Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Struggling Through the Meantime (47)

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.

            I drove back to Rhonda’s apartment where I was satisfied to find that things had not appeared to change an awful lot since had I opted for sleep on the Sunday afternoon prior.  Rhonda asked briefly about Bull’s case, but seemed a little too high to absorb anything more than the idea that it ‘went well’.  I sat down to join her and the increasingly familiar faces of her friends.  I had been introduced to all of them several times, but I still insisted on associating them with the names I had given them in my head:  'Randa', 'Randa-Two' and her man, 'Rando'.  I found a great deal of secret, personal amusement in the witty (if only to myself), dismissive way I had begun to associate with the people coming and going from Rhonda’s home with derivatives of the word ‘random’.  Even though they all seemed to know exactly who I was, and would use my name when they talked with me, lately I never went out of my way to learn new names.  In hindsight, this rapidly developing quirk in my personality might have signaled my own impending, deteriorating desire to salvage any sense of normalcy in my life.  All the same, at the moment I just didn’t care about anything except getting high and making sure I paused with enough time to ensure I was straight enough to help Bull during the times he would need me to represent him in the role of ‘sponsor’ that he was expecting me to play.
            The afternoon passed in what seemed like a moment.  The apartment was buzzing with several different conversations that I was struggling to stay part of when Rhonda’s phone rang.  When she saw the incoming number she tossed the phone into my lap.
            “It’s the jail… probably Bull wanting to chew your ear,” she returned her focus to the tangled web of conversation.
            “I’m gonna take it in your room, okay?”  I got up and began walking towards her bedroom.
            “Sure… yeah… that’s cool.”  She waved her hand, unconcerned and preoccupied.
            When I finished navigating the automated requests I was relieved to hear the sound of Bull’s voice saying, “I don’t have time for small talk, Rhonda.  Put him on the phone…”  Bull demanded.
            I smiled.  “It’s me, boss... Can I call you Willis?
            “Fuck no you can't… never.  That was a freebie you fucking comedian, and you're lucky I'm not close enough to knock you on your ass."  Bull sounded pissed, but he let it pass after a moment.  "Thanks for not letting me down today.”
            “Well, duh…” I grunted.  “Thanks for worrying that I might.”
            “Don’t be a dumbass.  Look at it from my perspective, brother.  I’m expecting you to carry a heavy load right now… keeping in mind the tragic turn of events in your life.  I never doubted that you would come through for me…”
            “Oh?”  I interrupted him.
            “Nah… I was just worried about what condition you would show up in.”  He laughed cautiously.
            “I told you that it wasn’t a problem.”
            “Yeah, you did.”  He paused before continuing, “It went pretty well today wouldn’t you say?”
            “That might be kind of an understatement.  That wasn’t the public defender, though.  How’d you get that guy?” I asked.
            “He’s something else, isn’t he?  When NewLife told me that my application had been approved, the first thing they asked me to do was fire whoever was representing me.  I guess his sole responsibility is making sure that the path is clear for people who get hung up legally, like I am right now.  It was pretty cool how he shut down the State’s Attorney, huh?”  I could hear him smiling.
            “NewLife sent you a lawyer?”  I was awed.  “I never would have imagined it.  That information wasn’t available on the website.”  I laughed a little. 
            “Yeah, I wish I had the time right now to fill you in on all of the things that guy told me before court this morning.”  Bull sounded energized.  “I will tell you that he went through the program about ten years ago.  Now he only defends non-violent drug offenders, and works for NewLife… pro bono.”
            “No shit?  Lucky you…”  I was amazed.  “What brought him to them?”
            “Oxy I guess… dude was a junkie.  Coke too.”
            “Fuck me…” I stammered, “…a junkie lawyer.”  I reflected on it for a moment before continuing, “Alright…what’s next, boss?”
            “Well, I’m being released on an O.R. bond whenever the judge signs the paperwork.  That’ll probably take a couple of days.  NewLife expects me sometime Monday morning.  In the meantime I need you to pack a bag for me.  Since I’ve got nothing, and the State claims that the farm is still being processed for evidence, that means you’ll have to work some magic.  I’m about your size I think… so help me out with some of your stuff.  Go to second-hand shops for the rest.  I don’t want any of your old underwear though… or socks.”  Bull laughed at this.
            “Um… right.”  I laughed along.
            “Toiletries and stuff too,” he added.
            “Sure thing…”
            “Rhonda will pitch in if you need cash, right?” He wasn’t really asking.
            “I would imagine.”
            “Right… then that’s it for now, I guess.”  Bull sounded like he had more to say.
            “Are you sure?” I asked hesitantly.
            “No…”  I heard him sigh heavily.  “I got a letter from Dayna.”
            “Oh… what’d she have to say?”  I could sense some tension.
            “An awful lot really… but most of it boiled down to the idea that she really wants her kid back, and in order to achieve that…”  He stopped.
            “Boss…” I didn’t know what to say, but I knew what was coming.
            Bull continued, “I guess it’s been made pretty clear to her that I can’t be part of the picture if she wants to get him back… ever.”
            “That’s regrettable.” I offered.
            There was a long pause.
            “Nah…” Bull continued again, “I expected it… but it still felt like a ton of bricks.”
            “I’m sure.”  I briefly thought of my own recent, comparable loss.  Bull must have sensed this.
            “Still… It kinda feels small when I think of you losing your wife.”  He sounded awkwardly compassionate.
            “Yeah… maybe…” I choked on the words.  “But, listen… don’t let it dull your focus right now.  You’ve got other obstacles to navigate at the moment.  Nobody knows how any of this will play out after NewLife gets you.  She’s still alive… ya know?”
            “Point taken… I shouldn’t have brought it up,” he replied quietly.
            “Anyways…  I’ve got this on my end, boss.  I’ll plan for Monday.”  I changed the conversation’s direction.
            “I’ll call you before then.” 
            “Thanks brother,” Bull concluded the conversation and hung up.
            I closed the phone and left the bedroom.  My buzz had faded in the short time I was talking to Bull and I was anxious to pick up where I left off.  The only thing that had changed in the other room was that now in addition to a pipe being circulated, 'Rando' was preparing several needles for the group.
            “Just in time,” he said as he noticed my arrival.
            “I don’t know about all that…” I felt a chill crawl up my spine while sharp craving consumed me.  I crushed the thought by remembering my promise to Bull.  “You guys can throw down.  Don’t mind me.  I’ll just smoke with you.”
            “Are you sure?”  He persisted.
            “No,” I sighed loudly, “but I made a promise,” I conceded.
            “Your loss…” he handed the needles to the rest of the group. 

This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chapter Two Rewrite

Chapter Two

          It wasn’t very long after my introduction to Bull that I began to believe a friendship with him might actually be very different than I had first imagined.  The simple fact was that I had met Bull as a drug dealer.  I really wanted him to be my drug dealer.  If we became friends in the process I would consider that a bonus.  With this in mind I really didn’t think it would have been appropriate if right out of the gate I started texting him in the hopes of making plans to hang out.  I didn’t want to give the impression that I had the potential to be a nuisance and possibly lose or even limit my abilities with my best connection to what I needed to serve my desire to get high whenever it pleased me.  It was less than a week after we met when I received a text message from him that made me realize that our blossoming friendship might actually evolve into more of a two-way street than I had first anticipated.
          It was the weekend and since my wife worked a Monday through Friday job on the third shift, our weekends were precious to us at the time.  I hadn’t worked since the recession had forced us to close the doors to the restaurant we had owned less than a year earlier.  We were relaxing on the couch and watching a movie with my step-daughter.  The weather had taken a turn towards winter and it had started to snow outside earlier that afternoon.  It wasn’t snowing much, but it was still enough to inhibit any plans that we made to get out of the house for the evening.  I felt my cell phone vibrate in my pocket which signaled that I had received a text message.  I impulsively fetched my phone from my pocket and was surprised to see that the text was from Bull.

this is bull

do u have any cold medicine?

can u bring it 2 us if possible?

the sooner the better

xxx BIG GUNZ xxx

          I must have looked confused as I stared at my phone because I drew my wife’s attention away from the movie.
          “Who was it?  Is something wrong?”  My wife put her head on my shoulder to read the text. 
          “It’s just this guy that Milly introduced me to earlier this week who lives about eight miles down County Line Road.” I replied.  My wife was definitely as far removed from the world of meth as she could make herself.  She wasn’t ignorant about it, and really enjoyed smoking grass if she could justify the distraction.  She just hated meth and had a very strong distaste for people who involved themselves with it or even tolerated its use.  My recreational use and infrequent procurement of the drug had yet to activate her trouble-seeking radar thus far, and I was very interested in keeping it that way.  She would definitely not approve of my association with likes of Bull Gunville, but since my days of working all day, every day while we owned the restaurant she must have realized how short my list of friends had become.  She rarely offered much resistance or raised many questions if I tried to make a new friend from time to time.  Milly was an example of this deceptive practice.  I met Milly through some of our former employees about a month after we closed our restaurant and only about a week after I had tried meth for the first time.  My wife was under the impression that I babysat Milly’s kids during the week sometimes, but only while my wife was at work or asleep.  My wife was comfortable that Milly wasn’t a threat to our marriage’s fidelity because of the toll that dope had taken on Milly’s appearance.  She also had been misled to assume that Milly was a former addict.
          “Is he sick or something?”  My wife returned her focus to the movie we were all watching and began running her fingers through her daughter’s hair.
          “I don’t know.  I guess I should ask.” I slid my phone open to expose the keyboard.
 I’m not sure what ur asking 4

I have some robitussin, dayquil, nyquil, tylenol

Not 2 mention kids stuff

But Bull, its after 6pm on Sat

 RX’s r closed

I can’t get a box 2nite

          What I had learned since I started smoking dope is that the easiest and cheapest way to score at least a half gram of meth is to go to the local Wal-Mart or Walgreen’s and buy a box of 12-hour generic Sudafed pills.  This costs somewhere around six dollars, but you have to show your ID and sign your name to purchase them.  The government keeps track of how much pseudoephedrine you buy and has established a limit on the quantity you can purchase within a given time frame in an effort to slow down the dope cooks and meth users.  With every box of 12 hour Sudafed or the milligram equivalent of any medication in pill form containing pseudoephedrine, a seasoned dope cook can supposedly yield about two grams of finished product.  The dope cooks make a killing… and anybody with even the most fleeting interest in getting high wishes they were friends with somebody wielding the ability and means to make the drug.  Right now I was just trying to figure out what exactly was going on with mine.
          My phone vibrated again and I opened the text message.
thats what im talking about

dayna and kid r sick

i felt u were the guy 2 call

u seem like a domesticated animal LOL

 i can pay u or trade 4 what u have

can u slip out of ur house 4 a minute?

xxx BIG GUNZ xxx

          I couldn’t believe my eyes.  This wasn’t a request by a dope cook for precursors to make dope at all.  He thought I could help him to help his girlfriend and her kid.  This was a text as though we had been friends for years, not co-conspirators in an illicit drug trade.  I felt as though I had to do something for him since he thought of enough of me to ask for help.
          I handed my wife the cell phone, still showing the last message.  She read it and handed the phone back to me.  “Do you want to take them what we have?”   Her voice was soft, sweet, and without the slightest suspicion.
          “Would you mind real horribly if I did?”  I stood up and looked at her.
          “Not at all… They’re sick.  I think there might be some baby medicine leftover from when my sister brought her littlest one over here awhile back.  It’s with all the rest of the cold stuff above the stove.  Take whatever you think will help them.”  She nodded as she talked.  I started to turn around when she grabbed the bottom of my shirt.  “Give me a kiss first.”
          I bent over and kissed her softly, then said, “I love you.  Thanks for letting me slip out of here on movie night.  I’ll make it up to you.”
          “You’re not going to be gone all night, are you?”  She still wasn’t getting agitated or concerned.  I was starting to suspect that she had snuck outside to smoke a few one-hitters before we started the movie.  I smiled at her sweetly.
          “I would assume not.  I might stay a little while and see if Bull wants some company, but I can’t imagine him wanting to stay up too late if his girl and her kid are both sick.”  This was a lie and I knew it before the last words were escaping my lips.  I hoped it was reasonable enough to pass inspection though.
          “Well if you’re too late, don’t wake me up.  I promised your Lil’ Step that I would get up early tomorrow and drop her off at church with what’s-her-name.”
          “Mommy!  Her name is Katy… not what’s-her-name!”
          “I know, honey… I just think it’s so bleeping cute when you get mad at me for calling her that.”  She tickled her daughter.
          “It’s not funny!”  Lil’ Step pouted.
          “If you start drinking beer and come home forgetting that I asked you not to wake me up, I’m gonna be mad as hell.”  She frowned in a feigned display of dissatisfaction.
          “I won’t forget.”  I walked to the kitchen and grabbed a gallon sized Ziploc bag and opened the cabinet above the stove and began grabbing bottles of cold remedy and opened boxes of cough suppressant and several half-emptied boxes of non-pseudoephedrine cold pills.  I also poured a handful each of ibuprofen and generic Tylenol into the bottom of the bag.  I fished around for any kid’s medicine before I sealed the bag, grabbed my coat and keys and kissed both my wife and Lil’ Step before I left.
          It wouldn’t take me very long to get to Bull’s house, but the snow had started falling heavily, which was actually odd for southern Illinois in November.  I had spent half of my life thus far in Wisconsin and lived there all the way up until just before I married my wife.  Snow didn’t bother me, and after a brief incident involving some deer in the road which I will disclose later… I pulled up to the ramshackle farmhouse minutes later.  I found a parking spot away from what looked to be quite a few more cars than I remember from the first time I was here.  I could see all the lights were burning inside the house.  When I arrived on the porch, a girl I wasn’t surprised not to recognize opened the door before I had a chance to knock.
          “C’mon in, he’s making us all wait on you…” she stated flatly.
          “Um… okay.” I was puzzled.
          The blanket wasn’t hanging in the door frame like it was on my first visit, and there were quite a few more people gathered around Bull’s round table.  Some were two-deep and space was tight.  I stood in the doorway, not wanting to be rude and push my way past people.  Bull’s eyes were looking over everybody’s heads and when our eyes met he raised his hand above his head and waved me in his direction.
          “Everybody make some room for the pharmacy delivery guy, okay?” Bull sounded pleasant enough but to my surprise people began moving as though he had yelled.  I made my way towards where Bull was seated at the head of the table and produced the Ziploc bag I had packed and started to hand it to him.  When Dayna saw what I was handing off to Bull she got wide-eyed and reached for it as soon as Bull took possession of the thing.  He handed it away and she tore into the bag, first throwing a few Tylenol into her mouth and then washing them down with Robitussin.
          “Well, I’ve never seen it done like that before, but it makes perfect sense when you think about it.” I smiled and chuckled.  Her nose had a red glow to it from wiping and blowing it with what I could see had been a crumpled pile of blue shop towels and a roll of brown, institutional paper towels.  “I’m sorry Dayna.  I didn’t even think to bring any tissues.”
          “That’s okay.  You did more than… well…” She looked around and waved her hands dismissively.  “Thank you.”  Her voice was raspy and nearly absent.  “I gotta get out of this room for a minute and go give my son some medicine…” Nobody made an effort to ease her escape.  “EVERYBODY MOVE!”  Her voice scratched and sounded hoarse as she tried to draw attention. 
As people began to move around to let her pass, there was a series of different voices proclaiming, “Wow” or, “Look at that bag of stuff!” and, “is all that stuff for colds?
Bull took interest in the last question and laughed to himself before raising his voice to ask, “Who just asked if that stuff was for colds?”  He waited in vain for somebody to take credit before following his question up with, “You guys do know that they actually make and sell medicine to make you feel better when you’re sick, right?  I mean, there are a lot of other things that they sell in the pharmacy besides the things I can manipulate into something for you to get high on.”  I was the only one besides Bull who laughed at his commentary on the ignorance of his current company of deviants.  He looked over at me and his eyes twinkled a bit while a toothless, fierce, yet alluring smile spread across his face.
“Do you want some money for that shit?” he asked me.
I shook my head and replied, “Unnecessary.”
“Dope then?” he asked.
“No, that’s not why I did it, man.” I was still shaking my head.  I was starting to get uncomfortable standing in front of this tiny, crowded room.  Bull held his fist low and I hesitantly bumped knuckles with him.
“I figured you were gonna say something like that,” he said quietly enough for me to hear, but not quite a whisper.  “Play along,” he requested.
I nodded and felt confused.  I wondered what I was getting into.
“Okay…” he raised his voice, “so why did you do it then?”  He asked the question firmly as he stared at me with a suddenly puzzled look on his face.  I couldn’t tell if he was faking or not. 
The room began to get quiet. Someone in the back asked quietly, “Why did he do what?”  Somebody else whispered “I don’t know, now shut the fuck up for a minute so I can listen.”  I wondered if they all thought we were arguing.
“Well… because you asked me for help, and I could help… so I did.”  I spoke softly while I watched Bull continue to look at me with a furrowed brow and puzzled eyes.  The sudden attention from Bull’s company started to make my face warm and I felt my skin begin to flush.
“Now wait a minute… I’ve heard rumors about people like you, but I don’t get to meet one of you guys too often.”  That fierce smile widened over his face again as he darted his eyes around the room at his guests while his face was still turned towards me.  He then gave me a wink which helped to put me at ease in regards to his current quirky behavior.   I began to get the feeling that he was entertaining himself at the expense of his current crew of beggars and hangers-on.  “You’re showing me that you can be… um…” he began to exaggeratedly tap the side of his face with his finger.  “Wait now... don’t anybody try to help me.  It’s right on the tip of my tongue.”  He lowered his hand from his face and began to drum his fingers on the table as he feigned deep thought.  “DECENT!”  He yelled.  Everybody jumped a little, including me.  “That’s what the fuck you’re trying to sneak into my house, aren’t you?” 
I couldn’t help but smile as he was carrying on with this.  I shook my head to play along and said, “Yeah Bull, you caught me.  I was trying to sneak a little bit of human decency into your life and you caught me.”
“I fuckin’ knew it.”  Now he was examining all of the puzzled looks on the faces of his guests.  He shook his head.  “You’re a sneaky motherfucker, you know that?  You better not let your friend Milly know that you’re decent or she’ll try to fuck your brain all up just because that particular kind of thing bothers her about people like you.”
I shrugged.
“Probably too late, isn’t it?” Bull asked.
“Probably…” I sighed.
“What’s that thing I’m supposed to do now that you’ve shown me how decent you are?”  He was back to tapping his finger again, but now he was tapping his pursed lips and focusing his stare on the grungy looking, faux-hawked, mean-faced guy sitting directly to his right.  The guy Bull was focusing on was vacantly tossing a baggie with a golf ball sized amount of dope inside of it from one hand to the other.  When this guy suddenly realized that Bull was waiting for an answer, he sat up quickly.  Now everybody was staring at him.  “C’mon Chops…” Bull started to ask, “What’s that thing I’m supposed to be now that he’s been decent to me?”  Bull playfully pushed the guy’s shoulder.
“Why are you picking on me now, Bull?  I don’t fucking know what you want me to say.  Show him some goddamned courtesy I guess.  Find him a chair or something to sit in if he’s staying.” 
“COURTESY!” Bull hollered.  Everybody jumped again.  “That’s it!  I knew you’d get me there Chops!  Courtesy  Thanks, brother… now get up and let this guy sit down so I can show him some courtesy after he went out of his way to be so decent.”
I started to talk, “Bull… that’s okay really... I don’t wanna be any…”       
          Bull shushed me, waving his hand in my direction.  “C’mon Chops, get moving.”
          “Really Bull?  So, I gotta stand all night?”  Chops stood up shaking his head.
          “Thanks Chops, that’s, um… decent of you.  Now go ahead and pick any other chair in the room and they’d better get up and show you some courtesy since you’ve been so decent to my new friend here.” 
Chops immediately tapped the guy in the next chair down.  “You heard Bull…move it.”  That guy stood up without a protest and stood against a wall near the wood burning stove in the far corner of the room.  Chops sat back down relieved and was grinning smugly.
“Grab you some of this chair, dude.”  Bull playfully brushed off the seat of the chair and pulled on my forearm.  I sat down, still uncomfortable with the weight of all the eyes of Bull’s puzzled guests watching me now.  “Man, I really appreciate you giving up your Saturday night at home to do that for me.”  He held up his fist to bump mine again, and I obliged.
“Hey man, that’s just what I do.  I kind of felt like getting out of the house anyways… my step-daughter was off of school for the last two days which kept me at home.  I was actually starting to get a little squirrely.”   I fumbled inside my jacket for my cigarettes still not too anxious to look out at the room full of people that were now silently monitoring every word that Bull and I shared.
“Don’t worry too much about what all of these knuckleheads think… watch this.” Bull turned to talk to the rest of the people gathered at his table.  “Hey… I noticed a bunch of cars parked all over out there when Chops and I came back up to the house from working.  Raise your hand if you drove here tonight.”  About half of the group raised their hands.  “Okay, keep them raised until I tell you differently.” Bull elbowed me and laughed.  “Hey, this is what it must feel like to be a school teacher,” he said under his breath.
I smiled and lit my cigarette while watching Bull command the group.
“Okay… now if anybody with their hand raised brought a box that we used tonight you can lower your hand.”  Two people dropped their hands to their laps.  “Okay then… here’s the deal.  I hope you were all listening to me a few minutes ago.  I’m going to tell you why I was acting so odd just then.  You guys all know how sick and miserable Dayna and her kid have been.  You probably knew it the minute you started showing up this afternoon.  She asked a couple of times if somebody could go to town and get them some medicine.  Guess who ended up coming through for her?  Don’t answer, I’ll tell you…it’s the only motherfucker in the room right now who wasn’t here when she asked for help who also had nothing to gain by showing up.  Then, when I offered to pay him for his trouble or give him some dope and he turned me down.”
Several faces in the crowd started to look down into their laps. 
          “What were you doing at home?  Please tell me it was something ridiculously domestic and normal…” Bull laughed as he turned his attention from the people at his table back towards me.
          “I was watching a movie with my wife and her daughter.”  I dragged on my cigarette deeply.
          Bull raised his eyebrows curiously.  “What movie?”
          “True Romance… Don’t judge it by the title,” I offered with restrained embarrassment, “It’s actually one of my all time favorites, but neither of them had seen it before.”
          Oh yeah,” Bull had seemingly forgotten the people with their arms raised in the group in front of him to carry on this conversation with me.  “I’ve seen it… A bunch of big stars… Dennis Hopper, Christian Slater… and that blonde Arquette sister with the nice tits.  Drugs, violence, and true love… ” he laughed.  “Good choice… but your kid was watching it with you guys?”
          “She’s almost thirteen now… so it’s really nothing more than she’s facilitating in her video games or watching on cable when she thinks I’m not paying attention.  But I guess it was a pretty big deal to her that I asked if she wanted to watch it with us.”  A couple of girls in the crowd gave fleeting, gushing sounds over my tale of step-dad makes good and I squirmed a little more in my chair.
          “So you left the comfort of domestic bliss this evening to accomplish what exactly?”  Bull asked while turning his attention to opening and closing a Zippo lighter in his hand.
          “Nothing I guess… but you said you had some sick people over here and needed some relief for them.”
          “Well, you must have had motives man… why else would you go to any trouble for me?  I’m a… let’s see,” Bull looked contemplatively at the ceiling before continuing, “a burden to society and a used up convict, let alone a man who will manufacture and sell 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 on a moment’s notice and help a demon with a laundry-list of fatal flaws like me?  I gotta fucking know man… and these inquiring minds ought to be wondering too.”  He looked at the raised hands in front of him.  “Oh for fuck’s sake… will you put your fucking hands down for a minute?”  The arms descended slowly.
          “Well, for whatever the reason… you believed that I could help you, and I don’t like to fuck with a man’s… or even a demon’s, according to your own observations…” I laughed briefly, “…belief system.”  I sighed softly before continuing, “I guess I came because you asked me to help and I could… and my own thoughts on the matter lead me to believe that I would be less of a human being if I had known I could have helped when I was asked and had chosen not to.”
          “Well, shit fire and put out the bed!  I honestly want to believe that you are the real deal my new found friend.”  Bull clapped his hand on my back.  “If you keep preaching like that, then I’ll be the one looking for you when I’m not feeling quite right.  Too bad we can’t cook that shit up into something worth smoking, huh?”  Bull’s smile suddenly faded. “I’m fucking ashamed of the rest of you.  If you had your hand raised a minute ago when I told you to put them down… you need to grab whoever you came with and get in your cars and leave.  You can come back tomorrow if you want anything.  Anybody who brought something that we used tonight can hang out until you’re paid, but then you need to leave too.  Next time you’re asked to help, maybe you’ll think about what you’ve learned tonight.”
          A resounding chorus of, “Really Bull?” and “Aw shit, man,” filled the room with sounds of disappointment and disbelief. 
          “Yeah motherfuckers, get on down the road,” Bull replied nonchalantly. “But don’t go away all mad and shit… just go away.  We’ll try again tomorrow.  Hopefully whatever you’ve been hanging around to get will still be here when you come back, but don’t count on it.”  Bull was grinning as he watched the crew slowly mobilize to leave the house while mumbling protests littered with profanity and disappointed sighs.
          After the first wave was dismissed Bull and Chops paid the stragglers with small amounts of dope and bid them farewell without regret.  Chops began cleaning the inside of a glass pipe with a large Q-tip, and was the only person remaining at the table besides Bull and me.  I was still reeling in the fallout of the event I had just experienced.  I began shaking my head and smiling at Bull who was finishing up weighing out and wrapping twist-ties around several large and small bags of dope, most of which he placed inside of the black strong-box I had seen during my first visit.  He closed the box, leaned to his left and pushed it into the safe in the corner.  With the safe closed he spun the dial randomly in each direction several times and sat straight in his chair again.  He held his closed fist directly in front of me.  I raised my own fist to bump knuckles.  He obliged, but shook his head.
          “Nah… open your hand.”  He shook his head and smiled.
I did as he requested.  A small baggie with what looked like better than half a gram of dope dropped into my palm as he opened his hand.
“I realize that you don’t expect anything for helping me out tonight, but I want to give this too you anyways.”
“That’s unnecessary Bull,” I pushed my hand back towards him to return his offering.
He closed my fingers around the baggie with his own hand and finished the gesture with a hard squeeze of my fist which actually kind of hurt.  “Don’t do that… it’s easier this way.  Otherwise I’ll find myself topping off any bags you take in the future until I feel like I’ve returned the gesture.  It’s the only way I know how, and this way feels a little more… decent.”  He smiled.
“A-ha…” I laughed.  “You do realize that decency and courtesy are infectious qualities, right?  I’d hate to think that I was in any way responsible for something of that magnitude and consequence creeping its way into the nature of whatever it is that you do around here.  I’m under the impression that good reputations and rampant rumors of a decent and courteous demeanor are detrimental to a man in your position.”
“You might be right there,” Bull reflected.  “But I think it’s a little too late for that now.  Every one of those assholes who I just sent packing has already been on their phones bitching about what just happened to them here tonight.”
“Think they’ll come back?”  I asked.
“Oh… undoubtedly.  The first ones will probably darken my doorway before you leave tonight.”
“Do you think they learned anything?”  I asked.
“Probably not,” Chops chimed in.  “Most of those fuckers are incapable of thinking past their next score, and usually they forget whatever they did to get it by the time its coursing through their veins.”
“Chops is making a good point,” Bull stated.  “All that I probably achieved by pissing off that bunch of tweekers tonight is a little short-lived peace and quiet in this house while most of them go spend the money that they would have given me on somebody else’s dope.  They’ll be back tomorrow or the next day with little to no recollection of what I was angry with them about in the first place… and I’ll sell to them too.  Nothing lost, nothing gained…”
“Well, hopefully Dayna and her kid feel better…” Chops offered.
“Oh… sure… I’m not denying that.”  Bull hurriedly added.  “Don’t get me wrong, I would’ve been furious with myself if I had just carried on like none of them had a lesson coming to them for how they ignored that whole situation.  Not to mention that I learned a little something about the things that make you tick…”  Bull looked at me.
“No shit… where’d you pick this guy up anyways, Bull?”  Chops asked.  He was now loading the pipe he had cleaned with a large amount of meth from the golf ball sized bag of dope in front of him.
“Well, the working theory is that the house brought him here.” Bull replied.
“Is that still the theory?” I asked.
“Sure… that works.  We like to believe in the myths we create about all things fantastic in nature around here,” Chops replied.  “It makes what we do a little more interesting during the downtime.  What the hell took you so long to get here tonight anyways?”
An awkward silence gripped the room.  I looked at Bull who was watching Chops.
“What… I mean, who?  Me?  Wow.”  I was a little surprised by this sudden turn in the tone of our conversation.
“Yeah… you… What time did you text him, Bull?”
“Well, let me see,” Bull flipped his phone open.  “It looks like 7:06 was when I sent the first text, but out here the signal is for shit… especially with the snow falling.  What time does your phone say?” Bull asked me.
I suddenly felt like I was about to be interrogated.  I retrieved my own phone and opened it to find his text and said, “Looks like 7:08 on my phone.”  I flipped it shut.
“How long do you think it took you to get here from the time I sent that first text?”  Bull asked vacantly, still watching Chops.
I was failing to see how it mattered, but Chops put the pipe down in front of him to focus on this new conversation.  I began to feel uneasy and flustered now that I was once again the center of unwanted attention.  “Well, I’m sure it was less than twenty minutes, but I had a little run-in with some wayward deer in the road… it couldn’t have been much longer than that.”
Wayward deer?  Like venison you mean?”  Chops asked.
I defensively launched into an explanation.  “Yeah… I even tried to get a picture of them with my stupid phone, but I ended up in a farm field.  I damn near pissed myself too, and then I had to navigate that frozen, bumpy-ass terrain until I found a tractor turn-in about fifty yards further up.  I finally got back to the road where I stopped and got out to see if I had done any damage to my vehicle.  She’s not used to going off-road.  That tied me up for about five minutes, but I think I got here before 7:30.  Not too bad, all in all… you know… considering that I could have been stuck in the ditch or something.”  I was starting to get indignant.
“I looked on purpose when you walked in the door,” Chops stated.  “It was 7:28.  It could have been 7:23, forgetting that your happy, hippie ass wasn’t trying to catch nature shots of Bambi while you were fucking driving!  Don’t you listen to the commercials, man?  Don’t text and drive!  I’m pretty sure that snapping pictures of adrenaline charged deer in the road while driving is frowned upon too!”  He was growing animated while I was sinking into my chair, suddenly embarrassed. 
Anyways…” Bull joined the interrogation, “let’s just call your arrival 7:25... that is assuming you don’t drive off the road taking shitty pictures with your cell phone as a matter of habit… so we’ll just let it slide.”
“Let it slide?” I was dumbfounded.
“Oh… okay…then this is behavior you engage in frequently?”  Bull snapped.
“No Bull… first and last time, I’m sure.”  I was suddenly on the defense.  “Clearly I wasn’t firing on all cylinders at the time.”
“So that means you finished texting Bull from home, packed a bag full of pharmaceuticals, got into your car… hopefully after you brushed the windows off for fuck’s sake… any your total time between the first text and your arrival here with goods in hand was exactly how long?  I mean… if we use the established timeline?”  Chops was rolling now.
“Sounds to me like less than twenty minutes… but in all fairness, in addition to packing the bag of cold medicine, I had to get my boots and coat on, I also grabbed extra smokes, a soda for the road, my flashlight and my contraband… not to mention my previously divulged lapse in judgment leading to what might have seemed like a five minute detour with the deer to me, but could have actually only taken two and a half minutes.”
“Who the fuck cares man?” Bull asked.  “You live clear in the next county!  What kind of car are you driving, anyways?”  He was laughing, but I was still confused by the nature of this dialogue.
“A Hyundai Accent…” I answered and then shamefully added, “But I didn’t clean the windows off…”
“WHAT?!” Chops spouted raising his hands in disbelief.
“Un-fucking-believable…”  Bull sighed and hung his head.  “Get the fuck out…”  All at once the confusion and frustration I was feeling caused the blood to vacate my knees while my face went numb and I was suddenly gripped by the urge to drop the bag of dope Bull had given me on the table and make a break for the door.  The room was silent and I felt as if I might unwillingly produce tears of embarrassment like a child forced to wear a dunce cap and sit in the corner.  Bull must have seen this from behind the thin veil of contempt I was trying to cover it with.  When he turned his attention back towards me that grin appeared from nowhere and both he and Chops burst into laughter as he announced, “We’re just fucking with you man, don’t sweat it… you made great time!”
“What the fuck?”  I whispered.   The blood seemed to race from my neck and extremities into my face, where I felt the blushing heat spread over my skin.
“We’re just fucking with you!”  Chops spouted as he picked up the pipe in front of him.  “There’s nobody else here to pick on since you and Bull sent the rest of them home, and now you’re the new guy… get used to it, I guess.”  He shrugged.  “At least now we know how fast you can get here if we need you.”
“Oh man… you guys are just… assholes.”  I sighed and ran my hands through my hair.
“Oh…” Bull suddenly realized, “Is that what it was all about, Chops?  I just thought you were bored and picking on him…”
“Well that too, but it’s good to know that he’s quick on his feet… even if his priorities are all fucked up.”  He laughed and lit his lighter under the glass bowl of the clean pipe he now held.  The pile of dope began to melt and smoke swirled in the round glass ball.
When my blood returned to its proper places and my body resumed normal function I let the shock slip away and smiled genuinely as Bull held out his fist to bump knuckles with mine.  To my surprise I was treated to not only the usual gesture but also a paternal pat on the back and friendly ruffling of my hair.  This was something my own father seldom shared with me, but in my dad’s defense I had also never gotten buzzed up on meth with him either. 

This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo