You ask Slick about his demons, about his problems with alcohol and crack. He says, "The biggest demon I had was Pokey's mother's family. They was always in my way. We'd have a picnic, they'd have to come. We'd move somewhere, they'd have to move in with us. I says to Clara, 'Why can't it just be me and you and the kids?' But, no. That's what they call the Arthurtown pull. So I'd come and go, leave when I couldn't take it no more, come back when I thought I could.
"I don't consider myself an alcoholic. But I shouldn't drink. When I was drinking a lot, it was like it had no effect on me. The boys I be drinking with would say, 'Damn, what's the matter with you? You be drinking and drinking and you ain't getting high.' The drugs started right around the time Pokey signed. I went from a real big high to a real big low. I was looking to fill that void. I never could."
You ask Slick when was the last time he did crack. "I've had four or five relapses since I left Columbia," he says. "Nine months ago I bought a twenty and smoked it. The next morning I regretted it. That's the last one I did."
You ask Slick why he left Columbia and why he fell out of touch with his children. "I was marrying again, and I didn't think Pokey and Peaches would accept it," he says. "I was trying to be straight when we left Columbia, but things didn't go good when we came to Charleston—living like we was, messing with drugs again, no car, no telephone, this six-dollar-an-hour job. My pride took a beating. I wanted Pokey and Peaches to see me when I had turned things around. But Charleston has been like a trap for me."
You ask Slick if he knows about Peaches' pregnancy or Pokey's pierced tongue. He doesn't. The news doesn't please him. But a moment later he perks up. "You see?" he says. "They need their father!"
The next day Slick called Pokey, collect. The father and the son spoke for the first time in 15 months. Pokey invited Slick to move to Cincinnati and live with him. Fly wired money to Slick for bus fare.
Two days later, on May 15, Slick boarded a Greyhound bus at 2 p.m. in North Charleston. He arrived in Cincinnati 10� hours later. Fly picked him up at the bus station and took him to Pokey's condo. At 2:30 p.m. Pokey woke up, got dressed, saw his father, gave him a hug, took him out for a meal. That night Slick was in a field-level seat at Cinergy Field, behind home plate. Pokey had a hit and drove in two runs. The Reds won. His father would attend every game of the home stand.
Slick, by the way, left North Charleston without telling his wife or his boss that he was leaving or where he was going. On the other hand, Slick told Pokey that he would never desert him again. He has not missed a home game in Cincinnati since. Slick calls you on the phone and says, "I'm going to be a father to Pokey now. Teach him how to be a father, too."