the sidewalk in front of the apartment building twice a day, 365 days a year. Hence the name.

"Why don't you watch where you're going!" she'd yell at anyone who happen to get splashed as they passed by. There was no stopping Susie.

As far as anyone in the neighborhood remembered, she'd always lived alone. Her fibrous outgrowth hair was perennially in rollers and she wore the same stained house dress with frayed slippers that showed her crusty overlapping toes. She was never seen outside except for when she did the water. It was rumored she ate cat food that she'd bought at the 24 hour bodega across the street in the wee hours of the morning.

Susie Spotless ultimately brought down the Blue Room.

The Blue Room, technically apartment 5A across from Susie Spotless, was painted blue. There was always blues music playing, and occasionally someone would turn blue. This was one of those times.

"Where?" I whispered as I strained with the weight.

"Alley," Mousey whispered back without hesitation. Sounds like he's done this before, I thought to myself.

Back in the Blue Room, Mosquito was cleaning up random sets of works, especially the syringe with congealed blood and heroin that we'd pulled out of Billy Red's arm.

I'd taped a piece of paper over the peephole in Susie's door, hoping she wasn't up and getting ready to go to the bodega as it was 3am.

We began maneuvering around the corner of the hallway toward the elevator. After some grunting and sighing we finally reached the elevator. We placed Billy gently down on the hallway floor. At this point he was a very pale blue. Mousey pushed the down button. We couldn't look at each other.

As a dealer, Mousey knew that in the state of New York he could be charged with involuntary manslaughter for providing the drug that led to an overdose. Lord knows we had done all we could to keep him from dying. It did take a while before we realized Billy was not responding. All four of us had been nodding off, in and out of wakefulness, when Mosquito, as usual, started asking if anybody had weed.

"Who has some weed?" he mumbled.

"I wish I did," I said, "after throwing up I could use an additional boost."

Mousey and Sally Weasel grunted an, "Uh-uh."

I heard Mosquito ask Billy and didn't hear any response.

Mosquito raised his voice. "Billy, don't fuck around, I know you hear me. You got any weed?"

The timbre of Mosquito's squeaky voice woke me out of my nod and I opened my eyes. I went over to Billy and shook him, listened for breathing and heard none. I shook Mousey and Mosquito awake.

"Hey, Billy's out," I said as loud as I could.

"What? What do you mean?"

I ordered Mosquito to get a bucket of water and began slapping Billy in the face. He didn't respond. Mosquito threw the water on his face. He didn't respond.

Mousey said: "Lay him on the floor."

He punched Billy's limp body and began CPR. We slapped, threw water on him, and did CPR for at least another 45 minutes. By the time we gave up we were sweating, completely awake, and definitely not high anymore. We all just kneeled back on our heels, staring at Billy's still corpse. He had already begun to turn blue. It was like we were hypnotized by what had just happened.

"Now what?" Mosquito broke the silence.

"We gotta get rid of the body," Mousey responded matter-of-factly. I got pissed.

"This is Billy Red we're talking about. The guy we grew up with. The guy's whose mother fucking made us sandwiches in the summertime when we were like ten. The guy who put thumbtacks on Sister Cecilia's chair. The guy grew up with us for Christ sake! And you say, 'we gotta get rid of the body?' Like he's some fucking piece of garbage that needs to be disposed of. We need to call 911."

"We are not calling 911. We are getting rid of the body. Whoever finds him will think that he overdosed, by himself, period. There's been so many lately the cops won't think anything of it. I am not going to prison over this." And that was that. I nodded and grabbed Billy's arms and Mousey got his legs. The next thing I know is we're waiting for the elevator with our friend's dead body on the hallway floor at 3:30 in the morning.

The elevator arrived and I peeked in through the window in the door before opening it.

"Nobody," I whispered to Mousey. We shifted the body a little and I opened the door. We lifted him and brought him in the elevator with us. Mousey pressed the 1st floor button. I could hear my heart pounding over the hum of the old-school elevator.

After what seemed like an eternity, we reached the 1st floor. We lifted Billy's body in a hurry as the automatic door slowly slid open. We shifted around so that I could push open the manual door with my back. I began to back out of the elevator.

Then I bumped into Susie Spotless.


  1. The cat food line got to me. I read once that pet food is packed with bone meal as cheap filler. Trouble is, human guts can't process that shit, it cuts us apart. So Susie is going down slow, poisoned just like the crew in 5A. Great feel to this druggy view, like DeNiro was just about to pull up, grinning in a Yellow Cab. Thx!

  2. Well-drawn and seamy. I think the boys just made Susie’s day.

  3. Terrific story and great character names to help paint the colorful picture. I'm glad the narrator had a little reservation about what to do. Thanks!

  4. A lot of thought put into the description. I especially like the toes.

  5. Love the character’s names, too. As well as the context of the story, an apartment in Brooklyn.

  6. Short and bitter - well written

  7. I liked it but thought it ended too abruptly.