Not too long ago, every human in Anyplace lived perfectly and peacefully. They liked their quarters a-plenty. Never did they lock their doors, nor were they afraid of things that went bumpthump in the night.
It was precisely the place where the sun shone its brightest rays and in the hours those rays took sleep, and the day wore covers, it revealed bright bursts of stars, a billion billion birthday candles all sprinkled with electric sugar. The people: they were friendly, polite, and nice . . .sweet, kind and wonderful. Had to be something in the air that made it this way. Just had to be. Or maybe it was the water. . . .Unknown to the human race was Vicodin. He lived on the fringes of reality, and he hated all the Anyplace boys and girls, especially those teetering on the edge of major notgoodness. No one quite knows the reason, but it had something to do with the fact that he was a drug and had, quite frankly, had nothing to do with traits or business relating anything whatsoever to humankind.
Regardless of his distinct lack of character, he was seated primly in his chair, on the other side of reality, separated by a thin spasm and veneer of his den, more than a separation of slick air and disparity of perception.
Watching through his looking glass, hating them humans—especially the teens, ‘tweens and the young, joyful children—he looked on through his quantum dimension conjuring petty-size schemes of demise while biding his time, waiting in anticipation. Today he could feel it—strange sensations tempering the air, kicking about individual air molecules that were previously undisturbed. With every passing hour, he detested more the warm lighted windows that shone from brownstones neatly lined in rows throughout diagonals of roads, and intersections that made the whole town of Anyplace bubble with gladness.
Thoughts of their joy simply rippled misery under his skin and it crawled up and down his arms and legs like a thousand angry spiders, each taking little nibblings of his putrid flesh. He detested their happiness, their optimism. More than anything, he wanted to destroy their entire way of being. Anyplace was the newest target on his hit list.
“Look at them singing and dancing, playing sports and doing their chores and homework! Blast their smiles! Tear away those grins.” His pupils cop pennies.
Slamming down his looking glass, he could see all the Anyplace boys and girls awake bright and early. They suffer from no delusions. They’d rush their scrambled eggs-n-cheese for breakfast and head off to school, eager to learn and fill their heads with letters and phrases and chirp music lessons.
There was JohnnyBoy!, SallySue, Pete and Reggie—all model children. Like all Anyplace citizens, they shined and gleamed with potential. There goes JohnnyBoy! Number one on his dossier. Skipalong-hip-hop-strut.
SallySue was a high-spirited beauty with A-plus grades to boot. She could act, sing, dance—you name it. Pete wasn’t sure who he wanted to be yet except he knew his six-pack abs rippled under his chest and the chicks flocked to him like feathers to a warm comfy nest.
Reggie was a demon with b-ball and hoops. On the court he was possessed like Linda Blair. It was a talent he had, but didn’t know he owned like a boss cuz he never attempted anything outside his daily dose o’ insta-messagin.’
Vicodin wanted none of them ever to find out what they could become, what their potential was, how they could change the world. All of ‘em he wanted to stop in their tracks before they got to get up and run, loooong before they could ever stop to think about all that potential energy and e = mc2.
Watching with an unblinking eye, he makes the sign of the helix and looks over the school grounds, twirling one gnarly finger between two crooked thumbs. Today he would puncture it. Ahhh . . . but what ado about MackDaddy?
That used-up halluSINogen stood in his way. For awhile he pondered until he got it—a deliciously devilish brainwave that started as an infant ripple somewhere in the Antarctic, morphed into a tsunami and washed ashore somewhere in Nova Scotia.
It started taking shape the more he thought of chubby crossing guards leading children to safety, sidewalk to sidewalk. The more he deliberated, the more he was certain. It was clearly forbidden to tip-toe in reality and create the ruckus he so badly desired. He tried before, but that drat MackDaddy always welded his Converse All Stars to the floor.
Halfway across the room—ZAAAP! It came to him. He would start with these fab four, stand them up like bowling pins or dominoes—he didn’t care—and then knock them down like bowling pins or dominoes—he didn’t care. He’d set the time and accelerate the rate of events . . . but how? The only way in was to steal the key and slip inside the mortal portal. He’d sneak it away from where it was neatly pressed in a pocket pendant, tucked between MackDaddy’s yellow dotted shirt and purple velvet vest.
Leaving the labyrinth, following an exit left, he follows a goldpainted path laden with pretty flowers, plants, and furry woodland animal thingees—where gladiolas smile and magnolias wink impish worms and creepy crawly frogs croak and sing. These gardens he knew to be the place where MackDaddy liked to nappytime in the shade. You see, this all-masterful halluSINogen has-been got stuck in a flashback one time and, like a one-hit wonder on the ‘70s disco charts, he never made it back.
Now, seated to the right of the rocker and in the back of the fourth chair, he nurses his chin in deep-seated wonder. Expertly, he combs gray-haired whiskers, muttering about an old chap named Dr. Hofmann, and whether he’d ever see his only begotten son, just once before his candle dialed down to a single photon and burnt out.
Vicodin ignored him as much as possible. He cared not to hear the mis-believings of the deliriously mad. He dismissed all his notions without hearing them for their meaning. He was a drug. Who was he kiddin’?
Pushing back his heavy cloak of paranoia, Vicodin circles him on the tippiest of toes, inching his way closer and closer in. Bunny-quick, he snatches the key and runs straight into the maze to the Mortal Portal. By heart, he knows the way.
He stops at the door and inhales deeply before it opens. Ominous and creaky suggestions full of points of exclamations spritz the room—when there he saw it gleaming like a prized jewel—handsomely seated at the center, and encased in creation was a grand tomb embossed in gold with galvanic heads of flame.
Clearly, on the cover it is written:
Purple Mike Project
He wasn’t supposed to do this, meddle with history, futures and fate this way. Messin’ with the very fabric of the Universe didn’t stop him. Should he open the book now and reveal what’s within? All power and knowledge lay before him. After all, if the mutterings of MackDaddy contained even a germ of truth, the time for the grand chemical spill was going to happen regardless.
Licking his finger, he flips to the centerfold: 1 human heart + 1spiked brain, cross ‘n’ mix breed at a hair past 9:00, purple thumb time.
Vicodin frowns. Perplexed, he says the words out loud, not comprehending. A thick purple energy begins forming. Vicodin feels a burst of adrenaline under his skin as ripples of the book’s knowledge course through him. The lights flicker, dust bunnies skitter for the four protective corners of Mother Earth, and Vicodin lets out a whopperuva SNEEEEZE!
Cogs, clocks and machinery within—various time-telling-tocking machines quiver and chime ominously, all at the same time. Each splendid in design, two stand out and are set at different times. Pausing in anticipation, Vicodin grins revealing pointed incisors, decayed by time and all sins wicked and vile. One strikes nine, another chimes three—and it is confirmed. No more will the humans own their solace, no more will they be the bosses of peace and freedom. Liberty will simply be some obscure word at the end of every dictionary. End, as in the last and final page, which no one will ever read, let alone understand and practice.
Picking up a wooden hourglass on his way out the door, he flips the present on its head to let the dust diffuse the other way. Smirking, he’s through biding his time, waiting on the universe and its map of destiny.
Clip. Clop . . . The beat of a heel drumming the pavement. Up and down the walk, brown leather loafers poking beneath denim fabric, pinching, peeling and molding the strut, lightly tap-clapping black asphalt.
Clip. Clop, the heel happy in his role as wedge to shoe, enjoying the crunch of occasional debris that meets him beneath a carefree boyish walk. How about a deft, sideways swift kick to an already dented can?
Oh, the life of a sole tied to a shoe, worn by a foot, attached to a leg, all belonging to an ordinary boy named JohnnyBoy!
Doo wop diddy, just a’happily roaming in his ‘hood, to this tune move his feet, straight to the neighborhood cross walk. Uh-oh, barely escaped a puddle two stone-throws ago, bemuses JohnnyBoy!’s sole to shoe.
Only moments earlier, a car whirred by. And you would never guess, the driver at this moment in time is just folding over his cell phone. He rolls down the window to pucker up and out-blow a big blob of spit-shined and polished bubble gum goo. Gum he grabbed from a package carelessly left on the kitchen counter and belonging to his son.
Neither strutting boy nor gum-chewing man could have guessed that father and son had just crossed paths. Preoccupied with matters of business, and upset he had to cut his golf game waaaay short, he’s on his way to the office to settle a matter or two, one of accounting and another related to a 401k that’s quickly going the way of the dodobird.
Dad’s name happens to be Dick and this woman he’s married to is Wife, Take Two. Pats himself on the back, thinks what a good job it was, landing her . . . tall, busty, leggy, blonde, beautiful, all fit and slim.
Without a second thought, he spits out the blobby gum from his maw that is now two sizes over the legal limit cuz the goo morphed from a little over-chew. And where it lands, by gosh, on the white stripe of the cross walk, fresh and just in time to meet the sole beneath his own son JohnnyBoy!’s shoe. Whistling JohnnyBoy!, not minding his feet, can’t stop the left shoe landing a smack-dab stop on top of this fresh blob of purple gummy residue.
With nothing about his feet yet amiss, JohnnyBoy! continues to head to the local corner store, anxious to make a score. Picks up a soda from an assortment, and grabs candy off the shelf. Arms full, he struts to the counter and arranges his goods for the cash register’s unequivocal count.
“Here you go.” JohnnyBoy! spreads out a layer of five single dollars to the ginger boy flying the front counter like a WWII bomber. “Hey man, is Jay-man round back?
With a grim nod go-ahead from the clerk, JohnnyBoy!, gum soldered to shoe and all, darts for the rear.
“Hey dude, what you got?” says JohnnyBoy! to Jay, an older boy with hair brown and eyes gray.
“How’s it hanging, bro?” replies Jay with a slight nod and wink.
“Cut class on Friday y’know,” adds JohnnyBoy!. “Skipped Miss Ellis in the afternoon. Who wants to sit around and listen to her jabberjobber ‘bout geographical land mass and shmoo?
“I’m finishing up with some blotter,” says Jay. “Potent stuff. Be the first from this batch to feed your head. Rumor has it, it’s mixed from the original ergot from Zurich, the ‘Republic’; strongest of its kind. Johnny, gotta half-smoked blunt in the bowl. Wanna hit it while you decide?”
Suddenly in a playful mood, JohnnyBoy!’s face lights up. “Go ahead. Stoke it.” The two boys sit in. Puff. Puff.
A big wide grin slides over each of them. The pair giggle as their strings and beads of conversation become forever lost as half-formed thoughts that diffuse, dissipate and then disappear altogether.
“I’ll buy one tab plus another to go.”
JohnnyBoy! pops it in his mouth and abruptly gets up, shaking the rickety card tabletop. A little wobble here and there and, inside the glass, he causes a liquid commotion.
“Watch the vial! You’re knocking it to and fro! Careful, bro!”
Awed by the young chemist’s illicit concoction, JohnnyBoy! asks, “Yo, how is this stuff made, anyway?”
“My uncle is a scientist, with his own lab. He makes it and sells it, too, plus taught me everything I know,” says Jay, ill-begotten pride written on his grin.
Marveling at the mysterious liquid, JohnnyBoy! looses an “uh-oh.” The vial tips and—oh, boy!—a sprinkle on denim, and guess what?
A purple blob of you-know-who gets splashed. The same bubblegum adhesively stuck to JohnnyBoy!’s shoe. Dries pretty fast, this liquid hit.
And that was all of it—an immediate fusion of essence and atomic who-knows-what.
Now in the world of un-human thoughts and things, objects and other soulless matter, the gum is alive and purple with a bubble gob mass for a head. Bubble gum turned inside out and spiked with toxic juice, cemented and transformed into a mass of LSD on chewed goo. His name is Purple Mike, now that he’s come to.
Leaving the neighborhood corner candy store, JohnnyBoy! Struts on out with an unbeknownst score on his shoe.
The other side of the tracks
Meanwhile, on the other side of the tracks . . . where the future looks a few photons less bright, Grady sits in the tattoo parlor chair, scowling and twisting his face into a rictus. Getting ink done, emblazoning the date across the thin skin of knuckles. Three days from now in his personal history is an anniversary he’ll never forget.
One year ago on the dot, Gracie met with an untimely death. One hour to the minute, he lost his lousy $7.50-per-every-miserable-hour job pumping gas—something about losing his temper and smacktalkin’ his college-bound boss up against a wall. The morning began with take this and take that, and by late afternoon Grady was shoving it, rat-a-tat-tat.
Grady grimaces in pain as the needle draws blood and drabs ink globules in lines across his knuckles. The tattooist, a thick burly man with a precision hand, is wiser than to care or ask any questions, let alone listen to Grady’s lip. “All right, dude, y’all done.”
Walking out of the parlor, Grady gets in his car. Turning the ignition, the radio blares its lungs out but the engine hiccups and has a heart attack. With vivid clarity, he sees Gracie hovering just before his face, a fuzzy apparition. Light-headed and dazed, she haunts him again as he spot-checks the mirror’s hind view. He clears his throat and tries the ignition again, reminding himself he does not know CPR.
Unable to revive his Monte Carlo, Grady kicks the tire before he sits down on a slab of boulder rock, face down, and cries a silent one over life’s injustices. The image of her was alive even if she were not.
Giving up on his heart-attack wheels, he is in no hurry to get home. He’d scratch past the tracks at the intersection between Pinecrest and Mountainview. Just as well, that Monte Carlo drew disapproving looks all over where JohnnyBoy! lived. He knows better than to knock on the door. That mug of his not a welcome sight.
Skip along. Hip-hop strut. JohnnyBoy! is moving a little faster with an added scot-free wiggle to his walk. Meanwhile, somewhere beneath his knees, all the way down to the bottom of his left foot, under the loafer, the sole of the shoe is growing increasingly perturbed and beginning to make little vocalizations to that effect.
JohnnyBoy!’s sole calls out to the purple wad of chewable goo.
“Err heerm. You talking to me?” Eyes flare to bubbles beneath thick purple skin. They now protrude as invisible eye molds.
“Yeah. I happen to be talking to you. Who else is causing such an unwelcome wrinkle in my step?” says sole to goo. “You’re an unwelcome cad to my loafer, now off and away with you.”
“Are those fighting words I’m hearing?” Purple Mike is getting a little revved, a touch of anger about to launch from one of his giant bubbles. He quips, “On the bottom of the likes of you is not the choice of where I want to stick!”
Now with the birth of eyes, Purple Mike easily adds a little sauce to a newborn attitude.
“Oh, yeah?” remarks the sole, getting a little bubbled himself beneath JohnnyBoy!’s toes.
“Yeah-z.” He floats an all-of-a-sudden stiff upper lip as an additional morph characteristic. No longer such a goo, Purple Mike inherently learns more about this human-kind; sporting eyes and a mouth, too.
“But guess what, Purple Mike? You can grow some hair, if you like. Make it a little spiked while you’re at it.”
In this world of powerful matter and quantoretta, little understood by ordinary human notions, you can do anything you set a thought to; e = mc2 and all that, y’know. Why you’re a little scamp, a morph that can travel far and wide. Into parties and living rooms, through monitors and TV screens and even poke your head into topsy-turvy pink and satin bedrooms, melding between TV stands; you’re a bubble that can morph into any shape or size, even squeeze between a doorknob and its screw. It’s your destiny to spread far and infect wide, too.
With this added information, Purple Mike morphs a bubble head and is ready to challenge yet again. “Hey sole. Psst. It’s you-know-who. Make no mistake about this purple goo as you’re overlooking above me. Let’s see what you can do besides clip, clop and stomp. Take a look to the top tower of you-know-who . . . the head of the kid who’s feet you adorn . . . what I can do to him, his mind, I can affect a lifetime. This kid, he could be driving, flying, or diving, and suddenly, I can make his head swim pink and yellow with blue bunny rabbits, too.
And besides all of this . . . know who my daddy is? Hee hee?”
Eager to go on a tangent, Purple Mike chatters on . . . “Why, how long has it been that you’ve been put out of the shoebox, looking for a home for your high top? You look pretty new. Couldn’t have been thumping the street very long? And in case I haven’t made myself clear, my daddy, even you must have heard of him! He’s the MackDaddy halluSINogen. The all-powerful, mind-bending, thought-stopping drug! Within a single hour he can completely dry-erase your mind.
He can make walls breathe if he dares to. So forget you, who’ll be long worn and forgotten by the time this boy hits 32. I’ll still be here—on a blot, postage stamp, aspirin tab—anything you can add a quick-drying lick to. Why, I could even be a piece of bubble gum that’s already been chewed. Doesn’t really matter—I’ll be here forever, tripping up the natural molding of minds—and not just here on this 49th intersection between Pinecrest and Mountainview. Got brothers in the heart of country fields and smack dab in the middle of city dens. Urban, rural, royal and broke, I’m not selective with which school grounds, concerts and parties I scope. If you look hard enough, I’m in your face, or one of my kind from coast to coast or right here in Anyplace. Hee hee.”
Purple Mike finishes off with a satisfactory huff, morphing a barrelshaped chest for added effect. “Don’t make me morph a finger to wave a sharp Tsk! Tsk! It’s always a mistake to underestimate!”
Put in his place, the sole clears his pebbles and shifts his weight away to the pressing clip-clop of the foot.
In his room, JohnnyBoy! flicks on the stereo, redlines it waaay past max. A little Snoop Dog is the latest rap he’s been into. Befriending a shag look in the mirror, he tosses himself a wink before he says goodbye to his played-up reflection that laughs at him after he has departed. He moves to the side of the bedside drawer and peeks inside, wrestles his hand in, poking around to take inventory of his private stash. He stops short of a pocket watch engraved with, ‘I promise to protect. G’. Rubs it gently, not counting on the pang that takes place in his heart. JohnnyBoy! felt betrayed by his big brother so he couldn’t afford to let the emotion acidify his blood any longer. Abruptly, Johnny puts the watch in his vest and moves on. He’s been experimenting with drugs steadily now. Here’s Powder, a sugary leftover from a party he went to awhile back. Whose party, not a clue, ended up there with some of his boys one Friday, scheming for something to do.
“Save you for the right time, lady, you just hang tight and sit back. Count your rails, pretty your nails. And lo-behold, we’ve also got Pill.
I remember when I met you at an all-night dance party, Miss Chill. Ihad your twin imprinted with the same emblem, but I think I’ll just save you for an upcoming time when there’s a live crew of boys and girls to hang with and time-kill. Oh, yeah . . . good man Pot, you be there still. Hey . . . how do you do? Oops, quit losing your leafy resin and residue.
JohnnyBoy! lays out his full stash. Picks up the scatterings of weed and funnels them back into the flip top head of pot. Scratch the flint, and put the lighter to spark, Johnny fires up Pot. Cough. Sputter. Now laying Pot down in the center spot, he eyes a piece of incense and lights it next. Don’t want a waft of smoke to linger and affront that motherly step-pest. With a swig of root beer and a hand-selected microdot wrapped in a paper napkin, he fingers one and dabs it carefully onto his index finger, erect for function, and squarely examines the tab.
Too late to turn back now. Here goes nuthin’.
JohnnyBoy! sits comfortably on the side of his bed, unties his left shoe only to find next a big gob of purple residue stuck to the sole of his favorite walking moccasins.
JohnnyBoy! shakes his head to clear his ears and examines the goo microscope-close. “Did you just speak to me?”
“Hee hee. I’m Purple Mike. You know, the one you’ve been pimpin’ on your shoe.”
Tossing his head once again, Johnny dismisses the conversation as a mild halluSINation.
“I’m Purple Mike. I’ll say it again. I see you’ve found my good friends, Pill, Pot and Powder. Looking to hook up?”
Blotting him out, Johnny peels him off and lays him aside. Turns his attention to the other shoe and tosses it haphazardly onto the floor, into a mix of denim blue jeans, crumpled up like aluminum foil, and a ratty shirt worn the night before, standing up on its own in a corner. He lies back, arms folded, shaking his head to and fro to the incessant boogie-beat of the stereo. Sometime between time passed and a quarter of eight, the sun has long ago set for tomorrow, alighting for all points west. Peering out the window, JohnnyBoy! can’t believe his eyes.
This may sound crazy, but I swear it smiled in an upside down, side-to-side sauntering way. It did. The moon wiggled and I swore it let out a frozen giggle too. The night wrapped around it and it is closed in. The moon is a pearl and the night its shell. Wild, dude. How in the world can air breathe like me and you? I ain’t looking through that window anymore!”
A little frightened and taken aback, he pulls his neck back in, slides the glass down, and closes the curtain. “There’s a plain crazy universe outside where the elements are thick and lifelike in an unnatural way . . . wacko-show.” A worm squiggles across the moon, dashes into a small hole.
“I oughtta get my sight checked, height checked and maybe the ol’ noggin’ too. I’ll step inside and lie back down to the merry-go-round twirl of the walls, on this big comfy brown bed. Quit looking out that window. Stop talking to goo. Look at the patterns in the ceiling: a 3-D virtual Michelangelo couldn’t have finger-painted a better spread.”
“JohnnyBoy! You in there?” Rat-a-tat-tat-tat.
“Oh, Christmas cookies. Dick! I gotta grab a single train of thought.
I’m high as a kite.” JohnnyBoy! freaks out.
“Get a grip, Johnny. Might be fun. A short trip—a new dimension in close-quarters and familial interaction some call combat.” Purple Mike perches on JohnnyBoy!’s shoulder, whispers in his ear. “Let an amusing game begin. C’mon. It’ll be 1-2-3 pie-easy. Hee hee!”
“Dad’s gonna know I popped a microdot less than an hour ago! My high be getting off the ground, finding purchase in God’s big beautiful blue sky. Gotta sober up. Scatter, guys.”
JohnnyBoy! hides his stash. “Purple Mike, as you call yourself—I don’t need to stash you. You’re nothing more than a chewed piece of goo. Long as you turn your volume down to zero, you’ll do fine, blending right in next to the candy box beside the bed. Pot, slide in here. Quick, gather up that raggedy, half-smoked blunt, weed and seeds, papers and residue. Slide yourselves into this open drawer where you and your paraphernalia are safe from prying eyes. Powder, lady, have I got a Ziploc baggy just your size! Nestle in and catch some ZZZs. I know you don’t get to rest much. Uh-oh, Pill. L’il wanderlust pal, I almost forgot you.
“JohnnyBoy! What say you?”
“Umm, dad . . . umm . . . it’s this way. . . .”
“Go on. Tell him how the moon wiggled and the night began to inhale and exhale like a whale. He’ll understand all the cherry, grape and orange flavors it speaks,” whispers Purple Mike.
“Quiet, Purple Mike.”
“Dad. Don’t come in! Please wait!”
“Too late now. I’m in like sin. Oh, my, you’re high. Look at those eyes . . . two monstrous black bowling balls in place of pupils. Now you did it. I’m so mad I could take a pistol to your head—wait until your mother gets wind of this.”
“She’s not my mother. She’s the lady you married, the one you met at the gym.” A tone as flat as musically possible.
“As long as you’re in my house, under my roof, I’ll not tolerate an insolent tongue with a mind of its own. And I swear you’ll never see that kid Ray you run around with again. You hear me, son?”
“His name is Jay, Dick . . . ” JohnnyBoy! begins to respond, but Dad has a dancing head and his ears are wrap-around flap-jacks. Are his lips really moving that fast? Blur blur blur, everything looks like cat fur.
“JohnnyBoy!” Dick’s angry bark interrupts. “Your mother is going to be so ashamed. You’re going to make her cry.”
“Uh-oh, stone-cold busted. Look at me straight he says . . . straight, that’s funny, hee hee.” Purple Mike relishes every syllable, every distinguished mark of punctuation.
Purple Mike, maybe you can explain. He just doesn’t understand. How much harm can you be? A little pill, a sprinkle of powder or herb from the ground . . . you’re everywhere, everybody-does-’em palarounds. If you’re a goo that talks, help me out of this jam.
Purple Mike calls out an inaudible whistle, commanding his team to attention. “Pill. Pot. Powder. Gather round. Check this old man out. What a hypocrite he must be!” says Purple Mike. “Now, just between you and me—once upon a long time ago— I swear he knew me, or maybe mescaline, but there was a definite time or two he mos’ def ’ was a part of my crew.”
“Yeah. Tell’m, Purple Mike.” Pill rolls, ending his pitch with a lackadaisical, color-me-haphazard grin. Now pill is a rolly, twolly, twirly l’il pill that’s a morph-button of palest pink. A foolhardy imp, Pill is a fleeting promise to capsize the imagination into dimensions unknown. A visual loop de loop, Pill’s signature face is a wide-eyed blank expression. With gaping round eyes, Pill ain’t none too bright, as he agreeably follows any pack on whatever prevailing wind there is, wiggling to and fro. With little else to say for itself than mildly curious and playfully demure, Pill begets blanks, haze and dumbfoundedness like a cloak. A twerp indeed, he flies both very high and very low. He’s got his own feet that he neatly tucks in when he’s ready to turn on his afterburners and go full-tilt-boogie rock ‘n’ roll.
“Sheesh,” apes Pot. “And where is Powder, is she hiding still?”
Feetless Pot addles up, wheezing and raking his raggedy-taggedy blunt physique above the crack, clambering up, falling fast, finally poking through the drawer, heisting himself to the surface, finding ground.
“Huzzah, dudes. Thanks for helping me make it through. Can’t count on any of youz lousy excuses for substances. . . .”
Powder pipes up with her slow-moving tone intended to take notice and interrupt. She’s wise beyond the ages, considering she comes from the stuff that’s played willful advocate and witness to a domestic incident or two. Deceptively appearing so pure, she’s actually really no-kiddin’ hardcore. Don’t let her fool you with her white demeanor.
Famously grown in the fringes of jungles in Colombia, she’s snuck aboard freight containers and cargos, smuggled into the country like a secret treasure . . . any way humans and things can travel, even on the face of Ben Franklin hisself, all those stacks of hundred-dollar bills. She’s fair and pristine. Carefully packaged, sealed and taped and tucked away. With true harvest beginnings befitting any Thanksgiving, but then you meet her sisters or her kind on ordinary streets, she’s polluted and diluted, packaged like poisonous fast food in clear plastic
baggies that zip-lock, and cut with anything from laxatives to baby powder to Drano or even Tabasco for the rock of heart, so there’s more of her to pass around.
“Look at him scolding the boy . . . is he hearing a single word? Shame. Shame. Tsk. Tsk. Take a pistol to his head.”
To those who don’t know her well or where she originates, she can be powerfully mystical in small doses and highly addictive to your constitution. To some, all it takes is a chance encounter and they’re left running after her false promises of authority and control.
“Hee hee,” twitters Pill. “Oh. Here comes Pot now.”
Wheeze. Cough and remember to breathe. Ooooooow—he finally gasps and woos. “Just who is he to be giving that boy such a talking to?”
Now, if you haven’t yet met Pot, you’ll soon understand. He’s second in chain command to Purple Mike. He’s the red-eyed tempest sporting a black beret just like the Airborne Rangers of old, all proud and dangerous like a thunderbolt headed your way. Your run-of-the mill rascal; a dime-a-dozen paraphernalia smoking bowl that blows continuous “bones” from his oversized, plain paper bag brown blunt.
No leader of the pack on his own, he’s the kind of pipe that walks with his nose to the ground, smoking to the tune of a deadhead stoner with a little Bob Marley tempo strumming his no-feet beat. He’s everyone’s best boy in da ‘hood, on da street and anywhere in middle America to middl’a anywhere. Pot is a pass-around dog-and-pony show that putters with a lop-sided grin. His big, baleful eyes are strung out with red veins the size of the Amazon and all its tributaries. Pupils dilated and vision askewed, Pot greets you like a Frenchman, yet recites the poetry of 2 Live Crew.
“Oh, JohnnyBoy! Answer me, what have you done?” Dick’s angry voice drones on.
“Dad, it’s this way. I swear, it’s not what you think.” If only Johnny’s thoughts could form words. I could meander my way out of this uncomfortable situation—if only Dick weren’t wearing a kitchen appliance for a head.
The silence is frozen, etch-a-sketched in time and the minutes grow deliriously awkward. As the clock ticks an eternal minute of hush between the two, Dick scoops a handful of loose and jingly, slightly pebbly, candy spill to satisfy a sudden immediate craving of a sweet tooth with a deep black hole. Couldn’t think of anything better to end this growing-cold conversation, in the mouth accidentally gobbling a pile of candy, an assortment of Pill, Pot and Powder, and that includes a big gob of Purple Mike goo.
Poking his head between Dick’s forefinger and thumb, Purple Mike is tossed onto Dick’s tongue. With a sudden quick swallow, gleefully he shouts out: “Wheeeeeeee, Gang, let’s show Dick a thing or three.
Ooooh! The ride in is always fun. Find the bloodstream. C’mon, hee hee. I’m shooting straight for the noggin’. He’s gonna know about Purple Mike. Yimminy, bimminy, my friends, Pill, Pot and Powder, it’s 100% full steam ahead. And we’re all heading straight for Dick’s refrigerator-sized head! Oh, goody. It’s time to play. In through the membranes, we’ll get a hold of him and show him how we roll. Pot. Relax him. Calm the nerves. You’re still the best gateway for us all to get by.”
“Eww. Here I come, gonna leave fatty acids in your bloodstream behind. Calm you down, slow your heartbeat a notch of one or two. I sedate. I cloud; glaze your brain’s operating system with a thick-n furry fuzz. Pack the fridge with munchies, cuz when I’m ready to exit, that’s what I spur you to do,” says Pot. Powder says nothing, but gets busy to her speedy work. Always dressed for any occasion, she’s rip-roaring and ready to go. She’ll make sure Dick is high-wired and alert for this mischief, misanthropy and misadventure. Anything mis-like is cool.
“JohnnyBoy! What’s happening? I see light trails, streams and flickers buzzing within. It feels like I’m wearing a flat screen for a head, while someone is shifting all the channels zippity-zip. Oh, look! Visions of nursery rhymes, a colorful impossible reality just floated behind my eyes. Hold up now! That really a toadstool close up?”
“Shoot. Crap. Wowzee, dad, you’re gonna buzz! You swallowed Purple Mike and from what I can tell, he is of the Republic of LSD.”
“JohnnyBoy!, you’re gonna get it!” Dick slams his fist and it explodes into a trillion and one atoms that shoot off in all directions, each leaving a shimmering rainbow wake.
Inside Dick’s head, it’s mostly dark and black
A solar system centered by a flabby brain of late, contracted by very small preoccupied thoughts of everyday distractions. One’s connected to reducing the housing mortgage rate, and others related to monthly expenses. Inside are dreams of securing that fat family nest egg, all yolky with gold, woven with morbid thoughts of fizzling stocks. His mind, serious thoughts included, begin to soften and drift a galaxy away. With Purple Mike plopped squarely on top of Dick’s gray matter, he decides he needs to wear a pair of hands for convenience and adds fingers to morph to the task.
“Let’s see what we can find in here.” He rummages in Dick’s tightly wrapped, narrow-minded brain.
Looking to knock around a few thoughts and shake some memories loose, with his fingers he pokes in and pulls out a small chunk of rectangular gray matter that he pulls in for a close-up. Peers at it, curious and all. “What have we here? Oh no, this simply won’t do. More bad news about the DOW that dipped and ripped all day, and—oh, crap!—just look at this sickly old 401k!”
Purple Mike tosses the first one and then the other. Too boring for his slimy purpose, throws them away. What else have we got? Scooping in again, he pulls out a recent spousal skirmish with Marianne and two simultaneously recurring deliberations about finally painting the house. Meeting with little success, Purple Mike digs deeper still.
Finally, a whispered hee hee escapes.
Finds a lumpy one, and—oh, my gosh!—this wobbly thought is just too juicy to toss. Storing this one for later, Purple Mike morphs a cargo pocket and secures it. Grabbing a fistful of opinions, a few Polaroid snapshots of moments encapsulated in time along with socially conditioned verdicts, history, memories, estimations and conclusions, he adds them to his total sum. What a mix!
Satisfied, Purple Mike closes his eyes and randomly snatches a few more. Stolen brain-power pocketed by Purple Mike. Takes two randomly selected ones and gets to work. I say day doo say day, dum dee dee. Purple Mike hums along, randomly crossing and wiring new thought formations, neural tectonic plates and magma chambers.
Grabs thoughts 3, 4 and 6 to toss into the mix. Electric snap of mindjuice takes place just as Pill’s effects begin to filter in. Pot spits out a giggle, all blue smoke and high-grade THC, tee-hee.
I knew you weren’t perfect . . . plain as day you are with your hair styled in a mod moptop, smoking a little Mary-J. Hmmpff . . . bet you didn’t inhale! He thinks sarcastically as the chemical release in Dick’s brain continues to radiate to all four corners of his little Earth.
Shouting out and simultaneously throwing back his skull, Dick succumbs to the effects, knowing his head has been hijacked. Aghast, JohnnyBoy! looks on, and for half a second has a vision of Dick slumped in his chair, blue and fuzzy and wildy distorted. In his fear, he grabs his wallet, cell phone, and loafers, while gingerly fingering his pocket watch until he haphazardly sticks things in his pocket. Runs into the thick of the night, afraid for being high, plus all the trouble he’s just caused. JohnnyBoy! is unable to cope with it all. Run run run away, dear JohnnyBoy!
Now with substances affecting this primary zone, changes in precepts trickle in to create wonderful disruptions of risk-and-reward sensation effects, filters and patterns in the brain; the center where substances run the gamut for their effects. It’s where addiction takes root and grows like a fungus into a mushroom cloud of butt-kickin’, mind-alterin’ radioactivity. And with all humans being equal but genetically, socially, mentally, and hereditarily different, you never know how drugs will effect each soul.
And to that, Purple Mike shouts out, “Ah-ha, I’m in control now, sitting on the throne, looking down at all my wannabe satellites in space.”
Tucking a finger behind his back, he pulls out a purple roll from the rear. Wonderful for it to appear, he unrolls and, lo and behold, it’s a magic carpet. Feeling phantasmically terrific, he conjures up a familiar tune, one he stole from Dick’s head only moments ago. Ready to groove, he shouts: “All aboard . . . Pill, Pot and Powder, hop on . .. Cuz you don’t know what we can find, why don’t you come along with me in big daddy’s mind . . . Well, you don’t know what we could see. . . .”
Powder flickers and trails her pixie-dust behind, creating a spark and tossing flaming electric sprinkles in her midst. Pill simply gapes, puzzled and unable to relate.
Deciding he was running low on time for such indulgences in self-pity, Grady gets up and makes his way around the bend by the corner candy-block store just in time to see JohnnyBoy! Dazedly scuttle past, unsure in which direction to run.
“JohnnyBoy!” Grady calls out.
JohnnyBoy!, bewildered and frenzied, dashes past. “Why, if that son of a . . . hit him, I’m going in, and I don’t care how long they lock me up. That’s my baby brother, and I pinky-promised I’d protect him.”
Hitting the same boulder that Grady sat only moments ago, JohnnyBoy! trips and falls, completely heedless to his big brother’s call of the wild. Johnny bends over to retrieve his wallet, but the shoe he knocked off his foot, well, for that, he was in too much of a rush to stop and pick it up.
Grady walks over to the spot where the shoe fell. Caked on the soul is gummy bits of purple crud. He rubs it, and a purple smear gets dumb-stuck onto his thumb. He can’t peel it off. “What the . . . ?”
Hesitating and now completely unsure what to do, he stares at it. Heck, should he just walk in? Instead, he makes his way around the back yard to sneak a peak in JohnnyBoy!’s window. He sees Dick, slumped in his chair. And what is that purple blob on top of his head?
Grady is certain something moved, whooshing behind the curtain’s screen. Peering closer in, a small purple morphin’ hand from the inside pulls the strings to the blind. The vertical view and free peep show is now closed to the public.
Perplexed and purple-thumbed, Grady heads back to his side of the tracks. Hopefully, Wendy Ada Waffle—he refuses to call her mom—will be through traipsing through her day, her engine running on vodka, and later passed out on Tylenol by 10:00 p.m. Barely a man, Grady still lives with his mother; a local diner waitress who, in her daily make-up ritual, applies too much shadow, too much rouge, as if it could possibly distract from the lines and wrinkles of a fast- and hard-lived face dimpled with years of weathering three x-husbands, twenty-something odd jobs, and just as many eviction notices, compounded by an endless supply of pills and alcohol—her life, a Springer story, giving even Jerry a heart-attack frown.
Grady hates looking at her over-processed yellow hair. It irritates him to no end. He is tired of the nightly ordeal of the alcoholic fits she prone to throw at threadbare walls equally worn-out from housing tenants with intolerable tantrums. The fits got worse when even the state stopped enforcing JohnnyBoy! to call, visit or write.
Worried. He can’t shake JohnnyBoy! loose from his thoughts, and each time he tries, his purple thumb throbs, a breathing cartoon balloon that fills the room.