Wednesday, December 31, 2008


“Don’t look so sullen,” said Yvette. “I kill fish for a living. And whatever bait I’m using. Which is, essentially, two deaths for the price of one.” She had managed to untangle the fishing line; she looped it around her hand and placed it, in a neat circular coil, back in her lap.

I was shocked and yet calmed by her matter-of-factness. “I killed someone yesterday,” I said.

“Really.” Yvette’s face didn’t move an inch.

“Well, I didn’t kill them. They got killed because of me.”

“Why was he killed?”

I thought about this. “I had to send a rather important message. And that’s about the best way to get noticed.

“So what are you searching for that’s so important people get killed for it?”

I looked at her. “It’s not a what, it’s a whom. I’m trying to find someone very elusive.”

“Are they good at hiding?”

“Better than that,” I said, “they’re dead.”

Yvette smiled, her sunshine smile. She said, “You don’t do things by half, do you.”

That’s when I felt it, not the rosy head-wound of love—as my fizzing brain first computed— but a real warty whack on the back of my head that stunned me for a moment before pain screamed in and my indignation was replaced by a death-drop of memory and a frictionless struggle through air. Too late, cried my head, too late. The expert noises of fear were next: icicles grew shrieking in my chest and before I knew it my lungs had filled with freezing water that filled me completely until I was a shimmering aqueous thing, a deep-sea creature glimpsed in obscured camera stock in some long-forgotten documentary only shown to school children who just didn’t care because they were only waiting for the lunch bell.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


“Nice night for it,” I said out into the air, hoping secretly my words might be carried away by the wind.

“Typical,” said Yvette’s voice from the end of the pier. “The one night I dress up, and here’s everyone dressing down.”

I looked down at my T-shirt and boardshorts: my Brisbane summer specials. “I don’t always wear a suit,” I said.

“Struck me,” said Yvette, “that you’re the type of person who always wears a suit.”

“Only since I was nine,” I said, “Unless sailor suits count, in which case since eighteen months.”

Yvette laughed. I squeezed my eyes. It seemed I had become a wielder of punchlines.

“So why no tuxedo tonight?” she asked.
“I didn’t have to go out to dinner with people who liked them.”

Yvette turned around. Her eyes hit me between mine, the quick cobra-strike of intensity. “It was him up on the hill,” she said, “that you were having dinner with.”

I peered back instinctively over my shoulder, looking up at the businessman’s awfully gaudy home. “Yes,” I said. “I was having dinner with him.”

“Friend of yours?”

“Not really.”

“So why where you there?”

“Call it professional courtesy.”

“And what profession is that?”

I sighed, and sat down next to her. “If you really want to know,” I said, “you’ve got far too much time on your hands.”

“Don’t know about having too much of that,” said Yvette, “but I’m curious to know, anyway. Call it professional courtesy.”

I smiled. This was what I needed to hear, more than anything else in the world. After a deep breath, I said, cautiously, “I suppose you could say I fix things.”

Yvette looked at me quizzically. “Fixing in a home handyman sort of way, or in a Godfather sort of way?”

“Okay, scratch the fixing. I’m an investigator, really.”

“An investigator. Like a detective?”

“Yes. You could say that.”

“And what are you investigating at the moment?”

I looked out over the river, where some sort of light was travelling through the darkness. A ghostly, unattached light, the prow of a boat or an unmoored buoy. I weighed up words in my head. They were all too heavy. “Yvette, I just hope you understand I do what I do as a job, and it doesn’t reflect any great personal values on my behalf. I just happen to be very good at it.”

Yvette picked up a length of tangled fishing line from her lap and began to pick at it with her fingers. “I don’t get the preoccupation with occupations,” she said. “The way we give so much weight to what people do, as if this is the only way of working out what sort of person they are. So don’t think I’m going to judge you, Julian, for whatever it is you do to earn a living.”

“I often end up hurting people, in order to get what my employers want.”

“You kill people.”

I swallowed hard. My throat felt like a razor-wire fence. “Yes," I said.

Monday, December 29, 2008


As I approached the wharf, I noticed that the flowers had been changed since the previous night. Instead of yellow flowers they were a deep purple, and instead of picking one I left them where they were. I had the absurd notion that to pick one would be to ruin the effect they had on the wharf. As I walked down the pier my eyes became accustomed to the light. I scanned nervously. I couldn’t see Yvette’s telltale hat. Then I noticed her, without the hat, sitting at the edge of the pier, with a fishing rod in hand and a purple shawl around her shoulders. She had pulled her hair back and tied it into a bun, so only a few strands scribbled their way down her neck. I became too aware of my steps creaking across the wooden planks.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


My hire car came complete with sanitary crepe covers for the plastic pad that covered the floor where the pedals were. My foot swished the stupid papery thing every time I pressed the brake. Although I could see no houses, the yellow pulse of streetlights was my constant companion. In my head, it felt like I was searching for international waters, somewhere safe and isolated from everything. Then the first signs of higher civilisation: the billboards of local upcoming industry. The houses came into view soon after: row upon row of beachfront mansions and towering apartment blocks. I turned and drove the hire car into the deserted carpark of an office block, parking it in the comfortable anonymity of the building’s night shadow.

The house with Roman columns and bodyguards was across the road and down the beach. This was where I told my wife I would be investigating some shady character. The house, in fact, contained a prominent member of local business with whom I’d had some dealings in the past. He was shady, there was no doubt of that, but I would not be the one investigating him. Beyond the house with my shady friend was a wharf where Yvette Henry would be fishing. This is where I knew my breath would give way. This was a complete compromise. This was a complete mistake. My feet started walking.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


The house was at the end of a long street. The day was darkening to a dull point, and the street trailed off tiredly into a dirt road that ran down a hill. I had led my junkie friend here, making as though he was leading me, and now we stood here at the front gate of the house like two boy scouts neighbourhood fund-raising.

“This looks like number 43 to me,” I said.

The junkie—who had insisted we stop off at a milk bar for a block of Top Deck chocolate and then eaten it all in two minutes—nodded his head at me.

“What I need you to do,” I told him, “is to get into that house and get something for me.”

Even in his sugar-addled whisky-wobbled head, the junkie obviously had some modicum of dignity; he acted taken aback by my proposal, placing his fingers delicately against his chest in an approximation of gentlemanly distaste. “I’m a, tour guide,” he said. “This, is not, part of the, tour.”

I removed a bundle of tied up fifties from my pocket and held it out in front of him. “I can’t leave any trace of myself in this house,” I said. “Understand that. If I were careful, I could do it without leaving a trace, but that would take far more time than I’ve got. I know you’ve done this before, and I know you’ll do this again. There’s another payment the same size as that one when you’ve done the job. Understand?”

The junkie’s eyes bulged. He blew out his cheeks. “What do, you want me, to do?” he asked.

I looked the junkie right in the eyes. “I need you to tell me what’s in that house. I need to you to go in there, go through every room, and tell me what you see. It’s only information I’m after.”


“Just tell me what you see in the house. That’s all I need to know. I’d say you have about 30 minutes to complete this task. Understand?”

The junkie nodded, his eyes narrowing and focusing. I knew I had picked the right man. He disappeared nimbly around the side of the house. I checked my watch, and with nothing else to do, took a walk down the dirt road.

I walked down the hill and came out alongside a series of soccer fields. People were playing on the biggest field, twenty or thirty, mostly kids. The main game was being played by a group of African guys, stripped down to their shorts, wiry brown torsos disappearing in the day’s failing light. I noticed the dark clouds above, and as if in acknowledgement, rain began to come down in intermittent shivers. A pleasant coolness hung in the air, and I welcomed the relief from a day’s heat. The only sounds were the pleasant huffs and bustles of the soccer game. And even though I knew it was imminent, I stopped in my steps, like everyone else, when a gunshot cracked open the air.

Friday, December 26, 2008


I moved further up the bar. “How much is a double whisky?” I asked the barman.

“I’ll be with you in a second, mate,” said the barman.

“No,” I said, “I mean, I’ll pay for this gentleman’s drink if you’ll tell me how much it is.”

The barman eyed me suspiciously. “You want to pay for this gentleman’s drink?”

The junkie hop-danced on the spot.

“And a pot of your cheapest beer for myself,” I handed the barman a fifty. “Keep the change.” I smiled at the junkie, who smiled back.

“Suit yourself,” said the barman.

I retired to a table with my new friend, whom I had already calculated a use for. My friend drank his double like it was water on a hot day. He slammed the glass down onto the table.

“Like, thanks, and, shit,” he eloquently said to me. “Dying of, thirst I, was.”

“You’re welcome,” I replied. “You looked like you could use a drink.”

“Well yeah I don’t, think I’ve had, one for a long, time.” He looked around the bar in quick, jerky movements. He had a head of full, healthy hair, which I found rather strange.

“You a local?” I asked him.

“Yeah local, yeah, I’m a, local that’s, me.”

“So you’d know your way around?”

“Sure, do sure do.”

“That’s great,” I lent forward in my seat, peering into his rimless eyes. “I’m new to this place. I’m a tourist. I just feel like I need someone to show me around the place.”

“Like, yeah, like a, guide.”

I slapped my head. “That’s exactly what I mean. A guide! My friend, you are switched on. You are really with it.”

The junkie grinned. “Switched, on.”

“Exactly.” I let some silence sway between us. “You wouldn’t be doing anything this afternoon, would you?”

The junkie considered this for a moment. I took the opportunity to take out my billfold and flip absentmindedly through my cash. “I think, I’m, free,” said the junkie eventually. “Think, I’m free.”

I rubbed my chin. “Not that I would want to impose,” I said, “but you wouldn’t be able to show me around Stone’s Corner would you? Maybe take me up to Greenslopes?” While the junkie processed this, I laid my billfold on the table. “I’d pay you, of course,” I said.

The junkie cracked his knuckles with a surprisingly quick movement. “Welcome, aboard,” he said, “the grand tour.”

Thursday, December 25, 2008


I came out of the hallway and into a proper heads-down rough-hops bar with a wonky stage at the back and a games room attached behind glass doors to my right. All the patrons were at least thirty years older than the polo shirt crowd in the front bar. I threw my beer—gilt-edged schooner and all—behind a blackened pot plant that looked like it could use a drink, and approached the bar. A proper ugly barman stood looking suspiciously at some change in his hand. His head was like an egg, buried deep in the dough of his pudgy shoulders. He grumbled under his breath.

“I don’t know where you think you are,” he said, “but this amount of money does not buy a double whisky in this country.”

I sensed a squirming presence to my right. A junkie with a camel skin vest and train-wrecks for eyes pulled at his arms like they were slumping stockings. He said, “That’s the, right change. It, is the right, change.” Slowing and speeding his sentences. My eyes snagged on the junkie’s face.

The barman—whose stocking-armed-junkie count was probably in the mid thousands—looked nonplussed. “I need the right amount of money in order to pour you a double whisky,” he said flatly, “otherwise the basis of modern economics will collapse in on itself.”

The junkie seemed to consider this for a moment. The moment stretched on. “Modern, economics is, modern,” was his eventual evaluation of the situation.

I smiled. The junkie was from a photo in one of the files I had looked at, only one day before I hopped on the plane. Sometimes God dropped the roulette ball right in your pocket.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


The pub stood at the end of a strip of retail shops that featured factory seconds and discontinued lines. It was in full weekend throng, with a blustery wind shaking large shopping bags in peoples’ hands up and down the street. I watched with interest one of many pram prangs at the entrance to an obviously popular clothing shop, as bright-faced young parents collided with other bright-faced parents trying to stretch their already stretched dollars and corral their already precious time so much that they didn’t look around corners.

The pub was more upmarket than I expected. Outside, various happy groups sat baking in the sun, soaking up beer in tall glasses and letting off familial radiation. I ventured inside, where high beech-light wooden ceilings held huge fans that swirled air around. This wasn’t what I wanted. A barman was showing off, slicing a lemon in mid-air because someone had asked for a glass of water. A table of china-doll-faced polo-shirt wearers sneered at me from underneath their indoor sunglasses. I ached for dark bars where the walls breathed smoke. I sat at the bar and ordered the most ordinary beer I recognised.

“Having a day out, chief?” asked the barman, his confident bravado belied by the finger scratches at the corners of his eyes.

I looked at him, long and hard. “Just got out,” I said.

“Out of where, buddy?” The barman cleaned a dirty glass with his elbows flying.


The barman’s face fell, and the glass nearly followed. “Oh, right,” he said, before smiling nervously, caught in the customer service trap he’d set for himself. I looked away and let him move on. I cursed myself for a stupid mistake. My general dislike for pretence was not my most useful trait at times, especially not for someone who was often trying not to be noticed. I sipped at my beer, but it was in a fancy glass with gold along the top, and I began to wonder about metals poisoning. The smell of chips roused me, and my eyes followed a waitress disappearing down a sunken hallway. When she returned, the chips had been replaced by a tower of used glasses. This was better. I roused myself from the bar seat and walked down the hallway. The soft pop and warble of poker machines filled my ears, and I sensed the blue glow of pure drinking. This was much better.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Freshly showered, I took out a street directory and looked up the address Big Red Reg had given me. Southeast, on the other side of the river that snaked surreptitiously through the city and out to the sea.

I put on my backpack and took a taxi not directly to the address, but rather to a pub nearby which, my taxi driver assured me, did a fine trade in big late breakfasts—a trade in which I am always very interested. As we drove, I rehearsed characters, like an actor might. I quizzed the taxi driver on his view of local economic progress, knowing this would give me plenty of time to think without him interrupting me. He looked at me in the rearvision mirror, his dark eyes alive.

“Well, that’s the thing,” he began, as if he had been talking to me for hours before I had climbed into his vehicle, “we’ve got the second fastest growing city in the world right here, which seems strange, but then again it could very well be right, but who knows?”

I nodded absently. He had a pleasant Greek lilt to his voice, and a habit of rubbing his neck with his flat smooth fingers.

“When I came here, it was nothing,” he continued, “a backwater, this town, so I settled cheap and now look at me, part of this great thing growing.”

“What was the fastest?” I asked him.

“What was what the fastest?”

“The fastest growing city. You said Brisbane was the second fastest. What’s the fastest?”

My taxi driver made a dismissive sound with his mouth, flapping his fingers like he was feeding chickens seed. “What of it? Some place American I don’t doubt. No offence.”

He dropped me right outside the pub and I gave him a fifty-dollar note for his troubles. When he refused my offer to keep the change, I told him it was the first donation to a fund to make his city the fastest ever.

Monday, December 22, 2008


“So I was out there last night,” I said into the receiver. I rubbed my ankles against the expert starch of the hotel bed sheets. The sun came through the window and squiggled signatures of dust in the air. “He’s a big-wig, this guy. Thought I’d take a further look.” Back across the international static, my wife sighed.

“So this is another thing, now,” she said.

“Just a detour,” I told her. “It could be helpful, in the long run.”

“How much longer will it take?”

“It’ll only add a day or so. I promise.”

“A day or two?”


“But you hate water.”

“Gotta learn to love it some time. It’s got me surrounded.”

“Goodnight,” said my wife from her darkened slice of the earth.

After I hung up, I stared at the ceiling. I took a long cold shower, washing away not only the archaeological accumulation of sweat that had built up on my from only one morning outdoors, but a persistent image of Yvette Henry that had somehow crawled into my mind.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


A parade came down the street: some successfully returned sporting team welcomed home like they’d won the war that saved civilisation. Crowds I thought were window-shoppers abruptly turned, their faces were painted red and yellow, and they were suddenly chanting sidewalk tribespeople moving along with the motorcade. At the cue of the third car, I entered their procession. Walking calmly, briskly but not hurriedly, I became another set of legs in the celebration caterpillar. My mark was a man with red hair, wearing an appropriate team jersey at least five sizes too big for him, which was saying something. Big Red Reg was his moniker in certain circles.

I sidled up to him, and he let out a whooping holler decrying the domination of his chosen sports team over all others in the same competition. I followed suit.

“Julian,” he said to me, without looking at me. “I didn’t know you were in town.”

“If I’d wanted you to know,” I told him, “you would have known.”

“Clever,” said Big Red Reg. “You’re always so good with the one-liners, aren’t you.”

“It saves expending too much energy talking.”

As if to illustrate my point, Big Red Reg let out another bellow, indicating his preference, in triplicate, for being Australian.

“I need to meet someone,” I said, clapping with the crowd as another polished SUV went past carrying two more members of the successful sports franchise.

“You can meet the whole team if you want,” beamed Big Red Reg. “I can easily arrange it.”

I gave his shoulder a withering look. “If I wanted to meet neckless thugs in dark sunglasses, Reg, I would never have left home.”

“Fair enough,” he chuckled.

I left Big Red Reg at the next corner, and I walked away with an address in my pocket and the beginnings of a headache. This city was all sunrise and noise.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


The next morning, summer attacked tourists like a frantic mugger. I sat at a table in a busy outdoor cafe and watched them get king-hit, one by one, stepping from the air-conditioned lobby of a nearby hotel. The hotel’s doorman—himself exhibiting superhuman heat tolerance inside his full regal coat—positioned himself to catch each day-tripper as they fell, piling them together in a shady alcove like kindling.

I had been up before the sun, furnishing myself with cooler and more unobtrusive clothes from an all-night chain store. I sat back like a local now, acting surprised by the change in weather, but able to compensate by retrieving summer clothes from the back of my wardrobe. I wore a sun-faded singlet like many of those around me, and completed the image with long khaki shorts and cheap acrylic slides. My bare white legs hummed in the light—the only part of me that really gave the game away. I thought to myself a day might be well spent obtaining a discreet fake tan.

The remnants of last night’s fickle breeze tapped hairs on my neck. Inside my copy of the local newspaper—a broadsheet infuriatingly condescended into tabloid—was concealed a small manila folder with a single photograph taped inside it. In the photo was a man’s face, and wasn’t smiling, and he wasn’t frowning, but he had a serene look of blankness about him, unaware of the trouble he was about to cause. I was sick of this photo. It had been my only companion on a thirteen-hour plane trip, but despite my revulsion for his face, I knew I was not allowed to forget it.

Friday, December 19, 2008


I looked at her face underneath her hat and she was predictably sea-worn, lines driven into creases with salt spray air. I don’t know why, but I was expecting a hidden beauty, as I thought befitted a fisherwoman-out-of-water such as she. But she was no hidden witness, no glamouress who had turned her back on life—here was a woman that had fished for as long as she could thread a hook.

“Beautiful night,” I offered.

“And how on earth do you know that?” said the fisherwoman. “You can’t even see it.”

“I suppose that’s right,” I answered.

I spent time with her there for just over half an hour, neither of us really talking, but somehow not letting silence fall too far between us. Her name was Yvette, I discovered, and Yvette’s line did not twitch even once for the entire time I sat next to her. I told her as much about myself as I felt comfortable doing, and then I got up to go. Just as I was leaving, she turned to me and said I had a flower in my shoe. It was then I foolishly gave it to her. She smiled, and it changed her face, in the way the sun can change a horizon. This is how I drowned in love with Yvette Henry.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I picked a flower from one of the pots that guarded the entrance to the wharf. It was a droopy, yellow thing with pulpy orange stamens, and it amused me for the amount of time it took to walk to the pier.

“Amazes me what people will use for bait,” I said, as I approached a place I knew the fisherman could hear me. His large flat yellow hat twitched.

“A fat old march fly is all you ever need,” said a voice from under the hat. It was a woman’s voice. I must admit I stepped back in surprise. And not much surprises me.

I crushed the yellow flower in my fist and, for a reason I’ll never know, bent down and stuffed it into the side of my shoe.

“They say whitebait’s on the way back,” continued the woman, “but that’s wishful thinking, and don’t you know it.”

I finger-combed my hair, and it felt as brittle as a bunch of wheat-stalks. “How do you catch a fat old march fly?” I asked her.

“Simple,” she said. “Just leave a dead fish out for him.”

I chuckled, but the effort caught in my throat. Laughter, I suppose, was about as common for me as biting my tongue. “Seems to me it’s one of those vicious cycles,” I said, squinting my eyes up, redundantly, to stare out over the blackened bay.

“Nothing vicious about it,” said the fisherwoman. “Just the same old way life perpetuates.”

“I suppose it is,” I said, then I added, “Mind if I join you?”

She tapped the spot next to her on the dock, and I sat down beside her, with my feet dangling off one edge of the world.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


It was a sweat-in-your suit night. My shoes shone and stale heat escaped from my tight-collared shirt. All I saw was white Roman columns in front of me, standing like chalk against the backdrop of a moonless night. The only human glow was my wristwatch, only two days old, humming an unlikely green from just above my cufflink.

This was the sort of night where I needed to be alone, but that was not going to happen for some time yet. The sound of whistling had filled my ears for some minutes, although I hadn’t realised this until the whistling stopped. It had come, I was fairly sure, from an old fisherman situated on a dock some way away to my left. The lapses in wind left that sort of still, dead-aired night that let sound drift out from within its usual boundaries. For wont of something better to do, I raised myself off the stone bench and went to join the old fisherman on the wharf. A religious lady, dressed head to toe in stifling silk, watched me as I passed her, and I couldn’t see anything but her eyes, and her eyes did not communicate anything new.


We all thought it was an alarm, I suppose, a warning. Heads were up and bodies roused at the mere hint of a noise, the heart somehow pumping stronger, brain snapping to attention, synapses wired open from days of waiting. We all realised, at about the same time, that it was no alarm, but rather the dry whine of an armoured car. Vehicles were rare this far in, and we all realised at about the same moment that we had panicked over nothing. We shook other old sounds into our heads: children laughing, water flowing, the isolated, vulnerable sound of an unfettered lazy breeze. None of us sat back down. We stood there, revelling in our last true feelings.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


So there is this blank page, a blank screen really—a screen's representation of a blank page, with a cursor, waiting, blinking, like a pen's sharp tap against teeth. Anything—any one thing—is better than this. Any job much more worth doing, much more pressing than putting words to a virtual page.

And there is this head cold, this one blocked ear, this pressure all down one side of a neck, as if the head would be more comfortable permanently stuck to the shoulder. A strong thumb in a pressure-point makes pain replace numbness.

And there is this job, a whirr of activity now without time for enjoyment, personality or pleasure: running out and filling up and sticking down. All these wonderful printed words that have been through so much to become captured and bound and then again expressed—they are simply sales blips, raw measurements of productivity.

But there's the hope, at least. There's always that. A page filled with workings out. That final sneeze that clears your head. A book, unknown, found floundering beneath the opiate publicity of others, picked up, with that flutter of excitement that arrives from a startling first line. And then a paragraph. And then a page. And then hope is here.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Margo’s face was coated in makeup, shimmering unnaturally from under the lamplight. Her eyelashes wept snow, purple shadows falling back sadly into her face. Ted stood as if a shadow himself, cast back in the corners of her wide room, watching. Margo sighed, pieces of her soul escaping visibly into the air.

“I’m sorry,” said Ted.

Margo rubbed the back of her thumb across her eyebrows, sending little hairs spinning into the dark. “It’s nothing for you to apologise for.” Her voice strained to hold its accent. It flickered in and out, like water lapping at her lungs.

Ted stepped forward. He held his hands awkwardly at his sides: a child in a school play, uncertain of how to stand.

“It had to happen,” continued Margo. “It took too long, really.”

“It shouldn’t have happened.”

Margo laughed, a balloon’s final choke. “Did you think it was alright, Ted? Did you think what I was doing was right?”

“I just feel—”

“You had every right to do it. Don’t feel like you didn’t.”

There was a space between them, the echoless chasm of future moments. Something that swallowed the familiar and left white gaps of uncertainty.

Margo shifted on the bed. Her camisole rucked up at her thighs; she looked at her legs, her feet, white and withered things. “I paint my toenails so often,” she said. “I’ve painted them since I was eight. That’s what happens—the colours change, but you forget what was underneath in the first place. Underneath all this—” she gestured at herself, hands flailing with desperate gravity, “—underneath all this is someone I’ve never seen. When you come right down to it, I’m not really here.”

She looked sidelong into her mirror; she put her hands to her face. “Whatever this is, it’s not real. I’ve been dead for 50 years, Ted. I’m a ghost.” A tear pulsed from her eye and ringed her cheek.

Ted sat down on the bed, its springs silently accepting him. “None of us want to see you leave.”

“How can I stay?”

Ted cracked a knuckle on his left hand. “Margo, if you leave, it’s like ... leaving a gap.”

“I’ll pay you out for the room, Ted. I’ve told you—I’ll pay till the end of the year.”

“No, I didn’t mean that. I meant, if you left ... this town has to survive—it does survive, because the people in it make it work ...”

Margo shook her head. “Ted, it’s never going to be the same now. I’m only one problem. There are gaps opening up everywhere. It’s started, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.”

Ted looked up at the ceiling. “It’s just ... this shouldn’t have to happen to us. It’s so sad.”

Margo reached out and took his hand. “Time moves on,” she said. “You only notice it after it’s gone.”

Sunday, December 14, 2008


His forehead scaled such great heights that Kat was reminded of white cliffs, Dover, chalk dust. His hair was a small weedy scraggle of strands: anemones maybe, over-styled, definitely. He had those eyes that old fisherman had, somehow dry and yet somehow watery.

In turns, he stared at her or cleared his throat. It seemed like some private ritual, a path to nirvana tied up in nervousness. Hand folded over hand, thick blonde hairs against his leathered skin. When Kat reached out to stroke his arm, he made a small murmur, like an animal in the sun.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


We spent the night taking photos, scrawling down captions to put in later when we turned our images into a travelogues, proudly witty on a computer screen. We each had all-day tickets, or something approaching all-day. We'd spent the day on trams feeding them the wrong way into green machines that the locals didn't even seem to use. Maybe they've got microchips, you'd suggested. We'd spent an afternoon walking through the city, the permanent shade unnerving me so much that I let out an audible breath upon reaching sunshine. We found ourselves at the back of the famous markets, which had closed up for the day, leaving only palettes and forklifts playing pack-up pac-man.

Now we wander, postprandial, sort of satisfied, as comfortable as we can be in a city that isn't ours. Above, though, still the moon. Below our feet, more trains, more tracks.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


A siege, I know, is something else pursued—
A battle fall, a hostage at an end.
But what is this, if not a hopeless cause?
The personal: that castle often breached.

The structure of a self is one at odds:
Too brittle for attack and yet too thick.
The simple poison of a misheard word
is more effective than the strongest gun.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I make a number three—curly, with flowers and shiny blue bits, and fix it to my door. It’s not one of my best numbers, but it’s by far my favourite.

It takes me six hours to finish.

Things feel heavier now that you’re gone.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Patient: Doctor, I can’t feel my legs!
Doctor: That’s because we cut off your arms.

Strange what you think of when your mind falls apart. It’s a joke you used to tell me. You used to laugh a lot, but I can’t think why. A degenerative disease. Hence the wheelchair, I suppose. I never thought to ask.

You were alone, or so they said, when you died.

There should really be a song, or a poem, for what I’m feeling now. Crouching in a hospital corridor, my shirt stiff with old sweat, letting the tears drop into my useless palms. But there isn’t. So I’m left with my own thoughts. Trying to imagine how you must have felt. How the hell you got through it.

No wonder you made your life just the way you wanted it.

There’s quite a nice funeral, and I meet some people you knew. Sounds like you were a wonderful person.

I loved you, anyway. If that makes a difference.

Monday, December 8, 2008


It used to be that I graced the open ground with a lithe speed. These days, after 5 minutes of jogging, even my breath fights for breath. The world bounces up and down with my head, squiggling the streetlamps into little signatures of light, signing off some unseen statement that condemns me to a life of running after things I can never catch.

It’s good to be alone, but it’s dangerous. In this situation, my mind begins to think for itself. I think of you, of course. How I had to close the door for you after you left this morning. How you couldn’t turn around on my front steps. How it would have hurt you too much.

I run past the houses along my stretched street, pain pummelling my ribs with broken glass stabs. I think it strange that I used to enjoy this. I get to the end of the street, where I usually turn around, at that house with the right amount of renovation and perfect modern lines. I stare for some time at the number on the gate. I made that number. But I can’t remember how.
It’s strange to come home and meet someone at your front door: you feel like you should go in and come out again, make it proper. I’m walking gingerly around the corner, holding my sides, and there’s a policeman’s blue body standing on my porch. He asks me if I am me and I tell him I am.

Had a bit of trouble finding the place, he says. No number on the house.

The policeman exhales deeply and looks into the purple evening sky. And I can tell—even before he starts to talk—that something is very wrong with the world.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


All the tints of paint have numbers, and stupid names. 123: Wattle Illusion, 79: Morpheas Azure, 337: Disgruntled Giraffe. You pick out number 293: Burnt Umber. I wonder aloud if Burnt Umber is, in fact, just the colour brown, and the hardware guy looks at me as if I have just invited him to make sweet love to me on the weed matting. You do nothing to diffuse the situation.

I’ve always imagined painting a house to be like it is in the ads: me in fresh white overalls, joyously floating a groundsheet over a hardwood floor in a shaft of sunlight, you with a scarf around your head, doing cheeky and suggestive things with a number 4 brush, and maybe a paint-splattered radio playing songs of significance.

Not only do we paint the bricks around my door, but the entire side of the house as well, with a paint that sits like sand on the knobbly concrete. It takes way too long and I’m sweaty and tired and I haven’t been to the shop for two weeks and I’m starting to think that you’re having a negative effect on me.

The next morning, after you’ve blown smoke in my face, after I’ve carried you to the bathroom and back again, you ask me to make a number for the front of our house: a number 3, curly, with flowers and shiny blue bits. I tell you that I don’t have time—I’m too far behind with work as it is. You stare for some time at the carpet. Then, with a sad look on your face, you leave the house.

It’s my first time alone since I met you.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


I’m creating a sandwich. Not just a normal sandwich. Rather, with Dr Frankenstein-like commitment, I aim for the ultimate conglomerate of tastes and textures. You wheel into the kitchen and ask why I’m still eating. I look down at my stomach: its growing roundness: and wonder the same thing.

These hands, I think to myself. These hands used to make things. Numbers. That people paid for and enjoyed because I made them so well. Where are the burns and the stains of industry now?

You, on the other hand, I have never seen so busy. Now that our house is sufficiently full of curtains and surfaces and things on ledges, you shift outside, looking at my depleted front garden, and the porch. You’re moving slower than when I first met you, but far more deliberately.

The paint’s peeling off the bricks on the doorway, you say.

Really? I’m not listening. I’ve been on the phone all morning, trying to convince my customers that their numbers will actually be completed by next week.

We should repaint it, you say. It’s the first thing people see, after all.

Friday, December 5, 2008


You’ve officially moved in, and I have to build a ramp up to the front door. It takes me six hours to finish. Things feel heavier now that you’re here.

My house—correction, our house—seems to be going through a sort of interior design puberty: an awkward transition period between my living arrangements and your tasteful decorating. And, as with adolescence, things start to appear in places they haven’t before. Except in our case, it’s throw rugs.

I really have to go to work today.


Because it’s my job to go to work.

No one’s going to fire you.

Yes, but no one’s going to pay me if I don’t fill some orders.

“ ”

You’re an expert in suggestive silence.

It starts to be that I can’t get a moment to myself. I can’t go jogging, because you say it exploits your lack of mobility; I can’t go to work, because you say it hurts you to see me leave; I can’t even watch TV, because you say you need more cigarettes.

I begin to enjoy the view inside my eyelids more and more. It’s the only thing I see between you and me.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


You’ve been hinting, in your own special way, that we should move in together. The notes on my pillow, the casually strewn paint charts, the boxes of your belongings in my living room. You’re beautiful when you’re subtle.

We lie out on the lawn and you blow smoke at the sky through your nostrils, like a dragon.

What’s your address? you say.

Why do you ask?

It’s just that you haven’t got a house number.

What’s the use? I know where I live.

It’s just strange—like you don’t want anyone to find you.

We lie in silence until it gets dark, until we start to taste the sting of rising cold.

Our relationship isn’t that different to sculpting a piece of metal. You’ve only got so much time to bend and shape it—while it’s red-hot and controlled by outer forces—before it cools and hardens, into definition, into a wrought-iron reality.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I’ve got more numbers than usual to make this week. There’s been a backlog because I’m in love. This morning I want to go for a jog. It helps clear my head when I’m short on time. But you walk in just as I’m getting into my running shorts. I don’t realise you have your own key. I don’t realise you can do that with your tongue. What’s the harm in going one more day without exercise? I decide to take the day off work as well. The numbers can wait.

I love you, even with your smoker’s cough. Even though, when you wake, you greet your bronchial deposits before you greet me. That’s okay, because you have the most perfect smiling eyes. And you lie like royalty on my morning bedspread, the dusty light across your useless legs. And after you’ve finished your first cigarette, you kiss me, urgently and desperately. These could be your last breaths, after all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


We’re sitting in the park, the way young people in love are supposed to. There may be ducks and breadcrumbs or wine and chequered blankets or even raindrops and tandem bikes. If there is, I don’t see them. Just me on a bench and you sitting next to me. The air seems newer than usual.

Later we have sex. That’s all there is to it. Like the word—short and sharp. No tender moments or lingering glances.

You say, We both know it’s useless to pretend it’s something more. And most likely I’ll be thinking of someone else.

You are very businesslike. You even give me a receipt when you’re done. You’re so sexy when you’re invoicing.

When I ask you about your life, you say you were born in a place with a hospital, grew up in a place with a family, were sent to a place with teachers, and then went to a place with money. You drive a Mercedes. I assume you have a job, although you never seem to work. You always put your arms around me before I can ask you anything you don’t want to answer.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I work with numbers. That’s what I do. Some people count them, some juggle them, others crunch them or study them; I make them. The finest numbers money can buy. You know that really nice house at the end of the street, with just the right amount of renovation and perfect modern lines? You know how it’s got that fantastic number on the front gate? I made that. Brass or silver or gold or whatever you want, I’ll make it for you. People often ask, Isn’t that a bit specialised? or, Yeah, but what else do you do? These people haven’t seen the numbers I make. There’s a certain feeling that comes with shaping metal with your hands. Hard to describe.

A car pulls up outside my shop. A Mercedes. Tinted windows, chrome everything, and a body so black that when light sees it coming, it looks the other way. I am well on my way to wishing the owner a life of bird shit and dwindling brake fluid when you step out of the driver’s side. Well, you hobble out, supported by two walking canes. To the boot, where you pull out a fold-up wheelchair. You wheel your way towards me.

I’m a heartless bastard, I think. I’m a heartless, cynical, awful bastard. I open the door for you.

You say something like, Thank you.

And I probably reply, It’s no problem.

You ask about the number 34, and its possible combination with others. I begin to like you more and more as the seconds go by.

These numbers are lovely, you say.

That’s what people usually say, I answer.

What do you call this one?


I thought I’d seen it somewhere before.

It’s on the Library, in town, between the two and the six.

I never knew this shop was here before.

It sneaks up on you, doesn’t it?

Sunday, November 30, 2008


The first thing I notice—even before I’m down the sealed roads, onto the highway, into the embrace of settlement—is the rainfall of insects on my windscreen beginning to ease. Engine noise and grinding gravel slowly replaces it, while outside a potted history of civilisation begins. The clay and the minerals rise up, with some encouragement, from the ground. The outside goes from the wet to the dry and back again more times than I can count, and spot fires herald a new form of steam. As my car keeps going straight, down the white-marked timeline, farms and fields move gradually through the Industrial Revolution; strange metal creatures begin to eye off cattle from beneath the warming sun, the landscape changes into blocks and the windmills of a kilometre ago have grown sturdy chests and piston legs that hum electricity’s tune. Then the flat sell of billboards, displaying better versions of the afternoon sky, brands to recognise and desire appearing as reminders of things we should have, or have already lost. Then I’m in the fringes—the outskirts—with the real products on display; the car dealerships and tile warehouses crowding together like a crammed mouth. Through it then, down the tar-sealed throat, towards the ripening high-rise lights beginning to trace shapes in the air. I’m in the bloodstream now, working my way towards the heart, rolling in with the fresh dust of history, to clog a city’s arteries.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Gin’s mind sped at super-human speeds. He was thinking faster than anyone had ever thought before. He squinted up his eyes so the world rushed past—as he ran—in an arbitrary blur. He knew where everything was in the garden: he didn’t need to look. His bare feet barely touched the grass as he sped along, weaving, flash-like, around and under obstacles. The wind became the only reminder of where he was, buffeting his face, rippling the fabric of his costume.

This was his favourite part of being a super-hero. Normally, you had to think too much about everyday things—balance, safety, alertness—to keep you plodding along in a normal life, but when you were a superhero, your everyday senses were elevated, and you didn’t have to worry about mundane physical and mental functions. You were working on a higher level. It was great.
A multitude of worlds passed below Gin’s elevated gaze. First the garden, then the driveway, then the town, and then the ocean. He flew higher above the clouds. They spread out under him like a bumpy mattress: white and grey stitched with shadow. He dipped back through them, breaking sun-paths that let the sky in. Clear, clear blue.

Gin was bigger than the world he watched. He landed, and his arm found a tree to wrap around. He had returned to the backyard. The garden was vibrant. Colours pulsed. He rolled up his sleeves and took off his socks and walked around to the front of the house. He went behind the big lavender bushes and turned on the tap coming out of the wall. He heard the comforting chatter of the sprinkler beginning further down the driveway, on the left-hand lawn. He ran down the side of the drive, along the old railway sleepers. Under bare feet, they felt like the scales of an ancient serpent. He ran along the giant snake’s back, jumping off at the last minute to avoid its snapping jaws. He jumped joyfully under the waving arms of the sprinkler. Once he found its rhythm, he closed his eyes and began spinning against it. His eyelids sealed themselves like birthday presents. He tried his very best, as he spun, to forget where he was, to let the water ribbons graze him from every angle, to let the sun appear everywhere in the sky. This was the only way he could ever really think properly. When he found himself totally lost.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Nearly grief. Like a tear that presses, burns, but won't fall. Won't even roll out, won't even bud. A useless lack of expression, hiding in there like a taunting bully, too cowardly to emerge. A failed match-strike, a singe of sulfur, a deep dark gash to the senses.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I woke up and my dinkus had corrupted. I guessed it had happened overnight, but really, with a dinkus, who knows? The man who had sold it to me had given me a good price, perhaps too good, looking back on it now. Sure, it had been second-hand, but the man had assured me that the previous owner hadn't really used it all that much, and from looking at it, it certainly seemed to be nearly brand new.

But now it had corrupted, and I wished I had kept that instruction manual. It was a big phone book of a thing, and I thought, seriously, how hard can it be to operate a dinkus? Boy, I really needed some advice. A quick call to directory enquiries found me connected to what claimed to be a dinkus helpline, but after only talking to them for five minutes, it seemed they had no idea what a dinkus even was. Frustrated, I called my doctor, who luckily could fit me in over a cancelled appointment.

I turned up at the surgery in what I can only describe as a state of some stress. During the short trip to the surgery, my dinkus had re-corrupted, compounding the problems set off by the first corruption, and adding a rather worrying groaning noise. I burst into the surgery and the woman behind the counter, who knows me, immediately threw her hands over her eyes and screamed as if I were some kind of monster. She flung open the door to the doctor's office without even a word.

Needless to say that I—at this point—was in more than considerable discomfort—my dinkus having corrupted not just once but twice, and the distinct possibility that the groaning noise meant a third corruption—and that simply holding together my thoughts well enough to talk to the doctor was taking a massive effort on my part.

The doctor, for his part, remained professional throughout the whole consultation (a consultation which had been made far more urgent by the receptionist's screams into his intercom which had, I found out, preceding me into the room). The doctor, I knew, had been to war, and had seen things that no man should, but still his face took on a distinct tinge of green when I showed him my grossly over-corrupted dinkus. He put a hand to his face, and made a sound like muffled whale-song, but to his credit he still slipped on the rubber gloves, and gave my dinkus a full and rigorous inspection.

When he was done, he gestured that I should take a seat beside his desk. This was an offer I was all too ready to accept, except by this stage, I would not be able to do so without significant further damage to my dinkus. The doctor sat in his own chair, steepled his fingers, and gave me—in a deep, trembling voice—the sobering news that I would have to give up my dinkus, or risk its permanent and irrevocable damage.

With a lump in my throat, and a tear in my eye, I told the doctor to do whatever he thought was necessary. My health came first, I knew, but boy oh boy was I going to miss that dinkus.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


There's a picnic bench, down by the river, just visible from my loungeroom window. Its occupants seem to swing between the two poles of my suburb: one day, a leg-stretching, Dri-Glo clad speedwalker; the next, an artistic, wistful water-starer. The one time I sat at the bench, my girlfriend and I ate home made burritos, swatted mosquitos and told each other rude jokes until the last of the day's light leached out from the river's ripples. I have never had the compulsion to walk down the hill and sit at the bench alone. In some alternate, perforated life, perhaps, I'd be there, writing, out in the open, among the feuding brush turkeys, watching the ferries stream past. Next to the picnic bench is an enormous tree, an eight-storey eucalypt, dwarfing the set of units to its left. It is up there, I realise, that I want to be, swaying in the perfect safety of nature's great design. In amongst the green I am a hidden creature, creating, living.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


From up here, through this thick perspex view, people are reduced to their hair-part, their gait. Denied that extra dimension of the ground-walker, I sum people up from the crown of their head—a square foot, at most, of information. My screen is caked up with dust, water-spatter, the jewelled cracked backs of high-flying insects, but my clear view is still an unparalleled thing.

Monday, November 24, 2008


For when all was said, and all was done—when our mouths were devoid of all words and our hearts of all proper feeling—we realised that what had happened was not so much a tragedy, in its richest sense, but more a "happening": in the same way a cloud might suddenly take a familiar form, or a childhood song appear on a stranger's lips.

We three remained on that cracked chalky stone, with the waves and sheer cliffs beneath us. On a ledge, below, just beyond farthest reach, sat a top hat, now separated from its owner by not only space but time.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Two boxers fell deep in love
In the middle of a bout
Beneath a swift right
A tempered left
A catching eye
A quick pout
Jaw snap

Saturday, November 22, 2008


What is left is half of a tree. Not a clean-shaven stump but a splintered crack: fibrous shafts of bark and woody sinew. A raw break, a painful break. LB stared at the broken tree for some while until The Grandpa came up to join her. Why? was what LB's small, folded-up face seemed to say. The Grandpa put a big peanut finger up to the corner of LB's eye, scooping up a tear before it had time to touch her cheek. —Just the way, it is, little sparrow— said The Grandpa. LB's hands punched at little pockets of air. It's unfair, her hands seemed to say. The Grandpa smiled. —Sometimes it's just time— he said. —Sometimes it's time that tells you to fall— .

Friday, November 21, 2008


10 January 1973

Elsie has the morning off, and we walk down to Trewly Park. We sit on a bench by the dried-up pond, with its rusted sculpture sticking out of the water.

“You should come in with me today,” says Elsie. “Jamie’ll be up and talking by now.”

“He’ll be okay, won’t he?”

“I told you, he’s fine. His face won’t be straight for a while, but he’s fine.”

“I should probably start planning lessons,” I say. “Term’s only a few weeks away.”

Elsie twists her hands in her lap. She says, “He wants to see you, Sal. I think you should go.”

And I can see it’s killing her inside.


Jamie’s propped up on a pile of pillows. He’s pretty messed up. There are rows of stitches across his face, pushing up the skin into little mountain ranges.

“How’s it feeling?” I ask.

“All right,” he says. “Nothing compared to the hiding the old man’ll give me for missing work.”

I laugh a little and sit down beside the bed. He looks me in the eyes with a trace of Kenny’s squint.

“Jeez, I’m sorry Sal. For what happened. But the way they waltzed in there ... It was so obvious, and I was so wound up by the whole – ” He stops mid–sentence. “Shit. I didn’t even ask – how’d it go?”

“One month and twelve hundred dollars.”

“Shit, Sal. Look, I’ll help you out with the money, you know I will.”

I look at him, helpless and fragile under the white sheets.

“You don’t owe me anything Jamie,” I say, tears stinging in my eyes. “You get your face smashed because of me and now you want to give me more. Everyone acts like it’s nothing ... but it’s my fucking brother who has to pay for it and no can help, ’cause I’ve let him down. Not just him ... ”

Jamie puts his hand on my arm. His palm is smooth and callused.

He says, “You haven’t told your mum, have you.”

I shake my head.

And I hate him. I hate Jamie right there. Not for saying the right things, but for meaning them. I don’t deserve someone so genuine. What I need is more fake emotion and hollow promises, something I can battle against. Please no more understanding. Please no more fucking help.

There’s another scene: mum by the phone, in the green Townsville heat, throwing back her steel-wool hair and artist’s eyes with her snide patronising calm. Saying, don’t worry about a thing. Meaning, I told you so.


6 February 1973

A month later, and my legs still stick to the car seat. I’m driving past the pub, with a storm building behind me, and a pile of finger paintings on the passenger seat. When I get home, Elsie and Jamie will be sitting on the verandah, talking and touching, my brother will be a thousand kilometres away, and I will wait patiently for the quiet death of another day.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


9 January 1973

It takes a while for things to start. They can’t get the old recording equipment to work. The clerk, or whoever it is, plays with leads and cords and power points until it finally whirrs into action. It’s a huge room, with tall windows which let in far too much light and heat. I had stood outside with Des, before they called him in. He’s always looked older than he is, but today he shrinks back to a stooping nineteen year-old in a sagging suit and tie. Only four years younger than me, his supposed protector.

Des sits up in the box with the little railing. He pleads guilty to wilful damage of property. For ramming Stefo Pinnatori’s rusty truck into a packing shed. Guilty of being treated like shit for his slave work, squatting over squash and zucchini and capsicum and every other bloody vegetable for 14 hours a day. Trying to quit the work and the priced food and crappy shelter but being laughed off. Nothing he could do but teach the greasy fuckers a lesson.

The old bastard Stefo pretends he doesn’t understand the oath, won’t put his hand on the bible, laughs along with the family with his big red mouth. Des’s legal aid looks fresh out of year ten. Nothing the magistrate can do but put Des in the local gaol for a month and hand him a twelve hundred dollar fine. They lead him out as I watch uselessly from my pew-hard seat. Vince and Gino and Paul walk out with Stefo and his wife. Paul blows me a kiss, and I want to be sick.

Elsie drives me back that evening. I give Des a change of clothes and some books before I go. He smiles, but I can see his fear.

There’s a scene of his face, full of excitement and nervousness, when he would camp in the backyard all through the school holidays, loving the escape. Even in winter, he would plead to stay outside. Still, it was warmer up north.


Elsie and I make dinner and eat it outside on the cane chair. After dinner, I go into Des’s room and sit at his desk. I write mum a long letter, but I know I won’t send it. My eyes are dry around the edges by the time I go to bed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


8 January 1973

That’s just another scene left smouldering in my vision. Of Des sitting in the cell, his hair swept back the way he likes it, forehead shining, the same way mine does. I plunge my hands into the boiling dishwater, feel for the sponge. Outside, the sky’s burning, baking the driveway and pounding its heat onto the kitchen window. I bring my face down close to the sink and take in the staleness of the air. My hair hangs down, long and brown and as heavy as hell.

I drive down to Patterson’s about five-thirty, the sweat on my legs sticking to the seat. The long green verandah turns the pub into a giant lizard, stretching out on the flint-hard dirt. It looks ten degrees cooler up on Mount Magnus, and probably is.

Inside, my skin quickly soaks up the moist thick air. There are three shirtbacks at the front bar; I recognise Nat Patterson’s large frame almost immediately, and Jamie Pearl, with his dad Kenny next to him. I sit down next to Kenny. He squints at me like he’s peering through a dirty window.

“How ya been Sally?” he says.

“Not bad, Mr Pearl.”

“Up in Stanthorpe yes’dy. Heard ’bout Des.”

“Did you?”

“Yeah. Bloody shockin’.”

Jamie turns around to face me.

“Get you a drink, Sal?”

“Cheers, Jamie.”

He nods to Nat, who heaves himself up reluctantly and goes behind the bar, his chequered shirt rumpling up in dark creases of sweat.

“Just want ya to know,” says Kenny, from behind the squint, “if there’s anything youse need, from the store or whatever ... ”

Jamie nods, his eyes cast downwards.

“Thanks,” I say.

“How’s ya mum takin’ it?” says Kenny.

“Yeah, she’s okay,” I lie. “A little shaken up, but no real harm done.”

Nat hands me a drink and says quietly, “On the house.”

We sit in silence as I sip at my beer. It’s cold and bitter and God it’s good.

“Elsie comin’ tonight?” asks Jamie.

“Dunno,” I say. “She was still at work when I called her.”

He looks disappointed. There’s a layer of sawdust sitting on the fair hairs of his left arm. I have an urge to run my hand over his wrist and up to his smooth brown muscles.

Soon enough, the pub crowds up with the farmers and the fruit pickers: scores of red faces and thirsty eyes. Kenny goes off to talk to some of the old characters, but Jamie comes and sits with me at a table behind the door. Nat is run off his feet as usual, but keeps his own pace.

Three Italian guys come in about eight o’clock and stand inside the entrance, laughing and talking. I recognise two of them from the police station—cousins, Vince and Paul. The other one I don’t know. They wave their hands at Nat, tell him to hurry up.

“What's the matter barman?” says Paul, throwing his arms in the air. “Can we get a drink in this town, or what?”

Nat ignores him.

Paul takes off his jacket. He wears a white singlet tucked into his jeans: a bright, brilliant white.
He says, “Can’t be that hard to pull three beers, can it mate?”

Nat says, “Wait your turn, mate.”

Jamie rubs his jaw and watches the Italians.

“Fuckin’ wankers,” he says loudly. “Whadda they fuckin’ have to come down here for?”

“Don’t worry about it,” I say, staring intently into my fifth beer. But it’s too late. Vince, in a luminous blue shirt, swaggers over to the table. His hair’s thick with something, the light swimming over his head in little ripples.

“You got something to say?” sneers Vince.

I see the tension growing in Jamie’s arms. I keep my head down, hope things go away.

“This pub’s for locals,” Jamie growls. “F’people who do an honest day’s work.”

“You a funny man? You a funny man are ya, country boy?”

Paul and the other Italian peel away from the bar. Jamie stands up.

“The only things that’s funny,” he says, “is your fuckin’ shirt.”

Vince ignores him. He looks straight at me, and sneers.

“Hey Paul,” he says, “remember this little chicky?”

“Yeah,” says Paul, puffing out his singlet chest like a songbird. He turns to the other Italian.

“Hey Gino, this little chicky’s brother was the one screwed over your Uncle Stefo.”

Gino stares at me with his glossy shit–brown eyes.

Jamie moves right up into Gino’s face.

“Why don’t you fuck off back to your zucchinis,” he says.

“You still working for your papa, country boy?”

“You still stickin’ ya cousin, faggot?”

Gino’s mouth explodes and he throws a punch. Jamie ducks it and charges into Gino’s stomach. He grunts in pain and Paul and Vince haul Jamie up by the shoulders and Paul knees him in the groin and Gino cracks his the palm of his hand into Jamie’s face and his neck snaps back with blood like a visor and he’s kicking with a cutting arc and Nat and Kenny and the others pull them away as they flail and swing in animal violence and I lose my breath and my thoughts are too many molecules and they jump and spin together with hate and pain and fear and all I can smell is the sweat.


I sit on the deck with the lights off as the sky fills again with spearing breaking thunder, the bulging clouds waiting desperately for rain’s release. Elsie’s footsteps come creaking up over the timber. She’s wearing woollen slippers with her nurse’s uniform. She hands me a mug of coffee and for a moment the lightning illuminates her wide face. It’s eleven-thirty at night and she’s so tired but she’s still beautiful. She sits down next to me on the cane lounge with a familiar squeak. It’s the sound of a year’s worth of late dinners and last drinks and easy words.

“You going to tell your mum?” she asks.

“Suppose I’ll have to now.”

“That was pretty stupid of Jamie.”

“He gave them what they came for, I guess.”

There’s the scene of Jamie being led away, with a teatowel over his broken face. The blood creeping steadily outwards against the white. The sawdust on his shoes.

Elsie puts her feet up on the flimsy rail that wraps around our deck. It bends out under the weight.

“You want me to drop you at court tomorrow?” she says.

“Yeah, I guess.”

I sigh with a wavering breath and close my eyes.

“Hey,” says Elsie. “It’ll be all right.”

She puts her arm around me and I cry into her soft shoulder. We sit like this for some time. The rain never arrives.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


They take the bus through the tunnel to Southbank. Sarah sits next to Cade, near the window, with the skin of her bare leg sticking to his. As they emerge into the afternoon, flashes of light flick over them in a semaphore code of sun and shadow.

It’s a pity you have to pay to swim, says Sarah.

What do you mean?

In the city, I mean. Or anywhere really. It used to be twenty cents, or free. When you wanted to go swimming, you just did.

I guess we’ll have to put up with Kodak beach, then.

Kodak beach?

That’s where we’re going. Our city’s wonderful manufactured swimming hole.

Isn’t it Streets Beach now?

Who knows. As long as we’re sponsored, that’s the main thing.

I guess it’s better than the river.

Hey, you’re the one who wanted to go swimming.

It’s just that you can’t go swimming there, really. It’s always full of kids and old people. Can you imagine the amount of urine that pours into that place every day?

I’m trying to.

Sarah hits Cade on the arm. You know what I mean, she says. I can never have fun when I don’t know what’s swimming in there with me.

You really have to let go of science sometime. It’s ruining your life.

Tell me about it.

They get off the bus and cross the road. They walk past the Lyric Theatre, past the courtyard with fountains and flags. It’s nearly three o’clock, but the air is still a thick summer soup; a wet blanket with no edges. It feels to Cade like his lungs are ready to rain. The oven-warmth of the day tries to work its way under his hair, under his skin. There’s sweat on his shoulder, where he carries large beach towel that he and Sarah will share. Sarah walks next to him wearing a pair of his old boardies, and a rash shirt belonging to Gale. She looks undersized and sexy. Cade feels suddenly happy in the heat. Sarah smiles at him, with her big sunglasses reflecting a fisheye version of her view.

They get to the fake beach. All around them are sunburnt stomachs and splayed legs on the grass, heads with water-plastered hair; sand socks on children’s ankles. Cade jumps down onto the beach from the concrete walkway.

Instant coastline, he says, dropping the towel down beside him.

Sarah steps down off the pathway hesitantly, one foot at a time—as if the sand is the water, as if it’s a winter deep end.

Cade wraps his fingers around hers. Come on, he says. Before all the good germs are taken.
Just a second, says Sarah. She takes off her sunglasses and unties her hair.

Hand in hand, they make their way down to the artificial tide line. They walk out to where the water reaches their chests, where Sarah suddenly dives under, pulling Cade down with her. Their bodies break under the surface, where the temperature is cooler, where everything is lighter and slower than the inverted world above them. They kiss underwater, in a weightless, spiralling holding pattern, and—for a moment—nothing else really matters.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Sarah returns to the room, with her make-up removed, with her eyes wet.

What’s your flatmate’s name, she asks. He just told me, but I didn’t hear properly.


I had an aunt called Gail.

G-a-l-e. It’s Welsh or something. Sorry you had to meet him. He’s not usually up this early.

He seemed okay to me.

Sarah leans against the window, her bare arms crossed.

And what about your name, she says. What’s the deal there?

There’s no deal, replies Cade, drumming his fingers against the wall.

No deal at all?

You need to go to uni today, sort out your exam mark?

Nah. Screw ’em. I’ll talk to someone next week.

Make sure you do.

Yes, dad.

Cade smiles thinly, and leads her out of his room.

They glimpse Gale’s curly head from above the sofa in the lounge room, baking in the glow of sports replay.

He doesn’t look Welsh, whispers Sarah.

Neither does Anthony Hopkins, says Cade, but there you go.

They make their way to the kitchen—its tall white counter with a soy sauce stain as its centrepiece.

Sorry, says Cade, filling up the kettle, we had a bit of a stir-fry extravaganza on Friday night.
Sarah nods her head and sits down on a stool in front of the bench.

You want some fruit?


Should be a big bag of it next to you.

She looks down. Leaning against her stool is—in fact—a large plastic bag, the sort that usually holds fertiliser, or woodchips.

Gale’s dad’s a grocer, explains Cade. Down at Rocklea.

Sarah reaches into the bag and it’s full of oranges. She pulls out two, with bright waxy skins.

These look good, she says.


Prefer tea.

Cade throws a bag of Dilmah into one mug, and a heap of instant coffee into another. Sarah reaches over to take a knife from the drying rack and begins cutting the oranges into wedges.
So, she says, her legs tangling together under the stool, do you think we’ve wasted the day yet?
Cade looks at the clock on the stove. It’s only eleven-thirty, he tells her. Give us a few hours.
You know what I usually do on a Sunday, she says, arranging the orange wedges on a plate.

What do you do on a Sunday?

I study.


Yep. I get up at eight and I have breakfast and I clean the kitchen and then I study.


I could have put together at least three revision plans by now.

Cade opens the fridge, and sticks his head inside. I don’t even know what a revision plan is, he says, his voice muffled.

Let’s just say it involves a lot of coloured highlighters.

Bugger. Cade hits his hand against the fridge door.

Don’t like highlighters?

No—there’s no fresh milk.

And it took you that long to realise?

Gale and I have a unique system of fridge arrangement. We restock it regularly with exactly the same items. That way there’s no worrying about when things go off.

Cade takes three milk cartons from the fridge, and places them on the bench.

I can offer you three varieties, he says, waving his hands like a game show model. There’s four-day old milk, week-old milk, and something from 1993.

A good year, replies Sarah. Black tea’s fine.

They take their drinks and the oranges outside, to the deck, and sit in Cade’s brown plastic outdoor chairs. Sarah bites into an orange wedge, juice running down the back of her thumb.
We should really have napkins, she says, licking her hand.

Hey, says Cade, there’s none of that around here. You’ve got to learn there’s more to life than fresh milk and clean fingers.

Sarah laughs. She says, I suppose there is.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Cade moves slowly onto his side. He doesn’t seem anxious. There’s a precious centimetre of air between him and Sarah on the single bed: the mattress lying on the floor.

This is pretty uncomfortable, she says, pushing at his green sheets, stretching her neck, trying to make it crack.

Cade turns his head away, and coughs. It’s only foam, he tells her. You get what you pay for.

Sarah smiles at him, giggling, revealing small yellow teeth.


Your scrotum’s showing, she says.

Cade stares down at the piece of dimpled flesh protruding from under the hitched leg of his boxer shorts. Pink like chicken skin. He pulls his boxers down to cover himself up, shifting his weight, lifting his hips off the bed.

You shouldn’t be ashamed, says Sarah, running her hand up his leg. Cade almost coughs again, but he holds it back. Sarah grabs the loose piece of skin between her thumb and forefinger, and rubs it gently.

Feels like silly putty, she says.


Silly putty. I used to buy it when I went to the museum with school.

She unbuttons his fly. Cade stares at the ceiling, listening to Sarah’s voice getting softer. He likes her, and he runs his fingers through her hair, dry with static. She’s a scientist, Cade remembers, as he takes his shirt off. She uses words like scrotum, and she approaches things in a rational way. Cade moves his hands over her shoulder blades.

The foam bed bends and bruises their twisting bodies, but neither of them seems to notice.

They wake to a late morning: light and heat pressuring the glass shutters, a day trying to hurry
them along. Cade’s room is a cube of uncertainty, as if he hasn’t decided whether to move in yet. Traffic noise mixes into the buzz of morning insects. Sesame Street crackles through a small black and white TV in the corner. Today’s episode is brought to you by the letter Q.

We should go swimming today, says Sarah, lying back on the bed, tapping her toes on the floorboards.

Yeah, replies Cade. We could if you like.

Sarah’s nipples lie at unnatural angles to each other, rolling chaotically on her round breasts like Cookie Monster’s eyes. Cade kisses each one slowly, if only to put them into context.

Sarah laughs, and tells him they should get up.

They watch TV for a few minutes in a light summer sweat, legs twitching under the sheets, skin prickling with heat. Sarah gives in first, struggling to her feet, slipping yesterday’s dress over her head, shaking back an unwelcome morning fringe.

Where’s the bathroom? she asks, a hair band appearing miraculously between her teeth.

Down the hall, on the right.

Thanks. Sarah ties her hair back blindly, and it sticks up behind her in a dirty blond frond. Cade watches her thick ankles as they pass through a gap in his bedroom door. He listens as she hobbles down the hall: the stilted steps of someone used to carpet.

He swallows, feeling the first swollen claws of a sore throat, and as he forces open the dirt-streaked louvres of his bedroom window, the smell of grass clippings hits him with a pungent tang. He stares out at next door’s roof, squinting his eyes up into its bright reflection, remembering yesterday like a movie script. The Open Day. Beer in plastic cups. Sarah in too-big sunglasses. Conversations about coloured chip packets and seven minute pop songs. It’s not every day you find out you’ve failed an 80 per cent prac exam.

Cade tests his knee against the wall below his window. The paint and the plaster creaks uncertainly. He picks up his shirt from the floor and puts it on. He has other shirts, cleaner ones, but it wouldn’t feel right with Sarah in her old dress.

He observes his fingernails, counting the white flecks that spatter across the faded pink.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


He wanted to watch a piece of art, so he walked the ten minutes to a bookshop and went inside and heaved a big book off a shelf and opened it randomly and watched the artwork, whose edges bled right to the page’s edges, and he thought about what he saw and what it meant and how it made him feel. He closed the book, and thought about why he would never be the sort of person to understand abstract intentions. Three minutes later, and he had the finger-burning start of a takeaway coffee in his hands. He held the polystyrene by his fingertips, waiting for the lovely moment when the coffee would be cool enough to drink and enjoy. Why was this something he understood more than 400 year-old brushstrokes, paint, oils, canvas? Why did a thought, a word, affect him more than the deliberate evocation of one artist’s eye? What if all the great artists sang or spoke or did all the actions that more easily summed up a thought? Perhaps not. Art was—after all—merely the act of obscuring truth and beauty in the smoke of their own descriptions.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Garth felt the heat, saw the bite, and waited till it turned white to really consider it. It was one of those long, relentless Brisbane afternoons, where the sun seemed to exist only to pan-fry one side of your face. Garth thought about cancer, lots of cancers really, dotting his face, those little seeds of death that grew popcorn-fast in public service announcements, changing colour, shape and size until they were as big as a doorknob and effortlessly fatal. Garth rubbed at the bite for a while, denying himself the nasty pleasure of a nail scratch, inevitably leading to bleeding, infection, minor terrors. He heard the mosquito droning, turning around no doubt, returning to scope and swoop and inevitably to bite again.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Unwieldy razors were how the city's crime lords began their descent into madness. Like some dark cloud the razors descended upon the sleeping city and laid waste to the sanity of even the most brilliant criminal. And how did the razors defeat the most canny, the most devious, the most abhorrently twisted minds in living creation? With 83 blades of pure titanium steel.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


As you move on top of me, I realise the difference between a man existing in one world and a woman waiting in another. We think—we really do—that this act somehow brings us closer together, this repeated mistake. We can try to ignore it forever, but somewhere, somehow, it falls apart. And it's falling apart for me right now.

Come on, you say, heaving away like a factory part. My spine still roars up molten hot when the moment arrives, but that's the way I'm designed. I smooth your back with the palm of my hand and the skin rucks up like the edge of a rug. We're both not so young.

Later, when all I can see is your shoulder, I shrivel up inside. The familiar Friday crack in the ceiling. Dragon Street stretching far away out your window. Guilt and pleasure spilt down my inner thigh. One shower. Two. I leave at three kissing your forehead, tasting your swirled steely hair, whispering I love you—this assertion that means so many things. I leave silently now, spurred on by the sweet relief of another detoured farewell.

When I pull up in the driveway it's invariably the same: the tight grip of fear around my throat. I sit in the car, on on the porch steps, and wait for my inevitable fate. But every night I stay, and every morning I wake, unbearably undiscovered. But it's never this bad. The front door shudders across carpet as I open it, and the horrible feeling of an empty house fills my lungs like a thick shimmering gas. For the first time, I sense the trust that exists within these closed doors and dark spaces. A family's secret pact with the night-time clicks and creaks, the wilful denial of their vulnerable sleeping selves. As in death, I think, those asleep cheat time and space, leaving the worries to those still awake.

Helen doesn't hear my shuffling steps or my bathroom coughs; she doesn't move when I lie down beside her. I notice the way our bodies have moved apart over the years; as we've slept, time has shifted us away, like those plates under the earth, until we exist on different sides of the world.

Tonight I wish life was circular, so that as Helen and I drift apart, we might meet again. I suddenly want to wake her and say things like I loved you once and how did I let this happen. But I don't. And so we sleep the rest of the hours together, until the alarm goes off and Helen starts the stirrings of a morning household. I stir to the clink of plates being put away, a kettle boiling, the creak of a water pipe. Children's voices too. Little flashes of white-blond in blue jerseys. I wonder what they'd think of me if they knew? But then I realise—in one terrible thought—that my own children could not possibly comprehend what I was doing to them. I could be no traitor in their pure simple thoughts.

I close my eyes again and you're there, with your black dress hitched up to your thighs, feeling me fucking you, hard and fast and blurred. I can't even picture you face. I scrape myself out of bed and retch into the bathroom sink. My eyelids are broken blinds, sagging sadly. I hate the fact that no one knows what I do. Helen would have told the kids to keep quiet over breakfast. Daddy's sleeping, Daddy's been working very hard.

And it's always the same, when they come back from Saturday soccer with ice-cream faces and there's Helen, smiling like it's all okay, like it's the first time we've ever met. I ache to tell her. I ache for the pure pain of confession. But I don't deserve even that.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


He found out, welcomingly, surprisingly, that it was all buttons. He had envisaged levers and coal fires, callused hands and soot-blackened faces. When he bent back the door and slashed the throat of who he assumed was the driver, he was pleased to see that the controlling instruments looked no more complicated than a home PC. With a slight smile across his lips, the wolfman settled into the comfy chair and began to figure out what was the best way to bring the train to a rapid halt.

Monday, November 10, 2008


In one of those ways she swept her hair back from her face, returned her hands quickly to the whirr of the computer. She picked it up again; she was carrying it—still live, still working—quickly up the street with the sort of stuttering steps shared only by the deeply impatient and the unbearably incontinent. Somewhere deep in the machine was a noise like the crunch of a soft apple and she scrunched up her face. She held the screen up and read the dangerously sick battery level. She hurried on.

She had on a thick coat, black-and-white houndstooth, appearing to be black with tilted white stars. It was far too hot for the coat but she had grabbed it instinctively upon leaving the house and had little time now to go back and return it to its hook. The jacket, and thick red stockings, and the burning hard drive in her arms. She was overheated, overtired, overrun.

Her destination was an unsure one—a computer shop she had half-remembered along a row of shops eight blocks from her house. A blind spot in her memory, perhaps, but she hoped hoped hoped she was right. Rounding the corner, a large yellow truck had pulled up over the pavement, stinging her with a blinding reflection. She closed her eyes, swore, and dodged out onto the road. She heard the car before she saw it—a green station wagon with wood panels, the kind they drove in American midday movies—and it swerved too late to avoid her, and her houndstooth jacket, and her computer. She slammed against the hood of the car, and her black-and-white arms shot out to save her, and the computer fell to the road, cracking, opening up, spilling whatever precious things lay inside it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


In order, perhaps, to calm my nerves as much as the rest of the staff, I escorted Montgomery James Levi to the nearby canteen. As we walked, he commented constantly on the "clean and proper" state of the hospital. He seemed not so much to walk as to glide. We got to the canteen and I gestured for him to sit at one of the bolted formica tables. A few people were scattered around the eating space, but were far too involved in utilising a precious meal break to worry about the suspicious cloaked figure that had just landed among them.

"Can I offer you anything to drink," I said, "to eat?"

Montgomery James Levi very carefully smoothed down the hair at his temples, seeming lost in a sudden thought. "I do not suppose steak is on the menu?" he ventured.

"No," I said. "Just sandwiches and jelly today, I think."

"Alas," he said. "As I had feared."

I sat down at the table, directly across from him. "Now," I said, "perhaps you can tell me what this is about?"

Montgomery James Levi steepled his fingers together. They were toothbrush-long, those fingers, bone white. "It is a matter of some delicacy," he began.

I sighed audibly. I didn't really know what I was doing here, except that this strange man had piqued my curiosity. But if he was going to keep on pretending to be in a Restoration drama, then he could keep talking in circles to himself. "I'm sorry," I said, getting up from the table, "I'm actually quite busy."

"I crave blood," said Montgomery James Levi, so quietly and calmly that I almost didn't register it.

Still half-out of my chair, I asked him to repeat himself.

He fixed me with his eyes, and they were so dark as to be crimson. "My apologies for being so crude, but the fact of the matter is I crave blood."

"Like a vampire?"

Montgomery James Levi coughed gently into his hand. "Yes," he said cooly. "If you insist on using that term, then yes, I suppose my predeliction is similar to, as you say, a vampire."

Something in me knew I had hurt my new acquaintance, but for the most part I was just truly unsettled. Despite myself, I sat back down. "What," I said, "may I ask, has this got to do with me?"

He leant forward in his chair. "Everything, Dr Atlie. Absolutely everything." He smiled then, revealing all his teeth.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


The dad was big. Big in every sense, like the way the back of his head collided with his neck like a thick rumpled rug. His scalp dotted in blond stumps, belying various attempts at regrowth. He had shaved it once—he often told me—for the army, but gave no further details. The dad wore failure proudly and defiantly, and had a constant angle in his eyes that said well why the hell not?

He was the colour red. A giant letter T. The hockey jersey he wore everywhere he went, from home, to the sports store where he worked, to dinners and parties. He liked to belly laugh and slap backs—good manly pursuits such as these—and when he did, those huge fingers bunched up far too tight and you felt the full dead power of a deli counter of meat he held in each fist.

Friday, November 7, 2008


He presented himself to us on a particular grey, greasy Seattle dawn. I don't know why I distinguished this morning from other grey greasy Seattle dawns, but for some reason that day I did. He came in wearing a long black overcoat—not something particularly out of the ordinary, except that the coat had a rich gold fur trim about the neck and cuffs. It was this, I believe, that prompted our normally polite ward nurse to rudely clear her throat and step in front of him, thus blocking his path. He simply raised his long thin eyebrows and genteelly cleared his throat.

"Hello and good day," he said, with a curious, dusky accent.

"Can we help you at all there?" said the ward nurse, folding her two impressive steam iron arms across her chest.

Suddenly he swept his hand out from under his coat, and it quickly became apparent it wasn't a coat but in fact a cape, lined with a glorious vermillion satin. The handful of us who had stopped to watch took a collective breath. Even the ward nurse took a tiny step back.

"I am contacting you," he continued in that strange accent, "because of the confidentiality and urgency this matter demands."

This is where I stepped forward, seeing something perhaps a little threatening in his eye, seeing an animal edge to his movements, suspecting drugs, attempting to place a long white coat and stethoscope across his field of vision. To calm him down.

He immediately swung his eyes (set so high on his face it almost seemed he was looking down at me, despite being the slightly shorter man) to mine and broke into a strange, brilliant smile.

"You must be in charge," he intoned. "My name is Montgomery James Levi, a citezen of The United States of America, and an ex-military man." He paused, then struck his forehead with a palm. "Ah, but my manners have displaced!" He held out a slender hand.

I shook it, and felt unseen power in his grip. "Pleased to meet you," I said. "My name is Doctor Atlie."

"Doctor Atlie. Yes. This is most beneficent of fortune."

I withdrew my hand. His skin was cold, and did not warm through touch. "What can I do for you, Mr Levi?" I said.

Montgomery James Levi rose up somehow to a higher height, and placed an oratory hand against his chest. He proclaimed, "Doctor Atlie, I know this might come to you as a surprise, as we do not know each other in the past, but please accept this as an act of destiny. My reason for contacting you is to assist me and also partake in this lifetime opportunity that presents itself right now."

The ward nurse—and all other observers—had since walked away, no doubt dismissing the weird cloaked figure as just one more problem they didn't need. What's more, a doctor of all people was keeping him occupied. Perhaps if I'd had a little more sense, perhaps if I'd been at the end of a shift instead of at the start—perhaps then I would not have turned to Montgomery James Levi and said, "Tell me what this means."

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Arrive at Central Station.

Game of cat-and-mouse.

Game of chicken.

Eat chicken.

Begin Magical Quest for Moist Towelette.

Befriend gruff but lovable dwarf.

Snow angels!

Put on pants.

Buy new pants.

Deadly game of chance.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008


You are thirty, bluebird tiny.
Nose a piece of punctuation.
Those are parts of you I notice:
shoulder shiver,
tendon quiver,
violet eyes that slake the light.

I am clumsy, thirty too.
My hands find edges, creep towards them;
My life spent in level lines.
They are safety,
and a failure.
Chances are a chance too much.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Something about the quiet wash of night, like a wave, or a soft splash, like water filling up an empty jar in an empty room. All that endless potential, all that indistinct possibility. Something so serene about writing when the day has washed away. Just a thought.

Monday, November 3, 2008


She saw the run of the fire well before anyone else: an arcing, angry line of orange snake-shifting across the thin-grassed plains. A nasty shiver of excitement then—whatever wild devil it is that puts its claws in at the edge of fear and pulls out the evil pleasure of watching unavoidable consequence unfold. She scratched at her elbow, watching as the dead skin fell lightly, impossibly, onto the tinder-dry verandah railing.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


— Hug your child every day, but not someone else's.

— If loneliness is a state of mind, then where is everybody?

— Too many hooks spoil the moth.

— Bus drivers are like fine wine. Old and bitter.

— Pride comes before "and Prejudice".

— You can’t tell a book by its cover, unless the cover has a title on it, or some sort of explanatory illustration.

— A good aphorism should be witty, insightful and life-affirming but most of all it should have a beginning, a middle and.

—Speak your mind, but most importantly, infuriate someone.

— Give a man a fish, and he’ll live for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll have to buy the necessary equipment, apply for a license, and check the local regulations as to whether there is a size or type limit on the fish he can catch.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Actual searches that have led people to this blog:
1. gestalt horses
2. horses and bitches
3. ghost stories about horses
4. maverick horses
5. horses of god
6. where can i buy a throw over and cushion with horses on?
7. man fucking horses
8. hairstyles for horses
9. horses
10. furious horses

What they found:
1. German man experiences both anathema and welcome sense-memory from Fanta.
2. A deaf woman unravels her mouth-reading obsession with a TV extra.
3. Edgar Allen Poe plus pancakes.
4. A misplaced noir detective solves the mystery of The Baby Sock Killer.
5. The figure at the corner of every party.
6. Office bureaucracy goes mad, also mysterious grit is stuck under fingernail.
7. Driving high into the hills with Eurotrash to score acid tabs featuring Hillary Clinton's face.
8. Descriptions of how cavemen did their dos.
9. Delivery of a grandfather clock is the precipice of suppressed trauma.
10. A blog where a new story is posted every day.

Friday, October 31, 2008


From the archives of the Hallmark Greeting Card Company, finally released under the Freedom Of Information Act: here is a rejected internal from Hallmark's short-lived and controversial Ultra-Specifics Card Range:

Dearest Pugface, grown-up now
But it seems only weeks
Though time is a burden
Like your neck and your cheeks

Thursday, October 30, 2008


And so when the clock came she wasn't ready and all she heard was voices from the front porch hidden from her by a thick glass door so what they said sounded like megaphone instructions from a sports day across the river where the water carried tone perfectly but not details of what the sounds were and so even though she was expecting the clock she wasn't quite sure it really was the clock and she had been attacked in her own home before nearly ten years before certainly but it was a fear that never really left her so it caused some deep-held confusion to bubble up or burst or do whatever it had to do to appear suddenly clearly in such a real way before her that the men may as well have been holding her down right then forcing a sock into her mouth and telling her to shut the fuck up shut the fuck up over and over even when she was quiet so quiet not even letting out the sob that hacked at her throat and that was the biggest injustice or true unfairness that they did not even have any goddamn rules any sense of fairness even though she did just as they asked and it is this fear that causes her body to freeze now even though the two men on her porch are just here to deliver a grandfather clock from an antiques shop she had bought two days before and they really were very nice men because she had spoken to them when she bought the clock and they offered to deliver it even thought they did not usually deliver and perhaps they did this because she did not have a car or maybe it was because she really loved the clock so much that she had to buy it even though she knew she had no way to get it to her house and that was real love or a real need or whatever you really want to call it because she was willing to own it even though she knew she would never see it again.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Some time ago, although not so long ago that things looked very different to the way they are now, there lived a family and, in particular, a young boy in the family, whose name is not important to the story, but if you should want to give him a name, why not something memorable, like Agar or Gaboo. These were not the sort of names people really ever had, despite what you might think, but if it helps you to place some "perspective" on this story, then go right ahead and assume that the world in which the boy lived contained swords or stone wheels or spacecraft.

Nonetheless, Agar (which is what we shall call him as there have been no objections nor better suggestions thus far) was an inquisitive boy, and was forever seeking answers to questions that no one had ever really expected there to be answers for. This made him something of a distraction to others, as he was forever seeking counsel on such matters as the whereabouts of his knees when he stood up, or where bats went during the day or crows at night. Indeed, Agar was seen—in the eyes of many who encountered him—as something of a nuisance.

While some of his questions could be brushed off with vague pseudo-science or folksy homilies, one particular question of Agar's vexed—above all others—all who were asked it. It concerned, quite simply, the act of life, something in which all the inhabitants of Agar's town immersed themselves in quite without worrying about its component details. What is life? Agar would ask, his little face scrunched almost into a question mark (an aspect of Agar's physiognomy that most people found particularly irksome: that someone could facially manifest punctuation was almost more offensive than the question itself).

What is life? The more people Agar asked, the more vague and diluted the answer got. When he had exhausted the intellectual capacity of his own (admittedly mentally exhausted) family, he moved on to neighbours, to elders, to prominent members of the community. None could provide an answer. When, after even the leader of the town—a charismatic woman had assumed responsibility for the day-to-day running of the borough on the back of a campaign that stressed her proven and hard-earned "innate genius"—failed to provide Agar with even a semblance of an answer (the best she could manage was a sort of glottal groan that those around could only approximate as the word "hair", which they were sure wasn't right), a fund was announced to enable Agar to travel to the far side of the country where there dwelt a wise old man, whose wisdom, while only anecdotal, was at least sufficiently geographically removed to enable the townsfolk a well-earned rest from Agar's annoying, scrunched-up face and all his whiny questions.

Before the day was up, the funds were raised, and it was agreed that Agar should begin his journey without fail. He left with the good wishes of all those in the town, and reminded that if he wanted to stop anywhere along the way, well, why not? There was nothing like taking a few days (weeks, months) to idle along and enjoy the scenery. And so Agar left, with a bright flame of curiosity burning deep in his belly, determined to reach the wise man and solve the mystery that had driven him forward at the core of his life for so long. But what were these mysteries when the greatest question—life—remained unsolved? He strode off with a solid purpose and an enviable speed.

And what of Agar, and the wise man? Did they ever meet? Did they discover the meaning of life? Well, that–as they say—is the question.

Nearly three months passed, and no one in the village heard tell of any news from Agar or the wise old man. Life in the town had become quieter, certainly, since Agar's departure, and people no longer stayed home in the afternoons for fear of running into him. Whole families strode out confidently in the late summer sun, letting their heads relax, with nothing but a warm breeze to fill them. The leader of the town took to jogging, waving at all the contented faces she passed and soon the main street was full of flowers, tended to by simple folk with simple dreams. Everyone smiled. After a year, Agar was almost forgotten. Only his family had the occasional moment where they would sense some small part of the world had shifted out of place. But they had, by this time, formed a dance troupe, so they were usually too busy to start thinking.