by Vincent Purita
To describe John’s Friday as just “shitty” would be like describing the Atlantic Ocean as wet. He had been working thirteen hour days, six days a week, for the last six months which added a general sense of irritability and instability to his mind. Fresh out of college, to pay his half of the rent, John worked at a Starbucks on Wall Street. At least he did work there until management called an employee meeting to discuss its new drink size: the centi. A 100 oz. drink option that rose from the notion that Americans can never have enough coffee, the behemoth was served in a reusable BPA free bucket, and the physical volume of the drink was 2.8 times greater than the upper maximum of what an average human stomach could hold. John’s initial reaction was uncontrollable laughter for three minutes until he realized it was no joke. This prompted John to violently throw up over the sickening fact that such a drink would be approved, followed by uncontrolled rage which instigated him to flip tables over in his mentally fragile state. He was quickly restrained by the rest of the staff members and asked never to return again, which John was completely satisfied with.
John’s real money was yet to be made. The majority of his work day consisted of an unpaid internship at a Merrill Lynch financial firm where he managed the sum cash flow of his clienteles’ collective $9.8 million dollar accounts from one fund to another. Paired with the fact that John had a BA in finance from NYU and was working towards his MBA, he was a shoe-in for a job. At least this was what he thought until his supervisor took all his contacts and explained that he could never make it in the business without at least $10 million in client cash flow before letting him go. John voided his stomach again, enough to fill a centi, and then sobbed in a fetal position until security physically picked him up and threw him out of the office suite.
John walked home less than the hollow shell of a beaten man. He felt empty, and not just because he voided the contents of his stomach twice that day. His thoughts of “How will I pay the rent and for college” were only broken when he mechanically trudged down his apartment complex’s hallway and his nostrils were accosted by the ghastly smell of what could best be described as boiling cabbage too long inside a horse’s rectum. He immediately awoke from his mental funk long enough to hold his jacket against his nose to block the smell while his fingers fumbled around in his pocket like blind pilgrims searching for the object that would deliver him from the brimstone-scented hell.
With his key finally in the lock, it would have turned the full 180 degrees if not for the loud warking sound that emanated from behind his apartment door. In this moment John debated whether he wanted to see what kind of animal his roommate Parker brought home this time. The way he saw the situation, he had two choices: possibly risk lacerations, evisceration, or poisoning from some unknown creature, or he could take his chances with the fetid fear-inducing smell that wafted around the hallway corridor. John took a deep contemplative breath and immediately regretted it; however he concluded that whatever lay beyond the door, whether clawed, venomous, or fanged, it had to be better than the prior events of the day. This especially included the odor lingering around the halls.
The door opened only enough for Parker to pop his head out, taking John by surprise.
“Oh, hey John, I thought I heard you. I’m gunna need the apartment to myself for maybe an hour or so and… is that vomit?” Parker stared at John’s soiled business shirt.
“Its been a long and depressing day Parker. I just really need to come in and sleep, whether you have an animal or a girl or…” The warking sound grew louder and John raised an inquisitive eyebrow. “What do you have in there?” John tried to peek into his own apartment but Parker desperately blocked off his view.
“It’s a girl… sort of. It’s really not that bad, I swear.”
Parker looked around the corners of the door, making sure that no one else was in the corridor.
“It’s illegal isn’t it?” John facepalmed himself and shook his head in a mixture of fatigue and disappointment. “Didn’t you learn after the spider monkey?”
Parker smiled wryly and ushered John in. “That monkey was a gift for me. This is like a business venture or whatever.”
John wasn’t fully prepared to see what was in front of him. It stood roughly eye level with John at six feet tall and was covered in coarse red hair, or rather wool. With it’s small beady eyes peering into the emptiness that was John, it looked beyond daunting.
“Is that a fucking llama?!” John shouted in disbelief.
Parker motioned with his hands for quiet lest their neighbors hear them through the paper thin walls of their shitty little apartment.
“Nope, it’s an alpaca. But more importantly, it’s going to be a goldmine.“ Parker reached into a duffel bag and pulled out five thousand dollars in hundreds and tossed the stack to John. “This is your cut right there since we’re sharing the space and it would be selfish or whatever not to spread the green around.”
John counted the stack and then counted it again as his eyes grew wider the longer he stared at Ben Franklin’s green face.
“This is more than I make in two months!”
Again Parker motioned to the walls and tried to shush his loud and disbelieving roommate.
“Something to maybe lessen the blow of what I’m about to tell you.” Parker took a deep breath, put his hands squarely on John’s shoulders and looked him straight in the eye. “I’m dealing drugs.”
The rage and disbelief boiled over in John’s face like a baking soda volcano. “Are you a fucking idiot?!” Parker shushed him again and John complied in his whispering fury. “Are you a fucking idiot? Not only are you dealing drugs, but you used the money to buy a fucking llama.”
“OK, first of all, it’s an alpaca. Second, it is the drugs.” Parker stated defensively pointing a finger at John.
John looked at Parker then back at the alpaca and then back at Parker again.
“Wow, so you really are an idiot. How can an alpaca be drugs?”
“Hear me out. It’s the latest craze in Peru. You feed the alpaca wormwort like in absinthe and then the hair gets imbued and shit with hallucinogenic properties. You smoke a little, and instead of seeing the green fairy, you see the fucking green Incan Sun God who’s there to take you on an epic fuckin’ spirit journey through your imagination. If I go into Soho and sell this to some rich trust fund hipsters or whatever who are looking for a good time, I make bank in a single night.” Parker motioned to the alpaca. “This thing is like fifty pounds of hair, and an ounce sells for five hundred dollars, plus it’s totally legal. Well it’s only technically legal, but still, son. All that money was only half of the preorder sales I made from some of my hipster friends. There’s a whole market to corner here. A little word of mouth and boom, we’re the only game in town to cater to the designer drug needs of our clientele and shit. You’re like a numbers guy, John. Do the math. Ten thousand dollars a night, plus double on weekends times fifty-two weeks a year is enough for me to be almost as successful as you when you get that job at Merrill. We can do rich shit together.”
The pit of John’s stomach dropped out and he started to feel sick again. “They actually let me go at Merrill Lynch today.”
“Aww shit, man. That fuckin’ sucks. Is that like fear vomit from losing the chance at Merrill?”
“And rage vomit from Starbucks. They fired me today too.”
“Word, son? That’s fuckin’ great.” Parker said with a grin from ear to ear.
John held back anxious tears from his eyes. “How is that great?! I have no job to pay for college, the only career choice I ever wanted slipped through my fingers, I can’t even pay the rent, and I’m an emotional wreck!”
“Those jobs were killing you, man. Now you can work with me on this and we can both make bank. We haven’t hung out in forever and you’re like good with numbers and shit. I could be the supplier or whatever and you could be the numbers guy to make sure we’re like financially stable.
John was a numbers man by trade and did the math in his head. During an entire year they would make over $300,000 divided by two, minus expenses and living costs. Both would be making six digit salaries and would have flexible work hours. His financial logic said “Do it” but his moral reason asked “Are you crazy?”
John eyed the giant red creature next to Parker that was chewing on a bale of wormwort solemnly.
“Is it safe to keep?”
“Lucy here?” Parker asked as he patted the creature. “She’s a doll. A little loud sometimes, but on the whole, a fuckin’ sweetheart.”
“Lucy, huh? I guess she’ll have some splainin’ to do. Right?” John tried to crack a smile.
“I Love Lucy.”
“I love her too, man. She’s going to make us rich if you just say yes to selling her hair, son.”
John gave Parker a defeated look. “No, I meant like the TV show. Lucille Ball. Ricky Ricardo.”
Parker gave nothing but blank stares. “I’ll Netflix it when I have the chance. But what about your answer? Can you help me sell?”
John stared hard into Lucy’s eyes and then Parker’s before he sighed and cracked a smile. “Why the hell not.”
“This guy!” Parker motioned to John with a wide grin. “Hell yeah, son. Go raid my closet for some skinny jeans and ironic tees while I bag this hair up. We’re going to Soho it up at a hipster club.”
A wave of apprehension washed over John’s face.
“I don’t know if I can pretend to be hipster for the night. I’m tired as fuck and emotionally drained man. I can barely care about anything tonight.”
“That’s good, son. You have the attitude, now all we need is the look.” Parker reached into his duffle bag and threw John a wool knit sherpa hat with an emerald alpaca insignia on the side. “Put this on too, that’s how people know we’re selling.”
After squishing his testicles into a pair of super skinny jeans and donning a vintage tee that was two sizes too small from Parker’s closet, the two were on their way to Soho in Parker’s 1999 Nissan Maxima. Their equipment: two duffle bags full of wool and a list of buyers who pre-ordered.
Endorphins were pumping through John’s body replacing any fear and apprehension with elation and confidence. His smile said it all and more.
“So what are we doing tonight?”
Parker turned a corner and began pulling up in front of the club. “You’re taking care of the pre-order list and I’m going to see about running up some impulse buyers here. You know, makin’ moves.”
“Have I ever heard of this place before?” John inquired as he stared at the brick wall exterior.
Parker parked in front and hand John a duffle bag of his own. “It’s ‘Some Place You Never Heard of Before.’ Hipsters talk about it all the time.”
John slung the bag over his shoulder. “Yeah, but what’s the name?” His roommate pointed to a sign labeled ‘Some Place You Never Heard of Before.’ “Huh. Well OK then.”
The two bypassed the small line outside as Parker pointed to John’s wool knit cap and gave the bouncer a friendly nod. Immediately they were in another world. The decor was vintage futuristic like something lifted from a 1950s’ furniture magazine about what the year 2000 would look like. Sharp lines and angles everywhere in black and white. The DJ was playing something that John later found out was called Electro House Death Synth Step. He had never heard of it before, but everyone seemed to be enjoying it or at least looking like they didn’t hate it.
The people were otherworldly as well. John had only known about the skinny jeans, vintage shirt, and black framed glasses look, which there certainly was plenty of, but this was different. Men wore blouses and shirts down to their knees, women wore 1950s’ sun dresses or short skirts with long jackets.
Even the dancing was different. For most it was either looking at the ceiling and convulsing or staring at the floor and running in place like some odd Charlie Brown imitation. All were intentionally dancing off the beat. It was a scene that was beyond surreal, it was Soho surreal.
Parker ushered John to a fairly private corner away from the fray of the dance floor. “You’re dealing to the pre-orders, son. They tell you their names or whatever, and you mark it off the list. You take their cash, and give them a piece of the stash. Simple right?”
“Yeah, how hard can it be to deal drugs?”
“I like that attitude! We’re making bank tonight!”
With that, Parker was gone to the dance floor mingling with anyone who looked like they would be the first adopters of the new designer Soho drug. John on the other hand was just waiting around. Should he try not to look conspicuous so as not to arouse suspicion? Should he look more like a drug dealer so people would know he was holding? How does a drug dealer carry himself? All these questions flowed through his mind as it drifted deeper into space until this private bubble was broken by a voice.
“Sup, man, I’m Derrick P.” The stranger went in for some handshake-high-five fusion that John was taken off guard by and caused him to deliver a semi fist bump instead. The result of which caused Derrick to drop something from his hand that John promptly picked up from the club floor.
“You dropped this.” John replied handing Derrick a wad of cash back.
Derrick’s eyebrows knitted a look of confusion on his face. “Aren’t you John?”
“Yeah, that’s my name.”
“I’m Derrick P.”
“OK.” John’s face gave a blank stare of utter incomprehension from lack of sleep and lack of street smarts.
Derrick tried to force a smile and a wink. “I got a tip that you have my pre-order from a dude named Parker.”
“Oh… Oh! For the drugs! Sorry, it’s been a long day, and this is my first drug deal. I guess I don’t know the etiquette.”
Derrick’s face contorted in horror over how loud John blurted out ‘drugs’ and ‘drug deal.’
“Jesus Christ. Keep that shit on the DL, man!”
“Oh, sorry. I’m used to a different sort of business. I mean how does this go down?”
Derrick face-palmed himself and took a long, hard look at the inept dealer. “You’re serious? I put the money in my hand and you have the drugs in yours and then we sort of do a shake thing and everything is passed along.”
John blatantly took a packet of wool out of bag in anticipation for the do-over while Derrick stared with an open jaw.
“This really is your first deal, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but I’ll get it down in no time. If I can manage distributions at a Merrill Lynch, I think I can handle drug trades at a club.”
Derrick went in for another handshake high five fusion and the goods were traded.
This was immediately followed by Derrick turning John around and cuffing him.
The Soho stranger pushed John into the wall and pulled out a badge. “NYPD DEA office! This is a bust!” Twelve more officers popped out of every conceivable nook and cranny taking aim at John with their guns. The drug dealer’s immediate response was to fear vomit, but he could only muster a fear dry heave that caused the officers to feel pity for John and queasy at the same time. John was notified he had the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and that anything he said could be used against him in a court of law. Parker was nowhere to be seen in the club as they hauled John out and into the back of a police car to be interrogated down town. His bag was processed as evidence and John was taken to an interrogation room.
John, being that he was scared, tired, and a pussy, immediately broke down to undercover officer Derrick Petros. He told him and the other officers everything. About Lucy, about Parker, the hallucinogenic wool, the green Incan Sun God who’s there to take you on an epic fucking spirit journey through your imagination. Everything. Of course the police didn’t buy the story, thus the interrogation continued. Just what was he distributing at Merrill Lynch? Coke? Marijuana? Meth? Heroin? What was the average Wall Street banker’s drug of choice these days? Was it a scheme to cause financial instability in America, devalue the dollar, and cause a full blown depression due to high bankers and execs becoming junkies? Did John have any ties with the Chinese? Al Qaeda? How far up the chain did this really go?
John kept spouting out the same story, so they tried everything. Misinformation, bargaining, sleep deprivation, gifts. Good cop, bad cop, happy cop, sad cop. It was a frighteningly Seussical ordeal for John, until morning arrived. The drugs were pronounced harmless and without any hallucinogenic properties at all by a team of highly-trained lab technicians. The worst thing that could have happened was an asthma attack when smoked, or the ability to make a cashmere sweater when anyone possessed it. John was free to go and sell as much of the wool as he wanted as long as he got a vendor’s license and answered one question from Officer Derrick Petros.
“I’m not here to judge, but can you honestly live with yourself, selling wool and telling people it’s drugs? I mean what did you do before this?
“Well…” John fidgeted under the intimidating gaze that emanated from behind the officer’s mirrored sunglasses. “I worked in food retail and finance before this mess.”
The officer gave a long pause before he spit on the ground and gritted his teeth in disdain.
“You make me sick. Get the fuck out of here. Some scumbag friend of yours is here to pick you up. And take this God damn bag with you!” he yelled as he threw the duffle full of wool at John.
Outside the interrogation room Parker waited in a chair with his laptop out, in between a skin head thug and a hand cuffed tranny prostitute all watching the screen.
John looked at his friend in disgust. “Sup? Is that really all you have to say?”
“Well, I guess I should tell you that I instant streamed ‘I Love Lucy’ on Netflix with Alan and Ruby over there. Chocolate factory episode is by far the best thing ever. The guy who wrote that should have gotten an Emmy or something.”
John’s face reddened. Total meltdown was imminent.
“I was in fucking jail last night! How can you not comprehend the severity of the situation!?”
“Chill, son, I got you a present.” Parker pulled out another stack of cash totaling $20,000 as John stared at the green mound in disbelief.
“How did you possibly make that much money?”
“Supply and demand. After you got arrested I was all like, ‘yeah, I got some of that stuff that guy was selling or whatever’ and everyone was lining up to pay double… triple… five times as much for this shit. I sold out of my entire bag in less than ten minutes and hopped on over here. So between us now, there’s fifty grand in one night.”
John rubbed the back of his neck and could feel the heat of embarrassment.
“You waited here all night?”
“Yeah, man. You’re my friend. I didn’t want you to get arrested or anything. You were having a shitty day and I thought I could share the wealth and that you would have a good time. Sorry everything got all messed up.”
“It’s OK. Sorry I yelled at you. Did you realize that the wool doesn’t have any effect on people?”
“Hell yeah I knew. Dealing will get you ten to twenty-five. I just tell people its drugs and they think they’re high as fuck and lose control for a while. It makes them feel better. It’s like when I told you that you would be a drug dealer. You were happy after a shitty day. Sometime people just need an outlet to really unwind and be happy sometimes. For some its drugs, for others it’s a job. Know what I’m sayin’?”
VINCENT PURITA is a semi-agoraphobic substitute English teacher from Northern New Jersey. He made the terrible decision to continue his education after his BA in English and now is having panic attacks that no school will hire him full time. He is often mistaken for a waiter at clubs and feels guilty because he will never be back with that Red Bull and vodka that the hot brunette ordered. He likes to write absurd fiction when he isn’t doing awkward things that make people laugh or cringe.