View from the Bridge: 40
by John Morrison
40: Illegal Smiles
There are people in Milltown who don't know what it's like to spend a day without drugs. And you've got to admit that the Christmas holiday is probably not the ideal time to find out. By looking like they're on their way to a fancy-dress party, they make it easy for Dope Dealer to spot them. With his chemical stare, and indiscriminate 'flags of all nations' approach to drug-taking, he needs all the help he can get. Having selflessly road-tested all his wares, he's now blessed with the mental agility of a rocking horse. When he intones his mantra of available hallucinogenics his voice never rises above a parched whisper: "Dope, acid, speed; dope, acid, speed; spinal cord, oxtail, brisket".
The regulars at the Stoic tut-tut disapprovingly. But pious pronouncements about illegal drugs are particularly fatuous at this time of year, when the yardstick for judging the success of Christmas seems to be the amount of brain-shrivelling booze they manage to put away, and the size of the resulting hangover. "I must've had a good time; I can't remember a thing" is the happy conclusion to yet another orgy of over-indulgence.
The regulars at the Stoic will go further, reminding you that alcohol is legal, decent and honest, while cannabis is the spawn of Satan. It must be; it's illegal; it stands to reason. You won't get anywhere by arguing, but since when did that stop anyone? So here's a typical conversational gambit from someone whose drug of choice is alcohol, recorded anonymously during Happy Hour at the Grievous Bodily Arms: "'Ere, who are you fucking looking at? Wanna make something of it?" Compare and contrast with a typical greeting from a confirmed dope smoker: "Hello trees, hello sky". Game, set and match...
Life often seems precarious, like jumping from one slippery ice-floe to another. So it's good to take stock. The dawning of a new year provides a convenient opportunity to re-evaluate what's really important and what's just froth. After the usual roll-call of regrets and disappointments, Milltown folk look forward to 1998.
Willow Woman vows to become more assertive and less reliant on new-age mumbo-jumbo. At least, that's what the Tarot cards seem to be suggesting. Her daughter Sky will continue her fight for endangered species. After all, who else will stand up for nits and head-lice?
Since his ill-fated attempts to create an open-plan home environment, Biker Dave's little house in Hippy Street has lain empty. With the windows boarded up one by one, as Christmas approached, it looked like an advent calendar in reverse. Now it's just a pile of rubble; a light breeze managed the job even before the demolition men could get there. So what Biker Dave wants most for 1998 is a place to live.
The barmaid at the Grievous Bodily Arms is becoming weary of trading shallow sexual encounters for small change. She wants to regain her amateur status, in case sex becomes one of the demonstration sports at the Sydney Olympics. Instead of one-night stands she is looking for a husband: someone tall, dark and hyphenated. Failing that, she'd probably settle for a man with an IQ higher than room temperature.
Local Writer craves literary success. At a recent writers' workshop he was, sadly, the only writer he hadn't heard of. He isn't even a household name in his own home. If he was to have his time over again, he'd think twice before ticking the 'no publicity' box.
Our Tourism Officer is trying to push through a local bylaw compelling the men of Milltown to wear clogs, waistcoats and moleskin trousers, with pinnies and mob-caps for the women. He won't be satisfied until we're all just walk-on characters in theme-park Britain.
Mr Smallholder would like his application rubber-stamped to join the Freemasons and the paramilitary wing of the National Trust. His wife can hardly wait for the January sale at the Twig Shop.
Wounded Man is less acquisitive and more reflective: a sort of spiritual gigolo. "You can't have everything", he acknowledges, "where would you keep it?"
Town Drunk's wish for 1998 is much the same as it was a year ago. He wants a drink.
After yet another tour that has failed to set the musical world alight, the Uncles have decided to reform as a Wurzels tribute band.
The Webmaster of Milltown's own little home on the world wide web is on a crusade. He wants to prove to doubters that the internet isn't, after all, just a cesspit in cyberspace filled with pictures of women having sex with ponies. This is why, in a probably mistaken attempt to go upmarket, the Milltown Web will soon feature women having sex with polo ponies.
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