‘The Junky’s Christmas’ by William Burroughs

I think I first came across this story in the Serpent’s Tail collection The Junky’s Christmas and other Yuletide Stories, edited by Elisa Segrave. Later I hear Burroughs himself read it, over a musical collage, on the album Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales by William S. Burroughs and Disposable Heroes of Hypocrisy. It tells the story of a Junky trying to score a hit on Christmas Day, but it’s Christmas Day, and nobody wants to have to deal with a wheedling junky. I went on to record my own spoken word version, where I played the narrator and my late and much missed friend, and Sheffield legend, Mozaz played the junky. We played it out on Christmas day on Radio Sheffield, bookended by Girls Aloud and The Sugababes, as I sat in the radio studio with my kids ripping open presents on the floor, and choosing the music. It’s a bittersweet, mostly bitter, story that I always think of at Christmas.

First published in Interzone, Viking, 1989. Currently a Penguin Modern Classic, 2009.

Chosen by Dan Sumption. Dan lives in Sheffield, and his first short story collection, To Scent but not To Hold, will be published in 2020 by Polyversity Press.