The festival was all but over. A stream of sunburned, mud-baked hippies churned out the stage area and rolled down the dirt roads that splintered into tributaries and wound onwards to the campground.
Jack watched three girls ahead of him, shoulders close, somehow talkative, as they journeyed out. They sported matching yellow bandanas. He was about to drop his gaze to their bikini bottoms when a bent wizard’s hat, dotted with crescent moons, popped up over their heads.
He smiled and looked down past their posteriors at his sneakers. The tip of his left shoe flapped open and closed shut with each rise and fall of his step. He watched it slap beside a purple pouch in the dust.
Jack stopped and felt sunscreen slick arms brush against him as those directly behind him parted to pass. He crouched and picked the pouch up by its hemp drawstring. It was heavier than he had thought it would be.
He grasped the sides of the top of the pouch and pulled them apart, the drawstring distending. There was a heap of fragrant marijuana inside, thick buds, seemingly stemless, with crystallized tips and orange hairs weaved amongst the flakes. It had a sweet mango-scented odor.
Jack drew the drawstring closed, stood, and looked out over the heads of the moving masses. Whoever had dropped the pouch was long gone. Even the bandana girls were out of sight.
He stuffed the pouch in the side pocket of his cargo shorts and walked on.
Jack found their camp, at last, by the pirate flag pole the fraternity brothers several rows down had planted. Tyler and Olivia were breaking down the tent and Darin was rolling a joint on the minivan tailgate. He looked at Jack.
“You got less lost this time.”
Jack shrugged. “You should not drop acid before you get your bearings.”
Olivia, folding up a metallic rod, glanced back. “I was just stoned and I still I had no idea where I was.”
“Eighty thousand freaks,” said Darin, “and one big mud pit.”
Tyler struggled with the tent bag. “How about you two help us,” he said, “and then we’ll reminisce.”
They smoked Darin’s joint after they finished packing and then they loaded themselves into the minivan. Jack didn’t tell them about the weed he had found because Tyler was paranoid enough to ask them not take any back with them.
It was a nine-hour drive to Gateswood. Jack didn’t pull out the pouch until they were safely in Kentucky, where no one would assume the worst about where they had come from or what they had been doing.
Tyler looked at him in the rearview mirror.
“You don’t respect me at all, do you?”
“I’m sorry.” Jack hung his head. “I couldn’t stand to leave it.”
“I get green hit,” he said.
The joint burned well, fringing the see-through paper with the lightest amount of resin. The last toke tasted almost as good as the first.
“That is phenomenal stuff,” said Olivia.
Jack ate the roach.
Tyler dropped Jack off last. It was 4:14 AM. Jack tried to get Tyler to come inside in time for 4:20 but Tyler pulled the exhaustion card.
Jack let himself in as quiet as he could. His mother worked early. He raided the fridge to little avail, ate an apple, and went to bed.
The next day he remembered the pouch. He dumped its contents on top of his desk, rolled a blunt, and made a green tip. That used it all. He drew the pouch closed by its drawstring and tossed it in the bottom drawer of his dresser with the rest of his paraphernalia.
Jack took a long, ecstatic shower and dressed for work. (He put his green tip in his cigarette pack.) His mother had left him a note on the whiteboard on the fridge. He almost wrote something back.
Then he went to work. He was barely late.
Jack smoked the green tip on his lunch break by the vending machines out in front of the grocery store. He bagged better stoned.
His mother was still in her hospital scrubs when he got home. She held her arms out to him from the couch.
“Did you have fun?” she asked.
Jack pulled back from their hug. “Very.”
“I thought I would cook a nice meal. Something that isn’t funnel cake.”
“That’d be real nice, mom, but there’s a little get together tonight.”
She didn’t seem bemused. “A party?”
“Weren’t you just at a three-day party?”
Jack shrugged. “I’m not the wallflower I once was.”
He went to his room and cleaned up. He carried the blunt cupped in the palm of his hand to his car and hid it in the center console. Then he went back inside long enough to ask his mother if he could borrow some money.
Nat followed Jack to the front porch after they smoked the blunt. The dance music from inside rattled the windows.
“Can you get any more of that?” she asked.
Jack lit a cigarette. “I wish.”
Nat pulled a one hitter out of her purse. “Too bad,” she said. “That weed was even better than mine.”
Tyler called around noon. Jack paused the movie he was streaming with a click of his spacebar.
“Let’s go to the lake,” Tyler said.
Jack peeked out the curtain. The warm sun leaned against the hills that ringed the valley. There was one slender cloud in the sky.
“Don’t know yet. You were the first I asked.”
Jack smiled. “That’s really sweet, man.”
Tyler wasn’t very sentimental. “Do you have any blunt wraps?”
“Okay,” said Tyler. “I’ll text you who.”
Jack went over to his dresser. He pulled out the bottom drawer. He didn’t see a blunt wrap but he saw the pouch he’d found at the festival. It didn’t seem so deflated anymore.
He picked it up. It definitely wasn’t empty. He carried it over to his desk and sat down. Then he pulled open the drawstring.
The interior of the pouch was filled with marijuana. It looked like it hadn’t been touched at all.
Jack emptied the buds on his desk. There had to be an eighth there.
He glanced at his bedroom door. There was no way his mother would’ve done it. That was so far from her style it was institutional.
It wasn’t even his birthday.
Jack twirled the string around his index finger. He pulled it free, and pulling it, tugged the drawstring closed. Then he tossed the pouch over his shoulder onto his bed.
The phone vibrated beside him. He answered it.
“Darin is coming. Did you find a wrap?”
“I’ll get one. Can you pitch in greenery?”
Jack looked at the pile of pot on his desk. “I think so,” he said.
“Cool,” said Tyler. “I’ll pick you up in twenty.”
Jack put his phone down. Then he spun his chair around to change clothes. He stayed seated.
The pouch sat, like a misshapen grenade, on the edge of the bed.
He reached forward and picked it up. The pouch had that same weight to it. He turned the chair around and pulled open the drawstring and looked inside.
“Jesus,” Jack said.
He dumped another eighth of weed on his desk. One bud fell onto his lap. He didn’t pick it up. He drew the drawstring closed and held the pouch cupped in both hands.
Two minutes passed.
The pouch expanded like a water balloon. He squeezed the sides and felt the nuggets, close but not compact, shift.
He opened the pouch again and dumped more even weed onto the desk. This time several buds rolled onto the floor.
Jack grabbed a box of sandwich baggies from his dresser drawer. He bagged the weed. The pouch refilled itself.
He emptied it into a second baggie. Then he pulled the drawstring tight to begin the process anew.
The cell phone vibrated. Jack made himself answer.
“We’re in the driveway.”
Jack looked down at his boxers. “I’m running behind,” he said. “Give me five.”
Tyler didn’t sound happy, exactly. Jack laid the two baggies and the pouch in the bottom drawer of the dresser. He pushed it closed. Then he changed into his swimming trunks and put his pocket items in his backpack. He was almost at the front door when he doubled back.
Darin was riding shotgun. Jack sat behind him.
“Did you get a wrap?”
“Yeah,” said Tyler.
Jack swung his backpack onto the empty seat next to him. “We’re gonna need another,” he said.
Jack returned sunburned and still quite stoned. His mother had ordered a pizza. She ate on the couch.
“Best day ever,” said Jack. He piled three slices of pizza on a plate and headed towards his bedroom.
“I haven’t seen you at all this week.” Jack looked over his shoulder at his mother. “Eat dinner with me?”
Jack swayed, then nodded. “Let me put my backpack up.”
He laid his plate down and went into his room. It looked undisturbed. On two knees, leaning over his dresser drawer, he emptied the pouch into yet another baggie. Closed it. Waited.
The pouch grew taut.
Jack pushed the drawer in and joined his mother on the couch. He was so pleased he let her watch what she wanted.
Nat lived in an apartment that smelled of incense and chamomile. Jack waited until her other customer left before he asked her.
“Do you remember that blunt last night?”
Nat picked up a pen and clicked its point out. “Yeah.”
“Would you pay one hundred dollars for an ounce of that?”
She dropped the pen. “In a heartbeat. Why?”
“Would you pay five hundred dollars for half a pound of that?”
“No one would sell me that for five hundred dollars.”
Nat shook her head. “I thought you couldn’t get it again.”
“The situation changed.”
“Who did you meet at that festival?”
Jack mimed a zipper across his lips.
“They must want to fuck you if they’re giving it to you that cheap.” Nat pointed slack fingers at Jack. “That isn’t at play on our end, is it?”
“I love you, Nat, but not like that.”
Nat stood up and walked around her couch and sat down again. “I never thought you for a drug dealer. A successful one, I mean.”
“Someone laid a golden goose at my feet.”
“Something about eggs.” Nat laughed, then said, super serious, “Let’s get baked.”
Three hours later, Jack left the apartment with an empty backpack and four hundred dollars. That’s all Nat had on her. Jack told her not to worry about it, four hundred was enough. She shook her head. “I’m still not fucking you.”
Jack worked early the next day. He logged into the electronic punch clock at 7:05. Mr. Anderson watched him turn around.
“Your eyes are really bloodshot, Jack.”
“I was up late.”
Mr. Anderson grinned, turned, and went up the stairwell to the manager’s office.
Jack decided to quit as soon as he sold Nat another half pound and was sure she could move a third.
He went to the comic book store after work. He left one hundred and fifteen dollars poorer, carrying three fairly expensive back issues.
Then he grew half a pound of marijuana in a little under two hours.
Jack’s mother knocked on his bedroom door around dusk. He folded the comic book he was reading and told her to come in.
“I don’t suppose you want to go to Cindy’s birthday party, do you?” she asked.
“Will you make up a good excuse for me?”
She nodded and turned down the hallway.
She looked back.
“I think I might get my own apartment.”
“You’ll need to save some money.”
“I have been.”
She made a face. “Really?”
She tapped her fingers against the door. “While you’re making major life decisions, maybe you should enroll in the fall.”
“Maybe,” said Jack. “Maybe I’ll be a business major.”
“That would be a good thing,” she said, and then she left.
Tyler was housesitting for his uncle. The tiki torch flickered and the pool lights cast the water in shimmering black. Darin and Olivia swam and Tyler drank straight bourbon in a beach chair. Jack opened the gate.
“I thought there would be women here,” said Jack.
“Me, too, man. Me, too.”
Jack packed Tyler’s bong in the enclosed patio. He tapped his foot along to the psychedelic rock that played over the stereo system. He called the gang over when he was finished.
Darin, dripping wet, leaned over the baggie.
“Where are you getting this from?”
“What do you mean?” said Jack. He took a hit and placed his hand over the mouthpiece to trap the rest of the smoke.
Darin sat down next to him. “Natalie told us.”
“Told us what?” said Olivia. She dried her hair with a towel.
“Well, she told me and Tyler.”
Jack cleared the chamber, coughed, and managed to croak, “I made a friend at the festival.”
“Why is he being so cryptic?” Darin asked Tyler.
Tyler grabbed the bong from Jack and said, “I do not know.”
Olivia worked her way around the table. Tyler took a hit. “I think you’re all being cryptic,” Olivia said. “But I’m drunk and I don’t really care.”
“This is that same stuff,” said Darin. “From the purple pouch.”
“For real?” asked Olivia.
“Try it,” said Tyler. He passed her the bong.
She hit it, held it, and let it out slow. “Why are you keeping secrets from us, Jack?”
Jack watched them look at him.
“My bag is magic,” he said.
Darin shrugged. “Both of mine are.”
Tyler was quick. “But your dick is tragic.”
Olivia sat the bong near Darin. “My clit is relatively normal.” She slid the lighter towards him.
There was an old VW van, its bottom half swirling blue and green, parked in front of Jack’s house. It had a sticker above the bumper that read, in black on white, No Amazement.
Jack pulled into the driveway. He exited the car. Then he crossed the yard to look into the van’s passenger side window.
An old man sat, asleep, behind the steering wheel.
He was bald except for a fringe of white hair around the back of his head. He had a short white goatee. He wore a tie-dye tee-shirt with a crescent moon emblem around his neck. He had on dusty blue jeans and, Jack peered to see, rope sandals.
A walking stick leaned against the passenger seat.
Jack tapped a fist on the window.
The old man opened his right eye. It was very blue.
Jack stepped back.
The window rolled down. The van smelled like patchouli and grapes.
“I think you have something that belongs to me,” the old man said.
The sounds of summer, lawnmower and water hose and classic car engine, faded into a warm drone. Jack breathed.
“You’re here for the pouch, aren’t you?”
The old man turned his head. He had two eyes after all.
“You’re not even gonna lie about it?”
Jack shrugged. “It’s your pouch. I just found it.” He looked back at his house. “You want to come in?”
The old man nodded. “Okay.”
He opened the van door and stepped out onto the pavement and closed the door behind him. He went around the front of the van. He stood quite straight.
“Don’t you need your staff?” Jack asked.
The old man glanced through the passenger window. “I think I can manage.”
Jack lead him across the yard and up the porch. He unlocked the door. The old man lowered his head to cross the threshold.
He looked around the kitchen and into the living room. “Your mother has a good aura,” he said.
“And terrible taste.”
The old man looked at Jack. “Mind if I help myself to some ice water?”
The old man crossed the kitchen and opened the cabinet they kept their cups in. He made his selection and carried it over to the fridge. He put the rim of the cup near the panel that triggered the ice.
“Now,” he said, “would be a good time to get the pouch.”
Jack went down the hallway. Ice cubes dropped. He knelt at his dresser and opened the bottom drawer. The pouch, still full, sat atop a row of fattened sandwich baggies.
Jack stared down at everything he had and thought about everything he could have had and then he took the pouch to the old man.
He was sitting on the couch like somebody’s uncle. Jack held the pouch out by its drawstring. The old man put his palm beneath its bulk.
Jack let go.
He walked to the chair along the wall and sat down. The old man placed the pouch beside him and tilted the cup to swirl the ice.
“My pocket had a hole in it.”
“What pocket?” asked Jack.
“The pocket the pouch fell out of.”
Jack leaned forward. “Are you a wizard?”
The old man raised the cup to his lips. “More or less.”
“I thought so.”
The old man drank.
“Is there a whole world of magic at the edge of everyday existence?”
The old man rested the cup atop his thigh. “Sure is.”
Jack’s voice cracked a bit as he asked, “Are there forces of darkness?” He cleared his throat.
“Do you need an apprentice?”
“Well, Jack, the way magic works, either you got it or you don’t.”
Jack pressed back against the hump of the chair. “And I’m just a muggle.”
“Thank you, Miss Rowling,” muttered the wizard.
“Could you show me something?” asked Jack. “Before you go? So I know magic is real?”
The old man cocked his eyebrows at him. “How much grass is in your dresser drawer?”
“That is a point,” said Jack.
The old man rose, pouch in one hand and cup in the other. “Thanks, Jack. You seem like a really nice kid. I didn’t have to turn you into a toad or nothing. But I gotta go. Strange things are happening places.”
“I can take the cup,” said Jack.
The old man let him.
Jack walked into the kitchen and placed it in the sink. The old man was going out the door when he turned around again.
He followed the old man across the yard and waited at the passenger window as he got inside. The old man slid a skeleton key into the ignition.
“What’s your name?” asked Jack.
Jack pressed his fingertips against the lining beneath the window.
“If you ever need someone, a regular dude, but clever and brave, I think, you can count on me.”
Merle turned the key. The van coughed.
“I might take you up on that someday. Take care, Jack.”
Jack stepped back. “You, too, Merle.”
The old man put the van in reverse and hooked it into the driveway. The bumper came way too close to Jack’s car. Then he swung the van out onto the street and drove away.
Jack walked inside. He sat on the edge of his bed. The dresser drawer was open. There were one and a half pounds of marijuana inside. A white business card straddled the two middle baggies.
Jack reached forward, pinched the card between his index finger and thumb, and pulled it up with him.
The card said, in block print like it had been typewritten: In Case of Emergency. Jack turned the card over. There was a crescent moon drawn on the back, and, in the bottom corner of the moon, there was the letter M.
BIO: Lee Blevins lives in Lexington, KY. You can follow him on Twitter @BleeSevens or visit his sad, bare-bones website byleeblevins.com.