The Strain

March 12th, 2012 West of the Sea of Galilee, Israel. The Sun was rising as Professor Miller drove out of Kafr Kanna. As she rose into the hills the valleys mists from the morning dew quickly gave way to cold, crisp air and miles of visibility in the gathering light. She knew that Howard Ben-David of the Israeli Antiquities Authority would be waiting for her at the dig site already. He seemed to sense she was close to something just as she did, perhaps she had a tell, perhaps it was just that Howie was very good at his job. She didn’t really mind, he was easy enough to deal with and seemed to mainly be concerned with protecting the sites he managed from looters.

Sarah Miller stopped several miles before the dig on the far side of the mountain where the Sun had yet to make an appearance. She got out of the land Rover and walked down an ancient trail, almost obscured except for the depression from thousands of years of foot falls. An untrained eye might even miss the slight depression but to her it looked like a freeway off ramp.  She followed it down into a small valley to where the trail intersected a small stream and followed it up the canyon. At the head of the canyon she found a pool fed by a spring spilling out of the rocks. She could tell that there had been many different founts built around the spring over the millennium and the last, now a pile of rubble, seemed to be at least 1500 years old. She bent down and touched the cool water and brought her fingers to her lips. It tasted slightly of the alkaline in the surrounding hill but not too much to be distasteful. She cupped a handful and drank it slowly.

The Sun was already warming the small valley and Sarah stepped out of her boots and khakis and into the pool. It was just deep enough to be able to swim most of the way across the 60 to 80 feet to the far side. She stepped out onto smooth sandstone and knelt at the edge of the spring where it exited the mountainside. As she was bent over drinking from the source she noticed a large plant several feet away. From her days in college not so many years ago she instantly recognized it as a fully seeded Cannabis Sativa much like the ones her ex boyfriend grew in the extra bedroom of their Cambridge Campus apartment. She picked several large seed heads and swam back to her clothes, laying out in the warm morning Sun to dry before getting dressed and returning to the Land Rover.

Howie seemed to be annoyed that she was late, even though by the official schedule she had been required to present him she was not due at the site for at least another half hour. By 11 AM the Sun had become unmerciful and the only relief, the tents around the dig and the depths of the dig itself were only slightly bearable at best. The end of the dig was by far the best place to be, cool and comfortable compared to the oven 30 feet above through a small entrance tunnel. Sarah was carefully removing a jar from a stack of 8 others. It was fired clay and looked to hold several gallons and as she worked it free she knew that is was indeed still full, as she had suspected by her gentle taps. she sat it on a padded litter and put the straps around her shoulders and started the long crawl back out to the accursed heat.

August 10th, Spokane, Washington, USA. Sarah carefully unpacked the boxes she had brought back from Israel, the large lotion jar was still in the bottom of the bag with her other toiletries. She unscrewed the lid and dug through the lotion until she caught the edge of the plastic bag and pulled it out. Wiping off the lotion she opened the bag and took out three seeded buds of marijuana. They were dry and brittle and she carefully and expertly separated the seeds from the leaf and stems using her old Jefferson Starship “Blows against the Empire” album cover. She poured the seeds into two canisters and put the leaves in a rosewood box she had taken with her to college. It had burn marks on the lid from hundreds of doobies and the inside was coated with resins from hundreds of “lids”, “1/8ths” and “Grams” of differing strains of marijuana.

Eric got out of the car and walked the 1/2 block to Sarah’s apartment in the slight rain. He rang the bell at the security door and heard the door click open. He took the elevator to the 9th floor. Sarah opened the door and he stepped inside, removing his coat and pulling a small bag from an inside pocket. “Wow, that Sun really did something amazing to your skin! You look positively radiant!” he said as he put his hands on her shoulders and pulled her in for a hug. She returned the hug and initiated a kiss, letting him know that the interest was still mutual and that this meeting was definitely more than just business. “Come in my friend, I think I have something you will be quite interested in.” she said as she took the small bag from him and led him into the living room. The curtains were open and the Spokane Falls could be seen with the expanse of park beyond them.

Eric sat on the couch as Sarah put the tone arm down on the turntable and Jerry Garcia’s glass harp led into Grace Slicks vocals on Sunrise. she sat down beside him and opened the bag, taking out the ezwider rolling papers and daintily extracting a paper which she placed on the Starship album cover. She picked up the box and held it out to Eric.

“Would you like to do the honors?”

Eric took the box and opened the lid slowly. The aroma of excellent reefer wafted up to his nostrils. “Mmmm. A nice, full body, an Indica?” he said as he took a liberal pinch and started rolling a joint.

“This, my dear friend” Sarah said with an air of import “is the true ‘flower of Cana’ direct from Cana where I picked it myself not more than 5 days ago.”

“Oh my, the Mother of all herbage grown in the soil of the Motherland. This should be very interesting indeed, have you partaken?”

“Oh no, I thought I’d wait for you, knowing your delight in all things reefer related I thought you should be in on the initial sampling.” Sarah held the lighter up as Eric gave the joint a final lick and put it in between his lips. He took a long, slow draw and passed the burning joint to Sarah. She watched Eric as he closed his eyes and leaned back into the couch. She drew deeply and started to had the joint back to Eric when he suddenly sat up and turned toward her with a look of astonishment. He looked at her, looked at the joint in her hand, looked back at her and almost as an afterthought slowly exhaled a cloud of dense smoke. Sarah looked at him, felt the effects of the marijuana start to expand from her lungs to her brain and looked at the joint and carefully placed it on the top of the rosewood box.

Oh, Sarah, no, no! What did you do? You know I don’t smoke anything but…”

“No, Eric, I swear, there is nothing, I picked it myself, put it in a bag and it hasn’t been out of the bag until an hour ago.” She looked at Eric and he looked at the joint and smiled. The joint smiled back. He picked it up and looked at it like a gold prospector that has just pulled a 1 oz nugget from his gold pan. “You swear to me that this has not been treated with anything, no chemicals of any kind?”

The Strain ©2012 Stoney Burke/Alaska hemp“Yes, absolutely, it was growing beside a spring in a small valley outside of Cana.” The words seemed to blend into the music and flow through the air and saturate the curtains and bounce off the patio door glass and reverberate back to her as she said them. The music seemed to open up like a Lotus flower, every note distinct and important and flowing together with every other note in some perfect concordance. Eric was still smiling as he put the joint to his lips and took the lighter from her hands. He took a deep draw and passed it back to Sarah.

“Really? You think it…I…Oh, what the hell.” She took a drag and handed it back to Eric, who looked at it lovingly as he took it from her, a smile of perfect contentment spreading across his face that would have made the Buddha envious. He put the joint down on the box and turned to Sarah.

“Do you realize…” he stopped, of course she realized, he could see it, no, he could hear it, but she wasn’t talking…yes I amnoomgyour in my headno, your in mineIof course..we…they both broke into hysterical laughter. By the time they managed to get control of their laughter and stopped telling each other 1/2 jokes because they could never get to a punch line before the other one knew what it was they started to rationally grasp that they were in what seemed to be perfect telepathic communication.

“Wait” Eric signaled. He started to get up to find a note pad and Sarah put her hand up for him to stop and pulled two pencils and a note pad out of the coffee table drawer. She handed him a piece of paper and a pencil. He turned his back and wrote something as she did the same. They turned and exchanged the pieces of paper. “This is some fucking amazing weed! =)” they had both written, with equally identical smiley faces afterwards.

‘This isfucking amazingyou never cursebut it isfucking amazingit would beworthmillionsbillionsI want toyes, oh God yes…’ as they headed for the bedroom removing clothing as quickly as they could Sarah thought “did I mention the seeds?…”

Stoney Burke

Inspired by “Pipe Dream” from National Lampoon June 1972, Vol. 1, No. 27