***Author's Note*** The three people in the following story are composites of people I have known. This author doesn't encourage the behavior they are engaged in, but he is not so naive that he doesn't know that this sort of thing goes on. This tale was inspired by a comment that our good Cormac wrote some time ago and his starter sentence brought it to mind.
"As with juggling, the key to life is to keep the procession moving steady and don't look down," Bobby said before he licked the paper and wound the joint he was rolling into a neat cylinder that could have passed for a store-bought cigarette. Bobby often made these kind of sage pronouncements, and out of anyone else they would have sounded like complete bullshit, but not Bobby. He had a slow, easy way of talking that made every word he said sound like it came from Buddha himself. “The bong is in the coffee table where it always is,” he motioned with a nod of his head as his hands were full with the makings of another joint.
I got the old Blue Bomber out and took a pinch from the loose weed that he was rolling his joints from. I packed a small one and took a hit before continuing, “I just don’t get her man. She used to be this super-cool, laid-back chic who didn’t get uptight about nothin’. Now the slightest little thing and she just goes ape-shit. I just want to know what happened to that girl. What happened to the Jackie who could just roll with the flow?” I exhaled into the rays of sunlight that were creeping in through the blinds just so I could watch the smoke roll into itself before being caught in the fan.
Bobby sat back in his frumpy, worn-out easy chair and glanced at his twelve inch black and white TV that was hooked up to the camera on his driveway. “Crap. Carl’s here,” he said as the El Camino filled the screen.
“Should I go?” I asked.
“Naw man. Don’t go. He’ll be gone in a few minutes, but if I’m here by myself, that sonofabitch will stay for hours. Stick around, we haven’t finished our conversation yet.” Bobby reassured me.
Have you ever known someone who could blow into a room like there was a hurricane behind them where ever they went? Carl was like that. He threw open the door, strolled in, and without a greeting, flopped on the sofa beside me. He wore a stupid grin that was punctuated by his missing teeth. “What’s up Bobby? What are you and Pete talking about?” Carl feigned interest as he helped himself to the weed on the table. Bobby grimaced as Carl licked his lips wetly before he hit the bong.
“We were just talking about a personal problem of Pete’s,” Bobby said as he traded the finished joint for another rolling paper.
“What? Jackie startin’ ta get real pregnant and give you shit? That’s the way Yolonda tried ta play me and I just told her straight up to fuck off. This bull ain’t gonna change for no heifer, that’s for damn sure. I don’t care how well she goes down!” Carl tapped his thumb against his chest as if he thought he was quite a catch for all womenkind. He helped himself to another bong. “What’s with all the joints Bobby?” Carl eyed the neat stack of doobies.
“Cheryl and I are going to a concert tonight and I wanted to take some with me.”
“Who ya goin’ ta see? I hear Tom Petty is in town,” Carl said.
“Wagner,” Bobby said flatly.
“Are they new? I ain’t heard them on the radio.” Carl scrunched up his eyebrows as he thought.
“No, ‘they’ ain’t new. Wagner was a composer,” Bobby shook his head.
“He do anything I’d have heard of?”
“Yeah, music for a Bugs Bunny cartoon.”
“Shit, I seen all of them. Hey Bob, ol’ buddy,” Carl’s tone changed to one used by car salesmen everywhere, “you wouldn’t happen to have a dime bag you could part with would you? Me an’ Frank are goin’ ta take the four wheelers out to Buckeye Lake and I wanted some for the trip.”
Bobby fished around in the coffee table and pulled out a rolled up baggie and put it on the table in front of him. Carl’s hand snaked out and pocketed it before you could blink. “You don’t mind if I get this one on spot do you?” he said as if this was a complete afterthought.
“You cheese-dicked idiot! In the eight years that you have known me, have I ever spotted you a sack? Ever?” Bobby’s face flushed red enough to match his eyes, “No, never. What gives you the gonads to ask now?!?”
“Well, I uh-“
“Don’t tell me you ‘thought’ Carl, because you don’t think. You don’t think any more often than I spot you a sack!” Bobby huffed and sat back again, “You take that sack and weasel on out of here and if you don’t have the cash on Monday, don’t you ever come back again!” Wordlessly, Carl slunk out of the room like a scolded child. Bobby followed his progress to the Camino on the TV to assure himself that he was truly gone. “I know full well that he won’t have the money on Monday, but it will be worth the sixty bucks just to have that bonehead out of my hair for good. Good riddance. I wish I’d have thought of it eight years ago.”
Bobby took a deep breath and tried to clear the air of the annoyance that had just breezed through. “Now where were we? Oh yes, Jackie. Now Pete, as much as I hate to admit it, there is a slim grain of truth in what Carl said. Jackie is getting along in her pregnancy and her hormones are in a cocktail shaker. You have followed the most basic command of nature. You have survived to adulthood and you have reproduced. The bit that you are getting hung up on is the fact that Jackie is changing and she expects you to change as well. You can’t be out smokin’ dope and blowing your money on beer and Taco Bell at 3 am. In her eyes, you need to be a good provider for the family you’ve started and she ain’t seeing that.” I raised my finger to object but Bobby dismissed me, “A couple of overtime shifts at the factory now and then isn’t gonna do it. Now be a man and act like one. Go home to your pretty wife and quit hangin’ out with your dope smokin’ buddies. They are a bad influence,” he said as a smile broke through his long gray beard. “Besides, I gotta get cleaned up for my date with my wife!”
Enjoy your week