Saturday, January 31, 2009


Her method, her mechanism, was to catalogue all that was left behind. A catalogue, thorough, springing up through her mind’s eye like a typewritten crisp clean note. She did the washing for this reason, and this reason only. She found, and remembered, and treasured, whatever fell from pockets, from cuffs and creases. Buttons in all sizes, from teddy's eye to moon plate; coins, foreign and familiar, bearing profiles of far-off kings; hair clips, tiny screws, bee's bonnets, spider trophies. And she had, to thank, whatever force in the world hid the most important things in the most unimportant places.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


The one thing, to be supposed, about snow:
it evens us out.
One scene becoming much like another.
A street from here becoming a street
from over there.
So bright, really,
that nothing else matters.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


She had him up against the door, crying as a piece of skin slipped off his cheek and stayed stuck to the wood veneer. It was the last part of him abandoned. The very last part of him to die.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Because of certain factors, Henry had wanted to triangulate something for such a long time. At least to hatch a plan, that was enough. A scheme, a ruse, a brilliant brainwave. To set something in motion, to set off a chain reaction, be a catalyst. He wanted oh so badly to be the difference in one point in the world.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I went to the shop that sold signs, and the sign in their window said they were open. And you, I'm sure, can guess the rest.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


In the morning, when you're only half awake, and your fist won't even give itself the power to clench. This is your heart. Lost, adrift, all those awful seafaring words: useless because you're stuck plainly to land. No soaring, no gliding, no wind through your hair, just the lurching casino clatter of one hope falling, landing, falling. And what's left is that strange moan coming from your throat that means nothing like anything else in this world.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Jason remembers the ground but not the street. He always used to walk with his head down anyway. Maybe that says something about him. Maybe it doesn’t.

Regardless, it’s hot. Hot for nine at night at least. He wonders whether it’s always been this temperature, or whether his body has become used to a different climate. He hasn’t lost his accent.

Apart from the cars on the wrong side, it could be any new Straße in Berlin. It’s the same modern street that springs up in every city. The sort with shiny chrome handles and upstairs clubs and spelt-out numbers above the doors. He’s seen them many times in many places, but never while walking through his past.

As he looks around, he remembers that shops used to be closed at this time of night. Now the street has, he supposes, a real night life.

All the young hopefuls mill past him, trying to look so different, appearing exactly the same. All hopes of sweat and sex and losing control. Animals waiting for their cages.

He was their age when he left. Somehow it’s all passed him by. The times when you were meant to slip your mind in a back pocket and bounce around a crowded room. Maybe he regrets it. Maybe there are more important things to regret.

It’s been six years since he’s walked this way. Now he can hardly connect to what’s around him. Still, there are little things that can’t be changed, that will stay the same whatever happens. The sky is still a deep mauve. It’s never really night.

He would be happy just to see one shop unchanged, one post box in the same spot, but the whole thing’s a half-gleaned memory. Jason knows it’s the same street, but it looks as if it can’t be.

He finds himself outside what used to be a fruit shop. Now it’s a bistro, a brasserie. A Blue Bar. With the kind of lights they use in train stations so you can’t see your veins. It’s all bathed in blue: the swinging gas heaters, the fat leather stools, the thick tall bottles. Jason feels the need to be inside this place. Not because he wants to be, but because he thinks he should be. Just a coffee, he thinks. Things to do tomorrow.

He orders a large whisky and drinks it. The ice hits his teeth and as the thick liquid descends he feels his landing wheels finally touching down. He reaches into his shirt pocket for a pack of cigarettes, except they aren’t there. It’s a habit he has travelled out of. It surprises him that the instinct remains.

He orders another drink and sits at an empty table in the corner. His mind goes through the people he will visit tomorrow. He imagines their faces, tries to age them. Maybe they’ll look the same. Maybe they won’t.

As his eyes swing around the Blue Bar, he can’t understand where he fits in. Is there still a place for him here?

He will find out soon enough.

Friday, January 23, 2009


I watched him write a long long letter to Noam Chomsky and then fold away his writing table and slide it under his bed. He stood up too quickly, or at least that's what it looked like, as he had quickly bought his thumb and forefinger to the bridge of his nose, squeezing.

"Anything the matter?"

"Not that I can recall."

He sat back down on the bed and picked up a magazine. As he flipped through it, a single tear made a loud wet snap on a page where there was an ad for jeans, or perfume, or whatever black-and-white pictures of a Parisian window are supposed to sell.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


When the rain came down, like a bad memory or cut-off fat fingers falling, Taloula was creeping quietly across a roof. She had her hair swept back, clipped in with a complex Gordian knot of stolen mousse and clothes pegs, and kept tasting carnival floss sweetness in the spaces between her teeth. It hurt her, almost, to feel the wetness on her neck, the rain finding its way into her clothes. And then the eventual cold, a startling persistent sensation which made its way strangely to her knees and elbows, in that way of hinges and oil and creaking machines. She was partially worried for her metal parts, but more that the moisture was threatening what, so far, had been a very enjoyable evening.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


What makes us pile into a room with fresh shining faces, scrubbed up like so many shoes, gleaming like fresh blades, like the flat top of a new bar of soap, untouched by fresh things, unsullied by new words, thoughts, experiences? What makes us so goddamn cold-steel scared of what's just around the corner of that wall? It's the not knowing, we say to ourselves in the safe quiet vacuum of our own heads, our own spaces; it's the not knowing that's the worst. What if it's actually okay? What if it's not as bad as we'd thought? But what if it is.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


She was driving to the town because of the weapons, the shiny new ones that rolled off the line in happy little dollops of steel and brushed aluminium. Her fathers warnings were forever in her ears, and she had to explain to him, silently, inside her own head, that she didn't want to use them, just look at them. Her father had his own rich and oft-rewarded history of killing people on wide open beaches and the thick canopies of jungles, and despite this, or perhaps because of it, he always kept any violence at a long arm's length from his children. She just liked the heavy rich feeling. Holding chaos in her four fingers. And she almost felt it now, driving the wide roads with the fir trees towering at each side of her, funnelling her quickly through the white-grey day.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Which is not to say he was totally alone. The young barmaids at the pub knew him well enough, in that way of people of the town: a weary nod of the head, an imperceptible grunt. And while this particular movement was not native to the town, or indeed, the country, the people here had seemed to work it to a fine art, so much so that just walking down the main street at midday confronted you with—if you weren’t familiar with it—a seeming infectious plague of facial tics. On a rare night, he tried striking up a conversation with the least offensive-looked barmaid (for some reason, there was a common misconception among teenagers here that a thick redbrick tan and a joke-binocular mascara was considered the height of beauty), who, it turned out, had friends living in Australia. Although the conversation was pleasant enough, the barmaid kept looking over his shoulder and gaping her mouth, in a most—he thought—rude way. He soon realised that conversation, to this girl, was just a reflex action designed to pass the time until her hair-gelled tracksuit-wearing boyfriend came to pick her up.

And there were the old men huddled at the pub’s entrance, smoking in proud, Easter Island colonies, in shirts with open collars, laughing in the piercing chill wind. They would beckon him over, offer him a cigarette, which he’d take, light, and let burn down to the tips of his frozen fingers. And when he was desperate, when his thoughts got just too much to ignore, he’d go up and sit near to a tarted-up middle-aged woman at the bar and let her lean into him, squeeze his leg, dangle her much-bejewelled neck to his, and tell him hoarse, gory details of her sexual prowess. He never let her into his room, preferring instead the candid warmth of a fuck against an outside wall, or a squeezing of limbs into a tiny, slogan-stickered hatchback. And when they had finished, when they were tidying their clothes, rubbing their hands together for warmth, he would be struck by the true age of the woman, always pushing fifty, sometimes over, and wonder at her own sad story; what surly children had worn her down, what mean alcoholic bastard forced her to leave behind happiness and hide forever instead behind a mask of gaudy false brass.

In the mornings, after sleeping in late with the lingering darkness and a requisite headache, he would rise to make tea from a mournful brown-and-orange kettle that sat on a little ledge above the bathroom sink. While the water boiled, he would turn on the light above the mirror and finger his newly bearded face. He had not shaved since his long stopover in Shanghai—a superfluous but necessary visit in which he stocked up vigorously on non-prescription painkillers—and was almost fond now of the flecked black shadow taking form on his cheeks. And he would look into his eyes scattered with random twigs of blood and as the kettle screamed like a baby he would wonder how much more of this he could possibly take.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


He was not old, just 33, and still retained, somehow, the countenance of a younger man. During that other life, the one before, he had always dressed in the unspoken camouflage of middle-class suburbia, hanging his frame with pressed polo shirts and mute slacks, sleeveless polar fleece dog-walking jackets, leather slides, deck shoes, endless metres of blue and white chambre. Here, in this town, he could safely hide in layers of fabric, be nothing but a pair of eyes poked from between a scarf and a beanie. He could almost be local. Except when he ventured to the local store for his morning paper and cigarettes, and was forced to let out his coarse native tongue, scratching at the air like lost, angry animal. How he longed for the keys to that golden gate of the Gaelic tongue. The oldest language, his wife (ex-wife) had told him once. He would hang back in the shop, turning biscuit packets around aimlessly to catch just a shard of a traditional greeting. He waited often minutes for a local to approach the counter, and to make conversation with the shopkeeper. Oh, those burbling, velvet sounds, the softened hints of Germanic throats.

When he’d return to his room, he’d swallow a Valium and retreat to the endless heat of a generous, epic afternoon bath. In his mind, underwater, that old language lapped. He saw a procession of gentle, glass-faced Irish girls, with that cliché he was so pleased to have since confirmed: the softest of auburn hair. They traced his brow and stretched their milkmaid legs to the edge of the bath, one pink-painted toenail nestling neatly in the downturn of the hot water faucet. But soon, and always, a set of familiar worries returned, dulled by the drugs but still painfully acute. He would let his head slip beneath the water, looking up at the bare bulb above, squiggled into some sort of meaning by the vague currents set off by his own breathing.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


He had come to the sea to think. To watch the water from the long, safe distance of his window, warmed by whisky and often little pills. His room was one of four positioned above a bar in town on a slanted street on Ireland’s east coast. He had never learned the name of the town. He had stayed there before, in the years before his impossible young marriage developed its unavoidable greenstick fracture. That relationship, full of rookie mistakes, as his then-wife liked to put it.

During the day, the far-off water was his companion, and by night—or what passed for night as the sun died off at 5pm—his company existed in the pub below: endless fiddle melodies, leather-patched elbows, and that indecipherable, lyrical language. He would sit, nursing one heavy stout or two, in the very corner, letting the slow rich atmosphere settle about him. He would pass the hours spinning a coaster, coaxing nods from the old heads at the bar. He watched the population of the small place grow, filling to capacity at eight, with musicians now mixed with drinkers, children balanced on arms holding hot steaming port, the whole place tapping one foot, over and over. And as the merry shining faces grinned their small-town grins, and as an inevitable shoulder rammed into his and as he was caught in the whole wondrous rhythm of it all, it made him irrepressibly, impossibly sad. And yet, every night, there he was, three plane rides and countless hours from home, voluntarily crushed beneath the deep gorgeous history—eight thousand years at least—of the only place in the world in deeper denial than he.

Friday, January 16, 2009


There was such a thing as an amnesty, apparently. Although when she thought of the word, Andrea saw refugees’ hands poking through prison bars, a bloodied bear’s snout, barbed wire fences. She did not equate the phrase with her current love. The hardback love. The sweet sour smell of well-flipped paper. The thick clear bodybags of dustproof plastic, squeaking, rumpling. Perhaps it was like human rights. Perhaps it was a pile of hostages she had secreted in her room, mouths and memories sealed up tight. Perhaps there were protests, somewhere, placards with paint, effigies of her body burning. She saw religious leaders clearly, praying for her salvation. She picked up the nearest book, pleased at its already speckled spine. She’d held this one, now, for nearly fifteen years. Should she really feel so bad about giving it back?

Thursday, January 15, 2009


My neighbour M. had four wives. All of them were installed in different towns around the state and none of the wives knew of any of the other wives’ existence. When he explained this to me for some reason I pictured missile silos, those big dull grey concrete slab doors sliding open in the earth. We were at a fete, at a primary school just across the street from where we lived, though neither of us had any children. This fact made me slightly uncomfortable. I was fairly new to the area and M. and his wife had dragged me along. They said they went every year. To be honest M. distressed me. He was forty, quite athletic and usually dressed like he was about to play tennis. Sometimes he let a cardigan hang off his back like a cape, the arms tied in a casual knot around his neck. Later in the afternoon, when they announced that M. was the runner-up winner of the raffle – his prize was a meat platter supplied by a local butcher – his excitement at his victory verged on the aggressive. His face was red, his hands were fists that he let swing around his body like out of control satellites, and as he shouted spit flew out of his mouth. He looked around himself, at us, the group of losers. His wife, in a red dress, looked on and smiled and clapped and seemed happy enough to start crying.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


“Hello?” said a voice, so unfamiliar that Simon could see it. His heart stopped, and all he saw was the voice, one word with spiky letters jumping through the night, erratic like a striking snake.
“Hello?” said the voice again. “Is everything alright?” It had an accent, high-strung and velvety.

Simon stood as still as he could. Everything now was perilous. These people were not his parents. Reality snapped back like a rubber band against his skin. This was danger. Two strangers in the dead of night in a place nowhere and anywhere. Simon tried to run, but he couldn’t move. Run then hide. Hide then run. The torchlight hit his face. Boot noise on the gravel. He already knew he was dead.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Then there was a light. Just a trick at first—a blotch like when Simon sometimes rubbed his eyes too hard—but then it was real, a swinging, jittering yellow light. All that mattered was that Simon knew it was someone, and hit his hand quickly against the horn, hurting his cold fingers. He let the horn ring out, and the light started to swivel faster. Simon tried desperately to remember if his parents had taken a torch with them. Why would they, though, when it was still daylight when they left? Perhaps they had come back, he thought. Perhaps they had returned for a torch, and gone off again. But why wouldn’t they have woken him up? Maybe they were angry with him. Simon hit the horn again. The light was close now, and Simon tried to work out how many people there were.

He got out of the car and began walking towards the light. He wanted to shout out, but he couldn’t. It was his parents, he knew it now—they’d taken a torch and they were coming back. They were all going to get in the car and go to a nice hotel and stay there for the night and when they got up there would be a breakfast and Simon would ask for sausages because he liked them and his parents would probably let him have them even thought they didn’t usually …

Monday, January 12, 2009


The sound of the horn had been a night-swallowing noise, bellowing out like an animal in pain. This was the only life the car had left, the final scream Simon had forced from its body, both hands pressing down. He had railed the horn for five awful minutes, beating out long aching cries that filled his ears like wate, hammering it in short angry bursts that shook his entire body. Each one was a battle against the silence, a denial of his isolation.

Now he sat back in the driver’s seat, stillness pressing in around him. He tried not to think of the fact he was truly alone, but no other thought would replace it. This was acceptance—something he had read about, when fallen mountain climbers gave up, when the body failed, when the mind let go. The cold began to take Simon over. He saw himself the next morning, frozen like a caveman in the car, frosted face staring, twisted, from the driver’s window. He tried to see his reflection in the windshield, but there was just the blackness, the stars spread too thinly across the sky.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


He stared back at the car, a nothing colour, like everything else. It had to be a dream. That was all he could think of. This was like dreams he had—places of no definition, edges of objects ghosting, like a sketch drawing, two or three versions of everything, nothing right. The air scratched at his throat, raking its sides, leaving a thick, metallic taste. He heard his own breathing, becoming overly aware of it, lungs moving too consciously, body becoming a feedback loop. This was panic. His cheeks were hot. His parents were not there, not in his vision, not even in his head. They had vanished, and he was nowhere.

He began to walk forwards, where he thought the path should be, the place he had seen his mother and father last, arm in arm. He wanted some clue they had really been here. But everything was empty. No sights, no sounds, no tastes, no smells—no feelings he knew. He shouted out, his small voice nothing inside the cauldron sky. His mouth hurt—with the cold, with words he never used:

“MUM!” “DAD!”

It came out so painfully, it was like a bandage, ripped away from old wounds, letting the air in. He screamed their names again, but nothing came back, no familiar voices rippling out from the darkness. It was fear now. Fear that rattled his skull as he crouched down in the wet grass. Nine-year-old boys weren’t supposed to be lost like this. That was all he could think of. The raging wolves of all his nightmares snapped at his heels, ill-defined, snarling. The world was ragged and diagonal, spinning and splintering, as he stumbled back to the car, fumbling open the driver’s side door, falling with full force into the seat, crashing the heel of his palm straight at the middle of the steering wheel.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


They had driven somewhere else—this was his first thought. The car was sitting in some safe parking lot of a motel, or idling behind a service station. He reached up to turn on the light, but it didn’t work when he slid it on. The car was turned off. Nothing worked. He opened the door without thinking, and the cold air hit him flush in the face. He blinked it away. His eyes suddenly worked. He could sense movement, hundreds of small silver ribbons: the motion of waves. He was still at the dam.

Simon stumbled out of the car, the grass wet, moisture flicking at his toes: in the darkness it could have been paint or blood. He could see more now, the distance—for some reason—appearing first, the low hills rolling around him, holding in the horizon; boulders clumped together at the water. The water itself was now nothing but a cavity, surface rippling traitorously, a distraction from the hollow trap beneath. Simon knew this was a bad place. His parents were gone. They had been lost to it.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Simon’s dream slid through wakefulness so seamlessly, like a boat through calm water, that it was almost impossible to tell one moment from another : the tide of the unconscious, the shore of the real. It was dark—closed eyes and open were so much the same that Simon had to shake his head to remember which was which. When he awoke, he found himself immediately unsettled. At first he put it down to simple disorientation—the brain’s natural wariness at leaving the world one way and welcoming it another—but there was something more, a forceful thought that had remained an echo shaking in his head.

He was lying on his side, curled up on the back seat of the car. His neck was sweaty and cold. His scars itched. He sat up quickly, and the air was colder by the window, beating in on him. He had no idea what time it was. He pressed his face to the window, but his eyes couldn’t focus on anything—they were tired eyes, daytime eyes, and everything was black. He strained his head to see where the moon was, but it had disappeared as well. A faint panic began to ripple at his ribs, his heart pulsing in tiny corrugated shivers.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Simon’s father parked the car in a small allotment that looked out over the dam, behind a low wooden barrier. The wood had been treated with chemicals, Simon noticed, so it looked like someone had coloured it in with yellow highlighter. A path led from the car park down towards the shore, threading through large white boulders. Simon’s father cut the ignition, and they sat in silence for some moments, while the engine ticked like a clock, winding down.

“Well,” said Simon’s mother. “This is lovely.”

“It is,” said Simon’s father, flipping the sun visor out so it sat flat against the windscreen. “Shall we get out and have a quick look?”

“Maybe we could bring the camera,” suggested Simon’s mother.

“Look great, wouldn’t it,” said Simon’s father. “We could have some blown up for a calendar.”

They opened their doors and hopped out. Simon stayed where he was, seatbelt firmly across his waist. His mother went to the boot to get the camera from her bag. She must have noticed the back of his head. The way he held it so deliberately still. Simon’s father was already halfway to the water’s edge, beckoning his wife to follow him. He must have thought of his son, absent, in the car.

Simon leant his head back and closed his eyes. The image of his parents—walking away, hand in hand, soft sunlight across their shoulders—began to vanish.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


The signs led them there easily, to Magpie Dam. Turning off through the scrub that ran beside the car, thick and tight. The last part of the road was sandy gravel, the car’s wheels whining against the shifting ground. Simon felt sick. The day was almost gone, and it felt like they were heading further away from home. He desperately wanted to be home. Be in a home, somewhere. The signs to the dam were hand-painted. Up the hill, back through the gap in the mountain.

What Simon noticed first was the water gleaming metal-bright through the taller trees that had begun to sprout. They skirted its edge, and the dam offered glimpses of itself, near-miss guesses of what it might be, then the car turned and there it was, Magpie Dam, gaping out below them. The sun had all but sunk behind the low saddle of the mountain; all that remained was a burning afterthought, a memory scattered across the blue water, catching the tops of baby waves, turning them gold. It was so obviously beautiful that it made Simon feel even more insignificant. This is what people noticed, he thought. Nobody recognised the silent point between horizon and sky, the place he occupied.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Yvette wore her hat again the next morning. I’d checked out of my hotel and was ready for the heat as I stepped from the lobby. I’d nodded to the doorman, and he’d nodded to me, and I counted his pile of heat-stricken tourists stacked in the shade. I drove my hire car—a new car, of course, and a new company—down the motorway yet again, with the pulsing lights in the darkness. I had already thrown the ubiquitous sanitary floor crepe out the window.

As I walked down to the dock, I felt the security lights on my back from my old friend’s house on the hill. He had contracted me some years ago to take out a thorny property developer, and his laugh washed through my head as I walked to Yvette’s pier.

“I had a feeling you’d be okay,” I told her.

“No one takes any notice of an old fisherman,” she said. “Even if she’s sitting next to a hitman.”

“Don’t really like that word.”

“Can’t imagine you would.”

“So I suppose I owe you one.”

“How’s that?”

“You saved my life.”

“Just trying to redress some karma. I perform two killings to your one—remember?”

“Thanks anyway.”

“Could have brought me a flower. Being so grateful and all.”

“Guys in suits don’t bring flowers.”

We sat for a few moments in silence, and it occurred to me that I had never seen her with a fish, let alone catching one. Seemed to fit, though.

“So,” she said, “did everything work out?”

“Not exactly. I fulfilled someone’s revenge fantasy, but I didn’t get them what they really wanted.”

“An answer.”


“Do you think there’ll be an answer?”

I thought about this for a moment and then reached inside my jacket. I pulled out the photograph of the unknown dead man and showed it to Yvette.

She raised her eyebrows. “Oh,” she said. “Him. You should have said.”

I smiled.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Afterwards, when I’d spoken to the brother and taken his body to a National Park, I buried him. I took pictures of the grave, as per my contract, and then I sat down on some mulchy earth and reflected on my thoughts. Whenever I finished a contract, whenever the blood had stopped and run cold, I would try to convince myself this would be the last time. But then I would see myself in a grey shadowless office, or in an unemployment queue, and I would see the corner I had painted myself into. I still had not found the dead man from the photograph, the brother of the man I had just killed. My target had not known a thing. This I had not anticipated. But I had to admit it was always a possibility.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


The brother was not hard to find, not as obvious as Big Red Reg at Hungry Jack’s, but nonetheless it didn’t take a genius. The notes I had on the brother were comprehensive. It wasn’t like I knew the colour of his pyjamas—or any of those ridiculous details you see in Hollywood police files—but an old head like me could put two and two together. I knew he’d be waiting for me. He knew his dead brother’s widow wanted to know where her husband was buried. He had known someone would come for him.

I called my wife from a payphone in the city, as strangers rushed past me in the lunch-hour cram.

“This is the final thing,” I told her. “I’m going to visit him.”

“Does he know you’re here?”

“I think he has a fair idea.”

“Did you sort out the guy on the beach?”


“Good luck.”


And it wasn’t as if my wife thought that every time we spoke it could be our last words to each other, but it was at least something to consider.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


I walked in under the red and yellow arch without so much as a thought. I had not showered or shaved. I stunk of the seaside and an hour-long bus ride.

Big Red Reg looked up from a burger. “Julian.”


“How did you know I was here?”

“Well, I was up in a satellite, I found the Great Wall of China, then went left.”

“What happened to you?”

“All my wishes came true.”

“Did you go to the house?”

“Me and a friend paid a visit.”

“So the target’s here, then.”

“My Brisbane visit was worthwhile, yes, if that’s what you mean.”

“So what happened?”

“His brother tried to drown me.”

“Why aren’t you dead?”

“I’m not sure that I’m not.”

“So you tail the brother.”

“It’s not that easy. He might have taken someone.”

“Someone who?”

“A friend of mine.”

“From Brisbane?”

“A new friend.”


Big Red Reg put down his burger. “I don’t want to say the word compromise.”

“So don’t then.”

“You’ve got to do the job and get out. That’s it. That’s all you’re being paid to do. You can’t worry about her.”

“How do you know it’s a woman?”

Big Red Reg chuckled. “Do you have to ask?”

Friday, January 2, 2009


I put on the visor, welcoming the belated shade. “I was here last…” I started the sentence, but then a thought stitched itself to the side of my brain. “Yvette—the fisherwoman, she was with me. Have you seen her?”

“She the one who sits on the pier?”

“Yes, she wears the hat … sometimes, I think. I don’t really know that, but she was wearing a big hat when I first saw her. Do you know where she is?”

“Can’t say I do,” said the lady. “She’s usually on the pier at sunrise, but I didn’t see her this morning.”

I had to get back to Brisbane. I had to do some serious business. This was not the way things were done. If they had taken Yvette—if they had done anything to her…

“I’ve got to get back to the lifesaving club,” said the lady, pointing back over her shoulder. “You going to be okay to get home?”

“Yeah,” I said distractedly. “Thanks.”

This wasn’t right. The junkie was one of their foot soldiers, a particularly nasty worm with a penchant for schoolyard pushing. He knew the game he was in. Yvette was an innocent person. Anger grew in my chest in a spiky rising rhythm. I pulled down my sun visor and gingerly got to my feet. Shaking myself of accumulated sand, I began the trek to the spot where my hire car was very likely sitting with its wheels missing and its CD player on permanent loan.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


A bright light rolled uphill, painfully, into my head. My first thought was that I should be wet, but I felt bone dry. The sun roiled thin clouds above me, fracturing the sky into Byzantine blues and whites. I guessed at mid-morning, the morning after, or some time after that. Despite myself, I smiled. I was alive. My guesses had been correct. The junkie, now deceased, had gotten the message through.

I felt something hard poke me in the side. It was one of the religious ladies I had seen the night before, still dressed from head to toe in satin, prodding me with a sandaled foot. Her ankle was festooned with enough gold to make a pirate weep.

“You okay there?” she said, surprising me with mouthfuls of broad Australian vowels.

“I think so,” I answered, mentally checking my senses to make sure they were intact.

“You were here when I walked by this morning,” said the lady, “but I thought you might’ve been just asleep, but then I came back and you were still here.”

“Had a rough night,” I said, tasting sand and smelling blood. I sat up.

“You were here last night, too,” said the lady. She handed me a sun visor with Labrador Nippers emblazoned on the front. I took it from her with as wry a smile as I could manage.