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Somehow, when he was young, my uncle acquired a reputation as a “narc.”  This was likely because he never did any drugs but was often around people who did.  “I was offered lots of times,” he shrugs, “but always turned it down.  Those people get paranoid when they do it and you don’t.”

He ran track and cross-country.  He had a junior high record that wasn’t broken for years, and, in 10th grade, came in second in Maryland state cross-country finals.

So, my uncle had no interest in mind-altering substances that would interfere with his running.

When he was about 19, he was at a party at friend’s house.  “Slick” (not even his real nickname) was a buddy he knew from working on cars.  Tall, thin, and lanky, Slick also smoked a lot of dope and sold it too, but, my uncle explains, “I didn’t care what he did.”

He adds, “I was there for the girls, man.”

That night, he happened to be talking to a girl at the end of the hallway, where the smoke was thick and heavy.  He felt a man bump into him and suspected it was on purpose.

My uncle wanted to ignore him, but the man effectively had him pinned in and became confrontational: what was he there for? what was he doing?

Evidently another girl had tipped off this man that he was a narc, a detail he discovered later.  But all he saw at the time was a knife coming out.

Suddenly, Slick grabbed this would-be assailant around the neck and dragged him to the other end of the hall and somewhere outside. That was the last he saw of him.

“But I did get out of there after that,” he laughs.

Slick apparently “read him the riot act” and pointedly included that my uncle was not a narc.

“So Slick saved you?”

“Yeah, man.”

“Where’s Slick now?” my sister asks.

“Probably in prison or dead.” He thinks a few seconds, then adds as an afterthought, “I think someone told me he did die a couple of years ago.”

Later, insufficiently impressed with what I’ve drafted on his tale, he asks me, “Well, what’s the point of the story?”  He shakes his head, as if I’ve completely misunderstood what he’s told me.  “Look, man, every story should have a point.  The moral of the story is you never know who your friends are, man. Don’t judge someone in a different walk of life.”

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