The car roars to life and we’re all back in our tenuous positions: Shane at the wheel, my mother beside him, Sara under me, my head pressed against the jolting window. I look at the speedometer, we’re going 90 m.p.h. on a two lane highway with a posted speed limit of 60 m.p.h. I tell myself to breathe. We can always get out of the situation if it proves to be the worst-case scenario. It’s all going to be ok, I’m telling myself. Everything’s going to be alright.
“Hey you.” I hear Shane’s voice break the shaky chanting mantra that is running through my head. I look up to see who he’s talking to, though I know it’s me. “Hey you,” He repeats, this time pointing at me so that there would be no confusion. “Have you ever smoked weed?”
I look uncertainly at my mom, who nods almost imperceptibly. “Yeah, I’ve smoked weed before.” It seems like the right thing to do, to find common ground with our unpredictable driver who is possibly teetering on the verge of a mental breakdown. His motions are jerky and unstable, his speech is scattered and illogical, his train of thought trails and stutters. He doesn’t seem the type of man to disagree with – especially when he is in control of a car barrelling down the highway at 90 M.P.H., barely paying attention to the road in front of him and cursing out any car that happens to be in his line of vision.
“Oh good,” He says. “Then open up that up, that there in front of you.”
The abrupt end of one topic and the jolt to another startles me. Regaining my composure, I point to the glove box. “This?” I ask, scared and confused by the command seemingly out of the blue. He nods. I wrestle it ajar. It falls open anticlimactically. Inside of it, I see a jumble of junk: rubber bands, matches, old cigarettes. I look to him and ask, “What now?”
He smiles. “Reach in.”
My sister is trying to both stifle a laugh and contain her horror. I try and give her a look through the rear-view mirror, but she is decidedly not allowing herself to make eye contact with me lest she break out in giggles and potentially set off our mentally imbalanced driver. There’s no way around it. I reach in.
“What am I looking for?” I ask, adding on, “I’m scared.”
“Don’t be scared,” Shane says. “Keep feeling around, you’ll know it when you find it.”
At this point, I have no clue what I’m about to touch inside Shane’s old junk-filled glove compartment. I’m thinking severed hands, a taxidermied snake, the secret to a long and happy life. Instead I feel – plastic.
A plastic bag, to be exact.
A gallon sized plastic bag, to be even more precise.
A gallon sized plastic bag stuffed to the brim with green pungent marijuana.
“Oh my god,” I say, my hand still deep in the glove box. Shane smiles in response.
“What?” My mom asks urgently. “What is it?”
“It’s…” I trail off, barely even comprehending how long this car ride is going to be. “It’s…”
“That green grassy goddess,” Shane finishes for me.
“Do you mean…?” My mom starts and, after I pull out the huge bag of weed, she simply says, “Oh.”
“Now dig in there and find my pipe,” Shane instructs nonchalantly. “Oh, wait – I’ve got it right here! Give me that weed.”
I hand over the Ziploc bag and watch, stunned, as Shane simultaneously drives, sings and packs a bowl. Sara is now pinching my side, her look one that says, What the hell do we do now? As if I know. My mom is staring straight ahead, her eyes wide and her face stoic. I can tell she’s thinking over our options. Seemingly deciding on one, she addresses our driver, who is now wrestling with a bag of weed and the steering wheel.
“You know, Shane, we really appreciate you driving us all the way to Shelter Cove, but it’s still a three hour drive,” My mom starts nicely. “If you want to drop us off, it’s not a big deal, we can hitchhike the rest of the way up. You’re going to have such a long drive back down to your home.” Earlier in the drive, Shane told us that he is from Klamath Falls, about fifteen minutes away from where he picked us up. Shelter Cove Resort is three hours away from where he picked us up.
“I said it before, I’ll say it again,” Shane manages, still packing a tight bowl in his rusty pipe. “If yer payin’ for gas, I’m drivin’ you girls wherever you need to go!” He says it almost aggressively, swerving to the right over the rumble strip meant to wake up drivers who have fallen asleep on the long country road. The car jolts over the strip for at least ten seconds before Shane yanks the wheel left and we make a wide curve across two lanes of the highway, settling back in the right-hand lane.
It’s official. From the very beginning of the drive, I wondered if Shane was quirky or crazy. I look over at him now: his eyes are focused on the pipe in his lap, his legs are pressed hard against the steering wheel, his hands are busy packing the weed from the Ziploc into his pipe. There’s no arguing it. He’s crazy. He may be nice enough and well intentioned and not likely to advertently kill us, but he is also undeniably, unstably, very quirkily crazy. As if to cement my point, he zips up the bag of weed, puts it back in the glove box and hands me the pipe.
“Hey would you mind lighting this for me?” Shane asks.
My mom is stoic again. My sister is in a fit of silent giggles. I’m astounded. Would he be offended if I turned him down? Would he care? Would he think that I thought I was better than him? Would he feel judged? Would me turning his offer down result in a dangerous reaction that could land the rusty white truck in a ditch on the 95? And – the most important question of them all – what kind of disease was I likely to get by smoking out of Shane’s dirty pipe?
I look to my mom for an out. “Well,” I ventured, “I would be okay with smoking weed, but I don’t know how my mom would feel about it…” Trailing off, I look once more to my mom, who – shrugs her shoulders?!
“Ah!” Shane exclaims. “I knew I liked you girls!” He hands the pipe over to me, overflowing with tiny dried up pot leaves. “There’s a lighter ‘round here somewhere…” He rustles around his feet, his cup holder, the glove box. “Eh, just use these matches.”
He tosses me the matches. I hand the pipe to Sara while I light a match. Then, taking the pipe back from my sister, I hold the gritty piece up to my mouth and ignite the green mound in the bowl. I inhale.