Games We Play

Games We Play

January 1968

It doesn’t matter who they are, as long as they trip. The living room is full, seven or eight crowded on the curving couch, another five on the floor; me curled up in the big chair and Yvonne in the matching smaller armchair. Muzzie’s at work and dad’s out on a week-long surveillance in Compton, something to do with the Black Panthers according to Muzzie—dad never tells us where he’s going, how long he’ll be gone, or who he’s trying to bust.

We wait until everyone’s had several tokes. Wait until I feel the first flush of the trip coming on. It’s just a game we play when new freaks show up at the house. Just a game I tell myself, a game to see who’s square and who’s hip—who’s a straight and who’s a freak—for real not just acting cool and turned on.

We pick the guy, Yvonne, Kathy and me—someone new, someone who looks like they could be cool if they only turned on—someone who might be a Narc. We give him acid, make sure he actually takes it—then we wait.

We read the LA Free Press and they say Narcs are on all the college campuses and even some high schools. Guys that look like kids, but are working for the Man. I think about my dad and wonder how he ever passes for a Narc. He’s old and bald and looks like he works for the Man. I can’t image anyone selling him drugs or telling him where underground meetings are—trusting him in any way. But he busts people all the time, and tonight he’s going to try and bust the blacks in Compton who just want to be treated equal with white folks. I hope he doesn’t catch anybody, maybe even gets in a gunfight, maybe gets shot by a Panther—I’ve head they carry guns and are into using them. The thought flashes through me, like I’ve stuck my finger in an outlet. I jump and Yvonne looks over at me.

You cool?

I nod.

Say something.

I’m cool. Just a weird flash. I look around the room at all the kids my dad would bust in a heartbeat—even me and Yvonne. Suddenly he’s standing there and I watch him let the pigs round us up. I shake my head to clear the image—know you get outta acid what you put into the trip. I nod at Kathy, figuring it’s time to find out who the new guy is for real.

She scoots closer to him. He’s a friend of a friend of someone I don’t know. Showed up at school just before Christmas vacation. His hair’s barely past his earlobes and I don’t trust him. He asks too many questions about where we get our stash and asking to buy some stuff direct. What your old man do? Kathy asks and takes a hit off a joint.

He works in a bank. Making loans and shit. He takes the joint from Kathy and sucks on it hard. Adds, He’s a total square.

Yeah, I know what you mean. Mine works in a factory making cars. He’s totally square. She takes the joint back and hands it to me.

The guy turns his head and smiles at me. This your place?

I nod and take a hit.

Where’s your folks?

What’s it to you?

Yvonne grabs the joint from me and waves it in the air. They aren’t home too much.

Cool. The guy turns a little on the floor so he can see Yvonne. Everyone who’s been here before scoots closer together, a few start giggling and Yvonne gives them a look that could kill.

I don’t dare look at Kathy or I’ll start laughing too. I pull out some papers and snap my fingers and Drew tosses me the baggie full of pot.

Way cool, the new dude says. You guys have a lot of stuff.

I raise an eyebrow.

Not too much, you know … just more than I’m used to seeing. He blinks several times and stutters, I mean … I … I see … I see lots but not like all at once. He stops and looks around the room then adds, Shit, I think that acid is starting to come on. He blinks again and adds, It’s hittin’ real strong.

Really? I lean over the arm of the chair and offer him the newly rolled joint. Have a hit; it’ll lighten up. You drop much?

He shakes his head. Coupla times.

Peggy, a new girl at school who loves to party, scoots closer to the guy. Don’t bogart that joint, my friend.

I drop to the floor and we’re almost surrounding the new guy. Small beads of sweat pop out on his forehead. I take the joint away and take a big hit, blow all the smoke in his face. So your old man works for a bank. He nods. Wonder if he knows our old man? I nod at Yvonne, who leans forward in her chair.

Your dad in banking? His hand’s shaking when he takes a hit of the joint. He blinks like twenty times real fast waiting for me to answer.

I shake my head and say the line everyone is waiting for: He’s a Narc.

The guy laughs and takes another hit. Yeah, sure. No one says anything and he stops mid-toke and looks around. You’re kidding right?

I shake my head. He looks at Yvonne. She raises an eyebrow, takes a hit off her joint and says real calm. No.

I can feel the rush of fear in him, like static electric shocks you get if you scuff your feet on the carpet then touch someone. I just watch him—think I can tell if he’s a Narc—can tell if he’s straight or freak.

What the fuck? he asks and starts to stand up. What the fuck? What the FUCK? He jumps to his feet and turns in tight circles, like a dog after his tail—and I know he’s just freaking, that he’s no Narc.

Everyone starts laughing and pointing at him turning in circles, patting his pockets like he’s forgotten something; his head snapping side to side; his voice getting higher pitched and louder.

Chill dude, Yvonne yells over his panicked shouting. Chill! If we were Narc’s you’d be busted.

The guy stops and looks around the room. Most of the kids are laughing including Kathy and Patty. Yvonne and I are watching him, waiting to laugh until we’re sure he’s a freak. He rubs both hands through his hair and looks around again. You’re just fucking with me aren’t you? he asks. Just fucking with my mind. Right?

Yeah, Yvonne says and takes a hit off her joint. Just fuckin’ with your mind. She nods at the floor. Relax, it’s all cool. She stands up and walks towards the kitchen. Enjoy the free trip. Next time you pay.

I pull myself back into the big chair and curl my legs underneath me. The guy stays standing as everyone drifts back into their own trips. Kathy tugs on his pants leg and Peggy pats the floor. He doesn’t move at first—just looks around at everyone.

If you’re looking for your mind, Drew yells at him. I saw it fly out your ear. Everyone starts laughing again and the new guy smiles for the first time and nods his head.

Right. I felt it leave.

Come on down here and we’ll help you look for it, Peggy tells him.

He laughs and sits down. Kathy hands him a joint and Peggy lights it.

I settle into the big chair looking forward to another warm trip on another cold rainy day.