Nicholas sat on his porch with his friend James, smoke pouring from his mouth as he passed the joint over.
“Look, I am that one guy.” James said as he took a long drag and held it in. Squishing his cheeks together, he opened his mouth a sliver so he could talk without blowing smoke.
“You’re telling me you buy a coke then spit it out?” He choked on his words and spat a plume of smoke out.
Nicholas laughed as he took the joint from James.
“You didn’t even get half of the quote out, man; you suck so hard.”
Nicholas and James laughed on for what seemed like hours, well after their last joint fell cold. Sitting in the cold night’s air, they giggled.
“Dude, do you remember going to the skate park that one time and I skated for the first time?” James asked.
“You did not skate; if anything, that board rode you. You were on your ass more than you were on your feet.”
“Which clearly means you are a terrible teacher.”
“Listen here, you shit cunt, if you were better, we wouldn’t have had this issue.”
“Funny, I was about to say the same thing.”
They both started laughing uncontrollably; Nicholas shivered a little and grimaced.
“Hey man, I am going to head in; I have started coming down and have just realized how fucking cold it is,” Nicholas said as he wrapped his hoodie around himself. Doing his best to stave off the cold before he could find his blanket inside.
James followed suit, a slight disappointment crossing his face. Both of them crashed into recliners. They flicked on the TV and resumed the cartoons they were watching before they had gone outside. Wrapped up in his blanket Nicholas grinned as the warmth enveloped him.
“Fuck it is stupid how much you embody the comfy guy meme!” James laughed, looking at Nicholas.
He turned to look at James, eyes still glazed over, with only his head visible.
“The what meme?”
“You know, that one with that ugly guy wrapped in a blanket with a mug of coffee or something. You know, the comfy guy meme.”
“Ahh, yes. So good. If only I had a hot beverage to become my final form.”
James jumped to his feet and ran into the kitchen; he hastily filled the jug and started boiling it. Nicholas shuffled himself in his recliner so he could watch James.
“Bring snacks back to the man. Oh, and go to the bathroom for me too.”
James strained his face and grunted slightly. “Sorry, man, I can’t do that last one. Quick go to the toilet before the jug boils.”
Nicholas leaped from his seat and ran into the next room with his arms out behind him as he screamed.
After finishing with the toilet, Nicholas looked into the mirror while he enjoyed the warm water on his hands. He watched as his reflection smiled, then winked at him. Nicholas froze, and he started to shake.
“James!” He Screamed. “It is happening, man; I need you; hurry up; my eyes hurt, man, I need you.”
James quickly ran into the bathroom, standing between Nicholas and the mirror, making sure to stare into the mirror while Nicholas slowly backed away from the mirror, afraid. Out of sight of the mirror, he relaxed as James slowly backed away from the mirror, keeping his eyes fixed on it, before jumping to the side.
“You all good man? Been a while since one of the mirror hallucinations.”
Nicholas waved away the question before sluggishly making his way back into the lounge. He grabbed his blanket in one hand and dragged it back to his room, closing the door behind him. James stood behind him, holding a plate of food and a large mug which steamed with a sweet scent. James looked down at the food and drink. His eyes were empty; he scrunched up his face, put the food down, then went to bed.
Come the morning, the light shone through the windows, revealing the mess of the house the two were living in. Their table was covered in electronics and rubbish. Their computer desk was stacked with papers, mail, and anything else neither of them wanted to deal with. Right next to one of the windows was three large marijuana plants sitting in equally large pots.
Nicholas was the first up; he pushed open his bedroom door while scratching at his eyes. Tripping on the odd pile of rubbish as he made his way into the kitchen. Sifting through the mess on the benchtops, he scrounged the cleaner-looking items, gave them a quick wash then started to cook scrambled eggs and toast. When he was close to being finished, he called out to his voice-activated speaker.
“Alexa, play wake up playlist.”
A couple beeps later, and metal music started playing quietly over the speaker.
“Alexa, max volume.”
A couple more beeps and the volume climbed till it sounded like a concert. The metal music echoed through the house and across the lawn till it was a faint noise in the neighbor’s home. James eventually staggered from his room groggy. Looking up, Nicholas was grinning, holding two plates of eggs.
“I made food; come on, we need to eat because we need to go see Toast.”
James stared at Nicholas, eyes still mostly closed until the song reached its climax. Throwing his head forward and back, he sang along, growling so perfectly that it sounded like an echo to the actual singer. James’ long dirty blonde hair flung everywhere as he headbanged.
“Yea, man, get in the fucking pit.” Nicholas screamed over the music.
James quickly jumped forward and started throwing fists all around until he finally leaped through the air and landed face-first on the couch.
“Alexa, volume one.”
The all-consuming music quickly became a background noise, and Nicholas made his way round to James with the food.
“Sorry about last night, ae. It is just hard to stay in a good mood when my brain shit happens,” Nicholas said as he shoveled food into his mouth.
“You know it is all good. Sucks that you went to bed early, but as long as you are all good, it is all good.”
Nicholas fist-bumped James on the shoulder, and they finished their breakfast in silence. Cleaning his teeth with his tongue, Nicholas grabbed James’ empty plate and threw them on the Everest-like stack that was already there.
“Okay, we seriously need to bounce. If we don’t help Toast with his shit before tonight, we are going to be in the shit,” Nicholas said as he started to grab his keys and wallet.
James looked down at his lack of suitable clothes. “Fuck, give me a minute.”
Nicholas got his shoes on and waited by the door as he put on his black hoodie. Watching as James came out of his room in a much nicer hoodie holding a joint.
“Guess who saved one for the trip down,” James grinned.
“I guess James,” Nicholas chipped in, doing his best to sound like a little kid.
James sparked it up as they left the house, taking heavy tokes from it as he got it started.
“I swear this is the worst rolled joint ever. It lights for a second, then just snuffs it.”
Nicholas looked across at James. “Useless, give it here.”
Nicholas quickly lit up the joint and took a long drag before handing it back. Smoke slowly leaked from his mouth as he walked to the driver’s side of the car.
Jumping in the beat-up two doors, they pulled out and headed out. Driving through the winding country roads, they turned their music up loud and shared the joint in conversational silence. As they pulled into the township, James started to stir in his seat, turning the music down and throwing the roach of the joint in a small container that held many more.
“Hey man, do you think we should be hanging around Toast. He seems to be getting pretty…hectic. Like, I have seen him lose his shit so much over the last few months. Way more than usual.”
Nicholas sighed, his face saddening.
“Come on, man, you know why we are there. Unfortunately, we can’t let that shit scare us; we don’t have that option because they don’t.”
“True, fucking hard man.”
“Aint that just the truth.”
Heading to the dodgy side of town, they pulled into a driveway outside a rundown-looking house with a busted-up, rusty, near-vintage car sitting in a carport.
Hoping out of the car, they walked to the door, knocking hard and numerously.
“Hey man, it is James and Nicholas. Come let us in.”
They stopped knocking, and there were sounds from inside that silenced.
“Urgh, skits cunt.” Nicholas whispered before he started knocking on the door.
“Yo man come on, we came to help out. Just let us in.”
Nicholas stopped knocking, and he froze. James looked at him with shock on his face as he mouthed. ‘what the fuck’
The door opened, and Nicholas’ face scrunched up as he looked to the ground. James walked in first, greeted by a slightly hunched wiry looking guy. They shook hands, and he moved through. Nicholas hesitated before moving forward, keeping his head down. The door slammed shut behind him, and he flinched.
“Keep your friend in his place, James; he’s getting too comfortable around here. Maybe I should teach him a lesson.” The man said, his voice cracking as if he had been smoking since birth.
“Sorry, Toast didn’t mean no disrespect.”
“Lucky you apologized, or I would have thrown you into the pits for a couple of rounds.”
Nicholas shuddered at the thought, his hands starting to shake slightly. Moving through the mess that was Toast’s house, they soon found themselves in the kitchen. He was cooking cannabis oil on the stovetop in a large beaker. Constantly shifting it to only allow a small surface area to touch the stovetop.
“Go back there.” He gestured with his head. “You guys can harvest anything I missed from the bags.”
James and Nicholas walked to the doorway to see a room filled with black trash bags that were so full they looked like they were going to burst. Grabbing the nearest one, they sat down on the sticky floor in the kitchen. It was filled with Marijuana plants, all chopped up and stripped of bud.
“You should find something on them; they are just the scraps from harvest. Probably not much, but they will be turned into oil soon enough, so just take whatever.”
Nicholas and James smiled at one another, knowing that Toast was notoriously bad at harvesting. They quickly filled their pockets to the brim with bud and threw the trash bag back into the room.
“Alright, I got heaps of shit to do today; the others are in the other lounge,” Toast paused. “I don’t know what I would do without your help,” Toast said, staring directly at James, making an effort to avoid contact with Nicholas. James gave Nicholas a sympathetic side eye before the two of them headed into the next room. Before they could get to the second lounge, they were attacked by a little girl who ran and jumped at James.
“James!” She screamed.”
He picked her up and gave her a big hug, squeezing as tight as any good parent would.
“Emily!” He screamed back.”
Then another slightly older kid came out, a boy.
“hey guys, where are we off to today?”
“Figured we could grab you kids some food, then head to the falls,” James said as he put the girl down.
“Ben and I have been looking forward to this all week. But Ben won’t admit it,” Emily said, taking a jab at her brother.
“Shut up, stupid kid.”
“Come on, guys, grab your stuff, and we can head out.” Nicholas chimed in.
Emily ran off, and Ben walked behind. Nicholas and James gave a sympathetic look as they could smell the burning chemicals coming from the kitchen. As they ran off, they heard a third person moving around in the back. Their mother came out, her body thin and sunken in around the cheeks. She walked straight past Nicholas and James without a word, heading for the kitchen.
“Come on guys, we gotta go.” James yelled as he made his way to the door.
“I’ll get the car started.” Nicholas said as he headed outside.
“Na bitch you ain’t allowed in the kitchen when I am cooking.”
“Come on, you have been cooking for like three days straight; I just want some food.”
“No, you don’t; you say that then you fucking make a grab for my meds, get the fuck out bitch.”
The two kids lowered their heads and tried to walk past without being noticed. But the mum caught them at the last moment.
“Oh, kids, hey, how are you? What are you doing? Oh, James is here. Nice to see you, James. Taking the kids out for a walk. That will be good for them. Maybe I can get you kids some money to get some food.”
James stared at her sternly as the kids waited for their mum. She started shifting paper and mess from the table in search of money. She found a small pile of change, then another, and a little more. With a hand full, she looked across to her kids as she tried to pocket it without being seen, despite the fact she was in full view. Her hand slamming down on a lone pill with desperation, she mouthed it before sitting down calmer. Staring off into the distance.
“Come on guys, I’ll shout your food today.”
Ben and Emily left their heads down in shame as they left the house. James followed behind, making sure to close the door hard behind him.
“Don’t slam the door, you stupid bitch.” Toast screamed from inside.
“It wasn’t me; it was your shithead little kid friends.”
James left earshot of the argument just as it started to get heated. Hoping into the passenger seat, he looked back to the kids.
“All right, guys, how about we get you some food, and then Nic’s going to take us up to the falls.”
Ben and Emily looked at one another and let loose a little grin, but it was apparent that they were embarrassed. James picked up on it and was about to try and start a conversation again when Nicholas revved the engine.
“How about a little music and a little fun.” Nicholas yelled as he spun around in his seat, steering out the back window. He slammed his foot down, and they rocketed backward. Fast pace music blaring from the crackling radio as they slammed onto the road. Quickly shifting gears, he dropped his foot down a second time, cheering, making the back tires spin. They eventually started to drive forwards. A plume of smoke raised from his car as the two kids started the get excited and cheer. James looked back, grinning, then to Nicholas. Nic gave him a side eye and a grin as James punched Nic on the shoulder lightly. Calming his driving down, they pulled into the shopping center of town, parking right outside a bakery. James hopped out first and pulled the seat forward to let Ben and Emily out of the car.
“Okay, squirts.” Nicholas said as he locked the car. “What do you want?”
“Pie!” Emily answered cheerfully as Ben walked away with his head lowered and his hands in his pockets.
“Oh, what’s wrong?” James asked.
“Looks like little Benny is embarrassed,” Nicholas added.
“Oh, don’t you like being called a squirt, little Benny?”
Ben started to smile.
“Na, just like. Whatever,” Ben muttered as he walked into the store
The other three started laughing together and mocking Ben before following him into the store. Emily went to continue when they were in the store, but James laid his hand on her shoulder gently, and she looked up to see him with his finger pressed to his lips. She fake frowned and started to look around the bakery in silence.
The kids grabbed what they wanted, and James paid for them. They ran outside, and James stopped Nic before he left. Whispering into his ear.
“I don’t know what things are going to be like when we get back to Toasts. Maybe we make this last a while.”
Nic nodded his head and stepped out. Before getting into his car, James’s phone started to vibrate.
“Oh, mister popular over here, who is calling you?” Nicholas asked as he fumbled for his keys.
James pulled the phone up and listened intently, turning away from the others.
Nicholas noticed James giving him the side eye and turned back to the kids.
“Hurry up, you little scamps; let’s give James some privacy.” Nicholas said as he unlocked the car, letting Ben and Emily in. Nicholas stood leaning against that the car as he watched James take his phone call. James lowered the phone and disconnected the call; looking down at his feet, he ran a hand through his hair. Muttering under his breath, he cursed.
Looking back up at Nicholas, he faked a smile, hopping into the car. Nicholas followed suit.
“So… we are heading back to your house, guys.” James said as he turned back to Ben and Emily.
Their faces dropped instantly; Emily tried to smile, but she struggled to even speak.
“Sorry guys, your dad called. He needs you two back.” James turned back to the front before continuing.
“He is your dad; he can’t just take you away.”
“Why not?” Emily asked.
Ben slapped her leg, shushing her before she could continue. They both exchanged gentle slaps before finally being quiet. James sat silent, staring at his hands. Nicholas turned the radio on to fill the silence and pulled out of the car park slowly. Driving as slow as he could back to Toast’s house.
Pulling back up the drive, Nicholas cut the engine and let the car coast to a stop quietly. The quietness was filled with the muffled shout from in the house. Nicholas and James looked at each other expectantly, hoping that the other would come up with an idea. The two kids in the back sunk into themselves as they avoided any eye contact. James looked to the house and hopped out, walking towards it silently. Emily went to follow, but Nicholas put a hand across and looked to her, smiling gently.
“Take a seat; James just wants to chat with your dad a bit first.”
Emily let slip a small sigh of relief before sitting back down.
James knocked on the door and entered after a short break in the screaming competition from inside the house. As soon as the door closed behind him, more screaming started up again; James was quickly ejected from the house, and Toast stood in the window. He was silent and staring at the car. Ben noticed and tapped Emily. As quick as they could, they got out of the car and headed to the house.
“Say thanks for the trip; James and Nicholas did more than your worth today, so you better be grateful that you got to go out on a trip.”
They both turned and said their thanks.
“No worries, guys, anytime.” Nicholas screamed from the car.
The children disappeared into the house, and Toast went to say something, but he heard his wife say something inside, so he turned around shouting at her. Slamming the door in James face.
James climbed into the car, and Nicholas didn’t move, trying to listen to what was happening inside.
“Can we just leave? I don’t want to hear this shit.”
Nicholas turned over the engine and pulled out, the music drowning out any outside noise.
Nicholas and James drove home in silence; getting into the house, Nicholas looked at James, tossing the bag of weed on the table. Its contents spilled out as the large bag bulged.
“Wanna get fucked up so bad we can’t remember?”
James sat down and started rolling a joint.
“Probably going to need more than this if we are going to forget.”