|I’ve never been one for the traditional paths that the small town mob around me tended to walk. When I look back on my high school career, my family was not surprised when I chose to turn my back on higher education. That being said, I was not going to let this stand in the way of indulging in all of the “positive” aspects of living the college life. The period in my life in which the following events have transpired were a blurry montage of reality and the moments that I spent years to justify as such. Having so many substances at your fingertips is initially a very dangerous thing. But as with any struggle, the bumps and bruises become shiny medals proudly worn on life’s lapel. Years down the road I would pay for actual honors with more sacrifice than I knew was in me, but I simply cannot forget the moments that led me there.
Being in a consistent state of intoxication is a lot like being physically fit. It takes dedication, stamina, repetition, and the drive to always do a little more today than you did yesterday. It occurred to me very early in life that this was going to be a field in which I can excel. As early as nine years old, I can remember my mother working nights and leaving me in the care of my brother. I can’t say that this was the best idea she ever had, but raising two hellions as a single mother can leave you with a rather small list of options. My brother who is nine years my senior would use these nights to throw small parties with his closest friends. Being ten years old was not an excuse for going to bed sober. By my eleventh birthday, I was winning beer bong races against grown men twice my age, and could tell the difference between high grade and ditch weed simply by the smell. So it is no mystery why I gravitated to the circle of people that surround this story.
My knees creek and pop with each step as they push me up to the third story apartment across the street from the girls’ dorms. Working twelve hour days laying hardwood floors for my father can have that effect on any man’s joints. But let’s be honest, at twenty five years old, I’ll be lucky to walk unassisted by the time I’m fifty. As I walk through the door, I am greeted by the pungent aroma of what can only be compared to the sweet stench of a south Louisiana sugar mill in November. A mixture of molasses and a garbage truck is they only way I can describe that smell. The funny thing is, after years of complaining about it, we all learn to love it. I quickly discover the source. Three old five gallon paint buckets sit in the corner of the living room, gurgling CO2 out of makeshift airlocks almost in unison. Dizzy must have got a head start on the new batch of shine for next month’s camping trip. I thank God he is using brown sugar this time. The sweet potatoes in the last batch almost blew the lids off.
The sliding glass door glides open as Storie enters the room.
“T-Lee, you better grab a beer before you get left behind! Kaboo got fired this morning and used his last paycheck to get couple cases of Keystone and an ounce from Herbal Dave.”
Storie didn’t live with us. He was one of those guys that technically live with their parents but most days of the week find a couch on which to pass out. I guess changing grip tape at the skate shop and selling his cypress knee wood carvings didn’t afford him the financial independence he’d hoped for. But who am I kidding? We were all doing just enough to get by.
The fourth resident of this two bedroom castle was my oldest and closest friend, Monk. Monk got his name from the extreme sense of spirituality that would come over him while under the influence of mind altering substances. Monk had been getting high for so long that he entered a state of being that I later named “The Reactionary Pole Shift”. This is when things that most people would find trivial or unimportant illicit extreme responses and events that would cause the majority concern or worry appear to have little to no effect on the individual’s demeanor. Monk once ran into the apartment screaming for me to wake up because he had found a four leaf clover at the bus stop on his way home from work, but when a state trooper started to pull us over at 3 am each with a glass of shroom tea in our hands, his only comment was, “Man…this sucks.”
A few months prior to this date, Monk decided that he wanted a pet. But potheads don’t buy dogs, cats, or fish. Monk decided that he wanted a potbelly pig. Monk found an ad in the paper for a man trying to sell his two year old black potbelly pig to a good home. Monk was determined. He went into his room to get dressed to be, as he put it, “the representative of this good home.” An hour and a half later, Monk walks outwearing a short sleeved plaid green shirt tucked into his least baggy jeans, all cinched tight by a faded brown braided belt that could have wrapped around him twice. On his feet were his finest Birkenstocks and just out of the bottom of his jeans hung the tail end of a faded red ankle bracelet that he had been wearing since his senior trip, 7 years ago. Around his collar hung a large turquoise bolo tie with a pewter emblem of a mother wolf aside her small cub. I was wrong to think that this would never work. Shortly after leaving, Monk returned home with a small squealing pig that he had purchased with a $50 Bennigan’s gift card and a stolen cd player.
“What’s his name?” I asked.
“Well, the guy I bought him from said his name is Ernie. But that is a terrible name. I think I’m going to change it.”, he says.
“Monk, you do know that pigs are smarter than dogs are right? And if this pig has been called Ernie, and responding to Ernie for two years, you should probably just call him Ernie so he doesn’t get confused.”
Monk looks off into the distance as if to process the information that has just been presented to him. After a long and frankly uncomfortable pause, he snaps his head in my direction and immediately says, “LUNCH! His name is Lunch.”
“Like Lunchbox, Lunchtime, Lunchmeat?”
He takes the pig from under his arm and holds him high facing himself. He stares at the pig for a second, allows a large grin to come over his face, looks at me and says,”Nope…Just Lunch.”
Heeding Storie’s advice, I crack open a fresh beer and sit quietly on the couch for a few minutes while the rest of the guys shout at the girls returning to their dorms across the street. Moments after I sit, I hear a low thud and a short squeal. “Boom!”….A second…..”Boom”….A third. The squeals get louder and longer with each thud. I follow the sound to the only bathroom in our apartment. With little hesitation, I open the door. The second the opening is wide enough to fit his stubby little body through, Lunch comes out running and screaming. It seems as though he was trying to break the door down to escape. This is out of character for him. He is normally so docile. I watch him run around the apartment for a while until the door slides open again and Monk enters the chaos. We both watch Lunch run around for a bit until curiosity finally gets the best of me.
“Hey Monk…What’s wrong with Lunch?”
Without ever taking his eyes off the pig he replies, “I don’t know. He’s been like that for the last few hours.
He grabs a pack of rolling papers and starts to walk back out to the balcony. As he is walking away from me he says, “Maybe it’s that acid I gave him earlier.”
“Wait, you gave you pet pig LSD?”
Monk stops and turns.
“Yeah”, he says, as if I asked him if he wanted a fresh beer.
“Yes. Tell me honestly why you would give a pig LSD.”
Monk takes a deep breath and quietly says, “I don’t know” and walks back out carefully licking the edges of a tightly rolled joint.
Knowing that the only way Lunch could get hurt on acid is by hurting himself; I stick with the original plan of keeping him in the bathroom. The toilet will definitely be essential for the night’s activities, so Lunch’s home for the evening becomes the bathtub. No harm can come to this pig in the bathtub.
The hours that pass after this moment are a frenzy of jokes, drinks, smoke, boasting, bragging, and berating. We sit around an old glass top table on chairs that never matched, ice chests, and Dizzy’s old five gallon paint buckets. The sticky heat of August in South Louisiana eventually stops ceases to matter. We eventually become numb to the pesky pricks of the mosquitoes this area is known for. Visitors come and visitors go. We might as well have installed a revolving door at the entrance. One of the most common faces seen within our walls was Moose. Moose was a tall, blonde solid seven that had hung around our band of oddballs for years. She was no more than a friend, although at some point or another each of us has found ourselves a means to her sexual end.
Moose let herself in and strolled onto the balcony holding a half full bottle of gin in one hand and a pack of menthols in the other.
“Dizzy, I see you’re whipping up another batch of that backwoods anesthetic you call rum. You know I used the last bottle you gave me to clean the baseboards in my house. I should send you the handyman’s bill for the repairs he had to do where that shit ate through the paint.”
Dizzy releases a monotone chuckle.
“Ha-ha. Yeah, I did something right on that batch.”
Moose takes a last long drag from her cigarette and flicks it over the low railing. She lifts the bottle to her lips and pulls two big gulps of dry gin from the bottle and walks back inside sliding the door closed behind her muttering under her breath, “Asshole.” After a satisfying laugh, we return to the buffet laid out before us. Suddenly we hear a sound that jars us slightly closer to reality. It’s the faint shout of a woman.
As will all men our age, hearing a woman calling for our attention shoots what little adrenalin is left inside of us through our veins. My eyes dart across the street towards the dorms. Dizzy leans slightly left in his chair as if he’ll be able to see someone on the ground.
“Over here morons!”
Our search continues to be fruitless.
As if he just woke up, Monk quietly says, “Hey, when did Moose get here?”
We turn and stare through the door into the apartment to see Moose standing in front of the open doorway to the bathroom, holding a small black manic pig. She places him on the ground. He immediately enters into a frenzy of jumps and spins as if a tiny rodeo bull had been let loose from his gate. Storie stands up from the whit ice chest he has been using as a seat all night and opens the door. Moose looks up at us and says, “I think there is something wrong with Lunch.” Lunch quickly transitions from a tornado like spin to a dead stop facing Storie. Lunch jerks his stout body forward five or six times but can’t muster enough traction on the slick linoleum floor. Suddenly it happens. His tiny hooves find a worn spot on the floor and his body lurches forward. The scene is so entertaining and so out of character for our normally docile swine, we can only stare and smile.
Seconds later reality sets in. Lunch is not stopping. By the time he reaches the threshold to the balcony, the only thought going through my dulled mind was that this was the fastest pig on the face of the planet. The next few moments appeared to have occurred in slow motion. Like an Olympic athlete, his stout legs propelled his body up and onto Storie’s ice chest. In one fluid motion, he used his momentum to thrust his way up to the glass top patio table at which we were all sitting. His next stride took him to the edge of the table, and the following would be his last. Lunch launched himself over the eighteen inch gap between the tabletop and the railing of the balcony and sailed away into the night and twenty feet down onto the freshly manicured landscaping of the Double Oaks apartment complex. A long silence fell over our normally jovial bunch.
“CHICK, CHICK, CHICK……CHICK”
We turn to see Dizzy slowly light the end of a tightly rolled joint. Without looking up from the task at hand he says, “Damn Monk…” He takes a long drag. Still holding in the thick cloud of smoke, he leans slightly left in his chair as if he’ll be able to see something on the ground. Keeping his eyes fixed on the crime scene he proclaims,
“I think Lunch just committed suicide.”