21 November 2016



Big Malky went down hard. He took a hell of a beating before he cracked, but crack he did. After a couple of hours of relentless punishment he was sobbing like a baby and pleading for his life.

“Please Mo – there’s no need for this. You dinnae huv tae dae this. I’ll go away – you’ll never see me again. I’ll gie you money – anything you want – just dinnae dae this.”

His words burbled in his bloody mouth and I was both disgusted by the display and elated by the sense of power it produced. The once mighty Malcolm McTear, the last man on my list, begging for mercy – crying like a schoolgirl. I let him go on for a while, but the final word went to my 1911 Colt 45. I whipped the big pistol out and without a second glance tapped him on the forehead – right between the eyes. There was blood and brain everywhere. I was pleased by the action – solid and professional like.

“Did ye see that boys? One slick movement – like a fuckin’ samurai.”

I was determined that everyone on the list would be dispatched before the old man’s funeral and I had achieved my goal. The old man would be pleased and I imagined him watching from on high with a big smile on his face. He was a wise one my father – not only was I visiting vengeance on his enemies – I was clearing the ground for increased business. He knew that these scumbags would try it on with me after he was dead and that the wisest thing for me to do would be to liquidate them before they became a nuisance.

The whole operation had proven to be much easier than I had anticipated. We caught them napping – they thought their troubles were over when they heard that the old man had snuffed it. They were soon to be proven wrong. Most of these so called hard men had pleaded for mercy and I had shown it through the barrel of my gun. All except Jimmy the Flea, he had stood his ground right up to the end.

“You cunts had better kill me – cause I’ll be coming back for ye. You Mo – you’re scum just like yer dad. We had a party to celebrate when that dirty old fucker died – and mark my words – you’ll be following him soon enough...”

I silenced him mid tirade – he was boring me, but he went down fighting and I respected that. I made a mental note to take care of Flea’s two boys – if they had half the bottle their old man had they could become a problem. For the time being though my work was done and I could focus on dad’s funeral – it would be the biggest the city had ever seen with faces from all over the country coming to pay their respects.

The day the old man died the whole family were gathered around and mum was insisting that they send for a priest. The old man was against the idea until mum said to him that she’d miss him should he end up in purgatory. He eventually relented and Father Mulligan was sent for, but the old man was as awkward and stubborn as ever.

“Do you renounce the devil and all his works?”

“I do Father.”

“Do you forgive your enemies?”

The old man did not answer, but lay there staring into space.

“Do you forgive your enemies?”

Again the old man did not respond.

“For the sake of your immortal soul Jock – do you forgive your enemies?”

“Aye, alright – I forgive my fuckin’ enemies!” rasped the old man.

He then turned to me and fixed me with his steely gaze.

“But there’s no need for you to be forgiving anybody Maurice.”


19 November 2016

The Cuckoo


She had turned her dressing table into a shrine and it broke my heart to see; there were photographs, postcards, letters, jewellery, trinkets and all the bric-a-brac of romance. Two years after Paul’s death and she was still in mourning. The flat they once shared was a mausoleum to his memory; unchanged since that fateful day.

I once fostered hopes that she might turn to me after a suitable term of grieving, but I had become that most pitiable of species – the best friend. I longed to tell her how I felt, but I dared not because I knew she would be horrified. She trusted me and I felt that at some basic level my love was a betrayal of that trust. My love for her was just another of my guilty secrets and something best left unspoken.

When she told me she needed a hand sorting out old clothes for some charity shop I briefly hoped that she had begun to clear out some of Paul’s old things; that she had perhaps started to move on. When I got to the flat, however, I discovered that it was her own clothes she was throwing out. Looking at the assorted jumble of clothing I wandered if she was not divesting herself of the last remnants of colour in her life.

“Thanks for coming around Pete, I really appreciate it.”

“No problem Marie; anything I can do to help...”

“There’s bound to be better things you could be doing on a Friday evening.”

“Not really – unless you count my busy TV schedule.”

“You need a girlfriend.”

“You’re probably right.”

There followed an excruciatingly embarrassed silence which lasted a heartbeat, but which filled an eternity. She had taken to these pronouncements lately and I had never formulated a decent retort. I should have found a girlfriend and gotten on with my life, but it was already too late. Paul’s death wrecked both our lives and we orbited each other at a discretionary distance – both of us alone in our private grief.

After dropping the clothes of at the charity shop she invited me back to the flat for a coffee. I was hoping she would. We wound our way up the tight concrete stairwell and I recalled the nightmare of hauling their furniture up those steps – Paul and I heaving and cursing with every footfall. But we were laughing too; those were happier times, before he got ill and dragged us all into hell with him. On the top landing to the right of the flat was the door that lead to the roof – it was padlocked now, but that did not stop the memories from flooding back each time I saw it.

Paul had been an outgoing and vivacious character and was always the first to see the funny side. He was the perennial joker and the life and soul of any gathering, but Paul began to change. He threw malevolent tantrums and sulked in deep depressive funks which were counterpoised with manic highs when he lost all sense of propriety. Marie nearly left him then, but when he was diagnosed with Bi Polar Disorder she thought her place was by his side fighting his dreadful affliction.

That day Marie had called me and asked if I could pop by and check on Paul because she would be delayed at work and he was not answering the phone. He was prone to ignoring the phone, so there was nothing untoward in that, but she worried nonetheless. When I got to the flat there was no answer, but the door was unlocked so I went inside. There was no sign of Paul, but his typewriter was on the kitchen table and initially I was glad to see that he had been writing again.

A man acquainted with sorrow,

weary of the world, tired of life,

has no faith in tomorrow,

no taste for endless strife,

sorrow rules his heart,

and measures every beat,

tears his soul apart,

and turns his flesh to meat.

It seemed such a sad hymnal that it gave me a chill inside. My friend was fighting for his life and I was impotent in the struggle. He was not in the flat, but I knew where he would be – I found him on the roof watching the traffic flow by below.

“Hey Paul – how you doing?”

“As well as can be expected.”

“You writing?”

“Only obituaries.”

It was so hard to reach him sometimes – every inquiry only threw up negative responses and sometimes they were chilling. I really felt sorry for Marie. She had to deal with his blank numb ripostes and his suicidal ideation. I could see it was crushing her spirit, but Paul did not seem to notice, he seemed on a track of his own and oblivious to the world around him.

“Well that’s something – at least you are writing.” I smiled hopefully.

“It’s pointless.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Everything we do is pointless. We steal our days while we fend off the inevitable. I just wish it was over.”

I don’t know what came over me. I was angry with him, frustrated by him. I’d had enough. I charged into him and gave him a hard shove. He toppled over the side of the building and landed with a sickening thud. My only thoughts then were that I hoped he was dead and that no one had seen me.


3 November 2016

Bone Men


We all go out to harvest bones in the wilderness. It’s a world away from titties and beer, but it puts meat on the table and that’s what sifts the men from the boys. Bone men deal in certainties as sure as sorrow is a distillation of pain in the brain pan. Down back of the beyond we know the lost spaces like the backs of our hands. So dummy up and listen close while we tell you the best places a man can write his name large in the firmament; be it the name your mother gave you, or the name the world gave you, or the name you stole and made your own. You never know with these things – just where you come from – or where you go, but you know where you are and that’s enough to swallow in a single sitting. So all things being equal under a sorry sky – if you have the art of writing and the reach to gather stars – you just might leave a mark; which is more than you have a right to.


13 October 2016


my head  hurt

like a long loud scream

she hit a vein right away4

the black wind blew

the relief was palpable
some men prefer

love on their haunches

I just steam on in all suited up

the man of reason

I ply the trade with ruthless

charm anticipating all objections

the angles of my craft it's

catch as catch can and

I’m ready for a fight 

I never underestimate

the sincerity of a lynch mob

they have a job to do

and so do I


11 October 2016

Johnny Friendly


It was Easter Sunday and the city was dead. It looked like the resurrection had been cancelled for another year. Still, the off licences were still openso it wasn’t a dead loss. I was at my mate Johnny’s enjoying his fine Indian dope and copious quantities of chai. I enjoyed our wee tea parties. The conversation was as good as the dopehe was a very bright young man and had had a decent education. There were so few people I could have a stimulating conversation with, so I made a point of staying in contact with Johnny on a regular basis.

Johnny wiznae always the hardnosed businessman everybody came tae loathe. He was once a sweet kid who dealt quality hash at decent prices. He was an affable young guy who seemed to get on wi everybody – hence the moniker Johnny Friendly. Like ‘On The Waterfront’ only this wiznae ironic, but true he was a friendly young dude with a gentle nature. When he changed, who can say, it was a gradual thing, but back in the day he was already shaping up tae be a top dealer. He got the hang of things at an early age – principally because he had an excellent teacher – i.e., yours truly.

“Never tell no cunt yer business, you tell ‘em nothing. Who you score from – what you pay, who yer customers are – nothing.”

“Well I know that – it’s obvious.”

“Aye, it’s obvious, but it’s a hard thing to do. Most people have nae secrets, they blab everything about themselves tae any bugger who’ll listen – which is only natural. You on the other hand have secrets and they have to stay secrets or your business is fucked.”

“I’ve been keeping secrets since I was fifteen and got into this racket, I’m okay with secrets believe me.”

“You have an excellent set up here John Boy. Two entrances secluded from the street – an intercom at the door – well sweet bro, you got that sussed. I like the way you deal wi yer punters too – that ‘special rates fur special mates’ shtick; you should tell that tae all yer customers.”

“You are getting a special rate Buddha and I do count ye as a mate.”

“I appreciate that Johnny, but ye cannae do that too often – or ye’ll price yersel out o business in nae time at all. Look, every punter wants tae feel that they have a special relationship wi their dealer. It’s only natural. The trick is making them all feel that way without cutting into yer profits. Ask yersel whit happens when Peter finds out that Paul is getting a better price than he is?”

“I guess he would feel cheated.”

“Exactly, and he’d grow resentful. So ye tell them all that they are on a special rate and ye charge them all the same. By the way – I don’t charge you full whack either – just so ye know. There are special mates, but they are few and far between. You’ll find that you can only have those relationships with people who don’t need you.”

“You mean other dealers?”

“Aye, other dealers and the like; people you can deal wi on equal terms. You cannae profit by your friends and remain buddies and that’s the shame of it Johnny; those who were once friends are now beholden to you. They were once yer muckers, but now they are yer punters. It’s a sorry state o’ affairs sometimes, but it’s the way of things. The trick is tae cushion that reality wi a wee bit of judicious bullshit – like ‘special deals for special mates’ – see whit I mean? ”

“I don’t know Buddha; most of my customers are my friends.”

“Everybody needs friends Johnny, but yer punters are not yer friends, not any more. Believe me when push comes tae shove half o’ them would daub you in tae save themselves. It’s only natural.”

“You’ve got a pretty jaded way of looking at things Buddha; I’ve known some of my punters since we were at school together. I can’t imagine that they would turn grass on me.”

“In a fuckin’ flash Johnny. Like Marley says – ‘Only yer friends know yer secrets – so only they could reveal them.’ People change when they are scared and they think about number one and number one only.”

“What do you do when somebody defaults oan their tick?”

“Buy a baseball bat and quit being Johnny Friendly, and start being Johnny nasty.”

“Johnny Friendly?”

“That’s what they call you – Johnny Friendly.”

“I don’t know if I like that.”

“It’s better than John Boy.”

“Aye, but you’re the only cunt that calls me that.”

“That’s my privilege Johnny – ah knew ye first.”

“I mean it Buddha – there’s this one cunt who is in to me fur a bar and he will not pay – it’s always next week, next week.”

“Sell him on.”


“Tell Psycho Peter yer problem and he’ll collect yer money for a percentage of the debt – all above board and regular. One look at Psycho’s face and they’ll be falling over themselves to pay.”

“He won’t hurt them will he?”

“Not usually – if a troupe of Hells Angels turned up at your door – what would you do?”

“Shit myself.”


“Could you ask him?”

“No, you’ll ask him. I’ll send him round, but word to the wise – don’t get too involved with Peter and his biker chums – they are the hard edge; those fuckers take no prisoners.”

“I’ll bear that in mind Buddha – I like to keep things friendly – the hard man approach doesn’t suite my temperament – I’m a lover, not a fighter.”

I believed that to be true, but time changes people and boy did Johnny change. Once upon a time he was barely interested in profit he just enjoyed the lifestyle and the crack. Later Johnny would become the biggest gangster in the city not that I ever heard of Johnny actually hitting anybodyPsycho Peter, or one of his minions, would do that for him. Poor Johnny he had no friends, only associates and customers. Still. that was his choice and it had been laid out for him to choose just what direction he would go in, but I wonder sometimes if he was ever really listening to me, or if he only heard what he wanted to.


10 October 2016

The Joker

  the joker

Frank was looking forward to a wee break in Florida. A fortnight in the sun would wash away the winter blues with their cauld squalls and icy rain; a break from the eternal gloom and gale force winds. This winter’s day was like any other Scottish winter’s day – it was pissing down. They waited in the departure lounge for over an hour only to be informed that their flight was delayed by two hours. Sandy suggested they go grab a coffee, but Frank opted for a drink.

“Ah could murder a pint.”

“I fancy a drink too. We are on holiday aren’t we?”

Frank was on his second pint – he was taking it easy – when he got the surprise of his life. His old oppo walked into the bar and he nearly choked on his beer. Jamie Carr, the man who saved his life, his comrade, his blood brother.

“Jamie fucking Carr! How the fuck are you?”

“It’s been a while Frank – you’ve gained a few pounds ain’t cha?”

“Aye well I huvnae been yomping across Salisbury Plain in the pourin’ rain haulin’ a fucking Bergen oan my back for a wee while. Hey, remember Rannoch Moor when we got ambushed by them geese?”

“Yeah, you shat yourself.”

“So did you!”

“You put the wind right up me – I thought you was havin’ kittens!”

“Those were the days, eh? In auld D Squadron.”

“If I’da known how many jocks were gonna be in that unit I’da signed up with the Girl Guides.”

“What are you doing these days Jamie?”

“I’m still with the firm Frank.”

Frank paused for a moment as if he had something to say which was stuck in his throat; like his words were evading his mouth. He did not want Jamie to know he sold stationary – albeit on a massive scale – it seemed pointless next to what Jamie was doing. He somehow felt smaller now than when he had entered the bar. He suddenly remembered Sandy who stood at his side patently.

“Jamie, let me introduce my wife Sandy.”

“Pull the other one Frank – I already met your wife, remember?”

Jamie smiled that dazzling smile and Frank groaned internally – why are you doing this to me? He knew it was that sick army humour, but he was the sucker in this joke and knowing Sandy she would not see the funny side.

“What does he mean Frank? What the fuck is going on? What does he mean I’m not your wife?”

Sandy was livid; Jamie’s words got right inside her head and she wanted to know who this other wife was! Jamie was already on his way out the door – trying not to laugh out loud.

“Jamie, come back!”

“Who is she Frank?”

“It’s a joke darlin’ He’s only yanking yer chain sweetheart.”

“And why would he do that?”

“Cause he’s a tosser darling – a bona fide dirty wee cockney tosser.

“I thought he was your friend?”

“He’s much more than that.”

“Then why would he lie?”

“For a laugh – to see me squirm.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“I swear to you...”

“After what happened with Maureen...”

“Nothing happened with Maureen.”

“I saw with my own eyes...”

“Nothing happened! She took her top off – there was no contact. I was as surprised as you.”

“And now this! What do I make of this!”

“It’s a joke – a sick bloody joke, but it’s a joke.”

“I don’t believe you.”

She didn’t believe him. She would not believe him all through the holiday and all the way through Christmas. His protestations of innocence just made her believe him less. She eventually stopped asking him and Frank thought the issue was forgotten, but she never forgot, not after the Maureen incident. She would carry her suspicions to the grave. A drunken neighbour who removed her top at a party and an army chum who played a practical joke was all it took to bend Sandy out of shape for the rest of her life.

Of course Jamie was blissfully unaware of the havoc he had sown behind him; all he remembered was a cracking gag he pulled on an old comrade.

“You should have seen Franco’s face. He looked like the bottom was falling out of his world! I just turned and walked away and his missus is going ‘Who is she Frank? Who is she?’ I got him good, the sly old fucker. I got him good.”


3 October 2016



That cunt’s been let off his lead. He got his divorce papers last week and now he’s suited, booted and off up the toon on the razzle. I wish ah wiz in his shoes – no that I want tae split wi the misses like – ah’d jist want one night o’ freedom tae recapture the youth I never had. I missed out on the sexual revolution – there wiz nae sexual revolution where I stayed; if ye goat a lassie up the duff ye were fucked fur life. I widnae change a thing mind you, but every now and then a man gets tae thinking about excitement, adventure an that. See these birds noo they are up fur it just as much as we are. Wiznae like that in my day; ye were a whore if ye went wi a man out of wedlock. We all did it and we a’ goat caught tae. Back then nae decent lassie went oan the pill so we were stuck wi rubber johnnies; it was like making love in a wet suit. It was Russian roulette if ye went without though, but everybody did; the majority of new brides had a bun in the oven. I doubt there’s been a virgin bride round here since nineteen sixty three.

I wonder where he’s goan. I huvnae been up the toon since a goat married. It’s all changed though – it’s all clubs instead eh pubs. They say the place is hoachin wi fanny just ripe for the asking. I widnae know where tae start it’s been that long. They say he’s a ladies’ man and that he never let his wife get in the way of a gid time; that’ll be why he’s single now. I could never dae that – cheat oan the wife ah mean. It wid crush her if I wiz tae dae that. Aye he cuts a fine figure in his brand new suit. I reckon the bastard fancies himself – big heeded prick. Come tae think of it – ah never did like the cunt in the first place.


30 September 2016

The Doctor


Tired yet baleful concrete tenements glowered down on deserted streets during the daytime and the place seemed as if it were long ago abandoned by man. It was only during the night that the scheme came to life; when troops of cocaine fuelled primates filled the air with tribal war cries and furtive indigent lepers went about their business on the sly.

“Get away from my door son. You’ve had enough for one night.”

“C’mon Doc – jist a fiver bag. I’ve goat the cash, see?”

“You’ll be needing a hit in the morning – come back then. I’ll no be held responsible if you have any more the night.”

“In the mornin’ then?”

“Aye, first thing – the usual time.”

Doc closed the door and let out a sigh. Greed was a symptom of the disease – no junkie could ever get enough and he was no exception. Still, it didn’t pay to have customers overdose on you and sometimes accidents brought policemen to your door. He didn’t often turn customers away, but when he did he had good reasons. Just this afternoon he had refused young Jimmy Lyons who was on a course of methadone and hadn’t had a hit for over a month. There was no way Doc was going to help him scupper his chances by turning him on again – there were plenty of other dealers he could turn to; he wanted no part of it. It was the ones like Jimmy with families he felt the most pity for – the kids suffered for the weaknesses of their parents.

Doc retired to the comfort of his armchair, he rarely went to bed, preferring instead to gouch in his chair until the sun came up. He prepared his final injection of the day and sighed once more as the precious medicine oozed through his body and he sloughed off the weight of countless decades. Tomorrow was a big day for him – pension day. He’d venture out to get some grub in and maybe take a wee trip to the library for a book or two. That would be a pleasant adventure – a wee recce around the Athens of the north to return victorious with the gift of literature in his hand.


When I heard that The Doctor was dead I naturally assumed that he had over done, but it transpired that Finney and his razor boys did for him. He was an evil wee bastard that Finney, as was his father before him. He had been exercising a vicious form of alchemy in an attempt to synthesise his old man, but had never borne comparison to that wicked auld cunt. In the eyes of most people he was still auld Finn’s laddie and a pale imitation of the original.

“They stuck him like a pig right outside the post office Johnny. Young Finney was screamin’ like a banshee and auld Doc was begging fur mercy like.”

Psycho Peter filled me in with all the gory details and they painted a sorry scene. Doc, the oldest junkie in the town, had gone to the post office to collect his pension where he was ambushed by Finney and his boys. They stabbed the poor old bastard multiple times before eventually cutting his throat and letting him bleed out halal style. Finney then proclaimed that this was the fate that awaited any junk dealers caught on his patch.

There was a hierarchy of drug usage out there in the schemes which placed cocaine at the top and heroin at the bottom. Everyone looked down on junkies – even the alkies looked down on junkies and no-one cared much what happened to them. Hell, even I looked down on junkies and they made me a comfortable living. The schemes were awash with smack and coke and I had my fingers in both pies; cannabis was everywhere – it was a staple – not a luxury, but there was no money in cannabis.

It was open season on junkies out there and they were being beaten in regular attacks which went largely unreported, not even the cops cared about junkies. This though was murder in broad daylight and would be sure to attract the full attentions of the local plod.

“What about the polis?”

“The usual – naebody saw nuthin’”

“Let’s keep it that way.”

“Everybody’s too scared of Finney tae grass, besides there’s a lot would pin a medal oan him fur what he done, folk say they are sick o finding needles everywhere and seeing junkies dossin oan the street.”

“Is it really that bad?”

“Naw, and I’ve been telt that Finney’s boys collect the needles fae shootin’ galleries an’ redistributes them in public places – like schools and parks – so as tae wind up the locals.”

“So that he can play the vigilante with the blessings of the plebeians no doubt.”

Peter cast me a funny look, but said nothing. It was obvious that Finney was out to consolidate his grip over his own neighbourhood at the expense of the hapless junkies, but he was miscalculating the impact he might have on the businesses of other interested parties.

“Have a word with Finney would you Peter?”

“Do you think he needs discouraging?”

“I think he needs enlightening. Killings are bad for business and will not be tolerated. Roughing up junkies is one thing, but hassling the wrong dealers will only bring him into conflict with the wrong people. He can play at gangsters ‘till his heart is content, but if it costs one penny from my pocket I’ll see he suffers, so he’d better make sure he only hassles the right dealers.”

We could use Finney’s predilections to our benefit – he could help rid us of the competition at grass roots level. We only had fifty percent saturation in some of the schemes – we could, ironically enough, use the hatred of junkies to sell more product. If we played our cards right by duplicating Finney’s efforts across the schemes we could corner the market for ourselves. I was saddened by the death of old Doc, but reflected that his untimely demise might not have been in vain. I made a note to send a wreath, just to pay my respects. He wasn’t such a bad auld cunt – for a junkie.


20 September 2016



We ran and ran until our legs would carry us no more – our pursuers had stopped chasing us a mile back – but we were running for the joy of it. We were gasping and panting for breath as we laughed uncontrollably. I thought I might asphyxiate from laughter. I tried to speak to Belle, but could only muster some wheezy vowel sounds. He was on the ground now in paroxysms of mirth.

“I think the whole pub was chasing us!” I exclaimed - once I’d caught my breath.

“It might have been something that I said,” replied Belle.

We went into convulsions of laughter once more; he laughed the way I imagine coyotes laugh with sniggers and whimpers and howls. It was typical of Belle that after a few drinks his impulse control completely deserted him. We were on a pub crawl down Leith Walk and went into the Central on a dare. It was the roughest pub on the Walk in those days. I would never have gone in there normally, but Belle urged me on. The place was mobbed, but Belle managed to grab a tiny space on a bench next to this middle aged bird, to tell the truth she was quite tasty. She and Belle were soon wrapped in conversation, her husband who was sat next to her kept a leery eye on proceedings. Then it happened – I knew it would. Belle had to push things too far.

“You make a handsome couple” he said.

“Thank you” she replied flush of face.

“Any chance of a wee kiss?” he enquired lecherously.

“Oh, no” she answered shyly.

“Just a wee peck maybe?” he insisted gently.

“Oh, alright then” she puckered her lips.

“Oh, no you hen – I mean yer man” the company went quiet and her man glowered at Belle. We split laughing and I broke into a run with Belle trailing behind. Sure enough a crowd of tough looking radges followed us from the pub.

“Do you all want a kiss?” taunted Belle as I dragged him away.

“You have to stop antagonising the heterosexual community Belle – before you get your head kicked in” I warned him.

“You know the difference between straight and queer Angel?” he asked.

“Enlighten me Belle.”

“Six pints of lager.”

“I only drink special.”  I quipped.

“Maybe you never gave lager a chance.”

That last comment hung in the air between us and we let it die there. We were headed back to my place and a fridge full of beer when Belle suggested we make a detour.

“Let’s go wind up Buddha. I could use a line of speed.”

“Okay, but go easy on him. He’s a good mate of mine.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” replied Belle; “I’m a perfect gentleman around your friends.”

I rolled my eyes, but said nothing. Belle seemed contemptuous of anything straight and his behaviour around my hetro friends was often a bone of contention between us. We arrived at Buddha’s place and made our way up the three flights to his flat. Buddha seemed glad to see me, but was a little more reserved toward Belle.

“Come in lads and take a pew. Anyone fancy a cup o’ chai?”

Once the tea ceremonial was dispensed with Buddha set about sorting out three generous lines. He assured us that this gear was the bee’s knees and that we’d be flying in no time at all.

“Ye’ll be rabbitin’ awe night wi this stuff – guaranteed.”

“You only serve the best Buddha,” replied Belle; “That’s why you’re my favourite pusher.”

Belle had that glint in his eyes. He was out to provoke Buddha who bristled at the word ‘pusher’.

“I’m nae pusher – get that straight. I never pushed anything on anybody in my life. My clientele don’t need pushin’ they jump o’ their own accord. I’m a dealer and a bloody good wan. I deal in entertainment of the highest quality and have never had any complaints. My deals are spot on and my gear is clean, never trod on. People are never pushed in my direction – in fact I never heard of anyone being pushed into takin’ drugs – it’s always been on a strictly voluntary basis. Take yer average junkie – naebody forces them into it. Yer junkie gets up every morning and decides that today he’ll be a junkie an’ he’ll be a fuckin’ junkie til he changes his mind. That’s what separates the casual user from the addict – greed and will power. Naebody makes them junkies – they jump o’ their own accord.”

I agreed wholeheartedly with what Buddha said; though I thought there was a certain irony in his saying it. Buddha had been doing speed for ten years or more and as far as I knew he did it every day. We snorted our lines and snorted some more; sure enough we were talking and philosophising into the small hours and beyond the dawn.

“You like it then?” asked Buddha.

“Aye we like it alright – its rocket fuel.” I replied.

“I could do you a lay on” he offered.

“I don’t know...”

“Take a couple of ounces – pay me next week – ye can flog it at a tidy profit and still have a bit for yersels.”

And so I left Buddha’s with two ounces of pure amphetamine sulphate and an ounce of sticky black hash in my pocket. Had I been pushed into it? No, I think I jumped, with a little persuasion.

“Well, where are we goin’ now?” enquired Belle.

“Back to my place,” I replied, “I just want to put my feet up and relax.”

“Let’s go for a drink,” suggested Belle.

“It’s six in the morning Belle.”

“I know a place that opens at six”

“I suppose I could use a couple of bloody Marys to settle my stomach.”

“Fuck that – I’m buying you six pints of lager!”


16 September 2016

Tough Love



I was five or six when my father decided that it was time I learned to swim. So one Saturday morning we set out together for the lido in the park. It was located close to where the new swimming baths are, but was a wholly Victorian affair that smelled like piss and chlorine. We went to separate cubicles to change before he took me by the hand and lead me to the deep end of the pool where he threw me in.

I sank like a stone. The shock made me inhale the water which burned as it invaded my nose, throat and lungs. I thrashed around trying instinctively to propel myself to the surface, but my efforts were futile and I sank ever deeper. Suddenly, strong arms scooped me up and hauled me to the surface. The lifeguard had dived in to rescue me before I drowned. He laid me on the floor as I spluttered and coughed up the stinging chlorinated water. He made sure I was alright and then rounded on my dad.

“That was a bloody stupid thing to do – it only takes a minute to drown you know!”

My father went beetroot. I could see the anger and embarrassment in his face, but he said nothing. He just glowered at the lifeguard as if it was he who was doing something wrong. Without a word he hauled me to my feet and marched me to the changing cubicles. He maintained his silence as he dressed me roughly before dragging me homeward. It was some time before he spoke.

“Don’t you ever humiliate me like that again.”

Then, after a moment’s consideration he added;

“Don’t you tell yer mother about this.”

I grew up with a phobia of water; just being close to a body of water filled me with fear. It was my girlfriend Linda who taught me how to swim and she did it with great patience and consideration. I never did enjoy swimming, but at least I knew I wasn’t going to drown and the terror of being near the water gradually abated.

My father was a great believer in ‘tough love’ and he never spared the rod. All his lessons contained the threat of violence, if not physical then mental. All he taught me was to fear him which was partly his objective. He seemed to confuse fear with respect and the more respect he demanded the more fearful I became. Yes, tough love is no love at all; real love engenders forbearance and it’s forbearance which fosters respect.


14 September 2016



we cling to the great curve

with our suicide pants

bunched around our ankles

and our arses hanging in the wind

we long ago abandoned

any pretence of modesty

and our protestations of innocence

sound ironic given our circumstances

the generation of conspicuous consumption

have full bellies and empty aspirations

all we seek in the theatre of distraction

is the instant gratification of minor vices

and the reassurance that we are good people

despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary


12 September 2016

The Big House


It was in the days following decimalisation when our pockets bulged with useless pennies. We’d take our coins down to the railway yard and place them on the tracks where great Type Two locomotives would squash them flat for us. I used to thrill at the passage of these hulking leviathans and marvel at the way the earth buckled under their weight. We were chased away from the yards many times and once or twice we were picked up by the railway police who admonished us and warned us of the dangers of playing there. Of course the stockyards were dangerous – that was part of the allure. There was century’s worth of crap in there – rotten wood, rusty iron and warped steel; heavy junk just made for boys to play with.

My ninth summer was the hottest on record; the Tarmac melted and children baked under the merciless rays of the relentless sun. We had spent the day in the yards chasing newts in the stagnant ponds and staging robberies in abandoned railway carriages. Now the setting sun was painting the world gold and it was time Jesse James and his gang hurried home to their mums. We were about to leave the yard when we noticed that Gordon was missing.

“Where’s Gordy?”

“Wiz he no wi you?”

“Naw – wiz eh no wi you?”

“Maybe he went hame”

“He wid huv said”

“Let’s split up – you go back tae the ponds an we’ll check the rails”

As the oldest boy I took charge of the search party which scoured the railway sidings. We climbed through derelict railway carriages and abandoned trucks calling Gordy’s name, but there was no reply. We were about to give up and call it a day when we found him. He was a crumpled heap left dumped on the ground beside the rails. It seemed to me that his frail little body had been folded in an unnatural manner by some unspeakable and callous hand. Thick brown blood oozed from his head and pooled on the ground around him. I had never seen blood that colour; I was sure no living thing bled that colour. Gordy gazed blankly into the evening sky; flies danced in the air around him and settled on his eyes in grim mockery of the living.

Wee Stu and Barry Evans were crying, but I did not cry – I think I was in shock. A dread fear had seized my heart – a fear which had no name but was recognized of old; my first taste of death was familiar and primal and I never forgot it. We gathered the boys from the ponds and ran to Gordy’s house to raise the alarm, but it was too late for alarms. It was too late for anything but tears.

In the coming days a strange silence had descended on my heart. I stayed close to home and played little, but thought much. One day I asked my mother what happens when you die, she did her best – God bless her – to comfort me.

“When you die you go to live in a big house where everyone you have ever known lives and everybody is happy forever and ever.”

My father had a different perspective entirely;

“When yer deed yer deed – there’s nothing – nae God, nae heaven, jist nothing. End of story. So stay away from that fuckin railway or I’ll fuckin kill ye myself.”

That first taste of death lingers a lifetime; years later when I over did they said I died three times on the way to hospital. I don’t remember much about it, but I know there was no big house, no friends and family awaiting me. What I do remember is the resurfacing of a long buried memory. I lay in that hospital bed with the image of Gordy’s face and that pool of thick brown blood swimming before my eyes and I wept like a child. I don’t know if I wept for me or for poor wee Gordy – perhaps I cried for us both – for the fragility of life and its impermanent nature.


7 August 2016



To most people he was a leper, a pariah and a filthy pervert. Remember those were the days when the most enlightened opinion thought of homosexuality as a disease and the least considered it an abomination and a crime against nature. Archie had lost count of the number of times some testosterone laden, knuckle dragging, hero had dished him out a beating. He was safe nowhere – even the neighbourhood children would taunt him with vicious insults and throw stones at him; Archie would simply stare at the ground and quicken his step through the gauntlet of abuse.

He did most of his drinking at the Railway Club where - although he was shunned by the other customers - he was at least afforded a little peace. I’d see him in there sitting in the corner avoiding eye contact and nursing a pint of special. I spoke with him sometimes – even bought him a pint or two – much to the amusement of the locals; consorting with a known homosexual made me suspect in their eyes.

Once prised from his shell Archie exhibited a delightful sense of humour and was something of a raconteur. He had a million stories from his days as a wheel tapper on the railways – a job he’d had to leave when his secret was discovered as no-one would work with a dirty queer. He seemed to bear no grudge against those who spurned him – neither did he complain about the caprice of nature which had made him an untouchable.

I once asked him why he did not move to the city where he was bound to find others like himself. He simply replied that everyone he knew was here in this dirty old industrial town and that cities were too big and heartless for him. I tried not to pity him, but he was a pitiful specimen; frail in stature and temperament. Archie was a prisoner of his circumstances and destined to lead a lonely life – he seemed reconciled to his fate – forever outside looking in.

I once attended a party in one of those rare households where Archie was accepted. It was back in the day when people sang at parties and each guest had a signature song. When Archie’s turn came he sang ‘My Way’ and I was blown away by his beautiful velvety baritone timbre. He sounded like a Sinatra style crooner. It was hard to believe that big voice emanated from such a diminutive man. He was cheered on and sang several more songs to great approbation, but as much as the singing it was the look on his face that impressed me – he was happy, exultant even. As his voice soared heavenward I remembered something he once told me; he was a lapsed Catholic – no longer welcome in the chapel - but he believed he had a home on high where questions of sexuality no longer mattered. That was many years ago and Archie has surely passed on; if there is any justice in the universe he now sings in a heavenly choir and that beatific expression is permanently etched upon his face.


20 July 2016



She was feline in aspect and dealt with others the way a kitten deals with a ball of wool. She carried a lighter load; you could tell by her easy smile and the crystal clarity of those baby blue eyes that nothing had troubled her in all her twenty something summers.

Her nature shielded her from pain and sorrow; empathy was not her strong suit - the feelings of others were merely mirrors which sustained her lightly worn vanity. She possessed a certainty that can only be born of ignorance. I could call it naivety, but it was too blunt an instrument and much too dangerous to be that. Everything about her seemed vague enough to be true. Hers was a personal mythology of blithe innocence and the carnage she sowed in her wake was merely collateral damage – she was always true to her childlike selfishness.

All her angles were obtuse, but they were unerring; she got what she wanted by default and no man could deny her. So I fell into her orbit like a shooting star – to blaze for a while before falling to Earth to land among the flotsam of  discarded lovers and sometime friends. She’s long forgotten me but I still remember her scent on my bedclothes – vanilla sweet with a hint of belladonna.


1 July 2016



It was one of those flaccid non descript mornings when the birds don’t even sing; here at the end of the world the birds have long ago realised the futility of song. Toots was thinking too loud to register the eerie silence, or notice the milky white sky that hung low over the rooftops. He was on a mission and had fallen behind schedule. It was imperative that he made it to Uncle Frank’s before Maimie showed up. It was the same routine every morning; ever since the wife’s Uncle Frank had been diagnosed Toots was over there every morning with his milk, rolls and newspapers. He was the epitome of the Good Samaritan – everyone said so.

Frank’s door was locked which meant Maimie had yet to show. Toots raised his eyes heavenward and gave silent thanks to his guardian angel. He let himself in using the key Frank had entrusted to him. The old man was fast asleep in his room so Toots tiptoed to the bathroom and opened the medicine cabinet. There were two bottles of morphine linctus left, but they were both sealed. The third bottle was obviously in the room with the old man. He dared not open one of the new bottles for fear of discovery, so he tiptoed back to the bedroom with larceny in his heart.

The room was darkened but for the glow from the muted television at the end of Frank’s bed; the fifty five inch Sony Bravia Frank had bought with his insurance money dominated the room in its gigantic splendour. Toots coveted that television – how good would the football look on that ultra high definition screen, not to mention the movies? All the old man watched was news; it was a shameful waste of technology.

Toots spied the morphine linctus from the doorway. He made his way around the bed and picked up the bottle and checked to see if any smart bastard had marked the level in an effort to catch him out – safe. Toots had just begun to pour some of the precious liquid into an empty pop bottle when the old man woke up.

“You thieving wee bastard!” he rasped.

“No Frank it’s no what it looks like” stammered Toots.

“Ya dirty thieving junkie – get oot o’ here” the old man was finding his voice.

“But Frank – I can explain...”

“No need to explain” exclaimed Frank “I can see what’s been goin’ on.”

“I’ve been sick Frank – I just need a wee drop – fur ma nerves.”

“Get out of ma hoose!”

“But Frank...”

“Get out!”

The old man was shouting now and Toots was sure the neighbours would hear and with Maimie due to arrive at any moment Toots was in a serious bind. He’d worked his arse off for this old bastard for the last six months with the tacit understanding he’d be in the old man’s will; all that was now flushed down the lavvy pan. The old man was getting louder and louder – Toots picked up a pillow from the bed and attempted to muffle Frank’s voice. He muffled him long and hard.

When Maimie arrived Toots was standing over the old man crying. He hadn’t meant to kill him he told himself – just shut him up. It was his own fault for being so bloody minded; the ungrateful old bastard. Maimie took Toot’s arm and lead him away from the bed.

“When did it happen?” she asked him.


“When did he pass away?”

“Just there the noo.” replied Toots numbly “We were talking and he just stopped.”

“What did he say?”


“What were his last words?”

“Oh aye, he said I was to have his telly...”


12 May 2016



Everything Gordon McLaughlin touched turned to shit; which is why some wag had long ago dubbed him ‘Lucky’. He had a habit that he’d acquired in his teens which was why in his late twenties he was already a middle aged man. Tonight he was dressed up in his best finery and he still looked homeless. He blended with the seething nightclub dandies the way vinegar blends with milk. He wasn’t there for pleasure; he never frequented night clubs, but tonight he was on a mission – tonight was all about business. He’d scored a hundred E’s from Buddha and reckoned he could double his money if he could flog them to the poseurs in the clubs up town. That’s why he was in The Americana collaring likely looking punters with his pharmaceutical hustle.

“...two for a score – three for a pony. Cannae sae fairer than that; ye’ll no get a deal like that anywhere else. These are bona fide MDMA – nane o’ that disco biscuit shite. See the dove? Badge of quality that...”

Johnny spotted Lucky from across the room and wondered just who the fuck let that prick in. He had a strict no scruffs, no junkies policy. When Johnny got close enough to witness Gordon’s hustle his fate was sealed. No-one else sold drugs on Johnny’s patch and that rule was etched in blood.

“You’re a long way from home wee man” sneered Johnny.

“I’m just – you know – clubbin” stammered Lucky.

“You’re selling’ drugs in my club.”

“Naw ahm just...”

“You’re just leaving – so fuck off - get out and don’t ever come back.”

“C’mon man it’s nice to be nice an that.”

“Aye, you can discuss the niceties with my colleagues – outside.”

Johnny nodded to the two tuxedoed gorillas now flanking Lucky and as they dragged him off he said;

“Make sure he gets the message.”

They did. Poor Lucky’s attempts to defend himself were pathetic, but he created enough of a commotion to attract a crowd which meant he only got a cursory hiding. Instead the two bouncers relieved him of his cash and the remaining ecstasy tablets. He staggered homeward cursing his misfortune; nothing ever went his way. He wished that just once he could come out ahead and he wished those bouncers had left him with a fiver so he could get a hit to kill his pain.


Elsie the barmaid collected the empty glasses as noisily as she could while she cast a jaded eye over Belle and Angel. They were nice boys – regulars, but they were throwing their lives away on that junk. She had implored them on many occasions not to come to the Bon Accord when they were under the influence, but her entreaties had fallen on deaf ears.

“Here you wake up! No gouching in my pub – either get it together or get off home!”

“Just resting our eyes Elsie - it’s been a long day” replied Angel.

“Well you can just get aff hame for a nice kip boys”

“Can we finish our drinks Elsie?”

“Aye, but try to stay awake – you’re making the place look untidy”

Elsie was alright – she wasn’t going to throw them out; half her clientele was into drugs in one form or another – there was a great deal of laissez faire at the Bon Accord as long as you didn’t attract too much attention to yourself. The boys sipped their pints and pulled themselves together. Belle was looking past Angel’s shoulder at something which made him smile.

“Don’t look now, but we’ve picked up a bit of trade.”

Angel twisted around in his chair and saw a handsome young blonde guy smiling across at them. He shrugged and returned to his pint.

“I’m not interested Belle. All I want to do now is go home, have a hit and go to bed.”

“You’re no fun. Look at him – he’s a doll. How can you turn him away?”

The handsome young blonde rose from his table and joined the boys – he seemed more than a little nervous.

“Can I buy you a pint lads?”

“No thanks, we were just leaving” replied Angel.

“Cheers mine’s a lager” chimed Belle.

Angel rolled his eyes and nodded his reluctant assent mumbling “Same here”. Belle checked out the handsome young blonde’s arse as he made his way to the bar. Angel just glared at him. He was convinced Belle just did these things to piss him off.

“He’s cute” remarked Belle.

“He could be riddled with the pox for all you know.” replied Angel.

“So could you” scoffed Belle, “for all I know.”

Blondie – as Belle had dubbed him – returned with three pints of lager and introduced himself.

“I’m Mike. I just moved into the area and thought I’d try out the local.”

Belle made the introductions, Angel was less cordial. He and Belle had argued for months about picking up trade. Things being the way they were it wasn’t safe to bring home strangers. Casual sex was like Russian roulette, but Belle wouldn’t listen. The next few minutes passed in stilted conversation and awkward silences. Finally Mike just came out with what was on his mind. It was not, as Belle had supposed, casual sex.

“I was wondering if you guys could help me out. Like I say I’m new to the area and haven’t established any contacts. I was wondering if you could get me any gear.”

“Gear?” inquired Belle “What do you mean by gear?”

“You know - skag, smack, kit” replied Mike helpfully.

“I don’t know what you mean officer.” Belle’s bonhomie had turned to hostility.

“I’m not a policeman. I’m just a punter looking to score.”

Blondie was new to the neighbourhood – that much was true. He’d been seconded from Stirling’s serious crime unit to Lothian drug squad. Since his was a new face in town his superiors had planted him in a notorious drug den with a wad of notes and a flimsy cover story to see who he could hook. The boys started talking in raised voices. “No officer Dibble we don’t know anybody with any drugs!”

Blondie sloped off back to his table red faced while he thought out his next move. His first undercover operation had proved a wash out. He had just decided to call it a night and join his sergeant in his unmarked car when Lucky walked in.


“That cunt you’re drinking with is a fed” said Belle.

“Naw, he’s new tae the neighbourhood is a” replied Lucky.

“He’s DS for sure numb nuts – he was at us tae score fur him”.

“I know – he telt me, but he’s okay. I was in the jail wi him. He’s brand new”

Belle walked away shaking his head. You just can’t tell some people, they have to learn for themselves. He and Angel decided to split as they were both carrying dime bags. They did not see events unfold – despite being curious about the outcome. They would know soon enough – everyone would know.

Lucky thought his bad fortune had changed for once. He went to the Bonny hoping to scrounge a drink from somewhere and had bumped into Mike. Nice guy Mike, he’d bought him a couple of pints and now he was on a promise of a piece of the two grams they were about to score from Raymond. That we faggot Belle and his paranoia; Mike was a regular guy – just out of jail and needing a hit. Lucky knew what that was like – out of jail wi nae cunt talking tae ye. He dialled Ray’s number and waited on the pips.

“....Aye, he’s brand new – I knew him in the jail. He’s looking fur a couple of gram. Aye, ah know him – sound cunt – just got out and looking tae score. He says it would be a regular thing coz ‘es goat a couple of mates...”

As soon as Ray clocked Blondie he knew that he was no jailbird. He looked more like he was fresh out of seminary school than jail. Ray smelled bacon but was too slow in calling to Moira to close the door; a scrum of police officers piled in ordering everyone to stay where they were.

“Where’s your search warrant?” demanded Ray.

“We don’t need one” answered Sergeant Holden, “Moira here let us in and the drugs are in plain sight – so you are nicked sunshine.”

Once in the police station Ray bottled it. His brief informed him the bust was legal because they had in fact invited a police officer into their home. He was told he was looking at ten years for possession and intent to supply. Ray did the only thing he could do – he blamed it on his wife. It was Moira who ran the operation and he was a passive agent who went along with the situation because it was her house. He gave the details of her supplier and every other dealer he could think of which resulted in half a dozen more successful busts. He even went Queen’s evidence and stood in the dock denouncing Moira, mother of his children, as a heroin dealer while painting himself as a hapless victim. Moira got six years and Ray got relocation under the witness protection program.

Gordon had tried to make a deal, but the cops just laughed at him. He was small fry who knew too little about anything to be of any use to them. He got eighteen months for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance – his lawyer told him he was lucky.


24 April 2016



She said that no one could fuck the way we had unless they were in love. I remained silent. We’d already got our signals crossed and I was anxious not to add to the confusion, but more than that I was unsettled by where this conversation was going. I’d given it my best; I lost myself in the moment and surrendered to the passion. The sex between us was good, it was terrific, and if we could spend our lives in bed everything would be rosy, but I did not love her.

  “What’s wrong?” she asked, “Don’t you fancy me?”

I fancied her alright – at least physically. She was very attractive, she was desirable, but she was complex and emotional. Life with Susan would be a series of emergencies and I was settled into my conflict free zone. I prized my independence and would not relinquish it for convenience sake – not again. I couldn’t say the words she wanted to hear. I did not love her and I never would.

  “Of course I fancy you” I replied. “You’re beautiful.”

  “Then let’s move in together” she responded.

I felt the blood drain from my face and my insides squirm with embarrassment. I wished that the bed would just swallow me up and I could disappear without a trace.

  “Aren’t you going to say anything?”

I was definitely not going to say anything. She left in a flurry of clothing and muttered curses. It was the last time I ever saw her, but not the last I was to hear from her.

  “I feel sorry for you Johnny. You’re gonna end up a sad lonely old man because you just can’t commit to anyone or anything. You’re a machine – a cold heartless machine.”

She left slamming the door at her heels. I thought that was the end of the matter but she took to calling me in the middle of the night – both tearful and angry. I took to leaving the phone off the hook. On those occasions when she caught me in I’d hang up on her as soon as I recognised the voice. I thought about changing my number, but there were my customers to think about and the all the hassle that entailed.

She’d leave me alone for a few days and just when I thought it was all over she’d start calling again. Things came to a head though when she dragged my mother into it. That really pissed me off.

  “Susan was just here – she was in an awfy state. She told me that you two are having problems. Are you alright? She says she’s awfy worried about you – that you huvnae been yourself and you won’t answer her calls. I don’t want to be sticking my nose in darlin’ and it’s no for me to say, but there’s something no quite right about that lassie...”

I knew it was a mistake to introduce Susan to my mother. She got entirely the wrong end of the stick and that was my fault. Now she was using my mum as a piece in whatever game she was playing with me. Power is a crucial dynamic in every relationship – the struggle to gain power, or to keep it, has been the preoccupation of lovers since Adam and Eve. I couldn’t be arsed with all that nonsense – whenever I settled down it would be on equal terms and unconditionally. I’d know when I met the right woman and wasn’t Susan. All she had achieved with her hysteria was to reinforce that conviction. Some things once said can never be retracted; they are steps that cannot be retraced. We had reached the end of our road and there was no going back. It was over for us and we both knew it, but she was angry and, looking back, I don’t blame her.

This depressing scenario went on for months and I was at a loss for a solution to the situation. It was Susan who gave me the idea; she wrote me a letter. It contained a confused mishmash of pleas and threats with declarations of love and hate thrown in. It was as I held the letter in my hands that I stumbled on the answer. She had drawn a heart on the envelope – a torn heart. It was the kind of gesture you’d expect from a heartbroken teenager, not a mature woman.

Susan was one of those people who care too much about appearances. She fixated over imagined slights and the opinions of total strangers. I used this knowledge to great effect. I bought some blank postcards and wrote to her...

“Dear Susan, will you please stop harassing my mother and I. My mother has been very kind to you in the past and I have been patient with you, but that patience is wearing thin. If you don’t stop calling us I shall be forced to seek legal advice. Yours sincerely - Johnny.”

It worked a treat. Susan never called again and there was no more schoolgirl correspondence. I later heard from a mutual friend that she was totally bent out of shape by the thought of Bert the postman or the good folks at the sorting office reading my postcard and perhaps forming an unfavourable impression of her. She left me alone because she dared not risk another postcard.

At the time I told myself that I never made any promises – so I hadn’t broken any. I even cast myself as the victim and Susan the villain of this sad chapter. I told myself that I was honest in my dealings with women, but now I know that the worst of lies are often the ones you conceal from yourself.


21 April 2016


The consumption of dates with my Cocteau filaments triggered my gag reflex and I filled the scheme with opiated bile. Smell that? That’s the stench of crazy. I reek of crazy. That acid burn on the mucous membrane screams obscene in my oesophagus. Each wretched convulsion produces another phase of scatological diatribe. But the words; the words are mystic. I savour the words as truffles exhumed from excrement. Each syllable is a laurel leaf in the crown of creation. Every honed consonant and soft rolling vowel that passes my lips is a hymnal. The song of ages issues from the depths of my bowels in a lullaby creamy smooth as baby skin and I am liberated in the ointment of meaning and confusion.
How do you like them words? They are the expensive kind – the kind you buy with toil. They’re new and they fit me like gloves – patent leather gloves, slick and shiny as wet pavements. Tight as a virgin’s snatch; they form a second skin, decorous yet purposeful. I found them in the street when I expected them least – they started as a trickle and ended as a torrent and I had to run home to inscribe them before the breeze carried them off. I’m not even sure that these were the words I’d intended; words after all are as malleable as smoke.

19 April 2016



Edgar had a genuine penchant for the product; which is why he could not resist a wee snort before his guests were due to arrive. The charley did nothing to steady his nerves. If anything it actually made matters worse. Edgar was shaking when he opened the door and felt like he might actually cry for the first time since he was a boy. He’d expected a couple of gorillas, but found a little woman in a charcoal grey business suit. He was about to shoo her away when she said;

“Good morning Edgar, my name is Nancy – I’m your collections agent.”

Nancy was a diminutive forty something red head who toted a small black attaché case. She affected a breezy but business like demeanour and looked for all the world like an insurance agent – she was not what Edgar had been expecting. He breathed an inward sigh of relief; he would not have his legs broken today. Nevertheless as he led her into the living room he began to anxiously intone the various excuses he had prepared for the occasion.

“I laid a lot of gear out and I’m just waiting on the returns. I should be...”

“I’m not interested in your business Edgar” Nancy interrupted, “I’m simply here to arrange the repayment of your debt.” She pointed at a chair and said, “Sit down.”

She sat opposite Edgar and opened her attaché case. Edgar had expected, rather optimistically, that she would produce some papers for him to sign. Instead she retrieved a small toffee hammer.

“You will not struggle, or in any way impede me Edgar. Do you understand? Under no circumstances will you touch me, or I can have a couple of burly lads come over to hold you down while we do this the hard way. Do you understand?”

Edgar simply nodded numbly. His surprise turned to agonised shock when in one sweeping movement Nancy leapt to her feet and struck his left knee with the tiny hammer; he writhed in pain and nearly left his chair.

“Stay still” she ordered and as soon as he had regained some of his composure she struck the right knee. The pain was searing and Edgar thought he might pass out – he was not to be that lucky. After each practised stroke Nancy gave him time to straighten out before delivering another blow. She struck each knee six times eventually leaving Edgar a crippled heap on the living room floor. Then she returned her toffee hammer to the case and laid out the conditions of their payment schedule.

“I will call by each Monday at this time. You will have one thousand pounds cash ready for me – please do not disappoint me Edgar – things could get nasty. This arrangement will continue for forty weeks – or until you have paid of the balance completely.”

“Forty?” gasped Edgar.

“That is the sum owed” replied Nancy.

“But, but, I only...” he stammered.

“Forty” said Nancy with an air of finality.

“Tell Johnny I...”

“I told you Edgar – I don’t need to know your business. I’m only here to arrange the repayment of a debt.”

“Where will I find forty grand?” he moaned.

“That’s not my problem, but I suggest you do.” answered Nancy in a matter of fact tone. “Don’t get up – I’ll see myself out.”

Edgar lay on the floor nursing his shattered kneecaps and reflecting on the fact that it was he who had turned Johnny on to the cocaine business in the first place. His protégée had become a monster and Edgar one of his victims. It took an age to drag himself to the bedroom where he had a couple of big lines before calling Psycho Peter – it was time to call in his markers and Peter was just the man to apply the necessary pressure. There would be no more mister nice guy – he had seven days to raise a grand – he’d worry about the other thirty nine later. One day he would pay Johnny back in kind – he’d revenge himself on that ungrateful fuck, but right now he was running low on coke and getting sorted was his first priority.