The following is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the guilty. 

In 1982 I was sixteen. A skinny white punk in the suburbs of Houston who hung around a few other like dregs. We weren’t into school, weren’t into social conformity, but were into heavy metal. We were into chicks too, but the chicks hadn’t come around to metal yet and so we existed, together, a band of suburb outlaws.

We hung out in the woods on the edge of our development. These wood were deep and lush, with ponds and creeks for a mile until the trees ran into Lake Houston.

There were four of us. Donnie Delforia—who had a hot mom but who would get pissed any time you’d mention it—Curt Myers, Ryan Gillich, and me. Four dudes who liked to get high and hang out in the woods listening to British metal, hunting water moccasins, and talking about life. And girls.

It was a Friday night. The idea was that we were going to spend the night at Donnie’s house (something none of us were opposed to) after we score some beer at a Stop-N-Go near the lake on the other side of the woods.

As we left the pale light of the subdivision for the darkness of the trees, Ryan spoke, “So have you guys heard of this strain of weed called ‘Black Africa?’”

“Dude, yes. That’s like the best shit in the world.” Curt said. “My brother got some last year and let me take a hit. It’s totally gnarly.”

Of course we’d all heard of Black Africa. It was trending at high school water fountains and urinals. Black Africa was supposed to be better than Thai stick, AND Norther California sensimilla.

“Why, bro?” Donnie asked.

Ryan whipped out a joint, “Welcome to Africa, my bros. Welcome to Black Africa.”

We all let out a hoot and Ryan lit up the joint. We stood around passing it until it burnt our fingertips. At that point we didn’t mind, however, as we were all well-toasted.

It was good shit. Really good. Laugh-until-you-can’t-breathe good. Two hours went by before we knew what was happening.

“Hey if we’re going to score brews, we’ve got to get going,” I said in a moment of sobriety. Everyone agreed and so we walked through the woods to the lake and up to the Stop-N-Go. Along the way Ryan lit up another fatty. We let out another hoot.

As we approached the brightly lit convenience store that stood at the base of the bridge next to the dark lake, we devised a plan. Donnie and Curt would approach a cool-looking stranger, and give them ten bucks to buy us a six pack of beer. Six packs were only like three bucks back then, so it was a good deal for the buyer. It almost always worked. Plus, the drinking age was eighteen and we looked old enough. We thought.

So Curt and Donnie walked across the road to the store and pretended to use the pay phone while me and Ryan hung out at the edge of the woods—stoned out of our minds. After just two cars, Donnie spotted a target. The guy took the money, went into the store, grabbed a six-pack, then walked up to the counter and started talking to the old guy manning the register. Then he pointed outside.

“Oh no, why’d  he do that?” I asked in a state of paranoia.

Then the old guy craned over the counter to peer outside, pulled a phone from under the counter, and began to dial.

“GET OUT OF THERE!” Ryan yelled. I remember looking up at him and seeing everything in slow-motion—the curve of his lips with spittle flying, the wildness of his eyes—“RUUUUUN!”

Curt and Donnie started sprinted across the store’s parking lot directly toward us. I turned back to Ryan who was running and yelling, “OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD …”

Terrified, I followed him.

We ran for ten minutes in the darkness and got split up from the other guys.

“Where are they?” Curt asked while sucking breath.

“Dude, you freaked them out.” I said, breathing just as heavily. “They could be anywhere now.”

We found our way to a familiar spot in the woods near a pond where we’d sometimes hang out and talk. It was as good a place as any to reconvene. Only, Ryan and Donnie weren’t there.

So we waited. Parched. It turned out the dry mouth effect of Black Africa was pretty intense.

After a few minutes, Ryan pulled out another joint. “Welp, can’t let this beauty go to waste.”

Except, we were still wasted. Ryan choked on the sweet smoke and passed the joint to me. At first I was like, no way. But he insisted. “Dude, what do we have to lose? We could die out here, man. Do you want to die with your boots off?” He held the joint out to me, “Hit it, bro.”

I had no idea what he meant, but also had no intention of dying without my boots on—so I joined him in killing the joint.

An hour later, with no sign of our comrades, we decided that they must have gone to Donnie’s house, as that was where we were spending the night.

We arrived at Donnie Delforia’s lovely two-story home around 11:30. The street was quiet. There were lights in the house. As we approached, all I could think was how stoned we were. I was terrified. Ryan seemed oblivious to our obvious state. He pushed the door bell.

Carol Delforia, the hottest mom in the neighborhood, answered the door. Then everything went south.

“Oh, hello boys.” Mrs. Delforia said while wearing a sexy black turtleneck.

“Is Jim here?” Ryan asked.

My mouth dropped open. I looked over at Ryan. He had slits for eyes that were as red as pomegranates.

Mrs. Delforia cocked her head in confusion. “Excuse me?” she asked.

Before I could say anything, Ryan spoke again–slowing down his speech in case he was talking too fast the first time, “Is … Jim … here?”

All the blood rushed out of my head. “Dude!” I said between clinched teeth. Ryan looked over at me and I saw the face of a truly stoned sixteen-year-old boy who was in the throes of Black Africa. And now we were busted.

After an uncomfortable silence, she invited us in and gave us each a Coke. It was tough to maintain cool. I gave her some junk story about the four of us getting separated in the woods and that her son and the son of a neighbor were out there somewhere. But probably just walking the subdivision looking for us.

She loaded us into her car, and we drove around until we found them.

I sat shotgun and couldn’t take my eyes off of the side of her face.

The end.

***

Jim Mitchem

Trumpets

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.

FEEDBACK