11 October 2016

Johnny Friendly

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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.”

“What?”

“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.”

“Exactly.”

“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.

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