Confessions of a Black Dog

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Chapter 18

The cards were spread out in a line on Joy’s bed.

The past, present and future was shown from left to right. It was way past midnight and she had work the next day but as usual, she couldn’t sleep. She hadn’t had a really good night’s kip for the last twenty odd years. When she did sleep chances were that she found herself falling down a high staircase, never to reach the bottom. Always falling. She awoke from these reoccurring dreams to find herself almost grasping something about her life.

Almost.

Her glow-in-the-dark Jesus action figure nailed to her bedroom wall gazed down benignly on her, and she thought she saw a slight disapproving look come over its face, something she always noticed whenever she read the cards in its presence.

Her room was as cluttered and untidy as she was inside her head. Colourful pieces of underwear and T-shirts were strewn over the floor, discarded pieces of her shiny armour. They lay there like a deflated Glam rock rainbow, sparkles and glitter, reds, yellows, bright blues, greens. Her bookcase was overflowing with paraphernalia from the past, the fifties, sixties and seventies; Enid Blyton stories, beat writers, her sixties girl annual collection, picture books of the young Rolling Stones. She always complained about the fact that Wyman was included in every photo.

Ugly bastard.

Her CD collection was in the same nostalgic disarray, when half of it wasn’t lying all over the living room. Serge Gainsbourg with Brigitte Bardot and Marianne Faithfull were nestled in with The New York Dolls, while Early Bowie was having a running battle with The Cramps and T Rex. She sat cross legged on her bed and was staring at the cards. Even with a whole bottle of cheap Chardonnay inside her she maintained her concentration on the cards. Trying to decipher the meaning that fate had thrown at her. Her initial gut feeling was baaaaadd. Too many spades, and high ones too. She looked at the first two, pertaining to her past.

The ten of spades, the card of sorrow. Too fucking right. No matter how many times she shuffled the cards, she always got this one in the first two. From her mother to her father to her grandmother to this man to that one. She had been passed around like an unwanted gift her whole life. She had felt like an animal caught in fate with no hope of achieving anything else but a path of sorrow carved out for her.

Jesus, would she never find a place to settle?

A home.

The second card showed her some hope.

The five of hearts, a friend; she felt in her guts that this was Alice. Dear Alice. She had always been there for her, had picked her up, she had taken care of her. Alice just couldn’t stop worrying about her. She had been there when she ran away from home after the last beating her father gave her. She was too old for him to touch her in any other way then, not like before.

“Bastard” she thought, remembering the bad times.

Alice’s family had taken her in, given her a taste of home for awhile at least. She would love her forever. Her next three cards were the present, and a pretty mundane present it was too. The seven of diamonds, money. Well, she was being paid tomorrow. The Jack of Clubs, hedonism. Another reoccurring card in a dissolute and cyclic life. Same shit, different day, place or person. Combined with the following card it showed the reason for her current distress. Her shitty job and salary. Tidying up the gardens at a police station should pay more. Should. As Sam once said to her, something about wishing and hands and shit, but she couldn’t remember exactly what it was.

Sam.

The next card made her nervous. It talked of her future and was the King of Hearts. Sam. Why did she think of him when she saw this card? A lover. She loved him intensely but it was a different love. Well, wasn’t it? Fuck. Another potential friendship ruined. She began to smile and hit herself comically on the side of head.

“You ’aven’t done anything yet, yer daft cow!” she muttered to herself, giggling.

Was fate preordained or was it a free will thing?

She had to admit it did excite her; it was a dangerous thought. The last two combined scared her. The Ace and Queen of Spades.

Shite.

The Ace talked of violence, possibly death. Life changing stuff, maybe not literally but something was happening around her. Beside the terrorist attacks and general fear of staying alive, something else was going on.

If was literally true, who would it happen to?

Not her, never again.

The Queen spoke of bad things looming on the horizon, bad juju, sacrifices. That fucking bitch, her and the Ace were something to be very wary of. Look both ways when crossing the road, do not walk under ladders, don’t sit next to unusual acting freaks on the tube or bus, watch the skies for downpours of fish.

She got off her bed, messing up the cards as she did so and stared out into the darkness of the morning. She liked the night with its silence cut dead by the occasional shout or smash or screech. She liked this house too. It had yet to be robbed. Yet. It stood on the corner of the street, as unobtrusive as a gentlemen thief, almost invisible. Most people didn’t even notice it as they walked by. She liked to have a cigarette outside the front at night. She would sit there under the cover of the pine trees that guarded their house. She would sit and smoke and watch people wander past, knowing that she was quiet and unseen. Other people’s lives. Their joys, their arguments, their pre-pillow talk.

Joy always knew that Alice was surprised and a little jealous at her closeness to Sam, although she would never have admitted it. Jealous of him, not her.

How could she understand?

Joy just wished that she would like Sam too, but she knew it was a pipedream. Alice thought he was trouble and couldn’t be persuaded any other way. She always skirted the issue when Alice, with typical female inquisitiveness and tenacity brought their past together up. It was a twist of fate that had brought them together, she rationalised that there had to be a reason that they had both met once more. It wasn’t just chance. The image of the king of Hearts flashed in front of her eyes again and she found herself coy, almost shy at the thoughts and ideas going through her head. She had recognised him almost instantly.

The party had been in full swing when he had turned up. A new addition to the fold, found by Alice in the pub that she frequented after work. Alice told her later that they had discussed Zen Buddhist philosophy and then eaten pizza together.

Sam’s first words to Alice had been “…one day we’ll be dead. How d’ya feel about that?”

Alice had taken his phone number and invited him to the party the following night. Joy first saw him from the back as he volunteered to make the punch. She didn’t speak to him at first. Then he turned around and she saw his eyes. Joy stopped and stared, trying to recall that face. She knew him, knew he was a friend. She knew that she had shared something with him. Alice introduced them in an overly stilted and stiff way, feeling the stranger in their midst and hoping that everyone would get on together as it was a birthday party and therefore there should be no silliness of the aggressive type.

“Sam, this is Joy, my housemate”

“Joy, this is…” She never finished her sentence as Joy leapt at Sam, making him spill most of a bottle of vodka over himself and the floor.

“Sam!” screamed Joy as she kissed him on the cheek and the head.

“What th’fuck!” laughed Sam.

Sam saw her floating and rising into the heavenly realms a smiling and happy deva, drinking the fruit from the tree of life. She reminded him of a young Myra Hindley. Her hair used to be dark, now it was blonde.

The two of them stayed talking with each other all night, Sam talking about the countries he’d seen, Joy talking about her job. As the night turned into the morning the conversation turned to darker subjects. Sam quietly discussed his visions. Joy’s father and experiences came out but were followed by no tears. The only noticeable sign was a grim look on her face. They kept away from the other members of the party, revelling in their own company and when Alice came outside to check if she was alright, she just turned her head and smiled sadly.

A smile full of lost years.

“Everything alright, Joy?” asked Alice protectively.

“It’s Sam, Al. He’s here.”

Sam gazed at Alice with a slight look of embarrassment and incomprehension at being the centre of the girl’s attention.

It was early into the morning when the whole party finally dissipated and Alice went to bed, knowing that there would be a Godalmighty hangover in the morning. Joy asked Sam if he’d like to sleep in her room. Sam accepted gracefully and they both gathered all the pillows they could find with a blanket and laid them out over the floor, covering her scattered clothes and magazines.

Sam lay down as Joy put on Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers.

“I’ve seen him y’know?” said Sam.

“You know Jonathan?” asked Joy.

“’Course” smiled Sam.

They listened to Jonathan in the shade of the room with closed eyes. They felt at ease, a surprising feeling for them both. The music lifted them up and the darkness enveloped them both.

“Can’t believe you’re here” whispered Joy.

Sam didn’t reply. He knew he didn’t need to, but he had to tell her one thing.

“I never told anybody, y’know”

“I know”

That night Joy slept and it was a dreamless sleep.

A quiet sleep.

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