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Another 22 stories by Jim Morris
What the experts say; “Clever, engaging, a sharp eye for detail and a good ear for dialogue.” Michael Sharkey, Professor of Australian Literature, University of New England. “Directness and spontaneity… freshness, intimacy and honesty that is appealing … sometimes harsh, occasionally offensive …deliberately unrefined at times. Denis Wright M.A. PhD Dean of Arts UNE. “A very good writer.” Craig McGregor to Geraldine Doogue. “Patently adolescent” an anonymous feminist.
*Warning; this book may not change your life. C James Morris 2007 Other titles by JM. Contact: email@example.com Transience. Beads on a String. Three Sides of a Cube. Hallucagenia.
Feeding carrots to an Ass. 98% Fiction Hallucagenia
RETURN TO PARADISE MAN’S BEST FRIEND JEWELBOX LAST SUPPER TEO THARGOMINDAH A GECKOES’ TALE NOTHING TO LOSE JUNK BONDS HONEY SISTER / BROTHER SPEED PSYCHOSIS SILICON DON INNERCITY SIREN DREAMER THE WOMAN WHO YEARNED FOR IMMORTALITY GYPSY FALLEN GIANT CAN-DO SOLOMAN NA-NA-NA-NA-NA THE VIRAGO’S VEINS ANJING BLIND PHOTOGRAPHERS No pockets FIZZIX GOLDEN BLUE EVERYDAY HOUSEPERSON WEILDERSNIK QUICK! CALL THE COPS. REVELATION CUPID’S BOW FOOL’S PARADISE FOREVER
My stories are not for everyone. By grouping letters and stringing words I have created worlds, epochs, peacocks, rhythms, riddles, laughter, tears; and characters. I use a minimalist style, to highlight, yet leave the infilling and expansion to the readers imagination. I build stories on artifacts, anecdotes, dreams, imagination, deep research, and bullshit, using notes, scribbles, letters, photographs, eyes, ears, and twisted thinking to tie it together with fetishes, expose it to expectations, tip it into love, create and erase fears. Or contemplate desire. Sometimes at a nightclub bar, a market place in the early morning, the bank of a very sleepy river, or the rim of a venting volcano. Places with associations and stimulation for taking notice of conversations and characters that encourage me to search my imagination for combinations of ideas that could be related in interesting, provocative or amusing ways. The style is cartoon and the characters archetypes to move the stories quickly. Even truth is a type of fiction; so don’t take anything I write too seriously. They are just impressions culled from the constantly transforming panorama when open to the irony, the ecstasy and the agony of life; coming into being, flowing, and passing by. Flowering or fizzling. jm December 2006
twisted pieces of driftwood that had accumulated in the fork. Joe tied them together. During three weeks of drifting eastward across ever more open ocean Joe’s main concern had been to collect the rainwater from the localized tropical squalls by wringing out his wet clothes into some of the plastic containers he had collected. His tiny island of flotsam had grown to quite an estate made up of many pieces of driftwood both large and small. He’d collected and entwined more than a thousand clear and colored plastic containers, countless light bulbs, odd broken thongs, plastic guns and other toys, chaffed chunks of calk, fourteen amber glass buoys, and several one hundred liter drums, all either wrapped in fish net lost from trawlers or tied together with the black tar-impregnated cord used for long-lines. Half a diesel engine crate was secured at the highest point and covered in crisp seaweed for Joe to watch the ocean and hide for weary birds to land. Joe’s days were vast stretches of skytime unmarked by objects or signs of measurement except for the reflection of the sun, moon, or clouds on the expansive gray dome which curved away in every direction. In his efforts to catch food Joe spent many hours laying perfectly still, in position, breathing carefully, waiting for a bird to land which he could, when lucky and lightning fast, catch by its legs. He’d tear the bird’s head off to drink its blood straight from its neck before ripping it open and consuming its stringy flesh until his tongue looked like a tampon in a broken pillow, but basically Joe was just spitting feathers and losing lots of weight. The weight he had been wishing to lose through decades of beers and sweet coffees and toffees and burgers and bacon and eggs and thousands of hours of watching other people being energetic, but after twenty years of fifty fags a day Joe’s lungs were filled with sweet sea air. His double chin and beer gut were gone and the
return to paradise
Joe’s balding head re-emerged into its worst-case scenario. He trod frantic waterly and saw the lights of the charter boat disappearing into black night. He heard the sounds of the B.G.’s on the stereo fading, the boat’s exhausts gurgling, and one shrill laughing scream; as a little wave slapped his eyes. What a weekend! Booze from morning to midnight; but there was the boat, his ‘mates’, the girls, and the booze; all leaving him for dead. Joe’d always been the one looking stupid. Always the one on the losing end. Four girls and five guys; typical! But this really wasn’t funny! The rest of the crew partied on and didn’t really notice Joe’s absence until about ten-thirty the next morning because they thought he was sulking in the forward cabin. Their erratic course during the night and the suspect navigational information eventually relayed to the money-starved rescue service meant that by the next day Joe’d been declared “Lost; Believed Drowned.” But Joe hadn’t drowned, because several hours after his off-balance technicolor yawn over the stern, in the darkness with his biting panic and sinking anxiety, Joe had been nudged by something solid, which after initially frightening him half to death, saved his life. It was a long smooth tree trunk, complete with forked crown and buttress roots, and Joe had been given a slim second chance. He’d hauled himself out of the water and laid along its slender length with his arms and legs dangling. By morning there were a couple of plastic bottles, one with a length of string attached, and a few more
receding flab had kept him alive through fine weather and foul. “Could be worse” mused Joe as the blue sky got cloudy during the last few hours of the day. Masses of cumuli crowded the horizon and blasted lightning onto the defenseless ocean. Joe lay flat on his island home clutching the cords and the netting where it was thickly tied and tangled into the largest pieces of driftwood. The sea was whipped to white horses by the gusts and soon developed a large swell with foaming crests. When the lightning flashed Joe could see the size of the waves as he clung through the night praying fervently. Next day Joe awoke to find the ocean calm again, the island somewhat out of shaped but basically intact. He was relieved and then excited! Aboard the twisted driftwood was a casualty of the storm. A half-size turtle. ‘Thirty kilos of meat!’ thought Joe as he frantically lunged forward to grab the sides of the turtle’s shell. One flipper was tangled in the netting but despite three trashing others Joe desperately tried to breaks the turtle’s neck until he was lathered in sweat and almost exhausted. With one last effort he managed to turn the turtle onto its back, inadvertently releasing the previously ensnared fore-flipper, but he still had no clear idea of how he could kill it. “Drown it?” he wondered “Strangle it!” he decided, and did his best, squeezing at the leathery neck with his thumbs pressed in as hard as he possibility could. But he was hungry and weak so after twenty second, which seemed like eternity, when the tears started dribbling from the turtles eyes, and Joe began to see a creature instead of a meat-pack, his grip gradually eased and he fell back exhausted and flooded with shame, caused by the pulse of its blood, the feel of its skin, and the mournful, forgiving look in its eyes. The turtle was no longer entangled and as it slid back into the sea and slipped below the waves, Joe’s head swam with diluted self-rage for allowing such a desperately needed source of sustenance to escape! But, what the hell! Dying no longer seemed that bad anyway. Humans had been killing everything they could get their hands on for so long Joe figured it had to end somewhere, and even on the expansive ocean with not a speck of land in sight the pile of junk that Joe rode high upon was evidence enough of the human-beings’ wasteful destruction; and Joe finally had a chance to be separate from the madness. With that realization Joe felt a deep and profound peace within and felt sure that all things were as they should be. “The turtle escaped. Good luck to it. Okay, I die here.” thought Joe, “So what!” and with that thought he burst forth into crazy laughter, not just because he’d escaped the dog-eat-dog world, but also because he was experiencing a greater emotional intensity and massively increased understanding of the undifferentiated and perennial consciousness permeating the universe. Of course he was alone, more alone than ever, but he felt a tremendous psychological and physical expansion as thought his personality had blended with something far more powerful than himself. A flood of happiness pulsated through and infused both his mind and body, and in that state Joe wished for nothing. The light from the setting sun reflected across the ocean in dancing, ever-changing patterns of gold, copper and platinum. The sky lit up as though the clouds were glad; as though the sun was saying goodnight to him alone; and in that tranquil state our weary but elated seafarer slipped softly into sleep. The next morning Joe woke feeling fabulously rested, as though all the cares and fears he had ever harbored had been washed away, dissolved and forgotten. He was also very hungry so it pleased and relieved him when in mid-morning the turtle re-emerged with a struggling fish firmly pinned by its beak and allowed Joe to take it. Twice more that day the turtle
delivered fish which Joe enjoyed eating, with a side-dish of seaweed from the edge of his world. But far above the circling birds, and far above the coral colored clouds, a satellite was taking a look at our cozy castaway. Firstly to check the blip they’d found, but then to take a photograph of his face to find out who the hell he was. At headquarters in Texas the technicians figured out who they were looking at, consulted their superiors, and agreed it could be a chance to work some PR after the recent setback in trade diplomacy. They contacted their Aussie counterparts, located Joe’s wife in Brisbane and flew her by Navy chopper to a destroyer on maneuvers; and there it was, all several thousand gray tonnes of it, standing off, motors idling, when Joe awoke gagging on the exhaust fumes. He panicked when he saw it. So ugly. So huge. So unexpected! Bristling with guns and swarming with uniformed people. He pressed back against his crate and stared. ‘Mr. Agostini’, came the megaphone message from the forward petty officer, ‘we are here to save you, sir. Just a few minutes now. We are lowering a boat.’ Joe gathered his wits. He looked up at his wife waving from her position clutching the grey chain railing. ‘Its OK!’ yelled Joe. And wondered if he was actually producing sounds, ‘No worries folks! She’ll be right!’ “Joe, Joe! I love you Joe” his wife bellowed back. “Its okay”, Joe called again. “Have the house, keep the cars; they’re all yours, Say hi to the kids. Enjoy your life. I’m fine. Go home, please go home and leave me alone!” Joe pleaded, waving his hands and arms in ‘go back’ gestures. “He has obviously been drinking salt water.” said the petty officer to three very able-seamen, “Go get him boys!”
Sunday morning after a night in town._ Nothing to do. Walking across the frozen puddles in the hard dry clay shattered his reflection. Big boots, rough trousers, woolen hat. Zipped jacket. He stepped through the wire fence into sheep country outside the perimeter of the mine, and walked up a small hill which he’d never seen over before. Grass waved like waves in the strong wind, no trees except for a long way off to the north. All else below the long sweeping curve of the yellow grass white green was the broad expanse of water known as Lake George in July. Flocks of water birds floated close to the shore where a fence continued into the water showing how shallow it was. Wind howled across the open paddocks to the blue mountains in the distance. Sheep were grazing. A large grasshopper landed on his arm and sat there. He held it up in the air, looking into its globular eyes, swept away by an irresistible urge to sing to it. The face was so perfect, the eyes such deadly still shining orbs; antennae, (vvvv) mouth parts, spiracles, shining scales, wings folded up out of sight except for a touch of purple. He sang at the top of his voice but the grasshopper said nothing. The spirit took him; let him be carried away. The grass was gold, every instant worth its limitless containment. He felt the breath of life, looked into the jewelbox of nature, understood the small difference between a man and an insect. The grasshopper was part of him and he was part of it; together in the divine bioquiz. A shared experience. He expected the grasshopper to join in a chorus or at least wink at him. But it did absolutely nothing than look back at him and everything else beneath the phantasmagorical dome of blue blue sky.
It passed very soon and became again an empty slope. The grass wasn’t all that good and the lake was pretty low. A few rabbit holes to look out for. He waved the insect off his hand and started walking back to the van.
mans best friend
It was a wet morning and Mary woke with an apprehensive feeling which she did her best to ignore. The Pastor had said to put unpleasant thoughts out her mind, to simply be aware of Jesus’ love within her heart. So that is what she did. Mary dressed her daughters and they went to share prayers and the morning meal with her brethren. Their lives had changed since Brother Peter had taught them to love Christ. Two years before, they had all moved onto the land after years of planning and money saving. At first Mary had lived with her de-facto husband, Roger, their two children, and two new puppies, down by the creek. Each couple that had contributed toward the cost of the land had started building their own houses or temporary shelters but when they’d accepted to be born-again the logical thing had been to congregate at a central point. That way they could share their labor to build a small chapel and communal living area. The only problem had been Roger, the children’s father. He refused to accept God’s message, he became quite angry and had sworn and abused the others claiming that they were destroying his family. He’d been so stubborn in refusing to see the light, so of course she’d had to separate herself from him and remove the children. Roger seemed to doubt her conviction and continued building what was meant to be the family home. Biding his time. He was stubborn! But Mary’s conviction had remained firm; she hadn’t seen Roger for almost a year. Quite often she heard him hammering during the day or saw the headlights of his
car returning from town late. Some people just don’t have the strength to give up their heathen ways. The next day while in the vegetable garden Mary felt uneasy again. Her mind had been so clear of late, since she had completely submitted to her faith in God rather than sharing in unholy alliance with Roger, but the feeling she had reminded her of earthly things nonetheless. Their time together had been good as things stood before her awakening to the teachings of the Bible. In his own way he had been a very good man and loved his children, but it was his refusal to accept the truth that had driven the wedge firmly between them. And only he could change that. He’d laughed at them. Couldn’t take them seriously at first when they’d begun meeting at Peter’s caravan, but within a few weeks Roger had become very bitter and there seemed to be no point in trying to open his mind. Mary broke another piece of kindling across her knee to start a fire; it was a bit thick for her and cracked sharply with a sound that seemed to come from a distance. She stopped and looked toward the old place where she knew Roger would be, denying the obvious, struggling with his sinful life and mocking them for their commitment, while they continued to improve their organization; evermore single-minded and harmonious. The love of the Lord filled their hearts, minds and conversations. That night Mary lay in her bed, for the first time unable to stop herself from feeling like Vicky. Lust wasn’t part of her life anymore but as she looked up into the dimness of the room the old pleasures of married life took on a powerful aspect. For the first time she allowed herself to acknowledge the affected tenor of the day-to-day communication amongst her brethren, the two hundred word vocab of the believers. She shocked herself by thinking like that, but it didn’t fade away, she could hear Brother Peter sending up messages on their behalf. The conceit she realized, to assume an intimate relationship with the ultimate power. Loyalty had always been an important though unspoken part of their tiny ministry, as devotion was the very core of their worship of God, but suddenly she realized how cruel she’d been to Roger, the person willing to supply her with a very tangible and committed love; despite its impurity. She suddenly realized how unkind she’d been, and wanted to make amends. Having dressed and collected a lantern from the kitchen Vicky set off through the moonlight for the half-mile walk to their old camp. It was dark and a cold wind blew from the south carrying the barking of dogs with it as she moved nearer. After fifteen minutes she came into the clearing where they had first camped and in the moonlight she could see a finished house, except for the garden. It was magnificent. The dogs were barking louder now, she could hear them scratching at the inside of the door and then fear rose from its submersion. She wanted it to be regret and nothing more, perhaps a chance to make amends and admit that to adopt faith wholeheartedly is to take the easy way out. Maybe to talk of reconciliation if he would forgive her. Her heart sunk as the smell of dogshit and bad meat shot up her nose. She almost fainted, but holding the lantern above her shoulder she put her head around the archway to look into the lounge. There was Roger spread-eagled on the floor, a rifle was beside him and the dogs had already chewed off a couple of limbs.
For ten hours that day we had pushed on through some of roughest country in the world. Arriving at the village just before dark had been sweet because the sky was filled with cloud and thunder echoed up the valley through air pulled tight. We sat smoking tobacco after spreading out our damp gear around a fire burning brightly within a circle of stones suspended by a thick layer of sand above the black palm verandah. It looked like we were in for a comfortable night at last after a few rough ones spent beneah the canopy of rainforest. But that was not to be. My charge was a young guy about twenty-one. A really nice young fellow who kept telling me about his girlfriend back home, He had never been away from her before and how much she would be missing him. It was easy to form a mental image of them together at the pub or driving in his holden and it brought back strong memories of the woman I had recently parted from after several beautiful years. I envied his youth and the simplicity of the things he spoke. She would be there to meet his home-bound flight. Just as the light was being lost from the sky rain fell as if to make up for lost time. Streams formed through the middle of the village and water poured off the thatched roof in a continuous curtain of water. It reminded me that I had stayed in that same hut four years before and how amazed I had been then when the rain poured down just as it was again, and not one drop had penetrated that well laid thatch. Things change in four years, as if I needed reminding, and by then the roof was old and ragged. The rain spilled through a range of bad leaks while the wind that accompanied it sprayed the verandah with enough water to douse the fire.
It was soon wet, dark, and cold, and instead of having a room each we had to share the only dry back corner. There was nothing to do about it but lie down to sleep; so we did. During the night I was slowly brought to consciousness by a fine nibbling on my elbow. Being very tired I didn’t want to wake-up so I managed to ignore the delicate tickling sensation until it included a sharp little bite which caused me to pull my arm in and sit up. I reached for the torch always kept close to me at night in the bush and switched it on. There in the spotlight on the wall not a foot from my face were hundreds of big red cockroaches with their feelers twitching. They performed sharp turns and tight circles, bumped into each other and backed up, but basically they were just doing the same as us; staking out some ground in the only dry corner there was. The ravenous things had been eating the dead skin off my elbow like cattle at a trough. Knowing it was a useless gesture, but operating on a base level I squashed half a dozen which only added some pale yellow paste to the picture and scattered the more timid of the rest. There was nowhere for any of us to go so I just zipped up the bag a bit and rolled my back to the wall trying to switch off the movie in my mind. After all, they were only cockroaches. Helped by fatigue I was soon dozing but began to hear Paul mumbling something softly in his sleep. He was dreaming and he was dreaming of the girl he missed so much that heaven and hell were just one brain cell apart.. I felt embarrassed for him as it became more obvious the direction of his dream. She was in his arms and they were making love, perhaps on the lounge at home or in a frilly suburban bed. Somewhere in heaven he was, and I envied the effortless power of his mind.
“I am Simon-Peter.. .. ….. A fisher of men;…..Or so I was told. . . . . Having traveled throughout the land with my master, Jesus the Galilean as he spread his good message, I witnessed many things miraculous, and mysterious. His message was so profound yet so obtuse and abstract that every time his words of love and hope were repeated they were heard in different ways by each of the many that listened to him speak them. His use of parables, allegories, diffuse meanings, and multiple messages was so clever that his tales meant many things to many minds. Most often I was awed by the power of his speech, but sometimes I thought his words just the fancy riddles of a showman, until I saw a dead man walk. Yet later I began to consider them again in the same light as the tricks of the shaman. Until a blind man saw and it made me shamed. What was taken up from it though, what you might say was inhaled and absorbed by the enthralled crowds, was the scent of liberation from the Roman dominators and brutalisers, by the oft-prophesied arrival of a great leader. Jesus had raised many people’s hopes, but mostly he’d awoken a martial spirit amongst men willing to die for their freedom; and obviously they saw in him the powerful leader they yearned for. But when men were many, and those men were ready, and there were plenty of them, what did their psuedosavior do? He walked away. Behaved as a fool. Surrendered without a fight, and allowed himself to be humiliated; and finally crucified. When he could have done so much for so many. That’s history, even though it has only all just happened during these last few weeks, but already all kinds of weird stories are going around, which is why I would dearly love to set the record
straight. Especially where myself and Judas are concerned. The first incident, when I almost raised my eyebrows, was the way Jesus was so quick to leave town after the beheading of John the Baptiser. Admittedly, we all scurried away, but being led by him taking long strides across the plain, striking out with his cane, dodging the prickles as we picked our way through the low and scabby hills until we arrived at the shore of the lake where we rested amongst the rocks. Not hiding, but keeping a very low profile nonetheless; waiting for the others to arrive with the boat from across the lake. Two hours before nightfall we were roused by the arriving sounds of a veritable multitude. An unruly rabble of several thousand men and boys who had got together and followed us out of town. My first impression was of a small army, and by the chorus of their cries they made it was clear they were expressing allegiance to Jesus, as leader, as the messiah, and the man for whom they had been waiting so long to instruct them on the way, having inspired them so, to redeem Israel. Jesus stood there on the rocks, all-erect, with his garments and cape catching the breeze beneath his outstretched arms. He acknowledged them in a way I thought reeked of patronism and his speech was vague and uninspiring. The way he deflected their core concerns and totally ignored using the word Israel reinforced my feeling that Jesus really wanted to start something of his own, rather than stick to the Israel idea. Instead of revolutionary fervor he gave them a rather bland talk about being meek while reassuring them that the Day of Deliverance would soon arrive. After the sermon the followers were very quiet, although a low frequency hum of discontent could be heard if you listened with your feet. “We are hungry Master and we have no food! “ one impatient follower called from the
crowd. “Yes Master. We have no bread and the hour is late.” Twenty others added on. “There is more to life than bread,” replied Jesus, “but be patient and I shall feed you. Jesus turned to ask Judas and me to bring some baskets of fish from the boat that had recently arrived. “There are fish there, I know because Samuel told me,” spoke Judas timidly, “But Master, they have only caught five fish, and we have such little bread, there is no way to feed that crowd which no doubt numbers upwards of five thou.“ “Worry not Peter, the man I love more than any, for surely each of them that bleats for eats has a little something stashed away beneath their ample coverings.” And sure enough, the multitude was fed, before they settled down to sleep right where they were. By first light the next morning we were pushing off with our oars, soon hoisted the lank and tattered sail, and without breeze slowly rowed our way toward vv . I hadn’t slept well and felt a bit uneasy after the previous night, and when groups of men began arriving on the shore, now far behind us so, they looked to me as indistinct as sheep, bleating wooly words lost between them and us as they scattered across the sea, still smooth and like a sleeping mirror. Soon as the sun started sliding up the skirt of sky that shining shallow sea showed ruffled signs of the rising wind. I felt apprehensive. I knew they would feel abandoned and have a long and empty-handed walk home to mutter and confer on the meaning of meek, and not like it. By the time we were in the middle of the lake, sailing well on a following breeze suddenly dark clouds were all about us and within the time it took to shorten sail a storm of such intensity was upon us, and though hearty sailors we-all were soon huddling beneath the fore-deck keeping sight of the lashing gaff that had broken way with the tearing of the sail. Confused waves were slapping the sides amidships and splashing and spilling over the gunwales. We were shitting ourselves but Jesus leaned back in the stern, in mortal danger of being pierced by the windsane rigging, but appearing to be asleep. I could never quite figure him out. Was he really asleep, or really awake, simply waiting for our fear to reach a certain pitch? As he may have been waiting until the mood for insurrection had rising to a particularly pregnant point before making best advantage of the drama, or was he just a megalomaniac who thought delaying it might ensure his place in paradise. And then! He rose from his place by the untended tiller, spread his hands at arms length and calmed the sea. We felt ridiculous; and he just smirked. I’ll rush through this bit because it gets me depressed, and I’ll take it up at the census. That was a very important element in the control of us Jews. That census. So it was that Sunday when many people thought that Jesus might kick things along, hence the palm fronds. Well he did, but right from the start, entering the plaza on the back of an ass you wouldn’t feel right putting your kids on, put a weird spin on things that didn’t really show up until the day after, when Jesus had been sentenced and all. Them crying out Barrabas, Barrabas!” I knew he’d pay for not living up to their expectations. He wanted to play god but kept being seduced by his intrinsic masochism. Anyway, by the time he had been scoured and crowned we were very scared, as I am sure you can easily understand. And that’s why I’d denied knowing Jesus those times I had. He’d disappointed them. And we were his arms and legs that the rich Jews wanted to chop off. We’d all abandoned him when Judas came with the centurions; we’d all scurried off while Judas kissed him. Anyway, so now that he is dead I can’t help but think that we have all been involved in some weird suicide
contrived by Jesus himself for his own selfish reasons. That is the thought that lingers but what really upset me was when I went looking for Judas. It made sense that we all leave town and I knew he had some money, but to my horror I found him dead. Killed by his own hand, but surely as a result of playing a part in the main-man’s main game. When I found the others they were hiding in a cave huddling together damp and cold. Hungry from the morning before. I told them I’d found Judas hanging in a tree. From above the cave we could see the place so we all spent some time sitting there watching our sweet silhouetted Judas swinging in the wind. We shed private tears in the dimness of dawn. “He had it all planned out in advance. He just used us; and didn’t care. All those fancy speeches about compassion and charity. And yet he was so indifferent and cruel! He acted as though the whole thing was predestined.” “What are you saying Peter?” Samuel asked, sounding truly shocked. “That Jesus was responsible for Judas, and the agony he must have gone through in those final hours!” “Yes, that is what I am saying! And more. He was ingenuous, and deceitful; and didn’t really care. Remember the scene with the courtesan, the oil and the foot kissing, and the bit about the poor will always be there, no matter what deeds? What are we to make of that? And the cock crowing thing! That’s what really tells it to me! He did the same to me as he did to Judas, except Judas is dead; may he rest in peace. We were the gophers, the scapegoats and the stooges, and when the cock did crow that third time, believe me, I’d felt a wave of guilt flow through my body like poisoned moon-shadow. Ashame so deep that I too could have harmed myself from sheer remorse.” “I don’t think so.” Chipped in Michael. “Why would he go through with such an elaborate, and grotesque suicide when he could have done so much more good had he lived to complete his work!” “Yes. I agree. He could have done so much. But what did he achieve? What did he leave us but all those words? And such indefinite words. Those frickin parables. What did the guy really mean? “…relax, we’ll always have poor people. The sinner is more important to god. A prostitute is more important than you or me. How are we to take such things?” “Peter, you’re distraught, as we all are, but everything that is happening is a direct expression of gods will. Jesus told us that. In all your lives we must search for fresh occasions to submit, as though we are already in god’s mouth. Undaunted and striving to do right. No begetter and no begotten…. “Cut it out will you. Trying to take his place or something are you? Forget it, unless you want to get nailed too.” “ Are you saying he wanted to get crucified? Are you?” chipped in Thomas. “I doubt it!” “Face it Thomas, we’ve been conned. Dragged out of normal lives and taken for a ride! Bit players in a human self-sacrifice. That guy Jesus, what did he come to? An agonizing death above three weeping women. To leave us alienated and scared for good reason. Where is the leadership? What can we do now? “Jesus instructed us to be always ready to be crushed the very next instant. He said the meek shall inherit the earth.” Stated Andrew, not wanting to be left out. He also said, “Eat of my flesh and drink of my blood and you shall be as god; immortal? If you really think he meant all of the things he said then let’s go and eat his flesh now. I’m hungry!” “Are you pulling my leg?” queried Steven. “Are you seriously suggesting….” But Simon, who had been standing there silently since the debate began suddenly
stated, “So that is why he had to die. We couldn’t eat him while he was alive!” “Hey. Yes! Now, that makes sense!” a few voices …. In unison. As the first light made unnoticed movement possible we moved together, agreed on the veracity of Jesus’ words. “Eat my flesh!” reverberated in my mind. ”Eat my flesh and drink of my blood! We’ll see whether the eating makes of us gods.” We stepped cautiously amongst the trees and rocks but it wasn’t far to the cemetery so soon we were milling about outside the shining new tomb that some rich guy had put the body of Jesus in. There was a very large stone across the entrance, but it was round, so between the lot of us it was no problem to roll away, and as Jesus was being carried out he was placed on the ground again so that the stone could be rolled back and forth with ease until he was tenderly ready to barbecue. The discarded cross was leaning on the wall outside the tomb so it was soon sawn and split into kindling to start a hearty blaze while Jesus was stripped and spread-eagled on the ground. “Look into my heart” one of the group chuckled as he helped to dismember Jesus. Soon his pieces were spread out all over the grill, with the legs and arms on separate rotisseries. A bold young red wine had been procured, no one seemed ready for the blood at such an early hour, and we all stood around talking about the events of the last few days. Thomas, more than usual was carrying on in his exaggerated manner, “…. more significant than an apocalypse, an event to eclipse time!” What was he on about? Was he referring to the miracles, the trial, the crucifixion, or, without realizing it, the disappearance of the body. “Pass me the fork, please Simon, I’d like to turn that other cheek.”
Teo had never known his father to cry, so the warm drops on his arm made him stay very still. His thoughts moved faster than he’d ever known. Teo’s life, which had been lived in a bamboo house by the sea on a small sandy island, would never be the same again. His older sister Turia had arrived back from school and explained why their island was getting smaller, why the sea was rising. Why they had to leave before the summer storms. Any small cyclone would surely drown them all. Sailing their way along the coast in the family’s large twin-bulled dugout had been good, and bad. The sunset was as beautiful as ever but for the first time their home was silhouetted. The storm that had blown them ashore amongst the waves and the fallen trees scared young Teo until the family had moved to higher ground between the beach and the wetlands beyond. And that is where they were camped, hunched around a cooking fire beneath a sky that threatened rain. Mother and father had never seen cars, except for pictures torn from magazines. They knew they could carry loads and travel very fast, ‘but how did they change the world with their smoke?” It didn’t make any sense to Teo either. “If it is true that they are killing the world with these things, then why don’t they just throw them away?” his father had asked. They ate fish and sweet potato around the bright fire and still they talked about it until his sister was repeating herself again. She’d been to school, she’d learned the ways of the new world. She knew the concepts were too complex for an old man who took his food from the sea and went back into the earth when his time was gone. “Why can’t they just take what they need? Who isn’t happy to have food and shelter for their family? Why
can’t people be happy with what was given to them by God? Be happy without killing the world?” The fire made his face seem red as betel. And so did Turia’s when she lifted it from staring at the coals. “It just doesn’t happen like that father!” She snapped. “Things like that just don’t happen!” Father’s tears had fallen when she’d said that. They fell onto Teo’s arm where he was warmed by the fire. He could feel his father’s body shaking. In anger? From pain? Or shame that his daughter who’d gone from them for so long could do nothing to save their world? At first light Teo lifted himself from the sleeping mat beside the smoldering ashes. With his lap-lap pulled around his shoulders he walked to a small dune where he could see his father repairing their outrigger to continue the journey. Teo looked across the sea to a storm spilling itself in the distance, erasing the line between sea and sky. A long slow swell rolled in from the South. Closer to shore a coconut floated, and aboard the nut was a sooty tern, sitting still, digesting and resting. Its flocking friends still wheeled and shrieked about a school of sardines in mid-distance. The ocean didn’t look much bigger to Teo, but he could see the trees fallen and drowned along the coastline beyond where his father was working. “Teo! Come and hold this rope! Hurry, please.” Before Teo moved to help him though, he saw in the mid-distance a flying fish lift from the lazy swell to ride the subtle pressure wave across it face. With wings flickering spasmatically, and silver, with droplets of seawater still leaving its tail, the airborne fish flew directly toward the resting tern and bowled it into the sea. “But things like that don’t happen,” thought Teo, “they just don’t happen.”
The garden within the courtyard was a place of peace and beauty. It gave me time to re-establish my belief in the balance of right and wrong and to savor hope for the struggle between good and evil. A place to observe the continuing evolution from chaos to reason. Outside the door of my room was a green bush with broad leaves and intriguing violet flowers. When I looked closely at it I noticed a few tiny caterpillars munching away at the younger leaves. The next day there were plenty more and their tiny cylinders of green shit could be seen on the cement path below. What kind of butterflies would they turn out to be? Day by day they grew fatter but day-by-day the bush became more chewed until I was inclined toward concern for it. Would they eat it bare before reaching the stage of cocoon? The next morning two new characters appeared on the scene. A pair of chameleons. Whenever they wished, without moving any more of themselves than any eyeball and tongue, they would pluck a fat little caterpillar away from the hole it had been eating. They soon took care of the problem concerning the survival of the bush, but then I began to be concerned that the hungry reptiles would finish off the caterpillars and retrieve our chance of completing the life cycle. A few days later I saw only one chameleon but I wasn’t concerned until later in the day when a cat appeared and grabbed the remaining chameleon by the face. It then looked quickly my way as I moved to stop it, but I was too slow of course, and the black exotic was instantly gone among the bushes. The progression I had been watching was then disrupted. The cat, like the dark voice of doom, the
heartless hand of fate, caused an uneasiness and feeling of grief that was mildly akin to a happy family tragedy. That night I lay in bed and thought about my future. The morning events had faded. I’d realized the relative insignificance of the creatures and how limited my concept of ‘nature’ had been. Sure the cat was foreign in the first analysis but I consoled myself with the thought that first there is a mountain, then there isn’t, then there is; some big thinking to alleviate the anxiety of the disrupted events. The kind of chain that had made me feel secure and part of a larger someway perfect pattern; pre-ordained and planned by a benevolent power. Two small geckoes ran across the outside of the mosquito wire. The candlelight from my room illuminated their transparent underbellies showing how much they had eaten. I had seen them before; so cute. The male, or what I supposed was the male, chased the female in quick bursts out of sight and then back onto the screen. I supposed the light was helping to attract the mosquitoes and moths. Despite the fact that they were reptiles four inches long I could recognize their level, the double meanings, the aggression in desire, the drive, the event unfolding the motion of love, the laws of life, the power of personality in the progression of procreation. The common thread that ties together the organism of animacy. I felt happy for them, and for myself. The future was a family, a loving place, a small but omniportant pattern in which I would fit. A meaning mutually understood and valued. It was a magical balmy tropical night and I would soon not be alone. The female plucked a tiny white moth, removed the wings, and ate it. The male was close behind, seemingly less interested in catching food, but instead of catching her, like black lightning the underbelly of cat appeared on the screen. All I heard were the claws gripping the wire and its teeth crushing the little spasming thing. Then it was gone. I was shocked, I felt angry. That fucking cat again! That evil out-of-place thing! What chance is there? The female didn’t move. She seemed to be as stunned as I. How quickly things can change! My composure and pleasure had gone and the ramifications spread through my reality like cracks through a pane of glass. How was it possible to have faith in the basic elements of human happiness while there is such disproportionate power to destroy; to abort our plans for peace and prosperity? And then it returned landing out of the dark as before. With one eye atwinkle and a mechanical twist of the cat’s head in two sharp bites the little lizard was hanging out both sides of the cat’s mouth. The sounds were like pointed teeth joining between my ears. I jumped up from my bed to take a swipe at the screen, but of course the cat was already gone. “Is there any hope for mankind?” I yelled out at the blackest night.
nothing to lose
“Hey Jude! Grab the car keys offa the bench will ya?” …”Come on! We’ll be late if we don’t get outa here in the next two minutes” “So what’s the rush?” said Judy, emerging from the kitchen pulling her socks over the bottoms of her jeans. “Hey. What is the rush?” she wore a pissed-off expression surrounded by frizzy hair pulled back from her face like a sheaf tied twice around with a cotton scarf that hung to her shoulders. She wasn’t big, or small, but strong and well shaped and squinted her eyes like a cave dweller coming out into the snow. “I mean it Bob. What does it matter if we are five minutes late? Don’t hurry me up like I’m so kind of nuisance. Don’t you realize how many meetings we’ve been to this month already? She waited momentarily, “Six! And six hundred before that! And what has changed? Hey? So don’t rush me, cause nothing has changed in all the years we’ve been at it; except to get worse!” she told him emphatically, hands on hips. “The green trend amounts to nothing more than talking, more letter writing and lobbying; and gives the impression that something is actually being done, but the lines on the graphs have all gone from horizontal to vertical and plastic buckets full of food scraps or school kids recycling paper bags ain’t gonna make the change! In another twenty years there’ll be eight billion people driving, eating, and shitting on this planet and what are we going to do then? No Bob, the kinds of changes required are unpopular and mainstream political. Can’t you see that?” She looked him straight in his eyes and waited impatiently for a serious answer. They had both been so involved during the previous couple of years that it was almost an obsession and now that she was
pregnant they were even more desperate to do something about the environment. For Jude it hadn’t been a hobby, a past-time, or a means to socialize with the like-minded. She‘d become increasingly focused on green issues since leaving school but had gradually gone deeper until she had finally appeared out the other side. At first the information had been mind expanding, impactive and shocking, but just lately it had passed through zero on the number line and Judy couldn’t help seeing that the crisis could only accelerate until everything stopped. Some would say that she had given up but she had really only come to a conclusion determined by an objective re-assessment of the data unobfuscated by the hippy bullshit and green need for reenforcement. She’d read so many books about peace and war, Hunzas and Zen, the CIA, NSA, KGB, Mossad, toxic waste, conspiracies, acid rain, de-forestation, cosmic guidance, over-population, arms bazaars, astronomy, cute furry things, the dance of the demi-gods, tantric sex, health, herbs, history, money, love, and life after death, that it had not only served to instill in her a deep respect for the mystery of the abundant beauty of earthly manifestation but also an ever increasing contempt for the human race which culls, kills and clearfells while generally smothering the whole beautiful organism with their generated shit. “Do you really think the people with their power are ever going to back off, Bob? Do you really think the average person is going to give up enough of their frantic consumption to make any meaningful difference?” She implored him. “Oh c’mon Jude, we’ve been through this all before. If we don’t, who will? Everybody has to do their bit. Anyway, I told Dave I’d do some t-shirts for him. Are you ready or what?” “One simple question, Bob. Do you think that people would be willing to give up their cars even if they had
proof that it would make the difference between survival and destruction?” “Jude, you know that is a purely question.” “Alright Bob. I’ve had enough, cause you just don’t get it do you. I’m not interested in wasting my hypotheticals any more! Not tonight. Not ever! I’ve done my bit. You think I’m kidding but face it Bob, unless there are some very unpopular decisions made this planet is going straight down the tube and there is nothing you and me or a million more of us can do. The puppet masters are just too powerful and they have in their service the vast majority of the privileged populace of this over-populated world to feed the masters’ hegemonic power by their greed, ignorance, fear and gullibility. The hip pocket nerve is master of the brain. Smart humans hey! We haven’t found a replacement planet anywhere out there” she said, waving her arm across the span of the doorway, getting a bit dramatic the way she could sometimes, “But already they’re going to trash this one! Forget it Bob. I’m not going anywhere with you tonight. I’ve had enough of the man in the street and his similar wife. Extinction is not a shame; it’s a fucking crime! Did you see that photo in the paper this morning, five politicians planting one tree? Some PR for a grinning mogul being back-slapped for ‘saving’ one kind of duck! No one will come to terms with reality, Bob! We all watch so much TV that we can’t tell when we’re dreaming. It’s all dead space… inside and out …” she said just standing there shaking her head. “Come on Jude. Are you coming or not?” They stood there looking at each other until Bob said “seeya later.” and turned to walk out the door. But of course he didn’t see her later. As sometimes happens, events fell one against the other into a cosmic bottleneck. This time she was really fed up. Totally disillusioned with the sham. Finished with trying to be the good citizen because she had realized that she was simply contributing to the problem by allowing the planet rapers to give the impression that something was actually being done. “Landcare plants a hundred trees while a corporations and peasants cut ten thousand down. A council drags a few car bodies out of a creek while factories full of robots produce ten shiploads more. A war draws to conclusion in one place while two start elsewhere. Twenty thousand children died while you were asleep last night but “have a nice day” she said to no one in particular. Judy had realized that twenty years of consciousness raising had just been wasted time because action requires courage to take risks that most people are just too comfortable to take. “Human nature can be despicable! And if those bastards are going to be supping on champagne in their penthouses while the world rots around them I’m not going to be crawling in the streets like a cockroach fighting over crumbs. I’ll go down fighting. Not farting around with petitions or marching in the street like a trained duck. So Bob found a cold, dark, and surprisingly empty house when he came in about twelve. He couldn’t believe it. Judy hadn’t taken off to her mother’s for years. “Must be hormones,” he thought, “I’ll call her in the morning.” But Judy hadn’t gone to her mother’s. Her philosophical realignment had been complete so she could see that the only people not part of the collusion were the outlaws, the real outsiders who instead of being marginalized and povertised by attempting to change the unchangeable they had simply bared their hairy arses and farted in it’s smug face. She went looking for them who had bitten the bullet. The renegades. At least they saw that the fundamental condition of modern reality increasingly required conscious self-deception by humans inextricably entangled in the business of strange masks and disguises, confronted by mortality and
vulnerability and compromised by the fear of being alone, rejected, and alienated. The natural rhythm of genesis and extinction had seized Judy’s consciousness and inevitably led her to represent her emotion in action that demonstrated her disgust for the nightmares of the sleeping sheep. Her fascination with the magnificence of nature had been confronted by the miscarried emptiness of global extinction. The self-consciousness that had previously mocked her attempts at spontaneous action was over-ridden by a loss of belief in the potential goodness of the external world and caused her deep doubts about the authenticity of everything that seemed absurd, criminal, and dis-associated by the homogenization of global consumerism as an outgrowth of religion, commerce, and education. Ironic detachment dulled her pain and crippled her will to keep trying to change social conditions to restore meaning and dignity to everyday life. “Fuck it!” she whispered to herself. By the time Bob had been through his withdrawal from Judy. By the time he’d really searched his soul. When he’d looked at the frozen wind-whipped skulls beneath the smiling cosmetics. When he’d come to terms with the enormity of the crime in time of killing the only place in the universe that had spawned life and love. When he’d set eyes on the half-bearded, shaven-headed pig-like person who’d answered the door, and when he’d heard that Judy had died when the Harley she was riding hit a pole … he seethed with anger; at the bikies, at Judy, at the slimy world of deft deals, corporate images, ubiquitous corruption, and the culture of shortsighted self-serving apathy. He paced, planned, schemed, and searched for a means for revenge; finally realizing that most of all he should be angry with himself for not seeing that Judy had been right.
My friend Chuck seemed concerned about me; from about the time I let him know I was looking for Dave and Steve. “What are you looking for them for?” he asked while making coffee. That surprised me; what he’d said and the way he’d said it. After all, he was the one who’d introduced me to them several years before. “You should know Chuck. Dave and Steve are a really wild and inspiring pair of people. Remember the weekend you first took me up to meet them. The times on the boat, all the fish we speared. They were always having a good time, pushing the limit, and thumbing their noses at rules, so I’d like to see them again, to find out what they’ve been up to. Get involved in one of their wild schemes, perhaps. Maybe make some money.” Chuck stirring the coffees handed me one and sat down in his big chair looking out over the valley. “Want to know what they’ve been up to do you? Haven’t you heard they blew all the money they made? Sold the land, the lot, and have you figured out where it went?” He said, turning half way to look at me. “Straight up there,” he said, flexing his left arm and jabbing at the joint with his right index finger. “Straight up their arms! The best part of a million dollars. Up there stupid arms!” He’d surprised me with his forthright statement, and the mean look in his eyes, but I adopted an offhand manner as a defense against his unexpected show of emotion. “Maybe that’s part of the attraction.” I replied. “Their mad mystique. That they pulled off so many wild schemes and then changed course completely.“ I’d heard they’d got into junk but are keeping their act together despite having habits. And, knowing those guys they’re not doing anything in half measures.”
“Sounds exciting to you does it? Well let me tell ya. A few years ago they were some kind of folk heroes around here, for sure. Selling dope in bags with their brand name on it was cheeky, flying the plane over the national park dumping forty fours full of dope seeds was cute, but a lot of things have changed since then. I was up at Robinvale last year, Dave was there, and a whole lot of other people. Five star, Limp Dick, Billy Stranger, and Mary Black. Plus people you wouldn’t know. A few of them were into the smak and one must have passed some on to Dave, who, being the sneaky, greedy bastard that he’d become slipped off to the toilet to have it all for himself. Trouble was the next person to go to the toilet was the local off-duty cop who’d just come in from playing eightball in the back bar. Dave’d od’d and slumped unconscious on the toilet lookin’ to the cop like someone who’d had a heart attack. So what’d he do?” he asked just to make a pause. “He did what he’d been trained to do. He started giving Dave mouth-to-mouth to resuscitate him. Good idea! And pretty soon Dave was roused. “Did he bust him? I asked, “He must have been amazed! Did the cop know who he was?” “Don’t worry about all that. What I’m tryin to tell you is that like me there are a lot of ordinary people out there who aren’t heroes, nothing like it maybe, but I for one, have never kissed a cop!
“Pack him up will you Joan. I've got one more upstairs that died about eight. Seems like the full moon's taken its toll." Joan looked down at the withered corpse, so gaunt and leathery. She'd been getting to know the old guy and felt sad to see him go. So many of the fogies just bitched or drooled but he'd liked to talk sometimes, especially when Joan was on the night shift and everyone else on the floor was asleep. As she looked at his masked face she thought, "At least he had a good run." "Survived the war!" he'd said one night with a deep throated chuckle, but mostly his reveries were of his wife. Joan didn't know her name, he always just called her "Honey", but Joan had the impression that after many happy years together they had drifted apart for some reason, she didn't really know why, because mostly, when Bert had talked, it was about the kids growing up. Joan tipped him on his side and wondered why none of them had ever come to see him. But that wasn't so unusual when she thought about it though, but now someone would have to sign him out and take his things, and Joan for some reason really hoped it could be his wife. She remembered that Bert had said something about how grateful he'd felt that such a young and beautiful woman had chosen him to give her heart. So she was probably still alive. "We were always happy though!" Bert had spoken out above the medication, and he'd smiled like a zillion fragments spilling through the waist of an hourglass. BERTRAM HEDLEY JONES. NO RELATIVES KNOWN. Joan took a look in the leather suitcase still under the cot, surely there'd be letters. She'd only been working at the centre for a few months and hadn't seen anything for
him, but she knew he'd been there for a couple of years so "there must be something". Inside the case was a hand-knitted sweater, some slippers still wrapped in plastic, and a few National Geographics. On top was a small leather pouch in the centre of which was an intricately woven panel, and inside the pouch were two letters. One was from the local council explaining why their new scheme made it untenable for Bert to continue living where he was because the whole area had been designated Nature Reserve. The other letter was softer, and older. It was in a square envelope with a small dragon printed in each corner; but there was no address, or handwriting on it whatsoever. It was stuck down, so Joan reluctantly opened it. If anyone was to do so she thought he'd have rather it to be her. They'd shared a few quaint secrets. Inside was a letter dated 3/12/45, handwritten on thick blue paper. Joan started reading, at first quickly, and then from the beginning again, more slowly. It was obviously to his wife, soon after they had first met. … When Joan had finished reading she wiped the corner of her eye. She had HER dreams too, and Bert’d quizzed her on those when he'd had his Benerols late at night. But now she knew the way Bert had really lived his. He'd bitten the bullet, taken the risk, struck while the iron was hot. Sure, in the end he'd died alone, but isn't that the best way to do it, and those years together with his wife of sharing and selfless devotion; the freedom and privilege of knowing that you are deeply loved; the whole family thing that makes life worth living! Joan took one last look at the tidy lines and griped to herself as she put them away. "Look at me, I've not even got a boyfriend and I hate this dead-end job!" A few days later a red faced woman with white hair arrived just as Joan was filling out her hours. "I'm Mrs. Thomas. My brother was a resident here until last week. You sent me a telegram informing me of his death." "Oh, Mrs. Thompson," said Joan, "Pleased to meet you. I didn't know that Bert had a sister! He sure was a nice old fellow." "You more than likely knew him better than I." Mrs. Thomas said matter-of-factly, "We hadn't spoken for more than forty years you know. Shame really." Joan was a bit unsure of what to say next so she fetched the leather suitcase and opened it on the counter for Mrs. Thompson who pushed a few things around as though she assumed they were dirty. "Delicate work." she commented when she saw the pouch with the woven panel. "Yes, very beautiful, and there are a couple of letters inside, too," Joan said defensively. "Letters? Anything important? Does he owe anyone money?" "No, just a letter to his wife which I thought was rather sweet." Mrs. Thompson moved her eyebrows together, pulled out the envelope and removed the letter as though it was a docket. "Heard he’d a bit of a fling in Singapore at the end of the war, but he lived like a ruddy eccentric in a town with ten houses making fish traps or something. A few of his cronies used to visit him." Joan watched Mrs. Thompson as she skimmed lines which had brought tears to Joan’s red eyes. She shook her head and looked up, "Typical Bertie, didn't have the guts to send it!
The unmistakeable sounds of high heels raced my mind as I dressed for a big night out with a group of people I had met that day. The shoes counted four twice more, then paused and turned about on the sidewalk below my hotel window. Walking up to the cab I was confronted by the wearer of the shoes. She was very glamorous but discernible as a male. “Come to my room, I suck you dry, I give you good time etc’ was her spiel, directed at my amused face with animated and over-painted lips. “Not tonight Darl”, I said to her and continued walking, but she stayed with me replaying her special offers. The thoughts that revolved in my mind were very interesting, I’d be quite happy to let a woman like her suck my cock, so why not her? Why are transvestites the epitome of profanity? Because they go to the heart of the contradictions in our sexual selves, displaying like peacocks from beyond the taboos. She certainly was sexy in her separate sense. The night was a boor. The woman I longed for liked one of the German doctors and I felt very much left out. We danced and drank until late and then I left them feeling disappointed and rejected. “About 2:30 am I arrived back at the New China. The rickshaw driver was hassling about money, I’d given all I’d promised so I turned my back on him and began banging on the steel concertina to rouse the night-watch. A dead body lay half in the gutter on the far side of the road and I just wanted to get to my room and sleep. After a cold shower I stood dripping at the window above the street, the bitumen was black and mostly in shadow though a couple of weak globes held up cones of insect-
filled light. The dead man lay there all alone on his shadow like a hotdog on a bun. Then again I heard the speaking sounds of shoes on asphalt. The stride I’d heard so many instants gone on past. The sister-brother, the cock-sucking medium, who knelt to pray for the insoluble man.
Doing the ton on a big bike is exhilarating, and doing 220’k’s side by side is awesome, but Felix and Joan (or Lazaark as she was sometimes named) had become so competitive for the Home Hearth Trophy that racing two abreast was no longer anything special. The deal was; they cooked a batch of pills for ‘someone’. It took a week for their fully automated little factory they had in the garage of the old farmhouse to produce a halfkilo of unmarked pills packed in separate plastic sheets. Each Tuesday they’d pack the pills into special compartments built into their bikes and deliver the load to their contact 400’s away to pick up their loot. What happened, for the first two trips at least, was that after the deal had been done they would proceed to a pre-booked hotel room and sleep for twelve hours. The speed that got them there was stalled by an even more thorough downer. After they were woken at midnight they’d drink just water and juice and then shoot-up some of the ‘pure speed’ they’d made. They knew it wasn’t just speed, it was something similar but with an unpredictable, usually euphoric twist, and when they rode on it they sometimes imagined they could see into the future. The intensity concerning the ride back was two-fold. Firstly, they were not carrying anything so they could ride as fast as they dared, but secondly, they rode especially hard because awaiting them on the mantlepiece back at the old house were two cocktails. Both of them were essentially straight JD but one was spiked with ecstasy and LSD, while the other was mixed with heavy downers like nightshade. Whoever got there first drank of their choice! For the first two trips Felix had won, first time by more than fifteen minutes and Joan had woken twenty-four
hours later battered and bruised. Who knows what had happened? The second time the difference was only four minutes because Joan had learnt the road and took a few more risks in the traffic. 1000cc’s will move you past a semi in no time at all but once again she had been left the bad mix and she’d woken feeling so strange that she wasn’t sure she could shake off the nightmare that clung to her like an octopus made of spiders. Felix was still unconscious and the room was wrecked. What had gone on during the night, or nights? She hadn’t yet worked out the time of day or date. How far were things going? On the next trip the deal went as smoothly as ever and after their sleep Lazaark checked her bike thoroughly while Felix showered. It was in perfect order. She adjusted her leathers so that no seam was out of line. She was warm and the visor and spare were new and clean. It was well after midnight as she wiped dust from the headlight lenses. Felix backed out and locked the door. He always left the lights on. “Ready Babe?” he said with a tone that reflected their dual roles as lovers and racers. Their bikes were the same black ninjas and their skill in different mixtures was also much the same. “I’s ready!’ said Zaako. One touch on the starter had them rolling out of the carpark as a pair. There wasn’t much traffic but they played it cool. Stopped at red lights, everything. They both knew that the race began at the city limits, at the 24hour Shell station about ten k’s from the hotel. Joan’s bike was feeling nice and it just wanted to go! Hanging around on four grand in fourth was aggravating her and her bike so as soon as she saw the Shell sign far ahead she began winding the bike up bent over the tank with her eyes above the fairing. Felix was okay once he got into her slipstream but he worried about the premature hyp-out from Joan. The
freeway quite often had cops and a couple of bikes doing 200k’s would blow them away! Nevertheless, they cleared the city and for the next two hours they raced through the foothills and mountains. Felix could pass Zaako sometimes but when he did so she pulled such desperate tricks under brakes, not to mention some of the overtaking maneuvers, that he felt it was best to just sit in behind and use her lights. There was still a long way to go. After the mountains the road stretched through the state forest. Felix usually sat on one fifty through there because of the kangaroos, and sometimes wombats. Joan had been behind him before and kept in formation but this time she was pulling away at speed so he had no choice but to screw his bike until he was nudging the red line in top gear just to get her back into the tow. Another hour they hit the coast. The moon was out and the ocean could be seen crashing onto the rocks below but Joan said she really liked that bit, ‘because the salt air is pumped down my throat.’ Whatever it was, Felix was almost scraping pegs just to stay with her. He was surprised, he was even proud, that she’d learnt to master such a daunting machine, but for her to win, “No!” that wasn’t going to happen! He liked to win and choose the cocktail because he knew their marks and it would always be his perverse pleasure to have her cringing in fear of imagined and real evils while he was in complete control, directing his consciousness from somewhere in the human mind not usually open to communication. Somewhere in the stem where the DNA had witnessed the birth of magic and the first inklings of awe. Felix was from the past. He’d always acknowledged that to himself, but he’d few chances to live anywhere but the present, except when he and Zaarko were in the room together, and he handed her the brew which would make his time return. Neck and neck they rode, each taking greater risks as the k’s flashed by. At sunrise they crossed the Myingle bridge which meant they had less than eighty k’s to go. Through the town they jurtled at seventy. It seemed like walking but they both knew the local cop was eager and unpredictable, but as soon as they reached the long curves through the cow pastures not for their lives was an inch given. Joan had found her power, and harnessed it to her bike. Applying every milligram of concentration she fused it into a blend of speed, power and intelligence with which Felix could hardly contend. On a couple of straights Felix pulled more than nine thousand revs to gain some ground but he couldn’t keep punishing his bike like that. “anyway, a cow, a roo, even a decent size bandicoot and we’re shit!” he murmured. He had no choice but to persist but a new emotion rent Felix as they went through inside a Frigmobile on a sharp right hand turn, ‘I’ve never liked being beaten! And when this lab scam came along I knew I’d always be a winner. I’m not going back down to old bombs and small change, especially now that I have the chance for regularly ritual with Joan. Ritual which could never be described in words cause Felix’s ritual was his own and who knows of it but him and the ghost that existed in the drugged body of Lazaark. Across the Douglas Ranges he caught Joan and passed her twice but that only seemed to intensify her will to regain the lead. There were fifty k’s ahead, they were both tired, maybe not in the usual sense, but being on the razors edge for an extended period has its consequences. For a while they had a lot of trucks and Felix was glad Joan chose her timing as accurately and decisively as she did because he was often committed to following her past several trucks at once. Lazaark made no mistakes and when the road was free she used it all.
‘Does she know I know which mug is which? Is that the reason for her insane speed? My chalice is marked with a sign only bats and beetles should know; yet it calls to me. A clear voice comes from the one I wish for. The brew that will lather me in ecstasy.” And how good it felt for Felix to reach out and ‘choose’ as though it didn’t even matter, and leave for Joan the bowl of poisons. The mixture of stupefying, awful, downbringing drugs. Yeh! Felix was evil! There was no doubt or reason for debate about that. But the thing we shouldn’t forget, what was important right then, was that Lazaark was twelve k’s from the house and Felix was having trouble keeping close to her. She was hot, going for it, and really giving Felix something to think about. From there they both knew every bump, every hole, every off-camber curve. They switched of their lights and continued as one. A farmer checking weeds in a paddock heard two gear changes together, and simultaneously the power was on the ground as soon as a way could be seen out of each and every corner. On a short straight Felix lay down on the tank and pulled out everything. “Could there be a farmers truck doing 50 k’s just around the bend? Ignore it! The only thing, not life nor death, is to catch her and win!” Joan was maintaining her lead in a conservative manner. Trying not to take too many risks now that she was so close. With four k’s to go Felix was dependent upon her slipstream. His bike had always used a bit more fuel than Joan’s and now that his tank was getting very low the slight weight advantage she had was evaporating. Those last few k’s were something that should have been recorded on film, if it had been a movie instead of real life because each of them knew that road as well as each other’s faces. Around a long lefthand sweeper Felix leant on the outside of Joan. It was a desperately unsuccessful attempt at getting into the next corner first that served to show his respect for her as racer. Next they were braking hard into a right-hander that went down and across a concrete causeway about sixty meters wide. Zaako and Felix were getting into each other’s way; there was no doubt about that. The bikes touched pegs, the tyres were inches apart. When one used the slipstream then the other would do the same but neither had the advantage to press ahead. Two k’s to go! A long straight piece of road beneath trees with a steel fence down one side all the way to the crossroads which they went through so fast it was mathematically impossible for them to have hit anything. A fast left and a flip-flop dog-leg put them side by side again, heading towards a crest that each previous time had caused them to be airborne for at least twenty meters down another straight to the final junction which would take them home. It was Felix’s last chance! He had to beat her to choose the chalice! Any other possibility eluded him. They were a mirror image of one dominant will to win. In a second they should have backed off for the hump, for the sake of their machines and generally as a good idea; but neither did! So side-by-side like circus stars who’d done nothing else but practice since they could stand, the pair became airborne on a flat trajectory four hundred millimeters above the road. It had been a test of skills and wills and Zarko was winning, she had won already really, in that sense, but in life generally, I mean just everyday co-incidences or humorous situations, she was only there in the frame; just like Felix. They’d both meant to lock up that black bitch they’d somehow adopted, some kind of Labrador cross, ‘a Pal munching pain in the arse’, Felix had called it. And there she was, just eighty meters ahead. Their minds were on line and focused instantaneously. Yes, it was ‘their’ dog, and another just as black and big.
Actually, their bitch and someone else’s other dog, jet black with white embarrassed grins. They’d been copulating and become temporarily adjoined, an undignified position for canines to be found in, but there they were, now forty meters ahead of the airborne bikes, both tugging in the opposite direction. Arh! Arrrh. Felix sat up straining for breath thinking he’d overdone something. “Shit. I had the worst bloody dream. We hit that fuckin’ dog of yours! “Really” asked Lazaark. “Yes, so where is that stupid mutt anyway?” stated Felix, “I’m gonna tie that fucken mutt up right now.” Felix slanted as he moved toward the door.. “What day is it? Was that last night? How did you manage to choose the right one?” “It sang to me as it has to you my love, for singers sing for them who’ll keep them singing.” Lazaark answered in a monotone. “But I can’t remember getting here or anything,” stressed Felix as he shook his head of webs, “Where is that bitch anyway?” He tried to open the door but the knob only moved back and forth a quarter of a turning. “Huh! There’s something wrong with this door!” Felix tried again, then with two hands. For some reason it bothered him more than it should have. He shook it. “What’s happened? Someone’s locked us in from outside?” he said turning to look at Joan who had walked up behind him. Uncomfortably Felix looked onto her eyes. The gaze they transferred was between two people whose pain and anger hadn’t fully subsided. He didn’t expect an answer to the locked door riddle in a facial expression – but he could see something fascinating, his dream continuing, there, in her eyes. “Don’t stare at me Felix! You know it gives me the shits!” “Just let me look. I can see us side by side coming down that long last straight.” “Don’t you remember, Felix?” she chuckled, “Those two black dogs! It must have been warm there. Who knows? Two black dogs tail to tail, each trying to get to the nearest side of the road. It would’ve made a great logo for something never to be invented. Anyway, look into my eyes if you want to. It doesn’t last much longer, but don’t waste your time trying to open that door.”
Don had more money than he knew what to do with, so he never could tell just who his real friends were, except for his two lovely poodles, Triksy and Diksy, his faithful parrot Egor, and the two nice young ladies he’d met that very day. Don’s problem with crew could finally be solved because Sandy and Judy had offered to look after the yacht for him while Don was down in Brisbane interviewing potential voyagers on the next leg of ‘Crusaders’ roundthe-world jaunt. For a week the girls just balled. The list of things to be done flapped lightly against the teak bulkhead with the early morning breeze which stirred the yacht to lay against the changing tide and rock the babes out of their dreams. Judy made coffee while Sandy stretched out on the bed with a crumpled sheet dragged across her hip. But not for much longer; Don would be back on the midday plane. Together they washed up and tidied the cabins. Sandy scrubbed the stale dogshit off the foredeck and gave the dogs a brush. Instead of the usual little dears, the loved ones, they had been nothing less than a double pain in the arse. Always underfoot demanding food or affection. Finally Sandy had tied them to the bowsprit rail near the anchor winch with a bowl of water, and sort of hoped they wouldn’t hang themselves by jumping ship. But now they were yapping away and skipping around panting and wagging like clock-work in fast-forward. Egor, unruffled, sat solemnly above an overlooked pyramid. His feet seemed to grow into the wooden perch. He hadn’t been trouble at all, just sat there fed on sweet biscuits.
Don arrived happy but a little disappointed. The two new crew would not be there for another week, but that was okay. “It is so good to back,” said Don patting both dogs at once, “and you two young ladies have done such a good job I think you deserve a bonus!” “Sandy smiled as she made coffee for them while Don got out his wallet but as she stepped toward the table one of the poodles jumped onto her leg, spilling just enough coffee to burn her wrist. “Gwweerrrrk, fuckin’ poodles! Gwweerrrrk, fuckin’ poodles!”, squawked Egor.
inner city sirens
Jason went to the fridge for one more glass of wine. He couldn’t believe it! He’d been sacked! On the spot! The boss had reckoned there were too many complaints about his driving. But that couldn’t have been true. He was always courteous and helpful toward the passengers and he drove as smoothly as the timetable would allow. Finally his wife shook him and helped him off to bed. It had been a disappointing day and that is probably why he couldn’t get back to sleep. The lights from the main road flickered across the wall while the clock ticked incessantly on the dresser. “What will I do tomorrow,” he wondered. In the early morning Jason woke again. His wife lay still beside him, probably sleeping, it was hard to tell. What would happen? How would they make the house payments and the other bills that had always taken his pay? Strange though, he’d seen it coming. Ever since he’d read that book he’d looked differently at the boss and wondered what could be done to escape the exploitation of the old bastard’s split shifts, low pay, and brakeless busses. Well, now that he was sacked the question had been answered. He’d seen himself walking up to the sleeping dog. But how to avoid another similar situation. Jason really needed a job with soul. Two more boring jobs came and went in the following months. They told him to change his attitude, but that is what had already happened. He had changed his attitude, and money was getting tight. Then he found one. A job that was interesting. But his car broke down in the rain first day and by the time a taxi arrived he was too late. Didn’t even get a start. The garage wanted 50 dollars an hour to fix the car but they
didn’t seem to know what was wrong with it. So he took the bus. Without a car but a few more sleepless nights his job opportunities were sinking along with his family. Finally he and his wife had a bitter row. She said he was irresponsible and pig-headed. He infuriated her most by just sitting there. She didn’t realise that he was too stunned to speak. And then she was gone, and so of course were the kids, and later that day the furniture and all of their special things. That night Jason lay awake in his empty bed and for the first time he noticed what appeared to be a little cloud hovering below the ceiling. It shimmered dully and he could almost make out a shape before it faded beneath the new lines, “Where is my family? Are they okay? What will happen when I have to move out of the house?” He knew that he should buckle down before it was too late. That night he dreamt that he was a deer being chased by a pack of dogs. He woke with all his muscles tense and looked around him at the empty room. The house was still and devoid of sleeping sounds, with the steely kind of morning sky not ready to make its shadows. There above the window was the indistinct cloud. This time he could see the outline of a pool in a lovely garden, soft music drifted from it in the strange, almost threatening way that a reptile might use the end of its tail as a lure. Jason no longer had any reason to get up in the mornings, and the empty room made him feel desperate. He drank the last of his scotch straight from the bottle. He didn’t know what he wanted to do but he knew what he didn’t want to do. But nothing was clear anymore. Was it his fault that his family had gone? The little cloud hung there in the reluctant dawn cube. He shut his eyes and drifted. He was warm, very warm, and as the soft sound of leaves together on sky and the
dappled water’s sweet song flowed through his mind he re-entered sleep until the brightness of the sun woke him in a sweat because he’d been dreaming he was a pig held at bay by dogs on his ears. Jason moved from one grimy place to another as the summer faded. He turned up his collar and turned into the street to find a place to waste another day. Winter soon marched in looking bleak and for the first time Jason saw basic things he couldn’t buy. His bank account was as empty as his heart, though it was true that he sometimes cried when he looked into the hearts of the people walking past him on the sidewalk. They were cursed since the zygote by superfluous evil, but they paid little attention to the bedraggled tearful man. Jason was almost invisible. His little family were happy and safe with another father in his place, someone “sensible and stable” he’d been told. “No-one needs me now” was the empty statement he made to himself. A white polystyrene cup blew across in front of his feet and took with it his appetite. The buildings formed a canyon of cars and hurrying but through it he could see a wilderness filled by the bobbing faces and bodies all so separate in their internal worlds like balloons jostling a spiked ceiling. What did he care? The systematic suffering was just the fear of fear, maybe. A pigeon zoomed about amongst the frantic feet. It chose to walk for its crumbs. His day was spent in idle wandering and circuitous reverie, life review, fleets of ideas, conditioned anxiety and glints of false hope. He stumbled through a matrix of impressions as passive as a fledgling failing from a nest; detached, unindentified. The plaything of unforgettable memories. A bed of yellow flowers re-introduced kinetics. He peered at them silently competing to be the brightest before the cold wind killed them and as he watched shadows from white clouds dimmed the lustre of the petals and dampened the humming vibrancy of the brittle stems. Bees moved through, taking what they could. Rain began to fall gently onto everything from the thin clouds above where the church bell tolled in the steeple like a cow lost in the hills. He wandered on and took shelter beneath the eave of a derelict workers’ shed where an old man about sixty dressed in a military tunic with eppaulettes and insignia started talking to him. “Would you hit a nice horse to death because it was owned by someone special? Near my home place it dit happen soon after Second World War did end. A Barons place it was and the horse a polish special was given to the oldest son of the Baron: Georgdietrich Von Friessen, by his father Colonel, Dr Von Friessen, my father’s friend. He died in Russia after we had three weeks holiday at home same time. The killer of the horse, a Jewish Russian Komisar has been seen in this vicinity today by myself or a close identity for investigation.” Jason wasn’t sure what he was listening to but he had nowhere he needed to go. Children were playing around the fountain nearby and almost instantly Jason recognized one of them as his son. He was overjoyed to see him and hurried forward calling his name, “Francis! Francis! “The child turned around when he heard Jason calling, although it wasn’t his name. The face framed in the yellow rain hat just looked at him and Jason’s years with his family filled his mind, only to be disturbed by a woman grasping the lad in her arms. Jason backed off, he felt as though he’d committed a crime but knew not to try and explain or defend himself from the irate mother. He returned to where the old man was still sheltering beneath the eave.”Com wit me” he said and headed across the park down a side street to an alley and into a deserted house where a few other
derros sat drinking from bottles. Jason wanted nothing more than to sleep, so after accepting a few slugs and spilling out a packet of tailor-mades he lay down on a cardboard carton listening to the traffic and the occasional mumbled comment or request. That night was long and cold, Jason felt fortunate to have the windbreak of the walls even though a smelly drunk fell on him in the dark and a rat stole a chunk out of his forehead. By 4 Jason didn’t want to go back to sleep. It was too cold. He sat up and began a whispered conversation with the color picture he could see in the dark. It was a beautiful place, and it knew him, spoke to him, sang that soft song. He drank the dregs from a discarded bottle and tuned in to the vibrations of the darkness. He felt like he was falling in love, despite the chorus of snoring and the stench of piss. When the others stirred they took him round the corner and introduced him to the Salvation Army. He left with a warm glow, some small change and a plastic crucifix but he couldn’t stomach the inane chatter and depressing hung-over bickering of the derros so he wandered off on his own. Down a back street, downhill through the maze of streets, garbage cans and small dogs. In a bus shelter was a newspaper with a headline about starwars. A black and white, slightly frail looking bird flew about and pecked frantically at it’s reflections in the glass. Gradually the day dissolved into a cold afternoon pushed about by a blustering wind. Jason dreaded the coming night. He searched out a sheltered place but was driven away with threats of police. He’d hit bottom and it was fraying his clothes. He’d sunk through inaction but he couldn’t make himself care. He was alone in the world but that was all he seemed to need. As darkness pulled its sheet across the face of day, Jason saw before him the place he had seen so often in the little cloud. It was right there, even the cement footpath even more beautiful than before and seemed to catch the only light left. And there was the pond. The flowers and the seat. He went to sit in amongst it all. It felt good. Snug almost. The bench seemed to cuddle him with big soft arms when Jason shivered. The moon soon shone in the blackened pond. Night sounds beat a shrill tattoo. Jason snuggled like a mouse in a nest. It held him in. Some singing sounds glanced off the clouds like a wire being drawn through his brain. Yes, he did love her, she whispered the nicest things. He had forgiveness for ever. His knees stretched his trousers as he pulled up his legs and crossed his arms. Morning came like many others to the empty park.
the woman who yearned for immortality
Maria and John were an unlikely couple. She was a dreamer, and he was a schemer. But they had a common goal, and so together they traveled. Hitching across north Queensland heading for Darwin has was hot and slow but fascinating for John. He’d seen Crocodile Dundee three times so he was getting a weird kick out the thick-headed truck drivers and little outback towns. He’d only met Maria a few days before when they’d struck up a conversation in the park, and realized a mutual attraction. She was great company even though she rambled on about her plans for the future, a different set every couple of hours, but she had the body of a grecian goddess with a pair of smoldering eyes that Michelangelo would’ve baulked at. He’d discovered that she preferred by a mile to be appreciated for her creative mind rather than her perfect figure, bur already he was harboring lustful thoughts of when she might be ready to ‘get naked’ with him. All morning they stood on the edge of a mediumsize mining town with hardly a car going by, but finally a five tonne truck loaded with bags of cement stopped. The driver was in his early twenties wearing elastic-sided work boots, dark green stubby shorts, and the obligatory blue singlet. He kept his cowboy hat on at all times. The truck rambled and bashed along the dusty dirt road at a steady hundred klicks with Maria sitting in the middle. The floor was so hot they couldn’t take their thongs off and the driver kept up a conversation with John, barely a word of which he understood because of e road noise and strine accent, so he just kept nodding every now and then.
That night they stayed where the driver lived, with three other similar young men in a fibro house. John was amazed by the state of the place whereas Maria seemed to just take it in her stride. Whenever someone finished a beer they just threw the empty can out of the nearest broken window, and they were all broken, onto piles of garbage outside. One of the guys let them sleep on his double mattress, and then in the morning they were back on the side of the road. God only knows the source of Mary’s inspiration but she sat there in a tiny patch of shade cast by a road sign writing a poem. John was sweating, looking up the road and thinking about what type of business he’d start after he’d finished his MBA. When Maria was satisfied with her work she let John read it. Cute but “Why?” John thought, “Not bad Maria, but you’ll never make money out of writing poems.” He said off-handedly. “Ever thought that maybe there is more to life than just making money?” she replied sharply, obviously hurt by his ignorance. “Well, ‘more to life?” you ask. “Yeah. Sure, there is power. But money and power are much the same thing.” replied John. “Guess I should have known. Power and money hey, well, there’s a much stronger power than anyone will ever get from money, and that is the ever-present fourth dimension, you should know that, or else you are simply denying the obvious. No matter how much money you make or power you attain that old tyrant time is going to rub you out. No two ways about it. And there are….”, but John had turned to face her and cut her off by saying, “OK, sweet oracle, please tell me how you propose to change the situation by writing a few poems?” Mary looked inordinately serious, “Well, the way I see things”; she said drawing circles in the sand with a slender stick, “Life has no discernible purpose or
meaning.” She paused, while John shrugged his mouth. “During the entire history of humanity, despite the philosophizing and mathematics, nothing definite has been found and even the lab-coats can’t discover the limits of the universe, so we don’t even have a context to know how big or small we are. Let alone how important or insignificant the human race, planet earth, or 1998 is. We might be microscopic or gargantuan, but there is nothing absolute to compare things to. Some people claim to have “mapped” consciousness, experienced previous lives, discovered the universal symbols, but we remain jellyfish in time with separately motivated identities. You can escape into wishful thinking, like religion, or mysticism, or you can try to insulate yourself from death in the way you intend to, by aspiring to wealth and status, but the only obviously significant thing anyone can do, as far as I‘m concerned, is to inspire or even simply amuse our fellow humans and thereby possibly make their lives more enjoyable by teasing their emotions or massaging their imaginations to distract them from the anguish of meaninglessness. Perhaps, not so long ago when the world was dangerous there wasn’t the time to dwell on less immediate issues, but since the human animal incubated culture in it’s many forms evolution has not relied on biological conditions alone. Writing and art have shifted and accelerated the evolutional force onto a tangent since knowledge and expression have been recorded and accumulated. The effect on the evolution of the human mind continues and I wish to be a part of it.” She said, stopping the stick and looking into his eyes. “That is what I am trying to do, and if I find publication and become even mildly popular, then after my body is dead and gone my mind and my spirit will live on to enrich the lives of generations that follow. And in that manner I shall have cheated time’s servant; death!” “Really” said John. “But Maria, don’t you see that you are only dealing in very relative terms. Even if a song you write makes it on to the top forty for a month, or your romantic verse is printed on to Valentines Day cards one year, or your book of poems is flavor if the month in the states or somewhere, you’ll still end up being trashed or if you managed to write a classic, in the infinite realm of time you place so much emphasis on, your suggested immortality would be insignificant.” John didn’t consider how demoralizing he was being because he enjoyed a verbal tussle, “Maria, my dear, greed and fear are the only two pure forms of motivation. I desire money in order to fulfill my materialistic fantasies of a big house, fast cars, and a steel fence to keep the world where it belongs. That is my way to alleviate fear. Keep it outside and make sure it can’t afford to get in! My money will be spent on cocktails by the pool, cocaine, and an indigo Porsche. Experience and pleasure are ephemeral, but death to me means obliteration. I’m not my brothers, or sisters, keeper. I don’t owe anything to this world except to enjoy it for my allotted time. And then I’ll leave it alone.” Finished John with raised eyebrows and a slight lilt to his head. “Maybe you’re right, John, but I don’t think so. You denigrate human nature and dismiss love and compassion. Natural feelings, which are more inspiration than motivation, but imagine a lonely person, a desperate person who has lost sight of the beauty and wonder of life. If they can be animated, or amused, by something I have written years after I’ve died, that is what I consider to be real power, and power for good, not your kind of power won by the heartless exploitation of other people and the environment.” At that point, John realized he was on a losing track and he’d enjoyed the previous night cuddling with Maria so much that he didn’t want to say anything else to jeopardize future liaisons. “OK. What would I know?” he
said in response. “I hadn’t thought about it like that. Maybe you’re right about art and culture and I should devote more time to helping others. It’s a material world. My training has been confined to marketing, and managing, but maybe it would be a good idea for me to broaden my horizons and adopt a more humanitarian point of view. You know, that was one reason why I came on this trip”. He said, intending to give her the pleasure of thinking that she had opened his rigid conditioning. He read the poem again. “I see what you’re on about.” nodding his head earnestly. They traveled on to Darwin where they stayed for a few days in a beach camp just out of town before continuing on their way to Perth. Maria spent her spare time writing. It was the usual banal, over-optimistic romanticism, but John knew well enough to make the right appreciative noises now that they’d been making love for a few nights. He’d become completely addicted to her. She had the smoothest olive skin that some nights he stayed awake just to enjoy the feeling of holding her close to him. At Fitzroy Crossing they managed to get stuck after a drunken fencer had given them a ride out of a onehorse town. They’d walked a few kilometers away until darkness fell and John lit a small fire from the sticks they could find. It was cold in the desert but sharing the sleeping bag kept them both warm. Just before dawn a small storm passed over the sleeping pair and roused John. He was cramped and uncomfortable so he pulled himself out of the bag and stood above the stunted bushes to look around. The desert floor was red, with a patchy carpet of purple and yellow flowers. To the west for the first time could be seen the blue line of the Indian Ocean and to the east the isolated shower of rain had moved toward the rising sun and turned the sky gold and green. It was magnificent and John was feeling very glad to be alive standing there naked in the broad expanse of desert. About eight o’clock a rickety looking school bus came out of nowhere and roiled by with a motley crew of unwashed urchins hanging their rough heads out of the window yelling unintelligible gibberish. The driver was an unshaven guy that looked like a very old Humphrey Bogart. He waved to them and they waved back, wondering where it had come from and where the school could be and wishing it were going in their direction. Half an hour later the bus re-appeared on the horizon before stopping in a cloud of it’s own dust. The driver looked about as pleased as John and Marie were. “Only going a few miles down the road, but is better than nothing”, the old guy said. John took a quick look at him and came to the conclusion that they must be hard up for drivers out there. The guy was obviously a total alco, probably only managed to stay sober for the trip to school. “Thanks, that’ll be fine. We really needed to move. It was getting a mite tedious back there.”, said John. Maria just sat quietly in the middle. The old broke tried to get her talking but she didn’t seem inclined. She was deep in thought John figured but then it became obvious to him that she was irritated because the old guy just couldn’t keep his eyes from her smoothly bumping breasts, except for the briefest glimpses at the road. Maria was wearing a light cotton top without a bra and the poor old bastard probably hadn’t seen a women for months, and he’d probably never seen such a stunning girl as Maria in his entire life. So what did she expect? After about fifteen minutes they arrived at a turn-off which looked as though it took you from nowhere to the backside of nowhere else. Why anyone would want live somewhere like that was a mystery to John. The bus driver kept them chatting for as long as he could but Maria forced the issue, nudged John, and they were
soon back on the side of the road with nothing but claypans, tussocks, and some crows in the distance. Fortunately for them it wasn’t long before a geologist in a utility came zapping along and decided to stop. They squeezed into the Datsun and away they went. It was the best ride they’d had for days, much more comfortable than a truck and so much faster. About midday they stopped iat a roadhouse and all three ordered food and something to drink. As they’d driven in, a bunch of station-hands were leaving in a 4WD and they’d yelled some obscene remarks at Maria as they resumed the bitumen. After they’d bought some takeaways the Datsun was soon back on the road and making such good speed that they soon caught up to the rednecks on a downhill stretch of road. There was no traffic except for the Toyota up ahead, and when John saw it he decided to yell some insults of his own as they flew past, but unfortunately, it didn’t turn out the way. The turn-off to the cattle station was just at the bottom of the hill and that Toyota didn’t have a rear-vision mirror, not that it would have been used anyway, so just as the ute caught up to the 4WD, doing at least twenty k’s more speed, the yobbo at the wheel veered off the right and sent the ute out of control, across a wide-graded drain, onto two wheels, over some rocks, rolling with the bonnet open, spreading gear and glass all over the sand. The geologist survived the rollover, and so did John, although the spinal damage put him in a wheel chair spoon-fed by his Mum, but Maria, she was killed. Outright. By the St. Christopher medal on the dashboard which punctured her forehead. The wreckage was strewn along the road. The station workers looted the bags, stole Maria’s underwear, and after flicking through the pages. Threw her notebooks to the wind. It was a sad and ignoble end to a sensitive and well-meaning girl. And did she achieve her dream of immortality? Well, her poems and songs blew across the parched desert until the words were faded by the relentless sun, John didn’t remember who he was most of the time, the geologist tried to put it all behind him, but as for immortality Mary did live on, for a while anyway, in the groggy mind of the old bus driver. In his alcoholic haze her face was gone but clearly he retained the memory of those two nipples bumping and bouncing beneath that shadow of a cotton top.
33 GYPSY Sitting with old friends on a white-tiled patio I noticed how much older they were than when I’d first met them. They looked good. Trustworthy and sensible. Across the freshly mown lawn on the inner edge of the garden was a three-limbed tree with smooth bark, green leaves and yellow flowers. It looked very two dimensional. Beyond the higher branches was a gossamer canopy tied at the four corners and pulled taught, almost sheer. Into that tree flew a rainbird which perched with its back toward me. Its plumage was light blue, silver, aquamarine and turquoise, with two long black and silver tail feathers. Its right eye watched over its right wing, but then it hopped to another position. As it continued to move from branch to branch I called my daughter to come and see it. Rainbirds were a rare sight. As we watched it flew from the tree in tight but ever increasing circles. At the same time all of the leaves disappeared from the tree and the flowers became a brilliant golden yellow colour, so bright that their vibrations could be seen flowing towards us. As the bird flew around and around ever closer and continually growing in size the tail feathers changed their form to become like legs and the bird, now much larger, took on an almost human form with skin the color mauve and just a flush of feathers around the wrists and ankles. Not human, not bird, but Gypsy! Just then she came within reach, and with eyes as wide as universes she looked at me with her unforgettable smile. I kissed her feathered hand and said goodbye as she spun into a swirl of pure energy; gone. It was a pleasure and a privilege to receive from my friend the message that she’d arrived at her destination safely.
Sitting in the Byronian waiting for my coffee, trying to read the newspaper, when four ug-boots with claws arrived near my feet and I looked up to see two koala suits holding red buckets. It was a nuisance! I don’t mind giving to good causes and we all know how much we need forests, but I had to interrupt my reading of the paper and stretch my right leg out to take change from my pocket. God they looked hot in those furry gray suits. There was a muffled “Thanks” as my coins fell into the bucket and they shuffled off. An old hippie-looking guy was sitting at the next table. He’d been there when I came in. No newspaper, no coffee, just sitting there. I couldn’t hear the muffled request of the koalas as they approached him, except in my memory, but I did hear his answer, because his voice was deep and clear. “Why do you want the money?” he asked them. “Mumble-mumble…world.” Is all I could pick up. “That sounds like a worthy cause young fellas”, he responded, though I was sure that one of them was a girl, “and I applaud your efforts, cause I saved the world once myself.” He said with his jaw pushed out. The expressions on the koala’s faces didn’t change, but the tall one tilted her bucket forward slightly with her knee. “When? You might ask,” he said without anyone asking him, “Well it was in the seventies, when the world first needed saving and people like us first needed something to save.” “How did you save it?” the shorter koala asked, sounding slightly circumspect. “You may not believe it”, he said, scratching at his left ear lobe, “and I would understand that, because it
does seem a bit hard to believe now that look back at it. But it was deadly serious then, and two of the nicest, most dedicated people I’ve ever known died for the cause. And I almost wonder whether I had let them down.” He said, looking out at the street. “I’d first seen Steve when I was a national service recruit at Kapooka Army Camp.” He said, turning back to the koalas, resting on one elbow, “He was only there for a week while they retired him, but he made a big impression on me because he seemed to me the first person above the rank of private that was still a human being, rather than the rest of them, like the pouncy little Bombardiers, all with their teenage mustaches, round bottoms, and sadistic games. Anyway, to make a long story short, he impressed me, and I didn’t forget him, so six months after we had been discharged when we met again in a public library I initiated a conversation, and though he seemed intent on forgetting about the army we had a good discussion which ended in him inviting me to his place for dinner. I think the books I as carrying may have interested him. So, I met his wife Denise, ate a delicious meal, and began visiting regularly until one night, having assured themselves that I could be trusted, Steve asked me if I would like to be involved in a project to prevent the destruction of the world. What could I say? In brief, Steve assured me that his intelligence connections, which he’d maintained since his time as SAS commando in Vietnam, had provided hard evidence that Ronald Reagan, with Henry Kissinger in the background, were intending to use their nuclear submarines to make a pre-emptive strike against the Soviet Union. The missiles were to be launched from the Bay of Bengal so Australia’s North West Cape Intelligence Facility was essential for navigating the
submarines, which would make the strike. This was in the days when MAD wasn’t just a magazine! Our job was to knock out the tower and command post at the Cape and to do that we needed a couple a laser guided missiles, which could be purchased from our connection in New Caledonia. Trouble was they cost a half a million dollars for the two, a lot of money in those days, and we didn’t have buckets.” The koala’s looked at each other. “That’s where I came in, being young and healthy and fit, like the others, I was to take an active part in their plan to grow a big patch of grass up in North Queensland, and later I discovered, swap the pot for a family fishing boat with the missiles hidden in special launch tubes inside the fiberglass hull. The intention was then to trail the boat across to Shark Bay in Western Australia and destroy the communications tower, according to a pre-arranged signal. My role was to share in the hefting and watching and watering. I was happy to help in such a worthy cause and walk away with a reward for my time and effort, but as it turned out I was in it to the last. Whenever that exactly was?” he said in a different tone of voice, looking up at the sky above the two koalas… “Did you do it? Did you grow the crop?” the short one asked. The old hippie pursed his lips and nodded slowly a couple of times before continuing. “Yeah, we did. At first everything went well. We drove north in a Toyota troop carrier towing a specially modified boat trailer packed full of useful things, mostly tools, tarps and cooking gear, and toured around using army maps to get as close as we could to suitable locations. We knew there were no regular flight paths in the area and water was not going to be a problem, except when there was too much of it. The place we chose was right at the end of a disused track overgrown with weeds, just back from the beach, beside a small stream which flowed out of the rainforest-covered mountains. Using the chain-saw we cut poles and erected a strong corro shelter for cooking and eating. We also had three tents. Once of the Toyota had been emptied of equipment Steve did a trip back to the nearest big town to buy dolomite and fertilizer before we hid the Toyota and trailer not far from the camp, not far from the track, with an old brown tarp and branches thrown all over the top to camouflage it. It held the supplies of dried and canned food. The place we chose for the patch, after almost a week of scouting, was about two kilometers from the coast on a slight rise at the bottom of a north-east slope. It was perfect. A giant brush box had fallen a year or so before and left a big open space with just palms and trash to clear out. The soil was rich and deep and once the roots were all out, easily cultivated. I’d grown put before but it as more the size of the patch that was daunting. We were preparing for a thousand plants. We raised the seedlings in small hot-houses and while the plants were still establishing themselves we did numerous trips back and forth, being very careful not to tread a path by using many different routes to the same place; never breaking anything, always minful. After a month the seedlings were in, the watering system was set-up, and life was getting pretty easy. We still had plenty of supplies, and Steve and I gave them a boost with our fishing skills but after two more months of good rain and sunshine things started going wrong all at once even though the plants were thick, waist high, and flourishing. We’d begun to run short of supplies and we had very little money left so it became necessary for Steve to take three kilos of tips down to Brisbane. He sold it but somehow managed to get a couple of hoods on his back who must have trailed him north. At the same time we
discovered that in just two days caterpillars had almost ruined the crop so Steve decided we should abandon the beach camp and move inland. The plants had been looking extremely good until the caterpillars attacked them, but we were soon on site and picking all those caterpillars off the plants so they were soon bouncing back better than ever. It’d been a quick decision and a quick move but obviously the best thing to do. Steve seemed to be able to overcome just about any difficulty so we were once more on an even keel and waiting out the justenile period, which felt like being becalmed on the ocean. Two months later the males began to show flowers so we pulled them all and got back to waiting. The shimmering heat, the sweating forest, the silence of the birds. Swinging in a hammock deep in the tropical jungle with several hundred female plants growing fat before my eyes was a dope smoker’s dream. I was also reading some serious books and the things I read led to many discussions with Steve and Denise about life and society, which culminated in the three of us forming a pact; that we would not let any sentimentality or social conditioning distract or dissuade us from carrying out what we were meant to achieve. The mission was more important than any individual consideration! That felt good to put in place but I began to think, only theoretically, about how much socialization we had carried with us to the camp? We came from the same system and each of us had been conditioned since birth to behave according to the tenets of that society, so how easy was it to cast off? And what was innate, what was constructed, and what was needed to be cast off? I’d been brought up in a hero system and that’s what had formed me. Everywhere there is hierarchy, even amongst other animals, and in our society of three Steve was number one. He was the boss and made the rules, and that was fine by me because Steve had the experience and training. He was a natural leader, but had we ever discussed that? Was my compliance simply taken for granted? Did Steve assume, even correctly, that he was superior to me? I was a helper, and subordinate, but that was okay by me. The last thing we needed was some kind of self-destructive power struggle between the males, and I realized that was one of the reasons I’d been chosen. Still, it was interesting to consider those contradictions when I heard Steve talking about the contradictions in the larger world, so, almost as a reckless joke I confronted him on his interpretation of sharing. ”Of course we share the work, and the food. That goes without saying, but I certainly feel left out when it comes to knowing that you two share affection, while I remain alone.” “But you do share our affection,” said Denise, “You know that. We are three of us together in this venture, and we must care for each other so that we are ensured of being successful.” She said, looking at me with the serious and compassionate face which conveyed her depth of thinking, yet her maintenance of faith in humanity. “Well, perhaps the term affection is not quite accurate, Denise. Don’t think me disrespectful, but I was actually refering to sex, which is the same but different. I know you guys are making love in your tent while I’m alone and lonely in mine. Sometimes I can hear you Denise, and I feel like I am missing out on something. Which I am. So just for the moment, let’s speak hypothetically, about sharing.” “Steve raised the subject, seemingly at ease about what he considered to be sharing, but how do you feel when I suggest that if we are truly in this thing together and we will be here in the jungle at least another month,
it is reasonable of me don’t you think, to question whether the sharing of sexual pleasure with a fellow member of the team is a fair thing. “Well, I’ve never been propositioned like that before!” said Denise with funny smirk on her face, which varied as she looked from Steve to me and back again. I was waiting for Steve’s response. Denise was his wife, and I knew for my self that I would not be likely to “share” her if she were my wife, so I sat there watching him while he considered his response. “Pete, you are young and have a lot to learn about love and marriage. I’m sure you know enough about sex, but just throwing in this bit about sharing as though it should include the intimacies Denise and I enjoy is to ignore the special significant of marriage.” “Maybe,” I answered, “but the pivotal word you use was ‘enjoy’. You two ‘enjoy’ the sharing of your bodies, and ignoring the sacred aspects of marriage for the moment, I don’t. Simple as that. Man does not live by bread alone”, they say, and after three months he gets mighty hungry for cake. “No offense Pete but I think you are going a bit too far to suggest that you should be able to sleep with Denise, as being inclusive of your concept of sharing.” “What about me?” said Denise, seeming a bit chuffed that we were talking about her and not asking her what she thought of the whole idea. “Pete has got a point there. Keeping on a theoretical level. I’ve thought about him lying alone while we cuddle up together, and I can understand why he has raised this issue. You are perfectly right what you say about out intimacies as man and wife being a special thing, quite different to carrying bags of fertilizer or deciding whose turn it is to cook, but we are all in this thing together and it is imperative that we all keep heart and soul together. I don’t have answers to the question at this stage, it is the kind of think which requires some special thought, but I do think it is legitimate for Peter to have raised the issue, and now we have an opportunity to solve the conundrum to everyone’s satisfaction.” Steve looked at both of us. He was lost for words, but I felt unexpected weight lifted from my shoulders despite the fact that I was suggesting that Steve allow me conjugal rights to the beautiful wife he adored, and was always so protective of. Then he spoke, slowly, “My first reaction, Peter, was to think that you had to be joking, but, as Denise would be most likely to say, I don’t own her. Being married creates a certain set of guidelines, but as we have been stressing of late, it may be a social convention, which we have brought with us into this jungle. The birds aren’t married yet many types are monogamous, the pigs aren’t married and they root each other in rows whenever they have a chance, but Denise and I are married. It is a naturally occurring phenomena as well as a social convention, which I happen to believe in, but I don’t wish to be a hypocrite. I think the best thing I can do is just let things take there own course. After all it is ultimately up to Denise. It is her body we are talking about sharing around, not mine. If you really think you should have access to Denise’s body than that is something between you and her, so let’s not talk about it anymore.” Laying in my bunk that night I thought about the conversation we’d had concerning ‘communal’ sex and I was surprised with myself that I’d had the nerve to even suggest that I should be able to sleep with Denise. She certainly was attractive, but, the idea of having sex with her was something I hadn’t really entertained. She was Steve’s wife after all. But how far could or should we take the ideas Steve and other utopian socialists put forth. Was I just testing him or would I sleep with her if she let me? “ Of course I would! ” The pleasure principle thwarts all social engineers!
By the time the plants had matured and the heads were glowing with that fluorescence worth waiting for, we’d been living on pigeons, pigs, snakes, goanna and jungle ‘fruits’ for a month. The supplies had trickled out to where all we had left was milk powder, vegemite, and rolled oats but walking amongst the two to three meter plants as they swayed in the breeze and filled the air with their honey aromas was like a dream. Steve announced that the next day we would begin harvesting so we strung up clothes-lines across one end of the patch and began pulling the plants, trimming the bases and hanging them up in the air to dry. The final tally was 412 plants, a big patch, and we had our work cut out for us, but it was joyful work because it had taken a lot of time and effort to get to that point, and it also meant that within a certain amount of time we would be out of the damp forest. My clothes were beginning to go moldy as I wore them, and the last thing I wanted was to sit out another week of rain. Rain was the worst. The jack from the Toyota was used to compress the cleaned heads after we had cut out all of the steams. We worked late for two nights with great big piles of dry plants, cutting the branches and stripping into big tubs. The resin built up like a black sticky toffee around our thumbs and index fingers and anytime I wanted a knockout smoke I could just scrape off some ‘hash’ and roll it with some head. Working hour after hour like that made being stoned almost compulsory, for me, although I had noticed that Steve hardly ever smoked anymore, and Denise never had. The following full moon was the date for the rendezvous with our ship from New Caledonia and the nights were already getting lighter so we began carrying them to the estuary as our stockpile of 5-kilo parcels of compressed ganja wrapped in plastic grew where we would load onto the runabout when it came, and transfer to the ship as payment for the missiles. Those days and nights were long. It was only a couple of k’s to the coast but there wasn’t a trail and we wanted to keep it that way, so like the guerrillas we were, each trip took a slightly different route. At last we’d transferred all of the pot to the inlet where it was hidden under branches. The timing was perfect and on the full moon Steve made contact with the ship that was still a few nautical miles up the coast steaming down the shipping lane. He had a transmitter to to guide the speedboat in, and we had torches. The dream-like state of things was finally brought into monochromatic reality by the appearance of the faces of the two guys above the windscreen of our new boat. We waded out to them, just a few meters from shore where the keel had furrowed the sand. They spoke directly yet sparingly with Steve. It was as though they knew him already. Within a dozen minutes later Steve had disappeared with them into the soft darkness with no navigation lights visible. After a long forty minutes, I was beginning to wonder whether we would ever see him again, Steve returned alone, to the cove in an apparently empty boat. “Were the missiles really in there?” I thought to myself. The next thing was to recover the Toyota and trailer from the place we’d stashed them so we could load the boat onto the trailer at a beach on the way out. First we all needed a few hours of sleep but on our way to the Toyota we had to pass through our old camp sight. Trouble was, the pre-mentioned hoods were staking it out waiting for us. I don’t know if they were cops or crims, whatever the difference, but they were obviously intent on highjacking the crop they knew we were growing. As we were going up over a small rise, I was in front ahead of Denise, with Steve bringing up the rear, a shot rang out and the bullet flew past my ear. I hit the ground and swung my head around to see Denise diving into the undergrowth and Steve scrambling over the top,
right behind me as he pulled out his nine millimeter, returning fire in a haphazard way. I think it had surprised them that we were armed because two guys were running off back down the track that they had obviously come on. I was relieved, a bit, but then totally dismayed when Steve drew it to our attention that had been hit. They’d only fired three shots but one had gone through the inside of Steve’s thigh. “Action! Look at the blood!” It seemed incredible. Steve’s trousers were torn open by the bullet and already his entire right leg was saturated with blood. “It’s severed my femoral artery! Probably aiming for my head, lucky bastard! Anyway, we’ve got a do it. If they identify me they’ll know there is more going on here than just growing grass. It means getting out a here, fast! Come-on! Help me to the truck. We’ve got a nuclear holocaust to prevent!” “It’ll take us hours to get the truck out of there.” whispered Denise, as we carried Steve toward the place where the Toyota had been semi-buried. ”You said so yourself!” “You right! But we aren’t driving. I’m staying in the vehicle. It’s the best place to hide me. Be brave Neesi. I’m as good as dead, another five minutes I’d reckon, so you must get the boat out of here. We didn’t come this far to fail!” I was bewildered. Shocked by the whole turn of events, and amazed how cool and efficient Denise behaved under the circumstance. She listened to every word of his instructions as she helped me clear away the branches and open the back doors of the Toyota. Steve was starting to lose consciousness as we lifted him from the ground and put him in the back. She quickly kissed him good-bye as he passed-out and then she shut the doors and helped me to replace the branches and brush away footprints. I was in awe of her. For me it was also a major tragedy. I was losing a great friend, almost a brother, but on top of that was the panic of trying to escape from the people who had killed him and the weird feeling of betrayal, or disloyalty that came from abandoning a comrade in need of medical attention. But that was the type of sentimentally we had sworn to expunge from our stock of emotions and that was what Denise was obviously doing, as her way to be loyal to Steve. Seeing the project through to the end was what he’d always emphasized and he’d have been appalled if she’d broken down and thereby jeopardized the entire venture. From there on in it was Denise and me! So let’s go! We couldn’t guarantee avoiding the killers by heading back along the coast to the boat so we instinctively made our way along one of the ill-defined paths that took us back to the patch. Once we were at a safe distance we quickly discussed the new situation. It was simple, according to Denise, we had to get to the boat and get out of there, post-haste. We headed cross-country, indirectly toward the boat. Denise was leading, although I also knew the way. She had chosen a route we had never covered before, perhaps a good idea knowing that there were people looking for us, but, it meant that we were short in time and when I realized she had lost her bearings, only to be expected considering the strain she was under, there was nothing we could do but push on in a new direction until night fell. It was dangerous to travel in the dark so Denise lay quietly on a layer of fronds she had cut while I built a tiny fire from newly fallen twigs. Denise had taken the role as leader, and that seemed a natural progression, but then I was the only male and it was up to me to protect and provide for her. Into the coals of the struggling little fire I placed some large round seeds that I had picked up while we’d been walking through the forest. Steve had
shown to me many kinds and we had eaten different types of them several times. The aborigines had ground these into flour Steve had said. After half an hour of roasting I cracked the shells, and they were delicious. We needed our energy and stamina if we were going to get to the boat first thing in the morning. After eating we settled down to sleep. I was stressed, but Denise was traumatized. She tried to smile but I could see the fear on her face. “Perhaps she’ll feel better in the morning” I thought to myself as we lay down to sleep. When I awoke some time later all I knew was how sick I felt. Denise was already bent double, with her hand on the trunk of a tree, and I could smell the vomit. I must have picked up the wrong seeds or something, whatever, we were both very ill. I tried to comfort Denise but she was distracted by something in the dark and then extremely frightened of me, and when my hallucinations begin I could see why. I was on my knees, vomiting, almost overwhelmed by the swirling distortions when I realized that Denise was stumbling away in the dark. I made the effort to catch up to her but frightened her even more by doing so. She suddenly ran into the forest, I tried to follow her, I could hear her struggling with vines and branches but before long I had lost her, and I was in a completely dark world of strange figures and creatures. Some of them terrifying, and perhaps reflected our distraught states, but it all seemed so real it was virtually impossible not to react to the ghouls and demons which rushed out of the dark. Some trees had rear-vision mirrors attached to them and coke bottle hung off branches but there were also some strange characters. The narrow tree I was leaning against had an odd texture and when I looked up I saw that there were a pair of knees a couple of meters further up and one big tree had a bespectacled, eggheaded fellow looking out from a little shuttered window. Huge shark’s heads littered the ground and somnambulistic women dressed in yellow gowns carried silver candelabra. I kept walking, feeling lost, across the side of the hill to a place where I could see beyond the lowland forest to the ocean. The moon was high by then and it lit up the broad horizon. I looked over my shoulder, the aborigines ducked behind the rocks they were using for cover. They had been with me, looking after me I felt, but I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t really keen on trusting anything. Suddenly I decided! If I could reach the ocean then I would be able to swim across it to somewhere else that was normal. I must have forgotten about the boat and as soon as I had a destination in mind I began to move much faster and kept aiming downhill as much as possible. There was still a lot happening that wasn’t really happening and the overall arrangement of things was rare as I stumbled down a smooth re-entry and straight into the branches of a stinging tree about three meters tall, which to me had been invisible. I burst into flames and fell onto the ground, spitting and hissing, pouring off foul-smelling black smoke with sheets of pain flaying out into space, blinding the very eyes of those who stood there watching. Some time passed for the piece of ash on the forest floor. If it had rained those ashes would have dissolved. It didn’t rain but there was movement in the moonlight. Quite a lot of it. A dozen shining naked women moved out from the bush and formed a circle around my body lying proud on the ground. I was still stunned, and exhausted, but then I also realized I couldn’t move. The brown faces looked down at me without a hint of feeling on any one of them and then they lifted me from the ground and carried me at shoulder height to an open space in front of a huge shattered trunk of a tree which had been struck by lightning several meters above the ground. The women
placed me on the ground and began dancing around as one of them rubbed some kind of unguent onto my flaccid penis which almost immediately grew to erection. They then took turns to ride me until the one who had rubbed the creamy liquid on knelt down and began sucking me until I ejaculated and filled her mouth with sperm. The other women had already lay on the ground with their legs open and the one with my sperm in her mouth proceeded to blow through the hollow thigh bone of a cassowary in to the vagina of each one. Waking up in the first light of dawn, naked and hung-over, with the mixed memories of Denise and the hallucinations, was confusing, but I struck off downhill, and soon found a pig track. Getting to the beach wasn’t too hard, but finding the boat was quite difficult because we had hidden it under the mangroves in the dark, and finally seeing it was like a dream come true. It was a very nice boat, probably 25 grand’s worth, although it had cost us a lot more because of its special cargo and the 50 grand cash included. I sat around in the boat under the mangroves waiting for Denise. She had gone through the same weird hallucinations as I had, but I had recovered most of my senses and so would she. “She should be here soon.” I reassured myself. There was no consideration of me going on alone. I was the non-hero, and I was only waiting for Denise to take command. Steve getting shot was the unexpected, when everything seemed to be falling into place, but Denise knew what to do. I’d always been the extra wheel. The essential extra. I thought about the fishing Steve and I had done. We’d put food in the bowl and had a good time simultaneously. What more could you ask for? As I was thinking about that I noticed a small shovelnose shark feeding in the shallow water about ten meters away and decided to try to have it for dinner. Stalking the fish as it gradually moved toward the mouth of the estuary was a foolish thing to be doing but I was bored and too easily caught up in childish games. There was plenty of dried food in the boat, but before I knew it I was out on the beach still trying to spear the little shark when the unmistakable sound of a chopper began reverberating from the south. It was impossible to escape into the cover of the bushes along the edge of the beach because of the line of footprints I’d leave getting there, and it was too far around the edge of the water to get back into the mouth of the estuary so the only option was to very quickly slide under the edge of a log which lay half out of the water where it had been washed from the estuary the previous wet season. I hid myself as best I could and held my breath as I heard the helicopter breach the headland and fly over. I was out of breath so that my head felt like it would burst, but finally the tone of the rotors changed and I knew it was out of sight. It was a lesson learnt as I ran back around the edge of the water and regained the cover of the mangroves where I stood, dripping and panting. That was it! I had a responsibility to get out of there, not to wait for Denise. The pact we had made was no joke! There was a mission to fulfil. Sure Denise would die there, unless she was found by someone. She might have fallen over a cliff as I might have, though I hadn’t, but it was my duty to see the venture through to the end and not let sentimentality jeopardize the mission. Steve had been the main man, and Denise the main women, but from there on in it would be up to me. A reality check would have been appreciated, but I was alone, and shaken, so I looked my responsibility straight in the eye, afraid.
I knew that the tide would be high enough after nine so after examining the charts and just on sunset I pushed the boat out from under the thick mangrove branches, started the motors, carefully cleared the bar, and planed all night heading south until I reached a cove just before morning. There were thick clouds on the horizon, and already some rain had fallen. I was almost out of fuel but I had also almost reached a major town where I could buy a second hand Toyota and a trailer. According to the map it was just over three kilometers through the bush to the highway, but it took me almost two hours because of the rough terrain. I hitchhiked into town, it was Saturday morning, so I bought a newspaper and a raincoat and started looking in the classifieds. Buying a Toyota wasn’t too hard, having cash as I did, but the boat was different. I only needed the trailer but decided it was best to buy a boat as well, just so people weren’t curious as to why someone would just want a trailer. After looking at a few, which wouldn’t have taken Kestrel, I located The Singing Dolphin. It was the perfect size, and the trailer was in excellent condition. I could tell it was the families pride and joy, not just because the kids were crying in front of the weatherboard house, but I could envision the fat wife hauling fish in hand over fist. I didn’t seem right, but what could I do? I trailed Singing Dolphin out of town to a launching ramp to the north, parked and slept until a foolish moon woke me late. It was already twelve and I’d planned to be making the changeover by then. It was important to hurry, but not get bogged. Fortunately Dolphin slipped into the water easily and under the moon I motored briskly to the cove, and transferred some fuel. I tied the dolphin on behind with its painter. It was too close but I had no choice and it wasn’t far to go. I’d checked the chart and seen that the water dropped off to over eighty fathoms within a few hundred meters of the beach. It seemed like a crime to sink the Singing Dolphin, I wanted to leave it somewhere for the fishing family, but, I had to stay serious. It isn’t about some kids pulling in pongos. It was dangerous. It was important. I, alone, was saving the world! The bungs had been pulled-out since I’d tied her on behind but she would take forever to sink like that so I grabbed an axe and began chopping into the floor. There were layers of foam but pretty soon water was bursting in and the little boat said its last farewells as I climbed back onto Kestrel and undid the painter. There wasn’t time to look back as I started the motor of the new boat and pushed forward on the throttle. It responded immediately and I was soon on my way to the beach where the trailer was waiting to be mounted by this newer model. I beached the boat, walked to the Toyota, and reversed the trailer back down the beach as quickly as I could. The tide was coming in already so it was easier in some ways but harder in others. The Toyota had sunk into the sand while I’d been cranking the boat on and it seemed like I was going to get stuck there until I realized that one of the front hubs wasn’t looking in, something the seller hadn’t revealed. A deceit that could have sunk the entire venture. Finally, using the anchor from the boat, attached to the winch cable I managed to get off that beach and away from the cold, dark water that had come to be an element of fear. The boat behind was a reminder of water but only an abstract reminder when I heard the high and dry sounds of gravel being thrown up by the trailer’s tires. The trip to Sydney was event free, despite the fact I was frightened every time I saw a police car. Fortunately they all seemed to be busy giving people tickets but I felt
as though they were taking notice of me and my rig each time I went past one. The intense blue and red flashing lights were distracting and gave everything the appearance of an American movie. To say it was a relief to arrive on the northern outskirts of Sydney is an understatement. I booked into a busy, mid-range motel on the highway straight away and after I’d shaved and put on my cleanest clothes I went walking, and then caught a cab, to a shopping center where I could buy some unextraordinary clothing before having a haircut. The clothing was straightforward and easy but the haircut was such a sensual experience I hadn’t been prepared for it. The young apprentice who washed my hair, massaged the aromatic shampoo into my scalp with her slender fingertips. My entire body was tingling and I felt light-headed, and then I was rolled up in front of a mirror, the first mirror larger than I rearview I’d seen for many months, and a tall women, with scissors and comb, stepped up behind me to begin cutting my hair. Her name was Chantelle, she told me, and she was dark and mysterious, I said to myself. Chantelle's jewelry sparkled, and she smiled like heaven. “Wow, who cut your hair last time, she said with a smirk as she looked over at the other girls. Looks like you did it yourself!” she continued unflatteringly. The question caught me off-guard, because Denise had cut my hair, so I began to create a new identity and life right there and then. “One of my friends reckoned he was pretty good with a pair of scissors! Guess he was wrong! Will you be able to fix it?” “Of course!” she came back, “At least, there is plenty there. How short you would like it?” she asked, looking in the mirror at my eyes looking at hers. “Well, just as if I was going to get married, or apply for a job selling insurance,” I told her lightheartedly. “Just so I look presentable.” “That’ll be a challenge!” she laughed as I examined the profile of her face in the mirror and felt relieved to be dealing with someone who had a sense of humor and wasn’t going to ask questions which could tangle me up, like my hair. She didn’t speak much after that, just concentrated on lifting the hair with the comb and making fast and accurate snips. I just sat there enjoying the proximity of such a lovely feminine creature and watched the various expressions she put on her face as she exchanged information with the young women perming a wig in the next bay. I had accepted the fact that there was nothing unusual about men and women being so close, touching, feeling the breath of the other. I’d just been in the bush too long! Finding a suitable apartment wasn’t so difficult because I had money, and even looked like I had money once I was cleaned up and dressed appropriately. The brick of cash that had come with the boat was very handy, and all part of the big picture I reassured myself. The most important thing had been a double garage in which to park the boat and Toyota. The dirty 4WD stuck out like a sore thumb in the suburbs and I simply had to get the boat out of sight. I was the only one who knew it contained two missiles capable of being fired 8 kilometers and also blowing up the entire block of apartments but I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable until it was out of my sight, so I could forget about it for a while. Understandably, I was tired and stressed from the months of hard work topped off by the death and disappearance of my two compatriots. I didn’t have time to think about the people living in the apartments, but, I just knew it would be safe.
I took some money from the stash and went to buy a car. I chose a white Mazda coupe because it was good value and fairly inconspicuous. I took Chantelle to dinner in a very nice restaurant. We ate fish and drank a bottle of excellent wine, and I dropped her home with a kiss on the cheek. The following weekend we went for a picnic on the banks of a large river and there we had sex for the first time, and Chantelle revealed to me a couple of her special vices. Each day while she was working I continued reading and basically laying low, waiting for the signal to strike North West Cape. My reading had extended from politics and sociology to comparative religion and psychology where there was a common theme, which could have been spoken by a wise old person or a child of five. The Buddhist scriptures put it most succinctly, the wheel and its track, but with all of the religions, at some stage they became metaphysical manuals for individual salvation. The part that caught my attention most was where the Buddha was quoted as saying, “If you being cut to pieces by men with two-edged swords you would not be following my teaching if you felt anger.” Did it mean that the violent plan I had inherited, even though it was for the greater good of mankind, to prevent a global catastrophe, could not be justified? It was worth thinking about, and I had plenty of time for thought, as well as sex and cocaine with Chantelle. I told her I was living from the “investments” that my dead father had left me, and I began to dread finding the coded message in the classifieds that would send on my way. Everything got better and better, almost too good to be true, and then things really climaxed on exquisite summer night. Everything was perfect, I had decided that the whole nuclear war scenario must be some paranoid delusion cooked up by Steve’s war psychosis, and even if it wasn’t, why should it be my responsibility to lose all I had in order to set things right. ‘Thou shalt not kill’ was one of the commandments I had been brought up on! To celebrate my secret decision to resume normality I took Chantelle out for that blissful dinner, and then came home to snort some lines and make love. It was perfection and when we’d finished enjoying each other’s bodies I drifted into a state of mind between post coital quiescent orgasmic release and dream. While in that state I realized that the planet Earth was the only place that contained life and love in an otherwise inanimate universe. With that insight my body was drawn out through the atmosphere. At first I was looking down at Chantelle and my self in bed asleep but then I was lifted until Australia was a shape before my eyes and then the entire planet hovered in empty space. It was the only living thing in a limitless universe devoid of life and love! It was a flower in a bank, a baby in a graveyard, and before my eyes our planet, tiny as it was, opened into a lotus flower and began to disseminate the seeds of life into a previously lifeless universe. I awoke with the image fresh in my mind, and there was no turning back. How could I consider my personal salvation or karma or whatever when the fruition of the universe was concerned, especially in comparison to the global devastation of a nuclear war? Back in the old Toyota many strange feelings and memories ran through my mind. I was in love with Chantelle, yet I was leaving her behind. I thought about how she would feel when she woke up and I was gone, without a word.” At that point he stopped and sat there looking at the koalas with a strange empty grin. “Did you carry the mission through?” the tall koala asked, pushing her face forward under the suit, breaking the old guys concentration.
“As you can see, Matey, the world is still here. Unfortunately, the rest of the story is classified.” he said, returning to his posture of gazing into space. “Sorry about that.” The two koalas wandered away without a donation, appearing by their body language to be completely dumbfounded. They must have been new in town because anyone who’s been here for any length of time knows it’s almost impossible to extract 50 cents from a hippie, and, as for the story, well, the bullshit’s knee deep in Byron Bay!
Spike knew her nature well, but Francoise had hardly noticed him at all. He was twenty-two, taking care of the kitchen. She was only a couple of years older, but already drove an iridescent green beamer. Francoise was a very smart young woman, but often overlooked the less than obvious, and generally under-estimated the needs and appetites of others, even thought she also liked to eat and drink. “As you know,” Francoise began, “there will twelve clients. To this point in time everything has gone precisely as planned, and I want to keep it that away! See to it the tablecloths are immaculate and the cutlery spotless. Be polite to everyone. And remove any spare chairs.” Spike nodded. “Have the hor d’oerves ready on the table.” Francoise continued, as she directed him toward the fridge and swung its doors open. “Here on these top two selves we have Moselle and Chablis. And here is the Pinot Noir. Down there in the small carafes is chilled Evian. Not that they’ll be drinking much of that!” She grinned. “Don’t rush, but I want them out of here by 2. There is an important meeting.” She said with a dim gleam in her eyes, and added. “By the way, you’ll never get anywhere with a haircut like that!” Refocusing, she walked away, flicking open her phone. Spike ignored the jibe. He could see the humor in it because he knew that despite her obsession with efficiency, she’d made the mistake of ordering plenty of food while under-purchasing on the wine. No doubt an attempt to gain points from middle management by being thrifty, which could work against her because the luncheon was there final act in her first solo seminar and
she needed a good report from the participants. Francoise wanted everyone to be happy because the success of the course wouldn’t be measured by bumson-seats as much as smile-on-faces. Spike knew she shouldn’t encourage her girl to eat too much of what they could consider to be a free meal. Especially a few of them who hadn’t worked very hard at the course. If they did, they’d feel bloated and guilty. Where as it was almost they duty to drink, and if they ran out of wine they wouldn’t be pleased, at all, and their displeasure could affect her future so as soon as she was back on the phone and speeding toward her office to refer to file, Spike got busy. Firstly he reduced the amount of hor d’oerves by returning half the salty salmon and caviar to the fridge so the gals wouldn’t exercise their thirsts too much before the main course was served, and after some consideration he also turned down the temperature on the air-conditioner by a couple of degrees. Next, Spike pulled all four trays from the fridge and slid them onto bench-top. The client would be there very soon so he quickly emptied one of the small carafes of water and filled with a mix of all three wines by pouring small but slightly increasing amounts of wine from each of the large carafes. He then replaced the wine with water from the other small carafes until they were all full of the mixture. Within a few minutes all of the water had been mixed into the progressively diluted Pinot Noir, Chablis and Moselle and the four smaller carafes had been slipped back onto the bottom shelf on the fridge. When the young women began arriving Spike checked them out from his workbench and began to adjust the chicken salad accordingly, “She’s a good eater! In go two extra drumsticks. Skinny nervous one on slimming piles. Take one back out.” The girls was busy chatting and nibbling until Spike began serving the main course, when he took the opportunity to mention 0.5, in a round about way. There were many appreciative comment as the girls cleared their plates, and of course by the end of the meal they’d consumed almost all of the wine so, looking trough the little round window in the swinging door, Francoise was panicking while talking on her mobile to a confidante or mentor. “I’ve done it again! The wines almost finished.” Pause. “They’re going to hate me!” Spike stood a respectful distance away, holding out the tray of small carafes, trying to interrupt. “It’s just about time to present the diplomas”, Francoise rushly spoke to her mobile, “And they’ve almost empty glasses! I don’t need this!” Pause. “OK. Gotta go.” Spike presented Francoise with a misted glass. “Try it”, he said with a smile. She gave him a patronizing looked with changed, as she sipped, to a fascinated smile. So crisp and dry! “Where did this come from?…. Never mind.” She said as she backed through the swinging doors with the tray of small carafes and resumed her role as host. A short time later Spike listened to her making a brief speech as he started stacking the pots. “It’s been a real pleasure to have shared in this January seminar with you all and I accept your gift with gratitude, but, I also wish to remind you how much each of you contributed to its success by your keenness, enthusiasm, and punctuality.” The big blonde declared a toast to Francoise, “Our grooviest ever teacher!” a greed a dozen lasses as they clanked glasses. Smiles all around. Spike returned to the dining room just in time for a second toast, “ To all of us”, and cleared away the plates,
and then the empty carafes and glasses. It was almost time to go. As the girls filled out, saying their last goodbye, Francoise caught a glimpse of Spike in the kitchen washing dishes. He looked so young wearing that plastic apron, humming with suds around his forearms. “Adorably efficient”, thought Francoise. She could see that he knew he had work to do. And she, had a meeting to attend. Coming back from the meeting, having been praised and promoted in one fabulous half hour Francoise strode across the parquetry feeling like a million dollars, but, as she came around the corner she saw a bright reflection of Spike mopping the floor with intense zeal, and it affected her. She’d developed a silicon kind of approach to people from her involvement in the sharp on the business world but her shallow heart filled with sympathy, and like a child exploring the basement of her family home with a dull torch she recognized her own derelict compassion, so on the spur of the moment invited Spike for lunch at the restaurant in a nearby park. He was quite good looking but she didn’t really want anyone to see them together. The restaurant was set amongst tall trees from which burst flicks of lorikeets. Spanning the panoramic view of the harbor was a rainbow. Francoise ordered an expensive bottle of champagne. “Thank you Spike. The promotion mean a lot for me, and with you help I overcame a problem which could have spoiled everything.” She said with real gratitude. “It was no problem. I new it was important for you, but you seemed so elated and stressed at the same time. If you want to keep getting promoted, and climb your way to the top, that’s your ambition. But life is short and there are plenty of other things to do.” He made some sense to Francoise so she let him talk to see where the conversation might lead them, and later they moved out into the park. Relaxing on the trimmed lawn with her hand resting in his, looking out the silken sunlight shimmering on the salt water the ends of his blonde into and out of her field of vision. Faint music drifted down from a distant gazebo, settling in amongst the birdsong that filled the air like the scent of blossoms. The golden puppies ran by, nipping playfully at each other’s coats, and then rolled over and over, making excited growls and yelps while chasing each other in circles with two young children in pursuit. She casually rubbed her shoe against the edge of his, completely reclaiming his attention from the puppies. “Spike?”, she said to him in such a soft whisper that he had to raise himself on one elbow to see her lips and her lightly closed eyelids. “Spike. Did you hear me? Do you want to work in the kitchen forever? You’re smart enough to apply for a management position.” “Is it really that important? ” he replied, “I like to see people enjoying them selves, especially when they are eating food that I’ve prepared.” Several years later.. In the early morning Spike lay there and watched her sleep. The satin sheet flowed across the contours of her body, her soft hair falling across the pillow, her lovely eyes, though seeing things in dreams unknown to him, were just a beautiful closed as when she was a peach tree they’d planted two springs before displaying its first blossom. A pair of blue wrens flew into it, chirped at each other and flew a way. How wonderful it was the way his love for her had grown with each day they’d been together. Even the sound of her name caused him to realize how completely he loved her, and though he regretted the fear that rose
inside him at the thought that he may sometime lose her, it was just one facet of the jewel which shone and glowed when he held her in his arms and he knew that she loved him in return. The greatest gift and most enchanting knowledge was that they were growing over closer. Their intimacy was not derived from an infatuation that would flare and die like a pile of leaves set a fire. It was not just selfish lust that would survive only as long as the selfish lust survived. It was more like a river grown from a thousand tiny streams of respect and admiration, spawned by countless incidents and shared experiences. Their love was the most natural thing in thing in the world, and their marriage, as an enmeshment of two minds and bodies that made each of them richer, more human, and more truly a live, caused them to feel greater love, deeper tenderness. And more perfect understanding. He considered himself to be more than just a lucky man sharing his children and all of the other wonderful things that life had to offer them, because he also knew without doubt, that he’d taken part in an astounding miracle
Bob’s mustache spanned his hard-set mouth like a Shinto shrine. His skin was tanned red, with course black whiskers showing through all over his chin and cheeks. He was a man of action who could stand alone, unlike the ‘pale faced slant-eyes’ who had to travel in flocks, jammed into their air-conditioned tourist busses. Bob’s side-kick, Skipper, stood with his paws against the dash, lifted his head a bit into the wind which jostled his ears, and barked three times at the smiling faces looking down at the dog as though he was cute. As soon as he could see the road a head was clear Bob had floored the Tojo and passed the bus, sticking his middle finger up toward the line of faces and muttering ‘fuckin’ tourists!’ as he accelerated away along a road as straight as a gun barrel. Soon Bob and Skipper were in clean air where the open apace stretched all the way to the horizon in every direction. Bob had installed long-range fuel thanks, extra filter for both fuel and air, a good tool kit, and two spare tires. This would be the time of their lives! For two more days Bob drove west. He camped down by a sluggish yellow river with ancient red gums dotting its tall banks. The dropped branches had made an excellent fire and with Skipper there with his jaw on his paws and a small dome of brightness in the center of the universe, Bob felt really good. Really out there doing it! He’d escaped sub-urbanity; he was a separate entity, a real individual. He spat a fleck of tobacco toward the fire and blew smoke into the smile, feeling a cozy contempt for all the commuters and bank tellers back in the city. Next morning it was already hot when Bob awoke. Galahs burst from the higher branches of the gums,
insects buzzed around him, and alone cattle truck thundered by on the dusty road nearby. “Time to move, Skipper.” The route was generally straight with some low mountains hovering in the far distance, and every so often a dry creek crossing that looked as though it had forgotten the feeling of water. Sensibly, Bob had brought plenty of water with him, and plenty of fuel. And more important of all, his best mate, Skipper. They passed the ancient falling-down weather board building surrounded by rusted old cars set back half a mile from the road and Bob was surprised to see tire marks leading out of the drive way. He had enjoyed the heeling of being the only person of thousand miles. Not far down the road Bob crossed a cattle grid made with railway track. He love the BBRRRRT sound made by the tires and the way the old Tojo flew over them, but he must have overdone that one because something broke and the mudguard was instantly rubbing on the tire sending out a stretched cloud of blue/black smoke behind until the tire burst, flapped, and disintegrated. Bob pulled up as quickly as he could and inspected the damage. The tire was history but the right rear spring shackle was the problem. Bob wasn’t fazed. He walked 200 meters back to the grid and removed a length of fencing wire by bending it back and forth until it got very hot and then snapped. Soon Bob had the Tojo jacked-up using the air bag specially design for desert conditions, and inflated by the vehicles exhaust. The shackle was jury-rigged and the tire changed so he drove slowly back to the old station house he’d seen. Back at the ranch Bob blew his horn but there was no sign of life, and no response, but there was a diesel generator thumping away somewhere round the back. Bob got out, ordered Skipper to heel, and looked around. Inside the weatherboard shell of the house one room was still habitable, and three enamel coffee mugs waited on the table. The other rooms contained an accumulation of saddles, pumps, sacks, car parts and boxes, all beneath a thick layer of dust on a floor that had collapsed in several places. Out the back was a big transportable freezer unit the size of a container. Bob popped the latch and looked inside. It was full of rabbit carcasses all neatly stacked to the ceiling. Ol Skipper went mad at the sight and smell of them. Bob slapped him on the nose. “Come on ya bastard! Ya can’t be that fuckin’ hungry!” Next, Bob looked into the corro shed close by. There were all kinds of things, including an arc welder, amongst the pipes and tools under a big old bench. Just what he needed, although he had never used one. Bob was versatile. He dragged the welder outside and connected it to the generator with an extension lead, found a packet of rods nearby but no mask, not that he was going to let that stop him. The job went slowly because it was hard to look between his fingers at the bright flashes but finally it was welded up. He chipped away the slag and it looked strong so he unplugged everything and put it back where he’d found it. All part of the ‘shut the gate’ ethos. “Let’s go, Skipper! We’ve got some country to cover!”, but within a few miles Bob’s eyes began to really hurt and water profusely. Within a few more minutes he couldn’t bear to keep them open at all because after a few more minutes he was completely blind. Skipper couldn’t understand what was wrong with his master. Bob was increasingly incruled, “Fuckinhell! What’s goin’ on here?” he growled. He held his head, pushed on his shut eyes, rolled his eyeballs in his head, but nothing helped. The pain was intense and increasing every moment. He stumbled around, spinning as a
somatic reaction, and began cursing the darkness as though it was external and malicious. Until he really panicked, realizing that if he lost touched with the car he might never find it again. Aware that it contained everything he required for survival! On cue, Skipper barked. “Love that dog!”, thought Bob as she shuffled his way toward the car until bending back a finger bumping into the open door which he then held onto. His finger hurt and he needed a drink so he felt around in the back for the four liter water container but there was so much stuff packed in there he couldn’t locate it. “What can I do?” he asked himself, and answered, “Sit down, stay calm”. Bob sat back in the drivers seat and lit a smoke, feeling more in control as he sucked on the filter of a Marlboro, “Fuck this pain!” he shouted a nothing, and then remembered his Mum had put some digesics and other medicines in for him. “Good ol Mum! She’d wanted to put in an entire first aid kit!” chuckled Bob, as he started digging around in the back again. He felt his pack, his shovel, the lamp, the esky, the Jerry can, the tent, but no bag containing painkillers. Although he knew it was down there somewhere and he needed to find it the pain was so intense he was disoriented. Bob could hear Skipper’s tail slapping against the windscreen and his dog breath close to his face, “Always trying to help”, but when his stupid snout knocked the cigarette out of Bob’s mouth he suddenly let fly his frustration at the dog and backhanded him across the snout. “Outovit Skipper! Ya stupid mongrel.” “Shit!” He poked around amongst the gear trying to find the cigarette, pulling things out as he did, which made for more mess and confusion, but he couldn’t find where the cigarette had gone although he thought he could smell something burning. He fingered his way between the bags and sundry items but didn’t know if he had done any good. He stamped around with his fist to try to be sure so he stood up on the front seat and pissed all over in the general direction of where the cigarette had gone. So then he was sure. But was he sure? Of course he was sure. Sure that he was blind. He couldn’t see. He was in the middle of nowhere and would be lucky to have another car come by inside a week. It was 48 degrees without a drop of shade, except under the Tojo where Skipper had crawled. So Bob joined him. He tried to ignore the pain but nothing else existed. He pushed against the gravel beneath his back but could hardly feel it, “just wait!” he thought, “just wait. If I’ve burned my eyeballs then maybe they will heal, like other burns do.” And then he tried to sleep. Skipper slid his muzzle into Bob’s open hand. Is seemed as though things couldn’t get much worse for our rugged individual but cigarette that Bob was sure he’d extinguished. He hadn’t! His attempt to put things right by pissing onto his gear had been the last resort of a desperate and distraught man but it hadn’t worked and once the wick had been lit there wasn’t much anyone could have done. Canvas, plastic, and styrothene foam are hard materials to extinguish once they begin to burn but even harder when you are blind because locating the source requires you to get your hands burnt. It almost broke Bob’s heart as he ran away from the blazing vehicle he loved so much, aware that it contained over thirty gallons of fuel. Bob’ escape machine was about to escape him, although it’s pieces would rust where they landed. Bob figured he was far enough away down the road but when the Toyota blew apart one small hot fragment still hit him on the left ear lobe. Bob was pissed! As they used to say in his favorite TV show. The poor bastard didn’t know what to do. Thank God he had Skipper!
“Skipper! Here boy!” Whistle, whistle. That mutt had a bottom less pit for a stomach, a memory like an elephant, and a nose like radar, and with those thoughts Bob whipped off his belt and tied it to the dog’s collar. “Skipper hasn’t forgotten those rabbits back there, and I figure anytime now he’ll be wanting to head that way.” Sure enough, within the hour Skipper had drawn a bead on the old farmhouse and he was pulling Bob along in the blazing heat and his own personal darkness. Obviously they were going overland and Bob was holding up his plants, tripping over unseen objects, and stepping in holes but he clung the Skipper’s collar like a man overboard clings to a life raft. A combination of Lassie across the saltpans toward the rabbit-trapper’s old house. Bob remembered that except for one sweeping curve they’d been traveling west most of the time as he imagine the third side of the isosceles triangle that he was now shuffling out. Bobby was getting a badly sun burnt nose since he hat had been blown off, and he regretted the time and the much needed energy he had wasted trying to locate it, but it was almost happy, despite that, because although he placed a lot of emphasis on being the independent man, this time he really needed some help, and although his trusty off-sider was saving his skin noone need to know about that. It was just between him and Skipper. Skipper towed him for miles over stones that strained his ankles, past thorn bushes that scratched his bare legs, over banks that skinned his knees, and through washouts that filled his boot with sand, while the sun beat down relentlessly. He knew that could only cover 8 or 10k’s in the heat, but he calculated that it wasn’t that far. Skipper veered off his otherwise direct course and stopped for a minute. “C’mon mate, what are you doing?” If only Bobby knew. Ol’ Skip was snacking en route. A dingo-bait wasn’t the ideal hors-d’oeirve but Skipper was a mongrel, he hadn’t learnt that, and pretty soon Bob was being dragged down by a convulsing dog trying to run on it’s side with blood coming out of his nose, although when Bob felt it he thought that it was just ‘wet’. Bob let go of the belt, talked to Skipper, and encouraged him to get up and keep going. He was not sure of the exact problem but he was guessing what had happened, although guessing or knowing meant nothing cause neither changed the shudders and the labored breathe. Skipper was almost a dead dog and Bob was confused, and for all intents and purposes, alone. Bob wasn’t holding up as well as he should have. At first the panicked and ran and fell and cut his knees on the stony ground. Next he prayed to God, he cursed Toyota and all the Nipponese, and then he regained control of himself by reciting some of his Uncle’s good advice. “Though time are when a man shows his truth worth.” He said to himself. “Seemingly impossible situations can be overcome with self-confidence and determination. There will be a light at the end of the tunnel.” “It must pass. My eyes must come good!” Bob decided. “And I’ll get out of there.” He spoke out loud. He knew that he had to find shade, to cut moisture loss, to give himself a chance to survive. He stumbled along the edge of the shallow gully with his arms outstretched and within a minute felt the cooling shade, and then the trunk of the tree that threw it. That shade was like a spray of cool water on his scorched body. He felt relatively refreshed and his whole body relaxed as he sat down and bathed in the cool air. But then his attention returned to Skipper, he thought about him lying there in the sun suffering, and just then he heard a weak whimpering yelp that immediately located in his consciousness. Without hesitation Bob strode out of the shade to where Skipper lay, lifted him into his arms and
carried him back to the shad. With a bit of luck, Bob thought, Skipper may recover yet. He pictured Skipper as a puppy, and all of the good times they had shared flowed trough his mind. They lay there in the shade, Bob feeling so relieved that he fell asleep, but Skipper hadn’t gone to sleep and the meat ants were already running up his nostrils before he drew his last breath. They were also checking out Bob’s lowest sphincter when he woke in a panic with ants all over him and went spinning and slapping and prancing across the dry ground rubbing his arms and legs and neck. Poor Bob was making a weird half crying half shrieking sound as he tried to rid himself of ants but it changed to full on sobbing, blubbering, and much wasted tears when he trod into a rabbit hole and almost broke his ankle. It seemed like the end for Bob but he still knew in his brain’s foundations that he had to simply control his pain, fear, hunger, and fatigue, and get used to having dust and sand in every orifice, if he was to have any chance of survival, and as Uncle Billy had said, “Never say Die!” After a few minutes when he had calmed down sufficiently Bob realized that it must be dark. He could feel the cool night air as a gentle breeze on his right cheek, and he could hear the sounds of the many insects, which made up the nightlife. Bob pulled himself together and listened to those sounds, soon realizing that they gave him a background to orient himself spatially. Already he had been amazed by the way his mind’s eye had improved its vision. When he’d been dropping off to sleep he’d realized that he could imagine members of his family and ‘see’ them as though they were standing right there in front of him. So now with his new powers of second sight Bob began to draw a fairly detailed map in his mind, beginning with the old house, the road, the curve, and the track taken by Skipper, and he realized that if he walked north he would meet the road within four or five kilometers and even if he was a bit off course to the east he must walk into a fence. That was a relief, although Bob figured, using his knowledge of the prevailing wind direction and putting the whole picture together several times in his head he could choose an almost perpendicular path, and if there was a car! Geronimo! Bob set off, growing more confident with each steep. He was limping badly from his ankle injury but he had recovered his belt from Skipper’s collar and felt better already. Using the chart of insect noises, the orientation on the sand drifts, and the constant breeze against his cheek Bob made as much ground as possible in precisely the right direction. His priority was to reach the road before sunrise so that he would have enough time to find some shade before the sun resumed its merciless throne above. Bob calculated he was covering at least one kilometer per hour so he should be OK. He spirits lifted once ore, and he felt a bit like those Polynesian seafarers who had navigated their canoes across the boundless ocean to discover new island homes. Four hours later Bob was almost totally exhausted, as well as bruised, sore, and flayed from falling over rocks and through bristly bushes, when he began to feel the change that morning brang. At first it was a delicious coolness as alight dew settled but then the insects stopped their shrill sounds and Bob could feel from the air around his face that the sun was about to rise. He pushed on with the last bit of energy and enthusiasm he could muster, wishing with all his heart to feel the gravel and bitumen beneath his boots very soon, and then he smelt something dead. To Bob it meant road-kill so he aimed straight for it, only to find him self feeling the collar of Skipper again, and having a million meat ants running up his arms. Bob literally collapsed from the shock but he knew he couldn’t stay there in the shade with Skipper, he’d
never be able to get rid of the ants, so he located and huddled in the shade of a spindly gum nearby, listening to the crows fighting over Skipper’s eyes. He knew that thins were know extremely tenuous so he sat very still with the palms of his hands shielding his forehead. He breathed through his nose. His life swam in the heat haze as every bit of good advice flowed through his mind, but by afternoon even the basic message, “keep trying, stick with t, don’t give up” was not enough to keep him shifting his ass to stay in the two square meters of dappled shade, and he finally just switched off. Death seemed sweet compared with being cooked by the sun and eaten by the ants. What was the point in struggling on, “we only die anyway,” he thought, “I’m ready to go, I’m melting. You got me Satan. I’m an apprentice for hell.” Finally the night sky slid down like hardening tar and it brought with it a coolness that bathed him as the darkness tucked in his fears. He was ready for oblivion, at peace with him self, and fell into a resigned sleep until Bob woke up about 3 a.m. could, the pain had subsided and although it was pitch black without a moon, he realized that he could see some stars in the hazy sky. “Phew!” Why had a panicked? Where did my selfassurance go? Within seconds of waking Bob was on his feet and scanning the horizon for any indications of life. He set off with renewed hope and vigor and arrived at the road just as dawn was breaking. It wasn’t long before the big square windscreen of a purpose built 4WD tourist bus appeared in the distance and very soon stopped right in front of him. The Japanese tourists all crammed toward the front to have a look at the ragged and dehydrated man who could barely stand on his feet. The driver gave Bob some water to drink and several men helped him into the bus and made him comfortable in the front seat. “Fabulous tourists,” thought Bob, as he relaxed in the air-conditioned comfort, surrounded by video cameras and exposed teeth.
After four months in Byron, Tony had realized it wasn’t quite the progressive ‘utopia’ as he first thought, and New-age had turned out to be almost No-wage, so, while he continued to do his best to find a real job he spent each morning picking passion fruits on the farm where he and his girlfriend rented a converted milk bails. One rainy morning he complained about the meager remuneration for the backbreaking labor, but he was told that he should be grateful for the job because back packers worked for only four dollars an hour. Tony left, but his girlfriend stayed with the woman who owned the place. Apparently they’d been having an affair for a week or more. Suddenly Tony was jobless, homeless, and girlfriendless, and after a late night during which he spent the last of his money, he rode out of town on his motorbike, so depressed he just wanted to end it all. Finally Tony found an old shed in a paddock down a dirt track, parked his bike and when into the shed to hang himself with his leg rope. Within a few minutes he’d secured the rubber noose around his neck and stepped off a box. As Tony dropped his life went spiraling out into the starscape. Pulsations of clean non-sound swept him, and then, complete silence…. Stillness, until Tony opened his eyes and saw that he was in a beautiful geometrical garden where there were bees and butterflies and cypresses reaching toward the sun. He felt as if he was almost floating on dynamic vibrations. The aroma from the flowers was intoxicating, and he unconsciously asked, “Where is God?” An arrow made from ribbon blew past him very slowly, rolling and rippling like a sea snake, and Tony followed it into a maze shaped from hedges. He drifted and then stumbled around in there four days
until he died again from thirst, but, at the final gasp of breath Tony’s stream consciousness instantly recommenced. White birds flew across the fulsome face of brilliant moon below which Tony was skating on a frozen circular pond with a lovely girl wearing a short pleated skirt that flared out from her body, and shimmering silver tights that didn’t. Tequila and lemonade showered down from fluorescent clouds as they skated in ever decreasing circles, spinning around and around looking into each other’s eyes, until they reached the center of the pond where Tony fell through the less formed ice and plunged deep into the diamond green water. Coming back up to the underside of the side sheet he could see his partner leaning forward, her pinkish face peering down at him between the palms of her hands and he could see the tiny circles her warm tears were making in the transparent ice, but the couldn’t find the way to get back out. It seemed like only a minute before his bubbles and struggling ceased. The next time Tony ‘woke up’ he was on a strange savannah plain covered by golden grass. A large number of brightly colored goat-sized animals began gathering around him. They were playful, but each showed sharp little teeth when they smiled, and when he ran they chased him, and some of them bit him enough to make his legs and buttocks bleed. He ran faster and faster until he was jammed on three hundred and thirty three kilometers per hour with a throbbing bum but no matter how fast he ran when the sun went down he could still see the lights of their eyes like torches chasing him. Finally he ran off the edge of an enormous chasm and fell through space for hours, down toward a smoking mouth until he landed in it with just one leg that the mouth bit off and so much blood poured from the stump, he was soon an empty white.
Tony’s next world was full of hot sulfur pools and nothing much else except baking heat the cooked his consciousness so that he thought like a vegetable stew. No longer able to move but strangely hyperconscious he experienced excruciating pain from the oven that surrounded his brain. He vacillated between choking strangulation and projectile vomiting, with lost sphincter control, as his body tremored, twitched, shook, jerked, and performed complex twisting motions while his skin blistered and peeled away from his red body. As soon as the meat was still, many little twelve-fingered people began building a boardwalk made from matchstick. They were yabbering all the time, right outside his ears, as they erected scaffolding, and using ladders, climbed up to eat his brain. It was hard to tell when Tony left that extra-reality and arrived in the next but he found himself ‘treading water’ in an ocean of vomit, menstrual discharge, miscarried fetuses and knotted intestines upon which bloated dead dogs floated, and frothed with microscopic but multitudinous bleeding eyeballs. Matt-black vulturegulls cruised above. It wasn’t just the stench that made Tony shed tears and scream into the thick cold air. He was terrified of drowning again because he knew the next ‘world’ would be even worse, so he trod water ‘doggedly’ until the sky and then the air, filled with flies that swarmed up his nostrils. Still writhing, Tony came ‘alive again’ but that time his face had stretched out to become the arsehole of a 27 meter slimy lime-green snake covered in thick black bristles, sliding across the greasy surface of a stagnant swamp. Tony was witnessing the stippled slide marks recede, and the ugly brute pursuing her. “Hey man! Don’t try hanging yourself around here. You’ll freak someone out! Now get o n the motorbike of yours, and piss off!” Riding down the main road back toward town, with the lighthouse silhouetted against the early morning sky, Tony rolled her engine back to 4 grand, and thought aloud, “I’ve realized things can always get worse! And, adopting a freshly objective perspective, Life doesn’t get much better than summer in Byron!”
Germaine’s temples flashed bruise-blue as she bent over the head of a long broad table with her arms splayed, doing her best to control her jittering mind. “Why didn’t you tell me before?” She said loudly and slowly at the portraits of the matriarchs looking down at her grimly. “For six years I’ve been working with a person I was left to believe was a woman!” she went on, now looking down the center of the table, focusing on nobody but her rage, “and now I’ve found out that , ‘it’, isn’t!” She was infuriated. No-one spoke. No-one moved. “Need I remind any of you,” now shifting her icy stare from one sturdy face to the next, “that Lady McCoulloch College has been exclusive for 60 years! This is wrong. We’ve been tricked!” stated Germaine adamantly. After the initial confusion, and a few shoulder shrugs, the board-members took it in turns to vehemently and animatedly counter the reasoning, but after realsing that only meant listening to more of Germaine’s mean but well-proportioned assertions, they asked her to lower her voice, and instead of providing more counter arguments, they no longer wanted to discuss the matter. “There are quite a few items on today’s agenda and I think it is time to move on! ” Andrea insisted. But Germaine would not be quieted. In one final barrage she accused them of being traitors to the cause and having lost sight of their objectives. “Don’t you understand the danger of softening your stance?” she asked them as if the answer was as vitally as if they were together in a lifeboat deciding which way to row. “The person was born a man! We can’t have ‘it’ working here! Gender is a total concept! Not just makeup and high heels. Just because he’s had his genitals
removed and wears frocks doesn’t change a thing!” She insisted. The rest of the board sat looking at her in polite silence, which made Germaine even madder. “What is going on here?” she demanded to know, pausing between each word, as she stared at her female colleagues in-turn, realizing as she did so that each of them had known without telling her! Flabbergasted, she shook her head several times before marching abruptly out of the room. Once at home Germaine fumbled with the lock, went inside and lay prone on the old lounge eating chocolate and smoking cigars until she’d watched her ‘Thelma and Louise’ video 6 times; still fuming, but inspired. “That’s it!” She said to herself with asperous finality as she flicked the remote. “How dare they try to railroad me!" They’re just not committed to gender purity! I’ll show them commitment! I’ll show them I mean business!” The chalk cliffs of Dover were ahead. There was a small shelter and a drinking fountain in the cliff-side reserve, but beyond them the 300ft sheer drop that Germaine aimed for. She pressed the accelerator pedal hard against the rubber floor mat and shifted the Minx into third gear determined to go out in a blaze of glory, but she had to go back to second as the old Hillman moved onto the damp unmown grass so when she finally reached the timber railing at the edge of the cliff the right wing simply crumpled and jammed against a fence-post. Germaine hadn’t fastened her seatbelt so blood dripped from her forehead where it had come into contact with the steering wheel. An elderly gentleman who had been walking his corgi shuffled over with the intention of pulling the car door open to help her out of the wreck, but a he attempted to do so she lashed out and scratched his face, “I can open it myself, arsehole!” she hissed. They
were her last words as the car caught fire and her dry gray hair burst into a flaming halo around the ugly grimace on her bitter and twisted face. At least the agony of being burnt alive didn’t make her look any worse than usual, and the front-page photo of her flaming exit sold a lot of newspapers. At the Pearly Gates. “Good afternoon, Germaine. Here at last.” ”Seems like it. Is this heaven?” she asked the white-bearded man. “It most surely is.” He replied, extending his right arm toward the glowing gates with the gesture and bearance of a proud employee. “In the back of my mind I knew it must be true.” Chuckled Germaine as she lightly and repeatedly clapped her hands. “I always wanted to get to Heaven!” “Well, let’s take a look at your life, shall we?” he said sweeping his beard to one side and hauling open the cover of a ridiculously large book. “57? Not too bad. I see you have no spouse, no children, no grandchildren. Happy we haven’t burdened the world with our offspring, are we?” asked Peter with a sidelong glance. “My books are my children.” Replied Germaine “Yes, I’ve read your books. Hasn’t everyone? I read them again a moment ago when you were on your way up and I was even more amazed by your articulated attitude. Are you proud of the influence you’ve had on human society?” “Of course I am! Why wouldn’t I be? Women were shackled to a life of drudgery and dependence.” “And you saved them, did you Germaine? Hmm? Or did you just plug into the first TV-generation who’d become unreasonably dissatisfied with the trappings of the post-war good-life?” He asked, looking over his pince nez. “Why isn’t our home such a pleasant, predictable place?” They’d asked themselves while watching The Nelsons. “Why doesn’t my father bend down on one knee and listen to my troubles, and then sort them out within half an hour?” they’d pondered. “Why isn’t my husband as suave as Cary Grant?” they’d fantasized. “You found yourself in a position to provide your own answers to their unspoken questions. And that feeling of power corrupted you. You instilled in the social conscience the idea that all and only women had been oppressed for thousands of years. That marriage was a prison. Wives and mothers packed their bags and moved out by the thousands. Where did they end up? Living in poverty as exhausted benzo diazepam casualties? Children abused, neglected, and blamed for the loneliness.” “The family is the fulcrum of God’s plan on Earth.” St. Peter emphasized. “He set the whole thing going, like a model yacht on an inner city pond, leaving it to natural forces to keep it going. He took the family for granted. Reasonable, seeing it has always been the fundamental unit for procreation throughout the animal kingdom, but you and your post-modernist friends, not content with cozy jobs, had to turn the family into a ‘construction’. How ridiculous! But you managed to indoctrinate the world’s best-educated women into thinking there was something overwhelmingly stupid and demeaning about heterosexual love, being a devoted parent, and sustaining a wholesome homelife.” “Love, love, love.” You said “All the wretched cant of it, masking egotism, lust, and masochism, under a mythology of sentimental postures, a welter of selfinduced miseries, blinding and masking the essential personalities in the frozen gestures of courtship, in the kissing and desire, the compliments and quarrels which vivify its barrenness.”
You didn’t understand sincerity. Because you yourself were a fake you couldn’t believe that anyone could love with all their heart; instead of half their brain. Your Anti-Cinderella brigade infiltrated the educational institutions and indoctrinated their students with the idea that there is no chance of being happy with a husband and 2.4 children. You’d cut off the hands of a circle of dancing children to isolate females in genderspecific groups for ease if indoctrination. The creator hadn’t realized how herd-like and masochistic woman could be. The aggressive ones, the ones most like the men they were condemning, the ones like you, combined that aggression with their feminine deviousness to use disappointment, resentment, boredom, tactile deprivation and neurosis to manipulate the spoilt western female masses into an ideologically driven monster that recites instead of thinks! You said, “Man made one grave mistake, in answer to vaguely reformist and humanitarian agitation he admitted women to politics and the professions. The conservatives who saw this as the undermining of our civilization and the end of the state and marriage were right after all, it is time for the demolition to begin.” They are your words aren’t they Germaine? The thin veneer of civilization depends on value and institutions, and hope. Whether you like it or not. The only beneficiaries of feminism have been the savvy upper-middle class women already on the gravy train, fast-food franchises, lawyers, cigarette companies, and vibrator manufactures, while a whole generation of baby boomers enters the weird territory of mass menopause. You criticize the Lord’s creation but it has worked for along time with the family as the basic, most efficient and productive social unit. ‘Smash the Family!’ you demanded on placards. Well, now your slogans have become reality. The only men you could oppress were the wage slaves, unemployed and the working poor. Men who had already lost their jobs to a restructuring that provided part-time jobs for women instead. Gossip is the life-blood of feminism and guilt by accusation is the results. Amongst euphemisms and sexual harassment tactics you handed the gender war over to the whispering poison of the lesbian nazis. The male suicide figures we called the feminist scorecard. I interview so many of them here, but of course, suicides, like pre-term corpses are automatically excluded from heaven. That’s what astounds me about you’re type of feminists. They behave like herd animals dodging and weaving in unison. First they begin menstruating together and then they’re sharing a brain. By demonizing all things male, you and your mates provided prepackaged prejudice to the embittered and vulnerable. “Maybe if you’d had kids and picked up some joy from them instead of being an academic spinster with an ever-diminishing view of the world there may have been some hope for you. You had so much potential but you inverted your feelings and proved that character-types cross gender lines. You were born a woman, but you died not quite a man. About this person who’s career you wish to disrupt. The one you want to kick out. The man who is attempting to be a woman. Don’t you recognize her?” Peter asked earnestly. “Recognize her?” Germaine queiried. “Yes, recognize her.” Said Peter with emphasis. “She is the female eunuch you wrapped your life around! Why would a man want to become a woman? Isn’t the highest complement? To try to become one of you?” he said looking into her eyes, waiting for the answer that didn’t come. “No it isn’t. It is Germaine? You don’t hold women in high regard, at all, do you? You actually despise women even more than men. Perhaps you just
hate people who are in love, or believe in love. Your father wasn’t all you expected. Actually, a terrible disappointment to a sensitive young girl. But whose fault was that? Not even his. Yet you made the mistake of projecting the blame on to all men. Your writings denigrate marriage, and parenthood, but most of all love. In one of your texts you use the tapeworm as the best example of monogamy because it copulates with it self. That just about sums it up for me. You haven’t got what it takes to get in here.” “What do you mean? I was a celebrity!” That’s true Germaine, but it’s all academic, and especially in your case, heaven is ‘Men-Only’. I think you shall have to go to Limbo. A few eons with the ghosts of suicides and aborted fetuses might do you some good.
Hmmm, there’s something down there. Is this it? A tiny dead bird? It was only small but he chewed it into mush then tried to spit out the legs, feet, and some of the feathers. His nose pushed around for more, but it was mostly plastic bags with hardly enough in the corners to be worth licking out. Most of the rubbish was inorganic, just damp and dull, but there was something down there, something deep down in the heap. Something worth digging for. The other dogs had already left; moved on to fresher refuse, but, he was moved by something deeper, something stronger, like an olfactoric magnet joining the missing link between an endless chain in his mind and another one-ended chain somewhere else. The filthy flies danced around his face and backside, landing whenever they could. It was slim pickings though. There was hardly enough scavenging for a detuned dog, let alone enough to make his ulcers really suppurate. He was a sorry sight. The mange had taken almost all of his hair and the continual scratching had meant that his skin was stretched and hanging down over the stump of his tail. A back leg was carried aloft and one ear had been ripped off just last year. In short; a mess! A skulking reviled cur. A snakelike backbone draped with a ragged scabby hide exposing a cancerous rectum at one end and two frightened eyes at the other. Still, there was no-one kicking him! The aroma rose again to his warty, scaly nose, mmmmm, such a peculiar smell that it penetrated the miasma above it. He went deeper until his head was being shoved right down into the snuffle hole that just left his good ear out. The last thing he needed was a kicked butt! “Oo-oomm! I’m getting closer.” And he sure was.
Though still overwhelmed by the dominant stench of grunge he was focusing on the one tiny emission which was scratching his head. It was hard to ignore, like a plume of smoke rising into the early morning air. His horse faltered, and then regained its footing as he returned instead to the mountains of his exile to find the greybeard in his dream who kept his secrets to himself but was the true master of metal. He brewed the magic in his blades by the sheer physics of fire and meteoric matter, tempered with the patience and purity of his heart from many years of devotion, isolation, meditation and hard work. The heating, the hammering; the shock of icy water! Five times the laminated blade had been filed to dust, fed through different birds and animals and reworked as ever more pure metal. After four months it was almost ready, in its final firing, buried to the hilt in burning coals, glowing red like the eyes of a maddened dragon. Being brought to life by her master! He heard the sounds of hoof-beats and knew it was him come to collect the weapon. Sang greeted the old swordmaker warmly, until becoming agitated when told that he must still wait for three more days; “For one more dipping in the blood of eagles.” The greed for power subsumed Sang’s soul as his gloved hand grasped the red hot hilt and drew the glowing blade from the coals. Mesmerised by the spitting sparks he fiercely said, “You tell me this blade is not yet ready! But I am! And your blood will suffice to quench its thirst!” Plunging the sputtering blade into the chest of its maker, Sang laughed the twisted laugh of demons, then raising the sizzling blade with a straight arm above his head to shower in the evil of his action and the warm dark drops of the old man who fell back clutching his chest. His grey hair scattered and his eyes like fiery opals. Sang stood transfixed, hypnotized, and enchanted. Drunk with fermenting power and insane in his ambition to be the absolute ruler the whole world danced and spun to his loveless tune, until there! That’s it! Ah!mazing. A scrap of Kentucky Fried Chicken!”
It started out with the wardrobe corner. The one on top. Closest to me, of course. And there it was whenever I’d wake. Up there at 2 a.m. Hovering. Even when I wasn’t looking, or in the darkest darkest hour; it was still there. Silently menacing. My wife thought it sounded somewhat crazy, but she could see from my eyes that it was true; and stood by me. That wardrobe corner seemed to have the potential to dive, at any particular time it chose. But we had nowhere else to put it.” “Sounds painful” the host said sympathetically. “Sure” “So, Tony, how did it escalate from corners? I’m sure the viewers would like to know.” Well George, the next thing that began to intimidate me, silly as it sounds, was the clock. It was a round clock with a blank white face and very black sharp hands; especially the big hand. Or the long hand as I came to know it. First time was when it was about 11.45. I’d just got into bed, Judy was already asleep, but all the way around to 12.20 or so I felt uneasy and couldn’t take my eyes off it.” “And when did the blade thing start? Was it before or after the accident?” “Well George, if you think about it, it had to have happened before the accident. Wouldn’t you say?” “Yeh, I suppose so. I hadn’t thought about it like that.” “Don’t worry George”. He said twisting his torso in the way one would if patting the presenter on the knee. “It was when we went to stay in a holiday apartment at the express invitation of my cousin from Albury and I discovered soon after arriving there, having driven most of the day, that the room, being in the subtropics as it was, contained an overhead fan about two metres in diameter. I insisted we keep it turned off of course, which
we did, but I hardly slept a wink, and we went home a couple of days early nonetheless.” “Were you worried Tony, that it was going to fly off or something?” No. Nothing specific like that. As I just told you, I wouldn’t allow it to be turned on. Even disabled the switch, but it was just such a terribly ugly thing to have suspended above where you are trying to live, and enjoy yourself. The potential of the darn thing you could say. The ridiculous unnecessariness of it. Can’t anybody open a bloody window these days or what!!” “Yes, yes, Tony, I see your point. Who needs them! He said waving his pen looking toward the audience. But, Tony tell me more. After the accident.” “Well. It just got worse after that. Especially when some of the other workers began to cotton on. And the boss was watching me. I’d always made sure I had something else to do when there was a need to cut or rip timber. Or cut anything more serious than a corner for that matter. (chuckles) If I saw a blade spinning I would be mesmerized by it. Images of my fingers flying off in many directions, gory as they even seemed to me, drew me toward it, like losing fingers would be like licking a Mr. Whippy on a hot summer afternoon.” (Presenter; legs crossed, fingers over mouth.) “Go on.” “Well, one day I was happily knocking a door hole in an external wall we had extended off, but no sooner had I punched the first few bricks out and I stuck my face in the hole to check out the other side when I saw a couple of blokes in the other room about to start ripping some 6 by 2’s into 3 by 2 battens. I was brought to a hypnotistic halt and as soon as that power-saw kicked-in I was intent on getting to it any which-way I could. I began swinging the sledgehammer like a marching band following my hard-beating heart. Six bricks, 12 bricks; a dozen more. But no sooner did I have a decent
size breach and set my front leg through than the wailing of the spinning, ripping blade; stopped!” “Yeah. We’ll be there in ten minutes.” The main man was saying to his phone as his off-sider coiled up the extension lead and they left. “That must have been difficult, continuing to work amongst power saws and chain saws, especially in the same surroundings where the accident had occurred. How did you deal with the overwhelming desire for selfdismemberment? Was it difficult? Did you ever think about changing your job?” “Change my job? That’s why I’m here now. I tried to change my job. I’d had to quit building but couldn’t get another job even though the bills were pouring in like the rejections. I was nobody. We were trying to survive on the dole. Judy sold her car. It was the pits.” “So what were you doing on the ferry on the afternoon last July that has been talked about so much since. Were you going for a job?” “No, actually I was coming back, cause as you know I live in Leichhardt. I didn’t get it. I think it was because I’m too ugly, and then, well you know the rest.” “No, I don’t know the rest. Only what I’ve read in the press and the maritime police report. How did it happen exactly, and how did those kiddies survive. I’m sure the studio audience, as well as the viewers at home, want you to tell us. One bit at a time.” “Well, you already know I’d been to Manly. That’s where the job interview was. The sea was rough outside the heads, I knew that from the ride over, but at the wharf on the way back, right from the bit where they changed us around to another smaller boat, or ferry as they still called it, I had a very bad feeling.” “So what was this other boat like. Not a normal ferry?” “No. Not a normal ferry at all. And that’s why I’m so annoyed with the Department of Maritime Services. It may have been a ferry a long time ago but it had been requisitioned and adapted for maintenance work so it was a bit of a hybrid really. You’ve probably seen pictures.” “So you think they were negligent?” “That’s neither for me to say nor the subject we are discussing today George, but then, when we began crowding onto the large open foredeck I became extremely concerned when I noticed the portable sawmill roped to the forward port-side gunwale. (Twisting his torso toward the studio audience) For those who don’t know what a portable sawmill is, it’s basically a rather large circular toothed blade on the end of a boom that is powered by a petrol motor on wheels. For someone with a fear of blades it was the mother of all sharp-things and the Department of Parks and Gardens shouldn’t have had it there in the first place! Anyway, I tried to put it out of mind as I’d been instructed to do by my therapist. It had begun with corners and become spinning blades, but really, in the scheme of things a portable mill like that is worth ten or twenty chain saws, hard to ignore, and power saws diminish to obscurity. Forget em!” “So, there you were, aboard a makeshift ferry with a bunch of school-kids and a huge saw. So what happened?” “Well soon after we cast off and just as the vessel was experiencing the maximum effect of the swells passing through the mouth of the harbour, and affecting the vessels steerage, being as it was we were abeam.” “So the boat had begun to move around; to roll to and fro. “Yeah, that’s right. The old tub was rolling. No two ways about that. And just at the worst time of all the petrol motor was started by one of the young hooligans! And if that wasn’t enough, when the louts, or just plain nasty stupid little bastards, got the motor started it began spinning the blade of course which cut straight through
the ropes that were supposed to be holding it in place. Didn’t they? Hey!” “So with this knowledge of your long-held fear of sharp things, and as you said the mill rated high, very high, what did you do?” “What did I do? Try to put yourself in my position, George. Fifty or sixty school kids within range of a rotating one meter blade on the end of a three meter boom rolling about on the deck of a heaving old tub! What would you have done, hey?” “I hadn’t thought about it, Tony. I guess I would’ve sprung with super-human strength across the rolling deck and landed on the boom of that dastardly mill and done my damnedest to bring it back under control before the entire group of innocent children were cut to ribbons.” “Precisely. But when I found myself straddling those steel bars all I could see were the blurred screaming faces of the children pressed back against them behind, trying desperately to keep away from the roaring blade, screeching like it needed blood, and no prescribed way of stopping it.” “But you did stop it didn’t you.” “That’s right I did.” “But not without cost.” “That’s right.” “So can you run us through it now.” “Ok.” He said adopting a slightly splayed posture. “Rapidly reversing my position on the boom, in a glance I took in the means of the deadly disc’s spinning motion. The rubber v-belt! That was its Achille’s heel. To slip it, or brake it, or send it off its pulleys or bearings! That was the answer to the answer. I slid forward, took a deep breath, and rammed my left arm into the place where the belt-drive acts to revolve the blade, but except for a momentary hiccup it hardly slowed it. I hit it with my bunched right fist, and almost immediately lost it to the wrist. So in with a leg, first the lower, I should have know better, and then the thick of me thigh. It ground them out, bone, gristle and all. Like a sausage smoothie. A real solid wedge of meat was needed, with plenty of bone. So two limbs I gave it, my last remaining arm and last remaining leg; not the forearm or shin. NO way, the works, all the way to the torso. The full monty!” The presenter kept nodding, slightly. You could have heard a pin drop. “And as you know. He said far more slowly, twisting again toward the audience, It faltered, it spluttered, and just as it struggled the most to stop itself from stalling, with a smoke ring of greasy smoke, the belt flew off; and the spinning blade stopped!!” Huge applause from the audience. Everybody waited for it to run down. “And the children were safe.” Tony finished, grinning and lowering his face kind of like a bow.” Another smattering of applause. “Okay. Tony. Is it true you are going to run across Australia?” “Well not this year George, we’re still talking about it.”
I was sitting with old friends on a white-tiled patio. I notice how much older they were than when I’d first met them. They looked good. Trustworthy and sensible. Across the freshly mown lawn on the inner edge of the garden was a three-limbed tree with smooth bark, green leaves and yellow flowers. It looked very two dimensional. Beyond the higher branches was a gossamer canopy tied at the four corners and pulled taught, almost sheer. Into that tree flew a rainbird and perched with it’s back toward me. It’s plumage was light blue, silver, aquamarine and turquoise, with two long black and silver tail feathers. Its right eye watched over its right wing, but then it hopped to another position. As it continued to move from branch to branch I called my daughter to come and see it. Rainbirds were a rare sight. As we watched it flew from the tree in tight but ever increasing circles. At the same time all of the leaves disappeared from the tree and the flowers became a brilliant golden yellow colour, so bright that their vibrations could be seen flowing towards us. As the bird flew around and around ever closer and continually growing in size the tail feathers changed their form to become like legs and the bird, now much larger, took on an almost human form with skin the color mauve and just a flush of feathers around the wrists and ankles. Not human, not bird, but Gypsy! Just then she came within reach, and with eyes as wide as universes she looked at me with her unforgettable smile. I kissed her feathered hand and said goodbye as she spun into a swirl of pure energy; gone.It was a pleasure and a privilege to receive that message from my friend to say she’d arrived at her destination safely.
no pockets ’76
As always, young Kim was driving too fast and scaring Georgina, his fairly new girlfriend. They were returning somewhat sunburned from a day at the beach, but on the way home Kim turned-off onto a narrow dirt road that ran up a spur and onto a ridge before descending onto the floor of a narrow valley where it roughly followed along beside a clear stream. “This isn’t the way to your place. Where are we going?” asked Georgina. “I’m taking you to my dope patch, baby. This afternoon I’m ripping some of it out!” he told her, looking at her with a goofy grin. “Yeah? “This could be interesting” she thought to herself. They drove across concrete causeways every half mile as the road meandered upstream but elsewhere the surface was rough and dusty, with a few projective rocks and pot-holes below overhanging forest. Despite a few slight slides the only damage caused by Kim’s reckless driving was to a slow water dragon that got squished. Kim parked the old Fairlane at the end of the dirt road where there was a turnaround bulldozed beneath the tall lean trees of an open eucalypt forest filled with cicadas blazing in the mid-summer sun; swarming from tree to tree across the blue spaces between the tall crowns. As they got out of the car Kim felt a drip of sweat slide down his inner-upper arm. He wore only jeans; without a shirt, and George had quickly replaced her bikini with a pair of electric-blue shorts, a white tank-top and sneakers. They held hands as he led her away from the road up a barely discernable animal track that dodged between the trees at about 30 degrees. “Wallabies.” he told her. After six or seven or eight more minutes walking steeply uphill they arrived at the marihuana patch. “Check it out!”
he said as he stared at the six and seven foot skunks, glorious in their full flourescence. “They’re beautiful”, said Genie, not even factoring in the price per pound. Kim reached over the chicken wire fence to use the scissors on his swiss army knife to snip off the top two inches of a dried head he’d ringbarked at his previous visit. He then pulled out a chunky chillum from his back pocket and slid the fat bud into the slightly conical mouth of the chillum. Together Kim and Georgia smoked it just as it had grown with every molecule in its rightful order and place. They passed it back and forth; him taking long pulls on it. He didn’t specifically notice the special stone until he became engrossed in the view along the escarpment and he saw a thunderstorm coming from the eastern distance. Thunder was rolling like heathen hooves across the broad plains of a new life in an old life. “Hey Georgie, we’d better get some of this stuff out while it’s still hot and sticky. Kim pulled open a wall of the fence and began cutting off the plants at their bases with his Swiss Army saw. As blood slid down into his head and the movements became more mechanical his imagination wandered out across the clouds and escarpment and he was a small boy presented with a lean and shining young colt ready to mount as his father held its head. But the shaman arrived after throwing the bones. “That horse will kill him!” he stated emphatically, much to the young sons dismay. His father’s demand that he choose another horse was too much for an obedient son but he remained fascinated by the beautiful animal that was always tethered or following in the dust. Kim bundled the grass up with their two belts, There must be five pounds here.” He said, proudly. What’ll you do with it all?” Georgina asked. “I’ll take you to Bali, Sweetheart. How about that?” “That would be great Kimmy. I’m the only person I know who hasn’t been there. Kim looked at her standing there. Only just turned eighteen. Clear smooth throat, long slender limbs, He took three steps toward her and stood looking into her light blue eyes, She lifted her face and put out her tongue to meet his, as he lightly held her narrow shoulders. The heels of her sneakers were lifted from the ground but just as he was tongue-toggling and contemplating slipping his hands into her tank-top and sliding his index finger across the bottom of her pert breasts on the thin film of sweat he felt a sharp bite on his left foot, and hopped out of the way, pulling her with him. Looking back he saw a tiger snake slithering away so with two hands he picked up a rock as big as a football and threw it down onto the escaping snake, almost severing its head behind the shoulder, The sinuous head-body junction was tilting its parts over in different directions, a dry leaf stuck to the mucus on the lower lip of the mouth held open still trying to hiss. “How about that? Got the little bastard!” laughed Kim, looking back at her as though they were involved in a game. Two tiny lines of blood on the side of his middle toe showed where the snake had struck him. Georgina was freaking out instantly. “That snake bit you!”. She screamed. “Don’t worry about it too much. It’s only a brown tree snake.” “We have to get out of here Kim. You need to get to a hospital!” “Don’t worry. I told you it was just a tree snake. What they call a night-tiger. It’ll make me feel a bit sick for a while, that’s all.” “If it was a tree-snake why wasn’t it in a tree? At night?” she asked him as they moved off downhill toward the car with the large bundle of fresh pot balanced on his head.
Kim waved off Georgina’s concerns as they made their way back down the wallaby track but he soon stopped arguing when he felt something in his head like a laser beam stretching from temple to temple and then spreading through him like oil on a stream. Finally they reached the car and headed back down the dirt road after stashing the pot in the boot. Escapes one day into whirlwinds and dust, galloping across the plain on a circular journey, sweating and rearing, but he kept driving to a third farm-house, a fair distance away so the rest of the patch would remain secure. This one will do! He veered of the road and stopped the Fairlane out front of a slightly rusted white-painted chainmail fence on a grassy tire-worn area. Kim took a look at himself in the rear-view and saw that his eyeballs had haemouraged. “I’ll ask them to send a helicopter. I’m feeling really bad!” he admitted. The car doors opened together, Georgina came round and tried to help him. First they heard the barking then two dogs came rushing out at them from a gate about 10 meters along the fence. Very quickly they got back into the car through the same door, panicking but pretending it wasn’t so bad but the dogs really brought on the venom as their hearts raced. “Someone will come out to cool down these dogs.” Kim managed to say while winding up the window. His leg was on fire as though immersed in boiling water. They waited and waited for what seemed like 2 minutes and then: “George.” Swap seats. We’ll have to keep going.” “I can’t, I’ve never driven a manual before” she told him, and then, because he had been so insistent, she proceeded to stall the car fourteen times before he overflowed with pain and frustration and rage as he stretched across the front seat writhing as the back of the seat suddenly fell flat, as Georgina, as expected, flattened the battery. Kim pushed himself up with one elbow to look out through the windscreen “It’s OK, we can clutch it.” Heh? The car was pointing slightly downhill. Georgina selected neutral so they rolled across two ditches to get back onto the bitumen, him trying to jam the column shift into a gear. “Push the clutch!” he pleaded but she was crying and blubbering as they rolled down the road with a dog at each door. Finally he jammed it into gear but the ignition was switched off, Aup blump blump till she turned it on, full throttle the Fairlane lunged forward, to the left, off the road and through a fence which threw young Kim from his prostrate position on the laid back seat to smashing his chest against the dashboard and his face against the inside of the windscreen. The dogs were quick to jump onto the bonnet so their snarling faces were coming and going as he looked down to see that he’d almost bitten off his tongue so that its head was hanging by sinews, and blood was gushing all over his chest. Georgina was hysterical while his leg burnt and he vomited bloody muddy water. His head-ache was another white rod. Hordes lifted into silhouettes across pyramids of burning heads and melting faces. A baby under your saddle makes for a smooth night around the campfire or the crackling smaller private fires where insects were seen in attitudes of deep veneration. He closed his eyes and everything had the texture of spines and reptilian skin in a baggy kind of huge bag that filled in the sky and all around, even though the stars still shone and the moon still glowed. Every surface of the cave of green-brown flesh was alive and he lay at the darkest corner with spikey olive drab dripping things maintaining an irrational hope for a helicopter despite the dogs slobbering onto the glass. When he fell back Georgina tried to comfort him as her eyelashes wriggled with little colored eyes “Please, all those years I dreamt of you and me, together, doing it.
None of the other girls”, a tiny lid on each pore of her face began peeling open and a baby snake emerged from every one. He could hear and feel all of her internal movements. Breathing, contracting lights went out to pin-points while his own body was being squealched between two gears. His tears landed on his belly because he was one gear within another in the centre and stiff-armed animals kicked over skulls with nothing inside. Just empty white concave domes. A line of neon extended from his middle toe to the centre of his brain with two eyeballs and a tongue sticking out of it. “I don’t care. I’m dying. Do just one last thing for me Georgie please, I’m begging you!” he stated as he undid his pants. She was so confused she made hand gestures on outstetched arms. He tried to convince her to climb onto him but she was crying and freaking out. “I don’t car about dying if I have you before I go.“ “How could you?” He tried then to coerce her, he held her, then he heard a helicopter so he looked out through the windscreen past her to the empty sky but when he looked back again he saw the skin on her face turning black and swelling into a huge snake head with black shining from each scale edge like a tiny beetle’s bum. The twin tip of her tongue ventured out from the glistening pink mouth and it was so much blacker that his heart twisted and quivered. As he pushed back against the car door the horizontal handle slotted in between two of his ribs but despite the discomfort his shuddering head kept tilting back as she drew up over him like a tall slow wave of blood carrying two ebony orchids on its crest. Her snake head arced up and over him in a smooth slow sliding curve through stale air with both cold killer diamond eyes looking down into his. The tiny nostrils flared as the staring jaws opened, stretching ever wider, with lips smiling, drawing closer, with all of the colors reflected in the translucent mucus stretched across the back of the mouth while venom dribbled from holes in the ends of fangs curved like scimitars. The huge black head descended with her lower jaw under his chin while her fangs peirced each side of the back of his neck on the hairline. As the fangs broke through his eyeballs they sprayed venom into the sky as she shattered into a shower of burning mirrored shards and flew. First one, and then a thousand helicopters filled the sky until they were crashing into each other clipping rotors, breaking off tails, gradually spinning and spiraling to the ground, almost always bursting into flames on the way down, exploding then or at the time of impact. And the lizard gizzard began to contract. It got worse, but that will do for now
On a hot afternoon in farest North Queensland the rain poured down to settle the dust. Louie, the Local King, looked with disgust at the pair of ragged barefoot hippies who’d come in out of the rain, bought a couple of lemon squashes, and gone to put 40 cents into the pool table. The male hippie was intending to play a game with his ripened little girlfriend whose thin dress was sticking to her wet protuberances. “I’ve got the table!” said Louie, thinking he should have the girl as well. So our hippie complied with the local rule of playing the previous winner, set the balls up, selected a stick and broke them. Nothing down. Louie potted two easy shots but went in-off on the third. He didn’t worry about it though, the game would be sewn up. He watched with steadfast contempt as the hippie he considered a disgrace to mankind. The guy’s blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail and the arse was out of his pants. “Just another dolebludging vego parasite up from Melbourne.” thought The King. But the hippie, whose name was Mitchy, didn’t really care about Louie, he’d seen the same person a thousand times before in a thousand pubs and places across the country. His kind was one of the motivating forces behind Mitchy’s demonstartive denial of the macho mentality. He just wanted to win the game so that he could then play a game with Barbara. She was a wonderful girl. They hadn’t met until that morning but already they were getting along very well. As Mitchy bent over the table he eyed the nine, then the side pocket, and then the cue ball. He carefully calculated the necessary force and precise angle of
collision before sliding the cue across the bridge of his hand accordingly. The nine ball rolled to the pocket and fell in. More importantly, the cue ball had stopped in line with the eleven. An easy ball. Mitchy chalked his cue and thought about meeting Barbara. “If I hadn’t climbed out of bed ten minutes before I’d wanted to she would have wandered right on by.” Mitchy marvelled at the tenuous links between all lives and the essential accidentality of our modern world. “Unlike premodern human groupings”, he thought, “our beer and pop culture relies almost solely on the incessant search for sensation and security to drive it. The world is not a predictable place. The words of the elders are obsolete so the more that you are old, the more out of date you are. Mitchy hit the eleven too hard. It bounced back out of the pocket. So he went to stand over by the wall with Barbara and take a toke on his beer. Louie potted three; the 1, the 2, and then the third. He was striding around the table like a slave-keeper. Inspecting the table as though he were buying a human. But on the fourth he missed an easy shot and stood back holding the cue beneath his bristling chin. Mitchy had to be nudged to get his attention back onto the game. He was losing, but more than anything else he was bored, The rain had ceased so they could keep moving. What point was there to such a childish game? But, he’d started the game and so he was expected to finish it. Especially if Barbara did still want to play. Down dropped the 14, the 15 and the 10. Mitchy watched the chains of cause and effect and recognized the cultural acceptance of the form of the game and its calculations for the strike the collisions and sinking or missing; and the generated consequences. He looked across at Barbara. What a girl! He was in love. All he wanted was to go away with her to be alone.
By then Louie was getting worried, “No little fart of a hippie is going to make a fool out of me in me own pub and get away with it. That’s for sure!” He felt relieved though when the little smart-arse missed his final ball and left Louie set up, but he was also aware of the attention the game had begun to attract from the cowboys along the bar previously engrossed in simply leering at Barbara. Louie stepped up, grabbed a jigger, and easily missed. He couldn’t believe it. His whole body was taut as he tried to keep his relaxed tone across the half-mile expanse to his stool. Mitchy wanted to finish it, win or lose, but nothing was on, so he lined up the 13 which was sitting against the cushion and tried to roll it all the way down into the corner. Louie saw the shot that Mitchy was going for and chuckled to himself, but as the cue ball struck cleanly and the 13 rolled gently toward the distant pocket Louie realised that he could still be beaten. “If that little fuckin’ faggot freak pots the 8 I’m going to instantly hit him right between his beady bloodshot eyes with the end of this cue.” thought Louie. “Nobody, but nobody, makes a fool out of ME and gets away with it!” Mitchy was thinking too, about all of the events which had brought him to this place, how any single different decision at any time in his life would have put him somewhere else so that he may have never met Barbara. Whatsmore, he was highly aware that every move, every effort and all of his decisions would affect their future. Mitchy walked around the table, he glanced across at his opponent who had an odd look on his face, he looked over to Barbara who was looking out of the window. He bent at the waist to look down his cue at the cue-ball and the eight-ball, and then at the pocket, “What am I doing here when I really should be finding a swimming hole or sandy beach to be alone with my girl?”.
Sometimes it seems like there’s nothing you can do. At 22 I had an urge to find the right girl and settle down, but do you think that I could find her? By 24 I’d traveled through Asia and Europe, not looking for Miss Right of course, “You never find her if you are looking.” but keeping my eyes open at all times just in case. I began working on the theory that if I built the nest first I would then find my mate so I settled down and began to clear a place and then to build and plant, which was great, but it began to wear me down after a couple of months, especially in the afternoons when I’d sit back on a rock and look at what had changed. Things were certainly happening but I felt all the more that I wanted someone to share it with. On a particularly hot afternoon I downed tools and rode my motorcycle into town to drink a few beers. It wasn’t really what I wanted to do but I had nothing better offerring. As I arrived in town two attractive young ladies were just then leaving the hotel so I engaged them in conversation. “Where are you going?”, I asked. “Once-upon-a-time.” was their reply.” “What?” I asked, thinking I’d heard wrongly. “Once-upon-a-time! That’s the name of the place.” I was intrigued, “Sounds nice!” “Yeh? Then why don’t you come along?” So I did. About 20k’s out of town along a rutted dirt road we crossed a wooden bridge before turning down a narrow driveway which wound amongst tall trees. I opened a rickety gate, we crossed a shallow causeway, rose up out of a deep cutting and there by the stream in a meadow
was a quant old farmhouse surrounded by a magnificent garden. It looked like the name had been made just for it. When we pulled up at the front gate two more young women came out to greet us. One of them was particularly lovely and was only wearing a sarong tied at her waist. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I was introduced to the girls, Jane and Karen, if I remember correctly. They were both excited because they had eaten some magic mushrooms and apparently there were two more girls somewhere nearby swimming in the stream and as soon as we had eaten the rest of the mushrooms we were going to join them. I hate the taste of mushrooms but swallowed a few with a glass of water to wash them down. The girls faces showed what they thought of the taste too but the day was beautiful and it seemed the perfect time for a mushie trip. Already I was practically tripping! I’d brought a paper bag of cherries with me so when we walked across the meadow and found the other two young ladies sitting on some large round rocks beside a small waterfall which spilled into a deep swimming hole I offerred them some. They looked glorious sitting wet and naked in the sun and the way they over-reacted to the offer of cherries showed that the mushrooms were working their magic. They were all very nice to me, made me feel very welcome, and as the mushrooms began to induce euphoria I felt like I was a modern day Pan in some fantastic garden of nymphs. Each of them was lovely in their own different way. Susan was tall with large breasts and full hips, Angela was slim and petite, Jane looked like a Jane, Karen was vivacious despite having pale skin, and Leonie and Christine looked like surfy chicks. Each was a distinct variation on the female form and they looked so happy and inviting the way they were laughing and playing around in the water. We all had a fabulous time being overgrown kids diving and ducking or relaxing beneath the golden rays of the solar king but gradually the mushrooms began to wind down about 4:30 so we went back to the house. It was a funny old place with half of the floor on a slight angle. Jasmine vines grew all over the verandah and an ancient wood stove puffed smoke into the clear summer sky. We were drinking !emon grass tea while Jane strummed a beaten up guitar and Karen and Loiuse were singing a Cat Stevens song. It was perfect and my mind was starting to work out which one of them I might spend the night with. They were all appealing but by then I had discovered that they were all visitors to that charming little place and the woman who actually lived there was named Helen. I felt like the cat amongst the pigeons and wondered what that woman, Helen, would think when she arrived back at her home and found me there with half a dozen of her semi-naked friends because I pictured her as a big and surly woman for some reason. Perhaps I was just feeling a bit guilty because my mind had begun to calculate options after the previous hours of unharnessed wonder and feelings of boundless love for all living things. You know, that kind of thing. As the shadows lengthened the inevitable return of the ruler of the household approached. A car pulled up outside and in she walked. I turned to look across the room at the hallway and into the room she stepped. Not a brute at all, but the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She was 5’4” with smooth coffee colored skin, black wavy hair and a slightly crooked smile. Our eyes met for an instant before she walked across the room and out of sight again. In that instant I knew that she was the girl I had been searching for. I was already in love.
After all of the greetings, laughter and quick confused stories about the afternoon we were all in the cars and heading off to a party which Helen had announced. It was in a farmhouse a couple of K’s up the road. The place was jam-packed, the moon was big and the music and marijuana went on into the night. I tried without success to talk with Helen, she knew everyone there, she seemed very popular, and eventually I fell asleep on some cushions in the corner while an assorted bunch of people bopped and dirged on a variety of instruments to Dylan and Rolling Stones tunes. In the morning I woke early and left the house without waking anyone. I had no choice. I had to see Helen again so I walked a couple of k’s to the farmhouse crosscountry and there she was at the broken down bails milking a young jersey cow. Squirt, squirt, squirt, squirt, she had a really easy practiced action. She looked like everything a natural woman should look like. She was the milkmaid and I was Krishna! Being a bit of a hippie it was easy to project such fantasies! As I walked up to her she smiled, said “Goodmorning” and asked what I was doing there. “Just wanted to come and see you and tell you how much I enjoyed meeting you” I replied. She seemed pleased with my answer and turned to look at me several times while she continued pulling the milk down the pinky brown teats, “Yeah, just wanted to see you again to say goodbye.” and she let me kiss her on the cheek. I fairly danced away feeling great. Just to see her had made me high. My brain had taken in her shapes and contours and teeth and eyes and how she moved and smiled. It was great but by the time I arrived in town I was wondering why I was there and not back at “Once-upon-atime” with Helen. I knew I couldn’t just barge in on her without knowing if she had any interest in me but at the same time I felt that beside her, near to her, was the only place I wanted to be. I rode back out there. When I arrived that time she was inside the house and answered my knock on the open door, “You back again? Forget something?” she said with a cheeky smile. “Well, yes, I think that I did. Would you come for a walk with me? I want to talk to you.” She looked surprised, amused and curious, but she put down what she had been doing and walked along the driveway past some cattle grazing, parallel to the stream. The currawongs swarmed down through the trees from the high hills calling out to each other. All was green below and blue above as we walked slowly side by side about a metre apart. I looked at her as we walked and it was clear to me. What I was going to say to her was coming straight from my heart I chose a small grassy knoll with a mulberry tree on the top and beside its shade we sat. I took her hand and looked into her deep brown eyes, “Helen, what I am going to say might sound crazy, or you might think that I am joking, but I really mean it. I want you to come and live with me, make a home together, and have children. Be a family together, forever.” She looked at me. She was amazed, I could see that, and expected it, but her second focus was sharp, into one eye and then the other, and she saw that I really meant it. Which of course I did. She looked away, I followed her gaze to the meadow and the smoke rising from the cottage into the still cool air as we sat there in silence, until she looked back at me again, pressed her lips together, made her crooked smile and said, “OK, Lets do it!” I was ecstatic, kissed her eighteen times, and made arrangements to come and move her things. I warned her that I had only just begun a house. She said she didn’t mind.
A few months later we had a cute little house to live in, a thriving garden and a whole lot of land cleared to plant out our fruit trees. We were really happy. The three things that pleased me most though was waking up early and seeing her breathing softly, obviously feeling safe and contented, or watching her working with me, those little beads of sweat on her upper lip which I would kiss away, and most of all, the way she smiled when we were making love and after all of the fun of changing about and stretching the pleasure I would look down into her eyes, into those two smouldering lava pits, and as the pleasure mounted in my loins and the strokes became irrepressible I would smile back and ask of her, “please take my seed inside of you and with it make our child.” me on, nor quiver. Oh no! she turned a darkening shade of darkness and bared her teeth and was the very picture of repulsion and grew sharp spines protruding from her back which pressed beneath her skin until it stretched to almost bursting and it was more horrifying than words could adequately convey. I awoke in shock and sat upright with eyes stretched wide to see upon the moon-stained wall the image still. Turning to the shadows, like static it hovered in the air before me, a glaring form more like an awful lizard. A pulsing, brooding, tortured picture which stayed before my eyes til morning’s light brought on distractions of the day. An ominous feeling was jammed into me like a spear-head, “what meant that message in a nightmare?”
The jungle pulsed monotonous sounds while we all slept. I dreamt an awful dream. One true love comes in each existence and for me she had been mine for many years. Our daughter was the love we shared, our wonder, our perfect little angel of whom we thought most dear and who conditioned all our actions for her better life to be. But while I slept I dreamt that awful dream, I saw my love so intimately known. She lay seductively upon a velvet suite, more vivid for the fortnight parted. I missed her touch, her voice and laughter, and had that very day cursed loud the mud, the swamp, and stupidity. All I wished for was to be at home, with my family, with my two girls I loved much more than life itself. And in that dream I moved toward my lover as she watched across her shoulder my advance, but neither did she warmly call
bigger, a couple wearing moustaches. The last one a sheriff. Linda focused on them, and kept them in her line of vision while her mother pulled her by the arm past a discarded “A” sign and then out of sight. She soon forgot about that incident. Growing up in California she was soon getting stoned, and stoned too often. Fortunately, realizing before it was too late, that her life required a more spiritual aspect. During the eighties she came to Australia for a tantric workshop and met Fernando. She really got to know him well during those three intimate days. They even had to shit in the same bucket. As a matter of fact all the focus on sex and spirituality had left her feeling horny. And he was the one she wanted. Later that night, after accepting a dinner invitation from Fernando, they returned to her hotel room and found bliss in the form of aromatic candles, massage oil, and tantric music. Fernando massaged her long brown legs and told her he’d had the best holiday in his life, and then kept silent while he completed the smooth and tender massage that completely relaxed her. Then it was his turn and he felt nice just watching her pour oil onto the palms of her hands. He rolled over, she started with his feet but soon had reached the top of his thighs with a hand sliding up each side to ‘accidentally’ brush his genitals. Soon he had rolled over and after doing the front of his lower legs and thighs she was moving her hands up over his rippling 6 pack. She poured a little more oil onto her upturned palm, she knew her hanging breasts were turning him on no-end so she waved them close to his face, inadvertently bumping him in his wide open eye with the rather large crystal hanging from a gold chain around her neck.
She remembered the dust mostly, because being hot wasn’t a problem. They stopped at a gas station where she’d never seen so many kids in one family. She went with her mother toward the signed bathroom around the side who said emphatically “What kind of fool could waste money on something so stupid.” as she caught sight of a line of what would come to be known as pet rocks in the office/store window. They were just stones really, but with stuck-on eyes. A line of them getting
“Ooops! Are you OK? I didn’t realize I was so close.” “That hurt… A little bit. So how about taking it off?” “Take it off? Never! That is my rose-crystal and I’ll always wear it.”, and went on massaging, doing both arms, the right then the left before moving back to where she was swinging her tits in his face again, thinking that very soon, as soon as she had finished doing his hands and face, they would be able to make the shift from massage to genuine foreplay when the crystal hit him again, in the tooth that time. “Really, can you take that thing off. Its dangerous.” Fernando suggested. “Dangerous? How can you say that? It is a powerful healing crystal.” “Cummon, it’s just a pet rock.” “How can you say that? Over-reacted Linda, subconsciously remembering what her mother had said so long ago. “You have no right to tell me what to do!” And the evening began crumbling from there. Many years later….. Blubbering to herself “It’s true, it’s true, what Fernando said all those years ago”. The ring on her finger, the diamond that she’d thought signified so much, had revealed itself to be nothing more than another pet rock. “What a fool I’ve been. At least I know now. But my life has almost gone.“ she absent-mindedly mumbled to her reflection in the plate-glass of the petrol station.” “You okay lady?” “Oh, you wouldn’t understand, No really I’m fine. I’m letting go, just letting go of an old pet. Cryptically she said to the hippie-looking young woman, as she fingered the stone on her other hand. “That’ll be twenty five dollars thanks”. “Is the road down to Gulliver’s Lookout still gravel?” Linda asked the young woman, subconsciously needing to let her know that she had been there before. When the girl had finished counting out the change she looked up at her from her hunched position. “Gravel? When was it gravel? How old are you lady anyway” That fazed her too, like yesterday, when the guy had given up his seat for her.. Anyway, it didn’t matter. Everything was ending, nothing more than to tidy up the edges. Put things back in their place. Come to terms with a life built on sand. The road was good bitumen, all the way to the lookout that had become a fairly large park with quite a nice covered picnic area where once there had been only a small open-sided corrugated iron shelter, but, despite the more serious fencing, the view, the panorama, the entire awesomeness of the canyon landscape and the roar of the falls; it hadn’t changed at all. “That day, just the two of us, the sun still bright on the far cliffs, we were standing here holding on to each other for what seemed like eternity, and, then, the way you pulled back to look into my eyes, holding my elbows, and promising undying love before taking out the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, and slipping it onto my finger. Anyway, it all turned out to be like this. In the end. How long it took for me to realize that Fernando had been right for all those years. The ‘pet rock’! Why couldn’t I see it? We invest in symbols that obscure reality, or sometimes annihilate the symbolism. That crystal. My rose crystal that I’d bought all filled up with significance by the young female sales person and carried away by me as an enthusiastic accomplice. If only I could have known it would do with Fernando! How stupid was I?” And now this thing. One more pet. One more tiny chunk of significance. Sharp and transparent. Expensive, but worth nothing in the end. The hippies had the right idea. Don’t let appearances fool you. Don’t jump to conclusions. Be careful what you project. Oh, the dreams
I’ve followed! The fool I’ve been! Where are you Eric? Why are you so weak? “To the cosmos!” she said in a subdued party voice sliding the ring from her finger, lifting it up to her ear and tossing it forward three meters before it quickly turned downward and disappeared behind the mass of stone that made up the precipice leaving nothing but a sharp ping as it glanced off an outcrop. That kind of felt better she thought. And then a thousand other things as she watched a young eagle flying on the updrafts for a minute until she turned with tears in her eyes, and began walking back to her car when she suddenly noticed three very untidy young people with hair that looked like it belonged on the crutch of neglected sheep. “Ya fuckin’ bourgeoisies old bitch!” one of the worst looking ferals yelled at her, waving a carved staff and baring his filthy teeth. “Don’t be ridding yourself of unwanted pets around here, Ritchbitch. You are desecrating the eden with your feral intrusions.” “What are you on about? She asked sharply when brought out from her reverie. “Have you lost your marbles?” “Get back to where you came from, Granny!” A weedy little dreadlocked semi-human shrieked from inside a hessian smock smeared with ash and ochre. “We don’t need your type round ere!” he continued, drawing her attention for the benefit of the treehugger sneaking up behind her. “You are at the feet of the sacred mother mountain. Bow down and worship.” He continued, staff held high. “Ahh! Not another pet rock!!” She screamed as she was whacked on the skull with a stone Treehugger 1 had randomly selected. It was a sad end for a woman intent on escaping the curse of the pet rock but as they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions and cruelty could be defined by her laughing headstone when the moon was full.
As you would have gathered by now Ive always been a lone-wolf whether I liked it or not; although I’d definitely got to like it because it suited me. But, that said, I found one of the most enjoyable fringe benefits of surfing was the camaraderie amongst the surfers. I had early learnt not to talk to anyone while in the water so as not to break my concentration on the horizon, but afterwards, at night, it was good to play a few games of 8-ball, drink a few beers, and find out about conditions at other breaks. In that manner I got to know quite a few new people, French, Brazilian, American, and plenty of Aussies.
The thing about the Aussies was that they usually stayed for several weeks at least, and there was a general similarity amongst them. You could say they were easily, and primarily, recognized as being surfers, and the more I surfed, which had become anything from three to six hours a day, the more I looked like just one more Aussie surfer. So what’s the point? Jack was a problem that just wasn’t going to go away. I lay in bed too hot to sleep, thinking about it every night. Well, one of the guys I surfed regularly with, Wade, was the same height as me and shared the complexion and hair-color effects of too much sun and salt water. He worked on a geophysics survey ship out of Singapore, spent his regular breaks in Bali surfing, and occasionally went back to Oz to see his folks. A couple of people had mistaken us for brothers, so he was perfect, and when I heard he was going to G-Land for a fortnight it fitted exactly in with my plans. Which were; you will see. I had a return ticket to Australia booked for the same day Wade left for Garajagan and was already on good enough terms with the security to allow me to do a swap of my passport for Wade’s. I went in with a passport and came out with a passport; no problem. One medium-size bag and surfboard, and I was off to Oz. Miss T was staying with friends who all thought I had gone to G-Land too. With no communications and no road in or out who’d know, or even wonder. Who’d knock back a chance to surf G-Land for a fortnight? The flight was the Garuda midnight shuttle packed with sleepy sunburnt young people so I got in with a bunch of guys from Avalon drinking free beers and getting used to being called Wade. It seemed like a good name for a surfer. Customs was a breeze. The guy hardly looked at my hung-over face and disheveled hair. I was just one more. From the airport, as soon as I had stored the surfboard, I caught the airport bus into the city and went straight to the coach terminal where I bought a bus ticket to the north coast, and then caught a cab to Kings Cross to pick up a free syringe and buy some rohypnols and cough syrup. The cough syrup was to ensure me some deep sleep on the trip north. Next morning I was on the local bus heading towards jack’s place of residence. I alighted in town with everybody else and then walked back out of town towards his house, leaving the road as soon as I could and going cross country to take advantage of the cover of bush. I came towards his house from the high side, the blocks there being five acres. From the cover of thick weeds about 30 meters away I was able to get a good look at the house, and see in to where he was sitting watching TV. I knew I would have to be patient. I didn’t have anything more than half a plan, but when he went out for an hour in the afternoon it gave me the chance to come in close to look through the window, and when he returned I got to see where he hung his car keys. That night was extremely uncomfortable but at first light I had crushed the rohypnols and got them into the syringe so I was ready when the milkman delivered the carton of milk. I slipped
down and injected it with the tranquillizer and returned to my place to watch. Frustratingly, he didn’t get out of bed until almost 9 but to make up for it he went straight out and picked up the milk, made coffee, and as I had hoped, ate a bowl of cereal. It was important to be patient so I did my best but the hour seemed to take forever so it was relief laced with trepidation when I sidled down to the house being careful not to leave obvious foot prints and looked in through the window to see him slumped in the armchair in front of the TV sound asleep. I had already reloaded the syringe so I went to the front door and tried it but it was locked. I went round looking for an unlocked door but ended up having to remove a fly screen and climbing in a window, carefully replacing the screen and removing any fingerprints. Then I went straight to him and stuck him with the syringe. He didn’t budge. Great! I found a couple of his belts and secured his wrists and ankles and after grabbing the car keys and opening the front door carried him out to the car and dumped him in the boot before returning to the house to grab a baseball cap I’d seen him wearing and a pair of sunglasses. I also picked up the carton of milk and tipped it down the sink, before rinsing his breakfast bowl, drying it and putting it away. Wearing his cap and sunnies I reversed out of the drive and headed west onto ever quiter roads, glad to see the tank was almost full, and drove carefully yet continually for most of the day. Late in the afternoon I arrived at a state forest I was familiar with and found the small road that led into the mountains and followed it until I recognized the turn-off onto a fire-trail that went deep into the valley made by the xx river. Just before dark I stopped where the trail went close to the river and locked up the car before removing Jack from the boot. As I’d assumed he’d regained consciousness but couldn’t do much with his arms tied securely behind his back. I could have knocked him out with the tyre lever or something but I didn’t want to in case I left some blood in the car. As it was he had already pissed himself, but blood and piss are two different things altogether. With a bit of trouble, but made easier by the fact that I didn’t care if I hurt him, I dragged him out and carried him for the first ten metres until his jerking-about caused me to drop him. I had only been concerned about leaving drag marks next to the car so from there I did drag him, by his bound ankles, and he probably wished he’d stayed still. Hurting him was almost amusing; but it wasn’t why I was there. Within 5 minutes I was on the bank of a small rocky stream. Night had fallen and bush sounds were rushing into my ears. I felt cool but very aware of what I was doing and the importance of being out of there before dawn so I quickly gathered up some kindling and leaves and got a fire going on a large flat rock in the center of the stream, continually adding until it was not just a blaze but more a solidly fueled fire with some really dry old stumps and logs as the foundation. In the fires glow I could see his fear-filled face. He’d had plenty of time to think about what he’d done to me and my little girl. He’d had plenty of opportunities to knock it off, to leave us alone,
but no, he’d just kept hunting us, and scaring the daylights out of a young child. I told him as much while I shifted him closer to the fire and of course by then he was doing his damnedest to kick free of the restraints and it looked like he might have had some success in his panicked state so I gave him one good hit on the back of his head with the flat side a smooth river stone about the size of a dinner plate. Enough to leave him limp while I rolled his body onto the fire where it soon started to burn. First the pyjamas and hair of course but pretty soon the meat. It was a magnificent night under the stars and I just kept feeding the fire and moving arms and legs into the center all night until there was pretty much nothing left. Even the bones had burnt, but I recovered the skull as soon as it was just a glowing ball of bone, rolled it into the water where it hissed and cracked as it quickly cooled. I knocked out all the teeth onto the rock in front of me and used the same smooth river stone to crush to powder every last one of them, as well as what was left of the skull. By the time the first indications of morning appeared the job was done, which included everything and anything to do with him that had been in the car, so there was just a pile of glowing coals with hardly any smoke rising from them. I started splashing water on the fire until it was doused and then carefully pushed all of the ashes into the flowing water where they moved downstream. By first birdcall I had the surface of that rock looking like a kitchen bench. There was a large burn mark but it didn’t really look like anything other than the colour of the rock, and as for Jack; there was nothing. Feeling tired but relieved I returned to the car and drove back out of the forest as sedately as I could, considering the enormity of what I had just done, but I was determined not to make any mistakes after such a successful mission; Jack would bother us no more! From there I returned to inner suburban Sydney, parked, walked a block and caught a cab back to the airport for the next flight to Bali. The car would lose its wheels, have the windscreen smashed, and be hauled away for scrap within the month.The Chinese say to dig two graves before going for revenge, but I hadn’t dug any.
ever eaten. His guts felt like the Jenolan Caves in the offseason and his head like an underwater drum machine; but at least Sandra had gone back to sleep because instead of sympathising with him she had made some smart remark about it serving him right for being a tightwad with no class who had embarrassed her in front of her friends. She’d said that she didn’t know why she had ever married him! And then he dropped a silent fart which went straight up their noses. Sandra rolled over just the right way to let him know exactly how disgusted she was. Nick went back to sleep in a cloud of vapor and self-loathing.
the everyday houseperson
Eating out for some people is a real pleasure but in Nick’s opinion it was just a waste of money so he was glad that the rest of the foursome let him steer them toward a cheap Yugoslav restaurant that he knew of in the back streets of Darlinghurst. It had that real proletarian checked table-cloth feeling so appealing to the budget conscious, and the food was really good; authentic.. After midnight Nick staggered out tanked up on rough red and full of raznici and meatballs. Fortunately Sandra was going to drive. She’d spent the evening chatting with her girlfriend while Nick got to know Hubert. They both followed the same football team. Sandra sped while Nick dozed, oblivious to the coolness he was being subjected to. By 4 am Nick was on the toilet, shivering, with his head in his hands. He was the only one to whom the meatballs had appealed, and wow, was he regretting it. By 4.30 he was back in bed after squirting out everything he had
About 7.30 Sandra nudged Nick and told him to wake up and hurry up. “I’m not going to work today. I’m drained.” said Nick. “Oh, come on you lazy slug! And get your stinking hands away from me! At least drive me to work so you can run a few errands.” Nick lay in bed looking at the reflection of Sandra’s big arse in the mirror as she pulled on her pantyhose, “I shouldn’t stand for it. Why didn’t I stay with Julie? She couldn’t have turned out to be such a heartless bitch. She was always so cheerful, understanding and loyal. We could talk about anything; our dreams, our fears; she made no judgements, she didn’t put me down. Our love was straightforward, simple, she loved me for myself and pledged to love no other. But what does it mean that I took off with Sandra, it seemed like such a good idea at the time; I must have been mad!” “Get out of bed Nick! I’ve only got twenty minutes to be at work. One of us has to bring in some money!”
Nick restrained himself. They did have a mortgage, and there were the car payments and the cards. As a matter of fact they were up to their ears in debt. How different it would have been with Jules. They had had the crazy idea of buying a van and traveling around Australia. He was imagining them walking together, naked, holding hands on a long empty beach. Oh!, where is she now?” he thought. “Lookout stupid! Just because you’ve got a hangover doesn’t mean you can kill us!” “Yes dear.” he said to himself. At last they were outside the building. He would soon be free from her for eight hours but first he had to wait there in the loading zone while she went up to the office for her cheque book. The heater was on, he felt insulated from the wintry city scene outside, so he let go a big fart, grateful for the marginal improvement in his stomach condition. Phew! It was rank. He was making himself feel ill again and decided to put down the window, but as he touched the button he looked out at the street and there was Dreamsville Julie, with her friend, crossing the road, coming toward him. She looked amazing, just as bright and slim as ever and her face was beaming; obviously overjoyed to see him. Nick was ecstatic for a moment, and then flabbergasted. The fart had filled the warm interior of the car as though it was an extension of his tortured bowels. His mouth dropped open and he flicked the lock down on the door. Julie’s face was barely a breath away from his. He recognized and remembered the corners of her mouth, the dimple, the sweet smile which was taking seconds to fade from childlike pleasure to utter confusion. White palms and slender fingers were against the glass like a tourist at an aquarium, she just didn’t understand, Nick was in igony, ogony, agony, his head swam as Julie was led away by her friend. Oh, no ,..no.” and Julie was gone again into the anonymous metropolis, while Nick sat there with the all too tangible memory of cheap meatballs.
The people were all funneling out through the mansion’s front doors. Chatting with each other. A few of them giving him a quick wave and a smile. One guy stopped to shake hands. “Thanks for the job, Bill” the handsome young man said, smiling. “No problem Dave. Best chauffeur I ever had.” Bill replied. “The mini-bus is outside to take you back to central casting.” he continued as he let slip the chauffeurs hand. “Yeah, thanks Bill. But just one thing that really intrigues me. Why did you choose to spend all of the winnings so quickly and in such a strange way?” “Quickly? Yes, reasonably quickly, I admit. But strange? … To you maybe, but not to me. During the last three months we’ve all played our parts, and it was easy for me to see you all as real staff, and friends, with kids being kids; and in the case of Lora, ‘my loving wife’. She did a great job. You all did.” “But they haven’t even come to say goodbye, not even Phillip who has been your best friend all this time.”
“They are busy. They’ve got other jobs to go to. You don’t seem to get it, Dave. This era of faction and modeled personas is over but has left you in the zone unknown, like the rest of the audience. Government, mass media, and special interest groups have elevated deceit to such a level and made it so ubiquitous that the innate senses are deeply confused. Like beached whales. TV is a school of deception. Lying has become the way of life. Society has become one giant scam. What an opportunity I was handed when the money came! I created a fully-orchestrated social environment so well paid for that it had tensile strength. And I knew it was a deceit. Well, we all knew it, but that didn’t really count so much for me. As long as everyone kept to their allocated characters.” When Lora and I enjoyed dinner with our friends I knew that it would all run out today, so I always knew how long I had to go. Much like knowing when you are going to die, or some other event we would all like to know about.” But aren’t you going to miss Lora? She’s gorgeous.” Yes she is, but no, not really. All my life before, and from now on, will be populated by plastiq people ingesting vinyl violence and censored sex. Like mega-multiple TV shows filling the sky’s store window, like a dream when you are wondering if anyone else is awake. Well Dave. I was awake for three months just where I wanted to be. It wasn’t going to last forever and I knew Lora didn’t really love me. That was the best part of it. The sudden changes, the fluidity of futures. The pain of surprise, the emptiness of realization. The waking from a dream into a nightmare….none of the above. I just wanted things to be predictable for a change, that’s all.” he said as a cab pulled into the curb. “It’s like this taxi for instance, Dave. I like to know where I’m going and how much it’s going to cost.”
Leon thought he looked fashionable in his tight slacks and shiny black glasses. His unbuttoned shirt showed off a healthy tan as he wandered directly into the work party where he almost immediately began helping himself to more than a few jumbo shrimps and hotdogs. After eating his fill he looked around at his half-naked workmates, and despite his intense apathy, felt hopelessly optimistic about that timeless moment. By ignoring the boring entertainment and chaotic organization Leon put up with the entertainment and mingled until he took the calculated risk of telling an unfunny joke that was clearly ambiguous. Only one of the group responded but he told Leon that the day had become a chief event in his life because he had encountered a mind that startled him. Without being fazed our unsung hero focused on a friendly flat-breasted government worker who looked strangely familiar. She was wearing long shorts and a warm tank top with a full-sleeved t-shirt tied in a loose knot around her shoulders. Without realizing it Leon had
the ill fortune of becoming gradually entranced by her grotesque beauty as she stood there sipping from a paper cup. Leon was openly shy because he enjoyed the misfortune of having discovered that keeping secrets is wise but to expect others to also keep them was ridiculous, so when he’d had enough constructive criticism from countless numbers of well-meaning people he decided to act naturally as he circumlocutionally approached her across the artificial grass. ”Hi, you all alone?” he asked her, surprised to hear her reply in american english that she was an assistant supervisor on a working vacation from army intelligence following an amicable divorce from a bankrupt millionaire. She took a big sip and told him she was absolutely unsure if it was a complete marital separation, but he was conspicuously absent, “So, yes.” “I told some white lies”, she admitted innocently, “”So maybe he’d made a deliberate mistake by giving me a good beating, she continued, “but although it provided me with the high moral ground I’ve since made a crash landing as a one person crew.” she continued, cocking an eye and squinting over the top edge of her dark sunglasses. “It’s probably a normal deviation but my only choice is constant change that costs me a small fortune and leaves me with the justifiably paranoid numbing sensation of going nowhere. Reflection may be noble, and imitation is easy, but experience is by far the bitterest.” “Bad luck!” said Leon in a loud whisper. “This is pure speculation but you seem to be a perfect misfit“, he went on, leering at her with a mean smile. “It’s neither the genuine imitation nor the real magic of a waking dream but my unbiased opinion is a safe bet. With your persistent ambivalence I feel sure that you’ll find the LONERS CLUB serious fun because humility is the only way to prepare your mind for the fickleness of life. I’m Leon”. “I’m Mary, but you may call me May.” “Why is that? asked Leon. To which she hesitantly responded with a questionable answer that displayed her acute apathy toward extremely average American culture. “Look through my eyes!” Leon insisted. “You won’t be alone in a crowd if that was your initial conclusion. LONERS CLUB specializes in everything from virtual reality to fresh prunes, whether in a mud bath or on a stationary bike. It’s where doing nothing is as much an essential luxury as a good cigar.” Her answer was an unrepeatable pleonasm but overall positive because she never let her sense of morals prevent her from doing the right thing. “Every so often it is a good idea to take a look at natural things like mountains, stars, the twingels of a stream, so you remember that you are of the world.“ spoke Leon. He took her hand and they walked alone together a short distance round a sharp curve toward a dry lake and then past a tiny mountain to a well-preserved ruin overlooking the somewhat awesome and still moving Pacific Ocean that seemed to fill the entire hemisphere. Upon arrival at the ruins she insisted on stopping to eat the picnic she had brought, so knowing that women and cats will do as they please, he just had to go along with it. They sat down and began a modest feast of fresh frozen gourmet hamburgers with hot chili, green oranges, and diet ice-cream until they were interrupted by a sun shower accompanied by soft thunder that disturbed the simply superb sound of silence that had seemed oddly appropriate for this troubled paradise.
Though Leon had previously questioned everything, he’d at last come to terms so he felt psychologically arrived, especially when they finally arrived. Once inside the larger half of the building, after donating the required amount, they entered a squat tower and passed guards through a triangular arch into a huge antichamber lined with plastic flowers and death masks. That is where May began to feel mighty weak and broke out into a cold sweat brought on by the minor crisis that had occurred when she’d first saw the authentic replica of a semiprecious modern relic above the pool table. Leon calmed her with his morbid humor and rational ravings about nothing much but still she continued to feel absolutely unsure of whether she was actually hallucinating or witnessing a genuine reenactment of a moving scene from Silent Scream or Living Dead. From the bright shadows a youthful old man stepped forward and stated that honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom because the joy of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials. “Never again!” thought Leon aloud.
What happened this morning has changed the world forever? What started out to be such a regular everyday event, a funeral, became a turning point for humanity; nullifying centuries of philosophy and devastating not only my religion, but also religion in general. As a priest I found it most unsettling, and even now as I write I’m still feeling the tremors, too intimidated by the experience to look around me at the religious symbolism that has no longer the validity it so recently had. But it’s not only me, or the clergy. It is everyone. If they believe what a few hundred of us witnessed earlier today. He was a pious man, and not only pious but truly a believer who lived as he thought he should have. I’d spoken to him in the hospital just a week before. He knew his days were numbered, most likely in single digits, but except for expressing an understandable level of grief about leaving his wife of almost forty years alone, and his grown children who he loved just as almost any parent does, he seemed to hold no fear of death. Of
course then we spoke about it in the usual terms of god’s mercy and heaven, and such things, his confidence obviously derived from years of community service and christian living. Not to mention the many donations to the church. Anyway, so there we were. Father Simmons, Lenchki, and me, performing the service. Mr. Evans, or George as I was far more used to calling him, had been dead since late on Thursday night, and had been kept in the hospitals morgue with arrangements made for him to be lain to rest in the Catholic section of the cemetery, in a plot set aside close to his older brother who had passed away just eighteen months before. So, yes, Father Lenchki was in the middle of the liturgy, even now it is hard to give it credence and I feel so torn between my loyalties, but I saw it, and heard him, like everyone else there, and can’t waste any time or effort to deny it. George sat up! So suddenly! As if he had just been released from a trap, Bolt upright from the waist in the open coffin with the bouquet from his chest being thrown onto the marble floor. Everything stopped except the smoke drifting up from the incense, and even as the commotion started in response, it ceased as well. George’s eyes had opened and he began crying out, words, and a message! A message he seemed absolutely determined and compelled to deliver, despite the obvious effort it took; if that makes any sense. But he struggled and flinched as he screamed out his message. And then just five or ten seconds later, just the time it took him to deliver those few sentences that have changed all of our lives and outlooks he slammed back into the coffin and except for a grotesque look that had replaced the embalmers smile and the flowers missing within the wooden timber casket nothing seemed to have changed. Everywhere else had though, or soon would, or was soon to be changed as word of the first returnee from the afterworld spread so rapidly around the globe. “The horror!” George had yelled from his guts as soon as he was sitting upright. “Nothing is true!” came vomiting out of his stretched head next. “Horror beyond imagining!” He screamed as though he was that very instant being impaled upon something thick and sharp. “Don’t die! Don’t die! Don’t…” trailed off until his jaw snapped shut again as he collapsed a fraction before slamming back down into the decorated box. We were stunned! Stunned to say the least. Doubly stunned by the occurrence and even more by the implications of the ominous message. “Don’t die, don’t die!” Seemed to echo around and around the upper reaches of the cathedral while unharnessed clamour and confusion took over the congregation and after only one tiny gesture, the raising of his bent arms toward regaining some order Father Simmons slumped back onto the railing, as profoundly overwhelmed as I was; just watching, saying nothing, staring straight ahead at the previously silent and wellmannered crowd jostling each other for the nearest doorways, generating all sorts of unintelligible sounds. For a few minutes between the evacuation of the congregation and the invasion of the media and police we had time to gather our wits, not really as priests by then, because it was as though we had been stripped of our clergical costumes and demeanor by the shattering outburst, but as men face to face with mortality, in the presence of someone back from our shared destination, able somehow to reveal the truth of it; if that’s what it truly was. We went and hesitantly peered in at poor, poor George, and as if we needed any further proof of it, one look into the coffin, at George’s tortured features and
twisted body, it was obvious that his arms were broken and on his skin and clothing were marks that could have come from teeth or claws. Already the message sent to us today by Mr. George Evans has changed the world and the way we live. Suddenly the traffic has halved and it is noticeably sedate. People are staying at home, all forms of risktaking activities have been reduced dramatically, and as for the usual cluster of Saturday night suicides; there hasn’t been a one. peeled back with open eyes reflecting blue of sky and circling birds. Just patterns and arcs; curves, spiraling thermals. Wheels. Everybody’s circle. Dust and donkeys.
What distinguished the bridge across the yawning river was its high level of invisibility. The spans had passed away downstream one flood leaving only the truncated and buttressed supports made from a multitude of stones that threw solid shadows like tombstones yet glowered at the newborn sun. Each plane bent space. Ever more water passed over the small rounded rocks in rippled patterns like moving schools. Some pools held spiralling suds, or stretched pictures of the holy mountains upstream. The sun burnt its way up the bakelite sky and pushed a torrid wind that made trees cringe, what few there were. People black as old dried blood drove oxcarts past along the only road. They would never rest like us. The water was shallow and cold. We waded for a quarter mile cross banks of stones and tangles of debri. A dark skinned baby caught amongst the sticks, its skin
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