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Rock of Pages

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Monk2400
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Posted 03/17/08 - 3:19 PM:
Subject: Rock of Pages
(CHRONICles v.0.1)

'We'll just go up around the corner.'

J motioned towards the next block. He was walking his BMX style bicycle beside him. I regarded him for a moment. His ball cap was tattered and dirty. His puffy winter jacket was faded from dirt and weather. His face was covered in a prickly blonde stubble that only highlighted his poor skin, which was flaky and scabby.

'These bags are thirty, an' they come with a piece of hash.'

I had met J only a few moments before, on the street corner we were hurrying away from. It was a fine day, overcast but mild. I had just come out of Macleod's Books, one of my favourite antiquities dealers in the downtown core. It was a great place to find rare books, especially for philosophy. I had in mind the seminal work of the late moral philosopher Alan Gewirth, as I had been reading a collection of papers discussing his theory (of the 'principle of generic consistency' or 'PGP'), which states that every agent, in making a moral choice, is also in fact choosing to uphold the rights of other agents to make choices. Gewirth was a neo-Kantian, to be sure, and many of the papers in my collection compared his forumlation of the 'PGP' to Kant's deontological system. I was interested to pursue this line of thought somewhat, because, though I am a relativist at heart, I am also fond of rationalism, especially in the theory of judgment.

'Do you have any dimes?'

'No, just this bag. Too many young kids come down here you see...and...'

J's sentence trailed off into a kind of self mutter, which I could not hear. I had been walking back towards my bus stop when I passed J, standing with his bike on the street corner. He uttered the magic words that lit up my pysche: 'weed'. It was a time honoured technique for trolling for customers, to subtly ask the question or state the fact, like 'weed?' or 'buds' in lowered tones as one passed prospective marks. As a consumer, it was really a craps-shoot. It was by far better to have an 'inside' or 'indoor' connection. There had been one a while back, nestled snuggly in an old appartment above a head shop and run by some hard core bikers, but the entrance had been chained up for some time now, with, of course, no forwarding address.

I had walked right into Mcleods and found the Gewirth book straightaway. I was quite delighted. Even better, I found an excellent and practically untouched copy of Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception, which I had been meaning to add to my shelf for many years. Being in such fine spirits, having conquered the world of antiquities, I was in the mood to enhance my day, especially considering I was going out for Filipino food later that day (a new experience for me, for which I thought a little appetite enhancement might do the trick).

Thus, when J appeared I did not hesitate.

We walked around the corner and sat down in the covered bus stop a few feet away. The streets around us were fairly empty, as this was not a major through-fare of downtown. The hot spots were a few blocks west and south.

'I've only got 25 bucks.'

'That's ok, that's ok. Just put the money on the seat beside me.'

I fished in my wallet for a bill and some coins--all the cash I had on me at the time.

'So this comes with a piece of hash too. It's free. We're just giving these ones away as a sample.'

'That's Ok, I don't really like hash. I will stick with the buds.'

'Yeah I don't like it much either,' J reflected, 'but it's free. No extra charge.'

I hesitated for a moment. The week before I had bought some questionable 'hash' from another grubby looking gentleman I had passed in the street. But I figured what the hell.

'OK, sure, why not.'

A young man passed in front of us, coming from across the street, and eyed us up with what appeared to me to be suspicion and disdain, with a glimmer of laughter. A bus drove up and stopped, then continued on its way as we waved it off.

'Hey!! Hey! Is that a pit bull?' J called out to a man walking a dog across the street. 'Is that a pit bull?' he asked me.

'I can't tell.'

'HEY! Is that a pit bull?'

The man paused and turned to face us. 'Its a cross,' he said, pulling the dog close on the leash.

'Is it for sale?' J yelled.

The man shook his head as he walked away.

'Ok, come on.'

J scooped up the money I had placed in the bench as he rose and started down the street. I followed.

'You come down here to pick up much?'

'No, not really. I'm not from around here.'

'Oh yeah...where you from?'

'Kingsway area.'

'Yeah?? Me too! I usually take the train out here. I also work in the shop man. You know the shop? Yeah well the cops shut it down and shit. But I'm usually down here. You'll see me around.'

'Fine day.'

'Ok,' he paused, 'just shake my hand when we cross the street.'

We crossed a cross walk and stood before a park known as a gathering place for questionable persons. I shook J's hand, to my disgust. His hands were scabby and scaly, dry and flaky. I feared I may need immediate disinfectment. His shake placed a small plastic bag in my hand. We parted ways with a customary 'cheers'. I retraced my steps back around the block and past the spot we had first met up. Now with the package in hand, I needed to find a place to sit and roll the joint.

I walked a few blocks, looking for a suitable place to sit without being seen or molested by passers-by. I had the baggie in one hand, my bag of books in the other. I felt and fingered the baggie in my hand. It didn't seem to feel like it ought to have felt. For thirty dollars of weed, it should have been bigger, firmer. I felt my heart sink with that sickening feeling of being the victim of a street scam. I ducked into an alley way to examine my prize.

I unfolded the dirty doubled bagged product and looked inside. In the bag was a sparse pile of dim green shake, not even remotely enough to cover thirty dollars. It had no smell at all. This was certainly not bud. I should've backed out of the deal as soon as J refused to show me the product. I had asked, as we walked to the bus stop, if I could have a peek. He mumbled something about 'too many kids down here' again and affirmed that this was 'good stuff'. It was 'stuff' alright. Had I seen this, I would have laughed and walked away. Now I was out twenty five dollars.

I thought, OK, well, maybe I can get a buzz off this anyway. So I sat on a building ledge nearby to roll the crappy shake--a pile of loose cuttings, usually made from the broad leaves of the weed plant, and of dubious psychotropic value. But when I inspected the pile further, I immediately dismissed this idea as both foolish and dangerous. I found a piece of black plastic, a shard of hard plastic or glass, and assorted other bits of refuse mixed in the pile. I thought of how these guys 'prepare' their product--in the stairwells of local parkades, not caring what they come into contact with. And the piece de resistance, the free 'hash', stared up at me, bold as a diamond. I had until that moment, never seen white hashish before.

For those that know, hash is the compressed oil of the cannabis plant, and is usually brown or black in colour. It has a distinct odor and texture, and can be a potent smoke. This little white nugget was not hash. It was crack.

Wow, I thought, here, in my hand, was the devil oft spoken of in rap lyrics and on tv in the eighties--the crystalized form of cocaine that provides an unbelievable first high and instant addiction. And it was given to me 'for free'.

I thought of J riding his stolen bike and thinking that it wouldn't be long before he would be seeing me again, asking him for more of the 'white hash' which he claimed to dislike, but--judging from his appearance--of which he was a regular partaker. He was probably having a good laugh with my twenty-five bucks in his pocket, and telling his buddies that he had just hooked a new mark. I got mad, thought about going to find him, as he was 'always around'. But I dismissed that idea quick, as there was no telling what dangers I could be placing myself in. Crack fiends were unpredictable and sometimes violent. And who knows who his 'buddies' are.

I dumped the contents of the baggie on the ground and tossed the plastic aside. I chuckled to myself as I walked out of the alley. There's your fuckin crack dipshit, I thought. Some poor binner might get lucky if he finds this before it rains again, and doesn't mistake it for a pebble. A valuable piece of crystal to some people. Utterly useless to me.

I shook my head and vowed never to buy anything from some dude downtown again. What a rip off. I wasted my money and didn't even get a buzz. It pays to know a real connection, a nice indoor hook-up. But me, the solitary thinker, would have to wait until the summer, when the dealers came out to the beach. Certain hook-ups there, but still not the best hydro you can get. Fuck.

I walked into the closest Starbucks and grabbed a large coffee.

Edited by Midnight_Monk on 05/08/08 - 8:24 PM
Nexus
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Posted 03/18/08 - 5:39 AM:

Just a word about the books mentioned. He's smart + street smart; I wonder if mentioning obscure work just diverts from the prose. Maybe in a novel but in a short work you could find your own way of indicating the thoughts that the books represent. You know, you could say 'he wasn't so fond of Kant but...' within some action scene.

A bit more detail on the urban environment might help the reader to imagine - not much more but at the right moments.

Thr prose flows well though and a character emerges. A little more psychology to suggest why he takes dope why he wouldn't take crack? How drugs help his creative/intellectual side that you indicate early.

(just ideas to accept or reject; I quite liked it overall)clap
Monk2400
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Posted 03/18/08 - 6:52 PM:

Nexus wrote:

Just a word about the books mentioned. He's smart + street smart; I wonder if mentioning obscure work just diverts from the prose. Maybe in a novel but in a short work you could find your own way of indicating the thoughts that the books represent. You know, you could say 'he wasn't so fond of Kant but...' within some action scene.


OTOH, one might argue that these particular books give a significance to the rest of the story. For instance, the main purpose of this person's soujourn to the downtown area is to find a book on moral philosophy, particularly, one whose central theme is about the necessity that attaches to the ultimate scope of moral choices. And yet we find him subsequently in a rather dubious position, what some might say a morally questionable circumstance. And the phenomenology of perception could easily be seen to foreshadow the ultimate questioning over what is real and what is perceived, such as how the character inteprets his predicament vs. how it may or may not have actually happened or intended by the other participants (e.g, the guy crossing the street with the strange assortment of looks).

The contrast is all the more vivid because while we are seemingly presented with a character that has some academic predilictions, who is apparently both 'smart and street smart', he nonetheless neglects both his smarts and street smarts to pursue an arbitrary and temporary desire that ends up detracting from his overall experience of the day.



Nexus wrote:

A bit more detail on the urban environment might help the reader to imagine - not much more but at the right moments.


Perhaps you're right there.


Nexus wrote:

Thr prose flows well though and a character emerges. A little more psychology to suggest why he takes dope why he wouldn't take crack? How drugs help his creative/intellectual side that you indicate early.


Good question. They probably don't. The drugs are not even directly related to the philosophy books. Rather, we see a contrast between two streams of this person's character, streams that could be potentially at odds, but how is unclear.

Why would ANYONE smoke crack????? Now that's crazy!! Weed is weed, but crack is WHACK. Reminds me of the funny scene in the movie Half Baked where Chapelle is attending Narcotics Anonymous and confessing being 'addicted' to weed, then Bob Saget stands up and heckles him to shame asking (in a hilarious contrast of the actor vs. his previous 'image'), if Chapelle had ever ****ed **** for pot, suggesting that he himself had been there done that because of harder 'real' drugs. LOL that was a funny scene!

cheers,

8)
Monk2400
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Posted 03/19/08 - 11:16 AM:

BTW, thanks for the critical appraisal. Short stories like these, for me, are usually purely expressive, like poetry, so it’s unlikely that I would revisit or rework them much past the first draft. But ideas for the future…!

cheers,

8)
libertygrl
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Posted 04/03/08 - 11:58 AM:

during the years in which i used recreational drugs, i met folks on occasion who couldn't understand how people could draw the line between one form of illegal drug or another (not to suggest that this is what you believe, nexus - just making an anecdotal comment inspired by the thread). for example, some people seemed to think it was strange that i would do ecstasy but not cocaine, or smoke pot but not meth. pot is commonly referred to as a "gateway" drug (by folks, in my humble opinion, who have absolutely no clue what they're talking about). a pre-disposition toward a certain drug does not mean that one is pre-disposed to take any or all drugs. various drugs have vastly different effects and appeal to different psyches for different reasons.

i guess it mainly boils down to the way we establish boundaries, and the way we tend to assume that when one particular boundary is violated (for example a boundary against using illegal drugs), in our perception anything becomes possible beyond that boundary. this principle could be applied to established boundaries of any sort; for example if we met a person with telekinetic ability, suddenly all sorts of things become possible, such that we wouldn't be surprised if such a person could also fly or read minds or any other sort of thing previously thought impossible. on the one hand it can be a grossly erroneous presumption, but on the other hand it's probably a perfectly natural defense mechanism to heighten our vigilance in unfamiliar situations.

general observations,
smiling facelib
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