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.
Rhonda avoided every main road available to us on our journey back to the building she called home. The apartment she lived in was situated on the top floor of a free-standing building, which stood quite literally in the middle of nowhere. It was nearly dark by the time the building appeared out of nowhere. As I let myself out of Rhonda’s beat up Ford Sedan, I tried to make my bearings using the faint glow from the lights of two towns in either direction. We appeared to be a couple miles outside of Ft. Justice, Illinois (where I had owned a restaurant at one time) and probably 30 miles from the closest other city, just over the river in Indiana. It was getting darker by the minute, and despite the looming ambience of Ft. Justice I could still see thousands of stars in the sky over the building which Rhonda called home.
The ground level of this cinder-block structure appeared to be the home of a pest-control service. The large picture window at its front was cracked from top to bottom, but I could faintly see the outlines of desks and filing cabinets in the darkened room. An ‘Exit’ sign was flickering in the darkness towards the back. I could hear coyotes starting to sing in the distance, and the low omnipresent buzz of crickets and insects was beginning to replace the annoying sound in my ears of the ancient, ill-maintained motor in Rhonda’s beat up car.
I hadn’t had much experience with Rhonda up until this point, and all I knew was that Bull had told me I needed to trust her right now, at least until he contacted us about what was happening with Dale and the cops out at the farm. This left me feeling uncomfortable on several levels. The first being that I had no cell phone of my own at the moment, with which Bull could contact me personally and let me know one way or the other how things appeared. I would have to rely solely on this woman whom I didn’t know very well to honestly relay messages via her phone between Bull and myself. Secondly, I didn’t know this woman very well, and I was currently the steward of an awful lot of Bull’s dope. I wasn’t sure if Bull had told her just how much of his dope was in my bolt, but I’m pretty sure that Rhonda knew it must be significant if Bull had told me to bring it along on this trip off the farm. Third, I was way out in the middle of fucking nowhere with a meth head who had some knowledge of the idea that I was carrying quite a bit of shit. I guess all I could do was hope for the best… I mean, she did secure my delivery off of the farm in the advent of a possible swarm of incoming law enforcement. I owed her at least a little trust.
Neither one of us mentioned the bolt while we were climbing the wooden deck stairs to her second story apartment. She unlocked the deadbolt on the door to her place, and held the door for me to enter. I walked into the darkened kitchen of her apartment and waited for the dull glow of the fluorescent shop-lights to brighten so I could see my way through and into the living areas of her home. She pushed past me and said, “C’mon chickenshit… ain’t nothing gonna hurt you in my house… well, not much anyways.”
“I’m not chicken… I just can’t fuckin’ see.” Rhonda grabbed my arm, and I shook it loose. Her hand slid down and brushed the giant bolt in my coat pocket and stopped. She grabbed my pocket and shook it around a bit.
“Whatcha got there, youngin’?” Rhonda laughed.
“Is that some kinda weapon or brass knuckles? I’m tellin’ ya, you don’t need ‘em. Bull told me to take care of you, and that’s what we intend to do.” She relinquished her grip on the bolt in my pocket, and laughed as she walked out of her kitchen and began turning on smaller lamps in the sitting room. “C’mon in here kiddo, you need to help me wake up the help.”
“Who’s here?” The voice came from a pile of blankets and pillows on Rhonda’s huge sectional couch. Rhonda was pulling pillows off of the lumpy pile, and tossing them onto another piece of furniture close by. I stood back and watched as she slowly, pillow by pillow, uncovered a barely dressed, tossed-looking young lady. When Rhonda’s friend realized there was company of the male persuasion, she quickly reached for a blanket and fumbled for her glasses.
“Well, hey there stranger… who’re you?” she yawned and pushed her glasses onto her nose. “More importantly, the question I want to ask is… have you got any shit? I’ve been sleeping for two and a half-days.”
“Rhonda… what’ve you got to drink? I need to fucking relax a little bit. Fuck…” I stammered, and looked pleadingly to my host.
“Well, darlin’ the liquor cabinet is to the right of the fridge… soda and juice are in the fridge. Help yourself.”
I turned about face and marched into the kitchen and opened the cabinet to the right of the fridge. I immediately saw something fantastic and exactly what my brain was screaming for, a brilliant, unopened 1.75 of Absolut vodka. I grabbed the bottle and twisted the cap, cracking the flimsy plastic shrink wrap. I put the bottle down on the stove and opened the fridge to search for mixers… or most likely a chaser, as my intention was to swill directly from the bottle. The fridge was filled with Tupperware containers of leftover food, which didn’t interest me at all... and a plethora of generic sodas and name brand beer. My day was beginning to look up. I grabbed a soda and stuffed a couple of beers into my pockets. “Do you girls need anything while I’m in here?” I hollered.
“Soda’s would be great!” the strange girl on the couch replied.
I opened the bottle of vodka and drank deeply and chased it with a swill of lemon-lime soda that had very little flavor. It stopped the burning in my throat from the vodka, and that was all I had really hoped for. My brain began to anticipate the flood of endorphins and the happy alcohol buzz I had begun to ache for. I returned to the sitting room and my waiting associates.
I set the sodas down on a long, narrow coffee table in the center of the room, and sat down on top of the pile of blankets and pillows that Rhonda had created on a nearby sofa loveseat. It was surprisingly comfortable. Rhonda and her friend just watched me silently as I took a second pull from the large vodka bottle in my hands, and smiled at them.
“Well, you found what you wanted I see. Pass that monstrosity over here young thing.” I handed the bottle to Rhonda, who drank and passed it to her friend.
“Who’s this?” I asked, pointing at her friend. The vodka had already started to work, and I was beginning to feel a little more at ease in my new surroundings.
“This is Crystin… don’t get too close to her, as she hasn’t seen a clean, handsome man in some time who hasn’t wanted to beat up on her, so she’ll probably make a fool of herself.” Rhonda laughed, and Crystin pulled a pillow up to her face and peered at me from behind it. She passed the bottle of vodka back to me after drinking it, and swung the pillow at Rhonda when she sat back down.
“Shut your mouth, hag…” Crystin folded her hands in her lap, and shyly looked over at me and mumbled, “Hi there…”
“Hey Crystin. I’m temporary here, and still married, so don’t make a fool of yourself. I’m sorry boys beat you up. We’re not all like that.” I noticed a fading shiner underneath her glasses, and she must have noticed that I did, because she raised the pillow back to her face.
Rhonda interrupted the uncomfortable exchange between Crystin and I. “So, tell me you brought some shit. Let’s get high, huh?”
“Sure, sure… you gotta pipe?” I asked.
“Hell, there’s foil and straws in the kitchen if you wanna smoke it, but Crystin and I get down in other ways. You’re welcome to join us… or you can make yourself a foil.” Rhonda was watching me closely to see how I would respond.
“Well, what exactly do you mean?” I asked.
“I’ve got clean needles and a clean house. We don’t ask any questions, and expect that nobody talks about what they do while they’re here when they leave here.” Rhonda said flatly.
“Nah, I don’t really wanna bang no dope… you girls can, I don’t judge. I just haven’t crossed that bridge yet.” I said reluctantly.
“No better place to try it, I’d say…” Crystin said from behind her pillow.
“No… I guess there wouldn’t be… but I’m okay for now. I’ll just watch you guys and do my own thing for awhile.” I pulled on the vodka bottle and chased it with the soda. I set both the bottle and can on the coffee table, and reached into my pocket to retrieve my hollowed-out bolt with Bull’s dope inside of it. “Rhonda, I’m assuming Bull still wants me to treat this as business, so are you good for whatever we use out of this stash?”
“Hell yes I’m good for it, or he wouldn’t have told you to trust me, I reckon.” Rhonda sat forward on her couch to see what I was doing. “What the hell is that for? Intimidation?” She asked jokingly.
“Nah… check this out. This is pretty neat.” I began unscrewing the large nut on the even larger bolt to reveal the hollowed out end. I tapped it several times on the table and several large bags of dope, along with some tiny ones toppled out of the makeshift container. “How much do you think we’ll need?”
“Yeah… well…” Rhonda got up from her spot, and put both of her hands over her mouth. “Yeah, um… well… that oughta do it!” She walked over to where I was sitting and leaned down to hug me. “God Bless you sweetie…” she kissed me on my cheek, “let me go get my rig and something to pay you with.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s the first time that somebody gave me God’s blessing for bringing dope, but…um… yeah, cool. Get me some aluminum foil too I guess… and a tooter!” I laughed, and started putting most of the baggies of dope back into the bolt, leaving the largest for us to play with.
Rhonda disappeared into her bedroom and I heard the sound of her rummaging through her things frantically. I looked over at Crystin, who had dropped the pillow from her face and slid down the couch to the closest spot she could without actually touching me. She couldn’t take her eyes off of the baggies I was stuffing into the bolt. She was smiling widely, exhibiting a fierce overbite, surprisingly absent of the gaps I was used to seeing in bangers.
I closed the bolt, leaving the bag we were going to use on the table. She reached over and touched the metal, as I finished closing it.
“Can I see that thing?” She asked shyly.
“Can I trust you not to do anything dumb?” I replied.
“Well, no… but I still wanna see it.”
“Sure thing… go ahead.” I leaned back and grabbed the bottle of vodka and my soda, watching her closely.
She picked up the bolt, and unscrewed the nut, looking inside.
“In-fucking-genius…” she breathed. “Did you make this?”
“Indeed, I did.”
“Well, you’re a swell guy to know, aren’t ya?” She said and put the bolt back together and set it down.
“We’ll see about that, I guess.” I took a large drink from the Absolut, and this time didn't need to chase it with soda. Instead, I put the open can of soda next to the bag of dope and my bolt, and reached into my pocket for one of the now sweating cans of beer I had taken from fridge. I popped the top on the can, and sipped the flavorful, malty beer. I spun the lid onto the bottle of vodka, closing it tightly and placed it on the floor between my feet. I stared at Crystin who was still looking at the bolt I had brought, until she noticed me eyeballing her. She quickly set the bolt down, apologized shyly and hid behind the pillow again.
Rhonda returned to the room we were in, and tossed several blister packs of pills and a ball of crumpled up bills into my lap.
“Let me know when we’ve gone through that much, and I’ll get more.” She said smiling. “Who wants to get high?” She opened a Versace eyeglasses case, and procured a bag of new insulin syringes.
This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo
This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo