By David Glenn Cox
It all starts like this, mushrooms aren’t like LSD and I once set the record on Highway 231 hitting seventeen road signs in a row with those little Miller beer bottles. We were not a pretty site but then we were too wasted to see ourselves, so what did it matter?
We were headed for Panama City Beach, Florida the redneck Riviera. Back in the days when it was still fun, back before the Real Estate developers got a hold of it and paved it over with condominiums and shopping malls. In the early 1970’s it was a near endless chain of little mom and pop hotels broken only by the Snakatorium the go-cart tracks and of course the bars. The small white cinder block hotels with names like, “The Breeze Inn” or the “The Breakers” complete with those yellow bug lights by the door and buzzing neon “Vacancy” signs.
I’m getting ahead of myself, Mushrooms must be picked LSD must be purchased. With LSD you must know who to ask, but with Mushrooms you must know where to look and when to look. Mushroom spores are very particular individuals, in that, they won’t just sprout anywhere. First, you need a good Alabama afternoon thunderstorm then you need to haul your ass down to the nearest cow pasture where those black and white cows like the ones in the Chic Fillet commercials hang out.
If you waited until morning the shrooms would all be gone. I guess the wildlife partake of them and rightfully earn the name wildlife. As I said, the shrooms are particular and will not wait. So, us city boys would hurry down to the cow pastures armed with our lame excuses, a paper bag and track shoes. Let’s face it; it is pretty damned hard to come up with a reasonable explanation of why three long haired hippie-looking boys were out searching in cow pastures. Crop circles perhaps? Not yet, but maybe later though.
So, Jimmy, Wade and myself hadn’t had much luck even though Wade had promised us that this was a dependable shroom field. Wade was sometimes full of shit that way, maybe he had gotten some shrooms from there one time and so this was the most dependable field in all the world. Hell, good shroom fields were rated for all sorts of reasons. Location, can you be seen from the road? Can you be seen by the farmer? Can you be seen by the cows? And of course, the most obvious reason, is there plenty of fresh cow shit?
We three had looked for almost an hour and the sun was about to dip behind the trees when Jimmy, the quietest of the three of us starts yelling, “Holy Shit, y’all come look at this!” For our efforts, we had picked maybe a dozen mushrooms, most of them the small, silver dollar variety with only one or two of a little more respectable caliber, but still… not by much. Jimmy had discovered the mother lode; he had found the single biggest shroom that any of us had ever seen. It was the size of a 45 record, or for those of you who aren’t old enough to remember 45 records or back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, it was the size of a small salad plate.
We just stood there in awe and amazement, looking at it like an art treasure. Jimmy said that we needed to measure it. “He’s right,” I answered, “no one will believe us when we tell them how big it was.”
Wade took a drag off of his Camel cigarette and cut his eyes at us through his round John Lennon glasses, as he exhaled. “Fuck a bunch of my mushrooms bigger than yours. You guys can play that game if you want but that fuckers got a date with pan of boiling water!”
Wade was more the minimalist among us, car, beer, weed, cigarettes and everything else was details baby. “Wash the car? Why, does it run better that way?”
“Wade, you shouldn’t leave your keys in the car.”
“I do that, so I won’t lose them baby.”
“But Wade someone might steal your car!”
“That filthy thing? Now you see why I don’t wash it man. I got a system!”
Wade’s circular logic endeared him to us. It was dependable and he never discriminated with it. Teachers, administrators, policeman and cashiers all fell victim to it. Wade was seventeen when we went to the local convenience store. He puts two six packs of beer on the counter. The cashier gives us the eye, “That’s $4.60; you got an ID for the beer?”
Wade mumbles through his cigarette in his lips, “Hell yeah, I got an ID man.”
“Then let’s see it pal.”
“Why?” Wade asks, “It says I’m seventeen, you still want to see it?”
“No, I don’t want to see it, just put the beer back kid.”
Wade puts his hands up and says, “Look, let’s work this out, I’ll leave this ten-dollar bill on the counter and I’ll carry this beer out and you just trust me that I’m going to come right back in with my fake ID.”
“How about this then, we shoplifted the beer and this ten-dollar bill fell out of my back pocket on the way out the door.”
The guy starts to smile and Wade begins to pour it on, “It was these football player dudes, you know? Big guys with really short haircuts, you know? In their daddies big red Cadillac, the cops wouldn’t even look for them, right?”
The guy punches the register as he pointed to the door, “You’re a scary kid, take your beer and get out and don’t ever come back.”
So, we took our paper sack half full of miserable mushroom specimens along with the freakishly large world class specimen and exited the pasture as the mosquitoes were beginning their shift. In a medium saucepan, we boiled them in water together under medium heat. The shroom juice was then poured through a coffee strainer into a plastic gallon jug. About a quart of water was added to make a half gallon then two packages of grape Kool-Aid were added for flavoring and then the mixture was set in the refrigerator to cool.
For the uninitiated shrooms are some pretty nasty tasting shit even with two packs of grape Kool-Aid. It wasn’t so much the taste, but it most always gave you the lizard shivers when it goes down. So, as it cooled, we sat on the back porch and we waited. Jimmy brought us three tiny Dixie cups and we each poured ourselves a dose. This was just a taste, just to see what kind of potency we had. I drank my cup down like a shot of whiskey and when I put the cup down I was seeing in fractals and wasn’t exactly sure how I’d gotten there.
We three were all instantly fucked up to the gills and the immediate topic of conversation for the next few hours was how much we needed to cut this stuff by. First, we filled the gallon to the top and then added two more packs of Kool-Aid but it had no effect what so ever on the potency. That monster shroom was indeed an ass kicking monster. So we split the mixture again into another jug and filled both jugs back to the top and bought all the rest of the grape Kool-Aid in the grocery store.
Then we had to get ice because shrooms will not keep and while they are pretty nasty stuff when fresh, you wouldn’t want to try to swallow them stale. It was only Wednesday night and we weren’t leaving for the beach until Friday and we still had to go to Uncle Henry’s for beer. But first, we had to come down off of these demonic shrooms.
Shrooms are funny that way when they’re too strong, one minute you feel great the next minute you feel rough. The next minute the pine knots are swimming around in the paneling in the living room and you have to go outside where they’ll leave you alone.
It’s a roller coaster effect, a good stiff drink will mellow it out and smoking a joint will make it better, or worse, depending on where you are on the roller coaster at the time.
I made it to school the next day; I have distinct memories of showing up. Some of you who are reading this might be thinking, “Oh, my goodness I don’t think these boys go to church enough!” Well, maybe we would have gone to church more often, if we didn’t have to go to Jefferson Davis High school five days a week. By Friday, the lord owed us one!
It was a cubic block structure with narrow little windows that matched the administrations mindset and the windows looked very much like firing ports. It was built with kind of a dark, grayish brown brick that was depressing and sad looking. It looked more like a modern county jail than a high school and proudly served the community as both. “Sound off for attendance,” I always referred to it as the Firesign Theater’s Communist Martyrs High school. “Holy Mud head mackerel it’s the old school! It’s been taken apart and stacked up and labeled!”
The school had been integrated for only three years before I arrived. The two racial camps barely spoke to each other. They hated each other; the black students hated the whites, and saw the whites as ignorant, redneck, honkey, cracker, peckerwoods. Many of white students hated the black students because for the most part they were ignorant, redneck, honkey, cracker, peckerwoods. In all honesty, there was enough ignorance flying around to satisfy everyone’s appetite and it cut both ways.
I remember my first day there as a transfer student, the teacher called on me to read aloud. After a paragraph, she stopped me and called on another white kid
“Thun …der and lightning, Ent…Enter Kassar (CAESAR), in his ni..night-gown. CAESAR Nor he… Heaven nor earth have to been at peace tonight thr, thri, thrice hath Cal …purna in her sleep cried out, ‘Help ho they done murdered Caesar!’ Who’s waitin? Enter Servant.”
My first half-hour at good old Jeff Davis and I knew already that I was in deep, deep trouble.
Yet there was a third group here that was even more put upon than the racially divided student bodies. There was on the majority of the staff an air of resignation, of discouragement with a whiff of alcoholism. In a strange sort of way, I sympathized with them. Even though they were my sworn adversaries as teachers, they were trapped in this glorified hell hole, just like I was. They had begun as their careers bright eyed and dreamed of teaching bright-eyed students but ended up as prison guards, jail wardens and meeting student’s eyes upon the clock.
It was a sham school and those smart enough to realize it had best to keep their damn mouths shut because the teachers were already well aware of it and didn’t want to hear any crap about it out of a seventeen-year-old kid. So, I learned to play this little game just to keep it all interesting. If I was stoned, I acted like I wasn’t; waving my arm to answers the questions. If I wasn’t stoned, I acted like I was, “What? Where you talking to me man? What was the question again man? I didn’t hear you?” Several times I was sent to the office on a pretense, “David would you carry this note down to the office for me please?”
“What? You need me to do what? The office? Yeah, Ok, sure thing man. Then I would enter the office, as if I just left a Jr. ROTC meeting. “Hi! Good morning ma’am Mr. Warren sent me down here with a very important note for the principal. Would you like to give it to him ma’am, or should I?
She would open the note and read the code “On Drugs! Flying higher than a kite!” then she would say, “I’ll see if Mr. Connor can see you now.”
Mr. Conner would call out from his office, “David Cox, in here now!” So, as I entered, I could see Conner was giving me the once over. Then he began, “David, do you have any idea why Mr. Warren sent you down here?
“No sir, Mr. Connors, I really don’t, but Mr. Warren seems to me to be the kind of person who either likes you or he doesn’t and personally, I think he’s got it in for me. Whenever I raise my hand to answer questions, he won’t call on me and whenever I don’t raise my hand, he sends me down here to waste your time.” Connors began to roll his eyes; it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t stoned.
But everyone here played games, so don’t think that I started this all by myself. When I left the Principal’s office, I asked for a hall pass and Mrs. Riddley the office secretary, told me, “You don’t need one, because you were on a teacher’s errand. But when I returned to Mr. Warren’s class, his first question was, “Where’s your hall pass mister?”
“Mrs. Riddley told me I didn’t need one!”
“Well, she was wrong Mr. Cox, go back and get one.”
“So, I returned to the office, but Mrs. Riddley insisted that I didn’t need a pass and refused to give me one. So, there I was in high school legal limbo, not in class and not legally out of class and there was only one thing left to do. I left, I went home and waited for the school to call. It wasn’t unusual for them not to call; it all depended on what kind of day they were having. It was just another level of games being played, because it was all about marking you present. They got their federal funding dependent on the number of warm bodies counted in desks, so missing bodies were sometimes best left unaccounted for.
Did I feel bad about missing school? Should I have felt bad about missing school? Well I didn’t and I wasn’t, because it wasn’t a school at all. It was an apparition, a pretend school. The way the community felt about it was like this, “it’s good enough for the niggers and white trash, but I don’t want my tax dollars to pay for it!” That is why in 1972 the community had not raised property taxes to support the public schools since 1956. It had only been seven years, since the county had begun to supply students with textbooks. Legislation which had been pushed through the legislature by a Governor who himself had gone through such a school system and had only advanced by reading from the textbooks of others.
It had given him a photographic memory, the ability to memorize a page with one reading. The Eighth Air Force and the GI bill had given him a chance to go to college and then to law school. He was the proverbial one in a million, a flower growing through a crack in the asphalt. He became a judge and made history by becoming the first judge in the state’s history to sentence a white man to death for murdering a black man. He then went on to make history yet again, blocking the schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama.
There was a strange duality to the entire society which preached the gospel of church going and hard work, while looking down on their noses at those who worked the hardest but attended the wrong church. They threw stones at the alleged immorality of others, while the immorality that went on at the country club went uninspected and was above reproach.
For me? It was perfect for me, I belonged there. It was Dante’s lowest level of hell. I lived here in my own duality, a house that was not a home. A family that wasn’t a family, but a cinder of a star which had fallen to Earth. I was sleeping soundly when my childhood ended; my sister woke me and in somber and serious tones announced, “Dave, mothers gone.”
Well that was it, not much more to say. The shell shocked and debased gathered on a January morning amid the blowing snow to bury a body in the dirt, your mother, your wife or your childhood. Two months later, was my first day at Communist Martyrs High school as the teacher asked, “Where are you from Dave?”
“I’m from Chicago ma’am.”
“Oh, I hate Chicago,” she answered.
“I understand how you feel ma’am, I’m not too crazy about Alabama.”
And we’re off!
Wade and Jimmy showed up around dark for the trip to Uncle Henry’s. How Wade ever found Uncle Henry’s, I don’t know. Wade had about a thousand cousins up in the country. Uncle Henry’s was so far up in the country that it was found somewhere between where darkness falls and where it lets up. I’d probably been to Uncle Henry’s a dozen times but still couldn’t find it on my own. You had to know where it was and then there it was it was, any uncertainty or doubt and you’d miss it, because maybe it wasn’t there after all.
But Uncle Henry’s was a store, sort of a general notions store. It was located in an old white clapboard building with no signage on it. It was marked by two ancient rusted and no longer functioning gas pumps at an unnamed crossroads in the deep woods. Every conversation at Uncle Henry’s started out in the parking lot much the same way.
“Who’s coming in with me?” Wade asked, as silence followed.
“Look, I’m not going in there alone, this ain’t the kind of place a white boys got any business going into alone, I’m not going in there by myself.”
Jimmy and I just eyed each other waiting for the other to give in, when Wade says, “You know what, fuck it then! Either we’re all going in or we’re leaving!”
That idea was fair enough for me, because the idea of staying in a car by yourself in the dark parking lot of Uncle Henry’s was no prize either. Because Uncle Henry’s was always busy and always crowded, no matter what hour of the night or day it was and no matter the day of the week it was. Monday or Saturday were all the same, so as we approached the building, we pulled on the old wooden screen door with the Colonial bread advertisement on it and we were in.
The bright fluorescent lights blinded us momentarily as our eyes adjusted; this forty by forty store stacked with bolts of fabric, groceries, auto parts, sacks of fertilizer and no less than thirty or forty uproariously drunk African American men. Our mission, our goal, was to make all the way to the back of the store past the pool table with the green shade over it to the padlocked door where Uncle Henry stayed.
Alabama had state liquor stores where gruff and emotionless staff sold hard liquor to sinners and treated them as such. It was only with grudging acquiescence that they would sell you champagne on December 30 “we close at six o’clock you know, and we’re closed tomorrow.”
So, we eased and sidled our way through the crowd at Uncles Henry’s and if just one of those seriously intoxicated individuals had looked at us hard and yelled “Boo!” We’d have been nothing but assholes and taillights in the distance getting out of there. It was only years later, I understood that we were the floorshow. No telling how many under aged white boys showed up with their butt holes puckered, looking to meet up with Uncle Henry.
Strangely, I don’t know if Uncle Henry was a man or just the place. Maybe both maybe neither, if we had been stopped by the police with our cache of illegal liquor, we couldn’t identify anyone and with no name on the building or receipts the cops would have had bupkis. In the back of the room, behind the pool table was a juke box blasting out Lou Rawls at an ear-splitting volume. Sitting on a barstool in front of a padlocked green door sat a stoic no nonsense looking middle aged black man.
We had to shout about three times before he acknowledged our presence, “Is Uncle Henry around?” Arms crossed across his large, barrel chest resting on his expanding stomach he answered, “What chu want?”
“We answered loudly and in unison hoping to be heard the first time, “we want to buy some BEER!” The song ended just as we got to the word beer. So, here is a picture of three underage white boys in an illegal shot house screaming beer! Against a momentary silence that went completely unnoticed by anyone else in the room. That was the kind of place Uncle Henry’s was, fist fights, stabbings were common, gunfights in the parking lot, just another day at the office.
The guy on the stool gave us that “are you a cop” once over, but then quickly determined by virtue of our nervousness and overall goofiness, we couldn’t be cops. Wade was about five foot ten with dirty blond curly hair hanging over his glasses, ever-present Camel hanging from his lips. Me? I was about the same height with long brown bushy shoulder length hair with a baby face. My clothes no longer fit me right due to the lack of a mother’s home cooking which had knocked off most of the baby fat. Jimmy was stoic looking; jet-black curly hair that wouldn’t stay down and he had this thin black moustache and a thin build with blue jeans and shit kicker boots, serious looking with a sly smile.
Without leaving the stool, the man turned and unlocked a large padlock on a green door and as the door opened, he nodded for us to follow him. We were in a storeroom stacked to the ceiling with beer, wine, Malt liquor, whiskey, vodka and gin. Brands of liquor that you’d never heard of before, “William’s gin” or “Good old Kentucky Bourbon” or “Robertson’s Vodka” With a name like Robertson’s you know it had to be good! We took to calling it Bob’s Vodka. Our beer choices were simple, Budweiser, Schlitz or Colt 45 Malt liquor.
We looked at each other as Jimmy said “Three cases of Budweiser”
“That’s thirty-six dollars’ gentleman,” the big man said with a smile as Wade grabbed a pint of Bob’s Vodka the man added, “That makes it forty-one.”
“We eased and scuttled our way out of Uncle Henry’s with our beer, glad to be alive and glad to have our alcohol purchases made. Now, you might ask yourself, “Why not just wait, until you got to Florida to buy your alcohol?”
That’s a fair question, but you see Alabama sells 6% beer and Panama City sells 3.2 beer. We were looking for more drunk for the money, more buzz and less whizzing.
Now the next step was up to me, we drove back to town and to my friend Billy’s house to see if he was home from work. I’ve always had the ability to find weed, call it my special talent. I was in Alabama less than a day before I had a connection. Billy was dependable, but wasn’t consistent. I’d buy a bag from Billy and people would say, “Man has the dude got any more of that?”
But he got what he got, he gets one pound or maybe two pounds and when it was gone, it was gone and with Billy’s reputation it was gone quick. Billy and I got along well; I didn’t bug him or call him on the phone. I’d catch him at school and he’d say wait down the street, I get off at ten. He’d park his green Maverick and come out with a lunch sack and toss it into the front seat and I’d shake his hand with my thirty-five dollars in it.
Billy had done us right as always, a plastic baggie that would barely fold over. Sitting in the back seat, I began to roll a joint as we pulled off in Wade’s dirty green Pinto. We smoked the joint and were all delightfully ripped as we surveyed our plans for departure. Two gallons of shroom juice, three cases of beer, an ounce of good reefer and a pint of Bob’s Vodka. If that wasn’t enough to get us down the road to perdition in Panama City, I don’t know what was.
The plan was simple; we would leave right after school around three and get to Panama City around six. Wade’s older sister had called and made the reservation for him pretending to be his wife. I felt most certainly that so clever a ruse had never been seen or heard before or since, by motel personnel on the first weekend of spring break in PC.
My day was preoccupied in anticipation of the trip, so as I sat in my second period class, I never saw the paper wad coming that hit me on the side of the head. I picked it up and looked out into the hallway and there was Jimmy smiling at his aim. He pointed to the note; as I uncrumpled it, “Hey Fuck Head! Get your shit and come on! We’re leaving!” With universal sign language, I shrugged my shoulders and pointed to the front of the classroom.
Jimmy answered in sign language, holding up his hand, waving while pretending to urinate.
I held up my hand and waved frantically, Ms. Barnes, answered sternly. “What is it David!”
“Ma’am, I really need to use the restroom,” I implored.
“You can wait; class will be over in twenty minutes.”
“But Ms. Barnes,” I begged, “I really can’t wait; it’s one of those sudden urge types of situations that just won’t wait.”
The glass began to giggle at my dilemma as Mrs. Barnes answered; “It’s going to have to wait, class is almost over.”
I waited until she had turned back around to the blackboard and then I quietly slipped out of my desk with my books under my arm. Done and done! I was now armed with a good excuse to get out of class and to leave school as well. When I returned after the holiday, if anyone ever questioned me. I would answer, “why Ms. Barnes had refused to let me use the restroom when I had diarrhea and I had shit my pants and had to go home.” No one ever argues with when you’ve shit your pants, no one asks why you didn’t go to the office first and request permission to leave, they’re just glad that you didn’t.
Our next stop, was to pick up Wade in his mechanical drawing class. Jimmy got Wade’s attention as Wade started to pick up his books. “Mr. Amos, I’ve got that doctor’s appointment, I’ve got to go.”
“What doctor’s appointment Wade? Why didn’t you bring a note?”
“Mr. Amos,” he explains with a tone of exasperation, “it’s the same appointment I’ve got the first Friday of every month to get my eyes checked. The note is on file in the office, you can call down and ask.”
“Yes, yes, Wade I seem to remember something about it.” Well, maybe he did or maybe he had Wade confused with some other kid, which wasn’t very bloody likely. Or maybe, he figured it was best to just let him go easy, because he knew Wade would never quit. “You know Mr. Amos; I see my mom’s car out there in the parking lot. She waiting for me, you know. She’s going to get really angry, if we miss the appointment. She has to take off work you, to take me. They dilate my eyes so I can’t drive myself.” For me, I figured that Wade had Amos so well trained; they paid Amos the same amount of money with or without Wade, so without Wade could almost be considered getting a raise.
So we were free and ready to go and all we had to do was to load up. My house was empty, so I grabbed my duffel bag and the goodies. But the shrooms and the beer were at Jimmy’s house, out back in the shed and Jim’s mother was at home with two preschoolers. To me, I couldn’t have done what he did, my mother wouldn’t have believed me for a second, but I wasn’t Jimmy. You see, Jimmy was the prototypical good kid, dependable as sunshine, who never got in to any trouble Jimmy. We pulled into the driveway and we followed Jim into the house.
“Jimmy, why aren’t you boys in school?” His mother asked.
“I forgot to get the cooler and some other stuff from the shed, we’re on our lunch hour, we’re going right back.”
“Won’t you get in trouble for that Jimmy?”
“No, they’ll never know the difference, besides we’ve got thirty minutes and we’ll be back in fifteen.”
Jimmy’s stellar reputation gave him a license to kill. He was the steady one, the quiet one, the helpful one. Wade was a con man; I was the wild man. Jimmy was the good guy; he was in it up to his eyeballs just like the rest of us. But with his stoic charm it made people look past any foibles. He could rob a jewelry store and they’d hold the door for him on the way out.
Police would ask for a description of the suspect and they’d get, “He was a really nice looking kid about six foot with curly black hair. Very helpful and polite, a damn nice kid really, all in all.”
The cops would ask, “but didn’t he just rob your place?”
“Well yeah, but he must have had a good reason for it. I’m sure of it, a nice guy like that wouldn’t rob a place without good reason.”
We loaded up the car headed for the beach, I began putting beers in the cooler stacking them around the shroom juice. We each opened a beer and I rolled a joint and we were on our way. The trip was uneventful and we made it into PC in the early afternoon and went straight to the motel. When the desk clerk saw us, they double-checked to see if we had a confirmed reservation. If it hadn’t been secured by Wade’s mother’s credit card, they would have turned us away. I’m sure they still thought about turning us away but the room had been prepaid. They told us the room wouldn’t be ready until four o’clock, so we headed for the beach.
We wrapped a six pack in a towel and watched the waves break and in an hour or so we’d killed the six pack and smoked one more joint and were ready to get cleaned up and begin to partying hard. Our room was small with two small double beds, a balcony overlooking the beach with a wrought iron railing. The hotel had seen better days, stucco walls and cratered mattresses which sloped to the middle. An ancient TV set with rabbit ears with an old Philco radio on the nightstand.
Just out of curiosity, I turned on the TV to see what sort of programs people could entertain themselves with, while at the beach. What else, fishing shows! So my curiosity picked, I turned on the old radio and got nothing! Nothing, not even static, looking in the drawer of the nightstand I found a Gideon Bible and tossed it over to Wade.
“You ever heard of this?” I asked,
“I’ve heard of it, but I refuse to worship a God who will throw the creatures, he created out of paradise for petty theft of fruit!
So, I asked Jim, “What about you Jim?”
He shook his headed no silently and then answered, “Mother Goose fairy stories”
“How about you Dave,” Wade asked, “don’t you believe in the big mumbo jumbo.”
“Oh yeah man, sure! I signed us up for the morning wake up service! I mean God Damn! A god that decides who gets buried where, according to their church membership is a god to be praised! Even though the dead don’t give a shit where they’re buried and they’re only punishing the grieving for the sins of dead. That’ll fill up some mother fucking church pews! You know it? But hear me, oh heathen scum, for this book hath added value in my life! I have come to depend upon on, it’s pliable leatherette cover, doth makes easy the separation of seeds from leaf. It is God’s way of telling us to smoke another joint!”
Out of discretion and having been in the room less an hour, we left the balcony and went back into the room to smoke the joint. We were talking about where to eat supper when Wade starts to laugh, “You know it was a fucking apple right? God so loved the world that he kicked us out of paradise over a fucking apple! Right? What a dick!”
Jimmy answered, “It wasn’t really the apple, but the concept of free will, doing what God asked us to do.”
“Yeah but, yeah but, yeah but you take this one for example.” Wade answered pointing at me. “You take this one for example, basically smart enough, but if you tell him, don’t do that! What’s he going to do? Before Jim could answer Wade continued, “You know damn well what he’ll do, he’ll do the opposite! You know it and I know it! So what, am I, smarter than God?”
“God wants us to rise above who we are.” Jim answered as Wade doubled over laughing. I’m a drunk, motherfucker tonight and tomorrow I shall be healed!
“I don’t think that’s what he means” Jimmy answered.
Wade looked at me and asked, “What’s your problem? Mellow out man, don’t take it personal, you think Jimmy Ray and I are going to win some preacher’s prize and leave you out? Don’t get your panties in a bunch; you’re predictable in your unpredictability.”
Jimmy came to my defense, “Wade, your mouth is going to get you killed one day and with that face of yours, ain’t none of us going to get laid this weekend. You start running that trap of yours and the women all run for the hills.”
Wade mumbled, “We’ll see about that baby, beside there ain’t no hills, so we’ll see.”
No one could answer back on Jimmy, what could you say? Well, sometimes you’re too good a friend, you know? It really sucks the way you’re always so nice!”
We smoked another joint and went to eat at an all you can eat taco bar at the Holiday inn at the far end of the strip. It was the end of the strip where the fat, middle-class families gather with their overweight children to lounge in the sun getting blistered red while blowing up inflatable air mattresses that only last for one use.
We fit in so well here!! I mean, we really fit in so well with this crowd, me in ripped and faded blue jeans with a yellow Zig Zag shirt, Jimmy in a white Tee shirt, jeans and those damn boots and Wade with his ever present Camel cigarette and his smart ass attitude. In the lobby of the hotel was an oversized sign, “ALL YOU CAN EAT TACO BAR” 2 drink minimum. Unscathed by this visual attack we proceeded towards the “Lounge/Restaurant”
We were met at the door by and attractive older, youngish women holding menus. I asked myself, now why, if you are offering us an all you can eat Taco bar, why are you holding those menus?
She smiled and asked, “Do you want the taco bar?” as Wade answered, “no were just here for the floor show” and he never slowed down. We were all in a zoned out following sort of mode, so we just smiled as we glided past her and looked for a seat in the lounge. The waitress was dressed in one of those insulting little, short frilly skirt, bar maid outfits that are designed to show off her legs for the drunks. She approached our table asking, “What will you guys have?”
Pointing at each of us in order Wade says, “Two beers, two beers, two beers!”
“Fellas” she added by way of explanation. “It’s a two drink minimum, but you don’t have to order them all at once.”
She was just trying to be helpful, but to Wade that was only a sign of weakness. “You don’t know these guys the way I do ma’am. I’m doing you a favor by not ordering them three beers each. These are couple of dumb ass country boys here; they don’t come to town much. Three beers and they start misbehaving, starting fights and pissing in the planter in the corner. Two beers and the check ma’am and I’ll get em out here, before they can start any trouble.
The waitress smiled a nervous smile, halfway believing and halfway going along with the joke. Wade’s mussed and tossed hair hanging over his glasses with his ever-present cigarette with dead pan delivery gave him an air of frightening sincerity.
She returned with the beers and plates as Wade added, “Thank you, ma’am. You boys go out back and wash your hands in that swimming pool, while I go knock the shit out that taco bar.”
Maybe she was busy, but she never returned, we left the money on the table.
Fueled and fired with tacos and more beer, we headed back to the room for desert, more beer another joint and shroom juice. We hadn’t tested the potency of the juice since we spilt it into two gallons. So we weren’t expecting much, but we were wrong.
Good shroom juice on top of a weed and alcohol buzz has a mellowing effect. It takes the roller coaster effect out of it. It numbs your stomach, so that no matter how much you drink your stomach never sours and even if you get sick it only lasts for a minute or two. I have on occasion said, “Excuse me,” stepped behind a car heaved and then stepped back adding, “You were saying?” Then if you smoke a joint, it really kicks it in high gear and turbo charges everything.
So we broke out the shroom juice from the back of the car and went to the room. We first smoked a doobie on the balcony as we passed the jug around. First swig, no fractals, second swig, I noticed how quickly the sun was going down, third swig, a purple aura on the horizon, fourth swig, fractals!
Panama City has always been called the redneck Riviera for as long as I can remember. It’s really not fair to judge a town by its location or by the clientele that it attracts. There are no castles or royalty like, say, Monaco, but does Monaco have a Snakatorium or alligators? Or a Go Cart Track or Putt Putt Golf? Panama City doesn’t even have a decent sunset; the beaches face south so when the sun sets. its over your shoulder. You sit and wait for something wonderful to happen and it just gets dark.
It is illegal to drink alcohol on Panama City beaches. It is also illegal to drink shroom juice or smoke pot on Panama City beaches. Not that that this was any of my concern or any sort of impediment to us, but I just thought that I would mention it, before someone else brought it up. We grabbed a cold six pack and the shroom juice wrapping it in a rather disturbing looking Batman beach towel. I rolled five joints and left the bag in the room as we headed for the beach.
The dark was comforting; the breeze was wet and warm as we opened more beers. In between swigs of beer we were taking swigs of the juice which brought about the inevitable firing up of yet another joint. We were flying, not frying, but flying. We were balloons blowing free in the gulf breeze as an absurd thought entered my head, this must be what it felt like to be Judy Garland in Oz.
I still retained enough sanity not to repeat that thought to my compatriots, but as I began to babble on about Toto, they were clueless. The beach was filled with an almost endless procession of guys looking to meet girls and girls looking to meet guys. I had wandered down to the waterline and while I was down at there, I was somewhere over the rainbow; Wade was attempting to use his talents. As the good looking women walked past Wade would ask, “Hey ladies, what cha up to? I watched from a distance, pretending I wasn’t with them, but just some curious alien taking notes.
When I returned I asked, “Who wants to smoke another joint?” It really didn’t matter, because I already had it to my lips and was fumbling for my lighter when three, nice looking young ladies walked by. Jimmy; yes Jimmy the quietest one of the bunch calls out to them. “Hey, y’all want to get fucked up?”
They saw and smelled the joint and stepped over to help us smoke it. They were from Georgia or Pennsylvania somewhere with an IA on the end of it. They could have been from Transylvania, because the shrooms were open for business and they were having and all brain cells must go sale.
We made rambling conversation and when I asked the blonde girl, “What are you all doing down here” she answered, “Ludes.” That was an interesting comment, but not really the answer I had been looking for. Wade asked, “Whose got Quaaludes?” The blonde girl began to hem and haw about it, “We really don’t have that many and we can’t sell any of them. Wade stood up and announced to the assembled, “Whoever gives me two Quaaludes can drink from this jug as much as they want.”
I knew right then, Wade also knew what it felt like to be Judy Garland. He needed Quaaludes like he needed a pony ride. But Wade was Wade, and he was bullet proof as he’d proved to us many times before. Once in a drunken haze Wade announced to those around the campfire that he was going to streak naked along the highway a quarter mile away. He stripped off his clothes and ran with a full head of steam through a dark pasture of waist high saw grass. Just as we were about to catch him he fell. We grabbed him and dragged him back to the campfire as a committee began to dress him. Like a flash of clarity, he calls out, “I lost my fucking glasses! I need my fucking glasses and takes off running again through the darkness.
Again we gave chase, and again, he fell coming up with his glasses in his hands, “Oh, here they are.” It was beyond phenomena, but that was Wade, you knew with Wade involved that it would probably go wrong, but he just had this uncanny knack of pulling his nuts out of the fire at the last minute.
So the girls begin to inspect our jug of shroom juice with an air of condescension. Being ignorant of such Southern phenomenon, what would one think of three shaggy looking boys from Alabama and their innocuous jug of grape Kool-Aid?
Wade began to bargain, “You take four good swigs and if you don’t like it you owe don’t me nothing. You take four more and if you don’t like it then you’re just a lying, fucked up bitch. The Blonde girl asked me, “What is it?”
“It’s shroom juice,” I answered, “Psilocybin mushroom juice.”
“Where the fuck did you get it?”
So I began explaining the saga of the rain, the cow pastures and growing all over the place and giant freakish monster shrooms. She was impressed and I thought, maybe I had a chance with her. But all teenage guys think that they have a chance with every teenage girl they meet, if they don’t spit on you or hit you with a brick.
So real casual I explained, “I always end up falling asleep on Quaaludes, how do you keep from falling asleep?”
“Oh, I take these man,” she reached into her purse/beach bag and pulled out a pill bottle filled with white cross speed. I needed speed like Wade needed that pony ride, but on the highway to hell, it’s always best to travel in the express lane. I traded her unlimited jug privileges for twenty white cross. I got the better end of the deal, we would have let them drink for nothing, so I popped three in my mouth, I put the rest in the pocket of my blue work shirt.”
In ten minutes and a joint later, the girls were laughing and talking about the surf being purple. Jimmy took the jug from my hand and passed it to the third girl because that was Jimmy. You don’t have to make this shit up, that was just the kind of guy he was. It was a drug and alcohol fueled match made in heaven, Wade was with the loud one and I was matched with the drug dealer and Jimmy was matched with the quiet one.
The girls wanted to go to the pier, a pier that’s now long since gone. Old wood timbers washed away by a long forgotten hurricane, replaced by a concrete and steel manufactured pier, three times as long. The old wooden pier had ambiance and creosol, lovers carved their initials into it. By the time we had reached the pier the girls were staggered by the juice. I’ve never done Quaaludes and shroom juice, but it was a combination which sounded sort of promising.
The girls kept laughing uncontrollably, talking loudly about the purple lights on the edge of the pier. It was reaching the point where even amongst a drunk and stoned, they were becoming noticeable. Wade, grabbed the girl by the arms, “Look!” he said, “I want to party with you and get to know you, but I ain’t going to jail with you!”
I think it was the “J” word that sobered them up.
In one of Panama Cities near endless ironies, while it was illegal to drink beer on the beach. It was legal for all the stores along the beach to sell beer, so you have to figure that one out by yourself, I can’t help you. Wade went in to get us a six pack and I stood ministerial duties as Jimmy and the quiet one had disappeared. Sure, I looked cool trying to hold up two attractive girls high on Quaaludes and shroom juice, but it was harder than it appeared.
Wade soon returned with the beer as the girls began saying that they wanted to go out to the end of the pier.
“Are you sure about that?” I asked, “It’s not exactly dry land you know?”
“Yeah, yeah,” they insisted. So as we began, I unwrapped the disturbing Batman towel from around the shrooms. We had barely drank a half a gallon. Wade had his arm around the girl trying to be romantic, while trying to hold her up.”
I carried the beer and the shrooms while trying to act respectable, even if incapable of the real thing. As we walked towards the end of the pier, I took a long swig of shrooms and passed them to the blonde girl. The look on her face told me that she was riding the roller coaster. There was a crowd at the end of the pier, kids not doing nothing; but just being there, just being anywhere, among their own, free from mom and dad. Mostly they were kids just trying to figure out what to do with their lives by first taking a vacation.
I wanted to smoke a joint but I knew in this crowd that I would be wasting it, then the loud girl with Wade started talking about the purple lights again and purple surf and purple stars.
Someone in the crowd asked, “What purple lights are you talking about baby?”
Without hesitation she answers, “They’ve got fucking shroom juice” pointing to us, “and that shit is great!”
I winced, looking over the side of the pier contemplating my chances if I jumped. Here we were on the end of a long pier with only one way off and she’s just told the crowd that we’re in possession of hallucinogenics, not to mention one or two joints and maybe fifteen white cross hits of speed. We would have kept one good cop buried in paper work until the shift change.
So a guy asks, “I’ll give you five bucks for a glass” but before I could answer Wade says, “Ten.”
“How do I know it’s worth ten?” the guy answered.
“Look at the assembled multitude my friend” Wade says pointing to us. “Your eyes don’t deceive you.”
By then the rush was on, crowds were lining up with their money in their hands for mother Mary’s mighty mushroom elixir. In ten minutes, the shroom juice was gone and the bottom of the gallon had been far better than the top. Fractals and rambling talk about Judy Garland were everywhere.
The crowd would get silent watching the purple surf then someone would laugh and set off the entire crowd laughing. That would spark loud and boisterous conversations which would eventually trail off into silence again, gazing off at the purple surf on the horizon.
Wade and I nodded to each other that it was time to make our escape. The pier was wrecked; it was like the back of a bad Beatles album, Strawberry Redneck Rivera forever. The girls were becoming groggy and wanted to go back to their hotel room, alone! Obviously, we were future fleeing felons! We were the kind of guys they liked to party with but would give the wrong phone number. Or maybe I just copied it down wrong, I don’t remember, I was quite high at the time.
After the girls left, Wade handed me forty bucks, “That’s your share of the shroom money.”
“Damn we should do this all the time!”
“You do and you’ll end up breaking rocks in the hot sun. Hell,” he said, “I was just tired of carrying that shit around. They was starting to get warm, you know? Nasty shit, warm shrooms!”
We went back to the room, I ate a couple more of the white cross and popped a good ole Alabama six percenter as we smoked the last joint in my pocket. We were full time fucked up in a part-time side of town. So then, Wade starts babbling about some club his cousin told him about, over on Back Beach Road. But I knew Wade well enough to know what he was saying; he wanted to go for a ride.
I don’t know, maybe I was just more mature than Wade. Some little voice was calling out to me, imploring me, telling me after twelve hours of drinking beer, smoking pot, drinking shroom juice and eating speed not to mention the Quaalude that Wade ate that maybe, he shouldn’t be driving. Wade answered that with, “Quit being a pussy!”
I managed to talk him into walking down to a bar a few doors down from the hotel, where we could hear a band playing. The bar was wall to wall people, one of those clubs, so small with a band so loud you could actually hear the music better outside, than you could inside.
We squeezed our way in pushing and sliding our way into the bar. I see Wade mouthing something to the bartender. He passes me over a plastic cup with his favorite mixed drink Seagram & Seven.
“Wade, I wanted a beer?”
“I buy you a drink” he says, “and look how you act? Just say thank you, and shut the fuck up!”
My throat was dry from the speed, which only reminded me that they were still in my pocket so I took two more. I screamed above the din to Wade that I was going to the restroom, but he just waved me off.
The bright fluorescent light of the restroom blinded and awakened me; a quick look in the mirror shocked me. My eyes were dilated my skin was pasty white and my hair needed combing. So as I tried to comb the sea breezes out of my long hair as my scalp tingled and rushed from the speed. My mind was asking me questions, too many questions, what was I doing? Why was I doing this? I knew why I was doing this, but preferred not to think about it. That was reason enough! I’m getting fucked up here, so as not to have to think about the reality of the situation. So for reality to intrude on the apex of my buzz was just highly inappropriate!
I staggered out, back into this overheated pulsating ball of humanity. I tried to raise my head above the crowd and above my petty teenage crisis’s. Wade was no where to be found. This worried me, not because I couldn’t find my way back to the room, but because Wade had a tipping point. He had a point where all that was fun and funny about him turned on him, his tongue went from being his best friend to being his worst enemy. I knew before we left the hotel, he was near to that point. But I was near that point as well. Drunk as shit, stoned as hell and so fried on mushrooms the room looked like just one swirling colorful pulsating blob and thinking, was I was going to play mother hen?
All I really saw was movement; it had caught hold of my attention in my peripheral vision, because I really didn’t think that there was enough room in this joint to swing a pool cue. But there was, and there, at the wrong end of that pool cue was Wade. He was holding three pool balls, trying to juggle them. From a distance, it didn’t appear Wade had any inkling of the anger being directed in his direction, until the guy came across the pool table and tackled him.
I saw his drink go up in the air from the edge of the pool table and that was all. I slithered my way through the crowd towards Wade as the crowd lurched back the other direction. The band never stopped and I saw a guy with a sawed off baseball bat come over the top of the bar. As I got to Wade, they were pulling the guy off of him. Wade was roughed up but unhurt, cussing viscously, screaming, “Come on motherfucker, come on!”
These two guys were twice Wade’s size sober and they were a lot more nearer to sober than either of us. It was the crowd that saved us, this whirring blob had absorbed us before either the combatants or the management could reach us. As I dragged Wade towards the door, he was still shouting, “Motherfuckers! Dickless motherfuckers!”
I remember seeing a large angry looking bartender standing near the door, who gave me the out sign with his fist and thumb and then pointed towards the door. I was actually relieved by this; it meant we could go free without any further discussions about our activities with law enforcement. I was so relieved by this, I think I smiled back at him and kind of waved to him like saying, “See you tomorrow buddy!” The truth was; this was my first time being thrown out of a bar. I was young and unsure as to how I should react, but my years since have taught me the correct protocol.
Once outside, Wade was still livid that I’d pulled him off of those two guys, “I was just about to kick their ass!” he kept repeating, but soon he forgot all about the incident ever happening. We had reached another threshold, there is fucked up and there is really fucked up and then there is two AM, so fucked up that you’re almost sober fucked up, but still really fucked up.
The breeze and the warm night calmed us and mellowed us until we reached the parking lot and as soon as Wade saw his little green Pinto he said. “Let’s go look for that club over on Back Beach Road!”
“Wade the clubs are about to close, let’s go get some beer” I argued.
“You go get some beer, I’m going to go look for some pussy!”
Wade had zero chance of finding any pussy, unless he just happened to bump into a naked woman as drunk as he was. Okay, that was possible, during Spring break but still, not very likely.
I didn’t want to go, I didn’t want to go, I didn’t want to go! There, now I’d said it three times, my conscience was clear and I jumped into the passenger seat of the Pinto. I was like an Army draftee. I had to go, Wade would have gone by himself and Jimmy never would have forgiven me for letting Wade go by himself.
So now we’re over on Back Beach Road and back in the day, it was pretty quiet. The few signs were winking out as the businesses closed up. We couldn’t find the club; we couldn’t have found it if we’d been sober and remembered the name of the place. There was a club open that was winding down, pushing the stragglers towards the door. Wade pulls the car into the parking lot and spies a young guy in the back with hand trucks, carrying empty kegs to a blockhouse next to the Dumpster.
As Wade pulls up next to him he rolls the window down and asks, “Dude, what are you doing?”
“We’re closing up”
We were smoking a joint so Wade offers it to the guy as Wade starts describing this mythical club. The guy is bogarting our joint but that’s okay, he’s got information. “Yeah, I think I know which club you’re talking about, but I think it’s shut down.”
Wade answers, off the cuff, “You got beer in there?” eyeing the blockhouse.
“Well, yeah,” he answers.
“Want to sell us a keg for a hundred bucks?”
“Dude, I’ll get fired if I do that.”
“Only if you get caught and they can’t pin it on you.”
Wade’s digging in his pockets now pulling out wads of bills. He looks at me and says, “Gimme that forty back”
The guy is on his way to the blockhouse to get us the keg as Wade calls out. “We need a tap too!” He finds the other Quaalude in his shirt pocket and calls out the window “We’ll trade you a Quaalude for a tap.”
I jumped out of the car to help load the keg into the hatchback as he gave a shabby looking tap, but after two AM, I stop being choosy. We passed the guy the money and the gorilla biscuit and off we roared into the night. Sometimes drugs and alcohol can just make you paranoid, do you know that feeling? That paranoid feeling where you’re drunk, stoned and stupid, driving through town at two AM with a pilfered keg of beer in the back seat of the car? When all of a sudden and for no reason at all, you begin to wonder if maybe you might somehow get in trouble for all this, but that’s all it was, just stupid paranoia. Maybe it was caused by the speed? Or maybe by the weed? Or maybe by the shrooms or maybe I just being a wuss?
Of all the alleged shortcomings of the Ford Pinto the loading and unloading of beer kegs should be added to the list. Sure, it was prone to explosion in the event of a rear end collision, but how often did that happen? Unloading a hastily loaded keg in an extremely loaded condition however, became a puzzle to us. With the rear seat down we attempted to first roll the keg back to us but the hatchback made us stoop to reach it. We rolled it back forward, thinking of taking it out through the passenger door but that was out of the question. What were the geniuses at the Ford Motor Company thinking?
Through pure luck and Wade being Wade, his jacket was still in the back of the car left over from Alabama’s short winter. Using it as a sling we dragged our prize out, freeing it from prison Pinto. “If I’d had another Quaalude” Wade quipped, “I’d have gotten those hand trucks from that guy!”
We struggled in our sodden condition up two flights of stairs straining to get the keg into the room. My temples throbbed; I was feeling things again. Blood pressure, exertion and emotion we were back, but we had made it into the room. We broke into laughter as we closed the door. “Wait until Jimmy sees this!” I said. But Wade answered, “Jimmy will just look at it and say, good, more beer! You could bring an elephant in to the room and Jimmy would say “good! An elephant!” He just don’t freak out, ya know?”
I nodded, “Yeah, Jimmy just don’t freak out.”
We stopped to reward ourselves by smoking another joint and breaking out an Alabama six percenter, I think I took two more white cross, but I don’t remember for sure. After our break was over Wade laid one of our two bath towels on the bottom of the bathtub and we lifted the keg in. Then we made two or three trips to raid the ice machine with an ice bucket and a small trash can before the revelation broke through the sodden clouds to use our cooler. Having emptied the ice machine, it appeared that our night had climaxed, it was after four AM the town had shut down for all except for the hard core and since we couldn’t find them, we drank a beer on the balcony, until the inevitable overtook us.
I next remember my foot feeling numb, so numb that it woke me. Maybe it was the heat or the daylight or because I was only wearing one sandal and its mate was nowhere else to be found. But let me back up here, I say that I woke up, but that was incorrect. I didn’t wake up, I merely regained consciousness.
My eyes were offended by the light and my ears by the sound of the surf. My brain was screaming out at the offences which had been inflicted upon it. It roared at me with an AM radio static as my eyes burned. I found my sandal less foot on the wrought iron railing with my other foot pressing down upon it. I pulled both feet down but didn’t dare to try and stand, my left foot now buzzed like a thousand enraged bees had taken it over. I wanted to puke but didn’t dare. I feared that if I were to begin, I might not be allowed the privilege of stopping.
I heard the door close and limped into the room to see who it was. It was Jimmy, who considering the night didn’t look near as bad as I felt. He smiled that sly smile at me saying. “You look pretty rough.” Then, he looked over at Wade, face up on the bed his mouth open in a silent, drunken rigamortis stupor asking, “Have you put a mirror under his nose recently, to see if he’s still breathing?”
He went in to the bathroom as I sat on the edge of the bed, I held my head. He asked, “Where did you y’all get the keg of beer?”
It was a strange question to me, akin to one of those secrets of the universe. It was like waking up in bed with a stranger. Momentarily, I had no idea where the keg had come from and only slowly, did the snap shots of the previous evening begin to appear in my mind. I muttered, “A dude in the parking lot of a club or something?”
“Really?” Jim asked, surprised by our initiative. “Did you buy it or trade for it?” And his sly smile returned as his voice trailed off asking, “did you and Wade rip it off?”
“Well, yes and no,” I explained, “I guess, we paid a guy to rip it off for us.”
My powers of communication were under a serious storm front, so I gave Jim the abbreviated version of shrooms, the pier and Judy Garland and the crowd wanting more. So I asked Jim, “What happened to you?”
Jimmy being Jimmy answered, “Aw, nothing much really.” I knew Jimmy well enough to know that I’d get no more out of him and I’d only piss him off by trying. Then out of the blue, he asked me the most hideous question I think I’ve ever been asked, in my entire young life.
“You want to get some breakfast?”
The idea of coffee appealed to me, almost as much as the idea of food didn’t.
I brushed my teeth and my windblown, knotted hair admiring the keg, sitting there as a stranger, whom I hadn’t met introduced. It was like I had dreamed it and yet here it was, real as life. It was an icon to the power of alcohol and drug-fueled thinking.
All those anti-drug commercials made me now ask myself, now, if we had been sober, would that keg have been sitting in our bathtub right now? If we hadn’t gone out and picked those mushrooms would we have had the money to pay someone to commit a felony for us? Why no, of course not, we’d have been sitting in our hotel room watching fishing programs and inflating air mattresses.
The coffee did me good, it revived the residual effect of the white cross even before I found three left in my pocket covered in sand. I downed one with my first cup of coffee and even tried to eat a sausage and egg biscuit. It went down good and half way back to the hotel, exited just as quickly. I had abandoned my sandal (singular) in favor of my K-mart, buddy boy gym shoes. I was grateful to have had them, as it was, I wasn’t much for styling and vomit on your shoe tips just doesn’t much appeal to the fairer sex, as if K-mart, Buddy boy gym shoes, might somehow find appeal among teenage girls.
I should have been more upset about publicly losing my breakfast, but this was after all, Saturday morning of Spring break on the streets of Panama City. Smart city officials should have taxed the activity, because I was far from being alone. Jimmy thought it was funny, but laughed quietly and never repeated the incident to Wade. All in all, breakfast was a good thing; I felt much better and could feel the speed kicking in again. I felt so good that I celebrated by smoking a joint and popping open a six percenter!
The rest of the day was a blur from then on, the bed, the patio chair semi-lucid, semi-out of it. The power of drugs and alcohol, overcoming body and the mind putting to sleep all that I wanted to sleep, even if it took the day down with it in the process, I considered it a fair trade. It was a worthy trade, nothing outside but sun and sand and a roaring surf to
It was a worthy trade, nothing outside but sun and sand and a roaring surf competed with my roaring head, so I chose to stay hidden until dark. Then, come sundown, I could revive and try again to undertake my own destruction, all over again and all in the name of fun and good times.
It was fun and it was good times, escapist fun, escapist good times, running full speed in the dark, heedless of where I was going and running from the dark. Running from all life had given to me and had dumped on to me. Life was bullshit, teenage bullshit. So the cells and synapses of my brain must be made to pay for making me feel, for making life, too real and too bitter.
It wasn’t the death of my mother that had jaded me; it was the burial of my father as well. As the casket closed, he ceased to be my father. He was this broken guy. The relatives all whispered in my ear, “Take care of your father.” I’ll always remember that day as the day I discovered that my relatives were full of shit.
Tell a sixteen-year-old kid to take care of a fifty-year-old man, absolutely awesome plan! As if I could, even if I had known what to do? So I waited and I waited and I waited for one of them just one to come tell me to take care of myself.
Like a skyrocket of emotion, bright lights, pretty colors, then cold ash falling to earth and no one cares where it lands. My father lost his wife; I lost my mother, my friends, my family and my school. He liked Montgomery, he liked being a good ole boy and hanging out at the country club. He was just too dumb to realize that he was a Yankee, just like I was, and he always would be.
We, Wade and I began slowly moving, gradually gaining in speed and momentum. As the sun started to go down over our shoulders we began to rise like a phoenix ready to burn ourselves to ashes one more time. None of us were in a hurry to frolic with the shrooms just yet. Not because of the taste but because of the shivers and quivers it gives you when it goes down like a live virus.
Jim asked, “Did you guys get a tap with this keg?”
Wade with an air of certainty while lying on the bed staring at the ceiling answered, “Of course we got a tap!” Then he looked at me and asked cautiously, “Didn’t we?”
“Yeah,” I answered, “I’ll go get it.”
You never needed to worry about Wade locking the car, because he didn’t believe in it. He well understood that there were nine chances in ten, the only person to ever to be locked out would be him. Just as an extra precaution, he left a window down. Wade kept about four sets of car keys and still managed to run out. He kept a lock box as a failsafe under the fender and I had heard Jimmy ask him about it, before we left town.
I returned with the tap and Wade and Jim struggled with it. I wasn’t up for wrestling of any kind. Our two AM tap leaked like a sieve, issuing a constant flow of white foam where the hose connected to the tap. There was no other alternative but to untap the keg until ready to drink and then locating a container to catch the leakage.
My humanity had returned sufficiently to the point where I was willing to try solid food again. Not that I cared for solid food, I would have gladly traded dinner for another hand full of white crosses, but such was life’s unfairness. This time, we found a crappy pizza place for dinner. I knew it was crappy, because as a general rule any pizza place located on the beach is probably crappy. It is instinctive, for some reason you just can’t make good pizza with palm trees out front. But it was dark and offered cold beer, so it was good enough. We were subdued, the rough edge broken off of us and just needed a good sanding.
After dinner, we walked the strip looking to soak up some local color. We came upon a bar advertising two for one drink specials until ten o’clock. Why that sounded colorful enough for one and all. Beer was not included in the drink specials, which for me would have been reason enough for me to leave the premises immediately.
But Wade had already ordered his Seagram and Seven, Jimmy a Jack Daniel’s and water. So sitting at the next table was an attractive looking young woman, drinking a multi colored drink. Being cool and suave and all like that, like all seventeen year boys, I asked casually and coolly, “What’s that you’re drinking?”
“With a smile, she answered, “It’s a tequila sunrise.” That was the “in” drink at the moment. I should have known, but I asked anyway, just being suave and all, “is it any good?”
She offered me a taste and I was sold, “Two tequila sunrises one for me and one for the lady!”
Like an alien abduction, there was this time compression thing going on, suddenly, it was solid dark outside and there was a band was playing. Our group had joined this group of young ladies and I was completely out of my head. The story was later explained to me that the bar stopped serving me at thirteen, but I think that was an exaggeration. Who would stop serving on such an unlucky number, like thirteen?
It wouldn’t be fair for me to take credit where credit was not due, because the fact was they stopped serving all of us. Not just me, but the whole damn lot of us, suggesting, we take the party elsewhere! “Fine,” I answered, “I’ve been thrown out of better places than this! In fact, I’ve been thrown out of better places than this! Just yesterday!” All I remember is hands and arms under my armpits and arms and the sensation of floating! I wasn’t thrown out of a bar for the second time in twenty-four hours. I was floated out!
We ended up back at the hotel, including stragglers and baggage handlers there must have been about a dozen of us. We tried again to tap the keg and found one of those water pitchers they put in the room and nudged it under the tap to catch the spillage. The party was rocking along pretty good when the people in the next room began to fight. Through the old stucco walls, it was hard to determine just what the fight was about.
When they would get loud, our party would quiet down to listen. Then they would grow quiet as if they were listening to us. It appeared something had really pissed them off! It was nearly midnight and here they were screaming at each other. Something about picking such a shitty hotel and not being able to get any sleep. But it was a foolish point of order, here they were fighting, just looking for an excuse to shift the blame.
When the knock on the door came, it was the police; someone had filed a noise complaint. I felt certain they had the wrong room and said so. I explained to the officer how they’re fighting next door, that their noise was far and away, much louder than ours. And by comparison, we were much more tolerant, because we had not filed a noise complaint against them. We promised to try and behave and he promised, that they would try to get along better next door. It seemed like a fair bargain to me at the time, although it was far beyond my comprehension that the folks next door probably didn’t have a jug of shroom juice or a stolen keg of beer in their bathtub.
The thinking among us got very quiet; as we passed around a couple of joints and the shroom juice started to make the rounds. One shot, and I was seeing fractals again, I was far past Judy Garland now, I was passed Toto too, I was the Tin Man baby! Pointy little hat and all, my brain was on autopilot, my body on mechanical man movements. It was all very funny until someone got hurt, then, it became hysterical.
We all heard the glass break; it had a definitive sound. I was closest to the balcony and stepped out to see if I could locate the source of the damage. The hotel lamp was still spinning on the patio, next door when I arrived. I saw in silhouette two people fighting through the decorative brick that separated the patios. More wrestling than fighting, but still, fighting and back in the day the Panama City police where pretty straight up. They let a whole lot of mess slide, because it was after all, the redneck Rivera, and well, when people acted like rednecks who could be surprised much or blame them?
Sure enough, on que, the police showed up and out of respect and fear we got real quiet like. The flashing red lights in the parking lot had a subliminal effect upon us all. We listened with drinking glasses at the wall and no one wanted to press charges and the man agreed to go down to the office and make good the damages on his master card. It made me think back to our own check in and the way they had looked at us, and now look who broke a window? Not us! But the night was still young!
Being young and adventurous I volunteered to go down and check the parking lot to see if the cops had left. My excuse would be that I was going after another pack of cigarettes out of the Pinto. It wasn’t that far and didn’t take that long or did it? By the time I had returned the party was back in full swing and as I knocked on the door no one would answer and this was far too close to the reality of my sober life. I could be ignored sober; my problems, my crises could be ignored, my school life where Caesar was pronounced Kassar could all be ignored.
But now by God, I was far too fucked up and far, far too far out of my head to be ignored now. I would make my grand reentrance! I would show them; I would amaze them all! I abandoned the door and went around to the beach side of the motel and I began to amass tables and deck chairs, carefully stacking them and checking each level for stability. Then, as I reached the third, level I added one more chair to stand upon on top of the table.
Now I’ll stop here, because I know that many of you are thinking, “How fucking stupid could you get?” The answer was quite a bit, but the relevant point to be remembered here was that my construction practices did not fail me. I had checked the structure at every level for safety. From where I was standing on top of two beach tables and a folding chair I could just reach the top of the wrought iron railing.
I grabbed for the railing and began to pull myself upwards; I put one foot up on the concrete patio and then the second. By this time, I had gained the attention of the party even as drunk and out of control as it was. Any time a madman is attempting to climb up on to the second floor patio from the beach it was noteworthy, in any condition of sobriety. I gave a tug and pulled myself up pushing with all my might with my feet, and then it happened.
Historical accuracy compels me to add that at this point, I did not fall off the balcony. The wrought iron balcony railing gave way when I tried to push myself upwards with my feet. The wrought iron railing crashed into my assembled scaffolding below leading to the mistaken belief that I had fallen. When it began to let go, its weight and gravity pulled it towards the ground. My separation from this heavy object as I pushed off with my feet caused me to take flight, turning a full somersault before landing flat on my back in the sand.
I remember the multitude assembled, staring down at me from the now railing less balcony, I cussed and I cussed, I cussed them all, I cussed their families and their parentage. It bordered on primal scream therapy as there were not enough fucks, shits and assholes to fulfill my rage. When Wade looks down from the balcony Camel cigarette dangling from his lips, saying calmly, “Dude, pick up the railing!”
Just for emphasis, I kicked the pile of rubble shouting, “Fuck the God damned railing! You come get this mother fucking railing your own God damned self!”
When I reached the door this time they heard me by God! They opened the door as the crowd began to stream out. Typical, as soon as the floorshow is over the crowds all leave! Jimmy and Wade passed me coming in the door. I sat on the bed and found half a joint in the ashtray and lit it up.
By the time they returned with the railing it was all pretty funny. I could hear them struggling to get the heavy twelve-foot long railing up the ten-foot wide stairwell.
They were clanging and banging and cussing, when they got it into the room it looked, all in all, pretty funny and out of place, but I was already was on the phone. Management had heard of a commotion and had called up wanting to know what the hell was going on. I assured them all was quiet here “We’re going out!” I added for emphasis, because the people next door were still making so much noise!
I don’t know where Jimmy and Wade were when the policeman knocked on the door. The officer asked me with a straight face, “Have you seen two guys carrying a balcony railing up this stairwell?” Okay, on a scale of fucked up from one to ten I was around a twenty-seven. Where Jack Kerouac had gone on the road, I had gone into the air and done aerobatics to boot. But even this impaired and even at this late hour, I couldn’t resist asking, “You’re kidding right? Two guys carrying a balcony railing? Seriously?”
Maybe, I wasn’t all that convincing, maybe I was too drunk for him to fuck with being safely locked down inside of my motel room. He went away and so did my memories of the rest of my night. When I awoke, I was sitting on the bathroom floor with my back to the wall and one hand curiously buried deep into the toilet bowl? As I pulled my hand out it was shriveled and a ghostly white. I have no recollection of why it was in there; I had not thrown up or commenced with any other bodily functions. I had no corresponding bruises which might have indicated a fall. I was just there, alive and well and ready for more with a shriveled hand and all!
As I entered the motel room Wade and Jimmy were out cold in their beds. What was wrong with them, I thought to myself. Daylight, cold beer and they were sleeping!
After only forty hours of drinking and drugs, they were wussing out. “Pussies,” I said when they refused to rise. So I washed out a quart beer bottle and filled it from the keg and filled our room pitcher and headed for the beach.
As I made my way down the hall I heard two girls talking, “Yeah, they said that this guy dove off the balcony and landed in the swimming pool!”
“That’s impossible,” her friend answered, “It’s too far, you could never reach it!”
“Well that’s what I heard from a person who said that they were there!”
I continued on wondering, had I been upstaged? Or was it like the school room game of telegraph where the story mutates and becomes a colossus, taking on a life of its own? The girl was right about one thing, it was too far from balcony to the pool and we were on the wrong side of the motel. One thing for sure, I noticed as I walked by that there was a Tom’s candy vending machine in the deep end of the swimming pool.
Even hung over, I notice little things like that and yet, this morning I was strangely energized. I had all most killed myself and basked in anonymous glory. By noon the story would evolve into a shootout with police and a daring escape. Who knows how far it would escalate, I walked through the breezeway and out on to the concrete stoop. Jimmy and Wade had done well; they had returned all my improvised scaffolding to its proper place. The balcony railing had towels hung over both ends disguising the damage but a
The balcony railing had towels hung over both ends disguising the damage but a careful inspection would notice that the wrought iron was leaning on a deck chair.
As I drank directly from the pitcher I couldn’t help but to examine my flight trajectory in the light of day. From my perch on the balcony I had missed the concrete below by at least three feet landing in the sand. The base of the balcony was twelve to fourteen feet above the pavement and from the pavement was a two-foot drop to the sand. So I had sailed out from the balcony at least twelve feet and fallen between fourteen and eighteen feet not including the back flip.
I had tested my mortality and had failed or succeeded, depending on how you evaluate such things. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t care much about living either, just another teenage conundrum, seeking freedom and release from pain by stalking the footsteps of death.
So, as I sat on the beach, I also sat alone in the universe. The wind blowing and tangling my hair as the sun’s rays burning lines into my face. Just me and God and he wasn’t drinking. So I was numbed alone into a solemn, sodden solitude I contemplated my place in the Universe. How could I fit in with the Jeff Davis crowd? Pretend that I didn’t like to read books or that I didn’t read books not approved on the counties official reading list.
Could I pretend to like Elvis more than Edgar Winter or Jimi Hendrix? There just didn’t seem to be any easy answers here. Who should I pretend to be, just to fit in at school? It was already very clear to me that I was on the administrations shit list. I was being called down to the office almost every day, and for nothing. I know that it sounds petty even today. Would grownups behave in that petty a manner? The answer was yes; the easiest way to solve a problem without spending money was to get rid of it.
There’s was a warehouse of the passive, of followers and line standers. Standing in line or joining the junior ROTC, so they could learn to stand in line and blindly follow orders in uniform.
How could I fit in at home? Live with the broken man who took to mending his ills with alcohol. I remember playing with this kid when I was about ten. We had to be quiet, because his mother didn’t feel well. When I came into the house she was wearing sunglasses, odd really, wearing sunglasses inside of a house. As I left and we said our good byes her glasses were off and I could see the shiner around her eye. I was a dumb ass kid at the time and it was years before I could understand, why she didn’t feel well. Now, as I sat on this blustery beach, I could relate to her condition.
It’s emotionally troubling when those who are supposed to love you, instead beat on you. It is even more troubling when they beat on you with words and ideas that leave more than just shiners and require more than sunglasses to hide. This is a sort of death of a thousand cuts that leaves no exterior lesions, but instead scars the heart.
“Daddy says mean things to me when he’s drunk,” Sounds like comical whining of a spoiled kid, but I was feeling his pain as well as my own. I could understand that his wife of almost thirty years had died suddenly in his arms, what must that pain have felt like? But as I empathized with his pain he rejected and renounced mine. I had become the object of his furry, his derision and his criticism. I was his cornered little weasel to be poked at with a stick.
Yet, in my own intoxication I was free and anesthetized. I drank from both the pitcher and the quart bottle before passing out in the sun. Several do gooders had warned me about falling asleep in the sun and one had covered me up after I did. Jimmy and Wade had found me on the beach and roused me. The weather had changed to dark, blue black clouds which were roiling and rolling in and the wind had started blowing a gale.
It was all so confusing; I had gone to sleep in bright, dreamy fairyland and woke to a land of gusting winds and dark storms. Jimmy and Wade were anxious to leave and at first I didn’t understand why?
“Dude” Wade explained, “The cops came to the room, they’re interviewing people trying to find out who threw the vending machine in the pool. They know about the party in our room last night. They want to talk to you about it.”
“I didn’t throw any vending machine in the pool Wade.” I answered in protest, “I’m an aerialist not a strongman.”
“That really doesn’t matter that much,” Jim added. “We just need to get out of here, just because. We had the party, so we would be the most likely candidates to pin it on. Besides, look at the weather. It’s about to storm like shit on us all the way home.
He was right of course; he was always right. If you didn’t know if something was right or not, just ask Jim. You’d get a straight answer and then a smile.
We should have run for it, we should have headed due North, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars. But all three of us had a drunk for three days and really needed to eat something hangover. We found an, all you could eat buffet and pulled into the parking lot just as the rain had started to fall. By the time we had finished eating, we were prisoners of the storm.
The rain was pouring sideways in the wind. “It comes in bands of rain” the cashier added, as we stared out forlornly at the little Pinto in the parking lot. Watching the water rise in the flooding torrents almost up to the door jams of the car. We finally decided “fuck it” and made a run for it. The weekend exodus conjoined with the weather prompted us to make a fateful decision. We would forgo US 231, the four lane divided highway and make our way home another way.
US 331 snaked its way through the hinterlands and back woods of North Florida and South Alabama. The logic was simple, even if faulty; we were trading traffic for extra highway. We thought by missing the massive traffic jam, we could absorb the extra fifty or so miles. Maybe it was a good plan, maybe not, but the die was soon cast.
In little more than four hours, we had not managed to go fifty miles, the roads were flooded, the signals were out, as power would vacillate between off and on, until finally, we made the decision to pull over at a little gas station and try to sleep for a few hours to see if the storm wouldn’t let up on us some. In all honesty, Wade was spent; the weekend, the mushrooms, the beer and now driving through a tropical rainstorm had gotten the best of him.
The old gas station was called Jim Bob’s or Bob Jim’s, but it was what many of the old timers called, a beer store. It was a gas station in name only, a gas station that sold gas to pay the rent and beer and cigarettes to make a living. That was obvious by the fact that the store was closed on Sunday. No beer sales on Sunday so they can’t make any money. So why open other than to put on a nice corporate front? This was small town, backwoods Alabama and they didn’t go in much for corporate fronts.
I was in the back seat of the Pinto, resting as comfortably as one could in the back seat of a Pinto. I don’t remember if the lights went out first or the crash came first, but the storm was still raging and it was black out dark. It was related to me later that the wind had blown the Jim Bob’s or Bob Jim’s sign off its pole. The sign had levitated in the wind bouncing once, next to the Pinto before crashing through the plate glass window on the side of the beer store.
These are the moments in your life, filled with terror and conscience, a few feet to the left and we could have been killed or at the very least had our trip seriously derailed.
The power was out, the storm was raging when Wade says, “You know, I bet the waves on the beach are going to killer tomorrow.” But I knew what he was thinking; hell, we were all thinking it. Right on the other side of the shattered window was a four-door beer cooler, which before the power loss, had put out a light bright enough to read by. But now, new moral and ethical questions posed themselves, would it be right, the taking of beer from a beer store?
The capacity of a Pinto with three teenagers in it, is about five cases; we had beer under our feet stacked next to me in the back seat, beer covered up in the hatchback. And suddenly the thought hits us, suddenly; we all had this mutual desire to leave Jim Bob’s or Bob Jim’s, rain or no rain and to head… South. We felt ourselves desperado’s on the run, even though Jim or Bob wouldn’t discover the damage until the next morning and might not discover the beer loss, until much later.
How would law enforcement interpret this crime? Vandals had ripped down the gas station sign off its twenty-foot-high pole and used it to smash the window to steal sixty dollars’ worth of beer? Or perhaps, career criminals, out on the prowl, had seen the wind smashed window and had only taken five cases of beer? I suppose that on the FBI’s national crime blotter, there is no little box to fill in with a number two pencil describing it as, a crime of coincidence! It had most likely never before and would probably never happen again or at least I’ve never heard of a story before or since of teenagers were killed by a flying gas station signage, which would be just about the same thing and just about as likely.
Dawn found us parked in a public parking lot where the blue skies were pocked marked with dark black remainders and reminders of the nocturnal storms fury. We three, as well, were clouded by the remainders and reminders of three days of near continuous intoxication. Sleeping in a Pinto is not for the faint of heart and experience had taught us, it was best to keep moving.
Wade started the car and we drove down to the next public parking area where there were public showers. We had expended our supply of clean clothes so our choices were of which articles were the least filthy. We had only shampoo, but it was close enough, and all was right with the world until we exited the showers. Parked behind our valiant getaway vehicle from the crime spree of the century was a Bay County police cruiser.
I immediately wanted to throw up, there was beer everywhere in the car and before I could say a word, Wade took off at a trot headed for the police car. “Oh man,” he said, “Are we glad to see you!”
Startled the officer replied, “This Park is closed” he announced, “and overnight camping is not allowed here.”
“We didn’t want to camp here, we took 331 out of town last night and got caught in the storm, we took a wrong turn because the road was flooded and ended up back here. Oh man, did that piss us off, we thought we were on our way home then we saw a sign that said Panama City ten miles. So it was still raining and we were beat, so we stopped here and took a nap. We woke up a few minutes ago and took a shower and now we’re ready to go home can you point us in the right direction?”
“Sure,” he answered, “you guys want 231 or 331?”
“Which ever one is closer sir?”
Personally, I thought the “sir” part was piling it on, but cops really dig that shit from the mouths of teenage boys, it strokes their cop egos. Besides, Wade had this guy back on his heels. He was almost ready to buy us breakfast. When the cop points, “231 is back that way about ten miles and 331 is back the way you came. I’d take 231 the traffic has cleared out by now.”
“Thank you officer” Wade added with a friendly wave. Jimmy and I both added our “Thank you’s” and our mock appreciative waves.
“You done good Wade,” I said as he answered “All in a day’s work, but we can’t stay here.”
“Where do you want to go?” Jimmy asked.
“Don’t matter too much, a beach is a beach and when you tell a cop you’re leaving town, it’s best to leave town, at least for a little while. We’ll just run down to Destin or Ft Walton somewhere where they ain’t heard of us yet.”
We found one of those highway waffle restaurants, but money was getting short so we bought two breakfasts and three coffees and ate buffet style. Stomachs fueled, bodies cleaned and the sun rising, by now it was almost nine o’clock, so we did the obvious. We smoked a joint and began to drink our stolen beer and headed for the nearest beach.
Wade was right, a beach was a beach, and if you’ve seen one beach on the redneck Riviera you’ve indeed, seen them all. We found a place to park and wrapped a six pack in a towel and headed for the breaking waves.
The waves where breaking as high as they ever break this far north in the Gulf, and the sun was radiant. The air was warm, comfortable, not hot or oppressive. I took off my K-mart Buddy boy gym shoes and waded out knee deep into the water. “God damn!” I hollered, “This water is cold as fuck!”
Wade just gave me that stoic Wade look, as he walked out into the water camel cigarette still dangling from his lips. Then he flipped me off, just for mentioning it! As if, it was my fault the water was cold.
Jimmy wandered in waist deep and with a smile answered, “Yep!”
We only body surfed a few waves before we headed back in for a beer.
As we sat in the sand, Wade said, “This my friends, is fucking Canadian swimming weather,” in reference to the Canadian tourists who come to Florida in the dead of winter and insist on going swimming in the vilest of weather. “And there are only two answers for it. You either pack your shit and go home or you drink another beer and tough it out!
Suddenly, Wade’s face lit up uncharacteristically as he took off up the sand dune towards the Pinto. He returned smiling with our long forgotten bottle of Bob’s vodka. “Russian anti-freeze or where ever the hell they made this shit” he offered as he broke the seal and took a swig. He passed the bottle to me and I waved him off. “What’s the matter with you? It’s after nine o’clock in the morning, it’s perfectly respectable.”
“Nothing,” I said, “I’ll just stick to beer right now,” I passed the bottle to Jim, he took a swig passing it back to me.
“Well, if you’re not going to drink the Vodka,” Wade said, “you might as well finish off the shroom juice. The ice is going fast and it will go bad otherwise.”
“No,” I answered, “I’m not ready for that either, I just need a break.”
“No Dave,” Wade explained, “you’re about to start your menstrual cycle and need to make sure that you have plenty of tampons in your purse!”
Some would call that peer group pressure, although Jimmy only smiled at Wade’s accusation. But when he’s right he’s right, I had come on this lost weekend of personal self-destruction to anesthetize and euthanize my brain cells of all feelings. To cleanse my mind of all of the painful emotions and all of the teenage traumas and here I was crying out, to stop and saying, no more. I was crying out that I had had enough and wanted to feel the world again.
That was the real peer group pressure, feelings and emotions which were attempting to wrench the anesthesia from my brain and using guilt no less, to do it with. My brain was screaming uncle, but my Kamikaze wing commander just answered, say yes and shut the fuck up. The sun warmed us as the vodka numbed us, as I stood up I headed up to the car to retrieve the shroom juice. Shortly, we returned to the water and then we warmed ourselves again on the beach. Time held no meaning for us, meaning held no meaning, we were the walking comatose, the escapees of conscience.
Suddenly, there were more people around us and thank God we were smoking someone else’s weed for a change. Ours was getting short, so I held it back not because I was a Bogart, but because I was back on board with my emotional Kamikaze mission.
We began to dig ourselves a hole both literally and figuratively, the sun was warm but the wind on our wet clothes and skin left us chilled to the bone. In no time, we had built a windbreak to protect us. Some began to decorate it and shape it until it became a sandcastle project on a massive scale. The massive size brought attention, attention brought more people and more people brought cops. We had not forgotten our status as perpetrators of the great Jim Bob or Bob Jim robbery.
Again, through the miracle of drunken time compression the sun was beginning to set over our shoulders. We had each developed a Gulf beach tan caused by the sun reflecting off the white sands up into our faces. We were tired and drunk and stoned and tripping, almost out of cigarettes and weed.
We loaded up our empty beer cans into the disturbing Batman beach towel and found a proper receptacle at the edge of the parking lot. Then, we all assumed our regular positions in the Pinto and promptly fell sound asleep. In the haze and confusion that often follows unanticipated sleep, we awoke and it was dark and quiet, with only the sound of the breaking waves to remind us of where we were.
Wade cranked the car, then added, “I need a fucking smoke man.”
“You can have one mine Wade,” I offered.
“I don’t want no fucking pine top smoke man; I want a man’s smoke dude.”
Wade pulled into the first convenience store he found and came back slapping the pack on the back on his hand and as he opened the smokes, he shook his head. “Guess what Cinderella’s? It’s fucking eleven thirty!” With that fun tidbit of information, he casually added, “Gimme one of them beers from back there!”
The beers were warm, but by this point it didn’t matter anymore, this was the last of our rocket fuel and we were headed for the burn of reentry and a hard landing. Wade drove all right towards Panama City, I never saw him cross the centerline or swerve or anything. So it was completely out of the blue, when I began to hear a whack, whack, whack, whack and I saw the road construction saw horses bouncing off the side of the Pinto and tumbling into the ditch.
Jimmy yelled, “Wade! Watch it!”
Wade answered, “I got it, fuck off!”
It really wasn’t that bad, not more than five or six saw horses, but as I looked back through the window of the hatchback, I saw the cop hit his blue lights. Wade in a moment of panic tried to turn up a dirt road and turned off his lights in a vain attempt to try to lose the cop. What he lost instead was the road. We were stopped suddenly by the car bottoming out on the ditch alongside the road and being in the back seat I was cascaded with the three or four gallons of ice water, stale beer and shroom juice left in the cooler.
When the police car arrived, we were already standing outside the car.
The officer put on his bright lights on and through his intercom said, “Nobody move!” As he stepped from the car the officer added, “Thought you could get away from me?”
“You mean; you were chasing us?” Wade asked, innocently, “I thought that you were chasing that guy in front of us, that guy that hit those saw horses.”
The officer was unmoved by Wade’s explanation. The stoic, thin blue line said, “Here’s the way we’re going to do this fellas, I’m going to give you five minutes to get that car yours out of that ditch. After that, I’m going to call a tow truck and you’re going to pay for it. Sound fair enough so far? Then we’re going to take a ride over to the station house and one or all of you are going to take a breathalyzer test.
As the thin blue line supervised, Jimmy took the wheel as Wade and I pushed the car. The adrenaline fueled rush of those blue lights; the thin blue line and not having enough money for a towing charge between us would have enabled us to push that little Pinto up the side of an office building. Once out of the ditch the thin blue line pointed at Jimmy and said, “You drive, you follow me now and don’t try and get cute.”
Of course, he would pick Jimmy, Jimmy wouldn’t try anything cute, Jimmy was a good guy. We pulled into the station parking lot and the thin blue line pointed out his window to the left. As we were parking, he walked up to the car and we all exited very quickly because up to this point the thin blue line had not looked into the car. We could have been ax murderers or serial killers, but to the thin blue line we were what we were, fucked up, goofy ass teenaged boys about to be ass spanked by the firm hand of the law.
He marched us up to the police station where the door had one of those buzzers to let you in and out. Once in, the thin blue line pointed to a bench and said,
“Sit right there and don’t move or make a sound.” He took the car key from Jimmy and placed on the desk directly across from us. As he announced matter of factly to no one in particular, “possible D.U.I” and walked away. So there we sat, fucked, in this world of gray, gray desks and chairs and gray walls, everything was gray except for our mood which had turned black. About that time, the buzzer went off and two officers brought in two women in handcuffs. The women were screaming obscenities at the cops when a third officer brought in, yet another oversized, irate woman in evening wear.
As they passed, Wade says, “Oh tough guy, beats up on the girls”
One of the cops stopped and looked at Wade and says “Shut the fuck up or I’ll put you in the cell with these ladies.”
Maybe it was the look on my face, our maybe it was my long hair that made the cop stop and then he looks at me and says, “I think this one might like that?”
I thought to myself, what did I do? I didn’t say anything? When Wade pipes up again, “Sure why not man? I’m up for it man!”
Then Jimmy kicks Wade in his shoe and says under his breath, “Shut up man they’re transvestites.”
We wondered where the thin blue line had gotten off to, not that we were really in a hurry or anything, but we were drunk and tired and ready to meet our fate. It soon became apparent that the thin blue line couldn’t get any respect, he wasn’t a patrol cop after all, he was a scroll cop. He was the office doughnut boy, he filled out paper work and went to the office supply store for toner and paper clips. We were his first big time bust, his one big chance to prove to the chief that he could make it in the competitive field of blue lining and ready to move up into the big time.
This was, after all, a weekend of firsts, my first time being thrown out of a bar and my second time being thrown out of a bar. My first, airborne acrobatic exhibition my first burglary, my first D.U.I. It was thin blue doughnut boys, first big time bust. Then the buzzer went of again and this time three of four more officers each with two more tall overdressed and excessively hairy ladies. Have I told you about Jimmy being a nice guy and all? I’m almost certain I’ve mentioned it by this point, I have to have told you by now how Jimmy was the good guy and maybe you believe me and maybe you don’t. But as God as my witness, Jimmy got up and held the door for the cops.
Busy with their “Ladies” they paid no attention to that nice young man holding the door for them. The room was now slap filled to the brim with angry drunken transvestites. Screaming accusations and recriminations at each other with ire and vindictiveness at the top of their lungs. It was all in all, quite a spectacle to behold. I could have stayed and watched the festivities, but then there was Jimmy, standing stoically, not saying a word still holding the door wide open and motioning with his eyes that it was now or never. As I stood my knees turned to jelly, my mind raced, my heart pounded with nervous excitement, my weekend of firsts was not over, hallelujah, my first jailbreak!
I casually pulled on Wade’s shirt as I walked by and like me, he was mesmerized by the glitter and sequined floorshow. I don’t remember my feet touching the ground after that. I only remember praying that Wade’s lock box key was still under the fender and not lost when we put the car in the ditch. It was, after all, Wade’s car and Wade’s key but for some reason we all wanted Jimmy to drive! Jim found the lock box and grabbed the key throwing the box on the ground and we were off. Every approaching pair of car headlights terrified us; we lived in terror of being caught at traffic lights.
We were headed north, and the cops would know that, but rather than head straight for US 231 or 331 we headed west towards Pensacola and what was known as the Atmore cutoff which would take us to I-10 and then north to I-65 and home. It was the very long way around the block, but it was also the least likely route to take. We all breathed a sigh of relief in our ignorance, as we crossed the state line. As if, the police couldn’t just pick up telephone and call the nearest Alabama State trooper’s office.
No one called and no one cared, the thin blue doughnut boy had had his big chance and he blew it! Oh, the shame and public humiliation for the thin blue doughnut boy. He had Wade’s name, but no breathalyzer test to back it up in court with and he had let three hardened teenaged criminals, escape from the police station.
It was after eight in the morning when I made it home, the house was quiet. The old man had gone to work, which meant that I could sleep in comfort. It is a peculiar feeling to be at home and not to be at ease. Since my mother’s death my relationship with my father had degenerated to confrontation and a battle of nerves.