Chapter 21: Burn For You

Author: Alex Keaton
Date: 10th October 1997

Len expectorated the lump of tobacco he was chewing onto a passing alsatian. Byron was that kind of place. Between the stoned hippies, the unstoned hippies, and the camera crews from A Current Affair trying to stone everyone in sight, a dog covered with phlegm was the least of anyone's worries.

His throat cleared, Len tried to concentrate on the more immediate problem: who the hell was he, and what was he doing? These memory lapses had been afflicting him more or less continuously since 1967, when he moved north with a small bag of seeds and a pair of hand-embroidered trousers. In actual fact, they had a lot to do with his habit of refusing to consume anything without a healthy dose of scouring powder, but his mind was now so messed up by a combination of grass, acid, heroin, crack and industrial-strength cleaning products that he never managed to remember that snorting illicit substances until your lungs were sparkling was not, basically, a good idea.

Abandoning the problem of identity while vomitting into a gutter, Len addressed some more immediate questions: who had just called him on a mobile phone? And what was a drug-crazed eternal hippie doing with a mobile phone anyway? That one seemed too hard, so, on a whim, he pressed the redial button.

"Hello?" The voice was female, determined, strangely calm. In the background traffic could be heard moving at what seemed to Len (who rode a scooter) to be an alarmingly high speed.

"Hello?"

"Len, is that you?"

"I suppose so." Len, now that was a name he could live with.

"Len, I just spoke to you. Is anything the matter?"

"No."

"OK, well I'll be there in a couple of hours." The line dropped out abruptly, causing Len to wince.

Someone was coming to visit him. He'd best get back to his shack and do some cleaning. He was sure he had some scouring powder somewhere . . .

About two hours later, and against the odds, Len finally found his way home. There was a strange smell that he associated for some reason with his cousin Ethel, who worked as a kerosene heater saleswoman. He shuffled into the back room, looking for a cleaning rag, or at least a copy of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance.

The crackling of red surprised him, because he didn't think he had any matches. It surprised him even more when he noticed the flames were soaring from the ceiling to the floor, because he couldn't remember taking anything. But then the flames soared higher still and the heat became painful and his skin began to blister and there was no time to think of anything but the fear.

NEXT CHAPTER