by J.T. Hilltop
The story I am about to tell is true, the names have been changed to protect the guilty
The year 1971, the town Centerlawn, a thriving little Long Island community in the suburbs of New York City where four youths chose to show blatant disregard of the law and engage in the heinous crime of sharing a marijuana cigarette. In an attempt to prevent these youths from throwing their lives away down the illegal drug drain two police officers arrested the four miscreant hoodlum youths and took them to the precinct for some instant “wake the fuck up” real world advice dispensing. That’s how things rolled in 1971 suburbia.…
My name is JT Hilltop and I was one of those miscreant hoodlum youths who narrowly averted a lifetime of penal institutions for a taste of the forbidden fumes. We weren’t hardened criminals or anything, just a couple of teens out on the prowl hunting for some fun. Me and my three cohorts were typical suburban kids looking for some cheap kicks to break up the boredom of living in our mundane cookie cutter neighborhood. Our way of escaping the doldrums of our mind numbing existences was to engage in the mind altering practice of smoking anything containing THC. Opting to gamble our futures away for a few puffs on the magic dragon we engaged acts of refer madness that can only be described as….One helluva crazy fun time! This is our story:
“Hey look, here comes Monty, he got his car back.” Monty, short for Montebello, was one of the cool kids in high school who had a car. Me, Streak, and Jimbo were just hanging around “The Stores”, a local meeting place where youths gathered to plan their evening of hijinx and carousing. Rolling across the tedium of a warm summers eve Monty pulled up in his recently repaired Plymouth Valiant. Not an especially hot car but it beat the Hell out of anything we had, which was actually two sting ray bicycles and a ten speed. In our defense though the sting ray bikes were tricked out with Ape hanger handlebars and Banana seats. One even had a sissy bar. Monty pulled up alongside us rolling down the window, “Hey man, you guys got any buzz?” Buzz! That’s what we lived for, a taste of escape from the unified conformity in Centerlawn that shaped our lives. Buzz was how we described anything that got us high, marijuana, hash, colored capsules from our parents medicine cabinets, or whatever we could get our hands on. “I got some weed man, you got papers?” Streak had some weed. Streak almost always had weed, I could never figure out how he did it but it wasn’t a surprise when he spoke up. We shared buzz all the time because none of us felt like getting high alone. I guess relief from misery loves company as much as misery itself. From the tiniest chunk of hash to the biggest five finger ounce of pot if one of us was holding, all of us high. “Of course I have papers. Get in guys.” Streak got in the front, because with having buzz comes privilege. Jimbo and I filed into the back. “Where ya wanna go to get high?” Streak was already rolling a joint, “Lets go up to the school parking lot man, we can hide in the back corner.” The sound mind of Jimbo, the most rational thinker of our crowd (actually the only rational one) broke in quickly, “No man, not a good idea. There’s no way to escape from there.” Streak overruled his objection, “No ones even gonna see us Jimbo, we can puff all we want, no one will ever know.” Monty and I agreed so Jimbo gave in reluctantly.
Now if we had seriously thought this whole thing out we would have realized that Jimbo was absolutely correct. “The school” was our old Elementary school and far beyond the parking lot in the corner of the playground was where we first learned the virtues of partying. It had been a safe place for us to guzzle Budweisers, or Schlitz if we were low on cashola, or Ripple or Boones Farm wine when we felt all upscale suburban. The cops patrolled it periodically but we were located in a perfect position to run in different directions into the woods. No one ever got caught there and it must have pissed off the cops because they never gave up trying. Or maybe they didn’t really care because it was only beer but there in lay the real problem. We had graduated to the hard stuff, smoking the devils weed, which puts everyone Heroin Highway, a dead end road for drug users. Now we were not just sneaking in a little alcohol to get drunk, we were committing high crimes that suck the soul of youth out of every neighborhood. That only made the police more desperate to catch us. But Hell, we were indestructible and would never get caught. Did I say never? Despite our dark out of the way hiding spot and being unseen by any passing traffic we failed to realize that the cops still made periodic runs through the school. Maybe we were too eager or too stoned but it never occurred to us we were far from the corner of the playground without our safety net. In hindsight the cops had to get to the corner of the playground somehow, and as we would shortly find out, they used the most logical path, straight through the parking lot.
“Just got my car back from the shop, cost me fifty bucks man. So what you guys been up to?” I always liked Monty so I answered him then gave him an offer, “Work mostly man. Keeping it real at the Nursing home, hanging at the beach when I’m off. But I was vacuuming the floor in the nurses office and noticed the medicine box unlocked. I five fingered a dozen Darvon man, got two with me now man, you want?” Monty accepted the two pills and placed them in his pocket as he slipped Jethro Tull’s Aqualung tape into his eight track. We had already passed the joint three times and I was flying, “Fuckin A Streak, where’d you get this shit man, its killer?” Streak took a deep hit answering without exhaling, “It…sss…we chair wee igha fra mahbaath Bobba” We all understood stoner speak, the language spoken while trying to keep your hit of weed in your lungs. He said “its wheelchair weed I got from my brother Bobby” Any weed that was super potent we called wheelchair weed, because after puffing it you felt like you couldn’t walk. The kept the car was full of smoke with the windows up because we didn’t like to waste the smoky sweetness and thought if it hung around it would continue to ply its magic on us. Mistake number two!
Streak took out his baggie of herb getting ready to roll another joint when we noticed two blaring white lights right in front of us bearing down like mini rockets. Because of the smoke we couldn’t tell it was a cop car sneaking up on us but in hindsight it wouldn’t have mattered if we did. The cops were on us within seconds so we reacted in typical stoner fashion. We totally froze trying to make sense of anything while wondering what the Hell was happening. After a few seconds we all three noticed two men running out from the two glaring lights. The message finally made its way past all the smoke and up to our brains so we instinctively began a frantic attempt to roll down the windows. Streak in a fit of panic tossed his baggie of weed with seeming super strength across the lawn. The doors of Monty’s car were flung open and the sight of two men in blue uniforms pointing actual guns at us made us damn near shit our pants. “Get the fuck out of the car and put your hands on the roof!” The voice was scarily authoritative and our “highs” were the only things that had a chance to run away. Now straight and shaking we obediently placed our hands on the roof of Monty’s car. “Hmmmm, smells like you boys are smoking some of that marry-wanna. You boys getting high here?” Desperate to find an excuse Streak replied weakly, “No, ah no, we were just, ah um, we were just talking and listening to music.” As he spoke we all saw the cloud of smoke rolling out of Monty’s Valiant making good on its attempt to completely discredit the story. One of the cops grabbed Streak by the arm and forcefully walked away with him. We could pretty much make out what the cop was saying, “You some kind of wise ass punk? You think we’re idiots?” I prayed Streak didn’t answer truthfully to that question because we considered the cops dopey drop outs. It was obvious he was really just trying to scare the shit out of us. Thinking back, he was pretty successful. The other three of us stood like petrified mannequins with our hands Velcroed to the roof as he pushed Streak back up against the car. Then the other cop came walking over holding something in his hands. He held up the baggie of weed Streak had tossed like it was a prize twelve point deer in a hunting contest, “Well lookie here Finch, seems we got us some Mary Jane here. Are you boys reefer addicts or something?” Then he walked around talking in his ‘I gotcha ya little fuckheads’ voice meant for us, “This here is what we call felony weight boys. Any of you young hoodlums know what felony weight is? I’ll tell you what it is, its over one quarter ounce of a controlled substance like this here bag of marijuana which raises this heinous crime from a misdemeanor to a felony. That means some hard time for whoever owns this shit and I aim to find out which one of you punks owns the dope!”
I was shivering like a naked beachcomber in January despite it being a beautiful warm summer evening. The cops took each one of us for a walk and talk and when returned put handcuffs on. Shit was getting real and I was no longer feeling any kind of buzz. That is aside from the paranoia buzzing in my ears. I was the last to go for the perilous perp walk and by this point they knew my brother was a cop. “Son your brother is gonna be real ashamed once he finds out what a low life criminal his hairbag little brother is. You putting him in a bad spot.” To accentuate the point the had been squeezing my bicep muscle between his thumb and forefinger like he was crushing a peanut shell. “You know what a felony is there Justin?” A million thoughts were flooding through my mind, jail, big bad strong criminals in jail, big bad strong horny criminals in jail, going to jail as fresh meat, and facing Mom and Dad. Jesus I was in deeper shit than ever before. I was hoping he was nicer than Mr. ‘Lookie what I got’ over there so I tried to sound remorseful as I pleaded, “Please officer, I’m not a bad kid, its just a little weed, we weren’t hurting anyone. Have a heart sir, I’m only sixteen and I” He cut me off as he now pinched my arm hard enough to cause a bruise. Apparently he wasn’t the nice cop, he was Mr. Meaner. Not fully satisfied at my wincing he then pushed me hard making me take a few steps to keep from falling on my stoned face. “Have a heart? You’re a cimm ee naal boy, you broke the law! This here is illegal and you did it anyway. Your brother is gonna get a lot of shit for having a felon for a brother. Tell you what though, since your brother is on the job I’ll cut you some slack. All you gotta do is tell me who’s stuff this is and we can work something out.” Shit! Jesus H shit! A rat. He wants me to be a rat. Well there’s no way man, I can’t turn on Streak. “I-I’m sorry officer, I never saw that baggie of weed, all we had was this one joint one of us found, I can’t even remember which of us….” The pain shot through my arm up into my shoulder. Now he was twisting and squeezing my arm pinching the bone as he literally tossed me back towards the car with the others. His voice was trembling he was so angry “Bunch of fucking idiots, all of you. I want to know who’s pot this is and you’re gonna tell me you little shits. Each one of you hairbags are going to jail.” They were rather well versed at intimidating four teenagers with bully tactics that fell just short of abuse in those pre I’m calling DYFS days. The one asshole cop, Mr. Meaner, who had a particular problem with me ruining my brothers cop reputation was eyeing me with evil intent. I saw him move his right foot and the moment his government issue hard leather flatfoot shoe found its target I yelped like a beaten puppy. I could tell there was already a huge lump as I fell to the ground in pain. My calf was throbbing as the other cop, Fitch or Finch or something grabbed both of my arms lifting me up. He flung me like a rag doll against the cop car. I could hear the slight clinking of metal as the criminal containment bracelets slipped around my wrists locking in place. The sharp pain of metal stunned me and I let out a gurgle. “Oh I’m sorry, is that too tight?” Finally some compassion, I nodded and managed a squeaky “A little”. With the ease of a man who more than likely has trouble in bed but found courage and a sense of real manhood wearing a badge of authority, the douchebag tightened the cuffs digging into the flesh at the outer edges of my wrists. Tears welled up in my eyes while they loaded us into the back seat of the police car and proceeded to escort us to the fourth precinct. Apparently what we had here was a failure to communicate.