by Ro Cuzon
Chris turns to me and says, “These three guys standing over there in the shade next to that building? They’re security. And they’re following us.”
I glance in the direction of the building from behind my sunglasses and spot the men, very casually dressed like most of the people around us. I’m about to tell Chris he’s being paranoid when I spot the tiny headset in one of the guys’ ears.
“You sure they’re actually following us?”
The men don’t seem to be paying us any attention. Chris nods gravely, chewing for a moment before shooting a stream of tiny black bullets out of his mouth.
“Shit,” I say.
We are all eating slices of watermelon, sitting on a bench in the warm California sunlight. Me and my buddy Chris, a burly human canvas of muscled tattoos, six-foot-one, two hundred and twenty pounds; his soft-spoken but equally volatile brother Drake; and sweet, blonde, drop-dead gorgeous Jayme.
It is Christmas Eve, around one in the afternoon. I think. It could be much later. I can’t really tell because until just a few moments ago we were all hopelessly twisted on LSD and MDMA. Candyflipping, as it is called. Well, all of us except for Chris, who only took acid because he refuses to try ecstasy.
I look back at him as he takes another mouthful of watermelon, chews, then spits out more seeds on the ground in front of us.
“It’s the acid,” I explained confidently. “It’s making you paranoid. You should take some X. That’ll take the edge right off.”
Chris shakes his head, looks at me with saucer-size pupils above the top of his wraparound sunglasses.
“I’m not being paranoid, Dylan.”
Just then I see one of the three men looking straight at me and stop short, suddenly seeing them for what they really are: goons masquerading as tourists. I toss my watermelon in the trash next to the bench and stand up, wiping my hands on my jeans.
“All right. Let’s get the fuck out of here.”
Jayme uncrosses her insanely long legs and I can’t help staring at them for a moment. Jayme was my girlfriend for a short time, then Chris’. Now she’s with Drake, whose low-key personality is a better match to her exuberant, at times manic, spirit.
“Where?” she asks, getting up.
We get up to leave, acting as natural as we can, which must look all kinds of hilarious to those guys if they’re actually observing us. Soon we’re ambling along with the slow-moving crowd, which strikes me as having exponentially thickened since we arrived this morning. We are maybe thirty feet away when I deem it safe to look over my shoulder. The three men are gone from the building’s shade and my first reaction is to stop to see if they’re following us. That’s when I’m almost knocked over by Mickey Mouse in a Santa Claus outfit, several dudes dressed as reindeers skipping on each side of him.
’Cause we’re in fucking Disneyland.
This all started the previous night, back in San Francisco. The four of us were lying around watching TV in our Tenderloin flat three stories above the always lively corner of Polk and Eddy. Outside, streetwalkers—male, female, or both—roamed the neighborhood’s fog-shrouded streets in the company of crack-heads and winos. We’d gone out clubbing the night before, though not too late, making it home at around three a.m., and were trying to decide if we should go out again. We felt restless and were also tempted by all these drugs we still had—about an ounce of weed and twenty gelcaps of pure MDMA, some two dozen hits of acid. All of it purchased as usual with Jayme’s generous monthly stipend from her rich Marin County parents so she would stay the fuck away from them.
It was about eleven o’clock. I’d just flipped from something on the news about president-elect Bill Clinton to this Disneyland commercial when Jayme pointed to the screen.
“Let’s go there,” she said. “Tonight. Let’s all go spend Christmas in Disneyland.”
We quickly discussed the feasibility of the trip. The timing was perfect: Chris was temporarily unemployed, while the restaurant where Drake waited tables would be closed for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I’d just landed a new bartending job but it wouldn’t start until after the New Year. We had some money left and Jayme’s two-year-old VW Jetta coupe; her credit card in case we ran into unforeseen expenses. We packed a couple of bags and hit the road just before midnight for the nearly seven-hour trip on I-5, one utterly straight shot south across the great state of California.
We reached Burbank at dawn and decided to take a detour to Santa Monica to go to the beach. We stayed there a while, watching the Pacific Ocean as the sun rose behind us, all cuddling for warmth in the early morning chill and drifting sea spray. We had breakfast in a small cafe there, then got back on I-5, destination Anaheim. We were lucky to find a vacant room due to a cancellation, two double beds in some dive motel with a heated pool across Disneyland Drive. It was almost ten o’ clock by then. We hurried to take showers, dropped our X and LSD—except for Chris, of course—then drove the short distance to Disneyland. We left the Jetta on the parking lot and went to wait our turn in the already long lines at the park entrance, grinning at each other like a bunch of un-chaperoned twelve-year-olds.
This was going be the best Christmas ever.
After my brush with Mickey Mouse, we discuss what rides we still want to go on, if any. We’re definitely coming off our high and realize just how unbelievably crowded the park is now, lines everywhere—for rides, food, bathrooms, snaking around and around.
It was something we didn’t mind earlier, or even really notice, but now…
“I’m fine with whatever, really.” She pouts, her arm around Drake’s waist. “But the lines are kinda crazy right now.”
We’ve done Space Mountain, the Big Thunder train in Frontierland, Alice in Wonderland (of course), It’s a Small World, and many others, laughing and hooting, touching everything around us to try to distinguish the real from the fake, the Disneyland-built illusions from the ones created by our hallucinating minds. Our ultimate goal today, however, the glowing red cherry on the psychedelic cake of the best Christmas Eve any of us can remember, will be tonight’s fireworks. We plan to watch them (after a bit of a drug refresher) in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, which has been turned into a winter wonderland, complete with sparkling lights, icicles, and glimmering snow-covered turrets.
“Maybe we should do more X,” says Drake.
“Good idea,” I say, “but we should probably snort it. Don’t feel like waiting around for it to kick in. Let’s go back to the car.”
We slowly make our way out of the park, back to the sprawling parking lot. We stop in front of the melting sea of vehicles in front of us, glass and metal glaring back at us in the hard afternoon sunlight.
“Shit. Any of you remember where we parked?”
Chris shrugs and Drake shakes his head. Jayme smiles.
“What would you guys do without me?”
She’s right about that.
We get to her two-door Jetta after spotting a couple of fat uniformed security guards cruising around on little golf carts, which we find particularly hysterical. Jayme unlocks the car and I take the black plastic film canister containing the ecstasy out of my pocket. I ask Jayme for her credit card then reach into the glove compartment for a CD case.
“All right.” I pull the lever on the front passenger seat backrest and drop it forward and get into the back. “You guys keep a lookout, warn me if anyone comes around.”
I open the first gelcap, dump its content on the CD case on my lap.
“Fuck it,” says Chris, “I’ll try some, too.”
We all look at him.
Chris shrugs. “Don’t wanna take more acid yet. Just give it to me like that.”
I hand him a gelcap. “Gonna have to wait about forty-five minutes if you swallow it.”
“I know that.”
He opens the gelcap, careful to keep all the powder in the longer half, and shoves it in his right nostril, plugging the left then inhaling hard. His face instantly twists in a painful grimace.
“Ah, man, that fucking burns.”
I laugh as I empty two more gelcaps on the CD case. “Why’d you think I’m going through the trouble of crushing it? Shit’s full of crystals.”
Chris reaches inside the car and turns the stereo on, and the mixed acid house CD a San Francisco DJ friend made for us began playing.
“Oh, I love that song!” says Jayme. “Turn it up!”
I pause to look at my friends—Drake and Jayme standing outside on the Jetta’s driver-side, Chris on the passenger-side, all three of them fluidly moving to the music’s beat. I think to myself, This is such an awesome day.
“Man,” Chris stretches his arms on each side of him with a sleepy grin, “I feel fucking amazing!”
I laugh again, fashioning the small mound of powder on the plastic case into three long lines.
“Coast still clear, right?”
“Huh? Oh, shit—Dylan!”
I drop the credit card and slip the CD case under the front seat, look up to see a security guard staring right at me. He has small porcine eyes of a faded blue, a red face with an alcoholic boxer’s nose.
“The fuck you doin’ in there?”
My heart bangs hard in my chest. For a couple of seconds all I can do is stare at him.
“Nothing. You know, just… resting.”
“Yeah?” He is heavily built, with wide shoulders and a gut, early fifties and mean-looking. “Why don’t you gimme what you just hid under the seat there.”
Panic surges in me as I look behind him, hoping for some kind of help from Chris. But he is nowhere to be seen.
“Don’t fuckin’ make me come in there,” says the security guard, a cold edge in his voice.
There’s nothing I can do so I slowly reach for the CD case under the seat, raise it toward him.
“Fuckin’ knew it. You little punks are doing coke.”
“Nah, man. It ain’t coke. I swear.”
He leans in, extending his hand toward me, his face now level with the CD case as anger and frustration overcome me.
This is so fucking stupid.
Without formulating another thought, I blow the MDMA lines right into his face.
The guard rears back as if I just doused him with sulfuric acid. “Ah, you motherfucker!” He is shouting, frantically rubbing his eyes and wiping his face while I just sit there, amazed at what I’ve just done. And a little terrified.
Next thing I know he’s grabbing me and pulling me out of the car. He sucker-punches me in the stomach and I fall next to the Jetta and he smashes my head into the car. I see stars and hear Jayme screaming for him to stop. I look up, expecting another blow, and see Chris stepping to him.
The guard pivots and kicks him in the nuts and now Chris is on the ground as well, writhing in pain. The guard pulls out his Maglite, hits him with it, then whips around to face Drake and Jayme.
“Don’t you fucking move!” He brandishes the flashlight above his head. “I was a cop for sixteen years—I’ll crack your fucking skulls open!” Then he calls for backup on his radio.
This is so fucked up. I turned to look at Chris on the blacktop. He is bleeding from a gash on his forehead but seems fine otherwise—has to be, still in the euphoric blasting-off phase of his MDMA bump. Now I wish I had snorted a line, too, instead of wasting it in that guy’s face.
“Dude,” Chris tells the guard, “don’t you think you’re overreacting just a tad?”
“Shut up! Tired of you fucking cokeheads coming to my park to get high.”
I blink at him. “You’re fucking crazy, man.”
The guard grabs me again, Maglite ready to strike. He drags me a few cars away along the ground.
“You sit here,” he says, “and you shut the fuck up.”
The cavalry arrives in the form of three more purring golf carts, two more security guards and two middle-aged men in dark suits. They all hastily dismount, spot Chris with blood now dripping down his face.
“Jesus, Harry,” exclaims one of the guards.
“What the hell happened here, Kasinski?” asks one of the suits.
“Caught these kids getting high in their car.” Harry Kasinski chucks his chin toward Chris. “Big one attacked me, had to defend myself.”
“Bullshit!” I shout.
Kasinski is instantly on me, twisting the top of my t-shirt, pinning me against the car, his forearm crushing my throat. Tears come to my eyes as I struggle to breathe.
“Whoa!” shout the suits in unison.
“Good god, Harry!” The second guard rushes toward us and pulls him off me. “Take it easy!”
Kasinski pushes him off.
“This little prick blew his coke all over my face! Then his friend tried to jump me!”
“Goddamn it—it wasn’t coke! And you’re the one who assaulted us.” I look at the suits. “This guy’s a fucking maniac!”
“Okay, calm down! Both of you!”
The suits step out of earshot to whisper to one another, then come back. One of them pulls a two-way radio from his pocket and raises it to his mouth.
“Cheryl,” he says, “call the police department, please.”
Liquid ice shots through my veins: they actually believe that nutcase ex-cop’s version of events and are going to press assault charges. The cops will search us and find our leftover ecstasy and LSD. We’re going to spend Christmas night in an Orange County jail.
This can’t be happening.
It takes less than ten minutes for the police to arrive, one cruiser that slowly makes its way toward us then stops behind the Jetta. A single officer exits from it, a medium-size Asian man, mirror sunglasses on, and the two suits immediately head toward him.
Kasinski looks at me, his thin lips twisting into a little smile.
“You’re going to jail, asshole. All of you.”
We all watch as the suits converse with the officer who is still wearing his sunglasses. I see him look at Chris, then at Drake and Jayme. He looks back at the suits, then glances at Jayme again, standing there in her red miniskirt and white halter top, cleavage showing, tanned, tears in her baby-blue eyes, her blond hair glowing in the sunshine. The suits speak to the cop for another brief moment then turn toward us, one of them waving to Kasinski.
“Harry, come here, please.”
Kasinski glares at me before walking away. I watch him animatedly tell his story, pointing at me first, then at Chris, and hear Jayme shout at him.
“You’re a fucking liar!”
The cop tells her to be quiet and turns back to Kasinski so he can finish his story. Then he comes toward me.
“What’s your name?”
“Dylan. Dylan Marchetti.”
“Why don’t you tell me what happened, Dylan.”
I tell him exactly what went down.
“Mr. Kasinski says you two assaulted him, that he was just defending himself.”
“Yeah, well that’s bullshit.”
“Got any more coke on you?”
I sigh. “Jesus Christ, it’s not coke.” I know he’s going to search me so I just reach into my pocket and hand him the film canister. “It’s ecstasy.”
The cop opens the canister, glances inside, then empties the gelcaps into the palm of his hand. He rolls a couple of them around with the tip of his index finger, looks back at me.
“What’s in there?”
I frown at him, then repeat, “Ecstasy.”
My heart begins to race as he stares at me from behind his mirror shades and I try to contain my excitement. Ecstasy has been illegal for just seven years in the U.S, which may account why this fucking Anaheim cop has never heard of it. I look at him as earnestly as I can.
“It’s something I got from my dentist after getting my wisdom teeth out. Somekinda of painkiller. Forgot the name of it. Lots of people take that to party up in San Francisco. You know, snort it so you get a rush from it?”
The cop put the gelcaps back into the canister. “I could get this stuff analyzed and find out exactly what it is—”
“—except my shift ends in an hour and I don’t need any extra paperwork. I want to be able to get home in time to spend Christmas with my family.” He slips the canister in his pocket. “Gimme your ID.”
I pull out my wallet, hand him my driver’s license.
“Any of you got outstanding warrants?”
I make a face like this is the most outlandish statement in the world.
“All right. Stand up. Put your hands on your head. You don’t have anything else on you, right? Any weapons? Anything that can prick me?”
He finishes his search and nods.
“Okay. So here’s the deal: head of security seems to think that Mr. Kasinski overreacted a little bit. As in, I think this might have happened before. Plus it’s Christmas. So if you and your friends come up clean and you tell me that you won’t cause any trouble because of Mr. Kasinski’s actions, then I’ll be on my way. Come with me.”
I follow him back to the Jetta and the security posse, trying to rein in my smile. Kasinski is eyefucking me, probably thinking that my chat with the cop looked a little too friendly.
The cop asks Chris to get up, searches him and takes his ID, then moves on to Drake. Then it’s Jayme’s turn, and panic floods me again because she’s carrying the acid. This cop may not know what ecstasy is, but he’s definitely encountered LSD before. I glance at Chris, who’s now so high he has to lean against the car to stand up, then at Drake. Drake is trying to keep a straight face but I can tell he’s thinking about the acid as well.
Jayme steps toward the cop with her hands on her head, her 34DD tits bursting forward.
“My purse is in the car,” she smiles.
The cops glances at the small pockets on her miniskirt, one tiny slit on each side of her crotch.
“Get it for me, please.”
I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. We all watch as the cop goes through Jayme’s leather bag, then thoroughly searches the Jetta. Finally, he goes back to his cruiser with our IDs.
We all wait in silence. I keep glancing at Kasinski, who’s getting redder by the second. After a while, the cop comes back and hands us our IDs back, saving Jayme’s for last.
“Okay,” he says, giving her a wide smile. “All clean. So I’ll let these people here decide what they want to do with you all. Merry Christmas.”
The cop returns to his car and drives off.
“This is fucking bullshit! These punks attacked me!”
One of the suits turns to Kasinski.
“Why don’t you go back to the office, cool off for a while,” he snaps. “We’ll see you there in a little bit.”
Kasinski is beet-red, looking on the verge of an apoplexy. Cursing under his breath, he storms off toward his golf cart, climbs on it and purrs away.
The suit turns toward us.
“I want you all to know that your conduct here today is inexcusable.”
His colleague nods sternly. “This is a family place.”
“We’re a family,” says Jayme, and I feel like kissing her.
“Yeah, well, we don’t condone drug use of any kind in Disneyland. So you’re not allowed back in the park, ah… today.”
We all look at each other, fully grinning now.
Except for Chris. He’s still looking in the direction Kasinski’s cart departed.
“Man,” he mutters, “that dude was so angry.”
We are now on our way back to our shitty little motel, all silent. Save for Chris, we all feel pretty low. We are really coming down from the LSD now, never a pleasant sensation to begin with. And even though we’ve just been very lucky, the encounter with Kasinski has shaken us.
“What an asshole,” I say.
Jayme is driving. Drake is sitting next to her in the passenger seat. I’m in the back with Chris.
“Forget about it,” she says, then points through the windshield at a gas station up ahead. “Let’s stop there and buy a case of beers. We can still have a great time, just the four of us. We still have the acid and a bit of weed left at the motel. And I have my Xanax prescription. We can order some pizza, then go take a dip in the pool.”
“You know what? You’re right. Fuck that guy. We still have each other.”
“Amen, brother.” Chris raises a lazy hand and I high-five him.
Jayme can always cheer us up.
Forty minutes later we’re in our room finishing our pizzas and drinking beer. We got music playing on Drake’s portable CD player and speakers. We’re laughing and talking over each other, reminiscing about our day and all the fun we’ve had. I glance at the Miller High Life we purchased at the gas station as Chris rolls another joint.
“I don’t think we bought enough beer.”
“Well,” says Jayme, “we should definitely go get more before we drop acid. ’Cause we won’t be able to drive after that.”
I get up. “I’ll go.”
“I’ll go with you,” says Drake.
Jayme rolls on the bed, reaching for her purse on the bedside table. “Here. Put it on my card.”
The gas station is less than a mile away, so Drake and I are back in no time. We put more beer on ice in the bathroom sink and I crack open another bottle. Jayme lights the joint Chris rolled before we left. I take a sip of beer, hear a knock on the door. Jayme looks at me.
“Uh-oh. Think we’re being too loud?”
I laugh. “Possible.”
I’m still smiling as I open the door but abruptly stop as I find myself staring down the barrel of a gun. Behind it is Kasinski’s red face. He shoves me back and gets in, slamming the door behind him with his foot. He stinks of booze and cigarettes.
Except for the music playing in the background, the room is now silent, every one of us staring at the black revolver in the ex-cop’s hand.
“So I’m pretty sure you all cost me my job today.” He nods. “I mean, they didn’t tell me I was fired or anything, but I think that’s just because you don’t fire people on Christmas. I think they’re gonna wait until after the holidays.” He shakes his head, then picks at his nose, before carrying on. “So anyway, there I was outside my car, pumping gas before my drive home, still seething about you little dopeheads, when I see this Red Jetta pull up and you two fucks coming out of it laughing your asses off. And I thought, man, fucking Santa Claus must have just flown by, right?”
“What…” My mouth is so dry I can barely speak. “What do you want?”
He snatches the High Life from my hands, gulps the whole thing down, then hands it back to me.
“Well, here’s what I was thinking: I rent this little house in a very quiet neighborhood about twenty minutes from here. A new development, you know, most of the houses around still empty? Place has this great basement. Perfect place for a party. I figure we could all drive there.”
Without warning, he punches me in the face, a quick jab that I somehow see coming, and I move my head back. His fist still connects with my mouth, splitting my upper lip, but at least I get to keep all my teeth. The next second he has me in a chokehold, drilling the barrel of his gun into my right temple.
“What’s your name anyway, asshole?”
“Okay, so listen up. Me and Dylan are gonna go to my car, which is conveniently parked outside right next to yours. Dylan is gonna drive and you’re all gonna follow us. By that I mean that I want you right the fuck behind us the whole way, you hear me? I lose sight of you and Dylan here gets a bullet in the back of his head, understood?
My friends nod like automatons.
“Very good. Let’s get moving.”
Kasinski let them go out first, then hides his gun under his shirt before shoving me forward and crab-walking after me. There’s no one outside and we quickly reach the parking lot where a white dented Crown Vic is parked next to our Jetta. Kasinski hands me his keys, holding up the one for the car.
“Open and get in.”
We split up around the back of his car and I walk to the driver side door, glancing at Kasinski on the other side, his arm resting on the roof, the gun flat against it, aimed at me.
“Come on, hurry the fuck up!”
My mind is completely blank, as if someone hit the pause button in my brain. I unlock the doors and slide behind the wheel. The car stinks of cigarettes and greasy junk food. Kasinski settles next to me in the passenger seat and places the revolver’s cold barrel against my cheekbone. Without his small eyes leaving me, he tells the others to get in the Jetta and follow us. Then he reaches for his door and slams it.
“All right, now start the car.”
I do as I’m told and we drive out of the Motel’s lot.
“Take a right, then a left at the light.”
We drive for a while through an unending series of strip malls. Except for giving me directions, Kasinski is silent. He just stares at me, the gun resting on his gut, trained on me. At one point he sees me glance at him and smiles.
After a moment, he asks, “That girl with you. What’s her name?”
“Jayme,” I say after a beat.
“You all fucking her?”
I don’t answer him. I don’t like him talking about Jayme. I’ve been trying not to think about what will happen to us once we get to that whack job’s basement, racking my brain instead to find a way out of this. All in vain so far.
“I bet she gives great head,” Kasinski goes on, nodding to himself. “Those lips she has?”
It’s the last thing he says for a while and I have to fight vivid images of Drake, Chris and I chained in some dark basement while that psycho rapes our girlfriend in front of us. All of a sudden, as if this weren’t bad enough, it dawns on me that this is all my fault: if I hadn’t blown the X into his face, none of this would be happening.
I’ve got to find a way to get us out of this.
“Okay, now you’re gonna take the next right,” says Kasinski, checking for the Jetta in his side mirror once again.
We reach the intersection and I make the turn, and we leave the strip mall behind us. We are soon driving through a residential neighborhood, cookie-cutter houses with small front yards and garages adorned with garlands of multicolored lights, reindeers and sleights and fucking Santas, blinking Christmas trees in the windows. After a while, the holiday decorations begin to dwindle. I now feel sick to my stomach. Another quarter-mile, and most of the houses we pass become dark.
“We’re almost there,” says Kasinski. “Less than a minute away.”
We drive on.
“Left on the next street,” says Kasinski.
We reach the street and I take the turn.
“Okay, this is it—house’s all the way at the end.”
I stare at the road stretching in front of us, ending in a cul-de-sac glowing in the harsh and surreal orange of a single streetlight. I glance at Kasinski now grinning maniacally next to me, his gun still aimed at me.
And that’s when I notice that he’s not wearing his seat belt.
I stomp on the accelerator.
“The fuck you doin’? Slow down.”
I grip the steering wheel harder, gritting my teeth.
Kasinski shoves the gun’s barrel against my jaw.
“Slow the fuck down!”
I mash the accelerator harder—not that it can go any farther—and glance at him, and he reads my eyes. They say: I don’t care if you shoot me, I don’t care if I die. I just won’t let you hurt my friends.
I sense him fumbling for his seat belt as I aim the Crown Vic’s hood at the cul-de-sac’s streetlight and close my eyes the second before we hit. I hear this loud yet surprisingly brief wrenching sound and feel my chest being crushed.
Then I black out.
Now I’m back on that beach we went to this morning, facing the Pacific, the four of us huddling together in cool golden light. Except I’m seeing it from above, feeling extremely light and relaxed.
I hear twisting metal then voices by my ear, then feel hands grabbing me. I recognize Chris’s voice, then Drake’s. I open my eyes as they are carefully pulling me out of the wrecked Crown Vic. The windshield is gone and the entire hood has been compressed into a concertina of crushed metal, with steam or smoke furiously jetting out. I look for Kasinski but don’t see him in the car anymore.
Then I black out again.
I’m vaguely aware of lights flashing over me, of being in motion.
Now I’m conscious again, sitting on the Jetta’s backseat with my head resting on Jayme’s shoulder as strip mall lights and bright neon signs flash by my window. I feel a burning strip across my chest where the belt prevented me from following Kasinski through the windshield. Both of my knees are pulsing with pain. Jayme smiles at me.
I blink at her, nodding. “Think so.”
Chris turns around in the front passenger seat.
“That was a ballsy move, bro. Could have gotten yourself killed.”
I lick my swollen upper lip. “I know.”
We drove the rest of the way in silence. Ten minutes later we’re back on the motel’s lot. Chris gets out and comes to open my door. He leans in to help me out but I shake my head.
We stop by the front office to ask the clerk if he can let us into our room, explaining that we went out for a bite to eat and forgot both our keys inside.
“You guys in for the night?” he asks me as we walk, glancing at my cut lip.
“I think so, yeah.”
“Well, I don’t know if you interested in this sort of thing, but the fireworks start in forty-five minutes.” He points to the cheap white patio set by the small pool. “If you sit over there, it’ll be right in front of you.”
We all look at each other.
“Yup,” the clerk goes on, “better than being in there if you ask me.” He nods in the direction of the park on the other side of Disneyland Drive, grimacing. “With all those goddamn kids?”
We reach our room and the clerk lets us in and we thank him and close the door. Chris goes to the bathroom and comes back with four High Life, uncaps them one by one and hands them to us.
“Ice in the sink’s all melted but they’re still cold,” he says, then takes a sip. “Forty-five minutes,” he grins. “Means we have just enough time to drop some acid.”
“I don’t think I can take acid after what just happened,” says Drake.
“I know. Me neither.” I look at Chris. “What happened to Kasinski, did you see?”
It’s the first time we speak about him since they rescued me from the wreck of the Crown Vic. I see Jayme set her travel bag on one the beds and unzip it. Chris nods.
“Caught a glimpse of him on the side of the road when Drake and I were forcing your door open. All bloody and shit. From the angle of his head, I’d say his neck was broken.”
“Shit. Think anyone in that neighborhood saw what happened?”
“Don’t know,” says Drake. “It was like a ghost town over there.”
Jayme is unzipping her toiletry bag and shakes her head.
“There were just four houses with their lights on over there,” she says. “No one came to the windows. I was keeping watch.”
I think for a moment.
“Then I guess we don’t have anything to worry about. That psycho was drunk and not wearing his seat belt. He crashed his car and died. The cops will think it was an accident.”
“Dude died,” says Drake, the reality of it just now hitting him.
My paralyzing fear in the Crown Vic is still fresh in my mind and I don’t feel anything about Kasinski being dead except relief.
“Crazy fuck got what he deserved,” says Jayme. “God only knows what would have happened to us if he got us into that house.”
I remember Kasinski talking about her in the car and now I’m actually glad the fucker is dead.
“Yeah, fuck him.”
“What about the gun?” says Drake.
An image flashes through my mind, from when they were pulling me out of the Crown Vic—Kasinski’s revolver lying on the floor in front of the passenger seat.
“Dude was an ex-cop. Police will think he kept it there for protection or something.”
“Here,” says Jayme, tracking around the bed with her prescription bottle, dumping some pills out, “let’s each take one of these to soothe our nerves. Then we’ll see about dropping some—oh, shit.”
She stops and extends her hand toward us. In her palm are four Xanax pills and two clear gelcaps of ecstasy.
“When are those from?” I ask.
Jayme shrugs. “Last weekend, I guess.”
“Well, we’re definitely taking that acid now,” grins Drake.
Forty minutes later we are all sipping cold beer in the pool, high on ecstasy under the starry California sky, the LSD just beginning to kick in. We’re chatting easily, laughing, the heated pool a warm liquid cocoon protecting us from the chill of night. Then the first rocket explodes in the darkness above us, a giant shimmering red flower blooming in slow motion. We all go, “Wow!”
Jayme shrieks as a bright blue one follows, illuminating us. It is succeeded by four golden ones, smaller but louder, and we all clap as they trickle down to earth like sequined dust. I look down at my four best friends gazing upward as more lights and detonations tear through the night, grins of wonderment on their beautiful young faces.
“Merry Christmas,” I say. “Love you, guys.”
* * *
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I moved from France to San Francisco in the second half of 1991, as the rave scene was about to explode all across the City by the Bay. At the time one of my first wife’s good friends was the promoter behind the famous itinerant party ‘A Rave Called Sharon’ (my wife was actually an investor in a couple of the very first parties). This was before raves were held in regular SF clubs and instead organized in abandoned or rented warehouses. Just getting there was part of the fun. You picked up a flyer somewhere—from a record store, a trendy boutique, some guy on the street. You called the number on it and a recording sent to some street corner the night of the party (usually South of Market, or Oakland, Berkeley or any adjoining county). There, some guy dressed like a Dr. Seuss character would hand you another flyer with the rave’s address, or another rendezvous point. Once you got to the rave, you might find anywhere from 200 to 1000 costumed or half-naked people frantically bobbing to deafening house music under lasers and psychedelic lights, the vast majority of them high on ecstasy—or ecstasy and LSD taken together, aka ‘candyflipping’. In 1992, I drove down to L.A and also went to Disneyland for the first time. I was still attending raves regularly at the time (that’s what SF people my age did back then on the weekend) and something about Disneyland struck me as having the same twisted, psychedelic vibe as my crazy San Francisco parties. Twenty years later came this little Xmas story. – RC
The Blues and getting punched in the face were the two biggest influences in Rodolphe Cuzon’s development as a writer. Born in Brittany, France, Ro boxed for several years as a teenager and dropped out of high school to play guitar in a band. He has lived in France, San Francisco, the Caribbean, and Brooklyn, and finally settled in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans. He’s earned money as a waiter, bartender, construction worker, painter, landscaper, as well as other, unmentionable activities. His fiction has appeared in CrimeSpree Magazine and the Noir bimonthly Thuglit. Named by George Pelecanos as ”among the rising stars of the new generation of noir novelists”, Ro is the author of the Adel Destin Series: Under the Dixie Moon, named a Library Journal Staff Pick 2012, and Under the Carib Sun. Both are available now at The Rogue Reader.
COMING SOON: Crescent City Stomp, the third novel in the Adel Destin Series, will be published in Spring 2013 by The Rogue Reader. Find more from Ro, including playlists and cocktails inspired by NOLA, and sign up for weekly updates and exclusive content from The Rogue Reader here. Connect with him on Twitter @rocuzon and Facebook.com/TheRogueReader