Chasing the Dragon (Flash Fiction)

The zipper made a long, drawn-out sound in the kitchen as the body bag was closed. Bob stepped around the long bag, over the dried vomit on the worn linoleum, and into the living room. Cigarette smoke hung in the air like a hazy horizon. Bob sat on the couch, careful to avoid a fresh looking stain, and felt his body sink into the aged springs failing under the cushion. He didn’t bother opening his small, spiral notebook.

“The dragon finally got ‘im,” the man said. His face tightened as he sucked on the cigarette. “I told ‘im it would. But once yer in love with the dragon, no one can tell you different. Ya know?”

“I don’t know,” Bob said. “I’ve never gotten around to heroin.”

The man smiled. It was an ugly smile that pulled his thin skin tight against his chin and dug harsh shadows under his eyes. He rubbed at his forehead, and Bob could hear the grease sliding across the skin. “She’s a fickle thing. She plays hard to get and then she kills ya for chasing her down.”

“She?” Bob asked.

The man nodded. He mashed his cigarette out on the worn end table that held the lamp. The surface was black and covered with ash. As the body bag was removed, the man curled his knees up to his chest. The old recliner teetered back under his shifting weight. “No man can love you the way she does. Not even God himself.” The two paramedics carrying the bag moved easily through the room. The body was light.

Bob sighed, taking care not to breathe in too much air. The smell in the room was awful. “The police will be by to ask you some questions. You may face charges if they determine you had a part in this death.”

“They can charge me and take me and throw away the key for all I care. I could use a stretch of safe time.” The man smiled again. His thin lips drew tight against his teeth and looked as though they were about to split. He ran his fingers through greasy brown hair that was long but thinning on top. “Truth is, she’s out to get me too.”

“Is she?” Bob said as he stood up. He brushed at his pant legs.

“She’s after all of us, ya know? You might think yer safe without the heroin, but she takes all forms. It ain’t the heroin that kills us, it’s the black inside that it tries to cover. It’s the hole we’re tryin’ to fill. It kills us all, ya know?”

Bob waved a hand in front of his face and walked to the door. “No, I don’t know.”

The man tilted his head back in the recliner and gave Bob an upside-down smile. “Well ya better. Keep a close eye on the things yer chasin’. They ain’t always fun and games. You think you got goals and places to go, but that goal is just you running in disguise. Yer not moving toward something, yer runnin’ away.”

A fresh call came over the radio. Bob dialed down the volume, walked out, and closed the door.

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