Friday, November 16, 2007

A Very Minor Miracle


Time: 1974
Place: Chattanooga, TN

When I was a teenager, my friends and I loved going to Eastgate Theater’s Saturday Midnight Movie. We saw great non-mainstream films like “Vanishing Point,” “Night of the Living Dead,” and “Easy Rider.”

One Saturday night, there were so many of us going to the movie, we had to take two cars. Jeff drove his Plymouth Satellite and Bobby drove his Dodge Monaco. The cars were similar in that they were both dark blue, four door sedans that were favored by law enforcement agencies as cop cruisers. The cars could haul ass in a hurry.

The midnight movie was “Two-Lane Blacktop” starring James Taylor, Dennis Wilson, and Warren Oates. Since Taylor and Wilson were musicians, their acting sucked, and considering the movie was about cross country car racing, the story moved like a dead bee floating to the bottom of a jar of honey.

The film finally ended and our group headed for the parking lot. On the way, Jeff and Bobby got into a playful argument about which car was faster, the Plymouth or the Dodge, and maybe they should have a race to find out. Well, it was after midnight and the streets were empty. Why not have a race?

At the first stoplight on Brainerd Road, the two cars lined up next to each other. After some menacing revving of car engines, the light turned green, and the race began. Jeff’s Plymouth had a slight advantage on Bobby’s Dodge, but Bobby was gaining fast when we saw the flashing lights and heard the police siren behind us. Bobby immediately pulled over. Jeff never slowed down and soon disappeared down a side street.

I was in the front seat with Bobby and helped him answer the cop’s questions. Yes sir, we knew that we really shouldn’t be drag racing. Yes officer, we understood it was a very dangerous and irresponsible thing to do. No sir, we wouldn’t want our parents to know that we were drag racing in the middle of the night. No officer, we had no idea who was driving the other car. He just showed up at the traffic light back there and challenged us to a race. Really, it was all his fault and we have no idea who he was. Honest officer, we really don’t know who was driving the other car.

The cop let us off with a warning. We drove very slowly to Jeff’s house, coming to a complete stop at every stop sign. When we arrived, the teens in Jeff’s car wanted to know all the details about our encounter with the cop. The excitement put everybody in a good mood. Everybody but Jeff.

“What’s your problem?” I asked him. “The cop didn’t catch you.”

“It’s not that,” Jeff said. “I lost my bag of pot.”

During the race, Jeff drove with one hand on the wheel and with his other hand, he was rolling a joint from the clear plastic baggie filled with marijuana he had in his lap. Leave it to Jeff to try and do a one-handed roll, the most difficult joint rolling maneuver, while drag racing. He was almost done when he saw the cop’s flashing light in his rear-view mirror.

Jeff was a victim of jointus interruptus. He did what any seasoned dope smoker would have done in that situation- he tossed the baggie out the car window.

“Don’t worry,” I told Jeff. “I have close to a full quarter bag left. That should hold us and I’ll leave you a couple of joints to tide you over.”

The party stumbled to an end and everyone headed home. I was spending the night with Jeff, so soon we were alone on his back porch, passing a joint between us.

“Are you hungry?” Jeff asked.

“I could eat,” I said.

Whenever Jeff had a late night buzz going, he loved visiting Krystal’s 24 hour drive through. It must have been close to four in the morning when we arrived and put in our order. As we sat in the idling car, waiting for our bite-sized cheeseburgers, large fries and large sodas, Jeff continued lamenting the loss of his bag of pot.

“If only that stupid cop hadn’t showed up,” Jeff said. “I’d be smoking my own weed right now.”

“Jeff, there will be other bags of pot,” I said. “What was so special about that particular bag of pot.”

“It was damn good weed,” he said.

Our food arrived and Jeff steered his Plymouth Satellite onto Brainerd Road. We had the four-lane road completely to ourselves. Jeff cruised at a leisurely pace as we took turns digging hot fries out the Krystal’s bag.

“You know what?” Jeff said. “It was right about here that I threw my bag of pot out the window.”

Suddenly, Jeff slammed on the brakes, coming to a complete stop in the middle of the road, and opened his car door. In what can only be described as a very minor miracle, Jeff had managed to stop exactly where his bag of pot had landed. He leaned over, picked the bag off the center line, and placed it in his lap. Even though the baggie was open when Jeff tossed it out the window, none of his pot or the half-rolled joint had spilled out of the bag. Jeff closed his door and resumed the drive home. As he drove, he finished rolling the joint he had started earlier that evening, and handed it to me.

“Light that for me,” Jeff said.

I lit the joint and took a deep drag before passing it over to Jeff.

“That’s damn good weed,” I said, exhaling.

“Damn right,” Jeff said.

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