Short Story #361: Junkie-Joe Had Some Money by Ronald Milner

Title:  Junkie-Joe Had Some Money

Author:  Ronald Milner


Book cover to The Best Short Stories by Negro Writers - Langston Hughes.

The narrator insists that Junkie-Joe had some money, even though most thought he was just a poor junk man.  The narrator explains that he knew but no one would believe him on account of him being twelve years old.  Even the boy notes that as a twelve-year-old, he can discuss the simple right and wrong things but there are greater goods and evils that are harder to articulate.  Because of this, he was inclined like others his age to go along to get along.  Thus, he too regularly teased Junkie-Joe.  One time, when he was walking about he saw Junkie-Joe's place and what appeared to be smoke and fire.  He goes into Joe's place to warn him and encounters two men that he doesn't know.  They ask what he's doing there and the boy explains.  The two men bicker about what to do with the boy and murder is certainly an option.  Finally, they warn him to keep his mouth shut or they will come after him and send him back outside.  The boy runs home and washes himself up.  In the aftermath, the boy's hunger decreases while his desire to run increases.  The result is that he ends up hospitalized with pneumonia.  However, it's a few years later now and he still feels the need to run everywhere as he still sees the two men that killed Junkie-Joe.


A rather sad story but one that captures much about the challenges of youth.  The boy grapples with what is right and wrong while also trying to think about what he can do to avoid being hurt.  Coupled with this is the challenge that comes with not being believable to adults, which makes him even more uncertain about what to do and where to go.  
Short Story #361 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  12/1/2014
Source:  The Best Short Stories by Negro Writers, ed. by Langston Hughes.  Little, Brown, and Company, 1967.    

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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