Bliss is a story about children growing up in the school parking lot. A prequel to the double novel Bleach|Blackout, Bliss follows Chip, Stoner, and Jeremy through their senior year of high school. This fast paced novella begins with a drug deal gone bad and ends with a drug deal gone right. In between these exchanges, the narrator tells of his struggles in school, with the law, his psychiatrist, girls named Mary, and what it’s like to attend blizzard parties (same as a normal party, just with lots of cocaine). For those searching for a feel-good story of adolescence, look further—it’s not here. That being said, this tale does end with a nice cozy fire that is sure to bring a good laugh... or a gasp.
I got my ass beat by a guy with a wooden leg. Correction. With a wooden leg from a guy who stood there standing on one leg. Wait, it gets worse. His name was Dale. This was the first day of my senior year.
My morning starts off in Chip’s car, where we’re smoking and taking sips off a bottle of whiskey that tastes like Tennessee. As smoke escapes the cracked windows, a Nirvana bootleg plays. It was starting to become clear that the nineties weren’t going to be what one would call an impact decade.
Already twenty minutes late, we’re ready to leave when the school parking lot narc approaches and tells us we’ll be spending our afternoon in detention. The narc may be the oldest guard in the greater Milwaukee area. Chip tells me to put my ear up to him. “You can actually hear sixties music playing,” he says.
With fifteen minutes left in my first class, I show up. History. My teacher, Mr. Adams, looks unhappier than the students do. As I approach him and hand him a note (a note I had just forged five minutes ago), I sense that he also smells like Tennessee. Before Chemistry class, Chip and Stoner stop me in the hallway to ask me for money so we can score some herb off a guy named Brown, who isn’t black.
Chemistry is a bore, but at least Mary, a girl I am trying to get up the courage to talk to, is there, and then I have “commons,” which is really a study hall with no supervision. I play craps with a couple Latinos, buy a Coke and a Little Debbie brownie, and go out to the parking lot, smoking while I wait for Chip and Stoner to come out for lunch. Stoner is the first to show and he begins drinking gin rapidly, becoming drunk before the end of our 45-minute lunch break. Deciding he’s a little too drunk for Geometry, Stoner decides to lie in the back of Chip’s car and continue to drink gin.
Back inside, Chip and I have gym class together. The first day consists of lines to sign up for different sports. Chip pushes his way to the front while I bribe others with offers of free pills until we eventually get to the head of the line and are able to sign up for the least strenuous activity, volleyball. My next class is Creative Writing, and we are told that for the semester most of our grade will be dependent on keeping a journal. I have never kept a journal, considering this to be like a diary—scary—so I use this as a place to begin writing lyrics for my new band.
Looking to leave
Pick up and flee
Seems easy to do
Tired, fucking blue
Escaping the world of sleaze
When I show up for detention, Chip is already there, wearing sunglasses. An oddly hot teacher, Mrs. Reed, is leaning over his desk asking him to remove his eyewear. Chip refuses and learns that he will be in detention tomorrow as well as the next day.
On cue, Chip leaves to go the bathroom, and no sooner than finishing my second forged note of the day, I’m out the door behind him. I walk through a long hallway of lockers, past some football players who are wearing their jerseys with jeans and boots, and finally make my way out the back door, where if you’re a smoker and aren’t in the parking lot, you’ll find yourself in the tree covered back entrance to the school.
Brown is waiting as we approach with our current life savings of fifty dollars in pocket. I look back over my shoulder, looking for Stoner, but I don’t see anyone there.
“You got?” Brown asks.
Chip pulls out the money. “You got?”
Brown pulls out a crumbled up brown paper bag, handing it to Chip then grabbing the money. Chip opens up the bag. Inside there are five crumbled up empty packs of Newport cigarette wrappers.
“What the fuck…?”
Before Chip can finish his sentence, a guy named Dale appears from the trees. Brown grabs Dale’s right leg, pulls it off, and swings in one motion, landing a blow to the side of Chip’s head, knocking him out. I see Dale hopping on one leg, laughing. This is the last thing I remember before getting knocked out myself.
When Chip and I wake up, Mrs. Reed is standing over us saying something about additional detentions. As I struggle back to my feet, I look over at the loading dock and wonder where Stoner is. Looking back at Chip as he stands up, I notice that he’s still wearing his sunglasses.
In the parking lot we find Stoner passed out with an empty bottle next to him. Chip is holding his head and kicks Stoner. “Get up, you retard. You were supposed to be there.”
Stoner opens his eyes and looks at us, seeing our faces bashed in. “Dude, what happened?”
Chip kicks him again. “Now we have nothing. No money and no herb.”
“Dude,” Stoner laughs, “I’ve got this.” He holds up a bag of herb.
Chip and I look at each other. “Where did you get that?”
“I don’t know. I was drinking my gin and then this freshman Asian girl came over, said she was already burned out of school, blew me, and gave me this bag of herb. Ahahaaha. Pretty cool, man. This is going to be a good year.”
Chip lightly touches his head wound and looks over at me, removing his sunglasses. “Fuck it.”
Indeed, fuck it. This was the first day of our senior year.
* * *
I didn’t tell my parents the cops would be coming over for dinner, and I didn’t know they would be detectives. My mom sits them at the table, offers them coffee, and then asks, “So what is this about?” The two detectives pull their chairs up so close their stomachs are touching the table. Both have large leather-bound notebooks they place where the plates usually go. The Christmas tree is in the back, forming the perfect backdrop for this family gathering. Now is a good time to tell you about the day I had.
The morning started off rough. The night before, Chip, Stoner, and I were in a field with a bag of weed, once again chasing bliss. Chip had been soaking herb in Southern Comfort all day, thinking this combination would be a new high, one that even the blues wouldn’t be able to bring us down from. However, it didn’t have much effect; in fact, it dulled the natural herb high. Or so we thought, because after smoking the Southern herb, Stoner siphoned gas from Chip’s car and started soaking herb in gasoline. We each took one hit off the gas herb and decided it wasn’t a good idea. We weren’t concerned about what we were doing to our bodies, but rather conscious of not starting fires in open fields. Apparently Smokey the Bear got through to us more than Nancy Reagan did.
Chip and I had been making more and more deals, mostly within the school now. We had just gotten back to even and were now starting to make money again. Most kids our age go off to college and then if they are lucky begin making a living. Chip and I were already starting our careers. With our drug money and expectations of making it as a rock band, we are planning to retire at thirty, then move to Vegas and run a mini golf course. We already have the course laid out. Also, we don’t want to be rocking past the age of thirty—no need to be one of those lame guys in their thirties wearing leather. No thanks. The more immediate need for the extra cash was New Year’s Eve coming around the corner. We were planning to throw a Blizzard Party. Rent a hotel room and buy as much coke as we could afford. I wasn’t a big coke guy; I had only half tried it once, putting some in a cigarette and smoking it, but it sounded like a good idea. Get high enough to forget about the past year and high enough to forget about the first half of the next year. Chip agreed with the plan: “Rock and roll!”
Chip transferred into my Chemistry class so we could work more on lyrics and the band. We already have a few songs and want to record an EP. The first thirty minutes of class was spent writing our first ballad, named “Wit’s End.”
They say the end is near,
The end is in sight
Can’t say I disagree,
Inside I’ve lost the fight
The last time we’re together
Inside the look of fear
Never again the same,
These nights of yesteryear
I have a lot to say, but don’t know how my friend
I reach out my arms, an ear to lend
Whatever is possible, I want to make amends
’Cause the truth is, I’m at my Wit’s End
second verse, same as the first
After we finish the song, Chip passes me a note that says Diego, the Spanish kid in the front, wants a nickel of herb. “He has already paid me,” Chip whispers. Diego looks back, and I nod. I have a quarter on me, so I pull it out and dump a nickel’s worth inside paper and then crumble it up. When the teacher turns to the blackboard, I motion to Diego and go to throw the paper, but Matt, the jackass sitting behind, yells, “Heads up!” and the teacher looks back, causing me to drop the paper on the floor. The teacher approaches and I quickly open up the paper with my shoe and begin spreading the herb around. The problem is that the herb is so good the sticky smell immediately fills the room and I find myself in the principal’s office waiting for the police to arrive.
Back home, at the dining room table with the detectives and the Christmas tree in the background. Detective Black (who isn’t black) looks over at me and then at my parents.
“Jeremy didn’t tell you he got caught with drugs today in school?”
My mom almost falls off the chair. My dad gets off his chair, picks it up, and throws it across the room. “What the fuck were you thinking!” he screams.
Detective Johnson, the smaller of the two, gets up and tries to calm my dad down. Detective Black asks me where I got the herb from. I of course lie and tell him I found it in a random locker that was left open. I figure admitting to stealing is a less punishable crime than drug dealing, not to mention the threat Kilin made to me regarding my mom. I look across the table and smile. No need to worry, Mom. I may be a drug-dealing liar, but I’m not a rat.
Given my parents’ reaction, the detectives leave. I’ve been given a two-day suspension from school and will be on probation for six months, with more community service.
My mom is on the phone. She looks at me. “I’m setting up an emergency session with Dr. Martin. You’re going right now.”
I debate inside my head, pulling out the “I learned from watching you” line, but that doesn’t really work because other than light beer and boxed wine my parents really don’t have any vices.
As the detectives leave, Chip pulls up and comes in. My parents are looking at him. I play dumb and explain what happened to Chip.
“Dude, you shouldn’t mess with marijuana. It’s bad news,” says Chip.
Stoner is already on his way, so I convince my parents to give us an hour to practice and then I will go for a double session with Dr. Martin.
Before I go to Dr. Martin’s, I pack a pair of pajamas just in case it’s mental hospital or nut hut time. When I walk in, Dr. Martin gets up and asks me if I’m okay, as if I will be unable to sit down due to my foot being sore from dispersing the herb earlier today. He talks for the next ten minutes, but I don’t listen, focused on something I wrote in Creative Writing class.
Her eyes are on fire
Her look says for hire
Hot lips, firm thighs, no disease
Bring this school boy to his knees
Never going home till I get my fill
My sweet party girl.
“So, do you smoke a lot of grass?” I come back to life with Dr. Martin asking me this question. Hearing the word “grass” makes me laugh. It also makes me think Dr. Martin used to partake in the herb if he calls it this.
I of course lie and say no. As I say this to Dr. Martin, I fear a potential liar intervention sometime in my future. All the adult figures coming together, confronting me on my lies, pleading for me to enter Liars Anonymous—probably a lot like the city L.A.
Dr. Martin is now sucking on a cheap Paper Mate pen. “Have you given any consideration to your community service?”
“I’m thinking about cutting grass.” I laugh and don’t say much for the rest of the session.