This is the fourth episode. The first three were, from the beginning, “Feeding the Line,” “Make Room for Daddy,” and “The Kids Are Evil.” In this installment, evil continues.
- RECOVERY IN VARIOUS FORMS
Darin Fowler wouldn’t deal drugs with just anybody. Te’Quan Bodie was a smart kid. He’d been a soccer player, about the only decent one the Dark Horses had. He’d joined the football team to kick field goals as a senior, when Darin was one of four sophomores on a playoff team. Now Teke had finished two years at Packwood, a onetime women’s college that had been taken over by the state in the sixties and become co-ed around 1970. He was majoring in business administration, and the marijuana sales that paid for his education had been built around the principles of a Junior Achievement project at Dunnaree High School.
Darin met Teke and three others at the decrepit dock over the Dunnaree River where it emptied into Lake Sedgwick. It was eight miles from Morehouse Landing – Teke called it Poorhouse Landing – to Ben Fowler’s cabin on Lake Sedgwick proper. It wasn’t bad in the summer, when it was boat-accessible. In the winter, Bigelow Electrical took the lake level down, which left the pier anchored in dried mud and kept developers away, and it was the part of the lake where the black folks lived.
Not that Lake Sedgwick was some high-dollar getaway or anything.
Darin reached in the console to see if he had any smokes. He found a pack with three wrinkled Marlboro Reds left. The widening river was colder than the lake, and its entry in the pool caused the Poorhouse air to be murky and wet. Most days didn’t get sunshine till the fog burned off around ten. When Darin started walking along the planks, he couldn’t even see the rails around the end of the dock, which was hexagonal and had snack machines in the middle and benches facing out.
“Fuck you, Teke.”
“Come on, man. Where you been?”
The shapes emerged out of the fog. Teke, with his cornrows, beer in hand. Zarah Lord, whose hair was standard issue but arms covered in tats. Zarah, who’d played tackle, was a year out of Dunnaree and younger than Teke, now studying heating and air conditioning at Star Fort Tech Center across the water in Nance County. Jonny Clyde had been at Coker, playing baseball, but that hadn’t worked out, so now he was aspiring to become a full-time drag racer. Darin was surprised to find Sargent Rudd, who, as his name suggested, was white. He was the one Darin worried about. Sargent had the kind of hair-trigger temper he didn’t get from smoking weed. He was on something else, or that’s what Darin heard, as if it weren’t obvious. Sargent was the reason they all had guns and didn’t need to have them, both.
“Sup, ma brutha?”
“I’m sorry I’m running late. Been a long day. I’d tell you but it ain’t worth the long story,” Darin said. “It’s been some shit. Leave it at that.”
“Wuh, Darin, tell me this,” Zarah said. “You too good to hit on some kush wid us?”
He sat down. “I reckon I could stand a hit or … five. I can’t be here when the sun come up. Nowumsayin?”
“You a very important man,” Zarah said. “We need you to run the product. I likes that word, don’t you? Product. White folks’ word.”
“Medication.” Darin said. “That’s what it is. Medication.”
“Shit if it ain’t,” Jonny Clyde said.
Teke was rolling a blunt all the time. He sat down, held it in his fingers, smelled it, finally lit it, took a long hit, handed it to Darin. “You know why you the main man?”
Darin took a hit, handed it back. “’Cause y’all fucked up?”
“’Cause you a white boy,” Teke said. “’Cause you ain’t caring a nigga’s risk. Nigga be stopped at the Circle K, come out with a Kit Kat, pint uh chocolate milk, cops be saying, ‘what you be up to, black boy?’ If I say, ‘who you calling black boy, white boy?’ shit, he liable to shoot my ass. Tase me, anyway.
“Darin, you come out of that store with a satchel fulla cash, holding a gun, it be smoking, you look at the cop, say, ‘I just needed a loaf of bread, Officer,’ he be saying, ‘Tell yo daddy I said hello.’”
They all laughed, even Sargent, whose daddy was the magistrate.
“Well, shit, y’all,” Darin said, imitating a redneck, and taking another hit. “It ain’t my fault I’m white. I’m sorry they don’t treat niggas no better, but not like I’m gonna hope they start treating my white ass worse.”
“Exactly,” Teke said. “We gots to use your whiteness to our advantage, which, for us niggas, don’t happen all that often.”
“I’m here wid you,” Darin said.
Zarah put his buds in and started listening to Li’l Wayne, which Darin knew because all he ever listened to was Li’l Wayne. Jonny put his iPod on, too. “Y’all hash this out,” he said. “I know what the plan is, nowumsayin?”
Sargent was still interested.
“Look,” Teke said. “See, Sarge got a older brother, run a sports bar in North Myrtle Beach. I need you to make the delivery, today or tomorrow, and pick up the cash.”
“How much cash?” Darin asked.
“Two thousand bucks.”
“’Shit. How much is that? A pound?”
“You wanna see it?”
“I reckon I’m gon’ have to, being how I’m hauling it to the beach.”
“Sho better drive the speed limit.”
Teke unzipped the bag he had placed behind the bench. What emerged looked like enough grass to reseed a rich man’s lawn.
“It’s vacuum-packed,” he said. “Can’t smell it. It’s loud as fuck. Kentucky weed. Smell ‘xactly like a skunk.”
Teke tossed it to him. Darin held it in his hands. Amazingly, it probably really did weigh a pound, and that took a lot of bud.
“I’m gonna stash it under the spare tire,” Darin said. “I been thinking about this. You reckon I could siphon off some money for a motel room at the beach? I mean, I ain’t slept. I could go down there today, but I’m gon’ have to sleep sometime.”
“You got yo’ woman widja?”
“Ellen. She’s, uh, in on this, too. She helped me. I’ll tell you sometime.”
“Five hundred of it’s yours,” Teke said. “Do what you want. Just bring me back fifteen hundred. That cool?”
“We got us a little network. I’m selling at Packwood. Zarah’s got Tech. Jonny say there’s a market at the drag strip. Sargent, here, he’s headed off to …”
“Starling Military. I’m gon’ play ball a year and go to Georgia,” he said.
Yeah, that’s gonna happen, Darin thought.
“Toke up one more time?” Teke asked.
“Man, I gotta get going.”
“Come on. One more.”
“Don’t be a pussy,” said Sargent, whom Darin had never liked.
Darin got higher than he should have. He stayed an indeterminate while. Things got too slow for Sargent. He left, saying he had to go get him some pussy. Darin thought a snort of something was more likely. Zarah and Jonny got off on their music. Teke walked him to the car
“You know how we always said it was all in dealing with people you can trust, Teke?”
“I know what you gon’ say. What the fuck Sargent Rudd be doing here? His brother’s big bidness, mon. We get in at the beach, find somebody we can trust at Coastal Carolina, shit, I think I know somebody now. We just got to make sure we got people with some sense finding other peoples with some sense. Bidness require a system. It’s all training.”
“You training Sarge?”
“Naw. Ain’t worth doing. It’s a problem. Probably take care of itself. I’m keeping him at a distance. He stupid enough it won’t be no problem. His daddy pull some strings if he don’t fuck up too bad.
“Look, you clean five hundred dollars off this little trip to Myrtle Beach. You get back by Tuesday morning? You’n make five hundred more.”
“You da boss, Teke.”
“You want it, me ‘n’ you be partners, my brutha.”
Ben Fowler’s first sensation upon awakening was that he had a hard-on, and that was odd. Then there were the two shapely female legs wrapped around his head. He lifted his head, which wasn’t easy, and managed to determine that the woman who’d spent the night with him was Maxeen Breslow, who, among her many qualities, was married.
Why was she here?
Then Ben remembered seeing her at Ingles. She was what people called “a card.” She had an outrageous sense of humor, laughed easily, and it was fun to flirt with her. She’d asked how he was doing, and he’d told her he had his son, Darin, for the weekend, and they were going to fry some fish, and, shoot, she ought to come over and have supper Friday night. It was one of those invitations that were issued without any hope of anyone actually accepting them.
I sure hope Jack’s out of town.
Ben could remember the conversation with Maxeen, two or three days earlier. What he couldn’t remember was any detail of how she wound up in bed with him, or her even being at his house, or anything after he and Darin came in off the lake.
He didn’t really have any desire to interrogate Maxeen, and what he really wanted was for her to get up off him and sneak out. He didn’t want to let her know that he hadn’t a clue what had happened. The truth would certainly be received as a lie. He needed to think this through. He needed to think, period. He closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep.
When he left, Darin had come down from the rush, and said aloud, several times, “I’m fine,” but the marijuana had a cumulative effect that left him absentminded. Then there was the absence of any sleep. He had some confusion as to how he would get back to Ben’s house, which was ridiculous because he had driven there many times. He hadn’t ever gotten there from where he’d been, though. He needed to stop and get his bearings straight. At the crossroads, where a little unlined blacktop intersected the highway, he noticed that the Circle K was open, which, in turn, meant it was after six o’clock, and it occurred to Darin to look at the green digital light on the stereo, which, sure enough, read “6:07.”
He stopped and walked inside, past the counter to the drink cooler, where he got himself a cup of coffee. When he walked up to the counter, a skinny black kid looked at him with the fear of God in his eyes.
“Just don’t shoot, man.”
Darin vaguely recognized the kid. He was a sophomore, maybe. Rising junior. It seemed like he played in the band.
“What? You think I’m a robber, man? Just give me a pack of Marlboro Lights. And this coffee.”
The boy fumbled with the pack.
“On the house, man. I got ‘em.” He sat the smokes on the counter. “Need a bag?”
“No, man, I’m good,” Darin said. He took a ten out of his wallet. “This ought to cover it. Keep the change.”
He walked out the front door and said to himself, “That’s odd,” and got back in his Mazda. When he sat down, he felt something in his right butt pocket. He kept his wallet in the left.
The gun. When he’d walked past the counter, the kid had seen the gun.
Darin addressed himself once more. “What a dumbass.” It applied to the kid and himself.
Darin found Ellen asleep on the chesterfield next to the window. He sat on the edge, where her buttocks pushed against the back, and touched her lightly on the shoulder.
“What?” she said, alarm flashing briefly in her eyes. “Darin?”
“I promised you I’d wake you when I got back.”
“What time is it?”
“Almost seven. It took a while. Had to socialize. Come on. Let’s go out on the porch.
“It’s cold,” she said. “Why come it’s cold in the summertime?”
“Lake. It’s from the water. Cools the air.” He took off his hoodie and gave it to her.
“Want some? Teke gave him some. On the house.” He reached in the pouch of the hoodie Ellen already had on.
“Kiss me first.” He did so. “I can taste it on your tongue.”
He lit the blunt Teke had rolled and included with maybe half an ounce. He handed it to her. He also put the baggie back in the pouch. “Don’t drop that on the floor or nothing.”
It was peaceful. Bluish flog wafted above the lake’s surface. A chill breeze ruffled the leaves of the trees. He thought he could hear fins swishing softly in the distance. Crickets chirping. He even heard the tiny hum of electricity in the light that illuminated the driveway from its perch atop a treated pole.
“I did something real stupid,” he said, and told her about the incident at the Circle K.
“My God,” she said, “were you high?”
“Well, duh. I’m just kicking myself, man. I can’t be doing shit like that and not be straight. I thought I’d, you know, come down from the high, man. You ever do something and just be saying, ‘What a stupid fucking way to go to jail?’”
“Well, I’ve been trying to avoid it.”
“You know, you focus on what you’re doing, and you can manage that, fine, you know. Both hands on the wheel. Watching the speed limit. And then you’re like, damn, where was I going?”
“You don’t think that kid’s gonna call the cops?”
“I don’t think so,” Darin said. “He knew who I was, though. He was probably scared of me, you know, football player and all that. He ain’t gon’ talk to the cops. What he’ll do, though, is he’ll tell the story to his friends.”
“That’s the way rumors get started.”
“Damn straight. I’m doing enough shit to get in trouble. Ain’t no sense, you know, testing fate.”
“Relax, baby. Didn’t nothing bad happen. Ooh, what’s this here? What’s wrong with Freddy?” Ellen yanked down his fly … again. This time she brought him out to play. “Ooh, Freddy’s cold. Hold on, Freddy.” She had a condom. Tore open the pack. Lowered it over Freddy.
“Poor baby,” Ellen said. “I think he’s starting to shiver.”
If you’re enjoying this story, you’ll surely love either or both of my novels, The Audacity of Dope and The Intangibles. You can buy them here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1
I also invite you to read the non-fiction blogs at www.montedutton.com. Thanks for your interest.