Short Story Saturday: It Was Priceless…
We’ve missed our Short Story Saturdays. How about you? But, local writer, Charles Wilson, is back. He took a story he read or heard about some guys fighting over a backpack and added a little imagination. If you have a story you would like to submit, send it to email@example.com.
It all started when I was walking out 11th in Arcata. Goin’ to a party that “Sammy the Stench,” one of the plazoids, was throwing. He had earned his nickname from his habit of eating several cloves of garlic a day and bathing about once a month.
His mom had kicked the bucket, a lawyer calls, and all of a sudden he had some bucks. He went from livin’ rough in the Manilla dunes to a nice rented house in Arcata. The money wouldn’t last and the house might not either. He threw some wild parties, I’m tellin’ ya.
As I sauntered along, I was keeping my eyes open…ya never know what might just be lyin’ around in somebodies yard. Or in an unlocked car. I noticed light, a virulent orange, leaking out from under a garage door but didn’t think much about it at the time. I went on to the party and got shit-faced on Sammy’s booze and weed. I tried to hook up with a couple chicks there but they didn’t want anything to do with me. Either I was too drunk or they weren’t drunk enough.
On the blasted stagger back to my squat that night, the bright orange light was still leaking out under that garage door. It gave a warm glow to the night.
I was to make that stroll almost daily. Sammy was a generous dude and his house became the second social hot spot after the plaza. Showers, (Sam should take em more often) a washing machine, clothes dryer, a toilet with a seat and real TP, plus usually a couple beers were generously offered and I always took him up on his offers.
If cleanliness is next to godliness, I was going to maximize my chances. I was tired of PTA baths with a bucket of sea water, tired of clothing sour from being worn but not washed. Truth be told I wasn’t much less fragrant than The Stench until I started using his shower on a regular basis. My aroma was just a little different.
With all my comings and goings I noticed a bright light seemed to always be on behind that garage door. As the weeks went by it switched to a brilliant blue-white but it was not only light leaking out under the door. There was also a strong smell of flowering pot as well. And I passed the place often enough to realize it was lived in by a couple college kids and was almost as big a social hub as The Stench’s rented house. Different demographics perhaps, but a lot of drunken parties were happening on Friday and Saturday nights.
It must be nice having parents to pay all the bills. Mine could barely pay their rent and paying for college? You jest I assume…
So one fine afternoon about a week after the light switched back to orange I was chillin on the plaza, sharing a doob with anyone who brought one and would hand it my way. A typical day in the life of an aimless plazoid, spent waitin’ for somethin’ to happen.
That’s when I met Deth Boy. He was a 20 somethin’ with enough tats on his face to scare a blind man. If the tats wouldn’t do it, the knife he carried on his belt certainly would. How dangerous he really was nobody really knows but we all took him at his word. Like the rest of us he smoked weed and drank cheap beer every chance he got but his real vice was speed and I don’t mean the type you get on wheels. Crank, tweak, crystal, meth, the names were different but the effect was the same. The drug burned the health out of ya and your mind followed shortly thereafter. Not my cuppa tea!
As the assembled plazoids passed around a couple blunts I ended up mentioning the garage with its interesting bouquet. That’s when Deth Boy poked me in the side and hissed, “Let’s rip those fuckers off.” I was broke so that was an interesting proposal…
Our plan was to knock on the door after their last guest had left the Friday night boozathon and, when the door opened, we would storm in and do the deed. We didn’t even have to knock. The idiots were so confident (or stoned) they forgot to lock the door so we just opened it and walked right in. I was carrying a baseball bat I had lifted from someone’s front yard and Deth Boy had his enormous shiv drawn and ready.
One of the guys was rolling another joint while his roomie was playing tongue tag with some cutie that was half undressed. All three of them stared at us like we were ghosts that had suddenly appeared in their midst. They should have been so lucky!
Deth Boy had gotten himself cranked to the eyeballs for the job. Between his tics, jerks, mirrored shades and tats the guy was scary to start with, add 8 inches of twitching steel blade and the effect was electrifying. You could sure see where he got his name.
“Your reefer or your balls, gentlemen! We’re takin’ one or the other.” Where DB got that line, I’ll never know but it seemed to work. The girl spoke up first. “It’s in the garage, the black trash bag under the bench.” She was right on it, too. A big, black trash bag was stuffed in a corner and, when we looked, it had four clear bags inside, four pounds of weed ready to sell or roll up and enjoy.
Deth Boy stood there looking dangerous while I secured their wrists and ankles together with duct tape. They would have to just yell till someone came to find out what the fuss was about. I stuffed the weed into my backpack. Laughing I thanked them for their unintended generosity, and we exited closing the front door gently behind us.
As we walked away we could hear a muffled chorus of yells coming from inside but the house was well-built. They weren’t going to wake the neighbors or get help before we were long gone from there. We headed back my squat to sample their wares and spend the rest of the night.
I’m tellin’ ya, dude, the look on their faces had been priceless!
The next day Deth Boy said he knew a dude in E-town that would buy the shit. He was probably the same guy that sold DB his tweak I figured but a buyer was a buyer and cash is cash. The plan was that I carry the pack while DB would follow me a several yards back so it looked like we weren’t together. If cops were going to stop one of us it would probably be him, I would just keep walking as if nothing was happening and get our weed out of the trouble zone. That was the plan.
We bribed another dune dweller to give us a lift to Old Town in his ratty car. A big handful of buds and he would have driven us to Garberville if we’d asked him. He dropped us off on Two Street and we started walking towards Third. I was just crossing Opera Alley when there was a yank at the pack that almost pulled me over.
“I’m takin’ that pack now, sukka. Thanks for the help.” It was DB yanking for all he was worth.
“What the fuck you talkin’ ‘bout, asshole. This is half mine.” The pack was coming off my shoulders now and I spun, grabbed the top and yanked back. A furious tug of war accompanied by a loud chorus of profanity ended suddenly when the pack tore, a pound fell out and one of us stepped on it. The bag popped like a pot-filled balloon spewing that fragrant weed all over the sidewalk. We both froze and just stared at it in horror for a few seconds. Then we realized people were coming at us from both directions. Many had cell phones rising to capture the scene. Others had already started scooping buds up as fast as they could.
This could have gotten way too weird.—-Hell, it already was weird—but I didn’t need law enforcement in my life so I gave up on the pack and ran for Two Street, turned the corner and slowed to a fast walk to avoid attracting attention. I guess Deth Boy ran down the alley with the pack, I never saw the bastard again.
I realized it was time for me to break camp and move outta Humboldt before the cops found me. By now the guys we robbed had gotten free and possibly gone to the law.
I’ll sure miss The Stench’s hospitality…
“Hey Bill, this is me, Jimmy. Ya know what I buy from you? Well, I have some I want to sell. Interested? Cool, come on over. You can check it out and I’ll tell you a story.”
Twenty minutes later a knock on the door meant Bill was probably standing on the other side. I opened it, beckoned him inside.
“Hi Bill, come into the kitchen and let me show you what I have. You can tell me what you think of it and if you’re really interested.”
“OK, Jimmy, I can hardly wait. Bring it on!”
I went in the bedroom and brought out the torn pack with its contents. I pulled out all three bags and set them on the table. I dropped the pack on the floor by my feet.
Jimmy opened the first and took a sniff then smiled. Then he opened the second and smiled again. Finally, the third was given the sniff test.
“This is all the same variety. It’s got a great smell. Now let me twist one up and we’ll have a little taste test.”
In a minute he had selected a bud from one of the bags, dropped it in a pocket grinder, and after rotating it a couple times, he tapped the contents out on the kitchen table and rolled up a joint. He lit it, took a small puff and savored it, then a full hit. Instantly he started coughing. He handed it to me and sputtered, “Good shit, Jimmy!” We passed it back and forth half a dozen times.
Then Bill said, “I’m going to get my scale out of the car. I think we can do business if you’ll take 1200 a pound.”
“You have a deal, dude! Get your scale and weigh these suckers. Then let’s do some business.”
Ten minutes later Bill had the bags—just a few grams over a pound each—stashed along with his scale in the toolbox of his truck. And I had 3600 bucks sitting on my table.
My ass was saved! For now anyway….
Bill came back in and asked, “So what’s the story, Jimmy? When did you start growing weed-and for that matter where? You have no room in this place.” Bill gestured at the small kitchen and the rest of the apartment we were in.
“Sit down, Bill and let’s finish this doob and I’ll tell you all about it.”
“See Bill, my landlord, has been pretty lenient. You know, after I was laid off we both figured it would be just a matter of a couple weeks and I would be employed again. But somehow it wasn’t happening.
There just isn’t that much local demand for my skill set. The education my parents had almost gone broke paying for was not doing me any good at all. My dad bitched that they should have just bought me a road grader, it would have been cheaper and my job couldn’t be outsourced to China or Mexico. A real comedian, that guy…
But he was right!
And, if I didn’t come up with some rent money soon, Bill, I was going to be outta my apartment and living on the streets or back in my old bedroom with the parents. Not an appealing thought, you know. Neither is applying at the golden arches for a job flipping burgers but this option seemed more and more likely.
I had gotten tired of pounding the pavement, handing out resumes, filling out job applications, and decided to console myself with a piece of cheesecake and a latte. That much money couldn’t pay the rent but it would buy me a temporary pleasure and a little caffeine boost might help my mood.
I had finished my treat and just walked out the door of Ramone’s Café when these two bums got in a fight over a backpack across the street. Within seconds the pack had torn open and a bag fell out on the sidewalk. One of the bums stepped on it and POP! Weed blew all over the sidewalk. Some went as far as the street when the bag exploded. The two bums looked shocked. Cell phones were being raised by some passers-by to capture this comedy while others came running to scoop up some free smoke.
After a few seconds of standing there frozen with his mouth open, one of the guys took off running toward Two Street and the other one, the guy that ended up with the pack hauled ass down the alley. As I watched him recede towards D Street, I saw him throw the ripped pack in an open dumpster. When he got to D street, he hung a right turn. Curiosity (it killed the cat, you know) made me wander down the alley, reach down into the dumpster and grab the pack. It didn’t weigh much but it had something bulky inside. Without looking I took a real quick stroll back to my car, tossed the pack in the back and drove home to my apartment. Then it was time to check out what the fuss was all about. I wanted out of the Old Town area ASAP before one of the bums spotted me with the pack and wanted it back.
Finders keepers, losers weepers!
Once back at the apartment I finally looked at the contents of the pack. It held some small personal effects and three nicely sealed bags of weed. Each looked like a pound.
And so I called you, I’ve been buying my smoke from you for years and figured that if you sold it you might buy it as well.
The cash will cover my back rent and then some.
I gotta say though, as good as having the money is, seeing the expressions on those bums’ faces when that bag blew up was almost as good.
In fact it was priceless, dude, absolutely priceless!”