Sunday, August 18, 2013


There's about 454 grams in a pound of what you thought was cocaine. Take 454 grams and multiply it by fifty (dollars). You come up with about twenty-two thousand and seven hundred bucks.

Say you get busted selling that pound and get sentenced to a minimum of eight years. Eight years times 365 comes up to 2920 days.

Then you divide that 22,700 dollars you would have earned if you hadn't gotten popped by the cops by those 2920 days in the penitentiary and you come up with about seven dollars and seventy-seven cents.

Seven fucking dollars and seventy-seven fucking cents! Jesus Christ! For what? How could you be so goddamn stupid? You had never done anything before but smoke some pot. What the hell made you think you could deal drugs?

That's the kind of weird shit goes through your head when it's five in the morning and you haven't slept a wink. Johnny C. signed off five hours ago. The laugh of that fucking idiot Ed McMahon for some reason haunted you tonight. Maybe because you thought you may never hear it again. You don't even know if they have television in prison. Other normal folks have been asleep for hours and are ready to get up. Birds are starting to chirp. It's a beautiful summer morning. Minnesota winters are the shits but you can't beat the summers. The newspaper hit the door with a thump. The neighbors are both up next door, they both work at Hormel. Every goddamn morning the wife fries up SPAM for breakfast. It stinks up the whole fucking neighborhood. How in the name of hell can they work in that hellhole and still eat that shit? You went on a Cub Scout trip through that plant one time when you were about nine. Kids in your troop were passing out and vomiting for shit's sake! The rumor around town was that SPAM was made from the lips and assholes of pigs. White trash food the old man always said. Wouldn't allow it in the house even though the whole city existed because of it.

Shit, you couldn't sleep if you wanted to but you are tired. So goddamn tired. Horrible thoughts are racing around in your brain. Bouncing around in your skull like a fucking pinball. The worst one is the thought of the shower room. That's everyone's biggest worry about prison. You're white, skinny, and all alone. When will it happen? Sooner or later, you know it will.

Seventeen years old. Barely. Haven't even graduated from high school yet. Haven't gotten officially laid yet. Two hand jobs, one on the outside of the pants and one on the inside along with a couple of frantic dry humpings and that was it. Do you think the other prisoners will be able to tell if you're a virgin or not?

Jesus Christ, how can this be happening? You're a solid B student. Never been in trouble with the police before. Nothing! How the hell can this nightmare be happening?

Your mother went to bed around eleven but you know that she hasn't been sleeping either. Her sobs could be heard through the walls. Her first born in the grave and now you. You wish you could change places with your big brother. You wish it was you rotting in the cemetery a couple blocks away. You felt sorry for your mother, your own goddamn heart was breaking but you swore to God if she didn't shut the fuck up you'd go in there and smother her with her own pillow. Please Mom! Just shut the hell up!

In a couple of three hours you're going to climb in your father's car and he's going to drive you up to the state reformatory in St. Cloud where you're going to start your eight to ten stretch. Your own fucking father is going to hand you over to state custody.

You couldn't be too hard on the old man though. He was the reason you weren't waiting in the county jail rather than at home. Your Dad swung your bail. Put his insurance agency up as collateral for your hundred thousand dollar bond. And that's saying a whole hell of a lot because dear old Dad is one cheap bastard. Let his own father, his lungs scarred from breathing in some kind of chemical when he was in the army, shrivel up and die in a VA hospital in St. Paul even though he easily could have afforded putting him up in a nice private hospital. 

Even at that exact second, sweet poppa was showing what a tight-ass he was. He rarely drank, and that was only if someone else was buying, but tonight he was hitting it hard. Drowning his sorrows. Hadn't said a word for hours. One son dead, the other one on his way to the big house, that was sure an occasion to give up his amateur drinking status and hit the big time. And what did he pick to drink? Fucking Old Style! The cheapest and worse rotgut brewed in the upper mid-west. Might as well just drink Hamm's. From the land of sky blue waters, your ass!

For a split second you had a worry that he might be too tanked to drive you to the slammer but then realized that getting killed in a car wreck on the way there might be better than what was waiting for you once you got there.

Then the guilt hit again. It was a car wreck that iced your brother and started this whole fucking mess. That and the goddamn Viet Nam war and the goddamn supposedly infamous Blue Fox bar down in Tijuana, Mexico. Your brother had never been farther south than Des Moines and the only naked Mexican woman he ever saw was in the skin magazines that he hid up in the attic, so where in the hell did he ever hear about the Blue Fox you had asked him?

"They have donkey shows there. Tijuana is a fucking wild ass place, man. Anything goes down there if you got the cash," he said as he gave you a conspiring wink. "Whores give you blowjobs under the table while you watch."

"What's a donkey show," you replied naively.

He shook his head in feigned disgust. "They got these chicks down there who take on donkeys. Right there in the fucking bar. Suppose to be quite a sight."

"Take on?"

"Jesus Christ!" he practically screamed. "How stupid are you? They screw 'em."

"Bullshit! Who the hell told you that?" 

"Denny Nelsen did. He went down there on leave after he graduated from Marine boot camp. Said they hoisted this mule up in a harness and dropped him right on top of this whore. It was a wild scene."

"Bullshit," you replied again, “Denny Nelsen is goddamn retard.”

"It's true, asshole. And I'm going down there to see it myself before I ship out. Me and Jake. I got three weeks to kill before the army gets me. We're leaving this weekend. I was gonna bring you back a switchblade but you can fucking forget about it now, you little smartass." He turned and stomped out the back door, leaving you sitting at the kitchen table. You turned over the envelope your brother had left in his haste, his mind obviously preoccupied with visions of naked Mexican ladies and giant cocked mules hanging from harnesses.

It was a draft notice. You had seen more than one of those around this town. Almost everyone of your friends had an older brother who had gotten one of those. Austin was the kind of town where after you graduated from high school, if you did, you went and worked at the Hormel plant until your name worked its way up the list, and then the government and Dick Nixon shipped your sorry ass off to Viet Nam for a year. Or less. The town newspaper had a military obituary in it almost everyday and the local bars were filled with young men with missing body parts and haunted looks. Your dad called it the thousand yard stare. Said that he saw plenty of guys come back from Europe with it after the war ended.

The National Guard recruiter had offered your dad a deal. For five grand he could offer your brother a position in the local unit. That'd probably keep him for being shipped out. The old man had passed on the offer.

Your brother never got the chance to get any body parts blow off or to walk around with even a five hundred yard stare. A week and a half after they left for Mexico the phone had rang in the middle of the night. It was a highway patrolman from Barstow, California, calling. There had been a wreck out in the desert, a one car accident, both your brother and his best buddy, Jake, were dead. 

"We suspect something happened out there, we just don't know what, a witness saw a car speed away from the wreck. Said that there might have been gunfire but we can't substantiate that. They had to have been driving way over a hundred miles an hour when they ran off the highway, but other than that we having nothing to go on."

Your brother's coffin, actually a thick cardboard box, and his duffel bag both came in on the same flight up in Minneapolis. You and your parents had stood out there on the tarmac and watched it come down the conveyer belt and then followed the hearse all the way back to Austin and to the funeral home where the arrangements had to be made. Afterwards, you carried his duffel bag up to his bedroom while your parents had a horrible fight in the kitchen over the fact that your father had tried to buy your brother a bargain bin casket for his funeral.

You passed out at the funeral and had to be dragged out and revived in the funeral director's office. The combination of your mother's non stop wailing, the enclosed airless viewing room jammed with your relatives and friends of your brothers, some who stunk of stale cigarettes, booze, Old Spice, and Hai Karate, and the sight of your brother who resembled a wax mannequin, was just too goddamn much for you.

The phone was ringing when you and your parents walked into the house. It was the army recruiter. He wanted to tell your brother that he would be picking him up at nine o'clock Monday morning to drive him to the induction center. 

"Don't you read the paper? You stupid fucking prick!" your father screamed into the phone. "My son is fucking dead! He beat you jackals to the punch!"

You went up to your room to lay down and when you woke up it was dark and the house was deathly quiet. From your bed you could look down the hall and see into your brother's room. His duffel bag sat in the middle of the floor where you had left it. Your curiosity got the better of you and padded quietly into his room, avoiding the spots in the floor you knew would creak and alert your parents.

You dug through the dirty clothes finding a bottle of tequila and some dirty magazines and Mexican porno comic books, but your brother had been true to his word. No switchblade. And nothing to prove that he had found the legendary Blue Fox. Just what the hell had they gone all the way to Mexico for? That had to be about two thousand miles or more one way. Just to see a donkey show? That's just fucking crazy.

But at the bottom of the bag wrapped up in a pair of swim trunks you found what felt like a thick book. It wasn't a book though. Couldn't be, you weren't sure your brother could even read. It was some sort of package wrapped in wax like paper. Must have weighed a pound or so. You held it up to the light coming in the window from the streetlight. There was a stamp of a tarantula on it. Drugs! Had to be some kind of drug. Is that what the trip had been for? You stuffed back all the clothes back into the bag, went back to your room, and hid the package in the crawl space up inside your closet.

Two weeks later you show it to your best friend, Billy, the only person you knew who had ever done anything beside drink beer and smoke some weed, and the only person you could trust with this kind of information. Billy had once scored some white cross speed at an Foghat concert. He had balls. You and Billy had been best friends since kindergarten.

"It's coke, dude. Gotta be fucking coke. Those south American countries are making a fortune off of it. It's gonna be bigger than pot, man. I read all about it in High Times. But it's not like weed. You can smoke as much weed as you want and nothing is going to happen besides the fact that you'll eat about twenty Big fucking Macs. But this shit'll get you hooked. You‘ll wind up a junkie with this shit." He shook the package in your face.

"What the hell should we do with it?" you whispered even though both your parents were at work.

"Shit, man. Let's sell it. I know a guy that has a gram scale that he'll let me use. We'll gram it up and sell it reasonable. Say about fifty bucks a gram. It'll go like fucking hotcakes."

The following Saturday you and Billy cut it up in Billy's basement. By that night they had already sold five grams to a high school dealer that Billy knew. Two hundred and fifty dollars! You were fucking rich. You went out for pizza to celebrate.

Sunday morning, before you had even left for church, the cops were knocking on your door. One of them was a detective! It wasn't coke that you had sold. It some shit called angel dust and it was damn near pure. Three people had already overdosed. Billy himself was in the emergency room, strapped to a gurney, babbling like an idiot. He had decided to try a taste for himself. He had given up your name. You would never see him again. 

You tried to bullshit the cops. You didn't know what the hell they were talking about. They showed your dad a search warrant and found the stuff in the crawl space in about two minutes. Even though your father tried to talk them out of it, the cops handcuffed you before they took you out to the car. 

Before your dad's attorney had even gotten down to the police station the situation had gotten even worse. A packing plant worker had snorted up a couple of lines on his way to work that morning, in need of a pick me up and thinking that it was coke. He went apeshit and attacked his foreman with a spiced canned ham.

Emergency announcements came out on the radio and the television about the drugs that you had released into the community warning the local drug heads not to touch the stuff. The locals wanted your ass hung out to dry. You couldn't leave the house after getting released on bond for fear of reprisals. The phone number had to be changed.

"I ever see you on the street, you're dead motherfucker."

"I hope you rot in hell, you piece of shit."

"Drug dealer asshole. You should get the death penalty!"

"Do you know what's going to happen to you in prison, you little bastard? You're gonna get fucked right in the ass!"

The prosecutor wanted you to do twenty years minimum. To avoid that and a trial you plead guilty after listening to your lawyer. You got a sentence of ten years but would probably have to do only eight.

Only eight! Eight years in St. Cloud reformatory. You had seen it years before on the way up north on a ski trip. It had huge granite walls just like a penitentiary because that's just what it was. A penitentiary for people from the age of sixteen to twenty-one. When you turned twenty one you'd still have four years to serve. Then they'd send you to Stillwater, the real penitentiary. What would you be like when you got out?

You had single handedly ruined your parent's life in your hometown. The old man was already making plans on selling the business and moving out west. There was a for sale sign in the front yard. Some asshole kept painting swastikas on it and it had to be replaced almost weekly.

A guy that had bought insurance from your dad had done time in Stillwater years ago. The old man had asked him to come over the night before to try to give you some advice. He earned his money by doing roofing and construction work and he looked the part. Wind burned, looked like an old saddle, and as lean as a greyhound. On his forearm was a faded tattoo. A shamrock with the numbers 666 in the middle of it.

He leaned back onto a chair and took a deep pull on the Old Style that your father had given him. He lit up a Camel even though the old man didn't allow smoking in the house. He had blue eyes so clear that it seemed like you could see straight through them into his brain. They were feral eyes. Like a wolf's eyes.

"It's gonna get ugly. I'm not gonna bullshit you one bit. They're gonna be coming at you hard." He had a voice that sounded like it had been roughed up with sand paper. "You're gonna have to get in with your own kind. Get yourself some protection. A little fucker like you is going to draw those big bucks like flies. They're gonna try to make you a bitch. Turn you out."

When you got done puking in the bathroom, he was gone. Thanks for the help, dad! 

Could this get any worse?

Exhaustion finally sets in and you fall into a deep sleep as soon as your ass hits the couch. It only lasts for several minutes before the phone rings, jarring you awake. It's the first time you've heard it ring since the number was changed. You hear the old man mumble "What the hell?"

"It's for you. Didn't I tell you not to give out this goddamn number?" The old man was holding the receiver out to you. He looked like shit.

"I didn't. Who did they say it is?"

"One of your friends," he replied wearily, "just take it."

"Hello." You could hear someone breathing but no one spoke.

"Hello. Who is this?"

"You got our shit." The voice had a Spanish accent. Sounded faraway.

"Who is this? What shit? What are you talking about?" Your guts were crawling.

"Don't play stupid, ese. You stole our shit and sold it. You owe us, motherfucker. You owe us big time."

"I don't know what you're talking about!"

"We'll see you when you get inside. We got someone who's going to be meeting you. You owe us, you punk motherfucker."

You couldn't answer.

"See ya in a couple of hours, ese."

The line went dead.