View from the Bridge: 13

by John Morrison


13: Born to be Mild

Weaned from an early age on an unremitting diet of gangster films, Biker Dave left school at 16. "What's the point of education", he reasons, "when the villain always says 'We've got to kill you, 'cos you know too much'? Then, just to rub it in, he says 'Let the girl go, she doesn't know anything'."

It was plain bad luck to have found the only dyslexic tattooist in the area. All Dave wanted was to acknowledge his allegiance to those legendary outlaw bikers, Satan's Slaves. But the tattooist was halfway through the job when another customer tapped him gently on the shoulder and nodded meaningfully at his handiwork. The tattooist's efforts to remedy his mistake, though well-intentioned, were ultimately misguided. Biker Dave was ushered smartly out of the tattoo parlour with the words 'Santa's Little Helper' inked indelibly into his fore-arm, alongside a charming portrayal of the four house-martins of the Apocalypse.

This humiliation only made him redouble his efforts to embrace the life of an outlaw biker: an ambition that centred on doing drugs, shagging cool biker chicks and biting the heads off live chickens. But his first serious attempts at rebellion - taking two bottles into the shower, not rewinding rented videos and refusing, point black, to use his postcode - soon stuttered to a halt. Not exactly the perfumed road to the eternal bonfire, but then this is Milltown, not Daytona Beach, and, in any case, anarchy is relative.


*     *     *

Biker Dave lives on Hippy Street, a few doors down from Willow Woman and Sky, where you can expect, at any minute, to hear a knock on the door and a neighbour asking to borrow a cupful of money. The residents of Hippy Street take the idea of informal living to lengths undreamed of outside a Moroccan doss-house, and have a perverse pride in seeing just how much rubbish they can pile up outside their neglected properties. Willow Woman's one effort at gentrification - installing an outside bidet - failed to galvanise her neighbours into doing any home-improvements more taxing than hanging up another wind-chime.

Outside almost every house in Hippy Street is a vehicle of one sort or another - mostly in this year's fashionable two-tone colour scheme of rust and primer, with piles of house-bricks where the wheels ought to be. Geriatric VW vans bear mute witness to long-forgotten dreams of "really getting it together and going on the road", and the realisation, just minutes after purchase, that 'One Careful Owner' generally means 'One Careful Owner and Ten Homicidal Maniacs'.

In keeping with Hippy Street's relaxed attitude to interior decorating, Biker Dave's little house is an unprepossessing jumble of unwashed pots, bottles of rancid milk and semen-stained underpants. A convincing idea of purgatory would be to have to walk barefoot over his bedroom carpet for eternity. Visitors tend to wipe their feet on the way out.

He once sweet-talked the barmaid from the Grievous Bodily Arms back to his house after closing time with offers of raw meat. She awoke next morning with a devastating hangover and a half-eaten cheese and tomato pizza spot-welded between her shoulder-blades.

His pride and joy is his motor-bike - an ancient Bastard 750 - which languishes in bits all over the house. With every effort to rebuilt it there seems to be more parts left over. It was after another unsuccessful attempt, and perhaps one pint too many, that Biker Dave took a sledgehammer to one of his partition walls. Encouraged by the result (all that space...) he demolished the other inside walls too.

When the building inspector responded to a spate of anxious phone-calls from nearby householders, he needed only the briefest glance inside. "Walk very, very slowly towards the door,"he commanded in a hoarse whisper, "and don't make any sudden movements...", before slapping an unequivocal demolition order on what remained of Biker Dave's house.

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