>NEVER A FRONTWARD STEP, PART TEN

>I moved further up the bar. “How much is a double whisky?” I asked the barman.

“I’ll be with you in a second, mate,” said the barman.

“No,” I said, “I mean, I’ll pay for this gentleman’s drink if you’ll tell me how much it is.”

The barman eyed me suspiciously. “You want to pay for this gentleman’s drink?”

The junkie hop-danced on the spot.

“And a pot of your cheapest beer for myself,” I handed the barman a fifty. “Keep the change.” I smiled at the junkie, who smiled back.

“Suit yourself,” said the barman.

I retired to a table with my new friend, whom I had already calculated a use for. My friend drank his double like it was water on a hot day. He slammed the glass down onto the table.

“Like, thanks, and, shit,” he eloquently said to me. “Dying of, thirst I, was.”

“You’re welcome,” I replied. “You looked like you could use a drink.”

“Well yeah I don’t, think I’ve had, one for a long, time.” He looked around the bar in quick, jerky movements. He had a head of full, healthy hair, which I found rather strange.

“You a local?” I asked him.

“Yeah local, yeah, I’m a, local that’s, me.”

“So you’d know your way around?”

“Sure, do sure do.”

“That’s great,” I lent forward in my seat, peering into his rimless eyes. “I’m new to this place. I’m a tourist. I just feel like I need someone to show me around the place.”

“Like, yeah, like a, guide.”

I slapped my head. “That’s exactly what I mean. A guide! My friend, you are switched on. You are really with it.”

The junkie grinned. “Switched, on.”

“Exactly.” I let some silence sway between us. “You wouldn’t be doing anything this afternoon, would you?”

The junkie considered this for a moment. I took the opportunity to take out my billfold and flip absentmindedly through my cash. “I think, I’m, free,” said the junkie eventually. “Think, I’m free.”

I rubbed my chin. “Not that I would want to impose,” I said, “but you wouldn’t be able to show me around Stone’s Corner would you? Maybe take me up to Greenslopes?” While the junkie processed this, I laid my billfold on the table. “I’d pay you, of course,” I said.

The junkie cracked his knuckles with a surprisingly quick movement. “Welcome, aboard,” he said, “the grand tour.”

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