The Dope Shack by Steve Sibra

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My parents gave me a horrible name and I decided I had to get them back for it.  They were old hippies; well I guess not that old but when I was twelve they seemed pretty ancient – probably like thirty-five or maybe even forty.  To get revenge I got one of my pals to go in with me and we set out to make ourselves a dope shack; a hang-out where we did everything that was wrong and pretended that it turned out right.

We had some old Little Lulu and Tubby comic books and in those, Tubby was always shown to be a fat vengeful little bastard.  He was bitter and whiny but had an explosive temper.  I figured it was either the nickname or maybe the damned stupid way he was dressed.  Or maybe his candy bar diet.  But anyway, he and his pals had a clubhouse and the sign said, “No Girls Allowed”.  Nobody ever knew what they did in there.  I figured probably it was dope.  But Lulu always outsmarted him and got in anyway, and only one time did she ever get hopped up on the dope, and that wasn’t Tubby’s doin’s at all.  She cut the hair off her doll and smoked it in her dad’s pipe.  I still think probably they was all finks and dopers and maybe the comic book people just didn’t show us that part mostly.

But to get back to the point, Tubby was kind of our inspiration for this whole business.  We didn’t have a club house and we didn’t have tools, skills or materials to build one.  For awhile we were stuck.  We spent a lot of time in my room or my friend’s, reading old comic books and goin’ back and forth between insulting Tubby and wishing we were more like him.

At some point we decided to take over my little sister’s playhouse in the back yard – this would be a good dope shack we decided.  My little sister – name of Mirabelle, another stupid name – she didn’t really cotton to our idea for her little wooden playhouse, way in the back corner of the back yard.  But all that took was a little attitude adjustment – we pushed her down and when she got up we pushed her down again and when she stood up the third time, well you guessed it, we pushed her back down.  Her knees were all covered in grass stains and she was crying but she knew better than to tattle on us to the folks.  

For one thing she knew those old hippies were pacifists and wouldn’t do nothing anyway – maybe sit around cross legged and chant some mantras, or something.  So eventually she gave the playhouse over to us and she went to the other back corner of the back yard and she ended up with her dolls and Easy Bake oven in a big refrigerator box.  Another time I’ll tell you about that Easy Bake and that old cardboard box.

My friend’s name was Jeston and he thought he had a stupid name too but it was nothin’ compared.  His folks weren’t hippies really but they had some funny ideas which apparently included giving a kid a more or less normal sounding name but then spelling it all cock-eyed.  I used to wonder what in hell was really wrong with these grown ups.

But as my mom and dad were hippies and all, they did have some dope that we could get our hands on, and what good is a dope shack with no dope?  They smoked a lot of it and there was a lot of it around and we knew if we just tapped the supply light we could get away with it with nobody the wiser.  So we built us up a little stash in the shack but we did some puzzlin’ about where to hide it and all.  Ended up we yanked the head off a G.I. Joe and we found him to be hollowed out so we packed our dope supply into him and snapped the head back on.  Just another enlisted man all full of the dope and about to lose his head.

So now we had us a dope shack and we put up a sign that didn’t say “No Girls Allowed” it said “NOBODY Allowed” and under it we signed our names with a wood burning pen (took a while):  Jeston Holloway and Leviticus Romance Blech.  I called myself “Levi” and other folks usually did too but even that was a name I didn’t have much use for.  But it was the best choice of what was available.  You go up to folks and say “Well hello there my name is Leviticus Romance Blech and this is my sister Mirabelle Blech, how do you do?” and they will think you to be a brain stunted retard or maybe a subscriber to Mad Magazine or something and you will not get a lick of respect, I guarantee you that.  Just the opposite in fact.

As I remember it, all the time that we had us that dope shack we did not a single time smoke any dope in it.  I had smoked some dope a time or two with my parents and Jeston claimed he had smoked it a whole bunch but even then I figured him to be lying about that.  We was damn lucky my sister didn’t steal back that G.I. Joe when we went out – it had been in with her dolls before all this – and it could have ended up in that Easy Bake melting down with the dope smoke rising up and the refrigerator box getting torched.  

Jeston had an uncle who was kind of a layabout and as it turned out, he was the only one to really get the benefit of the dope shack in general or of that G.I. Joe full of dope in particular.  He wandered around town, big guy with a big nearly bald head with red peach fuzz on it.  His face was a big round face and his teeth weren’t in the places where teeth are supposed to be on a man’s face.  Sometimes he worked for the garbage collectors but even they didn’t always pay him I don’t think.  He used to work at the drag strip washing the tires on the cars but somehow he lost that job several years before this.

He wandered into our back yard one day, maybe looking for Jeston to see if he could bum some pop bottle money off of him, or maybe just by accident, I don’t know.  Whatever it was we were in the dope shack messing with the G.I. Joe and we had his head off and we were pouring out his dope onto a tin pie plate.  We didn’t smoke the dope but we played with it I guess.  Anyway, right in the middle of it all his big moon sized head comes sticking through the door, right next to where the sign was saying “NOBODY Allowed”.  He rolled his big bulgy eyes from one side of the little room to the other and then right in the middle he saw the plate full of dope; probably smelled it too as his nose was, as I recall, making all sort of snorting noises.  He focused right in on it as I tried to move the decapitated toy soldier into position to protect his contraband.  But I knew he wasn’t really up to the task.

Now Jeston’s Uncle Carl was a useless sort of feller but he did have one unique skill.  Some would have figured it to be worthless if not downright spooky, but it was one of those things where he could do it, and do it well, and pretty much nobody else could do it at all or else they would be afraid to even try.

Uncle Carl could open a beer bottle with his eye socket.  It weren’t no twist-off either, this was back before that.  He had kind of deep set eyes and a big bony brow and it was like he had two church keys welded onto the top of his face.

He would wrinkle up his big old forehead and it almost looked like his brow bone and his cheek bone were squeezing together to grab the neck on that brown glass bottle.  It was creepy; yes it was, and once you saw it you would never forget it, and probably never be able to really even describe it.

Carl played it up, as he knew it was kind of his calling card and everybody in town knew about it.  On this occasion he just looked from one of us to the other, then back again.  Finally he said, “you little peckers ain’t big enough to be sittin’ around a pile of dope on a pie plate.  You’s a few years shy of that.”

We knew the big knucklehead was going to take our dope but there was no way for us to stop it.  He knew it too.  I remember thinking this was even worse than Little Lulu busting in on Tubby and his little pointy nosed buddies.

We all knew what was going to happen and it was so cut and dried that nobody really said a word.  Carl just reached in and picked up the plate full of dope.  He casually shoved the headless G.I. Joe aside and he took the whole plate in one swoop.

Now this could be the bitter end to the dope shack I guess, and it pretty much was, but for some reason at that point Uncle Carl did something that was unexpected; in fact it was almost an act of kindness given the situation and the people involved.

He backed out of the doorway but in just a second his head came back through.  Then we saw his hands come in the door too and each of them was holding a dark brown bottle of beer.  The bottles were sweating and we could tell that somehow they were cold, even though it was a hot day and all.

“Fair is fair, boys,” said Uncle Carl, and then he burped a big loud blast into the tiny room.  As we tried to shake that off, he continued.  “You little wieners is too young for the dope anyway, but you could start out with a couple of beers instead.  That would be more right for your age.” he said.  Before we could make any kind of answer to this he quick like brought both bottles up to his face with a flourish, and stuck one of them in each eye socket. Then with a flick of the wrists, he popped the top off both bottles at exactly the same time.  It was a weird sound and it’s just another one of those things I can’t really describe I guess.  It almost seemed like a dignified sort of gesture when he reached out a bottle to each of us.  There was nothing to do but take the beers.

Carl was grinning and there was a small trickle of blood running down the corner of each eyebrow.  He seemed to not notice or else not care but it was a striking thing to see, on top of all the rest of it.

He grinned again.  “Drink up, little fuckers,” he said cheerfully and then he was gone.  I looked at Jeston and he looked at me and neither of us said a word.  We just started drinking them cold beers.

Back to having no dope we pretty much gave up on the dope shack at that point.  We abandoned it and before long Mirabelle moved back in and brought her dolls and her Easy Bake with her – the oven was now kind of charred and didn’t work at all.  Like I said though, that’s a whole another story.

Every time I saw Jeston’s Uncle Carl after that I remembered the two beer bottles and the smooth swift move up to the face and the confident “POP” as the caps came off.  It reminded me of the western movies when there is a gunfight in the street and the swift movement of the hero strikes like liquid lightning and the whole business is there and gone in one soft sweet motion.

Every time I pictured that in my head I knew that having that experience was worth a G.I. Joe full of dope any day of the year.  And I was pretty sure ol’ Tubby would have approved if he had been there.

Steve Sibra

 

2 thoughts on “The Dope Shack by Steve Sibra

  1. This wonderful story is a treat for all readers, especially for those who have fond memories of reading comic strips as a kid, usually in a place without grownups. This is how many kids learned to read, including my kids. It’s great to learn with exciting picture stories, way more fun than reading the dull “Dick and Jane” books or whatever their names were. So three cheers for the comics! Best wishes, June

    Like

  2. Hi Steve, well this certainly stays with you! I think I will make sure my beer comes out of a can from now on.
    This was a super coming of age tale!
    Hugh

    Like

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