Darke Times

Darke Times

By David Eccles

 Calvin Darke awoke with the feeling that today would be a great day. He stretched as he lay in his bed, rolled over and fumbled for the stash of cannabis that he kept safe inside one of his suede leather slippers. He smiled as his fingers closed on the plastic bag full of prime buds, then paused for a second, trying to remember just where it was that he’d put his grinder and his rips. Calvin found and searched inside the other slipper: result! Tearing off a good length of rolling paper, he proceeded to open up the bag of weed and dropped a fair amount of it in the grinder, replacing the lid and twisting it to reduce the buds inside to a texture and size more suitable for smoking. He sniffed the results of his effort, smiling to himself as the pungent scent stimulated his olfactory senses. Yes, today would be a great day!

* * *

Man, I hope I don’t miss de kick-off. Calvin dodged in and out of traffic, narrowly missing the fenders of cars and trucks by millimetres as he passed them; so desperate was he to cheer his team on to victory in the local derby that he failed to notice the flash of the speed camera high above his head.  He would soon feel the financial pinch of the local constabulary for his reckless driving by way of a fixed penalty notice in the mail.

Children marvelled at the sight of him and waved from the confines of their parents’ cars as he slalomed expertly in and out of each and every obstacle that lay before him, his dreadlocks trailing and flapping in the breeze like a moshpit of epileptic black mambas, seemingly in reply to the children’s waving; sparks flying from the glowing tip of the huge reefer held between his lips as he toked deeply, feeling the throat hit and the instant buzz as he took the thick smoke deep into his lungs; yet those parents remained oblivious to his passing, inclined to see only that their offspring were “pissing about” in the back of the car again, antagonising each other, fighting for the best spot to gawk out of the rear window, distracting other drivers and winding up mom and dad.

Veering sharply to the left to avoid being hit by a cigarette butt casually and irresponsibly flicked from the half-open window of a heavy goods vehicle, Calvin cursed the driver and flipped him the finger as he overtook. Now at the head of the traffic queue, he waited impatiently for the lights to change, choking a little on the exhaust fumes in the chaos that was the norm for a Saturday afternoon. He was fine smoking herb; it was the derv that rattled his chest every time. As—for most people—the working week ended on a Friday, the roads were gridlocked with families rushing around in a desperate attempt to get their weekly grocery shop over and done with; moms needed to be sure that their food cupboards were stocked, while dads just hated the whole experience of shopping altogether and only had one thing on their mind: football!

Though not a family man himself, Calvin was no different to all those other guys stuck in traffic, wishing they were watching “the beautiful game”. Lost in a daze, or stoned more likely, totally focused on the match that afternoon, Calvin remained stationary as the lights changed; it was the blast of air horns from the truck driver to his rear that brought him to his senses, forcing him to pull back hard on the reins as he fought to control his unsettled beast. Shit! A believer! He had been seen! Suddenly slack-jawed, the monster spliff he had been toking on fell to the ground. Fuck! He didn’t have the time to dismount and retrieve it.

Spurring his ride on, Calvin turned right and headed towards the football ground, weaving in and out of the line of traffic with a deftness rarely seen; he had complete mastery over his animal; it responded instantly to the slightest nudge, accelerating with a kick of his heels and slowing at the lightest tug of the reins. Dat were a lucky escape, man! Tings coulda got complicated! He was within 500 metres of the football ground when his luck ran out and he was motioned to pull over to the side of the road by a police officer marshalling the football crowd as they made their way to the match on foot.

“Dere a problem, Babylon?” Calvin asked sheepishly, silently cursing his luck that he had been spotted not twice in one day, but twice in the space of a few minutes!

“You might say that, sir,” replied the police officer, giving Calvin the once over. “And please, do not refer to me as Babylon.” Pointing to the warrant number on his epaulettes, he stated proudly, “My name is Constable Wilkins, warrant card number 274.” Wilkins paused, awaiting a response; he received only a blank stare. Clearing his throat, he attempted to assert his authority in the gruffest voice he could muster. “Are you aware of the speed limit on this road, sir?” Calvin denied knowledge of any speed limit, and apologised for it. “That’s all very well and good, sir, but I’m afraid ignorance is not an excuse for breaking the law. Are you also aware of the fact that you were driving rather recklessly?” Constable Wilkins rocked backwards and forwards on his heels as he delivered the lines he must have spoken thousands of times before. He clearly enjoyed his position of power.

“Was I, Babylon?” asked Calvin, honest surprise evident in his tone.

“You were indeed, sir, and I must insist that you call me either Constable Wilkins, or just Constable.”

“No problem, man. I’s just tryin’ ta make it to de match on iwa.”

“I beg your pardon, sir?” Constable Wilkins’ face gave away the fact that he had not got a clue as to what Calvin was saying to him.

“Time, man! Time! I’s wantin’ ta watch de football! Mi don’ want ta miss de kick-off!”

“Oh, I see, sir! Wilkins gave an insincere chuckle. “There are thousands of other people wanting to make it to the football before kick-off, sir, but you don’t see them flagrantly contravening Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 188 and driving without reasonable consideration now, do you?” The emphasis on the word thousands bode ill for Calvin, and he knew then that this executive agent of Babylon was not going to let things slide and let him off the hook with just a friendly word of warning. Babylon work for de politricksters, an’ dem ‘ad it in for Calvin!

“Oh, come on, man! What de problem? Ya know very well dat nobody can see I ‘less dem believe in wi. If dem don’ believe in de supernat’ral, dem don’ know I exist, so I’s no danger ta anybody usin’ de roads!”

“May I see your driver’s licence please, sir?” Constable Wilkins smiled, ignoring Calvin’s argument, valid though it may be. He knew that Calvin would not be able to produce any form of documentation, or even identification for that matter!

“Babylon! you bein’ serious? You jokin’ wid mi. Right?” Calvin exclaimed. “Ya know damn well pixies don’t ‘ave need for no fuckin’ driver’s licences!”

“So, you’re admitting to being in possession of a vehicle without a valid driver’s licence, which means you don’t have insurance either,” Constable Wilkins smirked. “Would you mind climbing down from that chicken, sir? I think we need to continue our little conversation in the back of a patrol car!”

“Back o’ de patrol car, mi arse! Ya can go fuck y’self, Officer Dibble!” screamed Calvin as he jumped from his chicken, his dreadlocks swaying. The animal, clearly alarmed, scrambled off as fast as its legs could carry it, and as soon as it was clear of Calvin’s aura of invisibility, cars began to swerve to try and avoid it. Less than ten seconds later, it lay dead in the middle of the road, quite flat, the driver responsible for its death blissfully unaware of what had happened as he continued on his way, singing along to a selection of Metallica songs.

Outraged by the demise of his prize racing hen, Calvin turned on Constable Wilkins, his shoulders braced and his head thrown back as he made himself look as intimidating as he could, which isn’t easy when you’re only two feet tall!

“Babylon, look pon me face! All dis be yah fault!” he roared. “Dat animal her never ‘urt a livin’ ting…well, ‘part from a few worms!”

“I’m sorry, sir,” Constable Wilkins uttered, going a little grey as he glanced over at the red smudge in the middle of the road and noting the feathers that were being carried along in the breeze of passing cars and trucks.

“Sorry just don’t cut it wid mi! We gotta sort dis ‘ere an’ now, big man!” Calvin seethed. “Jus’ what, exactly be your problem wid mi? Is it ‘cause I’s a pixie? Do ya ‘ave a problem wid shaht people, hmmm?” Calvin’s unmoving stare began to unnerve Constable Wilkins, whose voice waivered a little as he spoke.

“N-no, sir. I pulled you over simply because of a traffic violation.” Constable Wilkins busied himself with a handful of paperwork, flicking through sheet after sheet, doing all he could so as not to look at Calvin.

“I don’t buy dat for a second, Babylon,” growled Calvin. “I may not be nuttin’ like dem pixies what ya bin used ta ‘ere in Cahnwahll, but I’s a pixie aright, mek no mistake, man. Jus’ ‘cause mi mudda go on ‘oliday ta Jamaica an’ I’s born over dere don’t mek mi any less of a pixie dan dem as is born ‘ere.”

“Sir, I never questioned your identity with regard to…to your being a pixie,” Constable Wilkins sputtered. “By the way, sir…just what…what is your name?”

“Mi name Calvin. Calvin Darke.”

Smiling at that moment in time was the worst thing that Constable Wilkins could have done, and yet that is just what he did.  “Oh, I know what it be, now,” said Calvin, smiling in seeming recognition of what he thought Constable Wilkins’ problem was with him. “I shoulda known it all along, man!”

Constable Wilkins clawed at his shirt collar, trying desperately to loosen it; it was a sign that he was clearly uncomfortable, and that Calvin had hit the nail on the head. God, don’t let him say it! Wilkins was skating on thin ice as it was. He was once a sergeant, but had been demoted because evidence had gone missing while he was on duty and in charge of the evidence room. He had not taken anything, but he had owed someone on the force a huge favour and so he kept his mouth shut and had taken the rap. Wilkins’ career had ground to a halt after that, but at least he still had a job, and most important of all, the respect of his fellow officers, but any allegation of bigotry or racial hatred being brought against him now would be enough to alienate him from all those he considered to be friends. He would be on his own: a pariah.

“You’re a—“

“Thank you, Mr Darke,” Constable Wilkins interjected. “I think I’ve taken up quite enough of your time as it is, don’t you? I see no reason why we shouldn’t send you on your merry way, with a recommendation that you take greater care when you are “driving. You can go now. You don’t want to miss the kick-off, do you?”

“Dat cris, man! Reespek!” said Calvin with a smile. He turned to face the football ground. Checking his wristwatch, he saw that he still had five minutes in which to take his seat.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t quite catch that,” said Constable Wilkins.

”I said it’s cool, man. You’re one of the good guys after all.”

The ex-sergeant tried to smile, but couldn’t quite manage it. If you only knew!

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