Into the Mind...

The wheel spins forward and then it looks like it is spinning back. Crouched down, looking at me through the spokes of an upturned bike, Simon says that not everything is how it appears. I spin the wheel again and try to work out what the hell is going on. Simon just stares through at me, his eyes imploring me to understand. Something unspeakably bad is going on in his life.

Into the Mind... a new season of writing coming to Memoires of a Heroinhead.

Into the Mind...

Into the mind of the addict, the dealers, the whores and the rent-boys, the abuser and the abused. Into the mind of society, the family, the healthcare system, the government, the church, the self-help groups, the substitution clinics, NA. 

Into the Mind...

A season of writing that will focus on the psychological, reveal the reasons why and debunk certain falsehoods of addiction and drug use. Into the mind: the heinous myth of rock bottom. Why the parents, friends and loved ones of addicts are not only urged to isolate and disown their addicted offspring but are also encouraged to hasten their descent to rock bottom in the false belief that by sheer design it's a place where the worm can only turn. Into the mind of chasing the first high, why it's a myth and why so many (even veteran) addicts will spout this horse-shit as the fuel which kept their junk carts going for so many years. Into the mind. Into the cheating, the lying, the selfishness, the self-harm and crime. Into the real influence of popular culture on drug use, libertinism and decadence. Into the mind, the mindset of redemption: recovering addicts force-fed bullshit, brainwashed as to why they are such fuck-ups and then blackmailed to publicly vomit back up all those false failings to a church hall full of teary-eyed hypocritical ex-dope fiends screaming “hallelujah” while flapping their hands together in spastic ecstasy to welcome another lost sheep back into the flock. Into the mind. The myth of the fatal overdose, the self-destruction and the deaths. The one-upmanship: the common stock of junkie mayhem that many addicts feel obliged to have experienced: dumping dead friends out in the street; of being pronounced clinically dead on multiple occasions; of ending on ones knees in a vile public toilet, cooking up ones last ill-gotten bag of smack in diarrhoea water drawn straight from the filthy bowl. Into the mind of heroin porn and what drives the desire for it. The attraction of the needle and how that idea plays out to our internal hero, that vainglorious fool who stoops about inside of us and falsely imagines how we are perceived by the world. Into the mind of the diseased and ill, the amputees and dying, those rotting away in dark doorways and the myriads of statistical successes sat at home, sober, but suffering from the insidious effects of post-junk depression.

Into the mind.... Coming soon...

a new season of writing by Shane Levene.

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Venison Wild

It was a dark, wet, shiny night. I lay on a mattress in the back of a stolen van, a cold wind seeping in and annoying me from the loose back doors tied close with string. The driver was Lee Laws, a wiry blond crook. In the double-spread passenger seat besides him was Paul, and to Paul's left, Alan. All three boys were in their late teens or early twenties, and all three were repeat criminal offenders. I was too, only I was much younger and my crimes much less serious. Barely a week ever passed in which one of us wasn't up in court on some misdemeanor or other, and for the two years I'd known Lee he had spent over half that time in Feltham Young Offenders Institute. In the back of the van, partitioned off from the others by a metal grille, I lay on my back, smoking the roach end of a joint and looking past the ends of my feet at the uniform motorway lights as they filed by. I was fifteen and we were heading out of London, into the black of the country, to rob a house which Lee had previously cased and promised was a safe, straightforward job.

Bored watching the lights and the purple sky I closed my eyes and listened to the stories of the older boys. They talked about girls and crimes, recent arrests and upcoming court appearances. They mimicked and laughed at how they had responded 'No reply' to three hours of brutal police questioning and had kept their cool while being rough-housed by the station staff.  Lee Laws was especially shrewd in that way - or so his stories led everyone to believe;  though there were others who said he was "the biggest grass in West London" and that "being caught with Lee was like being caught red-handed and bang-to-rights". Whether there was any truth to such rumours  or not I had no idea. What I did know was that Lee Laws sure did look and talk the part, and I also knew that I had visited him in prison that summer, had sat there feeling terribly out of place as his girlfriend kissed a sixteenth of hash into his mouth. I also knew it was Lee who had spun into the estate two weeks prior, in this same white van, the wires ripped loose under the steering wheel  and twisted back together. The truth on nights like these doesn't really matter. Stories float in and are as true and as real as the places they carry you away to. Sometimes, when the van slowed down, I'd raise myself from the mattress and on my knees make my way over towards the partition. From behind the grille I'd stare out at the rain and watch the windscreen wipers working away. In other moments I'd focus on the motorway, miles and miles of dotted lights with black fields either side, stretching off through wherever. Occasionally we would overtake the red rear lights of another vehicle, Lee remaining in the same lane until the very last moment before pulling out to the right and cruising past in a classic manoeuvre. But, mostly on this black wet night it was just us, driving out of town in a stolen Sherpa van and telling stories as we mowed down the road. I often wished we had no destination, that we could just drive – drive and never stop and the sun would never rise again.

“Right, now listen up, boys,” said Lee, a good inch of a joint poking out his mouth. “When we're there and inside don't be going all fucking doolally and grabbing just anything. Most the antiques are shite reproductions and worth fuck all. What we want is the silver, the two carved bone ornaments in the hall, and the large painting above the fireplace. Any jewellery, money, cameras, small things like that, take 'em. But remember, leave the pots and the vases alone.”

Alan and Paul nodded away to Lee's instructions. I lay on the mattress in the back, more than blissfully stoned, smiling and thinking about taking the pots and vases anyway – struggling out into the night with a huge fake Ming vase that was no good to anyone. I began laughing out loud at the mad world of thoughts and craziness that was playing out in my mind.

“Oi!!! Shit for brains, r'ya listening?!” Lee shouted, darting a roach of the joint at me. “No fucking around, OK, or it'll be ya first an' last time out wiv us. Got it?”

Sucking the last bit of death out of the roach and holding the smoke, I nodded. Then I exhaled and the van was  suddenly deathly quiet, Lee and the others in a trance like state, their eyes intent on the road. It was hard to imagine they had just been extremely animated. I wondered if the conversation had ever really occurred or not.

By now we had been driving for maybe ninety minutes, maybe longer. The City was an unimaginable length of distance behind us. In my stoned mind I imagined it as resembling something like Bethlehem, only without a saviour. Even the big green motorway reflector boards were not out this far; the lighting on the motorway had changed too – was duller, darker, creepy – a row of thinly dispersed twin lamps down the central divide. Sometimes a little square of light would glow out in the black of a field, a lone country house or cottage and nothing else.

For a moment the stories and talking had ended and the joints had stopped circling. We were all heavily stoned, sat or lain out in the hash-smoke filled van, withdrawn into our own individual existences. In moments like that the only reality we all had in common, the only thread which tied us into the same physical existence, was the shiny wet road ahead. Without that road we would have all surely floated off into our own worlds of madness and despair. In the back of the van I now concentrated on the sound and the feel of the wheels, understanding atmosphere and terrain from  the most subtle changes. Shortly after that I heard a dislocated noise beneath the van, felt us slow and drift to the left, and made out the lonely night time click-clicking of the van's indicator. It made me feel sad and forlorn – I could have willingly laid in the back of that van, like that, forever. The van turned and my insides and brain seemed to turn with it. What light there had once been from outside was suddenly quenched and the road beneath was slippery, bumpy and uneven. Trees and bushes scraped and beat on the sides of the van, and for the first time  all evening I became aware of the rain pelting down on the roof. I got on my knees and took myself to the partition, looking out the window from over Paul's shoulder. From what I could make out we were on a well travelled country lane, that may or may not have been an official route. What was clear was that the way had surely been cut out by smaller vehicles. The van had a difficult time passing through, and the added weight caused our wheels to sink and spin and go nowhere. The only light we had  was from our left headlight. We'd knocked the right one out hurtling over speed bumps in the city. The van dipped and jerked and bumped and made awful grating sounds. The few tools we had in the back jumped up and crashed down on the metal floor. We all peered out, looking for something to show up ahead.

It was the sound of gravel under tread that let us know we were approaching some place. It at first came in little spurts and then a constant scrunching - pestle and mortar. Up ahead, picked out by our headlight, the road widened and a few black shapes came into view. The air smelled and filtered into the van. It wasn't unpleasant, just different, like a hamster's cage or rabbit hutch or muesli. It was a farm. The van crunched into the opening and turned right, and there, as if it had just materialized from nowhere, stood a house – perfectly still and black and empty in the night. Lee slowed the van, turned it around so as the back doors were facing the house and then stopped. With the engine still running he sat there with a huge thin grin scarred across his face. I started up to say something but my voice seemed so loud in the cut of night. Lee shussed me with a raised finger and a pained expression, as if even though there was nobody around they still might hear. That's what living in the city does to you. It's a very certain kind of paranoia. After that we all spoke in whispers, and tried to act as silent as the fields.

Up in the front, with the small overhead cabin light on, Lee and Paul slipped into black gloves. Lee shot Alan a quizzical look and held his hands up and wiggled his fingers. Alan shook his head. Lee scowled, before screwing his face up in suppressed laughter at Alan's amateurish mistake of not bringing any gloves. He turned my way.

“Give Alan your gloves,” he said.
“What? No, they're mine. I need'em. The police have my prints!”
“Give 'em over ya plum! You're not coming in with us. I want you here... keeping dog. And if you hear so much as a ghost's fart you're to hit the fucking horn, OK.”
“But you said I could come in with you!”
“Next time. Give Alan your gloves. While we're gone get the doors open and skin up a zoobie... but don't cane the fucking thing!”

Begrudgingly I fed my gloves through the grate to Alan. He yanked them from me and was soon spreading and wriggling his thick, stubby fingers in them. “Perfect! Just a right good perfect fit!” he said, knowing it would wind me up, as if my gloves fitted him better than they fit me. I didn't really care. My heart was beating furiously thinking of entering a stranger's house and rummaging around  taking things. I'd really only wanted to go in with the boys so as I wouldn't be left outside alone. Finally it was the prospect of being allowed to roll a joint which won me over – the chance of having first smoke on one I had rolled myself and purposely top-loaded. It was a novelty too novel to turn down. The only other time I was given anything other to smoke than cardboard was on the rare occasions where I had a note of my own and bought a ten pound draw myself.

 Down under the steering wheel Lee turned a torch on and off and handed it to Paul. Paul took it and then did the same. Lee took out a second torch, flashed that too, turned it off, and kept it for himself.

“Ok,” he said, very seriously, “we can get in around the back. All we have to do is put a small pane of glass through. There's no alarm and no dogs. Let's go.”  The boys filed out the van. I unstrung the back doors and then went around the front and sat in the driver's seat.
“Lee,” I whispered, “can you turn the van around so as I can see better?”
“No. Never. Just incase we need to make a quick getaway.”
“Oh, Ok,” I said. Then, “Lee?”
“Where's the hash?”

A huge grin spread out across his face. “Don't miss a fucking trick this one,” he said, taking his kit out his back pocket and handing it me. “Hash is behind the rizlas... and don't take the fucking piss!”

I took Lee's kit, fondling the Rizlas to make sure the hash was really there. It was. I closed the door and watched in the wing mirror as the boys headed across the gravel courtyard, made their way to the right of the house and then disappeared. Alone in the dark I felt half terrified, the whole of Britain black and wet and deadly silent around me. How in such blackness I'd ever see anyone before it was too late I didn't know, but I was dog; so dog I was.

In the front of the van,  crumbling a good pinch of hash into the head of a joint that was perched up on the dashboard, I heard the sound of breaking glass. I stopped what I was doing and concentrated on the noises outside. Another little pop rang out and a thin piece of glass shattered on the ground and tinkled like a Chinese wind chime. I continued on with my joint, one eye on the wing mirror all the while. And that's when I saw it, to my horror, a dim light flitting about high up in one of the attic windows. At first I wondered if it was the boys already in the house and up top, but no, it was too quick - the last shard of falling glass had barely stopped singing out. I jumped out the van and sprinted off in pursuit of my friends. When I arrived around the back Lee was sidled right up tight against the backdoor with a strained look on his face, his hand the other side trying desperately to locate the door latch and release it.

“There's someone inside,” I hissed, “There's a light upstairs!”
“Fuck off , Shane,” said Paul, who'd never really liked me, “you're just shitting it!”
“I'm telling you's, there's someone inside! Lee, there's someone up in the fucking attic.” Lee withdrew his arm out the door. “Where?” he asked. I led the way.

Back around the front of the house I pointed up to the window where the light had come from. Of course, now it was black and as indifferent as any other, but still, I sensed someone looking down at us.

“Lee, I swear there was a fucking light on up there. I din't imagine it!”

Lee stood looking up, figuring whether to take me seriously or not. He seemed to have pretty good information that the house would be empty but something was niggling him. While we were all stood looking up a feint light then showed itself anew, this time visible through the middle windows. Whatever it was, it originated from somewhere deep in the thick of the house. This time we all saw it and went sprinting for the van. As we bundled in I warned Lee and Paul to be careful as my joint was sitting unrolled up on the dash. Then I regretted top-loading it, as with the boys back it'd be nothing more than roach supper for me again.

Lee started up the van and put his foot down. Desperate to get up some speed he kinda pushed and urged the van forward like he was giddying on a horse. Then we were up and running, skidding back through the soft wet path, me holding the doors closed where there had been no moment to slam and tie them shut. I watched Alan take my half prepared joint and twist and screw it into a cigarette. Secretly I still harboured hopes that he'd hand it back for me to spark up, but he didn't. He lit it himself, took five or six huge holding drags and then passed it on to Paul. All the while Lee was speeding in the wet, through black roads that led to God knows where. I sat there in the back, waiting for the joint to be tossed my way, my heart pounding and thinking of blow-outs and 100ft drops into blackness.

* * *
It felt like we had been in the black an eternity, driving around dangerous country drops. The joint had left me completely wrecked, spaced out in a universe where time and space held no meaning. I was lain back on the mattress, my mind chasing a million different inter-connected thoughts which I had visualized in my head. In one instance I even imagined that I was in my bedroom, it somehow being driven around Britain. Every now and again I'd hear Lee droning on about joining a different motorway home as the police may be waiting for us along the expected route. He said that over and over. I gave a look up and out the front window. God, it was really black out there. Visibility was reduced to maybe a metre ahead by the power of one fading headlight. It felt like a film, or a video game. Everyone had that sensation, I think. No one was talking. We were all staring straight ahead, tuned into the moment, focussed on the single sabre of light we illuminated in the dark, all in the zone, hypnotized by the road ahead as we drove on an endless spot.

I saw as little as anyone else, though being in the back I felt and heard it more. Lee was suddenly shot up straight in his seat with his foot hard pressed on the brake. His arms were out straight, gripping the steering wheel and fighting desperately to keep control of the van. Something big bounced of the driver's side and made a god-awful sound doing so. As it had happened I was hurled back on my arse on the mattress. The van skidded, trying to take a grip in the wet. And then it stopped, the pit-pit-patta of rain on the roof and steam converging from all sides.

“What in da Jesus!” screamed Alan. “We fecking hit summin... we hit summin!”
“What was it?”asked Lee. “Did anyone see it?” We  gave a collective shake of our heads.

I scurried over to the back of the van, pushed the doors open a foot and peered out. Nothing, just darkness, the smell of wet bark, and exhaust fumes.

“Maybe it was an animal,” Alan said.
“What kinda animal?” said Paul, “This is England! D'ya think it was a six foot badger?”
“Ya never know what lives out here in black country, boy-yo. Back home there's an all manner of unknown tings... live out in da forest at night which no-one dares or wuld want to know about.”
“Maybe it was a scarecrow,” I said, seriously.
“A fucking Scarecrow!!!! Fuck off back to LaaLaa land, Shane. A scarecrow!”

That's when all but the very palest colours suddenly drained from Lee's face. “But you know what, though,“ he said, ominously, “I think he's not so far off. Only I don't think it was a scarecrow but a man... I think we've just fucking hit someone.”
“A man? Who would be out here? Walking the rain, going nowhere?” asked Paul.
“A tramp. A local,” I said. “There must be some people who live around here and these carrot-crunchers love nothing better than a ten mile walk in the freezing rain. It's kinda like how they water themselves.”

Paul turned round and darted something vicious at me. It wasn't the roach of a joint, but a cigarette filter or something. It meant, shut it! It was the peak of all our nerves before the tension set in, before the van fell deathly silent for a moment. Then Lee spoke. His face was sucked in, withdrawn and shock white, cut out against the black backdrop of the window,  the windscreen wipers ever so mechanically squeaking away.

“I think we've killed someone,” he said, like in a trance, “I saw the head.... An eye. It took a second out of its tragedy to look at me, like one of those weird flashed messages they're not allowed to advertise with. I really think we've killed someone.” Now finished, he looked at each of us in turn, an expression of great foreboding in his regard, as if this were a night in which our lives would be irrevocably changed.

We all sat staring back into Lee's handsome but ghostly chiselled face of fear, the mystic buzz from the hashish prickling through our minds and skin. Lee's eyes were now universally wide, the pupils huge and agitated and full of dark night tales. Carried along in the moment we were all thinking the same thought: the gravity of murder. And even though it was an accident, we were nevertheless in a stolen van, stoned, riding the night with only a single working headlight, no driving licence between  us, and each with a long history of repeat criminal offences. Aside from that there was the small matter of the house we had attempted to burglarize. God, we'd be fried -  even if it were only a carrot-cruncher we had mown down. It was Alan who finally broke the silence, a calming pragmatic Southern Irish voice:

“T'is where it's at, boys. We'll  hafta ged'dowt an take a look. It'll  not be doing us a single bit a good sitting here, sure, imaging the worst of what we've maybe done and scaring the bejesus outta us. And sposing if we're roight, if it tis indeed a fellow a ways back d'ere, well, maybe he's not dead? Maybe we can help him, boys?”
Lee shook his head. “And what if he's not dead? He'll have seen our faces. I think we should just go... drive on and not look back.”
“We can't just drive away, Man! To do such a wicked ting as that'ud  make it ten times worse, so it would. We'd be tried for being evil, man.” And then Lee was nodding. And then we were all nodding. Lee chucked Alan a torch. “Lead the way,” he said, “I don't wanna see it.”

The three older boys slipped out of the van and into the wet. I opened the backdoors and joined them as they came around the sides. Alan and Paul led the way; I was just behind, and Lee Laws just behind me – though not so much so as to be alone in the dark. We cut a long diagonal line across the road to where whatever it was we had hit would have landed. Alan shone the light around, showing up thick, inaccessible bush and tree to either side. The road really had no right to be here at all. And then without quite realizing it I was jogging, and then pushing on between Alan and Paul who had  now stopped. The torch light had caught something, the beam stopped a short meter ahead and the light opening up. And there it was, in the wet mud of the road, a head and a large sad eye, the rain running off it's face, so tragic and sad: we'd hooked ourselves a deer.


The animal wasn't dead. Close to it, but not quite. It lay there subdued, its eye staring out through the gathering swamp flies, a slow and drowsy heave and fall of its chest; a composed exhaustion of life. From its underside came blood, deep red in the yellow light, streaming across the road in rivulets with the rain. There was also blood and mud on the bedraggled fur near its front hoof. Lee, who had all but melted at the thought of having killed a human, now reformed and once more took the lead. He strode in and, without a single word, knelt down besides the deer and clenched its nose and mouth tight shut. In a loving, two minute long embrace, he snuffed the remaining life out of it and then laid its head gently down. He rested there like that for a moment, his eyes closed.

“Can't let the poor thing suffer on like that,” he eventually said. “That'd be the same as driving off.” And just when we thought Lee maybe had some kind of a deep, soft humanity, he added: “Ok, now let's get the fucker in van.”
“What?” I, or one of the others, said. Maybe all of us.
“The van,” repeated Lee, walking off.  “I'll back her up. Let's get it inside. I know a South African butcher who'll take this off our hands.”

Downcast, replete with an indescribable strain of sadness, I looked to Paul and Alan. Paul and Alan were stood in silence looking at the deer; and the deer was looking at something which no man can ever see.

Lee backed the van up. On rejoining us he climbed in the back and stood the mattress up against the side, then hopped down. With Paul's help the two dragged the deer around so as it was positioned longways with its head by the exhaust pipe. With Lee and Paul at the top end of the animal, and Alan and I either side of its middle, we tried lifting, but weighed down by death the deer was having none of it. It sagged and got heavy in all the wrong places, making it impossible to lift. Lee said we should lift it by the legs. Somehow that idea seemed too grievous and no-one was very keen on so doing it. Instead, in a clumsy, awkward fashion, we all lifted the deer by its top end and set it down half inside the van. Then, with Lee pulling, Alan, Paul and I heaved and pushed, slowly inching the beast into the back. When it was finally inside we all slumped down, wet and exhausted, staring at this thing which we had somehow happened across. The three older boys  were laughing in amazement, and between heavy breaths talked excitedly about its size and weight, and about how unreal it all was. Alan grabbed an old A-Z from off the floor. He laid it on his lap, took out his spliff rolling kit and began skinning up a joint. I watched Lee who was poking a twig into the deer's ear.


The laughing had been going on for a while before it dawned on me that the guffawing and snorting concerned me. I turned around, heavily stoned and confused. I could feel a bemused, childish grin across my face, the grin I always elicited when I was stoned and baffled, when I was fifteen and not sure if anything at all was actually happening. I tried to figure out what the joke was. “What?” I asked. “What?” When they saw my face, my stinging red eyes, they laughed even harder.

“Would ya look at the state of that cunt,” said Lee, pointing at me, “he's out his fucking tree... fucking wrecked! D'you think the Deer'll be safe back here with him?”
“Will it me bollix,” said Paul. “You seen the ways he's been eyeing it up! Oi, Sicko, no fucking dodgy business when ya think no one's watching, OK? If your hands start wandering or you try and mount the thing you'll be walking back to London!”
“Yeah Shane, go easy on her she's had a rough night!” was Alan's quip. The three older boys were in hysterics, their laughter echoing in my stoned and cushioned head. That in turn set off a chain of visions in my own mind and then I too was bursting red and laughing like a madman at the bizarre images which were playing out in my mind. And then I blinked, or breathed, or something and it was suddenly like nothing had ever happened. In my mind I began doubting reality. Had I just started cracking up laughing while the others were talking serious? I looked at each of them for a moment, confused, but now they were with grave faces and surely they couldn't have been laughing hysterically as I had seen.  Only they had been. And then their words hit me. Not what they had said, but what they had implied.

“You must be fucking joking,” I suddenly cried, “I'm not getting in the back with that thing!”
“No?” said Lee, “then I suppose we'll see you back in London in about three days, 'cause you'll be trotting home.”
“I fucking will. I don't give a fuck!”

Lee looked at me like you would a kid who won't go to bed. Then the harshness in his eyes gave way and he said I could budge in with Paul and Alan on the way home.


I slammed the back doors shut, tied them as tight as I could from the outside and joined Paul and Alan in the double passenger seat. Naturally, I was on the far left, squashed right up against the cold metal door and the leaking, draughty window - last in line for the joint as usual. I didn't mind. I was sitting wasted anyway. They could keep their hash, I just didn't want to lay in the back with a dead deer.

Lee turned the engine over and pulled off. We sat mostly silent, like we were grieving. Out the radio floated the voice of a weird talk-show host called Caesar The Boogieman. It gave a fantastic, hallucinatory feel to the journey but brought with it a disjointed aura of loneliness. The van drove on. We sat hypnotized by the road and the light from our single headlight. We stared at the blackness out the window, watched  a sign float by, and then there it was, the motor way – a huge concrete river that would take us all on home.

The ride back down the long stretch of motorway was monotonous and sleepy. All that changed was the occasional passing on of a joint and then we'd zone into the road again, pondering over the stars and the universe and how lost we all really are. Now crammed in the front, with the widows closed, the smoke went to my head and made me feel hollow and strange. I didn't know whether to laugh or be petrified, or if reality was a fantastic dream or a hideous nightmare. I was wasted and didn't want to sit on it in silence as it crept up and turned me insane from the inside out. Solely to have the occasion to speak, escape my interior world, I began  getting a little brazen with my older friends, talking crazy, stoned nonsense. The boys laughed along, though not at what I was saying.

“Skin up, ya tight cunt,” I said, staring at Paul. I got a slap around the head for that. Everyone laughed.
“I'm second on the zoot!” I declared. “Don't want no skinny little roach end this time!” They all laughed and the joint bypassed me anyway. Sucking on the roach, of the joint I had said I didn't want, Lee looked across with pink rabbit eyes and said, “You given up inhaling or what?” They all cracked up again. The truth was I had given up inhaling. I was far too high already. But now I'd been caught and I was embarrassed.
“I could smoke the lotta you cunts under the table," I said. "I'm not even stoned, just nice and mellow.” The van erupted once more in shrieks of laughter. Everything I said was one huge joke.
“Alan, you got any speed?” I suddenly asked. That final daft question sent the boys into such a fit of hysterics that Lee had to pull the van over so he didn't drive it off the road. Now at a stop they all creased up in uncontrollable fits of laughter, squealing like a mini litter of pigs. I sat in my chair feeling hot and flustered, staring ahead with my childish smirk, feeling immature and completely out my depth. And that's when it flushed over me – came rattling down like a shutter; my mouth and back of my throat suddenly as dry as a desert. I thought I was gonna choke on my tongue. My colour and strength drained like a bath of water with the plug removed. I was throwing a whitey, terrified and wanting to be sick. And everyone laughed that little harder still.

After vomiting out the side door, I sat in silence, squashed back into my little hovel, sweating and praying a joint wouldn't be passed my way. Of course one was, a huge fat-headed special for me to spark up. As they all knew I would, I waved it away. Lee lit it himself, and with it sticking out his mouth like a parsnip he pulled out and drove on, soon joining the city ring road and looking for the correct exit off.

By now the best part of night had fallen. It was still dark but the sky no longer had the depth of colour that it had done an hour previous, and way over in the distance, with the city beneath it, was the breaking light. By the time we came off the A road and landed in the city proper the joints had stopped passing and everyone was tired, depressed by the weak light and anxious to know what we would do with the deer. Lee spoke again of a South African butcher he knew in Hammersmith. He said that he'd be there now, preparing cutlets of meat for the day's trade. Lee said we'd go there, unload the deer, get paid and then get home. It all seemed like a bit of a tall story, and from the look that Alan and Paul swapped I suspected that they were with me, secretly wondering if the animal in the back could even be eaten (let alone sold). And so we went along. Lee certainly knew some pretty bizarre people. And if the worst came to the worst, if the sale fell through, well, we'd dump the dead deer and be home in just about the same time anyway.

Inside the city the rain had long stopped but the air was still wet. It was almost 6am and the light had properly broken, but the kind of early morning light that still holds a memory of darkness within it, makes one think of hospital visits, work and other bad things. Far over town there hung a drizzly mist; the street lights were on their last minutes of time. Lone people jittered away at bus-stops and steam poured from the tops of certain buildings and drifted on out. Lee rolled up to the lights on Chiswick Highstreet. We sat there, all drowsy, looking out at the depressing morning which had forced out the night. And that's when all hell broke loose.

With no warning whatsoever the van erupted into a crazed violence of rocking and banging and thumping, horrendous animal noises screeching out from behind us. Alan was thrown forward into the dashboard. Then, what sounded like a team of panel beaters began simultaneously working the sides of the van, angry and grunting and crying in pain, as they hammered out the frustrations of their existence. I turned around and the head of the deer came smashing against the grilled partition, the crazed retarded eye of a trapped animal looking through. The deer must have only been badly stunned, unconscious, and had now come around and was trying it's damnedest to smash its way to freedom. This was its buckaroo for life.

Aside from the crazed deer, our major concern was of the police being called. It was 6am, in a decent neighbourhood, on the highstreet, and our van was sat alone at the lights, thumping and crashing away while emitting monstrous noises of rage that not even the damp in the air could muffle. Alarmed, we clambered to get out the van. The deer seemed hellbent on getting through the partition and stamping us all to death. Out in the street Paul reckoned we should just leg it and leave the van. That would have been the easiest and wisest option were it not for the fact that our finger prints were all over the place, and in the van's two week tenure, under Lee's charge, had been involved in a plethora of local crimes and robberies. Running away would beat the immediate problem, but come 10am, once the police would have had time to apply for arrest and search warrants, we'd all be hiding low, fucked. So we didn't flee. For a moment we didn't do anything. Just stood around in a panic as the van rocked and thumped and the back doors bounced to the tune of the enraged beast inside.

Lee rushed back to the driver's side door and searched behind the seat for something. He returned holding a handy length of lead piping. “Come on,” he said to me, “Come on!!!”

At the rear of the van he handed me the lead pipe. “Take that,” he said, “and when I open the doors get ready and crack the fucker on the head!”
“Fuck off! You're crazy! That thing will be all over me before I've even swung!”
“Will it fuck! It'll take it a moment to even realize there's an escape. Now quit the stalling and get ready to whack the thing or we'll all be fucked!”
Bludgeon the deer to death? After all it had already been through? I couldn't, and I told Lee as much. There was no way the animal was getting its skull bashed in by my hand; it was maybe just about the most innocent thing in the world at that moment. I didn't have it in me. Death in such a beast of that size is something real and serious. And when it isn't quick, or doesn't work first whack, then it is something brutal and horrific too. My hand held the lead pipe; but my arm would never swing it

“You fucking pussy!” Lee said. “Give me the fucking bar and I'll do it. You open the doors.”
Ok, I could do that. I did not want to, but I could. Anyway, I thought that not Lee, or anyone else, had a chance in hell of felling the deer as was suggested. As I moved myself in front of the doors Alan arrived alongside Lee wielding a small handled mallet. Terrible thoughts of cracked skulls, shattered bone and animal yelps went through my mind. I thought of the deer; of rodeo ponies; of great racehorses rearing up in the stalls. On the count of three I untied the double back doors and in the same movement flung them wide open and run out the way. And in that moment, in the shrill misty morning with London waking up and rubbing her eyes, there was a moment of sheer, unadulterated, natural beauty:

   the deer burst forth, out the back of the van – a desperate leap to life and freedom, a sleek tan flash that filled the world with hope and victory and beauty. It landed in the road, skidded, turned real low to the ground and then came up straight, its great breast pushed forward and its head back. It found its hooves, found the road, and shot bolt off, away down the high-street. Lee hadn't even time to think of swinging the lead pipe in his hands and Alan looked pathetic and weak, the mallet so small and insignificant compared to the fury and passion of the life that had just shot out the van. The boys had shot right out the way with me, had too seen the full stretch of beast as it bolted. We all saw the utter beauty in that leap, and in the same moment we understood that the deer had more right than just about anything to live, and we were all glad and rooting for it.

“Fuuuuckiiing hell!!!!” was all anyone could say. "Fuuucking hell!!!"

For a moment we had lost concern about the police, forgotten the city and the morning and the skinning up and passing around of joints. In exact contrast to the deer, we were grounded to the spot, all staring in wonder down the road as the animal galloped through a red light, went up onto the pavement, back out into the road, zig-zagged through the early morning cars, flared up and then ran on some more in its mad pursuit of freedom. The lights on the high-street went from amber to green, from green to red, and back again. Still we didn't budge, just stood there awestruck, staring. And, when finally the deer was out of sight, we stared a little more, then at the calm of the empty road, at the lifting mist, at each other, something glorious having passed our terrible, youthful way.

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Thanks as ever for reading, Shane. X