‘Weedling’ – short story by Michael Botur

A boy without a father trudges through a heartless underworld of drug manufacturers and ruthless males.


The cops’ve brought a battering ram this time cause Dad’s nailed timber on the back of the door and it only takes a couple of thuds for fingers of light to poke through the cracks and the shouting begins. The sunlight prods Wesley’s chest as he stands stunned in the hall. He knows childhood will be over within minutes so he grabs whatever possessions he can and crams them in a PakNSave bag. Pokémon cards; some two-dollar coins. There’s a long-forgotten Nerf gun in a palm tree in the hall. He tugs the yellow plastic pistol free of roots. In the tangle comes a tiny cannabis plant with two sad ant-sized fluffy little leaves, sprouting out of a discarded joint a customer mashed out cause it had too many seeds. Dad’s house is all about weed. Seems like he’ll need it.

Ninjas tear the bedsheets and plywood off the windows as they search the dusky house. Wesley shoves his gold foil Bulbasaur card in one pants pocket and the sprouting joint in the other, crumbs and all. The ninjas surge past him like a king tide, washing through the rooms, poking their spiky black guns into corners and calling Dad’s name into a glowing basement that stinks of vegetables. One of dad’s friends who’s been dossing down on the couch runs naked down the hall, cloaked only in tattoos of Grim Reapers and dead friends. Meat, they call him. Coulda been a backup dad, some kind of uncle, but the ninjas soak him up and he disappears in a scrum of black body armour.

Wesley’s lived in four or five places already. Know it’s time to move on. He sits on the steps outside til child protection aunties come and kneel in front of him. They wear flowing dresses with flower patterns from the islands. They push a box of Lego into his arms and fold his fingers round a cup of hot chocolate and winnow his hair. Weedy little thing aren’t you. Gosh, you look starving. Come. How bout a Happy Meal, eh?

Someone’s bellowing out back, by the washing line. Sounds like they’ve got Dad. Or a ninja’s leg’s gotten chomped in one of Dad’s gin traps.

Hey. Darling. Whakarongo mai. Ignore all that. Look at me. You’re Wesley, eh child? You have a beautiful name, considering.

The car is cushy, and his chicken nuggets are nummy and his Lego Transformer is pretty wicked and they’re winding through flash-as hillside hoods, Lynfield, Eden, Epsom, but the catch is just as he’s finishing his last chicken nugget they’re easing into a long driveway of white stones and settling outside a huge cream house from a hundred years ago with brick chimneys sticking up out of the roof.

Place is a castle. Half-school, half-fortress, and four storeys tall, all white with a roof of orange clay tiles. Massive ugly fire escape ladders. Towering hedges so the kids can’t see who’s next door.

Try to think of it as home, they tell Wesley. You’re safe here.

Cept the place has bars on the windows.

Two old married brown people come out onto the driveway. The edges of their grinning eyes scrunch and crumple like accordions. Hildie and Edward. Don’t worry, kiddo. They’ve had hundreds of boys just like you.

Hildie and Edward have saggy throats and huge round bellies. They limp around the place and take forever to say anything. They promise to wash his clothes. Fabric softener to coax the stink of weed out.

They give Wesley his own room with a bedspread with no burn holes in it and no Bob Marley face. The bed doesn’t feel safe. Wesley sleeps in the corner between the mattress and the wall protected with a nail file he finds in the bathroom, scraping it on a rusty part of the iron radiator, scrip-scrap, scrip-scrap til it’s knife-sharp. He hasn’t slept a whole night since he was, like, ten. People come into your room, when you let your guard down. Guys with guns burst in and say they’re looking for guys with guns.

So, Wesley watches the door.  


It’s quiet at the home. The corridors feel big and cold as a school assembly hall. Ceilings so high they’re dark up the top. Dusty chandeliers, ancient carpet. They can hear rich kids through the hedge having pool parties, some days. Their squeals carry on the wind. Wes is the only kid on earth without parents to love him. Him and four other boys, that is. Boys with upthrust chins and slits for mouths. Glass eyes on cold faces. Closer to men than boys. Fifteen-year-olds with two, three, even six months more experience than Wesley. Two Maoris, one Islander, an Indian and a white kid, a ginger sprayed with freckles as if his face is angry and burning. From Greymouth, they reckon. Wesley has no idea where that is. The Maoris call it Gaymouth and the ginger offers the Maoris a one-out and they laugh and go to another room, leaving the ginger in the kitchen with Wesley. Ginge’s shirt and pants and socks and sandals are identical to those of Wes, except Ginge’s right pants leg is rolled up which means he’s NeighbaHood Cripz. NHC.

Wesley rummages in the cupboard for a feed and settles on a packet of Maggi noodles and BAM, the NHC Ginger is standing over him with a breadboard calling him a Noodle-nickin’ Nigga while the ceiling throbs.

After, he sits in his room with a bag of frozen corn against his broken face. Aunty Hildie and Uncle Edward, sitting on the end of his bed, tell Wesley that they’ve adopted eight kids and We’re going to bring you up good and proper, yes indeed, young Warwick, their eyes cracking as they smile.

Wes, dude. My name’s Wesley.

They piss off around 7 o’clock and Wesley is left alone to sleep with his groaning stomach. He’s been smoking ciggies over the past year since Dad stopped making dinner, but it’s hard to get ciggies in this fortress. His gut’s like a complaining child. He can’t avoid the kitchen forever. He’s got to do something to become bros with Ginge so he doesn’t get smashed again. Sharing weed is the best option, except when he pulls the sprouting joint out of his pocket, the miniscule seedling falls out of its paper shell, landling lightly on the carpet. Looking to settle somewhere. Wesley holds it up against a steamed winter window. Finds a wet tea bag in a yoghurt pottle in the rubbish bin. Shoves the weedling’s whisker-of-a-root into the tea leaves. Whispers goodnight to his baby plant.

Creeps down the hall with half a joint and knocks on Ginge’s door.

His jaw screams as he talks, but Wesley can’t look like a pussy.

‘Want a session?’

Ginger snorts. Course he’s up for a sesh. Nothin else to do in this shithole. They can smoke in the pantry.

The boys paddle through the house in white socks and soft grey trackpants, trying not to wake the geriatric guards. When they arrive at the end of the stainless-steel kitchen, Ginger destroys the pantry door lock by hitting it with a fire extinguisher. They burrow inside the dark, shed-sized cupboard, look for some bags of flour to sit on and get ready to smoke their weed. All the boxes of food are ginormous. Bags of oats thick as a kid, tubs of instant mashed potato, crates of onion flakes, logs of cookie dough. Fat bags of sugar. A barrel of maple syrup. Milo and dry pasta and sacks of rice.

Ginger is munching icy chicken nuggets from the freezer compartment when Wesley discovers the holy grail: noodles, stacked floor to ceiling. They tear the packets open. Strands of plastic flap and flutter. Ginger bites into twice as many cakes of noodles as Wesley, whose jaw has a screaming alarm in it.

‘Hellooo? Boys?’

What was that, bro? Fuckin – sounds like Ol’ Edward?

‘BOYYYYYS. Warwick? Sthat you?’

Fuck, G. Get a tool. Grab that fish slicey thing. HURRY, DICK.’

Edward’s thick black silhouette appears in the larder doorway, tying its dressing gown belt. Edward is rubbing his eyes when there’s a conk and Ginge is standing over him with a red metal sausage. It’s the fire extinguisher. Edward tumbles and his toes begin twitching and his lips ooze spew. Ginge picks sticky hairs off the base of his red metal club, wadded with blood and old fogey skin, saying Ewww, gross, and wiping the weapon on a bag of flour.

The Maoris arrive in their pyjama tops and undies, excited about the midnight snack, grabbing as many muesli bars as they can. Ginge is yelling HOLD HIS ARMS, HOLD HIS ARMS. The Maoris stand on the squishy, rubbery flesh above old Edward’s dressing-gowned elbows, the hands like dropped rubber gloves, and Ginge puts the fire extinguisher in front of Edward’s face, squints, looks away, and blasts.

It takes a minute for the powder to settle. For the foam bubbles to settle and reveal the old man’s twitching face. Edward’s bear-of-a-corpse wriggles as if he’s stuck in an electric chair. Some kind of epilectic thingy, spam, spasm, nah, what’s the word? Seizure?

‘Better finish him off,’ Ginge goes, pulling a wad of grated mozzarella from a plastic bag and scoffing it. ‘FUGGIM UB.’

Wesley can’t tell what Ginger is saying. Nor why the kid is so relaxed, considering how much trouble they’re standing over.


‘FUCK HIM UP, G,’ Ginge translates, pushing a thick log of salami into Wesley’s chest. ‘DO IT OR I’LL SMASH YOU, CUNT.’

Before he knows it, Russ and Arama are on either side.  

Wesley’s a nark, Ginge explains to the Maoris. Show him what we do to narks, yo.

Wesley creeps toward the body by the door, the future rushing up, then leaps over Edward’s mountainous belly and runs to his room, leaving his breath behind.

He wants to scream Hildie’s name, please come quick, Auntie Hild, but he can’t be known to be a nark. All he can do is shrink into the corner and cradle his yoghurt pottle plant and nail file while red and blue licks the windows and ninjas force their way in and cuff kids and Hildie’s moaning melts the walls.


The new foster home is the second granny flat in a block of five. Tiny garden of marigolds, tin letterbox, no fence. Inside it’s a low ceiling, seashell wallpaper, two bedrooms. Lots of framed photographs of black people in suits. It’s a’ight. Close enough to school. After he gets his leaving certificate, Wesley figures he’ll go onto whatever course is walkable. Probly join a clique, get patched. Die early.

The woman in charge of him, Prestige Mulindwa, has boobs like balloons and wide hips and walks real slow, like she’s always blissed-out. In her country there’s been some typa war. She’s seen real harsh shit. Machetes and burning wells and stampedes. She has black slashes across her chest and shoulders that’ve scarred thick and puffy.

Miss Prestige has a story for any time Wesley asks for anything. If he asks for a cup of water, she’ll bust out a story about queues of people waiting to share a tap in a refugee camp in Bidi Bidi. If he complains his toast ain’t hot, she’ll tell him where she comes from, kids learn to cook when they’re seven. And most of em don’t have a guardian, So dis you are theenking about, chile.

Miss Prestige trains Wesley to never complain. Never suggest or mention anything is wrong. Eat dinner silently. Wash your plate. Be grateful you live near a school. Get your homework done. Get enough sleep.

Youth Court ordered he had to go and live with a guardian or get locked up, so Miss Prestige’s job is to watch him til he’s 18. Then he can go and make his own mistakes.

The furry smelly weedling growing on his windowsill, Miss Prestige doesn’t tell him off about. He’s got a system of mirrors and bulbs to get enough light on the little thing, and he’s cloned six plants off it, each in their own yoghurt pottles – big one-litre containers, this time. He’s got a whole hydroponics set-up, just about, and still Miss Prestige never asks him to tear it down. He’d run away if she did that, they both know. Then she wouldn’t get her legal guardian payments.

Miss Prestige goes to a church where they speak Swahili and she’s all about watching the sky and keeping your head down. Having both had lives close to death and rage, Miss Prestige looks at Wesley with knowing. They both know the skinny white teen with the burnt eyes won’t live forever with the African woman. And Miss Prestige knows if she takes away the fragile, shivering duckling-of-a-plant, he’ll find a different drug to care about. Something worse.

So they talk a couple of times a day, breakfast and dinner, through the years 15, 16, 16 and a half. They pull apart the junk mail for coupons and talk across the breakfast bar about interesting new shops opening up in Clendon, Rewa, Weymouth. There are brawls in the street, sometimes. Domestics once a week. Tribesmen up on the corner. Mongrel Mob cruising up and down.

Miss Prestige looks at his reports and mostly doesn’t say anything. She looks past the A in Science and the A in Maths, knowing his dad used to sit him on his lap and teach him accounting and hydroponics and botany. Those grades are fine, but with her calm Swahili accent and godmother-eyes, she makes Wes tell her why he got a C-minus for Physical Education. Missing all the assessments.

The PE thing, straight up, he explains, there’s Otahu Crips that’ve got a knife out for him. So he ducks them, reads gardening magazines in the library. He got a C in English too, but fuck English. It’s unfair and inconsistent, the way words like justice, democracy, fairness, equality, law and order have five different origins and ten different meanings depending who’s using them.

Wesley’s creeping up to 17. Starting to feel itchy about living here. Too safe. too predictable. He’s been buying ounces for a year, breaking them down into tinnies, selling them in the toilets at lunch time, making decent-enough profit to buy kilos of weed occasionally for good wholesale prices. Everyone in school knows what the white boy does, and if he stays here for much longer, he’s gonna get robbed or jumped-in or patched-up.

Until he’s forced to move, Wes attends De La Salle College, walking up Massey Road and looking out for Bloods, then up Gray Ave and watching in case anybody hears him mumbling rap.

At the gates a tide of crimson jerseys and blue polo shirts pours in. Grey shorts. Wool socks you’re sposda pull up else they can paddle you.

De La Salle is bored thugs wrapped up in neat wool jerseys. Fine stitching and monograms over evil hearts that pretend to be Catholic when it suits them. Big bullies in boys’ bodies. And Wesley flits between the giants’ feet.

A day at De La Salle ends with a brawl with Tamaki a lot of the time, especially on Fridays. If the brawl ain’t at the end of the week, it’ll be on the last day before school holidays. Someone always owes someone, and when there’s not a real reason, Tamaki’s gay-ass prettyboy white shirts are a good enough reason to fight.

When the bell rings, six cars squeal into the parking lot and Tamaki boys hop out with cricket bats and two tribes spew onto the field. A crimson stain spreading in a white ocean. Shirts churning in a washing machine wide as a field. Kids shrieking and scrambling up hundred-year-old oak trees outside heritage buildings.  

The rumbles ruin the day’s focus. People forget to pay for their weed and Wes – still half a head shorter than most kids – can’t bully anyone into paying. Plus, on days when the whole school knows there’s gonna be an all-in brawl when the bell rings, kids get cray-cray soon as they arrive in the morning. In September, five little Year 9 Crips put a pocket knife against Wes’ throat in the gym changing room. Karam Duff and his yellow-black Killa Beez bros staunch them out and the Crips melt. He’s grateful and relieved, but Wes can’t handle the nipping little piranhas at this place anymore. He needs a tool or some colours or a bodyguard.

Wes owes Karam for saving him, so that narrows down the options for Wes. Karam’s a prospect for the Killa Beez which makes Wesley a hangaround. Has to give K-Dog free tinnies. Karam needs help with an essay, too. The Cook, Karam calls him. As in, ‘Ey Cook yo. Bring us the answers for number 10, nigga.’

‘Gymnosperm. Opposite is angiosperms, them ones’ve got matured ovules and shit that develop in the fruit after they get fertilised. From pollen. You know, from your hay fever, G.’

The boys really wanna know about Cannabis sativa. It’s hermaphroditic, dioecious, and you gots ta take the male parts off, Wes explains, leaning discreetly into his friends’ heads in Science. ‘Male plants is only good for hemp. You wanna clone a female, G. That’s how you get the sticky-icky buds, dog. Full of terpenes. That’s the scent part. The aroma.’

With protection from the KBz, Wes has more free time to dangle his legs off the bleachers and listen to Cannabis Curriculum on Spotify, this podcast from some hipsters in Oregon that grow tonnes of the stuff. He’s thinking of doing a horticulture apprenticeship, cause Weedling’s grown into a big mature plant two metres in height who gives amazing sticky buds that take Wesley on sleigh rides through the clouds when he smokes, a million miles from this shithole.

‘You’re coming to my uncle’s place to cook for us,’ K-dog announces.

‘How come you keep callin me cook? I don’t cook crack.’

‘You’re a natural, dog. We need you.’

Wes is driven home in a yellow Holden with speakers that shake his skin, and he packs everything he owns into a garbage bag, carefully rolling up his Gregor Mendel pea cloning poster, cradling Weedling in his hefty $40 pot. He strips the bed, vacuums his room and leaves a thank-you note for Miss Prestige on the kitchen bench that doesn’t say he’s going to work at the Killa Beez house, rolling tins, scrunching buds into fifty bags and ounces and calling the boss if anyone on the blacklist walks up. His note doesn’t say he’s going to watch icy teenagers with big shoulders trudge in every day, asking what messages have come through on the house phone. Exhausted men carrying fifty years of stress on young bodies, yellow highlights on black cotton. Gold stickers on black caps. Hardly anyone over 20. The occasional mum or aunty he sees across the next fourteen months. Never a single dad. A house reeking of bourbon, stuffed with black hoodies and sneakers and biceps sticking out of basketball singlets, aquarium full of tropical fish, fridge full of leftovers, Playstation always on, a house run by kids, like Never Never Land set in a pub with a Peter Pan who never smiles.

Miss Prestige doesn’t need to know that after a year and a half, Wesley rolls off the couch, packs up his sleeping bag, puts his plant, undies, deodorant and toothbrush in a banana box by the front door and gets ready to bail.  

There’s one last thing you gotta do if you’re handing your patch in.

He trudges up the creaking stairs. Knocks on the boss’s door. Braces for his beating.


After his exit, Wesley has to cross the Harbour Bridge and stay on the North Shore or out west. They’ll kill him if they see him out south again.

Work and Income Henderson help Wesley write a CV, but they don’t find him work. He walks out of the sliding glass doors into the cold without chewing or frowning. Fair’s fair. Life is half bracing yourself to get hurt and half recovering from hurt. And it’s buzzy, being back in WestCity. Thin memory of Dad teaching him how to step on an escalator. Squeals of glee. Wendy’s at the top. Biggest milkshake little Wes ever had.

The case manager, she seemed spooked by his face. Said it would preclude him from being able to attend job interviews or do customer service. She didn’t get it. His face, with the torn ear and the blue and green colours, the purples and yellows, and the Band-aids – his face says he’s a hard worker. That he can endure anything. That he took his beating like a man and now he’s free.

K-dog personally stomped him, and it hurt as much as life every day hurts. No biggie, though. Wes can sense that he got put in a different hydroslide when he was little. He ended up in the same pool as the teachers and the case managers and nurses and cops and all the straightos, all the normal safe happy people. But the tunnel Wes went through to get to the pool was way darker. Twistier.

While Wes is smoking and reading websites and wondering if he can still get that hort apprenticeship, an apprenticeship finds him. Dude just knocks on the door of the hostel one morning and struts through the place. Wes is sitting up on his mattress, bowl of Fruit Loops crooked in his elbow.

Tattooist. White fella, name of Meat. Wes has seen him come by the K Beez pad once or twice, though he doesn’t wear yellow. Says he knew Wesley’s old man.

Wes figures he’s been sold for scrap. Passed on like a used car.

‘Your old man was the oil master. You’re not pressing oil?’

‘Don’t know how. No gear, anymore. Left it at the Beehive.’

Meat drops eye contact for the first time and shakes his head. ‘You could grow here, son. Grow fuckin anywhere. Gap behind the hot water cupboard, eh. Problem is there’s not a lot of future in tinnies, son.’

Meat moves a few inches into the room, filling the doorframe, tattooed fingers itching the spot under his eye with a blue teardrop.

‘So you wanna pack a bag or what?’


To make cannabis oil, first find yourself a quiet spot out in the forest where the pine needles are thick as snow drifts. Typa place your Dad took you when you were little, when he showed you how to fire a shotgun and you cried. Riverhead. We’ll get to know each other on the drive, not that there’s much to tell ya. Half my life I been inside doin lags.

Turn here. You’re a decent enough driver, Wezzy Boy. Road’s got two half-fallen pine trees in a cross, we’re lookin out fo– that one! Turn, dumbarse. Bout ten minutes til we’re near the spot.

The shed? I built it, Meat explains. Rain runs down into these barrels underground, see? Recycling water’s essential. Can’t put down any pipes – mountain bikers’ll start sniffing round.

Meat battles with the padlock, shoulders the door open. The shack is flimsy as a house of cards. Plywood walls that wobble. Stacks of Eveready and Duracell batteries and a bucket full of torches and bulbs. Pasta, instant coffee, milk powder. Little mattress to sleep on or sit on. 200 litres of drinking water in a plastic cube.  

‘What ya do is on ya table you put a gallon jug of alcohol, high proof, real high,’ Meat explains, taking jugs of alcohol from the boot of the Jeep and lugging them inside with his big biker arms. Wesley helps unload the Jeep while Meat lectures him.

You can just order this shit over the net and Chem Couriers’ll drop it off. Make sure the type you get says on the label ‘Not intended for human consumption.’ It’s 99 percent pure, son. Explosive too. So ventilate, y’hear me? Always ventilate, cause we’ll work on a few projects out here.

Wes doesn’t want industrial amounts of work, even if there’s money in it. He preferred it when he had only one plant to care about. The little fella in the plastic bucket in the canvas shopping bag in the back of the Jeep.  

Meat loosens the neck of a garbage sack. Huge stash of stinking buds. Most weed Wesley has ever seen. Harvests from eight different growers.

Meat digs his fingers under palmfuls of buds covered in white fluff, sticky sap and yellow flowers, paws them out into dishes, preparing to start marking oil.  

Wesley can’t keep his eyes off the stories on Meat’s skin, written in tats. Chad 1980-2009, one tattoo reads. Then there’s a Grim Reaper. The Reaper’s big swordy-thing is curled around a Head Hunters skull, slicing the skull in half.

These buckets, son, Meat continues, shoving a stack of ten white Resene buckets into Wesley’s arms. Paint buckets. Best kind. Contaminants just wash right out. Chuck the buds in. Attaboy. Thassit. What I want you to do is pour just a tenth of a gallon on the green til it’s soaked an inch deep. Good lad.

A’ight, while the buds is soaking, read this. Promised your dad I’d teach you something, didn’t I. So repeat back to me what I say. Cause we’re here the full week and you can’t be minus your vital equipment.

Glass mixing bowl. Repeat back.

Glass mixing bowl.



Stand up straight, Wezzy. Right: first, once you’ve poured the alcohol on the buds, stir the weed soup with a wooden spoon, mashing it til the solvent absorbs the THC. Then strain the soaked green resiny goop into another container. Pick out the seeds and stalks and bin ‘em.

Three, young Wesley – soak, mix, and strain the mixture a second time. The first wash will remove 70% to 80% of the resin from the medical cannabis. This second wash gets the final dribs and drabs out, son.

Finally, boil til the oxygen bubbles disappear– with a double boiler, if you got it. Promise you’ll ventilate? Cause you’re cookin crack next month. This is just baby stuff, this is.

I promise I’ll ventilate.

Good. Now, when the contents become a thick dark green syrup, all of the alcohol’s evaporated. Whatcha gotcha is cannabis oil. Cool ‘er; thicken ‘er. Bingo.  

That equipment you need, boy? Recite it back to me before I give you a smack in the chops.

While Wes repeats back the list of set-up equipment, Meat opens a thermos and pours them both a coffee, explaining he doesn’t drink.

Drugs is not about makin money, or about being a badass, Meat says, pointing at batches of buds for Wesley to pour alcohol on. ‘Drugs is about hanging out with people who’ve been raped by the world. See our community, it’s like an emergency department waiting room, know what I’m sayin? Buncha hurt people. The only non-hypocrites in this crooked old earth.’

Wesley is suddenly sure his weedling needs him. He doesn’t want his baby boiled.

‘Can I get something from the car?’

‘The little baby planty.’ Meat nods once. ‘Good plant, good plant. Hope you got a name for the strain.’

Wesley rushes back to the Jeep, checks on his baby. His lifelong friend. He pulls the plant out of its bag, looks for somewhere to put Weedling away from the alcohol and strainer.

  Meat sighs and upends one of his special buckets. Wesley places the plant on the makeshift table and relaxes.

Wes accepts a cup of coffee, realises he’s not bothered by Meat’s tatts at all. They’re some sort of lifeline.

‘Meat. Yo. How come your tatt says 2019? After my dad’s name.’

‘Last time I saw him. That day we got raided. When the feds took you away. We all just assumed he, y’know… Didn’t make it. No one’s sure, though. Mighta fled the country.’

The men spend the day stirring stinky buckets of alcohol-soaked weed with Meat letting the occasional story pour out.

And by the way, this business with your old man. His dad did it to him. Used to bring in acid from Asia. So don’t, like… Don’t be angry with your pop, know what I’m sayin? His dad fucked him up.

When a cloud covers up the sun and the forest gets dark and Meat steps outside with a pistol he’s pulled from some pocket Wesley never noticed, they decide they don’t mind each other. They both want to get this done.

They dissolve and squeeze and mash fragrant furry flowers til the only plant left is Weedling.

In this world, beautiful life forms get their goodness squeezed out. Extracted. Used by people who want you for one thing.


Night fills in the corners, crevices, cracks. Stretches shadows till everything’s black.  

Meat gives Wesley a brand-new sleeping bag and shows the boy how to unfurl it, roll it out.

‘Bulbasaur, by the way,’ he tells his dad’s old mate, passing a glowing orange eye across the floorboards. ‘The strain I been growing. Bulbasaur. It starts off as a little bitty seed. But Bulbasaur’s tough. Every battle, it gets harder and harder.’

Not a sound in the black. Just the hiss of emphysema breath on silver whiskers. Nothing to tell him if he’s on the right course.

At dawn, Meat is standing in the doorway with his thermos.

‘Didn’t wanna wake ya. I’ll be back next week. Show you how to cook something with a little bit more of a profit margin. You been around crystal much? Ice? Rocks?’

Meat tosses a backpack stuffed with Nurofen onto Wesley’s sleeping bag.

‘I’s watching you sleep, y’know, and god damn. The shape of your face. You look just like him.’

Meat walks out to the Jeep. Leaves Wesley on his own. 

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