Nights to Forget

Author’s Note: This was my first real attempt at a Novella, and like so many things in my life (and so many Novellas) it kind of fell by the way-side. However, it is still my personal favourite, and hopefully doesn’t offend the eyes to read. My aim was to root the character (or at least some of his traits) in ‘Raoul Duke’ from Hunter ‘S’ Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. You, the reader, can be the judge of whether I’ve ripped him off or not. 

Water and bacon.

Lots of water, and just enough bacon for a sandwich that might reactivate my stomach.

Cigarette drooping from my mouth and fake Ray Bans defending my eyes from an angry midday sun, I was wearing flip flops and a khaki apron with a proud motto of some old, war-time generation emblazoned upon it. Beneath this I only wore a faded pair of union jack boxers which had seen better days.

I was stood on the patio of my friend Jake’s house, a suburban copy-and-paste house which we had temporarily taken over while his parents were out of town.

Beer bottles over-flowed from a bathtub we’d found in a skip and the propane barbeque that I was cooking on had been borrowed from Mikey’s dad. We hadn’t told him we’d be needing it.

Phil sat on a sun lounger, a Hawaiian shirt and board shorts making him look much more awake than he was behind his wayfarers and the cheap Stetson I’d bought him in an MKat-fuelled impulse. He swept his tongue across the gum of a king skin in his hands before holding out the spliff to me.

“Jimmy.” He said to me. “Shit’s fucked up.”

I turned the bacon over and flicked my cigarette end over the fence, into the neighbour’s garden before taking the spliff and putting it to my mouth.

“Why’s that, Phillip?” I mumbled past the thing, patting myself down for my lighter. Was it in my jeans? Or the other apron I had been using as a cape. Fuck it. I leant down and used the barbeque to light the joint. Phil didn’t look at me as he replied, he just lay back and tried to silence the drum solo in his head.

“Your sister’s upstairs with Doug and you don’t have a problem with that? Happening right here? Right now? I’d be kicking the shit out of him, man.”

I shrugged and took another toke before passing it to him. I told him if she was happy then who was I to stop her. After all, we all just wanted to be happy, right? That seemed to silence him.

There was a grinding sound of glass on glass and our mountain of bottles quivered, suspended for only moments.

“Landslide.” I muttered without looking up as the structural integrity of our creation was compromised and bottles painfully clattered down the pile and onto the grass, revealing a grey and agonised Jake, his sandy hair bedraggled, and his lips purple and chapped. He sat up slowly and looked around. The light had left his eyes. He was a zombie now. With that vacant look, he gathered himself and tried to rise from his beer soaked grave.

I raised the tongs like a weapon and jabbed them in his direction. “No, no, no. You go back to being dead, zombie. Back in the tub now. Geee-it.” To his credit, Jake even looked set to answer, but in doing so, he took his mind off the tub and tripped on the lip. He fell with a half intelligible grunt which may have been gibberish or a curse. I couldn’t be sure. The landing on bottles must have hurt though.

I cocked my head in his direction. “What’s that? Speak up, you undead bastard.” But he stayed silent, a considerate zombie, and crawled slowly to one of the sun-loungers. Climbing it, he went foetal. Understandable really. Zombies can’t hold their liquor or hard drugs.

I took back the joint and looked at him silently, before putting down the tongs and, despite the protest of my own digestive system, pulled a warm beer from the crate and opened it.

“Here, zombie. Take, drink. This is the body and blood of….fucking….some alcoholic.” I said, innocently enough, knowing how he would react. I watched as my friend Jake went from grey to green and vomited into the flower bed, all over his mum’s… red… flowers.

Feeling up to it, I sipped from the beer and took a toke on the spliff. Phil was helping out with the bacon now, sorting out the sandwiches so I could sit down and bite into a ketchup-soaked-symphony of taste.

Jake said something I didn’t hear so I turned my whole body to face him, the bacon was exactly what I needed. Phil was already handing him a bottle of water though so everything was just fine. Another bite of bread, bacon, butter and ketchup. Angels don’t taste this good.

“Give him some mandy, mate.” I told Phil around the beer bottle. “That’ll straighten him out, get him back to the land of the living.” A water bottle bounced off my lounger, so I grabbed the rubber spatula and menaced Jake with it. “Zombie’s angry.”

“You’re shit out of luck.” Came a voice from behind my head. So Mickey was up, but I didn’t turn to face him, just continued jabbing at Jake with the spatula and toking from the spliff. After one or two, I held it up above my head for him to take, before wrapping my mouth around my sandwich. Bacon, bacon, bacon. Just sucking on it was glorious. But then I’d be sucking on a sandwich and that would just be weird.

“What’s that, motherfucker?” I said through a huge bite and slid my Ray Bans back up my nose. Mikey came into view now. He was a tall bloke, wearing a hilarious monogrammed kimono and Oakley’s. And yet, an argument could be made that he was the most mature of all of us. Dude had a proper job, as opposed to the ‘placeholders’ the rest of us had to keep us out of the gutter until our real career got started.

“We’re out of Mandy. Only got a bit of MKat left too.” Mikey picked a piece of bacon from the barbeque and chewed on it. Phil swore and sat down on the sun lounger, attacking his own bacon sandwich. I was coming to the end of mine, and had started eyeing his jealously. It probably tasted better than mine too. He had mayonnaise in his as well.

“What about the Acid?” Phil asked, from behind his leaking bun which waved temptingly before me.

“Last tab went on Tuesday.”

“Still plenty of green left over.”

“Yeah, but that’s not going to kick you up tonight.”

“What about your Coke?” I asked, still staring at that damn beautiful sandwich.

“Exactly.”

“Exactly what?” said Phil.

“It’s my Coke, dipshit. And the reason I have more money than you guys is cause I keep mine to myself.”

“Fuck you then.”

It was a non-issue. We’d need more drugs by the time we left the house this evening. Liquored up and bouncing, with powdered noses and heads in the sky, we’d be ready to take on the town and all it could throw back at us. I took the spliff from Mickey and had a drag of it, breathing the smoke down into my lungs. The burn hit me as I tore my eyes from Phil’s sandwich and looked over at Jake, who was still curled in the foetal position on the sun lounger. Poor zombie bastard. “Okay.” I said. “Who’s going to be around then? Mister X? Hella-Green? Mister T?”

Mickey shrugged, chewing on his bacon. “What about Jay?”

“Fuck that dude. There was nothing in that baggy.”

“There was!” Phil cut in, reaching for the joint. I waved him off a couple of times, taking another toke, before passing it to him.

“Ok, but it was shitty. No, we need the real stuff. The good stuff. And a lot of it. Who’s got dollar?” I asked, digging around in the pocket of the apron before realising my wallet was in my leather jacket. “Money, money, money…” I muttered to myself, rolling backwards off the sun lounger and onto my feet. With feet that slurred as much as my speech, I wandered towards the sliding door of the living room.

Inside was as much of a tip as outside, but with tactics-aforethought we’d left a tarp over the middle of the floor, which most of our detritus had spilled onto. Easily cleanable. But that didn’t stop the rest of the room being a tip. My t-shirt had been thrown onto a lamp, and had burned a fair amount last night before we found it smoking. It now had a wonderful pattern to it. Cigarettes had been stubbed on the doorways, but we’d held off on spraying shaving foam everywhere. Though it would have been so much fun.

I tossed a sleeping bag off the sofa, and shifted a bag or two, humming a Rolling Stones song to myself as I did so. I found the jeans I wanted, despite the suspect stain from a whiskey and coke, and pulled them on. Then spotted my jacket on the back of a chair lying upturned on the floor.

Phil and Mickey had been continuing the dealer conversation and called through to me. “What about Gonzo?”

“Gonzo?”

“The blonde guy, think’s he’s all that. Likes wearing a red jacket.”

“Oh, Gonzo.”

“That’s what I said. Anyway. I’ll send him a text. See what he’s got.”

Twenty minutes later we were on our way out of the house.

When it comes down to it. There’s a strategy to walking through suburbia while stoned out of your head in the middle of the day. Something all of us knew at the time. The fact is, the worker-bees you walk past will, in general, not notice anything out of the ordinary about three lads walking together, and having a bit of a joke. So we had a few laughs, sure, making certain to keep the volume lowered, but not down. Silence is the worst thing. Silence makes people aware of their other senses, like the smell of ganja wafting off you like a fishmonger in Boots. Never stare at the pavement beneath your feet. Pick a point on the horizon, or whoever’s talking at that point and watch them/it. It may make you look like you’re concentrating hard, but it’s better than being as subtle as a knife in the hand of the Butler. Because the Butler always did it. Anyway.

It didn’t take us too long to reach the public footpath and make our way a little further into the park Gonzo had wanted to meet at. This guy was paranoid. I could see that, from behind my shades and turned up collar. But, better to be safe than sorry.

He was a big guy, Gonzo, who had clearly jumped on the steroid bandwagon with his money from dealing. He might have no fashion sense in that ridiculous jacket and tracksuit bottoms, but anyone who might tell him that was probably more concerned by the machete he was picking his teeth with. Seriously. This knife was big enough to take my arm off.

All the money had been given to Mickey. Mickey, who could keep his nerve in a packed business meeting, was the perfect handover-guy. He never fumbled with the notes like I did. Nor did he overpay the dealers. He counted the money before we got there and got first toot of the dope or whatever we picked up. We didn’t begrudge him that.

I sparked up as we got near, and Mickey walked a little ahead, but Gonzo, who was probably starting a three day binge too, walked happily up to us instead. “You guys are lucky.” He said, narrow eyes focusing on each of us individually as he stowed the knife in his jacket pocket.

“How come?” Mickey asked, while I looked innocently at the trees and Phil stuck his hands in his pockets.

“Cause I don’t like carrying this much on me, man. But I like you guys. You guys are good guys.”

I nodded in agreement with him. “We’re pretty good.”

“So here you are, man.” He held out his hand.

Mickey knew the move. A simple handshake, right? Nope. It’s a smooth procedure, if you don’t fumble. Drugs in one hand. Money in the other. After the shake, both have changed sides, and your garden-variety drug enthusiast walks away from his dealer with the muggles none-the-wiser.

Seriously, I’ve done this in public in broad daylight and not a soul noticed. That situation was not good for the nerves though.

“I’m fucking up for a fight tonight, boys.” Gonzo grinned, slapping his hands together.

“You not going to count the money?” I asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“Nah, I trust you guys. I mean a proper fight, man. Haven’t had a scrap in ages.” There was a mad glint in Gonzo’s eyes as I looked at him. I didn’t like this. I could handle aggressive people while sober. But while high, this shit would just spark my paranoia.

“Ok, that’s cool man. Wow, look at the time. We should be getting-“

“Are you guys headed to Underworld tonight, man?” We shook our heads together. If that was where he’d be. It was where I didn’t want to be. “Shit guys. Well, if you come through, give us a shout. We’ll wreck the place, fuck yeah, it’ll be beautiful.”

I started backing away slowly, don’t turn your back on a drug person with a knife. Not until you’re well out of cut-distance. “Sure man. I’ll tell the other guys what you’re up to and let you know.”

“You guys are cool with me. You need anything, let us know. Usual rates, man. Usual rates.”

We left him there, fantasizing about whose face he’d beat through the back of their skull. It was oddly comforting to know that we had a head-case on our side. Even if he was just as likely to turn on us in the throes of some horrible cocktail of his own merchandise. A cocktail each of us was planning in our heads anyway. For us, moderation meant stopping when you felt your heart or stomach were about to explode. But we also knew that wait an hour or two and you’ll feel good enough to keep on going.

Still, Gonzo’s words made me think about tonight. Where were we going again? At some point when we all arrived at Jake’s house, we had had a plan for the whole week. Now, four days in, we barely had the brainpower to plan an hour ahead. And with the drugs in our pockets, we were looking at a fun few hours.

Getting back to the house involved us getting lost once down a dead end of more identical houses. Until Mikey convinced me and Phil of the right way to go. We were so certain he was wrong, and were vocal about it, until we saw a familiar sign come into view. He was smug. Even after I threatened to beat him with the spatula.

Pushing open the door, we were greeted by the sight of an upright Jake now sitting in an armchair in the living room, watching TV and looking slightly less grey now that he had downed a litre of water. I flicked him on the forehead as I passed, “Reanimation is a wonderful thing,” and continued into the garden where I sat down on the sun lounger and quickly removed jacket, shirt and trousers once more. This sun was not something to waste.

Mickey got onto the sun-lounger beside me and whipped off his shirt, glancing up to the house once, before shading his eyes with an arm and lying back. “So. Doug and Amy, man.”

Yep. Doug and Amy.

Fuck, did I only think that?

“Yep. Doug and Amy.”

“You cool with that? Between us we can tell him to back off.” Mickey glanced at me, but I was too busy reclining.

“Long as she’s happy, man. We’ll talk if he breaks her heart though.”

“Sure thing man.”

Mickey was quiet for a while. Which was nice.

The sun was still going strong and I’d hate to take my mind off the fuzzy feeling of the weed in order to concentrate on whatever he was saying. Suburbia was nice this time of year, but I felt I needed a soundtrack to it.

When Phil arrived he had brought his turntable and a few vinyls with him. A form of music which fitted beautifully with how we felt when left like this. It moisturised our souls with warm, mellow sounds, and made us all feel as if we were living in another time, when it was that much harder to police drugs and alcohol so people like us were left alone. After all. It wasn’t us that were damaging to society. We were just here, sitting at peace with the world, and maybe tonight we’d go out, off our tits, and have fun. But it was that unbiased, pure, fun that caused less trouble than people, like Gonzo, who went out of their way for violence and abuse when high on the only legal part of our binges. The Alcohol.

I stood up and tottered to the turntable which was the calm eye of our substance-fuelled hurricane of destruction. I leafed through until I found a copy of AC/DC and, with more care than I would normally have, lined it up on the deck. The needle clumped a bit as it put it down a little heavily, but then the dulcet tones of Angus Young’s screeching guitar rose and I sat down.

We stayed like this for a while, until the cannabis haze began to lift and things became a little bit steadier, and I became more bored.

I needed a plan of action. Things to do…