Everything She Needs to Know She Learned Selling Bunk Acid to Deadheads

by | Jonathan Cardew - February Day 1

A night electric. Night plugged into the mains.

She tapped her steering wheel. Talking Heads on the radio. Something about a psycho. Something about a killer.

Hum along.

Parking lot lights. Coliseum lights. Stars and headlights from cars on the distant freeway. The way they swirled together made her wonder if she was dosed herself. Somehow. By mistake. But that couldn’t be.

Could it?

Sometimes a night could wrap you in a hug. Maybe this was such a night.

In her bag, ten sheets of twenty tabs. Ten dollars per tab. Two thousand dollars. An hour or two of work.

“Potent,” she would say.

Guaranteed. But just come find me if you aren’t satisfied. I’ll be around. I’m easy to find. Cheshire cat smile.

Everyone knows the trip is what you make of it.

She would be making the most of her trip. This life. And that required cash.

She always chose her customers carefully. Descended on them like Gabriel, Herald of Visions, Patron Saint of Messengers and Diplomats. A halo of golden hair, radiant smile, she spread her wings and opened her bag and promised them ten dollars worth of mind-alteration. Illumination.

That it was just paper? A minor detail.

The distant crackle of amplifiers. Time to work. Rumble and hum.


Qu’est-ce que c’est.


  1. Al Kratz

    Love this Kristin. Right from the title, that tone is set and it obviously not being everything nor were the dead heads great teachers. I love the night electric. The night plugged into the mains. Her moment of questioning her own self and not really getting an answer. Love the night wrapping in a hug. Love the “halo of golden hair, radiant smile, she spread her wings and opened her bag and promised them ten dollars worth of mind-alteration.” This mix of danger and strangely safety too. How my little story for example would’ve changed if it was just paper. I think some stuff to play around with on this one could be adding even more of the one line poetic parts in, as it makes its various weaves through the transitions, I don’t know. I look at it the third or fourth time and they are in there too. Somehow my first read I thought i was hearing a change in pace, through the mechanics of her selling to the outro of the crackle of amplifiers and the rumble and hum. I don’t know, but I do know I love the lines like the night hug and the spreading wings, that I’m wondering if it could have even more of that.

    • Kristin Bonilla

      Thank you so much, Al! I think you are right re: change of pace towards the end. I was running out of writing time and needed to wrap up. I’ll keep playing with it!

  2. Rogan

    Wow! The use of sentence fragments are so effective in this piece. When you spread wings at Gabriel, I finally took a breath. Stunning work, Kristin. Love the lift in the tltle, too.

  3. Wendy Oleson

    Kristin, this is so beautiful! You get me with that first line: “A night electric. Night plugged into the mains.” I love the sound and feel of that. And the story builds. I agree the angel paragraph is wonderful. Transcendent. I would buy those fake tabs and feel something.

    Everyone knows the trip is what you make of it.

  4. Benjamin Niespodziany

    “ten dollars worth of mind-alteration. Illumination.”

    “The way they swirled together made her wonder if she was dosed herself.”

    The rhythm and the vibrance and the interspersed short sentences – it all works here. It pops in its brevity. Feels like a technicolor joy ride lost in time. Talking Heads track made me assume it was late 70s / early 80s? I understand that song could be on the radio in present day, so just a head’s up if a throwback wasn’t intended.

  5. Todd Clay Stuart

    Kristin, I love this! I love the title, and so many great lines throughout. So poetical. I can’t help but wonder how it would read as a single breathless paragraph. You might consider experimenting with that. I hope to see this out in the world soon!

  6. Robert Vaughan

    Kristin, I felt dosed by the end, in the most arresting way!!! There’s an inherent ache in this, a haunting, love the terse staccato of fragments and how it feels interrupted. And the sensory details- the hum, the lights, the magic of the night. They all add up to a powerful piece! So ready to submit!!! Bravo.

  7. Jennifer Todhunter

    I really love the way you’ve structured this piece with the short, bursty sentences. I love the mild uncertainty about whether she inadvertently dosed herself because of the electricity of the night and in her with where she’s going and what she’s going to do.

    This line is brilliant: “Sometimes a night could wrap you in a hug. Maybe this was such a night.” and I wondered if you might insert the tiniest hint of why she wants this money, where she wants to go on that trip – whether it be somewhere directionally in life or somewhere actually in the world.

    Leaving us with the crackle of the amplifiers, her on the cusp of actually going in and selling is a terrific ending.

  8. Jonathan Cardew


    An absolute killer title! I was looking forward to this one (when I glanced at it) and was very happy to see you again in this workshop. Thanks for signing up!

    I love this smart, punchy slice of flash. This would slip in nicely anywhere. The rhythm of it–gosh! I felt myself snap my fingers to each beat, “hum along” like I was the drug dealer pulling up to the Coliseum. And this is the beauty of the piece. You drag the reader by the arm into this car, into this world, and then dump them out at the end of it (but not dumped, very satisfied).

    “Sometimes a night could wrap you in a hug” — this is the keynote line for me. Stories can hug us, tightly. This was such a story.

    And you have a brilliant character here! Perfect drug dealer vibes. The “Cheshire Cat” bit made me snort. Easy to find, indeed! Could quote this all day! Love that they are listening to Talking Heads, also–brings another dimension to the story.

    I honestly love it the way it is, but there’s always more, isn’t there (unfortunately and fortunately)?

    1. I really like Todd’s suggestion of a breathless sentence. You could try this. Might be better to stick to the punchy fragments, but you never know (I see a lot of sentence stories getting published at the moment).

    2. How about a short scene, a burst of short dialogue in the middle of it? This might open out the story even more (but, again, I think it might just be perfect without that).

    3. Fragment even further? You could even lean into the fragmentary aspect of it. More of the “hum along” command style sentences.


    This could travel far and wide! SmokeLong Quarterly came to mind. While they often favor more poetic, flourish-y pieces, they also run these tight micro scenes. Get it out there!

    Looking forward to reading your next piece.


  9. Len Kuntz

    Hi Kristin,

    The short, choppy, staccato style you employ here feels very fresh and gives your piece a sense of urgency. Wonderful pacing. In a way it reminded me of Bright Lights, Big City. In another way it reminded me of Cormac McCarthy and how he writes with author authority, if you know what I mean. It felt haunting, smart, wicked and clever. You’ve created a dazzling piece of work.

  10. John Steines

    ‘That it was just paper? A minor detail.’

    That caught me totally unprepared. Your description is crisp and I can visualize the approach on the street or elsewhere. Then, looking back: ‘I’m easy to find. Cheshire cat smile.’ stands out. I thought that referenced an operation in public, in such a way as an individual not to be noticed or suspected. At the end, I had to walk away and let this settle in.

    So deceptive in construction and telling. This is a lovely work that pulls me in so quickly, then leaves me in shock, as I feel so vulnerable to your misleading -> so well done. In many way’s the work is skeletal, which only adds to it’s impact. Great work. Best. j

  11. David O'Connor

    Kristin, being a former dead-head, I love this title and the whole flow… I remember those parking lots–I need a miracle! Getting ripped off. All those scamming hippie capitalists, you brought me back, with joy and insight, nice stuff!

  12. Wilson Koewing


    I really enjoyed the atmosphere of this piece. It’s all about the atmosphere. Also really liked the short, choppy sentences. They’re used to great effect. My only suggestion here would be to dig deeper into character. The atmosphere is there. If I say atmosphere one more time, please shoot me. but seriously. I was riveted by the line about how she would make the most of this trip. This life. I wanted so much more of that and learning about what it meant to her.


  13. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Kristin, I was hooked from first line to last. The fragments, the details of the wait, kept the tension throughout. Waiting for the killer perhaps that did not come (or yet?) Last line, simple enough, but cuts back onto the narrative itself. Just paper? I love this.

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