Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cold Medicine and a Cruel Lesson

Every single word written here is an extraordinary exaggeration of events that have played out in my head... based on the stories I have heard from people I have met in jail or while I was dealing with my own stupidity and carelessness, resulting from my own addiction to alcohol and drugs. This is in no way a glamorization of drug use, but a tool to lend some humanity to a subculture that has been demonized and written off as a hopeless and worthless part of our human family. I do not condone or promote any of the behavior or activities herein.

Chapter 2
            My second most defining moment of my friendship with Bull happened by chance, and was completely of his own making.  I was relaxing on the couch watching a movie with my wife and her daughter.  My wife would more than likely not approve of my association with a character such as Bull Gunville, but since my days of owning a restaurant and being an upstanding member of the Chamber of Commerce and the local community, my list of friends had thinned out significantly.  I did my best to let her believe that Bull was interested in my skills of crafting bongs, and he was hoping to help me turn the skill into a viable source of income for both of us.  My cell phone started singing some Black Crowes song I was listening to nonstop at the time.  The text was from Bull and read:

                        Its Bull

                        Do you have any cold medicine?

                        Can you run it over here if possible?

                        The sooner the better

                        *BIG GUNZ*

After staring at my phone in disbelief I had to share this with my wife.  I told her what Bull did, and how funny I thought it was that he had actually texted me to ask for cold medicine.  Around here the easiest, cheapest way to score meth is to go to the local Wal-Mart or drugstore and buy a box of 12 hour Pseudophedrine HCL pills, with which a dope cook can make between 1.25 grams, and 1.8 grams of dope (its rumored to be able to drop more than this from one box, but I’ve never seen it).  The most common transaction is that a person will trade their box of pills for a half-gram of finished product.  Sudafed is kept under tight control by not only the government, but also by the self-righteous pharmacy techs at the stores.  There’s a limit to how many grams of sudafed you can buy per month set by the government, and then there’s rules set by each individual pharmacy tech/cashier in which they determine how many you can buy at a time.

            I kinda shrugged at my wife and texted:

                        Well, I’m not really sure what ur talking about,

                        But I have all sorts of Robitussin, Dayquil, Nyquil, Tylenol,               

                        Not 2 mention kids stuff.

                        But Bull, its after 10pm man… all the Rx’s r closed.

                        I can’t get a box tonight.


I laughed to myself for a minute.  Our communications up to this point had been when I had previously only texted him.  This shift in directions had me a bit off balance, as I had only texted him relating to our relationship concerning the drug.  I hadn’t expected what came next.

Yep, that’s what I’m talking about

                        Dayna & Baby boy are sick.

                        I’m not really sure what to do in this situation.

                        You seem like kind of a domesticated animal

I figured I’d pay you to go to the store and pick some medicine up for them if you could slip out of your house for awhile.

                        *BIG GUNZ*

I couldn’t believe my eyes.  This wasn’t a request for precursors to make dope at all.  This was a text as though we had been friends for years, not co-conspirators in an illicit drug trade for mere weeks.  I was interested, so I had to do something.  I asked my wife what baby medicine we had left from when her sister had our niece.  I also asked for any non-sudafed cold medicine in pill or liquid form.  My wife and mother-in-law had filled a gallon size Ziploc bag with medicine of all sorts.  Then it was off to the ramshackle farmhouse with more money in
surveillance equipment and illegal farm chemicals than what the house itself could possibly be worth.

            When I arrived I displayed my Ziploc bag portable pharmacy, and Dayna got wide eyed and reached for it.  I handed it away, and she tore into the bag going right for the Robitussin and Tylenol.  Her nose had a red glow to it from wiping it with blue shop towels or a roll of brown paper towel, and her voice was nearly absent when she thanked me.  Her son stood at her hip, almost hanging on to her, and I could tell he was ill too.  She doled out some liquid kids cold remedy, and I heard a chorus of “wow’s” and “Look at that bag of stuff!” and “Is that all for colds?”  Bull explained that yes it was, and I was his new mobile family practitioner.  I explained to the rest of the usual suspects sitting at the round table that “yes, jackasses… they actually make medicine to make you feel better when you’re sick, not just to manipulate into something to get high on.”  Bull was the only one at the table who laughed at this little remark.  His eyes twinkled a bit, and that almost toothless, fierce yet alluring smile widened over his face.  He asked if I wanted some dope or money for the cold medicines, to which I replied “No, that’s not why I did it.” 

            “Oh?  Why did you do it then?”

            “Well, because you asked me too, and I could help, so I did.”

            “Now wait a minute… I’ve heard rumors about people like you…” and that smile widened back over his face as he darted a quick glance at his guests that only I was supposed to see.  He didn’t have to wink, or let me in on the gag… I knew that what was coming next was going to be a joke either at my expense, or meant to humble his crew of beggars and hangers-on.

            “You’re showing me… um…” as he began to exaggeratedly tap the side of his face with his finger, “wait, don’t help me now…courtesy, I think it’s called.  That’s what the fuck you’re doing isn’t it… you’re trying to show me some of that ‘courtesy’ I heard about somewhere.”  I was grateful that the joke wasn’t at my expense as I currently knew only Bull and Dayna at the round table, but immediately began to feel a temperature change in my rapidly blushing face when his company began to fidget around.  “Now, we’re not too familiar with people trying to get all courteous with us around here, my new found friend…” and the blood kept heating my cheeks, I began to hope I could pass it off as coming in from the cold to the sauna heat provided by the wood-burning stove at the front of the small room I was standing in.

            “What’s that thing I’m supposed to do now that you showed me some courtesy?” He was back to tapping his finger, but now he was tapping his pursed lips and focusing on the grungy, faux-hawked, Elvis-style side burned, mean-muggin’, hard-ass seated directly to his right.  When the obviously buzzed-up center of bull’s exaggerated stare finally realized all eyes were on him he jerked to attention.

            “Oh, I don’t fuckin’ know man, how often does anybody show any human decency to any of us?”

            “THAT’S IT!  I knew you could get me there, Chops… When somebody gives you some courtesy, you hit them back with a truckload of decency.  That’s how it works, right…?  Mr. Sure-I’ll-Drive-these-shitty-back-roads-in-the-snow-to-bring-you…” he held up the Ziploc to examine the contents and paused his latest title for me, “Well it looks like you brought me just about the entire medicine cabinet here,” and he continued on “to-bring-you-something-to-make-your-life-more-tolerable-and-fuck-you-for-assuming-I-did-it-to-feed-my-addiction…”  which was greeted by a regrettable laugh turned coughing-fit from Dayna.  “Chops find someplace else to sit so I can show this man some decency.”  Chops immediately moved but not without noticeable pouting resentment.  He made sure to grab what looked like about 8 grams of dope in a baggie and his scales from in front of his former seat. 

            “Grab you some chair, son…” Bull was playfully brushing the chair off while Chops squeezed around the room and grabbed a 3-step house ladder and sat behind some particularly spun-out looking middle-aged women at the farthest seats away from where Bull and I now sat in a roomful of people carrying on as if we were the only two there.  “I really appreciate you doing that for me, man.” He held out his fist to bump… this time I locked my elbow and found there was no need as this was clearly a token of friendship and not some show of superior strength-despite-age. 

            “Hey man, that’s what I do.  I needed to get out of the house anyways… last two days have been snow days for my step-daughter, and I was starting to get a little squirrely.”  It was the truth, but to everybody but Bull, family was an alien concept… and with Bull it wasn’t alien anymore, but it appeared to me that he still had a difficult time completely wrapping his head around the notion.  He had spent 12 years of the last two decades inside of a correctional institution.  I suspect this caused a rift in the parent-child relationship… and even a skewed idea of what to expect from one another when the walls, thick glass dividers, cages, razor-wire, and armed guards with hard-ons no longer interrupt the flow between parent and child.  This topic was quickly averted when Bull said to me, loud enough for everybody to hear, “Chops was waiting for you to get here so he could pack us a couple of bowls so we can catch a quick buzz and get you back home to… what’d you say you were doing when you dropped it and ran over here to show me that courtesy of yours?  Are you alright with my brand of decency?  It don’t matter if you are or aren’t cuz that’s all I got in me at the given moment… What were you up to anyways?”

            “I was relaxing on the couch with my wife and step-daughter watching True Romance with them for the first time.  It’s my favorite movie, and she’s almost thirteen… so really it’s nothing more than she’s facilitating in her video games, or watching on cable when she thinks I ain’t paying attention.  But it was a pretty big deal to her that I asked if she wanted to watch it with us.”  Now I was the one squirming as the girls at the table gushed over my tale of step-dad makes good.

            “Shit, you didn’t have to leave all that to bring nothing to this house…” and he was interrupted by Dayna’s wheezy objection.

            “The fuck he didn’t…” followed by another bout of raspy coughing.  Bull and I both got a laugh out of that.

            “As I was saying, that guy sittin’ way the fuck down there now, so I could show you some decency was just saying how he hoped you would hurry the fuck up and get here so we could catch us one and get on about our lives… or lack-thereof.” Bull flashed that glance around the room meant for only me to see.  I was quickly learning that this was his way of letting me know that a ball-busting was coming that I was to play along with.  “You know what time I texted you the first time?”

            I flipped open my phone and found his text and said, “Looks like 10:08 to me” and I flipped it shut glancing over to see Bull doing the same with his cell.

            “Well, I got 10:06 as the time I sent it, but way the fuck out here and with the snow coming down Verizon’s signal is for shit… so that accounts for the 2 minute delay in delivery.  How long do you think it took you to get here from the time I sent that first text?”  Bull’s voice was getting louder and Chops was staring into his glass pipe avoiding what he could of the conversations direction.

            “Well, I’m a little embarrassed, but I saw about fifteen deer running across a fresh blanket of powder chasing the biggest damned buck I’ve seen since I was a kid.  I was trying to navigate the S-curves and take what turned out to be a worthless picture anyways with this cheap, piece of shit cell phone, and I drove off the road into the ditch and up into the farm field and damn near pissed myself out of surprise and had to drive on that frozen, bumpy-ass field until I found the tractor turn-in about 50 yards up.  I finally got back to the road and stopped to see If I at least got the shot, cussed myself a bit when I saw that I didn’t and I got out and took a cursory glance at the underside of my high performance vehicle after takin’ her off-roadin’.  No worse for wear I guess, but that tied me up for about five minutes.  I think I got here before 10:30 though.”

            “I looked on purpose when you walked in the door. It was 10:28 man.  10:23 if your happy, hippie ass wasn’t trying to catch nature shots of Bambi while you were fuckin’ DRIVING… don’t you listen to them commercials, man.  Don’t text and drive…  I’m pretty sure snappin’ pictures of adrenaline charged, horny venison while DRIVING is frowned upon too.  Anyways… let’s call your arrival 10:25 assuming you don’t drive off the road taking shitty pictures as a habit?”

“No, Bull… first and last time… I clearly wasn’t firing on all cylinders”

“Which means you finished texting me, packed a Gallon Ziploc bag full of pharmaceuticals,  got into your car  hopefully after you brushed the windows off for fuck’s sake, and your total time between first text and arrival with goods in hand was exactly how long using the previously stated times?”

“Sounds like less than 20 minutes, but in all fairness my wife and mother-in-law handled the Ziploc goodie bag, while I got my boots and jacket on, secured smokes, soda, flashlights, and illicits… and what might have seemed like a five minute detour could have been more like two and a half…”

“Who the fuck cares man… you drive a Hyundai Accent and you live clear into the next county!!”

“I didn’t clean the windows off.”


“I didn’t brush the goddamned windows off, shit… I’ve only driven in Wisconsin before I came to reside in beautiful, rural, southern Illinois…  This snowstorm is what we refer to as flurries up there… Bull, there’s only ever been about an inch and a half on the ground at any one time in the last three days.  I almost needed CPR when the principal called the house letting us know that he had called off school due to hazardous road conditions…  I drive better on what we have on the ground right now than dry dusty gravel any day.  And I’ll put my Accent up against your Jeep Renegade tonight…here to there, no rules… and I will take off confident that there’s no way in hell you’ll beat that car back to my house.”


I shrugged nonchalantly, tilted my head condescendingly, and simply, confidently said… “Wisconsin, dude… Wisconsin winters… it’s your Jeep.  I got two other cars in the driveway at home, but more importantly… Wisconsin winters, man.  Make your next decision erring on the side of caution… I’m just sayin…”

“Shut the fuck up you cocky sonofabitch…” he smiled so big that I could see teeth in the bottom of his mouth move freely in the tattered gums barely holding them in.  This sight on any other human being would have put me off from any further extended conversations, but at that moment I could imagine nothing more satisfying than sitting here and pulling stories from each other into the daylight hours.  We bumped fists again and simultaneously realized there were 6 sets of eyes on us and one set still staring into a glass pipe only now drying the inside with a Q-tip.  All of them were hypnotized by either the nature of our conversation or my apparently instant friendship with a man they all walked on eggshells around.  I suppose I was a breath of fresh air for the revered leader of this motley cult of twitchy, loveable, yet tragically and fatally flawed human beings.  It was at this next moment I began to lose faith in man’s law and everything I had been raised to believe was right and wrong, or good and evil, and started to build a spiritual resolve based on my faith in this charismatic, captivating leader of lost souls.

“Chops, I just cannot believe for one second that you wanted this man to hurry from his home in the middle of the next county any faster than he did, leaving his family on the couch watching his favorite movie probably on pause at this very moment, putting his clearly misguided ideas of his own indestructible nature to the test while trying to navigate S-curves, in a rice-burning compact car, on a gravel road in a snowst-… or I’m sorry… Flurry, was it?  All the while looking out snow clouded windows and simultaneously trying to capture wildlife in action pictures probably to share with the likes of us who don’t give a rats ass about horny deer, but more likely his wife and her kid still waiting to finish his favorite movie with him at home… And you did this in around twenty minutes to accomplish WHAT?”

“You said you had some pretty sick people here and needed some relief for them.”

“And you must have had other motives, man… why else would you go to any trouble for me… a burden to society, a used up convict, a man who sells you a drug that can potentially ruin your life and affect everyone you love at this moment.  What drives a person like you to drop what he’s doing and want to help a demon like me?  I gotta fucking know man…”

“Because for whatever the reason you believed that I could help you.  And I don’t like to fuck with a man’s… or demon in your particular case, belief system.  Because you asked me to and I could, and I would be less of a human being if I could have helped, was asked to help and had chosen not to.”

“Well goddamn… I honestly want to believe that you are the real deal my new found friend.  If you keep preaching like that I’ll be the one looking for you when I’m not feeling quite right… but don’t count on it.  Chops, I’m fucking ashamed of you.”

“I’m ashamed of me too, Bull… I can’t believe my nerve…” Chops chimed in playfully.

“Fuckin’ right… you want this man to hurry up so you can catch one and skate out of here with 2 eight-balls fronted out to you… you ought to be ashamed.  Let me see that pipe and that fat-sack I just gave you… Better yet everybody put some glassware on the tabletop.  Chops give that sack to this natural oddity sitting at my right hand.”

With no signs of protest, and no audible discontent, Chops did as he was told and laid the better part of seven grams of fresh dope in front of me… a man he didn’t know before I darkened the doorway of the farmhouse that night.  Bull told me to find a couple of pipes in the collection that appeared on the table and load us up.  I paused to look at Chops for his approval or at least assurance that I wasn’t going to regret this in the not too distant future, when Bull’s sandpaper right hand wound around to my right cheek and readjusted my focus back to the table and the task he requested.

“Don’t worry about Chops over there.  He’ll still walk away with what I agreed to give him.  He knows that…Here, look at me now…” and I turned to look him in those propane blue eyes, my smile was still radiating, his was gone entirely and a look as serious as someone delivering bad news at the worst time had appeared. “I know he knows that because he never once complained about how long it was taking you to get here… I did.”  And all at once the blood flowed out of my knees, my face went numb and I was ashamed that I was the only one
at the table who wasn’t in on the joke when I was so diligently lead to the idea that I was the only one in on what I thought was going to be a ball-busting in defense of my desire to do something good for someone without the notion of receiving anything in return.  The room was silent, and I felt like I might cry from embarrassment like a child forced to wear a dunce cap and sit in the corner.  He must have seen this behind the thin veil of contempt I was trying to cover it with because that grin appeared from nowhere, and the room burst into laughter as he announced, “I’m just fucking with you man, Chops is truly an impatient motherfucker… I on the other hand am grateful for your selflessly motivated actions… I just can’t let your head get too motherfuckin’ big in this little ass room with this many people in it… You’d probably drive one of us batshit.”

When my blood returned to its proper places and my body resumed normal function.  I let the shock slip away and smiled genuinely and held out my fist first, to which I was treated to not just a bump, but a paternal pat on the back and ruffling of my hair.  This was something my own father never shared with me.  I also never got buzzed up on meth with dad either.

This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo


  1. A good second chapter. :) I'll read the others in a bit. The medicine that the hospital gave me from my surgery knocks my butt out. :) So good, so far, Jerry. Im loving the chapters!

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  3. Brilliant. Get published asap.