The time I did lines with a bunch of grad students upstate and we ran around in the woods naked firing guns at each other at random

Paul asked me to elucidate this a little bit. So here's the short version.

Road at night.

In a past life, under a different name, in a town that I prefer not to recall, I worked in a supply capacity in the illegal narcotics trade. I delivered drugs to two different universities at opposite ends of a narrow highway. One was a mid-sized state school, and the other a small private liberal arts college, with a well-known program in cultural studies.

One of the grad students in that well-known program, was a dealer and an acquaintance. He and his girlfriend were in the same program. I got to their place later than I'd promised, since the day had been filled with both dishwashing and deliveries, and they said, fucking thank God you're here. We're just starting. I took a beer and sat down to count his two thousand dollars in mixed bills as he explained that they were about to have a limit-experience party.

A limit-experience, to quote a web site on the topic, “is the attempt to reach the other, the outside, by an experience that rewires the body and restructures the categories.” The grad students explained this to me, and said that the two of them and three of their peers were going to do lines, take off all their clothes, and run through the woods naked on a moonless night, shooting guns at eye level in random directions. They asked if I would be interested in coming, even though I was not engaged in the study of postmodernist literary and cultural theory.

It sounded fun, but I didn't have a gun. This turned out to be no problem, because my client took me upstairs and opened a chest at the bottom of his bed, and showed me at least 15 handguns, shotguns, and rifles wrapped in blankets, then made me pick one. I picked out a medium-sized blue-steel handgun. It was cold against my palm.

“You ever shot one before?”

“Not a handgun.”

“You just...watch me.” He clicked the safety off and put the gun to his head. “Now you're ready. Got it?”


He handed it to me and pulled out an ugly metal and wood thing. “Sawed-off,” he said.

His girlfriend had a station wagon and she drove us all to the top of a hill. As discussed in the car, we got out, took off all of our clothes, and did lines off the warm hood of the car, from the same bag of coke I had delivered. Then we ran into the woods while counting to 30. After 30 you could start firing.

So we ran, hearing each other count aloud, and I tripped over and over, then ran smack into a tree limb. I heard twenty-EIGHT, twenty-NINE, and some screaming. Then the first blast, and another. One of the friends of the host couple was screaming, “Here! I'm right here! I'm right here! Fucking kill me! Fucking kill me!” and then you heard a click, and another blast. Finally the host himself roared like a mountain lion and fired the sawed-off shotgun. That was a big noise.

Now we were yelling like animals, guns going off. I heard some bullets fly past me. So I leaned against a tree, clicked the safety as I'd been shown to do, and pulled the trigger. My hand was not just shaking but rocking. My shoulder immediately began to hurt from the recoil, and everything was suddenly quiet, the other guns were much quieter. I realized, there in the pitch black, below the trees, that part of my hearing was gone. Weaving a little, I kept firing, turning 360 degrees, although I couldn't hear any more bullets go through the air. In 5 minutes I'd emptied out the chamber.

Maybe 10 minutes after we started running, there was a full minute of silence, and I heard a woman's voice say, probably close but far away, “are we done?”

A moment later, through the trees, a pair of car lights came on to guide us back to our clothes, just a sliver of light from where I was in the woods. We all came out of the trees naked in the lights, then dressed and drove back. Everyone was breathing hard.

They invited me to sleep on the couch, but I wanted to sleep in my own bed. So I drove the half hour back to my apartment. For the first 20 minutes I was watching the speed limit, and then I thought about the night, and I thought I'll drive as fast as I want. I got the car up to 95, and it was shaking, since it was a jalopy Toyota. I felt great. Then I realized that if I got stopped with $5800 in cash on me and dilated pupils I'd be entirely fucked and on the cop's radar forever after. So I put on the radio and slowed down to exactly 55, dropped the cash in the safe at the restaurant, and went home to sleep it off.

.  .  .  .  .  

This brief description of life on the lam was sponsored by Greg Allen of Greg.org. He's over there making movies. Take a look.




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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

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Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

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“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

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