from "Suburban Misfits"

Where the ducks are

Hank rang me up on my uncle's phone at a half-hour before bed.

Grandma already stirred in her bedroom upstairs.

Uncle Ed, lost in a haze of cigarette smoke, had settled into re-runs of Bonanza in the room next door.

How Hank got my number is still a mystery. He was the weird kid I met the previous day at the head shop downtown when he decided to be my friend.

His purple Nehru shirt, yellow bell-bottom pants and open-toed sandals made him look a little like a perverted priest. I wanted no part of him. Unasked-for details had gushed out of him, his love of Dylan and his desire to perform in a Broadway play. Every other sentence contained a mention of Greenwich Village.

"I need help," he stuttered over the phone as my uncle coughed in the other room for me to hang up.

Scrap paper with phone numbers fluttered at my finger tips on the desk, testifying to the phone business uses. We got other calls only as harbingers of ill news.

"I'm in trouble," Hank went on. "I'm high and I'm lost."

The word "high" ran through me like a sword and I cupped the mouthpiece with my hand fearing my uncle would hear.

"Why call me? What about your parents?"

"I can't call them. They'd kill me."

The connection clanked as the phone ate his coins. He mumbled and fumbled before dropping in his last dime.

"What can I do?" I asked when the line cleared.

"Come and get me."

"But I don't know where you are," I said.

Neither did he, relating the hazy sequence that had led him there, copped dope in New York he later thought was bad.

"I just couldn't get off," he kept saying, "the black tabs tasted funny but I still took them all."

Acid takes time to work, a delayed reaction leading always to a surprise. But wait as he did, the colors never came. So he headed home.

Half way through the Lincoln Tunnel, the bus melted.

"I must have started singing or something," Hank said. "The driver dumped me out on the other side."

"But you can't tell me where that is?" I asked.

"I'm where the ducks are," Hank said before the line went dead.

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