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I've been all over the place lately. At the beginning of the summer I was plowing through the Needles, Names, and Numbers drafts, ultima...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Curse of the Stolen Mushrooms

 “Oh, dude!!! Duuuude….” Matt begins, his black eyes wide, straining to get the brilliant observation in his head down to his mouth to share with the world. I smile and stare down at the breathing grass in front of me. I wanna laugh, but this is Matt’s first trip, and I don’t want to send him in the wrong direction.

“Hahahaha, fuck, dude! Fuck! I completely forgot what I was gonna say!” Matt says.

“Hahaha, don’t worry about it man, it happens to everybody. I’ve started like a million sentences tripping and only finished like 10 of ‘em.” I tell him.

“Hahahahaha! Wow, dude… This is… This is really fuckin’ crazy, dude.”

“In a good way, right?”

“Oh yeah…”

The sky looks like an old screensaver, clouds slowly rolling through a backdrop that shifts slowly from pink, to blue, and back again.

Wow, man. Today has been fuckin’ weird….

“Yooo! Harry! I got shrooms, you tryna trip today?!?” Chris said as soon as I picked up the phone.

“Uhhh… Yeah! Fuck it, I’m down. $35 an eighth?” I asked.

“Word! So can we come scoop you in like ten minutes?”

“Yeah. But yo, how much for an 8th? I might have to go to an ATM and get the cash.”

“Oh, dude, fuck that, you’re good. It’s kind of a long story but I stole two zips from this kid’s dorm room when I was visiting my boy at UNH last night. So now I’m tripping everybody up and you just snagged the last spot in the whip.”

“Huh. Well thanks, man. Just text me when you’re at my house.”

That was two hours ago?! Shit, man…

Now I’m sitting on top of a big hill laughing at grass and talking about something I can’t quite remember but I’m sure was deep and very insightful…

“Yo…” Matt says, extending a packed bowl to me.

“Thanks man...” I reply.

After three nice rips from Matt’s bowl I’m feeling pretty god damn great. I zone out and look at the sky again until I realize there’s three other people here who have never tripped before. I turn around and see Nate and… Fuck. I think her name is Christine? Or was it Leandra? Who would even mix up those names? Well whatever the fuck her name is, she’s laughing, Nate’s laughing, all is right with the cosmos...

“You guys want some of this?” Matt calls to them.

Nate and whatsherface join us in the rotation. I wasn’t sure how it would be to trip with three people I’ve never met before, but so far so good.  It’s mid-September, there’s clear skies, the weather’s perfect, makes me wonder if Chris checked the weather before he stole these…

“What do you guys think? Pretty fuckin’ cool, right?” I ask them.

Everyone nods, laughs, and says “Yeah.”

“The sky looks so fuckin’ crazy right now…” Nate says.

“Dude I know… It’s so weird because like, other people told me you can’t even like… Put this shit 
into words. And like… That’s so true…” Matt says.

“Yeah…” Whatsherface says.

“Thank you, Chris…” I mumble to myself, which reminds me…

“Yo, where’d Chris go?” I ask.

“He probably went to take a piss down the trail or something.” Nate suggests.

“Yo, Chris!!” Nate shouts towards the trail at the bottom of the hill.
Silence. Of course the one kid here that I actually know wandered off. On shrooms. In a state park with plenty of rocks to slip on and heights to jump from. Oh fuck me, this is just an urban myth waiting to happen…

Slow footsteps from down the trail snap me out of yet another retarded day dream as Chris emerges from the wilderness and joins us on the hill. Immediately I can tell he’s not having a good time. I don’t wanna ask him if he’s alright and make him think he’s not alright and accidentally send him further into whatever it is he’s caught up in right now.

“What, were you taking a piss?” Nate asks him.

“Nah, I uhh… I dunno… I had to throw up….” Chris replies, aiming his empty stare at the grass in front of him.

“You hot? You want some water, man?” I offer.

I give Chris one of my obnoxiously large 711 water bottles and he drains half of it before he tries to hand it back to me.

“I got another one, dude. You can keep it. Anyone else need water?”

“No.”

“Nope.”

“No thanks dude. I like that you’re like… Prepared, though. You seem like you know what you’re doing with this shit.” Matt says.

“All I know is that these things make me sweat balls.” I reply.

“No shit, huh?” Nate says, wiping his forehead.

“Everything OK, Chris?” Matt asks.

“The ground is like… Snakes…” He mumbles back. He’s got his knees to his chest He’s got his arms crossed on his knees and rests his head on top of them. I don’t think he’s blinked once since he got up to the hill.

“There’s no snakes here, dude. You’re just tripping, everything’s fine. Here, smoke some weed.” Matt says.

“Yo, why’d you take off your shirt? You get puke on it?” Nate asks Chris.

“No, I was just… Wicked fuckin’ hot, dude.” Chris replies. He takes a couple of rips off Matt’s bowl and puts his t-shirt back on over his beater. He’s still got that vacant, confused look on his face as he resumes his catatonic state. Watching Matt study his behavior while tripping too hard to address it in a constructive manner is pretty funny. I try to stifle my laughter which is hard enough for me in real life, let alone on a drug that makes literally everything hilarious.

“Kid’s cracking up over here.” Nate says.

“I don’t even know what the fuck I’m laughing at, ahhahaa..” I lie.

“I don’t know how you’re able to text right now, Kim.” Nate says to Whatsherface.

Kim? Fuck, I was way off. That doesn’t even sound like… Whatever I said her names were earlier…

“Neither do I… There! Finally.” Kim puts her phone back into her pocket and lights a cigarette.

“So would you guys wanna go walk around a little more…” Matt says when suddenly Chris jumps to his feet and walks over to a corner to puke again.

Matt mouths the words “Yikes! Guess that’s a no…” as he puts his weed back into his bag. It catches me off guard and I snap back into “Don’t laugh” mode. I look up to the sky to enjoy the view. As long as no dick shaped clouds float by I should retain my composure.

But of course, my fucking brain has other plans.

Inside my skull a projection reel is pulled down and a movie begins to play. Wait, not a movie, a memory. I’m suddenly in 7th grade again, Catholic school uniform and all. I’m in a packed auditorium, seated in alphabetical order next to Tim Matthews, one of the funniest kids in the class. As I look around at all the creepy decorations I realize I’m at a Lent assembly. Lent is a Catholic tradition in which you pick something you love and deprive yourself of it for 40 days and 40 nights because if Jesus is gonna get crucified nobody’s allowed to be in a good mood. You’re not allowed to eat meat that isn’t fish on Friday either, or it’s seven years bad luck. Our frigid bitch of a teacher Mrs. Carlisle sits behind Tim and I, mostly because of Tim.

We stand up for some reason. A short, fat, goofy looking Chinese 3rd grader with coke bottle glasses comes bobbling out onto the stage. I try and stare straight ahead, but in my peripheral I can see Tim’s face turn towards me, smiling and beet red from suppressing the millions of cruel jokes flowing through his head.

Don’t look, don’t look, don’t look... You suck at not laughing when you start laughing…

As the kid takes the podium and begins reading into the microphone it is revealed that he has a severe speech impediment and stutter. There’s no way the teacher didn’t pick him on purpose, no fucking way. I hear a noise to my right that sounds like someone blowing their nose as Tim finally breaks down into hysterical laughter.

“Don’t even think about it, Harry.” I hear Mrs. Carlisle growl behind me. But Tim has set off a chain reaction, and everyone joins in…

“You got a lighter, dude?” Matt asks, bringing me back to reality.

“Huhuh, oh, yeah, sorry…” I reply.

“Yo, Matt, would you be alright with bringing me home?” Chris asks.

“Are you ready to go home right now, dude?” Nate asks.

“Yeah dude I feel like shit. I’m fuckin’ tripping balls and my stomachs killing me… I didn’t wanna fuck it up for you guys but…”

“It’s OK, I was gonna ask Matt to drop me off at Alyssa’s house soon anyway.” Kim says.

Oh fuck…

“You guys are all tryna dip, huh?” Matt asks.

“Well if they wanna go you can drop me off at Danny Dank’s. I am not tryna talk to my parents right now, hahaha.” Nate says.

“What about you, Harry?” Matt asks.

“If you’re sure you’re good to drive…” I say as a last resort.

Matt thinks for a moment. “Yeah, I think I can pull it off.”

“Buckle up boys and girls…” Nate says as we walk down the hill.

I am in no condition to talk to my parents right now, so I frantically text Jack from the cramped back seat of Matt’s car, begging him to chill with me until I come down. Then I remember he’s at work right now, and his boss is a real cocksucker about texting on the job. All my other friends are away at college. I could take the subway into the city to see my friend Vince, but holy shit would that be awkward. His dorm room is so cramped, especially when you factor in all the awkward tension that I’ll be bringing with me. And I guarantee his cunty roommate is gonna be there making passive aggressive remarks about my situation. I can just hear him now. With that awful nasally voice of his…

“Your friend stole mushrooms? Why are you even friends with someone like that?”

“You know you’re giving yourself food poisoning when you eat those, right?”

“How many fingers am I holding up?”

“Watch out! There’s a dragon behind you! No, really!”

“Oh, you’re majoring in English? I was gonna do that but I can already read and write sooo…”   

I blink the caricature of Vince’s roommate out of my head angrily. I’d rather my parents actually yell at me for being dumb and doing mushrooms than have Vince’s roommate do it with shitty jokes and what he thinks are thinly-veiled insults. I imagine him clumsily trying to get out of his top bunk bed to take a piss at night and cracking the back of his head open on the corner of a bureau while Vince snores so obnoxiously that it drowns out his cries for help. I guess I’ll just get on the subway and wander around the city until I’m sober enough to face my Mom.

Is that fucked up? Who cares.

For a brief moment I forget about the horrific bus and train ride ahead of me and the eternity of aimless, paranoid, wandering to follow that. Laughing, I look out at the window while the sky is still impressive to me.

“Yo Harry, are we just dropping you off at your house?” Chris asks me.

“Yeah.” I reply.

“Alright, so we’ll drop you off last. Alyssa’s house is the closest, so we can drop Kim off first, then Nate…” Chris trails off as the mushrooms take hold again.

“It’d be quicker to do it Alyssa, Danny, Chris, and this kid, I’m sorry dude I forgot your name.” Nate says.

“Harry.” I reply.

“Uhhh… OK, but Danny and Alyssa aren’t here, so…” Matt says awkwardly.

“DUDE YOU GOT A RED LIGHT...” Nate shouts. Matt screeches on the breaks and we stop halfway into a crosswalk.

“Kim is going to Alyssa’s house, and I’m going to Danny’s house. Remember?” Nate asks.

“Oh yeah, haha. Sorry…” Matt replies.

“Just try not to fuckin’ kill us and we’ll be cool.” Nate says.

We make it to Chris’ house and I hop up in the front seat. I struggle to read the bus schedule off of my phone as the text shifts and warps through my obnoxiously bright screen.

“Dude, I don’t know how he’s gonna go talk to his parents right now. Like I know he was sick or whatever, but I didn’t expect everyone to just dip after like two hours, y’know? I’m still tripping pretty hard. I mean it’s like more controllable now, but I wish we coulda stayed out there and really enjoyed it, y’know?” Matt says.

“Me too, dude. Any time I trip it’s like an all-day thing for me. Who the fuck does mushrooms for like two hours and then goes to hang out with normal people? That’d be so awkward…” I reply.

“So I’m just dropping you off to your parents right now? You’re more than welcome to chill with me, dude. We can go chill at my buddy Mark’s house. He was looking for a bag from me earlier anyway. He trips a lot too so it won’t be weird haha.”

“Yeah, sure, I’m down.”

“Cool. Let me just call Mark…”

Surprisingly, the addition of a phone call does little to improve Matt’s driving performance. Never one to quit, he calls his friend three times before giving up.

“Fuck it, dude. We can just go to his house, it’s Sunday, he’s not working.” Matt says with a surprising level of confidence.

“OK.” I reply.

“Yo, so why do you think Chris had such a bad trip? I could tell dude, it was way more than just his stomach. He smoked way too much of my weed to have a fuckin’ stomach ache.”

“Well it’s hard to say ‘cause I barely know Chris. I mean we’re cool and we talk at work but the only times I’ve ever hung out with him outside of work is to split a bag and smoke a blunt. He might not have been ready for it. If you’re going through shit in your life or you’re depressed the last thing you wanna do is trip off anything. Shrooms especially. My guess would be he underestimated them and tried to fight the trip. That’s like the worst thing you can do.”

“Yeah I was hoping to like, learn something from it. But so much for that… Alright this is his street…”

Mark’s driveway is deserted and he’s yet to return any of Matt’s calls. He calls him again and it doesn’t even ring. I couldn’t give a shit either way. I’m just trying to kill time.

“Fuck, dude. Sorry. I can’t just sit out in his driveway, you know?” Matt says.

“No big deal.” I reply.

“There is one other place we can chill…” Matt says ominously as we pull out of Mark’s driveway.

Matt brings me to a town I had heard many a racist joke about from my uncle. The shrooms make this gloomy neighborhood even drearier as we pass Rottweilers and overgrown lawn after overgrown lawn. We pull into the driveway of what appears to be a haunted house, complete with castle-esque design and a creepy rusted swing set in the backyard that I guarantee can move by itself. Matt waves and smiles up at a girl sitting in the second floor window smoking a cigarette. It’s difficult for me to see, but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t wave or smile back. The way she’s smoking that cigarette, glaring down at us with her head on her hand, ashing rather aggressively, gives no indication that she’s happy to see either of us.

“This is my girlfriend’s house, her name’s Heleen. Like Helen and Eileen together.” Matt says as he opens a broken screen door and an arguably broken regular door that uses shoulders instead of keys. The kitchen is dingy and the counter is completely covered in random shit. Nothing edible, though. The shrooms make me feel like I’m exploring an abandoned home in one of the Fallout games. Matt leads me to the living room, which isn’t as dirty or creepy as the kitchen, but equally depressing. There’s furniture but it’s dusty and old, leading me to wonder what tragedy befell the previous tenants that left it in control of two 18 year olds.

We go upstairs, which appears to be under construction. There’s two bedrooms with doors halfway open, both pitch black inside. I’m ready for Matt to say “Hey gang, let’s split up and search for clues.” When he opens the door to his girlfriend’s room.

Oh, fuck, light! I remember light!

I squint as I step into the bedroom. Immediately I’m overwhelmed. There is shit written and drawn all over the walls, which are painted green. Shit is chaotically strewn around a mattress on the floor. It’s like Matt’s girlfriend was possessed and they locked her in here while they called a priest. There’s gotta be at least one Exorcist reference among the hate speech, inside jokes, and lewd doodles that decorate the walls. It’s like she bought a roll of “dive bar men’s room stall” themed wall paper. I can’t help but get caught up in reading them all. I have so many questions. Like who really owns this place and where are they buried?

“Heleen, this is my friend Harry…” Matt says, his tone like that of a man trying to calm an angry pitbull.

“Hey, nice to meet you.” I say awkwardly.

Heleen ignores me and puts her cigarette out. The only chair in the room is the one she’s sitting in. She turns towards Matt, who doesn’t seem to share my nervousness, and kneels down by a bookcase to pack a dirty bong with weed. There’s a window to my left that I’m highly tempted to jump out of. If I die at least I’ll have other ghosts to chill with.

“You fucking tripped without me!?!?!” Heleen shouts abruptly.

Matt jumps and knocks over the bong he was packing. “Heleen!?! What the fuck!?!”

“WHAT THE FUCK!?? I SHOULD BE ASKIN’ YOU THE SAME QUESTION! YOU FUCKIN’ DID MUSHROOMS WITHOUT ME!?”

“Calm the fuck down, Jesus! You’re really gonna do this in front of my friend?”

“WHO’S FUCKIN HOUSE IS THIS, MATT, HUH!? I’LL DO WHATEVER THE FUCK I WANT.”

“Calm down, listen to me! I had no fucking idea I was even gonna be doing shrooms today until this morning, when you were at work. Chris Clinton ended up with a bunch of ‘em and he gave me a free 8th if I drove everybody. The car was full, you were at work, I wouldn’t even have money for shrooms anyway…”

“BULLSHIT! AND YOU TOOK ALL THE FUCKIN’ WEED WITH YOU, TOO. I WOULDVE PAID FOR SOME FOR US TO DO, YOU TOLD ME YOU’D DO THEM WITH ME. THEN I GOTTA COME HOME AND FIND OUT YOU’RE OUT THERE HIGH ON FUCKIN’ MUSHROOMS, WITHOUT ME, AND TO TOP IT ALL OFF, YOU WERE FUCKIN DRIVING?!!?”

“Baby, please stop yelling. I’m sorry. Chris has plenty more, I’ll buy some for us and we can do them together, just me and you. It actually kinda sucked, didn’t it Harry?”

“Yeah, it uh… They weren’t that good.” I say nervously.

“Oh, alright! Why didn’t ya just say so?! FUCK YOU, MATT! Ya use my house to sell weed, you come and go whenever the fuck you want, I’m so done with you and your fuckin’ bullshit…”

“Harry can you uh, wait outside for a second?” Matt says.

“Sure. Sorry…” I say, ready to run through the wall and leave my silhouette like a Loony Tunes character.

The door closes, but Heleen makes up for it by screaming even louder at Matt. I’m standing in this poorly lit leftover set piece from Trainspotting on mushrooms listening to a screaming match through a bedroom door. Boy oh boy, does this bring back memories. Me and my sister being shoo’d upstairs, nauseous and afraid, gathering ‘round the bannister to hear Mom and Dad do such classic duets as “YOU SAID YOU WERE OFF THAT SHIT”, “CUNT”, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT”, “SHUT THE FUCK UP BEFORE YOU WAKE THE KIDS”, and “FOR THE LAST FUCKING TIME, I HAVE A PRESCRIPTION FOR ALL OF THOSE!” Their voicebox sound system was so powerful I heard each one crystal clear through my bedroom door with a pillow over each ear. Every now and then the police would do back-up on “YOU’RE GONNA GET OUR FUCKIN’ DOOR KICKED IN DOIN’ THAT. THINK ABOUT THE FUCKIN’ KIDS!”  

Thanks mushrooms, I had almost forgotten about all that stuff. Funny how things come full circle, huh?

I rub my eyes and collect myself. You’re making something out of nothing. You gonna cry about that shit forever? How about you move on already? You’re on fuckin’ mushrooms, relax, it’s not even comparable to what…

Then, a beacon of hope.

“WELL THEN IF I’M SO FUCKIN’ RUDE, HOW’S THIS?! GET THAT FUCKIN KID OUTTA MY HOUSE.”

“Holy shit, alright!” Matt says as he shuts the door.

“Dude… I don’t even know what to say… She… Sorry you had to hear that. Let’s go.”

“It’s alright, man…” I lie as I walk down the stairs.

As we get into the kitchen we hear a door swing open upstairs.

“ARE YOU SERIOUSLY GONNA FUCKING DRIVE RIGHT NOW?!?!” Heleen screams 
downstairs before slamming the door.

“Just go, dude, I’m sorry…” Matt says as he opens the door.

“I feel so bad that you had to sit through that shit, dude, for real. She’s usually not like that, don’t take it personally. Here…” Matt says as he hands me a dub of weed.

“You sure? I got a $20 I can give you.” I reply.

“Yeah dude, take it.”

“Thanks man, I appreciate it.”

“No problem. We should trip for real sometime. And if you like that bud I got plenty more, take down my number…”

“Alright, word. I’ll definitely be hitting you up then, man. Thanks for ride.”


“No problem man, peace.” 

I sit at my desk and listen to music. A letter from my father from prison sits at the far end of my desk, where it's been for weeks now. I don't know why I can't throw it away. I don't know why I can't read it. 

"Fuck it..." I whisper, and cover it with a magazine.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Miller Time

This was gonna go in NNN but I didn't think it was good enough to make the cut. Enjoy!

My burner rings. New message from Mark: “Pullin in now.” Looking down the aisles, it seems as though the coast is clear. Then, as I turn the corner to the front door, I hear it…

“Miller time!”

I roll my eyes and ignore it as I step out of the building. A black sedan waits for me out front. I hop in the back seat. Mark sits in the passenger seat. A stranger is driving. “Alright if I smoke in here?” I ask the stranger. “Yeah dude, I don’t give a fuck. I’m Seth, nice to meet you. Mark told me you were the plug for L around here.” Seth extends his hand to me. He’s fat, wearing a tank top and sporting a backwards new era on his head. I dap him up.

“He told you right, brotha. You wanted two sheets, correct?” I ask him.

“Yes sir. It’s all there.”

Seth slides me a thick wad of Jacksons laced with a couple of Benji’s over the center console while he drives. “He’s good, he wouldn’t fuck ya, I promise.” Mark says to me, peering at me through the rearview mirror. “I know, I know. I just gotta count. Human error, y’know?” I count the bills out quickly. They total to $800, and I slide two sheets over Seth’s center console. We circle the parking lot and Seth drops me back off. “I’ll see you boys later. Mark, give him my number if he doesn’t have it already.” “Alright, thanks kid. I’ll have the rest of that money for ya tomorrow. Peace.” He replies.

I smoke the rest of my cigarette and walk back inside. Shawn is sitting by the front end by the registers, waiting for me, grinning. “Miller time!” He says again, smiling and nudging me on the shoulder. I fake a smile and go about my business, resisting my instinctual urge to run my mouth back at him. Shawn is my new manager. Him and I don’t get along very well, mainly because of the many “smoke breaks” I take every shift, in which I not-so-discreetly sell drugs in the parking lot. In addition to that, I frequently show up to work high, and sometimes stinking of booze from the night before. I get my job done, but my methods are admittedly unorthodox.

Every other manager I’ve ever had left me alone. They never said shit to me as long as I kept it moving. Shawn is different; he’s had it out for me since he started here a month ago. He’s got quite the ego for a fat fuck 30something, barely a notch above me in the retail totem pole. I get it, too a degree. I’m far from a model employee. I understand why someone would suspend me, write me up, even fire me. But Shawn does none of these things. He clearly has a problem with the way I operate around here, but rather than take action, he chooses to express his anger in passive aggressive quips and bad jokes.

You know Miller beer? They have a commercial in which they say it’s “Miller time”, or time to kick back and enjoy a nice Miller, Miller Light, or Miller Highlife. My last name is Miller. Shawn made the incredibly witty and creative connection between my smoke/deal breaks and these commercials, hence him saying “Miller time!” Every time I walk out to have a smoke or make a deal.

I steer clear of Shawn for the most part. We have nothing in common. He’s one of those people that can’t just enjoy a good silence. His god damn mouth never closes, and he’s always blithering on and on about something, no matter how inane or boring it is. He takes jabs at me whenever he gets the chance to. I shrug it off for the most part, but when I’m hungover or feeling ballsy from stimulants, he becomes very grating. Though he is much bigger than me, there are days when I sure would like to hit him.

“Something botherin’ you, big guy? Did I say something to make you angry?” Shawn asks me as I straighten out the aisles.

“Huh? No, why would I be angry, Shawn?” I reply, feigning ignorance.

“Well, you’re just always so quiet, I just thought you might be mad at me or something. That ‘Miller 
Time’ shit doesn’t piss you off, right?”

“Huh? Oh, no! Absolutely not! I think it’s hilarious actually. It’s like, my last name is Miller, like the beer, and it’s Miller time, like the commercials! That’s good shit, haha!”  

“Hehe, I know right?! I knew you could take a joke. Speaking of jokes, you gotta be kidding me with your schedule, right?” Shawn asks.

 I shake my head. “Nope. I can only work Monday to Friday afternoon now.”

“I see. Well, if you’re gonna keep being difficult like this I can’t guarantee you get your hours every week.”

I shrug and smile. “Do what you gotta do, Shawn.”

“What do you do on the weekends, anyway? Besides getting stoned.”  

“I actually got a job as a club promoter.”

“Oh yeah? What do you do?”

“I hand out flyers, send invites, write promotional pieces. Stuff like that.”

“What’s that pay?”

“I do OK.”

“Yeah, you must, since you don’t seem to give a shit when you’re here.”

I roll my eyes, sigh, and open my mouth when he cuts me off.

“I’m just joking, guy! Relax! Miller time!”

Shawn pats me on the back and walks off.

“Fat fuck…” I mumble my breath.

After taxes, I barely clear $400 a week. I made twice that much today in just five minutes. If it wasn’t for direct deposit, I’d probably forget to pick my check up every Thursday. I hustle all week, selling weed, Molly, and tabs to my customers and co-workers. Then I hit the club every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and make a couple hundred off Molly sales. I’ve only been at it for three months and I’ve already put away a few grand.

Shawn cut my Friday hours. I don’t give a shit. All it did was give me an early start on my drinking. As much as I knock it, this job certainly has its uses. It provides a nice paper trail, as I use cash for all purchases and pay bills with the checks that pile up in my account. It’s also remarkably easy, even when I’m hungover, stoned, or both. When I’m on second shift I spend most of my time slacking off in the relatively-empty store, making plays in the parking lot and dicking around on my phone in the breakroom in my down time.

Wilson’s is a small, family-owned chain of pharmacy/grocery stores. Most of their clientele are old people. They shuffle around the store complaining and leaning on their carts like walkers. The pharmacy has a constant line of white-headed angry bags of bones blithering on and on about the litany of meds their doctors pump into them to keep them alive longer than human beings probably should be. It’s not uncommon for one of these old geezers to drop right there in the store and require an ambulance.

Yoplait yogurt is on sale this week. We carry a shitload of different flavors and styles, and people tend to buy it in bulk. As I stock the shelf, I can sense one of the fossils shuffling toward me, jaw agape, weakly pulling oxygen into her skeletal frame. Behind me is a large dolly holding several cases of yogurt. A delicately balanced tower of empty cases sits in front of it. This ancient nuisance could’ve gone around the dolly and gotten to the yogurt, but instead she plows by the tower of boxes, knocking it all over and letting out one of those weak, dry, old people gasps, once octave away from death. She scowls at me as if it’s my fault. I move out of the way and re-stack my cases while she stands in front of the yogurt, squinting through her coke bottle glasses. She stares at the selection for about five minutes before she finally extends one of her awful, warped, shaky, arthritic talons out and picks up a cherry yogurt. She brings it a half inch from her eye and reads the nutrition facts at a rate of two words per minute. A few people come up and stand around, waiting patiently for their chance to get within 500 feet of the yogurt. She finally picks up a stack of three yogurts and shuffles over to her cart and puts them in. As another woman swoops in for her turn, she shuffles briskly back over and restarts this whole Hellish cycle again. She scowls at us all as she finally scuffles away. “Cunt.” I mumble back as I tear a case open.

“Yo yo!” I hear someone say as I bring my empty cases to the back room. It’s my buddy Jimmy. Jimmy’s a few years older than me and shares my love for stimulants. For a while it was Adderall, then Vyvanse, but lately we’ve both been doing a lot of blow. “What’s good?” I ask Jimmy as we enter the back room. We look around to ensure nobody’s eavesdropping as I start tossing my trash down the chute.

“You closing tonight?” Jimmy asks me.

“I’m working ‘till eight, so yeah, basically.” I reply.

“When you going on break?”

“Whenever the fuck I want, haha. Why? Whatcha got?”

“Dude… I got a new connect the other day that gets some of the best shit I ever had. I’m about to go out to my car for break, meet me out there.”

“Word.

I toss my trash and head outside to meet James. “Miller time!” I hear Shawn shout as I pass him. I just keep walking. Jimmy and Middle Man Mike are sitting in the front of Jimmy’s car. “Fuck, Mike’s here too?! Now it’s a party…” I say as I get inside. “What’s good?” Middle Man Mike asks. Jimmy pulls a CD from his visor and puts it on the center console. He pulls a bag from his pocket and holds it up for me and Middle Man Mike to see. Inside are three rock-like chunks of cocaine, one big and the other two small. “There’s like a gram and a half in there, but check it out. Straight rock, dude. It’s fuckin’ fire. You’ll see.” Jimmy says. He takes a 20 dollar bill and folds it the long way, then puts one of the small rocks in the crease. He flattens the bill and uses a lighter to crush it all up into snortable powder. The stuff is shiny, a good sign. The rock breaks up into a pretty decent pile of coke that Jimmy delicately chops into three good sized lines. Middle Man Mike goes first, then me, then Jimmy. I tilt my head back and take a few good whiffs as it hits me. Instant stimulation and euphoria, confidence, alertness, but without the tweaky, heart-racing feel of shitty street coke. This shit is fire, no doubt about it.

“Yo, this is fuckin’ good…” I say, lighting a cigarette.

“Yeah, yeah, it is. You got an extra butt, Harry?” Middle Man Mike asks.

“See, dude? What did I tell ya? I’ll chop up a couple more for us.” Jimmy says.

I give Middle Man Mike a cigarette.

“Thanks, dude. Miller time!” He says, grinning at me.

“Shawn’s such a fucking douche, I can’t stand him.” I reply.

We all do another round of lines. I’m much more motivated now.

“Alright, if you guys want more you’re gonna have to throw in.” Jimmy says as wipes off the CD.

“I’m straight.”  Middle Man Mike says.

“I’ll throw down, I got cash.” I say.

“What’re you doing tonight Harry?” Jimmy asks.

“I got nothin’ going on.”

“You wanna hit the bar or something? Maybe I can introduce you to my guy. He’s looking for new customers.” Jimmy says.

“Yeah, man. I’m down.” I reply.

I toss Jimmy 40 bucks and we meet in the back cooler periodically to do more blow. At eight o’clock I leave, agreeing to meet up with Jimmy in an hour when he gets off. I drop my car off at his place and we take his car to a dive bar across town. Jimmy sips a McDonald’s cup full of Vodka and Mountain Dew as we drive. “Yo, you want any Valium?” He asks me, out of the blue. My ears perk up at the very mention of the V word. I can’t pull my wallet out quickly enough. “Whatcha got, how much you want for ‘em?” I ask. “I get ‘em free, this girl I been seeing hands ‘em out like fuckin’ candy. She’s got a script, I guess. I’ll just give you a couple, I don’t like downers. I wanna stay up, y’know?” Jimmy says. I open my mouth to tell Jimmy how clutch Valium and other benzos are when you’re coming off a stimulant binge, but I hold my tongue, as I want as much free Valium as I can get. As we park on the street he pops open his glove box and gives me the bag with five 10mg Valiums inside. It’s gonna be a good night.

“My fuckin’ job at the plumber’s union just picked up again, fuckin’ finally…” Jimmy says to me as we sit down.

“Word, so no more Wilson’s?” I ask him.

“Nah, nah, I’m gonna stay. I’m thinkin’ I’ll just do a couple part time night shifts during the week. Like five or six to nine or something. It’s an easy check, y’know?”

“Yeah, I hear ya.”

“How’s your thing going?”

“Good, good. I’ve thought about expanding into this shit we got now, but I don’t think I trust myself, know what I’m saying?” I say, tapping my nose with my finger.

“Hahaha, me neither dude. The shit would be gone before I could sell it. Speakin’ of which, let’s go to the bathroom, huh?”

Jimmy hands me the bag from underneath the neighboring stall and I do a couple of big bumps. Thoroughly energized, I make a beeline out of there. All I can think about is the Jack and coke waiting for me back at the booth. I realize Jimmy isn’t behind me and I turn around. He’s having a tense conversation with some Puerto Rican chick. I sip my drink as I study them, the Puerto Rican chick growing more and more agitated with Jimmy as she pokes her long Latina fingernails into his button-down shirt. Jimmy grabs her hand and pulls it away from him, prompting one of the girl’s friends to get into the fray. “LET GO OF ME!” The girl shrieks. Jimmy, seething with rage, stares her in the eyes for a few seconds before letting go. Some guy intervenes and tries to play Captain Save-A-Ho before Jimmy marches back to the booth.

“Who the fuck was that?” I ask.

“My fuckin’ ex, dude. Cunt…” He says, chugging his drink. He snorts deeply and winces a bit as the drip slides down his throat.

“You wanna go somewhere else?”

“Huh? Nah, nah, fuck that. I’m not leaving just because she’s here.”

“Ok. I’m gonna grab another drink. You want one?”

“Yeah. Get me another Bud.”

I already tipped well on my first drink, so the bar comes right over as soon as he sees my face.
“Jameson and coke and a Budweisser please.” I say, handing him a $20. I sniff and snort as I stand there, the drip seeming to go on forever. I can see my reflection in a piece of glass over the bar. There’s a fairly noticeable spot of powder in my mustache. Fuck! I wipe it with my finger and look back at Jimmy, who is sitting catatonic at the booth, giving a mean death stare to his ex across the bar. I look over at her and find she’s already studying me. She probably saw me wipe my nose. I keep my eyes low and drum my fingers on the bar as I wait for my drink.

When I turn around again I find the booth empty. Jimmy must’ve gone back to do more coke, fucker. I slurp my drink down and he comes back a few minutes later, clearly yacked the fuck out. Gnashing his teeth into his gums, he picks up his Budweisser with shaky hands, draining most of it in a few big gulps.

“Yo, can I get that?” I ask him.

“It’s all gone.”

“All gone?”

“Yup.”

Jimmy pounds the rest of his beer and marches back up to the bar. He’s giving his ex the stink eye the whole time. I don’t know how much coke was left in that bag exactly, but it was quite a bit. I don’t like where this is going. I down my drink and discreetly slip my Valium into my sock. Jimmy comes back to the booth with drinks for each of us.

“Why the fuck does she have to be here, dude?!” Jimmy asks through gritted teeth.

“We can go somewhere else, dude. There’s that fuckin’ sports bar a block away…” I reply.

“Why should I have to fuckin’ leave?! We were here first. She probably heard I was here and just showed up to start shit...”

Jimmy gets louder as the coke and booze take over. I take a deep breath and just keep drinking. 

Jimmy’s ex continues to scowl at him as he scowls right back. Jimmy’s ex’s friend catches her attention and says something that convinces her to leave. She gives Jimmy the finger as she leaves.
“Fucking cunt.” Jimmy mumbles. His mood seems to improve after another round. Suddenly, I feel a burn in my stomach, which I just remembered is empty besides all the booze. The alcohol quickly overpowers my fading coke high and I begin to fiend.

“Yo, you really killed that bag, huh?” I ask Jimmy.

“Yeah. She fuckin’ set me off, I thought I fuckin’ OD’d or something at first, dude. I just dumped the whole fuckin’ thing out on my phone and blew it, haha. My fuckin’ chest was going and everything…” He replies.

“You wanna go in on some more?”

“Yeah, yeah, definitely. Let’s close the tab and I’ll call him.”

I slam a shot of Jameson and we close our tab. Jimmy has his phone pinned between his ear and shoulder as he drinks and drives. “By the way, the least this guy will do is a ball. You wanna just split one?” He asks. “Yeah, sure.” I reply. After much swearing and re-trying, his dealer finally answers. “Yo! What’s good, dude? Nothin. Listen, I need a ball, you good? Alright, yeah, I’ll come through. But yo, could you bag it up separately? I’m splitting it with my boy. I dunno, you don’t have a fuckin’ calculator on your phone? Alright, alright. See you in a few.”

“He’ll do it for 180. You need to hit an ATM?” Jimmy asks me. “Nah, I got it.” I reply. I take a deep breath and rub my thighs as we drive. I light a cigarette in a futile attempt to even out all the whiskey rotting away my stomach lining. “C’mon, mothafucka!!!” Jimmy shouts as we drive, stuck behind someone trying to make a left turn. He punches the steering wheel and mumbles to himself. “Fuck this shit…” He says, throwing it in reverse and aggressively going around them. I don’t say anything and just put on my seatbelt. I don’t wanna poke the bear.

“Yo. This kid is usually chill, but sometimes he can get a little paranoid. He’s got a bunch of warrants and he sounds like he’s been up for a while. We’ll probably be in and out, just let me do the talking.” Jimmy says as we pull into the driveway of a two family home. Jimmy calls his connect and lets him know we’re there. Jimmy leads me to the side of the house. We climb up a small set of stairs and knock on the door. I notice a camera looking down at us on the porch connected to a wire that snakes through a small notch-hole at the top of the door. Looks like this guy doesn’t fuck around.

We hear a deadbolt unlock and the door opens a crack, the chain lock still connected. Jimmy’s connect peers out through the crack. “What’s good?” He asks, his voice deep and gruff. He undoes the chain lock and lets us in. “This is my buddy Harry.” Jimmy says as step inside. “I’m Danny.” The connect says as I dap him up. Danny is a fucking monster, a good three inches taller than me and jacked. A backwards New Era sits on top of his meaty, square shaped head. He wears a Celtics jersey and his arms are covered in tattoos. We stumble through his poorly lit home as he leads us through a cluttered kitchen and hallway. “Watch the wires.” Danny says as we walk. The front door camera wire snakes up walls and through ceilings, comes down and goes under the living room carpet and comes back up, connecting to a laptop that sits on Danny’s coffee table. A flat screen TV is mounted to the wall of the living room playing a random Seinfeld episode. It’s the only source of light in the room. I can see the surveillance setup Danny has going on his laptop screen. It’s black and white but the picture quality is crystal clear. I can clearly see Jimmy’s car parked out front. The screen is split, showing another display from what I assume is another camera. It provides a nice view of the street leading to the house. Jimmy and I take a couch. Before Danny sits down he pulls a pistol from the back of his waistband and clicks the safety back on before putting it down on the table. Danny looks up at the TV and smiles. “It’s the one where Kramer hits the fuckin’ whale with the golf ball.” He says. He watches the TV attentively, rubbing his hands together and licking his lips like, well, a coke head. As we sit in silence Jimmy grows impatient. “Yo! What the fuck?” He asks, motioning his hands towards the table.

“Sorry. You guys wanted a ball, right?” Danny asks us.

“You haven’t bagged it up yet?!” Jimmy asks him.

“I got a little sidetracked. Calm the fuck down, will ya?” Danny says.

“Do ‘em separately. That’s, uh… 1.75 each. You got that dough, Harry?” Jimmy asks me.

“Yeah.” I hand Jimmy my cash.

Danny counts out the money and turns his attention to a massive chunk of coke. It looks like the corner piece of a brick. He puts it on a plastic place mat, picks up a hammer, and smashes off a smaller piece. He licks the coke residue off the hammer and uses a razor blade to cut himself a massive line. “Fuckin’ re-rock…” He grumbles as he gulps down the drip. He whacks the corner piece again, picks up a small rock, and tosses it on his scale. It reads 2.12 grams. He grabs a new rock and tosses it onto the scale. It reads 1.8 “Fuck it, close enough.” He says. He grabs a sandwich bag and puts the rocks inside, holding the bag sideways so it all falls into the corner. He twists the corner up over and over, and ties it in a knot before ripping the corner off the bag. He then takes the other corner of the bag and re-wraps it with a second layer. The knotted bags of coke may be more inconvenient than standard ziplock bags, but they’re much easier to swallow if you run into the cops. He weighs another chunk out and it comes to 1.57. He tosses a few pebbles on and it comes to 1.78.

“There you go, man.” Danny says.

“Thanks.” I reply. Jimmy gets up to leave.

“Where the fuck you going?” Danny asks.

“We’re leaving, dude.” Jimmy says.

“Stick around for a while. I fuckin’ hate having people in and out all the time. It looks sketchy. You guys want a drink? Here…” Danny says. He pulls out a bottle of 151 from underneath the table and pours a little into a solo cup. He offers it to Jimmy first but Jimmy shakes his head.

“Are you shittin’ me? Fuckin’ 151, dude? Do you even have any coke to mix it with?” He asks Danny.

 Danny shakes his head. “Nah. I ran out. Help yourself, I don’t give a fuck.” He hands Jimmy a razor blade as Jimmy rolls up a 20.

“You want any… I forget your name already. Fuck.” Danny says, offering me a cup.

“No worries, it’s Harry. And yeah I’ll have some.” I tell Danny.

“Hahaha, alright! At least one of you’s got balls.” Danny says as he pours me a drink.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m a pussy ‘cause I’m not a fuckin’ alcy like you.” Jimmy says sarcastically.

The smell of the 151 in my cup burns my nose even as I hold it in my lap. I take a deep breath, hold it, and take the drink down in one go. The burning is intense, even for a drunk like me. I slam my fist against my chest and swallow, swallow, swallow, the geyser of vomit I feel coming up in my stomach. I almost choke and gag, but I hold it down. “Jesus fuckin’ Christ, that’ll put some hair on your chest.” I gasp. Danny downs his with little more than a slight wince. I rack myself up a line to even out. Jimmy seems content with staying here for a while provided there’s free coke. Geeked and drunk, my eyes dart around the room. I feel like I really shouldn’t get too fucked up here. Danny seems cool, but why the fuck doesn’t he get a lamp or something?

Danny does a line and picks up the pistol. He holds it pointed away from everybody, but it still makes me uncomfortable. I’ve never seen a dealer that really packs before. Danny frowns and then holds it out, closing his eye and pretending to aim at a shadow person across the room. My heart pounds even harder as I grip the couch cushion, unable to blink. He shakes his head and puts it back down.

“Y’know I hate having that fucking thing?” Danny says.

“Why? You kinda need it, don’tcha?” Jimmy says, pointing to the coke on the table.

Danny shakes his head. “I only got it after those fucking pussies set me up a couple months back.”

“Oh yeah, I remember you telling me about that…” Jimmy says.

“It wasn’t my biggest pickup but it still fuckin’ hurt. Pussies. Whatever happened to using your fucking hands like a man? Now I gotta carry this fucking thing around. You know what this is?!” Danny asks us.

“I dunno, it’s fucking pitch black in here.” Jimmy says, laughing.  

“Smart ass... All this thing can really do is get me more charges. I’m already looking at fuck knows how long for all my other shit. You can’t flush a fucking gun down the toilet…” Danny explains. He guzzles some more booze and does another line.

“You really think you’re quick enough to flush all this shit before they kick your door down?” Jimmy asks.

“Hopefully I’ll be outta here before that becomes a possibility…” Danny says.

“Where you gonna go?” Jimmy asks.

“Fucking anywhere but here, bro. I barely leave this place unless I’m going to meet somebody. I get fuckin’ cabin fever, y’know? And this shit don’t help…” Danny shakes his head and does another line.

“Weren’t you living in New Hampshire for a while? Why the fuck did you come back?” Jimmy asks.

“I didn’t fuckin’ want to! Believe me! But I was running outta money and the kid I was staying with got a new place with his girlfriend. Not many places are gonna rent to a convicted felon with no proof of income. Me and my brother had to pull some shady shit to get me this place.” Danny says.

“You really oughta just turn yourself in, dude. Or like, save up for a wicked good lawyer or somethin’.” Jimmy suggests.

“Pfft… No fuckin’ way. I mean, think about it, I’m a fugitive. They already got me for pushing coke, I got the drug and the fugitive task force lookin’ for me. No fucking lawyer can help me…”  Danny replies.

“So you’re just waiting for them to catch you?” Jimmy asks.

Danny shrugs. “Yeah. I got this place for another eight months unless they get me first. Then hopefully I’ll have enough loot saved up to get to a different state. Once I get outta here I should be golden, I just can’t come back. I got a friend that lives out in Cali that I could probably stay with. I dunno if he’s tryina harbor a fuckin’ fugitive though...”

“Sounds like you need a fuckin’ plane to Cuba or something dude, haha.” Danny says.

“I actually was looking on the darknet for fake passports and shit. I got a pretty good Cali ID from the Silk Road before it got shut down. I don’t trust the fuckin’ new sites they got now. Silk Road was already wicked shady.” Danny says.

“You got fuckin’ drugs shipped to your house and shit?!” Jimmy asks, stunned.

“I only ever got the ID. I got all the connects I need around here. But my boy was getting ounces of Molly through there for a while.” Danny replies.

“You need a connect for Acid? This kid pushes sheets of that shit.” Jimmy says, pointing his thumb at me. I laugh and nod.

“Haha, Acid?! Nah. I don’t fuck with that shit. I got too much shit going on to be tripping balls…” Danny says.

We hang out for a while watching TV until just after midnight. Danny wraps up the coke, leaving only a small pile for himself and cutting off the free samples. Jimmy takes the hint and we get up to leave. “Thanks dude, we gotta go.” He says.

“Alright. Remember, no getting high in my fucking driveway, I’m serious.” Danny says.

“Nice meeting you, man.” I say with a wave.

“He wasn’t that bad.” I say to Jimmy as we drive away. “That’s ‘cause we caught him on a good night. Every time I go over there he’s fuckin’ doing lines and drinking that 151, dude. One time I went over there and he wouldn’t serve me for a fucking hour. He kept thinking there was cops outside. He’d go to bag up my shit, right, and then he’d fucking stop and look out the window. Then he’d put all his shit away and tell me to pretend we’re just hanging out. He’d open the laptop, right, and he’d swear he was seeing cops coming down the street to kick his door in. I saw the screens, dude, and there was nothing there. He was outta his fuckin’ tree. And what the fuck was I gonna do, y’know? You saw how fucking big he was. I’ve seen him fight, dude, he’s a beast… But his coke is the best I’ve ever had. And if you catch him on a night like tonight he hooks you the fuck up.” Jimmy replies. “Yeah dude, after all these smokes and 151 my throat should be on fire. I don’t feel shit.”

Jimmy drops me off at 1 AM and I find myself faced with an important decision. This bag of coke is burning a hole in my pocket. It feels more like a chunk of drywall wrapped in plastic than the usual sacks of powder I get. I transfer the coke from the corner bag to one of my own small ziplock pill pouches, and put it in my desk drawer, opting to pop a Valium instead. Man, I fucking love Valium. Without it I’d be lying here in my bed, out of dopamine, unable to sleep and questioning every bad thing I’ve ever done in my life. I chug a few glasses of water, take the Valium, and get into bed. It isn’t long before my empty stomach breaks it down and it begins to unwind my entire body. My breathing slows, my muscles relax, and my feet and legs stop moving. My brain slows to a complete stop as my eyelids drift shut and I’m spared the crippling depression and regret that comes with a night on Cocaine.

I get up at 10:30 AM rejuvenated, blow my nose, and have some coke for breakfast. I arrive at work just before my shift starts at noon with some extra pep in my step. The Cocaine will provide me with the motivation I need to stay busy while Shawn closes the store tonight. A half hour into my shift Mark texts me saying he’s about to come through with some money he owes me. It’s too early for me to take a smoke break, and since he’s just dropping off some cash, I tell him to come in and give it to me.

“What’s up, kid?” Mark asks as he comes down my aisle. “Hey! What’s goin’ on, man?” I reply. As we dap each other up and Mark slides me my money I hear footsteps passing the end of the aisle. “Miller time!” Shawn shouts through cupped hands, pointing at an imaginary watch on his dumb fat wrist as he walks by. “The fuck was that about?” Mark asks me. “Nothing. You need help finding anything let me know.” I reply.

 After I dump my trash I run back to the cooler and shut the door. I take the wad of cash from my pocket and start counting it up. 400 even, just as Mark promised.

“Miller time…” I whisper to myself.