Jan. 28, 1958
His name is Richard.
He's an addict.
He took his first fix at the age of 16 on the grounds of Jackson High School.
then--in the past seven years--he's done two short stretches for using.
Once, he turned himself in, the other time he was caught in a raid.
He's been married since he was 17, and today he's got five kids. But lately, the kids have been pretty hungry.
They have, because Richard's habit has been eating up all of the money his wife could borrow and he could steal.
Richard cracks his knuckles as he tells you about it.
"I'll tell you everything. I won't lie to you," he says.
"Last August, my first day out of stir, I kept telling myself all the way home, 'I ain't going to fix, I ain't going to fix.'
"But I didn't even make it home before I ran into a friend--"
Richard has lots of friends. They're in and out of jail like it was a revolving door.
You ask Richard how much his habit costs.
He guesses maybe $30, $35 a day.
Where does he get the money, you ask.
do anything. I steal, I pawn. I take it from my wife. There's a worm in
the back of my head, in my brain. When you're sick you'll sell the rags
you got on."
Who do you steal from, Richard?
"I don't steal from people," he says. His logic blurs. "I just steal things. Only when I'm sick though."
What do you usually steal?
"Tires. Usually tires. Lots of tires. It takes two guys three minutes to take off a set."
"Anything. Whisky, Cigarettes. Sewing machines. Cameras. Blankets."
Richard thinks. His eyes water. He needs a fix. He points to an air-conditioning unit in the window of my office.
"That," he says. "I could steal that."
But you've never been caught?
"No. Both times was for marks." He takes off his jacket and shows you the veins in his arms.
"They look like hell," he says.
But no violence, you ask. No armed robbery.
He shakes his head no. You look at him hard and he knows you don't believe him.
maybe," he confesses. "But usually we just follow funerals. We get in
the procession and go right on into the cemetery. When they get out,
they leave their purses in the cars."
You wait. "You said you weren't going to lie," you remind him.
snatched purses," he finally says. "Once I ran and grabbed one from an
old lady but she wouldn't let go. She yanked it back. She wouldn't let
The memory brought pain to Richard's face. "So I ran away. With nothing, absolutely nothing."
You like your kids, Richard?
like my kids. I love my kids. It's like my wife says, for them--if for
nobody else--I got to get rid of the worm in my brain."
How do you treat your kids?
"They're hungry, man. I don't give them nothing. My mother comes over with a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread."
Do you treat them nice?
"I play with them. When I'm loaded I play with them."
And when you're sick?
"I guess I hit them a little harder when I'm sick."
Richard tells you that he's only been back on "H" for a month. "Before
that I worked two months solid. Eighty bucks a week and I never stole a
thing. I never do when I'm not sick."
You suggest that maybe you can get Richard in somewhere where he can kick the habit.
don't do anything for you," he snorts. "I been on the honor farm. They
just make you clean up after other people who messed on themselves.
They don't talk to you about the worm."
Again, his eyes are full
of water. "I'm a man. I can stand pain. I can kick it. That part of
it--kicking it physically--I can do that.
"But the worm?" Richard pleads. "Doesn't it ever die?"