Aquarius Rising

Another excerpt from my forthcoming novel, Hippies. (Log line. In this overdue epic of the Age of Aquarius, Jazmine, Ziggy, Ragman, and a coterie of hippies struggling with the contradictions of the 1960s counterculture discover an LSD-spinoff drug that triggers past life regressions and sweeps them toward a dramatic climax.)        

“Hey, Pepper, that bandanna looks great on you.”

“Thanks, sweetie.”

“Did the priestess come in today?”

“Yeah, bitch was there,” said Pepper. “Complaining about horse shit from the tourist carriages on Royal Street.”

“I thought horse shit was her specialty,” laughed Jazmine. She stood, stretched, and tossed the magazine on the lower shelf of the open pantry.

“Let’s sit outside,” said Pepper. “It’s a nice, clear night.”

They stepped out to the yard just as the spring sun set and sat on the benches at the small picnic table. The night was clear but the air dense and humid, with a moist citrus scent coming from the small satsuma tree near the alley that ran from the yard to the street.

Ziggy brought out three plates and Ragman filled four jelly jars with wine. Zig and Jaz and Rag dug in, and Pepper took a sip of chianti and looked up. She was engrossed with the sky, or something in it, but she said nothing.

“You make the simplest things taste so good,” Jaz said to Ziggy.

“How about you?” Pepper addressed Jazmine. “How you doing?”

“Good.”

“I mean that trip the other day. The tan acid. What do you think? Was it good? Bad? Weird.”

“Well, it was quick in and quick out, just like Rag predicted. That’s good.”

“That’s really good,” said Pepper, and she looked back up at the sky.

The others ate in silence, enjoying the crickets, the bird chatter of dusk, and the occasional sound of a VW bug torqueing around the potholes on St. Roch Street. Rag bussed the plates and refilled the wine.

“That’s why I never did LSD after that first time with Gina and Tex,” Pepper continued, as if there were no pause. “It was cool at first but then the long agony of coming down. I remember driving across the 24-mile bridge at night and seeing monsters coming out of the water with each turn of the waves, over and over in a hellish rhythm. And then I felt all the organs inside my body splitting open. I could see them and feel them tearing. Fuck that.”

Ragman had come back out and was lighting two tiki torches at the ends of the table.

“What the hell were you doing driving while tripping?” he asked.

“I wasn’t driving. Tex was.”

“Oh, that makes it all better,” joked Zig. “TEX was driving while tripping.” They all chuckled at the reckless absurdity of it all, knowing that at least this time all turned out safe.

“But listen,” Jazmine said. “You could even do this stuff, Pepper. There is no long, dark coming down part.”

Rag fired up a joint. The match momentarily lit up his face. The hazel eyes gleamed, the cheekbones more prominent as they tapered down to the point of the light brown beard. He looked for a moment like one of the plastic devil heads that come from claw machines. He inhaled hard on the joint and then passed it to Zig, who sat on the bench next to him across from Pepper and Jaz. Rag momentarily held the pot in his lungs and ran his hand through his flowing brown hair.

“What are you thinking, Rag?” Jaz asked quietly. The flickering of the tiki torch pulled the violet highlights from her eyes.

Rag was equally quiet as he spoke: “This shit could change everything.”

Zig took his hit and passed the joint to Pepper. The earthy sweet smell of marijuana mixed with the citronella fuel of the tiki torches, wrapping the four faces at the table into their own world. Jazmine, with her dark eyes and ivory glow, fiery Pepper with the ice blue eyes, Zig with his rectangular face framed by long curling black locks, and Ragman: faces close together, dimly lit against the darkening sky, all feeling the wrap and pull of pot-forged kinship, but the attention was on Ragman.

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