Saturday, December 26, 2009

foxy's christmas dinner

if you know writers, at least the kind (like your humble chronicler o' events) that draw on their lives for lots of their material, chances are that you know all of their stories by the time they're written. if you know me, chances are you know this one.

foxy was a guy i knew when i was a teenager on lawn guyland. he was a few years older than me, but he was friends with (or at least a familiar of) the guy who was my idol, then my best friend, then my nemesis between when i was 16 and when i was 21. both of them were junkies, and both of them died when they were in their 20s.

foxy at least had an excuse. when he was 16, he'd gotten in trouble with the law and his parents had signed the papers for him to go to the army and nam. he wasn't in combat -- he was a radio operator in saigon, i think -- but he came back with a junk habit that made him a pariah in his irish catholic family.

by the time i knew him, foxy was one of those characters you'd see shuffling around town, bleary-eyed, his face ruddy from sleeping rough. one time in the summer, my friend john saw him walking around wearing an arctic parka, the pockets filled with ice, a 40 in each one. later on, john encountered him after he'd passed out in an alley, the ice in his pockets melting and running down the sidewalk.

his family put him out, so he wound up crashing where he could. he was sleeping in his brother's van, in front of his brother's house, when the repo men came to tow it away. he spent an entire winter sleeping in one of the forts we used to build out in the woods (for there were still big tracts of undeveloped land on the island in those days) -- a big hole in the ground, not quite deep enough to stand up in, but terraced like a world war I trench so you could sit down and smoke out, covered with a big sheet of plywood.

that christmas eve, foxy's family were saying their prayers before their big christmas dinner, turkey with all the trimmings, when the door flew open and foxy came bursting in, looking like jethro tull in his big army surplus overcoat, and bellowed "I WANT FOOD!" like a wild man. he ran to the table, grabbed the turkey, and was out the door before anybody could say "boo!"

i still remember the last time i saw him. i was working in the record store when i saw him peering in from the sidewalk. my boss had banned him from the store, so i went outside to speak to him. i'd lent him a couple of bucks in a bar one night, and he'd heard that i was leaving for texas soon. he reached in his pocket and handed me a couple of crumpled bills.

"we're square now, right?" he said.

"yeah," i said. "we're square."

the next time i was back to visit, i went to see the guy i relied on to keep me up to date on all of my old peeps, because it was easier than going to see them. he told me foxy was dead.

"how?" i asked.

"how d'you think?" he said.

go easy, brother.


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