During my senior year at Punahou School in Honolulu, my extracurriculars included accompanying my friend, Steve Johnson, on his drug deals. We’d go off-campus and hang out outside the Lutheran·Church – that’s where Steve sold his magic mushrooms, Maui Wowie, Bangkok hash, and hash oil. The hash was being smuggled into Hawaii in hollowed-out boards and Steve knew the smuggler’s brother, so he got a good deal. He’d carry his drugs and paraphernalia, including a scale he’d ripped off from chemistry lab, in his mother’s old cosmetic case. Steve’s blond hair was a beacon to students searching for mind-altering substances. Everyone from the brains to the jocks would show up on the church lawn and even ROTC cadets marched across the street. Drugs had a way of bringing people together.
Steve and I had become friends after his chemistry textbook was stolen and I let him borrow mine on weekends. He’d been a brain until his father died flying helicopter missions into Cambodia. He’d always thought of his father as a hero and, with him gone, he quit ROTC and got into drugs. Steve claimed the combination of hash and blotter acid damaged his eyesight and forced him to wear glasses. He couldn’t wear contacts because his corneas were warped. He said drugs were destroying his sense of sight but they made up for it by stimulating his mind. Because most of the money he made supported his consumption of hash oil, he quit buying new clothes and ate only two scoops of rice and gravy for lunch. He started shopping at Big 88 army surplus in the low-rent district of Kapahulu. He was the first to wear camouflage pants to school and he started a craze that swept through campus. Dean McQueen said it was a slam against the military. Miss Takata, my English teacher, made a camouflage skirt. It didn’t take long for Sears and Liberty House to catch on and create entire camouflage sections. When I told Steve he should get a percentage, he said he’d gladly sell his rights for a quart of hash oil.
The closest I’d come to getting high was raising Kana Gold in plastic buckets out in the backyard. I’d planted seeds Steve gave me in the high potency mix my father used for his hydrangeas; it didn’t take long for them to germinate. Because the breadfruit and lauhala trees shaded the low areas, I put the buckets on the shake roof to catch more sun. They were a foot tall in a month and my father never noticed. After I bragged about my green thumb to Steve, he drove me home one day in his Dodge Dart and asked to see the plants. We snuck in through the back gate and I took six buckets off the roof. Steve examined each plant as if he were a doctor making a house call – he sniffed shoots, squeezed stalks, and cut leaves with a Swiss Army knife attached to his key chain. I could see my mother through the screen door preparing dinner; she was wearing a pink dress and a blond
Steve scheduled his drug deals when church wasn’t in session. He didn’t like the idea of priests lecturing and people praying while he was making illegal transactions less than 50 feet away.
wig. She reminded me of a fat Mrs. Brady. Steve showed me how to increase bud production by pinching the shoots. I was getting nervous because it was almost pau hana time and my hapa haole father would be pulling into the driveway. He was a lawyer and was usually in a bad mood the second he got home from work.
“This’ll help production,” Steve said as he pinched. “I can do that later,” I replied.
“This your first crop ever?”
“They’re your keikis.”
My mother walked out to the lanai carrying a ceramic bowl full of hamburger, bread crumbs, sour cream, and raw eggs. She was making meatloaf from a recipe she’d found in the Boston Globe.
“The secret is the sour cream,” she announced.
“Oh, goody,” I said, “now we can all get constipated.” “You used to be a nice boy,” she whispered.
To my mother, anything that came out of the Globe was
like the Word of God because she’d been born and raised in Brookline. “Hello, Steve,” she said as she kneaded the ingredients with one hand. Her fingers were covered with sour cream and bits of raw hamburger.
Steve continued pinching. “Hello, Mrs. Gill.” “Would you boys like a nice cold drink?” “I’ll swig a beer,” Steve said.
“How about some guava juice?”
“Beer’s got more vitamins.”
My mother walked out to the lawn. “My,” she said, “what beautiful plants. Is that really marijuana?”
Steve pulled a joint from the pocket of his Aloha shirt. “Wanna puff?”
“Oh, no,” my mother said, shaking her head. “I don’t want to take a bad trip.”
“That’s only from LSD,” I said.
“Are you boys taking LSD?”
“Only when I surf,” Steve replied.
My mother massaged the sour cream into the hamburger.
“Better put those plants back before you-know-who gets home.”
My plants were three feet tall in no time. The females were sending out glistening white hairs and the tips of some of the hairs were turning red. The plants had a wild sweet smell. Two were males and I was tempted to pull them up by the roots; they could fertilize the females and turn the buds to seed but I didn’t have the heart to destroy them. Instead, I clipped off the pollen pods that hung like ornaments off the stalks.
Akino, our cleaning lady, was sweeping the lanai while I filled an old water pitcher at an outdoor faucet. When I’d tried swallowing my tongue as a convulsing baby, she held a spoon over my tongue. She’d saved my life. Akino had been a picture bride who’d come to the islands to marry the Japanese man who paid for her passage from Osaka. Now she was a grandmother. She was upset that her granddaughter was dating a Chinese boy. She considered the Chinese a dirty, inferior race. She rested the broom against the trunk of the breadfruit tree and looked up on the roof. “What kine plants dat?” she asked.
I unscrewed the cap on a bottle of Orchid Bloom and poured some into the pitcher. “Poinsettias.”
“I nevah see poinsettia Ii’ dat.”
I pulled a chair over, stood on it, and watered the plants. “They’re a special breed,” I said, “from Kona.”
“Da big island?”
Akino grabbed the broom and continued sweeping. “Ya get da green t’umb,” she told me, “jus’ like yoah faddah.”
Before I’d made a dime, my big brother Ben demanded 25% of my profits as hush money. I offered ten percent. He
He couldn’t wear contacts because his corneas were warped. He said drugs were destroying his sense of sight but they made up for it by stimulating his mind.
refused and threatened to tell. I countered by saying I’d blab about his escapades at the Punahou Carnival, such as peeing on a vampire in the Haunted House and shooting a girl in the eye with a dart. He began torturing me with stories of HPD helicopters flying by with infrared sensors. He said the fuzz could spot pakalolo on rooftops.
“They’re getting your cell ready,” Ben said, “at Oahu State Prison.”
“You’re lying about those sensors.”
Then Steve showed me an article about drug busts in High Times. The sensors really did exist. “Airborne narcs,” Steve warned. Whenever I heard a chopper, I’d run out, pull the plants off the roof, and hide them in my room. Lawnmowers, chainsaws, and motorcycles started sounding like helicopters. Ben said Five-O was closing in and that I’d have a Samoan boyfriend in prison. The plants started dropping leaves. Bud production waned.
After weeks of paranoia, I called Steve and he took the plants away.
Steve scheduled his drug deals when church wasn’t in session. He didn’t like the idea of priests lecturing and people praying while he was making illegal transactions less than 50 feet away. There was a small cemetery under a giant coconut tree and Steve said one of the ghosts might haunt him the rest of his life if he sold drugs during service. We got there early one day and waited for the noon Mass to end. Steve held gram and half-gram weights and he kept rolling them around in his hand like they were marbles. He reminded me of the captain in The Caine Mutiny. The service ended and a Chinese woman picked her way past us with a cane. Steve flipped open his cosmetic case. He plucked out a scalpel and a sharpening stone. He wiped the blade off on his camouflage pants and started rubbing the blade against the stone. A breeze came up and the fronds on the coconut tree rustled. Steve turned the blade over and sharpened the other side. He tested its edge by pressing it against his thumb and shaving off a piece of skin. Then he pulled out a block of dark brown hash. It had a pungent odor.
“Smells like kukae,” I said.
“It’s not kukae.” He began slicing off squares from the block.
I looked across School St. and saw a student advisor on loan from Stanford making his way past the hedges of night-blooming cereus. His name was Hoagie Peabody. He waited for traffic to ease. A car stopped and he jogged across the street.
“Narc,” I said.
Steve looked up from his work. “Client.”
“Come on,” I said, “he’s McQueen’s fink.”
“Hoagie boy’s my two o’clock.”
Hoagie jumped over the curb like it was a hurdle and jogged toward us. “That looks good enough to eat,” he said and squatted down across from Steve.
“The usual?” Steve asked.
“Double,” Hoagie replied. His hair was dark brown and he had sideburns like the singer Tom Jones. A red pencil was tucked behind his ear. He wore long sleeves, pleated slacks, and zoris. Rumor had it Hoagie had nailed three cheerleaders in one month and was working on the chicks in the Pep Club. Most of the girls and even some of the women teachers swooned whenever he walked by. I considered Hoagie a poacher. His age and maturity gave him an unfair advantage. I knew the only reason he’d picked Punahou was because of our girls. He’d dated Dawn Yamashita his first week on campus and I heard Dawn crying her eyes out during a movie Dean McQueen made all the seniors watch. In the movie, this girl is tempted to make love to a jerk and there are all these corny allusions to sex, like a jackhammer busting through asphalt and a pile driver pounding a pile through the ground. The guys started giggling and Dawn ran sobbing out of McNeil Auditorium.
Ben had told me Hoagie would start out by advising a girl and then invite her over to his place to see his Stanford yearbook; it wouldn’t be long before he had her on his water bed.
“How’s the sex life, Hoagie?” Steve asked.
Hoagie frowned. “These Punahou chicks make you work.”
“I thought you scored Eva?”
“Skin-on-skin,” he said. He rolled over on his belly and started doing push-ups on the lawn. The red pencil didn’t fall out as he went up and down. It was like the pencil was glued to his head. “It’s tough getting the juice,” he admitted. .
“What about Stanford?” I asked.
“What about it?”
“Don’t you get any juice there?”
“Gallons,” Hoagie said. He quit doing push-ups and rolled over next to us. He stared up at the sky. “Who you guys dating?”
I shook my head. “No one.”
Steve pulled the scale out of his cosmetic bag. He started humming to the tune of “Born to Be Wild” and set up the scale on a flat patch of grass. He placed lead weights on one
My mother walked out to the lawn. “My,” she said, “what beautiful plants. Is that really marijuana?” Steve pulled a joint from the pocket of his Aloha shirt. “Wanna puff?” My mother massaged the sour cream into the hamburger. “Better put those plants back before your dad gets home. “
side and a hunk of hash on the other. “There’s this babe at Kalani,” Steve told Hoagie when he finished the song.
“With all this choice meat running around at Punahou?” “I’ve been to Hotel St.,” I said.
Hoagie smiled. “Smart man.” He slid the pencil out from behind his ear and used it to dig dirt out from beneath his big toenail.
“Hey, Hoagie,” I said, “does Stanford take C+ students?”
Hoagie started in on the other big toe. “Are you Punahou’s starting quarterback?”
“Once I tried out for the track team.”
“Tried out?” he asked. “Didn’t you make it?”
Hoagie shook his head. II Are you student body president?”
“I hate politics.”
Hoagie slid the pencil back behind his ear and watched Steve try to balance the hash against two grams of lead weights. The scale tipped in favor of the hash and Steve shaved off a sliver with his scalpel.
“How ’bout clubs?” Hoagie asked me. “Organizations?”
“All Jeff does is watch me deal,” Steve said.
“The Drug Club,” Hoagie said. “Got any Hawaiian blood?”
“That’s not enough.”
The scale balanced. Steve plucked the hash off the scale and wrapped it in foil. “Jeff’s a minor minority,” he said. “Will any college take me?” I asked.
Hoagie locked his hands together over his head and stretched. “There is one,” he said, “but that’s only’cause they score out-of-state tuition.”
“If I get a treat,” Hoagie said, “I’ll tell.”
“No treats,” Steve said, “store policy.”
“Remember those plants I gave you?” I reminded him. “PakaLaLa plants?” Hoagie asked.
Steve grimaced. He started rooting through the vials and baggies in his cosmetic case. He pulled out a baggie and examined its contents. “I’ll throw in a ‘shroom.” ”
Hoagie looked up at the steeple. “Two’shrooms.”
Steve nodded. “That’s still 40.”
“Sure they’re magic?” Hoagie asked as he reached for his wallet.
“Picked ’em myself in Mokuleia.”
“They’ll give you visions,” I promised.
Steve put the square of hash and the mushrooms in a plastic baggie while Hoagie counted out $40 in tens and, fives and stacked the bills on one side of the scale. Steve grabbed the money and slipped the scale back in the case. “Thanks for shopping at Steve’s,” he said and shut the lid.
Hoagie slipped the baggie into his shirt pocket and stood up. “Gotta heLe,” he said. “Eva’s waiting at the snack shop.”
“What about that college?” I asked him.
“The one you said might take me.”
“Try the University of Colorado,” he said, “at Boulder.” “Mahala,” I replied. “Hey, Hoagie, do they do drugs at Stanford?”
“Everyone I know drops acid before their morning classes.”
“Righteous,” said Steve.
Hoagie patted the baggie through his shirt pocket and looked down at me suspiciously. “Hey, man,” he said, “are you a narc or something?”
Steve was still sitting across from me when he pulled out a vial of hash oil and began heating the bottom of the vial with a lit match.Theoilbegantosmokeandhesuck~dthe smoke into his lungs through a glass straw. “Want?” he asked, offering me the vial.
I shook my head. I watched Hoagie cross School St. against heavy traffic and disappear behind the wall of nigh blooming cereus surrounding the campus. There was something about him that made me think he would lead a life impervious to injury no matter how close he came to danger. Hoagie was the kind of guy who knew the way to act and the things to say to get what he wanted.
I hated him for what he had done to Dawn.