Then Came the Shot

I was sitting down by the entrance. The place was gated so I would have to let Matt in when he arrived. A few cars passed, I was sitting off to the side, under a tree, wearing my new red jacket. It was almost late October and there was a slight chill. I pulled out my cell phone and checked the time: twenty minutes already. Another car went out the entrance. I wondered if someone might think I looked shady or suspicious, sitting in the shadows, and call the cops.

There had been a couple break-ins in the last month. One letter to the residents mentioned locking cars, and a later reminded everyone about locking apartment doors. Both were vague and only spoke in high legalese. I wished they would provide descriptions in those letters. At least I could know whether a guy like me was suspect or should at least wear all white and stand closer to the street lamp. It was all convoluted. Who was a suspect or not was ambiguous and no one knew anything.

My cell phone rang. Matt’s name popped up on the caller-ID.

“Yo!” I macho-ed.

“Hey, how do you get in?” Matt was at the gate.

“I’m standing right here…” I got up. “I have my card… oh, the exit gate is open… just come through that.” I pointed at the gate to whoever was parked at the entrance.

Matt pulled around to the exit side and came through. He was driving an older Nissan Pathfinder. It fit his preppy/slacker image well.

When he stopped inside the gate, I hopped in. I pointed directions to where my apartment was. We drove for a little bit to the sound of the local college alternative music, WREK. When we came to my apartment, I eyed the apartment next to mine. It was on the parking lot side of the building and belonged to a beautiful red-head girl who looked a couple years younger than me. I’d lived here for six months and had never seen her more than in passing, though we surely knew of each other’s sporadic schedules. I didn’t know her name but she seemed single and lived alone.

We plodded up the stairs and as I opened the door, I mumbled. “Excuse the lack of furniture, I am still situating myself from my estate sale.” I grinned at Matt as he cast he eyes over the meager apportions.

Inside was a table with two chairs. A burgundy tablecloth draped over the ends. Near the front door, a surfboard leaned against the wall. Next to it, a blank rectangle of a stretched canvas was hung on the wall. I stepped into the kitchen and pulled out the boxed pipe and lighter I had bought just an hour before.

“I wanted to try out my new pipe. And this crack-torch thing that came with it.” I waved the box set for Matt to see.

Matt had picked up a book from the table that I was reading.

“The War on our Bill of Rights.” I said majestically, then added ominously. “And the Gathering Resistance.”

“I’m paying you in Monopoly money.” I said, pulling out my billfold.

“You got one of those new twenties?”

“Yeah, looks like shit too.” I pulled out a twenty and turned it over in my hand. “Did you know the last time a twenty had color in it, the color was yellow and the bill said ‘twenty dollars’… ‘in gold’?”

“No shit.”

“Uh-huh.” I pulled out another twenty and a ten. “Fifty, right? How much is this worth?” I asked.

“Right now, a little less than an eighth.”

“Highway robbery.” I proclaimed. “But I’m paying you with a defaced bill.”

I quickly wrote “DRUG MONEY” along the top of each bill and handed them to Matt. “I have now corrupted some ‘anti-drug commercial watching kid’ in the suburbs who will now think that a terrorist handled this money.”

Matt handed me the baggie of dope. I held it up to my face and took a good whiff of it’s contents.

“Let’s smoke out on the balcony.” I said.

We went out on the balcony, it was still cool but not breezy. I sat in my usual chair by the window. He pulled the other chair. I plugged in the umbrella lights and the entire balcony was warmly lit by little white Christmas lights. My MP3 player was in the middle of some Kid Koala track with record scratching tearing up the radio. I packed the pipe hastily and handed it to Matt. He sparked and inhaled, handing it back to me.

I took a long hit from the pipe. Exhaled and blew lazily at the smoke cloud that lingered. “Put the sandwiches on the turntable…” droned from the radio.

I passed the bowl back to Matt and said. “Come down from thy mountain, all that are good. And preach amongst my children, spreading thy bounty.”

“What’s that from?” He asked bewildered.

“Dunno, just came to me.” I said dryly. “Nice shirt, kinda ironic to me.” I pointed at his Rage Against The Machine t-shirt. “I had just listened to Rage today after a year-long hiatus.”

“Yeah, this shirt is really old. Check out the back!”

Matt got up and turned around to show me the back. There was some pseudo-Soviet rendering of a robot-man in a suit, and the phrase: “We have determined that the whole system sucks.”

“That is oldskool!” I said as he sat back down. “It’s a shame they aren’t making more records. We need more Rage and outrage in music.” I stuck my left hand out in an air guitar rendition. “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!” I rasped in a bad imitation. “More like that, you know… just burn the fucker to the ground… that kind of music.” I smiled at my own melodrama.

Matt laughed and took a puff from the bowl, then handed it to me. We smoked silently for a few moments, both leaned towards the table in the mystic ritual of puff and pass.

“God, we could really use a Rage reunion tour after all this 9/11 bullshit. Someone with the audience and the balls to ask: ‘Why you fuckin’ up America, grrrr! Burn it down.’ None of this Dixie Chicks bullshit, just tell it like it is. These people are fucking with the Constitution!” I was exasperated.

Matt nodded. I handed the freshly packed pipe back to him and pointed towards the kitchen inside. “You want something to drink? Coke?” I asked.

“Uhh, sure. I gotta stay up and study any ways. What time is it?” He asked.

I looked at my cell phone. “Nine o`clock.” It was 9:16, but I wanted him to stay a bit.

“Yeah, a Coke. That’s cool.”

I went inside and poured a couple drinks. I was high and feeling good. I let the highness dance through my head, working it’s way deep into my locked psychosis. The ice-cubes rattled in the glasses. I carried the drinks back to the patio and Matt closed the screen behind me.

“So what are you studying?” I asked.

“Chemistry.”

“Oh… tough shit. I have no idea how much a mole is anymore.” I joked. “You’ll be able to make your own drugs though.”

“Yeah, dirty crystal meth.”

“Oh no, LSD or some other hallucinogen. What the hell does LSD stand for any ways?”

“Um, lysergic acid diethyl amide.” Matt said triumphantly.

“Lysergic acid is some derivative of lithium isn’t it?”

“I don’t know, I could probably make shitty acid that gives you a headache.”

“Ha ha! No, I think the hard part is diethyl amide… that’s umm, two ethyl amide molecules or two ethyls and a ahhh…. mide?” I pondered.

“Yeah, maybe that’s where the paper turns brown, someone substitutes petroleum for diethyl amide.” He offered.

“Or you could just make shitty meth in a motel room. Ever seen the movie ‘Spun’?” I asked.

“Oh yeah, good movie.” Matt perked up. “They do a shit load of meth in that movie.”

“For real, that was a tripped out movie. That’s a good ‘scared straight’ movie for meth.”

“And he has that chick locked in his room for three days with the music.” Matt grew dramatic. “Hey babe, I’m putting on your favorite CD… krr krr krr krr krr krr krr.” Matt imitated the sound of the CD skipping at full blast.

“Great movie, funny as hell.” I said.

We took a few more tokes from the bowl before Matt waved it away. He was beginning to look slurry-eyed and sheepish. Bran Van 3000 banged out some music on the radio. I tapped my foot along to the beat.

That’s when Matt choked. A moment before, he had been taking a sip from his drink, and the next he was coughing hard, hacking on a bad fluid transfer. I felt bad, it was one of those inexorable drinking accidents that comes along at the most annoying times.

“Hey don’t pass out on me.” I tried to joke.

He sat back, his coughing fit had subsided and let out a belch. He was glassy-eyed and grinning. “That would be tough to explain to the cops and paramedics.”

“Yeah… hello? 911? Yeah, my friend just choked and passed out. What did he choke on? Coke-ah… Cola. Or an ice-cube. I don’t know, it wasn’t my turn to feed him.”

Matt laughed. I went on. “Oh… and then when the cops get here, I have to tell them that you maybe smoked some pot, so you go down as being a drug-related death.”

“Drug-related bull!” Matt chuckled.

“Oh yeah? If you hadn’t been smoking pot, maybe you wouldn’t have been thirsty. They establish a chain of events, and suddenly I’m in jail for 2nd degree manslaughter.” I proffered.

“I doubt that. Besides, you should just chop up my body and never call the cops.”

“No way! I would still have to get rid of your vehicle, and besides, my fingerprints are already God-knows-where all over your door and inside. Too easy to get busted, even if I torched it.”

“Jesus man! Do you give that shit a lot of thought?” He looked at me pensively.

“I give too much stuff a lot of thought. It’s a by-product of reading too much and not having a TV.”

I handed a freshly packed bowl to Matt. He looked at it cautiously, then exclaimed. “What the hell, I’ll study at the library.”

“What subject?” I asked.

“Calculus.”

“Ooh, boring. But that’s only one book, why the library?”

“It’s quiet, I get distracted at home, too much to play with or just fuck off.”

“Good point.”

“Calculus is pretty hard.” He left it at that.

That’s when I reached across the table with the .45 I had been concealing in my jacket and shot Matt in the chest. The shot was loud, sending a giant smoking wound deep into his rib-cage. I looked around at my neighbor’s balconies for any sign of disturbance or lights. There wasn’t any, so I dragged the body inside.

Except that didn’t really happen. I was daydreaming and the weed had kicked in, catching me off-guard.

“Man, I’m high.” I said in mock-falsetto, imitating the South Park character Towlie.

“You guys wanna get haaaa?” Matt picked up on my reference to the show. “I love that… Towlie.”

I lit a cigarette, Matt lit one as well and we sat listening to Bob Wills croon “Roly Poly” over a hip-hop bass line. I closed my eyes and imagined watching the band thump away on trumpets, clarinets, and violins. The music scratched and popped to an undertone bass that boomed in rhythm.

I opened my eyes again and Matt seemed restless and ready to go. He caught my eye and motioned to his cigarette.

“You got an ashtray? Or over the side?” He waved the dying butt in the air.

“Flip it, just ivy down there and it’s not dry enough.”

Matt flicked it hard, trying to get distance behind the arc. It smacked a tree branch and exploded in embers. I followed suit and flicked mine hard enough to send it at the tree branches as well. It hit one of the limbs and stopped dead, apparently wedged between two limbs.

“Well damn, now the tree’s going to get cancer.” I snorted.

“Ha ha, nice.” He guffawed.

We both turned in our chairs to see if the butt would fall out after a moment or two, but it seemed wedged into it’s new home. I turned back to Matt and he got up from his chair.

“Well, I got’s to go. Gotta study for tomorrow.” Matt yawned and downed the rest of his Coke.

“Cool man, give me a shout some time. We’ll smoke up and chill.” I put out my hand to slap.

“A`ight man, peace!” Matt slapped my outstretched hand and headed to the door.

I opened the door for him and stood by for a moment while he descended down to the parking lot. I stole a glance at the bedroom window of the girl next door (the light was never on), then closed and latched my door and turned off the light.

Stephen VanDyke

I've published HoT along with about 300+ friends since 2002. We're all Americans who are snarky and love our country. I'm a libertarian that registered Republican because I like to win elections. That's pretty much it.

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