Temerity prayer

May 4, 2016 at 9:35 am | Posted in Poem | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Target audience.

God grant me

the serenity

to forgive people

I can change;

courage

to take out those

I cannot

and wisdom

to know the difference

at 1200 metres

in fading light

with a 10 km crosswind.

Brought to you by Imagine Day the book.

The Kombi-van rail cannon

May 3, 2015 at 7:21 am | Posted in Short Story | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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. ‘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.

Sole trader Christmas party

December 18, 2012 at 5:48 am | Posted in Short Story | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Graham Christmas Small

You put these parties on and people make a mockery of them …

I work alone from my home office. Running your own business is great, but it can make you a bit paranoid.

Last year was tough and, as my only employee, I really carried the can.

When December came, I felt a party was needed to reward effort and boost morale.

Before

I asked for volunteers to form a committee. Naturally, I was the only one who gave a damn. After squabbling over the budget, I decided not to allow partners.

I couldn’t agree on a venue, so opted to have the party at the office. I did the invite myself, after the printer said he couldn’t be bothered with such a small run.

The name tags didn’t take long either.

The RSVPs came back straight away, with 100% acceptance. I took it as a good omen.

I ordered light beer (someone had to look out for company liability) and a variety of appetisers. Even those horrible spurty asparagus vol-au-vents that burn your mouth.

I sourced a Portaloo in case there was a queue.

Anyone who’s organised a party knows what a time-consuming and thankless task it is. My sole reward for chairing the committee was that I got to choose where I sat.

During

I’d booked a limo for the night, but was the only one to cough up his share. It cost a fortune, since some idiot got the address wrong.

I arrived late because I didn’t want to be uncool. Even so, the cook, waiter, barman and DJ were the only people present. They seemed to be having a pretty good time.

The smoke, strobes and balloons were disorienting. I put up with it, recalling that I too had been young once. I’d authorised a taxi voucher, so I figured it was safe to have a tipple.

The barman gave me a drink with a funny name. It didn’t taste like beer, wine or orange juice.

The theme was ‘Fun with Fur’. I was disappointed when I saw another koala in the bathroom. Whoever it was must have also been upset, since they stayed there all night and wouldn’t talk to me.

The DJ refused to play my request, so I went outside to join the party games. I might be the boss, but I’m not aloof.

The limbo competition was a dead loss and blind man’s bluff took forever, but I won every other event except the three legged race (there were odd numbers).

The dinner was fine, though the Christmas crackers were impossible and some prankster rearranged the name cards. I ordered chicken but got beef and no one would swap. That’s gratitude!

In my speech I thanked everyone for coming. Despite having the best sales figures, I didn’t get a bonus; I’m so tight.

I did a quick change into Santa; I don’t think anyone realised it was me. Kris Kringle was a giveaway, but at least I got what I wanted. I even won the door prize.

The dessert wafers were so small, the waiter put two of them straight on my tongue. I left the party an hour later so as not to cramp my style.

Once I was gone, I really cut loose.

I did a skit taking the piss out of the boss. No one laughed – out of respect I guess. When the DJ played ‘Time Warp’ and ‘Nutbush City Limits’, everyone danced in time.

I fired up the jukebox when the DJ left, but someone chose the same song seven times. I quite like the Nolan Sisters, but I felt for those who didn’t.

I tried a conga line but it didn’t catch on, so I grabbed the company video camera.

I couldn’t find anyone to film except the koala in the bathroom, who also happened to be filming.

When the hired help had gone, I went outside for a ciggie. No one would let me back in and I had to smash a window. The cops came; then the fire brigade.

Some fool had butted out on my tree fern.

At least there were no gate crashers.

After

Now I always front for work no matter how much I’ve drunk but I almost couldn’t face myself the next morning.

No one offered to help clean up and the only bright moment was when a bunch of thank-you flowers came.

You put these parties on and people make a mockery of them. Next year someone else can organise the damn thing.

Come to think of it, I might even take myself off the guest list!

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

The Random Breakfast Generator

September 4, 2009 at 10:15 am | Posted in Short Story | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.


Fran the feral faerie – a corporate fable

September 1, 2009 at 9:30 am | Posted in Short Story | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fran was a Class 1 Field Operative – Tooth.

Fran the Faerie was pissed off. Her boss, Guido the Goblin, had just outlined the latest in a litany of Draconian continuous improvement initiatives. This one took the cake: Advanced Tooth Harvesting – what the hell were they thinking?

It wasn’t enough that some kids always pulled their fangs ahead of time for extra pocket money. Now management wanted faeries to force the issue with the rest of the infant population. It was obscene and insane, and watching the Board of Elders roll over on the ethics issue had been nauseating.

Naturally, it was all about money. Now a public company, Faerie Corporation’s shareholders were demanding a greater return on their investment. Seven percent organic growth was the new target and they were struggling to make two. Gone were the days of doing good deeds for their own sake. Economic rationalism had finally dribbled down to the Wee Folk.

Goblin Consulting had done their research well, aiming their business re-engineering pitch at the heart of faerie raison d’etre with devastating results. Every faerie wants to do good; any system promising greater good for effort expended was therefore guaranteed to fly.

Subsequent globalisation had united countless faerie populations – creating communication and distribution networks and economies of scale unprecedented in corporate history. Monopoly on a unique spectrum of goods and services was achieved virtually overnight, at minimal cost, with zero redundancies.

The Goblins had initially taken a conciliatory line. Now they were using accelerated vesting share option equity to tighten the screws. Fee for service was the new order and non-value added activities were being shut down or radically restructured.

Due to the nature of their operation, tooth faeries had always run at a loss and been cross-subsidised by their colleagues. Goblin Consulting revolutionised this process after a controversial High Court test case.

While teeth were deemed to be organs under law, the voluntary nature of their surrender (as evidenced by placing them in a dedicated vessel – often with a written waiver) meant the owner-nominated collection agency was free to dispose of recovered units as it saw fit.

What the faeries didn’t know was that children’s teeth were the chief constituent of ‘Star’, a psychotropic drug that brought back the sleep of childhood – deep, safe, healing and filled with wondrous dreams. Physically innocuous but psychologically addictive, every adult human craved it nightly after just one hit.

The Goblins had developed Star by leveraging their extensive nocturnal expertise. All that remained was to integrate a reliable upstream source of materials. On attaining a controlling interest in Faerie Corporation, the creation of ‘Tooth Division’ was the goblin’s first major restructuring initiative.

Operating as a wholly owned subsidiary of Goblin Consulting, Tooth Division purchased all teeth collected by the faeries at a price which covered operating costs, remittances to children and a modest goodwill stipend. In return, tooth faeries (or ‘Field Operatives – Tooth’, as they were now called) ceded policy control to Tooth Division.

Star’s street price represented a 10,000% mark-up on the cost of production. Thanks to a sophisticated batching system and use of retired supernumerary goblins, the unit cost of magic was negligible.

Given this phenomenal profit margin and the global nature of the operation, sourcing teeth even one day earlier meant money in the bank through streamlining the Just In Time system and consequent gains in inventory turns.

As founding Head of Tooth Division, Guido the Goblin had always planned to introduce Advanced Tooth Harvesting (ATH). It was just a matter of timing. A black Mercedes Kompressor, a penthouse with woodland views and a briefcase made of ‘Enola Gay’ bomb door components were testament to his business acumen.

Fran was a young Faerie Liaison Officer attached to his office – intelligent, idealistic and tech-savvy. Guido fancied the wings off her but she had repeatedly and brutally turned him down. For revenge, he teased her with company secrets and taunted her over the systematic disempowerment of her species.

Fran disliked him as much as a faerie could, staying at her post solely to find a way to derail the soulless juggernaut Goblin Consulting had created. Now it was crunch time.

Fran was a Class 1 Field Operative – Tooth. Cross trained, industry certified and peer accredited, it was her job to translate Tooth Division policy into Faerie Corporation reality. Though Fran had never been overly fond of human children, she was adamant that ATH was going too far.

Of greatest concern were the nebulous definition of ‘advanced’ and the assumption that child vendors, by dint of their initial act of supply, signalled intent to render all their teeth to Faerie Corporation. Under the most extreme interpretation, ATH guidelines suggested that the timing of tooth recovery was at the sole discretion of the collection agent.

Put simply, this meant Tooth Division could order the harvesting of commercial weight teeth while they were still in the heads of their owners.

Expecting Fran to pick this up, Guido had been ready for her challenge. He effusively reassured her that as good corporate citizens, Goblin Corporation would never allow its agents to breach vendor rights. The only teeth to be gathered ‘pre-release’ would be those in imminent danger of dislodging naturally during the night of collection.

He further argued that such pre-emptive action was justified on safety grounds, citing a recent exhaustive study of infant mortality through tooth-triggered asphyxiation.

Fran was unconvinced; everything the Goblins did was mercenary. Their cynical resurrection of the poetic term ‘faerie’ was a case in point. Guido’s slick briefing paper had recommended the rebranding solely to tap the emotions of the corporation’s older, wealthier target market and to foster an image of olde worlde integrity and craftsmanship.

Fran knew it was all bullsh*t, but what could she do? Her individual bargaining contract was explicit. Failure to execute a legitimate Board decision meant instant dismissal and forfeit of superannuation benefits. And with Faerie Corporation the only halfling service provider on the planet, employment prospects were zero. Goblin Consulting had even cornered the freelance market.

It was enough to drive a hot-blooded idealist to distraction. Or even sabotage. In her rage, Fran suddenly conceived a radical plan. If she could preempt ATH with a publicised demonstration of its intrinsic horror, the public backlash could outweigh shareholder greed.

It was a slender chance, but worth pursuing. All she needed was an attractive, high profile toddler with one or more teeth that were not quite ready to drop.

Turning down yet another salacious Friday night invitation from her boss, Fran went home to ponder …

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

PIc by ~bear~.

Crazy Comrade

August 30, 2009 at 10:03 am | Posted in Song | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
The Author on a fact-finding mission, somewhere in Russia.

The Author on a fact-finding mission,
somewhere in Russia.

Contrary to appearances, this is the most complex of all my sung stories. Drawing heavily from the works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, it is a love song of the most desperate kind, as sung by a prisoner of a dystopian Communist state.

Each line is both an attempt to distil one characteristic of the system and a specific affirmation of love as an all-conquering force.

[Sing with a heavy Russian accent, to the tune of Wild Thing by The Troggs]

Crazy comrade,

You make my sentence appear shorter.

You make everything politically expedient.

Oh crazy comrade.

Crazy comrade, I think I won’t inform my superiors of your subversive activities.

But I may still break under torture.

Come on and share this rotting turnip with me.

I queued for three days to get it. Yeah!

Crazy comrade,

You make salt mine work less arduous.

You make everything less painful.

Oh crazy comrade.

Crazy comrade, I think I can mend your tractor.

But I must travel to Minsk to barter for a fan belt.

Come on and drink this toxic potato liquor with me.

We have twenty minutes to curfew.

Yeah!

[Rock out.]

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Hurt Couture

August 29, 2009 at 1:34 pm | Posted in Article | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Look bad, feel worse.

In a little while, an extremely avant-garde fashion house will be formed. Rejected by all established organisations in their respective fields, two bright graduates will form a partnership. Their names will probably be Oskar and Vivienne and their company will almost certainly be called ‘Hurt Couture’.

Oskar will be a breathtakingly innovative designer. Vivienne will specialise in artificial intelligence and have a good grasp of nanotechnology. They will make catastrophic love once, swear never again to touch banana advocaat and then settle into to a close and productive friendship.

Hurt Couture’s mission will be ‘To make it impossible for people to look bad in our clothes’. Its slogan will be ‘No More Sneers’, ‘Look Bad, Feel Worse’, or something of that order. The logo will be a pair of stylised scissors suspended, like the sword of Damocles, by a thread.

Hurt Couture will not use fur, leather or feathers in any creation. Vivienne will argue in interviews and documentaries that since vanity is a purely human trait, its impact should fall accordingly.

The unique selling proposition of Hurt Couture will be revolutionary. Their garments will be engineered to punish people who don’t look good in them. ‘Countermeasures’ will range from gentle warnings to execution, depending on the severity of the offence.

Successful use of a Hurt Couture outfit will mean, by definition, that the wearer looks good. Rapid public adoption of company standards will flow from their intrinsic logic. Base directives will prevent shirt sleeves being rolled above the elbows, blue and green being seen without a colour in between and single breasted suits having all their buttons done up. Forbidden accessories will definitely include braces, bow ties and berets.

Countermeasures will be categorised, allowing clients to nominate their level of risk. Elegant contracts will set precedents for signing away common law rights. To the dismay of Hurt Couture’s left wing founders, this will quickly spill into the industrial relations arena.

Countermeasure severity will be expressed in ‘hurts’ (microhurts, millihurts, megahurts, gigahurts and terahurts). In a confusing nomenclature, ‘killerhurts’ will be reserved for terminal countermeasures. Mired in a non-metric system, US consumers will drop like flies until instructions are translated into their archaic terminology.

Spectacular garments like gowns and dance costumes will carry the gravest countermeasures – particularly if designed for high profile events. Television industry awards will consequently suffer numerous embarrassments.

Garments will be both solar powered and able to harness static electricity. State-of-the-art sensors, microprocessors and nanobots will put the price of even a tie beyond the reach of average wage earners.

All countermeasure sequences will begin with a warning, allowing reasonable time to either cease committing the fashion crime or leave the scene.

Electrical countermeasures will comprise audio and visual messages, lights, alarms and shocks. The common mistake of putting on odd socks will be countered by a friendly warning (‘microhurt’).

Chemical countermeasures will involve garment discolouration and self-destruction as well as acid irritation and injury. A white suit worn in sufficiently poor taste will generally dye itself piebald or corrode its owner’s wrists (‘megahurt’).

Mechanical countermeasures will include garment tightening and self destruction, cutting and pricking and emetic or poison injection. Any lapse of concentration at a fashion event will swiftly lead to incapacitating illness and/or the rending of every stitch (‘terahurt’).

Hurt Couture’s logo will be prominent and actively lit on every creation. Inside, fibre optics will feed a powerful central processing unit. Depletion or compromise of any countermeasure mechanism will disable the glowing scissors, defeating the purpose of wearing the item.

For safety reasons, pregnant women will be prevented from wearing Hurt Couture by hormone sensors. At least one dancing queen will watch her logos short circuit as she conceives atop the boom boxes at a three-day rave after a heated encounter behind the vegieburger tent.

Hurt Couture will capture public imagination and become a killer brand. Though industry bodies like The Cotton Board will strive to influence directives, consumers will reject their obvious self-interest and cling more firmly to ‘source’ dictates.

Vain people will become addicted to the brand and wear nothing else. By refusing to cover the risk, insurers will trigger mass policy cancellations – negating the effect of government rebates and dealing the industry a well-deserved kick in the teeth.

There will be no website; word of mouth and reportage will do everything. Production will be subcontracted under strict licence to accredited manufacturers. International standards like ISO 9001 will be rewritten to incorporate Oskar and Vivienne’s visionary ideas as to what really constitutes a quality organisation.

Ruined clothes will be refitted as clients try again and again to wear them correctly. This repeat business will create exponential growth of such magnitude that Hurt Couture will single-handedly revitalise the Australian dollar.

A leading footwear juggernaut will try to knock off company designs. Hundreds of Vietnamese children will die in a factory explosion as unscrupulous directors seek to minimise countermeasure substrate costs.

In a desperate bid to reclaim market share, a Swedish homewares firm will purchase the right to produce a complementary range of ‘Hurt Furniture’. Its first product will be a banana lounge that delivers high-tension piano wire wounds to incautious recumbents. Insufficient field-testing, however, will result in a string of gruesome self-assembly accidents.

Death by deliberately induced fashion crisis will account for a statistically relevant proportion of suicides.

Charities will forbid donation of Hurt Couture garments, owing to the high risk of injury to recipients.

Representatives from the bondage and discipline community will lobby Hurt Couture to create garments that punish wearers who look GOOD. Vivienne will decline to produce a range, but concede to re-engineer bespoke items.

One day a crowd will accost Oskar in the street, demanding to know what right he has to decide who wears his designs. Oskar will be deeply troubled by this and will rationalise that while he has no moral mandate he is, like a lawyer or accountant, entitled to choose his clients.

This will not sit well and he will continue to be agitated until he discusses the issue with Vivienne over an impertinent Verdelho. She will suggest they expand their range to include styles suitable for all body types, with the aim of making everyone on the planet look their best.

As the sun sets over their cliff-top studio, the partners will agree that if, despite this accommodation, some paedophilic scoutmaster still insists on cramming his fat arse into their beloved Lurex ‘Marching Boy’ hotpants, he deserves everything they can dish out.

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.