A Little Bit of Me

Jottings and Writing, miscellanous misgivings

Archive for July, 2008

Scenes from someones childhood

He had always been different. I remembered him from primary school. A ‘

weedy little chap’ was how I heard the teacher confiding to her trainee. ‘Problems at home’ and they nodded wisely, in unison and said no more. I thought his home life was fantastic. We would go there after school and with the innocence of youth I failed to recognise the peeling walls, the broken floors, the weed-choked lawns. His father was always there, sitting in an old chair in front of the empty fireplace and I never questioned why he was not at work like my Dad. Or why he was so old. Art was different in so much as he sucked his thumb, wet his pants, was always in trouble. But he also was a marvel at making things, at marbles, great at sports, and he was a fighter. No-one would pick a fight with Art because he would fight with a determination and with such endurance that you would literally have to kill him to win. Then his mother disappeared. She, who had provided us with so much amusement, just went from our after school games. Everyone said that she was a loony. At the time I was told that Arts mother had an ‘accident’, and that Art was going to live with his much older brother and his new wife. Art seemed happy enough with the arrangement. Years later the story unfolded in a form that I could understand. The family was dirt poor. But when you are young you don’t recognise these things. Arts father had not worked for years and they lived on a measly benefit that could not possibly provided for the family. To make matters worse, Arts father was a drunk and a gambler. What little money did come in disappeared down his throat or into the hand of Ray the barber who was also a bookie. Ray took money off all the watersiders and unfortunates who thought they could end their miserable existence with a win on the ponies. Arts father was also a wife and child beater, but that was only to emerge many years later when Arts tragic life was made semi-public.  Anyway to get back to Art and his story. The family had been struggling more than was usual for them. The beatings had multiplied and Arts mother had reached the end of her tether. There was no food to go on the table. Desperate, and at the end of her tether, she set the table and cut photographs of food from old magazines. After placing the photographs on the plates, she sat the children down and sobbed hysterically while they looked at her, wondering what they should do. She suddenly shrieked and rose up from the table and ran outside. They remained behind contemplating what it was that was bothering mother, and what to do with the photo’s in front of them. She, meanwhile, single-mindedly made her way down to the wharf and without hesitation, jumped in. No-one saw her go, and her body was only discovered later that evening when the father finally alerted the police to his wife’s failure to return and provide him with supper.

I lost touch with Art after we left primary school. He followed his brothers and started work on the wharves. I made my way up the academic and professional ladder and ended up, first, in medicine, and then psychiatry. And that is where Arts story was played out. I was at a case presentation at a conference and a psychiatrist from my old home town was making much of a unique diagnosis that he had attached to one of his long term patients. The more I heard, the more I knew it must be Art.

Art had not worked for long. He seemed to gravitate toward drugs and drink, much like his now long-dead father. He left the wharves and worked or roamed overseas for several years before ending back in our hometown, and with the older brother. The older brother recognised that there was something terribly wrong with Art when he tried to set himself on fire. He had poured a can of petrol over himself as he sat in the very same chair that his father had spent so much time in. He then calmly lit a cigarette and if it wasn’t for the brothers hasty intervention the burning to his face and body would have been much worse. His brother said that Art had become so depressed that he literally couldn’t move. He had been amazed that he had managed to purchase the petrol and make the effort to kill himself. Art was hospitalised for the first of many times. Once in hospital he made significant progress so that he was back out in the ‘world’ again within a month. Then started the familiar routine (to a psychiatrist) of acute admissions followed by lengthy stays and then discharge to a series of placements that rapidly got worse and worse. During his second long hospitalisation, at the age of 25, while he was taking antipsychotic medication, he made his first serious suicide attempt. He had obtained a pass to attend the wedding of a woman whom he had always wanted to date, and several days after the ceremony he took an overdose of Paracetemol and drank a quart of brandy. Art later told his therapist that he was neither depressed nor manic at that time and that he had been taking his medicine while in the hospital.

He made a reasonable recovery and his elder brother, now divorced and living with his defacto partner agreed to take Art in. The defacto partner turned out to be a mixed blessing. Although she was kind to Art, he developed an obsessive attraction to her. He was getting very little sleep, feeling “oppressed” by the intense heat, and started complaining that there was “no privacy” in his brother home. This apparently started after the defacto walked unexpectedly into his room and discovered him masturbating to a picture of her. This triggered a response from the brother to the effect that Art’s time in his house would be curtailed unless he ‘pulled himself together’. Art responded to this by walking into the kitchen and picking up a very sharp knife that the object of his affections had been using to cut tomatoes. He took the knife into the bathroom, and, in his words, “I looked into the mirror and prayed for God to forgive me.” He proceeded to inflict a number of wounds on himself, beginning with his right arm. He reported that the first cut severed his hand. A second slash, to his mid-forearm, was reportedly deep enough to leave the distal end of his arm hanging. A third cut to his upper right shoulder was more superficial. He made a fourth wound by stabbing himself in the bladder, then superficially lacerated his genitals and gouged his right leg. Art reported later that he did not recall feeling any pain while inflicting these wounds.

His brother only visited once in his subsequent hospitalisation, but during that visit Mr. A told him that all he wanted to do was go to sleep and never wake up. His brother looked down at him and replied, “But we were so kind to you and you go and repay us by your filthy behaviour”. Art lost his right arm and walked with a pronounced limp from that day. The medical staff had no explanation for the limp, as he had not damaged any organs that would cause this.

Art deteriorated further. He basically was now living on the streets. After a hospitalisation he would be discharged to a halfway house but he would abscond within a week and he became a feature about the city. He was often found sweeping the streets, directing neighbourhood traffic, attempting to organise a rock concert on the sidewalk, or donating his meagre belongings to passerbys. Often the police would be called out because Art was walking around nude and quoting scripture. It was during one of these episodes that Art made his second sacrifice to what he had started calling ‘His Saviour’. The tragedy for Art was that he performed this amputation in a very public place, so public, that the local authorities called for an investigation of psychiatric outpatient services in the city. Art had wandered down to the wharves, which were undergoing a transformation since the tourist industry had daily cruise ships from al around the globe calling in. Disgustingly wealthy patrons alighted from their berths in the morning and spent huge amounts of money looking around each port and then, returned to the ship and trundled to another port for the next day and a repeat of the same routine. I don’t doubt that there was some significance in choosing the wharf to carry out this deed but Art was so far gone that it could have been pure coincidence. He sat on the edge of the wharf and removed the shoe from his right leg. Before any of the onlooking elite of the planet could stop him he produced a small tomahawk from his coat pocket and with one amazingly anatomically aware blow severed his foot from his leg. He then slumped forward and pitched headlong into the oily waters between the ship and the dock. Unlike his mother he was fished out immediately, the bleeding stemmed, and again hospitalised. This hospitalisation was all the more dramatic as his face and deed appeared in the local press for the duration of the enquiry which, of course, concluded that this was an atypical incident and in no way representative of the excellent services provided by the local health authority.

After the furore died down Art was not much seen in public for a number of years. The presenting psychiatrist described a more sober and discrete lifestyle. Art would occasionally be seen being wheeled into the outpatient department of the psychiatric unit but his behaviour was under much better control.  The next time Art did come to the attention of the therapist was when he presented with profuse bleeding from an eye socket in May1997. He had seen an attractive woman in the street and felt guilty about his “lustful thoughts” about her. He had stuck a thumbtack in his right eyelid more than 50 times, completely annihilating the eyeball. When he was asked about this incident, Art replied, “The Bible says that if the eye offends you, then you must pluck it out.”

I approached my colleague after he had summed up the case as an example of predicting self-mutilative behaviour by a combination of behavioural sign and medication compliance. I enquired as to the whereabouts of Art.

“We are having fantastic success with this patient since the case notes I described concluded”, he replied, neither confirming or denying that his patient was Art. “Since his last self mutilation episode he has become very compliant. At the moment we are working through his request to be castrated.” I must have telegraphed my incredulity at this remark more obviously than I thought.

“I am completely comfortable with it. The patients wish for castration is authentic, long-standing, and nonpsychotic in nature. Although the request was thought to be unrelated to delusional beliefs, his overvalued ideas regarding the relationship between sexuality and spirituality seemed unusual, rigid, and intractable. No symptoms of a current, full psychiatric syndrome are present. In explaining his wishes, the patient referred to two scripture passages: ‘If your right hand offends you, cut it off” and “there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.’ The patient has shown mutulative behaviour in his past, but I consider this to be a genuine desire to move out of the trap that he has been in for most of his life. He wishes to become completely asexual and feels that castration will remove temptation from his life. If you recall from my talk, temptation has played a large part in his self mutilations.”

I asked if the doctor was actually going to go through with the castration.

“Oh no! We are working through the issues but it would be ethically and morally impossible for me to actually let the patient be castrated. “

Advertisements

Francine

THE OBLIGATION

a constraining power of law, duty or contract; a duty, a burdensome task; a binding agreement especially one enforceable under legal penalty; a service or benefit

He shuffled down the long corridor that led from his bedroom to the girl Yvette’s room at the eastern end of the apartment. Hopefully she would be gone. The sunlight streamed through the open window as he surveyed her room for any sign of where she might have gone. Were her schoolbooks still there? School – it was University now wasn’t it. Same with Sophie. His beloved Sophie who was following in his footsteps. She would make a fine doctor just as he had made a fine anaesthetist. Maybe Sophie would follow that particular medical speciality? Unlike Yvette who was nothing but trouble. Always asking questions. Sullen, moody, frequently bored or uncontactable. It looked like she was out to University. How she was going to pass was anyone’s guess. She certainly wasn’t smart like Sophie. Yvette was just like her mother. Dumb and difficult.

He moved downstairs through the massive house. There were only four of them living here but his previous affluent lifestyle had demanded that they buy this huge, two-storied house in the city’s wealthiest suburb. He didn’t notice how dusty and shabby things were or the strong smell of urine that pervaded every crevice of the house. No one did any cleaning except for his or her own bedrooms. The living areas, apart from the kitchen, had not been cleaned since they moved in at the beginning of the year. Since the divorce. He moved into the kitchen that was immaculate. He demanded that it be kept so. He did all the cooking. In one of the sinks was a cabbage he had bought yesterday and which now lay soaking to get rid of those pesky worms which were in all the supermarket vegetables and fruit now. Another sink held a massive mound of peeled potatoes. He peeled a sack at the beginning of each week and left them soaking in water and then used what he needed each day. He had his methods to make cooking not so much a chore as an exercise in planned management. His former wife could never accuse him of abusing his daughters. He opened the refrigerator which contained fourteen bottles of milk, two large pails of shrimp, butter, and a jar of hosein sauce. His speciality this month was shrimp, cabbage and potato curry and that is what he cooked every night until all the shrimp had been used up. Then he would master another dish and make that for another month. It took the chore out of deciding what to cook every night and having to have hundreds of ingredients and spices and herbs to assemble those dishes. Pick one dish, make it simple, buy in bulk, and then cook it until it was completely mastered. He had to admit to himself that occasionally he broke his own rule. He had lately taken to buying biscuits in bulk and some days, he lived on biscuits for breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner if the monthly dish was starting to become monotonous. The girls never seemed to grow tired of this routine. He thought that it bought some regularity into their lives that they needed after their bloody mother had left.

Emily had left early. She got up before everyone else and left the house to avoid having to spend any more time than was absolutely necessary with her family. The house itself was not welcoming. It was cold, the old man refused to have central heating and would not allow heaters on before the sun went down; it smelled, the old man never flushed the toilet after he had used it and it was usually left to one of the girls to do so when they returned each evening; and it was dirty. Emily had plans to leave on a more permanent basis as soon as she could get some finances sorted out and make the break. Unlike her two sisters she felt no ties to her father and mother any more. As long as she could remember they had been at each other’s and their throats. Mother would come in from work each night and criticise and pick until everyone gulped down their meals and retired to their rooms, the study or just out. Only Francine, poor dumb Francine, who ate so slowly and would never do anything to offend anyone, suffered her mother’s wrath as all other targets disappeared. Then Mother would leave. Where she went was one of lives mysteries. Emily doubted that she had a lover. It was probably to some women friends or perhaps back to work. Although Father said she was dumb she had manage to amass a small fortune buying second hand goods and selling the back to the public as antiques or memorabilia. As more and more people wanted to recapture the past and nostalgia from it, such things as cereal packets, soaps, toys, cookbooks, furniture, radios and TV’s, music, and other valuable accruements to daily living. She probably was out buying or maybe finding potential goldmines. Emily didn’t really care and she suspected that no one in the family did either. Anything that got Mother out of the way went unmentioned, unchallenged, and profusely thanked in prayers. She could never understand why they had stayed together. A marriage that the wife was forced into by an ambitious but poor father and a husband had agreed to because he was unable to attract anyone despite his wealth and prestige as a practising specialist. As the girls had grown up they came to realise that their family was held together by obligations, commitments, loyalties, and guilt. Those loyalties had shifted constantly over the years but one thing was usually permanent through all the changes. Francine was always the target for everyone’s misery.

Lately he had been dreaming. Well he hoped it was dreams and not the start of that terrible Alzheimer disease that had stricken his own mother a few years past. She had gone from an intelligent, forthright women totally in control of her own and others world to a bent, feather duster image of her former self. When she did recognise him now when he infrequently visited the nursing home, she called him Dimmy or imagined him to be some past lover. He retched at the thought of some of the things she had said and done to him on those visits. To have your mother whisper foul obscenities to you while contorting her ravaged old body was beyond a son’s obligation to his parents. He had been dreaming that the house was filled with guests and throughout the day he wandered from room to room and held interesting conversations with these people. One room would be filled with former colleagues who would discuss medical issues of the day, another room would be sombre and one or two beautiful people would be holding elegantly cut crystal glasses, eating fine delicate food, and be listening to beautiful jazz music. The kitchen would be abuzz with dishes from around the worlds busily being prepared. One cook would be putting the finishing touched to a Rojan Gosh with wild and basmati rice and saffron, another moroccan chicken with an orange and almond salad, another two cooks concocting an exotic dish of calves liver marinated and cooked in Noilly Pratt and lime juice with delicately grilled onion, and yet another a lamb and onion tart with a tandoori marinade on the lamb. The smells were delicious and the sounds of the cooks enjoying their craft, mingled with the bustle of people being busy made him feel as though he as on a cloud. He would then float into another room where his united family was. Elegantly dressed, behaving civilly to each other, and waiting on whatever whim he may have to start their interaction.

A LETTER FROM Francine TO ANYONE LISTENING

I can’t seem to say what I want to say. I wander off the track and mess up my thinking with little sayings from books and movies I have been seeing. At the moment I am keen on China. Those bound feet. I read about a women who when she went to live with her daughter her daughter noticed that she was always wearing the same shoes. Her mother had polio when she was a child and wore an elaborate leg brace and one leg was shorter than the other. The daughter said that her mother always loathed her body and that she thought of it as dead. The daughter found out that the mother was sleeping in her shoes and had not taken them off for over six months. They went to a doctor and the doctor refused to let the mother take her shoes off in his surgery. When they eventually removed the shoes, in the doctor’s presence, at home the room was filled with the gagging smell of rotting flesh. The doctor said that if they had waited much longer gangrene would have set in. The mother was drunk for three days and refused to talk. I wanted to say some things so that I won’ get off the track.

1. I AM STILL IN AN ANGRY FIT. Little things affect me. E.G. I was standing in line at the EFTPOS machine and a member of the bank came out and pushed in front of me and started to operate the machine. I said that this was rude BUT LIKE ALWAYS THEY IGNORED ME. I was too tired to make a complain but the anger fit boiled up inside of me.

2. I am becoming like my family and I don’t want to. I become angry like Mother, I become uncaring like father, I become vengeful like Sophie

3. I DON’T WANT THIS TO HAPPEN – angry fits are wasteful and hurtful. I am so confused. Should I feel like this or is it not normal

4. Things are picking up sometimes. We went out to visit a sick friend the other night and it felt good to be doing something together as a family. They were all nice to me although I can see the strain in Sophie and I know father will be back to his stingy self when a few weeks are past. I remember though when mother left and how I felt then. I felt good when I got back here and the relief of not having to fight with mother but soon I stated to feel bad again. Bad about myself and BAD that I hate both my mother and father for breaking up and making us all unhappy. When I leave home I will try to do it in a nice way. I want to be nice to Sophie and Emily even though I am ANGRY about them. I don’t care if I ever see father again. I still wish him well but would not want to have anything to do with him. Mother left us with him. I feel like I am painting an eggshell which I don’t want to break. Sometimes I can see a balloon filling up with water as my family sits and eats a meal. The balloon gets bigger and bigger, straining with all the water being pumped into it and then it BURSTS. OVER ME.

PS. I want to stay with my father and I want to get away. I want to be with my mother but hate her for running out and leaving us. I want to get on well with my sisters but they are spiteful and vengeful and it makes me angry with them. I put on a happy face because that is what families do. You don’t fight with your family.

Emily was never bothered by what her sisters saw as their duty. As far as she was concerned it was every man for himself. She had grown up fast in her nineteen years of life. She had seen that a mother could be done without. It had only taken her a few months to adopt to life post-mother. In fact it wasn’t too much of an adaptation. A much simpler life. Just avoid too much contact with the others; speak only when the situation cannot avoid total silence, say what you believe the others want to hear. Emily shifted allegiances so often she sometimes forgot what she had said to that person the last time they had been together. Emily had also watched what happened at her workplace. Loyal, trusted, long serving dedicated staff who were irreplaceable. Within a week of them retiring they were forgotten and then they became a mild nuisance when they insisted on coming back to fill in their boring. empty days with idle chatter. By six months they were a definite liability and often had to be asked to limit their visiting to certain times. When Emily retired she would be right out of it. No coming back for her. And she would be out of that family as fast as she could. All that was blocking her at the moment was money. If she just walked pout it would be the sort of excuse that father and mother would take to cut off her allowance. As it was she received a nice little packet of money on top of her wages and although limited, she also had access to two credit cards that they owned and paid for. With those gone she was back to wages and she couldn’t live on them, rent accommodation, pay for food, buy a car……… As she thought about it she became more and more irritated with the unfairness of her life. Unlike Sophie and Francine she didn’t have the fallback of a high paying profession to generate financial independence. In some ways she was like her mother. Forced into entering into a relationship to free herself from family obligation even though it meant adopting a whole new series of obligations. At least mother at used her new situation to become independent. But at what cost? Emily sometimes wondered what her mother thought about as she drifted off to sleep. Was there guilt? Remorse?

ANOTHER LETTER FROM Francine

I only sleep in the same room with others when we go away on trips, but don’t you know that time of communication as you are drifting off to sleep? You talk of things that are so different from when you are normally together. Dreams, hopes, fears. Emily is especially nice then. She and I seem to have some things we share. I think she misses mother like I do and secretly hates father but says things against mother so he will like her.

On Sunday I went into a bookshop to get something about adopting. I sometimes feel as though I have been adopted. . The sales assistant kept on urging assistance on me and so I

found a book quickly. I might not have been in the shop if the Blamore Centre Clock Tower hadn’t been running 25 mins slow. It had been after

closing time. Metaphorically the clock is being turned back as a new pier

is being built. The clock tower was at the end of the old one. That was

pulled down a long while back. In those days rock’n’roll music was coming

along. I think I thought to `rock around the clock tonight’ meant to dance

around the clock tower. The idea of dancing for 24 hours (around the

clock) didn’t seem to occur to me.  Strange for a toddler who I am told

used to wish `Goodnight children,’ to her sisters as

_they_ went off to bed. I am getting this from the meaning for `waste’ in

life of extravagant or ineffectual use of it. Perhaps dissipated is

another word for it ‑ leading to early death.  It is a different meaning

from that which had been written on the back of that old clock tower

before its coat of paint, `xxx was wasted here.’ That was a bit of a

shuddery feeling, knowing what that might mean, and the feelings going

into it. Why do people want to end the lives of others? They are a bother

to them. Perhaps their lives are hard through lack of work ‑ more so lack

of some sort of identity.

Do you hear the people sing

Lost in the valley of the night?

It is the music of a people

Who are climbing to the light.

For the wretched of the earth

There is a flame that never dies.

Even the darkest night will end

And the sun will rise.

Is there a world you long to see?

Do you hear the people sing?

Say, do you hear the distant drums?

It is the future that they bring

When tomorrow comes!

AM I LOSING TOUCH WITH REALITY???????

PLEASE HELP

PLEASE HELP

PLEASE HELP

He awoke again. He had been dreaming but the dreams quickly blended into a bland series of neutral images.  They hadn’t been positive or negative. He shuffled down the hall again. He could sense that something was not as it should be. For some reason an image flashed through his mind. He saw Francine lying prone on a table with Sophie bent over her. He remembered that this had actually happened. When they were young children Francine had regularly asked her sisters to punish her. One of the more bizarre forms of punishment had been for Sophie to due a crude tattoo on her shoulder with a school compass and a jar of India ink. The area had become badly infected but Francine kept it from her parents and Sophie was too young to recognise the symptoms. She revelled in it, already developing a wish to be a surgeon and thought of herself performing a complex operation. The tattoo has supposed to have been a butterfly but by the time it came to his attention it was a pus filled mess which turned into a horrible scar which only represented an elephant to anyone with any imagination. The moment passed and he opened the door to Francine’s room to find it tidy and empty.

Letter from Francine

I have changed my name. I am now known to you as jasmine. Note that jasmine has a small j. I am saving the big J for when my brilliance and beauty has flowered. I am no longer here to be kicked around. I would rather die than be known as a weakling. Since I spoke to you last I have visited with my mother. She and I got on well. She expects me to sacrifice my life to her needs when I am finished in my training. I went along with her. It is easier that way.

My name is jasmine with a small j.

Francine had to pass this year at her studies and pass well.

She walked down the street that led to her place of study. It was a colourful place to study. When her family had first moved here she was hateful towards the place. It often seemed cold. Always raining or the streets were cold from the bitter wind that blew up the harbour. Summers were usually missed as she travelled north to find seasonal work (well once) or to travel in the warmer climate. But over the years Francine had come to see a kind of beauty and serenity in the place. The street she walked in now was the main artery from the city to the student quarter. It winded down past the last of the retail area and gradually gave away to the training hospital and then the University itself. This was liberally dotted with restaurants, hotels, student flats, and much activity. She passed the clique of ex psychiatric patients who waited in the soon to be demolished bus shelter, adjacent the public toilets. here they gathered from early morning as they waited for their daily appointments for ongoing medication at the nearby acute outpatient ward. A curious group of people who were generally harmless but sometimes could be guaranteed to provide entertainment, especially if they had mixed their medication with alcohol. Some of the students deliberately encouraged them to do so for their entertainment.

Francine walked through the archway that led to the noticeboard where the final marks for her exams were posted. This was always a hard time for students. They had some idea whether they had passed or failed but the degree of that pass or fail now became frighteningly clear. She could remember when she new she had failed an earlier paper but was relieved when the failing mark allowed her to sit a new examination which she passed, and went onto the next year of her course. Her number was three down the list 009876-34  –  A+ ( please see Mrs Brighton). What did that mean?? Mrs Brighton was a nice but formidable women who was really the person who ran this training program. Having to see her could mean one of many things. Had she been accused of cheating? was her mark so out of the blue that there were suspicions? Was she to be asked questions about – she could not think what she would be asked.

Surprised and elated – but how could she tell her mother that she had done so well. To be asked to take up a prestigious scholarship over the summer vacation period and to have won two prizes for her years work.  Her mother’s reaction would be ‘ if you did so well this year what happened the other years? or now you will win prizes every year’. Francine could not see how mother could beam with parental pride and shower her with gifts and comment on her intelligence and beauty. This is what she wanted. The world didn’t work in a linear way. You went up and down. Years of struggling suddenly opened up a window through which all fell suddenly into place and a clarity that was not apparent before now beamed like a lighthouse suddenly appearing out of the fog. Francine liked that analogy. She was alike someone who had been at sea for a long time and now was making a landfall. Yes, she could see all sorts of possibilities in this. Stormy seas, weathering storms, making landfalls, swells, ups and downs, smooth then rough, sudden wind shifts, having to shorten sail and then make sail.

Sophie had thought that jasmine had been acting strangely for a long time but the discovery of her letters (to whom?) confirmed the horrible truth. She couldn’t understand a lot of what they said but it seemed obvious that Francine’s (jasmines?) fragile world was rapidly unravelling. What to do? Should she tell father? She had to think what that would mean. It was an unspoken family rule that rooms were personal and sacra cant. Sophie had no right to be prowling in Francine’s room, not to mention in the bottom right hand drawer under a pile of freshly laundered underwear. Sophie thought that father often visited their rooms when they were out of the house but she doubted he rifled through their underwear. What was her duty? As a sister, as a daughter, as a nearly qualified doctor? As a doctor she should get help but as a sister and daughter her duty was less clear. She had seem many times patients admitted to the acute psychiatric wing who were clearly very troubled but parents and siblings had used words like ‘always highly strung’, ‘creative’, ‘under pressure’, and ‘a bit stressed’, when these people had obviously been deeply psychotic for a long period of time.   She would wait. She would wait and see if Francine changed. She would give it a month. No! She owed Francine more than that. She would give her till the end of the year. If she had not shown some improvement by then she would–. The thought stopped there.

Final Chapter

Francine looked down at her elderly patient as she lay on the therapeutic bed. She was a new patient, recently referred from the rehab centre in the centre city after a stoke which had left her paralysed down her right side, unable to communicate, unable tom perform the basic functions of life, but with a wicked look in her eyes which seemed to Francine a signal to some inner secret. The other therapists in the unit had not been able to make much progress and so, after trying for a few weeks, they had given up and the patient had come to Francine like the household cat who is kicked by the child, who has been struck by the older sibling, who has been scolded by the mother, who had been beaten by the father, who had, in turn, been reprimanded by the domineering boss.

Francine sighed and started on the long routine which would, if the patient and her fried brain would allow, restore some of the lost functioning so cruelly taken away by the neurological incident. Francine whispered to her patient as she manipulated the wooden arm – ‘ Obligation – I will stay with you until you can walk, until you can talk, until you can tell these bitches her that they need to understand what the word obligation means.’ Francine almost felt she saw the glint in the eyes take on a new hue as she moved down the old women’s body to the leg.

The sky-blue Somalian

The newspaper headlines leapt out at him

“Japanese women use spray to trap cheating husbands

London, June 16 Reuters – Japanese women are resorting to chemical measures to catch their cheating husbands, New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.” The article went on – “Wives who suspect their partners have been cheating on them are buying special sprays that reveal telltale traces of semen on their husband’s underwear. The kit consists of two aerosol cans that are sprayed separately on the garment. If traces of semen are found, the second spray turns them bright sky blue. The test is thought to be similar to that used by forensic scientists to detect semen samples in criminal cases. ”

Rhycott peered over the top of his newspaper as the passengers from Flight NZ59 came down the departure ramp into Customs and Immigration. He spotted him immediately in his sky blue suit and yellow socks. He looked suspicious. It was not only the dark glasses and the even darker complexion, but the swagger was straight out of the airport detectors handbook. The three S’s. Anyone swaggering or sweating or otherwise looking suspicious is to be immediately detained and thoroughly examined.

“Excuse me sir but could you please walk down this lane and into room 3”

The passenger started to say something but was cut short by the two burly officials as he was propelled into room three. Rhycott passed the newspaper to his colleague and pointed to the headline.

Rhycott looked across to the tall, dark man in the sky blue suit and yellow socks in Room 3. It was bare apart from two framed photographs. On the wall behind the single polished table was a picture of a very young Queen Elizabeth, seated on a horse and looking imperious. To the right of the desk was a framed poster bearing the seal of the NZ Government and detailing a list of rights and obligations of ‘visitors to this country’. Rhycott indicated the man should sit in the chair facing the Queen. The pale green walls were illuminated by the watery light through a skylight and a single 60-watt overhead bulb. A desk lamp threw a splash of colour over the document that opened as Rhycott took his seat across the table. He scratched his brain for the proper protocol.

“Your country of origin – sir”. He dropped the emphasis on the sir to establish who was boss here.

“London”. That threw Rhycott temporarily.

“I mean, where were you born?”

” Somalia”. Where the hell was Somalia thought Rhycott. North, East or West Africa. But wasn’t there different ethnic protocol for these regions or was that India?

He was trying to remember the exact seminar when this had all been explained but he could only dredge up beautiful women and colourful clothes and an incredible hotness.

“And the purpose of your visit, sir?'”

” I’m here to demonstrate”. Rhycotts ears pricked up and a thin trickle of sweat rolled down the crack between his buttocks.

“Aggrrgghh, sir, demonstrate.”

“Yes I have a process that is interesting to certain people in this country and have come to share my knowledge.” This was a biggy thought Rhycott. Possibly the biggest in his career.

Just then a knock on the door was accompanied by the appearance of his colleague, carrying a square, silver case. The exact one the manual had indicated was suspicious. The four S’s, Rhycott temporarily amused himself with that thought.

“Could you open the case, sir”. Rhycotts sirs were becoming more and more depreciating.

“What is the meaning of this? Why am I being questioned? I am an important guest in your country.” Rhycott flipped open the English passport in front of him. Maasad Operheider, microbiologist, 45 yrs old. The picture looked right. Rhycott flicked through the entries in the passport. It read like an international terrorists holiday itinerary. Germany, France, Iran, Cuba, Russia, El Salvador, Geneva all in the last year. Rhycott felt that his whole back was now soaked in sweat and he wondered how Mr Maasad, or Mr Operheider or whatever his name was, felt.

Rhycott ordered the silver case to be opened and after a weak protest the lid was flung back. Clothes. Very expensive clothes. How did these people afford these things? Rhycott mentally checked himself. Remember the training courses

“Do you have any other luggage, SIR?”

“I must protest and ask to see your superior, Mr…. Mrr”. The tall dark man in the sky blue suit and yellow socks strained forward to see Rhycotts name tag.” Mr Ed”.

Rhycott inwardly cringed. Always the big joke, and from ………..He focused his entire attention on the training seminars. His clenched fists now felt like steel traps. He flipped open his portable phone.

“Rhycott here sir, Got an interesting situation in Room 3”.

A minute later Commander Bawden-Bell swept officiously through the door, glared at Rhycott, then at the man in the sky blue suit and yellow socks. He sucked on his very large, flowing moustache.

“Outside for a moment Mr Rhycott. A word in your ear”. They left the room.

‘This better be good Rhycott. I have an appointment with the airport manager at 9 and then I’m booked up all morning with the Ministry.” The Commander puffed up to his full height and peered at a spot a couple of metres above Rhycotts head.

“Gent claims to be a Somalian. Come here to demonstrate. All the S’s, and his passport reads like an anarchists handbook”. The Commander looked at Rhycott and for a moment Rhycott thought it was almost love.

“Right! I’ll take it from here. You get onto the paperwork and come in after about ten minutes. Check if there is any other luggage and give it a thorough B57. I want this one done by the book. Damn fella reminds me of someone, can’t place him, they all look the same to me.” Just then Rhycott remembered why the Commander had failed the cultural sensitivity module of the training course.

The next day’s headlines read.

‘Another Public Service Blunder – Minister to set up Inquiry

NZPA: A Somalian microbiologist was denied entry into NZ yesterday because immigration and airline officials believed his sky blue suit and yellow socks were not the clothes of a real scientist’

Too many hotel rooms can cause depression–if you count a room as empty with me inside it, which of course, I do – a l kennedy ‘on bullfighting”

There he goes flitting in and out of the trees.

Making his way along the street,

focussed as if it were a parallel railway track converging into a tunnel.

Suddenly, his eyes flit left and right;

he give a little skip; settles down into the same short gaited semi-trot.

His briefcase is new,

better than the tatty brown one he has worn out over the years.

He reaches the road that bisects his path from the entrance to the hospital.

Left right, left right, right left. A pace forward

and then he is back onto the footpath again.

He seems to have forgotten something.

Left right and then, he is off.

He has spotted a hole in the traffic

and the stream of afternoon tea visitors pouring into the maternity ward.

Clutching their flowers and cards, ready to smile at the baby,

or to murmur disappointments that another day has passed

without an end to gestation.

A departing nurse from the morning shift

smiles at him as he hefts his bag under his arm

and spoils the crease of (is that a new suit?) his coat seam.

He is freshly shaven,

hair is slicked back,

fingernails and undershorts clean.

Will he need to undress today?

His attaché case is empty save for a few religious tracts.

His mind is utterly and completely unravelled.

He is here for his weekly appointment and injection.

That will restore some sanity to his poor soul.

An Australian Visit in the year 2003

Dark storm clouds hang menacingly in the northern sky as tiny spittles of rain dot the windscreen as we speed north. Easter Monday on NZ road increasingly resembles scenes from a third world country. Lines of assorted vehicles hauling boats, trailers, caravans, and horse floats stumble along at sub-optimal speeds that dog narrow state highway one. An occasional police-car lends some credence to the myth that authorities care about what happens on roads and it is heartening to see one particularly recalcirant offender hauled over and ticketed.

Sydney airport resembles Tieneman square. Over half the people waiting at border control have just alighted from an Air Korea flight and half of the Quantas flight contains Asians of all descriptions. A large number of them sport the SARS mask that is almost de-rigueur on flights these days. I am particularly offended when one gentleman in front of me pulls his mask form his face to violently sneeze into the queuing masses then blithely replaces it for ‘protection’

She glances down at the notebook in front of her. The gently sloping pencil lines went in and out of focus as she tried to make out what she had just written. The tear stained paper doesn’t help as the writing is almost indecipherable in places. She looks across the table at the man she has been married to for nearly thirty years. The romantic devil. Not! Here they were on what was increasingly jokingly referred to as their second honeymoon (not that there had been a first) and all he seemed interested in was a Canadian ice hockey match playing on the giant TV screen in the crowded bar. Not a word over dinner apart from a grunt when she had announced that a glass of wine rather than a bottle was on the night’s agenda. She looks jealously at the young couple dining at the nearest table. She only has the back view of the woman but she can see the black thong peeing over the top of her low-slung hipster jeans. The couple are in what appears to be an animated, sexually charged conversation. Matching tops and lots of gold rings. Where had she failed?

Sydney: 12o C at 6.30, 21 0 C at 11.00. Hot, smelly and busy. $200 a day is just not going to cut the ice. An all day pass on the railway – $18. A hot krantzky and coffee – $9. A fruit juice $4.50. Gulp, gulp, – gone. A bearded man in a holey jersey arrives outside trendy David Jones department store, selects a spot, and unravels his cardboard plea for a warm place to sleep this night, a piece of bread to fill his empty stomach. He has his act down pat. Downward cast eyes – don’t look at the punters until the money hits the hat, then – glance up and give pathetic acknowledgment. Unlike his less experienced contemporary in Jehovah’s witness mode and official collectors card for some non-existent organization who is in your face and shaking his tin. I watched for five minutes. The homeless guy – $4 – JW – zip.

Cathedral Square (St Andrews) has its fair share of characters. I spy two of them emptying a four litre bladder of cardboard wine into fruit juice bottles to avoid or appease the remote police presence and keep the tourists happy while their contemporaries down the bench don’t give a shit and tuck into their second Victoria Bitter of the day. Downstairs at David Jones the Centerpoint Market teams with every conceivable delicacy known to man. Soon to be refurbished, everything is reduced to clear by the 24th of the month. No! My $200 a day is looking really, really, sad.

She thought it was him but what would he be doing in this backwater? Sure enough – it WAS him. As Iain bought her coffee and hot roll filled with tandoori chicken and avocado she glanced up at the man dressed in black as he strolled through Launceston airport. Seemingly lost, he became engrossed in a sign advertising marine memorabilia at a place called Evandale. If she dared she could tell him not to waste his time. The place was as dead as a proverbial duck. No-one got out of bed until 10am and all the goods were over-priced. A disembodied voice announced that you were listening to Triple J FM and that they were on a hunt for a word to describe the female state of wearing no underwear. Free furring suggested some sniggering young, testosterone, challenged male; Commando (come in and get it) squeaked a female in reply. Sophie scrunched down in her plastic seat, widened her eyes to look different, and pulled her Sydney to Hobart yacht cap tight down over her face. He walked by and with him the memories of those lost years went.

The Country Club Resort, Launceston, Tasmania. Vast, endless, corridors, golf and tennis, and GAMBLING. The lower floor is given over to a vast casino bordered by lavishly furnished, sun-drenched terraces, where you can drink and eat. The carefree exterior cannot distract from the rather desperate atmosphere of the interior of the place. Mostly older people clutch cupfuls of coins they can feed into the machines in the hope of a meagre return. For 1000 credits you get about $5 and I have not managed to win anything on three fifty cent tries. Solitary players try their hands at Baccarat and other games of chance. There is a noticeable absence of whoops of delight or high-fives. You gamble, you play tennis or golf, you eat, you gamble. If you manage to be on a winning streak, you stay at your table. I sit at breakfast next to a couple who have been at the tables all night. They are literally walking zombies, barely able to make their minds up at toast or tea. Their eyes are vacuous, their breath a mix of smoke, alcohol, and despair.

The idea had formed slowly at first then gathered momentum as the holiday progressed. He had seen his work colleague shed 10kg on the liver-cleansing diet albeit with a couple of hiccups and he had decided it was time for him to do the same. All he was allowed was red meats and fats which he knew he could never do without. Yes, Atkins was for him.

Now the SARS virus is fashionable. Both NIKE and ADDIDAS have nifty little SARS masks on sale. The Asian model has little bears imprinted on it to match the dangly little adornments on their backpacks. The Swiss variety has a striking red cross which makes the wearer look like a modern age Viking. I couldn’t find the NZ variant but I would suggest it would be all black.

Tamar River Cruise. Apparently, the Tamar River was named after its famous counterpart in Devon. What we were not told is that the Devon equivalent is so polluted by sewerage that the nearby Saltash Oystery’s produce has been declared unfit for human consumption for decades. Adrian, our tour guide, tells two stories. Number one centers around Bruno the bull of Tamar Island, now a wildlife reserve but formerly a farmed island. When the farmer was asked to remove all his livestock, he failed to locate a small, black Angus Bull who roamed wild his solitary reserve and thrived without any big brothers to stop him eating. When he was finally located and captured he weighed a whopping 1000kg (a lot of bull). Poor old Bruno was relocated to the nearby river bank, but, not knowing the ways of the world could not get the knack of inseminating the surrounding females. Once he caught on, he ran rampart, and Adrian indicates the surrounding paddocks filled with Bruno’s progeny. Trouble was that Bruno’s new found virility proved to be his downfall and the constant calls to prove himself led to premature exhaustion and death.

The second story is a little more factual but told with all the panache of an accomplished artist. A small trading vessel was steaming from George Town (the port at the head of the river which feeds into Bass Strait) with a cargo of gold dust from the gold rush that made Tasmania its name. As it neared a bend in the river, the skipper spotted a boat following them and rapidly closing. Either fearing they were to be past, or worse, robbed the captain ordered down to the engine room for more steam. This was provided but still the boat closed. He once again ordered more steam and the engineer shovelled more coal into the furnace and adjusted the settings on his boiler. Still, the ship closed. Once again, the captain ordered more steam, and the engineer, desperate to escape punishment, added more fuel but closed off the steam relief valve to provide the biggest head of steam. The inevitable happed and the boiler blew, sinking the boat, killing the crew, and scattering the gold-dust over the notoriously muddy bottom. The gold is still there and every day Adrian passes the spot, he puts on his echo-sounder and looks for suspicious piles on the bottom. The crowd lapped it up – panted for more.

I don’t think Chelsea is wearing any underwear. Buffet breakfasts are fascinating affairs – or not – if you are stuck with a nagging wife and four under ten year old kids – all scrambling for wheaties and toast. A portly Asian Australian businessman sits in the corner of the restaurant with a coffee or tea and little else in front of him, talking loudly and aggressively into a cellphone. I hear the words mergers, investments, hold-backs, risks, and equities. Why does he have to do all this in a crowded room? Why can’t he use his own damn room? An elderly American woman opens the silver bierre-marie and her lips form a little O as she hurriedly slams it down, then looks nervously  around the bustling room. She catches my eye and sotto voice indicates that she has found the hash browns. Twice more she circles the food island that overflows with fresh fruit, nuts, yoghurts, cereals, breads, meats, eggs scrambled and poached, beans, spaghetti, mushrooms, and tomatoes before she nervously places two small hash brown on her plate and retreats to her table to savoir something she is obviously forbidden at home. Chelsea struts by, notebook in one hand, dirty plate in the other. My loins stir at the thought of her dressing for her mornings work. Maybe it’s a black thing, maybe she is free-furring, Commando style.

Anzac Day, 1100hrs, Penguin. Penguin, population around 3000, at last count. They do actually count the population and its easy to do because they all turn up to community events. Penguin is perched on the northern coast of Tasmania about 30 km from Birnie, which is the biggest center in the North apart from Launceston. A tight knit little community is Penguin and everybody knows everyone else’s business and, if they don’t, then they are not true Penguin citizens. They greet each other in the street by first name. Families such as the Beecroft’s, Gunns, and Burtons have lived here since 1861 when Penguin was discovered and named after the fairy penguins who reputedly populate the nearby sea. I never saw one live penguin but there are plenty of plastic and fibreglass ones on show. Also virtually, every building has a reminder that you are in Penguin in case you forgot and thought you were in Snug, or Wollongong.

Alan “Bluey” Adams blinks back a tear as the lone bugler plays blows a mournful version of the Last Post. He looks around the assembled schoolkids, scouts, army cadets, police and fellow comrades and squeezes Elsie’s, his wife, hand. There aren’t too many of them left now but the younger generation have taken it up and Anzac day will thrive long after he is in the cold ground. He had that all too familiar pain this morning as he slipped into his powder blue suit and meticulously assembled his rack of medals on his once proud chest, now riddled with the cancer. The pain was such that the lethal cocktail of drugs he was on that had almost forced him to give up driving his beloved Holden, no longer seemed to be able to keep it to a tolerable throb. When the day came that the Holden had to go up on the blocks would be the day that Bluey would know he was a goner.

At the Groovy Penguin across the road from the cenotaph, John looked at the ceremony that was disrupting his pleasant Friday morning. He had fought in Vietnam but he wasn’t one to prance about and show off. His hair, greying now, cascaded down his back and his face was ravaged from the Australian sun and years of heavy drinking. He didn’t know if the tremble in his hands was due to the day or to that last glass of whisky he knew he shouldn’t have had for old times sake, last night. He saw his fellow Penguin citizens greeting each other and the minister overseeing the Anzac day ceremony reading out the list of fallen Penguinites. Instead of pride, he seethed with a rage he hadn’t felt since coming back form Nam and the sullen greeting he had got then. Here, the Methers sat at an adjoining table ordering their skinny lattes, dressed in matching polar fleeces, each with a rosemary wreath firmly attached to the lapel. Ada, who used to have a soft spot for John before he went overseas, looked like she had been having the botox again. Reg, was like a cat who had had too much cream. Tanned, manicured, and as sleek as the town he lived in, you would never have believed the scumbag he had been when he was young. He had practically destroyed Penguin when he was on the council but, as always, with the elite of Penguin, he had emerged from the scandal with not only his reputation intact, but also with Ada and a small fortune. Their matching twins, now in their twenties and returned from Uni in Sydney, looked down their noses at the sights before them. Quaint, stuck in the last century, yokels, was how they now viewed the environment that had shaped them. John slid back the last of his drink and ambled over the road to the cenotaph. He bent in front of the wreaths and silently mouthed the words written on the cards. He looked up at the Australian flag flying at half-mast, shrugged his shoulders, and wandered up the road to the pub where he hoped there would be some free grog.

Dawn thought she had seen it all even though she had only been working at Banjo’s Bakery & Pizzeria for three years. Tourists, notorious for being loud, noisy, and obnoxious; the locals weren’t much better. There were a couple of them outside now at 7.30 am, riotously drunk and making a nuisance of themselves. Fishermen. Say no more. Then there had been the Irishman with more facial furniture than a New Guinean tribesman. Dawn couldn’t wait to see how he ate his Hawaiian special, and she hadn’t been disappointed. It bought a new meaning to spearing pineapple. But today left all that in the dust. It was a little before 7.45 and the bakery had produced enough rolls, pastries and breads to last until mid-morning when this tourist couple walked in for a full Continental breakfast. $15, all you can eat. He, the guy, looked a little off. Like he was rubbed out or something. Smudged around the edges. Dawn couldn’t place it but when he sat down he sort of melted. When he grasped his utensils to eat, they formed a liquid pool and even though the eggs and bacon disappeared off his plate, she couldn’t see him put anything in his mouth. She, presumably the wife by the way she nagged him, kept looking around in a concerned sort of way. Dawn didn’t feel like she could ask if there was anything they could do because she felt this paralysis. Like she was glued to the spot or something. It was just plain weird. Even weirder than the Irishman. When they left there was this little puddle on the floor under where he had sat. Dawn didn’t want to touch it but Banjo looked at her in that funny do-it-or-you-will-be-walking-down-the-road-with-no-pay sort of way and she had to get down there and scape it into a pan. It looked like liquid, but when she pushed the brush through it, it turned into dust. Dust that smelled of electricity. Like someone had lit a match, but instead of turning into charcoal, it had gone gray and powdery. Dawn realised that there were some things in life that she had not seen yet.

Katarina glanced over at the table where the blond woman and her husband were supposed to be dining. There was only the woman tucking into her third vanilla slice. People like that disgusted Katarina. She had stuck to her Greek salad and she had only really played with that while the others ate their courses. It reminded her of her second to last assignment in the Aegean. It had gone particularly badly and, once again, older sister Mia had to come to the rescue. Katarina had killed the woman but her lesbian lover had fought back with a vengeance that bordered on the insane. Katarina had taken a knife wound to her upper arm and had been savagely kicked in the throat. Barely able to breathe, let alone talk, she had autodialed her cell and within seconds, Mia was through the door and onto the lover. She quickly disarmed her of the knife then drove her nasal bones into her brain. One minute she was standing there, the next, she wriggled to the floor, convulsed, then expired. Katarina was nearly unconscious from the pain, when they doused the dismembered bodies in acid in the hotel bathroom. Sulphur fumes made her eyes water, but Katarina marvelled at our her older sister’s dedication and cunning. She also despised her for her success. Here she was tonight, dressed down in a denim suit, designed to look cheap, but Katarina knew that it cost the best part of $2000. She dripped with diamonds and gold, making her look like a queen to Vasili’s king. Vasili, poor Vasili. He dressed like a king, but like his brother Joe he was a three-time loser. They often worked as a foursome, husbands and wives enjoying a holiday together, reunited from the old country. The men did little though and only formed an image. They talked of the old days and got canned. Already, they were on to their forth double bourbon and cokes and had dropped close to $500 on the casino. Katarina and Mia stuck to orange and tomato juice. Katarina looked enviously at Mia’s plate. She had put away the grilled trevalla with fries and a plate of marinated calamari rings, and now she hungrily eyes the dessert menu. Mia looked up at her dowdy sister. Plump, fake-blond, dressed in a frumpy gray dress she looked less like her sister than her mother. She whispered across to her. “I think the death-by-chocolate. Most appropriate don’t you think.” and she gave a sinister little laugh.

At the adjacent table, Madge adjusted her watch which doubled as a highly sensitive listening device. It was a little on the blink tonight and she only picked up the beginning of the death by chocolate reference form Mia. Special Ops briefing said that these two Russian sisters were the business. They had been sent here to kill the NZ man who had a block of Huoun pine in which was a test tube containing the deadly SARS virus. He travelled the world trying to sell it to the highest bidders and sop far had been successful in China and Canada. He was supposedly here in Australia and NZ to put a halt to Asian immigration. He usually travelled with his wife but although Madge could see her, she couldn’t make out any 99 kg six foot New Zealander. The blond woman was now ordering another vanilla slice and another bottle of junk wine. Possibly she as drunk because she kept talking to the empty chair opposite her. What was she saying? Something about ‘at least try another glass of water dear, you’re fading away’.

Trang put down her the forth vanilla slice and bumped into the back of Mia as she did so, safely depositing the tracking device amongst the jewellery. She saw Madge glance over at her but the Australian Secret Service were four steps behind in this particular game. But where was the husband? She saw a faint shape shift in the chair opposite the blond woman and there was a smell of ketone in the air. She shrugged and moved back behinds the servery.

He felt dreadful. He couldn’t even drink the water. Thirty-five kgs in three weeks. It was if he had become invisible. He looked at his arms. They were like swizzle sticks. His stomach rumbled and instantly seven heads swivelled in his direction. And where had he left that block of Tasmanian pine?

He dreams nightly now exclusively of food. Food so impossibly sweet and rich. Food, scented with Huoun pine, with honey made from the flowers of the scant tress that grow in the mountains of Tasmania. Food, caressed and rubbed by the bodies of Armenian and Italian women who flit through the scrubbed wooden floors of dark buildings, in slight, black clothing that shifts and slithers and displays their dark sex and flour dusted bodies. They rub against him and taunt him. They push his skeletal hands over hardened nipples and bristling pubis. They taunt him with their abundant bodies. They touch him in places he has only dreamed about until he is screaming with pleasure. They serve him plates of breads, dripping with honey, jams, and creams. They come to his table and deposit first a dish of trevalla, smothered in a lemon butter and caper sauce on a bed of young English spinach and a sweet potato mash. Tiny anchovies, stuffed, green olives, shaved fennel, artichoke hearts covered in feta and blue cheese. Plates of veal, stuffed with sage leaves, wrapped in prosciutto. Perfect little quails, crusted in sweet vine leaves rubbed in rich, dark, green olive oil, tiny eggs from the same bird, bursting with primeval flavours. He writhes in his dreams, his sex hardened to such a degree he cannot sleep on his back and he screams in agony at his pent up seed. He frequently awakes to find the bed soaked in his semen, visions of the she-devils, taunting him, prodding him, kneading him as if he were food itself. He has never been so happy in all his life.

Before the holiday he had steeped onto the scales at a Christchurch mall. An ancient old thing with an ornate iron façade. It, for $2, read your height and weight and gave a fortune telling. He stepped back off the scale as the little machine produced a small strip of paper that summarised his life for him in three handy sound bites. 99.5 kg: ideal weight for 1.8m height, 80.0 kg. You will meet an old friend but be wary of renewing acquaintanceships. Plan carefully for the next six months Lucky number four. Lucky colour, pink.

Now he looked down at the new readout from an identical machine in Hobart. Weight 45kg – or thereabouts. Step to the middle of the weighing platform. There appears to be a malfunction. Lucky number 4. Lucky colour white or gray. Step to the middle of the platform. There is no future. No future, not future, nor future, no future, nor future.

I am a street mime

I am a street mime, a performance artists, a living statue. I’m not up there with the famous Amanda Palmer, but I have my fans. All day I stand, back to the harbour, dressed as the Statues of Liberty. My face and hands are painted with gold glitter paint. Because I don’t want to end up like that chick in “Goldfinger” I have a special paint mix that lets my skin breathe. In my right hand I carry a torch which today starts playing up within an hour into my routine. The damn polystyrene flames keep falling out of the holder. Probably the wind or that damn kid who dropped it yesterday. In my left hand, I hold a tablet painted in gold. Last month I was painted grey and in one sitting remained completely motionless for two hours. That was a little unfortunate as I can move and thank somebody when they place money in my receptacle, which is spread out on a mock Turkish rug in front of my performance. Kids sop and try to figure me out and the occasional adult looks perplexed. Sometimes the kids will scream when I move and other times they laugh. I am photographed about twenty times each day. It’s not a lucrative money-spinner but $50 a day is not to be sniffed at. Actually, it’s quite relaxing and my doctor tells me my BP is down since I started. Occasionally a pigeon will shit on me. On the rare occasion, someone will try and push me or throw something to break my frieze. The big problem is the turning off at the end of the day. How do you relax after remaining motionless for ten hours?