Drugs – a short story by Chris Green
We are lounging in the garden of Astral Parlour, the name we have given to a pair of crumbling farm cottages deep in the Cotswold Hills. It is a summer afternoon and the sun is high overhead. There are about a dozen of us. I can’t say for sure which of us are supposed to be living there and which of us are just hanging out, but we have temporarily taken over the cottages. I can’t remember who made the arrangement, but I think they said we would do a few repairs and a bit of painting in return for accommodation. At eighteen I believe I am the youngest, although no-one here is much over twenty five.
We are drinking jasmine tea, at least I think that’s what it is, although Nathan East was round cooking up some datura earlier. Nathan’s something of a herbalist. Datura is used in ceremonies in the east. It has hallucinogenic properties. Anything with hallucinogenic properties seems to be welcome at Astral Parlour. Zero, the mad Jack Russell that someone here has adopted is running round, frantically chasing her tail. I wonder whether she has had some of Nathan’s brew.
Meanwhile, the chocolate has run out. Someone needs to go and get some. No-one wants to drive the old grey A35 van the two miles to the filling station. It has no tax, no MOT and no number plates, and besides, everyone is too stoned. Quinn has been rolling joints all afternoon. I don’t know much about the geography of dope cultivation but he said it was Nepalese temple balls or something. I’ve noticed that my friends tend to make a big deal out of the origin of what we are smoking. There is a strict hierarchy and Nepal is near the top along with Afghanistan and Kashmir.
Everything around here is kind of strange lately. Things haven’t been the same around here since those purple tabs. They were a thousand mics, whatever that means. We were up for days.
Dewi is telling us about the brain police.
‘When we were busy on that stuff last week,’ he says. ‘That’s when the brain police came to visit.’
He is making us listen to Burnt Weeny Sandwich – again, in case there are some subliminal messages that he hasn’t picked up on. I didn’t realise it, but subliminal messages are everywhere, not just in television and advertising. A secret alliance of top people is trying to control our thoughts, we just don’t realise it. Frank Zappa must be one of these.
Dewi comes from a remote village in Wales, whose name I cannot pronounce. I don’t think the folks around there get out a lot. I can’t remember how Dewi arrived here. First thing I can remember he came at me with his hair swinging wildly and thrust Babylon by Doctor John The Night Tripper at me and said, have you heard this, man, it’s far out. Marianne thinks Dewi may have arrived in a spaceship. She could be right. He is always telling us about the UFO sightings in Wales.
I’m fed up of listening to the Mothers Of Invention and Captain Beefhart and his Magic Band. Weasels Ripped My Flesh and Trout Mask Replica are both complete nonsense. To be honest I liked it better when Mike was still here and we had Pink Floyd and King Crimson. Mike shouldn’t have been arrested. It wasn’t him who shot the Major’s pig. It was Chadwick Dial. With his shotgun. Chad is a freak in the true sense of the word. He has a Quasimodo stoop and random strands of matted hair coming out from all corners of his head punctuated by random gaps. He can only see out of one eye, but the other one follows it around like a lost dog.
We used to have all kinds of people over when Mike was around. He was well connected. We had some circus folk for a while, a magic show came to stay and a theatre troupe used to drop by. Steve and Jimmy from Traffic came over one time and brought Quinn a guitar. Quinn doesn’t play it any more. He just rolls spliffs all day long and stares at the silhouette of the tree that is shaped like a tap against the western sky.
What is happening? …….. I’m being buffeted in time and space. ………. Waves of consciousness are coming through the static. Where am I? Who am I? ……… I am he and he is me, or something like that. …….. I wonder who can be writing this. ……. Here we go again.
Is it a decade later? It seems to be. Dewi is now living back in Wales. Another place with an unpronounceable name. He comes up to the Cotswolds on a visit. He happens by sheer chance to run into Chadwick Dial in The Frog and Nightgown. At closing time after several pints, Chadwick Dial, never one to miss an opportunity gets Dewi to give him a lift to a house party on the other side of town. Dewi has some coke and Chad helps him get through this. The two of them get into an argument over a girl Dewi is making a move on, a friend of Marianne’s he says. By this time everyone is well bashed and the argument quickly gets out of control. Dewi goes to leave, but Chad and some other revellers, who see him as a stranger, stop him in his tracks. At Chad’s instigation they begin jumping up and down on the bonnet of his Sunbeam Alpine.
Dewi eventually manages to get them off. He does a swift hairpin turn and puts his foot down for a quick getaway. It could be that they have changed the priorities since he lived in these parts but he manages to go the wrong way down a one way street. He does not know where he is. He finds himself heading out of town in the wrong direction. He is heading towards Stroud. His erratic driving draws the attention of a police patrol. They give chase, sirens wailing and blue lights flashing. Dewi tries to shake them off. Unable to control the powerful car on a bend Dewi ends up driving into a stone wall. He dies on impact.
As I make my way up the M5 from Bath I am hoping that I do not suffer a similar fate. It is three a.m. and I am driving an old Austin Maxi with Nathan East as a passenger. We are being tailed by a jam sandwich patrol car. I am well over the drink drive limit and the car is full of cocaine. The bastards are following me at a distance of about twenty feet with their headlights on full beam. There are no other cars on the road so it is quite clear that they are just trying to intimidate me, trying to make me wonder when they are going to pull me over. I am nervous about night driving at the best of times, but the day’s intake of drink and drugs turns this into a state of blind panic. My feet are shaking on the pedals. I am gibbering. Nathan too is gibbering. I can already hear prison doors slam behind me.
I approach my exit. It is do or die. Will they follow me or will they carry on up the motorway? With the headlights nearly blinding me, I miss the turn-off from the exit road and find myself back on the motorway still heading north. I realise the game is up. The police are still behind me. They put the sirens on and pull me over. Nathan and I get out. We have to put as much distance between the police and the cocaine as possible.
Nathan mitigates my blunder by saying, ‘the lights, man, you were blinding him.’
Nathan looks out of his head even when he is not, which is seldom. I don’t feel he is helping my case.’
The officer with the night driving glasses goes through the routine of, is this your car, what’s the registration number, have you been drinking, to which I manage to give the right answers.
‘We’d turn you over,’ says the other officer, the senior of the two. ‘But we can’t be bothered tonight. It would mean too much paperwork. And you’ve probably only got enough hash for a joint or two. But get your tail light fixed before you go on the motorway at night again.’
The scene is fading. I feel like I’m swimming in the sea and I see people on the shore, but they’re getting farther and farther away. …… Wait! …….. The atmospheric radio is retuning. …… Where are we now? …….. Ah! I don’t think I like this one. Why am I here? ….. Can someone get me out of here!
They’ll never find it. They’ll never find it. I am willing them not to find it. It’s not that well hidden, but they’ve been searching the flat for an hour now. Will they find it? There’s seventeen ounces there. Behind the water tank, wedged against the wall. It’s a sizeable stretch for me if they do find it. They must have been tipped off. There would have been a fraction of this amount only yesterday.
I try to think of who might have grassed me up. The Welsh rugby playing next door neighbour with the dogs? He will have witnessed all the comings and goings? That little jerk that hangs around with Brad? The gopher who sits around in his BMW while he does his business. The woman I was seeing last year, what was her name? Cheryl, Cherry, Shelley? Perhaps these drug squad guys have been sitting in a car outside for days watching me. No, surely I would have noticed. Perhaps they have been following me.
They are going through my personal things, my unpublished stories, the candid photos I took of Saskia, the letters that I did not send. D.S. Bowser is telling me that they nearly got me three months ago when they raided Saskia’s. I remember it well. About a dozen of them in blue fatigues burst in, but they did not know what they were looking for. All they got was a cannabis plant in the greenhouse. The officers concerned did not realise who I was until recently, D.S. Bowser says.
I am going to have to go down to the station anyway, because of what they found in the cupboard. It was only a gram or so of billy, but I can’t imagine they’ll overlook it.
‘Can you get someone to look after your daughter?’ Bowser asks. ‘She’s a bit young for police cells.’
Does this mean they are about to give up the search? Settle for what they’ve got? I wonder who it is best to phone. I phone Saskia. She is not there, so I leave a message in such a way that she knows what’s going on. She may need to let others know not to call in. Just in case.
‘Come here Sarge!’ says an excited voice.
I instinctively know that the game is up. They have found it.
Is that it? ……. Is that all there is? I feel woozy. …….. Have I been asleep? ……. Unconscious?…… Where am I? There are tubes and cath…. What do they call those things they put in your arm? I can’t get a handle on anything. It must be the drugs. ……… I think I may be coming round from …… From what? I can smell formaldehyde ………. I hope the ………… procedure was a ……. a success.
© Chris Green 2015: All rights reserved