Before I start, let me first explain, the following description is from a novel I have been trying to write for the past few years. Johnny is, in part a memory of who I used to be coupled with a desire of what I, at one time wanted to become. All the characters used so far (with the exception of Stella) have been drawn from people around me. Stella herself I never understood yet her place within the novel was always to become important.

The ageing hippy sat on the park bench with his hat brim pulled down over his half closed eyes, protecting them from the baking sun. His long black hair flecked with grey cascaded down over his shoulders. The remnants of a reefer hung from his lips still slowly smouldering as a faint trail of smoke drifted up to his nostrils.

In his reverie, the hippy dreamt of times long past, a party at his house whilst he was still a student. Faces from a by-gone era began to float in front of him. Faces he hadn’t so much as thought about in several years; A small, rather attractive girl with close cropped hair, probably high on coke and kettamine stood there giggling.

He grinned and the joint fell from his dry lips, bounced on his leg and rolled off to get lost in the long grass growing around the foot of the bench.

He heard someone saying “go upstairs, there’s something special for you in our room”, then realised it was his own voice he was hearing fifteen years ago. The girl disappeared and more faces floated past him. He was vaguely aware of the beer in his hand as he stopped to talk to a tall blond lad whose face he couldn’t put a name to.

Suddenly the girl was back, arms locked straight down her sides with her hands out-stretched, a Cheshire cat grin on her face as she hopped from one foot to the other. The white leotard and pink Tu-Tu made her look like a fairy from a children’s story, damn she looked good! He wanted to grab her and take her there and then, the dream was so real it almost felt as if he could reach out and touch her.

From outside of his reverie, he faintly heard the age old call of “Bing”. He smiled to himself, some things never changed.

His eyes snapped open. “Bong”.

A group of kids were walking past him, he scanned them looking for the likely caller. He spied a kid in his late 20’s, hair dreaded and held back with a grubby head-band, a stripped woollen cloak on his back.

“Damn you’re fast”.

“Had to be in my day” the hippy replied, “It was the only way you ever got some of a joint”.

“I hear you on that”. The kid handed over a nice fat reefer. The hippy took a deep pull and adjusted his hat so he could look at the kids who had come to join him.

The kid who had passed him the joint looked at him and held out his hand.

“By the way, I’m Chris” he stated, “and this is Tommy, Joe, Alfie and Stella”.

The hippy looked at the hand warily, then reached out his own.

“Pleased to meet you. My names Johnny but folks round here generally call me cormorant”.

“Why cormorant?” Chris asked, puzzled.

“You ever see one?” Johnny asked. He went on without waiting for a reply. “Fine birds they are. Fine fishers too. One of the best birds on the planet for the job. The Japs used to use them for fishing, you can train them pretty well you know. That’s what I do, I fish, sometimes. Oh, not for the silver shit you get in ponds and that though”.

“What do you fish for then?” A quiet, almost shy voice which sounded like it belonged to someone who wasn’t quite sure of his place in the world, but was quite gregarious after a few pints.

The hippy looked round for the owner who turned out to be a taller, skinny bloke whose hair bulged from the woollen beanie on his head. He opened his mouth as if to give an answer, then changed his mind. Instead he pulled another drag off the spliff then offered it out.

“Say Bing”.

“That’s bong…”

It was the girl who got it. The hippy looked her over. “Yeah, not bad he thought to himself. “Another couple of years she’ll be quite a catch. There was something familiar about her face but he couldn’t quite place it. He pulled out a bag of weed, papers and tobacco and began to skin up.

“So, where do you kids come from?” He asked. The kids, who up until this point had been standing, began to sit down, all except for Tommy who started to spin the staff he was carrying. The hippy watched the staff weave around Tommy’s body as he spun it with an expertise Johnny hadn’t seen in a fair few years.

He let them talk on, interjecting a few words here, a question there, but on the whole ceased paying too much attention, preferring the solitude of his own memory.

“Hey mister, you got any of that weed to sell?” It was Stella who brought him round this time.

“Sorry, Er, depends what you’re after” Johnny replied.

“You do us an eighth?”

The hippy rooted round in his pockets for something but failed to find what he was looking for. “I can, but you’ll have to supply your own baggy, seems I’m fresh out”.

Someone supplied a baggy and Johnny began to split out a sizable chunk. “Sorry, not got my scales with me. That look about right to you?” He threw over the packed baggy and looked at her for approval. Stella looked at it appreciatively then handed over a twenty note.

“Yeah that’ll do nicely, thanks”. She looked at him thoughtfully. “So come on, tell us a bit about yourself. You never did answer Alfie’s question earlier”.

At this they all began to chime in. “Yeah, tell us about yourself”.

The hippy grimaced. He hated this part of meeting new people, hated talking about himself. He sighed. No backing out now, they’d been free with the small amount of weed they had and provided some company in what had otherwise been a fairly lonely day.

“Well, My name is Johnny Aldridge and I come from a little town up north called Kendal. I moved here about six years ago, in part due to my job as a network systems analyst and in part to look for someone I haven’t seen in several years”.

“Did you find her?” Stella asked.

He examined her curiously. “How do you know its a her?”

“Come on, you don’t move half way across the country for someone unless its someone very special, and I’m sorry, but you don’t look gay to me”.

“So what do gay people look like?”.

“Well, Er… Not like you…”

“Sorry”, the hippy responded, “but I could be gay, you don’t know one way or the other”.

“I, Er… Well, I just assumed.” She floundered desperately

Yep, he thought. Hook, line and sinker. Ah the narrow-mindedness of youth.

“As it happens, you were actually right, it was looking for a girl that caused me to move here.” At this a pained expression crossed his face.

“Look, you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to” Chris said worriedly.

Johnny pulled his weed back out and once more began to build a joint. “Nah, to be honest, if you kids don’t mind listening, its time this story was told. Only its not short”.

He looked questioningly at the group. One by one they all looked at Chris and then back at him. It was obvious that Chris lead this band of merry hippies or at the very least was the oldest and most respected.

“Well, we don’t have fire practise till like eight so that gives us a few hours spare, so if you’re up for it, yeah, we’ll hear your story.”

“Well, it all started about fifteen years ago. I was still in Uni and me, my girlfriend and a couple of mates were working on a new piece of software…”

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