Salt and Alcohol

Dan slept on his arms, so in the morning, they were painful and numb. Faith was unsympathetic. “If you’re awake, it’s time to leave.”

“Huh?” Dan managed to sit up. He surveyed the wreckage from the party. Empty liquor-bottles cluttered counter-tops. “How’s Beatrice?”

“BeatBax is waiting for you to leave so she can come out for breakfast.” Faith folded her arms. “In case you forgot, you tried to start a fight last night. We don’t appreciate that atmosphere in our apartment.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Damn right.”

“That guy,” said Dan, “Henry. Don’t you recognize him? He’s Leo, from high-school.”

“I know,” Faith sighed. “He’s my cricket-dealer. Or he was, until I saw that tattoo. Now I don’t I want him around anymore, either.” She pulled Dan by the arm. “C’mon, Dainty. Get outta my house.”

Dan lingered by the door. “Can I come back another time? Beatrice and I didn’t finish our cricket together.”

“You want cricket?” Faith took Leo’s bong and pressed it into his hands. “Scram!”

Back in his apartment, Dan put the bong on his coffee-table. The bong was a glass cylinder a foot tall. Brown water clogged its two internal chambers. From the bottom chamber, a sliding glass tube stuck out at an angle to hold a bowl of powdery bug-bits.

He pulled the sliding tube and soggy bug-bits slopped out. Dan pinched his nose—he couldn’t risk a whiff. He almost set the tube on the coffee-table, but worried it would soak the wood with stench. He shuddered and lay the tube on a pile of napkins.

He donned rubber gloves to empty the bong into his sink. He retched at the unleashed odor. He donned a surgical-mask.

The glass was almost opaque with crust. Looking into the top chamber he that saw the bong filtered smoke through five slotted glass fingers. No wonder Leo never bothered cleaning the complicated interior—it was a Sisyphean task, a punishment.

So Dan began.

He filled the bong with tap-water and emptied it. This barely affected the congealed crust, so he tried a hundred more times, but that didn’t help either. Before he resorted to acid and bleach, he realized he should be careful of chemicals in the instrument he’d inhale from. Internet research suggested the proper solution was rock-salt and isopropyl alcohol.

He put the bong in the sink and poured salt in its mouth, then opened one of his many, many bottles of isopropyl. He sniffed the alcohol through his surgical-mask. It made his nose burn, which he hoped spoke to its pipe-cleaning power.

He emptied the whole bottle into the bong. It seemed impossible that the bong could hold such volume. He heard trickling liquid, and realized the bong leaked from two holes in its lower chamber: the hole for the sliding tube, and a smaller hole meant for plugging and unplugging to control airflow. Embarrassed he hadn’t noticed them before, Dan covered the holes with saran-wrap and finally filled the pipe with alcohol.

He saved the powdery bug-bits from the sliding glass tube in a tupperware container. He filled a plastic-baggie with more salt and isopropyl and sealed the glass tube inside. He put that baggie in a bigger baggie so nothing leaked.

Then he stood over the sink and shook the bong in his right hand and the baggies in his left. He shook them for fifteen minutes, just looking out the window waiting for time to pass.

When he emptied the bong, he absentmindedly sniffed the toxic runoff. He’d already burned nose-hairs on the isopropyl, so he should’ve known the foul process’ byproducts would smell even worse.

But two-thirds of the crust sloughed off. He refilled the bong and baggies with fresh salt and alcohol and vowed to shake them for half an hour.

His arms tired after twenty minutes. For motivation, he imagined the pipe was Leo. “Save the whining for your daddy.” The salt swirled in Leo like spiky snowflakes.

He emptied the bong and baggies, but this second cycle took only flecks of the remaining crust.

Dan refilled the bong and baggies with salt and alcohol, but frustration didn’t provide enough energy to shake them for long. He was still drunk and hungover. He decided to let it soak while he slept through the afternoon. He took off the gloves and surgical-mask.

He must have been more tired than he realized, because he slept through the night.

When he woke, he emptied the bong again. The gunk slipped into the sink with a satisfying sound and the glass gleamed. Dan slid the glass tube into the lower chamber and poured the powdery bug-bits from the tupperware back into its bowl.

Cleaning the bong had taught Dan how to fill it with water for smoking. Fluid poured into the top chamber flowed up the five glass fingers to fill the bottom chamber. Enough water remained in the top chamber to cover the glass fingers’ slots, so smoke would have to bubble through them.

Having the rest of Sunday free, Dan sat on the couch and toked up.

Some kind of amoeba bubbled and blopped on the red mountain. The amoeba was translucent orange and the size of a man. It wriggled like it didn’t want to exist.

Its core spawned white specks. The specks formed flecks, which collected into flakes. The white flakes tore the jelly of the amoeba’s belly. The amoeba groped with blind pseudopods in impotent agony.

A shadow passed over the amoeba. An enormous bird landed with thunderous wing-beats. The sapphire bird in sky-blue robes watched with emerald eyes as the flakes in the amoeba turned into teeth. Molars and canines were torturous instruments tearing the amoeba’s innards. The amoeba smacked the ground wetly.

“You’re a big one. Congratulations for finding the Mountain.” The bird withdrew its wings into its robes. “But I cannot collect you. You’re obviously a novice smoking beyond their limits, filled with shrieking teeth.”

The amoeba curdled with nerves for the teeth to tear through. It bristled with pleading eyes which were swiftly blinded by blood.

“I cannot help you.” The bird marched up the mountainside. “My assistant will take you to Anihilato.”

I1 pictb

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