Jack had met up with the others later after the sordid deal had been struck in the Greek-like interior of the seaside bungalow, Greek and mythological and alive with hairy trolls. He could hear himself sighing absently to Maltby’s question, just as he had to the previous forgotten statement, but his mind was elsewhere, still trapped in that sea salt cave of impossible creatures. Mother Superior’s price had been the same as always and he had paid it without too much thought of the consequences. Jack reminded himself that consequences were for other people, normal people, idolised stereotypes seen on the television or in the gossip pages of glossy magazines, not for those with insatiable cravings. They bore little relation to what was happening in his world. Somehow, by a chance meeting or a chance word, he had strayed far from the path of normality and was now hopelessly lost.
"My shit after I’ve drunk paraffin."
Everyone laughed. And when that had died down they began to discuss the technicalities of it, like morticians gathered around a dead body.
I met up with the others later... Jack thought how innocent that sentence sounded and how heavy those words felt in his heart. The others being an assortment of rogues and co-dependants and none of them friends, and later being the weekend and the traditional time to sum up one’s weekly adventures in hell. And it was just these kinds of people that had steered him away from the life he knew, just these people who took his arm and pulled him from the path, away from the sunlight and from the things he loved.
"Actually," Wheeler said, "I think paraffin would bleach your shit."
"It would turn it white," said another.
"Like white chocolate," added a third.
They were resting in a darkened corner of the Mainline Tavern, slumped in a corner of cigarette smoke and empty beer bottles. The rest of the clientele kept their distance, through fear of infection if nothing else. They were the older gents, from a different generation and time who, like them, preferred the atmosphere of pubs in the afternoon before the real riff-raff arrived. But where the gang played with baggies the old men played with cards, where the gang traded useful tips on how to get high the old men traded war stories and how they survived Rommel and his mobile desert army. A different generation. And almost a different species.
"Yeah, but don’t be fooled," Maltby said and winked deliberately. They all laughed again and started calling him The Milky Bar Kid as if this was the funniest joke in the world.
It was at times like these that Jack felt mildly superior to them, even though he looked the same and dressed the same and smelt the same, even though he begged and stole and sold his soul again and again for a fleeting moment of peace that shrunk in size with every hit. Jack was convinced he was different; he was above their inane chatter and junkie lives. Even his addiction was of purer stock compared to their workhouse nature of dirty needles and silver foil. But that was until he decided to open his mouth and spoil his own illusions.
To keep the running joke of the Milky Bar Kid alive you had to mention a name, any name, and equate it to the legendary boy from the Nestles adverts; gangly, bespectacled, but with that oh-so winning smile. Jack could think of no one that matched that description, though he knew it was not a requirement of the game. Desperate to say something, anything, to be a part of this social gathering however degraded its members, he struggled to find the common denominator that would connect them all, a person that everyone knew and everyone could laugh at. And instead of the landlord or the buxom barmaid, instead of the older gents playing five-card brag over the glint of their war medals, or one of a number of undercover detectives that were always on their trail, he blurted out the real identity of Mother Superior. At first everyone laughed, thinking it was just another name to add to that ever-growing list, but it was short-lived and empty as the enormity of the name sunk in. The funniest joke in the world was no longer funny. Mentioning in public the moniker of that limping troglodyte had drained all traces of the alcoholic vigour flushing their cheeks. For a while they had seemed healthy and happy and quite like their former selves, and now reality had once again closed in to reclaim them.
The time inside mother Superior’s seaside bungalow had passed in a daze, as did his trip home on the bus. All Jack had left now were fragments of a broken mirror, each shard having captured on its surface a horrific image in still life. And like splinters of glass embedded in the skin it had cut through this momentary spell of happiness.
Time passed. The fear was calmed, the tension relaxed, the nameless name was forgotten and became once again an unspoken whisper on the northern wind. The smoking and the drinking continued in earnest, Maltby and Wheeler came up with yet another side-splitting joke on modern culture and Jack could have easily slipped away without too many heads being turned. But Jack remained reclined and silent and at one with the beasts. He stayed and he listened and he talked with those he hated because he was one of them now. He too had tugged the arm of a friend and pulled them down into the depths of infectious despair, away from the sun and the path of normality, he too had cheated and lied and committed acts of cruelty in the name of a selfish addiction. And he too was hated.
Current Mood: in need of a drink