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.