The latest rewritten opening to A Birthday Suicide. See what you think.
A Birthday Suicide
By Steven Michael Sarber
Choosing a Path
“I am a man who walks alone, and when I'm walking a dark road, at night, or strolling through the park...” -Iron Maiden; “Fear of the Dark”
So where do I begin? At the beginning, I guess. I was pretty much an average teenage boy. I had the usual interests, I had good friends, I had no money. Nothing in my life was exactly remarkable, yet nothing unremarkable, either. My friends and I didn't run in any particular social circles at school, we just hung out with anybody who wanted to hang out with us. At least until my junior year in high school.
That was the year I met Willis Jefferson.
Willis became my mentor, my boss, and my friend. To put it mildly, he changed the course of my life.
I was sixteen years old the summer of 1995. St. Louis summers are, simply put, hot and humid. One August afternoon I was playing guitar in a band at my friend Danny Johns' house, sweating so badly I could barely hold the pick in my hand. It was a sweltering ninety-eight degrees, and probably a hundred twenty in the garage where we were practicing. We didn't really care, just hanging out and jamming made us feel like we were on top of the world.
Danny's parents had a refrigerator in the garage stocked with Busch beer, and they didn't mind if we helped ourselves to a few cold brews on a hot day. At least they never seemed to notice any missing. So when we finished our practice we popped the top on a few beers, toasted ourselves, and began discussing ways to get some money.
I was splayed out on the well-worn love seat against the far wall of the garage and Danny was in a lawn chair tossing darts at the dartboard on the wall about four feet to the left of my head.
“You could miss and put out my eye,” I said. “Then I could sue your parents. I'll split the money with you.”
“Yeah,” he answered, aiming up his next throw. “But my parents don't have anything. Plus, you wouldn't like being called 'Patchy.'”
“How do you know? I could be like that dude on that soap opera. That patch gets him laid.”
“But you'd have no depth perception with only one eye. How would you be able to jerk off? You wouldn't be able to locate your tiny pecker!”
That sent us laughing hysterically, even at my expense. That's what was great about Danny, he could bust my chops and it never mattered.
Before long we got serious. “I've been dealing for a guy,” Danny said. “I'm pulling in some good money, man; I'll be buying a Monte Carlo tomorrow. I'm sure I can get you in on the gig.”
“But I don't even do drugs,” I said.
“That's what makes it perfect for you,” Danny punctuated this point with a bulls-eye. “If you don't use you get more profit.”
That made sense. “Fuck-a-duck... all right, set it up. I'll meet with the guy. “But what are we talking here?”
“Coke or pot. He doesn't deal in heroin. Occasionally a little Ecstasy.”
“So where's the best money?” I asked.
“Pot's pretty cheap, but everybody has it. So coke is the way to go. I can help you get set up, and we can partner up to keep from stepping on each other's toes.”
Mike Burne and Pete Van Allen, our drummer and singer, had been smoking a joint, giggling at our exchange. Mike stood and walked over to me, holding the roach pinched between his thumb and forefinger.
“Here, Dex. Get yourself some firsthand job experience.”
The skin on my fingers was calloused from holding down my guitar strings, so I didn't feel the sting as I inhaled from the roach, but I heard the skin sizzle as it singed. Two more drags and there was nothing left but a bit of charred paper.
I didn't feel anything. Not high, not goofy or giggly, nothing except a scratchy, dry throat. I started sucking down beer but it didn't help. The more I drank the thirstier I became.
“Hey, take it easy there, you fucking lush,” said Danny.
It wasn't even funny, but I just couldn't help myself. I laughed so hard I got a stitch in my side, and that just made it all the funnier.
I imagine that's how it begins for a lot of people... a little discomfort, a little laughter, and suddenly drugs are a part of your life. I didn't really care for pot, though. After smoking the roach I spent the rest of that afternoon searching to put coherent thoughts together, and felt as if I couldn't make complete sentences. I still can't figure out why anybody would want to intentionally make themselves stupid. But I won't preach. As you read my story you'll see I have no right to.