Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Last Hurrah (24)

     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.

            When I had taken a couple of moments to re-compose myself, and had found an acceptable pair of jeans to change into from the pile of dirty laundry I had been working out of for months, I joined Bull, Dayna, and our continually growing group of comrades at the round table.  At first glance it appeared that people were seated two-deep at the table.  I leaned against the doorframe for a moment until Bull held his hand above his head in a gesture for me to make my way towards where he was sitting.  He leaned into the kitchen from his chair, and retrieved a small camping chair from the corner.  He unfolded the canvas seat, and set it down next to his old, broken wooden chair that he refused to let me fix or reinforce in any way, despite my persistent requests in an attempt to do so.
            I was greeted by the friendly faces at the table with smiles and brief nods of heads.  Others just scooted their chairs to make room for my passage.  Not a few people shared looks between themselves that I can only describe as the jealous behavior of people wanting all of Bull’s attention.  I finally negotiated my way through crowded room and sat anxiously in the small chair Bull intended me to sit in. 
            Bull leaned over to me and quietly asked, “You feeling okay, brother?”
            “Yeah, boss… I’m better now.  How about you?”  I looked cautiously in his direction, and saw that his eyes were neither full of their usual fire, nor did they exhibit any of the extraordinary sadness I had witnessed during our exchange in the bathroom.  Instead I saw what I can only describe as the soft glow of a candle nearing the end of its wick.
            “I’m good, brother… I’m sorry that it happened like that, but I’m glad that we had a chance to communicate like that today.”  He hesitated for a moment and continued, “Did you change your clothes?”  He looked curiously at the grungy camo pants that I had exchanged my piss-dampened jeans for.
            “Yeah, motherfucker…” I said under my breath.  “You made me piss my other pants when I thought you were gonna crush my skull,” I whispered and laughed uncomfortably to myself.  Bull joined my laughter, slapping me playfully on the back.  My eyes, which were focused on the floor during this brief exchange, finally looked up at our companions who were all staring at us silently… waiting in vain to be let in on whatever funny joke had erupted between the two of us.  I didn’t know what Bull assumed, but I had no intention of telling any of them that Bull had very recently and quite literally scared the piss out of me.
             Conversation resumed slowly within the group.  Under the table, and out of sight of most of our guests, I reached into the large pocket at the knee of my pants, and retrieved the wad of folded money that I had received from Rhonda.  Bull was watching as I did so, and let his hand fall from the table to meet mine as he took possession of the cash.  He held it between his thumb and fingers momentarily, then deposited it securely in his own pocket.  He gave me the thumbs up from under the table, and his hand returned to the cigarette he had left burning in one of the many nearby ashtrays.  Bull never bothered to count cash that I gave him, ever.  This bothered people sometimes, but I think that Bull used this little bit of openly displayed trust between the two of us as a way to keep people in check when they had to deal with me if I was by myself.  Bull’s faith in me gave people the idea that I wasn’t to be fucked around with.  It was one of my favorite things about being friends with him.  People may not have liked me for one reason or another, but they never tried to get one over on me.
            “Did you get anything else in your travels?” Bull asked.
            “Yeah, boss… I got maybe three or four boxes of pills.  I wasn’t sure if you wanted me to bring that up yet.”  I began to reach into my pocket again, when he held his hand up to stop me.
            “Well, hold onto that a second…” Bull rapped on the table to get everybody’s attention.  “I think that since we’re all here for the same reason, then it’s time to have a serious discussion before we go any further today.”
            “Who brought boxes?” Bull asked.
            Almost simultaneously, everybody seated at the table that had brought boxes of pills began reaching into their pockets and purses, to retrieve the coveted ingredient.  When they had all been placed on the table, Bull looked around the room at each person sitting with him.  He was being purposeful about making eye contact with everybody, one at a time.
            “Alright… I’m only going to say this once, so I want everybody to listen, and listen closely…”  Bull stood up and began to retrieve the boxes, and deposit them in front of where I sat in neat stacks.
            “Everybody here today is going to get something extra for what they brought this time,” Bull stated firmly, and looked down at the stacks of boxes.  “I can’t tell you exactly how much, because we all know how this shit goes sometimes.”  He paused and reached his hand over to where Dayna was sitting to his left, and grabbed her hand.  She leaned her face down to Bull’s hand, holding hers and kissed it deeply and affectionately.  “After we get done with what it is we are doing here tonight, that’s it.  I’m done… I quit.  I don’t want anybody to ever bring another box of pills or anything used to manufacture of this fucking drug back onto my property.  If you bring something stupid over to my house after tonight, you will be greeted with a swift kick to your ass, and I will never have another word to say to you.  Is that completely understood?”
            Everybody in the room seemed to awaken from the same trance at the same time with a startled jump.  There was a chorus of immediate affirmations, and to my surprise not one person questioned Bull’s decision, or tried to make the smallest of protests.  I sat quietly in my uncomfortable camping chair and took a moment to examine the stunned faces of the people whom Bull had chosen to have near him at this exact moment in his life.  When my gaze crossed to Dayna, who had apparently never stopped staring at Bull, her face was wet with tears, and she was beaming with a glow of pride and hope that had been sadly absent from her appearance for a great deal of time. 
            “In exchange for my generous nature, and as a token of everybody’s appreciation for my sudden spiritual awakening, I have a favor to ask of everybody here with me right now.”  Bull was sitting back down in his rickety old chair as he finished.
            “What’s that, boss?”  I asked, vocalizing for the group.
            “Not you, brother… you’ll be otherwise occupied and uncomfortably compromised, as usual this evening.  But the rest of you need to get out onto the property and gather up anything that resembles something used to cook dope.  We’ll start a bonfire towards the back fields, and burn EVERYTHING.  Everything that won’t burn needs to be disposed of somewhere far away.  Can everybody agree to that?  Can you guys help me get this place ready to bring Dayna’s son back home?”  I almost had myself convinced that I heard Bull’s voice crack a little, and Dayna sobbed momentarily.
            The resounding chorus of agreement and readiness for the task at hand was unanimous.  We were all ready to help Bull with whatever he asked.  I can’t say for sure though, just how many people at that table were agreeing just to see Bull to get to work so they could get their dope.  Regardless, Bull had a plan, and I was amazed at how focused he was on seeing this goal achieved.
            Bull utilized the next half-hour to delegate areas of the property to people while Dayna took notes on who was supposed to be where.  When the delegation of tasks was finished, and Bull was satisfied that everybody understood the importance of the mission at hand, he reached under the table and grabbed a large square mirror and set it on the table in front of him.  He then dumped a massive pile of dope out of a bag, divided it into lines, lit his propane torch, and began to share the last hotlines he would ever inhale at the round table we had all come to feel at home in front of.

This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo

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