The Kombi-van rail cannon

May 3, 2015 at 7:21 am | Posted in Short Story | 2 Comments
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Three couples sprawled around the lounge, digesting pasta. Wine lapped at tilted rims as wreaths of smoke cruised into guttering candles, spread against the ceiling and descended. Fairy lights completed the scene.

‘Let’s go out!’ cried Yvonne.

A shudder swept through the others. Liam, the host, shot a visual plea to Neil.

‘Now now, sugar.’ Neil stroked Yvonne’s long hair. ‘We’ve got everything we need right here. Liam and Sylvie have created a lovely environment for us; why not relax and enjoy it?’

Yvonne tossed her head. ‘Because I think we should all go out. Club Foramen is only 600 metres from this ashtray. We’re young and it’s only 10:30. We’ve gotta live, before it’s too late! Come on; let’s hear some sounds and see some cats! Whatta ya say?’

Ever the diplomat, Sylvia calmed Liam with a caress. ‘I’m easy; what does everyone else think?’

Yvonne leapt up and gazed into each face.

‘I do not mind,’ pronounced Ulrik. ‘I will go if every body else wants to go.’

Sonya patted his thigh. ‘That’s my boy; two shots of Finlandia and you’re anyone’s. What the hell, we never go out.’

Liam baulked at leaving the cocoon he’d so carefully constructed. ‘It’s your night folks, but may I remind you we have entertainment here.’

‘Guitars and PlayStation?’ retorted Yvonne.

‘Yeah!’ chorused the boys.

‘No way. You guys can do that anytime. Tonight’s a celebration.’

Ulrik looked up. ‘Of what is it a celebration?’

Yvonne whipped a quarter ounce from her jacket and tossed it to the floor. ‘Of the biggest goddamn joint you ever saw in your life!’

Liam leaned forward, beanbag balls streaming like tadpoles under his thighs. ‘Ahem. This er, hmm. This could well alter the fabric of the entire evening.’

‘So we’re going to experience the greatest girl-band of all time?’ said Yvonne.

Sylvia’s eyes sparkled. ‘I’m in.’

‘Me too,’ said Sonya.

‘I also think it would be fun to go out maybe,’ said Ulrik.

Neil looked hurt. ‘How long’ve you had that ganjar, Sugar?’

‘Doesn’t matter, baby,’ sang Yvonne. ‘All that matters is we’re gonna get out and get it on.’

Liam fondled the baggie. ‘Get me the scissors, Sylvie. There’s something I must do – for all of us.’

**********

A chill wind whipped through the railings. Liam swung from the door and let the bright stars careen around him.

‘Come on, you old bugger!’ said Neil. ‘Come away now.’

The others fell against each other in baseless mirth. Liam crashed down the steps and they set off raggedly, reflections dancing in a glittering alterworld.

‘It is nice to be outside; fresh,’ observed Ulrik.

‘Too right, Vegemite!’ said Yvonne.

The Dane frowned. ‘I am sorry? What is that?’

The group cobbled a questionable explanation and Ulrik again lamented that their history could never be his, no matter how he studied the language.

Yvonne raced like a sprite among the puddles. Neil lit a cigarette and ambled after her and the two embraced in the brash night. The others followed suit, savouring their own styles of intimacy.

Eventually they reassembled at a tram stop, their destination visible through sprays of barrelling taxis. Naked bulbs festooned the venue, pulsing counterpoint to the muffled boom within.

Liam signalled for silence. ‘Well, this is it folks … ‘

‘Over the top,’ added Neil.

‘Yes, quite. On the advice of the young and feisty Yvonne here, we are about to enter an alternate dimension, replete with alcohol and very loud music.’

‘Yyyay!’ said Yvonne.

Liam grinned. ‘I want us to form a cosmic circle, to unite our groovy energy before crossing over.’

‘Unreal,’ slurred Sonya, missing Sylvia and Ulrik’s outstretched hands.

Liam guided her back. ‘Is everyone ready?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Then let us clasp fingers, close eyes and meditate on this moment before it is lost forever.’

Sonya giggled. ‘Oummm.’

Another taxi roared past, leaving an uncanny quiet. The ring of revellers listened. The silence continued – palpable; like air conditioning shut down.

Sonya opened her eyes. ‘Sh*t! The place is deserted!’

The street was indeed empty. All noise had ceased, no vehicles approached and light rain had begun to fall, transforming the scene into a surreal tableaux. The six stood in awe of the strange aberration in such a busy district.

‘It is an omen!’ proclaimed Liam. β€˜The stage is set; a sign imminent! We must wait and watch.’

‘I’m getting wet,’ said Sylvia.

‘My love, that is of no import. In any case, I presage that this experience will be brief. Just hold for a moment more and believe!’

‘All right then.’

Neil lifted his long arms. ‘Whence shall come this sign, Master? From the sky?’

Yvonne leapt onto a bench. ‘Yeah, from the sky?’

Liam gazed along the glistening tram tracks, listening like a blackbird. ‘Nay, children; not from the heavens. The sign shall issue from the earth. Hark! It approaches even now!’

At first there was only silence. Then a lone light materialized. It grew slowly, but remained too dull to belong to a modern vehicle. The collective expectation of a motorcycle faltered as the engine’s staccato identified it unmistakably as a Volkswagen. At last the image resolved into a Kombi-van. An ancient, dilapidated Kombi-van, with one headlight.

‘Behold!’ cried Liam. ‘The messenger!’

‘Hurrah,’ offered Ulrik.

The group gazed at rusty panels, faded flowers and dribbling slogans. The streetlights splayed over filthy windows, rendering the driver invisible. The rotting muffler vomited detonations as the van shuddered past on the slippery rails, a scrap yard its only credible destination.

Liam stepped into the street to witness the van’s departure. Sylvia spotted a phalanx of traffic and pulled him to the safety of the opposite footpath. The others followed. As the van disappeared, the spell dissolved and the street came back to life.

‘Well?’ said Neil.

‘It has begun,’ intoned Liam.

‘What has?’

Liam’s face was deadpan. ‘The Kombi-van rail cannon.’

‘What is that?’ asked Ulrik.

‘I don’t want to talk about it.’

Sonya punched Liam lightly in the chest. ‘Oh yes you do. You’re going to explain to my boyfriend, in simple terms, exactly what just happened.’

‘I cannot.’

‘Bullsh*t, man,’ said Yvonne. ‘You got us into this space. What was the bloody sign?’

‘There was no sign; I was mistaken.’

Neil approached Liam from behind and put him in a headlock. ‘Are you sure there was no sign, cobber?’

Liam looked at the ring of expectant faces. ‘Very well. Release me, oaf, and I will reveal all inside the beauteous Club Foramen.’

**********

They entered the dark, smoky space as the headline band came on. Pushing through bodies, Yvonne navigated closer to the stage, trailing the others behind her. The musicians tested their instruments, then launched into deafening orbit.

The lead guitarist was elf-like, her legs clad in velvet. A mesh top sat over a yellow brassiere. Over this hung a large flannel shirt, tied at the waist. Her hair was fastened with camouflage netting that trailed to the stage. A hand-rolled cigarette rode her tiny mouth, twisting as she wrung the neck of her Rickenbacker.

Behind her stood an Aryan percussionist. Her face shone as she thrashed her drums. Tattoos flexed and a thonged top strove to contain her as her arms fell in king hits.

To her left stood the bass player; tall and thin with angular face. Sheathed in a cat suit, her only adornments were a gold link belt and a spider ring that flashed and scuttled over her fretboard. She stood with one leg forward, regarding the audience with faint disdain – occasionally favouring the drummer with an undertaker’s smile.

The singer pranced and posed like a demented bride; prowling the stage in taffeta rags. With wild hair reaching for the rafters, she taunted the crowd, raged against them, lifted them and lay them on her lyrical bed. On her feet were silken points. In moments of complete incongruity, she interspersed her base gyrations with perfect pirouettes.

Spellbound, Yvonne and her girlfriends barely registered the boys’ retreat.

**********

Snooker balls clacked over burn-pitted baize, the music blunted by connecting doors. Neil set three glistening beers on the tiny table and took a stool.

Liam drank deeply. ‘Thanks, man.’

‘Enjoy it, friend. You’ll not get another till you explain the Kombi-van rail cannon.’

Liam smiled. ‘That old chestnut. Surely you don’t want to hear about that?’

‘I certainly do want to hear about it,’ said Ulrik.

‘Shoot,’ ordered Neil.

Liam massaged his eyes, triggering a head spin. ‘Under democracy, issues can be debated ad nauseam, increasing the time it takes for government to act.’

‘What is “Norseum”?’ asked Ulrik despondently.

‘Bear with me man; I’ll recap. This delay frustrates all players and infuriates the public.’

Neil took out his cigarettes. ‘I’m with you.’

‘Good. Now, a perennial threat to democracy is that discontent over inaction can lead to such disaffection that the system is rejected in favour of anarchy.’

‘Of course,’ mumbled Ulrik, staring at the filthy carpet.

‘To neutralize this threat, our government has created the Kombi-van rail cannon.’

Neil regarded Liam narrowly. ‘Go on.’

‘The Kombi-van rail cannon is designed to break deadlocks in the sort of drawn-out debates that really get people’s goats.’

‘Like?’

‘Reconciliation, euthanasia, injecting rooms, the Republic.’

‘I see. And how does it work? Exactly.’

‘Well, simply put, each party to a debate constructs a blockhouse to protect a carton of eggs. They then attempt to destroy each other’s installations with Kombi-van rail cannons. The last side with an intact egg wins the debate.’

Neil took a long drag. ‘Are you trying to tell me that what we saw tonight was … a projectile?’

Liam sipped his beer. ‘Precisely.’

‘You Australians are f*cking crazy,’ spat Ulrik. ‘I am going to the band.’

Neil ignored him. ‘How come we’ve never heard about this bold new concept?’

‘The government wants to enrage the media, to maximise subsequent coverage.’

‘How come you know about it?’

‘It was trialled successfully in Chad and our government loves benchmarking. The signs have been there, for those who know how to look.’

‘But, why Kombi-vans?’

‘Symbol of the people. Worked for Hitler. Did you see the detonator on the bonnet?’

‘No,’ said Neil, with heavy sarcasm. ‘And I suppose the windows were treated to stop us seeing inside?’

‘Bloody oath! Imagine the panic if people realised they were pilotless.’

Pilotless?’

‘Of course! Why do you think it’s called a rail cannon?’

‘So it goes on … rails, does it? On our tram lines, to be precise.’

‘Correct.’

‘So, what if one of these vans hits a f*cking tram?’

‘Impossible; they’re launched according to timetable. You’ll only ever see ’em late at night. That’s the best time.’

Neil crushed his butt. ‘You’re full of sh*t, man; I don’t believe you.’

Liam stared at him. ‘Why not? You think our government isn’t capable of something like this?’

A minute passed.

‘All right smart arse; why haven’t we heard an explosion?’

‘Two possibilities. One: we’re in a club with the loudest band in the world. Two: the van hasn’t reached its target yet. That line runs as far as Kew, you know.’

‘My parents live in Kew!’

‘So you believe me.’

‘Of course I bloody don’t! In any case, I’d know if a blockhouse had been built there.’

‘I wouldn’t be so sure, mate. Who can tell what they’re building these days, once those hoardings go up?’

‘Do you know the location of any of the blockhouses?’

‘No. But I’m confident at least one will be fairly pinpointed by morning.’

Neil drained his glass and scowled.

Liam stood. ‘My shout?’

‘For the moment, you bastard. But this discussion is far from over.’

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Imagine Day – The Book!

March 26, 2015 at 8:39 am | Posted in Short Story | Leave a comment
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The great unboxing. I cried so many tears of joy I couldn't read the dedication!

The great unboxing. I cried so many tears of joy I couldn’t read the dedication!

This post is dedicated to my dedicated readers and subscribers.

Your past actions have suggested you enjoy this blog.

Well, now you can hold my creative content in your hands!

In a fair dinkum, read on the bus, book book.

A 20-year dream realised at last!

A 20-year dream realised at last!

Prepared in total secrecy by my wife and friends for my 50th birthday, this tiny tome collates 19 of my surreal short stories for the first time in print.

This first edition, strictly limited to just 200 copies, will be the only one featuring dedications written with my Magic Red Pen.

Email paul@thefeistyempire.com to order your personalised copy.

Thank you for reading yet again.

Kind regards,

P.

πŸ™‚

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Bondage Bear – A True Story

December 14, 2009 at 2:59 pm | Posted in Short Story | Leave a comment
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The leather was dark and fragrant …

It was a slow, hot day in the shop. Bec and Feisty waited for customers. She was used to it; he was out of his mind with boredom.

Bec wandered to the street display and retrieved the belt basket, which was almost empty. Feisty looked in and spotted a dozen spare keepers. He pushed two onto his fingers.

The leather was dark and fragrant, crossed with stout twine stitches bitten, no doubt, by some impoverished piece worker.

‘Cool loops,’ enthused Feisty, who was very easily amused.

‘Yeah.’

‘Why’d they send us so many spares?’

‘Dunno.’

‘Hmmm.’

To Feisty, everything had a message – sometimes obvious, often oblique. The best were those he invented: ‘omens of the highest order’. He resolved to divine the message of the spare leather loops.

‘I’m going to divine the message of these spare loops, OK Bec?’

‘Go for it.’

The toilet was even hotter than the shop. Tripping an angry dispersal of fat blowflies, Feisty dropped his jeans and sat in the oppressive fug. Perspiration dribbled down his back. A zephyr checked itself at the window.

Why send spares? Those poor buggers only make eight cents a day. Quality control? Sabotage? The desire to create an illusion of prosperity in the minds of Westerners. Now there’s a theory!

‘Additional loops? Of course Sahib, we have many, many loops; a veritable cornucopia of leather fragments for your utility and pleasure. Here, take some! Take 12! And go with God…’

Feisty daydreamed until, too soon, it was time to return to work. He’d determined the reason for the loops’ arrival. Now, how best to employ them?

A stock cabinet stood at the top of the stairs. As he chose paperweights to replace the morning’s sales, Feisty spotted a teddy bear jammed at the very back of the lowest shelf. An old, old stock item. Reverently he withdrew the bear and took it downstairs.

Bec moved the limbs and cocked the furry head. ‘Yeah we got ’em years ago, but they didn’t go. We had a sale.’ She sat the bear on the register. ‘They’re from India.’

Feisty regarded her narrowly. ‘India? Are you certain?’

‘Yeah; says on the tag. See?’

Feisty clutched the bear dramatically, fingers plumbing humble kapok filling. Then he took a leather loop from his pocket and examined it minutely. ‘Do you know what we’re going to do, Rebecca?’

Bec fanned herself with a greeting card and grinned past her chewy. ‘I cannot begin to imagine.’

‘We’re going to use two of our spare belt loops to create a wondrous product from this unpopular plaything. And do you know how we’re going to do it?’

‘Nuh.’

‘Watch!’

Feisty seized the bear and threaded its arm through a loop. Crooning with satisfaction, he slid it to the bear’s shoulder where it rode snugly amid the fur. With mounting enthusiasm, Feisty repeated the process with the other arm, then stood back and gestured wildly.

‘Behold, Bec! I give you… Bondage Bear!’

Bec snorted, first in disbelief, then with reluctant approval. The tawdry gewgaw had indeed changed into something novel. She picked it up and felt the… arm bands. A butch teddy with a fetish.

‘Hm. Hm. Very good.’

The weekend ground on. Feisty’s interest in Bondage Bear waned. But not before he’d explored every positional permutation. On finding the composite discarded by its creator, Bec put it in a dim corner and forgot about it.

**********

It was a slow, cool day in the shop. Bec and Feisty waited for customers. Both were used to it. A strange man entered – strange even by the shop’s standards.

He towered over the counter, bones prominent at selected chakras, jester suit tattered under diaphanous sarongs. His feet were curled and petrified.

He greeted the shop assistants with rabbit teeth and one good eye, while the other took a crazed, milky inventory. Then he made for the dim corner and retrieved Bondage Bear.

‘I’ve just got to buy this.’

Bec looked sharply at Feisty, but on seeing him stunned, held fire.

Feisty recovered quickly, to enjoy the rarest of retail triumphs. ‘Will that be cash?’

‘Yes thanks.’

Bec shook open a plastic bag.

‘Lord no! Bondage Bear must be wrapped thus!’

So saying, Feisty put the bear into a kneeling position and trussed the arms behind it with a rubber band. The customer nodded. Feisty snipped a corner off the bag and tied it firmly over the bear’s head with raffia. Bec watched, mouth agape.

The strange man placed his purchase carefully inside a knapsack and beamed. ‘I’m so pleased I found this.’ And he swept away into the dusk.

Bec and Feisty gazed after him.

‘What, in God’s name, is he going to do with that thing?’

‘It’s not a thing, Bec. It’s Bondage Bear. Don’t worry, his mystical hand-tooled Indian arm bands will protect him.’

‘Bullsh*t; our belts are made in Sydney.’

Feisty froze, a horrified expression on his face. ‘…I see.’

Bec glanced at her watch. ‘It’s five-thirty; better bring the stock in.’

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

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