Home Stories The Reincarnation of Herb McWeed by Jon Fain

The Reincarnation of Herb McWeed by Jon Fain


Having navigated college through a haze of reefer smoke, David swears off the pot – until it becomes legal. 

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David lives in Massachusetts, born and raised. “Where It All Began,” as the saying goes, a state whose origin story is about a mob of cheap shits who didn’t want to spend more for their tea. This attitude has evolved over the generations into a bedrock orneriness, steeped in the conviction that everyone not from there? Is an idiot.

This helps to create the impression that the state is rife with arrogant and unfriendly pricks. Massholes. The vibe given out is that if you aren’t one of them, lucky enough to be living there, you may as well be camping out. Wiping your ass with leaves.

David believes this, as most natives do. Proud that they are watchers, not huggers, and certainly not back-slappers. Prudent, puritanical and parsimonious. Travelling roads as twisted and as hard to navigate as their souls. Once, and to an obnoxious extent, they believed one of their sports teams was cursed. Which it was. All those burned witches getting even.

David relishes the regional identity, although over time, his fellow denizens have proven no different from any other inhabitants of this dull and be-sheepened Land. Once-renowned working wharves and fisheries have morphed into t-shirt shops and whale-watch hustles. Chain stores, franchised restaurants – the strip looks just like the strip anywhere else, where people will sell their brother’s left nut for a Trader Joe’s on the corner. Streaming floods of TV, smaht phones – same as everywhere else.

However, one thing arrived from elsewhere that intrigued rather than annoyed David. Legal marijuana. Weed on the up and up. When the Commonwealth became one with the Rocky Mountain Rubes, Surfer Dudes, and Smoked Fish Eaters of pre-cursor states, David was able to open a door to his past.

He tried it first in high school, but not until senior year. Then, at college – let’s say he didn’t just go hog. He went whole hog. By the end of his first year, he was one of the more notorious potheads around campus, and starting his junior year¬ became one of its main weed dealers – go in with some friends on a pound, price it right to give yourself an ounce for free. How could he be failing his Economics class with such real-world expertise?

Seeded by his fellow students, who sought him out in the dining commons or showed up at his room – “Herb?” – he became a well-known campus character, known for a good product, a fair price, and a taste for McDonald’s. There was a steady-state detritus of burger wrappers in the dorm room of “Herb McWeed.”

By his senior year however, Herb realized he may not be living up to his potential. That a hazy existence in a smoke, music, and grease-filled room lacked ambition. And he’d started to get paranoid from the pot – too high was the default, an overloading of circuits, too many thoughts at once, many of them unsettling.

While there is now an avenue for the “recreational” or “adult” user, the original entryway of legal cannabis in Massachusetts, as in all other states, was through a medical designation. This is where the asterisk comes in. As did David. At his age, he’s banked a number of conditions, syndromes and quite possibly diseases, most of which lend themselves favorably to legal* scrutiny.

Because – as everyone knows – the heady plant, in its varied manifestations, can cure or at least relieve the heavy baggage of glaucoma, cancer, and quite possibly rickets; it mutes the onslaught of epilepsy; it gives you an appetite; and, it can, by some reports, put lead in your pencil, as the saying once went. Back when pencils were a thing.

Therefore, for $200, David procured a prescription* from a compliant, pony-tailed, blue-jeaned old goat even older and goatier than David, who somewhere along the way had passed enough muster to gain the sobriquet “MD.” The medical exam* was an interview, where the complaints of “back pain” and “environmental sensitivity” were duly noted.

Thus medically defined, the next day David went to the first “dispensary” that had opened in the state; in Salem, ye olde site of the aforementioned witches. At a mill building rehabbed and repurposed as Pot Central, he waited in a line of gray-haired ladies, blue-collared gents, one big man on crutches and a young woman in a power wheelchair. If any of them felt giddy in anticipation, they hid it like good, string-saving Bay Staters.

He showed his pot card and driver’s license to a security guard, who unlocked the front door and let David into a foyer, where a tatted lady hipster behind thick glass took his information and signed him into their system. She flipped the switch on another locked door, and he was in.

David took a number from the deli-counter dispenser. Some people sat in the rows of chairs, and others stood at a whiteboard that listed the available products. David went up and struggled to read it without his glasses, which he had forgotten. What the hell was “sativa”? And was it really $50 for an eighth of an ounce?

He took a seat. While he might have had some near-peers among the gray-haired ladies, he was pretty sure he was the oldest person in the room.


He’d eavesdropped as other customers ordered. He wanted to pass for savvy, that old feeling of wanting to be one of the cool kids. Like the one who waited for him behind the counter, bearded, man-bunned – David was possibly old enough to be his grandfather. He’d gotten high before the lad was a zygote.

“Welcome! First time here? Great! What can I help you with today?”

A sheet of paper on the counter listed what was on the white board. It included THC percentage for each of the “flower” types. David’s prescribing doctor had talked up the weed highest in CBD for his “back pain.” But CBD offered no psychoactive effects. For $50? David was going to get stoned.

Some of the names on the weed sheet seemed juvenile. Lots of cookies and cake and other sweets. Along with a few puns.

“What’s this one… Berry White?”

“That’s great!” said the counterman. “It’s a real anxiety reducer, one of my go-to meds.”

David was glad that the kid had some experience, although… to keep calling it “medicine” was becoming a tiresome charade.

“It’s got a great terpene profile, limonene -”

“Turpin?” David thought that was a type of fish.

“Terpenes are a type of aromatic hydrocarbon that provides the cannabis with its flavor profile. The cannabinoids are odorless, the terpenes give it a scent that makes it unique.”

Lemon flavored pot? Who knew?

“Okay,” David said, “can I see it?”

“Everything’s pre-packaged. You’ll be happy with it though!”

The way to buy weed was to examine it, smell it, make sure you weren’t getting beat on the weight.

“So this one… Boston Cream Pie…”

“Brilliant! You’ll like that…”

“And this one… ATF?”

David assumed the acronym was a stoner-goof on the government agency. Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms. But it should have had a “C” added, for cannabis.

The kid went to the row of cabinets behind him. It cost David the five twenties he had brought for his two selections. He got handed a thick plastic bag with some sort of zipper lock on it, and directed to a different door than the one he had come in.

His wife Gail was still out shopping when he got home. They’d met after college; she’d told him she’d smoked pot once or twice and didn’t like it, and thought it was for losers. David hadn’t told her that morning where he was going, and she had no clue as to his past. He got a nostalgic rush, felt like he did when he hid his pot use from his parents. When it looked like Herb was going to have to drop out of college, they were firmly in the “it’s for losers” camp too.

He took what he’d scored into the living room.

The child-proof packaging thwarted him. Whatever happened to the plastic Baggie? Like any other smart kid, he went back into the kitchen for scissors.

Once he hacked it open, he pulled out a small white plastic canister, the Boston Cream Pie. The other one, ATF, was not what he thought it stood for. ATF stood for Alaskan Thunderfuck.

He put that one aside. Inside the one he opened was a scattering of small tight buds, with nary a seed or stem to be found. The pungency mocked the stale skunk weed of his youth.

David took out the “first-timer” gift of rolling papers he’d found in the bag. His fingers knew the moves but the pot was so soft and sticky it took him three bad tries before he arrived at something passable. He flicked the lighter he’d found in a kitchen drawer, touching the flame to the end of the bent, uneven joint, and sucked it to life.

He kept it to two fairly dainty puffs. He wasn’t an idiot. Even the rubes knew how strong the shit had gotten.

David pondered things for ten minutes or so. He was an old pro. Muscle memory. Couple of more hits wouldn’t hurt.

He went back into the living room. The TV was on, a replay of the Celtics basketball game from the night before. As he sat rubbing his face, the squeak of the players’ sneakers on the highly polished parquet seemed excessively loud. Or maybe it was that he’d never noticed it before. He muted the sound thinking somebody should do something about that.

He clicked clicked clicked, landed on the movie “Good Will Hunting.” He listened to Robin Williams butcher up a bad Boston accent into unsavory cuts, then flipped through channels again. Julia Child started doing something aggressive to a fish. On another stop, Ben Affleck’s back tattoos were having a dull conversation.

“What’s that smell? Why are you making that noise?”

His wife had returned, and it was only as she came into the living room and said something that he realized he’d been humming as he worked through a big bag of chips.

His wife was from Connecticut, would never understand. She was just camping out. Wiping her ass with leaves. He cackled.

“Have you been smoking pot?”

He may have made some sort of face; it felt like his cheeks were drooping, his eyelids dropping, mouth corners dripping.

“Are you high?”

“At the moment? At the moment,” he said, taking stock, “I am high enough to hunt ducks with a rake.”

“Why are you talking that way?”

“Like wha?”

“Like Mrs. Murphy with her accent across the street.”

Another burst of thoughts snuck up, bunched, bounced. David shook his head, unable to make sound. Gauging how far he’d fallen, his wife left him there.

Uh… which was? His living room. His favorite chair although not really favorite, just where he sits most of the time. But he’s on the couch. Been there for a while.

He sat there alternating between clutching a throw pillow and throwing the pillow off, clutching himself. When he finally let go of his ribcage, his breaths came a little easier.

Still… as he managed to come down to a manageable state, an old sense of accomplishment took the place of common sense, as it often had back in his Herb Era.

Being high was fun!

He picked up the ATF container. He might get to the point where he couldn’t find his ass with both hands, but no matter how funky and sticky the product, he’d still be able to roll a joint.

He heard his wife in the kitchen, dishes, cabinet doors opening and closing. Closing with a bang.

David had always liked her spirit. She was the old flame back in those times of heat and fire, and thinking of one time in particular, he felt a bit of stirring.

ATF? Couldn’t hurt to see if it could live up to its name.

He clicked the old Bic on and off, and watched the old flame.

There were pencils to be sharpened, after all.


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