My cousin Jimmy is my Uncle Icepick’s son by his first wife.
Icepick’s third and final marriage was to my Aunt Judy, who is my mom’s sister, which makes Jimmy nothing but a quasi-friend and drug dealer, really.
One day Jimmy called and asked to borrow my car, which means he’s going to Philly to score heroin. Usually he takes a complicated series of buses, trains and subways but sometimes he bums a ride or borrows a car.
I had the day off and I was in a good mood and I knew I shouldn’t have but I let him borrow my car.
For my trouble, he usually gave me a nice bag of weed or a handful pills and I’d get stoned and go to the coffee shop across the street and check out the girls and pretend to read. But this time Jimmy wanted me to wait at his house to sign for a FedEx delivery.
I was 99 percent sure it was going to be drugs, just not sure what.
Jimmy’s life was drugs, his business was drugs. His bedroom closet was like a little pharmacy.
If you wanted it Jimmy had it: weed, acid, mushrooms, cocaine, Vicoden, hash and Valium. Sometimes he would get ecstasy or opium, and if you didn’t mind paying extra or having your bag pinched, he would cop some smack for you in the city. He also owned two vicious and stinky ferrets and took them to different veterinarian’s offices so he could steal ketamine (special K) and whatever else he could get his hands on. He kept all of his drugs in a big plastic tackle box with all of the various pills and substances neatly stored in the little compartments.
Jimmy was old school in a lot of ways and he weighed everything on an old high school chemistry class triple beam scale.
There was probably a hundred dollars’ worth of white powder just caked and crusted on that old scale. Jimmy always had good pot, but often there would be a little bonus, a sweet spot where some coke or smack or animal tranquilizer or who fucking knows what had rubbed off on the herb.
I had an hour or two to kill in Jimmy’s shitty little house. He didn’t own a television or much of anything really. Everything worth any money had been pawned. All the money he made selling drugs he spent on more drugs.
He did have a vintage 1960’s hi-fi stereo system and a pretty good record collection, so I spent a little while listening to scratchy old Captain Beefheart and Little Feat albums while browsing through a stack of ancient National Geographic magazines.
There was a knock on the back door. Must be the FedEx package, I thought. I opened the door and there she was.
It was kind of weird.
“Are you looking for Jimmy?”
“It’s OK, Jimmy is my cousin. Come on in.”
She came inside and it was still weird. Then she looked me in the eye and said in a hushed and concerned tone, “Please tell me you’re not here for pills.”
“No, no. Jimmy had to go out for a little bit and he’s expecting a Fed Ex delivery so he asked me to hang out for a while.
Jimmy’s the guy I was telling you about. My medicine man.”
“He’s the guy I was telling you about!”
We laughed and she reached out and touched my arm.
(Good body language. Positive touch. Eye contact. Medical grade marijuana.)
In the living room, we sat on the floor and started going through Jimmy’s records.
“Jimmy has great taste in music”, she said.
I had to agree.
We talked about favorite songs and bands and albums and sampled Jimmy’s collection. A few minutes went by before she asked, “So… where exactly is Jimmy anyway?”
“I don’t know… well I kind of know but I don’t really know, you know?”
“Yeah, I think I know.”
She pried off her shoes and got comfortable.
I produced a fat joint and a lighter and offered them to her. “Ladies first.”
“Oh, no, she said, “you get it going. Whenever I light up a joint it always burns down one side and everybody gets mad at me.”
“When it canoes”? I asked.
“Yeah, you know, when it just burns down one side and gets all lopsided and hard to smoke. Wait, what did you say?”
“We always called that canoeing.”
“Canoe? like the boat?”
“Yeah, it burns the top part and leaves the bottom kind of burned out like a canoe.”
“I can see that. That makes sense.”
“Remember that Robert Plant song, ‘Burning Down One Side’? I always hear that song in my head when that happens.”
“I wonder if that’s what they were talking about? Burning down one side of a joint?”
“Maybe. That was a pretty cool song. Remember ‘Big Log’?”
“Was Robert having trouble with song titles?”
“Sounds like it.”
We smoked and laughed and continued making small talk, which became sillier and sillier as the joint got smaller and smaller with generous helpings of “no way!” And, “I forget what I was just saying”.
High as a kite, the awkwardness was gone and it felt nice to spend time with Alice in a non-professional setting.
Between the stoned rambling and laughter, she did ask a few questions about my health and recovery but for the most part I was finding out more about her. Besides being a physical therapist, she was studying religious art at the community college and for some reason she was really into bands from Minneapolis:
Husker Du, the Replacements, Prince and the Revolution, the Jayhawks, Babes in Toyland.
How could I argue?
She also liked old books, good weed and hopefully not Jimmy.
She was telling a story about travelling to Europe and I was feeling nice and relaxed when the front doorbell rang. She froze mid-sentence and we stared at each other like a couple of panic stricken stoners.
I whispered, “None of Jimmy’s people use the front door. Everybody knows that.”
Then I remembered why I was there in the first place.
Again we laughed and then…
I suddenly remembered that I really wasn’t too keen on this whole operation to start with-and suddenly i felt even more paranoid-and the place reeked of pot-and it’s the home to a minor league drug king pin-and…
Alice noticed my hesitation and the doorbell rang again followed by three strong knocks.
“Should we get that?” She asked.
(She said “we”. Another positive sign)
“Uhhh yeah.” I opened the door and checked out the FedEx guy. He wore mirrored shades and had a crew cut. A set up for sure. He handed me his little computer thingy and I scribbled a fake name.
Can you spell your last name for me?
I forgot what I scribbled.
This was it, the bust was happening. Fifty cops ready to storm the house.
“Ummm, Johnson. J-O-H-N-S-O-N.”
“That’s supposed to be a J?”
Why wasn’t I being handcuffed?
“Yeah, Johnson with a J.”
He gave me a sideways look as he typed it into his keypad, then handed me the package.
I watched him get in his truck and pull away, nothing happened. I scanned the area for s.w.a.t. teams and black helicopters, saw none and ducked back inside without incident.
The box was small and kind of heavy. Too heavy and too small to be just herb. Maybe hash? If it was cocaine, it was a lot.
Or maybe it wasn’t drugs at all, maybe it was books or coffee beans. Or ferret paraphernalia. A replacement part for his mini-bike maybe. But it was probably drugs.
I’m pretty sure he didn’t have a mini-bike.
I put the package on the kitchen table and we sat down. We resumed our conversation, but I was distracted by what might be in the box.
After a few minutes, Alice went into the bathroom and I gave the box a thorough inspection.
The handwritten return address of Ben Dover, 222 Shoe Avenue, was obviously fake. I wondered how the sender could be so careless as to attract the slightest bit of attention to such a package.
I shook it, I sniffed it, I weighed it in my hand, about two or three pounds I figured.
I don’t know, I’m not good at estimating weight.
Wait, isn’t that about equal to a kilo? I can never remember metric conversions either.
Alice returned and we talked some more and I wondered aloud what was taking Jimmy so long when the phone rang with a rude clatter.
After four rings, the answering machine picked up. Jimmy’s whiny voice says, “Heyyyyy!!! Its Jimmy!!! Dude if you’re still there, pick up. It’s really important. This is my one phone call, come onnnn!!!
I knew I shouldn’t have but I picked up the phone.
“Dude I got picked up picking up. I need you to come bail me out.”
“With what? I’m broke.”
“There’s a shoe box full of money under my bed. Bring three grand. No! Thirty-five hundred.
I’m in the city jail on 66th street.”
“How am I supposed to get there? You have my fucking car!”
“Take the train.”
“The station is over a mile away! It’s fucking raining! Isn’t there somebody else that can get you out?”
“Nobody I trust with that money, man. I fucking trust you dude, you’re family.”
“We aren’t, really, i mean…”
“Come on, dude! Call someone for a ride or something. I need to get out of here and cop a.s.a.p. or I’m gonna get sick. I’m freaking out over here! Please dude.”
“O.k. ok. I’ll get there somehow.”
“Aww, thanks man. You’re the best.”
“All right, all right. Where’s my car?”
“Yeah… about that…”
“Where’s my car, Jimmy?”
“Um… dude they impounded your car.”
“And threw your keys down a storm drain.”
“What the fuck, dude?! “
“They said it would be $150 plus $60 a day to get it out.”
“Jesus fucking Christ, Jimmy!”
“I’m sorry man. I’ll make it up to you.”
“Did that, uhh… thing show up?”
He turned suddenly hostile. “The reason you’re at my fucking house, asshole! Did you sign any fucking autographs recently?!”
I don’t know why, but I said, “No.
No, it didn’t get here yet.”
“Shit! Goddamn! All right, shit!
I’m gonna be sick soon. You gotta hurry. But the package is really important too.”
“Well whatta you want me to do?”
“Wait twenty minutes and then come. No! fifteen.”
I hung up the phone and told Alice what was going on and she offered to drive me to the city.
“I don’t know. I should let him fucking rot. He got my car towed and lost my keys, then called me an asshole.”
“You have a spare key, right?”
“That was my spare. I lost my keys a couple of months ago and never got a new one made. It’s gonna cost me $250 plus whatever a locksmith costs. And I’m fucking broke.”
“I can lend you some money if you want.”
“Come on, really. I can’t take your money, we hardly know each other.”
“I see you all the time at P.T.”
“Maybe I’m really ‘so long sucker!’ kinda guy.”
“No, you’re good for it. You’re a good guy.”
(now I’m trustworthy and good, too?!)
“Maybe I was just acting like a nice person to get into your pants.”
“Lucky for me I’m wearing a skirt.”
“Look, you came over here to pick up something, right? I mean, please tell me that you didn’t just come over here to hang out with that asshole. Or worse…”
“Let him get into my skirt?”
“Don’t be gross. Jimmy is a train wreck. No, I just came to pick up some weed.
He’s got the best medicinal stuff around and that’s it. That’s all I have going on with Jimmy.”
“How do you know him?”
“My best friend Betsy used to date Jimmy. That’s how I met him.”
“Oh yeah! I remember her. Ew, that got ugly.”
She was with him pretty much just for the drugs, then after a while she got a little fucked up and he was really rotten to her and they broke up. So now I have to score for her.”
“I hate that asshole.”
“Everybody hates Jimmy. I usually bring someone with me when I come over. He’s so creepy. He’s hinted a few times about trading sex for drugs.
But he’s so gross, there’s no way I ever would. Gross or not, I mean… drugs just aren’t that important to me.”
I breathed a sigh of relief.
Alice followed me upstairs to Jimmy’s bedroom. She sat on the edge of the bed as I located the shoe box among the dust bunnies and stray socks under the bed and opened it. It was full of money alright. Mostly ones and fives. I counted it. There was 172 American dollars and 100,000 Japanese Yen. Not enough to bail out Jimmy but almost enough to have a key made and get my car out of impound. Maybe I could get some sushi in the city with the yen.
There was also a yellowed piece of heavy paper, folded in half.
I took it out and looked at it. It was a map drawn in a cartoony style, with writing across the top and down the left side.
It looked like a treasure map.
I put it back into the box and threw it on the bed.
Then I pulled Jimmy’s mobile pharmacy out of the closet and sat next to Alice.
What did you need?
Well, just the weed, but… geez! what’s he have in there?
I grabbed a generous handful of sticky buds and put it in a sandwich baggie and tossed it at her.
“This seems like something Jimmy does when he wants to have sex with me. I’m not having sex with you for this, am I?”
“No, it’s on the house.”
“I can’t do that.”
“OK, OK you can have sex with me if it’ll make you feel better.”
“Come on, you know what I mean. I can’t steal from Jimmy.”
“You’re not stealing anything. I’m stealing from Jimmy, and giving it to you.”
“And who are you? The Robin Hood of drugs?”
“Look, Jimmy’s jammed up big time. This makes the fourth or fifth time since last summer that he’s been arrested. I think he’s still on probation, so he’s probably going to jail for a while.
He doesn’t have the money to make bail or get my car out of impound. This box of contraband is all he has that’s worth anything, so by turning some of it into cash, maybe I can at least get my car back.
Need anything else? Want some coke?”
“Never touch the stuff. And you shouldn’t either!
I really just came for the weed but… are those THC lollipops?’
Alice grabbed the bag of taffys and took a deep sniff.
“Mmmmm, sure are.”
“OK, I’ll take ’em.”
“We could split them.”
I pulled out all of the various baggies and pill bottles. Alice was amazed at the depth and breadth of Jimmy’s arsenal.
I pocketed a whole bottle of ten milligram Valiums.
“I feel bad about this.”
“He’ll never know you were here.”
“Let me pay for the something. I’ll just leave the money and a note on the bed.”
“I’m telling you, he won’t be back to collect it. And if by some miracle he doesn’t rot in jail, he’ll know you were here and think you had something to do with what I’m doing.”
“What are you doing anyway?”
“I don’t know yet.”
I put everything back in the tackle box, including the treasure map and closed it up.
I sat next to Alice on the bed. “Can I ask you a huge favor?”
“Is there a safe place you can put this for a couple days?”
Her smile faded a little bit and she suddenly seemed uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry. Forget I asked.”
“No, no. Its just, um… wow! That’s a whole lot of trouble right there.”
“You’re right, its crazy of me to even ask.”
There was an uncomfortable silence. She took a deep breath.
“I’m a licensed health care professional, I don’t dress like a hippie, my hair is clean and free of dreadlocks and my car is new and free of political and band stickers.
I don’t have a criminal record or any points on my license.”
“I know, I know. I’m sorry.”
“No dummy, I’m saying that I’m perfect for the job. No cop would dream of asking me to open my trunk. I’m in on the caper.”
I put Jimmy’s stash box and the Fed Ex package in the trunk of Alice’s car. She dropped me off at the impound lot and we made plans to meet later.
She kissed me for luck. My face was starting to hurt from smiling so much.
According to the patch on his greasy mechanic’s shirt, the guy that ran the impound lot was named Clancy. He had one weird, solid white eye and I couldn’t stop looking at it. He smelled like old cigar and wet dog.
It turned out that the cops didn’t toss my keys in the sewer. Jimmy was high and crazy and delusional so who knows?
I got in my car and it smelled like Clancy. I put all the windows down and drove to the jail where I asked the desk sergeant for the details.
Jimmy got popped with a deck of heroin in a school zone, then fought with the cops on the street and again at the jail. He kicked one of them in the balls after he promised to calm down and cooperate. The cop had a vasectomy about a week before and was less than a good sport about it. The officer went to the hospital, not for his swollen junk but for the fractured hand that he broke on Jimmy’s skull.
Besides possession in a school zone and assaulting an officer, they piled it on with multiple charges of intoxicated in public, disorderly conduct, making terroristic threats, etc. etc.
He needed ten grand in cash to get out or stay in jail until his court date. Murderers get out for less.
The desk sergeant started talking about bail bonds but I stopped him.
“I’m not here to get him out.”
He asked me if I wanted to see him. I said no, but asked him to describe Jimmy’s new face. He smiled at me and said, “He’s ugly with walnuts now.”
I had no idea what that meant but it sounded funny and I laughed and walked out of the police station.
I never saw Jimmy again.
He did 18 months in jail and died of liver failure a few years later.