Aquariums – Jon Berger

I needed to get my hands on shrooms but the only guy I knew who sold them was Old Jerry. He grew them in an aquarium. But Old Jerry ripped my brother off a few hundred bucks on a marijuana grow op and now he thinks we want to kill him. So, whenever I see him, he runs the other way.
I saw him at the gas station filling up his Chevy Cavalier. I whipped into the parking lot, got out and walked towards him and he ran across the street to hide in the tall grass of the abandoned Ace Hardware parking lot. It caused a scene.
This guy Bobby was filling up his landscaping truck. He looked at me and said, “Damn Berg. He act like you gonna kill him.”
I spat on the ground. “He’s fucking stupid.”
I walked back to my car. I was driving to the liquor store to get beer.
On the way I saw my fat dumb-fuck cousin, Tater. Tater bought drugs from Jerry all the time.
My cousin didn’t exist. The world did not acknowledge his existence.
He lost his social security number and his birth certificate and didn’t know how to get a new one. He dropped out of high school and we weren’t sure how old he was anymore.
He was waddling down the sidewalk. A permanent smirk on his face.
I rolled up on him in my rusted-out Buick, the exhaust leaking. I leaned over in my car to talk to him through the passenger window, coasting alongside.
“Yo Tater, what you doing?”
“Going to buy drugs from Jerry.”
“Fuck man. Can you pick me up some shrooms? I can give you the money now. I’ll even give you some extra.”
My cousin laughed all hee hee saying, “No way, fuck you guys.” His arms swinging from his big torso.
Yeah, I aint getting you shit.”
My car went up onto the sidewalk and the tire squawked and I almost hit Tater.
“What the fuck,” said Tater taking a step back.
“Oh, that was an accident, I swear. I’m not a good driver.” I ran my car over the curb again, getting closer this time.
Tater kicked my car and yelled something I couldn’t understand.
I drove off giving him the finger.
My brother did so much kratom and played so many video games in the cold dark basement that he turned into one of those bioluminescent deep-sea creatures. His computer monitor being the light dangling in front of his face, leading him on forever.
I went downstairs and into his room and sat on his bed behind his computer setup. He was leaning back in his computer chair, playing StarCraft 2.
“Jerry ran away again,” I said.
He shook his head. “Crazy hippie.”
All his zorgs were being slaughtered by the space marines. My brother lit his bowl and took a drag.
I’d gotten in so many fights growing up as a kid that now my face does weird things. Such as cracking my jaw whenever I want. I have my face figured out like a science. I put the two knuckles of my pointer and middle finger at the base of the right side of my jaw and push, a loud snap erupts. If I need to crack my jaw on the left side, I need to move it in and out at a certain angle to work the crack out. It starts out as a rumble before I get a good snap. I can’t breathe out of my left nostrils unless I take my pointer and middle finger and place my finger tips over my cheek bone and pull it out towards my ear. When I do this, I can hear things shift around like gears in my face working to open a valve.
My face rituals.
More Zorgs dying.
“Do you think Buffalo could get shrooms?” I said pulling my cheekbone out.
Buffalo was this other drug dealer we knew.
“Oh, shit man. Did you hear what happened to Buff?”
“Nah, what happened?”
“He fucking blew himself up.”
I laughed. I grabbed my brother’s bowl off his desk.
“How’d he do that?”
“Making wax.”
“Fuck. You can blow yourself up making wax?” I took a hit. It tasted like ash.
“I guess so… I mean. He found a way.”
“He dead?”
My brother laughed and created more Zorgs out of the Zorg hive that spat them out like a fish giving birth. I could make out every detail of the pulsating hive with the graphics turned up all the way on a 4k monitor.
“No, but I think he wishes he was.”
“Buffalo was never very smart,” I said cashing the bowl in the trash.
We sat there for a while. Smoked until I felt the weed hit. Went and got us beers from the fridge. Came back. So many Zorgs. They were crawling over the space marines now and the space marines were screaming and their heads were exploding at 120 frames per second.
“What about that one dude you bought your grow lamp from?” I said taking another hit.
“Od’d on Heroin last week.”
“Shit.” I exhaled smoke.
I went outside my brother’s room, to my very own space. My old pullout couch with a zebra stripe pattern, my tv against the wall. I understood and accepted that I’d be alone tonight, getting drunk and high while watching anime and doing my face rituals.
I imagined my room and my brother’s room being aquariums and if you were in a pet store you could see us sitting there like lizards doing variations of the same thing. A special warning on the cage about our temperaments and diets, maybe you need a license to purchase us. And I thought about what kind of weird person would want to make that purchase. I had started to imagine a lot of things like this now. Cars and houses, restaurants with the big windows as you drive by.
I’d been working as an overnight stocker at a PetSmart. I stocked all the dog food and cat litter and big aquariums off a semi-truck.
I mostly worked with this ex-con who did meth. He’d smoke meth, then, with his big steel toe boots, would sprint up and down the store: CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP, pumping his arms, screaming, at 3 in the morning.
Last week he flipped shit for no reason and we got into a shoving match in the aquarium section and a giant aquarium got knocked off the shelf and glass shattered all over the tile floor and we both got fired.
But. Before I got fired. On a normal day, when we were done working, I’d go in the breakroom to clock out and the day shift people would be waiting to clock in.
This girl worked there.
We would talk, joke around and stuff.
She would say things like: “That dog food better be perfect today, mister!” Her teeth showing in a big smile. I was always dead tired.
And I would say something like: “You better stop eating all the dog food. I’m tired of restocking it all the time.”
And she would slug me in the shoulder.
I’d always feel dumb because I’d be sweating through my shirt.
About a week after I got fired, she messaged me on Facebook asking if I could get her shrooms. I told her no problem and we exchanged numbers.
Now here I was: I texted her telling her I wasn’t able to get shrooms for her but I would keep trying.
Watched an episode of this anime about a guy who only cared about slaying goblins. He knew everything about killing them. A real self-taught expert. Other people in his village made fun of him for it. They thought goblins weren’t dangerous but the only reason the villagers thought that is because the dude killed so many that the goblin numbers stayed low.
She hadn’t replied yet.
Then I texted her again asking if she wanted to get ice cream sometime. Yes, ice cream. It was summer after all. Ice cream would work great for a date. I’m pretty sure this is how girls went on dates.
The goblin killer dude was working his way through a cave/dungeon. Slow and step-by-step, stealth-killing goblins and figuring out the big goblin plans as he went.
She never texted back.
I felt the loneliness bathing me like a heat lamp.
I thought about killing Old Jerry.
I never kept trying.