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The Pebble, the Sword, the Bullet by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | May 2018

The Pebble, the Sword, the Bullet

by Mike Bozart

© 2018 Mike Bozart 

They were pretty good – even if a bit unlikely – friends in the beginning. Ned was a husky; white-as-1950s-north-Texas; short-brown-haired; sometimes sullen, and often serious; formerly protestant, but now firmly atheist; street-book smart; science-fiction-devouring; metallurgy-informed abstract artist in his late 40s. Yoel was a black-haired, Mediterranean-skin-toned, suave, skirt-chasing, usually upbeat, Jewish, aspiring actor-comedian in his mid-30s, who was also a drummer in a jazz-pop band (think Sade). These two disparate dudes would meet at a fledgling co-op art gallery (the now-long-gone 23 Studio) in the NoDa district of Charlotte (NC, USA) on a Saturday afternoon in the mid-1990s for a public-access TV show (Z-Axis) shoot. They did a bizarrely surreal impromptu skit involving a mad scientist (Ned) being interviewed by an in-on-the-joke investigative reporter (Yoel). They played off of each other quite well, and seemed to like the end result.

Now, what was the primary thing that these two had in common? Answer: a love for primo weed (high-grade marijuana). And, Ned had plenty of it, as he was an indoor (dining room) grower. All of the weed-partaking artists, actors and musicians in NoDa knew that his crop ruled. The potency was off the charts. Some who had ingested Ned’s notoriously overpowering green brownies had trouble speaking, thought that there was no oxygen in the air, and were afraid to drive their cars. Yes, it was that strong. Trust me. I got zapped by it, too.

Move up several years – to 1998. Ned, who has been living in an end-of-the-road duplex next to Sugar Creek Community Park, informs Yoel that the longtime lower-level tenant (an elderly lady) has moved out, and that the apartment is now available. Yoel jumps on it, and moves in the next week.

All is going swimmingly as someone first said in 1622. But then, for whatever reason (possibly nonpayment of product received), Ned and Yoel stop talking. Additionally, Ned stops selling his super-strong weed to Yoel. And, as you might have guessed, Yoel is none too happy about it.

This cold war goes on for several weeks at their isolated, dual dwelling. Ned strategically avoids seeing Yoel by always glancing out his window at the driveway before leaving his flat. Additionally, he begins to park his old, brown, Mazda pickup truck in the grass next to the stairway that leads up to his roost to lessen the chances of coming face to face with Yoel.

An increasingly annoyed – and now thoroughly situation-dissatisfied – Yoel cranks up the music one night after getting home at 2:22 in the morning from his bartending/waiting gig. Ned returns the favor by repeatedly dropping an old bowling ball on his hardwood floor. Tit for tat. And, out goes the rat.

And then, the fateful summer Wednesday arrives. It’s a little after seven o’clock on a hot-as-Hades mid-July evening. Ned is upstairs getting high with a new potential customer as Yoel wheels his white Chevy sedan into the pair of dirt-with-pea-size-gravel, well-worn tire tracks. He immediately knows whose car is in front of his: Melvin’s – the keyboardist in his band and a well-known major weedhead (habitual marijuana smoker). Yoel quickly puts one and one together and gets too – too angry. He stews in his car and thinks: That lousy fucker won’t even sell me a joint, [marijuana cigarette] but he will supply my bandmate all day long. How the hell does he even know Melvin? Word about good weed sure travels fast and far. I’m going to pester the hell out of Ned until he sells me a bud. Yes, tonight I am going to wear him down.

Still fuming, Yoel exits his vehicle. Looking down, he ponders over an initial tactic. Then he literally stumbles upon it: a brown, three-centimeter-long (1.18 inches), oval-shaped pebble. He picks it up with his left hand (a southpaw) and looks up at Ned’s horizontal-blinds-closed living room window. Get ready for incoming, Ned. No, must not break the window. Just lob it lightly. Yeah, that’s it. Just tap the window pane.

“Ned, did you hear that?” Melvin asked, now quite stoned, and not totally sure if he had really heard something hitting the window behind him.

“Oh, it’s probably just a hummingbird or a bee,” Ned assured. “I watched this one wood-boring bee bounce off that window a dozen times last weekend.”

“That bee must have been really ripped from the exhaust smoke,” Melvin replied with a chuckle that became a loud, prolonged guffaw.

Yoel heard Melvin’s laughing. He was becoming livid. Goddammit! Worthless motherfuckers!

Ned then got up and opened the blinds. He saw Yoel standing in the front yard. Yoel’s head quickly tilted 40º, and he suddenly had a ridiculously sarcastic smile on his face. Ned reclosed the blinds.

“Your drummer’s stupidity needs to be permanently fixed,” Ned proclaimed.

“Is Yoel out there?” Melvin asked. “Did he throw a rock at the window, Ned?”

Ned didn’t bother to answer. He raced into his bedroom and grabbed his paternal grandad’s just-recently-sharpened sabre off the wall. He then charged past Melvin, who was making hand gestures to Yoel, and dashed down the steps, intent on attacking Yoel.

Yoel cautiously approached the enraged Ned. “Hey, I didn’t mean to interrupt your smoking session. But, you really should share, man.”

With that inflaming pronouncement, Ned raised his silver sword over his head. “I’m going to teach you a lesson you’ll never forget!”

“You’ve gone completely mad, Ned. Why, look at you, Mr. Samurai Warrior. Ok, you got the part. Now, please put the sword down.”

Ned then began to whip the sword near Yoel’s head. “Get ready, you pest; I’m going to slash your pretty-boy face wide open,” Ned warned with spittle flying.

“C’mon, Ned; give me that sword,” Yoel implored. “This is crazy.”

As Yoel reached out for the blade (perhaps thinking that it was dull), Ned swung it down with great force. It struck the open palm of Yoel’s right hand. It cut deep. Yoel freaked out at the spurting blood. Then he looked at Ned in shock, who had raised the sword again, and was preparing to take another slice. He’s gone totally insane. He wants to kill me!

Melvin, now just ten feet (three meters) behind Ned, screamed: “Ned, don’t do it!”

Then there was a gunshot. Ned was hit by a .22-caliber bullet in his left love handle. He dropped the sword and doubled over in extreme pain. “I’ve been shot! Call an ambulance, Melvin.”

Suddenly, the black Oldsmobile in the street in front of the duplex burned rubber and raced away. The shooter was a scraggly, long-dirty-blonde-haired, pill-popping, old-north-Charlotte-mill-village ruffian in his early 40s, who was on the passenger side of the front seat. He was an acquaintance of Yoel’s. They (the duo in the 1988 Cutlass) had – just by chance – pulled up as the confrontation started.

Ned would be treated and released from the main city hospital the next day. The bullet had not struck any organs, nor any major blood vessels; it had just passed through skin and fat. Ned was very lucky.

However, with it being an obvious gunshot wound, the police got involved. A CMPD (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department) detective would interrogate Ned several times. But, he just told the officer that it was a drunken accident, as he didn’t want the police going through his unit and finding the weed-growing operation. Moreover, no charges were ever filed.

Yoel would get stitched-up and bandaged at an urgent-care facility. His hand would be fine after a month of healing. However, a scar in the shape of Ned’s sword would remain.

Ned and Yoel would never see or communicate with each other again. Yoel paid some friends to move his stuff out of his apartment while Ned was at work.

Ned would die alone in 2015. Yoel made it to Manhattan.

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