Saturday, 1 September 2018

For Old Times' Sake


© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2016

By far the best pot that I’ve ever smoked was from Sydney University. It was the most amazing, Universe launching, pot that I’ve ever had. The buds had a good bit of purple in them, were hairy, and you could actually see the crystals on them. Yeah, definitely the best smoke I’ve ever had.
     It was sold by an education student, Nicole, and she sold this dynamite smoke just to pay the rent. She soon mentioned while we were initially getting to know each other that she had a casual checkout job at the local Quinnswerth, in Redferne, and so, along with dealing pot, she had her finances under reasonably good control. She didn’t smoke at all herself, didn’t even drink except at someone’s birthday party, and then only enough to be sociable.
     Nicole and I weren’t really close but we often came to have a good talk together. I was doing a creative writing degree and bought the pot to help me come up with weird ideas for stories. I showed her some of my writing, which she liked, and she also pointed out the obvious flaws in them. Well, obvious to me.
     And since we weren’t really close I was thus surprised when she confided in me one day, soon after I began buying from her, telling me a secret that seemed very ironic but which could also cause a wee nastiness to the university. She had, not an hour ago, sold a twenty dollar deal of pot to a new psychology lecturer, there in the Manning student bar. Not only that, he had got it on credit. How he knew to ask her, Nicole had not the foggiest idea. His asking for credit she also could not believe, but all of her clients were thoroughly earnest and noble young ladies and gentlemen so Nicole felt confident in trusting him as well.
     Nicole though had a reason for telling me this, however. She would like to keep this guy, Ward Devans, in unlimited supply in return for his passing her in her required psychology units. Should she broach the topic, and risk alienating him, and possibly earning consequently poor marks thereby, or should she go for the big prize, all high marks in psychology without the need to study? She’ll spend the resultant free time reading novels; perfect!
     Well, it seemed clear to me. Since she had this guy in her debt already with his illegal purchase it was but a short step to more devilry. Ward would probably accede to Nicole’s request. I knew I would with the prospect of an endless supply of her unique, potent pot. Basically, I told her to go for the easy marks, that she should have no trouble winning her wish.
     Nicole thanked me and we talked about the best novels she should read instead of having to study her psychology. Soon after that I drifted away from the Manning bar scene as I was drinking too much. It had stopped being fun. I still smoked pot, though, but I got it elsewhere, from my housemate’s guy. Not as good smoke but potent nonetheless. Still, I never went back to Nicole and soon drifted from her.

*

I met Nicole again for the first time yesterday, several days before the start of what promises to be a mild spring, 2016. She still looked and dressed the same. She also still sold pot, for she invited me over for a smoke. I accepted and after Nicole had bought the bread she stepped out for we were back at her share house around the corner, near Redferne train station.
     And would you believe it, she still had that good smoke, just as hairy, just as purple and green, and with even maybe more crystals visible on the buds. Naturally, the smoko being the same got us to talking of old times and she told me that Ward had been a big mistake. Getting into a romance with him had been a bigger mistake. He was a nice guy all right, intelligent, always polite and well groomed, but he was also a bastard. He was a bastard when he fled after learning that she had fallen pregnant by him. He fled the same day that he learned the news, probably being so skunkish as to flee within an hour of hearing the news. Within half an hour.
     ‘Now,’ she said after putting the bong away after I had three cones, ‘Ward is back.’
     ‘How is he back? Is he here to cause trouble?’
     ‘Not from his point of view, he just wants to see his five year old daughter. Wants to be a “real father.” Says he has a right to, and that he’s thought about his “wife and child” every day for the past six years.’
     ‘How did he find you?’
     ‘He hired a private detective.’
     ‘They’re not cheap. He must be making good money. Maybe your daughter could do with that?’
     ‘Ward is not at all trustworthy. He’s shown that. Besides, I told him that I was married.’
     It was then that Nicole revealed the real reason for inviting me in for some of that good smoko. She wanted me to play the part of this fictional husband, whom she named Lesley, for the sake of the good old times. She said that she had no male friends that she could ask, all being married (and whose wives undoubtedly would have to be asked for permission, probably instantly denying the charade.) She also didn’t want to unduly distress her child, Jessie, who had always been high strung and wasn’t adjusting to the new routine of school as well as one would hope. She needed me to play the part because Ward kept calling over, not believing that she was married and wanted the fact confirmed or otherwise. She was in a real fix. Could I help? Was I already married?
     No, I wasn’t married, hadn’t even had a girlfriend for a few years. I had no difficulties in assisting this distressed damsel, and when I replied positively to the request she offered to give me a fifty of smoko, three grams, for the trouble.
     ‘No need for that, Nicole. I’m just doing it for old times sake.’
     ‘Thanks, Vince, but if you pay peanuts then you get monkeys. So you have to take the fifty, which then should make you act well the role of the adoring spouse, because I really don’t want Ward around. I want it just to be me and Jessie. We’ve done great so far.’
     We quickly agreed that I should move in with Nicole temporarily to properly look the part of the husband. It would most probably be only for a short while, for Ward had called over four times in the past three days, so he’d probably call over again soon.
     ‘I hope he’s shocked when he sees you answer the door. And deflated,’ she said.
     We invented a whole story for Lesley’s courting of her but we just remembered the broad points of the story, to bring up in front of Ward. Jessie was over at a friend’s place, Nicole wanting to keep her as far as possible from a daddy with no backbone. When Jessie did come home for the night, the whole house went promptly to bed soon afterwards, avoiding having to let Ward in if he called late. Nicole and I lay in bed together, reading. Neither of us had any idea of going further than that.
*

     Eventually Ward once more showed up, on a school day, two days after my newfound matrimony. I knew instantly it was Ward when I opened the door to him, for he had a certain sheepish air to him. He didn’t react to my telling him that I was Nicole’s husband, and I politely invited him in.
     I made some coffees and when it was ready we sat around talking about university. It was while Ward was about halfway through his cup that he asked me,
     ‘How come you don’t wear a wedding band, Lesley?’ It was an obvious oversight.
     ‘That’s a simple story,’ I replied, making up a story as I went. Good thing I’ve been trained in story making.  ‘I was at the beach just last month and, as usual, I took off all my jewellery before going for a swim. I know there’s no real need to, except for your watch, but it’s just a habit I’ve got into since my late teens. Anyway, I left my neckchain, wedding band, and watch just under my towel. When I got back, about twenty minutes later, they were gone. I asked around but no-one saw anything.’
     ‘I don’t wear one either,’ chimed in Nicole, obviously thinking on the spot too, ‘out of sympathy for Les.’
     The conversation continued pleasantly until Ward became high handed. He didn’t wish to disturb our peaceful family but he was still Jessie’s real father, and as such he had certain rights, least of all the right to meet his progeny. He was willing to go to a lawyer to secure those rights, but if Nicole and I co-operated we could all get along well, save the costs of a legal battle, and Jessie would be bound to be pleased to get to know her natural father. Had we told her that I was just her stepfather? Nicole reluctantly confirmed such.
     Nicole, also reluctantly, assented to what Ward was asking for and promised him he would meet his daughter the next night. I then let Ward out and returned quizzically to Nicole.
     ‘There’s no way I’m letting him see Jessie. She wouldn’t take it.’
     ‘So what’ll you do?’
     ‘We’ll go to the other side of Aus, to Western Aus. He won’t find me or Jessie if I change my name.’
     ‘He probably will, Nicole.’ Nicole looked glum, knowing I was mostly right, if not wholly.
     ‘Well, he’s not going near Jessie. We’re still going to WA tomorrow.’
     ‘Why not write him a letter explaining everything. I’ll see him here tomorrow night and can give it to him. I’ll do my best to talk him out of following you.’
     It seemed like the only solution.
     ‘Ok,’ she said. ‘Meet me at Central Station tomorrow morning at eight and I’ll give you the letter. Meet me at the Devonshire Street entrance. I’ll also give you your fifty then.’
     She gave me the letter and the fifty the next morning and when I saw Ward that night (after waiting all day at Nicole’s house in case Ward turned up early) he was not happy after having read it, also asking me to confirm that I wasn’t really married to her, that last night had been a sham to misdirect him. But I talked to him man to man and made him see that a gentleman never hounds a lady whom is wary of that gentleman. That if she wants nothing to do with him, and has clearly said as much, then he, as a gentleman, should simply walk away and learn to recall only the fond times with the lady. Nicole’s letter obviously said she wanted no part of him, that he had had his chance, and it was now time for him to move on. Some mistakes simply can’t be corrected.
     I let him out of the house an hour after he had arrived, and he clearly saw the path a gentleman must walk. He swore to me that he’d forget her, chalking the whole thing up to experience. He looked crestfallen, but resolved to make the best of it.
     When he was gone I shut up the house and returned home with the fifty Nicole had given me. She had actually given me four grams (or so it looked) instead of three and I decided to savour it for as long as possible. There’s probably no way I’ll ever get such good smoko again.

~~~

If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available online as both Kindle books and paperbacks (go to http://amzn.to/1NfodtN). Other ebook and paperback options are available at  http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD Fitzpatrick is also having a collection of short stories, Aberrant Selected, published by Waldorf Publishing on September 01, 2018. You can follow its journey at www.aberrantselected.blogspot.com

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