Wednesday, April 1, 2015

'Chicagoland' Excerpt: Brownies

As soon as they were cool, Rob cut up the brownies into tiny pieces, handed out a chunk to everyone, and hid the rest before the roommate could return. Then we pulled out Trivial Pursuit and played for a while as we waited.

“Nothing’s happening,” Rob declared after half an hour.

“Yeah, I don’t feel anything either,” Greg said. The rest of us shrugged or nodded in agreement. Rob brought the bag of brownies back out, and everyone took another couple of cubes. Doing the math, I’m pretty sure this gave us each about eight times more than a reasonable dose.

We continued playing. I would have sworn I still didn’t feel anything, but the questions in the game kept on getting weirder and weirder. Someone ate ten pounds of what meat in a challenge? (Eel. Naturally.) From what country is so-and-so from? (Forgive the double preposition.) “Red Dragon” is a sickly prequel to what prickly sequel? (Huh? Is that a spoonerism?) Investigating a horse murder, being what book? (Seriously? What the hell?)

I placed the last card back in the box, convinced it left a broad swooping trail behind as it moved through the air. “Okay, I think maybe I’m feeling something after all. But I swear this game is also independently getting weirder. I’m not understaying what they’re sanding half the time. Um. Understanding, saying. If I didn’t know better, I would say it was on pot brownies, too.”

Everyone agreed that was a perfectly reasonable suggestion.

With a start, I realized five minutes had passed, everyone sitting in motionless silence. I felt oppressed by my own thoughts and weighted down by an unusual inertia. “I don’t think I can play anymore,” I said.

“I want to lie down, but I don’t even think I can do that,” said Langston, scooched so far down on the couch his head was almost touching the seat, and with his legs splayed across the coffee table. Gravity would get him there eventually.

“I can’t …” groaned Rob. Finish the sentence, apparently.

“We need music,” said Greg. He oozed in pudding-esque fashion across three feet of floor and started flipping through a huge stack of vinyl records. Nobody else moved. It was about ten minutes before he spoke. “Wow, these are oooooold.”

Langston said, “Yeah, I got those from Mom when she moved to Chicago. There’s some good stuff in there.”

“And some really bad stuff.” Greg grinned devilishly. “Ooh, this looks awful. I’m going to put it on.”

It was awful, we all agreed, when we could summon the strength. Greg went from record to record, listening to some for as much as ten minutes or as little as ten seconds, trying to find something worse than the previous song. He was cunningly accurate with his picks.

It did not occur to any of us to suggest maybe we put on good music instead. We just sat and/or lay there and groaned, wishing it would stop.

Greg gasped, eyes wide with a child’s enthusiasm. “This! Here we go! John Barleycorn Must Die. That’s got to be the worst possible name for an album. It’s going to be terrible.” It was. It really was. He played it through five times in a row.

I finally found the strength to stand up. “I think I have to go lie down,” I said, dragging myself back downstairs to my temporary bed. Not since my first experience with the stuff—when I was convinced my arms were shriveling up into little Tyrannosaurus rex claws, and I could feel my tongue turning thin and forked like a serpent’s, darting around evilly inside my own mouth—had I been so disoriented by mere tea. Slumping on the couch, I lay for hours, half-catatonic with one foot in the land of Nod and one foot firmly planted in outer space.

This was an excerpt from Chicagoland. The complete novel is Kindle format through Amazon

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