Chapter Four — The Piranha
Last Week: Jo and Irina met for a drink. Buzz was supposed to be seeing Star Wars with Big Dave but Big Dave called Jo because Buzz had stood him up. Jo saw a bloke she recognised hanging around Camberwell Green. Jo and Irina swung by Buzz’s place to check on him, only to find him passed out on the floor. They called an ambulance.
Time moved on.
Thursday 21st January 2016 — Camberwell
‘Hello? Yes, it’s Buzz. Jones… Yes. It’s B-U-Z-Z. No, not short for anything.’
I changed my first name to Buzz in the mid-seventies. I used to be called Ian. I was very much into the moon and space travel back then — we all were, it was the space age, intergalactic tripping etcetera — and I changed my name in tribute to Buzz Aldrin. Well I wasn’t gonna change it to Neil was I? Oh man, the seventies. In between all the star gazing, it was just rock-and-effing-roll. Su-bleedin-perb it was.
‘Yeah, I’m trying to order flowers for my daughter on your website and the internet has logged me off or it’s broken or something… sorry, what was that?’
I’d spent the week apologising to Jo for my little indiscretion. She wasn’t speaking to me. I’d gathered some friends together and we had been holding a vigil in honour of Bowie and I must have passed out the following morning. I may have taken it a little bit too far. I missed my trip to the cinema with Big Dave. I’m a terrible father. I can’t say much else. It had made it worse that Jo had a lady friend with her. I think I embarrassed her. I tell you what though, her lady friend was a right sort! Didn’t mind coming round to the sight of her! The paramedic was a bit of alright too.
‘Yes, I am the Buzz Jones my dear.’ But I feel bad about showing Jo up. She’s a very sensible girl, Jo. Get’s that from her mother. ‘Oh really? You like that song do you?’ I get recognised from time-to-time, not often on the phone. ‘Bay-beh! You got my heart in your hand and you know it!’ You’ve gotta have a laugh haven’t you? ‘You’ll do me a bouquet for nothing you say? What a lovely young lady you are.’ It goes a long way, a name. ‘You’ve made an old man very happy. Here, what are you up to at the weekend? I don’t suppose you fancy coming to a little gathering?’ I never miss the opportunity to make the acquaintance of a classy lady. ‘What is your name sweetheart?… Oh beautiful. Maria, I just met a girl called Maria.’
I lost a compadre last week. Bowie — one of the greatest men that ever lived as far as I’m concerned. Sixty-nine. Tragic. I hosted a wake of sorts; an unofficial celebration here at the house for mourners to come together and mark the passing of an angel. He was an angel, don’t doubt that, the man was bloody Gabriel as far as I’m concerned. We celebrated his life in the manner it should have been celebrated, with a well-space-age bash. There are four things you need to have a good party — one of them is a good vibe, which is hard to fake. But the other three are easy: booze, music and great people. It’s a simple formula. I once had a party on a night bus with six members of the Polyphonic Spree, a trumpet, a guitar and a few bottles of Jack Daniels and it was bloody great, one of the best parties I’ve ever had. We did the N18 route six times, three out and three back and by five in the morning we had the bus driver singing the harmony to Rudy by The Specials at the Harrow Weald Bus Depot. We tapped into the magic formula for the Bowie vigil the other night too. Me and the boys got the guitars out and had a sing-along in the company of some very classy ladies and I got absolutely blotto on nose-bag and vodka. Two valium and spliff later and you know the rest. No Star Wars for me. Poor Jo, she didn’t need to find me passed out on the floor. I told her this at the time, after the rather delightful paramedic and given me the kiss of life (very talented, she was). Jo knows that I’m not perfect, I’m just her old Dad. I was hoping that, after a round of my sincerest apologies, she’d come round. It’s all a laugh, life, innit. The flowers were attempt number four. First off, I had invited her to a post-wake party and she didn’t want to come to that, which was a shame because we bashed out some crackers on the piano — Star Man, Let’s Dance — I feel tearful just thinking about it. Anyway, when I didn’t hear from her again on Tuesday, I started to get the feeling that maybe this time was a little bit more serious than one of our usual tiffs, so I racked my brain for something a bit special. Wednesday, yesterday, I sent my mate Pete round to her flat in his gorilla suit with a card. Well, that didn’t work either. She emailed her thoughts and I won’t tell you what they were because the language was — how can I put it? — blue. So, this morning I upgraded to flowers and, by the sounds of it, Maria at Liberty of London was gonna do me a solid. What a very pleasant young lady. Maria had sounded very classy indeed.
Well, the flowers must have arrived. I got a text from Jo, my Joplin, a couple of hours later letting me off the hook. I don’t know how me and my ex-wife managed to make a human as beautiful as my daughter. I see myself in her all the time; she’s a real free spirit. She said in the text that she had a surprise for me too. She put a little smiley face next to it. Bless her heart. I’d been worried she was gonna grass me up to her mum, my ex-wife, or as I affectionately call her — The Piranha. I get a foreboding, like a grey aura coming over me every few weeks, the fear she’s gonna ring me up and start asking questions about nonsense. She lives in Los Angeles. By-and-large she leaves us to it over here, me and the kiddo. She buggered off when Jo was about ten to go and be a screenwriter. Well, I hope it was worth it. Jo loves her to pieces. The whole affair broke my heart, still does. My girl never had a mum to take care of her. I had to deal with it all — luckily I’m not squeamish about tampons. I haven’t seen Peggy in person for a decade but she will harp on like she still owns the place. Technically she does own the house now, she bought it off me when I ran out of cash just after the crunch. Jo went to LA to visit her two, maybe three years ago now. The old battle-axe is still sticking her oar in at every opportunity. I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach this morning. I had that inkling I was gonna get a call and low and behold the landline rang. I didn’t answer it. Those two call me paranoid but between you and me, I’m a little bit psychic. I can tell when something bad is about to happen. I don’t usually tell people about it, it’s a very serious matter.
Have you heard of Crocs? Crocs shoes? They’re rubber with holes in, the latest technology in footwear, just came out a couple of years ago. They’re revolutionary. Changed my life, Crocs have. Once I’d heard from Jo, I slipped my Crocs on and left the house to get some supplies. My dealer lives two roads back. He’s called Gerry, lovely bloke as it goes, I’ve been buying off him pretty much exclusively for the last thirty years. He did a stint inside in the nineties but other than that, he’s been my one-stop-shop since the mid-eighties for narcotics, Mary Jane, he even sorted me out with a gun once when they were all the rage. I thought I might use it for cans in the garden. Don’t ask me where it is now, I’ve searched the house inside and out and I’ve got no idea where it ended up. It wasn’t cheap neither! I don’t mind that it’s gone though, I like to keep a peaceful household, anti-war and all that. Violence isn’t really my thing, it turns out. Anyway, I knocked at Gerry’s about two-ish. We chatted the breeze about Brother Bowie; he was as gutted as I was. We had a spliff and I picked up a few grams of coke, a wrap of ketamine for Pete and two ounces of Gerry’s finest grass. He gets it straight from California. Not cheap, believe me, but worth it. Gerry wears Crocs now too, on my recommendation. After that, the day started to turn. Part of my sense of foreboding, part of my spiritual connection, is the ability to see angels. At the moment I think I have a dark angel following me, warning me maybe and as I left Gerry’s, just before four, I spotted this angel walking towards the main road. He had his back to me. He looks like a normal bloke but I know, I just know. Since I started seeing him, bad things have been happening. He takes the form of a short bloke, bald head, brown coat, murderer’s gloves. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it except that just after I started to notice him, Bowie died. Then I saw him again two days later, hanging round on the street outside talking on the phone. I thought it was a coincidence but that was the was the day before Jo fell out with me. Think about it, Rickman, Frey? Exactly. For all I know, he’s coming for me next. Anyway, I saw him again outside Gerry’s that day and I should have paid attention and gone straight back inside. Instead, I went to the Co-op and picked up a box of muesli (good for the constitution) and some soy milk (cows are sacred) on the way home.
I tried to forget about the dark angel. Jo would say I was being daft. I enjoyed the beautiful purple sunset over Camberwell New Road. I stopped into the New Dewaniam (those lads make a beautiful curry, a masterpiece) just to say hello to the crew in there. I’m chummy with all those lads. Got all of them into Crocs too, they’re all wearing them. I got back to the house, put the keys on the table, stepped over the bike frame — I keep forgetting to ask Jo’s advice on what wheels I need to buy — into the kitchen and nearly passed out with the shock. You think I’m gonna say it was the angel don’t you? Guess again. It was worse. The Piranha was only sitting at the bloody kitchen table. Peggy, looking old, with her bleedin coat on and the lights off.
‘Hello Ian,’ She said.
‘Peg!’ I says, ‘what the fuckin’ hell are you doing here?’
‘Oh for Christ’s sake Ian, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten. You invited me, you imbecile!’
Originally published at soapnovel.wordpress.com on January 24, 2016.