Chapter 1: This is not A joke
“It’s just not fucken fair. Who gives a shit what anyone fucken thinks.”
The man raised his bandaged left hand in defiance, aimed at no-one in particular but at everyone in general.
He screamed loudly, but this town quietened considerably after 5pm, and there was nobody close enough to hear. He took a deep breath, then another and another, and laughed. The psychologist had told him to take three deep breaths when he was feeling stressed, and that shit always made him laugh.
Thanks for the fucken advice.
The two barrels of ’done that he’d whacked earlier were wearing thin, and his mind – never really on track to begin with – was wandering down dark and dangerous paths this evening.
He trudged up the riverbank to the road. Two bridges there were connected by a roundabout, and the Winsome Hotel stood on the corner. Dark and imposing, the building seemed to disapprove of his presence. There’d been that incident at lunch which he didn’t really care to remember, and this just made it seem as if even the pub itself wanted him out of the way.
Cunts. All of them.
He crossed the bridge into town, muttering to himself but not listening. His mind was on autopilot while his body resumed its endless search for drugs, or alcohol, or money, or methadone, or even, sometimes, food.
He had a ten dollar note crumpled in his pocket, and a few more dollars in change. Not enough for cigarettes, but he could get a goon, take it up the park. He had a ragged packet of papers in his backpack; he could find bumpers to smoke, and as the sun went down, there’d be cunts creeping around that he could bludge off.
The bottle shop next to Gilhooley’s was quiet, but the cunt who served him still made him wait. He muttered under his breath and fidgeted for a while, before laughing and taking three more exaggerated, deep breaths. Finally the cunt served him.
The sun had just disappeared when he sat under the tree in the park. He looked up at the sky and drank goon from a discarded McDonald’s coffee cup that he’d found lying next to the bin. Even he hadn’t sunk so low as to not wash it out at the bubbler before use though. He was a modern, civilised cunt.
He watched the sky as it darkened. Sparse clouds dotted the horizon, glowing bronze with the last rays of the setting sun. He saw shapes there, and he stared dumbly as they danced before his eyes. His mind, now firmly back on autopilot, allocated only the resources needed to keep drinking. The rest of it wandered back, triggered by the shapes in the clouds.
There. The one just to the left of the church spire. He saw it clearly now. A hand holding a phone. He thought back to a week ago. Christmas. He’d tried pretty hard leading up, but it never seemed to go his way, no matter how hard he badgered his family.
He’d needed the barrel right before he called on Christmas eve. He couldn’t face his family straight. They knew him too well. He needed to be in control to cope, and he could only gain control on ’done.
Only problem was, they always knew when he was on the shit.
When his dad heard his voice, he huffed.
The phone disconnected.
He pulled several butts that he’d collected on the walk here apart and rolled a smoke. His lighter was dying. Everything around him seemed to be passing into non existence. It worked, one final time, and guttered out forever.
The hand holding the phone had morphed. Now it was cut off at the wrist.
He stared at the bandage on his own wrist, scratched at it. The stitches had come out just after Christmas, but fuck it was itchy. The skin had broken again in places where he’d scratched while on gear. But they’d healed well enough in Psych Two. He didn’t want to think about it.
But the cloud... he couldn’t ignore it. The cheap goon was making his head spin. He felt like throwing up, but fought the urge as his mind began to fall back into the suicidal hole from which it had only recently crawled.
The cheap, plastic knife – apparently the same type of item used to hijack airliners in the 2001 attacks – had been terribly, utterly effective. Suicide had seemed like a good way to just end the story. Maybe we get reincarnated? Who the fuck knows?
Who the fuck cares?
The blood dripping from his torn wrist was substantial in volume, and as he’d chosen a public place to carry out his final act of self destruction, it was quickly noticed by passersby. An ambulance was called, a stint in surgery, then in the IC unit for a few nights, then to the dreaded Psych 3. That place had driven him crazy.
Then Psych 2. Two weeks of being bored fucken shitless while the cunts decide if you’re gonna try to top yourself again. Too many fucken nutjobs here. This town’s full of the drug addicted mentally ill. Two weeks was all he got, then out on the street with limited means of support.
Montrose House was a five minute trudge from the Winsome, so his dole had gone there this pay. There was a filthy mattress under the bridge that he could use if he needed to sleep, so rent wasn’t an issue.
His wrist ached and itched like a cunt. He filled the coffee mug with the last of the goon, sculled it back in a few swallows.
Then he rolled his last smoke.
Something would happen tonight... something always happened. The lighter was now fucked forever, so he stood and staggered through the park, looking for someone who could light his last smoke. Voices soon carried on the breeze, and a mob of cunts entered the park from beyond the treeline heading back to town. He made a beeline for them.
He knew something would happen.
As he approached, a girl with long dark hair spoke brightly.
“Oi. How are ya, mate?”
“Yeah fucken ok. Any youse gotta light?”
The girl handed him a lighter. He lit up, and the mob of cunts hung around and did the same. They talked a bit. The big guy was standing, clearly pissed, jumping around like the child who’d been fed the red lollies. Everything that came out of his mouth was an insult, but the cunt was fucken hilarious about it.
They wouldn’t understand if he started telling them his problems, which he’d kind of sort of already done in the length of time it took to smoke a bumper rollie, so he decided to take the big guy’s line and say something funny.
He couldn’t remember any jokes, but he was sure he had a funny story in him, somewhere. He rambled.
“Yeah, fucken... I got this funny fucken thing that happened. I had this dog, right, big cunt...”
The big guy interjected. “So the dog had a big cunt?”
“Nah nah, fucken, the dog WAS a big cunt...”
The story advanced for nearly a half hour, weaving its way in and out of memories and partial jokes that he could remember, never quite reaching a punchline. It was gibberish to the mob of cunts, who were getting as hammered as he was, and after a while they started to boo him whenever he trailed off with his story.
The methadone was almost gone, and he was feeling anxious as the dark haired girl excused herself to find a toilet somewhere. She left her bag, open, next to him where she’d been sitting. Several times during his story, he’d caught her staring at his bandage. There was something about her, an air of compassion that made him wonder who she was.
Just inside the flap of the bag, he saw a glint of silver. The familiar shape of a row of pills. Looking around slyly, he thought he could get away with it. He snatched them and stuffed them in his pocket, pretending to look for another smoke. The girl returned and offered him one. He took it and asked for a light before continuing with his story.
But alas, the crowd had become bored. The cunts were onto him. They jeered humorously as they got up to leave. The girl seemed genuinely concerned. She smiled and waved as they walked away. She was nice, but she looked like she could be hard if crossed.
He was pretty fucked up, and it was dark enough to go to sleep. He’d left some of his stuff by the Winsome, so he staggered back through town, occasionally ranting at nobody. As he walked, he popped the entire row of pills and dry swallowed them, one by one.
By the time he got to the bridge, his vision had become dangerously blurred, and he narrowly avoided injury when some cunt on a motorcycle swerved around him.
He spat over the railing, into the murky water far below. He felt like puking, but he once again resisted the urge. He didn’t want to throw up the pills – Valium as it turned out. His head was thrumming by the time he made the Winsome. He couldn’t remember finishing the journey across the bridge.
Everything was turning grey.
He laid down in the space between two cars, took three final deep breaths and chuckled weakly before things, for him, faded to a final, endless black.
Overnight, a homeless man, looking for a place to be warm, lay next to him, but the heat was already leaving his body, and the homeless man, perhaps disappointed, moved on.
Well, that’s the way I heard it, anyway.