It was 4:30 am, it was the fourth Friday in November, the day after Thanksgiving. The sun was rising over a snowy Best Buy; its parking lot choked with cars and customers, exhaust drifting and breath condensing in the cold early-morning air.
In the backseat of a dark Saab 9-5, parked decidedly close to the still-locked automatic doors, sat Christian and Victoria McLaughlin, pulverizing 20mg pills of their fourteen-year-old son's amphetamine-laden ADHD medication on the car's owner's manual. Earlier, they had each ingested a neon green 150mg tablet of MDMA, emblazoned with a tiny and immaculate fleur-de-lis.
Traditions can start in strange ways. Separatists and natives shared a three-day meal in 1621, an amiable shindig thanking Squanto for teaching them how to trap eel and grow maize. Squanto spoke English because he was enslaved and lived in England before returning to live at Plymouth, populated not by planters and deerstalkers, but by diseased and emaciated children of god.
Christian cut up a line of the medication with his credit card, the only form of finance he planned on using that day, other than of course the twenty-dollar bill Victoria was rolling up in the seat next to him. He bent over and snorted the brightly-colored, sweet-tasting powder, carefully handing the owner's manual to his wife.
After Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to catch eels and cod, trap geese and grow maize and peas, they rejoiced. It was a celebration of the first successful harvest in the New World. Of course, the sordid history of the European acquisition of the "New World" makes these strange images a comforting mythology. Even the date of Thanksgiving became a strange bureaucratic incident, with a long and rather tedious history, that ultimately ended with FDR establishing it as the fourth Thursday in November: mostly for making more shopping days in between then and Christmas.
Victoria gently coughed after snorting the crushed pills, holding a loosely balled fist to her mouth. Neither her nor Christian had slept since the morning before, Thanksgiving, when their extended family gathered at their three-story suburban home, its glassy eyes shut tight against the cold, a quaint plume of smoke rising from the brick chimney, a traditional dinner on the table, a handful of cars in the driveway.
This had become a tradition for Christian and Victoria. Not Thanksgiving, that always was, always will be. Black Friday - the "biggest shopping day of the year," was more recent. They got all of their Christmas shopping done this day with the aid of various chemicals. The ecstasy was to get them into the Holiday spirit: nothing made Christian opt for the high-end impulse buy like the levity and gaiety brought about by MDMA and amphetamines.
The ADHD medication, prescribed to their son Evan, rattled in the chest pocket of Christian's jacket as he exited the vehicle into the cold: the doors were opening in five minutes and a crowd gathered around them, shifting and murmuring, drinking coffee and wiping the sleep out of their eyes.
They had started doing this four years ago. Originally, it was just blow. They had considered trying to get their hands on some pure methamphetamine they had read about, shipped from the Philippines, it looked like a small ice sculpture of a volcano god and cost around 20,000 USD. The coke was cheaper, but when Evan was diagnosed with ADHD it was that and the ecstasy. It was a good combination.
Evan wanted video games for that thing Christian had bought him last Christmas. He had taken the box out of another shopper's cart when their back was turned, even though at least dozen remained on the shelf.
A blue-shirted employee unlocked the doors, quickly moving out of the way as an exodus of shoppers entered the store.
Christian moved through the bustling crowd, sniffling, his palms sweating, teeth grinding, his heart racing and beating violently. Victoria stayed in the parking lot, she didn't partake in the initial entry, she stood in the salted parking lot, wearing expensive sunglasses under a grey sky, sipping lukewarm water out of a travel mug.
One of the games Evan wanted involved a mall cop. The player had a choice: he could maintain order, catching shoplifters and progressing through a vague storyline involving corruption to the highest post, or be a corrupt mall cop; which is apparently more fun that it sounds. Christian had seen the game featured on the news, during a segment entitled "The Black Hole Wish List." It showed clips of the mall cop installing cameras in the women's restrooms, beating customers to death in the parking lot, robbing stores and plowing through aimless crowds in a golf cart.
Another didn't seem to have much of a plot, but seemed to focus around absurd homicide justified as "assassination." Boards with twisted nails, table saws, rusted hatchets and chainsaws, hammers and screwdrivers: a primal and pedestrian arsenal would be his gift to his son this holiday season. But of course, its only a game.