I believe spring finally bested the tenacious tentacles of winter this weekend, but not before the cold rolled over the city like a lion bent on picking off the fresh shoots and tender buds of our roses, hollyhocks, tomatoes, and trees. Of all my plants, the Don Juan roses on either side of my front steps faired the worst. Their red blossoms bent dejectedly underneath the rain and cold almost touching the grass. Gardeners have a rule of thumb about how things should grow after they are first planted. It's first year no, second year slow, third year go. Unfortunately, my roses were going. I hope they recover. I tied them up and said a prayer before I went to get the hose to water the tomatoes. As I rounded the house, I heard Laura and her boyfriend fighting through the upstairs window next door. This isn't about you! he said. Of course it's about me! she answered. I imagine they were fighting about his mother. She was the one to set the police swarming around the house on Sunday night with guns and flashlights and curses. Apparently, she doesn't fancy the idea of her 24-year-old son shacking-up with a 44-year-old I.V. drug user. There isn't anything she can do, though, but watch his life uncoil before her eyes. The police told her not to come back. I started talking to Corduroy as loudly as I possibly could. I think she's tired of them. She just looked up and went back to worrying her lamb shank bone. A very tall man on a tiny red motorcycle pulled up the street and meeped "shave and a haircut" on his feeble horn before shooting around the corner and disappearing. A few minutes later, he was back in a familiar white Chevrolet. His license plate says "STONEYO." He's come to deliver the wake-up shot just like he does every evening at the same time. He pulled over just before Jackson pulled up.
Officer Jackson calls his beat "the party L," because it's roughly comprised of the area between 20th Street and the 5-points bars, to the part of Magnolia Avenue abutting Brother Bryan Park. On any given night, Jackson is called upon by the city to confine the homeless, keep the drunk fraternity boys from fighting, and keep the rich people dining at Frank Stitt's Highlands Bar and Grill from being so afraid of the homeless and the drunk frat boys that they drive back over Red Mountain before they let go of any more of their money. He laughs about it. I imagine he laughs because he knows that as soon as he gets some experience on Birmingham's mean streets, he'll accept a position with Mountain Brook, Vestavia or Hoover for twice as much money and 75-percent fewer crack houses. In my opinion, he's a government cat-hearder with a gun. He isn't really allowed to fight crime, but he does his best to harrass it away. In so doing, he often takes some time away from the L to drive up 20th Street and make good on his threat to make it a miserable month for Laura
. She's never happy to see him coming. As much as I like him, I'm not always happy to see him, either. It always means drama; the kind of drama that takes five hours and means no sleep.
I tell him what I've been seeing. He tells me what he's been seeing. STONEYO overhears and bails out on Laura and her wake-up shot. She's going to be sick and cross within an hour. He never comes back. I tell Jackson that one of the artists found a pile of used rigs next to the trash can the week before. So, she's shooting, I say, thinking she was a meth-head. She must be far-gone. Jackson says she's always been shooting and that her drug of choice is heroin. He sees other known junkies in and out of her apartment all night long and into the morning. This must be why the artists have taken to sleeping in their studio at Sloss Furnace. I can't imagine what would be bad enough to make them sleep at Sloss with the ghouls and ghosts of unfortunately-smelted iron workers, but apparently, it's Laura. I live next door to Sid and Nancy and it isn't as cool as I would have thought when I was embroiled in my Sex Pistols obsession. A tall blond woman comes down the steps and climbs into a red Chevy Blazer. See that woman? Jackson asks. She used to be a dude.