A Stroke of Smoke

Tripp McCutcheon, Jonny's elder son, college bound to Calliham. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Tripp McCutcheon, Jonny’s elder son, college bound to Calliham. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Here’s the fourth episode of my latest short story. The first three, in order, were “Different Goals,” “A Taste for Mischief,” and “All Fall Down.”

“Just in case you’re interested,” Charles Dough said over pizza at Leo’s New York Style, “this is the first time I’ve ever eaten pot brownies. Christian’s girlfriend went by some online recipe.”

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

They were eating because, when they had gotten back to McCutcheon Hall, a bit breathless, Christian had posted a sign on the room door that read MAN AT WORK, and, upon seeing it, Charles had turned to Marcy Trask and asked, “You hungry?” and she had replied, “Shit, yeah.”

“This feels different,” Charles said. “I guess it’s the same feeling, but, you know, it builds gradually and stays longer. This wouldn’t be the type of thing you’d want to do before class.”

Marcy looked at him, almost solemnly. She placed her right elbow on the table and had the tip of her pinkie finger where her lips parted. It occurred to Charles that it was the same pose that Mike Myers used in the Austin Powers movies. He almost broke up. With Marcy, it wasn’t satirical. Coupled with her big brown eyes, it was suggestive.

“Pot brownies are like being on drugs,” he said. He had no idea how amused Marcy would be at his little irony.

She exploded in laughter. She almost inhaled hot mozzarella. The chunk of pepperoni she coughed up missed Charles but landed on top of the pie.

“You’re eating that piece.”

Marcy required some time to regain her composure. A few times she started to say something, but her face contorted in laughter, and she started waving her hands, until, by the time she could speak again, she’d lost her train of thought.

“Oh, nothing.”

“Nothing sure must be funny,” Charles said, whose buzz was more contemplative and wry, perhaps because it was of longer duration. His mind was flitting about, too, thinking about how Christian and Suzie being in the room had been for the best because, well, What was that reason? It seemed like a good one. Ingesting edibles is too hard to regulate, man. You can’t get in and out of a buzz so easily. This is something you gotta do when you got a whole day to relax, like at the beach, in a condo, not up the in the mountains at a ski lodge. You’d fucking kill yourself.

“Oh, oh, oh, I remember,” Marcy said. “I ate a pot brownie once before.”


“Yeah. Check this out. It was at Girl Scout camp. When I was fifteen.”

Charles just looked at her, eyes dancing merrily.

“I spent the whole afternoon, sitting in the chapel, staring out over this gorgeous mountain view. I was, like, paralyzed, and I just had to sit there until I could function again. I swore I wasn’t ever going to do anything like that again.”

“Yeah,” Charles said, “I swore a lot back when I was younger, too.”

“The pizza’s great,” Marcy said.

“Best around here.”

“Yeah, I said I wasn’t going to try that anymore,” she said, “but when you told me about how you had given one to Mr. McCutcheon, I don’t know what came over me. I just had to have one.”

Again, Charles just looked her in the eyes.

“You know, in my defense, I didn’t eat a whole one,” she said.


Silver-haired Jonny McCutcheon thought he might be rallying a bit. He had managed successfully to make his way to the bathroom and back. He finally joined Marissa in the mezzanine seats in front of the President’s Box. He sat there, looking rather dignified in the way of a proud man experiencing the onset of dementia. He said nothing but looked exceedingly pleasant.

Marissa was drunk. It was a common practice of hers to hit the booze fairly liberally at social occasions, and, by social occasion, she meant when the boys weren’t at home. Vodka generally made her spiteful, and that’s the way she wanted to be now, but it was frustrating because of Jonny’s insipid refusal to engage her when she made catty remarks. He, in turn, was rather pleased at this newfound aptitude for ignoring his wife, and he had some mild realization that it was a pleasant side effect of whatever in hell it was he was on.

Did one of those sweet girls slip a little something in my drink? Merciful God. Where can I find her?

Downstairs, Tripp was sitting on a bench. Vaguely he noticed the game was apparently ending, and that people starting to stream by, so he got a bit paranoid because there were a thousand people who knew him, such as his family, friends, the Calliham tennis coach, and many more he couldn’t remember because he was stoned. He didn’t want to engage in any conversations. This edible stuff produced no rush. It snuck up from behind, drifted into the psyche, and stayed there. With the proper dosage, Tripp thought it might be a nice buzz to have with him all the time. He pulled his Calliham cap down low over his forehead and hid behind the sunglasses.

Trent had left him on the bench, exasperated because Tripp was obviously incapable of dealing with the situation. He had an older brother stoned on purpose, a father stoned by accident, a mother drunk on her ass, which was the only part of it that was usual, and he, Trent, with a driver’s license that was two weeks old, appeared to be the only person in the family capable of somehow getting it home.

Oh, yeah. Tripp didn’t know where his girlfriend was. Trent could imagine him, with the crowd filing out, screaming “Marcy! Marcy!” at the top of his lungs.

This sketch was made for earlier short story, but it strikes me as what Trent McCutcheon, the younger son, looks like. (Monte Dutton sketch)
I drew this for an earlier short story, but it strikes me as what Trent McCutcheon, the younger son, looks like. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Almost everyone had left the President’s Box except Trent’s mother and father, both sitting rather quietly and alone in their seats while, below them, students, parents, and other fans milled around on the playing field, congratulating the Calliham Highlanders for a Homecoming victory and a record of three wins and two defeats.

Trent walked down to the row in front of them and faced his parents.

“Well, ready to get back to the parking lot?”

“You’ve been smoking,” his mother said.

“Jesus, Mom, Dad told me to go have a cigarette. He told me.” Like I’m the bad guy here.

“Jonathan, did you tell your son he should smoke?”

Jonny flashed a stupid grin, extended his hands, and turned his palms up.

“Noww, Mrissa, muh drr, gahfers always smoke.”

“Jonathan, have you had a stroke?”

“Uh don’t think so,” he said. “Uh don’t think, whn yuh havva stroke, it’s sposed to feel so goddam guhd.”

“Do you have any on you?” she asked Trent.


“Cigarettes,” she said. “Do you have any cigarettes?”

“Well, yeah.” He’d kept the half-empty pack his brother had given him.

“Come with me. We need to talk.”

They walked across the hospitality area and walked out on the deck overlooking the parking lots. Marissa lit up. Trent looked at her, wondering if he was supposed to have one, too.

“Go ahead,” she said. “Where’s your brother?”

“He’s downstairs, trying to find Marcy. Or, mainly, he’s waiting for her. He’s sitting on that bench next to the VIP gate.”

“Well, get him up here. We’ve got to get your father to the car.”

Trent started to walk away.

“For heaven’s sake, finish your cigarette first.”

“Mom, I don’t think Tripp is in a … condition to be much help.”

“Is he drunk?”

“Something like that.”


              You may find my blogs about sports and other non-fiction at www.montedutton.com. My next post here will likely be a book review, and then I’ll finish off this story. I hope you will consider my books, most of which may be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1



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