David Copperfield once made the Statue of Liberty vanish on live TV – BFD.
I had just seen Doug Hunter disappear. When you witness an event like that, there are some common human responses. The first is primal. You are filled with an overwhelming sense of the fragility of your own life. You breathe. You try to swallow. If you’re a man, you adjust your package, as shrunken as it is. You mentally check and, if you can still move your extremities, you are still alive. No matter how much you care about the other person, you think about yourself first. Don’t waste time denying it.
The second response is horror. You smell it. You feel it in the pores of your skin. You might even be a little dizzy. I was. This isn’t something like empathy. It’s a simple overwhelming force. Grendel has entered the long house and slaughtered all of Beowulf’s pals. Reality has smashed through your comfortable illusions. We all have them. When they topple it takes you awhile to prop them up again.
The third response is sorrow. The one most humans have the biggest problem with. This is when we feel regret. We start to feel guilty. Then we get pissed. That’s the fourth response, anger. It’s the healthiest place to be at times like that. But I was so tired that I only had the energy to make it to Number Three. I felt sick.
I sat down on a curb and cried. I might have cried — hard to tell, it was raining. I just sat there and let my butt get wet. I didn’t know what to do. Torey, I had to think of Torey. But I couldn’t stand up. I was so tired. When had I slept last? Who’d I think I was, Kiefer Sutherland in “24?” I needed to find Torey. I needed some sleep. Then the thought just jumped into my head — meth. Meth would keep me awake. It was a great idea.
I really didn’t know what day it was. They found Terri Sunday night. I got drunk at Abe’s Monday early, and Val and I went up to the Albino Farm via the churchyard Monday night. We dined with Kensington, abused the dinette table that same night – all night — and Tuesday morning Ahmed gave me a ride to Rio Caliente. The police gave me a ride back into town. I talked to Mikey in jail and spent Tuesday night tossing and turning in a taxpayer provided jailhouse bed. Wednesday morning I went to court and in the afternoon paid a visit to Kim. That’s when I talked to Father Corleone and organized a citizen’s search of the Northland Woods. Val hit a tree, then got arrested instead of killed – thank God. I went home, borrowed Vandy’s cell phone and got to St. Philomena’s about two or three A.M. Thursday morning. Then … well, then I ended up sitting there on the curb with a wet butt.
I’ve seen a lot of movies where the heroes never sleep. Those guys just go on and on and on. They have wild sex, kill people, and make great deductive leaps that lead them to the villain. After they blow up his secret mountain headquarters, or corner and dismember him in a sewer, they have more sex. If you like non-stop action, go see one of those fantasies.
I’d been awake for about twenty-two or three hours and I don’t think, at that moment, I could have tied my own shoes. I needed the boost that only the psychotic inner energy of Meth could provide. That’s when I saw Lonnie.
He/she kind of materialized out of the shadows across the street from St. Philomena’s, like a skeleton popping out of a corner in a carnival fun-house. Lonnie took a few puppet-on-tangled-strings steps into the middle of the street and froze, mid-jerk, when he/she saw me sitting on the curb.
“Tools?” Lonnie whispered.
“Damn my God Damn.” Lonnie started to lean back, getting ready to sprint back into the tangled hedge where he/she had entered the scene.
“Relax. I threw your old gun away, Lonnie.”
“What’s your ass fat doing here.” Lonnie was trying to focus on me. Nice to see that my twenty dollars had been well-used.
“Got any extra meth on you, Lonnie?” It was a stupid question.
“I’m doing fine. I’m doing fine.” Lonnie was doing fine.
“What the hell are you doing here, Lonnie?”
Lonnie’s brows flexed, up then down. Concentration was tricky on meth. “What the suck dick am I doing here?” Lonnie swayed like there was a gale force wind pushing at him/her. I could smell his/her breath – putrid.
“Lonnie?” I almost got up to catch the poor bastard, but he stabilized himself.
“I’m here for forgiveness,” Lonnie said.
“I forgive you, Lonnie.”
“Oh, shit eat. Not from you. You can’t forgive me.” Lonnie started moving again, this time towards the church’s old iron gate. “Only Jesus can forgive me.”
I turned as Lonnie passed me and looked up at the steeple. I could see the Saviour up there in the moonlight. I was glad that my eyes couldn’t make out Jesus’ face from that distance. I was afraid he might look like Doug. “Jesus isn’t in there, Lonnie.”
Lonnie stopped halfway through the bars of the old gate. The meth-freak was so emaciated he didn’t need to unlock it. Lonnie was skinny enough to just slip through. “I know. Jesus isn’t in there.” Lonnie pointed a bony finger at the church. “He’s up there.” His/her finger, tipped with cracked red nail polish that glowed in the streetlight’s illumination, pointed up the bluff behind St. Philomena’s. “Jesus is up there.”
“Jesus is on the Albino Farm?”
“Yeah, I talk to him up there all the time. I tell him things. He says he’s going to forgive me.” Lonnie was through the gate now. His/her face accented with florescent-smeared blue eyeshadow looked back at me through the rusted black lines of the gate. “Jesus is on the Albino Farm.”
“Lonnie, Jesus isn’t up there.” I was talking to myself. Lonnie had disolved into the darkness. “Lonnie?” There was no answer.
I thought about following, but only for half a second. It seemed important. I didn’t know why – then.
I did know that Torey needed me. I couldn’t get the image of him in a cave full of monsters out of my head. Doug Hunter wasn’t the monster. There was someone else out there. The same guy. Someone from Doug’s past – the puppetmaster, who figured a little perversion on Torey’s old tape, left conveniently with Terri’s body, would point the finger at a discredited Mikey? And there was another man involved. I had that one. I thought. I had a pretty good idea about the who. My problem was that I wasn’t sure what I could do. Vandy had already made it clear that a “solution” to the crimes was not necessarily a “solution” to the situation. Lives were at stake now — Torey’s, if he was alive, Val’s, mine.
I could feel the anger in my gut. I knew then that some people were going to die. So what was the plan? I wondered. I’d come up with one. Meanwhile, Torey had to be found. I had to keep going. I would keep going. I would just go on because I had to. I had to. So I would go on. Go on. I came back to a more realistic answer. Meth.
What? You think coffee would do the trick? You think because coffee helped you pull that all-nighter in college so you could cram for the “Theory of Volleyball” final, that it would work for me now? Obviously, you forgot to study for your chemistry exam, because you just failed.
Valerie wasn’t around. Of course, she was in jail. Shit. I needed to bail her out. No, she was safer where she was. Hell. My meth-less brain was shortcircuited with fatigue. I wasn’t thinking clearly. I just knew I needed some speed, and Val was not there, so who’d ever know? Traditional “addict thinking.” I’d grab a little speed, and I’d be good to go. I’d be using it the way nature intended. You only ended up like Lonnie if you made a habit of it. I was a special case. I knew how to handle that galactic velocity.
The end justified the means. I sure knew where to get some. It couldn’t be more than three blocks from here. God bless the American concept of convenience. Politicians like to pretend otherwise, but the war on drugs has, in fact, been over for at least five thousand years. Thank God we lost.
Since the pseudo-imaginary politically correct official Drug War was in full swing, I’d only have to walk three blocks to get some meth. If the government legalized drugs, I’d probably have to hitch a three or four-mile ride. This, as Martha Stewart would say, was a good thing.
Then I thought about Lonnie, the walking your-brain-on-meth fried egg. Maybe I should think a little more about this whole self-medicating plan of mine.
See what happens when I’m tired? My mind wanders, and I drag you along with me.
My butt was wet. Doug was dead. Was Valerie O.K.?
My butt was wet. I was bone tired. Where was Torey?
I sat there until the sun came up, and then I sat there some more.
My butt was wet.
“Love, Love me do…you know I love you…”
Carl Vandy’s cell phone rang its new ring in my pocket.