Sunday, June 29, 2008

Charlie........The Final Chapter

Ever been to Oildale or Bakersfield in the middle of summer? Well trust me , it's pretty hot. The sweltering heat and Lena's yard, which was basically packed dirt and the occasional sprig of brown grass seemed in perfect keeping with one another. Charlie on the other hand seemed oblivious to the heat. I say this because he walked out of the house in a leather jacket. And just in case wearing a leather coat in 90 plus heat didn't make him stand out enough, there was the color. Remember in the early 80's when people thought natural colored, yellowish leather coats looked good? Well they were wrong, and 10 years later, Charlie was even more wrong for wearing a yellow leather coat in Southern California in the middle of summer.

You don't have to be exceptionally intelligent to be a criminal, but you need at least a smidgen of common sense. Like any other occupation, from dishwasher to brain surgeon, common sense is a prerequisite. Shows like Americas dumbest criminals highlight dumb people doing retarded shit. Charlie would be of that caliber as a criminal. He gets in my car and we hit the 5 for a two and a half hour drive to Los Angeles. Somewhere around 30 minutes in to the drive, I remember looking over at this guy, my friend, and thinking I must be insane. He still had his coat on, and big ass mirror sunglasses, I recall they reminded me of southern cop glasses from a bad 70's flick. I drove a dark red Lincoln at the time, red interior, and here is this knucklehead sitting beside me, all bright and yellow, holding god knows how much. I felt like there was a giant flashing arrow pointing directly at my car.

I remember asking him why he was wearing the coat, and making a comment about sticking out like a giant douche bag at a dick convention, or something along those lines. He told me that it was inside the coat, I naturally assumed he meant it was sewn in the lining or something. I remember he unzipped the coat and opened it up, there were two packages , one in each inside coat pocket, about 3 inches or so stuck out of the top of each pocket, like little loaves of bread in shrink wrap. Yeah, I know. I asked if that was it, was that all he was going to do to conceal it, just zip his yellow coat up and act natural. He gave me the old, I know what I'm doing routine, so I left it alone.

I recall pulling up to the curb at LAX, I know I asked him if he was sure about this, of course he was. I think I asked him if he had money for a cab and food, and I seem to recall he snickered a little when I asked. It's been a long time , so maybe I'm just second guessing, but that's how I remember it today. I'm sure I breathed a sigh of relief as I pulled away from the curb, leaving the Ralph Cramden of the drug trade behind me, no doubt believing the whole ordeal was over. I was wrong.

About 3 hours after dropping Charlie off, I had taken care of my business and made it to my motel in Redondo Beach where there was a message waiting for me. It was from Charlies mother. There was a problem, actually a couple of problems. I had told Charlie to call me when he made it home. I had told Charlie where I was staying, but not his mother. I almost didn't call her back, but curiosity got the best of me. She told me that Charlie called her collect, he had missed his flight. Could I pick him up? I told her I'd pick him up and drop him off at a motel or the bus station, after that I was done. She told me he was at a gas station on La cienega About 2 or 3 miles from the airport.

When I pulled in to the gas station I saw him on the pay phone. His yellow jacket was gone. His clothes were filthy, and he had grass or weeds in his hair. I pulled up behind him and rolled down the passenger window, and yelled his name. He dropped the phone, took the 3 or 4 steps to my car, and dove through the window. He somehow managed to get the majority of his body scrunched down in the floor board , while simultaneously telling me to go, like we were being chased or something, which we clearly were not. I pulled out on to La cienega, and told him to sit up , which he finally did. I have no way of knowing how truthful he was being with me. I do know that drug induced paranoia will make people do some silly shit, and Charlie was no exception.

First of all he was really high, spooked and sprung, out of his mind high. This is what he told me as I drove back to my room. He bought a one way ticket to Kansas City and had about an hour before his flight left. He said he was really nervous so he went in the bathroom and did a little bump just to calm his nerves. I don't know if he did speed or coke, either way it didn't calm his nerves. According to Charlie while he was waiting to board his flight people started staring at him. Probably the yellow fucking coat and bugged eyes. By the time he got within a few people of going through the security screeners, he was certain they were on to him. He broke ranks from the line and did an O.J. Simpson Ala' Hertz rent a car commercial, running through LAX. I asked him where the coat was, he told me he threw it in a trash can. With a straight face Charlie asked me to take him to go get it. I ignored that, and asked him why he was dirty and had weeds and shit in his hair. He explained that he hid in some bushes somewhere between the airport and where I picked him up.

There was no way I was taking him to get his coat, I was done. I told him I'd take him to the bus station and asked if he had any money. It was in his coat as well. in fact unknown to me up till then, Charlie told me he had several thousand dollars in that coat. Not a dime in his pocket, everything in that yellow coat. He had bumped the price up on the guy he owed. So Charley in his infinite wisdom had put everything in the coat. I took him to my room, gave him some clean clothes, made him look semi normal. I gave him a hundred bucks and dropped him off at the bus station. On the way he begged, pleaded, and even tried to cry. The last thing he said to me before he got out of the car was along the lines of "some friend you turned out to be". I was thinking the same thing myself.

The end to this story is anticlimactic. I left charlie at the bus depot, pissed off and paranoid. I don't know if he went back to retrieve his shit. I don't know what happened to Charlie. I heard he stayed in Oildale and ended up catching a drug charge. Rumor was that he muled some dope for the Mexicans and got caught. I do know that he stayed away from Kansas City, which was probably the single smartest thing he ever did. I cant say I miss the Charlie that he had become, drug addicts don't make very good friends. I have often asked myself why I ever got involved in that mess. The best I can answer is to say this. I did it for the old Charlie. The Charlie I remembered from my childhood. The one that got picked on and smelled like pee. But that Charlie was long gone, in his place was just another wigged out dope fiend. I never looked back.


  1. Thanks for this little series. I will thank the gods every day that my "Charlie" never got that far gone.

  2. You're probably lucky you're alive to tell this story. My guess is Charlie is not.

  3. My story ended the same way. My friend begged me to help him (after he made a very bad situation much worse). I have him $100 and told him he was on his own. He was crying. He'd been up for days. I guessed that he partied away what was fronted to him (again). That was 15 years ago. I'm glad he never found me again. I'm glad I never messed around with that stuff. Most of the people I grew up with did and they're either homeless, dead or in jail.

  4. With stories like this who needs fiction

  5. There was absolutely nothing else you could have done. The danger you put yourself in by even doing that! I have a brother who's an addict, and sadly enough, there comes a time when you just have to walk away.
    Luckily he's been clean for about four years now and is doing great, but not before we all had to just let him go.

    This story was great. I can totally see this a movie. An Indy film.

    Keep writing.