After about a month of making nearly daily stops at Bull’s house by myself I finally found my place at the round table. I really didn’t even expect to be that well accepted by this motley crew of dentally deficient deviants and morally compromised thirty-somethings. I didn’t expect to be accepted, but more than that… I never expected to become one of them. I still have all the teeth I was born with, but I certainly have skewed my view of right and wrong.
It was late on a Saturday evening… about an hour or so after the pharmacy’s closed near home, so my hustle was done and I needed to bring the loot to Bull. I knew he was the cook, but I never mentioned it. Up until this evening I had only shown up to drop off boxes of pills and pick up what was mine. Occasionally I would boost some lithium batteries for him or some muriatic acid, drain cleaner, aquarium air-hose, or whatever I thought would increase my usual half-gram per-box take. I never asked for anything. I just found the appropriate time to pass along the extra loot I had come across. The appropriate time to give Bull these extra goodies was always when he was walking to or leaving from the round table… alone.
When I walked into the house it was surprisingly quiet except for the huge television playing cartoons and Dayna sitting at the table alone, singing something country. I asked where Bull was to which Dayna responded sarcastically, “Hi Dayna, how’re ya doin’?”
“Sorry, D… I didn’t wanna be to presumptuous… Hows things?”
“I’m bored as fuck, and He wants to talk to you about the motorcycle. He said to send you his way if you showed up.”
“Well… which direction do you suppose I’d find him”
She yanked her thumb towards the back door and out into the vast expanse of outbuildings and scrap heaps.
“He’s out back in the shop. Did you bring any shit?”
“No dearie… that’s why I’m here.”
“Figures… get movin’ . He’s probably happy to see you.”
I had never really even ventured a curious stare into the land Bull occupied on most days. It scared the shit out of me quite honestly. In the dark it was even more twisted and bizarre. He had a pack of mangy dogs that kept the place free of unwanted varmints and curious passers-by. I had heard a rumor that he had come into some domesticated Lynx cats that he had released some years back, after they had outgrown his modest living arrangements and had started becoming aggressive with visitors to the house. I didn’t know if that was true, but on that cold, dark March night I wasn’t interested in determining the validity of it. So much about Bull was drug induced mysticism… and as far as I was concerned I wanted to keep it that way. I never called into question any of the lore I had heard directly from or about him. It was exciting to have a friend whom so many revered yet knew so little about.
I hesitantly wandered down the dark path which was illuminated with only one faint, willow-swallowed, dusk-till-dawn light. I could hear the sounds of conversation and low-playing heavy metal music. I followed the sound until I came to a garage with swing open doors. The doors were locked from the inside and all sound ceased when I pulled on the door the first time. The smell of ammonia and ether based engine-starting fluid was pungent and offensive, and now I heard whispering. Moments later I was startled by a booming voice only inches from where I stood on the other side of the door I had tried to open.
“Who’s out there?”
“It’s just me Bull… Dayna said to come find you. Is it a bad time?”
I could hear the sound of metal on metal and a latch being unhinged. The door opened and the chemical smells I had smelled before wafted out and hit me like a baseball bat in the chest. My eyes watered, my chest heaved and while I was coughing, Bull pulled me in by my hoodie and raised the front of it to cover my nose and mouth.
“Take it easy, take it easy, man… shallow breaths, and calm down,” as he patted my back. “E-Rock, throw me a wet towel.”
When the glaze cleared from my teary eyes, I watched a wringing-wet towel soar through the garage until it was picked from the air by Bull, who was simultaneously latching the door with a bungee cord, and twisting the excess water from the towel.
“Hold this over your air holes until you get used to it… if you get used to it.”
Bull strolled casually away from me towards a short little guy working on something in a large, plastic pitcher, situated in a crock pot full of steaming water. The fumes were noxious, but neither of these men seemed to be agitated at all. When I pulled the damp towel away from my face to test the air a second time, I yielded the same result as when the door first opened… my chest caved and a spasm of coughing and tears took my face and body full circle. The two simply looked over their shoulders at me, then back at each other and started laughing like two mad scientists. I smiled in spite of myself. While I knew my life and freedom were both potentially being jeopardized at that very moment, I had no fear of losing either. Bull had brought me into his clandestine laboratory.
I started to breathe a little easier and walked within eyeshot of the pitcher and crock pot. In front of the crock pot were 3 large glass jars covered with what looked like coffee filters and blue shop towels. When E-Rock noticed my approach he elbowed Bull in the ribs and jerked his thumb back towards me. Bull glanced over his shoulder, reached in the front pocket of his flannel work shirt and handed me a glass pipe and large sack of dope.
“Pack this up, go look at your motorcycle, and tell me what you see.”
I took his pipe and the dope, threw the towel previously covering my face up over a rail hanging from the ceiling, and walked back towards where I saw my motorcycle parked. I drew my breath slowly, but still struggled not to wheeze and cough. It didn’t seem to be bothering my two companions at all… My motorcycle landed in Bull’s garage as an attempt to get it fixed and stay ahead of owing Bull any money for the dope I had been consuming in larger and larger quantities since our friendship had blossomed. It was here on kind of a pawn-shop basis. He loved fixing vehicles, and I loved hanging out and smoking his shit… so to me it was a win-win.
The primary problem with my 1978 Honda Nighthawk (Hondamatic actually, I prided myself on this… most riders scoffed) was that it had spent an entire winter tipped on its side in the snow behind one of my sheds at home. It had been covered and tarped securely, but the kickstand had slipped off of the iron plate I left underneath, and the bikes weight sunk it into the mud and tipped it to its side. I didn’t realize this until spring, when all of the wiring on the side in the mud had been eaten by water and motorcycle fluids. I had always sucked at vehicle maintenance, and although I had a teardown manual for this particular bike I had absolutely no interest in attempting to fix it myself. I did however clean it thoroughly and offer it to Bull for an 8-ball, explaining the selling points of the collectible nature of this particular motorcycle being one of the few Hondamatics ever made, and its virtually unchanged appearance from the 1978 showroom models.
Bull had made a great deal of progress and had rewired the entire bike. When I turned the key the headlight appeared, shining unfortunately, directly onto Bull and E-rock hard at work on their alchemy.
“DON’T… push that start button,” boomed Bull.
“Okay, okay…” I flipped the key to the off position, effectively killing the spotlight I had illuminated my friends with. “It appears you got the electrical working again.” I straddled the bike and began loading the glass bulb with the crumbly, white powder. I put my legs up on the cruising pegs and leaned back on the bike and inhaled deeply from the smoking, melting puddle of dope I had generated in the glass pipe.
“It appears I did…” I heard Bull start to laugh, “Take a look at this motherfucker Eric. Kickin’ back and chillin’ out like he ain’t got a worry in the world. Sittin’ in a meth lab, no less.” E-rock glanced back and rolled his eyes and went back to pouring the bubbling liquid in the pitcher through the filters and into the first large glass jar. “Don’t you know you can go to prison for even watching me make this shit?”
“Sure… but if I was scared for one second that you were jeopardizing me without taking all the factors into account, then I would have turned around when I smelled the anhydrous outside of your garage.”
“How far out could you smell it?”
“Right when I was on the door.”
“Shit, I can’t even smell it from here anymore…”
“Smells like the sixth layer of hell… trust me.”
“You aren’t scared at all?”
“Do I need to be?”
“You oughtta be.”
“I guess I will be when the time is right for being scared. Right now I’m gettin’ high and learning something new.” I pulled again on the glass pipe and handed it to Bull who was making his way towards me, staring intently, trying to find the crack in my psyche.
“I haven’t told you anything.”
“You don’t need to. I’m a watch and learn kinda guy. You sure you still want me in here?”
“I don’t know… but I’m interested to see what you bring to the table.”
“Funny you should say that, Bull…” I reached into the pocket at the front of my hoodie and pulled out six boxes of 96 count, 30mg Sudafed tablets. We commonly call these particular pieces of candy ‘Reds’. I handed him the foil, blister-packs and reached into my back pocket and pulled out a package of 8 Energizer ultimate lithium AA batteries. I handed the batteries to him, taking notice of his widening eyes, and reached down between my boxers and my jeans and pulled out 24 feet of aquarium hose and handed it over. I still had no idea how all these things fit together to make this shit… but Bull was smiling, so I was smiling.
“I’m bringing that to the table tonight… I have a gallon of Muriatic in my trunk for you too.”
“You fuckin’ dumbass,” Bull laughed, “that’s four precursors riding with you in your car. You realize you can go to prison just for that, right? Actually every box of pills you have over one is a precursor, so you’re riding around with eight potential felonies.”
“They’re not looking for me, Bull. I’m a shadow… a passing face in the crowd. Still got all my teeth, and I shaved my face this morning. Shit, up until I closed that damned restaurant I was a member of the Chamber of Commerce. The judges, attorneys, and cops all used to come and eat at my place. If they pull me over, or see me in public it’ll be to tell me how much they miss the ribs at my restaurant, or to ask me what happened to that one waitress they liked. You should consider me an asset… an invaluable resource with limitless connections.”
“I do. I do, my friend.” Bull patted me on the back and kept staring into my face looking for a crack in the flawless confidence I was displaying. “Why don’t we let E-rock finish up with that hodge-podge mess of mix-and-match pills he brought over, and let’s make us some zoom-zoom dope with these reds? You want a job, man?” That wonderfully frightening, yet comforting grin spread across his face, and his eyes had started to burn with that fierceness of a propane flame.
“Sure, boss. I want a job.”
“I thought you’d say that.”
This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo
This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo