Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Grave Pact

Ryan M. Burk

The dry pangs of their shovels against the grit and dirt rang in and out of sync in irregular loops, each fading into the other and then slowly drifting back out. This continued on, together and at opposite ends until Laurel, who had been thinking deeply for some time now, interrupted the pattern to answer.

“You can tell right away when it’s bad.”

Adam did not break his cycle, instead grunting out a short response.

“How’s that?”

She stood still, thoughtfully answering.

“You know as soon as it hits your tongue. There’s an intensely bitter taste, sour and metallic.”

Adam stopped to consider the description.

“Like a mouthful of pennies?”

“Yes,” she said, “like sucking on a mouthful of rancid pennies.”

She picked her shovel back up and turned it to the soil.

“It isn’t even LSD. It’s either 2c-i, 2c-b, or DOI. Synthetic. It’s shit.”

“Does it feel different?” asked Adam.

Laurel answered: “The comeup is much harsher. Your joints and muscles normally stiffen when you take it, but the synthetic kinds drastically increase the effects, to the point of feeling robotic.”

“My joints feel stiff right now,” said Adam. “Let’s take a break.”

They lazily dropped their shovels and sat next to the mound of dirt they had built. Laurel surveyed the surrounding woods; dark, silent, unseasonably warm. No cicadas sang. They had not made it through the first cold front that had passed. She would have welcomed their droning sex-song, anything to occupy her thoughts while she and Adam worked. The cold snap had not lasted an entire week, but was more than enough to cull the swarm. Had it never came, they would still flourish. Some years it never really did come at all, and they buzzed incessantly throughout the unending humid months. A subdued smile crossed Laurel’s lips. She spoke again:

“You nearly scared me to death the first time we took it.”

“How so?”

She jolted. “You put on that Tom Waits record and started doing this insane arm-swinging dance right in my face!”

Adam finally smiled. “Which song was it? You always loved “Little Drop of Poison.” Was that the one?”

“No. It was the first song off of “Mule Variations.””‘Big in Japan.” It has that abrasively loud screaming part as soon as it starts. We listened to that entire record and ran all over the house that night. Do you remember?”

He nodded. They sat for a little while longer before deciding to finish up what they had started.

“How many times have you taken it?” he asked.

“Thirty-five times.”

“How many times did you get the bad kind?”

Her face curled back into a sneering frown. “More time that I care to remember. I always hated it. It was like knowing you had just been poisoned. You just had to deal with it. It felt so unnatural, so forced. Granted, it wasn’t intolerable, but it certainly wasn’t the same. Not to mention that it has traces of arsenic and rat poison in it.”

“A little drop of poison.”

“Yes, literally. I would wake up the next morning feeling so stiff and sore.”

“Kind of like digging all night?” said Adam, dryly.

“That’s funny and it’s not funny,” replied Laurel, pitching another scoop of dirt onto the pile.

“We’re both a little funny, what with our little agreement we’ve got here.”

She contemplated the situation for a moment but then reassured herself.

“I suppose we could have agreed to marry each other just like everyone else does.”

Adam Cringed. So did she.

“I’m just too used to telling people that we’re just friends.”

“Just friends till the end.”

“Till we die.”

They stopped digging.

“This should be fine,” said Adam. They tossed the shovels far out sight and sat down in the dirt. There they sat, the two of them. They dug a hole in the woods behind the neighborhood where they grew up. They split a bottle of benzodiazepines and then they split a bottle of whiskey. They lay face down in the dirt.

© Ryan M. Burk 2011