Botched Plans: A Short Story
It was on the drive to Clyde's when I found myself lost. Every road I looked down I couldn't find my bearings. It was late, about two-thirty in the morning--or early, depending on who you are--and I was hungry and tired to top it all off. The air in my car, my green Pontiac, was stuffy, and the humidity of the night air out the open window provided no comfort. It was a ride to Clyde's I couldn't recall from the last time, as the entire area I was in, a repetitive part of Rolling Meadows' neighborhoods, was a place I was relatively unfamiliar with. I'd only known the guy for a week, driven to his place to buy from him less than a week ago, and because it was night this time and the roads were glazed with vaporizing rain, I was fucked in terms of recognition.
I called Clyde's number on my cell while parked at a stop sign, to have him tell me again what road he lived on and the ones around it.
“Hey,” he answered.
“Hey,” I muttered. “I can't find you. Where are you?”
“I'm at home.”
I groaned in my mind. “But where's your house?”
“Well I'm on . . .” I checked the street signs at the intersection. “I'm on Fenton.”
“Fenton? Where the fuck is that?”
I knew I wasn't getting anywhere at that point, and I decided I'd head back to the main road I came from before I got deeper in this maze. I was still hungry, and in need of a haze. I figured due to stress I'd wind up buying more than I'd brought money for. I wondered where the nearest ATM might have been. Thought I saw a bank back on whatever road was the main one.
“You there?” Clyde asked.
“Yeah. I'm thinking.” I hung up without warning. I'd call him once I figured out what the big road was called, go from there.
When I backtracked and got to the Fifth-Third Bank on Kirchoff, finally noting the name, I parked by the drive-thru ATM and withdrew twenty more bucks. Then I called Clyde again once I got back on Kirchoff.
“You know, you keep hanging up like that I'm going to stop picking up. Don't tell me it's a bad connection again, either.”
“I'm on Kirchoff,” I said, ignoring him. “Where's Granger?”
“Kirchoff? Which direction are you heading?”
I didn't want to go through loops, but almost as though a result of my frustration, I recognized where I was and as soon as I did, there appeared the sign for Granger on the right as it fell into the beam of my headlights. “Never mind. I found it.”
I heard a sigh on the other end, an understandable frustration, even if it awakened in me some anger toward him I felt all the time. He then hung up and I made the turn. Clyde was never someone I liked to be around as anything more than a customer to him, even if he'd seemed to think we were friends. I believed a good dealer had no life outside of selling, and he definitely had none. I had stopped selling myself, finding a job I was comfortable in at a pharmacy. Sure, I stole some of the single-dose drugs pretty much every day I worked there--some we had for Alprazolam as a substitute for Xanax--since they're so easy to get away with, single-doses hardly going noticed. Of course I was always kind of worried I'd get caught, but the Alprazolam kept me from worrying too much, and I figured if I did make it to jail I'd be right where I'd been for the latter part of my life, imprisoned in my own mind.
When I finally got to Clyde's, pulling in the driveway to that green one-story house, I noticed the curtains were closed to the living room window, dim light shining through, the flashing of a TV screen accompanying it. I rang the doorbell, and Clyde opened it, greeting me with a nod and an arrogant, douchey smile. I took both gestures as his welcome inside, and so I stepped in. In the living room where Clyde led me, there sat another guy in a large beige armchair, jaded look on his face as his mouth hung partially open and his eyes were visibly bloodshot even beneath the dull yellow of the lamp next to him. The sight made me slightly uncomfortable, but again I kind of liked the feelings I had whenever I was in these situations.
“Go ahead and sit down,” Clyde said, motioning a limp hand toward the couch on the other side of the lamp from where the stoned man sat.
So I sat down on the couch beside Clyde, and he reached out toward the lamp, to the bag sitting right next to it on the little table, and he pulled out a couple buds of the purple-green pot that was in it. There had to be over an ounce in that little Ziploc, and yet he kept it out in the open, with only a thin white curtain keeping anyone outside from catching him. He was lucky I wasn't a narc, but for all I knew this lifeless idiot beside him was trying his best to hide the fact that he was.
“Who's he?” I asked Clyde as he measured out two grams on his little electronic scale on the coffee table.
“Oh, he's just Craig,” Clyde said, as if the guy was simply being himself.
Craig said nothing, watching an old rerun of Angry Beavers on the Nicktoons channel, it looked like. He had a beer gut which stuck out beneath his gray tight T-shirt. And as I stared at him, I had to wait until he blinked once to be sure he hadn't O.D.'d on anything. Then I turned back to Clyde, who I realized, as he held out a small baggie filled with the two grams, was giving me less than I wanted at that point.
“I want four grams,” I told him calmly.
“You got the money?”
“Yeah.” I pulled out my wallet, took out the forty-five bucks I had on me, handed it to him.
“Okay. Normally it'd be fifty for four, but I'll go easy this time.”
Craig suddenly chuckled once in his chair. I looked at the TV, but the volume was so low I couldn't figure out how the guy could decipher anything going on in the cartoon. Then returned the brain-dead gaze.
“You wanna hang out for a while?” Clyde asked me.
“Actually, I was going to go get something to eat.”
I was really hoping Clyde wouldn't suggest I eat at his place, as I really didn't like the guy as a friend, but he surprised me unpleasantly instead. “How bout I come with? I'm pretty hungry too, and Craig ate all the chips. Pretty much all I had for the night too.”
“You have the money to afford a house, but no food in it?”
“Well, I mean . . . I'm just lazy.”
I didn't want him to come, but I relented. “All right. Let's go.”
“Craig,” Clyde snapped, actually snapping his fingers a couple times to get the guy to listen. “I'm leaving.”
Craig stared ahead still. “Yeah, okay,” he mumbled.
There was an awkward silence for a moment. “Craig, I need you to leave, man.”
“Fine,” Craig snapped, rising from the chair aggressively and trudging to the door like an oaf. “I'm stoned as shit right now.”
Clyde and I followed Craig out, and Craig got into his car, a really shitty brown four-door, and Clyde hopped in the passenger's seat in mine. I loathed stepping in the car. I wanted to be alone that night, and Clyde was one of the last people I wanted to ride with, but he put himself in my life that way. Didn't want bad relations with my only dealer anyway.
I drove around aimlessly, back on Kirchoff and then off to another main road.
“Where's a good place to eat?” Clyde asked.
“I was hoping you could answer that,” I said. “I mean, you're the one who lives around here.”
“Well there's always 7-Eleven. One should be around here.”
As with my own set of coincidences that night, I managed to spot a 7-Eleven further down the road as soon as Clyde mentioned it. I parked the car in its lot, smoked some of my fresh weed in the car, hotboxing it with the windows closed. I didn't even need to offer any to Clyde, as he had to have been smoking all evening. Then the two of us ventured inside the 7-Eleven, the lot empty with the exception of two employees' cars.
I wasn't sure what took over after that point, but there was something in me that told me I was there for a reason that night, something deeper, much more sinister than I'd thought of up till then. I looked at Clyde, who had his heavy face set in a permanent scowl even if he was apathetic, and I wanted him to agree with me in my instinct. But I gawked at the guy at the counter, dorky-looking with glasses and gaunt cheeks, thinking of all the pills I'd stolen on the job and how I couldn't imagine this guy would've taken a pen from the small jar of them sitting in front of him. I had the urge to rip this place off.
“What's up?” Clyde asked, looking at candy bars, holding a bag of jerky.
“I don't know,” I answered, honestly not sure why I was thinking this. It wasn't the weed. Weed didn't make me that psychotic. It was something else like what brought me to Clyde's, and maybe it was because Clyde was with me. I began to grab some snacks, bags of chips, and a couple of long john donuts from the small rack. I walked toward the counter, slowly, thinking I'd have loved to say I had a gun on me and that I was taking all that shit out without even giving the guy a wink. And I kept making my way toward the guy, not even sure if it was my feet moving me or my subconscious, and it was three-fifteen according to the clock on the wall behind the clerk's head. He just stared back at me, irritably calm look on his face. Maybe it was that very look that made me keep walking toward him, concocting this plan of mine to make it change. I wanted his face to change. The thought invigorated me. I needed that. More than the haze from all the weed and Alprazolam and boredom. But I really wanted that face ahead of me, and whatever was inside me, to alter somehow. Instead, I just walked to the counter and set all the food down. The clerk looked me in the eyes, and I stayed quiet, this urge in me still pounding, but fading. Clyde stepped behind me, and the desire to do whatever I was going to do ended with that. I pulled out my wallet, my credit card from it, gave it to the sad guy behind the counter, shaking.
“Will that be all?” he asked.
“I think so,” I said, unsure.
Clyde and I left the store in silence after he paid. I hated him even more on the drive back.
© 2011 Benjamin Graves All rights reserved.