First time I met Zack, he was relaxing on a worn-out couch in Eyeball’s cramped living room. I had swung by the trailer that night to see if I could score me a lid.
Zack wore one of those low-crowned leather hats, and he looked exactly the way a true hippie should, especially with the lit joint he was holding. As soon as I took a seat, he leaned forward and passed the thing over to me, so I took it. Amanda stayed over by the stove in her kitchen, stirring at a skillet while the two of us on the couch waited for Eyeball to finish his shower.
Zack holds his breath, and as I hand the joint back he tells me confidentially,
“He has some really good shit this time, man.”
Eyeball is the lead foreman at the plant where I work. I’m stuck inside, sitting all day at a drafting table in a small office. There I draw up plan-and-elevations for the fiberglass tanks they make out in the large metal building, which stands right outside my window. Him and Tiny oversees a crew of around twenty people, and both of them two men seem to be feared by everybody out in the shop.
I go out there occasionally, just to stretch my legs and see what the guys are working on, and right from the start, I suspected most of them probably smoked weed.
It turns out I was right.
I asked this one Mexican kid one day if he knew where I could buy some, and he stands up from where he had been rolling out a large, wet sheet of woven glass, and he nods over at where Eyeball was standing before he gets back to his task.
Eyeball is an intimidating character. He never wears any sort of patch over his bad eye, and when you talk to him, he looks right at you like he knows exactly what you want to ask him, but all he does is stare and wait, like he is daring you to get up your nerve.
When I said what it was that I was after, he just spit on the dirt floor, and then he told me to drop by his trailer after work. He sounded disgusted when he said it, too.
So here I am, trading a doobie back and forth with Zack while Amada is cooking, when Eyeball comes walking down the hall. He’s all dressed except for his bare feet, and he scowls when he tosses a bag my way. I think I was supposed to roll one to share with everybody, but I was having such an uneasy feeling by then that I just paid the man and took my stuff and left.
The next day I run into Zack out in the shop, and we both got to talking for a bit. He ends up inviting me over to his place later. He seemed like an okay sort so I took him up on it. Besides all that, him and his old lady lives in a school bus they own, so that had me curious too. I hadn’t been around any hippies ever since leaving Texas, and to run across a couple here in this small town in South Carolina brought back some fond memories. Later that night I went over to see Zack and meet Sara, and to check out what sort of place they had.
They took a regular old school bus, removed all the seats, and then fixed it up pretty much the way they liked it. They had traveled all over the States, they said, and usually stayed in any given place for awhile before moving on. Zack had just hired on at our shop, and for now, their current address was a quiet stretch of a country road on the outskirts of town.
Their friendly German Shepherd dog nuzzled my hand almost the whole time I was being shown around, and I listened while Sara told me about something that happened late one night, after guessing their animal must be a pretty good guard dog.
“Oh, he’s a real coward, I’ll tell you what. Whenever anybody comes along, he might perk up his ears and look where the sound’s coming from, but then he goes to hide.”
“You mean he never even barks?”
“Nope. He don’t have to, though.”
And she looks over at Zack and smiles.
Now Zack, he is not much bigger than me, so I ask what she means.
“Well, one night Rebel’s ears shoot up, and with me an Zack laying there in bed with him, he jumps down and goes up underneath it. We could see headlights outside shining in through the windshield, and pretty soon we heard a bunch of voices outside. Now most of the time, folks we meet are pretty tolerant, but this night we could tell was different.”
“Whoa! So then what happened?”
“Oh, nothing, really. As soon as I spoke, they took off like a pack of scared rabbits.”
Sara looked like she could run a five-hundred-yard dash inside a phone booth, which makes anything she might say sound pretty harmless when it comes to sounding tough, so I asked her,
“What was it you said?”
“Oh, no Zack! Don’t be using the shotgun!”