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By the age of 25 Mick Rafferty was a highly successful and sought after artist. By the time he was 30 he had his own agent to manage his affairs such as hangings, orders, exhibitions and so forth. He was the talk of the town and attended countless meetings statewide. He got by on 3-4 hours sleep a night. Mick was basically running on adrenaline.

When he was 35 his world was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She passed away 6  weeks later. It all happened so quickly that Mick was in a spin.  When he first went home he didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know where to sit. He kept  turning to talk to his wife and making two coffees. Painting wasn’t an option.

His agent was very understanding. He would check on Mick every few days, telling him to forget about painting until the time is right. “It’s the least of your worries, Mick.” As days became weeks, both Mick and his agent became worried about Micks mental state. It was deteriorating. They both noticed that Mick was becoming shakier. His agent notice mumble something, he assumed to his late wife, under his breath.

One afternoon Mick began to sweat profusely. His legs went to jelly, his head started spinning and he was nauseous. He thought he was going mad. Once the feeling passed  he had to go and buy cigarettes. He got half way  to the shop and the sensation began again. Mick quickly pulled the car over at the side of the road for half an hour. Eventually  he bought 10 packets of cigarettes to minimise his driving. He lived on delivered pizza.

After about 6  of these episodes Mick made an appointment with his GP. Mick told him his symptoms as the GP sat there looking disinterested until Mick mentioned the driving. The GP instantly pulled out his prescription pad. He wrote Mick a prescription for 25mg Valium twice a day if required. The highest prescribable dose. “You’re having very severe anxiety attacks, Mr Rafferty, which is perfectly understandable.” He advised Mick to take them only when needed as they were highly

3 days later Mick felt an attack coming on. He took the prescribed dose straight away. Just as Mick thought things were getting worse, he began to calm down. Soon he was calm. Not stoned. Just calm. If given to someone who is not suffering extremely high anxiety, this dose would knock them out. Mick went to the bathroom to splash his face with cold water. He looked in the mirror and noticed that his eyes were almost glowing red. He didn’t care. He felt calm.

Knowing that he had relief at hand for anxiety attacks saw him starting to paint again but he became a recluse. A total recluse. He told his agent who said that this was no problem.

Mick started  getting lonely. He began to post out invitations to his house to friends. He began doing it every 2-3 weeks. All of his friends smoked cannabis. Mick had no problem with this. The conversations were eclectic and everyone was open to each others opinions. Not once did Mick suffer an anxiety attack during these meetings or the days leading up to them.

As he didn’t smoke cannabis, after the gatherings Mick would roll the cannabis butts up in toilet paper  and flush them down the toilet. He would then scrub out the ash trays with hot water and detergent and soak them in disinfectant. He had a separate ash tray that he kept in his bedroom for his cigarettes. He would rinse his cigarette butts under water and bin them but would rarely wash the ash tray. Between gatherings his ash tray would sit on his coffee table. The sterile ash trays were stored in a cupboard.

One Friday his agent came to visit. He looked rather sheepish. Mick made him a coffee and they had a cigarette. Mick couldn’t take it and said, “Okay. Out with it. What’s up?” His agent told  him that the manager of the local art gallery wanted Mick to speak in front of 400 people at the Civic Centre about 5 works of his choice. Micks pulse started racing. His agent said, “They’re offering $2,000 for an hour. He wants you to pick the pieces this week.” Mick started sweating so dashed through and took 25mg Valium. His agent dropped his head. He knew what Mick was doing and it was him that had triggered it.

“Can you wait here for half an hour?” asked Mick.  “Of course,” said his agent. After a while Mick was calm. He agreed to do it on one condition….that he be given 20 front row tickets free (these were for his friends). “No problem,” said his agent. The following week his  agent came to pick him up to select the 5 pieces. Mick was dressed as he did when his late wife was alive, an all black suit, black shirt and black winklepicker bootsHis agent knew Mick would be on Valium. The Ray Ban sunglasses were a bit of a giveaway too.

When they arrived at the gallery the owner minced up to them with his purple beret and scarf. He looked at Mick and said, “How lovely to see you, darling after so long. I was so sorry to hear of your loss.” Mick shook his hand and said nothing. The owner led the pair to Micks area. Mick slowly walked around with  thee other 2 behind him. Mick simply ‘s pointed at the pieces he wanted. “Lovely, darling,” said the owner. “I’ll see you in 2 weeks. It’s sold out already.”

Mick had several anxiety attacks leading up to the event but remembered to post the tickets to his friends.

On the night of the event, Micks agent picked him up an hour before he was due on stage. Mick was wearing his usual attire except for his sunglasses. He was wearing his normal glasses.

Backstage, just before he went on he was putting a cigarette into his short holder when a young, short man said, “You can’t smoke in here.” Mick continued and lit up then dryly said, “Arrest me.” The young man then said, “I’ll call security.” Mick said, “Do you want me to do this? I can just walk out.” The young man darted off, never to be seen again.

When Mick walked onto the stage he got a standing ovation. He looked at his works lined up at the back of the stage. He turned around and walked to the front of the stage. He was blinded by  the lighting. He turned around, took off his glasses put them in his trouser pocket and grabbed his sunglasses from his jacket pocket. After putting them on he walked back to the front of the stage and said the crowd, “It’s a bit bright from this side.” The crowd laughed. He looked down at his friends and acknowledged them by raising hiis eyebrows and laughing.

As Mick was going through his works he notice. He noticed 2 uniformed police officers side stage glaring at him. ‘What are they glaring at me for?’ he thought. It didn’t throw him off, it more puzzled him.

After Mick was finished he received another standing ovation with camera flashes going everywhere. He walked off stage and was followed by the police officers down the stairs to the backstage area. Mick turned around. One of the officers said, “Mr. Michael Rafferty we have reason to believe that you are under the influence of cannabis and are in possession of cannabis in your home. We have a warrant drug test you and to search your home. Do you agree to a police interview?” Mick wasn’t phased. “Sure,” he said.

What did phase Mick was when he was handcuffed and led up the side isle in front of everyone. Of course there were 2 press photographers there. The next days headline read “Artist Arrested Under  Mysterious Circumstances.”

The police bundled Mick into their car and took him down to the station. As they switched their camera on they asked Mick to take his sunglasses off. He did so and swapped them for his normal glasses.  When he did so, both officers leaned back in their chairs, looked at each other and smirked. “You’re stoned, aren’t you Sir?” Mick explained about  the Valium and how they would find his prescription at his house and that a drug test will show that he didn’t smoke cannabis. This wiped the smile from the officers face and they began to fumble for questions.

Mick was then taken home where he led the officers  straight to his prescription. They didn’t look happy and threw it back in the direction of where Mick stored it. They then proceeded to spend 2 hours going through every inch of Micks house. Mick sat in the lounge chain smoking. He could feel an anxiety attack coming on. He asked the officers if he could take his Valium. In unison they said, “No!” Mick replied, “If you prevent me from following the Drs instructions on this box and I have an anxiety attack, I will lodge a formal complaint. I’m inches from doing it now. Your conduct has been disgraceful.”

The officers looked sheepishly at each other and nodded at Mick. Interestingly, as Mick took his Valium,they stopped their search. They then took him to the hospital and handed a nurse a form. It was a blood request to test for blood. After an hour a nurse came and took Micks blood. 2 hours later she came back with 2 documents and handed an officer one of them. The officers looked dejected again. The result was obviously negative.

The police dropped Mick back at his home. One of them sternly said, “We’ll be in touch.”

Mick thought, ‘What for?’

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