It's like a buddy film, but in book form. A buddy book. It's about best friends who love to chill, smoke weed and generally just enjoy life. Then some messed up %!*@ happens to them.
“No. No of course not! I’m telling you man they would look completely different. It makes perfect sense - they’d be living in completely different environments.” I took a hit and felt the heat spreading around the inside of my lungs. I faced Jayden and gave him the most condescending look I could muster while I blew smoke on his face.
“Think about it Jay,” I said. “They would have to interact with their surroundings right? And if they were intelligent like us, they would make shit and what not. Therefore, it stands to reason that they would resemble us to some degree.” I passed him the joint as he absorbed that. We were in his car, parked on the cliff overlooking the sea. We were lounging. Or at least I think we were. I say lounging because it’s the only suitably pretentious word given the topic of our conversation. In reality though, we were just kids, fresh out of exams and getting high in a car talking about aliens.
“So you’re saying they need things like opposable thumbs to build.”
“Yes that’s exactly what I’m saying. If we didn’t have thumbs, we wouldn’t be able to do half the things we can do.” I took another drag and passed him the joint. “Hell, we wouldn’t even be able to turn a doorknob. That’s why Predators have ships and Aliens don’t.” Jay stiffened halfway through a hit and coughed hard through his fingers. His eyes remained hard on my face.
“Scotty,” he said seriously. “You better not be telling me that Predators was better than Aliens.” I put up my hands in surrender to mollify him; I wanted to avoid a small piece of a much larger argument we’ve been having our entire lives. “How did we get to this topic anyway?” He took another hit and I gestured grandly toward the joint.
“Weed, bro. You never know where it’ll take you.” We laughed at that. It felt good to hang out with Jay again. All we did the past month was study our asses off and worry about whether or not we would make it to third year – me in creative writing and Jay in engineering. Honestly though, he really didn’t have much to worry about. Good grades just came to him. He was your typical brilliant but stupid kid – all the right brains and almost no motivation to use them.
“Munchies, man?” I looked back at his questioning face and tried to look mischievous, but deep down I knew I was just grinning like an idiot.
“Of course! Let’s go to the usual.” Our usual was actually not a place, but many places. It was Baker Street, filled with all kinds of useful things for dumbass kids like us to do. There was a movie theatre, a tattoo parlor, a CD shop and a bookstore. There was even a bank. But more importantly, Baker Street was filled to the brim with fast food restaurants, the perfect cure for the munchies.
Jay put the car on drive and we started to make our way, each lost in our own thoughts. There was a comfortable silence in the car. It was the kind of silence only real friends could experience without having the urge to fill it with awkward conversation. That, and we were undeniably, without a shadow of a doubt, too stoned to speak. So we settled for a nice quiet drive.
We parked in front of the bank, crossed the street and went to Arby’s. There weren’t a lot of people, which wasn’t surprising seeing as it was the middle of a weekday. We stood behind a little old lady with an old fashioned wooden cane.
“So the way I see it, we get couple of burgers inside us, then go back and watch a movie,” Jay said. The old lady in front us took a step forward in the line and we followed.
“Sounds good. Let’s watch Alien vs. Predator.” Before Jay could laugh, the old lady in front turned around, quick as a kid. She had small glasses that slid all the way down to the tip of her nose and was wearing a slightly too large cardigan over a dress that must have survived WWII.
“Excuse me gentlemen,” she said. “But don’t move. I’m not alone.” If it wasn’t for her old lady voice, I would have been able to understand the words she was saying more clearly. As it was, I just stood and stared like a dumb mute. It was a good thing Jay was quick on his feet.
“Excuse me,” he said. “But what?” The old lady gave an exaggerated, exasperated sigh. She reached into her little old lady handbag and pulled out the smallest gun I’ve ever seen. She rested her hand on top of her handbag and held the gun loosely, aiming directly at my chest. I thought very distinctly:I am way too high to be able to handle a situation like this right now.
I managed to choke out a silent “Holy Shit” and took a step back. Jayden tensed and stared at the tiny gun, which looked too menacing to be a toy.
“Now, now” she said in a maddeningly calm tone. “Let’s not do something stupid that we’ll regret later ok?” She gave an ironically loving, grandmotherly smile. Her teeth were tinged with yellow. “Just do what I say, nice and easy, and everything will be just fine.” She used her cane to gesture to a table at the far corner of the restaurant. We turned around and made our way to the table. For the briefest moment, Jay’s eyes and mine connected. A flare of hope rose within my chest. Jay was lazy, sure. And he was a bit of a stoner, of course. But he was uncommonly smart and had a habit of surprising people. But I saw the redness behind his dilated pupils and the hope sputtered and died in my chest. We were in the worst situation possible, and in a state of sobriety that left something to be desired.
Jay and I sat down and she settled herself comfortably across from us. No one could see this intense situation unfolding. I noticed my hands were shaking and Jay was slightly glowing from a thin sheen of sweat. The old lady clasped her hands on the table. The gun was gone, but we were still too scared to move.
“First things first,” she said nonchalantly. “Like I said, we’re being watched, so you best not try anything that’ll startle.” Jay and I looked around, trying to find her friends. “Secondly, try to look casual. The point here is to try and not draw attention to ourselves.” I clenched and unclenched my fists and Jay wiped his face with his sleeves. Once we composed ourselves, she gave another smile. It was wicked and full of malice. The yellow on her teeth was now uncomfortably obvious.
“Good,” she said. She emphasized the ‘oo’ sound. We could hear the pleasure in her voice and it was disconcerting. It was the same sound a madman would make while he ordered his victims around. “Now, take off your shirt.”
Jay and I didn’t move. A thousand movies, books and stories went through my mind. I was thinking so fast I couldn’t make out individual thoughts. For one wild moment, I thought about the TV show Law and Order: SVU and my panic was beginning to rise to uncontrollable levels. Jay had his jaw open, shocked. That, more than anything, chilled me. Jay was never speechless.
We sat there for a long moment when suddenly she burst out laughing. It was a high, piercing laugh. People around the restaurant started to look at us. The girl with long blonde hair behind the register looked at us with practiced calm. To her, we probably just looked like a family that didn’t know how to maintain proper noise levels while out in public. I wished that was true.
“You should’ve seen the look on your faces,” the old lady said. She wiped at her eye, “I haven’t laughed like that in years. Don’t worry you can keep your clothes on. We’re not like that.” She gave a tired sigh and all of the amusement bled out of her. “That isn’t to say we’re nice people though.” She looked around the restaurant, scrutinizing every group and every customer. “We’re here because we need you to do something.”
Jay and I looked at each other. What the hell could we possibly do for her? Forthem? Jay cleared his throat uncomfortably.
“What do you want from us?” I imagine he was trying to sound tough, but it came out as weak and shaky.
“Well,” she said, leaning back. “I’m going to give…” she eyed us both in turn. Jay, who had his jaw set and was sweating again and I, with my hands shivering like we were in winter. “You,” she gestured to Jay “a gun. With no bullets mind you but no one will know that.” My eyes flickered nervously toward her handbag. “Then, you are going to go into that bank and hold your friend here hostage.” She smiled again, and this time it was full of childish excitement. “You’re going to help us rob a bank.”