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Running Stoners

Jantje took a hit off his spliff all alone in his room and looked up at the clock.
            Damn, thought Jantje, Six o’clock? Almost time for Dawson’s Creek!
            Jantje loved Dawson’s Creek—American teens had such sophisticated opinions and approaches when it came to sexual desire and teenage life. None of them smoked, but Katie Holmes was hot and he kinda wished he knew her in person.
            The thing of it was, though, it wasn’t six o’clock yet. It was noon. When Jantje looked at the clock, what he saw was a straight line going all the way down, but actually that line going down the clock-face stopped halfway. So when he switched on VT4, all he got was a test image showing a fish in a bowl because, like most Flemish stations, VT4 didn’t have programming in the middle of the day because it wasn’t worth it. Jantje watched that fish in a bowl for probably a good ten minutes before it occurred to him that the only thing wronger than an aquarium inside a TV was the fact that he still wasn’t watching Dawson’s Creek yet. Or even that Australian soap, Home and Away, that came on first.
            Maybe I got the wrong channel?
            He reached for the remote. It wasn’t there. Why wasn’t the remote on the left arm-rest of his lazy chair? He scootched over, felt into the cracks under the cushion, wriggled around to make sure he wasn’t sitting on it. Finally, exasperated, he lifted himself up, groaning, to his feet, turned back and lifted up the cushion only to discover the remote control to the television in his right hand.
            How did that get there? he wondered.
            Let the record show the reason why his remote control was in his right hand instead of his left was because Jantje Engelaer was, at that moment, blitzed out of his fucking gourd. He had been ever since his parents had gone on vacation to Morocco and left him there with his seemingly endless supply of weed and psychedelia. And when Jantje Engelaer was blitzed out of his fucking gourd, shit tended to go a bit wonky.
            He sat back down. He verified that he was indeed on VT4 but then thought to himself Am I sure that it’s VT4 that it’s playing on? Maybe it’s KA2… So he switched the channel, then switched it again, and again, trying to find his show and seeing instead nothing but random test images. Flustrated, he rolled himself another joint, sat back, and pondered.
            Oh, I remember! he thought. It’s not on KA2 at all, it’s on VT4! Of course! I’m such an idiot!
            But this time, when he turned the channel, what he saw was not a test image showing a fish in a fishbowl, or a radio pumping out music while people texted each other, or even a monkey humping a panda at the zoo. What he saw was far more disturbing than that, even. What he saw was



Jantje puts down his remote control on the left armrest and lights up his joint again, then coughs.


Jantje contemplates the TV.




MUSIC: “Theme from Roy Rogers” by Janez Detd.

The street is completely empty, deserted. A single tumbleweed tumbles from one side of the street to the other and gets stuck in a pile of dogshit. The tumbleweed lets out a frustrated squeak.



ERIC and NATHAN TANNER, two regular guys in disheveled hoodies henceforth known collectively as THE RUNNING STONERS, turn a corner, running and screaming for their lives, terrified.

They run down several other streets, now and then looking behind them at something as yet unseen and at one point even tumble over the stumbleweed and moan over the same goddamn dogshit before looking back behind them, screaming again, and running further for their hides.

As the music reaches its chorus, we see what’s chasing them:
- first, a pair of sunglasses,
- then a mouth, lips pulling back from teeth as though preparing to rend flesh from bone,
- last, a hand wearing one of those gloves with the fingers and knuckles bare (Why do people even wear those things? They’re useless.), twisting the handles of a bicycle.

PIERRE DELACROIX, henceforth designated THE COP, glides down the street on his bicycle, cackling mechanically!

The chase continues, The Running Stoners pulling ahead as often as The Cop catches up, without significant plot developments.

Then suddenly, everythi




Jantje sits in his chair, staring blank-faced at the TV. At length, he exhales a puff of smoke.

               The fuck?

Suddenly, Jantje coughs violently. When it subsides, he sucks once more on his joint.

               Dude, that is some good shit.

At length, the static subsides and VT4 is restored. Dawson’s Creek comes on, starring Katie Holmes and a bunch of other twits, after an advertisement for skin cream.

The clock reads quarter after six.


Jantje holds a ballpoint pen in his hand, shaking, as other high school kids pass him by. He raises the ballpoint to his lips, holding it between his thumb and index finger, sucks on the end of it, holds his breath for a moment, then lets out a breath of cold air like smoke.

He coughs. Repeatedly.

The doors to the school building open and out walks DIDIER KHALED, who, it should be known, is far cooler than Jantje. Although that isn’t really saying much.

               Dude. You all right?

               Dude, I just saw the sickest shit on TV last night.

(Translator’s note: The use of the term “Dude” is not actually current in the Brabantish dialect of Dutch in which these characters are speaking. Let it be known that when “Dude” appears in the translation, it is only as a substitute because adding the more vernacular “pé” at the end of the sentence, as it appears in the original, would not have the intended effect on an American audience.)

               Was it your mom humping Chuck Norris on
               CANAL+ after midnight?

               Uh… no?
               Wait, what channel was that on?

               Never mind.
               What’s this fucked up shit you were talking about?


               You said you saw some shit on TV.

               Oh! Right!

Didier motions for Jantje to speak up.

So Jantje describes to Didier the events of the night before, referring to them in the context of a “music video.”

DIDIER: So how did you know they were high?


DIDIER: Well, you said they were stoners, right?


DIDIER: And they were high?

JANTJE: Well, yeah, I mean, they were Stoners, right?

Jantje instinctively flicks the ash off his ballpoint pen. Didier looks at him.

DIDIER: What made you think they were high if they were running?

JANTJE: They were wearing hoodies. Duh?

Enter SYLVIE MEURANT, stage left, accompanied by her friend FIONNUELLA. Jantje is in love with Sylvie because she bears a remarkable resemblance in his mind to Katie Holmes from Dawson’s Creek, despite being tall, blonde, stately and otherwise looking absolutely not the least little bit like Katie Holmes from Dawson’s Creek. The girls pass by Jantje and Didier and do their best to ignore them.

But Didier can’t let it go. Jantje tunes out the exact comment that Didier makes that causes Fionnuella to turn around and engage in witty reparté with him, which no doubt would have been Oscar-nabbing had it born any relevance to the plot at hand, which it does, of course, because Didier and Fionnuella are famous for their witty banter and the fact that they absolutely hate each other because they live on opposite sides of the tracks even though there are tracks running all through Brussels everywhere so everyone is always on the opposite sides of some tracks or other from each other because that’s just life here, but they also dwell in different social climates that hate each other and they both have that kind of personality but right now, Jantje isn’t aware or acare about any of that or the fact that Didier and Fionnuella are actually secretly in love and trying to hide it from all of their friends, because Jantje is currently in the presence of Sylvie Meurant, so no other subplots are necessary for him. He could gaze into those golden eyes—no, that couldn’t be right, what color were they? Those… blue! They were blue! Yes, of course, those goldish-blue eyes of hers that he knew so well—and be permanently lost to oblivion. Or something totally romantic and cheese-filled like that.

SYLVIE, noticing Jantje looking at her, comes and grabs Fionnuella to drag her away.

SYLVIE: Let’s go, Fionne.

FIONNUELLA (to Didier): Oh, yeah, is that where your mother keeps her toothbrush?

DIDIER: It’s not where your mom had it last night!

Exeunt Sylvie and her train.

DIDIER (seeing Jantje’s star-struck expression on his face and finding it über-lame): Dude, the fuck?

JANTJE: What? I wasn’t… no? I don’t know what you’re on, …*

(* OK, maybe just one)

DIDIER: Ew. Seriously? Dude, you should not be around women. Or children. Or old people. Or sheep—you’d gross them out.

JANTJE: But I lo—

DIDIER: Woah, woah, stop it right there. Now I can't have you going around saying shit like that, now, can I? Seriously? Love her? She wouldn’t even let her friend insult me. And besides: if you like her? Dude, you gotta change your attitude, pé. Seriously.


DIDIER: Fuck yeah, you do! You see me every time a girl comes by just standing there with a mouth full of teeth?*

(* This is an expression in Dutch. No one really knows what it means.)


DIDIER: Shake your head.

Jantje shakes his head, but isn’t quite sure why.

DIDIER: That's right, now, you wanna get with the girls, boy, you gots to be smooth, , you gotta treat her… You gotta treat her like a joint. You know? Rolling a spliff, you can’t be heaping it on. You can’t be drooling on that shit. It is a delicate operation. You do something wrong, manneke, you could drop your joint! That is some bad shit, joeng. You know what I'm saying?

Jantje is still trying to remember the last time he rolled a joint without drooling or spilling it.

He can’t.

Later that day—or maybe the day before—or maybe several months earlier, no one is quite sure anymore—I found myself walking out of the video store on George Henri with two fresh DVD rentals in my cargo pocket. It was a beautiful day and I was starry-eyed and young, so I decided to go for a walk in Parc Georges-Henri—The Graveyard Park—on my way back home. As I was walking between the trees on the path paved with tombstones, a young man about my own age halted in front of me, blocking my way. He was short—much shorter than I—but he had that ill-favored look that marked him as a scrapper and a crook. Yet he also had a smile on his face, so I smiled in turn (smiles from strangers are such an Anglosaxon quirk to me, they feel refreshing in Brussels) and moved to pass him, but he moved again to block me. I dodged the other way ’round him, but he blocked me at every turn. And all the while, he kept muttering to himself ever louder “ver-verklik-verklikker-verklikkerlicht-verklikkerlichtjes! KLIK!” At last, I smiled and bowed my head politely and turned back the way I’d come, only to find the young man’s associate, much taller and with a (mostly) shaved head, blocking my path from the other side and screaming “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTJEEEEEEEEEEEEEESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

When I awoke several hours thence, I was inexplicably back home in my own bed in the middle of the night and assumed it was all a dream.
                  Until I received an overdue notice from the video store and I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my life and indeed, the universe itself, would never be the same.


Jantje walks down the street. There is a scream behind him, persistent, yet far away. He turns around, but doesn’t see anything. Soon, the sound dies out. He shrugs it off and continues on his way.

Behind him, we see The Running Stoners come out from one side street and run to the other side of it in a hurry, screaming all the way. But as they’re running, Jantje has his eyes wide open in shock and doesn’t turn around until they’re out of sight. Then, having missed them, having convinced himself that they were never really there in the first place, he continues on his way.

Behind him then, again, we see The Cop gliding by on his bicycle, dinging his bell and cackling mechanically!

We see him—indeed, we yell at the screen, we fling our popcorn and stamp our feet, foaming at the mouth at the denseness of the character who remains oblivious to the obvious danger in his immediate proximity, at the dramatic irony of his situation, but again, too blitzed out of his fucking gourd to react with proper promptness, Jantje turns too late and misses him.

Frowning, he turns back around, lifting his empty hand to his mouth and sucking on his thumb and forefinger for another oxygen hit, then bringing them down and noticing he isn’t holding anything there, and wondering why.

As he reaches into his inner coat pocket, though, The Running Stoners and The Cop alike come charging at him. This time he sees them. This time, he is fully aware of his surroundings as they approach, taking up more and more of his field of vision until the Tanner brothers collide with him, knocking him down and pushing practically through him with the sheer momentum of their cascade. The Cop just runs him over, which is painful, but perhaps not quite as heartbreaking.

Panting, groaning, clutching his belly in pain, Jantje gets up, looks around, sees nothing there.

So he continues on his way.


Jantje slouches into the restaurant to be born—Quickly—looking around suspiciously at anyone who might be watching him.

Didier sits waiting for him in a booth. He rolls his eyes, motions him over. Jantje, still leery of being watched, covers most of his face with his coat and scurries over to the booth.

               Pé. Don’t be a dork.

Chastened, Jantje drops his cover and proceeds to lounge across the bench. Didier stares at him, unimpressed.

               I saw them again.

                     (unreasonably concerned)
               Who’d you see?

               The Running Stoners.

               Oh, that music video? What, like on TV?

               No, like I actually saw them.

               Seriously? Where?

               Just outside. They knocked me down.
               Fucking Cop ran over me with his bike.
               Still hurts. Fucking Cops.

               Dude, what the fuck have you been smoking?

               Look, I’m telling you, man—

               Whatever man, look, that’s not what we’re here for,

               What do you mean?

               I mean that’s not why I called you here!

               You called me here?

Didier glares at him.

               OH! Oh… wait, what?

               I can help you get Sylvie.

Didier tells Jantje of his cunning plan. “I happen to know,” he says, “that tonight, thinking she’s meeting a friend of hers to go see a movie, she will in fact be meeting you: her friend will stand her up.”

               I don’t get it.

DIDIER (sighing): Do I have to spell it out for you, shithead? She’ll be waiting for her friend at the movies! When the friend doesn’t show up, you’ll be there to *winkwinknudgenudgesaynomore* pick up the pieces.

               I still don’t get it.

DIDIER (annoyed, looks briefly at a point beyond Jantje, near the door): Go get me a sandwich.


DIDIER: Get me a sandwich, bitch! (kicks him under the table)

JANTJE: (acquiescing) Ow!

Jantje stands up, goes towards the counter to order, slams into Fionnuella.

FIONNUELLA: Watch where you put your face, owl-chicklet!*

(* “uilskuiken,” translated literally here, while entirely unfair to baby owlets, has for many years been a popular insult for stupid people in this part of the world.)

JANTJE: Sorry! Sorry!

He has to be careful, after all, to be nice to any friends of Sylvie’s, even if they aren’t friendly to him. Chicks like that kind of turn-the-other-cheek thing, even outside the bedroom. Which is probably why he doesn’t notice Fionnuella sitting down in the booth next to Didier’s, their backs to each other but only a thin pane of see-through plastic separating their heads…

Jantje feels immense anticipation, thinking ahead to the things that he will do to Sylvie once she is finally his. He thinks of all the nights they will spend together sitting on the couch in his room watching
Dawson’s Creek or whatever it is that chicks watch instead of watching Dawson’s Creek. He thinks of all the joints he will roll her. He thinks of all the time they will spend out, just in front of the school, just sitting on the benches and hanging out. And by the time he gets the stuff ordered and turns to take it back to the table, he sees Sylvie, fresh through the door, standing right in front of him, and he drops his tray to the floor.

Behind him, Didier stands up out of the booth, turns towards Fionnuella, yells

               (censored for American audiences)

Sylvie just stands there, staring open-mouthed and disgusted at Jantje. Didier comes up behind him and draws him out the door.

               Come on. Quick is lame anyway.

Sylvie cringes and walks toward Fionnuella’s booth.

All day long, Jantje imagines with rapt anticipation how it will go, how he will ride into Sylvie’s life like a knight on a big white bicycle not at all unlike the one driven by The Cop, except that his is blue and nothing like a horse and also who would want anything to do with that stupid laugh to begin with? Besides, he was thinking about Sylvie now. Those other things on his mind… what were those other things on his mind? He took another hit to help himself remember, but then forgot what it was he’d forgotten.


Jantje sits on the bus. His phone rings. He looks up, looks around, looks on the floor next to him and in between the seats, then starts patting himself down, opens his hand and finds it.


               Jantjeu! Hey, man, it’s Didier. What’s up?
               Just wanted to uh… you know,
               just wanted to make sure everything’s cool,
               you know? That you’re on your way.

               On my way? Oh, right!
               Yeah, totally, yeah, sure, I’m on the bus right now.

He checks outside to try to figure out which bus he’s on and where he’s going.

               Hey, Jantje?


               We talk a lot of shit, you know?

               Euh. Yeah.

               Don't listen to any of that crap.
               Just be yourself. Chicks—
               That’s all they really want.

Jantje has absolutely no idea what the fuck Didier’s talking about.

               Take care of yourself, man.

Didier hangs up. Jantje looks at the phone, puts it away in his pocket.


Jantje steps out of the bus, stretches.

MUSIC: The instrumental conclusion to “Judgment” by Anathema, a melodic romp of guitar chords and drumline extravaganzas.

Out of nowhere, The Running Stoners come up and launch themselves past Jantje. He watches them go, gabberflasted, then slowly widens his eyes and turns his head to see The Cop, still some distance away, but headed straight towards him. He panics. He runs.

Jantje ran with The Stoners through and past the great landmarks of downtown Brussels. They ran through the Grand Place, they ran past the Manneken Pis, they passed under the statue of Sean Connery that looks exactly like Don Quixote (or was it the other way ’round?), they ran past the Atomium, they ran past the Eiffel Tower—

Jantje stopped for a moment and turned back there, wondering how the fuck he’d run his way to the Eiffel Tower, but then The Cop dung his bell and he got himself moving again.

Running past Montgomery Circle to the Cinquantenaire, Jantje slowed his pace and clutched at his side, which hurt like being held under a microscope in Hawaii in August (unless August is the rainy season; when is the rainy season in Hawaiï?). He slowed, he stopped, he all but collapsed, watching The Running Stoners outrun him, into the sunset. The Cop dung his bell and passed him by. He screamed and jumped back, but The Cop just ignored him. Like he wasn’t even there. Like he wasn’t even one of them. That’s when he looked up and saw he’d arrived at


He pants in front of the theater. It’s huge and impressive. It hurts his brain. His thoughts aren’t making any sense because he’s been running so long he’s outrun his faculties and now needs to wait for them to catch up. He turns around and sees Sylvie behind him, sitting alone on a bench.

She looks up and sees him, too. She shifts uncomfortably, like he’s a stranger and a possible threat. Little does she know. He walks towards her, remembering why he’s here, remembering what he plans to do to her (with her), what he should have done a long time ago. He sits next to her, a huge grin on his face. She smiles back, gritting her teeth. He inches closer to her. She inches further away, backing into a stone-carved corner.

               Stood up?

               Just waiting for someone.

               Yeah, she’s not coming.

               What makes you think it’s a she?

               Well, it’s not like you have a boyfriend…
                     (chuckles, snorts, then panics)
               Wait, do you?

Sylvie looks away, flushing.

               What are you seeing?

               Mulholland Drive.

               Seriously? That still playing?

               Please get your hand off my shoulder.

               Oh, right. Sorry.

And now for the killing blow—this is sure to get Sylvie’s attention, Jantje is certain of it. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out…

A Joint!

               You look like you need a smoke.

               Excuse me?

               It’s okay—I got one. It’s on me.

               I don’t smoke!


               Come again?

               No, seriously. I don’t smoke.
               Never have.

               Yeah, you do!

               Uh. No. I don’t. Sorry.

               Bullshit. Everybody smokes.
               It’s fucking Brussels, right?

               Actually, weed is illegal.


               Since when?

Sylvie rolls her eyes, takes out her phone.

               Who you calling?

               Fionnuella. See how long she’ll be.

               Yeah, she’s not coming.

               You keep saying that, but how—

               I got ways, gurl. I got skillz.

Sylvie rolls her eyes. The other end of the line picks up.

               Hey, Fionne? Woah—what’s wrong?
               Well, are you on your way?

SOUND: Indistinct sobbing on the other end of the line.

Sylvie looks at Jantje, then at the phone, which she closes, then back up at Jantje. Jantje grins, proffers her the joint again.

               I can’t do this anymore.

               Do what? Hunh?

               This. This bullshit, normative fairy tale
               about who I’m allowed to like.

                     (eyebrows awaggle)
               You mean hiding your attraction for me?

               I mean the fact that I’m a lesbian!

The minute the words are out of her mouth, she feels a great weight lifted, a burden rolling off her shoulders like an overfull backpack at the end of a nine-class day.
Jantje sits back, speechless.
At length, he ventures

               Well, would you maybe be open to a threesome?

She leaves him writhing on the ground, clutching himself.

It was around that time that I started to become aware once more of my surroundings. I remembered coming home that morning, going straight to the phone. I’m not sure whom I dialed, but when they picked up, I screamed into it—and this was months ago—and then it all went black. The next thing I knew, I was sitting in a chair in a bare room answering questions I didn’t understand, asked by people I thought I knew but who were acting all out of character. But I managed to escape, confuse my interrogator, and beat The Cop over the head with the teddy bear—or perhaps it was the teddy bear hitting him over the head with the feather or the scissors—either way, I escaped from that little room where nothing made sense and I came back out to the Hereandnow—or at least it looked like my own zero-world of empirical experience.

Cautiously, caustically, I walk on-screen from the right and observe my surroundings…


The first thing I notice is Jantje sitting on the bench, outside school property.

                              Hey, man. Haven’t seen you in a while.

Why is he here? I ask myself.

                              How have things been going here?

He pauses, or perhaps hesitates, and then shrugs.

                              Same old, same old, I guess.

                              And what’s been going on with you, Jantje?

So I get him to tell me his story, as it’s progressed up to this point. Still wondering what it is that has brought me specifically here, to him, I am most intrigued by his account of The Running Stoners, and ask him to describe them in more detail, at which point a pattern starts to emerge. I address him urgently.

                                             I—wait, but who—
                              Listen to me, Jantje. Those Running Stoners…
                              they are dangerous people.
                              You mustn’t let them near you.

                              What? They seem like cool enough guys.

                                             I—but who am I?
                              Listen to me, Jantje, if you value your skin.
                              Heed my words and let them be.

And then I disappear and am never heard from again in this draft of the story.


Jantje stands at the urinal, spacing out, not even peeing. Didier walks in.

               Hey, man.

Jantje looks at him, deadpan.

               How’d it go last night? You get your stud on?

Jantje’s eyes narrow.


Jantje zips up, heads for the door.

               Aw, man, don’t tell me you croaked—

                     (turns, screams)
               SHE’S A LESBIAAAAAAN!!!!!

Jantje slams the door behind him, leaving Didier feeling confused and betrayed. But it’s nothing compared to the hurt and betrayal that Jantje feels himself after last night’s humiliation.
Much of the rest of the day is spent on the downside of a previous up-kick, his mind spiraling upwards into a fever pitch of red rage while his heart plummets deep into his own digestive system, where it will be slowly disintegrated over the next thousand years.


Jantje walks back towards the main building, carrying a waffle. It’s still half uneaten but he heads for the trashcan—


The sound of her voice makes him stop dead, but not like it used to. He turns around, but not to look at her, only to confront her.

She grabs him by the collar and lifts him up over her head, no doubt endowed with her new lesbian superpowers.

               How could you do this to me?
               What gives you the right to out me?!

                          WHAT JANTJE PROBABLY SHOULD SAY
               You never said anything about
               keeping it secret!

                          WHAT JANTJE IS PLANNING TO SAY
               You broke my heart, bitch!

But before he manages to get out the words, he catches a glimpse of The Running Stoners out of the corner of his eye. They’re coming towards him.

               Silly little man!* Say, I have it
               against you!—**

(*I swear this a thing people say, though usually in a more comical context than she probably intended it.)

(**This, too, is a thing that gets said, and literally it just means “I’m talking to you,” but sometimes it really is this appropriate.)

               They’re here!

               What? Who?

               The Running Stoners…

Sylvie lets Jantje down and turns around to face them, but there is no one standing where he’s looking at. Annoyed, she looks back at him, only to find he’s backing away from invisible forces.

               Please! No! Don’t come any closer!
               I don’t want to have anything to do with you!

Sylvie frowns, then finally rolls her eyes and stalks off.

Jantje, meanwhile, properly terrified by what I told him earlier, takes off running, with The Stoners following close behind. They run past the Horta House. They run past the EU stuff at Schumann that no one can ever quite remember what it’s for. They run past the National Basilica, some windmills, some bull fighters, the Coliseum. They run past the Kremlin and the Forbidden City and the Taj Mahal. And when they finally catch up to Jantje, somewhere in an alley behind the Place de Monnaie, close to À la Mort Subite, Jantje truly thinks he’s going to die. It’s not just my warning telling him this, it’s his own screaming limbs and searing chest.

The Running Stoners seat themselves flanking him, one on each side. The ugly one, Nathan, addresses him, saying “Verklikkerlichtjes.” No explanation.
                  Jantje doesn’t get it. And neither do you.
                  Then the pretty one, Eric, says, “Hey, you wanna hear another joke?”
                  Jantje really isn’t sure. Like you, he’s heard enough jokes this year.
                  “What does a 400-pound bunny-rabbit ask for?”
                  Jantje pauses, gulps. “I don’t know?”


Next thing Jantje knows, he’s Running, Running with The Stoners, Running for his life from The mad-ass Cop on a bicycle, cackling mechanically! Running till his side splits open like a melon when you throw it against a brick wall that has spikes on it. Running right up until the point all three of them stop and Eric Tanner reaches into his pocket and extracts something long, black and blinking in certain places. On closer inspection, the object appears to have buttons on it.
It’s a remote control for a DVD player.
Why the hell would anyone be carrying that around?
Eric presses a button—


Static on the TV.

Eric and Nathan lie back on the couch. Nathan takes a hit off the spliff, hands it to his brother.



Eric takes a hit, coughs.

               That is some good shit.

The clock on the wall reads half ’til seven.