Study Guide

Black Tickets

by Jayne Anne Phillips

Black Tickets Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The unnamed first-person narrator/protagonist tells this story in bits and pieces from a jail cell. The central fact of the story is his obsession with his recent girlfriend, Jamaica Delila, toward whom he has ambivalent feelings. He thinks she might have “set me up . . . to do lock-up in this cadillac of castles,” and he fantasizes about beating her. Even as he imagines her falling, however, he cannot help dwelling on the way her hair spreads out and her uplifted hands glow in the light. He dwells even longer on memories of their lovemaking in the bathtub, the boy’s shirts and underpants she wore, and the cartoon faces she drew on their legs with lipstick.

He also remembers her in the daytime, when, high on Benzedrine, she sold tickets at the Obelisk, a run-down pornography theater. There Jamaica entertained herself by staring at the rolls of tickets and, with an ink pen, drawing lines of tickets on her thighs. She also helped keep old Neinmann, the theater’s owner, in line so that she, the narrator, and Raymond could practice their drug trade on the premises: “At first it was sideline stuff, Nembies and speed balls, a little white stuff for the joy bangers who came downtown to cop.” They cut the speed with powder from the crumbling tiles of the bathroom floors and sold it to “silky Main Line debs reeling in their mommys’ sports cars.”

Appropriately, the three drug partners developed a close fellow-feeling for the “cinematic rodents” that overran the building. The narrator also misses “reptilian Raymond,” a hunchback like Quasimodo and a self-described “nice Jewish boy, doing his bit for reverse reparations” by helping Neinmann, “that old storm trooper,” save money to return to Germany....

(The entire section is 713 words.)