Our stomach growl in anticipation of your generosity.
By JOHN DOLAN
It isn’t easy to lose money running a speed lab. I’m one of the few to have achieved that distinction. It was much easier to cook up a batch in those days. You could buy ether and the other precursors at one of the nice, quiet chemical warehouses that sat discreetly on access roads, near onramps, between suburbs. The kind of buildings that nobody ever sees, that are actually difficult to see, not designed for the casual customer.
We were disguised, of course. Well…we thought we were. This isn’t James Bond we’re talking about here. I had the clever idea of stuffing socks in my waistband to make myself look fatter when we went in to buy the stuff. Butler looked at me funny when I showed him my disguise, my slyly padded expando-waist. I realize now, he must have been thinking it was coals to Newcastle, making me look fatter. But at that time I had the delusion common to all fat young American men that it was muscle. Some of the muscle had slipped a little, that was all.
I also fixed my glasses, cleverly turning them into prescription shades by gluing green plastic to the lenses. I’d cut them almost correctly, except for a few overhangs here and there. Butler pretended to be impressed. After all, he wasn’t the one going in to buy the stuff.
On the way to the warehouse we talked. I talked about Heidi. I did a lot of that at the time, without noticing that it was driving everyone around me insane. It was a complete shock the time Falquist stopped and shrieked, “You already told me that eighteen times already! Jesus Christ!” Eighteen didn’t seem like a big number to me. That story couldn’t be told often enough, because in my fevered, stupid brain it was the basis for what I was about to do. It was why I was permitted, nay required, to become a bad person: because Heidi, who was way out of my league and everyone warned me so, had stooped to conquer me. Which was fine. Which was wonderful, my God, after all those silent years alone in my room eating and reading. Because she liked my poems and the punk jacket I’d sewn for myself.
So once Heidi and I finally got together, I assumed, just naturally, that that was it. What I loved about her was the conscience-free fun, not to mention that body that deserved a Rolling Stone or two. So, being stupid, I thought in terms of oxymorons: she’s conscience-free and fun so she’ll naturally want to move in with me, the end.
It’s the worst thing about twentieth-century tastes, that sucker longing for the big oxymoron. The sleazy drunk party girl who loves the dweeby poet. That was the script I was working from. She felt otherwise. She’d been having picaresque adventures like the one that culminated in my apartment on Dwight Way since age…what, twelve? I hate to think. It could have been way earlier than that. She did tell me that the cops in Santa Cruz used her once to lure this boy who’d gone insane to a meeting where they could wrap him up nice. Oh, and she did mention a few times, when drunk and with pride, that “I sent nine guys to the insane asylum, from me straight there.”
None of which meant anything whatsoever to me. It was “colorful past,” and everybody was supposed to have it. If anything I felt guilty for not having a good picaresque past to offer in return. But it was all in the service of the real stories: John Paul Jones on the deck of his sinking ship, Robert Emmet at the scaffold, Joan of Arc at the stake.
Oh, I know the punch lines. Believe me, I can do the punch lines. Like those three: “har har, two Presbyterian jihadis and a schizophrenic lesbian.” I can joke. But that’s now, when I’m dead. Back then I was alive and my body had found in the body of Heidi, no other body, its sole reason for existing and it was not kidding. You may be kidding but your body came straight outta Compton, which is to say “Ouldivai Gorge,” and it is not kidding. It was me and Heidi ever after, period. So it came as a total shock to me when she explained that, “you know, the desire to fuck other people always comes up…[long pause]…in a relationship.”
That meant all bets were off. Said that to myself a thousand times a day: “All bets are off.” I’d gotten it from Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein. He said he’d used that phrase in negotiating with the Brits and then, after Operation Motorman, when he found himself tied in a chair getting beaten by a squaddie, the squaddie said out of nowhere, “Oi Gerry, ‘all bets are off!’ Remember Gerry, ‘all bets are off’?” I liked to imagine that, being tied in a chair getting the shit beaten out of you for Ireland, because it was a million times better and easier than walking around Berkeley California in the nice sunshine where Heidi simply happened not to like you any more.
True, such things did occur in some books but those subplots, bumps in the road. Besides, those weren’t the books I was using as my Lonely Planet Guide to Suddenly Meeting Other People at Age 23. I’d been expecting something a little warmer, like the way the superwoman adored the dork in Get Smart and Bewitched. That was the rule as far as I knew: be a total passive dork and the superwoman will attach herself to you no matter how stupid you act, in fact the stupider the better.
All of which was going according to plan. So to see her that morning, her and that Deadhead dishwasher she worked with at Fondue Fred’s, coming out of the breakfast place all stumbled over each other…I mean, a Deadhead! A dishwasher! Not the done thing at all! Who do I kill now? You can’t kill a Deadhead dishwasher because he doesn’t even count. Killing Heidi was the obvious answer, but that would have been like killing the last warmth in a cold world. Back to my room, back to reading Wodehouse and National Geographic for the tenth time in a row.
Therefore, Q.E.D., I was going to become a speed dealer. If one stupid fairytale turns out to be total nonsense, what does the young man do? If you answered, “Wake up and face reality,” you don’t remember what it was like being a young man. You just go to the next entry in the catalogue of lies you can use to destroy your life.
So much lying, so much self-serving crap, that even while borrowing my parents’ car to commit a felony, I saw myself as their avenger against the horde of hick philistines who had outcompeted us in the California economy. I loved them, now that nobody else wanted me. Boo-fucking-hoo. All kinds of weepy selfpitying fantasies. With the money from the first batch of meth that Butler and I were going to cook up, I’d get them a new car. No, two new cars. My mother always wanted a Cadillac, and though I would have preferred something foreign, she and my father were loyal to the end, in this as in the Church, Detroit believers. So a Cadillac it would be. A Cadillac of revenge, a Sinn Fein, Catholic Cadillac that would radiate denouement and retribution and a lot of other Latinate stuff that they’d be sorry about. Heads would roll, as they did before I could get to sleep at night.
Of course Butler was sitting across from me, front seat of my parents’ wretched surplus cop Plymouth, indulging all this crap because he needed a backer. He didn’t have the cash to start a lab of his own. Or the courage. He’d been running a speed lab for that annoying San Francisco band Animal Things, the one-hit wonders behind “Wanna buy some fucking heroin, wanna buy some fucking junk?” It was a catchy tune, remember? No? Local hit, I suppose.
I saw Animal Things once at Berkeley Square, pasty white kids, sneery. The singer had brown dreadlocks. Then after the first song he took them off. A wig! I couldn’t get over it. It wasn’t his hair at all.
See? That could’ve clued me in if anything was going to. It didn’t. I was going to call this story something fancy but I think I’ll go with the real title: Stupid. In fact, there’s an Ernest movie with the best title I ever saw: Scared Stupid. That, as they say, is what I’m talking about.
send your ill-informed ravings to us here
Inc.|Netflix DVD Rentals. NO LATE FEES; Free Shipping. Try for FREE!
T-Shirts only $14.99 when you buy 3 or more at CCS.com | Shutterfly.com | LinkShare Referral Prg
Copyright 2002-2008, The Beast. All rights reserved.