Tenderloin San Francisco

Hard-boiled stories from San Francisco's 1960s and 1970s Tenderloin

Tenderloin San Francisco

Hard-boiled stories from San Francisco's 1960s and 1970s Tenderloin

To Fill a Script

1970

       The pharmacy on the corner of Eddy and Taylor Street filled prescriptions 24 hours a day.  After dark, getting into the pharmacy to get your prescription filled was easy enough, getting out with your prescription drugs was another matter entirely.  That was a popular corner for street people in the Tenderloin looking for any action – especially a filled prescription walking out.  There were always people congregating close to the door with others hanging out close by ready to give you their full attention.

       Nanci was a cute girl originally from the Sunset District where everything was nice and people believed in the fantasy of the American Dream.  She had lived in the Tenderloin nearly a year with her boyfriend Phil and knew some of his people, knew some of what to do, some of what not to do, some of where to go, some of where not to go, and all that.  She’d learned some street smarts, but in the Tenderloin some of anything is never enough.  

       Tonight Nanci had to go to the all night pharmacy to get a script filled.  Phil was very sick - too sick to go himself.  He was delirious with a temperature of 104.  It was nearly midnight when Nanci left to go to the pharmacy.  Four blocks later, weaving her way through the group near the door, she went in, had the script filled, and waited.  Ten minutes later they called her, gave her the drugs, and that was that.  Now all she had to do was get out and get home.  

       Calling a cab was useless here because cabs find a way to not answer radio calls from lower Eddy Street.  Walking the four blocks home was her only option.  The group outside the door seemed preoccupied with something going on near the doorway.  

       “Some kind of pill deal or something so they’ll be busy with that,” Nanci thought.  “Good time for a quick exit,” which she did and it worked.  She got out safely, turned right to go up Eddy Street and took ten steps when she was grabbed, goosed, shoved against a wall, had a strange hands in her pants, and was in a war to hang onto her purse.  She couldn’t scream because the guy who shoved her against the wall had his hand over her mouth.  

       Within a few seconds she had hands under all her clothing, was out of breath, and was being pushed into a doorway.  Her purse hit the sidewalk, spilling some of the contents.  It was followed by two people diving for it like hungry piranha going after fresh meat. 

       Suddenly a firm and very authoritative, “What the fuck?" stopped some of the action.  It was followed by an immediate, "C’mon cool it you fuckers,” which broke up the assault as a few people turned to look to see who was interfering with this easy score. 

       As soon as they saw who it was everyone cooled it - in fact they froze.  The group knew this man and didn’t want to have a problem with him.  He was one of the very bad men in the Tenderloin.  A few, apologetically shrugging their shoulders, told him they didn’t mean anything, they didn’t know, they weren’t going to hurt her, and other such lies.  

       Tripper Bob, hand in coat pocket and obviously annoyed, continued with, “She’s a friend of mine, now back off and give her back her shit, purse, everything.  C’mon just give her back her shit.  What the fuck – I’m deliverin’ right on the corner and you guys pull this shit?”  

       One of the group meekly in defense, “Hey Bob, man listen, we didn’t know she was with you – she’s walkin’ up the street by herself and all.  We didn’t mean nothing.  We wasn’t gonna hurt her.  You know how it is.”

       As they put her purse back together, Bob, with one hand still in his coat pocket and completely in charge of the situation, “Yeah well just put all the shit back in her purse - everything.”  With a nod of his head pointing back towards the drug store, “Go see your boys on the corner over there.  They got what you want.  Good shit.”  One guy nervously handed Nanci back her purse and the group quickly drifted down to the corner.  

       Then looking at Nanci, Bob asked, “You okay?”  

       “Uh . . . yeah I think so.  Yeah, I’m okay,” taking her purse and looking through it quickly, “looks like everything’s here. And I’m okay - just shook up.” 

       Bob with one hand still in his coat pocket and taking hold of her trembling arm with his free hand said, “Let’s go.  Hang onto me, I’ll walk you.”  

       Nanci, with a sigh of relief hanging on to Tripper Bob’s arm, “Where did you come from, how did you know I was in trouble?” 

       “I just finished a deal in front – that was the group near the doorway.  I saw you as you passed by me when you left.  You didn’t notice me.  I knew bad shit was going to happen to you.  I was 20 feet behind you when they grabbed you.  Now, where you going?”  

       “Home.  Phil is sick, real sick, he needs this.  He got a prescription earlier today, never got it filled, just got worse, and now he’s in real bad shape, his temperature has been going up and up.  I was going to call an ambulance earlier, but he said no.  Said he didn’t want people in our place, looking around, asking questions – things like that.”  

       “Okay, I’ll get you home.”  A few minutes later they were in the lobby of 587 Eddy Street on their way to the second floor.  

       Phil was sweating, delirious, and wrapped up in blankets when they got there.  Nanci tried giving him one of the prescription capsules with water.  “He can’t swallow this.  He can’t even take a drink – he’s out of it.  What do we do?”  

       Bob, reading the label on the bottle of prescription capsules, "He must have an infection.  Get the blankets off of him, strip him down, and cool him off.  We’ll bring down the fever.  Get me some alcohol if you have some, or some booze if you don't, and some water.  I’ll shoot him up with his script to get this in his system right now.”  

       “Oh Bob, you know he doesn’t shoot up.  I mean is it okay, can you do it?  You know how he is.”  

       "It'll be okay.  Just get me the alcohol, I'll sterilize everything."  

        Nanci, handing Bob a bottle of alcohol, looked on as he sterilized his works.  Now handing Bob a glass of water she watched Bob light a candle, break open two capsules into his spoon, and add some water.  He began cooking up the contents of the capsules and when it was ready sucked it up into the syringe.  Looking at Phil’s arm, “He’s got good veins – wish I had veins like this.”  Squirting excess air out of the syringe, “He gets this, we bring his temp down, and he’ll be okay.  Start undressing him and cooling him off.”  

       Nanci did that while Bob found an ideal vein, tied off Phil’s arm just above the elbow, and hit the vein perfectly on the first try . . .  

       Phil was shot up, stripped, and bathed in alcohol with a fan blowing cool air on him.  Over the next few hours he became steadily more conscious until he reached a point where he became coherent enough to ask for a blanket.  He said he was freezing and the way his entire body was convulsing with cold, he was.  They wouldn’t give him one.  Phil moaned, pleaded, curled up, and shivered all the more, but still no blanket.  His shivering was shaking the bed.  He was miserable – miserable but a lot better off than he was a while ago.  

       Finally Tripper Bob said, “Give him a sheet, just a sheet.  I can’t stand to watch this shit, reminds me of withdrawals – I know what he’s going through.  He’ll be okay now.  Just keep him cooled down until his temperature drops a little more.  And hey Nanci, speaking of withdrawals, mind if I use your bathroom for a few minutes?  I’m starting to get dope sick.  I haven’t shot up for a while - take me ten minutes.  I’ll clean up.”  

       “Sure Bob, of course.”  And now Phil was sort of up, sort of awake, and trying to reach for a blanket.  He was complaining about everything aching, how he was still cold, could Nanci get him something to drink, anything, how weak he was, and things along that line.  Nanci came back with some orange juice, just as Bob came out of the bathroom. They both sat next to Phil. 

       Phil weakly, but quite clear, “I’m freezing.  My temp is down enough so give me a blanket.  Get me some aspirin, maybe five or six, whole fuckin’ bottle, I dunno.  Everything hurts, my head is killing me.  Holy shit, this is bad.” Bob nodded it was okay and Nanci gave Phil a blanket.  

       Nanci and Tripper Bob told Phil what happened from the time she left the drug store up until now.  Phil was still a little delirious but understood what had happened.  The many thanks Phil and Nanci gave Bob weren’t necessary, they were friends.  Bob called a cab to meet him two blocks away near the Civic Center.  Putting on his coat, he left to go home to shoot up again and get some shuteye.  It was just becoming daylight . . .  

       Some nights later Phil was having coffee in Compton’s when Tripper Bob came in.  Bob grabbed a coffee and sat down at the small table Phil preferred near the back door.  Opening a roll of bennies and absent mindedly popping a few into his mouth Bob said, “You look better now.  You had me worried - you were pretty fucked up.  Nanci’s a good kid but not too smart going to the drug store alone to fill a script.  But I guess she had no choice.  You okay?”  

       “Yeah I’m okay, still a little weak, but not bad.  I’m working the door tonight at Kenny’s.  Should be an easy night - weeknight, no money, no crowds.  Reggie and Tiger are working the floor and I'm breaking in Fat Jack to work the door as a fill-in.  Oh and, uh, I never thought I’d say it, but thanks for shooting me up.  Really.”  

       Bob with a smirk, “You have good veins, easy to shoot.  Too bad you’re into that health shit.  You’d a made a good junkie . . .”