Short story by Michael Botur

 

 

Before Carl and Lydia one after the other experienced heart failure and collapsed under palm leaves in a black tropical cloud made of searing, slapping cold raindrops 1400 metres up a muddy volcano, poisoned by roughly-mixed bath salts which made their hearts pump so furiously that each released a clot into the bloodstream, big Carl stopped climbing and said between gasps he couldn’t possibly go on without a smoke, and stroked little Lydia’s hair and almost completed a perfect French plait before his limbs spasmed then froze and his eyes became stiff, bulging cueballs, pink with bloodshot.

 

*

 

Before Carl said he was just going off the path for a sec to take a shit, and lumbered his size 14 flip-flopping feet through the trunks of some thick, dripping palm trees and into a clearing to smoke bath salts, he told Lydia he didn’t think he could make it to the summit. This was under the shelter of a sagging palm leaf a hundred metres from the summit, out of sight of the mob of perfectly contoured detox Nazis intent on sweating their addiction out. Carl told Lydia his chest was feeling funny and the toot on the ole pipe they’d had at the start of the hike hadn’t helped, but Carl wanted Lydia to know that, if he didn’t make it, he had a fat stack of hundies buried in the water meter box at that West Hilton Street Park it turned out he and Lydia both used to play at. He told Lydia she was welcome to the cash-stash if she ever got off cloud nine and made it down the mountain and off detox island. Lydia said that was definitely her plan, bro, one hundred percent, man, as she took the pipe gently from his hands like a drink in the desert and Carl lovingly cupped his fingers around the lighter flame to keep wind off it, cause all that ever happened in this island detox hell was an onslaught of counselling and storms and sweaty death marches and the least you could do for a person if they weren’t gonna survive was let them enjoy one final smoke in peace.

 

*

 

Before they died near the summit, the big fella and the girl he protected smoked in a pair of longdrop toilets at the base of the track while the detox Nazis stood outside banging on the toilet door as Carl yelled at them, ‘I’m takin a shit, you want proof, come on in and take a stool sample, ya creepy-arse paedo poofter pervert motherFUCKERS!’

Carl had three tokes of his pipe and little Lydia had two. They passed the pipe to one another over the plywood wall dividing the two spiderwebby plywood toilets buzzing with mosquitoes. Thirty seconds into the march and already they couldn’t hack it. They couldn’t go on without a toot. No shame in admitting it. Keepin it real was what separated Lydia and Carl from the Fitness Fascists. What was the point of getting your buzz by marching up to heaven when you could just smoke your way into the clouds? Every cunt on the motherfucking abstinence camp’s just a Straighto Nazi Nark Hypocrite, cept you, of course, Lyds, Carl ranted through the toilet wall. Fuckin Straightos. Even if a Nazi hikes until all the drugs come out of his bladder and sweat glands, he’s still a Nazi. 

‘I heard that,’ the Camp Commandant interrupted, frowning at the dark blue stormclouds above. ‘Can you hurry up and move your feet already? You’d better not be smoking cigarettes in there.’

‘Promise we’re not smokin ciggies,’ Lydia chimed, and the two of them cracked up laughing.

 

*

 

Before they had a sneaky smoke to prepare them for the bullshit hike that was supposed to sweat sin out of their systems, Carl and Lydia were overjoyed to discover they both had no intention of turning out like the rest of these mountain-climbing goody-goods. It was the cloud on the top of the judgemental volcano that prompted their very first conversation. Lydia slammed cupboards in the kitchen, asked the big shaven-headed Uncle Fester-looking creep wearing the red 88 NBA singlet where the fuck they kept the sugar in this god damn health-conscious concentration camp, and Carl told Lydia ‘You must have ya head in the fucking clouds if you think they’ll let ya have anything naughty like sugar.’ He laughed until he hacked up pink bubbly mucus. Lydia knew the mucus. It was the type you hacked up when you burned your throat from sucking on your pipe too greedily then carried on smoking a day later and burned the already-burned throat lining. Failing to find sugar, Lydia defiantly put a breath mint in her coffee and said, ‘What’s so bad about having your head in the clouds anyway?’ and Carl shut the door behind him, glancing around warily, and told her he very much agreed, and to be honest, Carl knew he wasn’t gonna make it to 30 days without a smoke, so why waste a good smoking day when your fate is sealed?  The big pale ogre may have had a grim reaper etched on his throat but Lydia could tell right away Carl wasn’t a bad person. Not like the hypocrite Straightos that ran this fuckin place.

 

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That’s the first 1000 words. 

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