On a stoned and fateful night, in the dank byways of Phoenix, five young men, not so much marching lock-step as determinedly stumbling, have embarked on a quest that will test the limits of their frayed reality as much as it will their resolve and dedication to another. In my company were my friends Pringle, Miles, Logan, and Scratch. Their names have been changed to protect their identities.
Our mission was a simple one: five guys drunk and stoned beyond all recognition that simply needed to go to Walmart at 1:30 in the morning. Now there is some dispute between the involved parties as to our motivation for going. One prevailing theory is that it’s just what people do on weekends after last call when they are soaked. Another theory is a bit more detailed however there is a disagreement over these events taking place in the same night. The theory is that we were sent on a quest for bottles of Robitussen by a couple of e-tards that were for some reason at Pringle’s apartment. They had run out of other drugs to consume and were just looking for a good time, which 600 mg of Dextromethorphan HBR can apparently provide. If that were true, the story begins with us not only getting drunk but also smoking more pot than can be admitted, which would also help explain why no one can seem to figure out what the fuck happened later that night. With that acknowledged, we may never know the truth. And before you go on calling me hypocritical for bashing on stoners when I used to smoke myself, it’s called growing up and having shit to do with my life. Maybe you should try it.
After a somewhat uneventful drive, if there is a such thing when you are black-out drunk, Pringle, Miles, Logan, Scratch, and I arrive at the immense Walmart parking lot, as of yet unaware that this simple valley of blacktop and metal will foretell the fate of our very lives. We park and begin walking into the store. On our way in, just to the side of the large entryway, stand three homeless people, two men and a woman. The woman may or may not have had a small dog with her. They are yelling nonsense at people walking in and out of the store, which of course we all thought was hilarious. Given there is safety in numbers, even from the potential jagged edge of a used heroin needle, we didn’t give them much thought as we entered the store.
What happened inside of the store must have been uneventful, because I can’t remember a God damn thing about it. What happened next, however, was something I would never forget. On our way out of the store, one of the hobo’s walks directly up to our group, and out of his mouth pours a sentence that to this day, our group still quotes in reminiscence.
“Hey, if any of you kids hook me up with a lefty cigarette, I’ll throw you some glass.”
Note the inflection, the phrasing, imagine the diction as it reverberates out of this homeless man’s scarred throat, past his chapped, dirty lips, breaking free of the barrier of grime and stench surrounding him to fall on our passing ears. This one simple phrase was about to throw everything we had come to know on its ear. For those of you that don’t know, a lefty cigarette is a joint, and glass is slang for meth. Any one normal person would have just kept walking in fear of being attacked with a rusty needle, but considering there was five of us and alcohol had replaced out fight-or-flight response with the fuck-it-or-whatever response, we stopped and had a little conversation with the gentleman.
“Sorry bro, we don’t actually smoke.” lied Scratch.
“No shit? You guys look like you smoke. Hell, I bet you be stoned right now” counters the bum.
“Yeah, and you don’t look much the weed-smoking type either.”
“That’s cuz there’s better shit to smoke out there.”
Within minutes, we all became fast friends, and how could we not be? They were so just candid. Minutes later, we learned exactly how candid, as the hobo who earlier shouted about just getting out of prison revealed to us that he was a Hell’s Angel, and a bunch of his buddies were using the bar down the road to sell meth, which is a revelation dark enough to sour any drunken adventure. Shit just got real. By that time, most of us were starting to get the idea that we should pack up and go, less we accidentally incur the wrath of a bunch of tweaked-out hairy bikers. That was the thought I could tell was screaming through every one of our heads… Except Pringle’s.
As a bit of background, Pringle was “the quiet kid” in school, the one that was always one bad day away from going Adam Lanza on everyone he knew. Pringle, in all the years I’ve known him, just through his standard behavior, was only a clown suit away from making national headlines. This is a guy who once convinced me to mug someone sleeping on a bus stop because “there was no way he didn’t have a shot load of heroin” in his pockets. A nihilist of the purest degree, whenever he did decide to get off his ass and do something, he did it with a recklessness that would make a bulldozer blush. And not once did he disappoint, especially not on this night.
“Glass?” Pringle interjects. “I’d be down to buy some glass. Can you take me over there?” he teases.
And with that, one of the male bums leads Pringle away, out of the Walmart parking lot and into the darkened streets beyond, off in the distance to buy a fat sack of meth, which meant the rest of us had to wait in the parking lot with the two other bums until he got back.
We’d been had. We called the tweaker’s bluff and were now caught up in it. We didn’t have a choice to go anywhere; we couldn’t do anything about it. So we stood around idly and tried to make friends with our new neighbors. Fifteen minutes go by, twenty, amusing ourselves (and our guests) with shopping cart races and idle sports talk, all the while praying that one of these pieces of street trash doesn’t suddenly sober up and go junkie-rage on us. After half an hour, I tried calling Pringle to see if they had cut off his fingers yet or not. Maybe they did I thought, because he didn’t answer. We needed a miracle, a seraph to sweep in and save us from our predicament. And that’s exactly what we got.
A little over half an hour into our ordeal, a street sweeper pulls into the parking lot and begins making his rounds. A few minutes into it, he stops his vehicle, opens the door, and proceeds to vomit all over the parking lot he just cleaned.
Our homeless brethren, ever the upstanding citizens, shout out: “Hey buddy, you alright?”
The street sweeper driver looks up in a sort of a daze, not a just-puked daze, but a where-the-hell-am-I daze. He gets out of the vehicle slowly and responds, and I quote: “No, I’m good; it’s just this acid I took.”
“Fuck yeah buddy, that’s how it’s done!” says the junkie bum.
As if things could not get any stranger. What specific interaction was then had between the LSD-infused public servant, the tweaked out hobos, and my group of merry drunksters, I cannot for the life of me recall. But it helped pass the time until I eventually got a call from Pringle, surprisingly not asking for a ransom but asking us to meet him across the street.
He seemed unfazed, but refused to tell us what happened in the bar and whether or not he actually bought any drugs off the bikers. We didn’t end up seeing the bum who was with him, for all we know Pringle could have murdered and skinned him on the way to the bar and left him in an alley. We may never find out what happened to him, because I know for a fact that even if nothing happened at all, just for theatric panache; the events that took place that night is something that someone like Pringle takes to his grave.