After only a few hours of sleep Bruce awakens with a feeling he usually associates with beginning a day when he has something exciting or risky planned. In fact, it's the beginning of an end of summer holiday weekend and he has nothing planned.

He gets up from his bed in the dark and puts on water for coffee. Then sits down in front of a long wood table and gazes out through an oversized window. Predawn light stirs in through trees and scribbles dark lines onto walls in back of him. Outside, a sullen mist hovers between the first line of tree limbs and the earth. Bruce smiles, enjoying the way the wildly overgrown landscape sits free here. And continues to smile as a soft ray of light prisms through a crystal hanging in the window and cuts a rainbow across his face and bare shoulders.

God, how he loves this place. It's easy, unobtrusive fix with the land, and intentionally simple, lighthearted layout. His private and personal oasis, secluded, simple -- non-threatening to any thing or any one -- and yet at the same at odds with everything else that’s going on out there.

Bruce closes his eyes and prays that his simple actions taken here at odds with the prevailing flow might somehow fuse with others in order to stop what's going on and allow for something different and better to happen. Or, if his actions and wishes are not enough to help provoke change, then he hopes his prayers will reward him with Grace: a smooth, fortunate, unnoticed life. Bruce closes his eyes and mumbles a Lakota prayer for the skill and luck to be able to become invisible when the circumstances warrant.

On that note, he tells himself that it is time to turn his prayers into action and take care of business before the sun comes up any further. Then he smiles in a way that is an answer to his own thoughts. A self-contained smile that just hovers on his face. He had not provoked its appearance by practicing some rigorous spiritual exercise, nor did it appear after something unexpectedly fortunate happened. It had simply shown up one day; coming on its own, in its own time.

The smile mirrored a profound change in the tone of the voice that moderates Bruce’s inner-feelings and dialogue. Its appearance reflects an ongoing internal process of allowing a distinctly more accepting and accommodating voice to replace a plethora of persnickety self-critical ones Even though all the voices are still stubbornly vying for his attention, the softer one is becoming dominant; hence, the smile.

Bruce looks up grinning, knowing that this newfound smile often disarms others. They don’t know if he is smiling at them, with them, or at something or someone else entirely. Accompanying the smile is a willingness on the part of Bruce to be alone in order to understand these kinds of things about him, which only further perplexed people close to him.

`Though perhaps they are just concerned about you,' this new voice of moderation tells him, ‘or envious of it.' Bruce peers out the window at the sky brightening and the voice advises him to get to work and not to worry about what other people are thinking. It doesn't matter.

Bruce likes that, so he nods his head agreeably and smiles at nothing like one would to a perfect sunset or new lover.

The small house Bruce is residing in is the former servant’s quarters for the main house on this five acres of land set near the top of a hill. The thought of the word servant rocks Bruce’s imagination. It’s hard for him to comprehend how people could have agreed to be called that, or why others would want to do so. Bruce fancies himself a historian of the anecdotal bent. He learned from the present title-holder of the main house that the land and house were originally owned by a small family who founded a textile factory outside of Philadelphia. The people who lived where he does now took care of the family’s meals, cleaning, and children. So in Bruce’s mind they were workers, hired hands, not servants.

The person now occupying the main house is a friend of Bruce who recently divorced a successful businessman after he ran off with another woman. She received a generous settlement and put it into acquiring this place. She invited Bruce to rent the small house on the property in order to have a man around – she’d been living here alone with two teenage daughters – and to also have someone here whom she hoped would take an interest in the property and help her tend it.

Bruce took a strong interest in, and liking, to the property – but as it is. Between lulls in her dysfunctional relationships with other middle-age divorcees, and after her daughters were asleep, she’d come by the servants quarters and help herself to Bruce, sliding around and gulping on him. Afterward, she’d invariably prod him to try to do some ‘landscaping’. Bruce tried, but could not bring himself to do anything more than pull a weed here and there that was choking a flower.

‘Hell,’ Bruce protests, gazing out the window at tall grass intermingling with same-sized weeds, ‘I make my living – such as it is – from weeds…’.

On that note, Bruce decides once again that it’s time to get on with what he got up so early to do. For some reason he hasn’t quite figured out yet, there’s a section of false flooring in the main room of this small house with an earthen storage space below it. The main room of the house includes its kitchenette. Bruce is aware that people in this neck of the woods prided themselves on preserving fruits and vegetables from spring through winter, so he guesses that it was used for storing jams, preserves and blanched vegetables. Whatever its original purpose might have been, the underground storage space that remains cool and moist year round, and is hidden from view, suits Bruce’s present needs impeccably.

Bruce lifts up a few four-foot floorboards and lifts three large multi-ply garbage bags from the bottom of the two-foot well. He sets the black baggies down and then scoops a handful from each and sets them down neatly and separately into three small piles on a table below an undressed window facing east. Then he secures the bags, returns them below the floor, and puts the boards back in place.

Bruce twiddles a stick between his fingers. He doesn't enjoy smoking this stuff himself -- unless he’s headed somewhere like a planetarium to stargaze or to an endless jammy Grateful Dead concert – places where the point is to lose track of yourself. So from among his purchases it is only the Mexican that he’ll smoke regularly; and it’s the cheapest and most plentiful, so that works out.

He pulls a stool up to the table and sits in front of the piles. He looks down at them casually and notes with mild satisfaction how the morning light brings out a bright and lively amalgamation of colors. They look almost as though they are still alive and growing. Bruce hears the coffee-water gurgling so he reaches over and pours it into a porcelain cone filled with freshly ground coffee. Earlier, it had been too dark for him to make out which blend of coffee he was selecting. He closes his eyes, puts his face over the cone, and breathes in deep through his nostrils. His face squeezes in when he detects a slightly bitter aroma and a moderately strong bean. He guesses Kenyan. Opens his eyes and the label on the coffee-jar closest to the cone confirms his appraisal. `All right,' he mutters judiciously, `olfactory glands working a.o.k.'

Bruce returns his attention to the piles on the table, shakes his head to get rid of the last of the morning’s cob-webs, blows his nose, and closes his eyes while lowering his face just above the first small pile. He braces himself on the table with his arms and breathes in deep and long

"Uhmmnnnn," he moans favorably. It doesn’t smell strong, or odorous. Even good Mexican that’s been harvested too early could ferment in transit and end up smelling like unwashed feet or a skunk. That would make it hard to sell, or hold on to. If he had to store it for a while waiting for the smell to dissipate the whole batch could dry out and become worthless. He leans back and averts his eyes, feeling with his fingers if buds remove from stems too easily, or cling too stubbornly. Neither. More good signs. It's just right for what it is and what he paid for it. He’s satisfied with his decision to buy as much of it as he did, five kilos. He’s got the perfect place to keep it fresh and sell it off slowly and steadily over the next few months or so. That will provide him with the base income he needs to pay his everyday bills and also anchor his other ventures – provided that it’s not been tainted.

Bruce looks forward thoughtfully. For a variety of reasons – from the DEA spraying crops in Mexico, to Mexican smugglers trying to hide its odor from drug-sniffing dogs at the border—it’s not uncommon these days to find pot from Mexico tainted with paraquat, strychnine, or ammoniated water. Bruce cups his hands over his mouth and plunges his face into the pile again. Then he raises his head back up and sighs relieved. No trace of the tart telltale aromas of chemicals that could literally make your eyes water. If it did have chemicals in it, he'd first try to stick it back to the seller, who without a doubt would accuse him of being wrong, paranoid, or something worse. Or he’d have to sell it at a discount being up-front about what he thinks is in it. That would be a drag, telling people he's got something really good only its been sprayed by poisons. He’d then end up taking all the inherent risks that go along with carrying it around, and settle for just getting his money back. It's a comfort to not have to deal with that.

So far, so good.

Bruce brings up a brief case from under the table and takes out a battery-powered eyepiece. Pushes the first pile aside and turns on the eyepiece to inspect the second pile. He picks a stem from the pile and then instinctively looks behind him to make sure no one is coming up the walk to his front door. Then he holds it up between his eyes and the windows. Bruce cat-whistles at it. It’s has the same unreal qualities of an airbrushed photo of a beautiful body; an almost too perfect blending of color and symmetry. This techno-pot comes straight from the boys and girls at Berkeley or M.I.T. Hydroponic sensemillia. A weed that grows without touching earth, and doesn’t produce seeds.

'Wild shit -- and it sure is beautiful to look at,' Bruce remarks to himself, twirling the stem. It’s chock full of colorful, sparkling, robust buds. Plump brownish-green buds rest on the upper portion of the stem, followed by reddish fern-like hairs in the middle, and more clusters of smaller silver-green buds at the base. Three or four good-sized clusters on each stem. Bruce guesses it's a hybrid of Panamanian Red and high-altitude Mexican.

“HIGH TIMES center-fold quality!” Bruce whispers aloud excitedly. Feels a winter coming along that will be much easier to get through than the last one. He puts the stem down on the table and scrutinizes a few buds with the eyepiece. Each has THC crystals sparkling off its tips. And the clusters containing the buds are firm and intact. Bruce can tell that it has not only been grown expertly but packed with tender loving precision. As well it should be for its price. Bruce had to pull credit to bring it in. But if it is as good as it appears, then it will be well worth doing that for.

This kind of herb was not only potentially very profitable, but fun. The aficionados Bruce sells to will be delighted to get it, and it’s a point of pride for Bruce to be able to cop it for them. Bruce fondles another smaller stem in the palm of his hand and looks at it fascinated. Then he puts it back down on the table and wonders whether or not to roll one up right now and smoke it. He of course smoked some before he purchased it, but he was in a rush and could only tell that it got you very high and tasted great -- two qualities he knew would insure him of making at least a very good profit from it. But if it is a rare truly excellent – if it smokes as good as it looks -- then he could name his price, and get it.

Bruce is excited by that prospect and intensely curious to find out the quality of its smokeability, but restrains himself from lighting one up until he finishes checking out his one other purchase.

He takes a cuticle scissor and carefully cuts one small bud from a stem of the sensimilla and massages it between two fine French rolling papers. Then places the joint in the lip of one of his sneakers When he finishes his inventory he’ll go for a walk around the property and smoke it. Though his mind can’t help jumping ahead to the people he knows will love this if it turns out to be as good as it looks: artists, musicians, professors, trust-fund hippies. His best customers -- the ones who always paid in cash and were also the least likely to be watched or hassled by the police.

That thought brings up an unpleasant feeling of exclusion in Bruce but he just lets it just drift off for now. He takes a sip of coffee, lets out a breath, and stares in awe at the third and final pile. He smoked a little of it, too, yesterday -- and then almost couldn't do anything else. This herb had no competition or fluctuation in its quality, unless it had been mishandled. And Bruce can tell just from looking at it with his naked eyes that these fine specimens had not been. He'd seen a batch-up job once and it was as easy as spotting the only American at a Japanese tea ceremony.

Bruce leans forward and traces with his eyes the fine twine looped intricately around a single light-as-air bamboo stick. Holding in place one perfect dark brown bud of herb. Bruce knows they are supposed to come all the way from Thailand, though he has no way of knowing if that's true, or not. It seemed hard to believe that such an exotic specimen could manage to move illegally from the Far East to the backwoods of Pennsylvania and end up here in almost perfect condition. Was inscrutable.

And not that difficult to come by, Bruce remarks to himself looking up. He remembers the first time he came across it, a few years ago. At that time it was very exotic, and very expensive. Now it was selling for about the same price as the best of the homegrown American. Though people still expected, and desired, to pay the old high price. Was like trying to sell them Cadillacs for the same price as a Chevy. Bruce stopped trying, and just accepted the occasional windfall as good luck, good karma, whatever. He bought a dozen of the sticks and the sale of them will allow Bruce to pay back his credit on the American right away and relax behind the Mexican and not have to hustle it. Makes Bruce feel about his Thai sticks the way some people felt about their gold bars. A hedge and safety net against the unexpected.

Bruce twiddles a stick between his fingers. He doesn't enjoy smoking this stuff himself -- unless he’s headed somewhere like a planetarium to stargaze or to an endless jammy Grateful Dead concert – places where the point is to lose track of yourself. So from among his purchases it is only the Mexican that he’ll smoke regularly; and it’s the cheapest and most plentiful, so that works out.

Last winter during a dry spell Bruce re-built the engine of a friend and colleague’s van in order to get some much needed cash-flow going. The friend paid him with a couple kilos of blond Lebanese hashish. Bruce still has one of the kilos hidden within the panels of his own van. Like the Thai, it was packaged exotically and expertly -- branded with the image of a dragon and sealed in lightproof red waxed paper. It would stay fresh, sell itself, and either hold its price or go up in value, depending on what else was around.

`Money in the bank,' Bruce assures himself. He figures that all together, if he lives simply, which is his way, he can live off these scores through the winter and well into the spring. And that’s a relief.

With his own immediate needs virtually met, Bruce ponders about all this exotic stuff coming in from the East and what it has to do with the crazy shit going on now with America in Southeast Asia. Bruce has also witnessed a substantial increase in the amount of harder drugs, like heroin and opium – things Bruce doesn’t mess with himself -- circulating in cities in the last few years. What surprises Bruce is how obvious the connection seems to be, and yet how no one is putting it together or even questioning it.

`Well,' Bruce concludes dour, `that shit's beyond my ken, and not much I can do about it anyway.' And he does not want to let his mind drift into the banks of contentious arguments and posturing people were indulging in these days over the war in Vietnam. Especially on this last weekend of the summer.

He reminds himself on a more upbeat note that he had refused to commit himself to any plans for the weekend. And he's glad he did that and was firm about it. Otherwise, he would end up either ducking people and being alone uncomfortably, or hanging out with people he really didn't want to be spending time with. Now the weekend is free for him to do with as he pleases. And business is just about over. All he has to do now is try the American exotic and discern if it is truly excellent, or not.