Archive for August, 2009
The floor in front of me twisted and buckled madly and I felt my bowels evacuate a watery fecal gruel. I wildly scanned my memory for where I should shelter on a fourth floor building when an earthquake struck. I came up empty. I knew that lifts were out and somewhere in the deep recesses of my now terrified mind I thought of stairwells and arches. The balcony to my right suddenly gave way and amidst the dust and flickering lights I saw the door to the stairs a quick seconds sprint beckoning me, as the stench from my body finally penetrated my consciousness. I could hear the crumbling of the internal walls, the screaming of those unfortunate souls who couldn’t escape, and I thought of my own mortality. The roaring of the disintegrating building was terrifying. Each shock seemed to go on for eternity and then there was sudden silence. I relaxed and then another rumbling shock lifted the floor from under me and all around glass exploded and the screaming continued.
He stood there, in the car park, his red and black shirt sending its ominous message to passerbys. The black and chrome of his motorcycle, the weapons attached to the saddlebags, the string of off-siders, crouched in readiness around him. His widows peak didn’t make you want to giggle into your hand in mock embarrassment; it made you want to avert your eyes for fear of recrimination. He had once been a national icon as musician and poet, recently more notorious for befriending liberal-minded female patrons who funded his expensive alcohol and drug habit and elevated him to a kind of Robin Hood character. He held his arms out to me as I lurched through the smoke filled air.
“Bro! I didn’t mean for you to trash the whole building. Just do the business and vamoose. Kapeech?”
I was momentarily taken aback by his unfamiliar language; then it filtered through. I grinned, pretending that I was indeed, the man. Overhead the sound of crumbling concrete and twisted metal, tore through the strangely silent afternoon. Distantly I could hear the stirrings of the first fire appliances, ambulances, and possibly police. I could see the scanner on the back of Chris’s bike emitting signals.
“We better make ourselves invisible,” he whispered, conspirationally into my reddened ears.
I scrambled into the back of the awaiting RV and we roared off as the first of the suburban saviors screeched to a halt outside the stricken building. As I gazed out through the tinted rear windows of the departing vehicle I could see streams of survivors staggering form the building. The fools in the van with me didn’t realise they had been witness to the largest earthquake to have hit our city. They thought it was the charges that I had not yet laid; the charges that lay in the basement of the building. The charges that were sure to be discovered by the authorities when they scoured the building for survivors. As I was removing the large poster tube that contained my assassin’s rifle from my back, I saw my own motorcycle lying under a pile of rubble beside the road. The motorcycle that could now link me to that building and those explosives. I had to think of a way to get back there and remove all signs of my presence.
“Christ! What’s that smell?”
I must admit that doubts did enter my mind as I sighted down the long barrel of the heavily modified assault rifle. In the telescopic sights I had fixated who had been described to me as the enemy. She looked far from it. Flowing golden hair, those bee-stung lips, the Californian tan – she seemed as distant from an enemy as the small child playing at her feet. I squeezed the trigger and the soft thump of the bullet exiting the gun belied the enormous kick as it jerked in my hands. She reeled backward, the small child was covered in a wash of blood, horrified onlookers crouched and covered their heads with white-knuckled hands, as if that would provide them any relief. I shifted position as he had instructed me to do so and waited for the next target.
I cleared the rubble around the stricken vehicle and assessed the damage. Although the rear tire was flat, I held a portable tire repair cylinder in my hand. That would not be a problem. I could see that the headlamp and controls were twisted, but they looked usable. I inserted the repair kit over the valve and pushed the inflator. Suddenly I sensed a nearby presence and out of the side of my eye, I caught a flash of red and black. The incident in the truck would now come back to haunt me. I felt under the seat for my sidearm. It was gone.
“Looking for this bro?”
He held the nickel plated automatic out from his body at a ninety degree angle. He looked as though pulling the trigger would be as easy as twitching his eye.
“You’re not going to shit yourself again.” He said mocking me as I automatically held up my hands.
I am now asked WHY I DID IT. I answer in psychobabble, that debased and vague confessional language that allows people to imagine they are baring their souls when in fact they are exposing their shallowness. They are impressed, not so much by my advanced rhetoric (because they are all part of a trivialized educational system which equates confidence and poise with success), but by my ability to self reflect. Even if I explained myself as a demented she-wolf raised from the spawn of an alien master race, they would nod sagely, scribble unintelligibly on their paper tablets, then usher me into a rehabilitative program guaranteed to reform me to societies mores. I wondered if my neighbors back home would describe me as a friendly man, an *** (whatever it was they thought I did and it should start with a dominant vowel) who had lived in a modest home in Evansville and kept a neat lawn. He frequently jogged. “I was really surprised. As far as I knew, he was an outstanding neighbor.” I tell them they disgust me-they are impressed that this is a sign of my ‘active return to engagement’ with ‘my social self’. Hey! I did it because I could.
I jerk awake. My body is still anchored to the bed but my brain is humming with tinnea-like constancy. What the hell did all that mean?
Sayed placed the cup with the apotropaic eyes on the workstation that filled up the south-facing wall of the outer office formed by the movable partitions. He surreptitiously looked over his shoulder at the expanse of cubicles that stretched out over the eleventh floor of the dot-com office. Moving-in day, it was always the most tricky part. He opened his metallic grey case and shielding the rather sparse contents from the occupants of the floor. He removed his name plaque and placed it with some flourish at the front of his desk. Sayed Hameed – Junior Project Manager. He carefully brushed the lint and fallen dandruff from the immaculate black jacket and ran a hand through his carefully cut, but already greying, hair. He thought to himself that the artificial greying was a touch of genius. The combination of junior-manager and grey hair lent an air of authenticity to his pretense. He was now ready for the first big test. He hoped the lucky cup would work its magic.
It’s amazing really. On one hand, the predictors of our future are saying that because of computers (oh! It used to be robots but when that turned out to be an idle fantasy they turned to computers) we would have increasingly more leisure time. Well maybe! But lets say you want to take a three or four day fishing trip during your working week. First, you lose the wages for that time. Second, have you been to a sport shop recently. A half way decent rod and reel costs close to $300. The clothes and accessories to look the part can boost that to $1000. Then getting out on the water and being able to catch a fish a further $500. By the time you add all the pluses and minuses up you are looking at $5000 for a half a week of leisure. No, the myth about increasing leisure time is just that-a myth.
So, Sayed has to resort to scams. And the biggest scam going at the moment is the dot-com extravaganza. The first task was to get on a phone list, get an expense card, then on the payroll. If he got the first he had to endure the endless boring meetings, but he could cope with that if there was a payoff at the end of the week. A memo appears on his desk after he comes back for the water machine. Isn’t it odd, he reflects, how all these people now feed off businesses? Cool or cold water, coffee, morning and afternoon teas, special little feasts, all those endless office supplies that no-one ends up using but-oh-they-were-such-a-good-idea-at-the-time. Sayed scans the memo. Bingo! His first meeting. A chance to get in on the action. He tries not to look too eager, but just eager enough, as he strides down the alley of cubicles to ‘Planning & Strategy’.
This particular dot-com is supposedly marketing buttons. It seems that antique buttons are something that are often absent from the real marketplace and therefore the Internet makes a perfect place to market these increasingly hard-to-find objects. If you believe what Mr Buttons-R-US is saying. Curiously he is not talking about sourcing supplies, shipping routes, marketing strategies, but instead, is going into intricate detail about projected quarterly profits and turn around times, flick-ons, and something called outsourcing. Sayed keeps his head down but his ears start ringing when the topic of product awareness and sideways marketing is raised. Here is where the expense accounts and long lunches rule. They are expected to spend up to twenty-five percent of their time cultivating market awareness. This means wooing other retailers who will then, by way of word of mouth, alert their customers to this wonderful opportunity on the Internet to find and buy that antique button they need and desire. Mr Buttons-R-US is calling it . Sayed is careful to sign his name in the middle of the long list of junior and middle managers as they file out of the briefing.
Back at his desk, Sayed sees, to his delight, that another memo has arrived. He is on a phone list that seems to have been generated off nameplates on desks. That cup is bringing him luck and even though he was wary of the nameplate, it has paid dividends. He thought it was time to meet the neighbor. He raised himself on tiptoes and peered over the dividing partition. She was a picture. Her nametag spelled out Moratia. She might be foreign. That would be a good start. Despite Sayed having a foreign name he had lived in the country all his life as had his parents. They just happened to be proud enough of their origins that they didn’t bastardise their names as so many immigrants had.
“Moratia. What an interesting name,” Sayed atoned in what he took for his sexiest voice, ”where does that come from?”
Moratia turned to him slowly and holding him in her gaze replied,
“Actually my name is Beth, but I thought that Moratia had a certain ring to it and so I had a name badge made up. I’m now thinking it was a really silly idea. Everyone talks slowly to me or just totally ignores me. As if I were a foreigner or something.”
She twisted her head up and sideways but couldn’t see any nametag. And you are…?”
“ Sayed.. Sayed Hammed.” Sayed tried to pop his hand over the partition but only succeeded in moving the portable wall away form its fixings. From the other side, he could hear a rustling of papers and falling objects.
“Sorry! I seem to have messed up your workstation,” he mumbled apologetically while fumbling with the partition in an effort to restore it to its past position.
Suddenly Moratia/Beth appeared around the corner of his work area. She was stunning. She was dressed in what Sayed called fashionable black. Black suit with a red sweater and red shoes. Her pale white skin positively shone and her doe eyes blinked at him as she extended her hand, which Sayed noted had black painted fingernails. He was instantly smitten and thoughts of expensive lunches and sideways marketing disappeared from his head. It was seldom that Sayed was speechless but he couldn’t momentarily form a word.
“Argghh! So, what do I call you? Moratia or Beth?”
“Beth is fine. Oh I see you have been put on the phone list. That is a good sign. They don’t have me yet. If I want to make something of this I will have to get A into G ASAP.”
Sayed wasn’t quite sure what to make of this. Here was this magnificent creature who m he had come to adore within the brief minutes of her acquaintance and now she was turning all his preconceptions about women who dressed in black and painted their nails to match, around. He wondered what color, if any, she painted her toenails. Sayed had a penchance for painted toenails. He loved sucking them. Beth shuffled from toe to toe and wound one leg behind the other.
“What is it you actually do here?” she asked, idly dragging her black-painted fingernail along the rim of Sayed’s new desk. Sayed’s mind did another flip and he added a whole new set of fantasies to the ones that had been previously stored on the old hard drive. Not the time to reveal that he was an uninvited interloper who had ingratiated himself into a new business venture because these people were so full of themselves and so flaky that they didn’t bother checking.
“Junior Manager. I’m gearing up for progressive sideways marketing.”
Beth looked oddly at him but said nothing.
To insert at a later date.
So Sayed had this dilemma. The women he really loved was seemingly unattainable. The women who was throwing hersoef at him ewas all that he ythought he dreamed of, the luscious Moravia/Beth. Why had God placed him in this dilemma? Was he being punished for his depravity with this dot.com business? He didn’t really know, but Sayed was perplexed.
His VDU display flashed he had another message. From her.
Dads taken to wearing frocks. His current number is in orange taffeta. He’s wearing cycle pants underneath and he has this scarf thing around his head. He’s also growing his hair long. After sixty-five years of being the most uptight, right winged, straightlaced, paragon of society, he has broken out. He’s also started to experiment with marijuana. He calls it marywhoannah, after he saw this tight-lipped English psychologist on television saying it was harmless and that if more people smoked marywhoannah than drunk, we would live in a safer land. He was also swayed by a distinguished lady of about his own age who had the occasional toke from time to time and was campaigning for legalization. Dads also taken up with Felicity, my best friend. Felicity and I go back a long way. We went through school together, and anyone who went to a rural school in redneck country will know how someone who breaks the mould stands out. Right from the primers, Felicity was different. Her mother raised her by herself and she insisted that Felicity shouldn’t be deprived because she lived in the wopwaps. She was sent to ballet twice a week at the nearest city. Her mother took her to all the plays that came, she was surrounded by artistic things. And she was taught to think for herself. Felicity eventually left New Zealand and I had lost touch with her but a couple of years back she came back home and we caught up and resumed our friendship. It was about that time that Mum and Dad sold the family home and moved into a retirement village. Then Mum gradually succumbed to Alzheimers and Dad just moped about, it looked like he was going to quietly go himself. Felicity had accompanied me on a couple of visits and then I found out that she had also been going to see Dad on her own. Next thing you know Dad tells me that he is moving back into town and that he is discovering himself.
They are both up there on the rostrum now. Dads dressed in that rig and Felicity is by his side. She’s a tall willowy blonde. She wears lots of purple. She’s got on this leotard thing, it really shows off her figure, and she’s obviously enthralled by Dad. Is he wearing makeup? I close my eyes and hope that not too many of the audience know of the connection between him and me. Its great that your Dad is finally happy, but I wish that he could have done it in a less conspicuous way. And without involving my best friend. He’s explaining some complicated exercise that you do that involved running up a wall and having darts thrown at you but I have filtered the details out as I hide my head in my hands when he does this backflip and his bicycle pants ride up and he lands with the frock all around his head.
The audience are in rapture. He’s now moved on to telling about the exotic places that people need to explore. He’s talking about New Orleans and to my horror, he picks me out of the audience to tell everybody about the charms oft he culture, food, music, and writing. I had spent a couple of years living in New Orleans when I finished University and had become smitten with it. The elegant blend of French, Spanish, and American influences opened up America to me. I had previously thought of America as dull and conservative but New Orleans charmed me then and still does. Felicity had also spent time there and obviously shares in Dads enthusiasm.
Dad tells me its due to the fact that he has been spiritualy deprived. He says men have to provide and they have no time for fun, to discover their true inner self.
“Your mother put me in a box marked ‘PROVIDER’ and I spent all my life making her and your life comfortable.”
Funny thing is I don’t remember it that way. He was an autocrat. We lived in terror of him coming home after work, grumpy and often drunk.
“I still have a good decade left in me and I plan to enjoy it. This marywhoannah is greatr and its taught me that you have to focus on your own true inner self. Felice has really helped me open up.”
For a sickening moment I imagined them in bed together. Him slobbering all over Felicity and her screaming some New Age incantation. I shuddered just as Dad started a rant about boats. Was he actually encouraging this audience of decidedly rickety old people to sell up and invest in a boat and sail the South Pacific? Were they actually clapping and squirming excitedely in their plastic moulded seats? Was I missing something here? Felicity donned a pair of serious looking glasses, and, peering over the rims of the lenses, gave instructions on how to facilitate all that her and Malcom (Malcom?) had been talking about. If I had called Dad ‘Malcolm’ he would have ignored me for a year!
I ask Felicity what the attraction is.
“When he looks into my eyes I feel as though I am the only thing in his world. He makes me feel special, unique. There are only a few people in this world who can do that.”
“I think he is a deeply flawed man. He ignored his wife and family for decades.”
“ Yes. There is that. I am also inexplicably attracted to deeply flawed men. Just look at my track record.”
Let me tell you about the day that I ran away from home. I know that sounds dramatic but my little life had its dramas as I am sure do most fifteen-year-olds. My parents were normal enough. Well thats what the counselor said. He said it was normal for adults, after 15 years of dedication to a child to go through what he called ‘separation anxiety’. This was supposed to be something that involved them imagining that I would soon be leaving home and therefore preparing themselves for the event by largely ignoring the object of their pain. Pity I hadn’t rammed home the point to them that I intended, like most of my friends, on staying around until much later. Why give up free food, a reasonable allowance, my own room, for the third world conditions my older sister lived in when she went to Uni. My parents, reasonable people apparently, went out and bought an AIBO which was supposed to replace me. Symbolic that they would buy a programmable robotic dog to replace a warm human being. It was disgusting to see my Dad the day it arrived going into raptures about the 250 movements and the personality that would develop, as he read the instructions on the side of the box. It struck me that the $5000 was a tad much for what turned out to be a dumb piece of metal that, after three months of not so brilliant entertainment, ended up back in its box and thrust into the back of a cupboard, gathering dust.
My counselor had a name for it. Autophobic he called me. Said it could be fixed but he didn’t really understand that I wasn’t scared of hurting my parents, I just wanted to get out of that crazy house before the next installment of their own madness came along. The dog was followed by a venture into culture that saw us all listening to Mum doing a reading from ‘Doctor Zhivargo’ or ‘King Rat’ every night. You imagine it. A plate of perfectly good food waiting to be consumed and you sit their for five minutes listening to some dumb Russian or American going through some personal angst. This is where the counselor picked up on the phobia thing.
‘The rage inside of you built up to an extent that you could no longer deny it. And paradoxically the love you felt made it unacceptable to manifest that anger’
Jeez! Sure I was pissed but …… well lets not go there. Then next it was overseas travel. The evening conversation was filled with cut-price this, wine trail that, and no mention of my airfare or whether I would have a separate room. It finally dawned that I was destined for my sister flat while they cruised around the world. The writing was well and truly appearing on the wall. I talked to Mum about it but when I got to the bit about feeling neglected and unloved she sort of choked up and rushed from the room, shoulders heaving. I heard the keening from her room for nearly an hour until Dad got home and then it was all my fault.
‘We’ve always done our best for you. Your becoming more and more selfish. The me me me generation. Don’t you know we love you?’
I reeled from the ambiguous logic of it all but you don’t argue with Dad when he’s on a roll.
The straw that broke this camel’s back came about two weeks after the me me episode.
Either We are sitting at the kitchen table, Dad, Mum and I. Me secretly pleased we are not reading Gravitys Rainbow which had been scheduled for this week and Mum and Dad on the other side of the table looking very uncomfortable but also pleased.
‘I’ve got something to tell you’ Dad says very confidently, suddenly clutching Mums hand.’We’ve got something to tell you’. Mr and Mrs Jameison, Edna and Fred are moving in to Janets old room. He paused, waiting to gauge the effects of this.
‘Fine’ I responded quizzically, thinking whats the big deal.
‘And there will be some different sleeping arrangements. We want…’
I didn’t wait for the finish. I could fill in the blanks.
I was sitting in the shrinks office. Dark, as usual. Always kept the blinds drawn and that tiny little light shining down over his shoulder. Raised any higher he could have shone it in my eyes and we would have the real deal. And those stupid paintings. I had given them the cursory and nodded. ‘My son did them. Good aren’t they. He has some real talent’ Implying that I was a useless nothing piece of shit. Anyway, I’m sitting there and he kind of looks queerly at me and says-
‘We haven’t talked much about you and your sister. Perhaps you could tell me how you feel about talking about her. Stacey isn’t it?’
What’s this all about? Three months of wriggling around Mum and Dad and I am feeling I can handle this therapy shit and now this.
‘You should know that I had a talk with your mother and father after our last session. How do you feel about that?’
The walls groan a little closer and I can feel a bead of sweat rolling down my back and sliding in into my crack.
‘You can tell me how you feel’
I think of those two shits sitting probably where I am sitting right now or did he do a double act on the pathetic sofa he keeps wanting me to lie on. And spilling out all sorts of garbage. I didn’t have to fill in the blanks. I was out of there.
Canard Caneton Rouennais
His generous nose was held aloof and a thin strand of gorgeous hair dropped forward and brushed his elegant, sunken cheek. The fine, white-spotted, blue neckerchief covered the thick matt of dark hairs around his throat, missed by this morning’s razor. The elegant shirt, top two buttons fashionably undone, contrasted with the rustic linen jacket. A matching (what is the top pocket-handkerchief?) completed the brooding picture.
‘Your order sir?’
The restaurant was named after the famous local duck. The unique breed of domestic and wild duck was renowned world wide for its rich and gamey flavour. Less remembered was how the duck gained that flavour. They were raised on a diet of choice grains, fresh vegetables, the ground bones and waste products of their ancestors; and then they were strangled and prepared and cooked without being bled.
I scanned the menu. Tranche of Calves Liver with lime sauce looked innocent enough but scanning through the description of the meal showed vast quantities of port, sherry, and Noilly Pratt, and the $45 price seemed a trifle expensive for what was largely a dish of offal.
I looked around the dining room which was now buzzing with the early evening crowd. A large lunch party, who I took to be ‘in the trade’, had just departed after dining since midday. Their loud extolling of the wine list had become passe but it had been intriguing to see grown men reduced to tears by food. The building had originally been a public toilet, hence the low ceilings and the abundance of porcelain tiles. Ironically the toilet, a crude affair the defied local hygiene standards, was now located outside. The low ceiling and dark overhead beams gave a dungeon like appearance and the view out the single window was a large brick wall. It was billed as one mans passionate, cerebral culinary journey into the unknown.
A rack of pork sounded nice but reading on I discovered that this was accompanied by a parmentiere of andouille and roast pigs ears reduction. Pigs ears reduction? Pleeeze! And veal sweetbread in a salt crust with hay and pollen. Well I remember that traditionally beef used to be cooked in hay but looking across the table I saw the dish and the pollen was accompanied by bee bits – thoughtfully omitted from the description. And a quirky innovation. Chicken cooked on drumsticks. Yes! Instead of skewers, sets of drummers sticks.
Special meals by request. Now that was interesting. I asked the elegant nose. ‘MMmmmm.! And tonight’s password sir?’ I looked quizzically at him and my tablemates. A few heads turned, with interest, to hear my response.
Story finishes – As I swayed out of the toilet I noticed the door. Set at waist height it could easily be missed. It was the corners of the door frame that attracted my attention. Thousands of tiny scratch marks, but on the outside? As if someone or something didn’t want to go into whatever was beyond that door.
Camp Oven Bread
4C flour ( you can mix different flours)
½C blood heat water
Mix flour and butter and salt and mix yeast honey and water. when yeast bubbles add to flour mixture. Knead 10 minutes. Then place in greased Dufeau. Row ashore. Light fire on beach and when fire is going well lay a fry pan or sheet of tin and onto this throw cockles, mussels, oysters. When they open eat hot. (You could put garlic butter onto these but eating hot is important – cold they lose their flavour). When fire is dying and bread has proven (½ – 1hr) place hot embers around and on top of Dufeau and bale for approx 40min. Eat with butter, jam, cheese etc.
Clam and Tomato Soup
3 doz Kidney Fern cockles
4 diced potatoes
2 diced carrots
6 cloves of garlic
pkt Maggi Ham and Tomato Soup/ Some sort of pasta
Saute potato, carrot, and onion and garlic in butter and olive oil until soft. Add soup mix/pasta and 2-3 cups of water and lemon juice (white wine could also be substituted if available). In another pot boil 1-2 pints of water and when boiling drop cockles in until they pop open. Once open immediately remove meat and juices and preserve with a little paprika and pepper and lemon juice if desired.
Three minutes before serving add cockles to soup mixture.