I couldn't lean on the wall, it was turning to liquid …

I’ve never pretended to be a decent human being. Is anyone? Some might be better than others, but in the end, what does it matter who goes where? We’re all bug food. Destined for duplicate endings.

It was the late ‘90s. Charlie Zooks, a pseudo-friend of mine, got busted with over 2,500 pills of ecstasy. He was pulled over one night going over the speed limit in his ‘rice-burner’ and a dog sniffed them out from inside his door panel. The rave craze hadn’t yet hit mainstream media, he was a minor, and the drug wasn’t looked down upon like it would be over the course of the next couple of years. He got off pretty easy, 6 weeks jail and a bunch of probation.

His lawyer, one of the best in town, was a dope fiend too. It was a symbiotic relationship. Before he took his maid hostage and blew off the back of his head inside a Cherry Creek bungalow, dude could get anyone off from anything.

Every few months for probation, Charlie would have to go to drug court, a state ordered time in front of a judge that would review what he’s been doing, make sure he was on top of his tasks, and take whatever money he had left as penance for his dastardly deeds.

One day, around 1 or 2, probably 5 … who knows … in the morning, Charlie remembered he had to go. We were a few hours outside of Denver and wanted to get back at a reasonable time to try and maintain some semblance of normalcy beforehand. The burner was still in the shop getting an outlandish modification done to it, so we were at the mercy of some girl we had just met — Lacy. Pretty.

Pretty fuckin’ weird.

It took a long time to get her ass out of bed. She’d been rolling for about 3 days, and didn’t really care to drive all the way to Denver when she didn’t have to. All she had was about 12 hours before her shift at some dumpy bar started again and she wanted to use that time to roll. Paul Oakenfold on a loop. So we gave her a bunch of white pills with little doves stamped on them for gas money.

It was the dead of summer, and like any other seasoned druggie, I didn’t have much else on me aside from an empty wallet, some ATM receipts crammed into my back pocket and pieces of a broken lighter rolling around in the front of a filthy hoodie. And white doves inside of little baggies. Lots of those.

Even then, The City and County building was a shit-show. This was still pre-9/11, so security was pretty weak. There were a few metal detectors, but it was nothing like it looks today. The “D Squad” officers who couldn’t handle themselves on the streets often took charge of the courtroom doors, still assholes, though less of a threat.

After realizing we’d just entered a lair of lions with highly illegal bait wrapped in convenient baggies for the police to find, we flipped out a bit. The pills had to go. We were selling a bunch then too, so it wouldn’t have been a huge hit to toss out a baker’s dozen and forget all about it. But that’s not the way an addict thinks. The pills had to go … into our mouths.


Everyone knows that look authority figures give you when you’re younger. You don’t even have to be doing anything bad, they just always look at you in a way that makes your insides crawl, like you don’t deserve the life you’ve been given, that everything bad that’s ever happened is because you’re doing this thing you’re doing right now. Imagine that look after a half-dozen pills kick in. It’s exhausting, especially with stoic bald eagles sitting atop flagpoles judging you with its honorable state emblems repeating as an unending backdrop.

These people are at work right now. These people hate us.

Court is the worst place to roll. There’s no music, no pretty lights, no ladies to chase or bubbly spritzers to keep cottonmouth at bay. It’s just you, rock solid benches (or the floor) to sit on and that musty smell of old-people. It's like having your grandparents follow you the entire time. They’re dead, but they’re following you, because they want to give you that look of disappointment — idealized through every public face in town.


We both shook awake at the fat man yelling his name.


The fat man summoned.

The court system has always been backlogged. It has been and always will be a hilarious train-wreck of inability to handle huge caseloads of derelicts. Too many cops, too many tickets, not enough people at the end of the line to manage it. It’ll never change.

We’d been crouched there for almost an hour before his name was called. In that time, we’d hit our peak and managed to scarf down a couple of boxes of Thin Mints from the vending machine. We’d also fallen asleep, fetal position, at the back of the room. Hoods up. There was no way people didn’t know.

“Your honor,” Charlie squeaked out. “I’m enrolled at school again and working at my family’s store." (His family didn’t own a store.)

“Mmhmm,” the judge mumbled, never looking up.

In contrast to the solace of the room, my eyes darted around my head. My temples felt like they could up and leave at any time. My heart raced, but I still felt like I couldn’t move. Except for the wall I was leaning against, that was certainly going to give out, or turn to liquid, one of the two.

I shouldn’t put my weight on it. The building will collapse.

“I … ” Charlie was then met by a rigid interruption.

“We’ll see you again in 60 days Mr. Zooks,” the judge said.

His line of sight never left the desk in front of him.

Rocking back and forth, I tried my damndest to convince myself nothing I was seeing actually existed. The judge’s bench kept coming for me, zooming in and out like an amateur videographer attempting horror cuts for the first time. Colors trickled down the doors. The A/C played a song. I tried to smile, but felt my chin hairs pushing back in rebellion. The voices in my head lost interest.

“Sixty dollars court fee. Bailiff, who’s next?”

The fuck …

I was still having a hard time deciphering where reality ended and the fantasy of doves began. The normally stiff wood of the benches was melting in front of me, the walls shimmered like club lights at dawn. I had no idea where to go, but I knew we couldn’t stay here. My neck stiff, I shoved my hands into my hoodie pocket and began to walk as fast as I could without being suspicious. We had to get the fuck out of there.

Luckily he was able to phone in the fee, another wait in another office wasn’t going to happen. As we stumbled out trying to find our way to the nearest exit, the eagles again began to hover, red and white stripes their cloak. Those angry faces continued to watch over us, grandma and grandpa. I was sure of it. They’re at work. Everyone here is at work.

We didn’t talk much after court, but last I heard, Charlie had a kid and two separate wives on different coasts. Lacy, she died a few years after she gave us that ride. She ended up loving meth more than life itself and proved it.

I wonder if her bugs ever tasted the doves.