Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine #11

Page 14

Leland Dunwitty’s Square Circle Edumacation Taking tests always made my ear ache and ass hurt. Trouble was the 7 PM community college psychology exam was that night. To pay for couch space at my mom’s apartment and make my car note, I needed to pass it to keep my first real job. But over the weekend I’d partied and didn’t study. “To stay among edumacated people we need edumacation, Leland” Tony said, ears close to his head and barely visible under his ten-inch afro. A Cheshire cat grin splashed his face. At twenty he was a year older with an AA degree. A Project Bootstrap trainee too, he had chosen Jesus over drug use. He used familiar colloquialisms that morning in our office nook, a set aside in a county mental health clinic lunch kitchen in Watts, Los Angeles. “We need that D-gree,” he said. Since everyone else at work did their own thing, surely I could pore over a few pages of R.D. Laing’s, “The Politics of Experience,” before the test. I’d need a drug boost for that. But it was summer 1971 and something was different that day when I was cramming. Hans Demmer, a wavy ginger-haired psychiatric tech, white showed all the way around his dead-blue irises, scanned the foul-smelling community refrigerator and pointed to a wax paper wrapped sandwich. A tiny guy, his job was to physically handle acting out patients. “Yours?” he said to us. We shook our heads, he loosened the wrap, took a whiff, then two quick bites. He frowned, laid the sandwich on the Amana between grease packed heating elements. “Better at room temperature.” Congested, he always hawked phlegm into a dark blue handkerchief that hung from his back jeans pocket. He shuffled over to our creaky wood desks that were pushed together so that Tony and I faced each other. “What you need today Dunwitty?” “Bennies,” I said. “—to stay up.” He tossed me his damp hanky bundled around something mushy the size of a golf ball that reeked of hashish. Inside the package, among a drugstore of different

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