Monday, March 31, 2008


It was the day of the photos, and as such, Myron was not feeling altogether well. The worst part of him this week was a fawn patch of contact dermatitis on his left calf, which would be safely covered, but it would be just like management to insist that everyone wear shorts.

Previous highlights of Myron’s company photo: A swollen bee sting above his eye; an infected boil on the side of his nose not covered but rather enhanced by convenience-store concealer; an unfortunate case of psoriasis that caused clumps of his hair to fall out. All these horrific and unfortunate facial maladies captured with a business portraitist’s evil sheen—the ubiquitous grey sponged background only pushing his face further into focus.

Myron spent all morning in front of the mirror in a staff bathroom on floor 29, wiping madly at his forehead with a damp antibacterial cloth he had bought from home. So far, nothing had gone wrong with his face. He had stayed away from all flammable surfaces, sharp edges and potentially allergen-filled areas all week. No grotesque facial growths had sprouted overnight. His pus remained hidden safely away wherever it is pus likes to go in its downtime.

Five minutes to go. Myron washed his hands thoroughly with non-allergenic soap. He checked his suit and tie. Then, staring into his own eyes in the streaky mirror, Myron threw up. Just a little disturbance of his stomach—a warm jumble of the morning’s plain oatmeal and organic orange juice coating his chin, dripping into the sink. Myron swung his left palm against the hot tap, leaving a small bruise the shape of Mauritius on his thumb. A painful, close to the bone bruise.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Taking the long way around the park, I decide to keep on jogging, but only where people can see me. When I disappear behind a tree or shrub, and my only audience does not have opposable thumbs and the ability to gossip about my lack of fitness, I slow to a gasping walk.

I’m just in the process of contemplating what sort of darkness the day has turned into when the bat hits me right in the back of the head. I know it’s a bat because it screeches like a banshee, right in my ear, and I feel the rabid scrabbling of claws against my scalp. While never really having had the irrational fear of bats so many of my friends do, this is, to be perfectly honest, one of the more frightening experiences of my life.

Aren’t bats supposed to have some sort of internal-sonar-inner-ear navigation system to let them avoid just this type of situation? The number of bats that fly above this city on these long summer nights, and not once have I heard about one thudding into someone’s skull.

I realise that I have had my eyes closed the entire time, and that the bat has apparently gone on its way. I open my eyes, and it’s as if they have to readjust to the dark again. The world seems so much more shadowy than the one I’ve just left. Streetlamps seem to have abandoned their purpose, preferring instead to bow their faded heads. Sounds of traffic and city ambience have retreated too. I try to look up to find the moon, but the arms of friendly park foliage have muscled up above me, shielding any comforting reference to the night sky.

I reason with myself that the bat must have knocked me harder than I’d thought. I feel my head, and my hair sticks together in grimy clumps. I feel a slick wetness between my fingers. It’s then I hear the jangling. I turn around. A little man, covered with razorblades, is running towards me. Again, says my leaching brain. Again.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Monday. Staring at the numbers lighting up in their horizontal column. Turning my eyes to watch a sliver of the city rise up beneath me through the slitted window that runs all the way up the tower shaft. The name, written in pink, lines the rim of the lift, lit up in familiar fluorescent splendour. I breathe out slowly and shift my briefcase from hand to hand. Gravity gives way where I am going. The Bell End, as far as I have gathered, is something akin to a sovereign state. No one knows you are going up there, and no one knows if you ever come back down.

The lift doors open, and all I am greeted with is another door adorned with a simple rainbow. The Sign of Stefan, says an awed voice in my head. As I have been told, I press my palm against the rainbow and it lights up, one rung at a time—green yellow blue pink—and I feel a slight warmth through my skin. The door slides away, and I come face-to-face, unbelievably, with the man himself.

Stefan smiles at me, his dark eyes softening like juicy raisins. His teeth are brilliantly white and perfectly uniform; they are reams of freshly opened paper. He wears a simple black tracksuit, his body creating unusually square shapes from within its velour confines. Looking closer, I realise his body is actually impossibly boxlike, and that instead of feet, little casters roll hummingly on the pink carpet. The square Stefan moves his mouth, and a recorded voice comes from it: Welcome to The Bell End. Please step this way. Then Square Stefan’s right arm extends in a whirring “greetings and kindly proceed in the direction I am offering” motion and I step past him, my nose curling with the acrid waft of computer hardware slightly overheating. His face, closer up, is obviously prosthetic, but believable nonetheless.

Square Stefan shows me through yet another door, and it opens into a huge round room covered in wood-finish wallpaper, mood-lit in places with orange wall lights shaped like upturned seashells. The centre of the room is engulfed with the virtuosic shimmer of an illuminated lap-pool, complete with bejewelled lane markers and a golden childproof gate all around its edge. My eyes, accustomed as they are to the dark lift-ride up the shaft, feel almost violated by this assault of colour and pattern.

“It is half-Olympic,” says a voice behind me, smooth like a Siamese cat being guided the right way through satin.

I turn around to see what I assume must be the real Stefan, his eyes and teeth do the same raisin/paper trick, but this time, his body is definitely human; I am made almost painfully aware of this by the generous expanse of humanity exposed by Stefan’s loosely gathered kimono. He walks towards me, and I have to avert my eyes from the indistinct fleshy forms that appear from behind swaying silk hemlines.

“The pool, I mean,” says Stefan. “It is exactly half the official Olympic size.”

“I see,” I say.

Stefan turns to Square Stefan and claps his hands, quickly and up beside his shoulder like a Flamenco dancer. “Halstef, bring us some refreshments!”

Halstef turns on his tiny wheels and exits the room. I am left with the real Stefan, and the sound of a water filter ticking over somewhere above me.

“Halstef is my personal assistant,” explains Stefan, spreading his stance unnecessarily wide. “He was made in my image so as not to frighten any guests.”

I nod my head. The heat from the pool begins to make sweat prickle in my collar. I notice a laminated list of rules pinned to the side of the pool fence. One is No Hair Below the Waterline.

“But enough idleness,” says Stefan, finally wrapping the kimono back around himself. “You have been asked here for a reason, and that reason should wait no longer. This way, please.” Stefan motions towards a pair of extended reclining pool seats positioned against the opposite wall. I follow him and attempt to sit down in the chair, but as soon as I have leant my weight down on it, I slip involuntarily into a lying down position, my legs splayed out on the footrest and my eyes staring straight at the ceiling. Worryingly, a reflected image of myself looks back down at me. The ceiling of the room is one large mirror.

Stefan makes a satisfied noise as I watch his reflection ease into his chair. “So much more relaxing than a boardroom,” he observes, “don’t you think?”

“Must be,” I say, struggling to sit upright.

“Had them made especially.” Stefan taps a small plaque at the side of his chair. A modern purple font proclaims Another Quality ProstGreat™ Product. Stefan turns on his side and his face suddenly adopts a more serious timbre. “I must ask, Mr Whitman, that we enjoy ourselves, but also that we attend the very serious matter at hand.” The loose pact between physics and decency governing Stefan’s kimono collapses again, and I look away, mentally adding industrial strength eye-drops to an emergency shopping list. “Mr Whitman,” says Stefan. “I was wondering if you’d be kind enough to hold out your hand.”

I do so, hesitantly.

Stefan reaches into a pocket in his kimono and draws out a handful of crackly, brown matter, scrunching and breaking between his fingers like burnt paper. He transfers it to my hand, and I realise they are broken up old leaves.

“What would you say this is, Mr Whitman?”

“Broken up old leaves?”

“Precisely. I have to say, I had no idea you were as perceptive as you appear to be.”

I pondered Stefan’s statement for a moment, and studied more closely the leaf matter in my hand. It had been well broken-down; it smelt mulchy and honest.

“It arrived in my post office box almost one week ago,” says Stefan. “My private post office box, if you understand.” Stefan gives me a pronounced look. He knows I am not stupid. My position has certainly afforded me certain “sensitive” pieces of information over the years, some of which concerned the truth (or otherwise) about Stefan’s tower. Originally called The Night Companion, and now, officially, The Sky Needle, the tower had long been suspiciously regarded by certain powerful Conservatives as something of a “lighthouse” for illegal activities (due in no small part to the blinding light at the tower’s peak). While there was not a grain of truth among allegations that the tower served as a hub to certain imported substances and devious activities (the light was simply an accessory that did nothing more illegal than confuse incoming passenger planes), the existence of Bell End—and what went on inside it—was nonetheless a piece of information that only a handful shared. All I knew were partially confirmed reports of a “secret society” that met there to make, according to one source, “monumental decisions” for the city. Brisbane was a naturally suspicious place, and the constant presence of armed guards at the base of Stefan’s tower was certainly something that had never sat entirely right with the council, especially those in certain planning departments. Stefan was allowed to keep both his guards and his bulbous hideaway secret because—from the information myself and others had pieced together—this secret society evidently made decisions that those in very high positions of power valued immensely.

Stefan nervously smooths down his hair. I say smooths down, but really, despite a nervous hand passing through them, not one jet-black strand shifts out of place.

“I woke one morning and the package was here,” Stefan motions towards a drinks trolley beside his chair, “with these . . . leaves. Whoever delivered it would have had to have passed through the guards, the elevator, the rainbow access pad⎯even Halstef.”

“But why full of leaves?” I ask. “Why would someone go to all this trouble just to give you broken leaves?”

Stefan leans back in his chair, hands clasped behind his sculpted coif, body splayed open with scant kimono covering. “That, Mr Whitman, is a longer story. One I cannot, perhaps, convincingly convey.”

“What do you mean?” I say to a point well beyond Stefan’s freshly bared shoulder.

Stefan licks his lips uncertainly. “If I were to tell you the whole story,” he says, “I’m afraid you would not believe me. In fact, it is highly likely you would immediately get up and leave the poolside without enjoying any form of refreshment, and you would go back out that door, and as you are travelling back down my shaft, you would think to yourself: That Stefan, he is most probably crazy.”

“Surely not.”

“But you will begin to understand only by seeing it for yourself.” Stefan reaches enthusiastically into the confines of his kimono. I instinctively try to leap out of my chair, but the patented ProstGreat design only makes me fall back into a state of further prone-ness (I can see the billboards in my head: Even When a Swarthy Reclusive Millionaire Reaches Deep into His Personal Crevasses Right Next To You, You’ll Still Want to Lie Back in Comfort!). With my mind prepared for the worst sort of horror, I am relieved when Stefan’s hand emerges with nothing more than an expensive looking manila envelope.

“In this envelope is an address.” Stefan’s face darkens again, and I half expect TV-weather-report lightning to begin zigzagging from his storm cloud bouffant. “You will go to this address, and you will begin to understand why I am so deeply concerned, and why I have chosen you to help.”

I hear a whirring noise.

“Drinks?” says Stefan. “Nibbles?” His features have suddenly returned to those of a jovial host who always has his robot servant deliver his guests a silver platter piled with an artistically designed structure made of Pringles and pate de foie gras.

Halstef trundles towards us, holding the finger-food sculpture (it appears to be a comestibled recreation of the Temptation of Christ) with a specially designed suction attachment on his left hand, while somehow lancing four olives onto two toothpicks with his right.

“I assume you like martinis,” grins Stefan. “Shaken, not stirred, of course.” He laughs loudly at this joke, throwing his head back so fast that his crown of gravitationally independent hair appears, for a moment, to be existing in its own dimension. I suddenly picture him as a little boy in a sepia-toned family portrait, standing, sailor-suited, beneath the parental gaze of Rene Rifkin and Liberace.

This Stefan, I think to myself, he is most probably crazy.


He woke on a risty morning, rising from his bouch, slowly rubbing the slears from his eyes. His face, he was concerned to find, was slightly moist with speep. He padded down the horridor to the bathroom, turning on the hold tap and jumping straight in the shath. A quick shinse, a scrub with soisteriser, running some shanditionor through his hair, and he was done. Back in the bedroom, he quickly put on a pair of trants, slipped on a shumper and went to the kitchen. A nice cup of decoffee was soon on the boil. He sipped it while making broast with bargarine. There was an empty packet of grultanas on the bench, so he snacked on them too. It was going to be a gine day.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


From being everything, the sky slips too easily into nothing. It makes us die a little, I know—all of us—as we lose the horizon. We wake one morning, and the day and night have gone. They are now just arbitrary measurements, relative to nothing.

On this so-called morning, the 15th day of our voyage, we have lost our sense of identity. There is nothing, now, for us to frame ourselves against. We rely on manufactured points of reference; a magnet against which we plot our path; these maps spread like hope across entire cabin floors; using time and blind deduction where we would have once used our eyes. The grey-white stretches out forever, or perhaps just as far as we can see.

I am fortunate to have suffered this fate a number of times, and even though I know I can survive it, this does not make any difference each time it begins. At first, I think the ship is creaking—pressed between two muscled waves, then I realise it is the dogs, below my feet, howling low and strange. It is no wonder, the blind captives we have made them. This canine moan will be a sound we will learn to regard as natural, as the wind whipping our hair against our ears, as the pillow-snap of sails: another frequency with which to contend. A body’s rhythms change on such a journey: normality broken, collapsing back against each other, like ill-met waves before a storm.

And so I am first to-decks this morning, and I do not blame any other human head for remaining longer than usual under blankets; the urge to remain within dreams, or the darkness of your eyelids, is as strong as any drug when the alternative is a morning such as this. Sleep, now, is a vanishing world, but one in which you can at least feel safe.

My fingers stretch deep within my greatcoat, and I move—just for the sake of moving—across the grain of the rear deck. For the next five months, this sixty square feet of timber will be my observable world. It is far worse to remain rooted to your cabin bunk than to be up here experiencing something at least different to what you would on land. To many, they try to replicate, in their quarters, the exact conditions to which they are accustomed in their bedroom or their study in their own houses. This is not travel—this is ignorance. No matter how trying the circumstances, travel is an experience to be savoured, not an inconvenience to be endured. It is not as if every one of us on this voyage did not know, from the very earliest mentions of its planning, what we were to expect should we agree to join.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


The siren starts at three in the morning. We step bleary-eyed from our houses, arms tied behind us in figure eights. None of us have ever seen the sky quite as red.

Pink moon, observes our neighbour.

Dogs rush past our legs, howling. The fir trees seem lit up like a sports field. A baby cries, and we begin to shiver.

Our neighbour collapses. My wife grips my arm with impossible strength.

He’s dead, she says.

Lower body fat, I tell her.

Is that why we had a midnight snack?

Could be, I say, watching a dog’s jaw dislocate from pain.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


It became slightly worrying for Nora when she found a coffin in Clem’s toolshed: a polished mahogany casket sitting among the wood shavings on the workbench. However, it was only after she found Clem inside the coffin that she voiced her concerns. When Nora asked him what he was doing inside a coffin, Clem explained that he had borrowed it from the funeral parlour. He said he was trying to get a feel for the right size, and had she seen the price of caskets lately?

Nothing more was said of the incident until after dinner, when Clem and Nora were sitting in the living room, watching television. Clem asked Nora for the Yellow Pages. What did he need the Yellow Pages for, she inquired. Clem replied that he was looking for a burial plot with a southerly aspect and didn’t really know where to start. Nora got up from her chair, walked over to the dining room table, and packed away their delicately poised game of afternoon Scrabble. Then she went upstairs without so much as a goodnight. When Clem came to bed half an hour later, he didn’t even ask what the matter was. If he had though, Nora would have replied, I think you know very well what the matter is, before turning her back on him.

The next day, Nora went out to buy bread and milk, trying to forget about the incidents of the previous day. He’s just bored, thought Nora, he just needs a hobby, like stamp collecting. She was so caught up in her own thoughts that she almost ran straight into Mary from the florist’s. It’s the strangest thing, explained Mary to Nora, your Clem hasn’t said a word to me for all the years I’ve known him, and then he comes in and asks about the best time of year for fresh jasmine. What on earth for, asked Nora. Said he wanted to get his timing right, said Mary, whatever that meant.

When Nora got home, she discovered Clem on the living room floor, surrounded by all his old records. Finally, thought Nora, he’s found something to do that doesn’t involve coffins. Clem looked up at her. I think I’ve got it narrowed down, he said. Either Chopin or Sinatra. Don’t want to be too depressing, but Tristesse is such a beautiful piece. Not that I’ll be around to enjoy it, he added with a grin. Nora bit her lip and asked Clem if he wanted a cup of tea. Clem said yes, but added that he had moved the tea into a Tupperware container. When Nora begrudgingly asked why, Clem explained that he thought it would be a nice touch to use the tea caddy rather than an urn, to show he had a sense of humour.

Why on earth, said Nora to Clem, do you keep going on about this morbid rubbish? Clem told her that he was simply planning ahead, to sort out arrangements for his death, when it should come. Which would probably be next September. What on earth makes you think you’ll die next September, asked Nora. Well, replied Clem, how am I supposed to sort out both our arrangements without at least four months’ preparation? Both our arrangements? repeated Nora. That’s right, said Clem, it’s not a small job. I’ve got to cancel the newspapers and talk to the pension office and I haven’t even started thinking about fixing that leaky gutter yet. And you still haven’t told me how you want your side of proceedings to go. They don’t have to be the same I suppose, but it would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Nora stood silent for some moments, considering this development. Clem went back to his records, happily sorting them into small piles. Nora retired quietly to the kitchen to make his lunch. Maybe he was right, she thought. Maybe it was useless waiting for the inevitable. Maybe now was the right time to start planning. She took down a box of rat poison from the top of of the fridge, and stared at it for what seemed like a lifetime.

Monday, March 24, 2008


If you approached the scene, say, from above, spiralling down as if you had an expensive camera crane, you’d see the epic swirl of sorghum and you’d think not of westerly winds but of all those ghosts chasing patterns through the stalks. Certainly, on this sort of day, with the sky a sparse unbroken blue, nothing seems to be hidden in the air. The only explanation is something invisible, as strange as this seems.

But nowhere else is a vampire running, hustling, running through a wheatfield. He turns blindly this way and that, snaking from unseen captors, a parasol held wildly above his head. His shirt, his tartan cotton button-down, swings wildly about him, heavy with sweat. His pulse cracks loudly through his head, fistfuls of blood pulsing, circling and trading rhythms with his ragged breath.

Through the vampire’s shaken vision, glimpsed flickeringly through wheat-stalks, is the green promise of the woods beyond. He pushes on, stagger-running with hollow legs, fortuitously tripping as a dark stripe whirrs past his face. He throws himself to the ground and the cackle of nine more arrows hail over him. Their sharp speared tips glint in slow-motion in the perfect sun before thudding staccato beats into dirt. The vampire curses to himself. He senses more arrow-shadows screaming black through the wheat before their silver spits punch the soil towards him and he rolls quickly to his left, springing to his feet, jamming his conspicuous parasol under his arm and sprinting towards the edge of the field. His face begins to shred in the full light of the sun and he stifles his breath to a gasp, bending his head frantically down towards his chest. Just as he is ready to collapse, his body explodes from the wheat-maze as a mad dog would from a harness and he sprints the precious few yards to the dark haven of the forest.

The vampire dodges welcome mossy rocks, clambers over fibrous tree stumps, fighting for breath. The midday light has hardly made it down through the branch canopies. The vampire collapses to his haunches, clenched fists sinking deep into the leaf mulch, nostrils gratefully breathing earthy, cool air. He knows he cannot fall asleep, though this is all he wants to do, all—it seems to him now—that he has ever wanted to do. He places his soil stained fingers against his cheek. The sun has made tracks through his skin, turning it rotten and hot. He rises slowly to his feet, turning around to peer back the way he has come. They are still out there, he thinks to himself. They are never going to go rest.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


1. Derryn Hinch

2. David Hinchcliffe

3. David Copperfield

4. Mitch Pileggi (who played Deputy Commissioner Skinner on The X-Files, and who hosted a show called Magic’s Greatest Secrets Revealed)

5. Hank Azaria (who does voices on The Simpsons, where Principal Seymour Skinner is a character, albeit one voiced by Harry Shearer)

6. Azaria Chamberlin

7. Wilt Chamberlin

8. Walt Disney

9. Daffy Duck

10. Wayne Swan

11. Tony Lockett (who played for the Syndey Swans)

12. Tony Soprano

13. Dame Kiri Te Kanewa (who was a soprano)

14. Duke Ellington

15. Paddington Bear

16. Mr Curry (Paddington Bear’s Next Door Neighbour)

17. Christopher Currie.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


In which computers turn against you.

In which the cursor still skews sideways, even though you’ve pressed command-I again to get out of italics, so the cursor should really be looking normal, blinking in a nice straight vertical line, but clearly it’s not.

In which your font always turns to Palatino, thanks to a default setting two computers ago, when you try to tidy up the end of your word document by getting rid of that final, redundant return space.

In which the only part of your desktop picture, carefully picked, is that thin slice that appears to the right of iTunes.

In which American spelling is all that is accepted, even when you go into Dictionary Preferences and change it to English (Aus) for the fiftieth time.

In which you can constantly smell something burning every time you open your laptop screen.

In which you’re pretty sure you’re getting an electric shock through your wrist.

In which you do actually send an error report to Apple.

Friday, March 21, 2008


I wake at about 45 degrees. Head facing downhill, looking out across a bay. One of those winter mornings, grey and bleak. Boats huddled together at the dock, masts like a field of naked trees. I consider the world as it is, upside down, semi-hidden through my visible breath. Not altogether as bad as it could be.

I have something like thirty cents in my pocket, from the feel of it, enough for a soft serve ice cream and not much else. The irony kicks me in the ribs. I cough and roll over. During the night, my head will have filled with blood so I lie for a moment longer before rising for the cheap thrill of equilibrium. A few rowing crews glide past. Ridiculous boys in their blue singlets.

I find a phone box two blocks down the road. I put my hand into my pocket, mumbling a quiet prayer as I do so. I open my palm and smile. Forty linty cents. I put the money in the slot and dial the number.

Dad’s voice comes over the line, weary. “Whereabouts this time?”

“Not even a hello?”

My humour is met with dead static.

I cough. “I don’t really know. It looks like a fancy neighbourhood.”

“A fancy neighbourhood.”

I look out through the grimy plastic window. A pelican circles, with its rudder legs ready. “Probably. There’s a lot of boats.”

“There are a lot of boats.”


“You said there is a lot of boats, what you said made no sense.”

“Oh, right, sure. There are a lot of boats. There are also a harbour.”

Dial tone.

Nothing new.

I step out of the phone booth, zipping up my jacket. Maybe if I follow the water. Got to be going somewhere.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Looking out to the evening insect rain
I feel a pattern forming.
The torture of my thought:
Binge thinking, one way to describe it.

Images and phrases keep on gnawing
Away, like rats, uncertainty.
Really monsters made from
My neurons, popping clear like bubble wrap.

A lot of it is everyday thoughts
Conversations I keep as
Forensic evidence:
Verbal mugshots in sepia wash.

In between the swirling meanings
There’s probably truth, the real version that’s
The hardest to see, and the hardest to
Really understand.

I defeat myself daily, hour by hour,
A habit I should have grown out of.
But up here—you must understand—
There are no rules, just self-made monsters.

Made from memories
I have lying around.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


‘Dearest William’, it begins, ‘My deepest apologies for the fire. I lit it not as an act of malice or hatred towards you or those you hold dear, but rather as a sincere act of retribution on behalf of all you have done to hurt me.’ Lily sits back and stretches her back until it begins to hurt. Her chair is made of soft, flexible plastic, so that is gives pleasantly out under her weight, without any threat of breaking. She reaches for a bottle of electrolyte water and takes a deep gulp. The fan above her head takes lazy swings at the humid air. The heat in her apartment is like accidentally walking into a wetsuit. Outside, she knows, it is even worse.

She uses membrane-thin airmail paper on which to write her careful invective, pressing lightly with her ballpoint pen, letting weight come from the words, not the force of her hand. It is a kind of back-elbowed compliment, she thinks, the way the words flow from her head, so smoothly, but so itchily. She is the passive-aggressive poster girl. Still, her head feels like sand. Tub-thumps of the previous night’s drinking still make muted patterns in her thoughts. The unfortunate weight of anger’s momentum propels her forward, and blinds her to such unreasonable advisors as consequence and reason. She finishes her letter, and she mails it. I will receive it two days later. It will be a day I never forget.

Monday, March 17, 2008


There once was a great Violin Maker, whose house sat right at the top of a hill, right at the bottom of a great valley. When it floods, the Violin Maker told those who asked him, I will neither be the first to disappear under the water, nor will I be the last. When people asked the Violin Maker what exactly he meant by this, he just laughed, flittering his hands in front of his face. When they asked again, when they said Once more without the fruity hand movements thanks, the Violin Maker told them he just meant that because he lived in the highest point in the valley, he would be the last of the valley’s inhabitants to be flooded, but because a lot of people lived outside the valley, on higher ground, his house would go under before theirs. Then the people who had asked the Violin Maker to explain his comment about flooding some minutes before shrugged their shoulders and wondered why they’d bothered in the first place.

One morning, the Violin Maker stuck his head from his window and announced to the whole valley he was going to make the world’s Greatest Violin. When a passing Snake Salesman heard the Violin Maker’s proclamation, he wondered aloud if such a thing is possible. Of course it is possible, declared the Violin maker. For I am the greatest Violin Maker in the world! The Snake Salesman looked up at the Violin Maker’s window and said I wasn’t actually asking you for your opinion, I was literally thinking aloud to myself as to whether or not such a thing was possible or not. Ah, said the Violin Maker, but you did wonder. And I must tell you that despite your doubts, this violin can be made!

The Snake Salesman had got quite tired standing underneath the Violin Maker’s window and said, Actually, forget about it—I don’t actually care whether or not you can make the greatest violin ever. It doesn’t really affect me one way or another. The Violin Maker stroked his beard, which was in fact not a beard, but some horse hairs stuck to his chin with gum. Ah, he said, my dear friend the Snake Salesman, do not you wish for a Violin with such sweet tones as to make any snake your pet? Not really, said the Snake Salesman, moving his cart along.

The Violin Maker spent the next weeks in immense torment. Every time he mentioned his grand plan to someone passing under his window, they showed no interest, even going as far—in one instance—of throwing sharpened shards of terracotta at him. What if he made the Greatest Violin in the world, and no one ever wanted to hear it? What if the sweetest sound e’er heard by human ears—surpassed not by nightingale nor lute, song nor babbling brook—was destined to ring out only into time’s unrepenting ether?

Unperturbed, the Violin Maker decided to forge ahead with his plan, and nearly a year later, he had done it. One winter’s night, with a final flourish of varnish, the world’s Greatest Violin was born. Aha! he said, As soon as I begin to play this instrument, they will flock to my window! All those who doubted will weep for this instrument’s beauty, and throw themselves at the feet of its creator!

It was only then, after finally letting his attention fall from the Violin he had spent so long attending, he noticed the feeling on his feet. Cold. Wet. For some reason, water was lapping over his windowsill, and it took him some moments to realise what had happened.

Some days later, a young boy, ignoring his parents warnings not to canoe near the flooded valley, found a uniquely shaped piece of wood floating towards him. A squashed figure-eight of pearly spruce and pine, two cursive F-shaped holes on its surface, a neck with strings running down it: it was a singularly beautiful creation. The young boy put down his paddle, leant from his canoe and picked up the piece of wood. He held it to his ear, detecting an almost unearthly hum. Something rose inside the young boy, the first stirrings of melodic thought. The delicate curl where the strings met suggested the possibility of true art.

But then the young boy shrugged, and, kicking his paddle down into the boat, used the violin instead to propel himself home.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


While I know you’re supposed to start a story with: “It all happened when…” I’m not going to. If it “all happened” because of a certain inciting incident, then the story would be over in the first sentence, an anecdote’s-worth of narrative experiences tumbling down upon me, the protagonist, like so many half-bricks. And there I would lie, crushed and helpless beneath compressed time and space: the opening joke at a convention of theoretical physicists. So no, to say that it all happened—everything up until the end of when I choose to finish the story—with one moment is patently false. What happened was this:


Then this:


Then I rubbed my eyes the way tired children supposedly do, shook the paper and tried again.


That was better. Still, thin stripes remained across my vision. I say remained, but really they had only appeared a few hours before. I had woken up seeing the world through cheap primary school paper. Feint-ruled lines were everywhere I looked. Visions of my scraggy Grade 7 writing came to me then, polygraphing its way through the alphabet. It moved across the lines in my vision before disappearing somewhere beyond where I could see it.

The rest of the morning was much the same. At breakfast, words and numbers from my side of my wheat bran packet began to crawl away. RDIs and nutritional percentages, usually happily housed in a table of dietary information, began to swing seraphically into the sugar bowl. I imagined them as little missionaries, descending on those happy carbohydrates, ridding them of their tasty sucrose.

Needless to say, I couldn’t have my coffee at home, which led me—via a bracing walk—to this cafĂ©, this newspaper, these disappearing headline letters. This headline, flickering like candlelight. This, of course, was just the start.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


George stood by his window expectantly with his torch in his hand. He checked his wristwatch. “Come on Freddy,” he whispered fervently under his breath. “Oh do hurry up.”

Soon enough, a plump figure appeared through the darkness of the elm trees. It was Freddy, with his knapsack hung cheekily over one shoulder and a torch in his hand.

“Come on George,” hissed Freddy excitedly from the garden. “We haven’t got much time!”

George climbed out his window and joined his chum on the ground.

“Hullo there,” chirped George. “Are you ready to go?”

“I don’t know,” stammered Freddy. “What if Farmer Giles catches us in his vegetable patch? He’ll string us up and that’s for sure!”

“Pish, Freddy!” exclaimed George. “We’ve simply got to get some vegetables to make a feast to celebrate finding that smuggler’s treasure cave last week!”

“I suppose,” conceded Freddy, blowing out his cheeks. “That was a jolly close scrape wasn’t it? Imagine if those smugglers hadn’t fallen for our trap!”

“Yes, and good thing Jackie’s dog Shep alerted Uncle Andrew in time,” reminded George.

“Too right,” agreed Freddy. “Where is Jackie anyway?”

“Oh, you know girls, Freddy,” chided George. “Always running late.”

Freddy chortled. Suddenly, there was a noise in the bushes. George switched on the torch in his hand.

A ruddy-faced, boyish girl emerged from the blackberry bushes. It was Jackie, along with her young sister Pip, and their Old English sheepdog, Shep.

“Oh, no!” exclaimed Freddy. “Not another girl! I don’t mind you bringing Shep, but this is a real adventure Jackie. We can’t have Pip slowing us down!”

“Pooh to you Freddy,” retorted Jackie. “Pip is braver than you!”

“Come on, you two,” advised George, pushing back his straw-coloured hair. “Do stop bickering so we can get on our way.”

Jackie and Freddy reluctantly switched on the torches in their hands and started walking. Before long they were at the entrance to Farmer Giles’ farm.

“The farm is awfully dark at night,” murmured Pip, holding firmly onto her sister’s blue overalls.

“Tosh, Pip!” ejaculated Freddy. “You’re just a scaredy-girl!”

“Why don’t you climb over first then?” scorned Pip, her cheeks burning fiercely.

“Yes,” proposed Jackie. “You go over first Freddy. If you can, with all your fat!”

“Now look here!” Freddy exploded.

“Settle down you two!” interjected George. “I’ll go first. Freddy, you follow, then Pip, then Jackie, then Shep.”

So the four young chums and their sheepdog made their way stealthily across Farmer Giles’ cabbage patch. When they were halfway across, Freddy’s torch went out.

“Crumbs!” he yelped. “My batteries have failed!”

“Shh!” hushed George. “Farmer Giles will hear us!”

Just then, they heard footsteps behind them.

“Quick!” George uttered hurriedly. “Everyone turn their torches off!”

They all lay low in the dirt as the huge shape of Farmer Giles appeared to their left. He wore big black gumboots, and had a shotgun cradled in the crook of his arm. In his right hand he held a leash. The leash was attached to his fearsome black hunting dog.

“Damned rabbits,” muttered Farmer Giles to his fearsome dog. He swung his torch over the cabbage patch.

Just then, Freddy got some dirt up his nose and sneezed. “AAAA-CHOOO!”

Farmer Giles swung around to where the four pals were hiding. George could hear his footsteps coming closer.

“Okay everyone,” George whispered urgently. “On the count of three, run!”

“Okay, George,” they replied.
“One ... Two ... Three ... RUN!”

The four chums got up and ran as fast as they could back to the gate. George helped Jackie and Pip climb back over it, but Freddy was still some way behind.

“Come on Freddy,” shouted George. “Hurry up or the dog will catch you.”

Sure enough, George could see the black dog bearing down on his portly chum. Just as the dog was about to reach Freddy, the white shape of Shep cut between them and distracted the black dog just long enough for Freddy to get over the fence. George scrambled over after him and went to find the others, after switching on his torch.

The four chums eventually found each other, and sat in a clump of blackberry bushes, out of breath and ruddy-faced from their escape.

“That was a close scrape,” observed Freddy.

“Too right,” agreed George.

“But what about the vegetables?” asked Pip.

“And what about Shep?” inquired Jackie, with a hint of boyish anger to her voice.

Just then, Shep came bounding through the bushes, covered with leaves and dirt.

“Shep!” exclaimed Jackie. “You saved us!”

“Looks like he led Farmer Giles’ dog a merry chase,” japed Pip. “And look at all the vegetables that are tangled in his coat!”

Sure enough, Shep had cabbages, carrots, potatoes and leeks all through his shaggy fur.

“You’re right,” laughed George merrily. “We’ve got enough vegetables here for thirty feasts!”

“I think you’d better thank Shep for saving you from that dog, Freddy,” urged Jackie.

“All right,” conceded Freddy, going over to Shep. “Thank you for saving me Shep.”

Shep licked Freddy’s face, leaving it covered with dirt and mud.

“Ha ha!” joked George. “Now you look like a bally Golliwog, and no mistake!”

They all chortled and went home to tea, with their torches in their hands.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Patient presents with symptoms in early July. Is recommended to me by Dr Phylis Hautmann, at the Kretz Institute. Dr Hautmann also present for initial consultation. Patient, Angela N____, arrives for appointment early.

Briefed by Dr Hautmann before Angela N is ushered in to see me. Dr Hautmann explains the situation. Or, to be more accurate, the situation comedy. SITCOMS, I write in the little notepad I keep by my desk. The word seems like an acronym for almost anything.

Ask Dr Hautmann to repeat herself.

She replies. Half-hour sitcoms.

Angela N enters office, just as Dr Hautmann leaves. Angela seems somewhat distressed.

Angela N says: I thought I was being referred to you.

Reply: You are, but Dr Haufmann was giving me some background information.

Patient sits down, sighs.

I probe as to the origins of her condition. Angela N tells me everybody loves Raymond. I infer Raymond a past lover. Theories begin forming. Transference issues. Everyone loves Raymond except her. Then she says: According to Jim— and I wait for her to continue, but she doesn’t. Is this Jim a friend she confides in?

I just continue to nod.

Patient: Married with children.

Infer: Messy divorce.

Patient: All in the family.

Infer: Repressed abuse. Father?

Patient: Three’s company.

Infer: Father and Uncle?

Patient: Empty Nest.

Infer: Abandonment.

Patient: I love Lucy.

Infer: Confused sexuality.

Patient: Charles in Charge.

Infer: Unnatural dependence on new male figure.

Patient: Bless this house.

Infer: Religion as emotional crutch.

Patient continues to express a list of psychological problems far too complex for even me. Tell patient to wait outside.

Phone Dr Willis at the Institute. Explain case history, symptoms.

Dr Willis says: Happy Days!

Different strokes, I infer, for different folks.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


The air, well it’s clear. Night time winter clear. Wet cold atmosphere tearing up your nostrils. Bringing to mind pure oxygen, the clear ambo’s mask with the little clip cutting the bridge of your nose. Much older, safer now, of course, hands plunged deep into jacket pockets, the queer plastic money coating my fingers.

Why I prefer to walk, I’ll never know. The anonymity in those dark spaces between the streetlamps, maybe. The scuff of bitumen turns to a gravely scratch, and I know I’m close. Up above, the floodlights beam down intermittent yellow. Those few hardy winter moths skitter above, tracing personal paths.

I’m greeted at the gate. Nodding, saying nothing. Down through the chain-link gates. Sky opening up, matt black above the artificial green and brown. The old fruit bowl smell. I place my bets and walk to the track. I sit with the usual figures, bent over, paper-taloned. Sensing the dogs rush by, never moving our eyes from the finish line. Imagining our money, up there somewhere in the empty air, deciding whether to float or fall.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


So I’m stuck now, with this tarnish mark in my own lamb-soft shirt, a shirt I bought only two hours ago. Mustard. Stupid, stupid mustard. How can this off-brown topping, so ordinary, bring about so much pain? I watch as my shirt’s thin cotton hungrily absorbs it. Crappy luck, my habitual companion. Not a napkin in sight. I’m riding a bus, stuck with a rank hobo too tight my right, and a craggy dribbly OAP nodding off on my contrary arm. I try rumbling my throat, to no avail. My stop is still a way away, so I just sit and wait it out.

I’m in a foul mood as I alight from said bus. An annoying rain whirls around, thus obscuring a particular social contact I know walking straight at my struggling body. Jim. That’s him. It all floods back. An awfully loud irritation from an awfully bad party last Friday.

“Hi,” says Jim.

“Hi,” I say.

“How was that party?”

Is this all Jim has to talk about?

“It was okay,” I say. I try to show Jim what discomfort I’m in, struggling to prod his subconscious into action. I blow my hair away with what I trust is frustration.

“Man,” says Jim. “Did you stay long? Did you stay for that limbo-off? That was so cool.” Jim acts out a limbo for my instruction, as if I don’t know what it is.

“No,” I say. “I didn’t stick around for that. Anyway, I should probably shoot along…”

“Oh no!” shouts Jim, pointing to my shirt. “Is that mustard?” His words run out rapidly, as if having mustard on your shirt is a total crisis situation.

“It is mustard,” I say. “What can you do?”

“Club soda,” says Jim. “Club soda and, you know, and also drip a bit of citrus on.”

“What sort of citrus?”

“I don’t know. I think cumquat’s good.”

“Thanks Jim,” I say. “But I think I ought to go on my way.”

“Alright,” says Jim. “Ciao.”

His Italian is awful. Jim walks off. Now, what was I taking that bus for?

That’s right! I had to buy a tepee! And a toupee! I step over some scree, cerebrally, the evanescence of my independence wheeling freely in my head. It is indeed a good day, it has turned out.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Phil Collins, circa 1989, riding on the back of the success of his smash-hit album …But Seriously. The London Astoria is rocking. Phil is taking the place apart with his voice. He hits the first “oh” in Another Day in Paradise, wishing to all hell David Crosby could’ve made it to sing backing vocals like he did on the album, but unfortunately David Crosby is too busy resurrecting his solo career with his album Oh Yes I Can, which he isn’t playing at that moment, rather he is sleeping in a hotel room in New Jersey, sleeping as his liver silently processes a day’s worth of drinking, the same liver that will be transplanted some 6 years later, giving him the power to keep living, artificially inseminate a child for Melissa Etheridge, and go on looking like the North Wind, with his big white hair blowing behind him.

But Phil powers on with Another Day in Paradise, his impassioned cry for better understanding of the homeless. He wishes he had put more synthesised drums in the track, a fact which he makes up for in this particular concert by stacking the back of the stage with hexagonal drum pads which he will later sit down behind during the encore and knock the fucking shit out of. But he’s the front man tonight, in a proper black muslin shirt and fisherman’s pants, way before people will start wearing this stuff for fun.

Phil likes being the front man. At every gig, he imagines Peter Gabriel sitting in the back row, shaking his head in awe of the superstar vocal powerhouse that is Phil Collins. That’s what you get for playing the flute, Phil thinks. Even if you knocked Invisible Touch off its US #1 perch two years ago with that muted guitar claptrap Sledgehammer. I’m the Artful Fucking Dodger, thinks Phil Collins. I’m Buster Fucking Edwards.

Phil Collins, singer, actor, voices of both Muk and Luk in 1995’s animated feature Balto, will win a Grammy with the song he’s singing now. He will win an Oscar in ten years time for You’ll Be in My Heart, an original track from Walt Disney’s Tarzan, a song that is so popular that it will be eventually be covered by Usher, Teddy Geiger and Corben Bleu.

As Phil finishes the song, he closes his eyes, wondering about the future. Can he see, somehow, if he looks hard enough, that one day Bone Thugs-N-Harmony will induct him as an honorary member under the moniker “Chrome Bone” after they collaborate on a cover of his song “Take Me Home” called “Home”? Only Phil knows, and he’s not telling. He’s singing himself into history.

Sing on, Phil Collins. Sing on.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Hello and congratulations on your decision to welcome a bassoonist into your home! As you are no doubt aware, bassoonists offer their owners a loyal and loving companion, but also the unparalleled feeling of satisfaction when the first warm, earthy tones of bassoon begin to fill your house, and—as you will see—your heart.

As you have received this pamphlet, you can be assured that your bassoonist comes from a registered supplier, and that your bassoonist is as healthy and happy as he or she could possibly be. However, it is important to physically examine your bassoonist before purchase, as they, like other woodwind musicians, are susceptible to inherited physical defects. To ensure a trouble-free transition, please be undertake some simple preparations before bringing your young bassoonist home.

It is imperative, for instance, to create a “rest area” somewhere in your house for your young bassoonist, who will no doubt be apprehensive and slightly unsure about his or her new environment. This “rest area” should include warm bedding, water, and at least three replacement reeds. Remember, bassoonists only use double reeds; presenting a single reed is likely to provoke hostility and identity confusion (what is technically called “Clarinet Sublimation Syndrome”) at this early stage of his or her development. This “rest area” will be where the young bassoonist will rest while not practising.

Once your bassoonist is comfortable in their new home and re, you may introduce them to their playing environment—the place where your bassoonist will spend the majority of his or her young life. Most experts recommend a simple “study room” arrangement that is challenging yet comfortable. A simple desk, chair and music stand should be all your young bassoonist needs to begin the long journey of musical fortitude. Please note that, if possible, windows should be avoided.

It is very important to instil the importance of practice and discipline in your young bassoonist. While an early period of “creative rest” is not unheard of, it is the commonly accepted wisdom that bassoonists respond the best to constant and unyielding “practice rules” from the very moment they arrive in their new home environment. This means a mutually agreed-upon schedule of bassoon practice, usually consisting of at least 14 hours of dedicated practice per day. For the first few weeks, while their bodies are still developing, it is recommended that approximately 80 per cent of practice should consist of anhemitonic pentatonic scales. This percentage should be amended appropriately through the first year (please see the attached pamphlet, “Phrygian Follies”). This is not to say that practice should not be enjoyable. Allow your young bassoonist to choose one poster of a musical hero to paste above their desk. This allows the bassoonist to express his or her “fun side”. Do not allow posters, however, to exceed an A4 size.

After the first few years, following these simple guidelines, your house should be filled with the agreeable strains of bassoon music. We wish you many pleasant years of ownership of your young bassoonist. For further information, please subscribe to our mailing list.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


Twenty-eight hours in and his shoelaces spoke. He expected them to talk with two voices but he was soon reminded that they both came from the same thread to start with, and anyway, hadn’t they seen exactly the same things in their lives, albeit from a small distance apart? Stamped and cut from the same endless brown cord, or so they said, spooled out from a giant reel, forever turning. They spoke with an accent at once indefinable yet perfectly understandable as the voice of shoelaces. They postulated knots he could try, wondered aloud which of his feet was the largest, generally groaned at their own unevenness. They seemed overly concerned with symmetry.

Twenty-nine hours in and their voices died down. He held his tongue between his teeth and focused yet harder on the view through the tiny window. A wet oblivion. Intermittent flooding, water lurching up against his complaining shoes, pouring in from some point outside his cramped field of vision. He wondered, as he did often, if perhaps this Hell only existed within his perceptible portion of the outside world. He wondered if only when he stood up and unfolded himself from his vantage point would he realise that beyond his dirty window, barely bigger than a postage stamp, the world was good and clean and just the way people expected it to be.

He shrugged off the thought like so many others and hunched himself further up the ledge, allowing his legs some small respite from the pain throbbing down from his knees. In the distance, a long-tailed bird wheeled black arcs against the grey. An edgeless screech like drawn-out death wailed where morning sounds should be. He felt around in his mouth, following ulcers like a star chart, wishing for any part of the deep green leaves flapping at his window to be lolling on his tongue, imparting vitamins and minerals so to heal his aching body.

During these stretching hours, he rationed out glances at his digital watch, rewarding his curiosity only when he couldn’t stand it any more. He had begun to dread the constant obedience of the lurid green numbers; each frantic check would reveal the time had progressed only mere seconds. His notebook swelled in his pocket, engorged with moisture, pages curling and twisting, inviting him to smooth them down. But he knew nothing new remained in those pages; he had read all those words to death. All that remained was what was to come. Whenever it was that it came.

And there, in hour number thirty, was a movement. Nothing but a tiny twitch—perhaps the mistimed splash of a raindrop—but there it was, real, through the window, and it snapped him from his stasis. He flicked the button on his camera and technology took over, flipping its lens five seconds into the past, tiny synapses firing messages that focused and defined a stamp-sized image into super-compressed parts, downloading them simultaneously to three hard drives buried deep in plastic five kilometres to the west, as distant from his cramping rain-filled solitude as the bottom of the sea is from the tip of the sky. And then the movement was gone, captured and corralled in a silent second as his thumb depressed and lifted the camera’s trigger, as the view returned in an eye-blink to rain-patterned monotony.

Still, his heart thumped right at the pit of his throat. He imagined the camera-captured image, crystal clear and full-colour, flashing across the retinas of the world. An image made famous, perhaps. In an age of everything-at-once, he alone was responsible for an isolated singularity that had never been seen before, and perhaps never would be again. He allowed himself a small smile, shuffled further up onto his ledge, and continued to wait.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Reasons why I write in capital letters include it GETS ATTENTION and it COMMANDS RESPECT. Put the way I write next to the way an ordinary person writes, and the difference will become PAINFULLY OBVIOUS. Painful in that you might have given the job of advertising your new brand of fruit drink to the other person, whereupon there will be a little TIGHTNESS IN YOUR CHEST after you have seen my writing and realised what you have CLEARLY MISSED OUT ON.

You will, inevitably, begin to BARGAIN with me. Despite the no doubt exorbitant amount of time, money and effort you have put into employing the other person to advertise your fruit drink, you clearly MUST HAVE ME INSTEAD. When you hear my price for advertising your fruit drink you will BE TAKEN ABACK. This is a CERTAINTY. For far from the excessive fee you would expect from my LEVEL OF BRILLIANCE, you will find the price I’m asking to be EMINENTLY REASONABLE.

Upon conferring with me, you will also find my business manner to be both EFFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE. The timeline I will propose to you by which I will successfully advertise your fruit drink will be WELL-BELOW INDUSTRY STANDARD. This should not be a worry, however, as you will reason by my PROFESSIONAL APPEARANCE and PROVEN TRACK-RECORD that I am a person who operates OUTSIDE NORMAL PARAMETERS.

Once our deal has been agreed upon (A HANDSHAKE IS FINE FOR ME) I shall begin your PERSONALLY DESIGNED PROJECT. Please note at this time that I do require UP FRONT PAYMENT. This is, of course, to ensure little to no unnecessary DISTRACTING FINANCIAL NEGOTIATIONS to my creative process. Please also note that I will be undertake NO COMMUNICATION during the creative process.

I accept payment in CASH ONLY, due to CERTAIN FINANCIAL RESTRAINTS placed on me by a FRIVOLOUS COURT ORDER arising from a PREVIOUS AND TOTALLY UNRELATED creative venture. Far from being alarmed about this SLIGHTLY UNORTHODOX SITUATION, you should be heartened by my GOOD OLD-FASHIONED BUSINESS SENSE, wherein I place PERSONAL PROMISES above STUFFY, LEGALLY BINDING DOCUMENTS.






Friday, March 7, 2008


Imagine you’ve bought a brand new computer, and that slightly strange guy who used to work with you but you didn’t really know comes around, because you remember he once mentioned he did something with computers. So he comes around, and doesn’t knock at your door, but sort of scratches, like a cat might if it wanted to come in at night. The first thing you notice are those arms of his. You know something’s wrong with them, but you really have to concentrate to work out what. When you’re filling the kettle, you realise that maybe they’re too short for his body. So you lean your head back around the kitchen door to look at him again, sitting like a statue on your couch and ask for the second time if he has sugar but really you just want to check out those arms and yes, they definitely are too short for his body. Way too short.

So imagine you’re sitting there with this guy, who tells you to call him Fozzy, even though his name is Frank, which is a perfectly respectable name, but that’s what he wants and you guess that’s okay. Imagine you’re sitting there, and he’s looking at you with a weird quizzical look like he’s waiting for a secret track to kick in on his favourite CD and you can’t for the life of you work out how you can steer the conversation back to computers because for some reason you’re talking about some documentary you saw the night before about jellyfish, really big—giant, really—jellyfish that live at the bottom of the sea and have these strange shapes and appendages because they’ve never seen light.

Fozzy (Frank, whatever) nods ever so slightly from time to time, but the only other movement is his squinty eyes, which remind you of sultanas, how when you squeeze them a little bit of oil sometimes comes out. You realise Fozzy’s eyes are watering. Not crying, just leaking. You realise this and stop talking about giant jellyfish. You ask him if he’s okay and he mumbles that yes, he is. You want to offer him some tissues, but can’t for the life of you think where some are. You know you can’t offer guests toilet paper to dry their eyes with. You mention to Fozzy how when you go to shopping centres without your glasses sometimes your eyes get really tired and dry from the air conditioning.

Then Fozzy seems to snap out of it, does a conservative little interlaced finger thing and apologises. You tell him that’s okay, but he’s welcome to come back another day if he’s not feeling well. Fozzy says something then, very quietly. You say, pardon, didn’t quite catch that and then Fozzy looks you straight in the eyes and says I killed my mother this morning.

The feeling you’re feeling when Fozzy says this is what it feels like to have left the house on a day that looked fairly nice, and just when you’ve walked too far from the house to turn back, you realise that it’s raining and that it’s not normal rain but actually very sharp swords falling from the sky. In fact, you take a small, long sip from your cup of cooling tea and size up the possibility that Fozzy is telling you a joke. The moisture from his eyes runs down in two concurrent streams and disappears into each corner of his mouth, which may just be the most unsettling thing you’ve ever seen.

You ask him if he knows anything about computers and he says no.