A Purpose for Your Sins
Finite time is the foundation of
life's inherent sadness, he thought to himself as he listened to the blonde Van
Limburger, eyes bright with light.
"It changes a man," she said,
eyebrows barely discernable in the beach twilight. "You can see it. You can see
how it takes it out of them." Van Limburger knew exactly what she was saying
but he was equally shocked at how she had come to know this truth. She simply
wasn't old enough. He thought of Jamul and the Dane.
"Yes," he said, waiting to see if
she had more.
"It's different than the others.
They say it's the hardest drug of them all." Van Limburger had to quell the
storm before it morphed into a squall. The trouble was she was exactly right.
"Well, put it this way, I've been
working my entire life, since I was twelve with no summers off. I even had a
paper route during the year." Images of predawn mornings crossed his mind,
taking momentary delight in knowing he had mastered throwing the newspaper from
"So now I don't mind having my little drug
phase. In fact I'm really enjoying my coke phase." The moxie didn't change her
expression. She knew there wasn't any beef in his words. What he could see was
the ancient expression of maternal concern in her eyes. She knew exactly where
he was heading, and she knew precisely where he would end up if there weren't a
stop to his sinful activities. For a moment, just for a moment, he screamed in
his head at all the injustices that had beset his life, his brother, his lost
love, his fatal illness, and the missed opportunities. He coughed and tasted
the coppery taste of blood. He wondered if he had some dried blood around the
corners of his mouth. He could feel his cotton shirt falling off the toothpick
shoulders, its looseness baggy and cold.
"What if you were at the end of your
life, and you had the means and interest to experience the other side of life?
And you know from books like that Keith Richard's biography that a small dabble
for six months is nothing compared to thirty-five years of severe partaking."
He was a puppy compared to Keith.
"If it's the end of your life?" She
"Funny how time affects decisions
isn't it? You have your whole life in front of you waiting to be tasted. It's
wise not to delve into the White Lady without a purpose to your sins."
"I suppose I would try it. I mean if
I was dying I would. Sure, why not? As long I don't get hooked." Raised a good
"So what if you liked it and used it
out of choice rather than physiological dependence? Like drinking coffee in the
morning. And afternoon. And night."
"I don't know. I don't think I could
because it wrecks you." She looked at his emaciated neck and shoulders. "Lose
your appetite." He nodded.
"Okay, let me ask you something
then: If you had twelve months to live and were crippling worse with each
passing day, would you partake and trade off maybe six months of your time
left, or choose the slow death without an elixir?" He wanted to tell her cocoa
has been medicine for arthritis for centuries.
"But you're in a drugged stupor."
"But what if it acted like a magic
pill that took the pain away and brought you to a holy place in your spirit? So
a clear and divine state." She laughed.
"You're pretty set on this aren't
"What if it was a medicine? Would
you trade in half your time?" Her eyes glimmered when she drank her Mojito,
he boyfriend quiet, leaning back on his chair, stirring the mint leaves slowly.
"So without the medicine it would be
"I don't know. That's a tough one."
"I know what I'd do," said her
boyfriend in a sudden thrust of assertion. "I would take it. No question. Why
go out in pain? No man, take the medicine I say!" He raised his pint glass.
"That's an easy one!" The guttural laughter hit Noble and silenced the screams
Having purchased more base from a
local surfer with dreadlocks, Noble was urged on by Reno and his mischief,
trying to turn a day into a year. Van Limburger had gone for a walk under the
full moon along the beach with her boyfriend so Noble found himself on a
second-floor bar with a pool table, challenging for the table. An American from
Chicago was there, eyeglass and well over six feet, with the words "GOOD LUCK"
tattooed on the back of each finger below the knuckle. Reno, after taking the
table from the locals challenged him to a game.
"No man, I don't plan of going back
to Illinois. You kidding me? Too cold you know. I got married man, I'm here for
the long haul." Hair falling in his eyes, Dan was terrible at billiards.
"I hear you on that. How long you
been married?" Reno stoned, sunglasses still on.
"'Bout a year. Renewing my visa was
pissing me off." The word ‘visa' reminded him he needed to renew his visa. He
looked at his watch.
"What's the date today?"
"Seriously. About the 15th?"
"About that." He had three days.
"Visas yeah. Pain in the ass."
"Shame though." He looked closely at
his swollen wrist. "Had a fight last night with my old lady. Almost puncher
her. Hit the wall instead. Bad move though. Couldn't busted a bone." Dan had a
runny nose he wiped with the back of his hand.
"A wall has very little give."
"But I love her man. I really do. I
don't know why but she gets my goat sometimes. Keeps talking about moving to Chicago.
I mean what's with that?"
should be all right. I mean you have a positive vibe from those words on your
fingers." The tattoo looked fresh.
"They kinda wrecked the ‘G' here but
all in all getting redone here for the third time was worth it."
"Looks good to me dude." The letters
huge on his big hands. "One ought to expect an Ecuadorian wife to emigrate to
the States though. You know it's cooler here but she doesn't, and maybe
"She doesn't know that there's
better technology here, higher quality I mean." Reno smoked. A cloud obscuring
"The white tech."
"Much better quality."
"The base here is different than
Quito. It's pink." Reno sank the eight ball for the victory.
‘cause it comes from Columbia. All the blow here comes from up the coast. Very
clean." Sniffed louder and with more purpose, no longer needing to hide it.
came here to get away from it!" The irony.
"Best in the world."
"Speaking of which."
They went outside and down the run
where Dan deposited a small Mount Fugi of blow on the back of his hand and
snorted. He offered to Reno.
"Messy this technique." He attacked
the small Cotopaxi with his left nostril. The acid burned the lining at the top
of his sinus, like an acid, until the drop.
"This is a great pipe," Reno said
with reverence. "Served me well." The sugar-topped bowl on the tobacco bed went
up in flames, disappearing into his bloodied lungs.
"Don't smoke that shit. Fucks my
lungs up to much."
"Doesn't the blow make your nose
bleed?" Soldiers comparing battle wounds.
"Only if it's bad shit. But I have a
good supplier. He'd never screw me." He waved his fist gently.
Quiet on the side street, dark and silent
except barking and the splash of the surf.
"I'm heading to the Surf Shak," said
Reno, eyes sparkling.
"Good, that's where I'm heading too.
Meeting my wife later."
They strolled down the street past
the corner with locals hanging out, motorbikes parked in a line, shirtless and
cocky. Tall and white, they two Americans veered to the sand and the line of
palm trees shunning the wind.
Taking advantage of two-for-one
cocktails, they ordered banana and rum drinks and stayed at the bar inside. The
winds and moisture made it cold outside. Each darted to the washroom to take a
line or smoke a pipe throughout the night, no one taking notice or care, so by
the time Dan's wife showed up she was pissed off. Dan's nose was like a
waterfall and he kept running out of tissue.
She was suspicious of Reno, his
unshaven face and sunglasses, coke grin.
"Where were you tonight?" The tone
was enough for Reno to take his drink and go for a smoke outside.
"There you are," said Mark the
Irishman, sitting with his wife watching his daughter play with the dog.
"Been adjusting to this air," he
"Yeah, I know the difference. Hits
you hard, that." Hair still cut in the military tradition, Mark could never
seem to get the army out of him. His bearing was military, and so was his
drinking. Fast-paced and snowballed with a blast of nicotine, Mark pursued his
pint with vigor, like a thirsty old barman.
"So that offer I made you mate, I
have to take it back." He pointed with his thumb next door. "Just rented it
out, to another Canadian, but he's just given me a hundred-thousand deposit so
I think he's serious." It hadn't really crossed his mind. The salt and moisture
and oxygen would probably drown him in his own blood.
"I guess you've got the next round
then." That crack caught the attention of Balmer, the local brew master.
"That sounds like a good idea." He
was drinking the wheat beer he made.
"And get me some of that wheat beer
will ya," Reno making himself at home on the patio. There was Pete the
hand-glider and his wife Felicity, and James the old owner and Balmer the brew
"All right, I need to tell you that
I can out drink any of you. I'm open to challenges." Balmer had the swagger of
a man from Milwaukee.
"I'll take you on," said Pete the
hand-glider, tanned features and flip flops worked in. The contest latest for a
few seconds. Balmer just poured it down his throat. Pete was heaving and
spilling. James ignored them but Mark the Irishman went to bat but also went
down in flames. A fine effort nonetheless. So Reno threw his hat in the ring.
"I'll challenge you then, see if I
can oust you from your platform." Balmer showed signs of drunkenness already.
Reno knew he couldn't quaff a beer but he played up to the bluff.
"Let's see how they drink down in
Texas," he retorted, beer foam in his moustache.
It was Reno's moment of introduction
to the Surf Shak gang, who had only seen the skinny Texan walking the beach for
a week. James kept separate, brooding over his vodka.
"All right, what's the time to beat?" Felicity
"One-point-nine seconds," she said,
happy to establish the bridge.
"Ah, when I was at Rice I was
unbeaten in my junior year." All lies. Reno had taken the turret with this
"Well then it's two unbeaten masters
going neck-and-neck," Mark hoping his friend will perform well. Even James
looked up with attention.
"So the victor picks up the next
round?" Balmer looked at his plastic cup filled to the brim with the concoction
he made everyday.
"Um, I don't know if I need
"Yes!" said Pete from the corner,
cool and crisp, not about to let the free round pass.
"Okay then." Reno removed his fleece
for spillage and picked up his cup.
Balmer poured his beer into his
gullet in one-point-seven seconds while Reno chugged his beer taking over eight
seconds. It was his best shot.
After all the hoopla, it was good to
know a dying man could still bluff.