“To Lie and Toke in LA” by Michael Estrin
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, Michael Estrin uses new laws to his advantage.
The first time I bought weed in Los Angeles, I listened to—and talked about—vintage synthesizers for hours. I was high. My dealer subscribed to the puff-puff-buy school of marijuana retail. It would’ve been rude not to chat and toke before business. He knew as much about dealing as I knew about electronic music, or—as you can infer—getting out of awkwardly long conversations with stoners. That was a decade ago. These days, I buy my cannabis at a dispensary with valet parking and a rewards program. All I have to do is lie.
I got right with the law five years ago, found a doctor with a green cross in a strip mall. His office was between a Laundromat and massage parlor.
I pushed a buzzer; the metal gate clicked open. Inside, I filled out a form on a computer because, as the receptionist joked, the doctor had gone green, which evidently meant that the office was paperless.
Dr. Daryl’s exam room looked more like a TV set for a medical drama than the real deal—all the fixings for a real exam, or a perfect front.
“You want a cookie, dude?” Dr. Daryl asked as he read over my medical history.
For a second I balked, wondering if they were—what was the terminology?—medicated.
“Dude, my wife made Mexican wedding cookies,” he said. “I’ve got to get them away from me because they’re like crack, and I’m addicted.”
I ate the cookie—which was delicious, but not addictively so. Then I told Dr. Daryl that stress was causing me to grind my teeth.
Dr. Daryl told me to stick to indica strains, which are reputedly more mellow and capable of inducing the physiological condition known as couch lock.
I paid the receptionist one hundred dollars cash, and a few minutes later I walked out with my recommendation. The lie was official.
On my second visit, this time for a renewal, I hobbled in on crutches. The lie was actually real, but it didn’t matter.
“Damn, dude,” Dr. Daryl said. “I wish I could give you two recommendations.”
I suggested that he waive the fifty-dollar renewal fee, and he told me he was glad to see I still had my sense of humor.
On my third and final visit to the offices of Dr. Daryl, I missed him altogether.
“Dr. Daryl is stuck in traffic,” his receptionist said.
Alarm showed in my eyes. How would I get my weed? Did I still have my dealer’s number? Would I have to listen to that awful music?
“Fuck it. You’re renewing, I’ll just handle it.”
Dr. Daryl’s receptionist printed me a new recommendation and charged me forty dollars, never explaining if the ten-dollar discount was because they had lowered their prices, or because I hadn’t actually seen the doctor.
The following year, Dr. Daryl emailed to say he had retired. Every stoner in LA needs a doctor’s note, and apparently Dr. Daryl had written enough of them to retire before forty.
Dr. Jerry’s office wasn’t as nice on the inside as Dr. Daryl’s, but it was in a more upscale strip mall, one with a dry cleaner and a Jamaican restaurant that had solid Yelp reviews.
But Dr. Jerry kept nodding off during the exam. At one point, he woke up with a start and asked me when I had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
I explained that I didn’t have HIV/AIDS.
“Whatever,” Dr. Jerry said, yawning.
He signed the form and sent me out to pay his receptionist, who was afflicted with her own case of couch lock. We watched Cops together until it went to commercial, then she got my paperwork.
A year later, I returned to the same office, but Dr. Jerry was gone. He too had retired, and I hoped he was napping somewhere warm.
I met with Dr. Danna. She was younger, better rested, and apparently quite hungry.
“Are you going to bogart those nachos?” I asked.
“Seriously? They’re my nachos,” she said.
“Yeah, it’s just that my first doctor shared his snacks.”
MICHAEL ESTRIN grew up in Los Angeles, fled, and returned. He got a medical marijuana recommendation while on assignment for California Lawyer Magazine. He is the author of Murder and Other Distractions. Learn more at his blog, LocalRando.com.
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: May 28, 2015
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