The Dope

Ihe sat in front of the monitor and watched the words pop out pale blue from a darker blue background stumbling over a memory, an idea.

He was not sure how he got there. Probably it was on a Greyhound.

He was not sure what year it was but, it was summer, glorious summer. Summer free from university studies and exhibitions and scraping for dollars and separatist political revolution.

Somehow, he was not sure how; he had learned that three of his high school friends were living in a hippie community in an old motel near Kelowna.

He hitchhiked from the bus station to Casorso's Ranch Motel, a small line of little cabins and a gravel road. Outside one sat Demp on a leg less wicker lawn chair in a half-lotus with a big smile. Inside were Steppo and Robak playing dominoes intensely, Linda and her baby Sam riding hip.

They greeted him warmly, let him right in, right back to where he had been three years before, before they had all broken up and spread across the country. Ihe had traveled the farthest and longest but the times melted like the distances.

It was a reunion and a party with drinks and smoke and the afternoon flashed by in forgetful fun. After supper Demp invited Ihe to the local bar for some more drinks and some more fun. They piled off with a bunch of pilgrims.

Demp was a star. The star of that bar. Ihe followed him from table to table.

"Hey Demp! Look that's Demp! Hey Demp, come on, sit down!"

next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

page 2

He seemed to know everyone and everyone wanted to know him. Ihe had trouble keeping up and his short-term memory was overloaded with names and happy animated faces. He started to fall behind.

When Demp left a table the fun went too. The animated faces fell into dullness, the talk ended in bar room gloom. Ihe felt a drudge of jealousy creeping over him, not just for Demp's skill but for the whole western scene. Back in The City there was no openness; the police and undercover agents had dampened that.

Demp was the acme of informal grace. He was western hip, a new young, tall and handsome Kerouac. Demp liked everyone and everyone liked him. Ihe could not shake off his own social fear, his revolution rot of fear.

Unable to keep up with Demp's pace, Ihe decided to thumb a ride back to the Ranch.

Hitching after dark from the bar up narrow highways leading into the mountain hills, a car rushed past and pulled abruptly from the road onto the gravel and Ihe ran for it.

Inside there were four young women about Ihe's age. They were laughing.

"Come on, hop in," called the driver.

"We'll sit you in the middle," said one of the girls in the back seat with a smile as she got out to let him in. The girls tittered and laughed while Ihe scrunched into the backseat and straddled the drive shaft hump. He was thrilled. It was a hitcher's story come true.

In a moment of quiet the driver looked at Ihe in the rear view mirror and said in a menacing voice, "Lots of hitchhikers get raped on the highway. What would you think if we raped you?"

The girl sitting in the front passenger seat turned to face Ihe, her chin on the seat back, smiled, and said, "We are going to rape you."

next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

page 3

The blood ran out of Ihe's skin, he could feel horror running up his spine. The girls started laughing.

"Yeah, we are going to rape you."

The initial rush of fear had left him and he was thinking about how he could fight them. Eyeing their bodies, calculating their strength, their breasts, and their thighs. He felt the blood surging to the rhythm of his heart not in his head and ears, but in his groin.

"We are going to take you down a side road, take off your clothes, and fuck you over and over."

Ihe's penis had pumped down a pant leg and painfully pressed upward against the denim. He began to fidget to free his erection from the constraint of the cloth. He was dizzy with expectation and his face flushed hot.

"Here is your motel," said the driver with aggressive sexual tension.

The girl that had got out for him before got out again and held the door.

He left the car.

The girl holding the door jumped back in and the car sped off with a scream of laughter and tires.

Ihe went from door to screen door along the line of motel cabins until he found Robak and Steppo playing dominoes in a cloud of marijuana smoke.

"Come on in."

"Hey howya doin'".

Ihe sat down and took a few big puffs and a hand of bones. He didn't like games very much; he preferred the real thing.

* * *

The next morning Robak, Steppo, and I, under Steppo's supervision, went on a nature hike. He took us to a gigantic anthill and stopped me from mixing the ants up with a stick.

next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

page 4

"This is like a city," he warned me, "don't disturb them."

I remember Steppo spending an entire day observing a cubic foot of space that he had marked off on the prairies. A foot by a foot of earth and the cubic foot of air above the ground. Stepanenko counted all of the plants, noted their variety, and proceeded to count and name the various insects that came and went in the cube. Beside his passion for nomenclature he had enormous compassion.

"We are like the ancient gods!" Stepanenko proclaimed. "We could cause havoc. We could destroy and kill, but we won't," he warned.

We spent the morning in the region of anthill city-states, smoking and looking deep into the flaking bark of the ponderosa pines. Exploring the spiritual and natural manifestations of that dry place.

Robak and Steppo were two great companions. They and I had spent lots of time doing just this sort of thing.

Robak was the intellectual; he was quick and studied. Robak was the axis of our little society. He wheeled us towards existentialism, electronic music, pop culture. He put books and records in our hands and on our shelves and said, "Dig this, tell me what you think." He was as at home on a wind-blown mountain cliff as with Camus and The Rolling Stone magazine.

Robak looked at the pile of bark at the base of huge, lonely pine and perceived an impossible jigsaw puzzle, a history in a jumble.

"Let's turn on the ants!" said Steppo, exhaling onto a city of twigs. "Maybe they will attain cosmic consciousness and create literature, music, and art. Probably not", he reflected dryly, "their metabolism is probably too alien for this stuff to work."

We all began blowing marijuana smoke onto the ants, laughing like mad demi-gods.

next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

page 5

When the sun became extremely hot and the smoking made us very thirsty, we started back to the Ranch Motel. I drank deeply from the stream that passed by the motel.

* * *

After a lunch Robak and Steppo made plans for a domino game. They had developed dominoes into a cosmic play. Three-dimensional dominoes. Multiplication dominoes. They did crossover plays. The rules were beyond Ihe. He suspected that it was a game of invention without rules. It was too much for him; he was not in their league. Ihe decided to take a hike up the stream. He planned to find the source.

Ihe, Robak, and Steppo had an after dinner smoke and parted.

Ihe liked to get away by himself and let his mind run rampant, jumping from idea to idea whirling about a reality turned stage-set by the drug.

As he proceeded upstream, Ihe began to note the carnage of bodies. He saw them but they did not enter his consciousness. The more animal carcasses he saw the more meaningful became the reality of their deadness. The crows cawed from the trees.

"Yea, though I pass through the valley of death, I shall fear no evil," he said to himself staring into the vacant eye sockets of dead beasts. As the stream led him deeper into the sparse, arid wood and into an ever-narrower valley filled with an even denser population of corpses, Ihe became even more uneasy.

Up the valley he saw the body of a bear with its neck stretched over the trunk of an overhanging tree, body on one side and head on the other. The mouth gaped open exposing a dry, crisp tongue. The eye sockets were empty. It was the first wild animal carcass that he had seen in his two hours of climbing. And that made him think of himself. Made him think of his own death.

It crashed his head like a wrecking ball.

next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

page 6

The stream was poisoned! The bear had gone insane with pain and strangled itself to death on the tree.

Ihe was certain that he would not be able to make it back to the motel before the poison entered his brain.

He found an old lid from a 45-gallon drum and a fallen branch from a tree and began to pound a rhythm and dance. This was his death. Ihe was usually quiet. But now that the end was near he wanted to make noise, lots of noise. He wailed and pounded and danced.

Somehow, he found himself back at the motel, alive.

He was certain that it was too late for him, too late for a doctor. He climbed into his tent and lay down and waited and hoped that he would not cause too much harm, in his madness, to the people of the settlement. The tent was like a cocoon, he thought, falling off to sleep.

"Hey, come on, get up. We're going for a walk."

Ihe struggled with his consciousness in the darkness.

"Let's go, Ihe, this is going to be lots of fun."

Ihe pulled himself out of the tent, rebirthing into the night.

He tried to tell them about the poisoned stream. He was desperate that they understand the danger. No one could understand what he was trying to say; he could not manage to make words work for him or they no longer spoke the same language. He tried, in vain, to recognize his friends.

The little group turned into a graveyard. The upright stones were lined in pew-like rows that faced a large stone crucifix. It resembled a church.

next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

page 7

Ihe had a suspicion he was already dead.

The general plan of the graveyard was so bizarre that Ihe lost whatever contact he had with the actions and the conversations of the other walkers. There was a void of incomprehension. He was a ghost. They had to bring him out of the graveyard.

On the road back to the motel with the others, Ihe could see the lights of the valley and the little city below and the stars above. It was like walking on a dull, black ribbon through space with glimmering points of starlight below and above. A celestial path to judgement. He had no idea where he was going or where he was.

Ihe could feel himself lifting up into the stars.

The next morning, Ihe told his friends about the bodies in the valley.

"Oh those," answered Steppo, "they are dumped there by the fruit farmers to keep the crows out of the orchards."

Barry Smylie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ranch index