Chapter Twelve: Middle Game

John placed his elbows under Debbie’s thighs and pushed upward so that her knees hung in the air only six inches from her head. She moaned as he penetrated into her for the third time this evening. It was hard work keeping her legs open like this but she told him that she enjoyed it most like this. He found it most exciting fucking from behind, when she was on her knees and her face was buried in the pillow. He reflected that his preference probably made him a bit weird. Or maybe he just had some Greek blood flowing in his veins. Anyways, doing it by holding Debbie’s feet up near her head required a bit of work.

She came, and John set about getting his satisfaction. He wasn’t too sure if he would able to come for the third time that evening. One time there had been talk around the locker room about who had done the most times in one night. Woody said he had done it eight times before falling asleep, seriously. John suspected that Woody was full of shit. Either that, or else it was true what they said about the sexual prowess of blacks. John’s record stood at four, and his cock had ached the next day. Of course, John’s record had been accomplished by wacking off, and had been assisted by a truly tremedous issue of “Swank” magazine. John came, but it was only a tiny orgasm compared to the first two before it. However, it was such a relief after all that hard work that he fell on Debbie’s chest like it had been some momentous event. What the hell, women had egos too.

For ten minutes they held each other in their arms. John’s left index finger slowly drew circles around one of Debbie’s nipples. John liked looking at nipples. maybe he had fond infant memories of them. He wondered what it would be like for a grown man to drink from a women’s lactating nipple. He decided that with Debbie, he didn’t want to be the one responsible for giving her breast milk. He rolled off the bed to take a leak. Debbie’s mom was over at her’s boyfriend’s place. Again. John and Debbie did not pick any night when her mother was home, for obvious reasons. S

ebastian was in the TV room, watching a Stallone flick, First Blood One or Two, or whatever. The body count was high enough anyways to keep the attention of a seven year old boy. “Yah, blow away the motherfuckers?” Sebastian cried out. John was mildly schocked.
“Where did you hear that word?” he asked Sebastian. Sebastian turned his head towards John and looked puzzled.
“I dunno,” he said. “Around.”
He turned his head back to the T.V. Rambo had a huge sort of machine gun, a M-60 maybe, resting on his hip and was blazing away at the enemy who fell like marionettes with their strings cut. John felt a little uneasy at the sight of a seven year old boy cheering multiple deaths. He tried to remember at what age he was allowed to see violent movies. Or when he first used the word “motherfucker.”

Debbie was out of bed at her desk, working away at something. A bag of cocaine rested near her left elbow. An even bigger bag of pot occupied centre stage. She was rolling a joint with the marijuana and a little bit of tobacco.
“You have to cut this stuff Johnsie,” she said, “‘cause it’s pure hydroponic. It will blow you away for hours if you’re not careful.”
“Debbie, I got no time to get fucked up — I gotta meet the boys later this evening,” John said. “But you have to sample the merchandise, don’t you? Unless you trust me not to give you bad shit.”
John leaned over and kissed her on the nape of the neck. “Can’t trust you, can’t trust nobody and I’m fucked. But a toke would be nice,”

John was swapping coke for pot and a few tabs. Everybody at Laurentian appreciated the rich man’s powder, but some insisted on the old stand-bys of hemp and acid. Well, the group was only in business to satisfy the needs of its customers. The transaction, at current street prices, favoured Debbie but John could afford to undercut just about anybody. John and the boys were going through two bags of coke a week; at that rate they would be out of coke in just under three years.

John took the joint, had a few tokes, and passed it back to Debbie. After a few minutes had passed, he toked again. He sat down on the bed.
“Damn Deb,” he said, “You weren’t kidding.”
She stared back at him with dreamy eyes. “It’s good to get fucked up after a really good fuck,” she said, and she giggled.
John didn’t get any giggles but a series of head rushes. The feeling was sort of pleasant, but he hated the loss of control over his body, the ability of the drug to take away his focus on whatever he was thinking of, at that moment, and to throw it in an entirely unexpected direction. He stood up and walked to the window. He hoped that some fresh air would clear his head.

The window faced north towards the mountains, invisible except for the lights on the ski runs of Grouse John remembered an episode that had happened six years ago. He had been camping with his family on the mountains in the summer. He and Rachel and gone on a hike alongside a glacier river up a steep slope. Rachel had stood upon a rock outcropping that had given way underneath her weight. John had been directly below her not ten feet away. A waist-high boulder had tumbled toward him. John had frozen for the barest instant because he had been unsure of the path of the boulder which randomly kicked itself from side to side. Finally, John had leapt to one side and stuck out his hand as if to guide the boulder by him. He had felt no fear at all, not even afterwards. A sharp edge of rock had cut him on one of his fingers. Afterwards, he had bathed his hand in the ice-cold glacier stream, with his sister fussing over him. John looked at his watch. A half-hour had gone by.

Debbie was lying in the bed lost in her dream-world. “Shit Debbie,” he said, “I gotta haul ass. I’m supposed to meet the boys at the Patty Shop in about five minutes.”
“Gimme a kiss,” she said in a dreamy sort of way.
John leaned over and touched her on the lips. Then he grabbed his coat and his share of the dope and hustled out of the bedroom. He tip-toed past Sebastian who had fallen asleep with the T.V. still on, and almost forgot to pack the dope inside one of his pockets before leaving the flat. It was the stone that made him careless, and he hated that. The streets were vacant at that time of night, empty even of whores. Debbie told him that the police hustled them off the corners every once in awhile in a futile attempt to stop the trade. Meanwhile, the dealer-pimps would sit in their Camaros and Firebirds and bemoan the loss of income. The government made it so hard to run a business, dishonest or otherwise, while it was such a easy scam to tell your social worker that you had lost your welfare cheque again, and please may I have another?

John walked down East Hastings with his head clearing fast. There were so many things to think about, and they all had to do with his own business and Rob. Of course he was used to independents nibbling away at his franchise at Laurentian. Debbie had been doing a little here and there since she had been a freshman. But every once in awhile Rob yanked her chain, telling her hey woman, remember your place and gimme a cut. He had cut out three of her best customers in such an easy contemptous manner. He had walked over to her locker and had said Debbie, don’t worry about so-and-so, I’ll handle his needs from now on. Then he would pat her on the ass or grab one of her breasts and move along. The small crowd of hangers-on (Debbie called them suck-asses) would chuckle at Rob’s wit, and run their eyes all over her body. She would feel dirty, and hate Rob even more, who was usually careful not to make unnecessary enemies but was blind just this once. A girl can’t make a buck without some asshole coming along and wanting a cut, whether she’s selling her body or something else, she told John. She couldn’t wait for Rob to graduate and get the fuck out of her life. She looked at John like he was some sort of savior, and gave him what he needed most: Information. John had down on a list pretty well the name of every doper at Laurentian High, as well as a pegging on every one of Rob’s merry men and how solid was each and every one of them. Most of them were seniors who would be tight with Gates until diploma day. But there were a few who were looking down the line at another year or so in school with Rob gone to college or jail. It would good to know what exactly what Rob knew. Even better, to know exactly what Rob was gonna to do to John and company.

John felt irritated that he still had to pussy-foot around Gates and crew. He wanted to challenge Rob openly and claim Laurentian for himself and his gang. He wanted the respect of being Laurentian’s main man. He wanted to become a prince, so he could claim his princess. He yearned to be with Jenny again. He wanted to see her smile and make her laugh. She had wept that night in the garden, and when he had asked her why she said that she was crying because the two of them could never be. He asked if that was because he had holes in the bottom of his sneakers and she said yes, that was why. She had dated a poor boy before, and had watched him shrivel up at the sight of her father’s big house and fancy cars. The family’s wealth had poisoned their relationship. It had come as a relief when her father had sent her away to private school. The boy had drifted out of the picture, sinking back to the working-class world from which he had come. It had broken her heart. She had sworn that she would never do it again. The very next night John had taken a small shovel out of the garden shed and put it in his pack-sack. He had waited in his bedroom until his parents had finished watching the late night news and then he had crept out through the window. He would no longer deny his ordination. Woody’s addiction, football, and Jennifer all formed links in a chain that had dragged him back to the suitcase filled with cocaine. In the autumn he had been nothing more than a high school boy trying to make graduation with a minimum of fuss. Now? Through no fault of his own, his world had turned topsy-turvy. He could whimper and turn his back to it all, or he could grasp at the one thing that could turn the tide in his favour. He thought again that he really had no choice, or so he convinced himself.

Fives paces from an old tree stump, and John had easily found the spot where they had buried the suitcase. Unconsciously, even at the time of burial, John had somehow known that he would be back, and so he had memorized that patch of broken earth. Less than one hour later, his shovel had clunked against something that wasn’t a stone…

… John walked through the doorway of the Patty Shop and the boys were all there, with a friend. Good, John thought, this could be a very good night as far business goes. Sitting with Woody, Scott and Mike was a guy by the name of Frank, a junior at Laurentian High and a part-time runner for Robby. Frank was nervous.
“Can’t we go into the back?” Frank asked again, “I mean Jesus, if somebody sees me here and talks, I’m gonna have some serious explaining to do to Rob, and that’s no good for nobody.”
“Boy has got a point,” Scott said, nodding as if in agreement.
“…but we always sit here no matter what,” Mike said.
“…so it looks like you’re shit out of luck.” Woody finished.

The three boys smiled. John had told them to make Frank sweat just a little. John had also told them that if Frank threatened to take a walk, then to show him the door. Scott, Woody, and Mike were beginning to discover that John had a talent for sizing up people. John ignored the boys for a moment and went to the counter to order something to eat. There was a chair vacant, across from Frank, waiting for him. He sat down and said nothing for a moment, letting his eyes look around and a small smile play around his mouth. John had good eyes, a firm steady gaze that nearly always made the other person speak first.
“So I heard you wanted to talk to me,” Frank said, breaking the silence. Frank didn’t want to come on like he was a weasel, but that’s what he was. Maybe he had an illusion that he could walk in and talk to John like he was some kind of equal. That illusion was fast disappearing.
“I don’t know Frankie, you got something to say? You got something that can help me? I always remember friends.” John said.
What stupid fucking dialogue, like something out of a gangster movie, John thought. Except that this is real, that it was very necessary that he break Frank to his fist, that he talk slowly and with hidden meaning so that he could entrap Frank without scaring him off.
“Come on, you want to know about Rob,” Frank said.
John laughed. “Yeah. But what I really want to know is, does he know?”
“He knows something’s up. But nobody is talking to him, and it’s pissing him off. Pretty soon he’ll squeeze one of the major customers that ain’t buying from him anymore and they’ll talk.” “Maybe not, they’ve been warned,” Woody said.
Frank looked at Woody with a brief flash of scorn before remembering his place.
“Customers always talk, fucking always, because the dope makes them chickenshit, or they got to brag that their connection is the best in the city.”
“Okay, Frank, but we wanna know the answer to the million-dollar question,” Mike said, “what’s he gonna do when he finds out who’s moving on his territory?”
Frank could feel the balance of power shifting in his favour. That was the wild card in this dance, that was why they needed him.
“You know, Rob sells us hash at seven a gram, and then we flip it for ten or twelve, all things depending. A strip costs us ten, and we give it out for fifteen. But that’s individual selling, a gram at a time, a strip at a time. On volume deals, we always make less. Sometimes it’s enough to make a man think about going legitimate,” Frank said.
“Or make a man think about going into business for himself,” John added, looking at Frank with new eyes.
This boy is hungry, he thought, and maybe a little stupid too. Frank read John’s mind.
“No, no,” he said, “that’s not it at all. Holding down the franchise takes a different breed of cat than a salesman like me. I’m a distributor, not an owner — or an enforcer. God knows you need the last.”
Frank looked around the table with the sharpest glance of the evening. “It’s been peaceful around the school for the first time in years. And just down the street there’s Needle Park where the junkies O.D at least one a week. A little farther down, there’s Strathcona, where somebody can get a knife between the ribs just as a reminder to not get too smart.”
“We can take care of business,” Woody said.

It was the wrong thing to say. Frank straightened up and lost his cringing pose, though the fear stayed in his voice and even seemed to grow. A thought came into his head, and his eyes grew wide.
“Your connection is keeping you in the dark,” he said slowly. Then he repeated it.
“Fuck you, we know the score,” Mike said.
Frank shook his head slowly from side to side. “Who’s scared of Robbie if he stands alone Nobody. But who stands behind him? You don’t know. You don’t know enough to be scared.”
Frank got out of his seat and walked out the door. Just like that. Nobody said anything for a moment until John felt all eyes staring upon him. Frank’s little display looked very interesting to him and it was leading him to formulate a plan. But for now he had to say something. “Chickenshit is scared of shadows.”
Everybody laughed, and John lit a cigarette to help him think.

* * *

They were walking along the darkened street of Hastings when Mike asked John if it was safe to do it. John shrugged his shoulders. “Should be no problem if Woody’s got the key, eh Woody?” he said.
“I am the coach’s little pet,” Woody replied, and he held up a key chain with three keys on it. “I asked him one time if I could borrow some school keys so I could come in early and lift some weights. He gave me a set for one day, and that was enough time to hit a locksmith, don’t you think?”
“We just gotta avoid bacon until we get there. Gees Woody, do remember the time that ghost car followed us home from that party. I swear, the bacon was on our asses for a good four blocks,” Scott said.
“I wanted to run and have some fun but Scott wussed out,” Woody said.
“That’s what they wanted, probably. Maybe they would out have decided we were bad dudes and needed a bullet in the ass. Or maybe they would called in a doggie with a taste for dark meat. Shit, don’t give them an excuse, Woody,” Scott said.
“Ah, it’s all a friggin’ conspiracy to keep the black man down,” Woody said.
Everybody laughed because that was one of Woody’s favorite sayings when he was losing an argument.

By the time they reached Laurentian High conversation had virtually ceased except for a few brief words every half-minute punctuated by giggles. Everybody was nervous, a good sort of excited nervousness that sent shivers creeping down your back. We’ll look damnfool stupid if get busted for this, John thought. But he did not even pause in his stride to reconsider.

The front doors of the school were separated from the street by thirty feet of a semi-circular driveway. A high chain-link fence surrounded the rest of the school grounds. The boys ambled along the sidewalk looking every which way until John said “do it.” Then they darted to the front doors and hid in the shadows. Woody fitted a key in the lock. The cylinder refused to turn. The second failed also.
“Da coach butt-fucked Woody,” Mike whispered, and everybody hissed as they tried to restrain their giggles. Woody placed the third key in the lock and jiggled it for a few seconds. The door opened.

They crept along the corridor until they realized that they were safe within the bowels of the building. Scott had brought a totally inadequate penlight, so they depended on red lights of the fire-exits as beacons for navigation. It took them a good ten minutes to find their way to the gym. The unatural silence kept them on their toes, as if they expected a teacher to pop out of a door-way any second. When they reached the phys-ed section of the school, it was Woody who spoke first.
“Which gym?” he asked.
“The bigger one,” John said, “I need a lot of space to move my arms.”
A chorus of giggles relaxed the boys and they unconsciously straightened up and regained their swagger.

Woody opened the gym doors with one of the keys on the first try and Scott flicked the light switches. Nothing happened for two minutes, then one could make a faint blue from one of the ceiling lights. They needed time to warm up.
“Gimme,” John said and Woody flipped him the keys. John walked over to a small door embedded in the far wall of the gymnasium. He opened it. It was the equipement room. He chose two nice leather basketballs and threw them outside where they bounced along the floor until Scott picked one of them, and Mike the other.
“I don’t know,” Woody said. “The back has been feeling good but I don’t know what the jumping will do to it.”
“John’s gonna get one of mattresses that they use for the girl’s gymnastics classes. You know, the one that’s friggin’ three feet high.” Scott said.
“Could use a fucking hand in here,” said voice from the equipment room. Mike went inside to help. Half-a-minute later the John and Mike emerged from the room dragging behind them a large mattress. Woody’s face visibly brightened. The two boys dragged it to a point under one of the basketball hoops.
“One more thing to make it complete,” John muttered, and he turned to go back inside again. but Scott had beaten him to it. He came out with a mini-trampoline and let out a whoop. “Here we go! It’s NBA dunkfest competition-time.”
The rest of the boys shouted their agreement as they shed their jackets. John took the first turn, as he bounced the basketball three times before jumping on the trampoline. He exulted in the brief sensation of flying before bringing down the basketball in a tomahawk dunk through the hoop. He kept his footing as he landed on the mattress, but only barely. It was the first time he had ever dunked a basketball. This evening would be the only time he ever would.

Copyright 2008 by DJ Dunkerley. All Rights Reserved

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