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The Barcelona Review

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Mega Video on National Avenue sold whippits and crackers, but you couldn’t call them whippits and crackers or else they wouldn’t sell them to you. It wasn’t always like that, but after some kind of police crackdown they had to change their policy to cover their ass. We found out one day when Kenny got denied and the man behind the counter explained why.
         “I can’t sell them to you if you call them ‘whippits,’ it’s the law.”
         “What fuckin’ law, I was just in here last week?” That was the truth—Kenny was a freak for whippits, which kind of explained a lot about him.
         The guy behind the counter just looked at Kenny with a dead stare, relishing this tiny bit of authority that the world had granted him. He was twenty-eight years old, about sixty pounds overweight, and worked third shift at a 24-hour porno store. But when it came to getting high on nitrous oxide, he was the gatekeeper in this town.
         “Fuckin’ A, dude,” Kenny said in a frustrated voice. He was gonna turn around and walk out of the place on principle, but instead he decided to browse a little. Next to the whippits and crackers in the glass display case were all kinds of weed pipes—wooden, metal, and glass, as well as little ceramic one-hitters shaped like cigarettes that came with a wooden carrying case. Behind the counter was a selection of bongs, and a handwritten sign that said, “All pipes are for Tobacco use ONLY.”
         The rest of the store was devoted to sex. Mostly porn videos, which you could rent or purchase. There were also magazines, and a selection of toys and costumes—S&M bondage gear, lingerie, dildos and rubber pussies. It was 7 o’clock, and there were only two other guys in the place, older guys with stacks of videos in their arms who very deliberately did not make eye contact with anyone else.
         Kenny grabbed the latest issue of Club and took it to the counter. “Can I buy this, or do I have to call it a novel?” The counter guy just gave him a look and took his money. He put the magazine in a black plastic bag, which the store always gave you for whatever you bought so you didn’t have to walk out holding a bong or a dildo in your hand.
         Kenny started walking towards the door, but a light went off in his brain and he turned around. “Hey, so what am I supposed to call ’em, then?”
         “Call what?”
         “The, uh, the things, for the … those.” He pointed at the case of whippits under the glass.
         “Those are for making whipped cream.”
         “But what do you call them?”
         “I don’t know. But you can’t call ’em whippits.”
         “Ok. So what about the crack- … the, uh, the opener thing?”
         “I don’t know, man. You can’t say ‘whippits’ and you can’t say ‘cracker.’ If you do, I can’t sell ’em to you. That’s the law.” In his mind, the counter guy thought to himself, “And I am the law, shithead. No whippits for you tonight, motherfucker.”
         “That’s fuckin’ gay, dude. But whatever.” Kenny left with his porno mag and no whippits.
         Me and Johnny and Sam were sitting at the picnic table in Johnny’s backyard. Johnny’s little brother Marco was there too. We were all waiting for Kenny to come over with a case of whippits. Personally, I didn’t much care for whippits. They only lasted a minute or so, and if you did too many in a row you felt straight retarded for the rest of the night. Johnny said whippits killed more brain cells than anything else, though for some reason that didn’t deter him from doing them whenever he had the chance.
         Johnny and I were both nineteen, while Sam was twenty and Marco was seventeen. That meant that none of us were old enough to buy beer, and on this particular night, we couldn’t get a hold of anyone who was. Sam usually had a hookup for weed, which was my drug of choice and the main reason I hung out with him, but we were going through a dry spell at the moment, and nobody had any. I had called everyone I knew, and so had Sam, and so had Johnny. Nothing.
         Kenny pulled his ’85 Pontiac up to the house and walked around back. Everyone who came over to Johnny’s knew not to ring the doorbell, just walk around back and check the picnic table or the Pit on the side of the house.
         The Pit was just that, a pit full of gravel walled off with wooden beams on two sides, adjacent to the house and with a door to the basement. Johnny’s was the only house I’ve ever seen where the basement had its own back porch. It was the best place in all of Stallis to get high, because you were completely out of sight from everyone. It was like some kind of ultimate Safe Zone. Sometimes when we got too high, we just stayed in the Pit for hours because we knew as long as we were there, somehow nothing bad could happen.
         “What’s up dudes?” Kenny came up to the table where we were all sitting and smoking cigarettes. “Bad news—no whippits.”
         “Why not, what the fuck?”
         “They wouldn’t sell ’em to me. They said you can’t call them ‘whippits’ anymore and if you do they can’t sell ’em to you. Fuckin’ gay.”
         “So what are you supposed to call ’em?”
         “I don’t know! The fuckin’ counter guy doesn’t even know. I asked him and he just looked at me like the retard that he is.”
         “Was it that fat guy who always wears a Nuclear Assault T-shirt?” Sam asked.
         “Oh man. My older brother went to school with him at West Milwaukee. Said he was a total dork in high school.”
         “He still is. So, anybody got any weed?”
         “Shit no,” Johnny said. “If we did we wouldn’t even bother with the whippits.”
         For a moment no one said anything, as the gravity of the drugless situation set in. It’s not that any of us were hardcore drug addicts—nobody did heroin or snorted coke or anything like that. But the prospect of a night hanging out completely sober just didn’t sit well with anyone.
         We shot the shit for a while, talking about music, girls, other times we’d gotten wasted. Then I had an idea.
         “You got any nutmeg?”
         “What?” Johnny said.
         “Nutmeg. It’s a spice, you know, like garlic and cumin and shit like that.”
         “I think so, yeah. Why?”
         “I read that you can get high on nutmeg. It’s got this chemical called MDA that makes you trip.”
         “Seriously?” Johnny said. “Dude, that’s awesome.”
         “I never tried it, but I read about it.”
         “How do you do it?” Sam asked.
         “I don’t know.”
         “Marco, go see if dad’s got any nutmeg in the kitchen.”
         Marco came back a minute later with a little bottle in his hand. “Got some right here.”
         “Open it. What’s it look like?”
         Marco opened the bottle. Inside was a reddish powder with a strong smell.
         “How much do you take?” Kenny asked.
         “I don’t know.”
         “Fuck it, let’s smoke some and try it.”
         “Wait a minute,” I said. “When’s the last time you cleaned that pipe?”
         “I don’t know. Why, you wanna try to pull a resin ball out of it?”
         “Fuck yeah. Give it here.”
         “I got one too,” Sam said, and passed me a pipe from his pocket.
         I was kind of expert at scraping pipes for resin. I took apart the pipes and inspected them to see what I could pull out.
         “It’s not much, but I can get something. You got a paperclip?”
         “I’ll get one.” Marco went back in the house to fetch it. Inside, Johnny’s dad was watching TV in the living room. I don’t know what he thought about what we did in the backyard or in the Pit, but we certainly appreciated his laissez-faire attitude. As long as the drugs were not right there directly in his face, he didn’t give us any shit.
         I bent the paperclip into a scraping tool as I’d done many time before, and after a few minutes I’d produced a small ball of black, sticky resin, a little larger than a BB. It would have been enough to get one or maybe two people a little bit high, but for the five of us, it wouldn’t even give everybody a hit.
         “It’s not much,” I said. “But we’ll mix it with the nutmeg.”
         Johnny looked over at Marco. “Do we have anything else?”
         “I still have that bag of catnip that I bought off that fucker at McCarty park.” Marco had been ripped off by some guy who sold him an eighth of catnip, passing it off as weed. I was with him at the time. We smoked two bowls of the shit before we realized what had happened.
         “I read that catnip is supposed to be mildly psychedelic, too,” I said. “But it didn’t do shit that time we smoked it.”
         “Go get it,” Johnny said to Marco. He went to fetch the bag and brought it back. Now we had catnip, nutmeg, and a ball of resin.
         “Put some tobacco in too,” Sam said. It seemed like a good idea.
         I took out a Camel Light from my pack and cracked it apart to take out the tobacco. On top of a magazine on the picnic table, I mixed up the tobacco and the catnip and packed it in the bowl of the weed pipe. Then I put the resin ball in, sort of embedded in the mixture so when it melted it would melt onto the tobacco and catnip. Finally, I sprinkled the bowl with nutmeg. I held the pipe in my hand and looked at it, its bowl filled with this strange mixture of questionable substances.
         “So who wants to try it first?” I said.
         “You made it, it’s all you dude,” Johnny said.
         I put the pipe to my lips and lit the bowl. There was a sizzling sound as the ingredients caught fire. I pulled a small hit into my lungs—I was a little scared about what this novel mix might do to me—and quickly exhaled it. The smoke was harsh, which I knew was at least partly from the catnip.
         I passed the pipe to Johnny, who took a good sized hit. “Fuck yeah,” he said as he exhaled the smoke. Around it went to Sam, Kenny, and Marco. There was enough for me, Johnny and Sam to get one more, but then it was beat. Sam put the pipe on the table, and we all sat back in silence.
         After a moment, Kenny said, “I think I feel something.”
         Silence again. Then Sam said, “Really? I don’t feel anything.”
         I did a body scan with my mind to see if I was feeling anything. “I got this weird tingling in my fingers. Any of you guys got that?”
         “I think I know what you mean,” Johnny said. “Yeah, my hands feel weird.”
         “I think I’m high, dude,” Marco said.
         That sentiment made us all feel good for a moment. We sat in silence for a while, again, waiting for the high to get more intense.
         After a while, Sam said, “I don’t know. I really don’t feel anything. You guys really are high?”
         “I think so,” Kenny said. “I don’t know.”
         “I definitely feel something,” Johnny said.
         “I’m a little bit high,” I said, “but I don’t know if it’s from the resin or what.”
         We all lit cigarettes and sat there while we smoked them, waiting in hopes that some new drug sensation would come upon us.
         But nothing happened. Finally, Sam got up to go inside and take a piss.
         “Dude, fuck this shit, I want some whippits,” Kenny said.
         “Yeah, me too,” said Johnny. “Let’s just drive to the porn store and get some. We can try to get some booze, too, maybe they won’t card us.”
         Sam came back to the table.
         “Dude, we’re going to get whippits and booze.”
         “Good. Dude, I’m really not high at all.”
         “Me neither,” Marco said.
         “Dude,” Kenny said to me, “I don’t know where you read about that nutmeg stuff, but it was bullshit.”
         “Yeah, I guess so,” I said. I felt bad that everyone was disappointed.
         “It was worth a try,” Johnny said. “Fuck, if it worked it’d be awesome to get high from something at the grocery store.”
         “So who’s driving?” Sam said.
         “Fuck, any of us,” Kenny said. “It’s not like anyone’s too messed up to drive.”
         We took Johnny’s ’87 Corolla and drove to the porn store. Kenny stayed inside the car because of what had happened earlier, so me and Johnny and Sam went in.
         “We’re making whipped cream,” Johnny said to the counter guy. He looked at us for a moment without saying anything. Then he reached into the display and got out a case of whippits and a cracker.

©Jack Ravenwood

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Author Bio
Jack RavenwoodJack Ravenwood grew up in Wisconsin in what used to be a factory town. He has worked as a cook, an office drone, a carpenter, and a teacher, though not in that order. His best job ever was being paid to pretend to be an interior designer. He currently lives in southern China. His first book of short stories is Paradise Theater, of which "Devolution" is a part.