Benjamin Joe

Passing the Time on the Road

“Well, the drug dogs went in, and the drug dogs came out, and they didn’t make a sound, now how’s that for luck?” Dan looks over to him to see if he’s paying attention, the premature wrinkles on his forehead and eyes winking in question. Tommy looks back at him, and nods hurriedly like he’s only been waiting for Dan to look over.

“Hey, think I can have a cigarette out of your pouch? I’m all out of Marlboros,” he asks. In response Dan throws his pouch over onto Tommy’s lap.

“Roll another joint while you’re at it, we’ll wait another hour before smoking it… damn we’re making good time. I’ve never got this far, this fast before.” Tommy nods his head obediently, and rolls the joint first, then a cigarette. He lights the cigarette, and takes a drag then coughs hard.

“Shit,” he whispers.

“Yeah, they get some getting used to, but they’re the only way to smoke when you’re poor.”

“It tastes like shit!”

“Well, fuck man, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to smoke it, but it’s the only tobacco in this car.” Tommy takes the hint, and keeps puffing at the butt. Dan reaches over to turn on the radio, and quickly flips through the stations until an Eagles song plays through, then he picks a cigarette off the dashboard that he had rolled earlier. For a long time neither of them say anything. They smoke quietly until the song ends, and an annoying car salesman comes over the station.

“Buy now and there will be no interest for the rest of the…” Dan shuts off the radio, and shrugs apologetically.

“Sorry, this thing only has a radio, it’s annoying as fuck.” Tommy agrees with him, and asks the first thing that comes to mind.

“So, what kind of music you like?”

“Classic rock mostly, y’know, Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath… You?”

“Grunge, Nirvana mostly. Alice in Chains… I like Neil Young too, and some Beatles…”

“Oh yeah, Nirvana. They’re not bad. I mean they’re not great, but they’re better than a lot of the bands in the last decade, y’know.”

“Nirvana rocks, man,” Tommy tells him.

“Yeah, yeah, I guess they do, fuck load better than all that eighties metal shit, those guys just didn’t get it, grunge is a big fuckin’ step from that. Gotta wonder how long it’ll last though.” They fall silent again while Tommy wonders about that last comment. Dan turns on the radio again, and turns it to some modern rock station. Immediately a track from Nevermind comes up.

“There you go kid, a present from me to you.” There’s a hint of a patronizing tone in his voice, but Tommy ignores it. Nobody is perfect after all.  He asks Dan if they can smoke the joint now.

“Hell, it’s close enough to an hour, fire it up!” And so, he does.


Benjamin Joe lives in Buffalo and works as a freelance writer. He grew up in central Massachusetts and went to high school in Lunenburg where he dropped out of in favor of the school of hard knocks. Five years later, his son, Tyler, was born, and he returned to school earning his Bachelors in Journalism at SUNY Buffalo State College. Throughout this time he has written about his life on the road, the people he's met, and the music he loves, on top of news assignments from the Niagara Gazette and