Saturday, May 31, 2008


Brilliant Jarvis was born, of course, brilliant. The doctor agreed—he’s just brilliant, Mrs and Mr Henry, just brilliant—and there was no other comparison to make. His brilliance shone from his forehead not as a shining light, but as if the shiniest light was reflecting off him, and that there was no one else it would ever have chosen to shine off. He was chosen, not by someone or something, but just chosen.

Later in life, when casually-dressed people gather to protest a supermarket, Brilliant Jarvis will be the one to call them radicals. The papers pick it up, and, of course, the rest is history (albeit in a future tense). When there is no more room left in the car to put a lush rendition of a particularly lovable Olympic mascot, it is Jarvis who brilliantly suggests the use of suction cups.

No one else looks out that window, he observes, as if answering an inner monologue (which is, of course, how he speaks), and his parents can not help but agree that yes, no one does look out that window, and that yes, the plush rendition of the mascot would fit very well with suction cups attached (—and that way, everyone can see it when we’re driving!— his mother will say).

Brilliant Jarvis began his life among the angle grinder ankles of professional carers. He saluted a flag whenever he saw one, even though no one had told him to do so, and no one could remember ever showing him anyone doing it. His professional carers commented on his alertness, his politeness and, of course, his brilliance. The only problems were the disappearances. Jarvis would go missing. He would tell his parents, of course, that it was a societal problem, that fifty years ago no one would have minded, that it wasn’t his fault that the private fears of our collective consciousness had not only caught up with society but had indeed overtaken it. His parents told him he was so brilliant that they were worried someone else might want him. He showed them an article from The Bulletin on date rape.

Later, Jarvis will lecture about such matters. He will say a normal person can’t guiltlessly fathom having sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with them. There’s no pleasure, he will argue. It’s the sexual repression early in the life of an individual, he will contend, that really matters. Jarvis will always prefer prevention to the cure.

Brilliant Jarvis was so brilliant he was given a video camera for his first birthday. He would make nature documentaries in his parents’ extensive backyard. He was not yet tall enough to explore the heights of trees, so he instead focused on ground level. He observed, through his diamond-grinded lens, the lives of bugs and worms. Although after a day or so of filming, he became inexorably drawn to the lives of ants; he loved their faceless toils and struggles, their strength and unquestioning industrial drive. Jarvis would lament, later in those days, as the wide sheets of sunlight began to shrink, drawing back, contracting like water down a plughole, disappearing between fractal cracks between black-shadow branches (becoming, as always, the soft nerves of night). Jarvis begged his parents for a television, and he began to watch his films after dark, drawn from sleep by ants crawling complex paths: indecipherable to him, intrinsic to them.

Many years on, Jarvis will meet the love of his life in an identity parade. Only moments after leaving the police station, Jarvis will reflect on ideas of attractive symmetry. The police officer waiting in the room with them will step hesitantly on the balls of her feet, so that when she walks it always seems as if she is about to fall over. Jarvis will walk more confidently immediately afterwards, assured of his correct posture, meticulously honed by the cheese-grater knuckles of childhood professional carers.

Although he had many carers through his early years, and although he respected them all, Brilliant Jarvis would love only one: not a homely Balkan, nor acerbic Hebridean: she was, of course, his mother. After many perceived failings on the part of hired carers, Jarvis’ mother assumed responsibility for her son’s welfare, which, she told herself, she perhaps should have done a long time ago. But rather than appear in her normal role, Jarvis’s mother assumed the guise of another faceless carer, hoping her son would not notice. She dressed as plainly as she could, wore too much make-up, and a wig. Jarvis, of course, did recognise her, but he was brilliant enough to realise that if he stayed quiet about it, he would spend more time with his mother in one day then he had in the entire previous span of his life. So he didn’t stay anything, and they were both happy. In time, he began to convince himself that his mother was a professional carer, someone who had trained to be what they were now as an extension of a previous, mysterious life, someone who would go home to another bed at night. His greatest joy in his forgetfulness was the little leap his heart would make when he saw his carer at the entrance to his bedroom door, a familiar face couched in a stranger’s clothes, and he would know it was someone he was excited to see.

Jarvis next applied his brilliant mind to street numbers. He was perplexed as to why odd numbers ran up one side of his street, and even numbers the other. He was often bothered by wondering who decided which side would be which. His house was number 62, and said HENRY in large letters along one side, in yellow writing. He used to pretend that the letterbox was called Henry, and that it wasn’t just his family name printed up to let the postman and other people know who lived there.

He was, in short, brilliant.

Friday, May 30, 2008


She had toes the colour of new five-cent pieces. It was after all that dancing, after all. She unbound her feet beside an open window, blowing in the high forgotten winds of winter. Deep down there, in the streets below, the streets were clogged with people. The trains had stopped running around lunchtime, giving birth to a new stranded urban population. She watched them: they were nothing but dots, charges in a quivering molecule. She felt her heat begin to dissipate, began to crave a thick shawl. Flexed her toes, one by one, reacquainting.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


The can of Fanta popped open without much fanfare, but Heinrich still licked his lips in anticipation. This was a taste he had not afforded himself in as much as ten years away from home. There was no sweetness in his new life. Only the bitter slap of artificial sugar on his tongue every morning after a coffee, the occasional pasty store-bought cake for someone's birthday, eaten from paper plates with plastic forks. Otherwise, it was carefully balanced meals of light grains, legumes and vegetables.

And O that first sweet sip of pure orange sugar was like orgasm, the thin cold aluminium and the fizzing cool liquid trickling joy down his throat. His head buzzed, his dietary denial finally upended in one swift movement. He had to sit down. He actually had to put the can down for a moment on the Formica table and lower himself, weightlessly, to a chair. His eyes swam with visions of summer afternoons, in that very same chair, swinging the fridge door open and seeing those rows and rows of brightly marked cans: beautiful colourbars of possibility.

Heinrich was about to take another measured sip when he heard the creaky complaint of the back door swinging open. Damned anathema. The other end of sweet childhood memories: the indignity and cheek-roasting shame of being found out. His mother's squeal made it down the corridor well before she did. Heinrich had foolishly left his satchel on the hall table.

"My darling!"

Heinrich's mother rolled into the room, as if on casters, hugging her son and removing the precious can of Fanta in one fluid movement. "Who left that out there, then?" She upended the can into the sink with one hand, the other still rooted to her son's shoulder. "One of those neighbourhood kids, I don't doubt."

Heinrich watched that gorgeous catastrophic orange disappearing down the drain, and suddenly felt all the worse for having had so little of it, to have been brought full circle back to the fat wax of a full life, a childhood of nothing but possibility.

"I will fix us some nice herbal tea," said his mother.

Heinrich felt a great hot tear run down his cheek and into his mouth. As he tested it with his tongue, he thought of the four tastes. Mostly, it was sweet.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


It's so easy to become the bad guy. And it's so easy not to. Just a few seconds either way, really. Do you push the button, cut the cable, let the secret slip. Or does someone else do it first. As to which I am, well I can't really tell you that.

It's all relative, supposedly. Lecturers in large halls asking us how many lives are worth the torture of one. Us, nestling safely in our untainted minds, being shown real human suffering week after week and laughing it off. Parties, jokes, all that damn coffee.

And, it turns out, I'm one of those people whose hair makes a mark on a bus window. Unwashed for how many days now? It's one of those rainy mornings anyway, where all that human heat makes condensation bead on rush hour glass, all those droplets squabbling together on their religious journey to the bottom of the window.

Unclean, I suppose, is the word. The dirt of a long day settling down on me. Eyes full of radiation. Aches radiating up from my feet. And all that romantic dyslexia beating away in my belly. He sat by me again today. Left handed, scrunched over his lecture pad. Beautiful beautiful left-handed scrunched-over boy. I spent ten minutes lost in a line of chopped hairs on his neck.

The bus lurches, my own head snaps back and forth. I should have sat next to him. The only place more embarrassing than two seats away would be right in his lap. He looked up as I sat down and I really was just another guy in just another lecture. The words back-burning my throat for an entire forty minutes. Then, right at the end, when he had to get past me to the aisle, I went to say something, anything, all the world's carefully worded phrases fluttering straight from my head. And I'm starting to talk, and he's brushing past me. 'Scuse me mate.

Me, the fucking human slalom course. I ran straight to the toilets two floors up because I know they're always quiet and I leant against a sink and hit my head over and over with the palm of my hands, willing myself to disappear.

We're nearly out in the rain now, just waiting at the lights, the nose of the bus edging out from underneath the busway, leaving the speed-controlled, time-tabled confines of the inner-city, ready to fly out to those highways, to those blank slates of suburbia.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Sometimes the cruel tides of history can be so unkind to our greatest literary heroes. Like you, I had never heard of Rupert "Bluey" McDowell, until, almost like magic, a chance encounter in a dusty old bookstore led to a surprisingly lengthy sexual harassment suit and during one those long appeals, I had to read something. Luckily, a piece of old parchment was steadying a wobbly table in a cafe across the road where I would spend hours being coached by the defense attorney on what to say. I pulled out the parchment, and it just happened to be one of those old maze-hunts from the trays they used to have at Hungry Jack's. After spending five fruitless hours trying to complete the maze, I happened to look up, just in time to see a prophetic message on a nearby idling bus: "National Nine News : Still the One". Later that night, as I watched the news, one particular item caught my eye. It seemed that someone had trained a duck to ride a skateboard. Also, some days later, I was Googling the address of a nearby podiatrist and and a typo led me to a page mentioning Bluey McDowell. I got stuck with a whole lot of pop-ups. The rest, as they say, is History!

Monday, May 26, 2008


They were down about six hundred feet most of the day. Mainly, it felt safer, but really it was just nice to be pottering around close to home for a change. They spent so long and were so often working, it seemed lovely just to be able to switch on a light and read a book for a while. The only distraction seemed to be the faint clatter of children running hoops up and down one of the outside tunnels. Their muffled laughter, it seemed, was a seldom-heard, daytime treat.

So cozy everything seemed, too. Walls were thicker, less room to worry about. And sure, all the books had been read more than once, but wasn't it still nicer to be doing exactly what you wanted to do? They made many cups of tea, until eventually all that steam hung around their ceilings like expensive gauze and more than once heads ducked uncertainly at this these new imagined drapes.

Someone shouted, mid-afternoon, after stubbing a shin painfully on a low table. Others winced in solidarity, rubbed their own legs. These phantom problems were not usually such a worry. Many tried to guess when night was falling. There was, they realised, no real way to tell.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


They rolled into town like mountains moving. Bigger than the army trucks we’d seen the week before, and far less regimented. At first, when Orson came running down the hill, he just said they were trucks carrying hot air balloons, but by the time the rest of us had gone back up there we saw tall caravans piled into high oblongs, like top hats teetering down the road. Horse floats followed, ends open but too dark to see inside. And then the biggest truck, with the logo on the side. ‘Circus,’ whispered someone. ‘Circus, here!’

In our town, summer holidays were nothing but sun-drenched silences, the hours plodding past. A circus was a living dream.

‘Noah,’ whispered Orson, nudging me in the ribs, ‘look.’

I followed his arm, not believing there could be anything else to see. But there they were, three tigers on the back of an open trailer. They sat there quietly, not roaring or leaping like the ones we’d seen in movies or magazines. They seemed, from our distance, comfortably relaxed, more like dogs than cats, basking lazily in the sun.

We all agreed then that the circus would stop in our town, an agreement formed more by desperation than hope. It had to stop here, we told ourselves. Tigers would be among us.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Oh man, where to start? Well, first of all, none of this could have happened without the support of that crate thing I sat on that day when those fighter jets went over and a little private part of me thought, Oh man, there’s some sort of invasion going on, and then when I thought about it later, it was actually quite funny because I thought it was Remembrance Day. It really wasn’t a crate, more like a box I guess. The sort of thing they make you sit on in those trendy cafes where they think it’s uncool to have backrests and people look really happy about it. Anyway, there was one out in the street, so I decided to sit in it, and I was looking down at the grass where there were some ants just mucking around and that’s when these jets went screaming across the sky and I freaked out. Well, the jets were probably already well past where I was. I just heard them, because I’d have guessed they broke the sound barrier. Later that year I also wrote some songs.

Friday, May 23, 2008


One of those philosophers visited me today. I was sitting at home, baking in front of a midday movie, one of those very very good ones where Brian Dennehy’s a cop who sweats a lot and James Brolin’s some sort of pebble-eyed bad guy.

So I hear this knocking at the door and it’s really persistent and the knocks are somehow really really evenly spaced. I rock up off the couch and get a little afternoon headspin. In fact, I squint my eyes in preparation for the furnaced white of outside that will no doubt greet me. I put my eye up to the peephole and then remember, for the umpteenth time, that it doesn’t work any more. I turn it over in my mind, and convince myself to open the front door.

There’s this guy there, on my step, like something out of the very heart of continental Europe, dressed in a shirt with these huge cuffs and a pork-pie hat. With a feather. I groan, not bothering to keep it to myself. He peered up at me through these little fey glasses, flickering his eyelids far far too quickly.

“Don’t tell me,” I said to him, taking up residence comfortably on the door frame. “Twentieth century. Post-Positivist French.”

The little man nodded.

I sighed. “A Marxist thinker, but you don’t identify with Marx.”

Another nod.

“Fan of Canguilhem?”

The little man fidgeted with his feathered hat.

I ran my hand over my face. “Look,” I told him. “I’d really love to, but I had this guy last week who talked discontinuist views of science at me for like three hours, so…” I let my sentence hang in the air. You had to be careful with these guys. One careless mention of actor-network theory and they were liable to go for your eyes.

The little man’s face began a slight twitch. Tears, I could sense, were not far away.

“Look,” I told him, “I happen to know for a fact that the old lady two doors down is really looking for something to explain away her growing disaffection towards Frege’s whole infatuation with axiomatic predicate logic. Only a few days ago, this was, down the supermarket.”

The philosopher’s face rose to this news. He crossed one leg in front of another, bowed, and doffed his hat. He sprung off down my front steps and back down the road.

When I got back to the TV, Brian Dennehy had already been shot, so it wasn’t really worthwhile continuing.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


The sound of the side door sliding was a rockfall in a silent night. A Greek chorus of rust and sombre bent metal. Theo stared at the invoice again, straining his eyes in the near-dawn. BEING FOR. This particular heading confused him. He knew the amount of money, he knew the date (one short trip to a newspaper pile outside a shut-up kiosk, plus one day), he knew who he wanted to pay him. But the BEING FOR, that was the tricky bit.

Theo tracked his toes through the sand-dirt, leant back into the vague heat of his van. He had undertaken many jobs in his time, ones that he could describe in a few simple sentences, but this one was almost inexplicable. Not totally inexplicable, because he had done it, and you had to be able to describe something in order to do it. One time, Theo had found himself in the locked-off radio truck of a prominent senator during election week, being fitted with wires and microphones. Once the moustache had been attached to his face, it was a simple matter of walking through the gates of the television studios, flashing some mocked-up ID, and striding confidently past all those blown-up portraits and down to studio three.

The best thing was, set designers were not ever really expected to look a certain way. Key grips, gaffers, lighting techs—that was another story entirely, but set designers, now they were truly unnoticeable creatures. That was the beauty of the plan. A basic knowledge of human psychology and average upper body strength was all that was needed to drag a certain senatorial candidate’s chair five feet to the right, thereby placing a certain senatorial candidate’s head directly in front of the roaring flames of his supposedly confidence-assuring open fireplace. Theo made sure that when television viewers saw a certain senatorial candidate’s very expensive election advertisement the next day—during its first showing in the first break of a particularly popular afternoon soap opera—they were presented with not a caring, conscientious alternative to the incumbent senatorial candidate, but rather a startlingly sweaty man who appeared to have flames leaping from his forehead.

That was oh so easy, thought Theo, compared to this. He wished so dearly to be able to scrub down his brain, the same way the he swabbed and scoured the inside of his van after it was down. It was not that he felt dirty: it was more than that. He felt inhabited, lived in, by someone and something else. He pressed his fingers into his eyes.

BEING FOR. Damn it all to hell.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


It should really start with something memorable. Evocative. That’s the word we’ll use. So it’s either a café in a busy street—maybe business suits sharking by on the footpath, maybe a Sunday crowd of bare arms in tank tops—or it’s the outback: a dusty pub, a harrowingly pretty sunset, flies on baked bread. Our main character begins as a voice, with a feeling. An observance manifested in a situation.

At least we can decide on the light. That’s a good starting point. Shafts of it, delicate fingers of it, honey-loaded buckets of it. Use the word glow. It works equally well with steel or cane fields. So the light falls on and bounces off our natural setting or our urban analogy for it. Beautiful.

But what does the main character notice, and what does this represent? Something about hegemony, but don’t actually say it. It’s implied, and that’s the clever bit. We’re shown silhouettes of trees, we’re told of generational tensions. We’re shown a street sign clapped with rain, we’re told of class divisions.

So let’s say we start with the senses. The bitter coffee grounds or tea leaves under your tongue. The sound of a crop-duster, or a percolator. Something to put us in the moment. You smell someone’s nail polish, or a watered down abattoir floor. You sense another person’s presence.
This is the other character in the story. Let’s say they interest our main character; let’s say they stand out from the background noise and the visual wallpaper of an everyday existence (please note the metaphor; you will need to become familiar with these). This other person is attractive to our main character. They could just be interesting, but that’s not conflict. Not yet. Let’s say we describe one small part of their behaviour or anatomy, and we let the reader extrapolate the rest. We could describe their face in detail, but why do all the work?

Now, don’t forget context. This can take up the majority of our exposition. Filling in the gaps is important. Historical, social, psychological, etc. Have a TV playing or a radio on. Put us somewhere. Make a reference to something. Don’t be somewhere that doesn’t exist. It’s fun, but no one takes it seriously. Context can be hard work, but it’s like a simile: you have to know two things to understand just one.

But we’re getting off the point, and we’re losing our reader.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


It was a thick air in there. That was the only way to describe it. His friends had told him that no fewer than fifteen other boys had worn the suit that year, and that no fewer than ten had taken the opportunity to urinate, vomit or otherwise disgrace themselves inside it.

Werner thought constantly of the jar of pickled sardines he knew was waiting for him on the kitchen bench at home. While this thought may not have comforted many young boys about to climb inside a thoroughly fouled cat costume, Werner was made of sterner stuff. This internal fortitude was to serve Werner so very well when, twelve years later, in a completely different country, martial arts movie star Steven Seagal was to kick him in the face to see if was wearing a mouthguard. They would not even be on set—in fact, On Deadly Ground was deep into its three day post-production—but Werner would take the kick, smile, and spend many months in an orthotic surgeon’s care.

Werner stepped inside the costume, almost folding his large frame up in order to get inside. The trick was that you had to peer out through the mesh in the cat’s mouth, and not out its eyes. It was dark. So dark. But Werner simply waited for his eyes to adjust and waited for his first cue, not complaining. This, of course, was just the sort of temperament needed when Werner, rehearsing a stunt on Seagal’s 1996 action smash The Glimmer Man was forced to wait for twelve hours in freezing water while Seagal had a pair of gaffers hold up a procession of naked Vietnamese women to his face for approval and gentle licking.

The cat costume, was of course, meant to represent “Geschmackvolle Katze”, the mascot of Cologne’s favourite breakfast serial 1981-84, Misstrauisch Sprödes Kleieprodukt! Werner had auditioned a total of five times in order to get the coveted role. The costume’s original inhabitant, Detlef Schrempf, went on to complete a successful career in America’s National Basketball Leage (NBA), winning the coveted NBA Sixth Man Award in both 1990-91 and 1991-92. Luckily, Werner’s lack of basketball skills in no way hampered his performance in the breakfast cereal performance, which many hailed as the finest ever portrayal of Geschmackvolle Katze. Unluckily, Werner’s ability to inhabit and animate a cat costume helped him in no way when—during the wrap party for Steven Seagal’s as-yet-unreleased vanity project Price of Pistols—Seagal plunged his hand deep into Werner’s chest cavity and plucked out his heart.

Monday, May 19, 2008


“It’s one of those questions, isn’t it.”

“What questions?”

“One of those ones you have to ask everybody.”

“But … you do. Really. It’s just what you do.”

“No you don’t. I don’t have to ask every person I meet, So, what do you do?

“You don’t have to say it like that.”

“How should I say it, then?”

“You can say, What do you do with yourself? or, What do you do for a crust? There are thousands of options, really.”


“Well, maybe not thousands, but it give you a chance to have things in common.”

“And when I tell people I hunt endangered sea creatures for a living, well, I’m sure everyone’s been there.”

“No need to be sarky.”

“I’m just saying. What you do for a living is not the be all and end all of who you are.”

“There you go again.”

“There I go again what?”

“I don’t know why you stay in this job if you’ve got such a problem with it.”

I haven’t got a problem with it. It’s other people that seem to have a problem with it.”

“Listen. Ever since we've met, all you’ve done is complain about what you do. The long hours, you’re complaining about. The getting up early. The fish smell underneath your fingers.”

“Alright, so I ask you again, why did you ask me what I do for a job?”

“Just making conversation.”

“Whatever. Do you want me to stun you first, or shall I just slice you open?”

“Whatever’s quicker.”

Sunday, May 18, 2008


When they arrived, the air was just so thin. They gasped, together, looking into each others' eyes, each knowing what the other was thinking. They had come too far for words. Hildebrand looked back down the way they had come. It wasn't even a way, really, it was just down. The natural state of everything. Gravity's eventual pull.

Tomas sipped at the straw that wound its way from deep in his backpack. His mouth crunched away a thick crust of ice. With one hand, he motioned away to their left.

Hildebrand's eyes opened with amazement. The scene before her was just like the one in the postcards. The Temple. The plants had grown over a lot more since the photo had been taken, but it was definitely, irrefutably, the same. Through her chapped, cracked lips, she smiled.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


The hall was clearly not meant for use any time past five pm. Everyone's skin went salami-splotchy under the weak weird fluorescents stuck high up there somewhere in the ceiling. Raymond and some of his friends from dispatch stood sucking down instant coffee around a folding table, and this served as the focal point of the room. When the DJ turned up, some three-quarters of an hour after the party was supposed to begin, he had on a bow-tie, and more then one person audibly groaned.

Before then, it was a sort of pleasant awkward quiet, that special kind of social horror engendered when work colleagues are forced together, removed from their 9-to-5 points of reference, and the fact that they're being paid for their time. I had carpooled, and had been at the hall since six. I had, in fact, witnessed the birth of the party: our boss's hand-slap on the light switch, her first booming footsteps across the parquetry of the empty hall. I had helped unpack folding chairs, the kind that locked together like a boring board-game when not in use.

The DJ started up, fuzzing some incomprehensible message (lzz gt tss prrtee strttd!) into his microphone, before laying down some sort of badly recorded polka, all the time holding one half of a pair of headphones up to his ear and waving his other arm in the air (like, I imagine, he just don't care). I take this as my cue to leave.

Outside the hall it's surprisingly cold. I put my hands into my jacket pockets and begin the long walk home.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


One. Our views and our bodies shuddering from the back of bike seats, going down East Street, reaching the speed where all control is gone, where we could just as easily fly out the bottom in instant-hero record speed as we could start to swerve with the devil’s hands on the bars and find ourselves whirring in a flash of white-blue-green and then we’re lying in the bush with half our arm gone.

Two. Bathroom light against a midnight wall, as parents talk in hushed-up voices, as shadows bend in strange ways through the crack in our bedroom door, and then the next morning at breakfast it’s almost the same except everyone has that blue tinge to their eyes and the phone rings before school and our parents duck their head down in the hall to stop us hearing what they’re saying.

Three. Swimming school means we are thrown in the water and however many breaststroke strokes we can do in one breath means what grade we’re in, and the smart ones only do a few, but we think it’s a contest, and we hold our breaths until we’re blue and have taken seven or eight strokes and we’re put in the advanced class with kids half our age with chest hair or breasts and the instructor points to the high dive board and we start climbing the ladder.

So we share a lot of this stuff, but some things are more personal. For me, when I eat Tropical Frosty-Fruit icypoles, my lips start to bleed. When I tip my head backwards under water in the bath, my ears make flapping noises like drowning fishes. I once killed a butterfly with a stick so it could be a trophy, and after it fell through the air and I put it on a rock, I felt guilt for the first time. Whenever I see a butterfly now, I feel almost sick with guilt. These are the things that worry me. I am seven years old.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


“ ... and that’s the real sadness of it,” continued John Kendrick. “Everyone’s got a real worry that there’s a speck of dust out there somewhere just waiting to land straight in their eye.” The great man paused behind the podium, to let the weight of his words sink in to the crowd hidden in the half-shadow. “It’s not the fear,” he said, “but the possibility of fear, that is the terrorist’s greatest weapon.”

Above the stage, between the muted block colours and contemporary geometry, hung giant pictures of John Kendrick’s life – images designed to inspire wonder and respect in the wider population: a young man in tight clothes squatting on a particularly masculine piece of Arizona; older, maybe his twenties, in fatigues, waving on his platoon at My Lai, left boot defiantly flinging off the South Vietnam mud; older still, in the Gulf, the White House, shaking important hands and smiling with flashbulb faces. The pictures let everyone know that here was a man who had Red White and Blue on his cornflakes every morning.

Former General (now retired) John Kendrick took off his half-moon glasses and used them to punctuate his confident Southern speech.

“What we have to understand (gold gleaming effectively off the expensive frames in his hand) is that there is always going to be terror as long as there is fear.”

A collective murmur of agreement fluttered through the crowd. Someone may even have clapped. It would certainly not have been unusual.

John Kendrick shifted his frame slightly (a practised move) so he appeared almost a foot taller than he actually was.

“It is for this reason,” he said in his best voice, “that I call upon all Americans this evening to eliminate fear from their lives!”

This time the whole crowd exploded into applause. They stamped and they hooted and they cheered. Cries of That’s what I’m talking about! and Right on former General (now retired) John Kendrick! were heard clearly soaring towards the ceiling in proud patriotic parabolas.
“And the only way to eliminate fear,” shouted John Kendrick above the noise, “is to eliminate the prime agents of fear!”

The frenzy increased. Hearts beat in chests and hands beat on hearts.

“And by the prime agents of fear,” he shouted, “I mean of course boogeymen, like the one that lives under my bed!”

The crowd quickly fell into silence, and John Kendrick’s words hung heavily in the air. The great man stood stock still and thrust out his giant chin with no uncertainty. Suddenly, a voice yelled Yeah, screw those bogeymen bastards! and They can’t scare the mighty U S of A! Other voices soon followed, and someone may even have clapped.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Yeah hi, it’s Patrick. Yeah. Good. Yeah … um, I – what’s that? Who’s that breathing? No, I heard them just then.
He’s there isn’t he, Jen? No, I know he is, I can hear him. What’s he doing? He’s not in bed is he? What do you mean? Of course it’s my business. We went out for four months, remember, or have you forgotten already? Forgotten what we had, forgotten – What? Oh, um ... I think I might have left some books over there, you know ... No I think there are some more, I’m sure of it. You know, that one with the blue cover ... Was it? Oh right, yeah, the red one. I don’t remember what it’s called actually, no. Oh yeah, that could be it. Mmm ... Anyway, I think there’s a couple of them there so I thought maybe I could come over and grab them ... Oh, I could pop over tonight if you like. No, there’s a bus leaving in eleven minutes and then I’ll get the train ... no, really, it’s easy ... Why not? I thought maybe I could pick up a video on the way over. Hey do you remember the time we watched Patch Adams? Hey that was funny, maybe I could get that and some chocolate and I know you like –
What? No, I just thought of it then. What do you mean planned? Hey I just wanted to get my books back and get out of your way jeez it’ll be like five minutes out of your life no need to get so defensive – Sorry, no I didn’t mean that, I ... No, I’m sorry. I’m sorry! I know. I know. I know. You still there? Hello? Who’s this? Rufus. Oh, right, you’re … yeah. No, it’s okay. No, really. No, really. Can you put her back on? Is she? Well, look, I just want to say sorry. I know, but I want to say it again. Yeah? Yeah? Well maybe I’d prefer it if you didn’t start screwing a girl who’s been broken up for all of five minutes. Yeah? Yeah? Well you’d have to find it first! You heard me, Rufus! Yeah, well that’s funny coming from you … Yeah, well I’d just love that, mate. It’d be my absolute – What? God sorry sorry sorry, I didn’t realise he’d given you the phone back. Yeah, well he shouldn’t have said it. Me? Look, I just want to see you again, okay? Are you going to Smithy’s party tomorrow? Yeah. I’m not doing that. I’m not. But can’t we – But can’t we just – Fine. If that’s the way you want to play it. Whatever ... I don’t care anymore. Yeah? Well the same bloody goes for you.
Fine. You too.

Monday, May 12, 2008


New Year’s Eve––you tell yourself––is both the brink and the beginning. You look across at him, at the night spread thin before you like a map, and you begin to see faint ripples of premonition. You follow familiar routes in your head, pathways and exits, shortcuts to the places you always end up.

Isn’t it time yet, you ask him.

Time for what?

I don’t know. Something.

You put your feet up and he turns the music up. You let any inspiration slip past you in the growing darkness. This is how it always is. Drink your wine, wait for the fireworks.

We were here last year, you say, weren’t we?

He shrugs his shoulders. I guess so.

You sigh, and bite down on your lip, creating a strange pain somewhere behind your ears. Your thoughts start to turn inwards: looking back on the year, how things changed but ended up in exactly the same place.

This is nice, you say, isn’t it.

This––just sitting here. With each other.

Yeah, he replies. It’s nice. He takes a gulp from his wine glass, smiling, or maybe grimacing, as he swallows.

You reach out your hand, but it won’t quite reach his. You try to move your chair closer, but it’s too heavy.

Can I sit on your lap?

If you like.

You get up, and he uncrosses his legs, arranging them in a peculiar way: straight and stiff like he’s in a school photo.

Don’t worry about it, you say, if it’s not going to be comfortable.

No, it’s fine. Really.

You sit down, and it’s not comfortable at all. You’re a ventriloquist’s dummy on his lap. You sit with your back to him, slotted together awkwardly like two pieces from different jigsaws. You remember how it used to be easier, nicer––how you could curl up in his arms and look at him, learn him.

He tries to tap his foot to the music, maybe to keep things casual, but it just makes it worse. You get off his lap and return to your chair. Then there’s silence, as his record ends with a little bumping noise.

Do you want some more music on, he asks.

You nearly say yes; you nearly leave the night to a string of albums you both know back to front, songs you don’t have to listen to because they’re already playing out in your head. You can’t remember either of you buying any new music all year.

You say, Why don’t we do something different?

You expect him to say Like what? but he doesn’t. He takes his time, and says, eventually, You don’t like what we’re doing? He looks surprisingly hurt as he says this, and you’re convinced for a moment that what you’re doing is wrong, that maybe tonight is meant to be the same as any other, and maybe it’s not a time for unnecessary celebration. But something makes you say: Let’s go up onto the roof and see the fireworks properly.


Then you realise it. You say: I want to see the fireworks start. I want to see them going up.

But we can see them fine from here. We always have.

It seems like every year we’re out here. All we see is the explosions above the fence.

What else do you want to see?

I want to see them going up. I want to . . . I want to anticipate. I want to not know what’s coming next.

He shakes his head. You’re drunk, he says, smiling. Come and sit on my lap again.

No, you say, I want to go and sit on the roof.

He laughs, which makes you angrier. It’s just one of your passing fads, he says. How about you pick the music?

It’s just that we do the same thing every year and nothing ever changes. Don’t you ever want a little change?

He looks at his watch. It’s about to go midnight, he says. Why don’t you just stay and watch the show with me? And then we’ll talk about things. Okay?

You watch him settle further into his chair, sinking further into a formless cushion of safety and familiarity. You set your wine glass down on the table between your chairs, and you leave him there. You walk through the house, up the stairs, without turning on any lights, to his studio, where you force open the French windows––unopened in God knows how long. You heave at the window until it finally gives way with a puff of dust and paint, and the evening breeze dances past your face. You step out onto the roof, treading and creaking across the rusted tin, the bolts digging into your big toe, the day’s accumulated heat coating your soles with warmth. You walk up to the peak, sweat snaking its way down your back. You lower yourself down to the other side of the roof, your legs sliding down until you’re sitting up, looking at the city skyline. It seems closer from up here, the lights more brilliant; the tall office buildings are shining wafer sheets.

And then the first explosion, the first firework of the New Year. You can see it bubbling low from between the buildings––scores of clattering green flares, sharp and gorgeous. Another set of blue stars umbrellas out soon after, followed by reds and yellows. Against the city lights they live, falling, fading, into a sea of smoke that bulges out luminously from the horizon. And then there’s a noise above you––a deep night-chewing boom––and you swing your head up quickly as the sky explodes in a vast white starburst. It fills all the sky, and it feels as if it’s just for you. You lean forward as the next one goes up, your heart swirling with the smoke spiral as it arcs towards the stars. Just as you think it’s gone too far––just as you think it’s about to topple over––it erupts in a shower of pink sparks, warm hands smoothing down around your head.
You hold your breath and watch the others go up: the high fireworks born into flowers––bright dandelions or weeping lilies; the long dazzling fingers of light that fizz and spit; the low spinning, floating crackers that carpet the air. The best part is the anticipation, the not knowing what’s coming next. The best part is where you are. It’s more than you’ve ever seen from behind the fence, the way you’ve watched it for so long.

And when the show is over, when the year has been born––when the final strands of smoke have cleared––it’s like you’ve finally seen the whole world.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


By the time he had started school, Sean Connery had lost all sense that the world was a good and just place. Every weekday morning now he ducked his head, like so many other children, beneath the blue tarpaulin that served as the entrance to his new academic life. Imagination, that precious childhood commodity, had been effectively eliminated through a steady procession of rules, deadlines and restrictions imposed upon him by people who supposedly knew better. For instance, bedtime:

Sean Connery: I dinnae tired.
Joseph Connery: Get tae bed, ya wee nid.
Sean Connery: But I dinnae tired!
Joseph Connery: Are ye tryin to get ma nadge? (removes belt)

School, which Sean had thought might provide welcome respite from his frankly repressed home life, proved to be quite the opposite. On his first day of school, in the first minute, really, a large boy came up to Sean and hit him right in the face.

Sean Connery: Wha'd ya doosh me fer?
Large Boy: Ya looked gay, wi ya shirt tucked in.
Sean Connery: What's your name?
Large Boy: What's yers?
Sean Connery: Sean Connery.
Large Boy: Ye feckin liar. He's a fillum star.
Sean Connery: That's me name! Besides, the fillum star's first name is Thomas.
Large Boy: Feck off ya chav.
Sean Connery: Aye. Thomas Sean Connery.

The large boy hit him again. Sean Connery could do nothing else but run home. When his father found out Sean had not stayed at school, he flayed him good and proper.

Later that same year, Thomas Sean Connery, on the set of Darby O'Gill and the Little People, received a very strange message. It was during his a break in filming when Connery's co-star, Jimmy O'Dea came over and sat next him. He explained that he had been walking through the mail room when a letter caught his eye. Jimmy handed Connery an envelope, with the words To Thomas Sean Connery, from Sean Thomas Connery written in bright blue crayon on the front.

Jimmy O'Dea: Seems a young lad's written you from Edinburgh.
Thomas Sean Connery: Really. Isn't that schumthing.
Jimmy O'Dea: You really should read it, Sean. It's quite moving. He's got the most awful home life, and it really seems like a cry for help.
Thomas Sean Connery: You don't schay.
Jimmy O'Dea: Have a look at it Sean, it'll break your heart. Maybe you can do something for him.
Thomas Sean Connery: You're blocking the schun, Jimmy.
Jimmy O'Dea: Won't you at least read the letter?
Thomas Sean Connery: Are you trying to get my nadge? (removes belt).

Saturday, May 10, 2008


All the way there there’s this image of the pot plant in my office, the one that Sadie bought be me for no particular reason one Thursday morning, surprising me in bed, trailing soil across the sheets, grinning like a satin bow. Now, on top of my filing cabinet, quietly ignored, the green on its leaves has faded to brown, its body gone from bendy happiness to a brittle brown.

I move the car through the thick darkness, joining dots across this familiar route made new by night. I watch shiny clean street signs loom like they do in horror movies as my headlights sweep across them. I turn up the radio to let the sounds swell up around me. I mentally flick through streets I drive through every day, trying to pinpoint the image of a large, blockish pharmacy. It’s so late at night my feet feel like they’re dreaming, pressuring the pedals only under someone else’s orders.

I scan the streets for neon guidance, but all that flashes at me is the details of the kitchen scene I’ve just fled: Robbie’s tiny arms, two underwater creatures squirming through the coral of his mother’s sleep-slung hair. Sadie slumping her shoulders towards the floor, talking to me as if I’m waiting down there, somewhere in the woodgrain. Then Robbie’s chest-cutting cough cuts at me in my head through the radio static and I imagine again that it’s his little heart making the rattle, his tiny whistle-pea heart.

I almost miss the pharmacy, of course. My mind is stuck somewhere else, like it always seems to be. The fridge ticking its secret midnight pattern. My son’s black hole of a mouth. The welts on Sadie’s forearm. As I pull into the carpark, I force my teeth together as tight as I can, forcing pressure high up my jaw, into my head. I focus on parking the car’s bonnet between the two white lines. A lone green sedan sits beside me. I think about locking my car, but I don’t.

Friday, May 9, 2008


They loaded the car high, with helpful items and some that were just there for show. They took rolls and rolls of film. These were pictures already taken and stored away, not fresh rolls. They took fresh rolls. These were rolls purchased from the bakery, letting off steam when broken, like in TV ads, because it was so early. These were not fresh rolls of film. There was a thin film of dew on the windscreen and they drew patterns on the glass with their fingers. Their fingers were in gloves, and their gloves became wet as the dew transferred from the windscreen to the wool. There were transfers all over one of the windows, clever slogans and ads for radio stations, some dating back over ten years. The radio inside the car was on already, as someone had already turned it on. No one had heard radio this early in the day before. It was mostly music, no voices. It was probably the same music they heard at other times of the day, but because they were hearing it so early in the morning, it sounded different. The world had less sound, somehow.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Audrey sat at the wrong end of her bed, back against the iron rail, eyes facing the wall. Her spine was tight like a cello string. She had put on a black winter coat far too big for her, nestled so deep in it that the collar finished inches above her head. Her feet stuck out the bottom, red painted toenails turned black without light. It was an old coat, thick hound’s-tooth tweed, and was filled with dust, but she didn’t care. In one pocket was a crumpled opera ticket, yellowed with age. The Barber of Seville. Row HH, seat 12. Doors open at eight. She knew it off by heart. In another pocket was a piece of glass, a finger-sized shard from a green bottle, its edges worn smooth by water. A lifetime tumbled in salt.

She closed her eyes, imagining the rhythmic rumble of a train’s carriage, the creaks and clacks of well-worn rails, safe like an old memory. She was in the coat, and it fitted her now; it guarded against the chill of the outside air that flew through chinks in the undercarriage, swirling, catching the edges of her nostrils. Her legs had black stockings, her feet comfortable kitten heels. In her head was the familiar richness of Don Basilio’s Aria. Ever her favourite: its joyous melody, its wonderfully ridiculous words—they lived so healthily in her head that the music could never die. She watched the scenery flash past, backwards, because she always sat with her back to where she was going. She loved to watch the corners disappear, wrapping in on themselves, retreating to the horizon, a distance moving ever away. She was going back home. This was the right way around. Everyone else had it wrong.

Audrey never wanted to climb inside the coat, but she always would. It was another skin—a skin she hated and loved. Not even her dad knew about it. She kept it hidden in an old toy box, secured under blankets and dress-ups. She had tried to throw the coat out so many times—once she held it over the fireplace until her arms shook—but deep in her mind she knew she would never part with it. Long ago it had lost her mother’s perfume, but a scent still lingered, like an empty bowl still rich with a sense of its contents. Occasionally Audrey would discover some new part of it—a seam, a corner, a thread—and the effect would be profound. Every discovery was the missing piece in an incomplete memory; every piece repaired a stretch of a timeline’s broken tracks.

Audrey’s right hand squeezed the opera ticket. She wanted to rip it apart, but she never did.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Audrey found a velvet lizard in the garden, curled up in the soil, in the mottled shade of a fern. She watched it for some time, as it rested, and she dug a little moat around its body with her finger. She wondered what it was like to see the world from down there; she wondered what little velvet lizards dreamt about. She thought that perhaps their memories were smaller, but still the same as hers. The wind picked up and got under the loose hairs on her neck, the thin ones she sometimes pulled at when she was bored, twisting two or three until they came out with a pleasant pain. She put her head down on the ground next to the sleeping lizard and stroked it gently with the first finger of her left hand, the one she let do the best jobs. The lizard’s skin gave way like burnt paper. Audrey shot her hand back and cried out—she thought she had killed it, but then realised there was no blood, no movement: everything was too brittle. The lizard was completely hollow.

In the moments after, she didn’t feel repulsed or scared; she felt indignant. The cruel falsity, more than anything, was what shook her. To think she had been watching it for so long, imagining its small velvet thoughts, when, in reality, the lizard was nothing. It was an empty image. She dug a hole in the soil with her right hand—the hand for the bad jobs—and flicked the lizard’s body inside it. She placed the soil back on top, in a grave, and she wondered if the lizard’s soul was there or not. Her mother used to say that souls were the songs you heard in your head when you were dying—the music that was your life. Audrey liked to think, though, that souls were never there: how could anybody say they existed? They weren’t like shoes or eyes or especially the chord of G minor—the saddest thing Audrey knew off by heart—they were made up. Until someone showed her a soul, she wouldn’t believe they were really there.

She was feeling angry now—at the world, at the little mound of soil under the fern—so she dug up the lizard, and placed it on top of the highest part of the fence that ran alongside the garden. She sat in the grass, the condensation itching its way into her dress, until the wind came and blew the lizard’s body away. She thought of the lizard’s insides, the soft bits that made it work, how they were now part of the ground, leached out from the skin through death, spread out somewhere else like a welcome mat.

She looked out across the yard, filled with the spread of living things, discarded parts of lives still lived. The whole scene was too familiar. The details changed, but the feelings didn’t.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


When they reached the front porch, they stood so confused: two long-away sailors returning.

Lyn raised up her hand, put a finger to air.

Might rain.

Yes it might.

Well, you're learning.

No more awkward than this human history had been. Ron and Lyn here, not staying, not leaving.

She worked with the weather, he dealt in textiles, his world: thread counts, pilling and weaving.

So much sped through their heads, but not through their mouths, which were two pairs of lips so unspeaking.

If but one of them said, I like who you are, then they might just start something worth keeping.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Not that I've ever been very good at telling people how one thing is like another in order to get my point across, but let me try, to let you know how surprised I was. It was a true everyday shocking surprise, like when you get a glass of water and someone's used the hot water before you and the water you drink when you're expecting a nice cold thirst-quencher is actually lukewarm and this, for some reason, is so disgusting. Or when you've put down a can of softdrink for a while at a party and come back to it later and you think it's fuller than it is and when you go to pick it up your hand sort of flies into the air because you're adjusting for the weight when really it's quite light, because either you've had more of it than you thought or someone else has come along and drunk some, which is more often the case, because I mean you can usually remember how much of a can of softdrink you've got through, can't you.

My hair came out crimped. This was the surprise. The fact I had been walking around the centre of town for almost three hours with kinky-arse hair and no one had even told me. Remember how you're always told that you should do stuff to other people that you'd want them to do to you? Well, if I saw someone walking around town with hair that had so obviously been mistakenly curled (and it was so obvious they had no idea) I would go straight up to them and tell them. I mean, I'm not the most confident or forward person in the world, but I'd tell them.

So anyway, it was when I was waiting for a pedestrian crossing to go when a bus went past, quite slowly, around the corner and I caught a glimpse of this weird afro-type harido on this guy and then I realised that guy was actually me and I freaked out. My hands went up there, to my hair I mean, and they felt a sort of felty fuzz. I had to run back, even though the light had gone green, and I stared at myself in the reflection of the shiny wall of a bank. I looked ridiculous. A forty-dollar haircut. I mean. Come on.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


His hair, the colour of wheat-chaff, constantly parted its thick thatch into two uneven waves, growing up and also somehow back, covering the top half of each ear. His smile (and it is always an awkward smile, to various degrees) is bookended on each side by three deeply cultivated laugh-lines. No one has ever seen him laugh. Symmetry seems to come naturally, however unnaturally it has actually been achieved.

Saturday, May 3, 2008


The beach was cold that year: the kelp like crushed newspaper underfoot. Gin was dressed as an astronaut, in a silver crinoline jumpsuit with odd buttons sewn haphazardly down its front. Under his ice cream bucket helmet, he made sounds with his mouth: motors and engines and gushing galactic winds. Every so often his oversized gumboots would stick to the slick foreshore and he would nearly fall over, only steadying himself at the last moment with a strange bird-like movement of his arms. Mostly, though, he was used to the conditions, and sent through crackly radio messages about gravity and atmosphere. He was conquering this new world.

Gin enjoyed the constant reinvention of the beach, the way the tides created a nascent planet for him twice a day: the small joys of unmapped terrain and fresh alien souvenirs. Every new world needed a hero. This morning he was Captain Marvel, but this would soon have to change. Beyond him, further up towards the scrub of the headland, his older sister skulked like a winter shadow, holding a pair of thongs in her right hand as if they were a weapon. She was weaving in and out of the sea-strewn timber that monsters sometimes dragged up and made homes out of. The day before, Gin had even found one. He had forgotten to tell Audrey.

“Audrey,” he shouted, with his hands in a dramatic cup around his mouth, “there’s a monster up there!”

Audrey didn’t respond, but the wind caught up her skirt and it billowed out in front of her, as though if she had jumped, it would have carried her along and down the beach. This thought both excited and bothered Gin.

“Audrey,” he shouted again. “Audrey!”

Audrey made a sound with her mouth that, had Gin been able to hear it, would have reminded him of a heavy book hitting a wooden floor. She kicked her bare feet deep into the sand, welcoming the jamming pain as it wedged up under her toenails. It was soft grey squeaky sand: the worst kind. It always appeared in winter, when the beach turned cold and constantly felt slightly damp, like clothes that wouldn’t dry. Things were always worse in winter. The sky turned to stainless steel; the waves slowed to an unnatural pulse, catching and missing each other in the wrong places, colliding spitefully. Even up on the headland, where the air always blew freshly, there was now just lonely silence. Winter had come suddenly, stalking unsuspecting summer spaces, sewing them up impalpably and ruthlessly. Thoughts bunched up, movements tied themselves together; everything was wrong.

“Guess what Audrey, guess what?” Gin approached like a beached fish struggling to find water, flapping to keep the gumboots on his feet.

Audrey crossed her arms so the long ends of her jumper stuck out where her hands should have been. “What is it?” she said.

“This is where the monster is. Did I tell you I saw one? Yesterday?”

“What monster?”

“In the—um, castwood. I saw one.”

“You mean driftwood.”

“Yeah. I saw a monster there.”

The wind made a whistling sound as it went through the holes in Gin’s plastic helmet. Audrey imagined it went through his head as well.

“What did the monster look like?” she asked.

“Big. Like a person, but big.”

Audrey started walking again. “Looks like it’s gone now. Probably sleeping under the sand.”
Gin followed his sister, nodding sagely at her comment, adding it to his impressive compendium of monster knowledge.

“That’s what the squeaking is,” Audrey continued, “under the sand—that’s your feet touching their skin.”

“Are they asleep?”

“Yes. That’s why you have to walk softly.”

Gin did an unwittingly amusing impression of himself, slow motion, carefully measuring each heavy-booted step against an imagined lesser gravity. “Is this right?” he asked.

Audrey gave him her most serious look. “Perfect,” she replied.

Friday, May 2, 2008


She’s an almost perfect vegan chef, and she cooks you something swimming in sauce. You dip your fork in nervously, and as it disappears beneath the swirly bubbles of semi-solid ghee, you think you get a sense of what it’s like to drown. The worlds above and below the waterline inverting like some magnetic switch and you’re breathing thick water and the sky invites you to dive right in.

Then she’s tucking hair behind her ears, but it’s the cheekbones, baby cottonbud cheekbones, that you want to see from closer up. You want to be at those cheekbones, arriving at them like they’re a destination and then you are, sweeping bowls and candles with your arm and the crash is clean, and nothing shatters. It’s all arms and a quick view of a skylight before you hammer your teeth into hers with the pure romantic violence of an urgent kiss.

She tastes of nothing more solid than rice paper, dissolving under your tongue. But everywhere else, well, it’s klaxons screaming from a midnight silence; her body is one big heart-stopping shock, slippery and solid so mighty real. You feel the sensation of her fingernails at your shoulder, and her hairclip flails at your eyes, unstuck and desperate. The hallway is a series of washing-machine spins as you slam against the wallpaper, with hardly time to watch its pattern repeating.

Her hands fumble at the doorhandle and as you try to help it seems that this is something no two humans have ever tried before. The wriggling latch suddenly unhooks and you’re in her bedroom, shredding clothes with inevitability so expected it actually hurts. The darkness you expect is not there. Light streams in from some unseen streetlamp, picking up the corners and edges of her room. The curves and folds of her body. You see those parts of her so exposed and you watch a red rash swarm up over her breastbone and through her throat making you think hopelessly of heartburn. Then you push through her hair and in the fragile skull beneath you tell yourself you feel all her thoughts moving. Then you kiss again, slower, tongues more like one muscle than two.

Everything else dissolves. Just you. You’re there, an echo of the body beneath you. Her face is translucent. Her skin nothing but a translator for a thin pulse. Her hair thin and light, invisible in movement like a thousand knives showing only their edges.
You’re on your back. She rolls on top of you. The earth becomes the air, and you’re breathing thick water, and you dive right in.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Jonny is getting high on fresh printer's ink, so I know I have a few minutes free. I roll my Rs out onto the page in front of me, counting them. Cracking open my lexical piggy-bank. Jonny keeps saying, "Arg, right in the duodenum!" and I know then this is his Big Line for the day, his jumping-off point to greatness.

He has three auditions today, and will probably nail all three. I have had fourteen successful auditions in my entire life, including ones I went to under duress as a burgeoning child star. I am Max Entere, he of the cherubic blood-bloom cheeks. I am that boy who held that candle in that television ad looking at you beseechingly to donate to prostate cancer research. Yes, the why isn't daddy coming home? kid. That is pretty much where my career has stayed.

Jonny wears a beaded skullcap in public and actually owns three separate sets of bongos. Jonny had a walk-on part in this country's most popular drama, the one with the police officers who work as vets as well. Jonny has invented a different handshake for everyone he knows, and some extras for strangers. I have mastered every exercise in the entire oeuvre of The Complete Voice Exercises for Professional Actors. I buy expensive imported New York newspapers concerning professional entertainment news.

Jonny will be famous one day. Of this he is sure and so, unfortunately, am I.

Theatre is dead.