James LePore: Project 52/2015: Dancing With the Devil

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14814_1927280lImage, Fifth Avenue, © James LePore

You won’t take advice from me.

Probably not, but I’ll listen.

Because I’m a junkie.

Sue shook her head. How do you separate all the bad behavior from the drug addiction? You didn’t.

Are you using again? she asked. You don’t look it.

No, but once a junkie, always a junkie.

Are they still using that word?

I use it. It’s got bad juju.

You’re warding it off?


What’s your advice?

He’s no good, Sue.





You only met him once.

I did some research.

Junkie research? Joogle? The plate in your head?

I pick things up.

Despite herself, Sue smiled. She hated her brother—and loved him, when the hate subsided, which was not often. She knew what he meant. As a heroin- using, occasional-drug-dealing ex-con, John had “connections” around the five boroughs, connections that, in his mind—what was left of it—were uniquely valuable sources of information. They were mostly other junkies and ex-cons, people you wouldn’t trust alone in a room with a dollar bill on a table. Plus, John had been saying since his surgery twenty years ago that he received messages via the plate they put in his head after he was smashed with a pipe in a drug buy gone bad. This was his attempt at being funny. The sense of humor of a junkie on seizure meds who lived off of the money stolen by his two junkie girlfriends. Charming guy.

Which is it, the plate or your street buddies?

What’s the difference? You won’t listen to me anyway.

I might this time, but it doesn’t matter.


I’m pregnant.


Say something, John.

You should name him after pop.

I might not have it.

Him. Don’t say “it.”


Or her.

What about Brian?

He’s stealing from his customers, and his partners.

That’s impossible.

Sue…I don’t want you to learn this the hard way.

You’re wrong about him.

Sue shook her head. She knew her brother. He wasn’t trying to ward off his next dance with the devil, he was looking forward to it. But something in his eyes bothered her. Their parents were dead. There were no other siblings. She would be thirty-seven in two months. Could she be so wrong about Brian?

In a year or two, said John, he’ll be dead or in jail for a long time.


He has some nasty partners.

What am I supposed to do? Sue thought this, but didn’t say it. There’s something else, said John.


He’s asked me to do something for him.


Deliver a package.

Of what?

Cash, or so he says. Should I do it?

He just called you out of the blue?

I called him.

Someone else to scam.

Believe me, Sue, this guy is not scammable. I could use a gig, that’s all.

You’re asking me? Really?

No, not really. I said yes.

Even though he’s…?

A scumbag. Yes. As  I said, I need a gig.

Sue twirled her swizzle stick in her drink, and looked out the window at Fifth Avenue. Leave it to John to pick one of the fanciest bars in Manhattan. And to be vicious—calling Brian, who he knew she loved, a scumbag. She looked at her brother, his black hair swept back, his beautiful brown eyes, the long silky lashes. Women swooned over him. Soon he would be using again. He would turn yellow, lose weight, disappear into the void of heroin. She was on her own, with a decision to make. She had been wondering about Brian recently. He seemed distracted. When it rained it poured.

That look in John’s eyes, she had never seen it before. She had seen them all, the smirks, the charming smiles, the coldness, but this one… Was it sadness?  That would be a new one. John had wrecked a lot of lives, including their father’s, who had finally given up and died of a broken heart. Once in a while he had faked being sad, but this was different. She hoped she was wrong. For the first time in her life, she wanted her brother to stay just the way he was.


About Project 52/2015: I like to take pictures and I like to write fiction. This Blog will combine the two in what I am calling Project 52/2015, one of my images mated with a piece of very short fiction each week in 2015. Enjoy.

James LePore is the national bestselling author of numerous novels, most recently, God’s Formula, which he wrote with Carlos Davis. Visit his website.

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On December 2, 2015
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