A Short Story by Ethan Que Williams
“I feel like he really has it coming to him. One day he’s gonna get busted,” said Erin. We were driving to our friend, Phillip’s improvisational comedy show and talking about my roommate.
“Yeah. A quad too! That’s like…” I had to think about it, “one hundred dollars! For one week! And it’s not like he would be unable to find any dealers in Philadelphia. He grew up there.”
“And Daniel said he bought it to take on the airplane?” Daniel was my roommate.
“Well, I mean, he’s not completely ignorant. I assume he’s not trying to take it through security. It’s not like he’s going to need to be rolling blunts on the actual plane.”
“Yeah, but still…” Erin trailed off.
“Still.” Neither of us knew exactly what to think. Daniel was already on his way to or at the airport. Daniel smoked a lot. A lot. It’s kind of comforting to think that no matter how much you smoke, there are people who smoke greater quantities at greater rates than you can conceive. I put it out of my mind.
Erin Forth and I were friends. Maybe she was my best friend, but “best friend” was never a term that I liked very much. She had lived across the street from me since I was in kindergarten, and now she lived in the same residence hall as me. We had always been friends, but now we were close friends. I could tell her anything and know that it wouldn’t harm our unconditional loving friendship. Friendship.
Erin was just a few inches shorter than me, which is somewhere between average and decently tall for a girl. She had rounded cheeks on either side of a smallish mouth with small but perfectly aligned teeth. Straight, dark brown hair framed her face. She had brown eyes and a beautiful smile that appropriately accompanied her quirky, fun personality. I wouldn’t describe her as skinny, but she was nowhere near fat. She was always getting into better shape. She was a vegetarian. She volunteered at the library. She was the type of girl who didn’t feel comfortable without a plan of what she was going to do for a weekend, yet at the same time she was spontaneous enough to jump on any good opportunity the moment she saw one. She was good at recognizing valuable opportunities in life, which is an invaluable quality to have in a friend. She laughed at my jokes. I loved her.
My name is Keith. I am about six feet tall give or take a little depending on the day and my stature. Whenever I see people from high school or anytime before college, they always tell me how long my blondish hair has gotten as if I wasn’t aware. I appreciate it and thank them and laugh and say, “Oh I’m just doing the whole hippy thing.” I am skinny, but that is gradually coming to be untrue. Geology is my major, and I can’t really explain why to anyone other than it interests me. It does, and it’s an easy science, which enables me to pursue my passion. My passion is music. I’m in a band called In Due Time, and we are always getting better and getting more gigs.
Erin and I had spent the day snowboarding. After which, she had gone home with her mom to pick up a car to bring back up to the university and eventually take to the airport to pick up her brother, James. In the mean time, I was desperately trying to hunt down a sack of weed. I called or texted every potential connection I knew, but everyone had already gone home for Thanksgiving break. One guy was still here and earlier that day had said that he could hook me up, but once I had gotten down off the mountain he said someone else had bought him out. I laughed at that. I wasn’t too worried about it. It comforted me to know that someone needed that much more weed than I would ever want.
Erin had expressed a desire to smoke before Phillip’s show. I was down because it was somewhat rare that Erin wanted to get high, and somewhat fun as well. A problem arises in this sort of situation when someone like Erin starts planning on smoking. I try not to plan. I’ll pursue it, but I won’t depend on it. If you fail to secure any weed by the time you plan on smoking it then you start to crave it and can only think about how much better an activity would be if only you were high. The only way to avoid this is to live in the moment, without expectations. Watching comedy shows is fun and hilarious. Watching comedy shows stoned is fun and hilarious. I’ll take either, and plan on neither.
Luckily, when I was still trying to find a hook up, Daniel still hadn’t left. I asked him if he could just spare a little “nug.” He obliged happily. He was a good roommate.
Erin came back to the university with the car, and we drove to the show. That’s when we talked about the quad that Daniel had bought. We parked and smoked next to a nice little pond on campus. This was the kind of pond that you would take pictures of when you’re a high school student visiting the college. Everything about it was college and reality. We saw the comedy show. It really jarred me. Phillip’s improv troupe was normally gut-bustingly hilarious, but that night they were taking a new experimental approach. Parts of the show were funny. Other parts were horribly sad, and I couldn’t laugh. One skit, entirely improvised, consisted of a Dad trying to explain to his daughter why Mommy had just left them for another man. I couldn’t believe it. It was enrapturing drama, but people were laughing! I looked around confused at these people. They were attending an improv comedy show, where the action of the skit was tragic, and they were laughing. I wondered if they were even thinking. After the show Erin and I drove to the airport to pick up James.
James Forth was the man. He had just graduated in the spring from Random Cool Liberal Arts School in Boston, and had spent the summer living in a remote, gorgeous mountain town in Northern France tracking glacier movement… and BASE jumping, and partying, and chasing pretty French girls. In the fall his friends invited him to join them in a business venture with intent to capitalize on the hottest technology of the day: social networking. They were trying to create a program called “Outers,” which essentially enables you to take pictures of crazy things on your smart phone and then, using the GPS function, find people in your area at the time and send them those photos. It definitely had some sort of potential. It brought people together, and that is what matters.
When we arrived at the airport, James was waiting at baggage claim seven. Erin dropped me off and I went inside to look for him. It was about midnight, and the airport appeared pretty desolate as I started walking past baggage claims. I arrived at baggage claim seven where there were a hundred weary travelers standing in agitated anticipation around the metallic oval conveyor belt because they were told there bags would pop out there. There were business men in pressed suits, ski bums in stained sweatshirts and foreigners in clothing I didn’t recognize.
I wondered what James would think when I found him. He didn’t know I was supposed to meet him because his cell phone had died. We knew where he was because he had called Mama Forth from a pay phone upon arrival, and she called Erin and me. My friends from the neighborhood who were my age all thought James was so cool, and we envied him for all his travel experiences. He had been to every continent. We had gaped at every photo album of his on Facebook.
James was sitting on the top of a large, metal luggage-cart dispenser when I found him. He was not surprised to see me. I acted cool. I asked him about his summer in France and his business. It was exciting for me to see what he was doing with his time now that he was out of school. I wondered what I would be doing in four years’ time. He asked me about my school and about In Due Time. I told him that he should come to see the two performances we would be having over Thanksgiving break. On Wednesday night we would be playing at a bar downtown, called the Bananana, and on the Saturday after Thanksgiving we would be playing at a music lounge called The Crisscross. At the Crisscross, the Forth’s father, would be playing on stage, before In Due Time, with his band, The Bottom Feeders. On the ride home, Erin and James had sibling conversation while I sat in back. It was wonderful to hear them just talk, and I thought about my sister who I rarely saw but perpetually loved. We arrived in the neighborhood where we had grown up. Erin dropped me off at home. My parents were already asleep. I went to bed.
Saturday was a day for music. In Due Time had band practice at our drummer’s house, which was close to the University. I parked my car in front of his house about fifteen minutes before practice. I smoked what was left of the little weed that Daniel had given me. I still needed to grab a few things from my dorm, which was about a twenty-minute walk from my drummer’s house so I ran as fast as I could to get there. It was only about a six-minute run. You know it’s a myth that people need to wear running shoes, running shorts, running underwear, running socks, running shirts, and running music technology in order to run. Try it. There was a football game going on that day at the school, and people swarmed everywhere. I wondered what they thought as I ran past them. I got to my dorm, grabbed a few things, and ran back to band practice.
Practice was great. It always was. On the counter there was a Time Magazine with a picture of a joint on the front of it and the title “Amerijuana.” After practice, I was waiting for my drummer to pack up his things because I was giving him a ride to his parents’ house in Denver, and I chose to read the article. The article was a cross-sectional analysis of the different components in Colorado’s rapidly developing marijuana industry. “Practically legal” was the term people used to describe the situation.
The next day my mother and I went to our condo that our family shared with some other families in Copper. The television set was screwed up for one reason or another. Over the past semester, I had not watched any television, and I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing there. We screwed around with the television and screwed around with it more, but it was all for naught. No matter how much we screwed around with it, it wouldn’t work. We called the guy who tells you what’s wrong with your television and he said that we had a dysfunctional part. So, we went home. The fixer guys would come later that week with a new part and screw around with the television themselves, and all the people who needed to watch the television at the condo would be happy for days to come.
Erin had found a hook up for buying marijuana. One of the RA’s she knew from another dorm was selling. His name was Roger, and he was one of the friendliest and smartest people I’ve met, so I was surprised and excited to hear the news. Roger came over to Erin’s house that night, and Erin and I each purchased a half of an eighth of an ounce. I thought about Daniel and wondered how he was coming along on his quarter of an ounce. Roger left, and Erin and I ventured downstairs to the basement. For a long time the Forth’s never owned a television, yet once the kids moved out, the parents purchased a grand home entertainment system. I could never figure out why. We found James and Mama Forth in the basement screwing around with the television. They plugged this wire that way and that wire in this way. Erin and I talked and waited in anticipation, and once they had finally gotten it to work they started to watch a movie, and I went home.
Later, Erin called me and asked if I wanted to go for a walk. It was close to eleven and my parents were in bed, so I slipped out of the house and met up with Erin and James on the street. We walked around on a trail that winds through our neighborhood. At some point we stopped to smoke. James was at first hesitant to smoke in the middle of a trail.
“Dude, it’s the middle of the night in the middle of the suburbs in the middle of Colorado. No one is here! No one cares. I hope you’re ready for ready for some Colorado homegrown!” I said to James.
“You guys have no how long I have been waiting for this,” he replied. We laughed. “I don’t think you guys realize how lucky you are to live in this state.”
“No,” said Erin. “We know full well.”
While we were smoking an adorable little kitten pranced up to us. It was asking to be pet, rubbing against our calves. James was ecstatic. He picked up the cat and we started walking.
“The cat just wants to get a little high is all,” I joked. Of course we didn’t give it any.
“James! You don’t know whose cat that is. You should probably put it down,” said Erin.
He laughed and made some argument saying, “Oh, it’s a cat. It has a superb sense of direction. It probably knows this neighborhood a lot better than we do!” Nevertheless, he put it down, and to our surprise it followed us. We laughed. Originally the cat had approached us on the ground, but soon it jumped higher to the top of a fence that we were walking next to so that it was about head level with us. It ran along the fence, which changed as the trail meandered past different people’s backyards, but eventually the cat got stuck where a tree branch was resting on the fence. James helped it down.
“Look! I just helped the cat! I saved it, Erin!” James proclaimed with child-like enthusiasm. We laughed. The cat would have been fine.
Eventually, we returned to the Forth’s house. On the way back we passed the Rainer’s household. The lights were on. Chase Rainer was my childhood friend. He had just returned from Small Private Liberal Arts School in the Northwest for the break. The Forths and I agreed that we should hang out with him and his brother, Stuart, or “Stu”. Originally, we hatched the of just walking into the Rainers’ house and talking, but James didn’t want to because he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to uphold conversation with Bart Rainer, the patriarch oh the family, in the state he was in. So, upon returning to the Forth’s house I called Chase up.
“Hey man! I heard you got back today.”
“Yeah, I just got in literally an hour and a half ago. I’m pretty wiped. I’ve spent the last fifty-one hours on the Greyhound.”
“Damn dude, that’s rough,” I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit. “Well, you and Stu should come chill with us at the Forth’s house!”
“Oh, alright. I might do that. I’ll ask Stu. I just got in like an hour ago though.”
“Alright, man. Well, James and Erin and I are just hanging out, not doing-“
“Oh, James is there? We’re on our way.”
“Cool man! See you soon.” I laughed and told the Forths that the Rainers were on their way.
Chase and I had been friends since before we could remember. Our families were all close with each other as well. We could always laugh and have a good time together. We went on hiking and backpacking trips together. We attended the same schools. We played Ultimate Frisbee together in school and during the summer. I loved Chase, but we had striking differences in our upbringings. Chase’s mother was a hardcore Catholic. The Rainers attended church every weekend. Crosses and paintings of Jesus could be found in any room of their house. Chase had five siblings, of which he was the second oldest. His older brother, Garret, was the same age and close friends with James Forth, but Garret was rarely seen since he had moved to Montana to marry his girlfriend. Chase’s mother was a powerfully influential force over her children and instilled the deepest values of God-fearing, law-abiding purity in their hearts. Chase had an incredible sense of responsibility for his younger siblings, and strived to be the perfect role model according to their mother’s And he was. He would hardly ever swear, and never around his littlest brother, who was in middle school- the breeding grounds of vulgar language. I, on the other hand, wasn’t so sure that such a thing as purity existed. I always believed you were whatever you were, a collection of atoms and electrical impulses. I’m moral, but my values aren’t based in Christianity or our government’s laws. Naturally, as we were exposed to more and more choices and lifestyles, Chase and I had grown apart in some ways, but we were still very close. It was an invaluable experience growing up with such a close friend who was also a foil to me in more than one way.
Chase and Stu arrived. Immediately, Chase began sharing all his experiences and stories. He told us about how great his school was. I asked him how his typical week went. It consisted of baseball practice (he was receiving an athletic scholarship), weight training, rock climbing, expanding his photography portfolio, working as a photographer for the school newspaper, his dorm’s football league, intramural Ultimate Frisbee, working at the library, and a student led conservational group. All of that took place on top of his and homework. Essentially, I gathered, he had every minute of every week planned out and did not rest. Chase was a dramatic fellow, and I was sure some of this might be exaggeration, but he was living his life. It was beautiful. He was doing college and getting the most out of it. I thought of Daniel and his friends in my hallway who smoked weed and played video games all day and sometimes went to I thought of myself; I spent my free time creating posters for In Due Time, playing music, performing live, choir, going to concerts, smoking pot, jamming with friends and attending events on campus.
We shared all this information. One thing that Stu and Chase always talked about- I could never figure out why- was their height and weight.
“I gained fifteen pounds this semester,” said Chase. “Not in fat though.” I heard him say this multiple times over the following week. “As of last week I’m one hundred seventy [or something like that. I don’t remember]. Also, I’m no longer six, one. Now I’m six feet, two inches.”
“Nice,” said Stu. “I’m one hundred and fifty-four pounds as of last Thursday, and six feet, two inches.” Stu hadn’t been talking as much. In fact the dialogue mainly passed back and forth between Chase and James, with me piping in to ask questions and offer comments here and there. I could tell that Chase felt cool and very proud to be talking to James. Stu and Chase were both great athletes, and their father pushed them hard to succeed in sports. I suppose that’s why they must have been so conscientious about their height and weight. Stu was much similar Chase, and much influenced by Chase and their mother. Stu, however, was more independent and had a much more open mind to other influences. He and Chase were only one grade apart, and so were naturally compared side by side by man