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Wind chimes and Incense

By Mason Garcia All Rights Reserved ©

Humor / Drama

A Son of Stoners

Most people's memory can stretch pretty far back into their childhood. Many can remember the first things they felt. Some, the first things they saw. Others, the first thing they said. But not Sam. His first memories, were of ringing chimes, and the wafting scent of lit incense.

When his parents brought him home from the hospital, he was greeted by a mob of faces he'd never seen before. Of course, in his few short hours of life he'd only met a handful of people anyway. Cradled in his mother's arms, the many fingers poking in his face looked as though they'd come crashing into him. Suddenly he found himself being passed from one person's arms to another. These arms were harder, less comfortable, and a little itchy.

When he looked up, he saw his father. The darker shaded skin of his face was covered in thick, black hair, with a few patches of white sprinkled throughout. In the end, none of this would matter. Soon enough, he would forget all of it. It wasn't long before Sam felt his eyelids get heavy, and soon, he fell asleep in his own home for the first time.

Sam's first real memories didn't form until later years, but they were strong, and they remained with him for the rest of his life. The feeling of the wind on his face as he sat in his mother's lap outside their home's front door was cool—a welcome refreshment from the summer heat. In this moment, his earliest memory of a sound formed. It was different from anything else he'd heard. It was the high-pitched tones of his mother's favorite set of wind chimes, which hung just above their heads.

With a simple design—five hollowed metal rods of varying lengths and a small center piece to clang against them—it wasn't much to look at. In fact, once Sam had solved the mystery of its sound, his interests would have easily given way to something else, had it not been for the small figure that sat atop the ornament's central structure. A child, not much different from himself, with wings on his back, seemed to be playing with his feet. Confused by the sight, Sam pointed up at the chimes, trying to articulate the question he wanted to ask his mother.

“What is it, Sam?” His mother asked.

He repeated the gesture, shifting her attention to the chimes above her head.

“You like the wind chimes?”

Again, he threw his arm forward, index finger extended.

His mother laughed, kissed him on the cheek, then moved him to the side. As she stood up, Sam couldn't help but throw a small fit. But it was quickly quelled when he saw her unhook the chimes and bring them down for him to get a better look at. When she grabbed the center piece and bounced it into the metal tubes, the sound surprised him. And when she turned the tiny angel to face him, he simply stared, wide-eyed.

“This is your Momma's favorite set, Sam. Do you like them?”

As she expected of her not-yet-talking son, Sam sat there in silence with nothing but a huge smile on his face as he looked over every inch of the chimes. Then he looked up at her. “...Yeah!”

The outburst made her jump. “Oh my God, your first word!”

Sam grabbed hold of the chimes and made them ring again. “Yeah! Yeah!”

Their shared joy was to be short lived, however, once his mother took the chimes away and put them back in their place. After that, he refused to be calmed down until his parents decided to take him to the store so he could pick out his very own set of chimes for his room.

The first smell, or rather smells, that Sam remembers didn't plant themselves in his mind until a year or so later. He was walking now, and stringing together sentences that really only made sense to his parents. One day, he and his mother walked in the front door to be greeted by a stench that immediately made him cringe.

“Stink...” He said as he looked up to his mother.

Looking through the smoke filled living room, his mother caught sight of her target. “Yeah, Daddy's home.”

Across the room, Sam's father sat in his reclining chair, holding what looked like a white burning stick to his lips. After a second, he let out a huge puff of white smoke into the room. When he saw them standing in the doorway, he hopped up from his chair. Once he'd tenderly planted a kiss on his wife's lips, he handed the joint to her, and bent down to pick up his son.

“Hey Sammy. Did you and Momma have fun at the park today?”

Sam poked his father in the face, “Smells bad, Daddy.”

He laughed at his son's blunt statement, “Is that so? C'mon, let's go make everything smell better.”

Carrying Sam, his father made his way through the maze of furniture in their living room. Just beyond the recliner he'd been sitting in, a small wooden contraption had been set on the mantle above their fireplace. When they approached it, his father took a large breath and blew away the layer of dirt and dust. He sat Sam down on the arm of the chair, and pulled a lighter from his pocket.

Click. His father flicked his thumb across the top, causing a spark.

Click. Again, nothing. Just a spark.

Click. Click. Click. Finally, on the fifth spark a flame ignited, and he held the tiny flame up to a long, black stick. Once it'd caught fire, he tossed the empty lighter to the side. After a moment, he blew out the flame, leaving the end of the stick as a smoldering ember. Then he put it in the contraption, which held it firmly.

Sam watched the little ritual in awe. When his father turned to pick him up, his face was put right next to the small stream of smoke. As Sam inhaled a bit of it, a slight itch made its way into his nose. Cocking his head back, he let out a huge sneeze. Even in his stellar state of mind, Sam's father was lucky to have such a fast reaction time to keep anything from flying away. Not wanting to risk a second sneeze, he kept the burning incense away from Sam from then on.

That was the world Sam grew up in, the world that, from a very early age, Sam was warned to keep quiet about. For even though his parents were the nicest, most caring people that he—not to mention countless others who would give testimony—knew, according to the laws of the land, they were called criminals. An injustice that would haunt Sam for many years to come.

It wasn't until Sam was a Junior in high school that he realized just how different he was, not only from his friends, but from his own family.

One day, a few hours after school let out, Sam was hanging out at a friend's house, just like he did every Friday afternoon, when someone new showed up with Jake. A younger girl from school. Her long, shining, hair about as black as the thick frames on her glasses. Sam recognized her. Her name was Ashlyn, though pretty much everyone called her Mouse, and Sam would have never thought he'd see her hanging out with the stoner crowd.

Mouse was the kind of girl that struck him as the 'barely ever leaves the library' type, but Jake said she was cool, and that was enough for her to get in the door. Of course, she wouldn't truly be a part of the group until she earned it.

“Pack up. We're going to Sam's house.” Jake ordered. “Mouse wants an initiation. And we're gonna need his parents on this one.”

Sam, who was half asleep in the corner, shot to attention. “Do what now?”

Their three other friends all stood—looking rather zombie-ish—and filed out of the room, leaving Sam shaking his head at Jake. “What the fuck, man? I don't even know this girl.”

“Trust me,” Jake smiled, “it's all good.” A second later, he was sprinting down the stairs, and Sam's keys were missing from his pocket. “I'm driving!”

“Get back here, fucker!” Sam yelled as he gave chase.

Even though he was a fast runner, Jake had too much of a head start, and had already piled into Sam's car with the rest of his friends. After waiting a few minutes for Sam to calm down, the passenger window casually rolled down. “So sorry, looks like we're full.” He glanced to the backseat, “Unless Mouse feels like sitting on someone's lap.”

A quick flip of the bird was Mouse's go to response in those situations, yet another thing about this girl that surprised Sam.

“It's my car, ass-hat.”

“We'll be waiting at your house, while you two adjust those negative attitudes.” Jake said, still brandishing his sly grin.

With that, they drove off, leaving Sam to walk home alone, with Mouse. When the tail lights of his car finally vanished in the distance, he turned back to her. Even now, when he was basically to be her guide to an oasis of marijuana, he still couldn't believe she'd have anything to do with the likes of him and his friends. Yeah, pot heads came in all shapes, sizes, and colors, but it wasn't often someone who looked like her walked into the scene. She really was deserving of her nickname, to say the least.

“So, I guess we're walking?” Sam asked.

She opted to answer with a shrug. Suddenly, Sam noticed that she hadn't said a single word the whole time.

“Come on, we'll have to walk fast if we want to get to my house before dark.”

As they walked along the hard concrete sidewalk, the sun started to turn a deeper orange, lowering closer and closer to the horizon, darkening the sky to a beautiful mixture of pink, orange, and purple. After nearly fifteen minutes of nothing but the sound of traffic between them, Sam felt like he was about lose his mind. “So, Mouse, how'd you get that name?”

She turned to him, projecting the most unreadable stare Sam had ever seen. “My parents.”

“...Okay, gonna need a little more than that.”

She shrugged, “Alright.”

In a flurry of arm movements that Sam never could have followed, Mouse tied her hair back, flipped up her glasses, and tucked back her upper lip, giving her even more of a rodent-like appearance. When Sam's tired mind finally caught up to the image in front of him, he about fell over laughing.

“What the hell is that?” He asked, holding his aching sides.

She smiled, setting herself back to normal. “That's why they call me Mouse.”

“Alright, I have to ask,” Sam said, wiping away the his last tear, “do you seriously smoke?”

Mouse raised an eyebrow, “Yeah...? Is there something wrong with that?”

“No, it's not like that.” Sam explained, “It's just, I've seen you around school, and you really didn't strike me as the type.”

She cocked her head to the side, “Isn't there a quote about not judging a book by its cover, or something like that?”

“Hey,” he put his hands up in surrender, “I'm the last person to judge. But I really got caught off guard this time around. Not used to someone like you just dropping in. Sorry about that.”

“What do you mean someone like me?” She asked as they rounded a street corner.

By now, the sun had set, and the street lights all flickered to life in the cool evening air. All of a sudden, the world around them changed. Dimmed by the darkness, their world shrank, as did the space between them.

“A walking contradiction. You don't see too many of those these days.”

Sam's answer only served to confuse her more. “How am I a contradiction?”

“The way you look completely contradicts the way you act. You look like some nerdy girl who wouldn't be caught dead with me and my friends.”

“Well,” she said, “I don't usually do this kind of stuff. And most of my friends would probably stop hanging out with me if they knew about all this.”

“Then why do it? Why risk it with your friends like that?”

Again, she shrugged, Sam was beginning to wonder if she was actually certain of anything. “I guess I just got tired of hiding it. So I talked to Jake about it, and he brought me to you guys.”

Jake, being the group's resident dealer, had connections throughout the school and beyond. Out of all the people he could have brought Mouse to, he chose Sam's group. He never did anything without a reason, and the more Sam talked with Mouse, the more he started to think Jake had one for setting this whole thing up. Now he just had to figure out Jake's game.

All in all, Sam was actually enjoying himself, be it part of Jake's scheme or not. They spent the rest of their walk laughing and talking about all kinds of things. As fate would have it, they had a lot more in common than they knew. And soon enough, Sam stopped in front of his house—practically a small mansion compared to the house they'd just left—where his so called friends had left his car in the driveway, and already made their way inside.

When they came closer, Mouse recognized the house. “This is your house?”

“Yep. Since the day they brought me home.”

She froze, practically stunned by the fact, “My mom used to drive me through here every day before and after school. I always thought this one was the coolest, so she went out of the way to bring me by.”

Sam nodded with a smile, “Believe it or not, I've heard a lot of stories just like that one.”

Suddenly the front door burst open, and Sam's father stuck his head out. “I knew I heard someone out here!”

His loud voice echoed through the night air, setting off every dog in the neighborhood, followed by their angry owners. Sam sighed, “Glad to see you were so worried about me, Dad.”

He waved off his son's sarcasm, “You're fine.” Then he took notice of the girl behind him, “You must be Mouse.”

She stepped forward and shook his hand, “Yes sir.”

When she tried to let go, Sam's father held on, taking an extra second to look her in the eye. “...Yep.” Then he released her, and walked back inside.

“Uh...” Mouse looked to Sam for answers.

He sighed again, holding the door open for her. “Yeah, my parents are weird.”

Mouse's eyes lit up, and her jaw nearly hit the floor when she walked inside. “Wow...this is awesome.”

Looking around, they might as well have stepped back in time. Back to when things weren't so complicated, a place where people could come together. And think. And be free. A place where people could just be. This was a place where uninvited troubles were asked to be left at the door, and all problems left to the world outside. At least, that was the feeling it all gave off.

Mouse turned back to Sam, “I can't believe you live here.”

Sam passed her by and headed for the kitchen, “Home sweet home.”

Once they joined Sam's friends and family in the kitchen, the party really kicked off. His parents brought out the beer, and Jake brought out the weed. While the others all indulged themselves, Sam simply held his own in conversation after conversation, never actually partaking in the activities. It wasn't long until Mouse took notice.

“Hey,” she'd cornered him, “aren't you gonna have any?” She asked, pushing a beer in his face.

“No thanks, I don't drink.”

Not wanting to push her luck in someone else's home, she walked away and didn't ask again, and a little while later—like after the beer ran out—all nine of them sat around Sam's large living room. Each one of them perched on an old bar stool from the set Sam's father had spent years collecting.

They sat listening to Sam's father tell one of his many stories from when he was their age. Back when he was all but dirt poor, with nothing but a dream of the future and the wind at his back. “It's that kind of attitude,” he said, “that will take you anywhere you need to go in life.”

At any given point in time there were at least two bowls being passed around the group and, as she was sitting right next to him, Mouse eventually saw that Sam just handed them over each time, never actually smoking any.

The next time he tried to hand it to her, she took it, but quickly held it back out for him. “I'm good. You go ahead.”

Had it not been for the music playing over the speakers mounted throughout the house, the room would have gone dead silent. Everyone, including his parents, stared at Sam in awe as he held the glass pipe up to his lips.

Click. He flicked his thumb across the top, causing a spark.

Click. Again, nothing. Just a spark.

Click. Click. Click. Finally, on the fifth spark a tiny flame ignited, he held it over what was left in the pipe, and inhaled deeply.

After holding it in for as long as he could, Sam let loose a torrent of smoke, practically hacking up a lung in the process. And then, to Mouse's surprise, everyone started clapping and cheering for him. As if taking a hit off the pipe was some kind of major achievement, worthy of a medal or trophy.

Confused, Mouse turned to Jake, “What's going on?”

Jake's sly smile returned, “Sam doesn't smoke weed.”

Reacting to stifle her laughter, Mouse's hand shot up to cover her mouth. “Really?”

“There are no words for how happy you just made everyone in this room. We've been trying to get him to do that for years.”

Sam took to being high better than he expected, and the experience was about what he was led to believe. An hour or so later, when everyone had had their fill of food, friends, and fun, Sam saw his friends to the door.

Jake stopped at the edge of their driveway, “What, you're not even gonna give us a ride home?”

Sam poked him in the chest, “You stole my car. You walk home.”

As he and Mouse watched their friends walk off into the dark, he grabbed his keys from his pocket. “I can drive you home, if you want.”


A hand quickly snatched away Sam's keys. “I don't think so, young man.” His father was standing behind them, still fairly drunk. “You've never driven high before, and I don't want you doing it at night. I'll drive.”

“You sure? You're pretty drunk.”

“Son,” he said, putting a hand on his shoulder, “I've driven drunk more times than you've driven. Period. We'll be fine.”

Sam shrugged, “Okay.” then turned to Mouse, “You cool with that?”

She shrugged too. “Shotgun.”

“Damn!” Sam groaned, while his father laughed at him.

“Ha! I like this girl!”

After a short laugh, they all hopped in the car, and Sam's father followed Mouse's directions to her street. They stopped the car a few houses down so they wouldn't wake up her family. Apparently Mouse's parents were fully aware of their daughter's second life, and were in complete denial of it. Which basically allowed her to come and go as she pleased.

After walking her down the street a bit, Sam said his goodbyes and headed back to the car. Sometime before he got back in, his father must have turned off the radio. “You looked like you had fun tonight, son.”

Sam laughed, “Yeah. Yeah, I did.”

“So, let me ask you, why exactly, after all these years of turning everyone down, did you finally hit that pipe?”

Sam remained quiet, taking one last look out the window as Mouse waved when they passed by.

“Yep, just like your old man.”

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