The basement smelt of old pine, which drifted around in a thick haze. I was nervous to have come here, but Jake said, “Everything’s all right, we’re just going to chill out a bit.”
My older brother Jake was supposed to be babysitting me and wasn’t allowed to go out with his friends until Mom got home at four o’clock. I wasn’t able to play with my grade six friends like I do at recess because today is a PD Day.
Jake doesn’t seem to have fun with me anymore—he’s more interested in the girls posted on his bedroom wall.
He brought me to Daryl’s house, and Mom says he’s not allowed to hang out with him anymore.
I sit on an old leather couch that’s ripped all around the edges. A big black cat jumps onto the armrest of the couch, which startles me. It glares at me with its yellow oval eyes. I want to pet it, but I sit with my ankles crossed and hands clasped together so I don’t do anything to embarrass Jake.
“We’re going to have fun, okay?” said Jake.
“He going to be chill or what?” said Daryl with a half smile.
“Yeah, he’s good,” Jake said with his hands clasped together, too.
What was I supposed to be good about?
While I sit still on the couch, Full House plays on the television. I stare at the screen but can’t concentrate since I can hear more of Jake’s friends coming in from the upstairs.
I look over to the far corner and there’s a mattress lying on the ground, but I don’t see how anyone would want to sleep down here. Wouldn’t they get scared?
“Is your brother here?” says a strange voice from upstairs.
“Yeah!” yelled Jake nervously.
“Sweet! I got the good shit for us,” said the voice, entering the room.
I turn my head, trying to be cool, and notice I’ve seen Jake at the park with this guy before, but don’t know his name. I don’t think Mom knows him either. Mom knows all of my friends.
He has a bit of a mustache. Not a lot of sixteen-year-olds have mustaches—Dad says you have to wait until you’re eighteen. His lips make it seem like he grins and his shirt smells like my Grandpa’s old liquor cabinet.
“Hey Danny, my man!” says Daryl.
Now I know his name.
Danny pulls out a bag of leaves, but they look funny, like tiny Christmas trees. When he opens the bag, it smells like the basement, but a lot stronger.
My eyes sting from the dryness of the room.
Jake sits beside me, and two girls sit beside him on the couch, too. They haven’t talked much except to laugh when Jake makes a joke. Both of them are thin with pale white skin.
They glare at me like the cat.
Daryl lounges in the big black chair and Danny sits, legs crossed, on the stained yellow carpet.
I whisper to Jake, “I don’t think we’re supposed to be here.” I get a terrible feeling, and I think I’m going to get in trouble.
“Eric, relax, we’re good—Mom knows we’re here”, but Mom said last week that Daryl wasn’t nice.
Danny brings out a big clear tube with yellow waves on it, which was hidden behind the television. He puts some of the leaves inside a small hole. Nobody seems to be scared of what’s happening, but I am. He takes a lighter and lights the leaves, and they go on fire and there’s smoke coming from the big tube part!
“Ye,” everyone yells as Daryl sucks in the smoke.
Why the heck is he doing that?
The two girls suck in the smoke too. Jake grabs the tube, and I don’t want him to do it. I nudge him and glare up at him. He looks right back with a dead stare then looks away and lights the leaves. The girl next to him on the couch giggles as she rests her head on his broad shoulder when he sucks in the smoke.
Jake coughs a lot, giving me the tube. “It’s good, man. You’re going to feel funny, and nothing bad happens, I promise. If you don’t do it, I’ll tell Mom that you did.”
My hands tremble as I grab the machine; I look at the leaves in the tube with my toes pressed hard into the ground.
“I don’t want to do it,” I said with hesitation. I sit there with everyone’s eyes on me. I sit still but my heart beats so fast. I want to run away.
I give the breathing tube back to Jake and stand up feeling so relieved I was making the decision to leave. Jake looks at me with a disappointed smirk. “Don’t be such a pussy,” he says loudly so his friends can hear.
“I’m sorry.” I walk to the stairs, alone, holding my breath. I walk up the stairs, and it’s quiet and I know everyone is thinking I’m such a little kid. I grab my shoes and slide open the front screen door and run home.
Mom’s car is in the driveway.
She’s waiting in the dining room, and I know she’s on the phone with Dad because she’s crying.
“Where the hell have you been and where is your brother!” she yells.
I stand, not knowing what to do with my hands. I begin to tear up, which is such a relief to my dry eyes.
I can hardly concentrate and I’m tired.
Mom calmly comes over to hug me.
“Jake made me go to Daryl’s. I promise I didn’t do anything bad.”
“I know you didn’t, sweetheart. Is he still there?” she says in a sweet voice.
“Yeah,” I said. “They’re doing something weird with a tube in the basement.” I felt sorry for telling on Jake because I wanted to be a cool kid.
The refusal to let go of the narrator’s naivety about the situation gives the classic drug plot a fresh perspective. The ironic ending to a drawn-out scene, the consequences left ambiguous, is very satisfying.
This was an entry in the 2014/15 Writing & Photo Contest.