We had a beautiful fucking set-up. I mean, all things considered, we should have made out like bandits, because this plan was pure, plain genius, just so long as you didn't do anything really stupid. Which brings me to Shawna. Why do I always go for the really stupid ones? See, without her, our ass would have been golden. I don't mean to say she was an idiot or anything, because I guess she wasn't really. You could tell she'd read a lot. I think she even said that she went to college somewhere, and had a degree in romance language or some shit. Can you believe that shit? A degree in romance. She wasn't all that romantic, though. But that's a different story. She was gorgeous, in a kind of untouchable college girl kind of way, like she didn't even know she had these ivy green eyes tossing sparks from up out her hoodie. Still, I should have figured she'd fuck it up. She wasn't like me or Wade. She was smart, maybe, but smart skin deep. Tell you one thing: you want to make it in Alaska, you've got to be smart to the fucking bone.
Around that time me and Wade were getting pretty heavy into the crystal and when you hit summer in Fairbanks it seems like everybody from the cheerleaders right on down to the truckers are on a bender every week, so we hit on the bright idea of maybe dipping into a little of all that business ourselves. I mean, we couldn't dip too deep, naturally, or we'd start running into some of the wrong kinds of attention. Just scoop up a few quarters out of the rivers of gold that were passing us by. After all, isn't that why people came to Alaska in the first place? None of this last frontier shit. I remember once seeing a photo in the capitol building down in Juneau where my folks were from before my dad ended up in the psych ward. In this picture hanging up in a hallway they had a bunch of these really rough looking sons of bitches with big outlaw old west mustaches and six guns standing next to a giant pyramid of solid gold bricks, each set neatly on top of the other. Beneath it, read the words, "monies equivalent to the amount paid to the Russian Empire in the sale of the territory of Alaska to the United States Department of the Interior, mined from The Treadwell Mining Company during the course of one month." Those were the exact words. I'm not a big reader, but I've got a kind of special memory for shit like that. That's what Wade and me are all about. The money. Not like we need to be rich or anything. Just enough to do whatever we want and no one to fuck us around.
Wade was not a crazy schemer, but he knew how to follow a plan, and this one was nearly foolproof. He got a couple of his little brothers and their grade school Tlinglit mafia to start talking about how you could pick up cheap crank at Jeffrey's which was a sort of second rate Denny's, if Denny's weren't a second rate of something else. And pretty soon, we got some kids come in, and they knew how to play it, because Wade had told them just like I said he should. Shawna was a waitress and when some kid would ask her for a book of matches, he would ask for 'eightball matches' like it was some kind of special brand or something. Then Shawna shouts through the short-order window that so and so wants some matches. I slip the baggie into the matchbook and hand it to her with her next order. The kids get theirs and we get a very big and special tip. Nothing illegal with tipping, and no one's checking the cooks for meth cause if you did that, there wouldn't be a single short-order fry cook left in the whole of the fucking state. The only danger bit is when Shawna's walking along with the shit from my window to the customer's table. Like I said, plain genius, no? Romance language, my ass. She sure knew how to fuck up a good thing.
Not that she wasn't gorgeous and all of that, and not like she didn't know it either, but how could she not make the guy with the mustache. I mean, there are crazy hopped up on crank biker mustaches and there are undercover cop mustaches and I told her and told her not to take any orders from anybody who looked too young or didn't seem really backwoods in the sense of the type of people she would bitch about. And a Latino with a moustache who's all ripped and shit? No, no, no. That must have been my mistake - I know now that, to her, I was backwoods in the sense of the type of person she would bitch about. She could bitch a lot. She was from Juneau too, so I don't know where she ever came off with the idea that she was 'slumming it with the locals' but she was about to slum it big time.
I sent Wade out to the van to get some more crank and I'm just beginning to notice that he's taking a really long time to walk across what isn't that big a parking lot when I hear the back door whip open, just like you see it done on COPS when they are busting some motherfucking white trash fool; only now I'm that fucking fool, and it's like they're taking out the big ring of drug lords. I turn and there's Wade with a sorry-ass expression just falling off his long hang-dog Tlinglit face, tucked up in a half-nelson getting hustled into the room by a couple of cops, guns out, full on. Like I'm a big threat with my fucking frying pan.
So, I turn around just like the cop tells me to and right before he slams my head against the wall, I see Shawna staring at me through the cook's window looking like she's just walked in the door and discovered her parents having sex or something. Like embarrassed, but still angry somehow, like parents shouldn't be doing that sort of thing. I have to say, she looked so goddamn hot there for a second, all ashamed, like a naughty little girl caught peeking. It seemed like that look lasted a long, long time. And, then my head slammed against the wall and I felt my lip split like a tomato.
Hardly anything happened to them at all. Both under 16, so Shawna and Wade got off really light. I think they had to go to some kind of drug counseling or some bullshit, but that was it. Having just turned a ripe old 17, though, my ass was in serious trouble. Not like I hadn't been hassled by cops, but that was when I was a kid. I didn't know what was going to happen, like if big ugly guys were going to ass rape me or something or whether the cops were going to beat me to a pulp or some shit. I shouldn't have wasted my time throwing a panic attack over it. They didn't even bother. Some fat guy in a uniform that somehow managed to stay creased for a body that seemed to be squeezing out at the edges just sat me down in a room that looked a lot like a high school guidance counselor's. He waited awhile, like he was getting ready to lay the big deal on my tiny 17-year-old mind, until finally breaking out in a big sunny grin.
"Kid. You know about the 'one strike, you're out' law."
It wasn't a question, but I said that I didn't.
"Well, pretty much means we can send you away for damn near the rest of your natural life."
At this point in the story, I really wish I had had something to say here, like, "you can go fuck yourself, pig" or something like that, seeing as how he was saying I was pretty much fucked for the rest of my life anyway, but I didn't. At the time, I really couldn't think of anything to say. I was sort of wondering if maybe they had called my mom in Juneau or not. I guess it didn't really matter.
"You don't want to spend the rest of your life taking it up the ass from hard cons, do you, boy?"
This definitely seemed like a question. I did not tell the pig to go fuck himself. I said, "no, officer, I certainly do not want spend the rest of my life taking it up the ass from hard cons." Actually, I guess it wasn't a question at all.
"Well, then, perhaps you just might qualify for a new rehabilitative program currently being initiated for young offenders with a past history of drug abuse."
That last part about young offenders blah blah blah he kind of said all at once, like it was hyphenated, but he seemed to get a real charge out of the word 'rehabilitative,' pronouncing every syllable very slowly and distinctly.
Next thing, he asks me if I want to volunteer for the program. This was the first real question. I knew because I could tell he really wasn't sure what I would say.
I met the surgeon before the operation. He asked me if I had any heart problems that I knew of, ever had seizures, high blood pressure, migraines, blackouts, shit like that. They took a whole bunch of tests. An EKG, EEG, MRI, angiogram, blood tests. They stuck me in a metal tube for nearly an hour. It was like a little oven made for people. A long plastic bed-tray kind of thing slid out of a great big coffin-sized cream-colored machine. I lay down on it, and then the tray slid into the machine. They gave me headphones, and I could sort of hear some kind of smooth jazz bullshit play for a couple of minutes before this gigantic roaring sound ripped through that tube, and all I could hear was a rumbling, like something heavy falling down into place inside an elevator shaft. It reminded me of the Tetris game I had when I was seven. After that, I guess I was cleared for take off.
They gave me a big dinner the evening before the operation, because I couldn't eat anything all the next day. And when the next day came, a couple of male nurses shuffled me off to an operating table. I stripped and put on a backless hospital gown. I lay down on the table and then one of the nurses washed his hands. He took out a shaver and started shaving my skull. After that a guy came in and gave me an injection. I don't remember anything after that but the buzzing of the shaver.