The Big C

It had been a fairly typical Thursday night b.s. session up to that point. Just four guys sittin’ on some bales of hay in your run of the mill Kansas barn, talking about girls and football and how long it would take to skateboard the entire length of the Great Wall of China. Then, as if it was just another piece of straw from the floor, ol’ Merv pulled out a little baggie of fluorescent green powder and started cutting lines like Tony Montana on an old Smurf TV tray that had previously been resting horizontal against the wall to his right.

Everyone else tried to act cool, but tense looks were definitely exchanged. This was quite the foreign element in both the figurative and literal sense (the powder seemed to be glowing somehow despite the dim light of the barn). After some precision cutting with his trusty matchbook, Merv slowly bent down to his lap and unleashed the most ungodly pig snort you ever heard. He took a moment to drink in whatever rush this narcotic provided. Then Merv exhaled slowly and passed the tray to me.

“Shit…I don’t know, Merv,” I began. “Pot is one thing, but this stuff…what is it, anyway? Clorox?”

“Naw, this ain’t no man-made chemical or nothin’. No one brewed this shit up in a lab or anything. It’s all natural. It’s from that meteorite that landed here about a month ago. Scraped it off the thing myself.”

“Oh, that’s fuckin’ great,” Paul retorted sarcastically. “You want us to get fucked up on space dust? How do you know that stuff ain’t loaded with Commie poison from Sputnik?”

“I don’t,” replied Merv casually. “But I do know I’ve been doin’ it on and off for a coupla weeks now and I ain’t dead. It’s just like really weak acid. Shit gets you buzzed enough to think you can shoot lasers out your eyes, but there’s no chance of a freak-out…unless you go try and snort the whole meteor.”

Merv chuckled at his own joke. Paul shrugged and reached for the tray, mumbling under his breath the golden teenage rule of trying anything once. He took a conservative bump, blinked a couple of times, and passed it over to me.

“Alright,” I said. “I’m in. But if we all die, I just wanna go on record as saying I was goddamn peer pressured, it wasn’t my idea, and Merv is fuckin’ Satan in the flesh.”

The dust burned as expected going up my left nostril, but it wasn’t the most painful thing I’d ever put up there. The effects were not immediate. My heartbeat felt normal. I took a long sip of my beer and mentally crossed my fingers that my heart wouldn’t pop later that night while I was on the toilet.

“One man left standing,” Merv said matter-of-factly. “What’s the story, Big C? You wanna go green?”

Now, the Big C wasn’t like the rest of us. Paul, Merv, and I were basically these shiftless lumps of dough with no feasible future outside a combine or a corn field. It didn’t really make a difference if we fried our brains with meteor residue. The Big C, on the other hand, was like those guys you see in movies – endlessly smart, super popular with the girls, and undoubtedly stronger than all of us put together. The world was his oyster. Hell, he had already been offered some big-shot newspaper job in the city. All this guy needed was a lottery win and everyone in town would have motive for first degree murder.

Yep, the Big C had the most to screw up, and he seemed to know it. I hadn’t even moved the tray of space gunk from my lap before he began hemming and hawing.

“Ah, you know, it’s just…” C stammered. “If I take this job, they’re probably gonna give me a drug test, and, well, you know…”

“Cut the horseshit, you fuck!” Merv interrupted with a laughing holler. “You’re gonna take the rest a’ this shit and you know it. Ain’t like this is new to you.”

An awkward silence filled the barn. C looked around the room.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Listen,” Merv started, lowering his voice and fixing his gaze on C. “We’ve all seen you out there in that field, runnin’ and jumpin’ around like you’re all whacked out on PCP. Swear to God the other morning I watched you jump over Bug Stintson’s tractor trailer. A damn tractor trailer! And you went over it like it was a motherfuckin’ fire hydrant. So don’t sit there and act all innocent and shit. We know you’re more juiced than Tropicana.”

“What? No! You’re crazy! I don’t even know what you’re talking about!” C’s voice cracked as he haplessly defended himself. “You’re the one on drugs! I’ve never even—this is crazy!”

Merv may have been joking, but he had a point. We had all thought at one time or another the Big C was secretly amped up on something. For a guy who walked home four miles every day after school in long pants and heavy flannel (even in those unrelenting summer months), he had some ridiculous muscle mass. C wore glasses, but he never seemed to have any trouble seeing without them (one time, C spent the night at my house, got up in the middle of the night, and made the most perfect flapjacks you ever tasted without his glasses, a cook book, or any kind of light at all). And you know what? I don’t think that boy’s hair grew the whole time I knew him. I never remember him getting a haircut. Ever. Was he cutting his own hair every single day? Probably not if he was strong enough to keep it from growin’.

Anyway, the tension in that barn grew to prize hog size as I nervously held that Smurf TV tray. Big C stared at the remaining green lines, brow soaked with sweat, like it was physically hurting him just being next to them.

“Aw, C, we won’t tell anybody if you’re juicin’. We’re pals. Even if you’re not, we’re not dead yet, so just do this junk so Merv’ll shut up.”

“Yeah, come on, buddy. Just bump it and we’ll go down to the field and have a catch.”

“Do we hafta call you like your Mama calls you? Hmm? We gotta call you Clark? Come on, Clark. Take this nasty green shit already like a big boy and make yo’ mama proud.”

The impression of C’s mama that we thought was so funny was too much for our angry and giant friend. He exploded, flipping the Smurf TV tray out of my hands with such a force I swear it messed up my hair. C jumped up, and—this is the real fuckin’ crazy part, the part I’ll remember for the rest of my life—the motherfucker did not land. Like, he jumped up and just kept going. C rose up into the air super fast with a tight grimace on his face, holding his arms out above his head with clenched fists, until he got to the top of the barn and literally smashed right through the roof.

If I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’. That son a of a bitch flew clear through the damn roof of the barn, leaving a big jagged hole like some kind of fuckin’ balls-out Pterodactyl.

Needless to say, our jaws dropped.

“What the fuck was that?” Merv shrieked with a look of utter disbelief on his greasy mug, eyes wide as saucer plates. “Did that just happen? Did that really just fuckin’ happen? Tell me that just fuckin’ happened, for real.”

Awkward pause again.

“Bro, his meteor coke is some serious shit.”

“Fuckin’ A.”

None of us died that night, which I guess was some minor stroke of luck. That hole is still up there in the barn. We’re all too lazy to get up and fix it. Musta been some lightening that night. Personally, I don’t remember. That meteor dust tore up my brain. All I know is we never saw Clark again after the “Green Coke” incident. Guess we spooked him too hard. Shame. I sure miss that guy. I hope he’s doin’ alright in the big city.

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