JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE PARANOID DOESN'T MEAN...
I'm on a train to Paris. Returning home. I've just
spent two days in Amsterdam doing a drug deal. I'm an
expatriate waster, the kind without papers and illegal
substances in my pockets. I support myself passing off
a few pills and powders to the extremely wealthy
students who go to the American University of Paris.
It's more lucrative then you might think. School for
these kids is just another rite of passage. Their
futures are set. They are killing time until
adulthood. Most of them are diplomat's daughters and
Middle East Princes with way too much money and not
The transaction went down fine. Actually easier than I
thought. Being small time people don't think you're
worth enough to fuck over. Now I'm riding the train. I
still have to make it back to Paris.
I'm sitting uncomfortable in my seat. I miss the old
trains. This compartment is like an airplane. The
windows don't even open. My main problem is the
conductor. He is giving me the evil eye and I don't
like it. I wish I had bought a ticket.
Did I mention I'm feeling paranoid? It's like my soul
is on display at a cheap distasteful game show. The
other passengers are bidding on my emotions. I
couldn't handle getting caught. When we arrive in Gare
du Nord it will be over. The real test will be the
stop in Brussels.
SCOTT THE SPOILED STONED CANADIAN
Here's how I might have fucked up. Instead of buying a
regular ticket I stole one off a Canadian backpacker.
I'm thinking that was foolish. Let me jump back a few
The deal went down better than planned, like I said. I
didn't get ripped off. I didn't get killed. Thing was,
as soon as it was over I didn't know what to do. I had
allowed myself enough time in case of delay. Since the
exchange went quicker then imagined I was left with a
few hours before my train departed. I didn't want to
walk around Amsterdam with a couple thousand dollars
of drugs in my pocket. I could be mugged or worse,
stopped by the police. I needed to blend in. I went to
where all the backpackers go.
I went to Bob's Youth Hostel, a crowded trendy tourist
spot. I sat down in the foyer towards the back. I was
trying to stay out of the way, keep to myself. I
opened my notebook. I have ambitions of being a
writer. With the money from this deal I'll be able to
afford a new laptop. My last one was stolen from a
café. I can't write more than a few sentences in
longhand. I need to be pounding a keyboard.
I notice this kid staring at me. I didn't think I was
followed. He comes up to me and I recognize he is
North American. Anyone trying to do a double cross
would be local. And I would expect a bit bigger. This
kid looks like the puny students I sold to in Paris.
He was wasted, with that familiar spaced out look on
his face. People come to Amsterdam expecting to party
like rock stars. They soon learn they don't have the
constitution of Keith Richards. I ignored him.
"Hey man, my name is Scott, man," he said.
"You see my friends, man?" he asked.
"No, I haven't seen your friends. Why would I?"
"Uh-huh," I said. "So what?"
"They have backpacks with Canadian flags on them."
"Take your pick," I said.
I waved my hand across the room. That description fit
every Canadian in the hostel, every Canadian under
thirty in Europe. Canadians have that underdog sense
of superiority. They are always sure to put flags on
before traveling to Europe, in case, horror of
horrors, they are recognized as Americans. I met one
Canadian who told me there's a huge difference between
Americans and Canadians. If this is true I wonder why
they need the flags.
"No man, none of these people," he said.
Scott kept staring across the room. Then he conceded.
His friends were not here. I was hoping he would
stumble away and leave me alone. Instead he slumped
into the chair next to me. He had the voided stare of
despair. There wasn't much happiness going on in his
foggy mind. I asked him what was wrong.
Scott was from Toronto. He had come over to Europe
with his two best friends Jake and Wally. They flew
into Heathrow. Spent a few days in London. Went to
Ireland to stay with Wally's cousins in Cork. The boys
kissed the Blarney stone. Then headed off to the
continent. Amsterdam was the first stop.
The beauty of the city hit them immediately.
Everywhere they looked young girls with golden locks
were riding bicycles over canals. In the coffeehouses
intoxicating whiffs of hashish filled their noses.
Through stoned eyes they walked around their new found
utopia. They timidly explored the Red Light district.
Like young tourists before them the backpackers were
tempted by hookers and hookahs.
As the night wore on the travelers went to the Milky
Way, a huge labyrinth warehouse with a rock venue,
dance club, art gallery, movie theater, bars and a
hashish café. The boys all bought Space Cake. Scott
did not think he could feel the magical effects. Half
an hour passed and he ate another Space Cake. Fifteen
minutes later he ate another one. He was thinking he
might be immune to the high when it kicked in big
time. The tingle became a pulse. His own heartbeat was
matching the frenetic beats from the dance floor. The
active ingredients circled around like sharks in his
head. Scott ran out of the Milky Way. Got into a taxi.
He took the cab to Schipel airport. He bought a first
class ticket back to Toronto with his dad's American
Express Gold Card.
Flying over Iceland Scott started to come down. When
he landed in Toronto he panicked. He made a dubious
call to his parents. They were obviously very
concerned. He was told not to move. They were driving
in from the suburbs to retrieve him. With his dream
vacation coming to a dreary end Scott impulsively
bought another ticket back to Amsterdam. The flight
took off before his parents could reach him.
"That's quite a story," I said.
"I don't know what to do."
"I can't find Jake and Wally."
"Do you have Wally's cousins phone number in Cork?"
"Yeah, I think so. Why?"
"You could call them."
"Maybe Wally called his cousins and told them where he
"Oh yeah, right."
Scott poured the contents of his backpack unto the
table. He found the number scribbled on a scrunched up
piece of paper. The rest of the clutter from his sack
he left behind. I picked up his fanny pack. Inside was
a few one hundred U.S. dollar bills, credit cards,
passport and Eurailpass. I put the fanny pack in my
inside coat pocket and walked to Central Station.
OHH LA LA LES DEUX!
Even though it's moving quite quickly the train seems
to be at a slow pace. I need to get over my paranoia.
I leave my seat. I find the bar car. Bars seem to be
on your side in these types of situations. I order a
Heineken, standard train refreshment.
Two girls speaking French are smoking cigarettes and
sipping coffee. They inhale like their lives depend on
it. Some of the deadliest behavior makes us feel the
most alive. I take a keen interest in them.
The girls aren't wearing makeup. I notice the natural
beauty in their movements. They have thin bodies with
slender hips and small tits- typical gorgeous French
girls. They seem to be in the late teens. Their
clothing is fashionably conformist; close fitted,
faded Levi's jeans, black T-shirts, scarves wrapped
around elegant necks and tan suede coats.
The beer gives me insight into strange lives. I
imagine them inseparable, doing everything together. I
should buy them a few drinks. Maybe invite them out
tonight. If all goes as planned I will be celebrating
in style. First things first. Don't jump the gun.
I have to finish business before I can move on to
pleasure. Once you make the first mistake you would be
surprised how the whole deal can unravel. I need
concentration. I order another Heineken and return to
DRUG SMUGGLING THE LOVE DRUG
I sit down. The conductor is looking at me. He is
enjoying himself. Probably takes long looks in the
mirror, admiring his issued duds. He has a rotund,
heavy drinkers red flushed face. Beady eyes that cause
discomfort. Walks with a truancy officer mentality.
The kind of guy my British friends would call 'Mister
No Mates'. At work he has a slight position of power.
He yields it to the maximum.
I open my notebook. Sip the beer. Start writing to
ease my mind. It's hard to focus on writing anything
of worth. I scribble drawings, naked girls with big
tits. I write a few bad poems. I keep pen to paper
trying not to allow my mind to wander. After drawing
and writing for forty-five minutes I finish my beer
and make my move. Twenty-three minutes to Brussels.
Stage one- I take my little backpack into the toilet
with the empty beer cans. Grab all the Ecstasy pills,
there are about two hundred of them. I put them in the
can. I crunch the cans up. Drop it at the bottom of
the rubbish bin.
Stage two- I take out the tiny packets of smack and
some adhesive tape. I open the door to the toilet.
Check to see that no one is in the hall. The other
toilet is unoccupied. I go into it. Lock the door
behind me. Take the packets and tape them to a clear
fishing string. I drop them down through the toilet
hole. I tie the other end to the joint that the seat
is connected to. I look at the string. It is visible.
The plan is that they'll confiscate the heroin and not
find the Ecstasy.
Stage three- I take out two small bags of hashish. Put
one in each hand. Leave the toilet. Walk towards my
seat. See a woman reading a magazine. Her purse is
slightly open. I time it perfectly. The train slightly
jerks. I pretend to lose my balance. I fall to the
right and drop the hash into her bag. I steady myself
and apologize. The woman smiles back and says not to
worry. The hash is sitting in her purse and she is
none the wiser.
I make my way further down the aisle. Don't see
anymore places to unload. I sit back down at my seat.
I still have one bag left to deploy as diversion. I
have to get rid of it. They usually bring the dogs on.
THE MISTER NO MATES CONDUCTOR
The conductor comes up to me. Asks to see my ticket.
This is not good. He isn't checking the other
passengers yet. He has singled me out as an easy
target. I try to find a happy place, a pleasant
thought to calm my nerves. I remember last summer,
fucking a Brazilian girl on the beaches of Greece. If
I can keep that memory in the back of my mind it might
steady my shaking hands. I pull out the Eurailpass. He
looks at it. Smiles at me condescendingly. Mister No
Mates is in his glory.
He takes my train ticket, slowly looking through it.
Then asks for my passport. I think of fucking on those
sandy beaches. Steady. I take my passport out of my
pocket and hand it to him with my right hand. With my
left hand I reach around and drop the small bag of
hashish into the coat pocket of his navy blue uniform.
He looks at my passport. Back at the train pass.
Notices the names do not match. I was going to use
Scott's passport but somehow knew he would actually
look at the picture. He had it in for me from the moment I
Stealing a train ticket is a small offense with a
fine. Stealing passports can cause you to be deported
and sent back to the States to face a Federal Felony.
The conductor holds up my ticket to the crowd.
"Look here," he says in French. "I have caught a bad
American boy trying to take advantage of the French
Most of the other passengers ignore him. A few give me
"Well, well, well," he says. " What are we going to do
"I don't know?" I shrug my shoulders.
He tells me that he is keeping my passport until we
reach Paris. The train moves onward. I sit in silence.
The conductor stands over me like a prison guard. I
look straight ahead. What was her name? I can't
remember her name. Last summer it felt like love.
We arrive at Brussels. The train comes to a slow halt.
A few people get off. Two boarder guards with sniffing
drug dogs get on. As they approach us, one of the dogs
starts to growl. Then it attacks. It jumps up on the
conductor. Pushes him to the ground. It goes for the
packet of hashish.
The conductor is terrified. He doesn't know what is
happening or why, he only knows that he is about to be
eaten alive. In self-defense the conductor flails his
arms and drops my passport. I push it under the seat
with my foot.
The dog is growling into the quivering gob of flesh.
The guards come up. They get the dog off the
conductor. Slowly helping him to his feet. They search
his pockets. Hind the hashish. His pleas of innocence
go unheard. The conductor looks at me. I wink at him.
Then he starts to protest to no avail. They escort the
conductor off the train as he starts to cry. Five
minutes later the train pulls out of the station. We
are on our way to Paris. No one, not even boarder
guards like Mister No Mates ticket controllers.
RELAXIN' WITH CHERRY & SERGE GAINSBOURG
I walk back to the first toilet. I grab the beer can.
Store it in my backpack. I look in the second toilet.
The heroin is still there. I cut the string and let it
fall to the train tracks.
I enter the bar car. The girls are still smoking. I
buy three beers and sit down next to the girls.
The girls are cautious at first. They are big city
girls, Paris girls, but they soon warm to me. They are
fans of American pop culture and have actually visited
New York, so they don't automatically dismiss all
Americans as completely idiotically evil.
Their names are Sabine and Marie. I tell them I love
"Who do you like?"
"I love Serge Gainsbourg."
"Everyone loves Gainsbourg," Sabine says.
"Everyone French. I also like the modern stuff like
Air and Daft Punk."
"Those boys are too popular for their own good."
"I like Kid Loco."
"Kid Loco is super cool," Marie agrees.
"Tonight I'm celebrating, you want to join me?"
"What are you celebrating?"
"My birthday," I lie.
We talk some more. Make plans to visit Gainsbourg's
grave in the Montparnasse cemetery, then go clubbing
in Bastille. The girls giggle at my jokes. I smile
when they tell me their stories. I buy more beer. They
share their cigarettes. Sabine and Marie seem up for
it. I won't charge them for Ecstasy. Tomorrow I will
sell the drugs and get myself a laptop.
- written by McCutcheon