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The Words of the Mouth, страница 1


The Words of the Mouth

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The Words of the Mouth
The Words of the Mouth

  By Ronald Smith

  Copyright 2011 Ronald Smith


  I sold cannabis to students at the University, outside the Appleton and the David Hume Towers - jarring modern glass and concrete shoe-boxes looming over one end of a once elegant Georgian Square with its central green still intact.

  My first real ambition had been to study at Art College, but, incomprehensibly, I had failed the entrance exam; incomprehensibly, because I had been the most talented student in my art class at Edinburgh's Napier College, according to the teacher. I was sure I had done well in the exam and the result was a shattering blow: a cruel and malicious rejection of my youthful dreams.

  I had a friend, Ian, who got a summer job with the Scottish Education Department filing exam results, and I asked him to find out what went wrong, since the results for the separate papers were kept secret. He looked up my file.

  For Line Drawing, I had been awarded the top mark in Scotland.

  For Design, my abstract, futuristic entry had earned me no more than a pass.

  In Composition, the set theme - 'The Dictator' - had inspired me to do a painting of Mussolini making a speech. I recalled that the art master had said to me, "Will, you should be doing A level art, not Higher; keep this painting for the A-level,"

  But I submitted it anyway, and got well over a pass.

  Then came the question: "You are to hold an exhibition which can include any paintings in the world; which ones would you choose?"

  Naturally, I decided that over half the pictures would be my own; I was developing my own style and I wasn't interested in what other artists did; something in me blanked off when I tried to look at their paintings. But I did include a token Dali, and a Picasso.

  My answer must have infuriated the examiners.

  Although I had an overall pass mark, there is a clause that states if a candidate fails any one part, he can be failed if the examiners so wish it.

  And that was what they did.

  It was the last straw; I had had enough of their rotten system which had frustrated and humiliated me all through school, and now this.

  I decided to become a drug dealer.

  I had several friends who did the same, but our operations were somewhat cramped because of a plainclothes policeman who had been hanging about the George Square area since a minor student occupation in 1968, the year when fashionable "revolution" swept the student world and they rioted, invaded offices, and burnt files. Vietnam protests were big that year.

  The plainclothes man in his white mackintosh was almost a permanent fixture, except that he wasn't allowed in the buildings – strictly speaking, the police should not have been on campus at all; but we got used to him.

  I was in a bad mood on Monday, and he had just followed me from the Hume Tower to the Library.

  “That bastard’s been really annoying me," I complained to three friends I had joined in the coffee room. "But I've got a great idea; I'll report him to the police for molesting me," They laughed and playfully bantered the idea back and forth, with enthusiasm and mischief.

  I phoned the nearest police station.

  “I'm a student and I've just been harassed by a man in a white mackintosh who tried to sell drugs to me.”

  My friends joined in.

  Jane phoned the station in Torphichen Street and. said she had been sexually assaulted by him; another told the University Security Police that he was selling obscene photographs - and so on.

  Then we all went out, a small crowd of us by now, as the word had spread of what was happening, and saw him still standing there, outside the library,

  Laughing and talking, we all watched him.

  He became uneasy as he noticed our amused attention, and walked away up the square past the older Georgian buildings.

  Then three policemen ran out from behind the library, necks stretching as they looked around, like dogs on a scent.

  Mad Phil darted down the steps and shot out his arm in an accusing gesture towards the retreating figure, conspicuous in his white mackintosh.

  "That's him!" he cried,

  The plainclothes man looked backward and began to walk faster; the policemen broke into a run and rushed after him. He panicked and sprinted around the square, the police in hot pursuit.

  As he came into the last lap past the Hume Tower, police vehicles simultaneously arrived from all directions, disgorging constables who ran here and there, looking for various types of perverts, some joining in the chase.

  After a complete circuit of the square, one of the pursuers brought the man down with a valiant rugby tackle on the cobblestones right in front of the library from where he had started.

  A cheer and applause broke out from the audience of students, and from windows full of onlookers in the nearby buildings.

  "I'm a policeman!” he exclaimed petulantly, struggling with his captor.

  As the others caught up with him, they began kicking and striking him for his impudence, while the assembled throng cheered them on.

  Suddenly a little Morris pulled up, and three men got out, walking briskly towards the melee, obviously high ranking policemen.

  One of them flashed a card, and everyone stood to embarrassed attention. Then they all hurried away, ignoring the standing ovation.

  That was the end of the plainclothesman on Campus, and our business prospered.

  I had acquired an exquisite Chinese water pipe with a Cloisonne base of Chinese enamel, a box for opium, and a set of tweezers.

  One night, after sitting up late, playing chess and smoking dope in the pipe, I cycled back towards my parents' house with the pipe in its box, but stopped at an all-night bakery to buy some hot pies.

  As a couple of cops came in, I took the pies and walked out to my bike. They followed after me.

  "Your back light's not working," one said,

  "Oh, thank you for telling me; I'll walk it home," I said with studied politeness.

  "No, you put it in the back of the van," he commanded brusquely; "You're

  coming doon to the station."

  While I climbed in, the other cop spoke up. "What's the point of lifting him

  "These fuckin' student bastards are all on drugs," replied the first one.

  As well as the pipe, which was in itself illegal, I had about half an ounce of dope with me. I swallowed as much as I could, and hid the rest in their van.

  But I couldn't hide the pipe.

  Inside the main police station, I was deposited and left to stand there with my bike. I could hear cries and thumps downstairs, the sounds of people being beaten up.

  Several police sauntered by; one remarked, "You're in for a doing tonight, son".

  Then some others came over. One had a bright idea: "Let's search this guy".

  When they found the pipe, their interest quickened, and they took me away for a thorough strip search.

  Then I was charged with riding under the influence of drink or drugs, riding dangerously, riding without a light. I fumed at the injustice; they hadn’t even seen me on the bloody bike.

  Spotting the friendly cop who had been against lifting me, I buttonholed him and asked him to phone my parents.

  The others returned to their interrogation, standing around me at the desk,

  "Do you want to see a doctor?"

  "I'd like to see my doctor,"

  "Answer the question, yes or no; do you want to see a doctor?"

  "Whose doctor?"


  "I want to see mine,"

  So they wrote down: "Subject refused to see doctor,"

  "I didn't refuse; I want my doctor.”

  "No, you refused."

  "O.K., then
I'll see him."

  The dope I had swallowed was taking effect, the station became strange and

  dreamlike and I worried that I might look as I felt. I thought, 'How does a totally innocent person look?' After some meditation on this question, I stood myself against the wall, carefully crossed my arms, arranged an apprehensive expression on my face, with my eyes slightly closed, and concentrated on chewing my lower lip and tapping my foot. Occasionally I let out an impatient 'hmph',

  The police doctor, a stocky, grey-haired man in a rumpled suit, came in and looked me up and down for less than half a minute from twenty feet away; then turned and sat down and wrote a three-page report on my condition. Disbelief rose in me as I watched him write on and on. Next, he had a friendly cup of tea with his old crony, the desk sergeant. Their laughter, I thought, was indecently gleeful, gloating and conspiratorial.

  My father and mother arrived. He is very military and official in his manner. After I had reported what had happened, he asked to use the phone, but the sergeant wouldn't let him; so he sent my mother outside with the instruction to phone our family doctor.

  He wouldn't come.

  She phoned another doctor she knew, who, as it happened, was Edinburgh University's Lecturer on Drug Abuse.

  By this time I was in a cell and very stoned indeed, and, of all the doctors in Edinburgh, this drug abuse expert came in to examine me.

  He shone a light in my eyes, I realised that my pupils would be dilated, so I tried to control my reflexes by conscious effort.

  "Pupils, contract!" I told myself.

  He tapped my knee. There was absolutely no reflex.

  "Leg, Forward!" I commanded, and it shot forward.

  He stepped back, pocketing his instruments, "You're not under the influence of drugs You are in complete control of yourself."

  I couldn't help wondering whether he really knew, but I never found out.

  In due course I came to trial for the ridiculous charges of cycling -already mentioned, plus possession of an illegal pipe, and possession of cannabis, traces of which had been found in the 'box’ of the pipe.

  The Procurator-Fiscal was a right-wing, drug-hating maniac who had just returned to Scotland from Rhodesia, and it was very important for him to win his first case - me.

  I had borrowed money from my great-uncle Bertie to hire my solicitor and the best Queen's counsel I could get, Nicky Fairbairn.

  The water-pipe was on the table as exhibit A.

  I took the stand.

  The Fiscal launched four questions at me, all strung together, which stunned me into a mental paralysis and I couldn't comprehend them. However, I pulled myself together and put on my most charming voice.

  "If it would please the Court, instead of answering these questions, it would be more helpful if I explained something about exhibit A which is central to the case; then I'll come back to the questions."

  The judge nodded in agreement, while the Fiscal spluttered and fumed, "This is most irregular, you can't…"

  "Could you please pass over exhibit A?" I asked.

  "What we have here is a Tang dynasty Cloisonne water pipe, only smoked by members of the ruling classes. One can tell this by these decorations."

  This was a complete fiction made up on the spot, but the judge was very interested in antiques, and leaned forward, becoming fascinated by my imitation of a learned dissertation.

  "Now to return to the Procurator-Fiscal's questions; the reason I had this pipe with me was that I had received it as a gift and, recognising that it was valuable, I took it to a. Chinese scholar. We sat up all night discussing it in his antique shop.”

  The Fiscal returned to the attack. He had a thoroughly disagreeable trick of directing a burst of rapid-fire questions in one sentence. If you said 'yes' to one, you might be incriminating yourself by seeming to agree with the others.

  I tried to slow him down, to avoid becoming confused. "Could you rephrase that, please? I didn't understand.”

  Before long, I heard him setting a trap for me.

  "Are you saying that the police are liars?" I had contradicted their statements, of course, but I sensed at once that to say 'yes' would be to turn the court against me.

  "I'm not saying that; I say what happened. It is up to the Court to decide who is lying."

  "Answer this question! Are you saying that the police are lying?"

  "I refuse to answer that question."

  He rose to a furious crescendo of accusation: "I put it to you that it was you who rode this bicycle while under the influence of drugs, that it was you who obtained this opium pipe for the purpose of drug abuse, and that you were in possession of illegal drugs !"

  "And I put it to you. Sir," I replied, mocking his manner, "that THE BOOT WAS RATHER ON THE OTHER FOOT." The whole courtroom cracked up with laughter, including the judge.

  Four police witnesses, including two sergeants, took the stand and maintained that I had deliberately delayed them so that my doctor had examined me after the effects of the drugs had worn off, which, of course, was precisely the opposite to what had happened. And they had altered the times in their evidence. The last witness was the one who had phoned my parents, the weakest of the four.

  Nicky let him go after a few easy questions, during which I could see he was uneasy to be telling a pack of lies. As he was leaving the stand, Nicky said, apparently as an afterthought: "Oh, ahh, one minute - could you come back for just another question? Is it correct," he looked archly all round the court, playing with his watch chain, "am I right in believing that policemen keep a diary of everything that happens during an incident? And is it true that a policeman must carry it when on duty?"

  'The policeman looked worried, "Yes,"

  "Do you" - again the sweeping survey of various objects and persons in the room - "Do you by any chance, have it on you at the moment?"

  The cop looked imploringly at the judge, "Uh, do I have to answer that?"

  "Mm hm," the judge nodded, fascinated by this new twist in the legal game that was being played.

  "Perhaps you could, ahh, read out your notes of the arrest?" Nicky said with carefully poised nonchalance.

  Again the cop looked at the judge like a puppy being ordered from the room. Reluctantly he pulled the notebook from his pocket and began to read, hesitantly and badly.

  "Could I have a look at this?" asked Nicky with a predatory glitter in his eyes.

  "Show it to him," urged the judge to the unwilling constable.

  The QC looked at several pages with a severely critical arching of his eyebrows, "Ahh, Why don't you start from the beginning this time?" He made as if to hand the notebook back, then seemed to change his mind, "No, I'll read it out," he announced, with severity.

  He read the times I had said, not the ones in the police statement of earlier. That broke their evidence.

  The police doctor had given a modified version of the report he had written in the station, saying I had been under the influence of drugs, because I was swaying and my pupils were dilated.

  "Did you sign the Hippocratic Oath when you became a doctor?" asked my Q.C.


  "Is it part of your oath that you will not examine a patient without his consent and against his will?"


  "Did you have Mr. Sangster's permission to examine him?"


  "Do you attach any importance to what you have just said in court?"

  The doctor could only reply "No." Their case against me collapsed.

  But I was still technically in possession of an illegal drug, since traces had been found in the pipe, A complex legal discussion between the judge and my Q.C. ensued, centred around a precedent involving a person found with a bottle of cocaine pills which looked like aspirins. Since he could see the pills, rattle them, and open the bottle, he was found guilty. Even though he didn't know the pills were cocaine. I could neither rattle the pipe nor look inside, Nicky said, and there was no way I could te
ll what was in it. The judge followed all this with complacent agreement.

  "I have to find him guilty, but I am satisfied there was no intention to break the law and that Mr. Sangster is an upright person. His presentation of the evidence was commendable,"

  All the while, the Fiscal was hopping from one foot to the other, clutching a piece of paper. In Scottish law, previous convictions are not admissable as evidence; and the judge's face went beetroot when he read that I had been done for drug possession before. He began speaking about a fine, but Nicky triumphed once more.

  "May I protest, my Lord. I must press for an admonishment; you have just said before the Court that the accused is innocent.”

  The four policemen who gave evidence were all demoted because they had been caught lying, and the Drug Squad had to return my opium pipe.

  It was the only legal pipe in Scotland.


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