We were in Lynch’s dorm room,
fanning away the marijuana fumes
when Randy, the floor counselor,
twisted the knob, pounded on the locked door.
“Lynch! You in there? Open up!”
Randy’s inner Gestapo goon took over,
Jekyll-Hyde style; sometimes he was a good old boy,
just a reasonable classmate.
Lynch sprayed Glade Peony and Cherry
from the aerosol can, while the rest of us
hid the roach clips and baggies.
“Just a minute!”
I dropped the needle onto the spinning LP,
like a licorice pizza pie on Lynch’s turntable.
Merle Haggard’s hillbilly tenor twanged
“Okie from Muskogee” as Lynch opened the door.
We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee
We don’t take our trips on LSD
We don’t burn our draft cards down on Main Street
We like livin’ right and bein’ free….
Randy sniffed the air like a bloodhound,
nose wrinkling, lips curling to a sneer.
The four of us in Lynch’s room snickered
like kids caught swiping cookies.
“You think you’re so smart,” Randy smirked.
“You’ll be sorry. Just like that hippie chick
out west who gave birth to a woodchuck
after she took some of that LSD.”
When Randy turned on his heel, left the room,
we all shot question marks at one another.
Nobody wanted to be caught being gullible,
but … that hadn’t really happened, had it?
“As beautiful as an electric chair.” Jo Nesbo, Nemesis
I’d just pulled off the highway,
ravenous as a wolf after a day
of sales meeting and miles in the car,
greeted by a strip of gas stations,
fast food franchises, making me think
of the midway at a carnival –
games, rides, freakshows announced
by flashing neon, bright primary-colored signs.
I pulled in to a Chick-fil-A,
the most convenient drive-in on my right
with a stoplight to make the departure easier.
I knew about Chick-fil-A’s political agenda,
disapproval of same-sex marriage, LGBT rights,
but food is food is expedience.
As if in punishment, though,
I ran into Family Night,
a couple of single mothers
and a passel of kids
that made me think of a litter of puppies,
ketchup smeared across their faces,
jamming Chick-n-strips into their mouths
as if they were racing a timer.
“Sonny ain’t paid no child support
for three-five months,” the heavy mother complained,
more depleted than angry, her cheeks
sliding down her face like melted plastic.
“He ain’t got no job,” the skinny one pointed out,
an African-American girl whose collarbones
stood out like a steering wheel.
“Hey, Lonzo! Quit messin’ around!”
she called at one of the kids.
Suddenly I wasn’t hungry,
but I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich to go,
and the traffic light?
Turned green when I drove up to the intersection,
a smooth left putting me back on the highway,
a hundred miles from home.
A Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar
Keith lumbered across the darkened campus
like some demented ogre
slouching across the moor
in a Nineteenth-century English Gothic novel.
In memory I hear a distant howl,
as if from an unseen wolf,
see a full moon curtained by fog,
but what I have no doubt happened –
Keith thrusting the peyote pill at me –
a translucent plastic pod filled with brown powder –
the frozen look of cat’s-eye marbles
in his dazed round blue eyes,
before he shuffled off, disappearing
into the dim vapor,
even as I thanked him.
I’d ingest that brown capsule
sometime in the next month,
even though I heard – and half-believed –
the rumors about Keith
shoving his hand
down a garbage disposal,
flipping the switch to “on.”