I wish that I had a terrific story to share about something mystic or fantastic that came to pass during the last time that I watched Bull perform the series of steps in the process of farmyard alchemy that had become the routine on dark nights out at the farm. I wish that in the last pages of this story that I could share some deep revelation that I had experienced by being in his presence for the amount of time that I was fortunate enough to have spent with him during the last hours of our free lives together, but in reality we spent those last brief hours together doing what we did better than anybody else we knew.
We cooked dope.
We cooked dope without regard for our personal liberties, and without regard for the dangerous and under-educated methods that we were using. We cooked dope without regard for the safety or the mental and physical health of the people we were cooking it for. We cooked dope because it was all that we really knew how to do anymore. We were no longer anybody’s husband, boyfriend, father, friend, or lover. We were worn out, dirty, dope-cooks… plain and simple. We had no regard for the law or the people paid to uphold it. We had lost our ability to determine what was best for anybody we thought we cared about, but more importantly we had lost the ability to determine how to do what was right for the people who cared about us.
We worked silently and with profound, unspoken determination that night. When I hesitantly dropped the twisted bits of tightly wound aluminum foil into the dirty, glass bottle of muriatic acid, which had always signaled the final step in the cooking process, Bull looked in my direction and sighed deeply. He capped the thick glass bottle with a rubber stopper, fitted with long piece of aquarium hose, designed to allow the release of the noxious, smoking gas that this particular chemical reaction produced.
“Well, I guess this is it brother… lets smoke this shit off, and clear these people off of the property.” Bull slid his hand along the line of aquarium hose, which had been loosely knotted in several spots to deter any of the condensation from the acid reaction from dripping into our precious dope liquid. One single drop of that condensation could completely destroy our chances of yielding a single crystal of dope from the batch.
“I’m with you boss, let’s get it done.” I whispered. The bottle he was holding was quickly filling up with white smoke, and the hose in his hand began to spew a stream of white, heavy smoke that smelled like strong vinegar. We both turned to the table in front of us that had three Ball Mason jars of crystal clear liquid waiting to be introduced to the smoking hose in Bull’s firm grasp.
“We’re done after this brother. At least I am. I want you to be done with it too. I’ve brought you along with me all this way because I’ve never met anybody like you, or at the very least… so much like me. I have the distinct feeling that I’ll probably need your brand of help and abilities in the very near future, and I can’t have your head all muddled up with shit like this if I’m going to get through what could very likely be coming next. Everybody else will stick their heads in the sand and refuse to help us because they’ll be scared and dopesick." He hesitated briefly and continued, "but I have always expected more out of you.” Bull wasn’t looking at me when he talked, but that didn’t lessen the impact of the words he was speaking. He was being purposefully cryptic, and moments like this were where he shined brightest in my eyes.
“No, boss… I’ll do whatever you tell me. If you tell me something has to be so, then goddammit, I’ll make it so.” I watched as he held the hose delicately above the surface tension of the clear liquid in the first jar. The smoke from the hose fell heavily onto the surface tension of the liquid, and almost immediately a cloud of white, milky dope appeared in the jar where the white, swirling smoke was coming to rest. The dope began to fall from the top of liquid and came to rest in small piles resembling sand castles at the bottom of the glass jar. Bull was blowing his own breath slightly over the surface of the liquid in the jar to perpetuate the reaction quicker, and very soon the clear liquid in the first jar took on the appearance of thick, white school glue.
“Good…” Bull continued. “I want you to know that if any trouble comes for either of us regarding our activities during the last couple of months, that I have your back if you keep your mouth shut and don’t throw me under the bus. In return, I will do the same for you if the opportunity presents itself, however unlikely, in other ways. I know that you don’t have any experience in jail, so you’ll probably be scared out of your wits if it comes to that. Don’t be scared. I won’t let anything happen to you if you’re protecting my interests… do you understand me?” Bull had moved the hose to the second jar, and I was mesmerized by the sight of falling crystals in the liquid.
“Yeah boss… I’d never throw you under the bus. But what do you want from me if it goes south for you first? I mean, assuming it goes south at all?” I suddenly became aware that Bull’s sense of impending doom was consuming his thoughts.
“Well, you’re a smart fucking guy, and up until you met me and we became whatever it is that we are right now…” Bull hesitated, feigning deep thought, “addicts, friends, protectors, brothers, dope cooks…” he was waving the hose around in front of him now, propagating the growing, noxious fumes. “I know that you were a pretty solid part of the community. You had a couple of business adventures. You were actively involved in your daughter’s education, and you were a good husband and father. I’m gonna need you to go back home and resume that behavior if I’m going to have even the slightest chance of seeing my way through this…” He stopped waving the hose, “If it comes to that.”
“And do what?” I laughed and continued, “My wife has probably filed for divorce.”
“Really?” Bull pinched the hose in his hand, effectively cutting off the spewing smoke. “Do you really think that you are incapable of being found? Everybody who smokes dope in at least three counties knows you’re here... including the authorities! Do you think that if she wanted to have you served with divorce papers that she wouldn’t have taken great pleasure in having the law bring them to you out here?” Bull rested his free hand on my shoulder, “Brother, I need you to go home and make things right after today. Your wife needs you there just as badly as I’m going too. She and I need you at home with your family just as badly as you need to be there. You can’t do any more for me here. You’ve learned just as much as I have about what we are, and how things need to be from here on out.” Bull freed the hose, and resumed smoking off the third and final jar.
I turned away from our work station, and suddenly began to feel the weight of the months of absence from my wife and family set in upon me. I was shocked to feel the hot sting of tears reach my horrifyingly dry eyes. It had been months since I had heard my wife’s voice, and the memory of the comfort I received in her sober presence was overwhelming to me at this moment. I didn’t want Bull to see the emotional effect that his intentionally heartfelt request had had on me, so I began to clean up the garage. As the first tears spilled out of my stinging eyes, I used my filthy sweatshirt sleeve to wipe my face.
“Alright, boss… I get it,” I mumbled as I was gathering the refuse from our evening’s illicit activities. “I’ll go home today.”
“Yeah… I figured you’d see reason eventually.” Bull had finished smoking off the third and final jar and tightly knotted the end of the aquarium hose in his hand. He walked to where I was holding the large black garbage bag, and deposited the warm bottle and long hose carefully at the bottom. “I need Rhonda to take you to the store so you can get some groceries for Dayna and me first, though. Something tells me we’re gonna be awfully hungry when this dope is gone.” Bull patted the concave shape of his belly and smiled. “Not to mention that I called my stepmother yesterday. She’s coming out to the farm today to talk to me about getting a lawyer for this whole DCFS fiasco. Breakfast would be a nice thing for her to see on the table when she showed up. Take that garbage bag out to the bonfire while I filter this shit. Tell anybody you see that it’s time to meet me at the house.”
Bull smiled vacantly at me and turned around to finish working. I left him alone in the garage and walked towards the smell and sounds of a large, glowing bonfire and the people I imagined anxiously waiting in front of it for word of our completion.
This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo