Article Title
Article Title

Hoople

by IN Short

This is the first chapter of a book Dave has promised to never finish.

     Not tryin to sound cavalier or nothin’, but seein’ somebody pull a gun really ain’t that big a deal. Especially when you sell weed for a livin’. Hell, half the time I look up from my scales somebody’s tryin’ to show me some piece they just got at a pawn shop or gun show or fuck knows where. Eventually I got tired of shittin’ my pants in the middle of deals and put up a NO FUCKING GUNS sign.

     I’m twenty and I’ve been sellin’ weed to people for six years. Weed’s got a lot of advantages over other shit like pills. For one, the possession charge ain’t near as shit bad. For two, you ain’t gotta deal with shit-ass pillheads. Nobody ever stole copper wire to buy an eighth.

     I was raised by my grandma once my folks cut out. Ain’t uncommon around here. When I say “cut out” I don’t mean they left town, I mean one overdosed and one held up a card house and is bones in a mineshaft somewhere.

     Once they were gone and the supervision with ‘em, I started sellin’ at school. Real small stuff. You get a pack of pens, the kind that click. Unscrew ‘em and take out the guts and you can fit either a joint or a rolled-up five dollar bill inside. Nobody looks twice at somebody borrowin’ a pen in class. Never got caught in four years.

     (Make sure you always get your pens back. Buyin’ more is gonna eat into your profits. That was the first lesson I learned. The second was only buy sandwich baggies when you buy other groceries. If your parents were like mine, you need to do any damn thing you can in the name of misdirection.)

     After high school (yeah I graduated, I talk real stupid but I read good as hell) I started sellin’ bags, still little amounts. Just a few grams or so. I couldn’t really expand until Grandma died. I got kinda lucky that she died after I hit eighteen, so instead of endin’ up with some shit-ass foster family I just get to hang out in the old house and remember to pay the property taxes.

     When I say the supervision was gone, I don’t mean Granny didn’t care about what I did or nothing. I guess my buddy Kermit explained it best. He told me if you can’t pull the wool over your own mamaw’s eyes, how could you expect to ever get one over on anybody else?

     Once I took over the house I was able to build my business a little. I could buy more product, sell bigger bags, that kind of shit. Best of all, now I don’t have to run all over the streets and hollers to sell anymore. Now most everybody comes to me.

     For some people sellin’ is more than a full-time gig, in that they’re open for business around the clock. Not me. When you start buyin’ from me you get all the ground rules laid out nice and simple. That way everybody’s clear on what not to do unless you feel like buyin' elsewhere from here on out.

     One. I only communicate by text or in person. If you call me I’ll never sell to you. Period.

     Two. I sell between noon and midnight. The other twelve hours are my hours. All I’m ever doing is readin’ or watchin’ TV or sleepin’ but that’s not your business.

     Three. I sell only a few specific weights. I don’t sell by the gram. So when you text me you’ll say you want an ounce, a half, a quarter, or an eighth. A half costs half as much as an ounce and twice as much as a quarter. The prices don’t fluctuate often so it’s pretty easy to know, say, how much a whole ounce is if you know that buyin’ an eighth will run you twenty bucks.

     Four. When you come to see me and make your buy, the only people that come on your trip are you. If you’re a dude, you come out here solo. I see two people and I start to get antsy. I got a taser down at the pawn shop but it’s only got one shot in it. Any girls I sell to are allowed to bring one girl with them, cause I know they feel safer that way even though they don’t got anything to worry about with me.

     There’s a college close by. That’s where most of my business comes from. Hell, you could even say I’m reliant on them. I don’t have much local business. Most of the townies here are into booze or pills. I’m not here to judge one vice over another, or be some kind of activist, but get real.

     “Townies” is really too good a word for’em. I got one of my own I use. I was watching a show one time about a gold rush town in South Dakota, and one guy called all the gold panners “hoopleheads” cause of the flashlights they wore around their head. Since I can’t fart without a coal miner smellin’ it I started using the word hoople to describe all these goddamn go-nowhere white trash leeches on society.

     It’s a good little word. Do you work in a coal mine or factory and spend your off-hours poundin’ beers and drivin’ a 4-wheeler? Well, you’re just a redneck. Do you not work at all and spend your monthly check on lotto tickets and cigarettes? Congrats, you’re a hoople. Ever steal copper wire for literally any reason at all? That’s hoople behavior. Quit it.

     Shit, where was I....

     Yeah, there’s a college about six miles closer to town. I sell to about a dozen folks there. Out of that dozen, half of them are just buyin’ from me to sell it to other students at a premium price. It’s a bit of a sly move on their part but for one, I’ve watched GoodFellas enough times to respect any attempt to make a legitimate hustle, and for two I ain’t exactly allowed on campus property so it’s not like they’re takin’ away my customers. Besides, those guys buy a lot of weed off me.

     I buy from Peg, who I got the taser from. She’s a nice older lady, about sixty. She owns the pawn shop and mostly just sits there all day watchin’ daytime television. If you’ve never watched any daytime TV let me just tell you it’s boring as shit. Anyway she sells me about a pound at a time and I break it up and move it on down the line.

     Shit, sorry, I was talkin’ about the college. I’m distracted. Some of these kids have been smoking for a few years already, but most of them are experiencing drugs for the first time. Now see I don’t take advantage of these kids. Not exactly. I sell to them for the same price I sell anyone else. I don’t under-weigh their bags and I don’t try and intimidate them. I do sell them blow-throughs for about ten bucks, though. If that sounds like a good deal to you, let me explain how to make a blow through:

     1. Get an empty 20-ounce plastic soda bottle.

     2. Cut a hole in one of the bubbles circling the bottom. I suggest the one closest to the UPC symbol so you’ll always know which way to hold it.

     3. Go get a box of dryer sheets. I prefer the ones that smell like orchids.

     4. Stuff the bottle full of dryer sheets. Don’t pack them in like contraband, but fill it all up. Should take about fifteen sheets.

     5. When you inhale smoke, exhale through the bottle.

     So yeah, they could make it with things that were definitely in their dorm rooms. But I mean, you gotta learn sometime.

     I don’t sell pills. Never have, never will. Askin’ me if I sell pills is a great way for me to either ignore your attempts at communication or otherwise magically be sold out of product every time you need some. Fuck pills.

     Pills get a hold on people. It used to crack me up that folks would crush up the pill and snort it. Like they’re somebody out of damn near any movie from the '80s doin’ coke. It’s like they feel special doin’ their dumb drug the same way richer people would do their shit off a toilet seat.

     It doesn’t crack me up anymore. Now that I’ve seen what it does. How it eats your face up from the inside like meth. Lookin’ like a skeleton and actin’ like a damn idiot. How it makes you do hoople shit. Stealin’ and sellin’ stuff, sellin’ your body, sellin’ your grandpa’s coin collection. Those drugs just get in you like one of the demons my grandma would preach about. And that’s a demon that will make you pull a crazy stunt to get your next hit.

     Like pulling the gun I was starin’ down the barrel of right now.

 

Dave Emerson is a 32-year-old recent college graduate from Kentucky who will never write for a living. He wants you to know that you can definitely be too old to go back to school.

 

Image courtesy of Royal Virgin Islands Police Force

 

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IN Short is The Inclusive's annual short fiction week, featuring work from staff writers and contributors. Check the author page to see more contributions for IN Short.