Confessions of a Black Dog

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Chapter 7

The clinging smell of fresh bacon and eggs wafted through the small innocuous café in Kennington. It was a smell that could both entice or repel a man, depending on how much, if any, he’d had to drink the night before. There were various council workers and single mums scattered around, lonely satellites, all in orbit around the food counter and its pale unhygienic looking staff. They were all waiting for the heart attack that they hoped would never come.

Sam and Freddie were sat in the greasy spoon feeling not too perky but discussing Syd Barrett’s death to take their minds off the necessary fry up. Syd was the genius behind Pink Floyd’s early recordings and some might say that he was the only genius to have ever been in the band. It was also Freddie’s last night in England, so he and Sam decided to go out on a bender in memory to Syd and to their memories. They had also recruited Alice and Joy in on the escapade. Sam knew that Joy had been especially upset when it happened. She loved Syd. She thought him to be the most beautiful man on planet, an eternal light, the crazy diamond.

A morning star.

They all met in The Crown and Goose, a trustworthy pub with dark wood décor and the odd lock in, just off Camden High Street, away from the miserable Goths, the punks, the indie kids and dealers hustling their wares outside the tube station.

“…hash, green, skag, pills, coke…”

The two gents decided to make the ladies honorary members of “The Sods” as Sam knew how much the girls could drink, especially Alice, and so it seemed only right. So when the ladies arrived, half an hour late of course, they explained their idea to them to an enthusiastic response. After swearing them in with an improvised statement and explaining the rituals, they all proceeded to get very drunk.

Sam looked over at his two adopted friends, Alice being the youngest yet the most rational. In fact, a certain part of her to him was rationality itself rolled up inside a voracious Rubenesque body. Her dyed bleached blonde hair and brightly coloured clothes seemed to be at odds with her intelligence. It was almost deliberate. Maybe it was. An unconscious situationism for any male predator who thought he was dealing a dizzy bimbo. He knew that she felt uneasy around him and he knew why. He found himself going out of his way to try to make her feel comfortable.

Alice had met Joy in their Stoke high school, she was in a couple of years below Joy, and was in the same class as Joy’s cousin. Teenage years were not the best time of anybody’s life with all those mixed emotions of conformity and rebellion, frenzied fumblings in graveyards and that overriding smell of sweat, but Joy’s were particularly unpleasant. Passed from mother to father. Out of the frying pan into the fire, she always said. Yet, she had survived and maybe she was a little crazier than most but it hadn’t killed her and it had made her stronger.

Sam on the other hand had known Joy for a lot longer, since they were children. They had lost contact for years, and then found each other again through a mutual friend, Alice.

Freddie was nattering to Alice about animal rights and his old involvement in the A.L.F., when he used to set bombs off outside Selfridges. Sam could see a fight looming again and chuckled inwardly. Then Sam lifted up his eyes and gazed at Joy and smiled. Joy O’ Neill smiled sheepishly back and shook her neck which was killing her after another night’s fretful sleep; her bird’s nest bobbed blonde hair with its natural streaks of dark brown, her pointy nose and green eyes all moving with happiness at being around her childhood friend, the only real one.

Sam had never spoken about that day to anyone.

Joy rolled up yet another chocolate coloured liquorice paper cigarette, and bobbing around with a childlike energy began to sing “Bike” to Sam, who made bell noises. The whole group then gave a toast to the late departed singer and Arthur Lee from Love who too had recently gone the way of all things.

The two men quaffed their large glasses of Merlot and the ladies supped on their lager and Guinness. It was thoroughly pleasant, Sam realised. He had forgotten about his ex and his job seeking. He didn’t even care about the three men in the club.

“Blast their eyes!” he shouted to no-one.

The pub was beginning to fill up, the lights were turned low and candles were lit on each table and everyone who entered gave everyone with a table the evil eye. They seemed to be willing them to feel uncomfortable and leave. As soon as any seated group or couple decided to leave it was Social Darwinism for who would get the table first. The four friends observed this phenomenon with a detached bemusement, putting bets on which group would swoop down and snag which table like hawks on a rabbit.

Alice and Joy’s house was just a stones throw from where they were and as the night wore on Joy suggested that they go back to their house and watch a collective favourite of theirs, “The Wicker Man”. They all agreed as the night was still young and Freddie’s plane was not until the following evening. They stopped off at the local off license and bought their tipple of choice, two bottles of Sangre Del Toro, two bottles of Chardonnay. Passing the club Koko, Freddie began telling the girls about his short jaunt at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. How he had found his woman at the time in bed with another man.

“So, why did go in th’nick? What did ya do?” asked Joy intrigued at any story of wilful misconduct.

“I threaten’d to cut ‘is fackin’ eyes out” grinned Freddie. “So, they slammed me in for threatening behaviour”.

“What was it like?” asked Alice.

“Shite” shrugged Freddie, “…full of skag and thieves.”

“How did ya get out?”

“Me family got the bail together. I never want t’go back inside again, that’s fer sure. D’ya know it costs eight ‘undred quid a week to keep one convict doin’ porridge. It’s fackin’ absurd. It just doesn’t work.”

“But, what else can we do?” sighed Alice, ever the thoughtful liberal.

“It’s the laws, they’re the fings that’re facked. Most’re unnatural, against human behaviour, so to speak. If a man sees a man with more money than ’imself while ‘is family is starvin’, of course ’e finks, I want some of that. Where’s my condo? Where’s my Mercedes? If a man does summfink against another man, and that man feels ’e can’t get justice, ’e will turn to retribution by whatever means. That’s what th’fackers in power don’t understand. That’s natural justice.”

“No, that’s revenge” spoke Alice irritated at the way the conversation had turned.

“And the difference is?”

“Justice is maintaining a balance for society, it’s social justice, revenge is purely a personal retribution.”

“But, as I said society is sick. So-called justice is perverted because of its illness.”

“I agree that society is fucked but don’t see how vengeance is positive, that’s all.”

“Don’t get angry, get even, that’s what I say!” bellowed Freddie, joyously drunken and running down the street arm spread out like a Spitfire.

Sam gave Joy a sideways look. She was quiet and staring at the paving stones moving under her feet as she walked. He understood. She noticed him looking at her and a flash of recognition and memory flashed in her eyes. They finally arrived at a black iron wrought gate. Alice pulled on it and it budged with a heavy scraping noise.

The house that confronted them looked like a Victorian park keeper’s abode, gentlemen’s club or public convenience. It even had a seal of some family or other under the eaves. They entered through the heavy black door and with much clanking and rustling shuffled into the makeshift unkempt living room. Popping the bottles open the party began to drink as Alice shuffled through her stack of DVDs, under books, behind the TV, her black skirted rump pointing skywards.

“Now, there’s a sight for sore drunken eyes” muttered Sam, with a cheeky grin on his face, knowing that he could get a rise out of her with an offhand sexist comment.

It was almost too easy sometimes. With the realisation of ridicule, ridicule by a man, Alice kneejerked.

“Fucking perverted dogs, the lot of ya! Fuckin’ men” she muttered.

The film was finally found and played. The story of the witless Christian policeman investigating the disappearance of a young girl, and sucked into a heathen sacrificial plot, has always been touted as the best British horror film ever made. But to those gathered there, there was nothing terrifying about it. It was itself a story of natural justice, a comedy and a musical all rolled into one. Each scene had its own laughter. As Britt Ekland, the siren slapped the walls and herself in an attempt to magically seduce the hapless copper, everyone knew that the buttocks shown were not hers. Yet she was happy to show those perfect breasts. The two men shook their heads despairing at women’s logic.

The maypole song saw both women singing, actions and all.

“…and on that bed there was a girl, and on that girl there was a man…”

“Bonus!” shouted Joy as the gravestone said that the man lying there was protected by the ejaculation of serpents.

As the movie reached its grisly climax with the victim being duped and led to the burning Wicker Man, the girls again set about dancing while Sam shouted, “Burn the Christian! Burn him!”

Freddie just sat there, slumped, gripping his glass of red as if it was his walking stick, as if it was keeping his balance. His glasses had again slipped down his nose and he reminded Sam of the time that Fred had decided that he had drunkenly figured out the chemical composition of a substance that would melt the statue of Franco, El Jefe himself.

The film had finished and to end the evening as it had began, Joy began to play “A Piper at the Gates of Dawn”. As “Interstellar Overdrive” came on, she again seemed to be possessed by the spirit of the dance. Then came The MC5, Love, The Stooges, Primal Scream, and soon the front room was transformed into a disco.

The girls danced while the men discussed whether they would stay or go. Freddie decided that he should go as all his stuff was back at Sam’s gaff. Alice said they were welcome to stay, relaxed and happy in Sam’s company for once. Joy even joined in, trying to coax them but the men’s minds were made up. They finished their glasses then set off to find the 88 night bus that would take them back to Vauxhall. With a good night peck on the cheek and farewells off they went into the night.

It didn’t take long for something to happen.

A young man was clearly distraught and standing in the middle of the road, he seemed to be in shock. He was wearing a shell suit and the blood from the large gash on his forehead was dripping down his neck over his white and blue stripey collar. He was crying and sighing, his arms outstretched. He couldn’t have been more than twenty one.

“Mate, mate!” he gurgled shrilly

“Fuck,” Sam thought as the figure lumbered towards him “…all I want to do is get home”.

“I’ve just… I just… robbed, mate! Look what they did! They ’it me and kept ’itting me!”

“They certainly did, my friend.”

“Where ’re the fackers?” spoke Freddie, drunk and with his blood up. The teenager ignored him.

“I’ve got no, no, no money, mate, please, mate. I just want to get ’ome!”

“Who was it?” growled Freddie staring at some passers by.

“No, you need to go to hospital” said Sam calmly and slowly.

“No, mate, home, mate. I just wanna go ’ome!”

Then he started to freak out, curled up, weeping.

“Fuck” Sam thought again, “the indignity of it.”

“Ok, ok, here’s a couple of quid”, Sam fumbled through his pockets. He dropped the handful of change into his outstretched palm and the poor boy clutched it like a baby grabs its mother’s little finger.

“Th… th… thanks mate!”

And off he went up the High Street, howling. People passed him and looked away, stared at the floor, they looked anywhere but at him.

God forbid, they got involved.

“Get to a hospital!” Sam shouted after him.

“Ahhh… London, you fucking whorehouse!” snarled Freddie at everyone.

They finally got to the bus stop. It was around 2 a.m. by and Camden Town was slowly beginning to empty. All except the late night party people and the dealers whispering in their ears, tempting, always tempting.

The bus stop was full with couples and gangs of friends out for night. There were the obligatory Scottish jakeys, zooming around, bin bags on their backs, begging unsuccessfully for a cigarette or some change. Pacing like tigers, appearing then vanishing again, shouting, confronting each other. Looking like German troops in the last days of Stalingrad, gurning with prison tattoos and thousand yard stares then vanishing up the road again. Everyone is a cunt to them.

People were still coming, the bus stop started to take on its own drunken community. Sat in the shelter were three twenty somethings, students probably. They were drinking cans of wife beater and laughing in that confident way that middle class students with the world at their feet can. From behind the group of drunken revellers, three kids appeared. They were thirteen year old at the most. They pushed their way into the shelter next to students, giggling at the danger they could well have been in.

“Gi’s your coat mate!”said one of the students to one of the kids wearing a jacket emblazoned with heavy metal patches.

“Fuck off, man!” said the kid, with the confidence of a 50 year old Las Vegas comic dealing with a common heckler.

“Ah, go on, son. That is a seriously good jacket”

And so it went for minutes, the banter, the back and forth. The kid was holding his own, the sharp little sod, until one of his mates took over and says “Yeah! Well watch this!”

The kid produced a small packet from his pocket. He ripped it open then proceeded to put a condom over his head, blowing it up through his nostrils, until he looked like some kind of midget alien rapist. Everyone in the whole bus stop stopped and watched. They were all entertained for a minute. Claps broke out and the kid was a star amongst an audience of pissed up adults. Only one of the jakeys was unimpressed and he began admonishing them.

They were all “…old enough to know better!”

“Fuck it, I’ll never see you all again” the condom kid smirked.

The smiles soon waned and people went back to gazing down the road, asking others for the time and staring blankly at the bus timetable. A tall black guy in a Burberry hat began to complain to Freddie about the 88 bus, telling him that he needed to get to a party as he had “a fine woman” waiting for him and Freddie switched off. People were beginning to get very bored and it seemed that each bus that stopped was the wrong one. They were all waiting for the 88. A couple began to argue and the black guy was messaging frantically when finally the 88 careered around the corner. It stopped, thank god.

“If it hadn’t have come I do not know what would have happened” thought Sam.

Murder, rape, vandalism, nothing.

So, they all pushed politely on.

Everyone went upstairs except for Freddie and Sam. It was just them and a black youth dancing and talking to himself on the backseat. The black youth behind them started yelping and singing, some pill or other was working its way through his system.

“You’re my bitch, big assed bitch baby. Bitch, bitch, bitch. I’m your master you sexy bitch”

“Bollocks, I hope he’s not talking to us” Sam began to think. Then he leapt past them up the stairs, wobbling as he almost lost his footing and two girls came flying down the stairs, instantly. Frightened by the crazy, happy, dancing, pilled up kid.

The night bus continued on its merry way.

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