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Sunday, March 05, 2006

No-Good, Very Bad...

Warnings: Very long post, graphic

I have to say, I’ve lived a relatively sheltered — one could even say “whitebread” — existence. What I’ve called a “bad day” up to now usually involves interactions with in-laws these days: a shouting match, forgetting whatever plans I had for the weekend to take care of a die-off in the chicken houses, getting pushed into buying a house I didn’t want and can’t afford... the usual everyday stuff in a rural middle-class existence.

Yesterday redefined “bad day” for me and Mrs. Fetched. For The Boy, it was easily orders of magnitude worse. This gets a bit gross down below, You Have Been Warned.

The day started shortly after midnight. Lobster (who seemed to have got the attitude adjustment we’d hoped for, and got his repaired truck about the same time) had volunteered to pick up The Boy when the latter was done at work around 10 to 10:30p.m. But The Boy had called and told me he wanted to go to the apartment tonight because his roommate (we’ll call him “Jimi” here) was sick. “He was having trouble breathing this morning, and BJ (a mutual friend) called an ambulance but he wouldn’t go to the doctor. He has asthma and I was going to take him an inhaler.” The Boy had an inhaler from a bout of bronchitis (misdiagnosed as first-stage emphysema at the time) to give him. Having heard lies upon lies from The Boy, I was naturally skeptical about this — sounded like a massive load of fertilizer, in short.

“The agreement was, you could spend Mondays and Tuesdays (his days off from work) there. You’re supposed to be home tonight,” I reminded him. In one ear and out the other, and no explanation of what they had been doing for the previous two hours. Another friend was in Lobster’s truck (an extended cab Ranger), leaving one more open slot. M.A.E. came bouncing out to go along, and was disinvited by The Boy.

“We’re picking up another friend, so there won’t be room for you,” he told her.

Lobster, always one to take a dig at M.A.E., said “I’ll come back for you if you can give me gas money,” knowing that she didn’t.

M.A.E. came huffing back into the house and got on the phone, which is something she does a lot when she’s mad at The Boy. Since it was so late, we told her to get off the phone and she wound up talking to us until past 2 a.m. At this point, we were ready to tell The Boy to just stay at his apartment, get his GED whenever he felt like it, and find his own rides until he gets his car licensed (the title came in earlier this week).

All that went in the dumpster when the phone rang at 5:15a.m. Mrs. Fetched got it, because it’s on her side of the bed. The Boy was hysterical, barely coherent, but we got the gist of it: Jimi had died in the bathroom, with one of The Boy’s syringes sticking out of his arm, and he wanted to move out of the apartment and come home for good. Three hours of sleep or not; when you get a phone call like that from one of your kids, you get moving.

As it turned out, The Boy had actually been telling the truth about the health of his roommate for a change, even if some of the details were wrong. He was coughing up blood (never a sign of good health), and BJ called an ambulance for him and offered to pay for Jimi’s medical care if necessary. Jimi insisted that he was OK, although he certainly didn’t look OK, and refused to go to the hospital. The chronology, as best as I can piece it together so far, goes like this: about two weeks ago, he hooked up with somebody, which precipitated a relapse of his cocaine habit. When you’re diabetic, you’re the best buddy of every druggie out there, because you can buy syringes without raising suspicion... and The Boy never had to worry about securing his needles beyond the usual disposal issues. So all Jimi had to do to get a syringe was to grab one out of the bag on top of the refrigerator. I don’t know if shooting coke rips up your stomach, or he had some other issue, but it certainly wasn’t helping matters. Earlier in the week, The Boy gave Jimi his half of the rent money ($200) and told him to give it to the superintendent (two doors down). He then told the super that Jimi had the money and would bring it over when he got his half from his brother. Jimi, as far as I can tell, went and spent $100 of that on some coke.

Now we get to the events of early Saturday morning. They picked up the fourth friend, and went to The Boy’s apartment. Jimi looked horrible, but was in good spirits, walking around and talking with them. They decided to make a trek to McDonald’s (nearly an hour round trip) and grab some chow; Jimi begged off and said to go without him. So they went, and spent another hour hanging out at a gas station where another friend was working. At some point during this two hours, Jimi locked himself in the bathroom, shot up some coke, passed out immediately, vomited blood, and choked.

Having absolutely no clue as to what was going on, they dropped The Boy off at the apartment around 4:30 and drove off. He tried the bathroom door, knocked, got no answer, then started to worry after a few minutes. He knocked again, got no answer, then remembered there was a screwdriver on the dresser. He took the doorknob off, opened it up, and there was Jimi. He tried to wake him up, then called Lobster. Lobster came back, took The Boy to BJ’s (who lives nearby), then drove off. What a friend we have in Lobster, eh?

So BJ and The Boy went back up, tried to revive Jimi (here opinions diverge: I’m pretty sure he was dead before The Boy got back to the apartment; Mrs. Fetched is equally convinced The Boy saw him die), called 911 somewhere in the process. BJ left again, and The Boy called us some time after the cops arrived. We got there about 6 a.m., to find three cop cars (and a fourth soon blocked us in). We’re standing around in 28F, freezing away, The Boy barely maintaining. BJ returned, wearing a shirt from some security outfit, and talked to us and the cops. Eventually, they brought out Jimi. The Boy and Mrs. Fetched preferred not to watch this, but he was in a body bag with a sheet draped over that so there wasn’t much to see anyway. I offered a silent, clumsy benediction.

Shortly after, one of the cops asked The Boy to talk with him in the warm car. You can imagine my relief when they opened the front door for him. Presumably they got a statement, then let him out and drove off. The cops said they were done with the apartment, and the super said if the place was clean The Boy could get his security deposit back. OK, fine, we went home to regroup.

The Boy couldn’t get out of working, so after a catnap I took him up (11am to 7pm shift). Mrs. Fetched, her mom, and I gathered up cleaning supplies and went on back. The bathroom should have been declared a biohazard area; there was blood all over the floor and some on the carpet outside (The Boy and BJ dragged Jimi out partway, trying to revive him). Never one to dodge the nastiest part of any job, Mrs. Fetched donned rubber gloves and went in with the mop. I used a spot cleaner on the carpet outside, achieving partial success. Mother-in-law attacked the kitchen. After the spots, I started bagging up Jimi’s clothes, getting some help from Mrs. Fetched when some of The Boy’s got mixed in.

One surprise: even when cleaning up the effects and blood of a dead man you’ve never met, you get hungry. I ended up popping up to a nearby supermarket to get some apples, soft drinks, and the Girl Scouts were out front so I grabbed a couple boxes of cookies... and they had those roasted green peas I fell in love with a while back (wasabi flavor!). We broke for a quick snack, then finished up the job. BJ and his family came by while we were at it; Jimi’s relatives were looking for his diary and a picture of his parents (Jimi was raised by his aunt & uncle after his parents died when he was very young). BJ went through Jimi’s things, finding the diary and lots of The Boy’s syringes in the process, but never turned up the picture. There were lots of very good drawings, mostly in the heavy metal theme — he was quite talented.

Some time after BJ left, mother-in-law opened a kitchen drawer and found the picture. I called BJ, but got no answer, so I loaded Jimi’s things in the back seat of Barge Vader, The Boy’s stuff in the back, and the furniture went into the in-laws’ pickup truck. We left that place one heck of a lot cleaner than it was before The Boy moved in, I can tell you that. If there’s any money knocked off the security deposit, I’ll want to know why — in detail. We drove away, forever I hope, about 4 p.m.

After a day like that, we imposed a permanent 10:30 curfew (only exception is working late), and were in no mood to hear any arguments about it. People tend to get arrested or dead in the wee hours.


  1. Whoa........ trouble loves company, unreal. How old was "Jimi", that's really sad and shocking.

  2. He was 28. we only found out after the fact that he'd been in prison on some kind of drug charge. For having a fairly stable family life (wife & two kids), BJ doesn't seem to be too bright... you think he would know better than to hook up a drug addict, even a supposedly reformed one, with a kid who has to keep syringes around.

  3. Big hugs farfetched...to all of you...

    There are no answers only acceptance that this was Jimi's choice...good or bad, his choices.

    Sending energies of peace and healing to all touched by this tragedy.

  4. Oh. My. God. All things pale in comparison to the death of a human being. And to have had to have witnessed that.

    May the higher power that guards us all smile upon you and your family and everyone else who must be reeling from this terrible, terrible thing.

  5. farfetched, I think about you and your family almost every hour of everyday. You are always in my thoughts and prayers.

    Your son has so many burdens, I hope he is strong enough for this one.

    (for Jimi himself, I don't know what to say. May he rest in a peace he probably never had in life. And I wish he could have not drawn your son into his chaos)

  6. Thanks, everyone. Things have been a bit busier than I would like this week, so I'm just now getting around to seeing your comments. It means a lot to me, knowing there's people out there who read this & care.

  7. Oh Larry, big hugs and good thoughts being sent to you and your family. How horrible to experience, and how tragic. Please know I hope both boys are able to get through this OK, and you and the Mrs. too, of course.

  8. I hope that the boy can get through this intact. Smooches and love,


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