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Untitled

By David A Hays

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Blurb

Sam's humorous and dangerous accounts with drugs and alcohol eventually lead to severe drug problems and him relocating to Taiwan in his late twenties to start over.

Cocaine Confessional

Cocaine Confessional

1.

I realized Joey and I were from very different upbringings the time we went to watch my older brother’s baseball team play in Cardiff at Park Place. We were eleven and my brother was thirteen at the time. We were watching the game from up in a tree behind the right field fence. From there we would torment and heckle the opposing team’s right fielder whenever he was in the field. We threw little pebbles at the poor guy and Joey said cruelly so the right fielder could hear, “You know, most of the time the manager puts the worst player on the team in right field.”

“Shut up you little maggots. If I find you guys after the game I’m gonna rock you,” the right fielder threatened. They were losing badly to my brother’s team.

“If I were you right now man I would worry about not making any more errors and hitting the freakin baseball!” Joey said in a warning voice. Then Joey said loudly while chuckling, “Your bro’s team is smoking these spastic pansies. I’ve had more fun watching paint dry. Let’s go play by the creek and look for frogs. I can could catch more frogs in five minutes than this fool could catch pop flies in his entire life time.” Behind the baseball field there was a creek that ran under a canopy of tall trees. We left our perch from where we were watching the game and went over by the creek. We walked along the creek looking for frogs, tadpoles, and lizards to catch. There weren’t many reptiles or amphibians around to catch and we were tromping through the shallow stream when Joey pointed and said, “Look. What’s that?” He was pointing to a TV that was barely visible from under some ferns on the fringe of the stream. We walked over to take a look. There was an expensive TV, a stereo, a VCR, and some other electronics covered up under a torn up jacket in an attempt to keep them dry and hidden.

“I wonder whose it is?” I said, not understanding why there would be nice new electronics hidden in the creek bed.

“I can tell whose it’s gonna be. Mine. Hurry up. Let’s move this stuff out near the road. I bet some cracky stashed it after he robbed a house nearby or something. He will come back for it soon. Now we are going to rob the robber. If we put it out by the road I can come swoop it up with my pops later tonight. My family could really use this shit,” Joey said with excitement. We moved the stuff from the creek bed out near the road that ran by the baseball field. The whole time I was worried about the real robber returning and what he would do to us if he caught up taking his loot. But the initial robber didn’t show up while we were there and later that night Joey and his dad went back to get the electronics. That’s how Joey’s family came up on a new TV, stereo and VCR.

My dad came to pick us up the time we got caught shoplifting at the mall because Joey’s parents were nowhere to be found. We would have preferred Joey’s parents picking us up as they weren’t as anti-crime as my own folks. We had been going from department store to department store at the mall, blatantly stealing watches, wallets, and cologne when an undercover cop got us. Our pockets were bulging with stolen merchandise. The undercover was a tall and well-built female with a crew cut. She was dressed in a San Diego Padres uniform with the name Gwynn across the back and Los Angeles Lakers sweatpants. As we were leaving the store she asked in voice much deeper than our own had gotten yet, “Where do you two think you’re going?” Before we could answer she magically handcuffed one of each of our wrists together with lightning speed, so we were sharing one pair of handcuffs as we tried to escape this powerful lady. We ran outside the store but we were unable to move quickly because we were attached to each other and we were pulling one another in different directions. It must have been quite funny for any spectators, but we were scared shitless. The big lady tackled us both. She then led us into a small, secret security closet with dozens of TVs hooked to the video cameras that watched over the stores and the mall. Here she sat us down and after threatening us with juvenile hall and telling us how we would be bunking with gangbangers who’d committed murder and rape and other heinous crimes we finally gave her our parents phone numbers. She called my father and attempted to call Joey’s. Because Joey’s folks were absent my parents came to pick us both up at the mall. I felt guilty as hell because my grandmother had just passed away the week before, my dad’s mother. My parents were as pissed off and disappointed as I can remember them ever getting and as they drove us home in silence. On the drive home Joey kept poking me with his finger from across the backseat trying to get me to look at him. I finally looked over and he was smiling like a dog, showing me the watches, wallets, and cologne that he had somehow managed to hold onto through the process of getting caught by the lady enforcer.

Joey and I played on the same Little League team when we were twelve years old. We made it to the championship game and we were up one to zero in the last inning of the game. Joey came in to relief pitch in the last inning. He was almost unhittable in little league as a pitcher and he set the record for most homeruns and hits in a season as a batter.

When he came in to pitch there was a runner on first base. I was playing first base and I was confident we would win with Joey on the mound. He easily struck out the first and second batter he faced. The next batter was Ryan Bunston, a monstrous twelve year old who was a year ahead of us in school and who constantly pushed us around and bullied us. Bunston made the age cutoff by a day or two so he was able to play against kids who were younger than him. Bunston already needed to shave and I remember him as being the only kid around who had hair under his armpits already. He would often show us pubic hair and his already developed package and make fun us for not having anything of our own to proudly display. He had bad acne. Bunston was also one of the best players in the league. Joey got up two strikes on him and the game was all but over. He then threw a pitch way outside, thinking he could waste a pitch in hopes that Bunston would make a mistake and try to swing for it, but Bunston reached out and swung and with all the luck in the world, he made late contact and the ball just barely sailed over the right field fence. It was a walk off homerun. Once a shocked and idiotic Bunston comprehended that his team had in fact won the game, he stared at Joey and pointed at him saying “That ain’t no pitcher, more like a ass licker!” Joey slammed down his mitt on the pitcher’s mound and just stood there with his head down as Bunston began rounding the bases. I felt as bad for Joey as I did about our team losing the championship.

As Bunston rounded the bases, he made lewd gestures and talked trash to everyone on our team. While rounding first he stopped to grab his crotch and say to me, “Suck it faggot! Good try sucker!” He was laughing and being a complete prick. When he rounded second he stopped, made a humping motion at the air, and said, “What’s up now bitches!” When he rounded third he got a surprise. Joey had run from the mound and was headed right towards an oblivious Bunston. Cleats first, Joey did a flying kung fu style kick right at Bunston’s barrel chest. Bunston was blindsided and went down in pain. Then Joey started wailing on the overgrown man child’s face until the umpires and dads came and pulled him off.

Bunston was bloodied up pretty good with a broken nose and a hole in his lip where one of his teeth had popped through. After that, Joey was banned from Little League baseball. It wouldn’t have mattered because it was the last game of the season except Joey was not permitted to play on our all-star team that summer and he was the best player in our league.

One summer day, Joey and I were riding our BMX bikes in the brush just inland of Del Mar in what is now called Carmel Valley. It was a sunny and hot summer day in southern California and we were sweating like pigs with our t-shirts wrapped around our heads. In those days there was still a lot of undeveloped land back there so that is where we went to play and explore. We were racing down a trail when we had to stop to walk our bikes because the trail had become so thick with loose sand that we were unable to pedal through it. We were trying to push our bikes through the soft sand and we’d almost reached the hard packed trail again when a fat guy in his forties wearing no shirt, glasses, and a backpack popped out of nowhere. The man had a nice camera strapped around his neck. He was soaked in sweat because he was out of shape and the heat must have been getting to him

“Hello boys. How are you today?” He said smiling with a cheerful facade. “I have a ton of candy here in my backpack. I can’t eat it all. Would you guys like some M&M’s or Skittles? I have some cigarettes too. You boys smoke?” He removed the backpack to show us the inside was loaded with cigs and candy, a real gold mine.

“We’ll take anything you don’t want sir, candy and cigarettes both,” Joey responded. I was thinking we had better not take anything from this man and keep going in a hurry. I was warned by my parents about men offering me candy. They always told me to run in this exact situation. If Joey wasn’t with me that is exactly what I’d have done. But Joey was never afraid in this type of situation. His childhood had been rough and tough and he wasn’t afraid of some overweight perverted man offering us candy. In fact, I think he enjoyed those types of dangerous situations. He was one of my only friends who grew up in poverty. His father was at one time a skilled carpenter but bad business decisions plagued him and his reputation suffered. His parents were both alcoholics and drug users who were always struggling to get by financially. Joey and his younger brother probably missed more than a few meals and might have taken a few knocks here and there but they were tougher for it and neither of them ever complained about it so no one knew for sure.

“Joey. I think we had better just keep going. My dad is waiting for us just up the trail,” I desperately lied.

“Naw, Dale. This nice fellow wants to give us free candy and cigarettes. This kinda thing doesn’t happen every day,” Joey responded in a way that told me not to worry.

The man said while grinning, “He’s right Dale. I will give it to you boys. But you need to do something for me too. You need to take off your pants and underwear so I can snap a few pictures of you handsome fellas. Will you do that?”

“No problem sir,” said Joey agreeably and he started undoing his belt.

The man bent down to get closer to Joey while putting his camera up to eye, preparing to take pictures. I was wondering what was happening and I didn’t like it one bit.

He asked Joey, “Do you mind if I come a bit closer?”

Joey answered, “You can come as close as you want sir.” At this point I knew Joey was up to something and the sick bastard was probably going to pay for messing with the worst possible kid he could have chosen to approach. The man then put his face and camera right up to Joey’s almost naked waist and Joey immediately kneed him as hard as he could right in the guy’s camera, causing the camera to bust right on the man’s face. His nose started gushing blood and his glasses broke as he fell to his knees holding his face. Joey then ran up and stomped on the man’s glasses, kicked the guy hard in the balls, then snatched his backpack and camera while saying to me, “Come on Dale. Let’s scram!” The man was writhing in pain on the sand. Before leaving Joey bent down near the whining and wimpering perve’s ear and said, “Next time, sir, could you please bring us Marlboro’s instead of these chincey Winston’s and some king size Butterfinger’s would be perfect. Thanks a million.” Then he booted the guy again before we pushed our bikes a few more yards before hopping on our bikes and pedaling off once we hit the hard packed dirt again.

As we raced off, I looked back at the man and he had not moved. We decided to go to our fort that was about a twenty minute ride from the location where Joey had taught the man a lesson. Our fort was located near a small pond in a place where we had flattened down the reeds so we couldn’t be seen by other hikers and mountain bike riders if they passed by. We started a small fire bonfire with brush and dry Eucalyptus leaves, smoked cigarettes, and ate as much candy as we could while talking big. Joey said, “The next time we should just do the world a favor and kill any creeper like the one back there!”

“For sure!” I said boldly as I sat there and marveled at how courageous of a bad ass my best friend was.

And that wasn’t the last time we embarrassed an adult who was out of line when we were kids. I watched Joey’s actions and took some notes. One time when we were about thirteen we were skateboarding in the street near Joey’s parent’s apartment. We were trying tricks and our skateboards and we were making quite a bit of noise. There were some rough looking fellows in their twenties who rented a house on the street where we were skating. They were grease monkeys. They sat in the garage all day drinking beer and working on their cars and trucks listening to loud heavy metal. We were skating in the street and they were working on a truck. Some other kids were playing basketball in the cul-de-sac at the end of the street and some mothers were pushing strollers down the sidewalk a few yards away.

One of the gear heads came out of the garage shirtless with oil stains all over his shorts, face and hands. He was wearing only some torn up shorts and beat up shoes. He was a rough looking fellow with greasy shoulder length hair and he hadn’ shaved for a few days. With anger and frustration in his beer soaked voice and a wad of tobacco in his mouth he said, “Can’t you rug rats go skate somewhere else? You’re making all kinds of racket and I am trying to concentrate on rebuilding this damn engine.”

“Bullshit. You can’t hear our skateboards over that death metal you carnies are playing in there. Don’t blame us cuz you can’t figure out how to fix that piece of shit truck you got in there,” Joey responded. I thought Joey could have been a little more diplomatic about it but it wasn’t the case. The guy came over to Joey in the street and grabbed him by the shirt, practically lifting his small wiry frame off the ground. He held his other fist cocked back like he was about to punch Joey’s lights out.

“What’d you say to me you little piss ant rat?” The guy asked as he held Joey’s shirt. The guy’s three friends were now watching from the garage. The two young moms with their strollers also stopped to watch and the kids had stopped playing basketball to observe the showdown between Joey and this much bigger and older aspiring mechanic. The mechanic stood there with his fist cocked back waiting for Joey to say something else, staring at Joey while holding the neck of Joey’s shirt in his other hand. I happened to be on my game that day, so I quickly ran up to the big beer drinking bully and pantsed him. The dude’s shorts went down around his ankles and he wasn’t wearing any underwear. He was just standing there with his dick in the wind and a face that turned crimson. All his friends started laughing and whistling loudly from the garage and the ladies with the strollers and the basketball players were all laughing too. The man let go of Joey in an effort to pull up his shorts. Joey and I hopped on our skateboards and hurried off giggling to go skate somewhere else while the mechanic let out a stream of curses directed at us about how he would smash us if he saw us again.

Vandalism of property was not something we shied away from in our early teens. When we were thirteen we would ride our BMX bikes all over creation, exploring the canyons and neighborhoods that were under development just east of the beach town, Del Mar. One weekend we were riding our bikes through one of these uninhabited and unlandscaped housing developments. We would often get off our bikes and go into the construction sites and houses that were only halfway built. Joey knew where all these sites were because sometimes he and his brother would collect aluminum cans left by the workers and recycle them for money. When no one was around to bust us we would chuck empty beer bottles and rocks at windows or start fires and generally try to destroy the new housing developments. We would look for tools to steal that had been left behind and other useful stuff like packs of cigarettes left behind by workers with a cig or two remaining in them.

Our favorite thing to do was look in the bulldozers, steamrollers and backhoes to see if the keys were left behind over the weekend by a careless worker. It was our lucky day. I was using my Zippo lighter to light a bunch of scrap wood, drywall, and trash that filled a massive dumpster when Joey screamed to me with delight, “Dale, check it out! The fuckin keys are in this bulldozer. Let’s see if we can fire it up.” I ran over and climbed up into the huge bulldozer’s cab and sat next to Joey on the seat, forgetting all about the fire I had just started. He turned the key and the damn thing coughed and started to our surprise. We started hitting all sorts of levers that lifted the scoop and dropped it again. Then all of a sudden we were moving forward. Joey pulled a lever all the way and soon we were really moving pretty fast. The problem was, we were moving right towards a house that was under construction. Joey tried to swerve the bulldozer before we reached the home but he didn’t know how and he didn’t do it in time so we jumped out of the bulldozer right before it crashed through stucco and plywood right into what was to be the family room of this nearly finished home. The bulldozer kept going into the new home’s kitchen, where it came to a stop with the engine still rolling, the dozer trying to break through another wall. We surveyed the destruction and it was devastating and costly. An entire corner of the house had been demolished and the bulldozer was still trying to do more damage.

Equally destructive was that by this time the contents of the trash container were now engulfed in massive flames that were licking their way thirty feet into the air. Embers from the fire were flying into the air and landing in the dry desert brush nearby. Thick black smoke was spreading quickly throughout the clear blue day. It could be seen for miles around. The fire was beyond out of control and we knew there was only one thing left to do, and that was hightail it the hell out of there.

We sprinted to our bikes and as we rode away as fast as we could we heard sirens and the wailing of a fire engine’s horn approaching. “Quick, follow me. I hope you aren’t afraid of the dark,” Joey said in a way that sounded more thrilled and amused than frightened. We rode towards a large reservoir about the size of a football field that the housing developers had dug for the project. We reached a ten foot in-diameter cement pipe that flowed into the reservoir from the sewers. We stashed our bikes in some bushes and I followed Joey into the dank sewer pipe as the sirens got nearer. We snaked our way through the spooky and echoing sewer system for what must have been two hours with only my Zippo to light the way. Finally, we came out a few miles away near the lagoons just inland of Torrey Pines beach.

Going back for the bikes a few days later was sketchy because we worried that the area might be under police surveillance, but we were able to retrieve them unnoticed. This act of mayhem and destruction ended up being a big deal in the community and the police wanted to find the arsons that had caused the damage and the rather large brushfire. A day or two later when he’d heard the news, my dad asked me, “Dale, what were you and Joey doing on Sunday afternoon?”

“Just playing Nintendo at Joey’s,” I answered too readily as if I were being accused of something.

“Uh-huh,” he responded and he just as well could have said “bullshit”.

Sadly, that wouldn’t be the last time we caused considerable damage to other people’s property.

2.

I think Joey and I both had alcoholic tendencies running in our genes and it didn’t take us long to figure out we enjoyed booze, a lot. One of the first times we got drunk we were in junior high school at Earl Warren in Solana Beach and we ditched class to go look for something more fun to do. We strolled over to the supermarket and decided to steal some alcohol. We lurked into the alcohol section and I shoved a bottle of vodka into the belt line of my shorts. We decided to buy a pack of gum before leaving the store in an attempt to appear less suspicious. Looking back there was nothing we could have done to appear less suspicious. As we paid for the gum I felt the bottle of vodka slowly begin to slide down through my loosening beltline. As we exited the checkout line the bottle slid through my boxers and shorts, hitting my shoe before rolling across the floor towards the manager’s station in the front of the supermarket, where it came to a stop. The manager, who was right there watching us knowingly the entire time, saw everything and was walking quickly to where the bottle was to pick it up. But as he was leaning over to grab the bottle Joey dashed in and did a baseball style slide on his ass across the smooth floor, grabbing the bottle before springing up and rushing out the censored sliding doors. I went out the other sliding doors and met up with him running out in front of the supermarket. Surprisingly, the manager gave chase to us. We ran behind the Round Table Pizza across the large parking lot with the manager in close pursuit. Then we hopped a chain link fence and the manager, by then exhausted and drenched in sweat, gave up. He yelled that he was returning to his store to call the police and the principal of our school, promising he would have us busted. After hopping the fence we were walking in a drainage ditch that ran adjacent the Interstate Five, and that is where we sat down and drank so much vodka both that both of us puked before passing out right there next to the stagnant water and the speeding cars of California’s busiest freeway.

The manager called the police and the cops showed the video of our stunt to faculty at our Junior High school. Sure enough, we got called into the office the next day and we got nailed for truancy and shoplifting. We were both suspended from school and I was grounded for ages.

Aside from causing trouble, we also worked a little. The Circle K convenience store near the seafood restaurant where we worked as dishwashers when we were fourteen had benches and tables outside of it where many vagabonds and drunks would hang out. One night, Joey and I had finished work and we were sitting at the tables praying for a needy bum to show up so we could get him to buy a few beers for us. Finally, a weathered looking old alcy we had never seen before showed up. He was about fifty five with long hair. He was salty and crusty and tan, like he spent a lot of time in the sun and at the beach drinking beer. He had the swollen belly and skinny legs of an alcoholic and he had a rather large frame. We thought he must be a new bum in town because we’d never seen before. Joey called to him from where we were loitering and asked, “Hey mister, if you buy us a few beers we will buy you a beer too. How about it?”

The man stumbled towards us, swerving over to Joey. Out of nowhere, he gave Joey a hard blow in the stomach. Joey had the wind knocked out of him and was trying to regain his breath when the man turned his attention to me. “What the hell did you do that for?” I asked in a way that I hoped wouldn’t get me a fist too.

“Are you gonna get smart too, boy? You little leeches think I need you to buy my damn beer. Do you know who I am? I was a drummer for the Beach Boys at one time. Give an old man some God damn respect!” The drunk said in intoxicated anger.

“Yeah? And I am fuckin Elvis Presley,” gasped a barely rejuvenated Joey. Boom! The old man blasted Joey in the gut a second time and sent him desperately gasping for air once again.

Once Joey recuperated from his second punch to the tummy, the man’s attitude had totally changed. “Well, I think now that you boys learned a little bit about respect, why don’t you come on up to my house and drink some beers.” We found it quite peculiar that the guy who was just beating on Joey was now inviting us to his home, which we expected was a tarp or makeshift tent set up off in some bushes nearby. But with the promise of free beer we followed the guy a block up the street to a really cool house. It was a blue ranch style house with a porch around it and a white picket fence. There was live music being played inside of the house and it could be heard from out in the neighborhood. Parked on the lawn in front of the house there were about a half dozen classic old Cadillacs and other old tanks. We went inside the rustic home and a band of older fellows was practicing or having a jam session or whatever you want to call it right there in the living room. I think they really might have been famous musicians because the home was filled to the brim with musical relics, pictures, and instruments. We were so young that we were unfamiliar with most of the people in the pictures. The man called his wife to bring out three beers. She brought them to us and the man said, “Have a look around. Enjoy the show boys.” We looked at all the cool memorabilia in the home, took hits from joints being passed around, listened to the music being played, and sat in a classic old Caddy in the yard and drank our beers.

After that night Joey and I would sometimes stop by and have a beer with the old drunk on his porch. We never knew if he really played with the Beach Boys or not but he seemed to be pretty legit in the music scene. We reckoned he was an old legend, if not for his music then at least for giving us brews.

The first time Joey and I experimented with hard drugs was when we were working as dishwashers at that same seafood restaurant right near Torrey Pines beach when we were about fourteen or fifteen years old. We didn’t make much in the way of wages, but we sure had a lot of fun there. This was because we got to work together and sometimes my older brother’s best friend, Nate, worked too. Joey washed dishes with me and Nate was one of the chefs. Nate was an eighteen year old guy who was old for his age, and tough as hell. He had an old soul. He usually just quietly drank beers in the back of the kitchen while cooking the food, silently observing while doing his job. Joey and I would always slip out the back when things slowed down and drink beer that we had gotten hobos to buy for us or that we’d pinched from the restaurant. If we were lucky we had some weed to smoke too. Every night we would leave that place drenched in dish water and stinking like fish. The smell would never come out of our clothes and skin even after a thorough washing, so at school we always still smelled a bit fishy in more ways than one. We didn’t care. We had a job and that meant money and freedom from the prison of the home many nights of the week. For Joey, the job meant survival, though.

Circle K was right next to the restaurant and we had become friends with one of the night clerks, Margaret. She was a middle-aged woman who chain smoked and might classify as white trash according to most. Another character worth mentioning is Sal, a short Mexican dude in his thirties with long hair who prepped vegetables and worked in the kitchen with us. He wore a hair net to keep his hair from getting in the food. Sal claimed he had spent time in Mexican prisons for drug trafficking and he seemed like a bit of crackhead because he appeared to be sped up all the time. He had brutal scars all over his body, probably a result from a lifetime of criminal activity

One night Sal approached me and asked, “Hey man, you theenk I could score some mota. I will get sometheeng back to you?”

I gladly gave the guy a few buds, wondering what he was planning to give me in return. A few shifts later he approached me again and slipped a little folded up foil packet into my hands. I was a little nervous about what it could be. Joey was working with me this night and I showed him the packet. Joey said, “I bet it’s coke or crank or something.” We looked at it and sure enough it was white powder of some sort.

I asked Sal, “What do we do with this stuff?”

He replied, “You sneef da sheet homie.”

On our thirty minute break Joey and I went out the back and sorted the stuff into a few lines just like we’d seen in the movies. We sniffed up what must have been a half gram of coke or meth or whatever it was and we got higher than any kid our age should ever be. We began craving cigarettes so we went next door to Circle K where we planned on stealing a pack of cigs. When we entered the store the clerk was absent but the bells attached to the door chimed that signaled a customer had entered the store. We left the door wide open so the bells would not jingle again. From the back, after strenuously clearing the phlegm from her throat, Margaret said loudly, “I’ll be right out.”

I whispered to Joey, “Go into the back and chat with her. Keep her distracted and I will get us cigarettes and a few beers.” Joey went into the back where Margaret was doing inventory and restocking the fridges.

As Joey entered the back, I heard Margaret say, “Oh, hi Joey. How are you cutie pie?” These were the last of the days when cigs were still on racks on the counter instead of behind it. I began shoveling packs of cigarettes into all my pockets, pilfering as many packs as I could, although all we needed was one pack. Once I’d filled up my pockets to the brim I went out and unloaded them behind the store. I reentered the store again and Joey still had Margaret distracted in the back so I cleared the rest of the Marlboro, Doral and Camel racks and went back outside to unload. When I entered again I could hear Margaret complaining to Joey about the trailer park where she lived in Lakeside, “The place is an absolute hell hole, Joey. Last week the trailer two doors down blew to smithereens. Pieces of shit were cooking meth in there. I wish I could afford to move out this way. You don’t know how lucky you are to grow up in this part of town.”

“That’s just terrible. I’m sorry to hear that, Marge,” Joey replied. He still had her distracted so I decided to take a five finger discount on a few cases of Bud Light as well. When I came back the third time I went into the back of the store where Joey and Margaret were chatting and I said, “Hi Marge! What the fuck Joey? We gotta get back to work.” We said goodbye to Margaret and then I showed Joey our motherload of cigarettes hidden behind Circle K and we smoked a couple cigs each and chugged a few beers. Then we went back to work.

Thirty minutes later we were washing dishes at a faster pace than ever before with the help of Sal’s white marching powder when Margaret stormed into the kitchen screaming, “You little snake shits better have every last cigarette back on the shelves by the time I can get to a phone and call the cops!” It was obvious enough who stole the cigs and we rushed out of the kitchen to put them back. She let a pack or two slide and we appreciated her for it.

We came back to the kitchen to carry on with our duties and Nate, the chef and my older brother’s best friend asked, “What the fuck was that all about?”

I answered speaking at a rapid pace, “Uh...We helped ourselves to some cigs and it didn’t go over so well. We put em’ back though.”

Nate saw that I was high on something other than weed and he was not happy. Nate’s older brother had a rough time with drugs and he’d seen what harm they could do. “What the fuck are you guys on Dale? Are you blasted on coke or tweeking or what? Who gave you that shit?” But he already knew the answers because before I could answer him he went over to Sal, who was chopping carrots in the back of the kitchen. Nate grabbed the guy by his throat and took the chopping knife from him. He put the blade of the knife against Sal’s throat and threatened, “If you ever give those boys drugs again I’ll fuckin kill you.” I felt bad for Sal because I don’t think he meant us any harm, drugs and crime were all that he knew. For the rest of the night there was an awkward silence in the kitchen and Sal never showed up to work again after he left that night.

Our good friend Brad gave Joey and me a few of his attention deficit disorder pills called Adderall one night when we were sixteen. It actually worked out pretty well for me in the end because I met the gal I would one day marry. We didn’t realize the pills were actually pure amphetamine and we each popped more than enough of the powerful blue pills. We were zinging hard. In fact, we both didn’t sleep for a few days after we ate all those pills. It was Friday night but there was nothing going on. We had no means of getting alcohol so we did what we sometimes had to do when that was the case; we robbed people’s garages of beverages. It was about ten at night when we hopped in Joey’s beater of a truck and began cruising slowly through the suburbs inland of Del Mar. We looked for garages that people had forgotten to shut for the night and if there was a refrigerator in it I would hop out, run into the garage, and relieve the fridge of its alcoholic beverages. Things were going well. We had gotten some Coronas out of one garage and some Guinness and a box of wine from another. We began sucking down the brews as we crept slowly through the neighborhoods. It wasn’t only about the booze, we also enjoyed the rush of the whole scheme. We did have a moral rule for pillaging and that was we would only take booze, never other possessions such as surfboards, skateboards and sporting equipment. For this reason, we felt we weren’t doing much harm.

Out of nowhere, Joey asked, “What do you like more, surfing or sex?”

I hadn’t had sex yet so I answered, “Uh, I don’t know. But I’d take surfing good waves over a hand job or a bad blow job any day.”

“Oh yeah, sorry rookie. I forgot you ain’t gotten laid yet. I have, and I still don’t know either. Surfing just might take it,” Joey said while we laughed.

We pulled up to a house where the garage was open but the light inside of it was still on, making it sketchier because the light made you visible to the rest of the neighborhood. Most of the garages we raided were dark so you wouldn’t be seen. With the light on it was easy to see there was a refrigerator deep in the garage right outside the door that led into the house. I asked Joey, “Should I hit it?”

“Absofuckinlutely, I’ll have the truck ready,” he replied. I got out and ran into the garage. I looked in the refrigerator and there was no booze, only apple cider, juice, and other beverages and foods we had no interest in taking. Dammit, were these people teetotalers or Mormons or something? Devastated. Even more devastating was that Joey began honking repeatedly. Then he just laid on the horn. He was trying to warn me of something and I became alarmed. I shut the fridge and as I was turning to leave a man of about fifty and his son of about twenty showed up from outside of the garage with a massive German Sheppard. They must have been on a late night dog walk around the neighborhood or something and now they were returning. They were a couple of big boys, these two, but that was of no concern next to the growling and teeth bearing dog that was frothing at the mouth. If I ran I was dead meat for sure. I figured Joey had taken off anyhow. So I just froze with my hands up, pleading, “Please don’t let that dog go.”

“Should I grab him, Pa,” the younger man asked in a slow southern accent.

“Why don’t we see if he’ll come in peace,” the man said, answering his son with the same southern drawl. Then to me he said, “Son, I don’t want to let this dog tear ya up or call the police and get ya in trouble. We can forget all about this little mistake if you’ll agree to come inside and let us pray with ya. What’s your name?”

“Ok. Ok. No problem. I’m Dale,” I said as the son opened the door to the house and motioned for me to enter. The first thing I remember seeing upon entering the home was a beautiful blond haired angel in little cotton shorts and a tank top lying on the couch watching T.V. I recognized her as a girl from my tenth grade English class. I had never taken notice of her beauty because she was painfully shy and dressed so conservatively and she didn’t hang out with the same crowd as Joey and I. Now, under strange circumstances to say the least, I was instantly falling in love with her.

“Hi,” She said quietly, showing no surprise that the stoner from her high school English class was entering her home with her straight edge father and brother.

“Uhhh...Hi,” I said, embarrassed, as I was sure the brother and father would soon tell her I was trying to loot their garage.

But they didn’t mention it, at least while I was there. The dad just said to the girl, “This is our new friend, Dale. We just met him outside. He is gonna pray with us. This is my daughter, Amber. My son Doug Jr. And I’m Doug Sr.”

“Yes, dad. I actually kind of know him. We are in the same English class at school,” she said. Then she said to me with a giggle, “You write some pretty strange things for the read aloud sessions, but I enjoy hearing yours more than the rest of the students’ writing.”

I somehow managed to get out a “thanks” through a clenched jaw that the speed pills had caused.

“Well that’s just swell,” said Doug Sr. I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or not, but I don’t think he was. He was really just that nice of a guy. “Amber, hon, why don’t you get Dale something to eat and drink.”

“That’s not necessary, sir. I am not hungry. Thanks, though,” I quickly said because I was so out of my mind on the speed pills that my appetite was shot and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to swallow a thing. I was drenched in sweat and I couldn’t sit still.

“Make yourself comfortable Dale. Let me get my good book,” said Doug Sr. We sat in family room and the dog laid on the floor, studying me with suspicious eyes. Doug Sr. began to pray, “Lord. Thank you for the opportunity to meet this lovely young man, Dale. It is truly an honor. I pray to you to guide all of us away from temptation and evil and down the path of your only loving son, Jesus Christ.”

“Praise the Lord,” said Doug Jr. I was just staring at Amber the entire time because Doug Jr. and Sr. both had their eyes closed. She had her eyes closed through most of the prayer but I caught her peek at me too. I smiled and she smiled back shyly. I was in love.

“We would like to serve you Lord, and spread the love you have given us. Thank you for your loving forgiveness. Through you we may humbly enter the kingdom of heaven. Amen.”

“Praise the Lord,” said Doug Jr. for about the fifth time. Just then there was a ring at the doorbell right as Doug Sr. opened his Bible to read a few passages. Doug Jr. walked to the door with the dog beside him.

As he opened the door I cringed when I heard Joey say vulgarly and loudly, “What the fuck have you all done with my friend?”

“We have been praying with him and we would like to pray with you too. We would like you to become righteous and in the image of the Lord,” said Doug Jr. with the dog growling at Joey beside him.

“No, thanks. Just give me my friend back and keep that damn mutt away from me,” said a spun and perspiring Joey as I joined him near the door.

“It was real nice meeting you guys. See you in class Amber,” I said as I left in a rush.

“What happened in there? I was waiting around the corner to see if the cops would show up. Looked like you were actually getting along pretty well with those freaks. Seemed like fuckin weirdos to me,” Joey exclaimed, chuckling as we walked off the property.

“They sure were nice though. It’s a shame they are generous Christians instead of generous boozers or we’d be hammered by now,” I said and we both had a little laugh. Joey and I didn’t sleep the rest of the weekend and on Monday morning I made sure to sit near Amber in English class. Not long after that, Amber and I became secret lovers.

The second time I tried cocaine I was with Joey at the Surf and Saddle bar in Solana Beach when I was seventeen. Joey and I both had fake ID’s we’d picked up in downtown Los Angeles off an underground false identification making criminal operation. The gangsters specialized in making ID’s for illegal immigrants but they also did ID’s for kids who wanted to drink at bars. Anyways, the Surf and Saddle bar was notorious for being lenient on underage drinking in those days. We’d picked up a gram off a Mexican hoodlum friend of ours. At the bar we kept going out the back door to a friend’s car to do more before going back into the bar and chattering like motor mouths, our jaws clenched as a result of the stimulant. Come two in the morning the bar closed down and we snorted the remainder of our gram before running the two miles or so back to my parents’ house in Del Mar. I was ashamed of my actions that night. We’d gotten so obliterated and amped by booze and blow that for no good reason we vandalized every car that was parked along the road as we sprinted the two miles home to my parents’ house. It was as if we were soldiers blitzing through a battlefield and the enemy was parked cars. We were so damn high that we were running down the street and karate kicking side view mirrors clean off of brand new Benz’s and other nice rides. We were smashing windows and side panels with rocks. We would run up the hood of the cars then stomp on the roof before hopping onto the trunks and kicking in the taillights. Car alarms were going off left and right but we didn’t give a shit, we just went right on running down the street up and over cars. At one point a cop cruised by with his spotlight on, surveying the area in search of the cause of the car alarms, but we just laid down still on the ground underneath some parked car and he didn’t realize we were there or what the hell was going on. We must have damaged somewhere around fifty cars.

Joey had gone home and I was nursing a hangover in my room the next day when my mom yelled from downstairs, “Sweetie, the phone’s for you.”

“Who is it?” I asked.

She answered, “I can’t tell. I don’t recognize the voice”

When I got on the phone a gruff and serious voice said, “This is Sergeant Hardon from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Am I speaking to Dale Arnold Hanes.” I immediately remembered our stunts from the night before and I just hung up the phone, scared stiff that I was going to jail for wrecking all those cars. My stomach started feeling queasy. I was sure I would be paying for the previous night’s damage for years to come.

The phone rang again and my mother picked it up again, “Honey. Phone’s for you again. Same guy,” I didn’t want to answer but I didn’t want the cop to start chatting to my mother about last night either. I got on the phone reluctantly.

“Uh, Mr. Hanes, you there? Sergeant Hardon here again. We must have gotten disconnected. Can I ask your whereabouts last night at roughly two a.m.? I was actually hoping I could come to your house right now and ask you a few questions regarding some incidents involving vehicles parked on Sierra Street last night.” I was good and fucked, I thought. How did this cop know it was me? I must have left footprints or fingerprints or something on the damaged cars. Maybe they had caught Joey and he told them. I didn’t respond for a few seconds while I just sat there in silence. “Mr. Hanes, you still there?”

Once I gathered what wits I had I replied as confidently as I could, “Sir, I have no idea what you are talking about. I am sorry but I cannot help you.”

After laughing for a solid thirty seconds Joey said, “It’s me, Joey! I am just joking bro! Seeing how you hold up under pressure. But what the fuck were we doing last night? Don’t tell a fuckin soul about that little rampage. That was the dumbest shit we have ever done, and we’ve done some retarded shit. We should stay away from that coke shit, too. Shit had us acting like buffoons. Seems like every time we try a new drug its bad news. I couldn’t stop talking to save my life.”

“You got that right! What the hell were we thinking? Jesus! You had me. Sergeant Hardon,” I said while cracking up. “I thought I was a goner for sure. Yeah, never tell a soul about that or we could be facing some serious charges.”

The last funny thing I remember happening in our high school years had to do with Joey and his ability with the ladies. It was a rare weekend and my parents and brothers were out of town, leaving me to man the house. Joey and I were seniors in high school. We were planning on going to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert but the bassist died the night before and the concert was cancelled. Joey and I had to deal with a change of plans. We were really disappointed about not seeing Skynyrd so we decided to have a small party at my parents’ house to make up for it. Joey, Brad, and about ten of my best friends came over and we invited a bunch of girls over too. We all got wasted and everyone ended up crashing out in different parts of the house. Some of my friends were on the couches downstairs while others found my brothers’ rooms. I slept in my own bed with Amber, the girl from my English class.

Early the next morning my parents arrived much earlier than I’d expected. I heard my mom scream, “Joey! Yuck! Get out of my bedroom right this second!” I hid Amber in my closet then I ran down the hall to see my parents in the doorway of their room watching a butt naked Joey and the beautiful girl he was with trying to put on their clothing in a rushed frenzy. Joey had been having sex with the girl when my parents came into their bedroom. My parents didn’t approve but I thought I saw a glimmer of an amused smile on my dad’s face. Of course my parents forgave him, as it was not easy to stay angry with Joey. I think my dad even admired him because a few days later he asked me, “Dale, how come I never see you with girls as pretty as the one Joey had in my bed?”I ignored him. He hadn’t seen Amber yet.

3.

Joey and I did our fair share of traveling together in the year and a half following high school. We used to love going on surf trips up the coast of California. Joey loved it more than me because his fear for sharks, cold water, and big waves was nonexistent. Central and northern California have all three of these things in the extreme and it never phased Joey. We’d stopped at a buddy’s house in Cayucos and early the next morning we went to surf an epic and highly localized surf break in the vicinity.

Joey parked his truck away from the main parking lot near of the surf break to avoid being heckled by the heavy locals and to avoid getting his car vandalized by the local crew. We crept through the brush to look at the waves. The waves were pumping, double to triple overhead. There was a dense little pack of surfers already in the water. We ran back to Joey’s truck and began suiting up in our wetsuits. Luckily, my wetsuit had a hood to keep me warm and help to hide my identity. Joey said seriously, “Dale, remember to be careful about burning people and being stupid, they are a mean crew out here and they will pound us if we blow it.”

I was nervous as we paddled out. The waves were some of the biggest I had ever been out in. In the lineup, logger-like appearing locals with big beards kept barking about the amount of blow-ins and out of towners who shouldn’t be surfing there. They were talking about Joey and me and maybe a handful of other guys. I sat in the water waiting for a wave. Joey and I pretended like we didn’t know each other. It was better if the locals thought you came by yourself. I was intimidated and scared shitless by the huge waves and the aggressive locals.

After almost an hour of dodging huge waves and sitting amongst pissed off locals, a good set came my way. I turned and paddled but as I took off I realized I was too late for the dredging right hander. I air dropped down the face of the wave and my board and body landed right on top of one of the main locals heads who was already riding the wave. Boy had I blown it. I not only burned one of the main guys, I had probably hurt him or his board as well.

We both took a beating underwater and when we came up he was about ten yards away from me. I recognized the guy from magazines as a pretty famous big wave surfer. He had a little blood on his face and he was furious. He got on his board and started paddling toward me to attack me while cursing like a sailor. I quickly got on my board and paddled as fast as I could away from him. I rode a whitewater wave prone to the rocky beach and ran up through the brush. When I looked back, I saw the guy on the beach looking for me. He ran over to speak to some other local surfers. I believe he was telling them about me and trying to rally them to help him find me. I bolted up to Joey’s truck and hopped into the bed, laying down with my surfboard and a towel over me to provide some cover. I lay there praying the local guy and his crew would not find me.

Twenty minutes later Joey ran up, “We gotta bail. Those guys are coming this way. I can’t believe you did that shit out there. Now you can’t surf here again for a long time.”

Before Joey could change out of his wetsuit and get us out of there, three surfers approached him, standing a few yards from the truck. I laid still in the bed of the truck, just out of view from the locals. “Where is your little friend who snaked me out there?” the guy I had stuffed asked angrily.

“I didn’t come here with any friends,” Joey bluffed.

“Bullshit. Where is that kid with the hood on? We’ll kick both your fuckin asses,” the main guy said.

“I don’t know what you are talking about. I came here alone like I always do. What happened?” Joey asked, playing dumb.

“Some little faggot burned me and airdropped right on top of my fuckin head. Cut me up and dinged my board. If I find him he’s gonna pay. Little fuck might have to learn to surf in a wheel chair after I’m through with him,” said the guy as his buddies mumbled in agreement.

“If I see him I’ll let you guys know,” said Joey, acting helpful.

“Alright thanks. By the way, you surf pretty good kid. Saw you get some nice barrels today. Just keep coming alone if you wanna surf around here,” said the surfer, now being friendly with Joey.

The three fellows left and Joey got in his truck and fired it up. As we drove off we had to pass through the main parking lot where the locals parked and hung out. To exit the area, we had to pass just feet from where the three guys who had spoken with Joey were standing. As we passed them, the guy I had snaked saw me in the bed of the truck trying to hide under a couple of surfboards and towels. He said, “Look! those fuckin shitheads were together!” They ran to hop in their cars and chase us down but Joey was already going eighty miles an hour down the narrow road with his middle finger out the window. We were now on our way north to Big Sur.

We’d worked restaurant jobs and valet parking jobs and Joey and I saved up enough money to go to Indonesia on a surf trip. We had a great time in Indo surfing perfect waves and experiencing a land so different from our own. After almost three months of traveling through Sumatra, Java, and Bali it was time to return home to California. Joey was flat broke and I had the equivalence of twenty American dollars in Indonesian Rupiahs. We were ready for home. When we got to the airport in Bali we were running super late. We had about thirty minutes before the first in a series of flights, was leaving for Tokyo. We checked in at the counter for our airline, checking our surfboard bags, but as we were about to go through the metal detectors towards our gate we got a little surprise. There was another line where we were expected to pay an exit tax for leaving the country of Indonesia. The tax was about fifteen American dollars. Luckily, I had barely enough cash on me to pay. Joey had no money left and I didn’t have enough to spot him. Both of our bank accounts had been depleted so we couldn’t use the ATM and now the customs person would not let Joey head to the gate. We had about five minutes until boarding. We decided to go back to the airline check-in desk and beg them to spot us the cash, after all, we were flying their airline. The cute Indo girl working at the desk said they could not lend us the money. Joey had headphones around his neck and the girl asked him, “Are you listening to music?”

“Yeah. Why?” answered Joey.

“Is it an ipod? I’ve always wanted an ipod,” the Balinese girl said sweetly with a wide smile.

“I tell you what. Give me the money for the exit tax and I will give you the damn ipod. It is worth over a hundred bucks in US dollars,” Joey said quickly with minimum patience.

The girl looked around to see if anyone was watching then said, “Ok here. Put the ipod on the counter and I will give you the money.” They made the exchange but at that point another employee from the airline came up to see what was going on. He was a skinny Indo guy in his twenties.

He said, “Not enough for the exit tax, eh? Happens all the time.”

I said, “We got it worked out, thanks.”

But the greedy little bastard countered, “Well what about me? Where is my gift?” I couldn’t believe these swindlers worked for the airline company.

Joey and I just laughed and walked towards the security check in. He had the cash for the exit tax now and we would just barely make the flight. We had gotten through security and we were in the duty free stores when the slimy airline employee approached us out of nowhere. He said, “I think I am entitled to a gift too. If you cannot spare something for me then how can we be sure your surfboards will make it back to America? I am sure they are very expensive surfboards and that would be quite unfortunate if they ended up down under instead of California. All I ask for is one carton of Marlboro’s.”

“You can’t be serious you dirty cheating motherfucker!” Joey said. At that point, a voice came over the loud speaker asking for Joey and my whereabouts as the flight was fully boarded and ready to take off. It was crunch time. We had six surfboards between us and this bastard was threatening to have them sent to Australia.

“OK ok. We’ll get you the cigarettes,” I said miserably.

“Great. I will wait for you near your gate,” responded the corrupt employee.

“Joey. Go flirt with the clerk at the counter and I will go get the five finger discount on this piece of shit’s cigarettes. Just like the olden days at Circle K,” I said to Joey. He went over and distracted the clerk while I went and shoved a carton of Marlboro’s in my waist band. We got away with it and left the duty free area to jog towards our gate.

Hiding out near the gate the employee said, “Pssst. right here.” I handed Joey the carton of cigs to give the man. Joey didn’t hand them over to the man nicely though. He began battering the guy hard on the head with the carton of cigs saying, “You like fucking cigarettes. Here’s some fucking cigs for you!” Then he shoved the guy and threw the carton at him before we went to board the plane that had been waiting for us so it could take off. Somehow our boards still showed up with us in California.

A little later we were down in Mexico when we had a good scare. Joey and I were hanging around the town of Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca, Mexico. We were eating dinner at a little cantina on the beach when we were approached by a friendly Mexican guy pushing his baby boy in a stroller. He said he had weed and coke and he sold us some good stuff at a nice price and told us he could take us fishing as well as he handed us a business card.

Later that night we went to a club on Zicatela beach and it was going pretty hard. People were dancing and the music was cranking. There were good looking Mexican and European girls everywhere you looked and people were enjoying themselves. It was a night to be remembered by us, not for the girls and all the fun, but for the stupid decisions we made and the scare that resulted from them.

Our first stupid decision was not leaving the coke in the hotel room and taking it with us to the club. The second idiotic thing we did was leave the club to go to the bar next door to do some coke in the bathroom because the bathrooms there were empty. We were the only customers in this bar, and we weren’t buying anything so we must have looked foolish and suspicious. We hurried to the bathroom to do some coke. After a few minutes of doing lines in the bathroom there was a knock on the door. Paranoia and panic set in and we quickly decided to shove as much coke as we could in our noses before flushing the rest down the toilet.

When we opened the door some burly Mexican bouncers and bartenders from the bar rushed in and slammed us on the ground. They used plastic zip ties to handcuff us. The bar workers then phoned the cops to inform them about us. Five cops soon showed up. They looked like tough bastards. They were the Policia Federal and they either fought the narcos or were in cahoots with the narcos. Which makes them badder, I do not know. They were all wearing thick bulletproof vests and expressionless faces. A cop pulled out a knife and when he cut Joey free from the zip ties, Joey made one more terrible decision. He shoved one of the cops and tried to take off running. He didn’t make it five feet and he was already grabbed and slammed ruthlessly to the ground. They frisked us both and asked repeatedly, “Where’s the cocaina?”

Joey was being foolish and belligerent. He was cussing at the cops and making our situation much worse. Obviously drunk and high on coke Joey defiantly said, “We don’t have any coke you assholes. Let us go!”

Furious at Joey’s recklessness I ordered, “Dude shut the fuck up! These guys are going to fuck us up if you keep it up.” The cops then put real handcuffs on us and led us out to their pickup truck at gunpoint. These cops had an arsenal. They all packed pistols and a few of them were carrying some powerful machine guns or assault rifles, I wasn’t sure what they were and didn’t want to find out. The truck had a huge machine gun type thing mounted on a rack above the cab. We were ordered into the bed of the pickup where we lay guarded by three heavily armed cops with our faces down. The town of Puerto Escondido has a massive beach called Zicatela, which runs into a headland at the northwest end. The headland is composed of cliffs that run out to sea. I figured by the turns the truck made we were headed out the headland, although I couldn’t be sure because we had been ordered to lay face down. The policia either did not want to be seen with us or did not want us to know where we were headed. We became increasingly frightened as we drove on for a good twenty minutes.

Joey asked the cops, “Where the fuck are you taking us?”

I got angry at Joey again, “Just shut the fuck up! Asking questions and talking shit is not going to help us right now.”

We both shut the hell up as soon as one of the officers directed at us a stern, “callate!” Finally the truck came to a stop and one of the officers pointed his scary rifle at us in a gesture to stand up and get out of the bed of the pickup. They had pulled the truck up to a high cliff that dropped off into the rough Pacific with its huge summer swells. Joey and I were standing less than five feet from a deadly drop off. One cop covered us with his rifle while two others searched our pockets, taking out our wallets and taking the money then tossing our wallets on the ground. I guess it didn’t matter that we had no coke on us, they knew we were guilty and treated us that way. The cop searching Joey elbowed him hard in the gut, knocking the wind out of him and sending him gasping to the ground just inches from the cliff. I stood silently, waiting for my punishment, but the cop let me be. It brought back a brief memory of the Beach Boy drummer. The cop who elbowed Joey then lifted him up by his collar. He told us to stand at the cliffs edge and look out to sea. We were certain we were about to be pushed off the cliff. To make matters worse, we were still cuffed, so even if we somehow survived the fall into the rocky sea below, we would surely drown.

After what seemed like ten minutes of this petrifying punishment the cops did not push us off the cliff but told us to kneel down at the edge of the cliff in some sort of execution position. Now we were absolutely certain we would be shot off the edge of the cliff with a bullet to the back of the head. The next order from the cops was to lay down with our faces in the dirt and our hands out in front of us. The cops then took the cuffs from our hands and as they were leaving the cop who’d told us to shut up said, “Please do not do drugas in Mexico. Keep your heads down and count to two hundred then you can find your way back to town.”

Joey and I were very relieved that we had not been murdered, but we were still stressing because we were in a very dark and unfamiliar place with no one around. We started walking along the cliff to the distant lights of Puerto Escondidio. After an hour of walking we reached the outskirts of town. There was spray paint on the walls and an unsafe vibe to the place. A pit bull on a chain ran from a nearby yard and was just restrained before it reached us on the sidewalk. The dog was yanking violently on the chain and growling and snapping its powerful jaws at us. We were now in a state of fear and hurry as more and more dogs started barking and lights were turning on inside some of the little houses. We started walking faster through the narrow streets and alleys as people sleepily emerged from their homes to see what all the noise was about. We were sure someone in the neighborhood would have a problem with us creeping around, the dogs most certainly did. Miraculously, we made it to a more populated and lit up part of town where we flagged down a cab. We took that cab to our hotel, where we locked ourselves in our room for the remainder of the night.

We were headed back to our hotel room in Tamarindo, Costa Rica after a night of gambling, dancing, drinking, and drugging. It was very late in the night. I was with my girlfriend and Joey and his girlfriend at the time and we were in our early twenties. My girl and I were walking on the beach from the main drag in Tamarindo back to the cheap little hotel where we were staying. Joey and his girl were taking a different route back to the hotel from the bar on the street. In a moment of lust my girl and I began kissing and that led to more serious play. We were soon rolling around in the sand and shallow water making love, our clothes in a heap a few yards away in the dry sand. Apparently, in Costa Rica thieves wait and watch for this type of play from tourists, and when the people are preoccupied with their fun, the thieves steal the love maker’s clothes or wallets and purses or both. That is exactly what happened to us.

We were doing our thing in the sand when through the darkness I saw a small figure by our clothing about fifteen yards away. By the size of the person, I knew it was a kid. I got off my girl and ran towards the kid, yelling, “Hey! Hey! Hey!” The kid took off running away from the beach and towards the main street that runs parallel to the beach. He had with him my girl’s shorts, my shorts and wallet, and my girl’s purse. I was as naked as the day I was born. I chased the kid off the beach and onto the town’s main street, which was crawling with tourists headed back from the bars. I was sprinting after the kid and not more than twenty yards behind him when I realized I was running naked down the main road at half mast and people were pointing and laughing at me. I decided I didn’t give a damn and went after the kid still. I got a good look at the little hellion and him at me. The little devil even looked back and grinned at me. He was enjoying himself at my expense, I could tell. He couldn’t have been more than twelve years old. I was determined to catch him and get our stuff back and maybe ring his scrawny little neck.

I was about to catch the little squirt when I looked behind me and realized there were two cops running behind me. I figured they were going to help me catch the thief. I had no idea they were actually in pursuit of me. I was within five yards of the kid, about to tackle him, when the cops tackled me. I was scuffed up all over my body and I was livid. They were laughing as they handcuffed me and started marching my bare ass towards their car. They told me, “You should know it is illegal to be in public in Costa Rica without clothes. Can you run down the street naked in your own country?”

I argued, “I was chasing the little thief who just stole my clothes on the beach while I was swimming. That is why I am naked. I almost had him. You should be after him.”

Chuckling, one of the cops said, “Still, you must be fined for this. How would you like to pay the fine?”

“Is this some kind of joke? That little runt just stole my wallet. We need to go to my hotel if you need money. How much is the fine?” I asked.

“We will let you go for just a fifty dollar fine. Apparently you’ve had some bad luck tonight,” said the cop with a half sympathetic and half evil smile. They gave me a ride to the hotel but I was unable to get into the room because the kid had stolen our key as well. The cops woke up the night clerk who let me in. I got the cops some cash and they left, teasingly saying, “Next time we see you we hope you are wearing ropa.”

I was putting some clothing on to go out and look for my girlfriend when I heard a gentle knock at the door. “Let me in,” came my girlfriend’s urgent whisper. I opened the door and my girl was standing there in just a low cut tank top and flip flops, her bare ass and front half exposed. “I was hiding in the bushes hoping you’d show up,” she said as she entered the room.

Obviously bummed about the missing wallet and purse, we still had to laugh as we relayed our stories to one another. Then there was only one thing left to do, and that was finish where we left off on the beach.

Thirty minutes later Joey knocked hard on the door. I opened the door to a glowing Joey. He was proudly holding up my clothes, wallet, and my girl’s purse and laughing heartily, “Me and Keila were walking back from the bars when I saw your crazy ass running naked down the street after that little Tico kid. The kid started walking after he saw the cops had you so I caught up to him to see what you were chasing him about. When I saw he had your clothes I grabbed the little rug rat and took your shit back. You should have seen the look on the kids face when I snagged your shit back. Priceless. I gave him ten bucks of yours just for being a little renegade.”

4.

A year and a half after high school Joey and I moved to Vail to work on the ski lifts and snowboard. I also took some courses at the local community college there. We decided to drive out to Colorado together in Joey’s same little truck he had in high school. We made sure we had some weed for the drive. We made it safely across California, Nevada, and Utah. As we were entering Colorado on the I-70 we sparked our last joint to celebrate making it to Colorado. As we were smoking the joint a state trooper pulled up behind us and turned his siren on, signaling us to pull over. The trooper must not have approved of Joey’s driving or perhaps his shitty truck with California plates made him suspicious. I threw the joint out of my cracked window but instead of landing on the road somewhere the joint flew into the bed of the pickup, sliding in a groove in the trucks bed beneath some luggage bags.

Two troopers approached the truck, one to my window and one to Joey’s. They smelled the marijuana but they did not see the smoke from the joint coming from underneath the luggage in the bed of the truck. “Boys, we can make this simple or difficult. Hand over the drugs or I will have to search everything or call in the dogs,” said the trooper at Joey’s window in a way like he was doing us some kind of favor.

“We don’t have any drugs,” said Joey calmly, dead pan.

“Okay. I see you fellows don’t want to cooperate. Trafficking drugs from one state into another is a crime with harsh punishments. Now, I’m telling you I ain’t no dummy and I smell marijuana in this vehicle. I will give you one more chance before I ask you to get out so I can look around inside the truck,” said the trooper sternly.

“We don’t have any drugs,” said Joey, now smiling. All four of us could smell the marijuana still burning, but the troopers did not know where it was coming from.

“You boys must think I was born yesterday. Get on out of the truck slowly. I’m gonna handcuff you boys while I search the truck,” said the trooper who was doing all of the talking. He handcuffed then frisked us then began looking inside the cab of the truck while the other trooper guarded over us. Joey and I could both see the thin stream of marijuana smoke still rising from underneath the suitcase, but the trooper watching us did not notice. I saw Joey barely containing his laughter and I prayed we would not bust up laughing.

The trooper who was searching the truck came back to speak to us again. He took Joey and the other guy took me. They questioned us separately but we both denied that there were any drugs in the truck and our stories were the same. “Okay. Well that was your last chance. If I don’t find anything in these suitcases in the bed I am calling in the dogs and they will surely find your boys stash even if it’s hidden in the side panels or undercarriage. I know what marijuana smells like and I am certain the dogs will find quite a load in here. It smells strongly of pot. You guys look stoned silly too,” the trooper said confidently. He started digging through our luggage in the bed of the truck right after the remainder of the joint had burnt itself out.

“Go for it boss man,” was Joey’s response as we watched the last of the joint’s smoke burn away. Some other Troopers showed up with a little bloodhound type dog about thirty minutes later. By this time the joint had long burnt out. The dog went straight to where the joint had lay smoldering but could find nothing in the bed or cab of the truck. I don’t know who was more confused, the dog or the troopers. The dog let out a few frustrated barks while the officers mumbled in anger. They took apart the entire truck with electric drills. They removed the side panels on the inside of the doors and took apart the air conditioning vents. In the end they had nothing on us and had to let us go. “You boys have a good day,” was all the trooper had to say.

“Aren’t you gonna put my fuckin truck back together?” Joey asked.

“Nope. Have fun with that,” answered the cop, knowing he’d somehow been had.

It was the middle of winter and Joey and I were walking around Boulder, Colorado trying to find a friend’s house where we were crashing. There was snow on the ground and we were freezing our balls off. I was becoming frustrated, even a little bit scared, as we searched and searched for my friend’s home near a neighborhood called The Hill, right next to the campus of the University of Colorado. There was no one around to ask for help. We had been to a concert that night and Joey and I got separated from our group, including the friend whose house we were staying at. We were unfamiliar with the neighborhood and we were completely lost.

We were walking down an icy sidewalk at about three in the morning when four rowdy guys came walking past us. We were glad to see some people in hopes that they could help us out. Wanting directions I asked, “Excuse me, do you fellas know where Lincoln Place is?”

One of them responded as they passed, “Go back to California dickheads!”

I was wearing a San Diego Padres hat so they knew I was probably not a Coloradan and more than likely a Californian. Not one to let an offensive remark directed towards us slide, Joey said, “Why don’t you climb back into your moms’ big smelly twots!” This got them riled up and one of them turned around and charged Joey. The drunken guy was just about to reach Joey when he hit a patch of ice and fell backwards, cracking his head on the pavement and going out cold.

Joey laughed and said to the guy’s friends, “Looks like it’s just you three versus us two now! Seems fair enough to me,” I went up and knocked a guy in the face. He gave almost no challenge at all and I soon had my knees on his shoulders as I delivered blows to his face. Looking back I almost feel bad for the little bastard. Joey handled the other two guys with ease, laying them both out. I was taking my frustrations out on the face of my enemy and the snow had turned red around his head. We had successfully bashed four guys when two cops on foot happened to walk by. What were the chances? Where were they a few minutes earlier when we needed directions? They told Joey and I to freeze with their guns drawn and they came up and handcuffed us. The cops called an ambulance for the wounded even though it was unnecessary; we hadn’t hurt them that badly. They searched us and found on me a small party bag of coke and a bag of ganja, along with a fake ID. I was charged with a felony possession of drugs and with possession of false identification and carted off to jail.

I spent thousands of dollars that I’d had to borrow from Joey and my brothers on a lawyer that didn’t help the problem go away or even get the cocaine charge down to a misdemeanor, but he did keep me out of a longer jail term. From then on, I had to lie in job interviews every time when they asked if I have ever committed a felony.

In the middle of a blizzard Joey and I decided to drive from Vail to Las Vegas. We were somewhere in Utah and it was white out conditions. We were in a little old convertible Mazda Miata that Joey had convinced some girl to lend us and although the heat was cranking full bore, it was still chilly because of all the draft that came in through the cracks in the convertible top. Even with chains on the tires, the car was not at all meant for what we were putting it through. Driving conditions were so severe that you could barely see the road through the storm. The I-15 was packed with snow and cars were following the ruts made in the road by tires instead of the lanes. We were doing about thirty miles an hour in the slow lane. Once in a while a maniac trucker in an eighteen wheeler would scream past us in the fast lane. It was white knuckle driving conditions to say the least.

In the passenger seat Joey sparked a joint he had rolled. We smoked that and some of the stress from driving was relieved. Then, Joey pulled out a bag of coke and began chopping up lines on a CD case. “Now?” I asked, a little hesitant.

“I’m not afraid of a little snow,” he answered before taking a big line off the Waylon album. He then handed me a rolled up twenty and held the CD case up to my nose to allow me to sniff the coke while driving. I did mine and the stuff began to kick in. As my heart beat faster, I started driving faster. Before I realized I was pushing it and I needed to slow down, the petite Miata did a complete one eighty. We had hydroplaned and now we were sliding backwards down the freeway. Joey gripped the oh shit bar and I held onto the steering wheel for dear life. I expected the Miata to flip but we just kept sliding backwards, looking straight into the headlights of a Peterbuilt big rig not fifteen yards away. The truck that had been right behind us on the freeway was now right in front of us. I could see into the eyes of the truck driver. The truck was braking in an attempt to slow down so he would not run us over. It was skidding but still making ground on us. Time was going in ultra slow motion. The truck was about to collide with us head on when out of nowhere we spun off the road out of control and the truck remained on its course through the ruts. We did a few three sixties before coming to a stop on the snow piled shoulder of the freeway. My heart felt like it was about to explode. I got back on the road and we pulled over at the next gas station to take a breather. Joey said nonchalantly, “Maybe we ought a wait til Vegas before we dip into the stuff again.”

We sure saw some shit when we lived out in Colorado. Colorado had a law called Make my Day. This law states you can shoot people who are unlawfully in your home. Anyway, Joey and I became good friends with Nick and Fred, two dudes from Austin, Texas. Nick and Fred were big time pot growers and drug dealers who made their money off the party people in Vail. They made money hand over fist through multiple pot growing operations and the sale of cocaine. They claimed to have made over a million bucks each in three years, and I believe them because I saw the trucks, snow mobiles, and motorcycles they’d purchased. At the height of their success, there was some disturbing activity happening within the drug circle of the mountain towns in Colorado. Some guys, rumored to be young gansters from Denver, had been busting into drug dealers homes in Breckenridge, Vail, and other ski resort towns in the middle of the night and holding them up at gunpoint, taking their drugs and money and anything else they wanted. Supposedly, someone on the inside was tipping the gangsters off as to who the dealers were. Some other weed growers and dope dealers that Nick and Fred were close to through business had been held up by these gangsters, and one of the friends had even been shot in an altercation with the guys as they had their house pillaged. Fred and Nick had a bad feeling they might be next on the robbers’ list so they put a loaded double barrel shotgun and a pistol in the shed on the side of their house in case one night they returned home to unwanted visitors.

One Wednesday night Nick, Joey and I had been out drinking at the bars in Vail until closing time. Fred stayed home. We went to Nick’s house afterwards to drink some more and do some chowder. When we pulled up to Nick’s house he stiffened, saying, “Somethings’s going on here. Follow me.” He was looking at a beat up jalopy pulled to the curb in front of their house. Their house was not right in town or very close to the neighbors so it was odd for a car to be there. We walked softly across the snow covered front yard to peek into the family room window. Inside the house a guy with a blue bandana around his face and a hat pulled low was holding a sawed off shotgun. He had Fred tied up with duct tape on the couch. Another guy, also with a blue bandana on his face and a hat and sunglasses on was running around the house frantically searching for the stash of money and drugs.

We could hear one of the guys yelling at Fred, “Where da cash mothafucka?” Fred just sat there like a man and gave up nothing while the one dude destroyed the home, slicing open sofa cushions and mattresses with a big knife. Nick walked quietly around the house to the shed where they kept the shotgun. He handed me a handgun and whispered, “Wait here and blast that cunt if he gets me.”

Putting my hands up I said in a hushed voice, “I ain’t touching that damn gun. I don’t know how to shoot.”

“Give it to me,” Joey said and Nick handed it to him. I was bit drunk, taking the edge off the situation a tiny bit. Nevertheless, I was scared silly. Then we went and peeked in the window again. The tall masked robber was lazily guarding Fred while the other scuzbucket was still running amuck through the house. Nick crept to the front door, opened it quietly but quickly, and barged in, taking the dudes face off who was watching Fred with one blast from the shotgun. Blood splattered all over Fred’s face and shirt as the guy in the bandana fell over, dead. The second gangster was in a back room. He heard the blast and ran out, thinking it was his friend who had fired the weapon. He ran into a hallway and straight into the barrel of Nick’s shotgun.

As the guy was saying, “Please! Don’t sh….,” Nick put a hole in the guy’s chest. This guy was not dead but lay there with an open buckshot wound to his chest and blood bubbling and gurgling from his mouth. Joey and I were peeking in the window trying to make out what was happening. Nick got on the phone with the cops and told them what had happened.

When he got off the phone he yelled for me, “Dale, get in here.” As I entered the house he came out of his room with a large duffel bag. It was filled with pounds upon pounds of weed and coke, among other illegal paraphernalia, contraband and weaponry. He handed me his car keys. “You and Joey take my car and get this shit the hell outta here, quick. Hang on to that peace maker too.” I did what I was told and drove to my house to sample the shit and regroup. We figured it was our right to dig into the stash as we’d been helpful in getting it out of Nick and Fred’s house. We pigged out on Nick and Fred’s stuff when we got to my place and they never said a word about it later, just thanked us for helping them keep things tidy and then they gave us even more free weed and coke.

The cops went and took Nick and Fred’s story. They were not charged with any crime and the police were actually happy that the bandits who had been harassing the mountain towns had been taken down. The one gangster actually lived but I believe he was sent to jail to recover. The authorities never knew Joey and I were at the scene so we were never questioned. Luckily, Joey didn’t have to use the gun that night. But he never gave the gun back to Nick and he would put it to use later in his life.

5.

When I moved back to California after Colorado I began substitute teaching in San Diego. I bought a false university diploma online and made a fake California teaching credential in order to do this. Luckily, the school district neglected to run a background check or they would have known about my felony conviction for drug possession.

One day I was called to the exact same school and fifth grade classroom that Joey and I had attended when we were in fifth grade. I called Joey at lunch and eagerly told him, “You’ll never believe it. I am in Mrs. Reagan’s old room subbing a fifth grade class right now.”

Joey responded, “That’s awesome. I’m gonna stop by.” Then he hung up the phone before I could tell him that he could not stop by. I really didn’t think he would come anyway. But he did come. Thirty minutes later the kids were returning from their lunch break and in with them came Joey. He was noticeably inebriated and probably high on narcotics as well. “What are you doing here? You can’t be here right now,” I said to Joey.

“Of course I can. I am highly respected illuminati,” said Joey.

“Alumni,” I corrected, becoming agitated. Then before I could kick him out he was making friends with all of the students. He found a tennis ball in the ball bin and he drew a bull’s eye target on the board. The bull’s eye was worth one hundred points and outside the bull’s eye was worth fifty points.

He divided the class into two teams then gave instructions, “I will ask each player a question. If answered correctly, the player gets to throw the tennis ball at the target on the board. The team with the most points after each player answers one question wins. Got it?” The kids were super excited to play Joey’s ridiculous game.

I argued, “Joey, we cannot throw a tennis ball at the chalk board. I will be too loud and may break something.”

Joey said, “Nonsense. It won’t hurt nothing.” All the students agreed with him and that’s when I gave up. His first question was, “Who is the best player in Major League Baseball at the moment?”

The first student answered, “Jeter.”

“Hell no it’s not Jeter. Next player. Who is the best player in Major League Baseball right now?”

“A-Rod,” The next student said.

“Fuck no it’s not Ass Rod! It’s Tony Gwynn. What’s the matter with you little gremlins?” All the students laughed because Joey had cussed and because Gwynn had been retired for a few years already and they knew Joey was messing with them. “Next question. Which surfer won three consecutive world titles in two thousand two, three, and four?

“Kelly Slater,” answered a girl in the first row.

“Nope, but good try little darling,” Joey responded.

“A.I.,” said a mischievous looking rascal with the neck tan line from the wetsuit of a surfer.

“That’s right wise one. Now please throw the ball from right over there,” he said and pointed to the back of the room. The kid went to the back of the room. He wound up, exaggerating the motions of a baseball pitcher, then threw the ball. The damned kid purposely missed the target on the board and the ball went sailing towards the ceiling. It hit a fluorescent light bulb hanging from the ceiling. The long light bulb fell from its lamp, just missing some innocent looking girls head and shattering all over her desk, making a loud popping sound. The girl began bawling and the whole class went silent.

Another teacher heard the noise and popped her head in asking, “Is everything alright in here?” I assured her all was well and she left us alone, looking at Joey skeptically. I cleaned up the mess as best as I could while Joey resumed his lesson.

Joey, far from sober, addressed the students, “The lesson today is not to be a bitch ass taddle tail wimp! Anyone who goes home and tells their parents or any other teachers around here what happened in class today automatically fails. This is an important test and I hope you will all pass. That will be all for today’s lesson children. I hope to see you next time.” Then he walked out of the classroom. I never heard about that incident again but I was never called back to sub at my old elementary school again either.

When I was substitute teaching, Joey was working construction and living large at the same time. For some reason some very old and trusting friend of Joey’s father gave Joey the key to an upscale private marina in the San Diego harbor. The man had a small fishing boat here and he said he would allow Joey to live on it if he kept it in good condition and did a few chores for him. The man knew Joey’s parents were living out of a van and he felt bad for Joey, knowing he was barely scraping by with the meager pay at his new construction job. Joey stayed on the man’s boat and did his chores and everyone was happy. Then Joey upgraded.

There were quite a few mega yachts moored at this fancy marina. Joey did some snooping one night and found that one of these super yachts kept a door unlocked. He went right into that yacht with his flashlight and was amazed to find no one on board. He asked around at the marina and was told no crew stayed on the yacht but that it would be in the marina for at least a few months. That’s when Joey moved in. He had to keep a low profile and sometimes he still stayed on the fishing boat, but more often than not he was lounging on board the decadent yacht, watching a big flat screen TV and drinking expensive alcohol from the bar. He enjoyed the yacht’s Jacuzzi, kitchen, and comfortable king sized beds and sofas. He basically lived on the yacht but kept his possessions on the fishing boat. He even became friends with one of the security guards who patrolled the marina and the guy would stop in and hang out.

We would go to the bars and clubs in nearby downtown then return to the yacht late at night and have insane after parties. We had to be careful and keep kind of quiet but the boat was so big it was hard for anyone to hear us from off the boat. The girls at the clubs would always respond well when the good looking Joey asked them if they wanted to go party on a yacht afterwards. We would also have small daytime get togethers on the deck of the yacht where we would do the frequent activity of drinking and snorting coke.

One day Joey and I were hanging out and lounging on the comfortable sofa of the yachts classy family room and watching T.V. with our feet up on the coffee table. All of sudden we heard a man bellow, “Who da fuck are you mudufuckas?” We looked up from our comfortable positions to see an overweight Persian guy with his a silk shirt halfway buttoned, a hefty gold cross engulfed in chest hair, and a neatly trimmed beard.

“We’re the guys from the hull scrubbing company. We were told to come up here and wait for the owner. Are you the owner?” bullshitted Joey without hesitation.

“You’re God damn right I’m the owner and I didn’t ask for my fuckin hull cleaned. Now you shifty shit buckets need to get off my boat,” said the owner in a rich man’s powerful rage.

“Well sir, we haven’t been paid for the job yet. That’s why we are here. Have you seen the bottom of your boat yet sir, it is good as new,” said Joey as I imagined this guy calling the cops and having us arrested for trespassing. But the man went outside on the dock and looked at his boat.

“Well excuse me boys. My damn assistant must be getting shit done without running it by the boss. Boat looks damn good. What do I owe you?” asked the Persian man, glistening from his gold jewelry as well as his perspiration.

“My boss told me to give you a deal. Five thousand even if you pay cash. Check or credit will cost a bit more,” lied Joey some more. The man reached into his pocket and peeled off a stack of hundreds. He didn’t have enough in his pocket so he went into a safe located in a closet in the master bedroom where he retrieved the remainder of the money. He came back and handed Joey the money.

“Thanks a lot sir. It was a pleasure working on such a beautiful boat. I will go out to our truck and write up a receipt for you. I will leave it at the front desk in the marina office,” said Joey as we headed for the door. We left that harbor directly and never returned.

On the getaway, I asked Joey, “What the fuck was that?”

“I saw the boat cleaners there the other day. I asked one of them how much they charge for a job like that and the guy told me around five g’s. So I thought I could pull a fast one on that rich prick because I couldn’t think of any other reason for being on his boat. Lucky it worked. I should have charged him more. It was that or get busted,” grinned Joey as he tossed a stack of hundred dollar bills on my lap. After that Joey would always chuckle and say, “One of these days I gotta get me another mega yacht.”

Joey began doing pretty well at his construction job and his other random hustles so he rented a vacation house in northern Baja that sat just near one of our favorite places to surf. The place was south of Tijuana but north of Rosarito Beach in a nice private little community. He asked me if I wanted to join him for the weekend at his place. I was a bit hesitant until he told me he had a sexy young girlfriend down there and her older sister was also young, hot, and ready. We left San Diego late on a Friday night in order to avoid traffic.

We stopped at Joey’s pueblo-like house to change clothes then went straight to his girl, Selena’s house in Rosarito Beach where she lived with her sister, Victoria. On the way to their house my friend told me these girls were the daughters of one of the heaviest cartel warlords ever. The guy was murdered and his dynasty had crumbled, but his name was still recognizable to anyone who is familiar with the narco wars that have occurred in Mexico in the nineties and early two thousands. I thought it sounded exciting to meet the girls, but a bit sketchy at the same time. He told me their grandmother was able to hold on to some of the money their father had made in the drug trade, and she sent the girls a bit of money now and again. The girls were still in touch with some the guys in their father’s old gang. Joey told me the older sister’s on and off again boyfriend was some sort of bigwig in the drug trade.

The girls were beautiful. They lived together in a cute little house with a fence around it right by the beach. Joey’s girl, Selena was still in high school, an eighteen year old Mexicana goddess with the biggest fun bags I’d ever seen, no joke. Her older sister Victoria was even finer, not as busty but a bit more elegant looking. My friend told me Victoria was a college student who made extra coin by selling herself a few nights a week at one of Tijuana’s more respectable whore houses, which was still a god awful shithole.

We drank a few beers with the girls at their place then we decided to go get some food and check out the bars in Rosarito Beach. To my disappointment, Victoria decided not to come. I hid my devastation and we went on our way to a little cantina just south of Rosarito Beach. The place had good food, live music, and a cool bartender who helped me get a big old packy. I went to the restroom and shoveled some of the devil’s dandruff up my nose. We left the cantina and at the request of Selena we went to a strip club just down the way. Selena loved strip clubs and whore houses, I guess she was following in her older sisters footsteps. Joey said she wasn’t a whore, but I think he was in denial.

We got to the small strip club and the three of us pulled right up to the main stage and watched the girls dance as we slugged Corona’s. I went to pack my beak in the bathroom a few times as did Joey. Selena was not into coke. After sitting at the stage for a few minutes I noticed an American blond haired girl across the stage where from where the nude girls were dancing was staring at me. She was not attractive and I didn’t give much thought to her presence. I yawned. That’s when the blond American screamed from across the stage, “What the fuck are you yawning for? If you’re tired then go home.” I ignored her and carried on like I’d not heard her, not wanting to cause problems in a dangerous foreign country, especially while I had illegal shit in my pocket.

A few minutes later Selena got up to go to the bathroom. When she did this the blond from across the bar came and sat in Selena’s seat. Joey told the blond in a friendly tone, “Sorry, but my girlfriend is sitting there, she just went to the bathroom. She might get a little fired up when she returns if she sees you sitting there.”

The blond, hammered, said in a nasty tone, “I don’t give a fuck!”

“Okay. You might when my girl gets back,” Joey said and chuckled lightly.

Sure enough the busty Selena came back from the restroom and was overcome with jealousy when she saw the blond girl sitting near her man. Joey held up his hands in surrender and looked at Selena saying, “I told her that was your seat.”

“Did you hear him bitch? That’s my seat,” said Selena in an intimidating tone.

But the blond had a mean streak too. With all the bitchiness in the world she responded, “What are you gonna do girl? Make me get up?”

After letting out a string of piercing Spanish curses Selena grabbed the blond by the hair and yanked her to a standing position before dropping her with a right fist. The blond went down hard, face bloodied from the rings on Selena’s fingers. What could only have been the blond’s sister showed up from across the bar ready to fight too but the bouncers separated all the girls and kicked the blonds out of the strip club. Many people had witnessed this spectacle and had come by to compliment Selena on her right hook and her grand chest.

Not long after the incident, we left the strip club and I rode in the new camper shell that covered the bed of Joey’s pickup while he sped back to his place. He was fooling around with Selena the entire way, causing the car to swerve and scaring all hell out of me. When we got back I stayed up all night doing blow and downing Tecates on my lonesome while hearing the loud moans and groans of Selena coming from Joey’s room.

The next day, Saturday, we decided to head in to Tijuana. I hadn’t slept a wink so I wanted to buy prescription drugs to mellow from the coke binge and Selena needed to get her birth control injection. While she waited to see a doctor I went and saw a pharmacist, who sold me some powerful morphine pills. The first thing you want to notice on your local pharmacist’s face is not usually the tear drop tattoos on his face, but this time it was alright by me because it signaled he most likely didn’t give a damn about a prescription. I immediately crushed up one of the morphine pills and snorted it in the bathroom of the clinic where Selena waited to see a doctor. This took the edge off all of the cocaine I’d done.

Selena’s older sister, Victoria, was at work at the whorehouse doing a day shift and Selena wanted to surprise her. We went to the whorehouse district and popped into the place where Victoria worked. When we arrived, there were lots of sexy girls working, but Victoria was nowhere in sight. We waited and soon she showed up. It came to me that she had been missing because she was with a customer and I was reminded that she was indeed a prostitute.

Victoria came and sat at a table with us and we began flirting while she worked me for drinks and convinced me to tip the other beat up looking hookers for their dancing and untalented tricks. She said she was going to get off in an hour or so and she wanted to hang out with all of us that night, she had been too tired the night before and needed to work too early that day. She had me acting like a fool with my shirt off, dancing on the main stage and doing beer drinking races with other customers, which I lost to the other macho Mexican customers.

An hour later we left. We went and drank shots at a tequila bar and got pizza. The four of us were having a good time and I was beginning to like Victoria a lot. Selena whispered to me, “My sister thinks you are hot.” I was getting excited about my chances of scoring for free with the beautiful prostitute.

We left the pizza parlor and got in Joey’s truck. Victoria got in the bed of the truck with me for the ride back to Rosarito Beach from Tijuana. The plan was to stop by the girls’ house in Rosarito Beach so they could grab some things then we would go spend the night at Joey’s. As soon as we began driving away Victoria and I began kissing and messing around. By the time we got to the girls’ house in Rosarito Beach twenty-five minutes later we were practically naked. When we pulled onto the girls’ street Selena began frantically knocking on the pane separating the cab from the bed. She was pointing down the street. We looked up from our fooling around to see a blacked out Benz parked in front of the girls’ house. There was a tough looking hombre with slicked back black hair wearing black jeans and a nice black shirt with black cowboy boots standing on their front porch, looking angry and smoking a cig. Victoria said, “Damn! What is he doing here? He will kill you if he sees you. Quick, duck down.” Then she said apologetically, “Sorry babe, but I can’t come with you guys tonight. My ex is here.”

I said, “Let’s just roll past and go straight to Joey’s.”

“I don’t want to make him angry. He could have us both killed easily,” she responded.

We drove past the girls’ home and dropped my girl off down the block to walk home so we wouldn’t be seen by her ex or whatever he was. As she hopped out of the truck’s bed, she said, “Sorry babe, hope I can see you next time.”

I knew there would most likely not be a next time and that night back at Joey’s I went into a morphine, cocaine, and alcohol induced toxic dreamland until an hour and a half later when Victoria’s boyfriend kicked down the front door and marched into Joey’s house wielding a pistol with a huge barrel. He strutted to where I was sitting on the couch and pistol whipped me while asking, “Where is that dirty little hooker?” I was floored and bleeding from the face so he paced into Joey’s bedroom. I peeked up and saw the man take Selena out of Joey’s bed by the hair and throw her towards the open door, “Go get in the car you filthy whore.” She whimpered as she scurried through the front door of the house like a kicked dog. Her bravery from the night before with the blond girl had completely vanished in the presence of Victoria’s man or pimp.

Joey saw the huge pistol and for once made the decision not to try to fight the man. But the man whipped Joey just as he had me. I got to my feet and staggered into Joey’s bedroom towards the man who was now kicking Joey in the ribs with his mean pointy boots. The man caught me coming out of the corner of his eye and turned and gave me another massive whip with the butt of his heavy pistol. I went down in a heap of lost consciousness. Joey and I both awoke with concussions and swollen and split faces sometime later. Joey should have gotten stitches in a few places but he refused to leave his house for a few days. His ribs were broken and the cartilage was separated between them. Luckily we had the morphine and took it liberally to numb our pathetic situation. We sat around drinking beer through straws.

The only good that came out of that whole situation was that Joey and I were saved by that gangster martyr the hardships and sorrows that might have come from falling in love with, and perhaps one day marrying, hookers.

Joey had another bombshell girlfriend that was in her late twenties. She was quite different from his Mexican girl. She had bleached blond hair, fake boobs, lip surgery, the whole kit and caboodle. She was a typical southern California rich girl. No job, but with all the money she ever wanted from her family. She had the top name purses, a sweet high rise condo in downtown San Diego, and a sleek black Hummer. She was in fabulous shape and she loved to party. I think all she ever did was go clubbing, shop, and work out. She was real nice, and generous too. She would treat us to great meals and nights on the town, and she even let us rock her car from time to time. She wasn’t the brightest thing ever and that was just fine by us.

One night Joey told her we wanted to use her car to go to a party in Mission Beach. She threw him the keys and we took off. She was older and didn’t want to go to some college party with us. We went to that party and headed from there to meet some friends at a bar in Ocean Beach, the next town to the south across Mission Bay. As a pair, we rarely made wise decisions, and this night was no exception. Joey asked me, “Should we see how this piece of shit Hummer goes in the sand?”

“Sure,” I said. We made small detour towards Dog Beach, where Joey pulled the car onto the beach and pinned it. He threw it in four wheel drive and once we were through the soft sand he floored it down the beach. We began doing doughnuts and searching for sand banks to use as launch ramps. We went from Dog Beach all the way down to the Ocean Beach pier and back numerous times. Driving on the beach is very illegal in Ocean Beach and the rest of San Diego County, and looking back I think we were lucky to not run over some sleeping bum or love makers. We were hauling ass up and down the beach with the music blasting and all of the windows down when a searchlight came down on us. Joey quickly killed the lights and we lost the searchlight as Joey sped on through the darkness. The light kept sweeping near us and Joey kept the pedal down as he swerved all around trying to figure out what to do next. He decided to head back to the parking lot where we entered but as we neared it we noticed there were cop cars blocking the way, ready for us. Joey attempted to turn the car around while going fifty miles an hour and we rolled the thing over on its roof.

We got out of the upside down and totaled Hummer and Joey said, “Quick, this way. They might have dogs.” He headed for the breakwall at the north end of dog beach. After the breakwall there was nothing but water, the entrance to Mission Bay that separated Ocean Beach and Mission Beach. Why was Joey leading us this way? We should have been running south towards the town of Ocean Beach to avoid being cornered by the jetty. We ran all the way to break wall and there were cops with flashlights running not too far behind us. Behind them in the parking lot more cops had showed up with sirens screaming. They had police dogs with them that they let go and I was assuming they were coming straight for us because the sound of their barking was getting louder and louder as they presumably got closer. We climbed up onto the jetty and Joey took off his shoes and tossed them into the water so he would be able to swim more swiftly. He put his wallet in the front pocket of his jeans to avoid losing it and began climbing down the rocks on the other side of the jetty. I followed his lead and did the same as I realized he planned to swim across the entrance of Mission Bay to escape the cops. We hopped in the water and swam about a hundred or so meters across the channel towards Mission Beach. Police dogs were barking from the jetty and flashlights kept sweeping the channel as we swam, but the cops couldn’t pinpoint us because the current had taken us away from where we jumped into the water where they expected us to be. Our main concern was the strong current running into the bay as the tide was rising. I also feared sharks, as harbor entrances are likely hangouts for them, but adrenaline kept me going. Joey kept slowing down as we swam to make sure I was doing ok, as I was a weaker swimmer than him. Finally, we reached the Mission Beach side of the channel but we were considerably more inside the bay. As we peeked over the jetty to see what was going on we saw a cop cruising using his searchlight to survey the area. He was probably alerted by the Ocean Beach cops and told that we were headed that way. As he left the vicinity we crept across a little grassy park towards the bars in Mission Beach. We flagged down a cab in front of the Pennant bar and had it take us to Joey’s girl’s condo. The cabbie asked, “Why you boys so wet? Where’s your shoes?” I was praying a warning about us from the cops would not come over the cabby’s radio. Ignoring the cabbie’s questions, Joey pulled a baggy of wet cocaine from his pocket with a disappointed look on his face.

When we got inside his girl’s condo, it was about three or four in the morning. Joey’s gal was asleep with her phone off, or she would have known her car was upside down on Dog Beach, as the cops had been trying to contact her. Joey woke her up and broke the news to her, “Hey babe. You gotta report your car in stolen. I just totaled it in OB and we ran from the scene. No one hurt you’ll be glad to know.”

“Dammit Joey! I liked that car,” She said only half angrily. You could tell the wheels were spinning in her airhead before she said with bubbly a giggle, “I guess this is a good excuse to get a convertible Beemer though.” This chick was a bad ass girl, just not super sharp. So, with detailed instructions and criminal coaching from us, she got on the phone and reported her Hummer stolen.

Around this same time I had a real scare down in Mexico, probably the worst of the Mexico tales. Brad, Joey, and I had just finished surfing. The sun was setting and we were a good two hours south of our hotel in Crucecito. We wanted to get on the road to avoid driving at night, but we were super hungry so we decided to stop at a little fish restaurant on the side of the highway. I wanted a pack of smokes and some brews for the ride back so while Brad and Joey ordered us food I took the rental car down to a little country store a few hundred yards off the main highway. I went into the store and when I came out there was a short and very built Mexican dude hanging out in front. He was about thirty, shirtless, with thick and nasty looking scars running across his chest. He was smoking a very fat joint rolled with low grade buds. He said smiling with white shiny teeth as he handed me the joint, “Que pasa amigo?”

“Bien, y tu?” I smiled and tried to speak my best Spanish to him as I set down the six pack of Modelo and took the joint from him. I noticed his fingers were crooked, like they had been badly broken and never fixed or set properly. I gave him a beer and a cigarette and we began trying to speak to one another, failing miserably.

Soon his friend showed up, another tough looking country boy wearing a soccer uniform and of about the same age as his buddy. He had a brutal scar under his left eye. These guys appeared like they grew up knife fighting each other. He too was all smiles as he asked, “Quieres cocaina?” I said yes to that too and he gave me a giant scoop that he dug from his stash with a five peso coin. I gave him a beer and ciggy as well as I felt the high grade cocaine rush through my veins.

I said, “Muchos gracias,” as I was wondering why these guys were being so friendly with me. We drank a beer and spoke bad Spanglish and I was preparing to make my departure when a third guy showed up. He was the meanest looking of the three, with super red and glassy eyes and no expression, bigger and older than the other two. He smelled strongly of booze and seemed wasted. He shoved me roughly and lifted up his shirt, revealing a knife with a massive blade stuck in his waistband.

He made a hand it over gesture and said, “Dinero y cocha.” I looked at my new friends for help but evidently they weren’t on my team after all. I backed towards my car but they quickly came at me. I broke my near empty Modelo bottle across the forehead of the guy with the knife right as he was drunkenly swinging to slice me. He went down hard and I tried to ward off the other two with the sharp neck of the bottle still in my grip but they attacked anyhow. I jabbed one of the guys hard in the gut and he too went down, with rich blood gushing out of the deep gash on the soft of his belly. At this point, the guy in the soccer uniform put up his hands in surrender and I ran to the car. Men, women, and children had gathered to watch the violent show as I hopped in the car and with adrenaline pumping like never before in my life, sped off down the dirt road back towards the main highway and the little fish restaurant where my friends were eating peacefully.

I screamed in terror, “Get in the fuckin car! Some bad dudes are after us!” My friends felt my fear and the urgency in my voice, threw some money on the table and hopped in the car. By now the sun was down and a creepy feeling had taken over the bliss we felt just thirty minutes before after surfing and watching the sunset. We were driving back towards Crucecito and I was trying to calm down and tell my friends what had just happened. “I just badly injured at least one person, maybe two, with a bottle. They were trying to take my money and the car and they attacked me with a knife.”

As I was nervously telling my story from the driver’s seat, something caught my eye in our headlights off to the right of the dark, shoulderless road. There was a small ditch to the right that went into an embankment. From that ditch a bloody arm was reaching up onto the road and legs were going up the embankment. The persons head and torso were hidden down in the shallow ditch. It appeared as if he had been walking on the road and gotten run over. Joey saw this too from the passenger seat. He said, “We need to stop to see if that guy is alright.”

I replied, “There is nowhere to stop. There’s no shoulder and one of these trucks will crush us if I stop. And those guys I fought back there might be coming for us.”

Brad said from the backseat, “He was probably just drunk and passed out in the ditch.” But even as he said this we all knew it was most likely not the case. He was either dead or in severe need of medical attention. We kept on trucking against any good will we may have felt. At this point all of our nerves were shot to shreds, especially mine. I drove more slowly and cautiously as bats or nighthawks kept swooping in front of the windshield.

This is how things went for about an hour and I was becoming sleepy when all of a sudden Joey reached over and grabbed the wheel, screaming, “Watch out!” A truck with only one headlight had come into our lane and was headed straight for us. Joey cranked the wheel sending our car into oncoming traffic and then swerved it back into our lane, just missing oncoming traffic by a sliver. It was the second spookiest thing that ever happened to me, the first being a few hours before when I was almost jumped and stabbed by the three men. I began to cry hysterically as I asked Brad or Joey if they would drive. Joey patted me on the back and told me he would drive.

6.

I had always seen Joey’s parents under strange circumstances and this time was no different. They were nice people who struggled gravely at survival. Joey and I were keen to party. We were both fresh back in San Diego after a year of working abroad. He had been working long shifts in mines in Australia and I had been working in northern California trimming buds for a large marijuana growing operation. Our pockets were full of the cash we’d saved. We went carousing at the bars in Ocean Beach with Brad and a few of our other friends. We got good and drunk and we didn’t have much luck with the ladies. When the bars closed the rest of our pals went home but Joey and I still wanted to party. Although Joey and I are from north San Diego County, I was familiar with the Ocean Beach area and I knew a drug dealer who lived nearby. We agreed to cruise by the drug dealer’s apartment and if she still lived there we would try to grab some coke from her.

We hopped in Joey’s same old piece of shit pickup truck and I instructed Joey through the Ocean Beach backstreets to the dealer’s scuzzy apartment complex. Once there, I ran upstairs to the dealer’s apartment and knocked on the door. No one answered and the lights were all off, but I knew the drug dealer had not gone to sleep, she was practically nocturnal. I knew she still lived there because the same welcome floor mat was there that read “Mi casa es tu casa” and the same potted succulents were out front of her door. I suspected she had been out at the bars as well and she hadn’t returned home yet. We had some warm beers in Joey’s truck so we sipped those as we lurked in front of the apartment building, waiting with hope that the dealer would return home soon. After about thirty minutes a cab pulled up to the apartment complex and a dark haired beauty hopped out and walked towards the complex. “That’s her!” I said with excitement as I hopped out of the car.

“You didn’t tell me she was fine as fuck! I’m coming with ya,” Joey exclaimed. He was a real womanizer and didn’t miss many opportunities with the ladies. We both got out of the car and tailed the dealer into her apartment complex.

“Lauren, it’s me Dale,” I said in a loud whisper, not knowing if the dope dealer would even remember me. She probably met all types of losers on a regular basis. Lauren turned around to see us. She was visibly pissed off. “What the fuck have you idiots been doing? Have you just been waiting in front of my place? Are you trying to get me rolled?”

I said, “I’m sorry. We were just hoping you could help us out with a little something. Remember me?”

Lauren answered in an angry whisper, “Of course I remember ya you fuckin fiend. You’re already here, come up.”

“Thanks,” Joey and I said in unison. Once in the apartment, Lauren went on and on about how stupid we were for waiting in front of her place and how it could bring negative attention and heat to her. “You fucking retards better never loiter in front of my joint again or it will be the last time I help you out with anything. Haven’t you ever heard of a phone? Call me first.”

I’d heard enough out of this degrading drug dealer so I said, “Whatever. Obviously I didn’t have your damned number or I would have called. You probably deal with bigger wackjobs and fuckups than us on an hourly basis anyhow.”

Lauren stopped talking shit after I bit back a little.

She weighed us out a couple of grams and said, “You guys should hang for a while. After all, I haven’t seen you in a long time and your friend is hot.” She glanced at Joey and gave him a smile. It was on and Joey knew it. We all started snorting coke and drinking some wine she’d poured us. Then Lauren led both of us by the hand into her bedroom.

After we finished up in her room, we finished our glasses of wine, did a few thick lines, and bailed. As we drove off I said to Joey, “Damn! How the hell do you do that shit? You didn’t even speak one word to that chick. Amazing!”

“She could just tell I was packing the thunder with my three inch jack hammer,” Joey replied and we both busted up laughing. We had a twenty-five minute ride back to the Solana Beach barrio where Joey was staying at his brother’s small apartment. The beers had run out on the drive and it was after two in the morning so there was nowhere to get more. We needed more alcohol if we were going to stay awake and do cocaine all night. We decided to stop at a gas station to buys cigs and try to steal some beer. Joey waited with the car running while I ran into the gas station, my San Diego Padres hat pulled low to cover my face. Luck was on our side. Instead of all the beer being locked inside the coolers as usual, there were warm twenty-four packs of Coors Light stacked chest high right beside the door. I bought cigarettes and casually grabbed two cases of beer as I left. The tired looking clerk either didn’t notice or didn’t bother to chase after me as I jogged off and jumped into Joey’s beater. We laughed and hi-fived each other as we headed off towards Joey’s brother’s apartment.

We arrived at the cheap apartment building and headed to an apartment on the top floor, where Joey’s brother and another guy lived. They were both asleep and as we entered the apartment Joey pointed to a small closet in the entrance way and whispered, “We gotta go in there.” I was confused. I wasn’t about to sit and do coke in a closet. But then Joey showed me an opening inside the closet that led to a large attic space. It was surprisingly big. The ceiling was over six feet high and the room was about fifteen yards by fifteen yards. It was carpeted. We turned the light on, a single light bulb on a shadeless lamp sitting on a beat up old desk. We sat on each side of the desk on two plastic stools. I saw what looked like a heap of clothing in the far corner of the attic. Upon looking more closely, I realized it was an older couple sleeping. I whispered to Joey, “What the fuck is going on here man? Who is that asleep over there?”

Joey answered, “When my brother rented this apartment and found this extra room he had my parents move in. They have been homeless for years you know so this was a fucking blessing. They don’t mind what we do though. We can do whatever and they won’t even wake up. You know them, probably so drunk you could boot em in the head and they wouldn’t wake up.”

I muttered, “I’ll be damned,” and dumped the rest of our coke out onto the desk. We both cracked warm brews and began doing the cocaine aggressively. As we chatted nonstop his parents didn’t stir. We carried on like this for hours, unable to gauge time as there were no windows in the eerie attic.

Once all the coke was gone Joey stood up and said, “I’m goin surfin. You wanna come or stay?”

“I’m gonna stay and try to finish these piss warm beers,” I responded. Joey took off and I sat there drinking beer after beer. My emotional state fell from the coke high into a dark, drunken depression. Movement came from the far end of the attic and Joey’s father stretched and moaned.The old man sat up and looked around the attic.

Upon seeing me he mumbled, “Oh, Dale. How are you old buddy? Long time no see. Got another beer?”

The old man stumbled over to the sad little desk and I handed him a beer saying, “Here you are old fella. Good to see you.” The defeated old man was gray and wrinkled beyond his years. He had sad eyes and a veiny red nose and cheeks like someone who’d drunk their fair share of booze. Without saying another word, we sat there and polished off the rest of the warm beers in a shared solemn silence.

Things were getting bad. I began having tormenting nightmares from the ridiculous amounts of cocaine and alcohol I was using. It seems to have been a combination of the experiences I’d had and the substances themselves. The nightmares only occurred if I was sober so the fear of sleep and the nightmares became so great that I began boozing and drugging almost nightly. I started having the nightmares after the night when the biker literally shoved cocaine in my nose with his fat finger. I was taking a piss in a saloon in Encinitas when the guy at the pisser next to me pulled out a little bag of blow. This man was massive, six foot five, bulky, and kind of hunched over. He was a biker style guy, about fifty, with a long gray pony tail with many rubber bands along it like they do. He had a leather vest on over a t-shirt and he looked like a pretty hard fellow. I said, “Bro, can I get a little bump of that?”

He acted put off and answered gruffly, “Shit. I guess. Come here.” The guy put some coke on the tip of his index finger. When I approached him he grabbed me with his other hand and threw me in a headlock type hold. He then shoved the finger with the coke on it far up into my nose and said, “Fuckin sniff, kid.” I snorted the coke up my nose and then the guy shoved me away in disgust. I went back out into the crowded bar unsure how I felt about what had just happened.

The next day I got stoned and became unreasonably paranoid, thinking that maybe it wasn’t coke the guy gave me but some nasty substance that can cause disease or something else. I couldn’t remember if the white stuff he had shoved into my nose smelt or tasted like coke or had even gotten me high. I felt violated by the man in a strange way. I asked myself why I let him shove his dirty finger up my nose. I realized that I allowed it because I was that big of a fiend and I was that desperate for a bit of coke. Maybe that guy was some kind of psycho. I didn’t recall seeing the biker do any of his stuff himself. I knew I was just worrying irrationally but the thought wouldn’t leave me alone. I began having nightmares almost every night afterwards.

Joey and I had just picked up a bag of coke and we were heading back to the bar where we’d been partying in Cardiff. The coke dealer, Victor, a Mexican friend of ours who had close ties with Mexican drug cartels, had warned us, saying, “You pinche gringos be careful with dees sheet. Dees sheet is almost a hundred percent pure. Straight off the key. Never been stomped on. Best shit you’ll find around here. You do the same amount of this shit that you do of that caca you get from your gringo amigos, its lights out. Be careful pendejos.”

We didn’t think too much about Victor’s warning because the alcohol we had consumed granted us foolishness. We thought he was just hyping his product anyway. When we pulled up my truck outside of the bar, Joey said, “Let’s do some thickies!”

I said, “Maybe we should start small with this stuff. Vic said it was potent. It looks good too, all pearly.”

“Vic’s full of shit. Come on,” said a cocky Joey. We got out of the truck and went to sit on the tailgate. Joey poured the entire bag of cocaine onto a surfboard I had in the bed of my truck and chopped up two massive lines. He rolled up a twenty dollar bill and sniffed up one of the huge lines. Immediately he started puking, yellow beer throw up coming out of his nose and mouth. Then he fell from the tailgate of my truck to the asphalt where he began convulsing. His face was a bluish purple and his eyes rolled into the back of his head. I bent down and slapped Joey’s face yelling, “Snap out of it Joey. Wake up!” I got no response from Joey and began panicking, screaming for help. But when I looked around for help there was no one in the parking lot. There weren’t even any cars. A few minutes prior there had been people and cars all over the place. I looked towards where the crowded bar should have been, but there was no bar in sight, only an empty parking lot surrounded by the darkness of the night. Spooked, I reached for my cell phone to call Joey an ambulance but that too was gone from my pockets. Where was everything and everyone? I looked back down at the ground to where Joey was overdosing, but he too was gone, out of sight.

Once these nightmares came to haunt me I realized I was slowly but surely losing my mind from alcohol and cocaine abuse. Psychosis they call it. I felt as though the dreams were a warning that something terrible was about to happen, but I carried on with my ways anyhow. I wanted to stop using alcohol and drugs but I had no idea how to do it. I told Joey about this and he said laughing, “Well you best not stay sober then. Let’s go grab some brews and a bindle. We don’t want you to have nightmares.”

The nightmares were not the only bad result of all the drugs and alcohol, but they were the worst. Every sober moment was overcome with anxiety. I felt as if something terrible were about to happen and the nightmares were a warning. Thoughts of car accidents, bloody fights, overdoses, jail, cops, gangsters, murder, guns, cocaine, booze, drugs, homelessness, and mental illness were constantly cluttering my already mess of a mind. I was drinking and doing cocaine nightly and more nights then not I was in a state of mania. Joey never seemed to go as crazy from the drinking and coke as I did, he just rolled with it like it was nothing even though he probably did just as much or more than me. Anyway, Joey and I had been going everywhere together for as long as we could remember, so it was only right for us to go to jail together. I was ready to drink as soon as I finished at my shitty new construction job that Friday afternoon. That’s just what I did, too. I also went to my guy’s pad and picked up a little bindle for the night. If I was going to drink all afternoon I would be needing it at some point in the night if I wanted to carry on. On top of that I bought some downers from him so I could sleep at the end of it all. I caught up with Joey and the boys in the evening at Brad’s pad in Cardiff and we played some ping-pong before heading down to the famous Yogi’s Bar on the Coast Highway, where a friend of mine worked so drinks were cheap, if the not free. Joey and I drank and drank and snorted my stuff openly in the bar until there was none left and we felt shitty and tired. At that point we decided to go outside and get a cab home. It was around one in the morning.

Outside the bar there were no cabs waiting. We began walking southbound right along the beach on the Coast Highway towards my home. We hadn’t walked a hundred yards when a sheriff’s police cruiser pulled up alongside of us. From his window the cop in the passenger seat asked, “Excuse me gentlemen, have you been drinking tonight?”

Joey had a quick, if not very stupid, answer for them, “Well we sure as fuck ain’t been in church at this hour!” I instantly regretted him saying this and before I could apologize for us we were handcuffed and thrown in the back of the cruiser by the two cops. That weekend there was a police crackdown on drunks along the Coast Highway in north county. Not only were they busting drunk drivers, they were busting drunken pedestrians as well. They called it Operation Whitewater or some such bullshit.

The sheriffs had a portable jail and office set up at the Seaside parking lot in Cardiff. Here, they were booking, charging, and searching drunks before bussing them to Vista jail. At the portable jail the cops searched us and they found my downers. Unbelievably, they did not charge me with any crime. The cops just said, “You can’t have these.” They just took my drugs and told us to sit and wait while they gathered up enough drunks to fill the jail bound van. I told a cop I needed to piss and he wouldn’t let me. I sat in misery until finally the van was ready to go to Vista jail. I pissed my pants on the thirty minute ride to Vista.

On the bus we met another character much like myself only unluckier. The poor bastard was walking down the Coast Highway in Cardiff when he too was picked up. Joey and I were at least drunk, this poor kid had only had a few beers and here he was. Only he was charged with resisting arrest or something like that because he shoved the cops off of him and told them to fuck off, as he should have. The kid said, “I had two beers at the bar and was walking out to my car when two bastards pulled up on me like I was America’s most wanted criminal. I told them I wasn’t in the mood for their nonsense and they slammed me to the ground roughly and told me not to resist. It was bullshit.” His chin was scuffed up, but I thought he was taking it well considering the circumstances. I told him to get a lawyer, although lawyers had never done much for me.

That would have been one boring night in the drunk tank had I not had Joey and that unlucky dude to hang out with. On my way into the drunk tank I was so drunk still that I picked up an orange that was sitting on a metal bench and I began peeling it. I had not noticed the Mexican gangster with the shaved and tattooed head that was sitting on the shitter behind a little cinderblock wall trying to sweat one out. He said with a stern Mexican gangster accent while pushing out a shit, “Don’t fuck with that orange motherfucker.” I quickly put the orange back where I found it. The gangster ended up being a nice guy, at least to me. He said he was on trial for murder first thing in the morning and was probably going to be locked up for some time. He had hundreds of marijuana leafs tattooed all over head in a way that the leaves fit together like puzzle pieces.. I felt bad for him, but it didn’t seem that remarkable to him. He just slept after talking with us for a little while. Why they put a dangerous criminal like that in a cell with Joey, our van buddy, and me, I cannot say. They threw this tweeker PCP maniac in the cell next to us which was great because there was a good sized window that allowed us to observe him from the safety of another cell. This guy was so hopped up on something he was literally running around the walls of the cell, doing somersaults, screaming, and bleeding. He was completely oblivious to us watching and laughing. It was similar to an exhibit at the zoo only much more entertaining and action packed. I have never seen a human being more under the influence than the man in the cell that night.

They let Joey, me and my van buddy out at the same time around ten in the morning. I called Brad and he said he would come get us. We went to Islands restaurant and bar and drank beers as we waited for Brad. He picked all three of us up and took our new friend back to his car near the bars in Cardiff. I asked the poor kid, “Do you want to carry on and party with us?”

“No thanks. I just want to go see my girl at home and relax,” the innocent kid answered. We made a quick stop at the coke guy’s place before heading to my place. I desperately needed to change my drawers because they smelt of piss and jail. Joey and I asked Brad to come in and party with us but he just looked at us like we were sick and said no.

I could tell even Brad was concerned about us because he said, “Guys, please just go in and get some shut eye.” But we didn’t listen to Brad’s advice, instead we went into my apartment and started drinking beers and snorting coke like a madmen.

We were treading water in the moonless and starless night with our legs only because our hands were cuffed. The sea was rough. We could see where the land was because of the faint lights of the town in the distance but we were a good couple mile or so out to sea. Other than those dim lights of the town it was pitch black outside. I could not see Joey but I could tell he was nearby because his voice seemed close when he said, “Dale. You with me? We can make it to shore. Just don’t freak out. Stay cool and just go towards the lights.”

“Okay,” I said shakily without confidence. I was beginning to weaken and I knew I would not be able to get to shore with my hands bound but I headed slowly and powerlessly in that direction by kicking with my legs. Staying afloat was difficult enough, but actually trying to move in a specific direction in our situation was nearly impossible. We were at the mercy of the powerful ocean. As I neared shore a powerful wall of whitewater washed over me. I was underwaterdoing cartwheels for what felt like hours and when I surfaced I was wheezing for air, my lungs burning. I finally caught my breath and yelled faintly, “Joey! Where are you?”

“I’m right here,” he answered. By the sound of his voice I could tell he was much further away now, in which direction I could not tell. Then another wave pummeled me. I did numerous somersaults underwater and I could feel water saltwater scorching my sinuses. When I came up for air this time I was exhausted.

I let out a weak attempt at a scream in my moment of terror, “Joey! You still there?” But this time there was no reply, and then I began sinking.

The nightmares came without fail any night I remained remotely sober. I felt the nightmares were warning me that something tragic was about to happen if I kept using drugs and alcohol, but I couldn’t stop. Towards sundown one Saturday Brad called us to see what was shaking. He told me he was house sitting for his parents and Joey and I should come over and try to bring some ladies because his folks had a pretty nice place with a hot tub. Joey and I weren’t able to convince any girls to go with us in our state of disarray so the two of us headed to Brad’s parents’ house alone in my pickup. They lived in Claremont, a good twenty minutes from my place.

As I was taking an off ramp type turn my truck came unglued and went into oncoming traffic. The car coming towards me swerved and so did I. He went off the road and I got back into my lane. I suspected the dude was okay as his car had not flipped and only went into some ice plant. I said a quick half-hearted prayer for the person but I wasn’t going to stick around to get busted for drunk driving and possession of coke. I didn’t have to mention to Joey that we would pretend that little driving incident never occurred. I kept motoring after that and made it to Brad’s parents’ house.

Brad was chilling at his house with a cute, chubby blond haired girl with huge fake breasts that he’d been seeing. She had recently moved down from Los Angeles. We started drinking his parents’ quality booze and soon I broke out the stuff. The girl with Brad had never done cocaine before but was eager to try it. At one time I would have been concerned about giving coke to someone who’d never done it, but I far beyond those concerns at this point. We all did more than a little blow and soon things went astray. Joey walked by himself down to a dingy little dive bar down the street and disappeared for the remainder of the night. Brad, the girl, and I had been hanging out on the back patio and I went in the house to take a leak. When I came out of the bathroom the big blond was waiting outside the bathroom and was all over me and we started kissing. Next we were headed upstairs to the guest bedroom. Brad and I have done some bad things to each other over the years but I believe my actions this night take the cake for rottenness. I banged the girl on the guest bed for so long and so relentlessly hard that the nice wooden bed frame broke. An already disappointed Brad heard the bed crack and knocked on the bedroom door to see what we had broken and make sure the girl was alright. By now it was Sunday morning and the sun had already come up and everything seemed a little surreal. “What the hell broke in there? Why don’t you two just get the hell out of here?”

At that point I lost my mind to paranoia and intoxication, pure psychosis. I got it in my head that Brad was going to call the police on me to get me back for stealing his girl and for breaking his parents’ bed. I grabbed a bottle of Maker’s Mark off the night stand that I had been sipping off all night and got up to go chase down Brad and make sure he wasn’t calling the cops on me. I told the naked blond to get ready to leave.

I found Brad in his old room listening to music and trying to sleep. I slapped him hard and made him sit on his bed while I grilled him. He could see I was a raging lunatic and he was scared shitless. “Did you call the police?” I asked worriedly.

“No I didn’t call the fuckin police!” Brad answered while backing away from me. I made him sit still on his bed, threatening to bash him if he moved.

I yelled to the girl, “Go start your car. I will be out in a minute.” She did what she was told. Then I made Brad hand over his cell phone, not thinking about the land line he could use when I left. I was deep in cocaine and alcohol provided paranoia.

Brad said, “You are losing it bro. Go get some sleep.”

I responded with a simple “fuck you” and got moving. I left my truck in Brad’s parents’ driveway and we rode in the blond’s car to her downtown apartment. We slept the day away there. When I awoke it was Sunday evening and it was dark. An evil depression had overtaken me. Why was I at this girl’s place? Oh God! What had I treated poor Brad so shitty for? The girl was in the kitchen whipping up a huge Thai dinner for us. Why the hell was this girl allowing my crazy ass to stay in her apartment? It was comical that she didn’t only put up with me, but she seemed to like me. I ate the tasty dinner then watched a movie with her before having sex with her one last time. After she fell asleep I snuck into her kitchen to down a half bottle of vodka she had sitting on top of her fridge. I was afraid I would wake up with nightmares if I did not drink something. After the alcohol set in nicely I slipped back in bed to sleep because we both had to work early the following morning and she needed to take me to my car at Brad’s parents’ home first.

The strangest part of the whole weekend happened the next morning. I was waiting for her to leave in the small entrance hall of her apartment. My brain was sizzled and my thoughts were a cluster fuck. She was finishing up with her makeup or something and I was looking at pictures on her wall through blurry and unfocused eyes. There were pictures of her with friends, her brothers, her parents and so on. One picture caught my eye. It was an old picture apparently taken in the seventies. The reason I knew this was because the picture was of my own parents when they were younger. They were posing at the beach with another couple that I assumed were the blond’s parents. I felt sick for some reason. She appeared and was ready to leave but first I asked her, “Who are these people in this old shot?”

She answered, “Those are my parents when they were younger and those are their good friends from high school. They don’t get to see them much anymore because they are so busy but those people live here in San Diego now, too. They go to see my parents in L.A. once in a while. They have three sons here in San Diego but I have never met them. They are really nice people.”

Oh shit, I thought, she knows my parents. What kind of twisted coincidence was this? I hoped the weekend would never get back to my folks somehow and prayed the blond would never figure out who I was. We left her apartment and she drove me to Brad’s folk’s house where I got into my truck and drove straight to work, feeling like hell twice over. I apologized to Brad some while later and I made sure to never answer any of the blond girl’s phone calls. Brad, who was one of my best friends, never made efforts to see me after that night. I felt deeply ashamed for this weekend knowing my alcoholic and druggy tendencies had led me to absurd paranoia and to irrationally bullying my friend and swooping his lady, something I thought I was above doing before that night. Also, I was regrettably promiscuous with a girl who was more closely connected to me than I ever could have dreamed.

A few days later when my mind had cleared a little, I couldn’t be sure if I had really seen a picture of my parents at the girl’s apartment or if I was in a state of confusion and illusion that morning and had just hallucinated or dreamed the whole thing up, including her answer to my question. This uncertainty really frightened me and pushed me closer to the brink of a breakdown, but it didn’t stop me from carrying on with my self-destructive tendencies.

I was asleep on the couch at Joey’s rental house in Mexico when I was awoken by cold steel pushed hard against my temple. Shocked with fright, I looked up to see a tall, handsome Mexican man of about thirty dressed in an expensive suit with a gold plated handgun pressed against my head. He had a scar running from his left ear down to his lip, adding an even greater element of fear to his appearance. There were two other men standing next to him who were dressed identically to the man with the gun to my head and they had similar faces as well. They appeared to be triplets, or brothers at the very least. “Where is your bitch ass friend?” asked the man with the gun to my head.

“Who? I think I’m the only one here,” I lied, playing dumb, and the man pushed the gun harder against my temple. I cringed from the pain to my temple and the extreme fear factor.

The man said sternly, “Fernando go look for the cabron in the rooms. Luis, go get that mutt out of the trunk.” I gathered that the man with the gun to my head was the shot caller. Fernando went into Joey’s room and returned with Joey, a gun pointed at the back of his head. The boss asked while laughing meanly, “So you wetto mother fuckers like to come to Mexico and play with our bitches? We’ll give you a bitch to fuck.”

The man called Luis came back into the house with the mangiest little starving Chihuahua I had ever seen. Luis threw the dog on the ground and kicked it towards Joey. The dog made a helpless little whimper as it tumbled across the floor. The scrawny animal was missing most of its hair and its eyes were engulfed in puss and its tail was up between its legs.It was on the verge of death with what seemed to be a terrible disease. The boss man addressed Joey, “You like fucking our bitches so much I will give you a gift. You can fuck this little princess right here right now or your friend gets it.” The ringleader then said to me, “Open your fuckin mouth you fuckin worm!” He then roughly put the barrel of the pistol far into my mouth, chipping a tooth or two, and said to Joey with an evil and hate filled grin, “Get to work playboy!”

I was going downhill fast and this night would be the end of my run. It would come at a high price. I hadn’t spent a night without coke or at the very least booze in months because of my addiction and the fear of the torturous nightmares. Anyhow, I had a party at the house I rented in Pacific Beach when I was twenty-four years old. I rented the house with three of my friends. Two of us lived in upstairs rooms and two of us lived in downstairs rooms. My room was downstairs right off the main living room. Our party was raging and the house was overflowing with people. There were so many beautiful blond girls it would make anyone’s head spin. Most were students from San Diego State and University of San Diego. We had a few kegs going and everyone was having a hell of a time. Most of my good friends were there, even Brad showed up. Joey came down from north San Diego County and was taking full advantage of the opportunities on offer. I think I saw him making out with at least three different hot girls throughout the night. In my downstairs room there was a plate with a few eight balls on it so the boys and I kept dipping in there to blast a few lines. Later in the night when the party was in full gear and hundreds of people were present my roommate told me he had gone upstairs to his room and a few Mexican gangster looking dudes were snooping around in there suspiciously, most likely looking to rip things off. He asked the guys what they were doing and they came up with some nonsense excuse. He said they looked pretty gnarly so he didn’t get in their faces too much. When my friend told me this I became pissed off and found the group of Mexican guys he was talking about. There were about five dudes wearing Dickies pants, wife beaters, flannel shirts and black sunglasses perched on their heads over slicked back black hair and buzz cuts, the kind of apparel that screams vato. They were all tweeky looking but rather muscular as well, with cursive and old English style gang tattoos all over any visible skin. They were not exactly the type of dudes you would choose to fight. I remember one guy in particular, the apparent ringleader, because of the thick four inch scar that ran down his cheek and a tattoo that read Martinez on his neck. He was around six feet tall and muscular.

With the cocaine and booze giving me false courage and irrational thought processing, I turned the music off and announced in my loudest voice, “If you’re a dude and you don’t know anyone who lives here, then get the fuck out. Especially if you’re a thieving, twacked out, piece of shit lousy ass beaner,” We had the Mexicans outnumbered and they left quietly while staring me down with pure hatred as they left. The main guy of the group with the neck tattoo glared at me and his face would remain in my memory forever. He had intense glowing and piercing green eyes like I had never seen before on a Latino person. He looked as mean and threatening as a viper. A handful of other guys took off as well and the party went on as before.

Later in the night I took off with a girl I’d been seeing and went to sleep at her place down the street. I let Joey, my best friend in the world who I’d grown up with since I could remember, sleep in my bed because he had come down to the party from Solana Beach and gotten too drunk to drive the thirty minutes home. His last words to me before I left were, “I’ll try not get any of my seed on your sheets bro.” I laughed and said goodbye.

That night around four-thirty in the morning those Mexican fellows returned to my house looking for me to bash me for my racist comments. We never locked the front door so they walked straight in and went into my downstairs bedroom where Joey was sleeping. They must have seen me going in and out of the room at the party and figured that it was my room. They went into that room with bats and socks and with rocks in them and knives and beat and stabbed a sleeping Joey within inches of death. The Mexicans tossed the girl Joey had with him out of the bed before destroying Joey. She later accounted for the three men being Latin in appearance. Joey said much later that he remembered looking up and seeing three vatos standing over him before he was knocked unconscious. The cops never found the chullos who crippled Joey.

They beat him so badly he suffered mild brain damage and had to learn to talk again in the months to come. They broke many of his bones and paralyzed him below the waist. He was almost unrecognizable from before, with scars and lumps covering his head and face. His torso had gnarly stab scars all over it. Joey almost died and was hospitalized for months. It took over a year and Joey made an amazing recovery, but he would never be quite the same as before, bless his soul. He was in a wheel chair for the rest of his life.

After the beating, Joey still hung out all the time and remained close with me and all of the boys. His brother took care of him and my friends and I would always stop by their place or take Joey along with us to the beach and out to eat. He enjoyed taking pictures of us while we surfed and we loved him for it, as sad as it was. Our other buddies took him out to party as well, but I was no longer part of that scene. Although he still put off great vibes and made everyone laugh like he always had, he was deeply depressed as he was unable to surf and be active, amongst the other activities he enjoyed in life like playing with the ladies. He had been one of the best surfers and athletes in our group, and was by far the most liked by the ladies. From his wheelchair, he would always grin and say things along the lines of, “Man, right now what’d I give for even the butt fugliest girl I ever banged.”

We’d laugh and say, “We can do better than that.” Then we would sometimes head down to Adelita’s bar in Tijuana and the boys and I would buy Joey as many beautiful girls as he wanted. We would sometimes take him to the whorehouse where his old girlfriend’s sister worked. I thought it was more depressing than it was fun.

In those times I struggled much with depression and maintaining any will to survive was all I could do. I had become an emotional basket case and often found myself alone crying from guilt and other feelings I don’t think there are words for. The nightmares were less and less but I was still unable to sleep much at all. My health was poor because I didn’t eat much or go into the sun much. People who knew often asked if I was ok because my appearance was pale and skeletal. I was working as a foreman for a friend’s construction company and I would often bring Joey to the job sites with me. He was a valuable asset both for his construction knowledge and his ability to boost morale. He helped me manage jobs and he also helped build rapport with the day laborers. I hired mostly illegal laborers that I found hanging out behind hardware stores. Most of these guys were from Mexico or Central America and spoke only Spanish. Joey’s Spanish was better than mine so he helped in that regard as well. I can still picture Joey on the job site, sitting in his wheel chair in the shade, drinking that rot gut vodka, and laughing with all the Mexican laborers over perverted jokes. Joey usually brought a cooler with him that he filled with beer and other goodies. He always shared what he brought in the cooler.

One day Joey and I picked up two Guatemalan guys who were looking for work at Home Depot on our way to the job site. We were digging trenches for the foundation of a home and we would need the extra muscle. On the drive to the site Joey started rapping with the guys in Spanish and before I knew it they were laughing uncontrollably about something perverted they referred to as the “black kiss”. When we reached the job site Joey opened his cooler and said, “I brought Gatorade for everyone.” He handed everyone a blue Gatorade as we got out of the truck and got to work.

Thank God, I left my Gatorade untouched in the truck. But the Guatemalans carried their Gatorades with them to where I instructed them to start digging trenches. A couple hours passed while the Guatemalans and I dug trenches and Joey observed from under a tree a few yards away. All of a sudden, one of the Guatemalans dropped his shovel and began walking away from the job. I thought he was just going to take a leak but when I saw him stroll off the property and right down the street I yelled to him, “Hey, where the hell are you going?” He didn’t answer, just kept on walking. I looked at the other Guatemalan guy for an explanation but he had dropped his shovel too and was just staring straight up at the sky. I shook him by the shoulder asking, “Hey buddy, you okay?” He didn’t answer, just went on staring straight up at the sky. Confused, I looked at Joey and said, “What the fuck is going on here? Can you help me to get those dudes back in work mode?”

Joey explained, “Sorry bud. But I am afraid it is my fault they are not in work mode. Those Gatorades we pounded had some really good acid in them. I told them but I’m not sure if they understood my Spanish. Might be hard to get any solid work out of em for about six to eight hours. I’ve been praying you would drink yours, too. C’mon, go ahead and drink it already. Maybe it will wipe that sorry ass look off your face that you been wearing.”

Joey never mentioned the fact that it was my words and actions that night that put him in that condition and I knew he sensed my guilt. I had not touched drugs or alcohol since the night he was beaten and I tried my hardest to change my life and the way I thought. I even stopped smoking cigarettes. From his wheelchair, while drinking out of a cheap plastic flask of vodka, Joey would jokingly say, “Dale, have a damn beer for Christ sakes you pussy!” Or he would smile and say, “Ever since Dale turned into a fuckin Mormon I never get to do coke anymore!” Then Joey and everyone around would bust up laughing. A few days before Joey took his life he told to me with all sincerity and seriousness, “If you ever see those punks that did this to me, give em hell Dale.” I agreed with all intentions, not realizing those would be some of the last words he ever said to me.

I knew what he meant by this. He wanted the guys dead who hurt him. “I swear to God, I’ll kill the bastards if I ever see em! I remember the one bastard clear as day,” I promised, not realizing that these were the last words that would be spoken between me and the person I had loved like a brother. Joey nodded his head and smiled when I swore revenge on the people who had maimed him. He knew I meant what I had said. After almost two years in the wheel chair Joey’d had enough and he blew his head off with Nick’s nine millimeter a few days after we last spoke. The same gun he’d held onto from Colorado all those years before.

7.

It was seven in the evening and I had just picked up my two year old son, Joey, from day care after a long day at work. He was asleep in his car seat in the shotgun seat of my work truck. Aside from a guiltiness that had become part of me that I would carry with me forever, things were going alright in my life. My nightmares had become less and less frequent. A couple years after Joey’s death I married Amber, the girl whose garage I had tried to steal alcohol from as a teenager. I actually reunited with her at Joey’s funeral, which was a powerful omen as far as I’m concerned. Through Joey I had been granted the gifts of sobriety and love. I doubt I would have ever found either of these things had it not been for my friendship with Joey. We named our baby boy after him and I still thought of Joey many hours out of every day. I missed him sorely and I always would. I called Amber and she told me to pick up some fast food because she did not feel like cooking because she too had worked late.

I headed through a MacDonald’s drive through. As I was paying I could see through the drive through window into the restaurant to the counter where customers ordered. At the counter ordering food, was the same Mexican dude from the night of the party so many years before. I had no doubt it was him because of the neck tattoo and the scar, and because I don’t easily forget a face. I was overcome with the rage, anger, revenge, loss, sadness, and guilt that I had been trying to set aside for years. But more than anything, I felt a burning hatred for the guy who had taken my brother-like best friend from me. For years, I had played out in my mind how I would kill the guy on the spot if the chance were ever to arise. Now, the opportunity to make my promise true was as good as ever. Because the guy was a potential gangster, the cops would think the murder was race or gang related, hopefully. However, I was caught between a rock and a hard place now. I had to quickly choose between keeping a last word promise to my dead best friend, or jeopardize the new family life I had created. There was the chance of getting caught if I killed the bastard and then who would care for my family.

In the end, I concluded I would never have been able to turn my life around had it not been for what happened the night of the party. Joey was the reason for everything I had, whether he’d meant to be or not. I decided to keep my promise or the guilt I held over Joey would grow and grow and suicide or an insane asylum would mark my end.

After getting the food, I pulled my truck into a parking place a block down the street to avoid video cameras at MacDonald’s getting my plates or connecting me to my car. I cracked the windows and locked my doors, leaving Joey asleep in the car. I kissed my sleeping son on the forehead, said a quick prayer and crossed myself out of superstition, then put on a hoody and hat I had in the truck. Then I got a mini sledge hammer out of my tool box in the bed of my truck. I was planning to surprise attack the guy, like he had Joey, and cave his head in with the hammer with as many blows as it took to kill him. I put the handle up the sleeve of the hooded sweatshirt I and held the hammer’s head in my fist to conceal the weapon. My hat was pulled low over my eyes and my hood was up over the hat. I walked into the burger joint, pulling my sweatshirt sleeves over my fingers to open the door without leaving fingerprints. I saw the Mexican fellow sitting alone at a table with a burger in front of him. He had his head down as if he was saying a prayer prior to eating. I noticed a happy meal on the table and it registered as out of place to me. Upon closer inspection, I noticed he no longer was wearing gangster style apparel but the same type of construction boots and worn jeans similar to what I was wearing. A fleeting thought crossed through my mind about my wife’s family and her own forgiving Christian background. When the man lifted his head, I saw on the man’s face and in his emerald green eyes the weary and guilty expression I had seen on my own face every day for years, a result of the shameful things I had done and was forced to live with. I wondered if he felt the same way. I recognized his radiant green eyes but they had no hatred in them like I remembered.

He was the only customer dining in the place. Here was the man who had intended to kill or hurt me badly but crippled my best friend instead, eventually leading to my best friend’s suicide. I was walking towards the guy to brutally take his life by bashing his head in with a hammer when I was taken by surprise. A beautiful Mexican girl in a white dress of about three years old had entered the MacDonald’s from a side door that led to the children’s play pen that so many fast food joints have.

“Did you get me a happy meal, daddy?” she asked sweetly as she approached the man.

The reformed gang banger answered, “Of course sweetheart, but you need to wash your hands before you can eat it.”

“Okay, thanks daddy,” the girl said happily and headed for the restroom. Standing only yards behind him, I studied the man for about fifteen seconds and at that point I came to the realization that this guy might be just like me. He had messed up badly when younger and now he was trying to live a new life. We had both contributed to the demise of Joey. He looked up and saw me without noticing the hammer up my sleeve and he nodded a hello without recognizing me from so many years before. I could tell something had happened in his life that had changed him, perhaps like what had happened to me. He had a little bit longer hair than he had years prior and he no longer seemed threatening at all. He appeared sober and healthy. His presence was not threatening violence like I remembered, but instead tranquil and peaceful. I thought about my vengeful promise to Joey, my own life and loved ones, and the daughter and life of the man I had come to kill.

I realized killing this man could not bring Joey back. Still, I would have followed through with my promise had it not been for the little girl and the pain and sorrow I could sense in the man’s eyes. I wondered if the pain in his eyes was from what he had done to Joey, or had he done other bad things. Worse things. I didn’t think it got too much worse than what he and his buddies had done to Joey. I hoped he hadn’t for his own sake. He seemed to be like me, a regretful past but a glimmer of hope for the future. My years of yearning to destroy this man melted away in seconds and I felt what I can only describe as some sort of strange connection or forgiveness combined with pity for the guy. I remembered a quote I had heard by some famous writer or intellectual that goes something like this, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” I briefly considered speaking to the man but dismissed the urge when I could think of nothing to say that would change anything for the better. After standing there for a few more seconds I experienced an awakening. In an enlightening realization I concluded that Joey would not want me to take this guy’s life, especially in front of his little girl, so I turned and walked back to my truck where my beloved boy still lay sleeping, unaware of his father’s murderous intentions just a few minutes before.

Start writing here…

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