Monday, August 22, 2011

Wayne Scheer

Fear of Not Flying
Fiction by Wayne Scheer

Oz and Lenny, friends since college, were turning fifty. Their wives talked about a dinner, maybe a party, but the birthday boys were unimpressed. "What I'd really like to do," Oz said, "is get high, go to a club, and let loose. Be wild again."

Carla reminded him he was never wild. 

"Yeah, but at least when I was young I'd get high enough to think I was wild."

Lenny agreed. "I look in the mirror and see my father staring back, disapproving. I say, let's give the old man something to really disapprove of."

Susan, Lenny's wife, wasn't so sure. "Where would we even get weed?"

Oz had already considered that problem. "There's a new Assistant Professor where I teach. She's still young enough to party. I'm pretty sure I can score some shit off of her." He hoped his vocabulary made him sound cool.

The next Saturday evening, they gathered around Oz to watch him pack the loose marijuana into cigarettes. "You never forget how to ride a bike or roll a joint," Oz proclaimed, as he licked the paper to seal the ends. He prepared four cigarettes. They were too fat and loose, but no one complained.

Although they wanted to smoke a joint right away, they decided to drive to a nearby club and smoke in the car before going in, worrying they might not drive safely if they began at home.

In the car, Oz sucked deeply on a stubby cigarette and lost most of the smoke to a cough. While passing it to Carla, he struggled to hold what was left. Finally, the urge to cough overwhelmed him. "I guess I'm out of practice."

Lenny and Susan laughed as Carla took a shallow hit and passed the joint.

Susan, unable to relax, worried about police. "We have three grown kids, for crying out loud."

"Be cool," Lenny said, as he ducked below the car window to smoke. 

Oz remembered how easy it once seemed. "We're working too hard at this." 

Wedged behind the steering wheel and still wearing his seat belt, he stuck his head out the window. "Ya-haa," he shouted.  He tried going falsetto on the second syllable but all that came out was a crackling sound, similar to the noise a car makes when you turn the key after it's already running.

Carla punched Oz on the shoulder.

"That hurt," Oz said.

"You wuss. I hardly touched you."

"No. I mean my throat."

"Another drug-related incident," Lenny said, in his best radio announcer voice.

They passed the joint around, alternating between laughing and coughing.

Finally, Carla opened the car door. "Let's go in before you old men need your naps." 

Entering the club, they were immediately assaulted by the blaring music and the stale, sweet smell of alcohol mixed with the marijuana on their clothing. Susan, who had been quiet, reached in her purse for a hit on her asthma inhaler.

"Smooth," she said.

After paying the cover charge and getting their hands stamped, there was no turning back. Feeling like Baptists at an orgy, they made their way deep into the bowels of the club, trying not to stare at the tattooed and pierced partygoers who looked younger than their own children. Finding no place to sit, they stood along a wall, swaying awkwardly to the music like four wilted wallflowers.

"Let's dance," Oz said, taking Carla by the hand.

"But you don't dance."

Pointing to the crowded dance floor filled with young bodies swaying and jumping and hopping in what seemed like random abandon, he shouted, "What difference does that make?"  

But another coughing fit held him back.

"Maybe we should get beers and build up to a dance," Carla suggested.

After an hour of awkward posturing and even more awkward attempts to dance, Susan complained that the cigarette smoke was irritating her contacts. Relieved, they all agreed to go back to Oz and Carla's for a final weed-induced flight.

At the house, they tried sitting in a circle on the floor but agreed the couch was more comfortable. "Be careful of the ashes," Carla warned, fighting valiantly the temptation to pass an ashtray along with the joint. She put on a classical guitar CD, Andre Segovia, and dimmed the lights.  "No incense. Cinnamon-scented candles from Wal-Mart will have to do."

Earlier in the day, Oz searched the attic and found old Jefferson Airplane, The Fugs and Steppenwolf albums. He really wanted to hear Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion," but Carla reminded him they no longer owned a turntable. He apologized to the group for the music.  

No one cared as they passed the joints and relaxed into the moment. The four friends enjoyed easy conversation, recollecting and creating exploits from their past. Oz pointed out how much this beat talking about their cholesterol numbers. 

They munched on raw vegetables and fat-free ranch dressing.

"Oz, you'll have to thank that Assistant Professor for us. No one at my firm is young enough to remember smoking pot," Lenny said. "Their idea of fun is a brandy before bedtime."

"Sounds good to me," Susan whispered. Carla nodded in agreement.

Oz sat up. "Well, I'm not that old, dammit! Let's make a pact to do this every birthday."

"Right on, my man." Lenny high-fived Oz. 

Oz suffered another cough attack.

"Coffee, anyone?" Carla asked. "I have decaf."

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