Sunday, January 11, 2015


Genre: Transgressive Fiction

By Daniel Skye

          “Hey, Layne,” Biff said, smoking a cigarette and flicking his ash into the fire. “You wanna hear a fucked up story?”
          “Sure,” I shrugged. “Why not?” Biff knew a lot of fucked up stories. He was a pretty fucked up individual.
          I was first made aware of this fact when Biff showed me photos of a hunting trip he’d gone on with his uncle. In the photos, I saw Biff gleefully slicing into a fawn’s belly, gutting it with this look of sheer joy on his face as he removed the entrails.
          “This guy has an apartment on the top floor of this complex,” he started telling his story, taking another drag off his cigarette. “Some big, fancy penthouse apartment that only a lawyer or a doctor or some big executive could afford. Anyway, this guy is obsessed with his windows. Sounds weird, I know.
          But apparently whoever sold him the place used the windows as a selling point. They mentioned that the windows were made of four inch thick glass. They could stop a bullet, the realtor boasted. He told the guy these fucking things were practically unbreakable.
          So one night, he’s telling this to his guests and one guy doesn’t believe him. He says no glass can be unbreakable. So to demonstrate, this guy, the one who owned the apartment, he gets up and charges at one of the windows. He rams it with his side as hard as he can.”
          “And the glass broke?” I asked.
          “Nope,” he shook his head, finishing his cigarette and flicking the butt into the fire. “It popped out of the frame. The guy plunged some fifty stories and went splat on the sidewalk below. The glass landed a few feet from the body. It didn’t break. It didn’t even crack.”
          “That sounds like an urban legend to me,” Jimbo said, passing the can to Biff.
          “Nope, true story,” Biff said, shaking his head again to dismiss Jimbo’s claims as he took the can and shook up the contents.
Jimbo and I were sitting on a hollowed out log, rubbing our hands over the fire pit that Biff had dug. Fat Fuck Frankie had gathered the dry leaves and twigs used to fill the pit.
          We always made Frankie do the things we were too shiftless or lazy to bother doing. Frankie was one of those kids who would do anything you asked, lend you anything he owned, just so long as you’d be his friend.
          He didn’t care if you abused him or made fun of him. He actually considered it a privilege for you to hurl insults at him. It meant you noticed him. That you were giving him the time of day.
          We made Frankie build the fire just like we made him bring the weed we all smoked that evening. It was weak shit he had stolen from his brother’s stash. But Jimbo came prepared. He had swiped a bottle of Dust-Off from his dad’s toolshed.
          ET was there with us too. I only mention it now because she’s essential to my story. Of course that wasn’t her real name. Her real name was Cynthia Steiger. But we called her ET because of her round little potbelly and the fact her eyes were spaced so far apart. They looked like they were rolling off the sides of her face.
          She always wore crop tops that left her midriff exposed, her gut protruding out. She seemed almost proud of it. That potbelly of hers. She walked around with that big goofy grin and that potbelly sticking out like she was the female Buddha. I was almost tempted to rub it for good luck on several different occasions.
          And Biff had asked her so many times, “When’s the baby due?” that even Jimbo admitted he was beating a dead horse by asking it for the thousandth time that evening.
          ET responded with a mandatory gesture of her middle finger, followed by her hawking a loogey on the fire. Her spit sizzling in the fire, Biff looked down and said, “I’m not eating that.” Frankie laughed, but it was a laugh of desperation.
The one thing that everybody in the group used to compliment her on were her DSL (Dick Sucking Lips). And boy that was just the way to describe them. Those luscious lips looked like they could suck the bend out of a river. Lipstick was never her thing. She preferred cherry red lip gloss that made those lips sparkle and pop.
And forgive my use of the term DSL. Acronyms are one of the side effects of exposure to pop culture.
          Sometimes I still feel bad about the way we treated Cynthia. She deserved a lot better than the four of us.
          Jimbo and I were sitting on that hollow log, rattling off a list of every drug we had tried to determine the ones we hadn’t experienced yet.
          Acid? Check.
          Mushrooms? Check.
          Ecstasy? Check.
          PCP? Check.
          Cocaine? Heroin? Speed? Check. Check. Check.
          Marijuana? Double check.
          As we rattled off every illicit substance we could think of, we narrowed it down to peyote and bath salts.
          “Bath salts are probably easier to score than peyote,” Jimbo pointed out.
          “Yeah, but I don’t feel like going all zombie and eating some dude’s face off,” I told him. “Remember how bad we bugged out when we tried DMT? And the first time we smoked dust? I think peyote is the safer way to go.”
          “Yeah, but we’ve already done mescaline and it’s basically the same thing,” Jimbo said, waiting patiently for Biff to pass the can back.
          Biff was sucking on the nozzle of the Dust-Off can, his eyes just about rolling into the back of his head.
          “Hey, save some for the rest of us,” Jimbo said. Biff passed the can back to him and he took a hit, retched, and then started laughing uncontrollably.
ET snatched the can and took a hit. All she said was, “Whoa…”
          “I’m hungry,” Frankie whined.
          “You’re always hungry,” Biff said. “That’s why we call you Fat Fuck Frankie, ya fat fucking bastard.” Biff roared with laughter. But he seemed to be the only one in on the joke because nobody else was laughing.
          I took the can of Dust-Off from ET, put the nozzle to my mouth, and sucked in. For a minute, my whole world turned upside down. I heard Jimbo’s voice, but it was so distant and distorted, I couldn’t decipher a word.
          On Dust-Off, you can only see in distorted waves. If you can see at all. You may inhale and see nothing but a bright white light for a few seconds. It’s a scary thing for a newbie to experience.
          The first time I tried Dust Off was in the back of the Wendy’s parking lot with Jimbo my freshmen year. I got so dizzy I puked up my Baconator. My throat burned horribly from the bitterant, a chemical deterrent added to discourage people from using it for recreational purposes.
But on Long Island, on a Saturday night, if you wanted to get fucked up, you took whatever you could get. Anything to get high on a Saturday night.
          And Frankie’s weak ass dope wasn’t cutting it.
          Jimbo’s dealer had been scoring crystal a lot lately and Jimbo was hooked on the shit. He had a teenth on him that night, but he wasn’t very willing to share. In retrospect, I don’t resent him for being greedy. That shit is terrible for him and I don’t think he even realized the damage it was doing to his body, to his complexion. And I honestly don’t think he cared either. Poor Jimbo. Just another lost cause.
          Frankie and I have one thing in common. We both hate the internet. We hate phrases like LOL and LMFAO and ROFL and BAE. Anytime I hear someone refer to their significant other as BAE, I want to choke the shit out of them with their own socks.
          The internet is a cesspool of random useless facts, misleading information, and pornography just waiting for you at the click of a button. There’s viruses and malware waiting to ambush your hardware. There are sexual predators hiding around every corner. Yeah, the internet is a pretty magical place.
And computers even help you file your taxes, do your homework, write your reports. It’s a cure for ignorance. Too dumb to name all fifty states? Just do a quick search on Google. Can’t divide five by three? Use the digital calculator that’s automatically programmed to your cell phone, tablet, or laptop.
          In today’s world, you don’t need to be a genius. You just need to be smart enough to know how to use a computer.
          Jimbo used to say that marijuana is only a gateway drug if you let it be. He used to say this in between taking hits off a blunt and snorting lines of crushed up Vicodin off a pocket sized mirror.
          We used to smoke blunts in his car during lunch period. And before he had a car, we’d smoke under the adjacent footbridge that was installed so the school could cut back on buses. If you lived within half a mile of the footbridge, you either had to hoof it to class, or beg your parents for a ride.
          It wasn’t long before Jimbo started lacing every blunt with angel dust or even crack. And it wasn’t long before I started smoking those same blunts. It wasn’t long before I started snorting crushed painkillers with a straw and huffing paint and nail polish remover with Jimbo in his dad’s toolshed.
          “You know ninety percent of money has traces of cocaine on it,” he said once while we were doing lines of his sister’s ADD medicine.
          Anything to get high on a Saturday night.
          “I can lick this bill right now and my tongue would probably go numb. Wouldn’t that be fucking something?”
          “It certainly wouldn’t be very sanitary,” I pointed out.
          “Screw sanitary,” he had said. “If I wanted sanitary, I wouldn’t have fucked ET without a rubber.”

          The FBI estimates that four to five percent of all homicides are drug related. Biff Larson can certainly vouch for those numbers.
          We all helped ourselves to another round of Dust-Off, the can being passed around in a circle.
          The oranges flames illuminated Jimbo’s acne-scarred face as he sucked on that nozzle, then passed the can to ET, who was the last to get it.
          To say Cynthia came from a broken home implies there was an actual home to begin with. Her dad ran out on her mom when he found out she was pregnant. And her mom died giving birth to her.
          She lived with aunts and uncles for a period of time. Bounced around from foster home to foster until she finally ended up in our school district. Her drug of choice was cocaine, but like the rest of us, she took what she could get.
          She didn’t have many friends. She wasn’t popular, she didn’t belong to any cliques or circles. She was a reject, like Franke. Like Biff. Like Jimbo. Like me. She was that frayed piece of the puzzle that just wouldn’t connect with the rest of the pieces.
          “Hey, Layne,” Jimbo said, scratching at his pimply cheeks, “I just thought of something else we never tried. We never chugged bottles of cough syrup. I hear you can get really fucked up. They call it Robo Tripping.”
          “Let’s give it a shot,” I said. “We can buy some bottles at the pharmacy next weekend.”
          Anything to get high on a Saturday night.
          I looked over and saw ET was still hitting that Dust-Off can pretty hard. She sucked on that nozzle with those cherry red lips until her gums were chaffed and bloody.
          “All done,” she said, finally prying her DSL from the nozzle.
          “You bitch,” Biff muttered. He snatched the empty can and pitched it into the fire. The white plastic nozzle melted under the heat of the flames, and the smell of scorched plastic filled the air. Steam hissed from the top of the can as the white plastic continued to drip and melt down the sides of the can, which looked like they were throbbing.
          “Why the fuck did you do that?” Jimbo said. “I was gonna put it back on the shelf in my dad’s toolshed. Now he’s gonna know I took it.”
          “You were gonna put it back empty?” Frankie chuckled.
          “Shut up, you fat bastard!” Jimbo wailed. “You’re not helping the situation!”
          “Uh, guys,” I said. “I think we should move. I think that thing’s going to blow any second.” And blow it did.
          The can exploded with a tremendous pop that caused my ears to ring for more than a minute. By then we had safely moved away from the fire pit, moved away from the chunks of aluminum and flaming debris that had scattered from the explosion.
          “That was a really fucking stupid thing to do,” Jimbo chided. “Even a dumbass like me knows that.”
          “Big deal,” Biff shrugged. “Nobody got hurt, right?”
          “Um, where’s ET?” Frankie asked.
          We glanced back towards the fire pit, saw her body folded up on the ground, curled in that fetal position.
          I was the first to run over and check on her. But I didn’t see any blood. And I couldn’t find a single mark. It was dark, and hunched over, my shadow obscured my vision. It wasn’t until I stepped back that I saw the vomit dribbling down her chin.
          She hadn’t been injured in the explosion. She had OD’d.
          “What do we do?” Frankie started freaking. “What should we do? What should we do?!”
          “Calm down!” Jimbo screamed. “Freaking out isn’t going to get us anywhere.”
          “We need to call 911,” I said.
          “I don’t have any reception out here in the woods,” Frankie said.
          “I don’t even have a fucking cell phone,” Jimbo said. “I’m poor. You know this.”
          “I’ve got a phone,” I said, pulling my iPhone 3 or 4 or whatever version it was from my pocket.
          “Don’t!” Biff shouted. “Not yet! Let’s think this through!”
          “What’s there to think about?” I asked.
          “We call 911 and then tell them what? That we were getting high on weed and Dust-Off? They’ll call the cops and then we’ll have to answer to them. I don’t know about you guys but I plan on going to college and I don’t need a record.”
          “We have to try and help her,” I said. “She’s our friend.”
          “She’s not my friend,” Biff said. “She’s a tagalong. A friend through association. I wouldn’t even talk to her if she didn’t follow us around all the time. It’s not my fault she doesn’t have any other friends.”
          Frankie kneeled down, his layers of fat folding up into rolls. He checked her pulse. Not a single beat.
          “I’m not feeling anything,” Frankie said. “I think she’s gone.” He huffed as he lifted himself up from his knees and took a few steps back. The fire was still burning and the smell of melted plastic still lingered in the air.
          “See,” Biff said. “She’s dead. Nothing any doctor can do about. So why should we go to jail over this?”
          “What do you propose we do?” Jimbo asked. “Bury her?”
          “What, and touch her? Lift her up and get our fingerprints all over her body? No. I say we leave her here. Someone will find her eventually. Some hiker or nature lover. They’ll report it to the police. Problem solved.”
          “I can’t believe you’re saying this,” I said.
          “He may be right,” Jimbo said. “We could just leave her for someone to find. Or we could make an anonymous call. We don’t necessarily have to implicate ourselves. It would still be doing the right thing. Right?”
          “I suppose,” I said, sighing, feeling dizzy again. Not from the Dust-Off, but from the nightmare I had slipped into. I just wanted to close my eyes, open them, and wake up in my bed. I would’ve even clicked my heels together three times.
          There’s no place like home…there’s no place like home…
          Sadly, when I opened my eyes, the fire was still roaring, and Cynthia was still d-e-a-d dead.
          “Let’s go,” Biff ordered. “Before someone strolls along and sees her. Frankie, put the fire out with something, will ya?”
          “Yeah, let’s get out of here” Jimbo said, trembling a bit. “We can call from a payphone or something, tell them where to find the body.” Jimbo was always a cool cat. But even he was shaken up on that night.
          We all jumped at the horrific gasp that came from Cynthia’s body. It sounded like in the movies when someone sucks in all the air right before they pretend to die. Dying–When did we start to consider it a form of entertainment?
          So as it turns out, Cynthia wasn’t dead. Dying, yes. But not dead. Not yet at least.
          She gasped and heaved, her muscle in a state of contraction. She was unable to sit up, unable to move on her own. Her chest bobbed up and down, her potbelly jiggling as she fought to get her lungs working again.
          The Dust-Off had done irreparable damage to her health. All four of us could see she wasn’t going to make it. She’d basically suffocated herself on the chemicals from the Dust-Off, smothered her lungs. Even if the doctors had saved her, she’d never be the same person again.
          Biff said he was doing the humane thing. That he just didn’t want to see her suffer. But I’m fairly certain she suffered quite a bit when he used that jagged rock to cave in her skull.
          It wasn’t just a quick blow to the head either. It took three or four blows with the rock to finish the job. You ever heard the sound a skull makes when it cracks and splits? It’s like smashing a whole carton of eggs to pieces with a hammer, except the sound is amplified, like it’s being heard through a bullhorn.
          There wasn’t anything we could do to stop him. It all happened so fast. I didn’t even have time to debate calling 911 before Biff snatched up that rock. Blood ran down his jacket and he wiped some of it away with one hand, still clutching the rock in the other.
          We all stood aghast, lips quivering, bodies twitching. I remember my mouth feeling so dry I couldn’t swallow. And my knees were about ready to buckle.
          I glanced to my left at Frankie, who looked like he’d just seen a ghost. And I glanced to my right at Jimbo, who looked like he’d just shit a brick.
          “You all saw the condition she was in,” Biff said, feeling the need to explain and defend himself. “Stop staring at me like that. I did what needed to be done, while the rest of you stood around like a bunch of pansies. You didn’t move a muscle. None of you. Useless spectators. That’s what you are. Spectators.”
          That wasn’t enough. So he continued. “I just didn’t want to see her suffer. She was in pain, alright? It was the right thing to do. The humane thing to do. Don’t you pricks judge me. You have no fucking right to judge me!”
          Jimbo finally broke the silence that had fallen over the three of us. “Biff, no one’s judging you. You did the right thing, ok? I agree. Just calm down. It’ll be alright. No harm done.”
          No harm done? NO HARM DONE? Had we just witnessed the same horrific spectacle or had Jimbo been off in some drug induced coma the entire time?
          We walked the trail that ended at the chain-link park fence, and we slipped through the hole that Biff had snipped in the fence months before. The park didn’t bother patching it up. They knew kids went into those woods to get high and drunk and they gave up trying to deter us.
          Biff took the rock with him that night, pitched it into a lake so the cops would never find the murder weapon.
          Frankie didn’t look hungry anymore. In fact, I don’t think he was very hungry in the days that followed either. None of us were. Nobody except Biff. He had to live with it, just like the rest of us. And he seemed to be getting along just fine while the rest of us were falling apart trying to carry all that weight on our shoulders.
          On the walk home, Biff had persuaded us not to tell a soul about it. He simply said, “Tell anyone about what happened, and I’ll kill all your families.”
          Jimbo was scratching nervously at his cheeks the entire walk. Halfway home, one of his zits popped and a white puss oozed down his red cheek. “You know, they say crystal meth leaks out through the pores of your skin and stores itself in boils and zits. I could probably smoke this puss and get high.”
          Why not? I thought, trying to hold down my dinner. Anything to get high on a Saturday night.

          I figured it wouldn’t be long before somebody cracked. Someone just had to confess.
          But nobody ever stepped forward. Not Frankie. Not Jimbo. And certainly not Biff. But I have no room to judge. I was just as much a coward as the rest of them. I never came forward either. And I’m still living with this terrible secret. I hope one day someone will find this confession, these hastily scribbled pages. This sad, pathetic attempt at a memoir.
          I hope someone finds this in the envelope I seal it in and they learn the truth about Biff Larson. They learn the truth about what happened that day. Maybe Cynthia’s parents can finally get the closure they deserve.
          I bet they’d be happy knowing how Biff ended up.
          After graduation, we all went our separate ways. We didn’t write, we didn’t call. There was nothing left to say between the four of us. No more words to exchange. So we just went our separate ways.
          I bumped into Frankie three years later. He went to college for two years, then joined the police academy. Now he’s a cop in the city. Lost quite a bit of weight, too. I hardly recognized him.
          I read about Jimbo in the papers. A drug and alcohol fueled car accident took his life on the night of his twenty-first birthday. The report said he was ten times over the limit and he had marijuana, cocaine, and Vicodin in his system in addition to the tequila he’d been drinking like it was water.
          I didn’t have to read about Biff Larson in the papers. Several former classmates called or text me personally to share the news. They seemed almost ecstatic to share the news of his untimely demise.
          Biff’s mom found him in the garage one night, his eyes fixed, pupils dilated. He had inhaled three cans of Dust-Off in one sitting. I don’t know if he was trying to break a record, or if he just couldn’t live with the secret anymore. Either way, I felt a tremendous weight removed from my shoulders the day I heard the news.
          And how did old Layne Hanson end up? Well, as for myself, I’m now a licensed drug counselor. I host narcotics anonymous meetings and council a series of youths dealing with substance abuse problems.
          Day in and day out, I recount the disasters of my own ill-gotten youth. I share my horrific stories, excluding certain details of course. I let them know how drugs destroyed my life and try to help them shine the light on their own paths, help them see they’re traveling in the same direction I was at that age.
          I’d like to think I’m making a difference. But for every kid who genuinely wants to get clean, there are three or four others kids who seek my council just because the judge or their parents made them be there.
          These kids, they’re growing up faster nowadays. They’re getting high at age ten and swiping their parent’s painkillers or anti-anxiety meds by the time they’re twelve.
          I council teenage heroin addicts and prepubescent alcoholics.
          I deal with thirteen year old crystal meth tweakers and kids who get high on cat or horse tranquillizers.
          Anything to get high on a Saturday night.
          In a final twist of irony, you know how I got my counselors license, my degree if you will? I took online classes. It was actually a piece cake.
          In today’s world, you don’t need to be a genius. You just need to be smart enough to know how to use a computer.


  1. Awesome story man! I really enjoyed it!

  2. Thanks for the kind words! I always appreciate any feedback.