I just waited on a patron who reeked bad; he was so stoned he couldn't find the journal Cell in the Bound Periodicals because he was looking in the Qs. This brought to mind my friend Burnt, with whom I worked for many years, and with whom I destroyed many brain cells.
One night Burnt and I were smoking hash with Snidely Whiplash at Dawn Tarnished's place. I think it was the first time Dawn had smoked; after about five or six hits she was wide-eyed and flushed. "I think I see why people like this," she said, which started a giggling fit, and before we knew it we were all laughing. I can still, after nearly 18 years, see her seated on the floor at the end of her flea market coffee table, leaned back against the sofa with her mouth open, head lolling around, that great head of Crystal Gale hair parted down the middle and glistening in the candlelight. Snidely was so high he started riffing on the texture of Doritos: "It's like a code, like Braille, like a bubble language. I wonder what it says!? You know, it's got messages and WOAH!" he shouted, jumping up, obviously agitated, and shaking his hands over and over as he paced back and forth. "Man, I just flew through the big gear in the sky!"
Burnt and I gave each other a quizzical look; smoking with Snidely and Dawn was like going to the zoo--they could not handle themselves, and became an exotic specie. All the more fun for us! We were dying with laughter as Snidely sheepishly sat down again, still shaking his hands up and down like some neurotic out of Sherwood Anderson. "Did I say something?" he asked. "What was I talking about?" He started eating the Doritos again, and finished an entire jumbo bag before moving out to the kitchen. He came back with a new loaf of Wonder Bread and proceded to ball up each slice into a tight little wad which he'd eat in one bite. "This bread is good!" he kept whispering. Every time we laughed at him he'd say "I'm not high at all--you guys are messed up!" When we left, totally hammered ourselves, Snidely had his entire forearm in the eampty bread bag, searching for crumbs, while Dawn was talking to her socks.
We were heading back to Burnt's house to smoke and drink some more--he lived in his parents' basement out in the Hereford Zone. I had a baggie of some sharp skunk I picked up from the Evil Twin, and we smoked a couple bowlfulls on the back roads through Railroad, PA. "Remind me," Burnt said, smoke seeping through his clenched teeth as he held a deep toke, "that I have a case of oil in the trunk for my Paw." I was driving a Colt Vista wagon at the time--what a fucked-up party machine that was! A few weeks before I'd taken a crew down to Fell's Point on a Wednesday to see jazz at Bertha's. The Evil Twin found a kerchief in one of the back seats, put it around his face like a bandit, leaned out the window, and screamed "Give me your strong-box muthafucka!" at passing cars on the JFX. I pulled up behind Burnt's Mustang GTO and left my lights on as he popped his trunk to get the case of Quaker State.
"Man, that skunk is some fucked-up shit!" he said. "I'm high as hell!"
I laughed, said in Snidely's voice: "I'm not high at all! I haven't even caught a buzz yet."
We went in the kitchen and Burnt's dad was sitting at the table watching a small color TV on the counter, his enormous beer belly straining a stained and torn white T-shirt, a short-sleeved cheap flannel shirt unsnapped over the gut, his knuckly fibrous forearms near bursting. Burnt told me his dad could lift a .305 engine block out of a Nova without using equipment if he was mad enough, and looking at him I believed it.
"Hey Paw," Burnt said, his eyes dark and red and sunken. Fortunately, Paw didn't look at us, he just sort of grunted non-commitally. Burnt took the Quaker State box and sat it on the counter by the 'fridge. Before I could get my head around what he was up to, he'd opened the box, opened the 'fridge, and begun putting quart plastic bottles of motor oil on the middle shelf next to the Coke cans and margerine. I was stoned enough to understand where he was coming from, what malfunction he was experiencing--hey, bottles go in the 'fridge, don't they? But I wasn't so stoned not to know his Paw was going to notice what the hell he was up to if he didn't stop, and then it happened.
"WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU YOU GODDAMN SHITHEEL PUP? JESUS FUCKING CHRIST IF YOU AIN'T THE STUPIDEST GODDAM THING! WHO THE FUCK PUTS OIL IN THE GODDAM REFRIGERATOR? ANSWER ME, BOY!"
Burnt had an endearing way of shaking himself out of a buzz when necessary, and he did so now with a quick back and forth of the head and cartoonish little "yipes" barely audible across the room. "Sorry, Paw, I just was tired I guess, and wasn't thinking."
"TIRED! I'LL SHOW YOU TIRED YOU MISERABLE PECKERWOOD! TOMORROW YOU CAN MOW THE BACK LOT AND DO MY EDGING FOR ME BEFORE WORK, ASSWIPE! JESUS H CHRIST."
From upstairs I could hear some stirring around as Burnt's mom got up and moved to the top of the stairs: "You leave him alone, Dale. He probably had a long day."
Paw turned back to his TV and we went downstairs to Burnt's room, where he showed me the bullet hole in his mattress and told me Kermit Stanbaugh had shot a .357 into it for fun.