A novel by EJ Spode.
Chapter 3: Dimebag Bob’s
To support our journey to the Stockman, we scored a bottle of Absolut vodka from Kali and then Athena, Bigfire, Funmaker, Climax and I tumble-weeded our way into my dad’s Jeep. Climax insisted that if we were going to the Stockman we would need some herb first, and because no one was carrying, that meant we needed to go to visit Dimebag Bob. Fortunately, he lived nearby, albeit on a seriously shitty farm. Although his name might suggest otherwise, Dimebag wasn’t a bad guy per se. He just needed to drink less. Probably a lot less.
As we drove up the heavily cratered gavel lane to Dimebag Bob’s farmhouse, we saw the lights in the house go on. And then as we pulled up to the house giant blinding floodlights came on. Then two pit bulls came out and started barking at the car. Finally, Dimebag came out in what looked like camouflage pattern pajamas, pointing a double-barreled shotgun at us, screaming obscenities.
“Get the fuck off my property or I will ream out your asses with my God damn Remington 12 gauge! And I am not kidding — it has a full fucking choke on it!” I don’t know why he added the part about the choke. All that was going to do is narrow the spray pattern and make it less likely he would hit us.
Bigfire, Funmaker, and Climax were in the back seat tugging on the Absolut more or less not paying attention to the situation. I was suddenly at a loss for any words except “Fucking Dimebag…” It was up to Athena, who was riding shotgun, to defuse the situation. She rolled down her window and bravely stuck her head out and started yelling at Dimebag.
“For fucks sake Dimebag, it’s me! …Athena!… Put down your fucking gun.”
“Athena? What the fuck!? Who you with?”
“It’s cool I’m with Spode and Climax and your lawyers.”
“Which lawyers?” His gun came back up and I decided it was my turn to reason with him. I rolled down my window and, not thinking about the actual risk, stuck my head out.
“Calm down, Dimebag; its just Bigfire and Funmaker. You know them. They’re cool.”
Dimebag appeared to be trying to clear his head, which, if this were a typical Friday night for him, would probably need a lot of clearing.
His wife Debbie stepped outside in blue jeans, a white bathrobe, and a .22 caliber rifle, and she kept alternating between looking at the car and looking at Dimebag to see where the greater threat was. Finally, she called off Dimebag
“For fuck sake Bobby it’s EJ and Athena, put down your damn gun.”
That seemed to do the trick. Dimebag broke open his two-barrel and popped out the shells (some deeply engrained gun safety training for sure); Debbie locked the dogs in a nearby shed and we tumble-dried our way out of the car and up onto Dimebag’s front porch. The smell of fireplace smoke and cow manure was suspended in the freezing ass polar air surrounding the house. It was oddly reassuring.
Dimebag lived a classic two story white farmhouse. If he ever sold it, the real estate agent would list it as a “charming fixer-upper.” That’s another way of saying it needed a shit ton of work. There was a big wrap-around porch that groaned and rattled and squeaked as we walked across it on our way into the house.
When we got inside, Dimebag hugged Bigfire and Funmaker with one of those big brohugs. You know; you clasp right hands pulling them to your left shoulders and then bringing your left arms around each other but keeping your left hands in a fist while thumping each other’s back with your forearm. When people greet each other like that they might as well say “no homo” although I guess that would be redundant. Whatever the semiotics of the brohug, it seemed like Dimebag genuinely liked Bigfire and Funmaker, and he better have, because they have gotten him out of some bad jams in the past.
“What you losers looking for tonight?”
Athena chimed in, “just weed, Dimebag,” and then she took Debbie by the hand and led her into the kitchen to discuss girl stuff or something.
I looked at Dimebag in his camouflaged pajamas. He looked like a Cabbage Patch Doll with a goatee, stuffed into a G.I. Joe uniform. “What the fuck are you wearing, bro?”
“These are my murder jammies. Got ’em online. They comfortable as fuck.”
While we were trying to decide if any of that could possibly be true, Dimebag waved like “follow me” and led us all down into his basement mancave. As mancaves go his setup was totally baller, even if designed more for sitting around and bullshitting than for watching sports and war movies.
We had all spent some quality time there in the past, sitting around on circle of giant leather couches, getting loaded and bullshitting the night away. I hadn’t been there to visit in a couple of years though, and a wave of nostalgia washed over me. It didn’t look entirely the same as it had two years earlier, but it sure smelled the same – kind of a mixture of basement mildew, stale weed smoke, leather, and dogs.
It was interesting that Dimebag had invested in real full grain leather couches. He wasn’t your standard issue drug dealer; he could care less about fancy cars and powerboats. All he wanted was a nice place to sit. The couches had been a good investment too, because they were aging well – they had that burnished look you get from quality leather as it ages. I also liked the way they felt when you sat down in them – you didn’t sink in; you felt like you had been carefully tucked into a well-worn baseball glove. It was comforting.
My nostalgia attack soon gave way to a series of memories. I remembered that back in the day we would sit around on those couches and play our story-telling game. The rules went like this: We would draw from a list of random topics (for example, hair or shit or ceiling fans) and then everyone would have to invent a story for that topic. Then we voted on the best story. The person who told the best story had to do a shot of tequila. The person who told the worst story had to do a bong hit. The theory was that the alcohol would deaden story-telling skills and the weed would enhance them. As we learned, that was not the case. As we also learned, people that you think are going to suck at story telling (e.g. Climax) are often quite good at it. The frightening part of the game was when your stories were mediocre and you were awarded neither shot nor bong hit. And then the other players started giving you pity votes, which was worse. I honed my story telling skills out of fear of those pity votes.
We all sat and passed around what was left of our bottle of Absolut while Dimebag way too meticulously rolled a gigantic spliff. He used two different grinders on the weed and then took forever making the joint, adjusting mix of herb and tobacco in the paper before he started rolling it up. Why.
Tired of watching the process, I stood up, stretched my legs, and checked out the changes in the mancave. There was a new flat screen TV against the North wall, and I noted that three taxidermy fish mounts stood guard on each side of the TV. The fish were walleyes and not bad sized at all. He must have gone to Minnesota to catch those. I started tripping a bit on their golden-green scales and their oversized translucent dorsal fins. Then I imagined one of the fish turning to me and asking me what the fuck I was looking at. Embarrassed, I subtly directed my attention elsewhere, trying not to telegraph my sense of guilt.
On the other end of the room were a couple of Ikea shelves adorned with the same bullshit summer league trophies that he always had, but now there was also an assortment of baseball memorabilia. There were some baseballs signed by old school Minnesota Twins (Harmon Killebrew, and Kirby Pucket) and a football signed by Christian Ponder. I was tempted to ask him about that because Ponder was one weak-ass football player, but I didn’t want to interrupt or slow down the joint rolling process, so I put my question on the back burner.
There was a shelf full of books, which all seemed to be fringe culture books about drugs, altered consciousness, and illuminati-type conspiracies. There were some classics that I recognized (The Doors of Perception, Confessions of an English Opium Eater, Junkie, and The Illuminatus! Trilogy) and then there were books that I didn’t recognize at all: Temporary Autonomous Zones, Cannabis Chassidis, and the ominously titled Bore Hole.
When Dimebag finally finished constructing the joint (an eternity later) he pulled out a cigar torch to fire it up. I found it a bit of bad hosting that he took the first hit, and it was a serious Bogart hit at that. Everyone, even Funmaker, seemed sort of sad as they watched Dimebag burn down a quarter of the monster joint on the first hit. But eventually he had his fill and passed it on to Climax.
Dimebag exhaled a volcanic cloud of smoke with a WHOOSH that seriously didn’t need to be as loud as it was.
“So gentleman, what is the word from the endless prairie tonight?”
Climax, who could never sit out a conversation expelled his smoke all too quickly and jumped in with the reply.
“We off to the Stockman, Bro. EJ is gonna get back with Penny.”
That pissed me off. “What the fuck, Climax, I never fucking said that. We’re just gonna go to the Stockman for some refreshments.”
Dimebag eyed me up and down and finally expressed his skepticism.
“Dude, you couldn’t quit Penny if you tried, and …and the fact… the fact that you are traveling with this gigantic posse tells me that you are still a chickenshit.”
Bigfire, who was mid draw, snorted, coughed, and lost his smoke.
I glanced at Funmaker and even he was smiling.
“You all are assholes.”
About then Athena and Debbie came downstairs and they were both smoking joints and carrying six-packs of Hamm’s beer. I hadn’t seen Hamm’s in a while and I immediately had the stupid Hamm’s beer jingle stuck in my brain. It began with the beat of Indian drums.
“DUN dun dun dun DUN dun dun dun”
Then that tune…
“From the land of sky blue waters (waters),
From the land of pines, lofty balsams,
Comes the beer refreshing,
Hamm’s, the beer refreshing.
Funmaker’s smile got even bigger. I wasn’t sure if he was happy about the beers or if the stupid Hamm’s commercial was playing in his head as well.
I had the sense that people had already forgotten that we were supposed to go to the Stockman, and I wasn’t about to remind them. I sat down and leaned back. We were going to be here for a while and I was ok with that.
I could see that Athena already had some kind of crazy buzz on. The thing about Athena is that she is never sloppy drunk, but when she has her buzz on she damn sure can be silly. As soon as she sat down I could see that she was deep into silly time.
“EJ, this room is the bomb doogie!”
“Yeah, it’s def the bomb doogie!”
“Bomb doogie… Doogie like Doogie Howser?”
“What? No, like bomb diggety!”
“You know, like a stank doogie bomb!”
“You never dropped a stank doogie bomb, EJ?”
“You never cut one loose? Let one rip? Never cut the cheese?”
“Who calls that a doogie bomb?”
“Everyone, so far as I know.”
“What? I refuse to believe people talk this way.”
“Do you have a problem with talking about gas?”
“You don’t like to talk about gas?”
“You never hotboxed someone?”
“Never did the cup and throw thing?”
Mercifully a joint came my way. All the fart talk had exorcised the Hamm’s jingle from my brain.
After that, the conversation evolved into a fractal pattern of topics that kept recurring and conversations that were repeated as subconversations, and then subconversations of those subconversations, each subconversation just slightly different from the last. It wove between farting and hunting dogs to the best canned beers to shotguns and chokes on shotguns to cats and farting and duck hunting and border collies and pitbulls and rifles and cats again and then taxidermy and farting and the Hamm’s Bear, and finally the long cold endless Sodak Winter. Then it came back to Penny and me.
This time, I came clean. I was afraid. I wasn’t sure I could face her. Athena, now all serious, stood tall for Penny.
“EJ, Penny needs you. It’s your job to project her.”
“Why is it my job…?”
“You know the answer, EJ. You are the only equipped to help her though her down periods, and you are the only one who can challenge her and help her with her project. She respects you. She knows you respect her. She trusts you. She needs you.”
I might have bit on that a few years earlier, but if I had learned anything in college and grad school it was that knights in shining armor were some patriarchal bullshit, and I said so.
“That’s just patriarchy, Athena.”
“What the fuck is that, EJ?”
“You know, it’s about setting up the man as the knight in shining armor. It’s about making women weak. Penny can take care of herself. She doesn’t need a man.”
Everyone was staring at me like I was an idiot.
Athena said what I imagined was on everyone’s mind. “EJ you selfish prick. We are all here right now to help you AND Penny, and you are sitting here telling us you don’t want to help Penny too, and because of some lame-ass excuse about daddy culture.”
“No that’s not fair, I didn’t say I didn’t want to help her, I said that…”
They were waiting for it.
“…that maybe I can help her more by standing back. You know…letting her do her thing.”
Funmaker was shaking his head. As I said before, in court he was a master thespian. Maybe he was putting me on trial or maybe he was finally stoned enough to feel like talking, but he launched into one of his patented appeals to the jury, complete with his sonorous voice and long meaningful pauses.
“About three hours west of here near old Highway 16, there is a hilly ridge in the middle of the prairie. It is west of the Missouri River, but before you get to Rosebud.
The ridge was not always there.
My people — The Lakota — tell the story of a time before there were horses, back when our leader was Red Calf, during the summer of many storms. In that previous Spring, in the Month of Berries Ripening, a young warrior named Cloud had married a young Lakota woman named Plum.”
Funmaker paused to hit on a passing joint. Then he continued.
“I want to tell you the story of Cloud and Plum.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Images: Jana Astanov
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, November 13th, 2016.