The Farting Biting Cat

September 25, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Fluffy. The Farting Biting Cat.

Fluffy. The Farting Biting Cat.

Deep in the hold of the airliner, the Farting Biting Cat bit angrily at the slim bars of its cage. Then, it farted. Growls of protest sounded from the other pets. These multiplied and crescendoed to shrieks of outrage as noxious gas filled the chamber and hung, like swamp moss, in the dank air.

Unperturbed, the Farting Biting Cat resumed its methodical shredding of the thick newspaper lining its cage. Sharp claws ejected from fat, furry paws, noisily slitting layers of typescript.

Every now and then, the Farting Biting Cat scooped up a clutch of tapers. Eyeing them with hatred, it opened its horrible mouth and bit with piebald gums and worn teeth – teeth worn from biting. Then, closing its eyes in an ecstasy of vengeance, the Farting Biting Cat farted.

By the time the ground crew arrived, the hold reeked of methane and was littered with moist, masticated fragments of paper. When a gloved finger protruded into the cage of the Farting Biting Cat, it drove its good fang through the stout canvas.

The sudden savagery of the attack tensed its muscles, causing it to emit a loud fart. The baggage handler recoiled in pain and surprise, leaving behind the tip of his glove and a morsel of flesh. This the Farting Biting Cat devoured with relish, and with a sturdy, contented, fart.

**********

Roger eyed Stephanie with anxiety as she released the Farting Biting Cat into their new home. She cooed and murmured to her pet, as it ambled from the cage and flashed its red eyes at Roger. Then, with a force astonishing for something so revoltingly obese and orange, it sprang and fastened itself to Roger’s chest.

Spread-eagled on his heavy jumper, the Farting Biting Cat bit his collar bone ferociously, its corrupt breath hot on his skin. Roger leapt back, smashing into the front door, his frantic thumbs digging into the folds of fat under the Farting Biting Cat’s forelegs.

With all his strength, he flung the animal to the ground and kicked it. The Farting Biting Cat spun across the polished floorboards, farting profusely with rage.

Stephanie shot Roger an angry look and stalked down the corridor with muttered recriminations. Roger slumped to the floor, bloody and unconscious.

**********

When Roger woke, Stephanie had already left for work. A note pinned to his sleeve detailed his chores for the day. He saw with dread that Chore One was to feed the Farting Biting Cat. A cloth bag at his feet held the ingredients for the Farting Biting Cat’s breakfast.

Swearing into the warm draught of the stove, Roger stirred a vile goulash. Eggs, beans, cheese and sauerkraut vied for supremacy over bubbling lard. His stomach recoiled at the stench.

From the end of the house, Roger heard a low fart and a disturbing crunching sound. The Farting Biting Cat was awake. He glared through the door and stabbed at the goop, which plopped sullenly and slithered around the sides of the battered fondue pot.

With a final stir, Roger turned off the gas and carried the pot to the Farting Biting Cat’s terra cotta feeding bowl. Hoping to deposit the meal before its owner arrived, Roger scooped recalcitrant gobs of the heinous matter and flung them earthward.

Before he had finished, however, the Farting Biting Cat entered the lounge, and farted.

Eyeing his nemesis warily, Roger steeled himself, filled the feeding bowl and stepped back.

The Farting Biting Cat advanced, regarding Roger through hooded slits. Roger retreated to the kitchen, took down a carving knife and clutched it to his breast.

The Farting Biting Cat glanced disdainfully into its bowl. Lowering its heavy, whiskered head it began to eat. For seven minutes the Farting Biting Cat feasted, not once taking its eyes from Roger.

Every time its drool-drenched jaws closed on a chunk of unmelted cheese, The Farting Biting cat emitted a long, low growl and a hideous, breathy fart. Nauseous and dizzy, Roger began to sway in the doorway.

The Farting Biting Cat straightened, having expanded to twice its size. Unable to stretch, it farted, then bit languidly at a flea. Roger exhaled with relief. Stephanie’s pet always slept after dining. He began to think about coffee and a shower. He was jet-lagged and let his eyelids close in a long blink.

When he reopened them, the Farting Biting Cat was gone.

Roger shook his head. The lounge was tiny, the coffee table glass-topped; no place to hide for something as large and smelly as a catcher of grass from a poo-ridden nature strip. He assumed the Farting Biting Cat had returned to the front room and stepped out of the kitchen.

The Farting Biting Cat launched itself from the bookcase, thudding into Roger’s neck and piloting him through the coffee table. Roger struggled from the glass-sharded confines and lurched back into the kitchen. The Farting Biting Cat rode shotgun, seeking his eyes, farting continuously and biting murderously into his scalp.

In the ensuing struggle, Roger dropped his knife. Sensing victory, The Farting Biting Cat tightened its hold and slashed open his forehead.

Blinded with blood, Roger’s desperate fingers sought a new weapon. Glass and crockery crashed to the floor. At last his hand closed around something smooth, which dovetailed into his palm with familiarity.

It was his old Junkers oven ignition pistol.

The Farting Biting Cat continued its attack. The pain made Roger’s hands twitch spasmodically and the oven pistol crackled with sparks. In preparation for the coup de grace, the Farting Biting Cat released a cruel, voluminous fart.

Instantly the pistol kindled it, sending a jet of blue flame into the body of its author.

The explosion was deafening. Billowing acrid smoke, the Farting Biting Cat rocketed from Roger’s shoulder, slammed into the lounge room wall, plummeted to the floor and died – farting and biting uncontrollably.

Nursing his ravaged face, Roger fumbled for the telephone.

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Two Thieves

September 21, 2009 at 8:01 am | Posted in Short Story | 2 Comments
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Today I learned to be wary of heroin addicts who hum along to Indian devotional music, and doe-eyed temptresses who bemoan the size of their breasts. For today, unless I am gravely mistaken, representatives from these singular demographics ripped off the handicraft shop at which I work.

The day had been quiet and pleasant, until a diminutive humanoid stepped past the caneware. The straps of her mismatched gym wear rode like tendons over her emaciated frame, binding her together.

I was certain I’d seen her before – in a colour-coded dissecting manual. Her eyes were tar-black and crossed. Her jagged teeth jutted. Three meagre sprays of greasy hair sprouted from terry towelling scrunchies; brown, smeared with molybdenum grey.

‘Owareyedarl?’

It talked. I gripped the banister and stared from the mezzanine. Her face twisted up in salutation, her good eye boring into me.

‘Good, thanks.’ Alarm bells shrilled. Druggie! Thief! Flipper! Though the costume was unique, the demeanour was familiar. I recalled previous dealings with the dispossessed and my manager’s insistent advice: ‘You can spot them. They’re over-friendly. They don’t stop talking. They cart you all over the shop until another customer distracts you; then they strike.’

Yet this woman was tiny. And we’d hidden the Thai sword after the terrifying Christmas incident. I was free to watch her every move. So why was my heart racing?

‘Beaudifulday.’

‘Y..yes.’

‘Gunnabehottertamorra.’

‘Really?’ My wooden words tumbled like blocks. What was she after? Her hands were spiders, scampering lightly and at speed over the stock.

Then she picked out a carved box and held it towards me. ‘Where’sthismade, darl?’

Her face got me. Suddenly, the drug addict was gone. In its place, a pathetically disabled woman, with no friends, no government support and nothing to do all day but seek contact with strangers.

I saw freckles, and echoes of what she once looked like. Privileged and whole, who was I to judge? Flayed with Catholic guilt, I pompously granted her the benefit of the doubt.

I lengthened my answers to her ceaseless questions. She was looking for a present. Pay day (pension day?) was Thursday; she’d come back then. She wanted to find a nice wooden box. Maybe for some tarot cards. What did I think? Did I know the tarot? Where could you buy tarot? Could you get lessons? What about runes; what were they about? Did I know? She didn’t believe in them, but you never knew, did you? Still, a nice box was always nice, wasn’t it? She could get one of those even if she didn’t get the cards, couldn’t she? How big were tarot cards anyway? Oh, so there were different sizes, were there? Should she get some cards first, to make sure they fitted the box?

And so on. I listened and responded as a community service. My good deed. Keeping up with her was draining and I willed her from the shop with all my might.

Finally, she completed her obsessive examination of everything downstairs and mounted the mezzanine. As she passed the register, she threw yet another inquiry over her bony shoulder. It was only after answering that I thought I detected a faint change in her tone.

‘Whatsyername?’

‘Paul.’ I tasted where the word had been, feeling like it had been plucked from my tongue. I shot back clumsily. ‘What’s yours?’

Again the friendly, lopsided grin. ‘Ronnie.’

Great. So that was the name I’d give to the cops if something went missing? Mistrust raised its hand from the back of my class.

‘Geez, yerdoin the right thing with this jewellery, with the glassanall. Otherwise people’d comeinere an pinch the lot.’

Surely this was proof she was testing the water. I decided to frighten her. ‘Yeah, we get a lot of thieves in here. Once we caught a woman trying to stuff a dress down her underpants. She said she was “trying it on”. Then she stood outside and begged from passers by until she had enough money to buy it.’

‘Geez, I’m surprised ya didn’t call the cops.’

Touché. Slippery bitch. That was it; she was gearing up for a hit. I resolved to stop her.

Then came the humming.

We play music from the countries in which our goods are crafted. I had on my 16th Century Indian chants. On quitting the jewellery cabinet for the clothing racks, Ronnie’s fingering became even more intricate and exaggerated.

She muttered comments, stood on tiptoe, peered intently, nodded to herself and hummed along with the sitar. The sound was awful, her tuneless drone spectacularly out of sync with music she could not possibly have known. Yet she persisted. And it grated.

At last there was nothing left to explore. She approached the counter, her wretched face wreathed in an oily smile. ‘Gottapen, darl?’

‘Why?’

‘I juswanna getta few prices down, ferwhen I come back.’

Yeah. Sure. I leaned back to witness the pantomime. It began where she had – the front of the shop. I winced. Christ, she was going to do the grand tour again! This time taking notes!

I had nothing on her. All I could do was watch, wait, and listen to her murder my music. Ten agonising minutes later, three school girls breezed in like a cool change. Ronnie looked up sharply, straight into my eyes. The kids can take what they want, Ronnie, but you shall have nothing! She crouched over a pile of rugs. Her paper bag cleavage sagged open, incongruously large on her wiry frame.

The sheer sadness of the ploy, if it were one, almost made me look away. Then the giggling girls sought my attention. I spun abruptly. Yes they could try on the f*cking sarongs. As I looked back, Ronnie’s scoop-necked leotard slapped back into place.

She stood and turned, her attitude subtly different. I spotted the faint lump between her breasts. The fruit of her labour. My pulse leapt and I swallowed. A thief in the shop! With the goods still on her! Apprehend her this instant! Go!

I stalled, terrified. I hadn’t actually seen the act itself. What if I were wrong? What if it were a… a tumour on her chest? How would I confront her? What were the rules of citizen’s arrest? Would I be able to hold her captive and call the cops? How long would they take? What if she were armed? With a blood-filled syringe? Would the neighbours help? Was her boyfriend outside? Oh Jesus! I can’t do it!’

Ronnie continued her tour of the stock, though with markedly less interest. It was time to get out. I stayed safe behind the register and plied her with a coward’s shower of questions, hoping she’d take fright. But she did not. Talking and humming, she paced herself magnificently, manoeuvring ever so slowly towards the door.

‘Thanks, I’ll seeya Thursday.’

In despair, I tried oblique guilt and answered sweetly. ‘OK Ronnie, see you then. Have a lovely day.’ Even then I stopped short of ‘God be with you.’

My harmless missiles fell at her feet and she slid outside, stopping to examine one last thing. A back scratcher. For a long time, she studiously dragged the bamboo claws across her mottled flesh; luxuriating in her triumph. Or just itchy.

I tore down the stairs. Eight hand-tooled candles stood mute on the shelf. Had there been nine? Would that I had counted them that morning. The size seemed about right for Ronnie’s lump. I mitigated my guilt with the shaky affirmation that she’d taken forty minutes to steal a mere $2.95.

Plodding back to my station, I regarded the fresh-faced school girls. For all I knew, their capacious school bags were stuffed with loot. I assumed a position of vigilance, methodically casting my gaze to every corner of the premises.

The fringed face of a young female materialised suddenly in the street window. She peered intently into the shop, her body shrouded by glancing reflections of afternoon sun. On spotting me, her small mouth dropped open and she squinted. Then she was gone.

Minutes later, she was back. Like a vixen at a bait, she crept tentatively into the shop. Her voice was hushed and secretive. ‘Where’s the… other girl… the dark one?’

‘She’s working tomorrow.’ Immediately I scolded myself for revealing information without reason.

The girl approached my counter and leaned forward conspiratorially. ‘She… yelled at me.’ Her blue saucer eyes stared at length past her flaxen fringe. Then she drew back with a solemn nod, as if having imparted a critical truth.

‘Really?’ The warning bells sounded again. But this time my visitor had identified herself. The “other girl” was Rachel, who only ever lost it with thieves and threatening customers. After the debacle with Ronnie, I was in no mood to suffer either. ‘What happened?’

‘She… yelled at me.’

‘So you said. Why was that, do you think?’

The girl shook her head, hands splayed out in patent bewilderment. ‘I don’t know. She just…’

Yelled at you.’

Yes. That’s right. It was awful.’

The voice belonged to Marilyn Monroe. Perhaps the girl was insane? This thought angered me, because it clouded the issue. Could Rachel have misinterpreted her behaviour? I was gripped by uncertainly, bane of the reasonable. ‘Well, the other girl rarely loses her temper, it must have been…’

‘Oh please don’t talk about her! Look at me, I’m… I’m trembling.’

She fled to the clothing racks, patting her chest and hyperventilating. I began to think that eleven bucks an hour was a little lean for this sort of shit. Of course it was a stunt. But what if she were truly deranged? I shut up and watched. She calmed down and began sorting through the designer section.

‘Can I try these on?’

She held three garments aloft. I counted the hangars. Twice. There was no way she was going to make off with one of these.

‘Sure, use the left cubicle.’ The closest to the counter.

She took a long, long time. Customers came and went, receiving indifferent service as I kept my eyes on the girl’s ankles, moving mysteriously below the tattered curtain.

Finally she emerged, wearing the most expensive dress in the shop. It was a stunning, aquamarine creation with a lace up bodice. The sort of thing Tinkerbell would wear to the Hilton. Sequins sparkled from the hem, which cascaded in petals to the floor.

Gaily the girl pirouetted and studied herself in the mirror. ‘I love this dress.’

She looked fantastic. I tried to close the sale. ‘Many have tried, but no one has ever managed to make it fit.’

She slid her hands slowly over her breasts. ‘It’s a pity I’m a bit too big up top, don’t you think?’

I looked at her eyes, immune to her seductive pose. Though light years away from Ronnie in terms of technique, she too was seeking to beguile me, perhaps even turn me to stone. Well, I’d fix her.

‘My girlfriend has the same figure as you. She wears Elle MacPherson Intimates. The effect is stunning in dresses like that.’

A shadow crossed her face and she flattened her lilting voice. ‘Really?’ Abruptly she re-entered the cubicle. And lingered long.

To my astonishment, she returned two dresses to the rack and handed me the third.

‘Do you have Eftpos?’

‘Absolutely.’ I took the card. Sylvia Jeffries. A sale instead of a loss. I’d won. No matter that she’d yielded solely to quell my suspicion until her next attempt. She would find me just as vigilant next time.

The Eftpos machine said ‘damaged card’. I swiped until it took, extracted money from Sylvia Jeffries and wished her the most pleasant of evenings. She took her defeat like a pro.

Now I was humming to Indian music – in the correct key. It was time to close up. I tidied the clothes racks and checked the cubicles.

The empty hangar mocked me with great mirth.

It spoke of an exquisite $215 slip dress, concealed between the twice-counted garments Sylvia Jeffries had carried carefully into her cubicle.

Filigreed plastic speared into my palm as I destroyed the evidence of my second failure. It could have been the schoolgirls, but I think not.

Crazy, Drug-F*cked Thieves:                                     2.

Degree-Qualified Former Personnel Manager:   0.

The Story of Slasher

September 19, 2009 at 10:20 am | Posted in Song | Leave a comment
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Any minor twelve bar blues progression will do, as long as it's fast.

Any minor twelve bar blues progression will do, as long as it's fast.

I’ve got a story, just for you,

about a girl that I once knew,

A girl born under a harvest moon,

in the house of Mars on the cusp of June.

The whole town got a nasty fright,

when Slasher’s birth scream split the night.

 

She grew up fast on the family farm,

long of leg and strong of arm,

And when her father’s tractor broke,

he harnessed Slasher to the yoke,

And downing raw meat, eggs and beers,

she ploughed those fields for eleven years.

 

When she turned twelve, as a special treat,

her dad let Slasher cut the meat

Of a cow he’d killed for her birthday,

to celebrate at a party gay,

But as Slasher slowly took the knife,

something snapped, and changed her life.

 

Deep within an evil streak,

bitter bile began to leak.

Sick of slaving all her life,

she killed her dad, and then his wife.

At the age of twelve, she stood and swore,

unholy faith to blood and gore.

 

Chorus 1  (fortissimo)

 Slasher, Slasher, Slasher, Slasher, Slasher, Slasher, Slasher, Slasher,

She cut off their heads and shoved them down her neck.

 

She’d chopped her parents into bits,

because they’d given her the shits.

When she was done, she gave a roar: 

‘I like meat, and I want more!’

So gulping the last pieces down,

she, and her knife, set off for town.

 

On the way, her pet dog, Stan,

bounded up and licked her hand.

She felled him with a fatal blow

and disemboweled him, top to toe,

While Frank, the postman at the gate,

met with the same grisly fate.

 

Just out of town there was a shack,

where lived a pensioner named Jack.

He was a gentle, kindly bloke,

who died at Slasher’s second stroke.

And with her hunger barely spent,

into town Slasher went.

 

She feasted hard, she feasted long,

on limb and brain, heart and schlong.

Then up into the hills she fled,

and in a dark cave made her bed

And once a month, for nine long years,

she fed on grown-ups, kids and beer.

 

Chorus 1

 

One night, Mars eclipsed the moon,

and all the good townspeople knew

That with the dawning of the sun,

Slasher would turn twenty-one

And though it caused and awful rift,

they chose among themselves a gift.

 

A boy with hair as black as night,

complexion fair and body tight

Was stripped and scrubbed with sacred soap,

and tightly bound with golden rope.

Then, creeping with the stealth of mice,

the people left their sacrifice.

 

On her birthday, Slasher stirred,

and took the boy without a word.

As she prepared herself to feed,

she caught his eye, and felt a need

That hitherto she had not known,

the seeds of love had just been sown.

 

‘Young boy, will you marry me? 

We’ll live in filth, beside the sea.

I’ll catch people, you’ll catch fish,

and I’ll fulfill your every wish.

And look!  To show you how I’m fond,

I’ve loosened all your golden bonds.’

 

When he was free the boy stood tall

and grabbed her knife from off the wall.

He plunged it in her beating heart,

and then the blood began to start.

It flowed ’til half past six that night,

when, at the climax of their fight:

 

Chorus 2  (fortissimo)

Slasher, Slasher, Slasher, Slasher, Slasher, Slasher, Slasher, Slasher,

He cut off her head and shoved it down her neck.

The Purple Juggling Ring

September 18, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Posted in Poem | 4 Comments
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Purple 

Jenny was juggling on our balcony on Sunday afternoon. 

Her three coloured rings spun through the air above her concentrated gaze.

Suddenly, she lost control and the purple ring landed on my empty Violet Crumble wrapper.

‘It’s an omen!’  I cried. 

Jenny looked, and understood.

Later, she was juggling again, and this time, the purple ring landed on a cushion. 

It, too, was purple!

We stared at the ring, at the cushion and at each other.

‘It’s an omen!’  she exclaimed.

‘Purple seeks purple!’  I shouted.

And we understood.

It was groovy.

Shall we kill him?

September 16, 2009 at 8:17 pm | Posted in Short Story | 7 Comments
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Badge 1977 Crop

Beyond price.

1974. Soft youth of nine. Introverted, bookish.

‘You spend too much time making models. You’ve got to get out and make friends.’

I don’t want friends. Everyone hates me.

‘We’re sending you to cubs, for your own good.’

I don’t want to go to cubs; I love my models.

‘You’re going. That’s final.’

Second-hand uniform assembled piecemeal, the differing khakis an instant target. The ancient, too-soft hat scoffs at clothes pegs and steam.

Dead man walking to a fresh clutch of tyrants, to complement my school set.

Tall, raven-haired Akela has a smile for me. Wiry old Kim lays down the law: we’re all equal. Respect.

Me? Too? I return home undestroyed. Stunned.

‘See! We told you.’

I arrive early to help Akela set up. For my collector’s badge, I bring my models. The cross-legged semicircle listens!

**********

‘This is Colin; he’s joining us for a few months.’

Hello Colin. Welcome Colin.

Colin is a younger grown-up, imbued with the collective wisdom and authority of all grown-ups. He tells ace stories about a camp where he made huge catapults and went to war with another troop, hurling mud balls big as your head across a river.

Could WE have a camp like that? Colin?

‘Maybe…’

**********

Tonight it’s ‘Hares and Hounds’. The hares have all the fun, going anywhere they like. Always the older boys: they never blow the whistle when they’re supposed to and they sneak out of bounds to Kentucky Fried.

Afterwards they boast to us who have ploughed futilely through the suburban night. Though jealous, we’re not dobbers, so they do it every time.

But Colin is with us tonight! Maybe we’ll catch those… bloody hares at last. He brings magical adult power. We run and run. Is it them ahead? Colin knows a short cut.

Unreal! But aren’t we out of bounds?

It’s OK, Colin says it’s OK.

He calls a strategy meeting and we huddle panting.

‘Those guys have gone out of bounds again, right?’

He knows! He’s one of us!

‘Well, let’s play our own trick and hide from them.’

Jaws drop. Hounds hide? The idea is delicious. Of course we want to; haven’t we always said…

‘Enough talk. We must go now, before they suspect. Follow me.’

How swiftly we are in the small room below the street. It’s exciting. Wow! A TV with control paddles.

‘Sit down. See if you can bat the ball across the screen. That’s it! Now back.’

What is this miracle game? A fight to be next.

Cigarettes. The oldest have a go. Cough, cough. It’s grouse. Choke. Here.

Now alien objects. Adult things? Small square packets, round inside. Stickers? Do you stick ’em on your… balls? To keep them out of the way? When you…?

I return to the blipping, popping game.

Time to go. How we hate to leave the wondrous toy.

‘You can come again if you like.’

But Colin isn’t talking to me.

Heavy with our secret oath, we return to the hall to savour the unchased hares’ bewilderment.

**********

I’ve earned three badges since Colin came. Half the troop covets my harlequin sleeves. Now it’s first aid, but I haven’t studied enough and I’m getting things wrong.

Badges are everything.

‘What is the correct way to cut toenails?’

Um… There’s two ways: fingers and toes. They’re different, but which…? Um… around?

‘No, I’m afraid it’s straight across. Fingernails are cut around, cutting toenails around causes ingrowing. Did you read the chapter?’

…Yes.

‘Hey don’t cry; it’s alright. Here, take it.’

The priceless embroidered disc: mine? Really?

‘Yes.’

Gratitude fills the anteroom. Beyond the door they practice knots. I make ready to leave. Please Mum, can you sew it on tonight?

‘There’s just one thing I want you to do.’ A strange tone.

What?

‘Close your eyes and turn around.’

Why?

‘Just close your eyes and turn around.’ A note of urgency.

No, you’ll hurt me.

His softest smile and most reassuring voice as he guides me. ‘I won’t hurt you. Close your eyes.’

I trust. I obey…

I relax.

His hand snakes around to devour my genitals. I feel the heat of his clutch. Electrified, I wrench away.

Woodenly, I rejoin my peers. The night ends at last. I carry my badge home to commercial break praise.

And nightmares in which I fight enemies in turn, only to be utterly disabled at the moment of victory by fingers at my penis.

**********

His motor bike roars up as I stoke the weekend’s pruning. My special place in the clay gutter – baked hard by the Summer and my fire. He crushes the weeds with his big leather buttocks.

‘Why won’t you come on the camp? We’re going to make catapults.’

I don’t want to go.

‘It’ll be great; you’ll be sorry you missed it.’

I’m not saying it won’t be great. I just don’t want to go.

I flee to my room.

He follows, stopping in the kitchen. Dad offers him a beer. ‘We make it ourselves. It’s much cheaper.’

I lie on my bed, barely able to hear past my heartbeat.

‘So how’s he getting on?’

‘…’

‘Yes, he told us he didn’t want to go.’

‘…’

‘We agree entirely; he has to learn to…’

Colin’s heavy tread down the hall. He enters triumphant; I haven’t said a word. And Dad worships him for fixing the phone.

Authorised persuasion begins. Prowess befuddles fear. It’s so draining to maintain distrust. He becomes playful, making light of our history. I so want to believe him. We talk of other things and I relax a little.

He tickles me. Tentatively I join in. He pins me down immediately.

‘Shall we kill him?’

What do you mean?

‘Shall we kill him?’

NO!

‘I think we should kill him.’

It’s a game, isn’t it? A… game?

He grabs my genitals a second time, copyrighting my nightmares.

**********

 I wage a desperate campaign against my parents.

‘But why do you hate it so much?’

The truth is taboo.

Astonished, I eventually get out.

**********

I turn into a grown-up. It becomes fashionable to have been abused. Oh the scoutmaster, yeah, he had a go at me. I had more badges than anyone. Har har.

‘Operation Paradox’. On a whim I telephone. A kind policewoman listens to my story, told straight for the first time – apologetically, dismissively.

Would I like to make a statement? Can I remember the address of that long ago night? A surname? The year? Even the season would help.

Try as I might, I cannot recall the metrics of my violation. And I can’t ask Mum or Dad; it’d kill them.

**********

Lo! Cousin Catherine is taking Uncle Barry to court for incest dating back thirty years!

My parents’ cocoon is scorched like the Shroud of Turin, but not destroyed.

‘Catherine’s very convincing, but if there were something going on, why was there no sign, no hint of trouble? She used to stay with us all the time and not once did we ever feel there was anything awry.’

Mum, do you remember the scoutmaster who fixed our phone for free?

Eventually she does.

Did you know he had a go at me, in this house?

‘Really? He did that?’

Yes. Details.

Astonished, she changes the subject. But not before providing a surname.

**********

1997. A pretty wife arranges flowers in the hall. A uniform knocks; not khaki.

‘We need to speak with your husband.’

Colin’s still great with kids. He looks up from the wading pool, his sons frolicking noisily.

Twenty-three years a hare.


What’s that, Skip?

September 11, 2009 at 9:01 am | Posted in Short Story | 2 Comments
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Truth can be stranger than fiction.

Eleven hundred bucks to insure a ten-grand Barina? I don’t think so. Not unless you’re planning to drive off a cliff. We’d saved too hard for this holiday and nothing was going to stop us living it up in Adelaide.

Nothing, that is, until we missed the Ararat turnoff and hurtled into the Grampians at sunrise.

Of course I’d heard about hitting Skippy in the twilight, but she’d always looked so delicate on the telly. What match was a moth-eaten marsupial for a gleaming tan hatchback with 1.3 litres of power?

When ‘Stumpy’ the seven foot mob champion slammed into us, the windscreen filled with fur and split. The engine shrieked, the chassis shuddered and the cabin turned festive with warning lights as we tracked towards a deep culvert.

With time running at one tenth normal speed, I managed to ease the crippled vehicle to a halt. We exited via the good door and moved away from the sound of steam and fizzing battery acid.

Bereft, I tottered up the road like Ruth Cracknell as dawn burnished the landscape. Stumpy was nowhere to be seen.

Four hours, 22 km and $200 later, I surveyed the ruin of our holiday as ‘Fred’s’ tow truck dumped it among former victims.

‘Kangaroo?’ inquired a broken Commodore.

I turned, too exhausted to be surprised. ‘Yeah.’

‘They call him ‘Stumpy’.’

‘No sh*t.’

A Gemini lisped – engine bay crushed to half its size. ‘Did he get your lion?’

‘My what?’

‘Your little lion; off the bonnet. He collects them.’

I knelt and spotted a tuft of fur where the badge had been. ‘Um … Look’s like it.’

‘Definitely Stumpy,’ chorused the yard, before reverting to country silence.

 Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Brad is Good at Everything

September 9, 2009 at 3:09 pm | Posted in Song | Leave a comment
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Vengeance: chill before serving.

Vengeance: chill before serving.

Brad is good at everything,

he is a natural athlete.

Alas, not me, I’m unco;

I’m slow and I’ve got flat feet.

With bat and ball and stick and hole,

he’s accurate and lithe.

All I can do is fumble,

take stupid punts and writhe, because

Brad, Brad is good at everything.

Brad, Brad is good at every f*cking thing.

Brad, Brad is good at everything.

Brad is good at everything.

The sports field is Brad’s kingdom,

be it Astroturf or tar.

He rules the skill-based firmament,

his every shot a star.

But harder yet than this

for the mediocre horde,

His prowess transfers seamlessly

from open space to board.

Games of thought and strategy

Brad masters and, you guessed it,

He just beat me at f*cking chess;

my button – Brad has pressed it.

So now he lies trussed at my feet,

my blade poised o’er his heart.

If Brad is good at begging,

he’d better make a start.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

A Husband’s Thanks for a Home-Cooked Meal

September 9, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Posted in Poem | Leave a comment
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20060816 010 Wok Fire

Light my fire!

I’m your bok choy baby,

You can call me Green Pea Paul.

I’ve got grinnage from that spinach

And that’s not bloody all.

I’m a lamb ramming psycho

Who never took a leek.

I’ve had a hit of gravy

That’ll last me till next week.

So thank you wife so precious

For an ace and decent feed.

You’re smart, cool and pretty,

And you fill my every need.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Honey, I Zapped the Kids – A Lively Tale of Murder by Electricity

September 7, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Posted in Article | 4 Comments
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Electricity is useful and dangerous. The fact it’s useful means it’s all around us. Yet the fact it’s dangerous doesn’t mean we all know how to use it properly. Despite WorkCover’s best efforts, safety is still not a sexy subject.

So how do I make you read a safety article? By using Barry Butcher. Barry is a happily married father of two who is about to kill himself and his family – including the pets. You’re going to see how he does it.

Barry has a nice home which he plans to renovate. As we enter the hall, we see an old fuse box with quaint ceramic fuses. Because these used to burn out often, Barry has replaced the fine fuse wire with a much heavier gauge. Next time there’s a fault in the home’s antique, cloth-covered wiring, the fuses will hold their own until the wiring ignites the granny flat out the back.

The resultant fire will account for Barry’s mother, Beryl. A sleek modern switchboard with automatic cut-off switches only costs around $350 installed, but Barry is saving for a new kitchen.

On our left is Betty’s nursery. Like most toddlers, she is endlessly inquisitive. Barry hasn’t put safety plugs in the unused power point sockets and to Betty, they look like portals to another world. In a way, they are. All she needs is a safety pin or paper clip key.

Compounding the risk is Betty’s mother Brenda, who is understandably concerned about germs. She regularly drowns the live power boards with surface cleaner. All except the one under the crib which has been gathering dust, cobwebs and cat fur ever since Betty arrived. It’s hard to tell which way she’s going to go.

Down the hall is the master bedroom. With the nights turning cold, the trusty old electric blanket has come out of storage, still bearing its fold marks. While Barry can’t see that the wiring’s had it, he has lately noticed (and ignored) a hot spot in the bed.

Before winter is over, dinner guests will put their firstborn down in the Butcher’s marital chamber and Barry will neglect to turn the blanket off at the power point.

It will be the last time Horace Henderson ever wets the bed.

Revenge will be swift. As Barry attends the disaster, he will fail to disconnect the faulty blanket. Through cracks in the old plastic cord he will receive a severe (though, unfortunately for the rest of the household, not fatal) shock.

The lounge room is Barry’s pride and joy. His surround sound theatre is far beyond what the home’s designers could ever have imagined – which is why there aren’t enough power points. In the Australian tradition of innovation, however, Barry has devised ingenious workarounds. The power board bristles with double adaptors and piggyback plugs, such that its load capacity is exceeded (though not increased) threefold.

Barry chose a cheap board without an overload cut-off switch and defeated the loose slots by bending the pins of each plug. The unsightly composite is hidden behind curtains that will burn with such ferocity that Blubber the goldfish will boil in his bowl.

Several slender, two-pin extension cords form a daisy chain around the current-hungry audiovisual gear. Because each unearthed connection represents an opportunity for Boof the cat to enter pet heaven, Barry has covered them with rugs, where they will overheat during an impressive demonstration of his ‘Apocalypse Now’ DVD.

Even Barry knows the kitchen poses many risks. But in avoiding the obvious ones, he misses those that are more subtle. While not foolish enough to pry toast out with a fork, he ignores crumb build up in the toaster. The filthy range hood filter is an even more potent fire hazard. He unplugs the jug when it’s not in use, but does so by yanking (and thus weakening) the cord. He keeps the deep fryer clean, but didn’t have it safety checked after buying it at the garage sale.

Barry could have everything in the house electrically certified for less than a night out with Brenda. She will survive all these perils, only to fall victim to a 40 watt reading lamp as it detonates the 20 watt globe installed by her husband. Blinded, she will stumble into a string of indoor fairy lights, rigged out of doors by Barry for a party three years ago. Rain-soaked sockets and sun-cracked wires will finish the job.

Barry’s teenage daughter Briony will also succumb to his negligence. Lazing in the back yard one sunny afternoon, she will reminisce on all the safety lessons her daddy taught her: how not to fly a kite under power lines; how never to leave cooking unattended and how not to use shavers or hair dryers near baths or sinks. At that moment, Barry will accidentally kick her portable stereo into the spa, with predictable results.

Barry is something (but not very much) of a handyman. When working around the house, he uses an extension cord reel. Each time he fails to unwind the cord fully before using his powerful tools, he risks melting it.

Of greater danger is his propensity to attack garden projects without sufficient forethought. Barry will make two mistakes while rejuvenating his front nature strip. The first will be to dig without dialling 1100 for the location of phone, water, gas, cable TV and electricity networks. The second will be to plant a tall, fast growing eucalypt directly under the street powerlines.

Seven years later, while still grieving the loss of Beryl, Blubber, Boof, Brenda, Briony (and, to a lesser extent, Horace), Barry will decide to prune the eucalypt. His lofty aluminium ladder will eventually connect with the powerlines and the shock will hurl him against the trunk. With its root bole stunted by underground services, the tree will collapse under Barry’s weight, rupturing the gas main beneath it.

The ladder/line combo will then spark the gas, setting fire to Barry’s home for the last time. Having miraculously survived her nursery, school-age Betty will die of smoke inhalation in the study.

Barry’s legacy will endure after his house is reduced to cinders. His sister Beverley’s inheritance will vanish as an assessor discovers that Barry lied on his insurance application about the house being rewired. The job would have cost less than $2,000.

The real tragedy of the Butchers is that their demise will be due neither to bad luck nor stupidity. As with most dangerous things, carelessness, laziness and a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude cause far more deaths than the more sensational factors employed by storywriters.

Safety may not be exciting, but it sure beats harming yourself and your family. Electricity is all around you. So learn about it, treat it with respect and don’t pretend you’re a sparkie. Life is tricky enough already.

The Random Breakfast Generator

September 4, 2009 at 10:15 am | Posted in Short Story | Leave a comment
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Pic by Erica Marshall of muddyboots.org

Tristan the Advertising Cadet tossed fretfully on his futon. He really needed All Bran this morning. Fifteen days of Froot Loops had left him twitchy, constipated and more than a little paranoid. Once again he fantasized about sabotaging his Smeg Random Breakfast Generator.

‘Wallpaper’ magazine had claimed that random cereal generation was the ultimate way for young executives to prove their ability to handle whatever life threw at them. The concept was so exclusive that global distribution was restricted to one client per postcode.

Tristan bid furiously online for the personality assessment, triggering a call from his Help Desk Officer, who he told to f*ck off. He won the auction, noting in the disclaimer that random generation was not recommended for Capricorns. He earned a borderline pass and secured his order with a massive down payment. At last he had the means to erase office memories of his mother’s mortifying muesli porridge deliveries.

After four months wait and a three-day installation nightmare, the Random Breakfast Generator (or RBG as Tristan was now entitled to call it) dominated his apartment. The cost was crippling.

He threw a party and was amazed at the number of work colleagues who came. Guzzling his designer beers, they filed murmuring around the gleaming cylinders of what looked like a monstrous paint-tinting machine. Tristan poured schnapps for the creatives and learned with delight that they’d visited the web address he’d emailed them.

‘Twelve months eh, Cobber?’ The Art Director swapped looks with his team. ‘Reckon you can handle it?’

Tristan refilled the shot glasses. ‘Piece of piss, Andre; just you wait.’

‘We’ll be monitoring your progress.’

‘Go for your lives; the website’s updated every day…’

‘We know.’

Tristan’s favourite Account Coordinator approached the bar, achingly lissom in a Christopher Kronos spray-on. Tottering on her Nine Wests, she hefted Tristan’s Orrefors pitcher and sent a sparkling fragment into the salad centrifuge.

‘Oops! Sorry Trist; my bad. The Boys said we need another jug of Midori.’

Tristan gritted his teeth and emptied another textured bottle. It was Danni, more than anyone, that he wanted to impress.

She put her elbows on the bar and leaned forward smiling. ‘Nice toy.’ She flicked her eyes to the RBG. ‘Cost a bit?’

Tristan’s knife missed its lime completely. ‘F*ck yeah! I mean – yeah. A bit.’

‘So how’d you manage to pick thirty cereals? I can only think of … four.’

‘They gave me a list of hundreds; I just had to rank them. They had every cereal from round the world. Even ones they don’t make any more.’

‘Yeah?’ She took a slice of lemon and stroked it absently over her tongue. ‘Even Chocco Nuggets?’

Tristan blinked. ‘Chocco Nuggets? I can’t believe you said that! How d’you know about them?’

‘I used to have ’em at Grandma’s.’

‘Fair dinkum?’

‘Fair dinkum.’

‘Sh*t! So did I!’

Danni put the lemon in her mouth and bit hard. Her freckled nose wrinkled. ‘Wow!’

Tristan stirred the pitcher and tossed in a sprig of parsley. ‘I put Chocco Nuggets third; I haven’t had them for ages; I wouldn’t mind if I got them every day.’

Danni grinned. ‘That’d kinda defeat the purpose though, wouldn’t it? Still, I’d love to have ’em again one day too.’

‘You would?’

‘Yeah!’

Tristan’s heart began to thump. ‘Well, maybe…’

‘Oi, Danster!’ A large Sales Rep gestured from the balcony. ‘Tell Ted to hurry up with that f*cking jug!’ The Sales Boys always called Tristan Ted. Short for Sh*thead.

‘Coming!’ Danni grabbed the pitcher. ‘Gotta go, Trist; great party. I hope you get Chocco Nuggets every day.’

Tristan gazed after her, then realised the creatives were staring at him.

The copywriter lifted an eyebrow. ‘Chocco Nuggets?’

**********

Smeg contracts were Draconian by design. Tristan was glad; it was going to take a lot to make up for his failure to stop the Sales Boys pissing in his spa. He scanned the pages over his first random breakfast of Froot Loops, left buttock still aching from his NanoBot injection. In a few hours, the implant would advise Smeg Client Service that Tristan’s meal had entered his duodenum and was past the point of return.

Failure to receive this message every 24 hours would elicit a warning. Unless Tristan could prove an eligible medical condition, his contract would be terminated, his huge surety forfeited and his loser status proclaimed on Smeg’s RBG microsite. When he arrived at work, he was stunned to see every browser displaying this exact site.

‘We’re all eager to see how you get on.’ The Copywriter’s breath was hot at Tristan’s ear. ‘We’ve even organised a little communal bet, if you’re feeling confident.’

Tristan flushed. ‘Oh really?’ His voice shrilled as heads popped from every cubicle. ‘You’re bloody on!’

A cheer went up and the Copywriter handed Tristan a pen. ‘Nice one, Squadron Leader, sign here!’

The contract was printed on the studio’s best paper. Through smarting tears Tristan beheld a terrifying figure in double bolded comic sans.

**********

Tristan barely slept that night. He was hocked to the eyeballs; if he lost the bet, he’d have to default on his BMW. He glared at the pristine hoppers glinting in the moonlight. Suddenly they gave an unearthly groan and began to rotate. Tristan leapt like a deer, straight through his Japanese changing screen. Then he remembered: the RBG self-cleaned daily.

He’d nominated 3:00pm; the cycle was twelve hours early. For fifteen minutes he watched the machine behave like a mantis after feeding. The awful scrapes and whines raised his hackles repeatedly. Thoroughly spooked, he watched his ‘Lost in Space’ videos until it was time for breakfast.

He got Froot Loops.

The probability of two consecutive identical cereals was 1 in 900. This figure appeared in the RBG’s metrics monitor, which also advised Tristan that the odds of his next breakfast being Froot Loops were 1 in 2,700. Though tempted to test them, Tristan’s contract constrained him to wait until the following day, whereupon his china bowl rang again with little coloured rings.

The same thing happened the next day.

And the next.

He didn’t even like Froot Loops. He’d put them thirtieth – too timid to chance the nasty looking offerings from Yemen, Belarus and Chad. The cereal was painfully crunchy. The coating, which could only be dissolved by pancreatic amylase (thereby freeing radioisotopes for NanoBot detection), could be optioned to keep every morsel milk-free. Tristan rued his choice; preference changes were only free at the annual major service.

He couldn’t believe that having crunchier cereal than anyone else in his suburb had ever seemed like an edge.

**********

After two weeks of the sickly fruit treats, Tristan’s bowels became capricious. He called Smeg and a voice synthesiser offered a service visit, provided he undertook to pay for it should no fault be detected. Miserably he pressed ‘1’. The voice then asked him to confirm his apartment access code so the Technician could plan his or her day without constraint.

That evening, a crisp printout on Tristan’s dining table informed him that comprehensive diagnostics had shown the RBG to be in perfect working order. He converted his remaining share options and went to bed defeated. At 3:00am, the self-clean cycle scared the bejesus out of him yet again. Four hours later, the RBG presented him with another pristine serve of Froot Loops.

Tristan regarded the bowl white lipped, then flew to the bathroom and smashed it into his chrome toilet. Flush after flush failed to sink the impermeable rings, which bobbed gaily like so many life preservers. Then Tristan’s mobile bleeped with a text message:

‘Your Smeg RBG bathroom sensor has detected undigested breakfast material. Please remit proof of your medical condition to avoid breach of contract. Get well soon!’

Irradiation did more than keep the RBG’s cereals fresh and sterile, it made them easy to track. Tristan sank to his knees and stared long at the strobing sensor peeping from his s-bend. Suddenly it all seemed too much. What was poverty, compared to this hell? In a year or two he’d be back in the black. He’d had enough.

Riding in the office elevator he felt a faint stirring in his guts. His body seemed to be affirming that his decision, however painful, was the right one. The door dinged open and he exited with a faint smile – straight into a phalanx of manic colleagues.

‘He’s here; he’s not sick! Wooo hooo! We’re in the money! We’re in the money!’

Tristan’s image stared from every terminal, a crimson ‘WARNING ISSUED’ plastered across his Smeg file. The Copywriter began an exponential conga line and Tristan choked as Danni sashayed past – a hairy pair of sales hands at her supple hips.

For dinner, Tristan fished one Froot Loop at a time from his toilet, rinsed it in a bowl of vodka and washed it down with more.

**********

Mountain dawns and ocean sunsets swept unheeded past Tristan’s picture windows. The odds of Froot Loops were now so titanic, the metrics monitor expressed them as a formula. In return for a month’s free consumables, Tristan had allowed Smeg to run an article on his freakish statistical experience.

Now he spent his evenings bitterly declining invitations from chat rooms. Smeg’s home page had even begun scrolling up to the minute data and commentary on his progress.

At work the mood was hostile. It was almost Christmas and Tristan’s colleagues were sweating on their windfall. Their premature jubilation had soured to resentment at his stubbornness. Surely it was only a matter of time.

The agency mysteriously snared the All Bran account and Tristan was assigned to oversee the national re-brand. Bound by his contract, he dejectedly donated his pallet of freebies to charity.

On New Year’s Eve, Tristan breakfasted as usual. Hunched and rocking in the gloom of his filthy kitchen, he failed to notice the puff of powder that followed the Froot Loops through the dispensing chute. Only when his spoon made a gritty crunching sound did he look into the bowl.

Tristan began to tremble, then tore open his curtains to examine the vessel more closely. Under gentle morning sunlight, a faint residue bore witness to a vanished milk tide.

Ten seconds into the New Year, Tristan activated his RBG again. Amid a blaze of re-aimed downlights, his prayers were answered: Froot Loop dust. With a mad cackle he leapt onto his bench and tapped one of the hoppers with a cleaver. The pentatonic note was loud and pure. He hit another, and the sound was the same.

Forcing the machine around on its axis, he banged each cylinder in turn, frantically searching for the one that had to be almost empty. But the Italian steel was too thick to permit differentiation.

Undeterred, he loaded his owner’s CD and pored over the specifications, then calculated the volume of Froot Loops he’d eaten during the previous months. He carefully rechecked his figures, concluding that there could be no more than five serves of the hateful food left in the machine. If Smeg thought he were going to authorise a refill, they had another f*cking thing coming.

That week saw a transformed Tristan. Though pallid and overweight, he cut a commanding figure among his peers. Even the creatives began to look nervous. With each new dawn, Tristan happily devoured a growing portion of dust until only one possible Froot Loops serve remained.

It was Friday. For the first time in months, Tristan followed his peers to the pub. He drank heavily and even shouted a couple of rounds into his social vacuum. In just a few hours, he’d be free. As he got intoxicated, he began baiting the Copywriter and got a pleasing reaction. For once the shoe was on the other foot.

He became increasingly bold, thrilling as the Sales Boys congratulated him on his wit. Goading and taunting, he gradually worked the whole room into laughter at the Copywriter’s expense – tapping into deep-seated ignorance and jealousy of the creative function.

Then the Copywriter’s mobile rang and Tristan elatedly accepted his first free drink since joining the agency. When he turned back, the Copywriter’s furious face was only centimetres from his.

‘Alright, Arsehole, if you’re so f*cking confident, why don’t you double our bet?’

Tristan did a clumsy mental calculation and ended up with his BMW, two weeks’ holiday and enough cocaine to dust Danni’s entire body. Swayingly he surveyed the assembly, alcohol burning in his ulcerated stomach. Suddenly, all became hushed.

‘Doubleall yerbetsh? Yerrr bloody ONNN!’

The cheer was deafening. Tristan smirked at the Copywriter, who toasted him in surprisingly gracious defeat.

The summer sunset moiled huge on the horizon as Tristan slewed into his apartment. Chuckling and dribbling, he tore off his suit and slithered onto his cool Spanish granite. His pupils slid in and out of focus, then abruptly narrowed to pinpricks. At his nose was a tiny plastic toucan.

He scrambled to his feet and seized the mascot. Attached was a letter from Kellogs, thanking him for all the publicity and promising free Froot Loops for the remaining months of his contract.

Underneath was another Smeg printout, confirming that per the recent change in account conditions (as detailed in the brochure emailed to his work), his hopper had been refilled automatically.

Tearing at his face and hair, Tristan ran howling from the giant burning Froot Loop that filled his Western window.

Back at the office, his Help Desk Officer exited Smeg’s Client Control Site and deleted her hacker’s ID.

‘That’ll teach you,’ she whispered.


If you found this entertaining, you may wish to:

Your smallest kindness will keep me going strong. With many thanks, Paul.


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