The Madball Scientist

by Flynn Washburne, January 12, 2017

“OOOOO-eeeeeeeeee!” I shouted, coming down hard on the second syllable and giving it some real verve and brio, the pitch steadily rising into the sensory realm of dogs and bats. It was a full-throated, big-bellied, unmitigated out-and-out barbaric yawp and it boiled cathartically from deep inside my inmost core like volcanic ejecta.

Let me assure you right here that I am not, generally, one to “OOOO-eeeee.” I am neither hillbilly nor hog-caller, and such interjections as I am likely to emit are more subdued and indoor-voiced. “Well!” I might say if I am especially stimulated, or more likely, “Hmm.” Under extreme provocation, like say the aurora borealis or a good catfight, I might say “whoa” or “damn,” but I am certainly not given to rebel-yelling out the car window like some whiskey-sotted bumpkin cheering on his wife's impromptu striptease at a Trump rally, as I did one fine, sunny Sunday afternoon while plying the serpentine meanderings of Highway 20 on the final leg of the journey 'tween Willits and Fort Bragg.

“Good one?” asked my traveling companion and faithful factotum, the inimitable Will Hawk. The proximate cause of my outburst was the delivery via bong to my system of a little thing I like to call a Madball (patent pending). A madball is a nug (marijuana budlet) of Mendo’s finest that's been marinated in whatever water-soluble intoxicating chemicals you may happen to have on hand, the more potent the better, dried out and smoked in one mighty lung-busting bong hit. This particular one was impregnated with crystal meth and methaqualone and doused in overproof rum just prior to ignition to facilitate oxidation. I turned to Will after my exclamation, smoke still billowing from me in great toxic clouds, and said, “Unnnhh, yes, good one.”The underlying theme framing the madball concept is the creation of a multilayered pastiche of intoxication, a sort of tapestry or mosaic based on the delicate interplay of the various substances. One hopes for a combination of balance and beauty; one sometimes gets a nightmarish terror trip. It's a science of sorts, albeit conducted completely unscientifically. I could probably keep careful notations recording the type, amount, and relative strength of the ingredients, the combinatorial details of same, specifics regarding the botanical substrate, replicating positive results and refining the mixture until all the guesswork was eliminated, but if I were the sort to do that I probably wouldn't be the guy who liked to concoct deadly brain-scrambling cocktails and ingest them while driving on treacherous winding roads.

I find that combining one or more powerful stimulants with a downer or two, like the soporific mentioned earlier, works well. Benzos are excellent, as is hydrocodone. I recommend against hallucinogens as they seem to resent the imposition of other drugs and retaliate by dropping you down a virtual mineshaft. Crack cocaine is good, but I suggest packing a little extra — once that stuff gains a toehold it doesn't like to let go.

A well-crafted madball hits you first, hard, with the more powerful and virulent chemicals, crossing your eyes and rattling your brain-pan; gradually, the THC asserts itself like moonlit ground fog, creeping in and coating your buzz in a fuzzy lambent glow. That's the plan, anyway. Sometimes things go awry and it's back to the drawing board, but in this case I'd definitely hit the mark. As Will was packing his hit and I was enjoying the effects of mine vis-a-vis our vermicular voyaging, which had just gotten a whole lot more interesting, I got a thought. Nothing very novel or ground-breaking, in fact an idea so common to my ruminations that it had become rather shopworn: if one is good, would not two be better? On the surface the reasoning appears sound and solidly based in qualitative math. In practice it's not always so black and white. Sometimes where one suits perfectly and is exactly what the doctor ordered, two will be what the doctor warns you against, like tobacco or donuts. A finger up the butt is a good example. In the right situation it's just the ticket, but increasing the number of digits becomes unnecessarily painful and complicated. Valuable lesson there. Nonetheless, I applied the original maxim to the situation at hand and bade Will load me another. “Encore!” I said. “Do it again.”I powered down the second madball and even as I squinted at the twisting roadway ahead through the cumulus haze pouring from my mouth, I realized, too late, that I'd (as usual) bypassed an opportunity for wise prudence, taken the precipitate course and now indeed had a supernumerary of phalanges penetrating my fundament. Too many fingers in the bunghole! I eased the car to the side of the road and sat motionless for a few moments with my hands on the wheel, gathering my bearings. “You alright, bro?” Will asked.“Will, I can no longer drive,” I said.“That's cool; me neither. We'll just sit here and chill for awhile until you can. Maybe get out and walk around, take the air.”“No, you don't understand. I don't mean I'm too high to drive, I mean I can't. All these dials and levers and pedals and whatnot? They have become meaningless to me. I get that they are crucial to the operation of the vehicle but for the life of me I don't know why or how, Will.” I reached over, squeezed his shoulder and looked gravely into his eyes. “I'm afraid I've reverted to a pre-industrial state.” “Wait, what? A which now?” Will said, clearly confused.“Like Rousseau's noble savage, my mooring to the technological world has been cleft asunder,” I said. “I am adrift.”Will looked a little scared now in addition to perplexed. “You're freaking me out, dude. C'mon, let's walk toward town. Somebody'll pick us up, sure as shit. You'll be fine, you just need some air, dog!”

He got out of the car and I followed suit. Hands on hips, I faced the limitless forest, gazing heroically at the misty green expanse. “You go on, faithful friend. My destiny lies yonder.” I pointed to my future as a de-gridded man of the woods.

Will paced worriedly back and forth in front of the car and pulled out his phone, knowing we were still at least 10 miles shy of any service. “Your gadgets won't do you any good up here, Will. Anyway, my mind is made up. I am now going to shed my raiment and go forth into the wilderness, in the skin God clothed me in.” I began disrobing but before I could even get my shirt off, a change came over Will. He stopped pacing, his eyes and mouth opened wide in an expression of surprise, and I literally saw a light-bulb materialize over his head. Ideas not being Will Hawk's stock-in-trade, I suppose it was natural that this one so visibly and obviously manifested itself.“Hold on before you get naked,” he said. “I respect your decision, but before you go would you please do one more hit with me? C'mon, for old time's sake.” He grabbed the bong from the car and plugged another maddie into the bowl. “Whaddaya say, buddy? Boom-shaka-laka?” He extended the bong and a lighter toward me.“Oh hell, why not?” I said. “By the way, after I'm gone, sell my car and donate the proceeds to one of those harelip charities. They do good work. Gimme that thing.” I inhaled the nug and as I was exhaling, I became conscious of a roaring in my ears, like distant surf. As it gained in volume and intensity I began to feel a spinning sensation. No — it wasn't me spinning, it was the world spinning around me. I stood transfixed as the woods, Will, the car, and Highway 20 spun around me, faster and faster, gradually losing individual definition and becoming a whirling, roaring, maelstrom. I closed my eyes against the chaos and stumbled over to the car, feeling my way along its length until I reached the door handle. I got back inside and grabbed the steering wheel tightly, sure that any moment the car and myself would be lifted up and spun away to Oz, or Santa Rosa.

Having brought Oz into it, I figured I had nothing to lose in employing a little trick of Dorothy's.“There's no place like home,” I intoned. “There's no place like home.” I heard Will's voice from very far away, as if through a long tunnel. “Dog… Yo, dog…” All of a sudden I lost the sense of rotation around me and the roaring ceased. My eyes snapped open and all was of crystalline clarity, sharply defined and still as statues. Everything was where it ought to have been, I felt fine as vintage wine, and I did not understand why we were sitting on the side of the road with Will peering anxiously at me like an apprentice dentist about to pull his first tooth.“The hell's going on here, bud? What are we doing on the side of the road?” I asked.“Uh, we just stopped to take a piss. Let's roll,” Will said. He filled me in on the details of the whole escapade on the way down the hill, of which I had no remembrance at all. The truly amazing thing was that Will had applied the most specious and irresponsible lesson ever taught to us by sitcoms, cartoons, and comedic shorts — that trauma-induced brain damage can be reversed by simply doubling up on the trauma, like hitting someone over the head with a frying pan after they've been brained with an anvil, to restore their memory — and it worked. So, as it turned out, One was good. Two kinda threw an element of instability into the mix. And Three wiped the slate clean, albeit rather spectacularly. That's how you learn, though, through experience and experimentation. Chalk one up for science!

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