Frantic

Frantic

Chapter 1

Alice was born in a London hospital during the year of the Tiger and almost expired from a heavy chest cold, but thanks to the hospital's Intensive Care unit, pulled through to face another lifetime.

She was brought up by her widowed mother in a converted old ballroom in World's End, and existed in a twilight zone of day school and extra curriculum activities. She then woke up when exiled to boarding school, an establishment that Alice's mum had herself attended during the Second World War.

In later years, a world-weary Alice recalled little about her compulsory stretch at the segregated girls public prison, but her school days had never been dull. Her academic days were a maroon-uniformed haze of letting off stink bombs in prayers, reading 'Teach Yourself Latin' books in biology (Alice devoured Latin after she discovered it was dodo dead), blowing up dim-witted girls in domestic science classes, and breast-stroking in one's regulation pyjamas in the school's indoor swimming pool. But, lacrosse was what Alice lived for. Not only did she regularly smash noses, limbs, skulls and teeth, but even assassinated one of her arch-enemies (a frizzy haired pygmy), by shoving her beloved lacrosse stick down the victim's throat. Excitable bystanders knew the girl had expired, when a red fountain of blood and clotted gore gushed from her mouth. Something vital had ruptured inside.

Fortunately for Alice, there were enough witnesses around to testify the tragedy had been an accident, but some of Alice's classmates were not so sure. It had only been the day before the 'murder', that the deceased had popped some of Alice's favourite Rolling Stones singles into the toaster with meltdown results. Then there was dieting. Some girls would gorge themselves on buns and stodge at elevenses, forcing themselves to vomit immediately afterwards, but most girls fanatically practiced 'hunger strike' fasting. The bewildered games teacher couldn't understand why all her healthy, beefy girls were shedding weight, until one girl who hadn't eaten anything for weeks, suffocated in her sleep. From then on, force-feeding was strictly part of the school curriculum. Twiggy had a lot to answer for.

When (an underweight) Alice left school at the first legal opportunity, she hadn't a clue what she wanted to do, career wise. In those days, school didn't focus on life outside its front gates. Thus, Alice was quite happy being enrolled in a modelling course at a well- known London charm and beauty dump. Her concerned mother didn't envisage her daughter as a fashion model, (who in their right mind would employ her?), but hoped the modelling course would teach her unkempt daughter basic grooming. The year was l966, and that meant panstick, more panstick and even more and more panstick. Each dreary, bleary morning, Alice would apply a generous layer of Max Factor face-gluck before the first cigarette of the day, inexpertly glue on a couple of layers of tarantula fur eye-lashes, slosh on panda eye-makeup, thick white lipstick and a slut was born.

Alice was no Jean Shrimpton. What with her perpendicular, mousy hair framing her original face (daubed with perennial red lipstick), spotty complexion and bullet deep, close-set green eyes, she was an un-groomed mess, wobbling precariously on top of her thin and shapeless figure. What a doll, she was not. The teachers at the modelling school sternly reprimanded her each morn for not applying enough face slap. Although she had risen at the crack of dawn in order to coat her face with gooey slap, she would then be forced to splatter even more muck on her visage. Her tarty appearance wasn't improved when she impulsively dyed her hair a luminous yellowish green. As a result, she could be spotted a mile off without the aid of high-powered binoculars, for her haywire hair shone like a day-glo beacon. Alice's Mum wasn't exactly thrilled at the distorted sight of her daughter, who by this time was running around town in mini mini-skirts.

When Alice bowed out of the modelling course's final fashion show, she bombed. Due to her out of sync persona, she was not destined for a glittering clotheshorse career. Sixties photographers attended the show in the miraculous hope they'd discover new talent for Vogue. But, when it was Alice's turn to strut her stuff, she ingeniously draped a lace tablecloth over her head, and then executed a gymnastic display of leapfrog jumps down the catwalk before falling off into the horrified audience. She was ordered to leave the school's premises immediately.

As the late Sixties progressed, Alice didn't wear bells on her fingers and toes like some of her contemporaries did, but shoplifted her cowboy hats, father boas and velvet trouser suits from Biba. She also wore divine flapper dresses (not stolen) from the Chelsea Antique Market where Ulla, the gregarious Queen of Chelsea ran the second hand clothes store with lashings of enthusiasm. Her daily uniform of a long, yellow felt coat was worn gaping over second-hand flower printed dresses, honestly acquired at Kensington Market, a popular hangout for snakeskin jackets and freaks, herself included.

Alice's obsession with L.S.D. enabled her to successfully obliterate herself in the Sixties rock 'n' roll culture. Snag is, due to her excessive consumption, she later couldn't remember it all. It was just as well really, for she would have had to spend the rest of her life recovering from mental exhaustion.

The real jet setters of the Sixties were the drug dealers who wore Afghan coats and authentic, crippling cowboy snakeskin boots. When they were in town, they'd eat scrambled eggs with their rock star clients in the Speakeasy. Thanks to the dealers' generosity, Alice dropped so much LSD, she soon lost her reflection in the mirror. That was why she was the only freak in London who was hooked on red lipstick: it gave her spaced-out face an identity mark.

When London's L.S.D. black market supply was non-existent for a dry period (due to an overdose of successful drug busts around the United Kingdom), the acidheads were forced to switch their drug allegiance to speed. Alice didn't contemplate injecting the available liquid Methedrine, but the one time she'd impulsively swallowed an amp of the lethal fuel in Middle Earth's (the underground club in Covent Garden) Ladies lavatory, she'd instantly sprouted acute paranoia and boils in her throat and underarms. Her life wasn't made any easier by having to walk around town, her arms held out at a hundred and eighty degree angle, rather like a zonked out zombie. Fortunately for Alice's drug love affair, a dealer buddy sold her a bulging bag of black market diet pills. Wow! She quickly built up a tolerance, and was unable to get out of bed each morning without dropping at least twenty of them. But, thanks to the tablets, her limbs were macaroni thin and her translucent skin shimmered with speed-induced tautness. Speed also made her super confident. Up! Up! Up! Up! What an invention. She didn't stop to think that if taken in excess, the kidneys packed up, but she had no qualms about taking speed. She was hooked.

One starry night, Alice (dressed in her trademark yellow felt coat) briskly walked all the way from World's End to Middle Earth in Covent Garden. Her boiled smarty eyes were popping out on stalks, and her dry lips were thickly covered with layers and layers of garish, red lipstick. For, each time Alice had stopped at a public lavatory along the route in order to catch her pale reflection in the mirror, she compulsively swallowed a bunch of speed, before applying more and more red indelible lipstick. She certainly would stand out in the crowd, for all her contemporary hippy chicks' lips were washed out au natural.

At Middle Earth, she didn't queue like other mortals, but regally descended the steps, looking neither to her right nor to the left of her, until at the door a pony tailed young man, encased in tight velvet pants kicked her in the leg. "Will you marry me?" he asked in a Harvard educated Texan twang. If Alice could have foreseen her future with this man, she might not have enthusiastically replied 'yes' like she did. But, in her present state of speed euphoria, she would have agreed to anything, including her own assassination. Her future first joke of a husband escorted her into the bowels of the flickering strobe-lit club, which pulsated with colourful globular images and hypnotic Soft Machine sounds. "I'm Wayne and my Porsche is waiting outside," her escort said by way of introduction.
"But, why don't you marry your girlfriend?" Alice asked, noticing for the first time, a glowering, handsome dark haired lady, who was possessively gripping Wayne's free arm.
"Ingy doesn't want to get married," he answered.
Ingy gave Alice a dirty look.
"My boyfriend comes from the General Motors family and he's an arsehole," Ingy snapped in a Teutonic accent.
"How about it, baby?" Wayne asked Alice.
"Done!"
She accepted his proposal of marriage and held out her elegant claw to be kissed.

Alice had accepted her new fiancé's marriage proposal in a chemically imbalanced moment and in retrospect, realized she should never have gone through with the wedding fiasco if she had been sane. For, Wayne turned out to be a Scorpio if that meant anything, but in those days it did. Ingy acted as sullen witness at her boyfriend's registry office wedding, and during the brief ceremony, the registrar asked Alice to say her spouse's full name, but she was unable to simply because she didn't know it. The hippy guests howled and cackled at that one. After the bogus marriage fiasco, during which Alice daren't look at anyone for fear of cackling, everyone posed on the registry steps. Dressed in their cowboy hats, cloaks, robes and garish costumes, they made an eye-catching sight. After the wedding party had finished hanging out, they followed each other to the ensuing reception held at Middle Earth where its resident master of ceremonies, the albino- haired Milky Bar Kid played choice acid rock throughout the night.

When the nuptials stopped in their tracks, Alice and Wayne went to the English countryside for their honeymoon. And, Ingy went too. Alice had no intention of sleeping with her new husband, which was just as well for what an old bore he turned out to be. Wayne confessed, while carrying her over the threshold of the dinky old country cottage, that the only reason he asked her to marry him was, as his legal wife she could disguise herself as a beehive-haired secretary and smuggle LSD in baby talcum powder cans for him to America. Alice immediately broke her new marriage vows by saying a firm 'no' to his wishes. Her reasoning was, she was bound to get caught, for no one in their right mind, especially USA customs would ever in a million years believe she was a secretary, let alone one who wore a beehive. He would have to get someone else to do the daft deed.

Unable to face the girls' jovial tricks, which included them dropping live wobbly worms in his morning tea, Wayne took to practicing his yoga postures on top of his un-thumbed copy of 'The Tibetan Book Of The Dead'. While he split his entire wardrobe of 'Granny Takes A Trip' crushed velvet pants in the process, Alice and Ingy ganged up. Ingy confessed she'd been disillusioned with Wayne for some time now, ever since he started hustling her to adopt the persona of a legal secretary in order to smuggle LSD into the States for him. If Wayne had asked her to disguise herself as something more tempting like her favourite dish, cheese on toast for example, she would have been eager to risk her freedom. Ingy further confided she was not only disillusioned with Wayne, but was also depressed by her holiday part-time job, which consisted of her diving nightly into a West End nightclub swimming pool. The strain of her being on a permanent diet in order to fit into her skimpy bikini wasn't helping her morale either. Ingy had done some serious thinking and as a result, had sensibly decided to return to her native Germany in order to study psychiatry.

The outcome of the new best friends' cosy pow-wows was, they returned to London together, leaving Wayne no alternative but to successfully smuggle his contraband LSD through American customs by himself.

After Ingy flew back to Germany, promising to stay in touch, Alice returned to her London rut of rock. She was bored stupid with seeing the same old faces (her own included) night after night. She was convinced her life would never change again when opportunely, a distant relation died, bequeathing her enough money for a transatlantic airplane ticket. She immediately made a long distance telephone call to Wayne in the States, inviting herself to stay.

Soon after, Alice left for San Francisco. It was the start of 1970 and anything could happen.

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