Two Talks

WIN_20150109_145322              This story might blossom into a novel. Here’s the seventh and final part, which was preceded, from the beginning, by “Feeding the Line,” “Make Room for Daddy,” “The Kids Are Evil,” “Recovery in Various Forms,” “One to Talk,” and “Gone to the Bad.”

              Once I get the whole story edited, I’ll post a complete version. I hope you get something out of it. Thanks for reading.


Back from the beach, Darin Fowler avoided his father. Seeing the absence of his truck in the drive, he and Ellen Sloan quickly unloaded the trunk, and Darin stashed the fifteen hundred he owed Te’Quan Bodie in an empty can of Maxwell House coffee that he placed on the top shelf of his bathroom closet and then covered with wadded-up clothes he seldom wore. Then they drove into Dunnaree, had the pizza buffet, played pool, and drank Pepsi because they didn’t have Coke, Darin was eighteen, Ellen twenty, and for them, drinking beer just wouldn’t be safe. They went through a DUI checkpoint on the way back to the lake, and Ellen remarked that they sure were lucky.

“Nah,” Darin said. “I don’t hardly ever drink. When I do, it ain’t but a couple. It’s a lot less likely to get nabbed for weed, as long as it don’t smell and you not, you know, obviously tore up. I don’t never get that way. We’re cool, baby.”

They were tired, too. When they got back, Ben was in bed. Darin and Ellen slept in the room across the hall and didn’t make a racket. Darin was in the habit of getting about six hours’ sleep, anyway, so he crept out of bed early.

“What?” Ellen asked, stirring.

“I’ll be back in a little bit,” Darin said. “I got to get a little something done before Dad gets up.”

He kissed her. “You gonna be able to get yourself up for work?”

“Yeah,” she said. “I might as well get on up. Get some coffee on, will you?”

“Yeah,” he whispered, “but I gotta get loose before Dad gets up.”

“You gotta take Teke the money?”

“Yeah,” Darin said, “and pick up some more. I’m meeting him out on the water. I’ll put the coffee on, then I gotta go. Love you.”

“Love you, too,” she said, and Darin was not completely sure she was going to get up shortly, but, if she was a little late, he figured she had Doctor Dalrymple pretty much wrapped around her little tomboy fingers. She’d told him once she loved animals almost as much as weed.

It was murky out. He tossed his zip-up bag, a relic of junior-varsity basketball, into the jon boat and shoved off. Thank goodness for the flashlight. He couldn’t make out anything ten yards in front of the boat. He’d told Teke he’d meet him in front of the house, about in the middle of the lake. The middle of the lake was an estimated guess, as it turned down, but he cut the motor and let the anchor down slowly. He was afraid just dropping that sucker might overturn the boat, and he had to make sure it would reach the bottom, which it did with ten or fifteen feet of light-gauge chain to spare.

Then Darin just sat, and he wondered if the fog was so bad that Teke couldn’t make it, and that’s when he realized that, like an idiot, he had left his iPhone charging, and he hoped if Teke was texting, and the chimes went off, that he was suitably general in case Ben just happened to hear the phone and took a look at the messages, which, he was confident, were going to be going off, one after another. Ellen was still there. She’d hear it. She’d know what to do.

Darin got bored, and so he did what he usually did when he got bored, which was to smoke a joint. It was just starting to get light. No one was out on the lake in this fog. Getting cut down by a power boat that couldn’t see him would be a hell of a way to die, and it seemed like a possibility once Darin got high enough to be paranoid. He felt like he was in Tales from the Crypt for a while, but then he saw Teke’s light flashing on and off, and he returned the fire, well, light, and he thought that it would be just like Teke to have taught himself Morse Code for just such an occasion. Darin had not, but he was glad to have some company out on that ghostly lake at five-thirty in the morning.

“Damn, nigga, I ‘bout got lost on a damn lake I spent half my life on,” Teke said. “So everything cool at the beach, huh?”

“Yeah, Sargent’s brother ain’t nothing like him. John – he goes by that, not Johnson — was surprised it wasn’t Sargent making the delivery.”

“Shit, we sent that muhfuh down there, we liable never to see that money. Sarge be done gone, or gambled it away somewhere, something …”

“Yeah, I believe old John knows his kid brother ‘bout as good as we do,” Darin said. He took the travel bag and handed it across to Teke, who handed him back another bag with another vacuum-packed pillow of marijuana, this one about half the size of the one Darin had delivered at the beach.

“You got time to talk?” Teke asked.

“Yeah. Want to, actually.”

“I pass you a blunt, but that might be right tricky, me and you in different boats.”

“That’s ah’ight. I been setting here twenty minutes. I was getting right paranoid, if you wanna know the truth.”

“I heard that,” Teke said, lighting a blunt.

“I got half a joint left,” Darin said. “I was just thinking, you know, we be selling a shitload, man. Seem like we need to worry about, you know, crowding somebody else.”

“Yeah, don’t worry ‘bout nothing, though. Leave that to me. We be pretty well connected right now, but that’s what I wanted to talk to you about, man. Way I see it, we just getting in on the ground floor. It ain’t gonna be illegal forever. We just learning the bidness for when that time comes. I be out of college. Hell, we probably both be.”

“Yeah, be for real, Teke. South Carolina gonna be about the last state to legalize weed. ‘Bout the best can be hoped for is, you know, reducing the penalties. What’s that word?” Darin lit his roach and took a hit. “Decriminalization. That’s about it, that or maybe that deal where they allow medicinal but only if it’s some shit where the THC has been, I don’t know, drained out of it, or, like, decaffeinated or some shit.”

Teke started laughing. “Yeah, uh, sir, give me a hit of that weed,” he said. “Decaf.

“All kidding aside, though,” he added, “I got to thinking about this when I was watching football highlights on one of them ESPN shows, you know, ‘Thirty on Thirty,’ t’other day. You know when South Carolina’s gonna legalize weed?”

“I just hope it’s ten minutes before hell freezes over instead of ten minutes after,” Darin said.

“I watched that thing about Southern Cal whipping Alabama’s ass back when Bama didn’t play no niggas. You seen that?”


“Bear Bryant used that as a means of getting them crackers to let some brothers play so’s they could compete with anybody.”

“So you don’t think Alabama can whip nobody without their ballplayers getting high?”

“Well, what I’m saying is this. You know, both teams in the Super Bowl from states where the kush is legal,” Teke said. “Ah’ight, it’s legal in Washington and Colorado, and, come this fall, it probably get approved in Oregon. Ah’ight, and what happens when the Ducks win the national title, when it stop going to the SEC ever’ year? What happen when Washington, Washington State, Colorado, Colorado State, Gonzaga in basketball, what happens when all that happen?”

“All the fans up in them places get really, really happy?”

“Well, yeah, but word gets around, man. What you think happens if the coaches at Clemson, Carolina, start letting the word out to they friends in Columbia that it sure does seem like they losing a lot of studs to Oregon, and wonder what it is. Hmm. They ain’t gon’ need to say nothing else.”

Darin smiled. “That’s fucking nuts, man.”

“Aw, I’m kidding … ‘bout halfway. But, still, you never can tell … What I’m trying to say is, I ain’t planning to be no long-term criminal, mon. Ah’m breaking the law in the name of righteousness, and you is, too.”

“I better get back before my old man’s up and around,” Darin said. “It’s getting light.”

“Where your woman?”

“Ellen’s got to work. She probably striking out about now. I gotta go.”

“Ah’ight’en,” Teke said, and he yanked the string on the outboard motor and puttered away. Darin did the same and made his way back in the direction of what he was pretty sure was the right shore.

Darin cut the motor and glided in to the shore. When it bumped the bottom, he stepped out – he wasn’t wearing shoes – and pulled the jon boat on in. He had his back turned to the shore, dragging the boat, when he heard his father’s voice.

“Out early, ain’t you?” Ben had stepped out from behind the boathouse and was holding two rods in one hand and his tackle box in the other.

“Yeah,” Darin said. “You might want to fill her up with gas.”

“Come on back out with me.”

“Aw, Dad, I can’t. I got some things to do.”

“I insist,” Ben said.

“Well, get the gas can then,” Darin replied. He could tell from Ben’s eyes that he wasn’t taking no for an answer.

Ben took the rudder and headed right back out from where Darin had come, which meant he wasn’t much interested in catching any fish, and Darin braced himself for a lecture. Ben was seeking the privacy of the middle of a near-empty lake. He didn’t say a word till he cut the motor and lowered the anchor in much the same manner as Darin before.

Darin was damn near stoned. He didn’t have any chewing gum, either. Fortunately, the boat needed to be balanced, and it was necessary to keep his distance. He could hold onto the sides. What he couldn’t hold was his train of thought.

The jig was up. It didn’t seem so bad. Darin thought of absurd scenarios, ways he would miraculously escape, even though he knew his father wasn’t nearly that dumb. Ben cut the motor and lowered the anchor, just as Darin had done, oh, a half hour or so earlier. Now the fog was lifting, but the sky was overcast, anyway. It might rain, but there wasn’t much in the clouds. A gentle breeze had started to waft about, and the water wasn’t still anymore. Ben fished a pack of Winstons from his pocket, which was odd because, by and large, he didn’t smoke. Darin was relieved because he wanted one, too, which was not unusual because he was somewhere along the border between high and stoned, and he knew a cigarette would tip him slightly across the edge.

Ben lit up and offered Darin one. He’d never smoked a Winston. It was sort of like a Marlboro Red, only a little harsher. Darin was accustomed to harsh.

“What’s in the bag, Darin?”

Darin studied his old man, looked at him, watery-eyed, and then it was like he shook himself out of a trance and reached down and unzipped the vinyl bag. He pulled out his bag of marijuana, his enormous pillow, and tossed it toward his father. Ben looked at it, lying there in the floor of the boat, between the two benches. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a Swiss army knife.

“What if I slashed this bag open and dumped it in the lake?” Ben asked.

Darin reached back into the bag and pulled out his black revolver, held it by the barrel, backwards, pointed at himself.

“Here,” Darin said. “If you’re gonna dump that shit out, you might as well shoot me. It’s gonna happen sooner or later.”

Ben took a deep breath, looked at the gun, and also took a long look at the weed.

“Here,” he said, “take your gun, and zip this weed back up in your bag. Somebody’s liable to come by. I’m damned if I’m gonna have somebody thinking I’m making a drug deal when I ain’t even doing it.”

Darin already felt goofy. He didn’t need to smile in this dramatic moment. It was hard. He didn’t have anything to say. He wanted to exhale but not inhale. Maybe this might not be so bad. He wished he’d know this was coming. Ellen would have come up with something. He couldn’t think. He was grateful for the cigarette. He wished he’d had his iPhone.

Ben finished the cigarette. He didn’t have anything to say, either. He had to think. He fiddled with one of the rods, cast it out on the water a few times, practicing. He line had no bait. Ben might as well have been drumming his fingers, or cracking his knuckles.

“All right,” he said, finally. “Just let me say my piece. We ain’t gonna argue. I get through, you’n say what you want, and I’ll listen, son. Deal?”

Darin nodded.

“Goddamn it, son, you know what saves the world?”

Darin wasn’t supposed to say anything, which Ben shortly remembered.

“What saves the world is that crooks are so stupid. You’re not stupid. Hell, we’ve established that in the past few days. I don’t think you got the most well-defined sense of right and wrong, but, hell, that don’t set you apart. The world is full of selfish assholes who don’t give a damn about nothing by theirselves. I’m trying not to be judgmental, Darin, and I don’t want to live your life for you, but if you want to screw people to the wall, hell, don’t be a bank robber. Be a fucking banker. That’s the reason there ain’t no future in crime. Anybody with any sense knows they ain’t no need to mess with it.

“Well, your turn. I reserve the right to rebuttal. I just want us to talk in a fairly civilized way. Let’s not yell at each other. Let’s just have a talk.”

“I don’t know that I got nothing you’re interested in hearing,” Darin said.

“Why don’t you try me?”

“Well, number one, Dad, I ain’t quite – I say quite – the lowlife it looks like. I need money, money to go to school, money to pay for gas, money to live in the dorm. Teke’s two years ahead of me in school. Dealing weed’s what keeps him in there. Honest to God, he’s studying business, and he’s using that knowledge. He says it’s important that you don’t deal with nobody you can’t trust. Me and him been friends dating back to when I was in the tenth grade, and he was a senior. He’s a smart dude, I swear, and he ain’t by no means evil. He don’t mess with nothing that’s terrible, and, we can disagree from now to next Friday, but pot ain’t that bad. Teke don’t do no other drugs, don’t cook no meth, don’t do no cocaine. It’s a joke marijuana even is illegal, and it ain’t gonna be forever.”

“Ah’ight, first thing,” Ben said. “Why come you ain’t got enough money to go to school.”

“I just ain’t. Mama ain’t got the money.”

“Well, when I pay your mama child support, I damn well expect my child to be supported.”

“Well, such as it is …”

“Shit, I reckon,” Ben said, and he started casting that line again, thinking if it was time to play the cards that might win.

“Now, you say, Darin, that this Teke’s a good boy, that he’s smart, that you can trust him, but what I’m guessing is y’all’s little circle of conspirators is getting bigger and bigger. What I’m guessing is you’re planning on doing a right good weed business at the University.”

“Well …” Darin remembered that his father thought he’d been to Columbia, not Myrtle Beach.

“You familiar with the term ‘quality control’?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You got any dealings with Judge Rudd’s son?”

Both of them, Darin thought. “Sargent? Yeah, I know him.”

“Well, he knows you. Night before last, this Sargent kid got himself arrested. He was in some kind of fight at the Lock Stock and Barrel next to the Fairlane Bridge. Country joint, I believe. He was dealing cocaine and pot, had a shitload of it on him when they busted him. Now, ‘cause he’s the magistrate’s son, they ain’t really wanting to send him to prison. They made a deal, and what he’s got to do is name names, and he’s done it. He named you and several others. My guess is that they’re planning to bust several others, namely, you and Teke and whoever else it is he knows about. Somebody’s gotta be a scapegoat if Sargent Rudd’s gonna get off with a wrist slap, or, maybe, nothing at all.”

“Where’d you hear that, Dad?”

“Believe it or not, I got a few friends, too, Darin. One of them that knows what he’s talking about paid me a little visit, said you better get out while the getting’s good.”

“Teke don’t know nothing about it,” Darin said. “I just seen him.”

“That’s the plan, Darin.”

“So what do I do?”

“Well, son, I wouldn’t go running around the projects with a backpack full of weed no time soon.”

Darin was a little too buzzed to cope with this shocking information. He thought about how, maybe, he could run this weed down to Myrtle Beach. John Rudd might take it off his hands. He knew his dad wasn’t lying on account of he was a lot of things, but one of them wasn’t a bullshitter.

“Ah’ight,” he said. “I appreciate it, Dad. Thanks. I’ll deal with it.”

“I’m just passing what I know along, Darin,” Ben said. “I know better than to trust you, but if you screw up, hell, I tried my best.”

“You ever smoke pot, Dad?”

“Yeah,” he said. “According to Maxeen Breslow, I smoked it right across the table in front of you and your gal Friday night. I don’t remember much about it, thanks to y’all, but I got my own problem dealing with that crazy woman. Based on what I’ve recently discovered, I’d say you can probably get rid of some of that weed to her any time now.”

Ben glanced at the travel bag. “I wouldn’t count on her buying all of it.”

“No, sir.”

“Don’t be a fool, son. Most people in this world ain’t stupid,” he said. “Most people just get out of the habit of thinking.”

       You can read my non-fiction blogs, and find lots of information about me, at I hope these stories will lead you to my books, which are available here:


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