Chapter 3 – Anhydrous
Like I said, it was a pain going see Drug Doug, but it was always worth it. His houseboat was usually pretty easy to find. He was rarely there, though. His two camps actually floated on pontoons as well. When the water rose enough, he moved them. Security through obscurity, he called it.
You'd never suspect it was possible, either. You'd look at the tangle of cypress and oak trees, and think there's no fucking way. But if you knew Doug, you'd know he's capable of anything. If you were really sharp, you could see the narrow paths he'd cut through the trees, just wide enough to get his houses through.
He never put up any sort of markers or anything, either. Sometimes finding him took days of work, or just blind luck.
People rarely ventured into these swamps. There weren't no point, really. Deer really didn't go there, and there were easier places to hunt squirrels. So hunters were out. It was a pretty safe system he had. And he did need it. Doug grew weed, and made meth.
He never taught me to cook. He said it was essentially evil. I tend to agree. I only did it once, and that was enough, as you'll see.
He was really open to me about growing weed, though. It was pretty clever. He'd climb to the top of the tallest cypress trees, and haul up buckets of fertile river silt. Like he told me, how often did people look up? In the spring, summer, and fall, you couldn't see them through the canopy, anyway.
So the plants were well-fertilized, got plenty of water, and full sun. When they reached the budding stage, he'd lower them a few feet and adjust the light cycle, slightly. It was always skunk. What we at school came to call dank. Bomb-ass weed.
I'd come by every few months or so to re-up. This time it was spring break, and I managed to locate him in only two days, finding the right house on the first try. But as was often the case, I didn't really find Doug. He found me.
I had tied my boat up several yards into a small inlet near a part of the swamp he favored. I had only walked a quarter mile or so away, when I felt cold steel on the back of my neck.
“Click”, a voice said.
“Goddamn it, Doug,” I said, exasperated. “I almost dropped the jugs.”
I turned around to the biggest shit-eating grin he could muster. In his hand was a small flashlight.
“It's a good thing that wasn't a gun,” I told him.
“Or I'd have to beat your old ass.”
“Son, the day you can do that, I'll give you my entire empire.”
“Wow,” I said, gesturing around me. “Someday this will all be mine.”
He walked, and I followed.
“So how's school?” he asked.
“Better than the job market,” I offered. “I thought a Bachelor's would make a difference. Turns out, I'm competing with people with Master's degrees.”
“Yup. And they're competing with people with PhDs. By the time you get out, you'll be up to your ears in debt. I don't owe nobody nuthin'.”
“You shit in a bucket, and read by candlelight.”
“Touche, young padwan. But if it was good enough for Abraham Lincoln, it's good enough for me.”
Abraham Lincoln was sort of a running joke with us. When I was in first grade, I had played him in a school play. When my family came to see it, they had to sit in the back, as the front rows were all occupied by black people, which caused my grandmother to famously reply, “If it wasn't for him, we'd have a place to sit...”
We walked for a while, and my arms got sore. But I didn't complain, or hand one of the jugs to him. I would have lost face. Doug liked to say I never lifted more than a fork or a pen, and that was mostly true.
“How much further is it?”
“'Bout a hunnert feet.”
I looked ahead for the familiar black tarpaper, but I didn't see anything. It wasn't until we stopped about twenty feet away that I finally noticed. The entire structure had been painted to blend in with the trees. Up close, it was abstract, but from a distance, it blended in perfectly.
“Nice job,” I said.
Doug shrugged. “I got a lot of time on my hands.”
“And energy,” I said, gesturing slightly with the jugs.
“Around the corner...”
We went around the side, where Doug had a non-functioning moonshine still, and I set my jugs down among the others. It was more subterfuge on his part, in case the law gave him any scrutiny. It had worked twice in the past. Country cops turn a blind eye to moonshine, if they don't imbibe themselves. They had never even checked the jugs, according to Doug.
Which was a good thing. Mine contained anhydrous ammonia, a key component in his meth recipe. I got it from my dad's farm in north Louisiana, but it was nearly impossible for most people to obtain.
“Full?” he asked.
I nodded. “Two gallons.”
“I got you.”
He and I had a nice arrangement. Anhydrous for weed.