Offhandedly, without a thought, I had mentioned to the bartender that I could get Marijuana. Rather like telling someone at grade school that you had a sure-fire way of cheating on any test for any subject and since it was well known that at best your own test scores were middle of the road you thought nothing more of it as you sat down in the cafeteria to eat whatever it was school cafeterias fed to young boys with vivid imaginings and raging hormones (saltpeter, I believe was the rumor in my day).
Spoken, then forgotten like your overdue homework, gone like your previous summer vacation, lost like your school team’s last outting on the field.
Never expecting any response other than perhaps, “Then why are your grades so low, are you keeping your ‘secret’ secret from yourself?!?” And actually wanting no response at all, speaking simply to fill some imagined void that seemed to exist. Moving forward like a lone graffiti vandal towards a freshly painted surface with nothing to add other than J ♥ L. ( With “L” never being the wiser.)
Yet my bartender didn’t know that I had barely made it through finals at school and mistaking me for a scholar he had spread the word, “Jeff Meranto can get great marijuana at rock bottom prices.” And having played the part of Carnival Barker he dutifully brought over to my table an interested party.
His body was like a solid mass of iron that had been formed by years of being beaten upon by ball pein hammers. His face was marred from hardships. Not hardships suffered from hunger nor concern of what turmoil some tomorrow might bring his way. Marred by hardhips that he had inflicted upon others.
“Jeffs?” he said by way of introduction extending his hand towards me, “callmeJoes. . SoYousegotsomeProductIhears.”
He spoke with the rapid staccato of a New York City jackhammer words punched together and shot out in short controlled bursts.
My mind tried to pry apart his sentence and find meaning. . product? Product? I was a businessman. I sold Jet Skis. Did he want to buy a Jet Ski?
“Err, umm . . well I got some fantastic prices on some top of the line Jet Skis. .”
“Jeffs. . Skippy here tells me youse got Product” his thumb punching back towards the bartender who’s name until that moment was something other than ‘Skippy’.
“Oh, . . OH Marijuana You want to buy some Marijuana!” The sound of my voice boomed over the music.
“Jeffs, WhatsAmatterYouse? YouseCrazy?” his finger to his lips like an exclamation mark signaling me to lower my voice as he looked left to right seeking some intruder listening to our conversation.
As he said “Whats A Matter Youse” my thoughts looked for safety. I went back to being a boy watching cartoons on the television, The Rocky & Bullwinkle show with Bullwinkle wearing a ‘What’s A Matter U’ jersy. Only this wasn’t Bullwinkle this was Boris Badenov in the flesh, bigger than life, pumped up on steroids.
“Jeffs. . youse got Product or NO. Swhat I’m askin’ ”
It was about this time that fear and the desire to survive took over my mind as well as my mouth. He wanted 100 Kilos, “Rightaways.”
I tried to squirm away, “I have to make a call. I don’t know. . I gotta call my guy.”
“SoCalls.” All smiles, “ThisIcanUnderStands. YouseGottaCallYouseGuy. ButUnderstandsDisJeffs. .UgottaCallsYouseGuy. He’sYouseGUY. Jeffs. I’m The Man” His eyes were nailed to mine as he said again, “I’m The Man, godit’?”
As he leaned close to me the ‘It’ that I actually had was the taste of the smell of a truly bad cigar. ‘Joes’ forever had the snub of a cigar in his mouth even as he sipped his drink and now it was an inch or less from my face. I could taste how rank it smelled this led to an overwhelming feeling of nausea on my part. Slowly again he said, “I’m The Man.”
I had it, or got it. Or so I thought at the time.
FEAR AND TREMBLING
You’ve heard the phrase, “Fear and Trembling.” These are twin siblings. Fear and Trembling’s parents are Stupidity and Greed.
In my life, Fear and Trembling never before had listened to their parents preferring the relative comfort of having just nearly enough. If only the twins had stayed the path – placed fingers properly in their ears, ever so tightly, and stopped the voices of their parents sweetly singing, “More Than Enough Jeffrey, More Than Enough.”
I would like to plead that I was forced into action by fear for the safety of my family and myself. While I did have a sincere fear of crossing ‘Joes’ this fear was assuaged by my desire for cash. The thought that I could actually get arrested never entered my mind.
So with fear and trembling I set off to call my guy the College Student. He who had come into my life waving cash for Jet Skis and equipment. And had left me with promises of easy money. Promises that I will tell you more about the next time we meet.