Issues Winter 2020-21

Alexis Berry

It’s Not Weed

            “It’s not weed.”

            Officer Williams stared at him, awestruck, the crumpled plastic baggy still precariously suspended in front of his looming face; he had never met a teenager more stubborn. “Kid, I’m not stupid. I know marijuana when I see it.”

            The boy groaned, covering his oily cheeks with dirt-caked hands. “Please don’t call the weed ‘marijuana. Who does that?” 

It was a long time before he peeked out again, his vision miraculously unobscured by the shaggy tendrils of black hair that hung loosely over his brow; the longest piece drove straight down the center of his face, right along the tip of his crooked nose. His eyes gleamed through it; they were the color of over-creamed coffee—the lightest shade of brown that either of the police officers had ever seen. They were in sync with the constant, sporadic movements of his body, flying across the room like darts, and chasing nonexistent butterflies down the darkened corridor. 

            Drugs, Officer McMillan thought, shaking his head. He looked over to where Officer Williams was still emptying the contents of the boy’s massive backpack onto the bland beige tile: a rotten apple core, a plastic toy cow the size of a football, a couple of rocks, a lacy bra, a neat stack of completed homework written in elegant cursive. It was an odd arrangement with the three boxes of rainbow frosted cupcakes sitting beside the mountain of valuables. 

Officer McMillan shook his head, then turned back to his case. “I’m going to have to ask you again for a form of identification, bub. You’re not going anywhere until you do; we won’t have anyone to call to come and get you.”

            At that, the boy’s attention stilled. He laughed, more to himself than the two officers standing before him, with his head thrown back in the maniacal glee of any typical high school sophomore. “There’s no one to call,” he said simply. “Ma’s out with the girls, Dad’s somewhere . . . maybe. He could be dead, but I wouldn’t know.”

            Officer McMillan held back a sigh. He was a thick, burly man—bald, with a head shaped like a hard-boiled egg and a tiny red mustache that held no real value. He was used to cases like this—raggedy young people with no place to go, no place to stay; he tried to have sympathy. 

His partner, Officer Williams, wasn’t so polite. “Fork it over,” he demanded. He had abandoned the backpack by then, along with its mysteries. His sharp gaze was set firmly on the plastic baggy. “Now.”

            The boy sighed. With a reluctant glance toward the mustached cop, he fished through his fanny pack to reveal a tattered leather wallet that read “Spank Me” across its front. “Made it myself,” the boy shrugged, and awarded them with his driver’s license. “Here you are.”

“Dimitrius Wasikowska,” Officer Williams read. His clean-shaven face twitched at the sight of the boy’s photo ID; he looked as though he had just killed somebody—wild-eyed, yet extremely pleased. “What a name.”

“My homies call me Meech,” the boy said, winking. “Homeboy Meech—that’s me.”

“Meech?” Officer McMillan questioned.

“Yeah. Get it? Di-MEECH-trius.”

“Well, Meech, before I run this through, I want you to tell me exactly what happened in the grocery store.”

Meech blinked. “Like . . . everything?”

“Yes. From start to finish.” 

Meech smiled. “Well, it all started with Jaime. You know Jaime, right? Jaime Weeks? Shrimpy kid, kinda smells funny, with hella freckles? Eh, probably not; he’s a square. Probably wouldn’t find him up in here. Maybe over at Penn’s house. You know Penn? I think she’s been in here a couple of times. Well, Jaime met my girl Penn back in our science class; they were biology partners, and at first, Jaime was all like uh-uh, and then he was like uh-huh! But by the time he figured it out—that dopey-ass—Penn was already being smooched by Parker. They were so gross—all kissy-eyed and shit. Me and Cassandra never had that, but we’re made of stronger material. But anyway, Jaime was real pressed about that—about Penn and Parker—and Penn was real pressed about Jaime and Veronica. But that was all Jaime’s fault. That dumb bitch, Veronica, you definitely know her.”

“I don’t,” Officer McMillan said, frozen in place.

Officer Williams sighed. “I do. Remember the girl who was giving beer to the alligator?”

“Oh, right.”

“We don’t need to talk about her,” Meech said hastily. “It happened at that dance—ooh, that dance. . . . That’s when shit really hit the fan. Parker was all like, ‘Yes, baby, let’s head back to the crib so I can give you the schnitzel,’ and Penn was all like, ‘Hell no, I’m the feminist dream queen—my body is mine!’ And then she slapped him. And then Jaime was all like, ‘Fuck Veronica,’ and tried to slide in all hero-like—’cause he’s stupid too—but Penn wasn’t having it and slapped him too. They both still haven’t talked about it; they both went home and cried in the mirror and left me there, moaning and waiting because my two best friends can’t just reconcile like actual adults. So, what the heck do I do? I was already the third wheel, whether they admit it or not. Now, I’m just a wheel sitting in a smelly dumpster garage all alone with blue balls because Cassandra doesn’t FUCKING LOVE ME!”

“Oh dear,” Officer McMillan winced. 

This girl?” Officer Williams asked. He reached into the pile of garbage that sat next to Meech’s empty backpack. He came up with a bent photograph in his hand—a profile of a pretty young woman with thick corkscrew coils and bangs that perfectly shaped the dark-toned complexion of her heart-shaped face. Her lips were pink, which clashed against her white blouse that was all too open around the ample swell of her breasts. She stared sultrily up at them with angled ebony eyes, long-lashed and bright with hidden chaos that could destroy any man who had the audacity to even try. “Forget it, pal. She looks like she should be on the cover of Playboy.”

“Hey!” Meech snared. The ditsy look in his eyes had turned downright murderous; for a moment, Officer McMillan thought the boy was going to reach out and lash at him. “You don’t talk about her like that. That’s my girlfriend! And she’s a goddess—not a subject of your perverted fantasies! Creep,” he scoffed.

Officer McMillan waited a moment for the boy to cool off, then gently tried again. “Dimitrius. . . .”

“Meech,” Meech corrected, taking a deep breath—but not before shooting Officer Williams a venomous glance. “Put that down—back in my bag! I won’t tell you anything until you do, thanks. . . . All right, so, where was I? Oh, yes—Cassandra. I met her in the second grade. Her last name is Winters; she sat right behind me. She walked into class wearing a red plaid skirt with her hair in pigtails—a tiny little bow in each one. She had a smile on her face when she sat down at the desk behind mine, and even though it didn’t last long, that was when I knew that I loved her. Her pencil ran out of lead halfway through the class, and I happened to have that 0.7-inch size that she needed to finish her assignment. That was when sparks really flew—”

“Knock it off, already!” Officer Williams slammed his fist down on the edge of the blue plastic chair. “Enough with the bullshit. Tell us where you got the stuff.”

Meech blinked. “The cupcakes or . . . all of this?” he gestured down at himself shyly. “’Cause that’s all my mom. My dad had no part in this. He left when I was four. He was a Greek man, too afraid of commitment, and my mom wanted—”

Cupcakes, Mr. Wasikowska. Not anything else.”

Meech swallowed hard. His gaze flitted over to the three boxes of glittery cupcakes that sat on the cracked tile—chocolate cake with vanilla icing, each topped with rainbow sprinkles and a unicorn-shaped centerpiece with big plastic blue eyes. He looked away when his stomach growled, then turned and faced Officer McMillan. 

“I’ll keep it short this time,” he promised, taking a deep breath. He looked almost nervous. “It started this morning. I told you about Jaime; he’s really upset about this whole thing with Penn. He hasn’t been eating very much—or doing anything, really. Which is his problem, yeah—but I’m his best friend, so it’s my problem, too. So, this morning, in Chemistry, I asked him if he was doing anything this weekend; that would be tomorrow, now, since I’m here instead of there, but anyway. . . . He said no, as always, and if you saw him, you’d understand why. His hair was a mess—and his hair is never a mess—and the dark circles under his eyes were so big, he looked even more like a raccoon than he usually does.” 

Officer McMillan cocked a brow; he couldn’t help it. “He looks like a raccoon?”

“Well, yeah. He’s tall and all, but still shrew and rodent-like, with little pincher hands,” Meech continued, pinching his fingers like a crab. “I wanted to throw him a little surprise get together, per se. Just with some friends from school, maybe Fiji and Aunchka and Fat Wanda. . . .”

“Fat Wanda?” Officer Williams asked suspiciously. He leaned closer, resting his fist mockingly under his chin. “And who exactly is this ‘Fat Wanda’?”

Meech grimaced. “Well, she’s Fat Wanda.”

“Yes, I got that. But who is she?”

“Fat Wanda is Fat Wanda.”

“Who is Fat Wanda?”

“Your daughter, Wanda. Sometimes we call her Weefi, but most of the time it’s just Fat Wanda,” Meech said hotly, while Officer Williams glowered. “Anyway, anyway—we’re all good friends, and that was the plan. We were going to head together to Jaime’s after we picked up our food—hence, the cupcakes. Earlier, maybe a couple of hours after school ended, I walked down Concord Street toward Elephant Grocers—that little brick building with the yellow overhang painted with a big gray elephant and palm leaves. It’s just a couple of minutes from my house; I go there all the time. The woman at the counter—her name is Lori—said hi to me when I walked in, asked me how my father was—like she always does. I toured through the aisles until I found the cupcakes that I wanted—the bright and cheerful ones I knew that Jaime would hate. I grabbed three boxes, because I’m a fat ass and at least two of them are for me, and went to check out at the counter that I always check out at. Yet . . . here I am! You tell me, Officer, ’cause I’m lost.” 

Officer William’s face purpled. “She accused you of shoplifting. Three boxes of cupcakes.”

“With buttercream frosting,” Officer McMillan added. 

“Well, I didn’t. No one is that stupid,” Meech retorted. “I paid for those cupcakes fair and square—”

“I’m not sure if that’s how that phrase is supposed to be used.”

“But I did! I worked hard for that money! Thirty-five, maybe forty hours a week at Lard Bomb Burgers down the street—that’s a lot for someone of my brain capacity. There’s only one brain cell left, and it’s on vacation at a rooftop bar in Antarctica,” Meech said. “I worked for that money—I even got myself a fancy new card and a bank account so I’ll be able to get an apartment next year.”

“Wait, you didn’t already have a card?”

“No. I usually pay in cash. Or pennies, I should say. I’m a dumpster diver. But I figured, since this was three boxes of cupcakes, I should make it easy on Lori and pay with a card. But, no. When I bagged my items, that crazy bitch had Joe the stocker guy grab me and call the police. Before I could even get a foot out the door! Is that how you treat returning customers? I think not!”

“Dimitrius, you didn’t use a bag. You never bagged anything,” Officer McMillan stressed. “You tried to shove them down the front of your shirt. That screams suspect!”

Meech paused, staring blankly up at him for a moment or so, before shaking his head. “I wasn’t about to pay seventy-five more cents for a plastic bag. That’s my college fund! My backpack was too full of my valuables—”

Valuables,” Officer Williams huffed. 

“—so I figured I could just carry them in my shirt, like a pouch.”

“So, you’re a fucking kangaroo, now?” Officer Williams jeered.

“No, I’m a fucking genius! Though, in retrospect, I probably should have brought one of those tote bags that my mom has. Now that would have been something.”

Officer McMillan shook his head. “Did you tell Ms. Lori that you paid for them? Didn’t she check you out?”

“Yes!” Meech said with a sigh of relief. “She did. She gave me the total and then turned her back to get the cigarette stocks from Joe. I think she expected me to pay in cash and leave it on the counter, like I would any other time, but I just used the keypad and went on my way. Or tried to, anyway.

“Did you keep the receipt?”

“Yes! I’ve been telling you knuckleheads that from the beginning.” Meech fished into his pockets and pulled out a crinkled piece of paper. “See for yourself. I tried to pull it out at the store, but each time I would, you’d think I was pulling a knife or something,” he said, shooting an accusing look at Officer Williams. 

Officer McMillan took a hold of the paper. His eyes scanned it for any sign of deceit or fraud, but saw none; Meech had been telling the truth. “I see. My apologies. I think we’ve kept you long enough.”

Meech punched the air triumphantly. “Yes! Thank you!”

“What?” Officer Williams sputtered, but Meech was already on his feet, gathering his things. He stuffed the trash by the handful back into his backpack, oblivious to the younger officer’s distress. “It’s weed, Ned! We can’t just let him off the hook!”

“That’s not what we called him in here for,” Officer McMillan said sternly. The corner of his mouth twitched. “Though, Dimitrius, I wouldn’t carry it on you like that.”

            “I told you, it’s not weed,” Meech said. He smiled down at the picture of Cassandra before tucking it carefully in the front pocket of his jacket. “That’s a culture . . . of my toenail fungus. We made it grow in Biology. Isn’t that cool?”  

            Officer Williams blanched. “Disgusting!” he huffed, flinging the plastic baggy back toward the boy as if he were playing an intense game of hot potato. “Take it. And get out of here before we make . . . a call.” With a final sniff, he was gone. The doors slammed shut behind him.

            Meech turned to Officer McMillan. “It’s weed,” he admitted, raising his brow. “Meet me in the back of Sunny Liquors—the one across town. Bring the tobacco wrap from the fifth drawer in the filing cabinet on the second floor.”

With that, Dimitrius Wasikowska walked away. He pushed through the heavy glass doors of Middleville Police Station with a cloud of smoke already wrapped thickly around his head, and disappeared into the night. Officer McMillan watched him go, staring after him for a moment as if watching a mystical creature waltz across a sunlit plain. He stood there only for a second longer before turning abruptly on his heel to grab his coat. 


Alexis Berry is an aspiring writer from Northwest Indiana with the ultimate goal to write something worth reading. Her work, “Grandpa’s Chair”, has recently been published in Columbia College Chicago’s Punctuate. A Nonfiction Magazine.