A true story from long ago when I used to imbibe!
I once had a strange encounter with a drugs dealer I had got to know quite well whilst in the process of buying some Nepalese Temple Hash in the vestibule of Richmond Railway Station. He was called Denis. I always worried about Denis, as trustworthy to his clients as he was he always seemed to disregard the importance of being covert in his approach to selling dope. I had allocated £10 of the £20 birthday present my parents had given me so as to treat myself to a worthwhile block of cannabis resin. We arranged the meet earlier in the day after I had had the good fortune to bump into him at the newsagents. Denis, perilously thin, greasy long hair down below his shoulders and encased in pulsating acne, had been stood outside smoking a massive joint staring up, in trance or contemplation (you could never tell which with him) at a clear blue sky. An old lady passed him by and said, “Penny for your thoughts son.”
I was only a few feet away, my original quest to buy a Mars Bar, when Denis averted his skyward gaze, turned to face her and replied in a manner that suggested it was obvious, “Flying Ants.” With that he held out the hand that wasn’t holding the joint and asked for his penny. The old lady plainly thought – rightly as it happened – that Den must be bonkers. Still a good joint can do funny things to you.
“Hello Den, got anything for sale then – about a tenner’s worth?”
“Cool man – Station at noon Man.” You never could get a lot out of Denis by way of words – probably because he was always stoned out of his head. Selling drugs was what he did for a living; what he survived on. Still he played fair and never short-changed me. Not a man who waffled!
I shall digress just a moment at this stage in the tale as it is important to emphasize just how Denis was, on the face of it, ‘not of this world.’ Some months previous I had visited his gaff to score. Upon my arrival (Denis always forgot to lock his front door – not that sensible for a dealer if you think about it) I found him in the kitchen cutting open tea bags in order to make himself a cup of tea in a pot. I considered asking him why he just didn’t buy loose tea then thought better of it. Anyway, just outside his back door relaxing in a deck chair on the patio as a pretty little hippie girl with long blond dead straight hair, headband, tie-dye long flowing skirt and Jesus sandals reading her book. The thing was she wore no top at all! Certainly she wasn’t sunbathing as it was a cloudy day and none too warm. Regardless, she looked me up and down in a reasonable friendly manner then returned to her story. I asked Denis who she was. He merely replied, “Who?” I idly said, “The girl on the patio.” Denis looked perplexed at first then uttered in a matter of fact way, “Oh her, someone left her here last night along with those Incredible String Band records.” It transpired he didn’t know her name; hadn’t slept with her nor was he overly concerned about her presence. He did however add, “I hate the Incredible String Band.”
Whatever, arriving at said railway station smoking an uncommonly pleasurable small joint rolled in the manner of a regular cigarette and feeling, as they say, ‘somewhat out of it’, I found to my horror parked outside at least four Black Maria’s. Even worse, in the main lobby of the station a good eighteen coppers, truncheons at the ready surrounding some bloke who was, it seemed, putting up a bit of a fight. The erstwhile miscreant could be heard to yell, repetitively, ‘Fucking Pigs, get the fuck off me’ as if his soundtrack to the proceedings was that of an LP with the needle stuck in a single grove. Fortuitously, I had already taken the paranoid precaution of dogging out my smoke, although it did seem such a waste at the time. My first thought was that Denis had been nicked. He always carried his supplies around in a tatty old rucksack pasted up with left wing slogan patches sewn on it. That rucksack, to even the most intellectually challenged member of the constabulary must surely have sent out the subliminal message, ‘SWAG’. Whatever it was that was taking place, it was, luckily, nothing to do with good old Denis. Yet I would have thought that with all that was going on about him Denis, the drug-dealing hippy, might have seen the sense of keeping a low profile. Not so! Denis, the lanky, round shouldered being that he was, was stood absurdly inanimate in the midst of the commotion; obliviously unaware anything was wrong, trying (and failing) to touch the end of his nose with the tip of his tongue.
A worthwhile crowd of commuters had now encircled viewing the arrest of the poor sod still shouting insults at the police. Certainly he was taking a bit of a beating. Any injuries inflicted, I presumed would be put down to, ‘resisting arrest’.
“Denis, for fuck’s sake get away from here,” whispered I having no desire to get nicked.
“What do you mean Man?”
“Look Denis, it’s all going wrong, coppers everywhere. Haven’t you noticed?”
“Wow Man – what’s happening Man,” says Den, still not that flustered, more confused. It was so weird he clearly had been completely oblivious to the carnage about him.
“Look you go out the back way; me the front and I’ll meet you outside the Wimpy Bar in five minutes.” In truth the Wimpy was but a minute away yet I thought Den might take a little longer getting there than a regular bloke would.
Denis, now looking at the perplexing scene of forcible arrest in the manner of man who has just had his blindness remedied by the miraculous hand of the good Lord himself, and without turning away from that which was unfolding before his very eyes, simply says, “Yeah Man.” I took that to be an affirmative.
Twenty minutes later he arrived outside of the Wimpy.
“You took your time mate.”
“Sorry, forgot where it was Man.”
“How long have you lived in Richmond Denis?”
“All my life Man. Why?”
“Nothing Den – don’t worry about it.”
With that I discreetly parted with my £10. For his part Denis, heeding not the sensible caution of the guilty in potentially compromising circumstances, handed me the tin foil wrapped chunk of resin saying, rather too loudly I thought, “Good stuff Man – crazy stuff.”
Not long after the conclusion of this relatively small transaction I was to learn that Denis had had the misfortune to die. It seems the Gas Board had dug a hole in the pavement directly outside his front gate. They had left, they claimed, lamps to illuminate the puncture in the pathway at night plus they had cordoned off the offending breach to prevent any accidents. However they had not counted on theft of Gas Board property by local, no doubt drunken, wags – well that and the fact that Denis, on the one hand would never have noticed them digging, and on the other would, even if he had noticed, have forgotten anyway. It was thus that Denis, whether going into or departing from his home, took the tumble that killed him. A broken neck I understand. I bet he said, ‘Wow Man’ during that terminal descent. The sad thing was that the hole he died in wasn’t even that deep.