The harbormen grabbed the big hawsers and made them fast as the front of the ship opened and made a gangplank for the cars to exit onto the Bolivar Peninsula. “It’s really simple, Turner. We’re going — you and I — to find that beach weed, and if those two clowns try to mess with us, we’ll have to politely convince them not to, probably with an ass beating.”
The Chrysler jalopnik had rolled off ahead of them and they followed it at a distance. After a few miles it turned right. “See?” said Clem. “Bastards are going to steal our beach weed.”
Turner was starting to feel proprietary about it as well. “Fuckers,” he swore. “How dare they?”
The Chrysler vanished from view and they rolled along until the pavement ended. Now they were on the sand, and the car bottomed out momentarily before the wheels got traction. The sand was now packed and hard and they could see the taillights of the Chrysler down by the shore. The moon illuminated the beach and the glassy Gulf waters for as far as they could see.
“Let’s start as far away from ’em as we can,” said Clem, driving the opposite direction along the empty beach. She finally parked and they got out, each holding a big plastic trash bag. The tide was out and all along the edge were giant clumps of seaweed.
“This isn’t pot,” Turner offered. “It’s just nasty ol’ seaweed.” He reached down and picked up a handful. “Seaweed and tar.”
They walked some more, inspecting the big clumps of seaweed. After a few hundred yards they were in despair. “I can’t believe it,” said Clem. “What a colossal waste of time.”
Turner kicked another clump with his foot. “Hey, Clem,” he said. “What’s this?” He reached down and picked up a fistful of matted vegetable matter. It wasn’t seaweed. Clem came over and shined her flashlight on it.
“That’s it, Turner!” she said excitedly. “That’s it!”
They peered closely at the matted stuff, and indeed it was marijuana. Wet and nasty looking, but marijuana nonetheless. Turner dropped it into his garbage bag. “Here’s more!”
As they walked along they came upon bigger and bigger clumps of pot. The bales had broken apart in the water and washed ashore as medium – to – large sized conglomerations weighing several pounds each. Before long their trash bags were full and they returned to the car for more.
Now they were so excited they couldn’t work quickly enough. “Oh my dog, Turner,” said Clem. “Even dried out this stuff is going to weigh hundreds of pounds! Hundreds!” Soon the trunk was full and they began loading the floorboards of the back seat.
Gradually they made their way down the beach until they were only fifty yards or so from the Chrysler. One of the guys was leaning against the hood smoking a cigarette. The other guy was at the trunk taking out something long and dangerous looking.
“It’s a rifle,” said Turner. “He’s gonna kill us. He’s been waiting for us to collect all the shit and now he’s going to blow us away and they’re gonna keep it for themselves.”
With the brilliant moonshine they were easy targets for a guy with a rifle. “Hey!” Clem shouted to the guy smoking the cigarette.
“Yeah?” he said.
“What are you guys doing out here?”
“Hell, I was gonna ask you the same thing. We’re fishing.” As Clem and Turner approached, they could see that the guy at the trunk was handling a fishing pole, not a rifle.
“If you’re fishing then that means you’ve got beer,” said Clem.
“Indeed we do. Want one?”
“Does the pope shit in the woods?” Clem asked.
The guy smiled in the moonlight. “Hey, Bill. Grab a couple of beers, willya?” He turned back to them. “What are you two up to? I don’t see no fishing poles. Unless you’re fishin’ with trash bags.”
“We’re pretty much done,” Clem said. “There’s another ton of pot washed up on the beach. Our car’s full and we’re heading home.”
“Pot?” said Bill, holding out the beer. “On the beach?”
“Yeah,” said Clem. “Check it out.” She opened up her garbage bag and they peered in.
“Whew,” said the other guy, whose name was Joel. “That stinks like shit.”
“Wait ’til it dries out,” said Clem. “That’s money, that is.”
Joel reached into the bag and pulled out a fistful of the matted weeds, looking at it more closely. “I”ll be goddamned. It is weed. Hey Bill, crank on the engine.” As Bill turned the ignition, Joel opened the hood and spread the weed on top of the air filter cover, then slammed the hood. “That’ll dry ‘er out,” he said.
The four of them stood around and drank beer, with Turner surreptitiously pouring his out in dribs and drabs. He didn’t drink, and he had a feeling that someone would need to be sober before the night ended. After about thirty minutes, Joel popped the hood. “Dry as a bone!” he said, scooping up the beach weed.
Bill pulled some Zig-Zags out of the glove compartment, rolled up a fatty, and fired it up. He took the first drag, a big one. “Oh, boy,” he coughed. “That’s some nasty shit.” He handed it to Clem, who followed suit.
She gagged. “Ugh. Ugh. Gross.”
Joel was next, sucking away for all he was worth and cursing at the same time. “It’s like smoking poison,” he said. “Or smoking a skunk’s balls.”
Next the joint came to Turner. He hadn’t smoked since he was in junior high school. It had been while waiting for the bus on the way to summer school with Wayne Dokes and Julio Martin. They had all failed science class and been consigned to six weeks of purgatory at Sharpstown High School, where all the junior high fuck-ups had to go make up classes in order to get to the next grade. Turner still had nightmares about that particular day.
Joel’s hand still proffered the joint. “Ah, fuck it,” he thought, and took a drag. “What could possibly not go wrong?”
The smoke burned his lungs but even worse was the taste, some hideous mixture of seaweed and sea water and salt and tar and the general chemical filth that was the Gulf of Mexico all rolled up in one fiery, smoky taste of … skunk balls. He held in the smoke as the witches’ brew of spilled petrochemicals and tetrahydrocannabinol did their dirty work on his tired and capitulated brain.
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