Friday, October 11, 2013

Original Fiction: SHOTGUN THERAPY by L.A. Sykes

Diagnosed and written off as a chronic, treatment resistant paranoid schizophrenic by a terrified procession of Mental Health Professionals, Jimmy ‘Nail Chewer’ Donlan finally found freedom from his psychological torture on a sunny afternoon in July down a small town backstreet cobbled alleyway that exhibited a splendorous array of Cymbidium orchid in a green wire hanging basket with a shotgun under his armpit.
                                                               * * *                                                         

Having been back less than sixteen hours for the summer break after his first year of his psychology degree, Harold ‘Harry’ Breen was brutally woken by his childhood home town friend, Roland Fenk, via telephone and a fevered manic gibber tinged with wild glee: ‘T’oreet our kid, welcome back to the place to be. Now, you owe me big time pal, because, listen to this, I’ve sorted out your first client already. I’ve been doing a bit of shifting for the lad, turns out he’s too frickened to go outside. Naturally I talked you up, our very own psychiatrist. First person from here to go to College –’


‘Whatever. Told him you’ll come and cure him today. Get this, the best bit is he’s connected. And I mean connected, got more connections than British Telecom. Fingers in more pies than a Dawsons baker. When you fix his pickle we’ll be sorted. He expects results though, but don’t worry I told him. Breeny’s an expert, better than Fraud-’

‘Freud? –’

‘Whatever. Point is he needs to get out and about sharpish. His kid is leading in a play at the primary school or summot tomorrow. Been trying get over this fear but he can’t do it. He was weeping like a babbie, broke down and sobbed his heart out to me when I was bagging up Sniff for’t knock out for him –’

‘Hang on, you do realise for the past year I’ve been getting pissed out of my face and chasing women? I’ve read nothing, nowt. I don’t know the first thing about psychology, and psychiatry is a mental illness speciality for medical doctors. How am I supposed –’

‘Whatever. We’re going to be made. So you need be here in twenty. I’ll bang kettle on. Oh, hang on, what about the fee?’

‘Fee? Look mate, I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick. I’m only a first year undergraduate. Thanks but no thanks’.

‘Stop with the modesty act. I’d negotiated three bottles of Wodka and six hundred Henson and Bedges and I was going to let it slide, but you need someone like me for’t business sense so I’m taking a third as your agent-’

‘Psychiatrists don’t have agents you stupi-’

‘They do now kid. You need be here in fifteen now with all this babbling. Oh, and don’t let me down. He’s banking on us coming through. If we let him down he’s not going to be a happy chappy. He’s a psycho, know how he got his nickname?’

‘We? If we? You haven’t even told me his name, nevermind his nickname’.

‘Well spotted, that’s college education for you, cranking that brain. Dust off your books, brush up buttercup. I’ll meet you at Nail Chewers. Call him Jimmy. No, actually, Mr. Donlan. He’s not too fond of strangers. Paranoid. Best be polite I reckon. See you in ten’.

The line clicked dead but rang immediately on Harry replacing the receiver. He said, ‘Forgot something?’

‘Yes, get me a can of pop on your way kid’.

‘I was referring to the address’.


Harry jotted it down and stared in the mirror. He said, ‘I’ve not even been back a full day’, to his startled reflection. He took deep breaths and grabbed his jacket. 

‘Harold, where are you off to? Your aunties are coming round for tea to hear about your studies. We’re all proud you’re at University you know’. Shouted his mam.

‘Just to see a couple of old pals. Won’t be long’.

‘Best not be that little bastard Fenk, love. He’s trouble, no danger. We’ve saved hard to pay for your bloody course, you’d best not make a mess of it’. She warned, jabbing her lit fag.

‘Don’t be daft. Like I say, I’ll not be long’. The twitching in his left upper eyelid that he’d left behind in his home town returned with startling vengeance as he reluctantly walked to the house of his very first paying client. He made it in five which was too close to home for Harry’s comfort.

                                                                     * * * 

Roland ‘Beak’ Fenk hung up the phone for the second time and grinned at the latest love of his life whose name he couldn’t remember. Tried: ‘Alice’.

She spun her head round flicking lacquered blond curls. Said, ‘Brenda. Who the fuck is…’

Brenda. That’s it. Knew it began with something near the front of the alphabet-’

‘Nevermind that, who the fuck is Alic-’

‘Shut thi gob and get sum of this up ya hooter woman’. Fenk replied, throwing a small baggie of coke at her. ‘Breeny’s only gone and fell for it. Thinks he’s a fucking headshrinker. Bollocks – he’ll fuck Donlan’s head up for good and we’ll take over t’estate’. He cackled, pumped his fists  and snurched the drug off a coin.

‘Thought he was your mate?’

‘He is. I’ll bring him in once I’ve took over. He can polish my trainers and shit like that. Fuck Uni. He’s too good for that malarkey’.

Alice shrugged, rolled up a Samaritans card from the phone box and got busy.
                                                                  *  *  *        

Jimmy opened the door with a wide smile followed by a scowling scope down the street, ushering in his new therapist and bolting the door eight times after him. They sat on opposing seats. Jimmy took the corner with his back to the wall.

Harry forced a smile and drummed his fingers on the tatty chair arm, looking around the contraband loaded living room for inspiration in the swirling cloud of tobacco smoke.
‘Well then. You’re the genius. College boy, eh? I’m ready sunshine. Time is of the essence. Get cracking and cure me’. Jimmy said, tensing as though braced for a blow.

Harry puffed out his cheeks, rubbed his eyes and said, ‘Well, erm, why won’t you go outside?’ As he was asking, he saw Fenk in the kitchen who gave him the thumbs up as he pottered about packing his bubble jacket with packages of white powder and clinking milk bottles with a teaspoon for effect. He smiled to Harry, winked and made a forward swirling motion with the teaspoon.

‘Oh not this talking bollocks. Fenk told me you hypnotised him when you cured his Cocaine addiction. You know, mind magic. I don’t want namby pamby counselling’.

‘Did I really?’ Harry replied, narrowing his eyes as he stared back at Fenk.

‘Aye, magic all right. That fucker was off his rocker with the stuff. If anyone can cure him, they can definitely cure me. He just dishes bits out for me now. Doesn’t touch the stuff. Sold a grand’s worth in two days. Bricks of mula in his mam’s house piled this high. He’s storing it in case cops pull a raid. They can flush the drug but they’re not pocketing the readies, the corrupt buggers. Anyway, like I said, if you can cure him you can certainly cure me’.

Harry raised an eyebrow at Fenk who swung the teaspoon like a pendulum. Jimmy flopped back in his armchair absentmindedly flicking the stock of the discarded shotgun and lit a cigarette that gave off an aroma of a sewer.

‘Mr Donlan, I’m sorry to tell you it’s not that simple’. Harry said, meaning he didn’t know how to hypnotize someone. ‘In my professional opinion I think it’s better if we could talk it through. Experience dictates this to be the best strategy’, he blagged.

Jimmy’s eyes crossed for a moment. ‘Well. I’ve been told I’m paranoid but I’m not, right? I know for a fact the coppers are just waiting for me to come out of here and grip me. I mean I ain’t seen any through the window or anything, but I can sense them. Everybody knows when there’s a copper about. They get that sick feeling in here’. He said, pointing to his stomach with the cigarette.

Harry raised his other eyebrow but nodded anyway letting him talk, ‘All these doctors and nurses keep telling me it’s in my head, right? But I’m telling you it’s not. On top of that Martin ‘Grand National’ Stelp and his family, a big one too, are after my patch. Now, me and Martin go way back. I twatted him in primary school over some crayons, the fucker was trying nab my blue one. Ever since he’s kept his distance. But he’s got a proper crew now, nephews all over the shop, slag sister obviously, and I’m telling you like I told them doctors as soon as I go out they’ll try and have me. Rumour is Stelp’s going psycho on steroids and he’s telling everyone and their neighbour he’s going to skin me alive in revenge, like’. Jimmy raised his eyebrows.

‘How do you know about rumour if you don’t go out?’

‘My main man’. Jimmy smiled and flicked his thumb to the kitchen. Harry followed the gesture as Roland Fenk was prising open the back door, doing a slow motion depression of the handle with his tongue sticking out and his index finger over his lips.

‘Mm hm. Well supposing you’re not paranoid and Grand Central is really after you, why not just stay in?’

‘Grand National. He got his nickname when he robbed the National bank. It had gone bust the week before and all he got was a grand in two pees’. Jimmy laughed. ‘You must have heard of him?’

Harry shook his head. ‘Nope. Been away ain’t I’.

‘Well you’ve not missed much – but I think I have. For too long I’ve kept my business a priority over my daughter. She’s with my ex, and obviously the state won’t let her live with me. I get a newsletter from the primary school sent. All parents do, here have a look’.

He opened a cupboard and passed Harry the letter from a six inch thick bundle. ‘See, it says she’s starring in the end of term play. I want to surprise her being in the audience. I can’t afford to get sappy in my line, in case a sicko like Stelp thinks he can get to me. But working with young Roland here, it’s brought out that parent feeling. Know what I mean? So I need to be there. All week I’ve tried, but I can’t get past the door frame. Panic, man, it takes over, I go all weak and my chest bangs, and my vision goes, know what I mean?’

Harry watched Roland Fenk slowly clip the door shut and turned back to Jimmy. ‘Yes, I know what you mean’. He said as his chest banged, vision blurred and started to panic.

He took a deep breath. ‘Ok, Mr Donlan, I think I can get you outside. Hypnosis isn’t even necessary. The problem you’ve got is that you think you’re a big time master criminal kingpin. You’re imagining a squad of undercover cops hiding in your wheelie bin and privets ready to jump you as soon as you go out. Or imaginary big boy rivals with high powered pinpoint scoped sniper rifles ready to take the top of your head off and your empire with it. Well I’ve got news for you. You’re not Al Capone of the Third Millennium. You’re a two bit scrote. End of. You’ve even got slippers on. What the fuck is that about?’

Jimmy stared hard at Harry with growing fury and a slight tinge of embarrassment as he looked down at his slippers poking out of the bottom of his brown towelling dressing gown.

‘How dare you talk to me like that, I’m respected, feared, I’m the nail chewer, boy. Know how I got that nickname you stuck up little bastard?’

‘Chewed someone’s toenails?’

‘I ripped the fuckers out with my teeth. Well just one toenail. And just the once, I’m not a pervert, I don’t get off on it’. He added, reddening.

Harry intertwined his fingers, thought for a second and nodded to himself. He shimmied to the edge of the chair, leaned in close to Jimmy’s face and said, ‘I respect the fact you had someone’s toenail between your teeth to teach them a lesson for trying to jip you for a fiver or whatever, but I’m sorry, no self-respecting gangster gets his whole Coke stash nicked in one swoop by Roland fucking Fenk’.

Jimmy jumped out of his seat and paced around in simmering rage at Harry until the implications sank in and his eyes crossed. His head swivelled to catch up with his now uncrossed, bulging eyes. First to Harry, then to the dancing door beads swinging in the wind from the ajar back door of the now empty kitchen and finally resting on the loaded shotgun.

‘I’ll kill him!’

‘Not if I get him first!’

Harry scrambled to the doorway. Jimmy pulled him back and led with the shotgun. ‘Get out the road arsehole, that little bastard’s mine!’

Jimmy burst through the back door and ran to the garden gate. Looked left, right and down to the floor. He snarled his lips and raced after Fenk, following the betraying trail of sprinkled marching powder down the street.

Harry jogged ten paces behind, attempting to affect the demeanour of a recreational jogger with no connection to the shotgun toting pursuant in slippers and a billowing dressing gown other than the coincidence of him sharing his regular exercise route. The twitching eye lid dampened the act, as did the high pitched scream he let out as an air rifle pellet whizzed past his face and fatally wounded a pigeon trying to eat a cigarette stump.

The two plainclothes detectives on surveillance in Jimmy’s garden simultaneously popped their heads out of their wheelie bin watch posts, went to climb out and pursue on foot, saw the shotgun and climbed back in the bins closing the lids behind them, radioing for back up.

The sniper from Jimmy’s major rivals in the town’s drug dealing market scrambled to action as Jimmy left his house via the back door for the first time in the eight months he’d been ordered to perch on the roof of the illegal bookmakers that his uncle, Martin ‘Grand National’ Stelp, had ordered him to scope from with a ‘shoot to maim’ instruction. Despite innocent passersby unable to afford him a clear shot, he pressed the stock of the lightweight gun into his shoulder, crouched and fired anyway. He wept openly as the pellet found a home in a cloud of feathers.     

Roland Fenk skipped through the summer streets with elation in his stride and three tablespoons of lightly cut cocaine ripping through his bloodstream like a euphoric virus and a teaspoons’ worth dripping out of his nose in a river of clear mucus. The rush hit its first peak and he dropped to his knees, snapped his head to the sky and cried, ‘Paradise on Earth! Envy me, repressed peasants for I have felt Heaven before death!’ Ignoring the tutting and frowning disdain of the pedestrians parting to pass his shabby form that leaked specks from a busted bag inside his jacket. He bounced to his feet and broke into a sprint, pausing for breath at the alleyway. The speed mixed with the exertion, palpating his heart with such tempo he perceived it as having stopped beating. He put his hands on his head, gasping for breath with a toothy grin involuntary fixed through chemical elation.

Jimmy, wheezing heavily, closed in on his now stationary prey, fixed the shotgun on the back of Fenk’s head and said, ‘That’s the perfect position to be in you thieving little twat’. His eyes struggled to cope with the harsh sunlight and settled for a severe squint.

Harry noticed a swarm of onlookers gawping at the unfolding scenario as he caught up the pair and self preservation mixed with a misplaced sense of lifelong friendship loyalty guilt prompted him to intervene. ‘Hang about Mr Donlan, don’t blow his head to bits in the street. We’re in the middle of town man. Do his knee caps or chop his fingers off, fine, but don’t kill him, you’ll get life you lunatic’.

‘No one thieves off nail chewer Donlan. No one, sunshine. It’ll be worth doin’ life for dropping this dickhead!’

Roland Fenk remained fixed in posture emanating an ethereal glow and looked back up to the sky wistfully, oblivious to the commotion. White powder dusted his splayed fingers. He was in the throes of the greatest sensory experience of his life. He beamed, ‘This is the greatest sensory experience of my life’.

Jimmy, rigid with retribution, shouted, ‘It’s going to be your last and all you robbing fucker’, waiting for the indignation to flow from the fire in his belly to his flexed index finger.

Harry’s eyelid twitched voraciously in rabid anxiety at the thought of being the star eyewitness to a potential twisted snuff film being uploaded and going viral by any number of the growing crowd, filming the scene with their outstretched camera phones and jostling for position for the best angles. With wild abandon he snatched the hem of Jimmy’s shoulder before he could squeeze the trigger.

‘Get off me college boy’, shouted Jimmy through a foaming mouth. His eyes crossed for a couple of seconds and he swung an accusing finger. ‘Hang on a minute, you! You, you little bastard, you were in on it weren’t you!’ He cried, swinging the gun barrel at Harry, who closed his left eye in an attempt to gain at least a slither of control over his fluttering eyelid which went haywire in unison with his hands that involuntarily shot in the air.

‘In on it? In on it! Don’t be so ridiculous. I’d not be in on owt with him, he’d skin his own pet rabbit if he could get a fiver for its fur!’ He pleaded. ‘And I mean look at him - he doesn’t even have shoes. Before I left this town I might have done a lot of daft things Mr. Donlan. But even back then I’d not have him anywhere near a job’.

Donlan hesitated and took a quick look at Fenk’s shoeless, socked feet. ‘Where’s your shoes?’

Roland Fenk showed no signs of hearing the question. Instead, he tenderly stroked his nipples through his yellow t shirt beneath the unzipped drug laden bubble jacket.

‘Where’s his shoes, college boy?’ Jimmy asked again, shaking his head atop now sagging shoulders.

‘He’s probably left them with another dealer while you were dry. No cash, so left them as a deposit. He’s an addict Mr Donlan’. Harry answered with sweat running down his face and an intense gaze fixed firmly on the wavering gun.

‘Addict? He said he’d been cured. I trusted him. Trusted him with everything. What is it with people these days? They’ve got no morals’. Jimmy said, crestfallen. A swift melancholia extinguished the indignation and his expression slipped to contemplation.

Harry sensed the opportunity and was struck finally by a sting of inspiration. ‘Mr Donlan. Jimmy. We need to remember what we were actually supposed to be doing here. Alright, he betrayed your trust and sowed me up like a kipper and there’s not a chance in hell he planned any of this with any good intention for you whatsoever. I mean look at the state of him, he’s off his head –

‘Mooching with paradise, heathen swine!’ Fenk cried, on the low barrel of the wave of a rush that majestically peaked, carrying him back into oblivion.

‘Whatever Roland. The point is Jimmy, you’re outside. You’re fucking outside man. And you’re not scared. Can you smell that? Beautiful!’ Harry said. He sniffed theatrically into the sweet breeze that drifted the stench of a nearby tramp’s piss stream evaporating on the sun baked cobbles with a low hiss.

Jimmy rested the stock of the shotgun under his armpit and stared at the young lad.

‘Listen, listen man, you hear them birds singing?’ He prompted. Two teenage girls in matching shellsuits were spouting a creaky rendition of Blue Moon in between sips of cheap white cider, trying to attract the attention of the afternoon boozing fellas on the adjacent street corner huddled around a radio listening to the football and sipping cold lager.

Jimmy began nodding.

Harry could see he’d hooked him, took another deep breath as his eyelid relaxed and continued. ‘Feel that sun on your back, man. Beautiful isn’t it? Just beautiful. Jimmy, you can go see your daughter’s play, mate. You’re not a prisoner no more. You’re fucking free, man!’

Jimmy’s attention wandered to a green hanging basket that exhibited a splendorous display of Cymbidium orchid and thought of his daughter. The blooming flower among the gloom, he’d always said. His eyes crossed again. A smile broke and revelatory tears cascaded down his cheeks as he savoured the summer aroma through his flared nostrils.

Harry jumped over a nearby fence and unofficially broke the British one hundred metre sprint record at the first hint of the sirens.

Jimmy embraced serenity and crouched down to hug Roland, whispering sweet thank you’s in his ear, heedless to the barked, muffled orders thumping through the lead armed policeman’s megaphone.

Roland remained frozen in a dopamine induced catatonia, perceiving the incomprehensible orders as angel’s trumpets serenading him.

The police seized their chance as the gun clattered to the cobbles. They tasered Jimmy, who’s eyes remained crossed. He repeated ‘I’m free!’ over and over like a mantra between muscle seizures. A rupture of laughter exploded from the crowd of onlookers as his meditative chant was silenced when the white van door slammed after they’d cuffed him and bundled him into the wire cage.

Roland was tasered shortly after despite not resisting arrest because the taser was a relatively new weapon and they wanted the practise.

                                                                    * * *

Martin ‘Grand National’ Stelp seized control of Jimmy ‘Nail Chewer’ Donlan’s drug selling empire in his absence at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. He still couldn’t make enough to sign off the dole and continued to turn up at the job centre every fortnight in the vain hope of legitimate employment because his best customer, Roland Fenk, had been transferred to a secure forensic psychiatric facility after the trial with an undetermined discharge potential as he refused to back down from his assertion that cocaine was the embodiment of God in powder form, making the Trinity a translation error of Bible scholars and hunting voraciously night and day for evidence in the scriptures that indeed, a mention of a quadrinity could back up his claims that the psychiatrist, also a devout catholic, found not only clearly delusional, but shocking, abhorrent and most importantly blasphemous. Martin Stelp eventually lost all his drug profit on a bad tip on the Grand National race meet and was forced into desperate attempts to hock Roland Fenk’s shoes to make ends meet. He promptly dropped the nickname.
Martin Stelp’s nephew resigned from his career as a sniper after accidentally killing the pigeon. He dedicated his life to the local bird sanctuary whereupon he was savaged by a kestrel and lost both ears. He shot the kestrel the next day and was fired.

Jimmy ‘Nail Chewer’ Donlan awoke from his temporary revere at the positive impact Roland Fenk had had on his life barely five minutes into his five year sentence. He paced around his Strangeways cell chewing his finger nails and fantasising about running barefoot in a pine forest at dusk, marvelling at nature as a squirrel indicated the hiding place of said Roland Fenk in a thicket of blackberry brambles. He savoured the hunt and was almost disappointed it was over as he beat Fenk to death with his bare fists. The fantasising did little to stem the claustrophobia creeping into his psychopathology however it helped pass the time.

Harold ‘Harry’ Breen packed his bags and caught the first train out of town and back to university. He wrote up the case of Jimmy ‘Nail Chewer’ Donlan’s miraculous remission and presented it to professors of clinical psychology, counselling psychology, criminology and psychiatry. He was sentenced to sixteen months in prison for actual bodily harm when he assaulted the four professors who mocked him openly and dismissed him as a fantasist lacking the pedigree for academia.

He spent the first two months of his stay behind bars memorising the contents of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Volume V he’d found in the prison library.

He successfully feigned the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia by telling the prison doctor the devil was telling him to kill the doctor’s wife. The doctor moved out of his house and moved in with his mistress three hours after having Harold transferred to the secure forensic psychiatric facility that housed Roland Fenk.

Harold tried to beat Roland Fenk to death with his bare fists and a plastic tray in the canteen of the hospital and his ruse was blown. He was transferred to Strangeways where he paced round the exercise yard with Jimmy Donlan discussing mindfulness techniques to help him with his encroaching claustrophobia. However they both agreed that fantasising about running barefoot in a pine forest at dusk, hot on Roland Fenk’s trail, would be the best method. Harry refused all calls from his mother.

Roland Fenk received a letter from Brenda, postmarked Majorca, Spain. In the confusion and pandemonium of the arrests, she’d snatched the bagged up supply and given the only witness, a rare mentally alert PC, a blowjob a week later to keep his gob shut, before hightailing it to the airport. The letter read:

Yewl never find me. Fuck Alice, fuck you and fuck off 

Roland laughed deliriously believing it was a code of some sort and rushed to the scriptures whilst chewing the letter, praying forlornly Brenda had laced it with LSD.  His only trip was a rapid one to the shitter.  

Jimmy’s daughter, Hope, never came to visit.
The End



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