16. Cowboy Movie

[Consider starting at 30 seconds to avoid the unintelligible description of finding this movie on late nite TV.]

Just a sunny summer afternoon. There’s a battered white van in John’s driveway. His own car is nowhere in sight. John always hated vans, except as equipment trucks. He said they were too visible and too clumsy. He waves me in, beaming.

In the center of the floor is a steamer trunk, open and full of red-paper wrapped packages, one and a half pound bricks of pot. On his desk is a pile of torn red paper and, spread out on newspapers, a huge mound of weed.

“You did it!” I shout and there is a hoarse laugh from one of the armchairs. A fat guy in a dirty white tee shirt, a thin black leather vest and a chunk of metal for a belt buckle, holding a beer in one hand. The other rests on the knee of a watery blond woman. She sips her beer impassively and watches me. I smile nervously.

 “Sam, Dehlia, Danny,” Sam grabs my hand and we swing back and forth in a soul brother handshake. I nod at Dehlia.

“So,” I say to John, “you have any pot?”

They all laugh. “A couple of pounds,” he says.

“Like ninety,” says Sam.

He takes the rolled up bill that John offers him and swings around on the bed. John portions off four lines of Jaime’s speed on the ceramic tile on his desk. Sam snorts them noisily, two in each nostril, and passes the bill to Dehlia.

“Why don’t you roll a joint?” John asks me.

A lot of seeds, half shake. Not very impressive weed. I pick a bud off the pile and clean it. John’s joints look like cigarettes and they burn evenly. Mine have a bump in their center no matter what I do.

“There’s some speed there, if you want it.” John offers me the bill.

I make what’s left into two lines and snort it while John fiddles with the adjustment screw on his triple beam balance. I wouldn’t let him steal one from the Ceramics shop, so he stole one from a chem lab. ‘They’ll just buy another.’ The Pot shop lost five out of eight scales. They couldn’t afford to replace them. Instead, they chained the last three to the glaze bench. Someone cut one of the chains.

“Best goddamn pot in Austin,” says Sam, looking from Dehlia to John as he finishes, “for the money.” He snorts noisily and spits into the wastepaper basket. Sourly, John peels a garbage bag off the roll and snaps it open.

“Hold this,” he says to Sam. “This is for Stanley, right?”

I nod and he picks up a handful of shake. If it were my pound, it would have been a handful of buds.

The sour taste of the speed in the back of my throat gags me, but that warm and friendly energy is rising through my body. I rub my nose and smile at Dehlia. She stares through me and takes another sip of beer. I light the joint, fighting paranoia.

Sam takes the joint, sucking on it wetly. It begins to burn down the side. John puts down the handful of buds and puts a drop of spit on the paper to even up the burning.

“How much do I tell Stanley?”

“Tell him one seventy and give me one fifty.”

“I’d rather just do you the favor.”

“Nobody does this for free”

“I don’t like to make money on friends.”

John twists a tie around the baggie. “Stanley’s going to sell some, right?”

“He’s splitting it with Mike.”

“Money will change hands,” says John. “Believe it.”

I look outside the window. Yesterday’s storm is gone. Clouds are drifting lazily south. The sun shines brightly in a newly washed sky. He’s right, of course, but I don’t want to agree with him. I want it like the old days, when you just wanted to turn someone on.

“The first of the lot,” says John, tossing the pound at me. Caught by surprise, I drop it. Sam laughs.

“I’ve got to meet Stanley now. Should I tell him to bring over the money or drop it off?” I put the pound in my knapsack and buckle it tight.

“Come by,” says John. “No sense in having extra people around.”

“See you,” I say and walk out. Sam and Dehlia do not say good-bye.

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