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their company and left him alone, like only other men can leave another man alone.

Then one day the devil came to see Emmett in the form of a recently returned Chicano soldier from Vietnam who brought a gift with him. The present was just a small part of what he said he brought back to the States and had already sold for a whole lot of money that he sort of felt guilty about and wanted to remedy somehow. The only way he could think of doing that was "Here!" and he gave Emmett almost half an ounce of go percent pure heroin. The last thing he said before he split forever was, "It's free!"

Emmett stood in the thin hallway that led to the side doorway of his storefront crib, looking at the tiny, aluminum-foiled package in his hands. When he raised his eyes, there was no one standing in the doorway, and the vacuum that remained made it seem almost as if no one had been there at all. He closed the door and went into the kitchen where he opened up the aluminum package, and as soon as he laid his eyes on the flat mound of dull white powder, he knew he was going to use every grain of it all by his lonesome. Alone, just like he'd been doing practically everything else for what, all of a sudden, was much too long.

For the first few weeks, everything went along all right. He got out of bed at dawn, took his wake-up fix in the bathroom and coasted through the day, making his Free Food deliveries and returning back to his Mission district storefront pad at dusk where he headed directly for the john to get high again. Natural Suzanne noticed that something was wrong with Emmett immediately. He stopped drinking the usual two or three nightly quarts of Ballantine Ale to get the sweat back in him; he hardly ever ate; he was always unusually tired, often nodding right out and sleeping till morning; he lost his sense of humor, and never smiled; and he no longer made love with her as he used to each night before they fell asleep and each morning when they woke up.

"Emmett, Emmett, what's the matter?"

"What's the matter? I got syphilis! That's what the matter. Leave me alone!"

It went on like that for a while longer, until the morning finally arrived when Emmett couldn't get out of bed to make his rounds. Natural Suzanne was already up in the kitchen making the coffee he seldom drank anymore, and he called to her. She came and knelt down on the floor-mattress bed and listened to her man talk about [end page 463]


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