Cathexis Northwest Press
Why Baseheads Are Funny
By: Tim Stiles
My boy, Art, was a drug fiend before you thought that was funny: You would be jerked from sleep
by wood-scrape-wood noises, and that would be Art, ripping through your dresser drawers, looking
for your Kmart pay envelope. They paid you in cash in those days, they paid him in cash, too, but he
had already smoked through his cash.
He would never turn around, never freeze up, when you asked him what he was doing; he’d talk to
you like he already knew you were going to wake up and catch him, and he would say he needed
some money, and he would pay you back, because that’s how you two were, tight like that, and
whoever had the money, had the money; except, you weren’t on the pipe, so you were the one who
always had the money. You kept lying to yourself about that magical day when you would be the
one who needed cash, and Art would plug you in, because that’s how you two were, tight like that.
The closest it ever came to being that day was when you hadn’t seen him for maybe two weeks; he
knew you were short on ends, so he stayed away. But he still had to come back: to get at the needles
and spoons and pipes he kept in that dingy, fake Luis Vuitton Pochette in the closet, and you came
back home from work, hungry, tired, hungry, and your favorite, giant Roast Beef and Avocado
Togo’s sandwich was on the kitchen table, plump and conspicuous, with a note from Art that said, I
got you this sandwich because that’s how we are, we tight like that.
It was then that you knew in your core core core you were never ever getting any money, and you
understood down to the hollow of your empty pants pockets why baseheads are funny and why you
are allowed to laugh.
Tim Stiles lives in the San Francisco-Bay Area. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. His poems, stories and lyrics have been published/recorded throughout the USA and Great Britain. His poetry-photography collaboration with photographer Jay Tyrrell, entitled Botmerica: Repeat After Me, was published in 2016. He won the Seven Hills Review 2020 Creative Nonfiction Award for his story, "Bizzy Bone's Cousin," is the recipient of LitFest Pasadena's 2021 Jonathan Gold Award, and won the 2021 Thirty West Publishing Broadside Pt. 2 competition.
"I worked at a KMART located near Lompoc Federal Penitentiary, and they had this work agreement with the prison so that the paroled inmates could get jobs there. One of my co-workers was this guy, Art, who was able to talk his way into staying at the apartment I lived in. He was hilarious, so we tolerated him at first. I'm guessing when he was released from prison, Art was relatively clean. But then, when his descent into constant drug use started and my roommates and I kept missing money and personal items, he ceased being worth the hassle to have around.
Some drug fiends can be endearing though, because they seem to be really sad that they had to steal your stuff...it's just that they had no choice, right? I read a short story about Art one time in a room full of mothers who coincidentally had an "Art" in their life. Usually, in their scenarios, it was an adult child causing the damage. All the mothers responded to that story and the idea that things that are horrible can also be funny. I thought that this poem was a good example of how someone who is being screwed over by a basehead finally tells the truth to themselves and only, finally has to laugh, because otherwise they'd cry."