The Charmed Life of Charles Dough

Charles Dough, the soccer-playing, oft-stoned, sneaky, devious, mischievous anti-hero. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Charles Dough, the soccer-playing, oft-stoned, sneaky, devious, mischievous anti-hero. (Monte Dutton sketch)

              This is the story of a prominent family, Homecoming at Calliham University, and a series of events that bring the wealthy alums, their children, and a couple mischievous stoners into, uh, contention.

1. DIFFERENT GOALS

 

Jonathan Elbert McCutcheon was a direct descendant of the founder of Calliham College, his great-great-great grandfather Estes Calliham, who had also been a lieutenant governor and signed the Articles of Secession that briefly separated the South from the Union. Like Abraham Lincoln, Estes had freed slaves, with the small technicality that the Sixteenth President had done it first. Once the war was over, and Estes was trying to figure out a way to regain his family’s prosperity, he had made quite a show of it, nonetheless, and a century after Estes had founded his own institution of higher learning, that school had become the first private college in the South to admit blacks, though they were known as colored people at the time, become blacks, and now were African Americans. As Jonny often remarked to his friends, somehow colored people was now taboo, but people of color was just fine.

As a general rule, Jonny thought it scandalous the way the world was changing, and resolved to succumb to this modernity at the very minimum, if at all. Jonny liked familiar places and experiences, such as the dignified gathering of friends and country-club colleagues on the lovely green lawn outside Doug Tussle Stadium, home of the Fighting Highlanders. Jonny’s pregame soirees were catered. Wine, not beer, was served. The marching band always stopped on the road nearby to play stirring numbers for the school’s most loyal and generous fans. Now that it was October and the heat had passed, Jonny wore khakis and a powder-blue, buttoned-down dress shirt, and wife Marissa was just as tasteful, right up to her lovely hat. Jonny didn’t wear a hat, or even a Calliham cap, because he and Marissa agreed that it was a shame to interfere with the perfect appropriateness of his gracefully silvering locks.

It hadn’t been the best of seasons for the Fighting Highlanders, but everyone wanted to see a nice, leisurely Homecoming victory, so the visiting team represented a small school in West Virginia that Laidlaw had already conquered, 34-13, on its homecoming, and, as Jonny was fond of saying, “Anything Laidlaw can do, Calliham can do better.”

Jonny’s two sons, seventeen-year-old Tripp and sixteen-year-old Trent, were still dressed as if they had a tennis match planned, and, while Jonny and Marissa were concerned that the morning air was a bit cool for that, Tripp was joining the Calliham tennis program next year, just as his father had before him. Trent, of course, was the golfer in the family, but he emulated his brother.

All was orderly and pleasant. They had all perused the clever floats on the mall, en route to their prestigious parking spaces, three in a row, with gold-plated name tags that left them room for the Lexus and the navy pop-up tent that they caterers were kind enough to deliver and set up. It belonged to Jonny, but they were kind enough to keep up with it because, after all, he paid them a large sum of money.

 

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

At about the time the McCutcheons were preparing to be convivial, Charles Dough and Christian Beliveau were competing in their favorite sport, that being stoned intramural soccer. Their team, the Nads, had been rained out several times, and there was simply no way to get the playoff seedings established fairly without having matches made up on Homecoming morning. In preparation for a crucial match, Charles and Christian had passed up drinking the night before, even though it was de rigueur for even a good Methodist on the night before Homecoming. Instead, they had stayed in the dorm to watch rap videos, Simpsons episodes and a rapidly deteriorating Blu-Ray of Dazed and Confused. Marijuana was involved, just as it played a keen role in the breakfast of champions the two had before they staggered boldly out in the sunshine to play the SAEs.

Charles, who had played for the Highlander soccer team as a freshman but grown tired of play that was so serious it required random drug testing, was an intramural superstar, and, not only did he manage to perform at a high level of proficiency in spite of being seriously buzzed, but he believed weed was the secret of his success.

Christian wasn’t bad. The French surname enhanced his reputation, but he approached his roommate only in creativity and adventurousness of spirit, not ball skills. They worked together well. They thought alike. They smoked the same strains, and the two-to-one victory over the “E’s” was the result of a goal so ridiculous that it should have made SportsCenter.

It was a cannon shot.

Charles, who had grown tired of trying to collaborate with less skilled teammates, surprisingly launched a shot from three quarters of the field away, one that never got higher than twelve feet off the ground, and left the hapless SAE goaltender backpedaling like a center fielder trying to snag a knuckling liner, and he leaped at the mouth of the goal, but the ball, fired as much as kicked from at least seventy-five yards away, whistled above his outstretched hands but beneath the goal’s crossbar. The net snapped back as if it could only barely prevent the shot from bursting through its strands.

“Dude,” Christian said in the celebratory tumult, “no sober man could possibly have made that shot.”

“True,” Charles said, and then he managed to run out most of the remaining time by weaving in and out of thunderstruck SAE defenders.

“Wanna go to the football game?” Christian asked as they ambled back up the hill toward the dorm.

“Shit, yeah,” Charles replied. “It’s homecoming, ain’t it?”

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2. A TASTE FOR MISCHIEF

When Charles Dough and Christian Beliveau made their way back to their dormitory, named for Jonny McCutcheon’s uncle, it could have passed for summer school. It was homecoming! Everyone was out on the mall, mingling in the tents, and fortifying their Cokes from their bottles — pints and half pints, a few flasks — nestled in every pocket of every blazer.

McCutcheon Hall was quiet, inhabited by the unfortunate lads who had overindulged the night before and were trying to sleep off the agony, and perhaps several more stray stoners like Charles and Christian.

“Hell,” Charles said after a bong hit. “This is the way to do homecoming, man. Somebody’s liable to get arrested out there on the mall.”

“All that liquor flowing and shit,” Christian said. He was silent for a while, enjoying the rush. “What? Bag the game?”

“No, man, this is college, we got to go the game. It wouldn’t be patriotic, and, besides, the women, Chris, the women.”

“Well, like, shouldn’t we be … getting ready?”

“You go ahead. I’m playing against type, man.”

“What?”

“Man, I need a cup of coffee,” Charles said.

“What about playing against type?”

“Oh, yeah. I’m sorry, man. I’m fucked up. Can I bum a cigarette?”

Charles got up and placed the electric fan in the open window, air directed out, and turned it on low. Christian thought it funny that he wasn’t worried about the smell of weed – the use of a bong minimized the smoke – but wanted to make sure no one could smell tobacco.

“Here,” Christian said. “Keep the pack. I got a whole carton.”

“Man, what are you buying a whole carton of cigarettes for? Fuck …”

“I had a coupon, all right,” Christian said. “What about the playing against type?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah. My train of thought hasn’t returned yet.”

“No shit.”

“Shit, Chris, hit the bong again, man. I can’t stand you when you’re in your right mind.”

They stared at each other.

“I’m going to the game just like I am now,” Charles said finally. “I’m just gonna wash the dirt off my legs and arms. You know, ‘rench’ off a little. I might, you know, slap on a little after shave, even if I’m not gonna shave, but I’m just go over to the game, looking stoned and natural, and, you watch, I’m gonna pick me a gal looking for a walk on the wild side. I’m gon’ be a fuckin’ caveman.”

“You look like a caveman,” Christian said.

“Yeah, I’ve got some noble Cro Magnon features.”

“Shit. You could pick up a good-looking sow in a trough full of slop.”

“You’re fucking literary, man,” Charles said.

“Well, as you know, I am not as adept with the women as you, and just about every time I get laid, the fact that I’ve got some weed on me has something to do with it.

“I’ve got a surprise. Are you concerned that, amid the hustle and bustle of a breathtakingly exciting football Saturday, the buzz of the morning might wear off?”

“Horrified, I am,” said Charles.

“Well, not today, because, when you were off at the convenient store last night, buying Bic lighters and rolling papers …”

“Hey, I’ll have you know I also bought an Icee …”

“Suzie came by.”

“Sweet Suzie?”

“Yes, Suzie. The love of my life. She brought us some special brownies, and, let me tell you, Christian, they are the tastiest. I didn’t tell you because I just sampled one, and I didn’t want you to get into them, because, well, I knew we had a soccer match this morning.”

“So, you’re saying, Suzie oiled them up pretty good.”

“That was my impression, though, it’s true, that we were hitting the bong, so, you know, it’s kind of tough to tell how much the buzz of one affected the buzz of another.”

“Why, let’s have one,” Charles said.

“I think splitting one will suffice.” He removed a small tin, just exactly the type of festive, decorated tins that often contain cookies, brownies, and the like, from his desk drawer.

Christian broke a brownie in half. They munched.

“If we get on over there, it won’t hit till we get in the stadium,” he said.

“One more rip,” Charles said, “and off we go.”

 

The marching band was heading on into Doug Tussle Stadium, having regaled the alums with the the fight song, “Hot Damn, Calliham,” and the victory song, “Hail, Dear Old Calliham,” and the alma mater, “Mother of All That Is Wise.” Naturally, Jonny McCutcheon ’81 and Marissa Briles McCutcheon ’84, had tastefully sung along and joined the cheerleaders with a series of spirited “High-land-ERS!”

Then they all retired to the blue-and-silver pop-up tent for quiche, sausage-and-cheese biscuits, pigs in blankets with honey-mustard sauce, and a nice red wine. The boys settled for Diet Cokes, though they had held back a bit while their parents had wandered over to watch the band and enjoyed a quick goblet of wine. Counting to three and knocking back the whole glass might not be the optimum way to enjoy their father’s wine selection, but, as Tripp was fond of saying, it worked.

“Where’s your date?” Jonny asked Tripp.

“Vera should be here any time now,” he said. “I gave her the stadium diagram. She’s got no parking spot, so she’s walking across campus right now. I just got a text.”

“Oh, Tripp, we could have picked her up. What is it? Vera … Trask?”

“Yes, sir. She’ll be along.” Tripp hadn’t wanted to pick up Vera. Tripp planned on going with her after the game.

“How about you, Trent?”

“I’m fine, Dad. I’m just picking up Tripp’s sloppy seconds.”

Jonny and Marissa looked at each other, and when their eyes met, each started laughing.

“Whew,” Trent said loudly enough for his brother to hear.

“That’s funny, son,” Jonny said. “I must admit.”

 

“You remember, the other night,” Charles said, “when TCM had that movie on, Little Big Man?

“Yeah, yeah, Dustin Hoffman. Faye Dunaway. Bad-ass movie.”

“And you remember the old Indian chief?”

“Yeah.”

“He was from the Human Beings, and when the cavalry rushed in and massacred his village, he decided he was invisible, and he walked right through the smoke and blood, and no one even noticed him. It was so cool.”

“Yeah.”

“That’s what we’re gonna do, man,” Charles said. “We’re gonna be invisible at the game.”

“I think they might be able to smell us,” Christian said, and by common agreement, they each stood and headed off to Doug Tussle Stadium for the gala Homecoming game.

“Remember,” Charles said as they walked toward the Physical Education Building, with the light poles of the stadium rising above the trees beyond, “don’t respond to anyone. Just walk along. Like a ghost. A ghost that knows what the hell he’s doing.”

 

The battleground Charles and Christian walked across was an unlikely one. Little competition took place. None of that crude game called “Cornhole,” so enjoyed by the Great Unwashed. When the boys had been younger, Jonny had enjoyed tossing the old football around, but now he was content to let them go their way. They were good boys. He was molding them into good men. Soon they’d be out of the house, and perhaps then would be the time for Jonny and Marissa to mend their differences. An unseemly little tiff between them had taken place while the band was playing. It was just a tart exchange, but it was enough to ruin Jonny’s mood.

“I am tired of hearing you make untoward suggestions regarding me and Belinda Malpass,” Jonny said, leaning over to her ear and keeping his voice down, which wasn’t particularly hard amid the din of brass instruments. “She’s a wonderful woman. She’s been with me for seven years, Marissa, and I don’t know what I’d do without her, but that’s at the office. That’s my career. That’s it. Belinda is happily married, and the last thing she’d ever do is be unfaithful. I really think this is quite neurotic of you.”

“The daughter favors you, Jonny.”

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous. We’ll discuss this later.”

“No, we won’t,” Marissa replied. “You’ve been saying that for five of the seven years.”

“For God’s sake, Marissa. Let’s enjoy the goddamned game.”

It just so happened that Charles Dough and Christian Beliveau just happened to decide to make their invisible advance across the fanciful battleground of competing sport-utility vehicles and pregame spreads at precisely the moment Jonathan McCutcheon of the insurance McCutcheons was irritated, and it followed, grumpy. He was not of a mind to wither further intrusions on his domain. When two apparent derelicts padded their way across the very land that his great-great-great grandfather had laid aside for higher education, and, more to the point, the smaller plot that Jonny had been allotted him for his generous gifts to the college, he felt compelled to intervene.

“Excuse me, young man.” Charles Dough walked by not ten feet from Jonny but didn’t respond. Nor did his apparent collaborator so much as turn his head.

Jonny strode up from behind and tapped Charles on the shoulder. “Excuse me, I said.”

The miscreant kept on walking. Jonny had to walk faster. This time he pulled at the muscular lad’s right shoulder. “I’d like a few words with you, young man,” Jonny said, loudly enough to draw concerned looks from others among the monied elite.

Charles whirled around. “Whoa. Fuck. What’s your problem?” he asked.

“My problem, sir, is that you and your friends have no business intruding upon our gathering,” Jonny said.

“Chill, man. Like, we’re going to the fucking game. We’re just taking a little shortcut. It’s not like we trashed your lawn, man.”

“Are you two students here?”

“Well, yeah.” Charles extended his right hand. “I’m Charles Dough. This is Christian Beliveau. We’re juniors. We’re in a band.”

“Oh, that’s ridiculous. The band was just by here.”

“Not the band. A band. We play guitars. We have groupies. We take drugs.”

“I’ll get security.”

“I’m kidding, man. Look, I’m sorry,” Charles said. “I’m sorry for disturbing your peace. Let me and Chris make it up to you.”

“Just get away from here. It’s not necessary.”

“We’re going, man, but I want to show you that I’m sorry. It’s just a small token of my respect,” he turned to Christian. “Those brownies your mom made? Do you mind if we let Mr. …”

Christian’s eyes got wide, which was unusual for them.

“McCutcheon. Jonathan McCutcheon.” Jonny liked the sound of his name. He knew it had a certain import.

Charles knew McCutcheon was the name on the facing of the dorm. He raised his hand. “Just a minute. Let me borrow a napkin from the table.

The napkins had fierce, warring Highlanders inked into them.

“Here, Chris, give me one of those delicious brownies.”

“They’re maybe a little more like fudge,” Christian said.

“Delicious,” Charles said, wrapping it in the napkin. “Scrumptious. Really. I’m serious, dude.”

“This is not … necessary,” Jonny said, but they were gone. He looked around, hoping to throw the brownie in a trash can, but none was nearby, and no one was paying attention anymore, so he took a bite.

Hell, fire. Those things were tasty.

 

Over the river and through the woods, to Mr. McCutcheon’s she went. Marcy Trask wore a uniform each day to Our Redeemer, but this was the weekend. She’d come dressed in her oldest long-sleeve blouse and jeans ripped open across the knees. Since she’d known it was going to be a bit of a hike to meet the McCutcheons, Marcy was wearing the cutest tennis shoes. As she reached the end of the parking lot that was an intramural field except on weekends, she looked across the lane and tried to pick out the McCutcheons.

My God, she thought. I bet, late in the day, the shadows of the stadium fall right across the lot. What a setup.

She picked out Mr. McCutcheon because of the silvery hair. Mrs. McCutcheon, and her Tripp, and his little brat of a brother, were keeping a safe distance because Mr. McCutcheon seemed to be having this argument with the most handsome boy she had ever seen. He stood out because he was shabby, looking as if he just walked off some playing field himself. He had on a navy warmup, shiny, with two white stripes down the sides. The jacket was open, and he had on a tee shirt underneath. He seemed to be trying to appease Mr. McCutcheon, who seemed to be angry about something. Then he walked over to the table under the pop-up tent, picked up something, walked back over to his friend, who wasn’t a bad looker, either, and was wearing just what appeared to be a soccer uniform, and a backpack, and his friend got something out of the backpack, and the boy wrapped it up in a napkin, handed it to Mr. McCutcheon, and the two boys went on their way.

Marcy impetuously decided that their way was her way. Tripp hadn’t seen her. The McCutcheons all seemed distracted and not particularly happy. She walked down the road to the plaza in front of the stadium, and, there, figured the two boys had headed for the stadium entrance. It seemed unlikely she’d catch them in time, but there they were, just chatting outside the gate.

 

Christian went to look for Suzie. Charles said he just wanted to “hang” a while and get his shit together. Charles said he’d meet them at the back of the student section, where there were always seats. When Chris went inside, Charles realized the tin of brownies was still stuffed in his left pocket, where they made a considerable impression in his soccer shorts, underneath the sweats, where the pocket was barely large enough to accommodate the red, gold-leafed tin. Oh, well, it would have been easier for the brownies to go in via Chris’s backpack, but it wasn’t a problem. He’d just tell security that his mother had just given him the homemade brownies before she and Dear Old Dad went up to the suite where they were meeting with their old golfing buddy, Dean Harper.

You want one? They’re delish. He smiled. Nah. They didn’t have any more they could stand to waste, what with a college football game taking three hours and all.

Charles was just about to make his move into the stadium when he heard a voice behind him say, “Excuse me?” and, once again, someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around, and there was a lovely girl who almost surely wasn’t, by age and unfamiliarity, a student at Calliham. He wouldn’t have missed her shapely ass twitching around campus.

“I don’t supposed you’ve got a cigarette,” the girl said.

“Sure,” Charles said. “I got a pack on me.”

They walked by general agreement over to the brick wall of the suite tower.

“Hi,” she said. “I’m Marcy.”

“Charles,” he said and gave her a light.

“I’m guessing, since I’ve never seen you, to my knowledge, you’re not a student.”

“No,” she said. “I’m a senior at Our Redeemer. It’s a private school.”

Really? Our Redeemer. Who’d have known?

“How old are you?” Charles asked, just to keep a dumb conversation going. He tried not to be condescending.

“I’ll be eighteen next birthday,” Marcy said. “In the spring. April. My boyfriend’s father is a big alumni.”

Charles made a mental note not to know she wasn’t eighteen.

She pointed at the parking lot. “See that man with the silvery hair? That’s Jonathan McCutcheon. I’m dating his son, Tripp.”

Small world.

“Tripp, huh.”

“He’s a good guy. He’s not like his dad.”

“I hope not,” Charles said. “His daddy’s a dick. I just had a bit of a disagreement with him.”

“I was on the way over,” Marcy said. “I saw it. From a distance, I mean. That’s when I decided I wanted to find you and see what was the matter.”

“You’re sweet. I’m good. I got my vengeance on … what’s his name again?”

“Jonathan McCutcheon.”

“Figures,” Charles said. “Can you keep a secret, Marcy?”

“I’m the best,” she said, trying vainly to blow smoke rings in the mild breeze.

“I gave, uh, Mr. McCutcheon a little parting present.”

“Really.”

Charles reached inside his shorts and pulled the tin of brownies.

“These here,” he said, “they’re real good. They’re the best. I gave Mr. McCutcheon one. Guess what?”

“What?”

“They’re laced with weed.”

”No way.”

“Yes. Way.”

“Can I have one?”

“Fuck. I’m gonna end up giving away every one of them.” He handed her one.

“My advice to you, Marcy, is not to eat the whole thing at once. It’s … stout.”

“I’ll share with Tripp,” she said.

“How sweet. Keep a watch on the old man.”

“What are you doing after the game?”

“I’m probably doing what I’m doing now,” Charles said. “Getting fucked up.”

“Can we meet you after the game? I mean, me and Tripp.

“Tripp’ll trip.” She laughed as if no one had ever thought it.

“Uh, possibly,” Charles said. “Maybe my friend Christian and I will meet you right back here when the game’s over. I’m sure we’ll be going somewhere, you know, to party.”

“Okay,” Marcy said. “Cool.”

“Wow,” Charles said to himself, watching the girl walk up the hill into the rich folks’ party lot. She was the day’s first prospect. He didn’t particularly care to hobnob with the rich asshole’s bratty kid, but it was something of a challenge. Charles had already fucked over his dad. Maybe he could leave the boy passed out on the lawn at the mansion he was certain to live in. Maybe, by then, Marcy wouldn’t care so much for the money she was surely dating as much as the boy. Or, maybe, it wouldn’t be so dramatic. Maybe Charles would find someone better, some beautiful co-ed with an offensive lineman for a boyfriend that he might just pick up before Big Rollo was out of the showers and ready to party.

Even so, he could still have fun with Marcy, the mischievous little Our Redeemer senior with her rich Tripp, the two of them wanting to take a little walk on the wild side. Homecoming was starting to look awfully promising. Charles could see madcap antics ahead. And hijinks. Lots of hijinks.

 

Marcy Trask likes the college vibe. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Marcy Trask likes the college vibe. (Monte Dutton sketch)

3. ALL FALL DOWN

 

Jonny McCutcheon at first enjoyed himself immensely when he, Marissa, and Trent made their way up to the Suite Level of Doug Tussle Stadium and proceeded to the President’s Box, where the food and booze were always top of the line. For a man who had so recently acted rather boorishly, Jonny arrived in the nest of his peers, of Calliham College royalty, feeling suddenly genial. Marissa was surprised, which also meant she was suspicious. Trent was pouting, but that was because Tripp and Marcy had shoved him off with the parents while they dashed off in search of trouble. When Tripp informed his father that he and his girl would be along shortly, Jonny had thought it a splendid idea.

He felt alive and randy. He practically ignored all his male chums loitering around before the kickoff. Jonny was drawn to their wives. He chatted with them, an off-color joke or a suggestive remark never far from his tongue. At the same time, his eyes darted, taking in the attractive co-eds who served as “pages” in the box. This meant, of course, that they were required to indulge the garrulous old coots when they got a couple drinks in them.

Jonny had a taste for the drink himself. And the food. Everything he normally liked, now he suddenly loved. He tilted his glass at one of the girls, and she’d bring him another. This seemed clear as all else grew hazy. He found himself mumbling, and tried for a while to think about his enunciation, but then it got the point where he couldn’t think about anything at all for more than a few seconds. He became spontaneous because he had no other choice, but it felt so pleasant that it didn’t really bother him.

Well, the wine and booze are catching up with me. Big fucking deal.

Even when the game began, Jonny didn’t go out to his seats. When the room cleared, he gathered the pages around him on the couches, handed each of them a twenty, and suggested they might want to join him in a drink.

“Oh, no, Mr. McCutcheon, we couldn’t,” said the Trollope with the lascivious lips. She was lying through her teeth. If they were the same age, hell, it being homecoming, he’d have her legs spread by seven o’clock, and they’d go out for a steak afterwards, not before.

Hell, play my cards right, it might happen yet.

“What you’re telling me is that you can’t make yourself a drink,” Jonny said. “Nothing says I can’t make one for you.”

He got up while he still could and took orders, though he wound up returning with a tray containing nothing but five bourbons on five rocks.

Jonny’s decorum bucket had developed a leak. When son Trent, no doubt dispatched by that hussy Marissa to spy on him, arrived in the lobby to find his stuffy father regaling a quartet of lovely young women, he understandably decided to linger. This did not suit Jonny’s plans.

“These young women and I are having a lovely time,” Jonny roared. “Run along, Trent. Go out on the ledge and have a cigarette or something.”

The girls laughed uproariously. Trent blushed, retreated, and stomped off thinking, Well, I might just take you up on that, asshole.

              Jonny didn’t care. He’d make it up to the little snotnose later. Now he was scouting pussy.

 

Charles Dough sat at the back of the student section, a shabby little dinghy trailing a flotilla of khakis, navy blazers, and striped ties. He was ripped. He was torn. He was vaguely aware of having been born. Thank God for sunglasses. These were the highlights of his simple thoughts.

The Highlanders had scored. Of that Charles was sure. The fight song had definitely played. There was a scoreboard. It said seven to three. Calliham had the seven. Cool.

Christian and Suzie were gone. He was pretty sure they had been here earlier. He didn’t know how Christian had gotten away. He’d eaten a whole brownie, too. Charles was immobile. He had to be still. And be quiet. In time, he would rally. No one ever overdosed on marijuana. They just tried.

Someone sat next to him. Then there was someone on the other side. He recognized the perfume on his right. It was the good-looking high school girl, the one he had given a brownie. The boy on the left was … he was her boyfriend and … it seemed like he must be the son of the asshole whose tailgate Charles and Christian had walked through while considering themselves invisible. Charles felt invisible now, until Tripp McCutcheon introduced himself.

“I’m Tripp.”

It took a second, but then Charles realized he wanted to shake hands. They shook.

“I’m fucked up,” Charles said.

Marcy gently elbowed him in the ribs. She whispered, “We’re getting that way.”

Charles took a deep breath and sighed. “Well, get ready to get your ass kicked,” he said. “And get ready to love the shit out of it.”

Marcy and Tripp started chatting across him, leaning frontwards, and their words intermingled, and it made Charles think about the Tower of Babel, but he tried to regroup by taking deep breaths.

“I’d love to know what you’re thinking.

“Charles? Charles?”

She was talking to him. That often happened when people used his name.

“What?”

“I’d love to know what’s behind those shades,” Maria said.

“Uh, I expect if … I … revealed my eyes to the … unsuspecting … student body … they’d all think I was, like, a vampire.”

“Oh, let me see.”

He pulled up his black-rimmed shades, Blues Brothers, standard issue.

“My God, you do look like a wolf.”

“I feel like a wolf,” Charles said, and he arched his eyebrows at her.

It seemed as if time was going exceedingly fast. Apparently, halftime came and went. Charles had noticed that the band wasn’t in their assigned seats for a while, and that a lot of the students cleared out to chat under the stands, but he didn’t put it together. Still there was no sign of Christian. Charles was starting to retrieve some of his cognitive ability, and he realized that Christian and Suzie were undoubtedly having mad sex, most likely in the dorm room. Meanwhile, a slightly smaller version of Tripp McCutcheon had shown up. Undoubtedly, it was his younger brother. Great.

Trent explained to Tripp that their father had told him to go smoke a cigarette. Tripp explained to Trent that this was because that brownie their father had eaten in the lot had been laced with marijuana. Trent said that must be why Tripp and Marcy were sitting with the hippie with whom Father had argued. Even Trent had now figured out what had happened next, but the reason he had sought out his brother was not that he was some detective but that he wanted to bum a cigarette and was pretty sure Tripp had one. Tripp said he wanted one, too, and needed to take a leak, so he’d go with him to smoke outside the gates.

This left Marcy and Charles all alone, or at least alone psychically amid about eight hundred college students.

“Kiss me,” she said, and Charles did so, and her writhing tongue brought back a good deal of operational function to his body.

She obviously had some experience. As they kissed, she massaged him through the double layers of his sweats and shorts, and something in the friction between the layers greatly aroused him. No one was watching them closely, and someone would have had to in order to see what she was doing, which was attempting to jack him off, and an act so aggressive it could not have occurred if not for the fact that the processed contents of her own half brownie were now playing a considerable role in the coursing of seriously funky blood through her brain.

It was quite extraordinary and memorable, the kind of story a man would retell in mixed company decades later, when he was old and drunk and sitting in a college’s president’s box. Charles thought about how maybe he and Mr. McCutcheon weren’t so different after all, and that made him shiver a little.

The band, sitting nearby again, played the fight song again, and Charles realized it was early in the fourth quarter, and the Highlanders had extended their lead to seventeen points. He asked Marcy if she’d like to go have a cigarette, and was thankful the two boys had, for some reason, not returned, and what he meant, of course, was, Would you like to go back to my place and fuck? and Marcy knew the code, and said yes, and Charles managed to stand up, and get his legs working properly, and he hoped Christian and Suzie had gotten their business done.

 

Jonny, in time, ran off all but one of his adoring pages as his remarks grew increasingly cruder and his intentions more nefarious. The girl who remained seemed promising, but he was losing more and more function. He promised her a job, and he gave her his business card, and when he tried to write his cell number on it, he couldn’t think of it. He may have asked for a blow job. He wasn’t sure, but something persuaded her to leave.

The devout Lutheran dwelled briefly on his soul and salvation, but only for the few seconds required to ask Jesus for forgiveness, and then his thoughts went all earthly again. He felt extraordinarily intelligent and insipid at the same time. His soaring moments of clarity were brief, like fireworks flashing across the sky. The game was on the television monitor on the wall, in all its high-def clarity, yet Jonny was only vaguely aware there was a game, and that was in the context of it being silly, and, for a couple seconds, unworthy of his generosity. He wanted to give his money to women, at least women other than his wife, and whatever happened, after all, to peace, love, and understanding?

By the time Marissa deigned to confront him, after waiting three quarters of a football game for him to bow before her, Jonny was little more than a cheerful vegetable, a sweet potato, perhaps, soaking up the fluorescent lighting and somehow establishing roots on a nice, solid, comfortable couch.

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)

 

4. A STROKE OF SMOKE

 

“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.”

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.”

“Really?”

“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.

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.

“Ma’am?”

“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.”

 

This could be Doug Tussle Stadium at Calliham College. (Monte Dutton)
This could be Doug Tussle Stadium at Calliham College. (Monte Dutton)

5. NOTHING WITTY ABOUT REGAINING WITS

“Well,” Charles Dough reported, “I finally got Christian to answer one of my texts.

“He says he still needs an hour.”

Marcy Trask thought, Well, perhaps we should get a room. She didn’t say it. Charles didn’t even think it. He didn’t have it budgeted. He was pretty sure the next time he saw Christian, he was going to owe him money.

“We could get some beer and go up to this little park above campus,” Charles said. “You know, it’s funny. I don’t turn twenty-one until January. Isn’t that something? I know where they’ll sell me some beer. I used to work at this store on weekends. Me and the owner are cool.

“It’s kind of ironic. You know, most of the time, when people say something is ironic, it really isn’t. But … it’s ironic that marijuana doesn’t impair you for very long, but, yet, it stays in your system longer than most anything else.”

“It’s not fair, is it?”

“Nope. Science doesn’t give a damn about fairness. Science just is, man.”

“What’s your major?”

Charles smiled. “Psychology,” he said. “At least we’re not talking about the weather.”

“No, I’m serious. What led you to psychology?”

“The pot’s wearing off, isn’t it?”

“A little.”

“Okay, Marcy. Here’s the story. When I was a freshman, I took an elective psychology course. One day, early in the term, the professor announced to us all that he knew some of us were coming to class high. He said he didn’t know which ones, but it was just a reliable estimate. He said that, the way the mind works, it probably wasn’t the best thing to come to class high, but, if we were going to come to class high, we also should get high before we took the tests.

“I said, shit, this is for me.”

“That’s so funny,” she said. “Maybe that’s what I need to study.”

“I should say, you know, I’m not really quite as much of a derelict as you probably think,” Charles said. “I’m doing okay. I’m on course to graduate on time. I’ve got, like, a two-point-eight. It’s pretty good. I don’t stagger around campus stoned, as a general rule, all the time. It’s Homecoming, and everybody makes such a big deal of it, and Christian and I thought we’d sort of celebrate the Anti-Homecoming, and that’s why I played soccer this morning, and then I just … got high and decided … I was going over to the game dressed like I was, playing, all sweaty and shit. And stoned. Very stoned.

“In a way, it’s kind of bad. I ate one of those brownies, and then I was thinking, well, what a waste of good weed, ‘cause, like, it took Susie so much of it to, I think, make this pot-enriched oil or something, she tried to explain it to Christian, and he tried to explain it to me, but, now that I’ve been high all fucking day, it might not be that big of a waste, but I still don’t like it ‘cause it’s not good to just be completely jangled all day long. And I really did something stupid because I was just high as hell and thought it would be funny.”

“Which it was,” Marcy said.

“Yeah. Funny as hell.”

“Funny as fuck. Can you imagine what’s happened to Mr. McCutcheon?”

“I’m sorta scared,” Charles said. “I hope the police ain’t involved. I guess, if they are, maybe they’re campus cops. Public safety. We call it Pubic Safety. The cruisers, they got ‘Public Safety’ written above the fenders. Christian took a Swiss Army knife one night and peeled the ‘L’s’ off one of those cars one night when we were just walking by one of the frat houses, and the cops were raiding it or something.

“They’re cooler than the Sheriff’s Department. Some of them actually got a sense of humor. I can’t believe I gave that old man that brownie, though. It was so spontaneous. I just had this feeling, like, you know, this old asshole coming up to me, it’s destiny. It’s fate. I couldn’t pass it up, man. And I ain’t never been on pot brownies before.”

It took a little longer, but Marcy finished off her half of the pizza. Charles paid the bill.

 

Tripp McCutcheon was disappointed that Marcy hadn’t found him. He didn’t want to face his parents. Trent was seriously pissed at him for not helping get Dad to the car. He didn’t care. He didn’t want to make that scene. He had been passively waiting for his girlfriend, and, now, reluctantly, he had to move. His folks were going to walk right out the door across the walkway, and Dad would be stoned, and Mom would be drunk, and Trent would be pissed and sulking.

Tripp decided he’d hitchhike, bum a ride, maybe even, God forbid, walk to an old frame house in a neighborhood just beyond the opposite side of campus. He was playing tennis at Calliham next year, and he had become buds with several of guys on the team, and those guys lived in that house, rented it, and sold marijuana out of it. The Number Three singles player was a freshman named Joel Something Italian. It was ridiculous Tripp couldn’t think of the name. They were buds. Joel was his source, his contact. He needed some.

Marconi was his name. Joel Marconi. Or was that the name of the dude who invented the radio telegraph?

 

Jonny McCutcheon had gone to the game with no plans other than to be his usual condescending, snobbish, and in control. Now the sun was sinking, he was sitting in his Calliham College folding chair, and he was drunk and something else. He couldn’t think clearly but was vaguely aware that something had gone terribly wrong.

He was on something.

Marissa was drunk and irritable, but Jonny could tune her out. Trent was restless, stuck there because it was obvious he was going to have to drive his parents home. He wanted to go to the rec center where he could shoot pool with his cronies on the Our Redeemer golf team and sneak outside from time to time to smoke in the parking lot.

Everyone else had left the VIP lot. A van from Boylston Catering was parked on the edge of the road. Three men sat inside, waiting to dissemble the McCutcheon’s pop-up tent and pick up the dirty pans.

“Look at that old bastard,” Manny Garcia said. “He’s drunk on his ass, just sitting there, trying to get sober enough to leave. My wife, she’s gonna be so pissed. We were supposed to go to the movies.”

“Ain’t nothing happening here,” Roland Sturkey said. “Let’s go get some beer. They ain’t leaving in the next few minutes. What you think, Jerry?”

“I’ll drink a couple,” said the third, who was sitting in a folding chair because the van had only two seats.

“We’ll drop Manny off, let him get home,” Roland said. “Me and you can clean the shit up.”

“We better pick up a flashlight,” Jerry Lindsey said. “It’ll be dark by the time we get back.”

 

The campus had a jogging path, part of which included the double-sided avenue that ran past fountains down the Calliham College mall. Regardless of the path used – up and around Doug Tussle Stadium, the dorms, the tennis courts – almost everyone ran “the hill,” which was a narrow, paved path above Lake Highlander that included a small park at its high point, complete with a horseshoe pit and picnic tables.

No one was jogging at dusk on Homecoming.

Charles Dough and Marcy Trask trudged up the hill with a six-pack of Sam Adams in a zip-up bag that was supposed to provide insulation and keep it cold.

They sat at a concrete picnic table, and Charles had always wondered how the tables had gotten there, as the path wasn’t wide enough for trucks.

“It’s good to get a little sweat circulating,” Charles said as he screwed off the cap on a beer and handed it to Marcy. “It’s good you’re wearing a long-sleeved shirt. Mosquitoes probably carry you away, otherwise.”

“This is beautiful,” she said, gazing across the lake.

 

Jonny McCutcheon was, by dusk, gathering his wits about him. He had been naughty, and then he had been almost comatose, and then he had regained the ability to walk, and, finally, he ruminated in the lot, sitting in his canvass chair as if it were a throne. Now he was getting angry.

He carried a cell phone for convenience, not recreation. Jonny wasn’t on Facebook and generally didn’t respond to texts with other texts. He either ignored them or called back. Jonny refused just to succumb to changing technology. That infernal phone – the company issued him a new one at just about the precise point where he knew how to work the previous one – wasted more time than it saved, or it did to those who fell under its spell. Jonny kept it at a distance, just like his sons.

Finally, the imaginary gates in his thick head were opening, and Jonny realized he had been drugged. It was the brownie the hippie gave him. Something had been in it. Eating it had been against Jonny’s better instincts, but he had been drinking, and instincts were in short supply. It had been an unthinking act. He’d have thrown the damn thing in the trash had a can been nearby.

The kid probably thought it a grand joke. He was still laughing about it now. He should’ve known with whom he was dealing. No faggoty little student was going to humiliate McCutcheon and get away with it.

“Marissa, fix me a goddamned drink,” Jonny said. “I’m coming around.”

“Jonny …”

“Fix me a goddamned drink, I said.”

The college’s switchboard was on speed dial. He called, had to punch in several numbers so that the robo-operator could speak with him in English and direct him to the next robo-operator in the Public Safety Department. That bitch played some music for a while, and Jonny had drained most of his bourbon and melted most of its ice by the time he suspected the voice on the other end might be breathing.

“Send an officer to the VIP lot at the stadium,” Jonny commanded. “I’ve got an emergency.”

“Would you like medical assistance, sir?”

“Nope. I’d like criminal assistance. I’d like a student apprehended and, preferably, skinned in public.”

“This is a busy time, sir. It’s Homecoming, and our officers are involved in a number of incidents.”

“Look, whoever you are,” Jonny said. “You would probably be shocked at how much of your salary I pay. Now get a goddamned officer over here, and I mean right now.”

He hung up.

“Dad, why don’t we just go home?” Trent asked.

“Why don’t you just shut the hell up and bring me one of those cigarettes I been watching you smoke. Marissa, fix me another drink.”

“Jonny, don’t you think it might not be a good idea for you to be drinking, since you’ve summoned the police.”

“They’re not the police,” he roared. “They’re Public Safety, which is kind of ridiculous at a private college, but they’re not gonna hassle me. If the circumstances were different, I’d offer them a drink, but they’re gonna find that little shit who drugged me, and he won’t be going to college here or anywhere else come Monday.”

 

WIN_20150405_221612

6. SOMETIMES THINGS WORK OUT

Officer Sam McMinn, who had much more to do than cater to the whims of a generous alum, nevertheless stopped by Doug Tussle Stadium to visit Jonathan McCutcheon ’81, a descendant of Calliham College’s founders. McCutcheon was quite drunk, as was his wife, and the son appeared to be quite humiliated being there. McCutcheon insisted that he had, get this, been drugged by a student who gave him a brownie that must have been doused in LSD or something.

A likely story.

McMinn figured that Mr. McCutcheon had enjoyed too much booze, showed his ass in front of other prominent alums, and now needed to come up with an alibi, albeit a rather hard one to believe, so account for his untoward actions. McMinn knew better than to suggest such a tack.

“Mr. McCutcheon, now you and your family need to get on home,” McMinn said. “I will launch an investigation. I’ve got two major situations to deal with right now. We got an unruly frat house that’s about to be busted for under-age drinking, and we got an off-campus party where the Sheriff’s Department is involved. Both of these things are going to happen in the next few minutes, and I’ve got to go to work. There’s a good chance that, during the investigation, I’m gonna come across some kid who knows something about this.”

“I’m gonna wait here,” Jonny said. “I want you to come back and tell me what you find, and I don’t care if it takes the whole goddamned night.”

“Suit yourself, Mr. McCutcheon, but I don’t really think there’s any purpose served by you just sitting out here in the darkness.”

“I got a son missing. My older boy. He’s enrolling next fall to play tennis.”

Oh, hell, McMinn thought. If he’s hanging out with that bunch, no telling what he’s into.

McMinn and his partner, Jay Eastwood, drove to the SAE house. McMinn let Eastwood out to help out with the arrests, and told him he was going to drive around campus once, maybe head up the hill where some of the off-campus housing was, and try to come up with something to tell Old Man McCutcheon.

 

IMG_0659 (3)              Tripp McCutcheon had found his way to the house on Lake Road. Walking by the tennis courts had proved a wise choice because the Highlanders’ No. 1 singles player, Marty Halperne, had recognized him and given him a ride. Marty was headed to the house, too. In fact, he said he lived there. Everybody was headed to the house for a quick buzz on the way to other social engagements. When they got there, one bong was being passed in the living room, another at the kitchen table, and a third on the back porch, where some dude with a guitar was playing music.

Tripp made his connection. He had his wallet in his left-front pocket, his cell in the other, and, otherwise, his cargo shorts were crammed full of zip-lock bags full of weed he had purchased by counting out twelve hundred dollars in twenties to Joel Marconi. Our Redeemer Academy was going to be one happy place as soon as the gangsta, Tripp McCutcheon, a.k.a., Pablo Escobar on Snapchat, distributed his goodies. He was reinvesting his profits with his pal Joel.

Tripp was stoned and satisfied. He felt like a rich man. He felt like his father, only not as much of an asshole. He was reinvigorated after a day-long romance with half a weed brownie that had helped him stay clear of the complications of family life. Now he just had to catch a ride back to campus with someone, and that wasn’t going to be a problem because half the people there were just stopping off for a buzz, and maybe a little pickup, on the way to various other parties. He wasn’t quite ready to go. He wanted to savor his buzz. He walked out on the front porch and sat in the swing, wishing he had the cigarettes he’d given his brother.

Sirens started blaring off in the distance. Some serious shit must be going down on campus, Tripp thought. Trees blocked the view, but he could make out a little flicker of flashing lights reflecting through the branches. It sort of seemed like the sounds were getting closer, but he thought it must be his imagination. He was alone on the porch. Then Tripp noticed that the lights were getting stronger. The sound was getting closer, and now he could tell it was coming from the opposite direction of campus.

My God. The police are coming here. Shit. Me with enough weed on me to go to prison. I gotta get out of here, like, now. Shit. I’m not up to this.

He walked down the steps into the yard, cars parked everywhere. The ones that weren’t along the road, why, they’d be blocked in. He got out to the edge of the road, looked left. The sirens were getting closer. Tripp ran across the road. He knew it made a horseshoe. Perhaps he could cross through the woods and come out on the other side, but, for now, he just crouched behind a Volvo station wagon at the house across the street. The people who lived there came out on their porch, wondering what the commotion was about. Cruisers pulled up. County sheriff’s department. Two, four, six of them. Tripp took off running toward the woods. He didn’t know whether the man and woman on the porch saw him or not. He couldn’t get rid of the weed. He had all his money in it.

It was otherworldly. The lights of the sirens bounced off the leaves on the trees like strobe lights. Tripp ran downhill, lights blinking, tree trunks flashing into view and then disappearing in unison with the blue and red lights. He started stumbling, then, adrenaline, replacing the rush of the ganja, led him gradually into a pattern where he ran a step or two, pointed himself between trees, and leaped through the air, sometimes landing on his feet but more often, rolling in the leaves that were still shedding because it was mid-autumn. Somehow he made it back to the road and tumbled to rest on its edge, heaving with exhaustion.

A car stopped. A siren came on. The passenger window came down.

“Well, you’re a sight, son. In a hurry?”

Tripp was breathing too hard to speak properly.

“I’m … not … sir … gimme a minute … catch my breath.”

Sam McMinn got out of the car and walked around it. He just looked the boy over. His face and arms were scratched from running through briars. He also had a scrape on his forehead that probably came from a glancing blow on a tree trunk. Sam gave him a minute to get his breathing under control.

“I don’t recognize you, son. You a student at Calliham?”

“Not now. I’ve … visiting. I’m … being … recruited to play tennis.”

“Tennis team, huh? No telling what you’re into with that bunch. What’s your name?

“One more time. What’s your name, son?”

“Uh, Tripp.”

“Tripp what?”

“Tripp … McCutcheon.”

“Tripp McCutcheon. I don’t suppose you would be related to a Jonathan McCutcheon?”

A ray of hope. “Yes, sir,” Tripp said. “He’s my father.”

“Small world,” said Officer McMinn. “Get in the car.”

They drove around the big turn, past the bust going on at the house where Joel Marconi and Marty Halperne lived. McMinn pulled into the next driveway, backed out again, made his way between the cars parked on both side of the road and headed back to campus.

“What are you going to do with me, Officer?” Tripp asked.

“Be quiet, son,” McMinn said. “I’m thinking.”

 

Even though sirens could be heard from across campus, Trent McCutcheon knew when his friends were near. He could hear the throbbing bass beat of the Lil’ Wayne that was playing from the Toyota Land Cruiser that Riggs Laughlin had somehow managed to borrow from his old man. Trent had arranged for his buddies to come get him while his mother bitched at his dad, and his dad got angrier and drunker. Trent had to go. This was ridiculous. All hell had broken loose in his family, and he was the only one who wasn’t raising it. He just had to move.

He got up from his chair, said, “This sucks. I’m gone,” and took off running. He just blocked out his mom and dad’s yelling and hoofed it to the road. Riggs had three others with him as they pulled out. The middle doors opened. Damn. Smoke was coming out. Goddamighty.

              Trent slid into the seat.

“Where’s your brother, man?” Riggs asked.

“I don’t know. I ain’t seen him since before the game ended.”

“I hope he’s got some fucking weed,” Darin Grant said.

“I’m sure he does. He’s probably out somewhere partying with Marcy.”

“We’re gonna be out before long,” Riggs said.

“Let’s just get the fuck out of here,” Trent said.

 

“I’d say we didn’t fuck up,” Charles Dough said, holding Marcy Trask, whose head rested on his shoulder.

We fucked.

“Man, I could use a joint right now,” he said. “Believe it or not, I’ve actually got one more pot brownie, but I can’t handle another one of them things at night. Fucking sirens everywhere, man. I don’t need to be staggering around. I just need a little short-term buzz, you know.”

“You want a cigarette?” she asked.

“No. The funny thing is, I don’t know, it must be something about smoking weed. Since I ate it, I haven’t even thought about a cigarette. Must be some kind of oral fixation or something.”

“Well,” Marcy said, “I do have, like, this half a joint, maybe a little more, in my change purse.”

She pulled it out of her jeans, just a little leather pouch, fastened by interlocking metal. All it had in it was her driver’s license, a couple dollars of change, and a joint charred on one end.

“I love you, Marcy Trask. Let’s burn that thing. Then we can go get married.”

“Let’s not and say we did,” she said, pulling her lighter out.

 

Officer Sam McMinn pulled back into the VIP parking lot. A van blocked part of the opening. A small stack of Budweiser cans were on the ground, having been dropped out the passenger window.

Poor guys. They’re waiting for the McCutcheons to get the hell out so they can clean up the place and knock off.

“You stay here, young Tripp McCutcheon.” The boy had insisted on riding in the back, though McMinn had offered him the front seat. McMinn suspected it had something to do with the smell coming from his cargo shorts, a smell that McMinn had been professionally trained to recognize as marijuana.

McMinn walked out to the tent and McCutcheon’s huge SUV, an Escalade. The other son was gone.

“Can I have a word with you, Mr. McCutcheon?”

“I didn’t you were coming back, Officer …”

“McMinn. Sam McMinn.”

The old man was tired now. Feeling dehydrated and bleached. Drunk and out of gas. It looked like his wife had passed out in her chair.

They walked over to the squad car, a Dodge Charger. McMinn had left the lights on. McCutcheon likely couldn’t see his son sitting in the back seat, given the glare of the lights.

“All right, bear with me,” McMinn said. “We’ve had a couple major, uh, incidents, one at the SAE house here on campus and another in an off-campus house rented by students. The incident off campus is being handled by the Kuykendall County Sheriff’s Department, but it involves Calliham students, and the two departments, ours and there’s, have kind of an … unofficial … arrangement in incidents like these. They let us handle the students, and we let them handle those who aren’t. What happens is, we have a little swap. For instance, some of the kids we just picked up at the frathouse aren’t students. They’re from other campuses. They’re visiting friends from their hometowns. Now, most of the ones who were busted at the off-campus house are students. Nobody does the paperwork until we swap off. As I said, technically speaking, we’re not supposed to do this, but it works pretty well for both parties.”

“What’s this got to do …?

“Let me finish, Mr. McCutcheon.”

“Please call me Jonny.”

“I’m Sam. Now … Jonny … I’ve sort of pulled a fast one here. I found out the Sheriff’s Department had your son in custody, and so, I grabbed him out of the line, had a little conversation with a friend of mine who’s a deputy sheriff, and I got him and took him with me, and I’ve brought him back to you. He’s a little the worse for wear.”

“And what about the young man who drugged me?”

“Well,” McMinn said, “I think it might be a good idea to just let that go.”

“Like hell.”

“You see, Mr. McCutcheon, I believe that whatever happened, well, I think your son may have kind of set it up, because, uh, he was trying to get away and, well … you see what I’m saying. If you pursue action against another student, what might come out could incriminate your son.”

“Where is he?”

“In the back seat of that car.” McMinn said. “Tripp, you can get out now.”

As best he knew, most of what Sam McMinn had just told Jonny McCutcheon was a lie, but Sam had a hunch there was a fair amount of truth mixed in with it.

“You see, Jonny, your family means a lot to the college, and you’re getting some really special treatment as a result of it. What say let’s just pretend most of this never happened?”

“Agreed. I appreciate it … Sam. Can I do anything …”

“Nah. It’s just my job … Jonny.”

 

Charles Dough and Marcy Trask walked through the little gates with the gap in the middle, thus enabling walkers and bicyclists to pass through but denying access to automobiles. A full moon reflected on Lake Highlander. They both felt tender and in love, and it was heightened because they were high.

“Do you have a stick of gum, Marcy?”

“I think so.”

“Could I have one?” Charles asked. “There’s a car coming, and I think it might be the campus police.”

The Dodge idled around the corner, in front of several little cabins that had something to do with the lacrosse teams that played on the field behind them.

“Charlie Dough, Charlie Dough,” said a voice from inside the squad car. “I have somehow managed to save your ass again.”

Charles loped over to the cruiser. “Be right back,” he yelled over his shoulder to Marcy.

“Officer McMinn.”

“Charles. Get in.”

“What’s on your mind, sir?”

“I’d say we’re even now.”

“I never thought it was a matter of payback,” Charles said. “I thought it was just friends looking out for each other.”

“Oh, cut the bullshit, Charles. Have you had a merry time at Homecoming?”

“Oh, very much so, sir.”

“I don’t supposed you’d play a practical joke on somebody, uh, just for the hell of it.”

“No, sir, not just for the hell of it.”

“Who’s the good-looking girl?”

“Oh, someone I picked up today at the game. She’s a very nice girl. I believe we’re in love.”

“Ever heard of Jonathan McCutcheon?”

“No,” Charles said. “Does he have anything to do with the residence hall where I live?”

“I think so. Do you know his son, Tripp McCutcheon.”

“I think I met him today.”

“Hmm.”

“Uh, Officer McMinn, the girl I’m with …”

“Yes.”

“Uh, I think, she might be, or at least was, the girlfriend of Tripp McCutcheon.”

“Goddamighty, Charles. Please tell me you used a rubber.”

“Oh, yes, Officer McMinn. I’m vitally committed to safe sex.”

“One of these days, Charles, you’re not going to have me around to look out for you. Get the hell out.”

Charles got out, shut the door, and leaned back in the window.

“Thanks, Sam. I’ll figure out a way to make it up to you. I will.”

“You better hire me one day, Charles. You are always going to need somebody to clean up your messes.”

“When I get elected president, Sam, I’ll make you Chief of Staff.”

“Shit.”

“Well, it won’t be President of the United States. I’ll be president of something, though.”

###

              If you haven’t been following along, I appreciate you taking the time to read the whole story of the McCutcheons, Charles Dough, Marcy Trask and others on an eventful Homecoming Day at Calliham College. I hope this will also encourage you to purchase my two novels if you haven’t already. Most of my books are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

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