“Sloppy” Jim Sullivan lived two blocks from my parents house. I had met him for the first time hanging out with Milo when I was in the 7th grade. He had brown hair and hazel green eyes that sometimes would look grey or blue. Sometimes one eye would appear to be a different color than the other. He punctuated his sentences by hawking loogies and he chain smoked Old Gold cigarettes. He was two years older than me. He didn’t pronounce L’s at the end of his words. He sounded like a whiteboy surfer mixed with Mr. T.
It was the summer before my freshman year and I was chilling with Sloppy Sullivan and two other older boys in the BBQ shelter by the 20th bridge in the Ravenna Park. It was early afternoon and we were drinking 40s we had purchased from a mentally challenged store clerk at the Boulevard Grocery.
This was back when Boulevard Grocery was an Asian owned convenience store. Before it was known for its artisan espresso and it great selection of wine. It was just a crummy little store people bought beer and cigarettes from. It was a store converted from an old residential house.
One of the owner’s sons had Down Syndrome and if he was working you could use your school ID to purchase beer and cigarettes. He would man the counter, playing with Star Trek action figures. It was one long block from the park we were sitting in.
Sloppy Sullivan was talking. Smoking a cigarette. Standing while the rest of us sat.
“Yo, those one foos, yeah they’re pretty coo. They ain’t no savages though. They’d get mopped up real quick if push came to shove.”
Sloppy Sullivan hawked a loogie for emphasis. He took a drag off his cigarette and gazed off into the blue sky of a Seattle summer. Tall trees swayed back and forth gently in the wind.
His friend Evan “E.B.” Baylor finished crumbling up some weed on top of a CD case.
Sloppy Sullivan creased the outside of a Swisher Sweet with the thumb and pointer finger of his right hand and split it open while simultaneously smoking a cigarette with his left hand. He then gutted the tobacco from the cigar onto the ground with the sweep of his right thumb. He put the cigarette to his lips and left it there. He held out his left hand to E.B. who had scooped the crumbled weed into his own hand. E.B. carefully dumped the weed into Sloppy Sullivan’s left hand with two hands. E.B. carefully picking off stray crumbs stuck to his palm and putting them back into the pile in Sloppy Sullivan’s hand. Sloppy Sullivan hawked a loogie.
Another older boy named Brandon “Mackie” McIntire sat on a bench. Hands in his pockets. He was a stocky young man with the demeanor of Buddha. Mackie was the older brother of a pretty girl my age named Angela. E.B. was a tall boy with blonde hair and cornflower blue eyes. We were all wearing brightly colored Ralph Lauren Polo shirts and khakis.
E.B. handed me a large marijuana stem off the top of his schoolbook and said,
“Yo, chew on this Flojo, might catch you a little buzz.”
E.B. laughed at his own joke.
Sloppy Sullivan laughed and hawked a loogie. Mackie smiled but didn’t laugh. I took a swig off my forty ounce of Olde English High Gravity malt liquor and put the stem in my mouth. I chewed on it. It was like chewing on a branch. Which I guess is exactly what I was doing. I chewed anyway I didn’t want them to think I was some kind of fag or something.
Sloppy Sullivan dumped the weed from his left hand into the empty Swisher skin in his right hand. He put his left hand to his cigarette and inhaled deeply before pulling the cigarette away from his mouth. He began to roll the blunt wrap back and forth in his right hand.
“You about to be geeked, foo. This is that fire I copped from my older homie Adrian. That ohhhh-weee!”
He was gesticulating with the cigarette in his left hand and rolling the blunt with his right hand. He put his right hand to his mouth and licked the blunt wrap before rolling the blunt one last time. He put the cigarette back in his lips and took his lighter out the front pocket of his dirty khakis. He ran a flame up and down the outside of the blunt completing the process. He had just rolled a blunt almost entirely with one hand.
E.B. said, “Dos”
Mackie said “Tres.”
I didn’t know what exactly they were talking about, but I thought I knew what I was supposed to say. I said,
“Duh, you dumb fucker. There’s only four of us. Obviously you’re last in the rotation,” said E.B.
“Oh,” I said.
“Yo, let me see that water right quick,” Sloppy Sullivan asked E.B.
E.B. handed him a Nalgene bottle out of his backpack. Sullivan took a big swig and swished it around in his mouth. Then he spit it right back onto the ground and coughed up some phlegm onto the ground. He threw his cigarette into the middle of all the loogies and water. The ground looked like the scene of some kind of bukkake gangbang porno. He lit another cigarette, took a drag, then lit the blunt.
We smoked the blunt. I had a coughing fit after my first hit. When I was done coughing the colors appeared brighter and I felt very small on the face of the Earth. An ant in the colony. The smoke was sweet from the cigar wrapper and tasted faintly like blueberry from the weed. I licked the roof of my mouth. It was delicious.
The blunt made it round the circle a few more times. Till it was almost nothing but a small fleck of brown paper. Sullivan took a few last hits pinching the blunt roach between his thumb and pointer finger. He dropped it on the ground and snuffed it out with his foot.
A man approached us. I had known him as long as I can remember.
“Hi, I’m Larry.”
“Hi, Larry,” we all said.
Larry was a mentally challenged man who hung out in Ravenna Park. He wasn’t homeless or anything. He was always well dressed and cleaned. Every time you met him was like meeting him for the first time.
“You guys hear there’s supposed to be a lot of snow this winter?”
“Yeah, Larry. Lots of snow.”
“What’s your guy’s names?”
We told him.
“Be careful of the snow guys.”
It was the middle of August.
We had all had this same conversation with Larry hundreds of time. I remember being four and getting excited when Larry said it was going to snow. As I got older, I thought he was a liar. When I was 9, I realized he was mentally challenged and always went along with his conversation from that point onward.
We polished off the 40s. They started off cool and refreshing but once you got to “ass” end they were gross with all the backwashed saliva. We all drank the “ass” anyway. It was, after all, our own saliva.
We all piled into Sullivan’s baby blue Cadillac Cimarron. We went to the McDonalds on 25th and gorged ourselves on dollar menu hamburgers. E.B. asked me,
“Yo, Flojo, you know that girl Angela in your grade?”
I didn’t know at this point that Mackie was Angela’s brother.
“Yeah, I know that chick. She’s pretty hot. I think she might be kind of a slut though. I heard she blew one of my homies.”
Mackie knocked his tray off the table and reached over and grabbed me by the collar.
“WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU SAY ABOUT MY SISTER??”
Mackie was furious. The other boys were all laughing.
“I..uh..I dont know, that’s just what people have been saying. I don’t know that for a fact. I think she’s a nice girl..I uh.. shouldn’t have that said that…”
“FUCK WHAT PEOPLE SAY, HOMIE.”
“I’m hella sorry..”
He released me from his grip and sat back down. Everyone was quiet. We went on eating hamburgers in silence until Mackie spoke again.
“You’re all good little homie, You shouldn’t spread rumors about people though. Especially if you don’t know whether they’re true or not.”
Mackie bit into a fresh hamburger.
I said, “I won’t. I didn’t even know that was your sister, dog, I’m hella sorry.”
“I know, I want you to look out for my little sister, and set anyone straight that you hear say anything about her.”
“I got you, homie.”
We dapped on it clasping hands. I had learned a valuable lesson.
We left the McDonald’s. Four white kids bumping Brotha Lynch Hung in a 1980s Cadillac Cimmaron. We made another stop and bought more 40s at Boulevard Grocery then went back to the BBQ shelter at 20th. There was a ton of other kids there now. More dudes Sullivan’s age and a few chicks.
More blunts were smoked and the 40s were drank. When the 40s were gone we drank beers from cases that other kids had brought with them in the trunks of their cars. Rap music boomed loud out of a subwoofer in one kids car. I was the youngest kid there, not even in high school yet. Talk turned to paddling.
Paddling was a form of hazing that had supposedly been going on at our High School for generations, but I always got the feeling that a group of seniors in the mid 90s had started the tradition for themselves after watching Dazed and Confused. I never found out for sure, though. Regardless, It was now a firmly established tradition.
“You’re about to get it next year foo, my ass was black and blue after Campus Day.” said Sullivan
“Yeah I remember.”
I had hung out with both Milo and Sullivan the evening after they had been paddled. They had both been sitting in tubs of ice in Sullivan’s basement drinking beers. Their backsides one giant bruise of black and blue.
“We ought to belt you so you’re ready for next year.”
“Yeah, let’s show him whats up!” said E.B.
More boys talked excitedly in agreement.
“I guess I’m d-d-down.” I said.
E.B. removed his belt. A thick leather belt from Eddie Bauer.
“Grab the table.”
Reluctantly, I put both my hands on the edge of the picnic table. E.B., Sullivan, Mackie and few of their homies took turns belting my backside. It was over the pants, but when I got hit the first time the pain automatically made me jerk and stand up and grab my bottom.
“GET THE FUCK BACK DOWN!!” said E.B. slamming me back down onto the table.
I toughed out the rest of the “licks”. When it was done Sullivan put his arm around me and said,
“The little homie took it like a man!”
He smiled at me and passed me a beer. All the other boys seemed to agree, each of them giving me daps and slapping me on the back in a friendly manner. I felt hella cool. We stayed there drinking in the park until it was dark.
Sullivan gave me a ride home. Milo had joined us at 20th, so I was sitting bitch between Mackie and E.B. Milo sat up front. Sullivan was fiddling with his cd player not focusing on the road. Milo shouted,
“YO SULLIVAN WATCH OUT!!”
Sullivan slammed on his brakes. Tires screeching to a halt in front of a lady walking her dogs. He had almost ran her down. The lady was my mom. I shriveled up in the back seat and tried to make myself as scarce as one could while wedged between two older boys. She walked over to the drivers side window furious. My heart was racing.
“YOU FUCKING KIDS NEED TO NOT TO DRIVE SO FUCKING FAST IN A FUCKING RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD YOU COULD OF FUCKING KILLED ME. NEXT TIME YOU BETTER SLOW THE FUCK DOWN AND PAY MORE FUCKING ATTENTION TO WHAT THE FUCKS GOING ON!!”
Sullivan started to speak,
“I’m so sorry miss it’s dark and I couldn’t see you, maybe you should wear some brighter colors….”
“FUCK YOURSELF KID.”
My mom walked off. She had been so mad she didn’t even notice me. I let out a gasp. I had been holding my breath with out even realizing it. I said,
“Yo, Sullivan, maybe I should just come chill at your house for a minute then walk home.”
All the older boys laughed. Sullivan hawked a loogie out the window.