It was 1988 I was 18 years old and it was the day before I went off to SVA.
“Take this.” Baxter handed me a small piece of paper. It was acid.
“What’s this for? I turned it over in my hand.
“We are both leaving soon. So tonight we will have some fun.”
Pierre and Ukala had on strange smiles.
“Are they already tripping?”
“Oh yeah, for a few hours now.”
I put the acid on my tongue and let the saliva build so I could swallow it.
We piled into Baxter’s minivan and drove to a girl’s house on Capital Hill. Her mother was a lobbyist for the streams and rivers.
“You okay to drive?” I asked Baxter.
His head swiveled over to me as if invisible strings suspended it; his eyes looked dark since his pupils were completely dilated. “You are always safe in the minivan.”
I felt the acid. I could see details in the shadows, and reds were vibrant, piercing my retinas. Driving past the Capital building, its whiteness cut into the night sky. It looked like it would have made a nice party hat for a giant Prussian general. A few blocks later we backed into a parking space up the street. Looking out the window, I saw the corner and chuckled to myself. “Crack.” Pierre overheard me. “Fuck you, man, I’m telling you, it was the Mayor and he was looking for rock.” The rest of the car burst out laughing. “The mayor of D.C.’s a crackhead,” Baxter said as he stepped out of the minivan. “That’s funny.” We made it to the girl’s house, running in and pulling the door shut behind us. As a group, we stayed in one room, unwilling or unable to separate, making it to the basement office some time after three a.m.
The girl made the mistake of showing us the business phones, with conference calling and speakers. Pierre was the first to try it. He dialed the 7-Eleven and then the Tenleytown Minimart that was across the street from the 7-Eleven, putting the phone on speaker and mute at the same time.
“Hello. This is 7-Eleven.”
“Tenleytown Minimart. What can I do for you?”
“You called me.”
“No, you called me.”
They hung up and Pierre called back a few times, as the conversation escalated.
“Why you calling me… asshole,” said the Tenleytown Minimart.
“I’m going to kick your ass, bitch. I didn’t call you,” said the 7-Eleven.
We laughed, and I pictured a fight between the two clerks at the halfway point between both places.
“Wets carl swarm one erles,” said Ukala.
I dialed the numbers I remembered.
“Hello” said Charlie
“What’s up?” said Paul.
“I don’t know. You called me.”
“I didn’t call you.”
“I don’t understand. What’s going on?” said Charlie.
“I think someone’s playing a prank on us,” said Paul.
The room exploded with laughter. But they couldn’t hear us on the phone.
“Well then hang up,” said Charlie.
“Let’s go,” said Baxter. A faint blue light filtered through the basement window.
Baxter’s pupils had returned to their normal size.
“I don’t want to leave,” said Pierre. “It’s scary out there.”
“You’re safe in the minivan,” I said.
The minivan pulled us up the hill. The branches overhead and the buildings were flashing red and blue. Nobody said anything since they weren’t sure if they were seeing anything at all with the acid still churning in their systems. Reaching the top of the hill, we saw that there was a sea of police cars packed tightly around the side of the Capital. At the center of the activity was an armored Humvee which had crashed onto one of the cement pylons that ringed the Capital.
“What the fuck? I told you it wasn’t safe out here. It’s fucking World War III,” said Pierre.
“Oh man, I feel the acid again,” said Baxter. “The road’s moving like the back of a snake.”
“There is a cop behind us,” said Ukala. I turned and saw the cop car following close behind.
“Baxter, just keep following the snake back,” I said.
Pierre dropped his head into his lap and groaned. “I can’t go back to jail tonight.”
“Everyone just look ahead and act natural,” I said. Pierre lifted his head and we sat perfectly straight. I was going to jail. College, forget about it. Mother and Father were going to be pissed. Damn Baxter and his plan. I knew better than to be led down the hole by Baxter. There was silence in the minivan. “Is he still behind us?” said Baxter.
“Look in your rearview mirror,” said Pierre.
“Yeah, right! I got one of those,” said Baxter. “I’m wasted… I don’t see anything.”
Everyone in the car turned and looked out the back window at the same time, and there was nothing there.
The minivan parked on the side of Mother’s house.
“You want to see something,” I said to the group. They followed me into my neighbor’s back yard. In front of us stood a nine-foot grizzly bear carved of wood with a two-foot erection. “What the fuck!” said Ukala and I reminded him to keep his voice down. Next to it was a puddle, but since it hadn’t rained, I leaned down to have a closer look. I was seeing the reflection of the bear and its giant erection standing over me, when a beautiful gold fish the size of my forearm swam up to the surface, looking at me with its eye before heading back for the deep. “Oh shit!” I jumped back. “I must still be tripping. Let’s go to my house,” I said as I walked out of the backyard, checking the second story to make sure no one was watching us. The clock read 7:45 a.m. Baxter put a tape on the stereo.
“Who is this?” I asked.
“Fugazi. It’s a rare live demo.”
“I saw them play at D.C. Space. It was their second show. It was some kind of secret thing, and I snuck in without knowing who they were. It was great.”
I laid my head under the speaker and listened. Ukala turned on the television. The morning news was showing the scene we had witnessed at the Capital and I expected to see cops leading off someone we knew, but it was some deranged-looking man in his late twenties.
“An armored vehicle was stolen from a base by a former national guardsman and driven over one hundred eighty miles followed by, at times, more than a hundred law enforcement vehicles,” said the newscaster just before they cut to an officer at the scene. “We couldn’t shoot his tires out, so we had to wait for him to run out of gas.”
“That was real?” said Pierre, surprised.
from Rich Boy Cries for Mama by Ethan H. Misker