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Accidents happen

Homemade shoes lead to a surprising revelation



Just how the hell do you take heroin by accident? I swear, sometimes I think Lary makes this stuff up just to scare me. "What, did you sit on the needle or something?" I ask him.

"No, it was a pill I had laying around the house," he says.

Now I know he must be making this up to scare me. He must not want me going over there looking for evidence that he's gay anymore. I've known Lary for 12 years, and occasionally I have these bouts of doubt about his sexuality. Since I have the key to the dilapidated mausoleum he lives in, owing to this fantasy he has that I feed his cat while he's away, I go over there once in a while and rummage through all his personal effects looking for naked jpegs of him that he might use to lure homos to his house over the Internet. So far I've come up with nothing more suspicious than a sample-sized bottle of lotion inside the drawer of the nightstand by his bed, and even that is not so much suspicious as it is a catalyst for all kinds of curious visuals.

So I've pretty much given up on the whole investigation, especially since Lary keeps telling me he has his place booby-trapped with forgotten stashes of acid tabs and such, things I could brush against in all my gropings, thereby accidentally succumbing to a contact high that could have me flinging myself from a rooftop like Art Linkletter's daughter did in the '70s.

Anyway, given my phobia of hallucinogens, this potential hazard has been a good way of keeping my snooping at bay lately, so Lary doesn't exactly have to bolster it with this whole heroin scare, but it turns out he really does think he took heroin by accident. He broke his foot recently, and rather than deal with the Tic-Tac-potency pain killers the doctor prescribed him, he just called a friend who has terminal cancer and asked her to share her industrial-strength morphine with him, and evidently heroin is processed from morphine -- or something like that.

"I was itching and twitching all night," he says. "I still am."

Jesus God! Until now I didn't think it was possible for such accidents to happen. I haven't been so shocked since I was 7 and tried to make shoes for my little sister Kim, who had lost hers at a playground called Dennis the Menace Park, where they had a genuine locomotive engine you could climb and a mess of dead fish floating in a tributary behind the bathroom. I used to like to collect the fish, wrap them in toilet paper and present them to my mother as food for the table. That they were poisonous was just an accident, but that is another story.

Anyway, Kim had forgotten her shoes there and somehow made it all the way home in the backseat of the family Fairlane without my father noticing, but it was just a matter of time. You see, my father definitely did not have a soft spot when it came to losing shoes. He took his own so seriously that every night he stuffed them with those funny fake wooden feet and stored them on a shelf in the closet. So, in effort to save my sister from the special wrath my father reserved for lost shoes, I fashioned her a new pair out of sturdy plaid fabric I found in my mother's closet. I was pretty proud of myself for what I'd accomplished. Kim said my homemade shoes were pretty comfortable, too, considering they didn't have soles, and stylish as well, in the knotted, raggedy, biblical-sandal sense.

Too bad they didn't fool my father for a second, and rather than waylay his rage, I accidentally made it worse. I could see the fury simmering the second he spotted Kim's plaid-fabric feet. He even bolted up from his EZBoy and upset his Budweiser. It turns out I had accidentally hacked up my mother's only Chanel suit to make Kim's shoes, the suit her sister had given her, and she hadn't even worn it yet. I swear I thought my father was going to start shooting volcanic acid out of his eye sockets, he was so mad, and I was outside and four blocks away before I even realized I was running.

I just kept running until I made it to the movie theater at South Coast Plaza, where oddly no one even asked me for a ticket. I walked in and sat down and watched My Fair Lady, which is a movie that lasts about a lifetime in duration. I sat through it twice. When I emerged it was dark outside, and I crept home full of trepidation, expecting a fury to match the wrath of Zeus. But when I got there I found my parents in the doorway talking to a pair of police officers instead.

When they saw me, their faces caved like a couple of wave-struck sand castles. It was the first time I ever saw my mother cry. God, I thought, I'm really in trouble now, and I was about to bolt again when all of a sudden I felt myself swept up and pressed between my weeping parents like a confused, 7-year-old bologna slice in a big emotional sandwich. Jesus, I thought, they're happy to see me. And that marks the day I accidentally discovered that I mattered more to my parents than a second-hand Chanel suit. You could have bowled me over with a three-leaf clover, because until then, I didn't think it was possible for such accidents to happen.

Hollis Gillespie's commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered." To hear the latest, go to Moodswing at

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