My friend Ted is wise beyond his years, even though he is in his eighties. When one of his relations was talking about the bad path her son was on, she told Ted “He is in with a bad crowd.”
Ted replied “No, he IS a bad crowd.”
Touche, Ted. Who we choose to hang out with certainly does influence our path. Ted would know. This God-fearing senior with a cueball head and a heart of gold was once a long-haired guy with a big moustache who used to hang out with biker gangs and did a little stint in jail.
I have never seen the inside of a jail (nor grown a moustache of any appreciable size). But I have had my own forays into delinquency with a gang of my compatriots. One fellow in particular was a good boundary-pusher – the perfect kind of guy to hang out with if you wanted to get into trouble. I think the statute of limitations is up on prosecution, and certain legal rules have changed, so I can share one of our adventures.
One teenage summer, my friend came to stay with us for a couple of weeks. We hung around with some of the other neighbourhood kids, going to the swim dock at the nearby lake or just kicking around our rural subdivision. We lived across the road from an interesting family. Two couples and their kids lived on adjacent properties – former spouses from each family carrying on life next to each other.
On Friday nights our family would go for a visit and all the adults would socialize while us kids roared around outside. At some point in one of these visits, one of the neighbour kids told us in hushed tones that she had been making a stockpile of joints from her various parents’ stashes.
A couple of years prior, after a very effective drug talk at school – I had made a tearful demand of a loved one that they stop smoking pot – it could be laced with herbicides from some Third World country and they could DIE! And yet here I was, with the bad crowd saying: “Hey – we should try it!”
Oh logic, you are no match for hormones and teenage impulsiveness…
It would have been too obvious to sneak off then, so we arranged for a rendez-vous at the old chicken house the next night at midnight.
Our rental house was well-designed for sneaking out. The upper floor opened onto a deck with stairs down. The bedroom I shared with my little brother was next to that outside door and my parents were way down the hall behind their own heavy door.
Leave shoes outside the deck door – check. Leave deck door slightly ajar for quiet opening – check. Hmm, weed is kind of stinky. What if my parents talk to us afterwards? We can’t brush our teeth, so let’s just put some toothpaste in a Ziploc bag and we can swirl it around our mouth after we smoke the pot. OK – cool. That will work. And we will bring some extra deodorant, we can always put a bit of that on. Yep, good.
We sneaked out by the light of the moon and tiptoed down the stairs with no apparent betrayal by the creaks of the timbers. Our neighbour was waiting for us at the old chicken house. She popped open a plastic flashlight and there, under the batteries in the compartment were three paper cylinders twisted at each end. She passed them around to us and produced a book of matches. A couple of shaky swipes and the chicken house lit up with the glow of the match, and we lit the ends of our joints.
“You don’t puff it,” she told us, “you have to suck it in and hold it!” Easier said than done, soon we were coughing up a lung and she was laughing and shushing us.
This was not modern, super hybrid marijuana, just some old dry shake so perhaps our high was a little more from the placebo effect, but we were convinced that yes, we had smoked weed and yes, we were buzzed.
We giggled and chatted for a while, and then some paranoia set in. For me, it was probably less the weed and more the thought that my parents might kill me if they were back at the house looking at our empty beds and shaking my little brother down for any information he might have on our whereabouts.
So we decided to make our way back. But first that stinky weed smell had to be dealt with. We slapped on enough deodorant for an entire gym class, and dipped our fingers into the bag of toothpaste to clean our teeth and freshen our breath.
Bidding the neighbour a giggly adieu, we sauntered down the moonlit road toward our darkened house. We did it, man! We were high-fiving each other as we started walking into the driveway.
Then, all hell broke loose.
BWAAAAAAAAKH!!!! BWAAAAAAAKH!!!! WAAKH!!!!
It took a second for us to register the sound. Then adrenalin cleared my synapses as we bolted for the ditch and leapt into the bush. Oh fudge. It was the mortal cry of Gallus gallus domesticus. Yes, a chicken.
We weren’t the only delinquents that night. Our free-range Irish wolfhound never could shake his habit of chicken thievery, even after his time in solitary and near capital punishment from the local farmer and his shotgun. Apparently it was the perfect moonlit night for a wolfhound jonesing for KFC on-the-wing.
Not a word passed between me and my friend as we watched light after light flash on in the house until finally the outdoor light came on and I could see the lanky silhouette of our dog – and then the very naked and enraged man bolting out of the house at impossible speed.
My dad grabbed the dog who yipped and then the chicken who squawked, and some unintelligible curses poured forth as he separated the two.
I may have blacked out a little then, as I don’t recall what happened next. I think I stopped breathing until the lights went out, one by one, and the house was again a dark shape in the moonlight.
Then the wait. Could all of that have really happened without Dad coming to check on us or my brother? Too late for a definitive answer, but after a long, long time we stretched our cramped legs, clamoured out of the brush and sneaked back into the house.
As we got to the deck door, I turned to my friend to give him a nod. It was then that we noted the minty-green toothpaste smeared around our lips. Wow, subtle. We really had a good plan there.
We managed to suppress our giggles and a few minutes later we slipped into bed, home free. Mom and Dad never did find out.
Well, until now…