The Dwarf Shriner Massacre

The Dwarf Shriner Massacre:

I am sitting in the back of the car with Perkie, Chris is at the steering wheel and Pete is riding shotgun. We are all as quiet as stoned little church mice, cruising down 4th street, grooving on a Uriah Heap tape Chris has put on. I am lost in a minor green study, still thanking the gods that be that the rednecks didn’t just take our money and shoot us in our respective heads when suddenly Chris says ‘Whoa, oh no, oh no, no, NO!’ I look up from my feet, at which I have been staring since getting in the car—I don’t know why; is there a why?—just in time to clock that we are headed towards a heavily trafficked intersection with West Peachtree Street and that there is a red traffic light pointed in our general direction. But something is definitely amiss; not only is the car not slowing up as it should be, it seems to be accelerating as we rocket downhill. And least it be forgotten, because it is so easy to forget these days, we have a pound of the illicit weed bouncing about in the trunk. This is not the time to be running red lights, I think to myself.

Chris yells ‘Hold on, I got no fuckin’ brakes!’ and he is actually trying to swing right into the flow of the one-way traffic on West Peachtree, which for a split second I think he just might pull off, when WHAM!! CRASH!! BOOM!! We clobber another car, sending it spinning through a series of horrific roof-rolls across West Peachtree like a badass scene out of that Steve McQueen movie, Bullitt. During one of the last rollovers the driver’s door pops open and like a surrealistic jack-in-the-box, out flies a Shriner, red fez and all. He does a couple of rolls himself and ends up lying spread eagle in the street next to his totaled automobile, which also ends up lying on its side. From the few seconds I dare to look I can pretty much guess that the other driver has shuffled off the old mortal coil. As in he is dead. We, on the other hand, are still alive. At least for the time being. We are perched like sitting ducks in the middle of the intersection, left fender smashed in and pinning the left front wheel so that it is impossible to even get out of the way of the oncoming traffic. But the other drivers seem to understand something is up because even though they don’t really slow down (this is Atlanta), they do somehow avoid hitting us, flowing around us like we are this giant blue rock in the middle of the stream of traffic. At first none of us dare to open our doors, so we are just sitting there, heads bobbing about, waiting for who knows what. Then Chris suddenly hops out, shimmies up to the front of the car and with a strength nobody knew he had, surely including himself, grabs hold of the crushed fender and pulls it out and away from the trapped wheel. It’s kind of like something you’d see in a Superman comic. Then he hops back in and we are ready to roll. Except now there is suddenly an Atlanta city cop standing in front of us, directing traffic and motioning for us to pull over into the gas station on the corner.

“We are so busted,” I hear someone say and after thinking about it for a second or two I realize that it is me who said it. “Where the hell did that cop come from?” I ask almost indignantly. I mean the whole thing just went down a minute ago. It’s like he just materialized, Time Tunnel style.

“What the fuck just happened?” Pete asks, stunned like the rest of us. His speech is a little bit slurred because he is busy munching on the two joints he had parked prerolled in his top shirt pocket. Smart hipster thinking; get rid of the hard evidence in any way possible. Unfortunately we are not currently in possession of a large herbivorous animal that could do the same thing with the pound in the trunk.

“The brakes are dead; I didn’t have any goddamned brakes at all’. Chris is as pale as a ghost. I think would be too if I’d just turned a Shriner into roadkill while transporting a large quantity of a controlled substance.

“We could make a run for it,” says Perkie. “Just floor it.” But suddenly our copper is joined by several of his law enforcement brethren, lights flashing, and as I look out the car window the place is now practically crawling with them. Never around when you need them, but when you don’t they come in battalions, for Christ’s sake.

“Are you fucking crazy?” This is Chris speaking. “You want to run from the cops in the middle of downtown with a car that doesn’t have any brakes?” That Chris is calling somebody other than himself crazy does not pass my addled brain unnoted.

“Brakes are the last thing you need when you’re running from The Law,” Perkie astutely observes, but this practical tidbit goes unheeded.

“We’ve got to get rid of that fuckin’ dope but quick,” says Pete. Usually a mild-mannered sort of guy, he is anything but that now. It looks as if his eyeballs, which are cherry red, are ready to pop out of their sockets and take off on their own. With the help of the cop, who is waving his arms around like a human windmill, Chris has now maneuvered the car into the corner gas station. But owing to the dearth of brakes we are moving at a good clip towards the pumps. Sideswiping cars is one thing, mowing over gas pumps is something else all together.

“The car! Stop the fucking car!” Chris hollers and we all leap out and grab hold of whatever piece of automobile is at hand. By a combination of foot friction and pushing and shoving, we miraculously bring the Mustang to a state of motionlessness just before impact. Perkie, the lone thinker among us, grabs a couple of loose bricks from an adjacent rotting wall and shoves them under the tires.

“That weed isn’t our only problem,” Perkie says, looking down the road towards the laid out driver of the wrecked car. “I think you may have offed that guy. He looks pretty much on the deceased side to me”. There are two cops standing over the Shriner who, against all odds and several laws of physics, still has his ridiculous little red hat strapped on to his head. Little head. On top of everything else he appears to be a midget. We have killed a midget Shriner. Karmically this has to be an extra bad thing.

There is the wailing siren of an approaching ambulance and the two cops start to walk up towards us to direct the ambulance in. But then something really weird happens. I mean weirder. The dead Shriner suddenly sits up, takes a quick look at his car, looks at the cops and then he gets up and … takes off running down West Peachtree. One of the cops turns and sees him sprinting away and then they are both off and running, too. He is one quick midget, that’s for sure and soon both he and the cops have disappeared out of sight, heading towards I 85.

“What the fuck?” I say.

“Wow, I guess he wasn’t so dead after all,” says Perkie. “That dude ought to be in the midget Olympics.”

“Yeah, well that’s cool,” says Pete, “but the only way we’re going to get out of this without getting majorly busted is if one of us takes a runner, and I mean now, while those two porkers are busy chasing the dwarf.”

“What’s a runner?” I ask, but I already know.

“Can’t; bum foot”, says Perkie. The awful thing is that it was true. I’d stepped on his ankle playing living room soccer a couple of nights earlier. He had been gimping around ever since, deliberately making me feel guilty at every opportunity.

“Well I sure as hell can’t leave the car,” says Chris. “The cops are obviously going to want to talk to me.” Pete and I look at each other. It’s a suicide mission and we both know it. Even with two cops missing there are at least four more of them left and one is heading towards us as we speak.

“I’ve got a record”, says Pete. “If they catch me I’ll be doing hard time. I can’t risk it. It’s gotta be you, man.”

So there we have it. Me, the eternal fool, is going to be running offensive end with a pound of Mary Jane through the streets of Atlanta in the broad light of day. Surrounded by cops. I have visions of said coppers yelling at me to halt and me not doing so and then bang, bang, bang they shoot me down like a bank robber or something worse. I feel like barfing.

At this point the cop who was first on the scene has walked over and is talking to Chris. Chris slowly but surely moves away from us, drawing the cop with him towards the front of the car. They are bending down and pointing and stuff.

“This will never work,” I say, but Pete and Perkie have already moved around to the trunk.

“The trick,” Perkie says, “is to not look guilty; project innocence.” Thanks, Perk, I’m thinking, my legs wobbling about as if they have been transmuted into meat Jello. Just how does a longhaired freak in tattered jeans and a tie-dyed T-shirt project innocence while charging through a horde of cops, hugging a large black plastic bag full of what is quite clearly dope?

“Pretend it’s your laundry,” he adds, as if tuning in on my inner havoc.

“It’s fucking locked”, says Pete, referring to the trunk. For some reason this makes me extremely happy, I’m off the hook, but not for long, because Perkie is over by Chris in a flash fetching the keys and after a brief little chat he’s back again.

“You’re not going to believe this”, he says as he nonchalantly pops the trunk, “but that Shriner? Cop says he was drunk as a skunk. They could smell his breath from five feet. He probably thought he caused the whole thing! I bet that’s why he took off.”

I am not particularly amused. I am moving towards the trunk in slow motion, my fate sealed and almost accepted when suddenly a VW minivan pulls up out of nowhere right next to us.

“Hey Pete, what’s going on, man?” Two longhaired and bearded hipsters get out of the minivan, which is of course painted with all sorts of psychedelic shit, freak camouflage, and walk over to us. These are apparently old buddies of Pete’s, but what they really are is the fucking Cavalry. Because in the course of sixty seconds we have hatched a new plan to elude the long arm of the law, a much better plan than the old Mr. T-gets-shot-in-the-back plan. The hipsters pull their van up close to the back of Chris’s car, open the sliding side door and the dope flies through the air like a perfect lateral pass. The door snaps shut and they are away, zipping down West Peachtree before any of the cops have even bothered to look in our direction. We all burst out laughing with relief and here’s Chris coming around the side of the car.

“What’s so fucking funny?” he wants to know and after hearing of our good fortune, he smiles too and tells us that he’s not even in trouble with the cops.

“I just had the brakes relined last week,” he says. “I’ve got the bill in the glove compartment. The cop said the brake guys most likely didn’t bleed them properly when they were finished and that I could probably sue their asses for damages.”

*

The really funny thing, which in retrospect is not so funny, is that the cops never even checked our trunk. Of course they didn’t. Why would they? But if I had taken off running … well, I’m sure this little incident could have had a different and not-so-happy ending.

Later that afternoon Pete’s friend’s dropped by our house with the goods. We cut them out a generous portion for their troubles and then Perkie and I headed down to the package store for drink and before long we had a full blown party going.

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