The Smoke

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
A sad middle aged man looks back on his college days, his first encounter with the "counterculture" and yet another bungled attempt at achieving sexual ratification.

Submitted: September 12, 2013

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Submitted: September 12, 2013



The Smoke

It was approaching midnight. Jez sat staring blankly at the television screen in the chaotic gloom of his flat. He had spent the last half an hour flicking idly through the channels hoping to discover some sordid late night breast-fest but had abandoned the effort in disgust. He grudgingly settled on a low budget reality game show featuring the washed up talents of six minor celebrities who had once graced the pages of TV Quick, and now struggled to salvage the dregs of their career by competing against one another in a series of dizzyingly banal tasks on a farm. Apparently, so one of his work colleagues had informed him, one of the competitors had assisted in the artificial insemination of a shire-horse the previous week, and had ended the programme dripping with the not insubstantial contents of an outsize equine scrotum, as the credits rolled. No such luck this week, and as Jez listlessly observed the weary antics of an aged hoofer knee deep in bovine manure, he silently lamented the demise of broadcasting standards which had in the 1970s at any rate, guaranteed the sight of female breasts at this late hour, voluptuous and fang-punctured.

He sighed and patted a small, yet well defined abdominal paunch, which strained at the fabric of his green woollen jumper giving the appearance of a scale model of an Anglo-Saxon burial mound. It quivered slightly, replete with a hastily consumed mutton vindaloo and several pints of real ale, the outcome of an unmemorable evening at a local hostelry with a couple of male acquaintances, followed by the mandatory visit to a balti-house. They had for the most part spent the evening in inanimate silence, only stirring to exchange knowing nods and leers when a woman under the age of forty entered the room.

It was Friday evening, and Jez had the prospect of a work free weekend before him, swept away in the giddy maelstrom of unbridled hedonism that formed his social life, of which this night had been fairly typical. He was too bored and dispirited even to attempt a conciliatory bout of self-pleasuring and continued his supine and lethargic assessment of the television which stared back at him, framed between the grassy knoll of his paunch and the perpendiculars of his long, narrow, and tartan slipper clad feet. The regional news came and went and the final heart warming item featuring a chess playing gerbil and its toothsome boy-scout owner singularly failed to stem Jezs’ growing lassitude. He would have to martial the powers of his imagination in order to break the strangle-hold of this creeping inertia. He would have to plumb the depths of this reservoir of creative resourcefulness, and scope the far reaching terrain of his conceit in an attempt to re-awaken the slumbering giant of ambition. Unfortunately, the reservoir possessed the fathomage of a dinner plate of tepid urine, the far reaching terrain was an Andorra hemmed in by great wobbling hemispherical mountains, and the giant had six friends employed in the diamond mining business. As a result of this limited vista, Jez would resort to his usual ploy of trawling back through his past amorous exploits in order to lift his spirits. That this pastime was often counter productive as it unearthed as many reasons to depress him further did not deter him, and it had become an almost ritualistic and habitual resort. He found it pointless to project into the future as it seemed the die had been cast and the mould impossible to break. Life rolled out before him, an unbroken continuum of work, and dreary evenings in the pub with his equally dispirited friends, topped off by curry, punctuated by the light relief of manual pleasuring. Such was the creaking framework over which the leaking tarpaulin of his existence stretched. At least, in years gone by he had indulged, albeit falteringly, in the fleshly pleasures on occasion, when he was young and not so displeasing to the eye. Since the last abortive relationship over two and a half years ago, the intermittent trickle of his concupiscence had become a wadi, with little or no prospect of a flash flood. Jez, let his thoughts wander, and as the vinyl faced weather forecaster gleefully predicted the onslaught of a cold-front, he stumbled into the dysfunctional tardis of recollection and prepared, like some tawdry bargain basement Proust to revisit the tenebrous boondocks of youth. His eyes rolled listlessly upwards in their sockets, and with slackening jaw the transportation began.

Jez materialised at the back of a dimly lit hall situated on the fourth floor of the student union building, the culmination of a seemingly endless flight of stairs. He protectively clutched six cans of Guinness and drained each in rapid succession, blearily surveying the room as it began to congest with student life. On stage, at the far end of the hall, dreadlocked roadies, looking incongruous amongst the academic melee, set up the equipment for the nights’ entertainment, spliffs hanging from mouths. The University’s’ Legalise Cannabis Society had organised an evening of entertainment, to be provided by a little known dub outfit from Wolverhampton. This was quite a coup, as the whole enterprise was predictably frowned on by the college authorities, who preferred the lungs of their students to be exercised by rugby and scuba-diving, and other wholesome activity, rather than by the frenzied ingestion of an illegal herb. Their fear of reefer madness, however, on this occasion had been tempered by long haired liberalism. It was 1979 after all. Jez, now on his sixth can, had no need of the heady euphoria induced by smoking marijuana as he was already quite heavily drunk. The night was well attended, and about three hundred people were now crushed into the hall. Reggae was starting to become popular at this time and was the music form to be seen to like if you wanted any anti-establishment credentials. Jez had dipped his toe into the scene with the recent purchase of a Peter Tosh LP, and although a stranger to the ingestion of Collie weed, he at least knew what a “downpresser man” was, and had grasped the basic tenets of Rastafarianism. He felt that there probably wasn’t enough guitar soloing involved but nevertheless he could nod his head in time with the music and look spiritual when necessary. Jez felt like he was part of an ethnic minority, with his broad West Midlands accent and the quasi religious vestment of his snorkel parka. There were only a handful of Brummies on the entire campus, forming a pariah caste of their own, largely shunned by the middle class and well spoken offspring of the Home Counties and Cheshire, who were not bright enough for the red-brick universities. Every time Jez opened his mouth during a seminar to make some facile observation regarding the Franco-Prussian war or such like, he would observe the other students shoot each other sidelong looks and sneers, disdainful of his lugubrious brogue. He felt admirably equipped to understand the concept of Babylon, and exile from his homeland. A parochial clique of fellow West Midlanders congealed into existence in the student bar. It consisted of the hyperactive and diminutive red-haired Jonno, whose emaciated torso made Jez feel positively Herculean; a squat, bearded and hideously acne festooned depressive, known affectionately and aptly, as Dog-Face, and the lank haired heavy rock enthusiast, Bonzo, who repeatedly told a tale of being subjected to a prolonged and deranged bout of LSD fuelled fellatio by some “electric gypsy” which had, the following morning, resulted in him feeling compelled to steep a destitute and gnawed member in a beaker of TCP. Jez had gravitated towards these three musketeers of dysfunction, united by geography and sexual frustration, over the past few months, ingratiating himself into their inner sanctum quite successfully. It had represented a triumph of integration, and was achieved merely by the casual exchange of vowel strangled shibboleths, and a common loathing of any kind of enthusiasm. Jez began to meet up with these fellow untouchables in the student union bar at lunchtime on a regular basis in an attempt to provide an antidote for the discomfort and unease he felt in the mainstream of academic life. They would mercilessly dissect the mannerisms of the oblivious throng cheerily flowing around them whilst drinking slowly and surely towards inevitable stupor, ruling out any scholarly conclusion to the day. Little by little, any modest academic ambition Jez may have harboured began to dissipate and university life became fixated around the stagnant nucleus of the student bar and its indolent denizens. Only Jonno, ginger, nervy and annoyingly upbeat, held onto any zeal for college life and it was he who bleated out, during another enervated early afternoon haze of post lecture libations, that a reggae band was playing in the student union building the following night. Not only was this the kind of event that any self respecting anti-authoritarian and student radical should attend as a matter of course, but there would be women there too, and not necessarily the kind that pined after proto-accountants called Guy. Jez, utterly naive politically, nevertheless found the prospect enticing. This was likely to be a night devoid of the nauseatingly well adjusted student corpus that he was beginning to resent with psychotic intensity, and there was always the possibility, albeit remote, of commune with women. It was settled. The four of them would sashay on down to the shabeen and “check out the vibes”.

Jez continued to survey the hall in order to locate his downbeat cohorts, but up to now there was no sign of them. The hall was now pretty much full to capacity, and indeed seem to comprise of the peripheral flotsam of student life that subsisted in the damp squalor of bed-sit land away from the institutionalised safety of the campus. There were mirthless shuffling Leninist types who thought that laughter was a concession to the tyranny of capitalism, wide eyed and amphetamine wired sociology students who had latched onto reggae as a worthy subject for their radical theses; punks and rockers who worshipped The Clash like gods, and an assortment of misfits and self- regarding bohemians, many of whom Jez had noticed secreted in huddles in the student bar and in some of the shabbier pubs and bars around the town. Each dishevelled cabal wallowed in the delusion that their exclusive society was the most subversive and alienated, and viewed other similar associations with supercilious contempt. They were all, to a man, from good homes.

Such was the milieu that Jez now twitchily scrutinised, shrouded in the near darkness, over which a pall of hazy smoke hung like low cloud. This dank confabulation diffused an unhealthy bouquet of damp and infrequently washed clothing invaded by mould, commingled with the unmistakable redolence of hemp. He noticed feeble attempts to conceal the furtive exchange of joints, and in an increasingly alcohol befuddled humour, began to hope that one would be accidentally passed his way, so that he could sample the transcendental properties of the exotic herb for the first time. In the protective bubble of suburbia, and at school, he had little or no exposure to the pleasures of cannabis. In the limited circles that he moved back at home, nobody smoked or even knew how to obtain the stuff even if they had been curious enough to want to try it. Alcohol was the drug of choice. It was legal and all pervasive, and did not stimulate the imagination in any way, which was ideal in a town which seemed to frown on any ambition that looked beyond growing a moustache, running a double glazing business, or owning a Labrador, the zenith of achievement being all three. Not that Jez harboured any particular aspiration other than to have sex on a regular basis and avoid any kind of responsibility for as long as humanly possible, but despite ingrained reticence, since arriving in further education a long way from home, he had begun to grow curious regarding the esoteric effects of hashish which seemed to underpin and have influenced much of the music he loved so dearly. The opportunity to get stoned represented yet another rite of passage, much as losing his virginity had been, albeit exponentially less pressing. There was still no sign of Jonno, Dog-Face or Bonzo. The band had sprung onto the stage and after a brief diatribe exhorting the immediate legalisation of cannabis which drew screams and claps of approval, they launched into an up tempo rock -steady groove energising the throng into a kind of unwittingly synchronised and languid cranial nodding, accompanied by almost imperceptible foot shuffling. Apparently this was the de rigueur mode of terpsichorean expression employed by white audiences desperate to emulate the effortless sang-froid of a Jamaican dance hall. In order to get a better view of the band and get nearer the action, Jez, with some difficulty, squeezed and stumbled his way through the shuffling and nodding ranks toward the front of the stage where he found himself positioned directly in front of a bone thin and red eyed dread slicing out chords on the cheapest looking guitar he had ever seen. The band was in full swing and the lead singer, a giant of a man, clad in ersatz military apparel bellowed at the crowd, “Rastafari!”. His cry was returned somewhat weakly by a slightly embarrassed horde, many of who wouldn’t have known Marcus Garvey from an employee at the local sausage factory. Jez mumbled “Rastafari” and self consciously raised his spindly arm in an anaemic salute. He looked around to see if anyone had noticed. Just then he spied, only a few yards away, a woman he had made eye contact with during an extremely tedious lecture only a few days before. She had smiled and on the way out of the lecture hall they had exchanged a few words berating the abilities of the tutor, and his almost inaudible nasal whine which had rendered the discourse on the origins of colonialism, utterly pointless. She was dark skinned, with large, heavy lidded brown eyes, and very pretty, in a cute kind of way and despite being only about five foot two inches, stood out from the rest of the crowd and the group of friends she had arrived with. She noticed Jez, and smiled, beckoning him to come over. Any shyness he may have experienced at this point was dispelled by the not inconsiderable quantity of Guinness he had consumed in a very short space of time. He now began to regret this hasty ingestion as he tottered and weaved his way through the crush, accidentally elbowing a large bearded rocker in a cowboy hat, and almost tripping over his girlfriends’ leather boots which he noticed, stretched all the way up to, and embraced her well muscled thighs like a second skin. Looking up from this diverting vision, he found he was staring directly into those big brown pupils which had enticed him over. Her eyes were shining and burnt with an enthusiasm for life. They radiated intelligence and perception, and directing their penetrating gaze straight at him, seemed to be making a lightning fast assessment the slightly unsteady and parka clad wraith that now appeared before them. At this point the disgruntled rocker, who had not enjoyed Jez’s bony elbow thrust into his admittedly well upholstered ribs, retaliated and lurched backwards unsettling Jez’s already faltering poise causing his knees to buckle, and toppling forwards his head came to rest, face first, in the warm corpulent luxury of her sweater clad bosom. This unwitting display of accomplished buffoonery proved a highly effective ice breaker, and allowed Jez to surreptitiously gauge the relative mass of her breasts. He still possessed enough guile, despite over indulgence in drink, to take advantage of the situation, absorbing and processing every variance in pressure, warmth and smell through the sensory apparatus of his face, constructing a geo- thermal map of the terrain below her sweater in the sleazy imaging suite of his mind. Jez emerged wide eyed and innocent just before the hazy frontier between hapless accident and cynical violation was bridged. She laughed in embarrassment. They were momentarily pushed together again, hemmed in by the heaving crowd at the front of the stage. Jez leaned over and pressed his lips close to her ear and asked her name, straining to make himself heard over the bowel loosening pulse of the bass. “Nila” she shouted back, “Jez” he rejoined. She leant in close again and cupped her hand by his ear “Great band” she yelled, “Yeah, er.. sorry about that before you know, er I didn’t mean to, well you know” he realised that she probably couldn’t hear him and so he raised an eyebrow and looked as contrite as possible whilst performing a scaled down mime of his forced landing on her chest. She laughed again, looked him straight in the eye, and threw back her head sweeping a mane of jet black hair over her shoulders. The crowd surged again pushing them back together. This forced intimacy was starting to make his pituitary gland twitch in sympathy with the pulsing reggae groove. His body was now pressed right up against hers and he could sense every soft yielding contour even through the thick canvas and quilted lining of a parka. He could smell the subtle exudations of her silky skin, and hair, despite the smoke and evaporated sweat that saturated the atmosphere around them. Deep in the folds and ventricles of his brain, this glut of sensory data was being conspiratorially processed into a battle plan for the subservient organs of his lower body. Hypothalamus and pituitary glands were hunched over visceral schemata, intent on the overthrow of propriety, and issued orders through an endocrine chain of command. Aided by the effects of six cans of Guinness, resistance was futile. Jez lunged forward and pounced, anchoring his lips to hers. Nila made a token show of resistance, taken aback by his forthrightness, and made feeble attempt to push him away. Undeterred, Jez continued his oral probing with renewed passion, swept away by the pulsing rhythm of the band and the war drums of his occult glands, insanely drunk on their own secretions. In an instant, they were locked like docking spacecraft in torrid seizure, tongues intertwined like mating snakes, sucking the life out of one another in frenzied abandon, as the crowd ebbed and flowed around them. Nila’s friends looked on in amazement. Who was this parka clad Lothario, this rake, this skeletal seducer who had emerged, unannounced from the shadows? The band concluded a stirring call for African repatriation, to wild applause, and in the momentary lull that followed, Nila disentangled herself, and took a pace backwards looking slightly taken aback and embarrassed, as much by her own compliance with Jez’s blunt and forthright attempt at seduction. Jez just stood there grinning, unsure as how he should follow this overwhelming opening salvo. Nila took the initiative, and began attempting to introduce him to her friends over the din of the crowd. They smiled curiously and glanced disbelievingly at her, suggesting that this kind of behaviour was pretty much out of character. Jez beamed inwardly. His bold although largely involuntary lunging had reaped unexpected dividends. Here he was, in the company of an attractive and intelligent woman, who had at the drop of a hat allowed him the intimacy of her delicate pouting lips. He hadn’t even had to try. At this rate it seemed that an invite back to her flat, where his glandular masters could conclude their campaign, seemed almost inevitable. General Hypothalamus and Field Marshall Pituitary were already polishing the medals ready to dish out on the parade ground. “Outstanding bravery under fire Sern’t Cowper”, “Well done Private Prostate” they would bellow in stentorian tones.

Back in the gloom of his flat Jez twitched, his slack jaw snapped shut as he uttered a wincing groan that welled up from deep inside. A tartan slipper fell off his foot onto the floor. Possessed by the careering course of this unfolding reverie, he was unable, in his semi-conscious state, to draw the recollection to a halt. If he had, he may have been able to retire to bed with the warm and uplifting memory of a very pleasant evening spent in the company of a lovely girl, listening to a great band, and congratulate himself on his boldness. This may have been enough to serve the purpose of lifting his sprits and give him hope that very soon he would meet someone who would find him attractive enough to bring the Field Marshall and General out of retirement, to do battle once again. However, as he languished in the flickering shadows from the television, in the semi-darkness, as a programme on monster truck racing wound to its tedious conclusion, retrospection claimed him, and the full horror of the evening, long ago, began to unroll.

Jez felt confident enough now to put a protective arm round Nila, and he fancied that this spindly appendage would steady her in the buffeting crowd. He looked about the hall, and a few rows behind caught sight of Jonno and Dog-Face, clearly in an advanced state of alcoholic disrepair, looking aghast and disbelievingly back at him. Dog -Face waved and nodded knowingly toward Nila, who was giving the band her full attention. Jez grinned with smug pride, and coolly raised an eyebrow. He was feeling good, high on lust and Guinness. Now he had witnesses to his achievement. He looked forward to recounting his anticipated deeds in the bar to Dog-Face, the next day. He knew that he would be anxious to jealously devour any intimate revelation Jez may care to toss his way in order to feed an incipient voyeurism. If Jez could help a mate out by providing him with fuel for his second hand masturbatory fantasies, then so be it. He was not averse to a spot of altruism when the need arose.

As the Greek myths propound, when Hubris is on the rise, as sure as eggs is eggs, Nemesis will be hard on his tail. From bitter experience, Jez should have sensed that things were going too well, and that fate was about to intervene in a disturbingly visceral fashion. Jez smiled at Nila. She smiled back. Her friend tapped her on the shoulder and handed her a partially smoked joint. She took a few drags and casually passed the remainder to Jez. He held the smoking object in his hand and looked at it curiously. He had never indulged. He had only smoked a couple of cigarettes before, despite the ministrations of his schoolmates who would gather behind the games block at school to ignite the contents of a pack of five number six, and spit profusely. “What the hell, lets see what all the fuss is about” he thought and cavalierly took a couple of substantial pulls, dispatching the bullets of thick burning smoke to the far reaches of his lungs. Not wishing to appear a stranger to the practice in front of Nila, he took another drag attempting as much feigned insouciance as possible. He martialled every fibre of his being to prevent a spasm of coughing, took a deep breath, and passed the joint on. He had pulled off the masquerade as Nila seemed to notice nothing unusual in his spliff handling protocol. He took a large gulp of Guinness to revive the palate, and stood awaiting the manifestation of the famed properties of the notorious weed. At first nothing seemed to happen, and he began to get blasé about its effects. The joint came around again, and greedily he held onto it taking three or four pulls right down to the roach and discarded the nub on the floor. At this point he felt a tingling sensation in the pit of his stomach. This grew to a tremor until his whole body felt as if it were being subjected to mild electrocution. He started to feel uncomfortable, and undid several buttons on his parka. This was not what he had expected. Far from an ecstatic transportation to a world of wild and unbridled mirth was the creeping sense of nausea that began to envelope him. Jez felt the colour literally drain from his face, and he swallowed hard. He began to sweat profusely and the tingling sensation became amplified to a loud metallic buzz. All the noise of the crowd and the band became unbearably strident and discordant, invading every orifice in his head, and overwhelmed by this sensory input he began to feel weak. The sense of nausea redoubled and he felt his intestines beginning to convulse. Everything was starting to go wrong. The bitterest bile was rising in the back of his throat, and he turned away from Nila, hoping that she wouldn’t notice that anything was amiss. He looked back through the crowd with a growing sense of panic. He had to get to the toilet, and soon. If not it was more than likely that he would baptise several people around him with a jet of projectile vomit. This would not set him on a good footing for an attempted seduction after the show. If he could just get through the crowd and to the lavatory, and jettison the unruly contents of his gut, and return quickly, everything may be alright after all. Without a word to Nila, and taking several more deep breaths, he resigned himself to ploughing through the crowd, which seemed as if it was pushing in on him from all directions. Barely able to stand, he slid uncomfortably past a couple of people in front and lurched headlong into the melee, stumbling and gasping, buffeted this way and that, as the band continued to tear up the evening from the stage. The pulsing bass seemed to pursue him in his careering progress, as he fought to stay upright and prevent an ever-constricting intestine from going into spasm. The journey seemed endless, as he frantically tried to propel himself through the crush. Breathing became more rapid and the buzzing sensation wracked his entire body. His eyes watered and he felt like he was wading through implausibly glutinous treacle. He pushed past Dog-Face and Jonno. “You alright Jez mate? You look fucking terrible” .Jez could not speak. He managed a grunt in reply, and barged past, the urge to vomit becoming ever more prescient. This was a nightmare. Ten minutes ago things couldn’t have been better, and now the axis of his world had flipped. Instead of the prospect of the erotic embrace of Nila, the target of his clinging affection would now be a porcelain toilet bowl. Jez had never felt so driven or single minded. The mysterious journey of life had been condensed into a hundred yard dash through a jostling crowd of students to a lavatory, the soundtrack to this epic provided by an unknown reggae band from Wolverhampton. He continued his desperate quest with renewed urgency as he felt his oesophagus begin to fill with astringent vomit. The assembly of just three hundred felt like Mecca during Haj. Just as he thought his intestines could no longer contain their bilious contents, he stumbled, with some relief, through the last ranks of revellers at the back of the hall. He saw the lights of the corridor, and knew that the toilets and sanctuary were only around the corner and down a flight of stairs. Jez lurched into the corridor bouncing from wall to wall like a hapless bearing in a pinball machine. The fluorescent lighting glared down at him like the desert sun and scorched his over sensitised retinas. The thrumming bass from the hall made the nauseatingly reflective thermo-plastic flooring rumble and the thunderous vibrations were transmitted through his feet and up into his lamentably meagre chest cavity. Jez wretched and felt his mouth fill with foul tasting and grotesquely porridge-like fluid. He wasn’t going to make it to the toilets, that much was clear. At the end of the corridor, through heavily watering eyes, he spied a doorway which led into a caretaker’s closet. It had been left unlocked. Holding his splayed hand over his mouth, he careened forwards into the cubicle and knocking over several brooms and containers of disinfectant violently released a tsunami of vomit into the gleaming expanse of a Belfast sink. His intestines convulsed as wave after wave of psychedelic effluvium sprayed and splashed the receptacle, clogging the plug-hole. Jez knelt in supplication at its foot, too weak to move. Despite this gastric paroxysm he still didn’t feel any better. He dared to look at his handiwork. The sink was awash to a depth of at least an inch. He groaned like a wounded animal and spat out the residual lumps. Gazing deep into this poisonous lake through a lachrymose glaze, he swore he saw the smiling face of Nila materialising like an image in a perverse version of a fairy tale mirror. He groaned again. What would she think if she could see this? He put his head in his hands. The nightmarish high pitched buzzing was relentless, and sounded like the fabric of time and space was been torn asunder around him. What the hell was in that joint; strychnine? He thought. At that juncture, his tortured innards began to stir again. This time however he felt a burning pain in what he suspected was the lower reaches of his colon. There was no doubt about it. His body was conspiring to eject every ounce of its liquid content through any orifice available. He had to get to a lavatory without delay or this already dire situation could get exponentially worse. A Belfast sink was ill suited to the disposal of several kilograms of steaming liquid excrement. Jez turned on the tap and made a half hearted attempt to unblock the plug-hole with his fingers. He felt the hinterland of his bowel begin to spasm. This was unbelievable. Hauling himself up to his feet, he fell back out through the door into the glare of the corridor. The sheer effort made him feel nauseous again. His entire body was in revolt. The Field Marshall and General were cowering in their bunker, having ripped up the battle plan. Clinging to the wall he slid down the stairs, and tumbled into the lavatory. One last push and gargantuan effort of will saw him into an empty cubicle, and he fell to his knees gripping the edge of the toilet bowl like a handhold on the north face of the Eiger. He immediately disgorged another payload of treacly vomit into the hissing waters beneath. As soon as this unpleasant task had concluded, he realised that the other main orifice was now demanding his attention. He pulled himself up, undid his trousers and fell back on the seat instantaneously discharging a high speed jet of liquid excrement into the bowl. As soon as this episode felt complete, he was compelled to flip around and vomit again. Several times was this gruesome manoeuvre repeated, and he was forced on at least three occasions to stare down at the hideous terrine he had created, a vision which stayed with him for weeks afterwards. He half expected to look down and see every organ in his body floating in the toilet bowl as a garnish to this noxious lasagne, so violent were these internal constrictions. After about ten minutes of these Jackson Pollack- like attacks on the porcelain canvas, Jez was spent, and he collapsed onto the cubicle floor in a boneless slump, coiled around the pedestal, trousers and bri-nylon underpants bunched around his ankles. In this undignified position he stayed, unable to move. The slightest action, be it as insignificant as moving a finger, made him feel violently nauseous again. The insidious buzzing and screeching continued to fill his head. He could hear the concert upstairs, spilling out into the corridor and down the stairs, seeping under the door to be re-amplified in the tiled lavatory as a tinny, strangled and reverberating mockery of itself. He lay there paralysed, wondering how long this situation would endure. He imagined that he may be there for days, to be discovered by a shocked and disgusted lavatory attendant who would send for an ambulance, to be stretchered out, trousers round ankles, to a nearby hospital for emergency treatment. He didn’t have wait that long. The cubicle door creaked open and the unmistakable rhinoceros complexion of Dog-Face appeared through the aperture, “Jez, are you alright?” he uttered, “We wondered what had happened to you”. He looked Jez in the eye, and then at the contents of the toilet bowl and the clothing languishing around his ankles. His sympathetic tones turned to disgust. ”Jesus. Bloody hell Jez”. The door closed quickly and silently, and Jez heard him leave the lavatory without further ado. There was to be no rescue party after this initial foray.

Jez continued his crumpled, bare arsed sojourn, on the cubicle floor. He heard people enter the toilet and urinate. He heard them leave again, utterly oblivious to his plight. All he could do was lie there, motionless, engulfed by an aggressively throbbing, oppressive ambience, entertained by the echoing through traffic of the lavatory, the residue of the concert and the sounds of a cheering crowd upstairs oozing under the cubicle door. Gradually, after what seemed like hours imprisoned in this stasis, he felt his strength starting to return. Everything seemed quiet upstairs. He grasped the toilet bowl, and drew himself up. He could stand. Jez clumsily pulled up his trousers and flushed the WC unable to watch its repugnant contents disappear as a multi-hued swirling vortex, into the plumbing. He wondered how long he had been incarcerated, and stumbled out into the corridor, like a long term prisoner out on parole, rubbing his eyes, unsure of what to do with his freedom. He still felt awful and his head throbbed. Shuffling past the caretakers’ closet he peered in. The Belfast sink still bore traces of its earlier trials. Jez winced. He walked unsteadily along the corridor toward the hall. Would Nila still be there?, he thought. If so how would he explain his mysterious and sudden disappearance? Panic began to set in as he realised that Dog-Face would by now have told as many people as possible of his adventure in the lavatory. He needn’t have worried. As Jez reached the doorway and rested against the jamb, he observed the rubbish strewn expanse of an empty hall, save for a couple of roadies loading equipment into flight cases at the far end of the room. There was just stifling silence and the antiseptic glare of strip lighting for company. He had missed almost the entire evening, wrapped around a toilet bowl turning himself inside out in alimentary spasm.. One single lousy joint, admittedly combined with the effect of several cans of Guinness, had completely poisoned his physiology. He hoped to God that Nila would never find out.

He shambled down the stairs and emerged into the bitterly cold night, weaving his way through the campus and out onto the street. Jez lived alone, at least four miles away in a damp holiday chalet rented cheaply out of season, perched on a cliff top and invaded by the penetrating beam of a nearby lighthouse which kept him awake at night. The long journey home and the prospect of a cold clammy night under two duvets, subjected to spasmodic illumination did not seem a particularly pleasing prospect after his recent trials. Jonno’s flat was only a mile up the road. He would crash there for the night. He staggered up the steep hill clutching his parka to his breast in a vain attempt to repel the cold, and eventually knocked feebly on the door. To his relief, the door quickly opened and Jonno beckoned him in laughing hysterically. In the front room was Dog-Face, ensconced in a tatty looking sleeping bag on the settee. “You’ve got a right spotty arse” he cackled through a tangled mess of beard and acne. Jez didn’t expect sympathy, and managed a wry smile. “I bet you thought you were looking in the mirror” he rejoined, and collapsed in heap on the floor. Jonno bounced back in from the kitchen with a grimy looking mug of tea, and Jez was forced to recount the adventures of the evening in lurid detail, much to their fervid amusement. Dog-Face was no stranger to faecal adventures himself, and much of his dubious fame rested on an incident in which he had attempted, whilst blind drunk, to lay a cable in the gents stand up urinal at a pub in town. “Fancy a joint?” screamed Jonno. Jez had to laugh, although it hurt him to do so, as his innards felt like they had been passed through a mangle.

As he lay there on the carpet covered by an old blanket, trying to sleep, serenaded by Dog-Faces’ tremulous snoring from the settee next to him, Jez subjected the events of the evening to a searching inquest. What would he say to Nila when he saw her again? He rehearsed a number of alibis, the most plausible being that he had felt a little queasy and had gone out for a breath of fresh air. This gross understatement was feeble, but it sounded infinitely better than the truth, which left him with a burning question as he drifted off to sleep. How could a person of nine stone, shit and vomit more than their own body weight? It was a physical impossibility. Jez brooded on the fact that if he had not smoked that joint, he would have avoided the intestinal calamity that befell him, and may now have been nestled in a post-coital embrace with lovely dark-haired Nila, to awake refreshed in the morning eager for another impassioned pre-breakfast pleasuring. The contrast in this imagined conclusion to the evening and the real life denouement couldn’t have been more sharply underlined, when after and uncomfortable and fitful nights sleep, Jez was awoken by the sound of furtive shuffling from Dog-Faces bedding. The unmistakable rhythmic squelching and a finale of rustling tissue were sounds that he recognised only too well. Jez was appalled, afraid to move, anxious that his onanistic bedfellow would realise he had been rumbled. After a period of about half an hour, he felt able to go through an over-theatrical charade of waking up. He turned over to see Dog-Face looking smug, arms behind his head, recumbent on the settee. On its arm lay three crumpled squares of toilet paper in a line. He hadn’t even bothered to conceal the forensic evidence. “Who was that bird you were with last night anyway?” he asked innocently.

Back in Jez’s flat, he stirred, jolted out of this dubious enchantment by the recall of Dog-Faces’ gruesome visage from long ago. He grunted, and his leg muscles suddenly contracted into a sharp and painful cramp. The other slipper tumbled onto the floor. Jez yelped, and frantically rubbed his calf. The pain subsided. He looked up at the clock. It was 2.30am. The television was still on, and the opening credits of “Vampire Lovers” rolled. “Ah, this is more like it” he mumbled to himself, and started the video recorder. “The weekend starts here”.

© Copyright 2019 reginald bones. All rights reserved.

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