Let’s face it, the holidays are a miserable time of year for many people. Writers have mined this fact for pathos and much dark humor in stories featuring low-rent mall Santas, squabbling family dinners, inept home invaders, and King of the Hill’s resident sad sack, Bill Dauterive. Most narratives of unhappy holidays end with some kind of redemption—someone discovers a Christmas miracle, the real Santa shows up, the Grinch’s heart grows to nearly bursting from his chest, Ebenezer Scrooge repents….
What if the redemption is one down-and-out junky sharing his only fix with a man suffering from kidney stones—that is, after the junky spends the day trying to steal enough to buy heroin, finds a suitcase containing two severed human legs, and finally scores a little morphine by goldbricking at a crooked doctor’s house? That’s the plot of William S. Burroughs’ story “The Junky’s Christmas,” which appeared in the 1989 collection Interzone and thereafter achieved some notoriety in two adaptations from 1993.