My daughter has been a terrible tattle-tale almost as long as she’s been able to talk. She’ll run up to me breathlessly and inform me that her brother, six years younger than her, just spit at the cat, or threw his piggy bank down the stairs, or some other relatively harmless thing that he did, often because his sister told him to. My reaction is always the same: “Thanks for the heads up on that, narc!”
The first time I called my daughter a narc, she asked me what it meant and I had to pause. Telling your toddler that you just called her, in effect, an undercover narcotics agent isn’t the kind of thing that’s easily explainable when she then turns around and repeats it to her day care teacher. “Your daughter told me that she’s a narc and that I better watch it if I’ve been doing blow. That’s why the state has taken her away pending the results of your urinalysis.” So I told her that it just means a tattle-tale, because that’s how I really mean it. And I do know the difference, because I have tangled with an actual narc before.
When I was in college, I liked to dabble with marijuana. And by dabble, of course, I mean voraciously consume at every possible opportunity. I was a fucking pothead and it was great. The arc of a former pothead’s career goes something like this: You start by smoking a couple of times at parties and whatnot, and you don’t really get high at all, but it’s exciting. Then you try it again, it kicks in for the first time, and it’s terrific fun. Everything is funny and you spend a lot of time with your friends cracking up over stupid shit like squirrels. (I got so high one time in high school I sent the better part of half an hour staring at a squirrel, and finally turned to my equally high friends and said, “Dude, can you imagine what it would be like to, you know, BE a squirrel?” That spawned a hilarity-filled twenty minute discussion on how totally cool it would be to, you know, BE a squirrel. Good times.)
And since getting high is so much fun, think about how much fun it would be if you got high even more! Like all day! Then all weekend! All week! All month! And for a while it is great, until one day it isn’t. But during my sophomore year in college, while I was still living in the dorms, I was still in that sweet spot where getting high all day was a regular laff-riot. And one of my favorite places to get high was across the street from our dorm at the university’s performing arts center which had stairs that led to hidden gardens on the rooftop and, even better, a very tall almost vertical wall that you could lean up against and give yourself a wicked case of stoned vertigo with.
And so one Friday early evening, after four or five hours of quarter beers, I went to get high on the roof with a guy we called Gumby, for some long-forgotten reason. Coming back in, we decided to hit the cafeteria, where we proceeded to act like the extremely stoned idiots we were.
Greg: Dude, this tortilla is fucking delicious!
Gumby: That’s your napkin.
Greg: Mmmmm… Oh, man… Mmmmm
Gumby: Can I have some?
It was on our way out of the cafeteria that we met Andy. Andy had seen us in the cafeteria and walked right up to us and said, “Holy shit, you guys are fucking baked!” We found this terrifically funny and quickly introduced ourselves to Andy who, as he told us, loved to get high. So we promptly invited him upstairs for an evening of blowing bongs, giggling, and generally acting like imbeciles. We got along great with Andy.
As a matter of fact, we wound up spending a lot of time with Andy over the course of the next couple of weeks. He’d drop by, we’d all get stoned and shoot the shit, then just for good measure get stoned some more. Andy was even nice enough to be concerned that he was smoking a lot of our stash, which we graciously informed him wasn’t a big deal.
But as the amount of pot we had started to dwindle, Andy started asking if we knew where to get more. We didn’t, of course, simply because we were stoned and didn’t care. That shit would sort itself out when the time came. And if not, we knew people who could offer us something to scrape by on. Andy, on the other hand, seemed a little more forward thinking. “What we should do,” he said, “is scrape together some money and buy a quarter pound”.
This wasn’t exactly a new concept to us. The idea that you could buy bulk marijuana and sell enough to make your money back and net yourself free weed in the process is as old as the laws designed to prevent that kind of behavior in the first place. But we had found, in our limited experience in this area, that our profits tended to literally go up in smoke. And if you weren’t going to come out ahead, why take the risk? So we brushed Andy off, using the excuse that we simply couldn’t rustle up that kind of money, which was a great excuse because it happened to be true.
Over the next couple of days, the baggie got perilously close to empty. Andy would chime in with the occasional, “I’m telling you, we buy a quarter pound and we don’t have this problem,” which again, we’d brush off. The last time this happened, he said, “Well we should borrow the money from someone then. We can pay it all back in a week and have lots of free weed! I know a guy who can get it for us!” We laughed it off. We were poor college students, as was everyone else we knew. What were we going to do, ask mom & dad to float us money for a drug deal?
One night, as we were drinking beers and celebrating the purchase of a small bag of weed from someone Gumby had gone to high school with, a friend of ours I’ll call Holmes stopped by. Although Holmes lived six or seven rooms down from us, we hadn’t seen him much at all in the last couple of weeks because he was deeply engrossed in doing actual, honest-to-God school work, which we, apparently, didn’t have time for. He came into Gumby’s room and we introduced him to Andy. “Hey, nice to meet you, Andy. Greg, can I talk to you for a second?”
I stepped out into the hall with Holmes, and he immediately asked me, “Why are you partying with a narc?”
Greg: A narc? Andy’s not a narc! We’ve gotten stoned with him a bunch of times.
Holmes: This same guy hung out with some other friends of mine in a different dorm, getting high all the time. When they ran low, he arranged for them to buy a quarter pound. When they went to buy the weed, Andy couldn’t make it, and the cops came in and arrested everyone. I’m telling you, he’s a narc.
A little while later, Andy left and I brought Gumby up to speed. We had no reason to doubt Holmes, who remains a friend to this day (he comments on this site from time to time, in fact), and the fact that Andy had been exhorting us to buy a quarter pound made it very likely we were dealing with a narc, or more likely an informant who owed the police in a major way. Still, some weird, twisted part of us kept us from immediately distancing ourselves from him. We wanted to watch him, play him for a while, and see where it would lead.
Almost instantly, we noticed some odd things about Andy. For instance, sometimes he would announce that he had to go to class, and would get up to leave when we’d say something like, “Don’t you need a notebook? And a pen?” He’d sheepishly laugh and ask us if we would loan him one. And then we’d watch out the window to see if he’d leave the building, which he wouldn’t.
His room was on the floor above ours, but he’d never let us in. I knew other people on that floor, and one of them told me, “It’s weird. I thought that room was empty, but I saw this guy go in there the other day. There’s a pillow, a TV, and a Nintendo in there, and that’s it.” And so on days Andy would go to “class”, we’d wait fifteen minutes and sneak up to his room and listen through the door. We could hear Super Mario Brothers being played, very, very softly.
He wasn’t even able to keep his classes straight. “Dude, don’t you have class?” “Nahhh, I’m done for the day.” “Really? Last week you had a 4:00 class on Wednesday.” “Oh… Oh shit! You’re right! I gotta go!” Fifteen minutes later: Doo-do-do-do-do-doooo-doo! Boing-Boing-Boing-Boing!
Andy was a narc, and so we decided to play the game to its logical conclusion. We told Andy we’d borrowed the money and to call his friend and set up the deal. He almost exploded with joy. “I’ll talk to him tonight! Holy shit, this will be GREAT! We’re going to get some awesome fucking weed! We’ll stay stoned for months!” Late that night he dropped by to tell us the good news: His friend happened to have a quarter-pound for sale for the low, low price of $400. He’d stop by at 3:00 the following afternoon and take us to meet his friend and buy some weed.
And, of course, Andy showed up just before 3:00 the next day and somberly informed us that his mother had taken very ill and he had to go see her in the hospital. “Don’t worry, though. I explained everything to my friend Mike and he’s expecting you. He’s in room 312. All you have to do is go down there and introduce yourself and say something about me going to see my mom in the hospital so he knows it’s you.” With that, he left. We watched him leave the building from the window and set off.
We walked towards the staircase and started going down. But instead of walking onto the third floor, we kept going down to the ground floor and walked out the back of the building. Sitting there in the parking lot were two obvious, unmarked cops cars, their inhabitants wearing hilariously typical bad cop mustaches, one of them pressing a finger to his ear. We walked right by them and kept walking to our favorite bar where we spent the evening getting loaded and cursing that no good fucking narc, Andy.
I guess it wasn’t surprising that we didn’t see Andy for a couple of days. He probably knew almost immediately that we never showed up, but he had to continue the sick mom ruse or blow his cover. And he was probably also a bit nervous that if we were onto him, showing up in Gumby’s room might be inviting a beating or worse. So he waited until he knew we’d be in public, Friday afternoon at our favorite watering hole. He walked in with a big grin on his face, “Hey! What’s going on?”
Instead of heaping verbal abuse on him, we surprised ourselves by going ice cold instead. “Not much. How are you doing… narc?” If we had any lingering doubts, they disappeared when we saw his reaction to that word. He stammered a bit, played it off like we were joking with him, but clearly he knew that we knew. Our table, normally a deafening blast of drunken idiocy, was eerily silent as we watched his reaction.
He left to go get himself a drink since we weren’t offering him one. When he came back, he told us all about how his mom was still really, really sick, congenital heart defect you know, but the doctors think she’s turned the corner, thank God, blah, blah, blah, blah. This was met with silence, which he ignored. Finally, he said, “So, did you guys ever hook up with Mike? How’s the weed? Do you have any on you now?”
Gumby looked straight at him and said, in a monotone, “We don’t know what you’re talking about… narc.” Andy fidgeted uncomfortably, and muttered a half-hearted, “Yeah, good one. Haha.” And sipped on his beer for a while. Finally, he played his last card: He took out a joint and lit it right there at the table. “Would a narc do this?” he asked, trying to pass us the joint. “Yeah, because you’re a narc, not a cop… Narc.”
Andy took a couple more hits and stubbed out the joint. As the silence continued, he stood up angrily and finished off his beer. “Fine. I don’t care what you guys think. You blew a great fucking deal, but that’s not my problem. I’ve got other problems. Like how I had to join the army yesterday so I can pay for my mom’s medical bills. So, you know, fuck you guys. Later.”
As he walked away, I couldn’t help but say, “Hey, good luck passing that drug test… narc.”
My best guess is that Andy was just another student who had gotten caught dealing weed and agreed to help the cops in order to keep from going to that ass-fucking academy we call prison. And because of that, it’s hard to muster too much anger towards the guy. It’s easy to say that you’d tell the cops to stick it until you actually get a chance to do it. My guess is that 99 out of 100 people in Andy’s situation would opt for something a little less aggressive, like “Yes sir! Whatever you say, sir! Right away, sir!”
And while I don’t think we were ever in danger of being arrested for anything more serious than having a small bag of weed and being morons, it is sobering to think that an over-zealous cop and prosecutor could have still made a lot of trouble for us. But not that sobering. We went home from the bar and got stoned on top of the roof of the performing arts center. College had finally taught us something, but we seemed intent on not acknowledging it.