This story appeared in The J Journal, Volume 1.
Everyone in Brew Crew had cops’ names: Steve Earling. Tom Hitchens. Dave Nanney… Guys with brothers. Guys with fathers. Guys with lifelong friends.
This guy: Josh Shapiro. Not a cop’s name. Sans brothers. Sans father. Sans friends, lifelong or otherwise.
Roth Wilcox introduced himself sophomore year. Me eating lunch at the pizza trucks near the school parking lot. Me with burnouts and metal geeks. Guys with copless names: Ben Weissman. Adam Liebowitz. Anthony Kaufman. Friends sans friends. Looking for better ones.
A blond kid named Miami rides his bike past our stoner circle in December, smiling with every pedal. Every pedal like Miami’s giving birth. Miami’s head swaying side to side a la some sing-a-long flick.
I needed the stoners to love and fear me. I stuffed the crust in my mouth and chased Miami mid-chew. Miami pedals faster. Smiling. Thinks it’s a joke because we’re three seats apart in fourth period Biology. Tires squeal. A thick dude with arched brows, Jack Torrance meets Hulk, exits and stalks over. He’s pushing my chest. Bronco running behind him.
“Lets go, tough guy,” he says.
“Pick on little kids, pick on me,” he says.
He shoves. I back pedal.
“Just messing around,” I’m telling him. “You’ve got it all wrong,” I’m saying. I’m saying, “Me and this guy are buds.”
Miami’s smiling. The air is fresh. Birds in trees. With a name like Miami, he’s trained to dig on nature.
“You know this fool?” Roth asks Miami.
Miami doesn’t know me. He smiles and says so.
Another guy in the Bronco’s groaning, “Roth, leave him the fuck be.” Said guy finishes a Wendy’s burger and tosses the balled-up wrapper at Miami’s head.
Roth eyeballs me. Finger in my chest. “Do it again, cheesedick,” he says. “Try me.”
Miami thanks Roth. Roth peels out. Miami pedals into a grove. I’m back in my stoner circle, sans eye contact.
Flash to Friday night. Homecoming game. Shapiro approaches Roth in the bleachers. Sans mullet. Sans denim jacket. Sans Testament t-shirts, back-patch and knee-high moccasin boots. Shapiro asks Roth can he rush for Brew Crew, the high school frat. President Roth flanked by Brew Crew members.
Chris Buckley. Bryce Dillon. Chad Anderson…
Roth asks why does he know me. Roth says he knows it’s not a good reason.
I plead ignorant. Maybe from parties. Bullshit. Maybe our dads are buds. Take a whiff…
“Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight,” Roth says, “you pick on little kids,” and smiles.
Roth says, “Oh yeah.”
Roth says, “You can rush.”
Roth whispers, “Down and give me twenty, you little fraud.”
Flash forward. Interrogation. Nanney’s. Twenty rushes by the pool. Shirtless and shivering. The audience: Brew Crew and Brew Crew girls. Dubbed: Doras. Thirty plus. Two rushes already fled in tears. Here’s me pulled inside. Shapiro’s turn: Wedgies. Push-ups. Gutshots. Loser. Dickweed. Virgin. Roth’s yelling, “Don’t be a pussy. You can do this.” Whispering, “You are not one of us.”
The paddle. Six skin-crackers. Feel it, baby.
A blonde with glasses, cheeks and gray eyes says, “What did they stuff in your pants?” Kristen never smiles. Shapiro knows. Shapiro’s stalked her since high school day one. Yearbook photos. Drama electives. Anonymous bouquets. Shapiro shoves a hand downtown, removes a fistful of cat food. Kristen chuckles. Then she fuckin roars.
“That is soooooo nasty.”
I make it to the bathroom. Roth wedges his steel-toe between the doorjamb. Eyes like a caged dog. Sipping from a bottle of Jack through a blue twisty straw. Brotherhood dreamt.
Brotherhood stolen: Shapiro lifts his mother’s ATM card in the night. Alarm code’s her birthday. Gotta be the pin. Hit the teller. Paydirt. Five hundred. Slip the card back. Rinse and repeat four more days. Upshot: Three grand. Crisp twenties. I spread the word. Said word: Shapiro’s throwing an inaugural on Friday. Ten rooms at Hojo Motel. Bring nothing.
All Brew Crew present. Steve Earling. Chad Buckley. Dave Nanney. Roth Wilcox… All Doras present. Debbie Russell. The Ingersoll Twins. Kristen Hauser, Et, al.
Seventy-five cases of beer. Ten full bathtubs. Get some. Additional cases: Jack. Cuervo Gold. Morgans.
On hand: Three ounces: skunk bud. Front pocket: Ziplock baggy: eighty Rofinol.
Not Rufies. Rofies give you balls that clang. Rofies give Doras the itch. Make us all best buds.
Case in point: Dave Nanney says, “You rock, Josh. Thanks for doing this.” Nanney hugs us. Nanney means it.
We’re standing near Roth in the corner. Roth sitting with a bottle of Jack. We’re saying, “So your dad’s a cop?”
Roth’s drinking Jack out of the twisty straw again, saying squat.
We swig more beer. Three rofies in. Feeling it. This is us possessed. “Homicide, right?” The word alone makes me squint.
“Right,” Roth says.
“So,” get ready, baby, “you think Ray had help?”
“Jimmy Earl, fool,” I’m saying, slapping his arm.
I lean in. I give Roth the full scoop, “Jimmy Ray was my uncle.”
Roth stares at the side of his sneaker. Nanney heard it. Nanney’s laughing. Nanney says, “Where’s that bag of kind bud?” Nanney’s big and tall with a flattop. Nanney at seventeen could pass for a forty-year-old Sergeant.
“I fuckin love you people,” I’m saying.
“Yeah, but the green, dude, the green.”
I pull it out of my Levis pocket. Drop the baggy in Sarge’s lap. “Sit tight,” I tell them, “I’ll bring you the Lord.”
Collective “Oh shits.” Positive, “Damns.” Brotherly loving, “Go get that shit, homey.” Said shit they think is more bud. Said shit is Jesus, my four-foot bong.
Time taken to insert key into car door: One minute. I grab Jesus. Walk with Him propped against my left leg. Move Him accordingly with each step for maximum concealment. Oops. Sirens. Metro-Dade squad car. Wrong leg, hooknose.
A cop’s voice. The voice of my people. “The hell over here, you jagoff.”
Backseat. Sans Jesus. Sans wallet. Sans Rofies.
The cop’s named B. Maul. Said cop wears big gold glasses. Orca-fat. B. Maul sits passenger-side, illuminating my ID. Said ID has me as twenty-nine-year-old James Dillon of Ft. Worth, Texas.
“It’s my brother,” I tell him. “He must have dropped it. I must have picken it up.”
Check my hick accent. Fit to be tried.
“Explain your way out of the bong then… What’s your name?”
“Shapiro. Joshua. Middle name Carruthers.”
B. Maul half turns. Lips pursed. Eyes cynical. “It is not Carruthers.”
“No,” I cop to it, “It’s not Carruthers.”
B. Maul starts writing me up. He asks me nothing.
Confession time. Random thoughts. Said thoughts exit mouth in a Brooklyn accent. “My brother’s bong. My brother’s Tylenol. Shapiro? We changed it from Shaprio. Common first name in Palermo. Old country. Wiseguy genes. Say hello to Uncle Sam, as in Giancana. Meet and greet my real pop, one Santo Trafficante. My bong Jesus? Strictly tobacco use. I know. I cave in to my peers. Underage smoking is a law I respect, baby. I want to be a cop too one day. Wanna put in the good word there, hoss?”
A rap on the window. My window. B. Maul rolls it down. “You know him?”
“He’s my jackass little brother, officer. It’s way past his bedtime,” goes Kristen.
B. Maul tells me to get out of his vehicle.
My final words to B. Maul come out deep-voiced and cowboy-slow: “Let me get that ID back. My brother’s gonna rage. He’s a US Marshal.”
Josh Shapiro exits Metro-Dade police car with Jesus. Josh Shapiro exits Metro-Dade police car with bagful of Contraband. Casualties: One false ID card, origin classified.
Kristen yells things on the way up the stairs. Said things pertain to walking around hotel parking lot with Jesus. AKA: Total retard. AKA: I saved your totally retarded ass.
The hotel rooms empty fast. Several bodies lie about, tanked, goofed on Rofies.
Cut to: See above. My last memory: An Ingersoll Twin covers me with a blanket and a peck on the cheek. Missing items: One bag of Rofinol. One bag of kind bud. One wallet. One set of keys. Jesus. Present: One Roth Wilcox, snoring on adjacent bed. Daylight seeps through the curtains. The AC screams and shakes.
I wake Roth. Roth props up. Roth vomits on the bed. “Where’s Nanney?”
“Do you have a car?” I’m asking.
“Nanney drove.” Nanney’s gone. All Brew Crew: AWOL.
Roth says, “We’re walkin’ it.”
I dig the sound. Brothers stranded. Together we suffer. Divided it doesn’t fuckin matter.
Heat. Residential streets. Dogs barking. Ice cream truck. Roth’s story, “My old man’s the quiet type. You’d best be too.” Roth tells a story. Tom Hitchens. Last summer it’s Tom and Roth walking wasted to Roth’s house. Roth passes out on his sofa. Tom can’t stop laughing. Tom goes into Roth Senior’s bedroom. Tom crawls into bed with the homicide dick. Tom spoons said detective. Tom cries when Roth Senior wakes, headlocks him and stabs a .45 under Tom’s chin.
George Hightower. Mark White. Jay Gorman…
Cop names. Cop dads. Cop talk. Cop parties.
Roth’s house. Small suburban pad. Three-bedroom. Roth senior the widower. Remarried to Metro-Dade Police Department. Thirty-five years.
Roth says he’s gotta take a whiz. The house smells like barbeque. Note the photo of Roth Senior, police issue. Note Roth Junior: Football photo circa last year.
No paintings. Small TV. Dust. A man’s house.
Sans: Flower prints. Potpourri. Tile floors. Five cats. AKA: My house.
I think it would be funny. I want Roth to tell my story. I walk into Roth Senior’s bedroom. I get in bed. I am afraid to spoon him. I put a hand on his shoulder. Dig the stained undershirt. I take my hand away. I get out of bed. Roth senior snores once.
I want a dad like this. I want one like any of them.
Cut to: Me and Roth eat bread and butter sandwiches. Roth scrambles us up some eggs. Roth says, “No juice, guess we’re milkin’ it.”
Seven in the morning. Sun blazing. The house of a high-ranking homicide cop and his son, President of the high school frat. Me and Roth: Hungry, drunk, tired. Milkin’ it. I want to stay forever.
Negative: Roth makes me call my mom. Roth senior wakes up fifteen minutes before she pulls up in her yellow Corvette. Roth Senior does not say: Good morning. Roth Senior asks Roth Junior: Who’s the pud? Roth Senior brandishes dead dog eyes and forehead wrinkles like valleys.
Roth Junior makes the Vette. Roth Senior makes my mom. Both say: “Damn” in two syllables.
My mom: Single. Family insurance biz. Depression lines under the eyes. Tiger-striped purses. Mom says, “Where’s your car? Where’s your keys? Where’s my fuckin three thousand bucks you stole?”
“Poof,” I told her. I made like a cloud exploded.
She told me, “You’re outta here.”
She said, “I’m fuckin done.”
She cried, “You’re going to sleep-away school.”
California mountains. Reject Academy. Sans Brew Crew. Sans cop names. Sans entourage of brothers seeing me off at the airport.
My mom’s parting words at gate fourteen, “You’re lucky, Josh. You’re lucky I didn’t call the cops.”
I grunted a low Roth Senior grunt, “Yeah,” and walked through the gate.