“NO2” by Timmy Reed
Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuana, cocaine, speed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)
This week, Timmy Reed talks of summer afternoons spent getting high on NO2. (Read “The Murdered Ghost,” Timmy Reed’s contribution to our Mondays Are Murder series, here.)
We used to sit in my friend Stevie’s tree house and huff nitrous oxide out of a gas cracker we had stolen from Crate & Barrel at the mall. Stevie’s older brother bought the cartridges for us at the local head shop. They were silver and shaped like bullets. They looked the same as the CO2 cartridges we used to operate Stevie’s BB gun, which we also kept in the tree house. The tree house was where we kept everything we held dear that summer.
Nitrous was our newest obsession. We had both been hearing about “laughing gas” our whole lives. We had seen it administered on cartoons and in movies. Trying the stuff was a necessity, the same as trying most other things at that point in our lives. Once we learned adults could purchase the cartridges legally to aerate whipped cream and other frothy deserts, it was on. We spent many hours sitting next to each other, bare backs against a velvet poster on the tree house wall, blasting our skulls with the icy gas until our lips turned blue and our voices dropped into throaty, slow-motion groans that echoed in our eardrums. We didn’t know how the gas worked, and we couldn’t have cared less, but it was cutting off oxygen to our brains. That felt wonderful.
We would get together late in the morning, after Stevie’s parents had left for work, and sit around waiting for his brother to wake up. We’d pool our money while we waited and smoked cigarettes I had stolen from my mom the night before. Our routine was solid. By mid-afternoon we would be falling against each other giggling, fumbling with our little silver boom box to get the song in just the right place as we hit the cracker. The boom box had dual headphone jacks and we used them. It felt like our brains were connected and tiny electric birds were chirping up and down the wires that joined them.
We talked about ourselves like we were scientists experimenting, like we had discovered the drug and were the first ones to explore its effects. We held our breath. We did handstands. We put beach towels over our heads like birds in cages, reasoning that they would catch the gas we exhaled. We filled our lungs and then pushed each other down the zip line to land in hysterics on a worn patch of grass near Stevie’s mother’s flowerbeds. We were a team, a duo, and it felt like we were exploring the universe together. The tree house was our spaceship. The ship never went anywhere because it didn’t need to.
I rode home each night and sat through dinner with my head thumping. Sometimes my legs felt weird, like I had been floating for a long time and just hit the ground by accident. My parents would ask me about my day and I would tell them I had been playing video games.
“I think you boys are playing too many of those video games,” my father said. “They will rot your brain.”
“Besides,” my mother added. “It is so beautiful outside right now. You two should be outside, exploring, trying new things. Not stuck inside, connected by a bunch of wires.”
I always excused myself from dinner early. I went upstairs and turned the TV on. I put my head under a pillow so the voices on the TV were muffled, like people far away on another planet, trying to communicate. I waited for morning to come. Eventually I fell asleep and my brain created beautiful dreams to reward me for sleeping. I would wake up in the middle of the night and forget the dreams I was having. I would go steal two cigarettes from my mother’s purse and put them in the basket of my bike. Then I would go back to sleep and more dreams would come, in rich colors that would touch my whole body, fill my pores, only to be forgotten in the morning.
I didn’t mind forgetting my dreams. I was alone in them and I wanted to have an experience I could share. If Stevie could have joined me in my dreams, it would have been more fun. We talked about it more than once, going into each other’s dreams, exploring the universe. I wondered what we would do there. It was cool to think about.
Stevie looked thoughtful when I asked him.
“More nitrous probably,” he said, and our heads broke apart laughing.
TIMMY REED is a writer from Baltimore, Maryland. He has recently published or has work forthcoming from a number of places including Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Everyday Genius, Necessary Fiction, and Atticus Review. He edits the What Lit section of What Weekly magazine and recently published a collection of stories, Tell God I Don’t Exist. Learn more here: http://underratedanimals.wordpress.com/tell-god-i-dont-exist/.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected], and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series, Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry Stahl, Lydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).
Posted: Jan 30, 2014
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