Since I haven’t been having much success in the actual writing department, I decided to work on my Anthology. I was reading through some old material on my computer I came across a file named “Dennis.” I knew who Dennis was, but had forgotten I’d written a character sketch or something. I opened the file and found a prize. I had the beginning of a great story. Two terrific characters and interesting story. As I skimmed over it I realized I didn’t remember writing this piece at all. I’d always had it in my head to write a story where Dennis was a major character. I just didn’t know at this moment. It was like reading someone else’s work. I felt really good about that and since now I’m in a writing mood, I’ll just post the story as it stands now. I’ve never had a gay character before but he is central to Dennis’s story. I think with a little polish I could finish this an include it in my Anthology. I hope you like it.
“Ok, ok, I see I can’t change your mind about the “if they legalize pot, they have to legalize all drugs, including Heroin, so they can’t.” But if they reinstated the 32nd amendment and alcohol again became illegal, would you quit drinking?”
Understand that soon before this actually happened, Dennis and I really had this conversation. We had been discussing the pros and cons of the War on Drugs of the 1980s. I told him that the whole “Just say No” policy of the Reagan era was “just plain stupid.” Dennis, being of the Korean War era disagreed.
I must tell you, Dennis had a serious drinking problem. I’d seen drinking before. My own grandmother started off her day at 6:00 a.m. with a beer for 27 years. It ended only when she died at 69 years old of a stroke. Dennis’ drinking habits made Grandma’s look, well, like a frail old lady’s fondness for tea. He was also, however, unaware he was so afflicted.
Less than three years later they actually returned to prohibition of alcohol. That was the win for our side, we’d pushed the correlation between the two drugs as far as it would go. Finally convinced congress that beer was just as bad for Americans as dope. Banned all of them! This is when Dennis discovered he was an alcoholic, and when he realized I wasn’t such a bad guy for a fag.
Dennis and I didn’t really know each other well. He was, in fact, the one who made me turn my life around, though neither of us knew it at the time. See, Dennis was a cop in Hollywood, and I was a prostitute. A gay prostitute. He and his partner weren’t easy on me.
“The fuck you think you’re doin’ kid?” asked one while he handcuffed me and tucked my 5’7″ frame into the back of his cruiser. The not Dennis one.
“It’s because he’s a faggot, that’s why,” sneered Dennis. “It’s almost like being retarded—they just can’t help it. It’s as if they’re missing a chromosome, or something.”
“Missing a chromosome?” I couldn’t believe my ears. Did either of these patriotic, war-fighting, communist-hating white anglo-saxon- protestants know what eon we were in?
“What you mean?” asked Not Dennis as he stood with his clip board in hand. “Like Downs Syndrome?”
Dennis nodded. “Exactly. Downs Syndrome has varying degrees of severity, but every instance is caused by the same extra chromosome.”
Not Dennis looked at me as if I were some sort of strange bug he’d never seen, and never wanted to see again.
Not a very flattering picture of Dennis, I’m afraid. But you have to realize, even then he was as opinionated as Archie Bunker, but four times as smart. Being a cop for just seven years, he’d already seen more than his fair share of tragedy. You want to understand cops? Go to a war zone, or a riot, See a child sick with drug withdrawals, her mother passed out on the bed in some pay-by-the-hour motel. Do all this by the time you are twenty-five. Of course, in Dennis’ case, he’d really been in a war zone, having served in the Army during Korea, he’d seen men at their worst. And was a changed man because of it. I didn’t know all this at the time of course.
Something about that night, or maybe it was the quality of the men I was around that night I was arrested, but while I did my 90 days I examined my life. I was 24, good-looking, and fun. I could get some kind of legitimate job. I didn’t have to sell my body. So as soon as they let me out I went down the street and auditioned for a male dancer job opening. I got it! The only bad thing about it was, it was dancing for the ladies. But it was a place to start. I always felt I owed it to Dennis.
I never expected to be able to repay the favor some 13 years later. When they reinstituted prohibition. I had bumped into Dennis at a little coffee hut one morning. I recognized him immediately, even out of uniform. Tall, almost regal bearing; kind of a King of Texas walk. Cowboy boots and hat, which on him, seemed appropriate.
“Excuse me,” I said. Dennis looked at me. “But you’re with LAPD, right?” He looked at me sideways, sizing me up, wondering what I knew about him. “O’Leary, Dennis O’Leary.”
He stood there, his latte in one hand, the other trying to remember where he’d put his gun.
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to pry. It’s just that you arrested me once, a long time ago,” I added as he seemed to consider. “Any way, I always wanted to thank you. You really did me a favor by arresting me on night.”
At this he smiled. A beautiful smile, full of nicotine-stained teeth, but that was warm and sincere. I smiled back.
“I’m glad it made a difference.” He shook his head and took a seat on the patio. I followed quickly behind.
“Look,” I said, my hand on the chair. “Do you mind if I sit down?” He looked at me with those Robert Redford-blue eyes and nodded. “Thanks. I just figured, you know, that you guys have a tough job, and I don’t think enough people tell you when good things happen. I just wanted you to know. After you and your partner arrested me, I thought about what I was doing with my life and promised that I would change. And I did. Thirteen years and I’ve been holding a steady job. Going to night school. Now I own my own business.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
And so our friendship began. Dennis was wise enough, or maybe just callous enough, to never ask too many questions about my business—before or after my arrest. It just seemed to be an unimportant subject. Instead when we bumped into each other at the coffee hut, which happened every two or three weeks, we sat and discussed the latest topics. From who the President was sleeping with, to whether or not the U.S. should provide aide to this Third-World Country, or that one.
“How’s it hangin’ Dennis.”
He grinned. “To the right, my friend. Always to the right.”
I laughed and sat down. “So you think it’ll pass?”
“Will what…oh, the Prohibition Act.” He paused, considering. “If that’s the only way we can get drugs off the streets, yeah I hope it passes.”
“You kidding? It’s the worst thing that could happen. Now not only will we have a bunch of drunks running though the streets screaming with the DTs, we’ll flood the emergency rooms with heroin withdrawals. And you’ll enforce it?”
“That’s what they pay me to do.”
“You, would you give up alcohol?” I asked, knowing by this time that Dennis had a bit of a drinking problem. I didn’t know then how serious it was. Didn’t realize until that idiotic law actually passed. The one Dennis voted for.
It was January 13th when I saw Dennis next. He’d been 13 days without a drink. He looked like hell.
“Christ Dennis, you look like Hell,” I told him.
“I feel even worse.” He sipped his tea, clutching it in two shaky hands. “I can’t seem to get over this flu.”
I almost laughed. “You’ve been sick since New Year’s Day. I don’t think it’s the flu.” He looked up at me, his cop instincts deciphering what I meant. Did I know about the tiny men who marched on his chest at night? And the thing in his sink, and the strange attraction he felt to his gun?
“Can I trust you?”
“I think I may have had a drinking problem.”
I looked suitably concerned, while trying not to reveal that I’d suspected as much.
“I see things,” he said, and looked over his shoulder. Reflexively I did the same. “At night, while I try to sleep. They come out of the walls and march across my chest, and there are these noises. Like my brain was bubbling.” He wiped a hand across his face and looked at me, fear in his eyes. “I thinking I’m losing my mind.”
“Look, Dennis, you’re going through withdrawals. I can help you through them.”
He had obviously hit bottom, because he said: “Can you?”
I told him to make arrangements to take some time off work. I gave him an address. “Be there tomorrow by 5:00 p.m.” I gave him that long, because I needed to talk Kyle into vacating his place for a couple of weeks. Not that he didn’t understand my need to bring home the occasional stray drunk, or druggie to help them through the bad days. He just didn’t like Dennis.
“Him?” He screeched. “You’re bringing that knuckle-dragging homophobic Neanderthal into our home?” He pronounced it Neandertal.
“He’s as much a human being as any one else and deserves a chance to be happy.”
Kyle looked at me, and threw his hands up, “Oh, don’t go giving me your Buddha stuff.” He came over and hugged me. “You’re a better man than I.” Kissed me tenderly. “That’s why I love you.” Then he flashed me his adorable smile, and waved as he went to the closet and brought out his suitcase. “I know I’m going to need the big suitcase. It’s going to be a tough time with ol’ Dennis.” He babbled on about which clothing to bring and what to leave, who he should stay with, and all the negatives about Dennis. “He’s worse than Archie Bunker, my sweet Sam. But if you want to try to help him, you go right ahead. If I were a betting man, I’d put money against him getting through this.”