четверг, февраля 28, 2008
понедельник, февраля 25, 2008
It was time to get up.
Time to ratchet the old eyelids skywards, ease the cheesegrater throat with a
Sure, it was time to get up, but the old eyelids were in no mood for ratcheting, the old frame spoke powerfully against leverage, and there was no
‘Jago,’ said a voice. ‘Hey Jago. Time to get up.’
And with that, the old cheesegrater decided to get things underway, easing out a cough somewhere between broken glass and sandpaper. I rolled over and squinted up into the morning light.
‘How are ya, Jago?’
It was Sammy the Squib. Or Spiv. One of the two.
‘Nice joint, Jago.’
I levered the old frame up and ever so gently away from Sammy, and cast a bleary look around for the old hat, found her crushed and crumpled were the old noggin had lain. I biffed her back into some sort of respectable shape, planted her on top, glanced at Sammy, and hacked up a half-smoked Holiday from somewhere down the old gullet.
‘Looks like it’s my lucky day, Sammy,’ I said. ‘Got a light?’
Sammy flamed me up and said: ‘Mine too. Nice joint. Set you back much?’
I took a drag and scoped the streetscape. Not much movement out there, but plenty of sunlight. Maybe it wasn’t going to be such a lucky day after all.
‘Whaddya want, Sammy?’
‘My money,’ he said. ‘Fitty bucks, Jago. Been gone some time now, but I want it back.’
‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Yeah. Fair enough.’
‘By midday, Jago,’ said Sammy.
‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Yeah. Fair enough.’
‘Be seeing you, Jago,’ said Sammy. ‘Be seeing you in Summerworld.’
‘Dare say,’ I replied. Sammy got out the Cortina and vanished. I flicked the rest of the
‘What the hell are you doing in my car?’ she said.
I glanced back at the Cortina, but it turned out the Cortina was in fact a Subaru. Not my lucky day at all.
* * * * * * *
The first thing to establish was a schedule, so I checked the old time on the mobes. Quarter to twelve. Best, I figured, to hit up Sammy with the cash quick smart. But when I scoped the old wallet to see the reddy situation, I saw only a couple of supermarket dockets, a business card for some local café where a bloke worked who might be able to hook me up with some hot sheila maybe or probably not, and a band-aid. A poor start.
I hit the streets in rapid mode, feet pounding the footpath in that casual lope I like to call ‘clock’s a-tickin, ribs a-kickin’. I can cover 400 metres in about two minutes using c a-t, r a-k, and my best estimates figured the nearest ATM to be the Commonwealth around the corner. I was figuring no worries, but I figured wrong.
First I had to brush past a woman pushing a pram – no mean feat while c a-t, r a-kin. Then some wanker coming the other way on a bike had us both this wayin and that wayin, but I dodged him sweet and left him for a fool. Then some little punk thought he’d try to take me down with the old ‘pretend I’m walking the same way’ ruse: a quick elbow to the back of the head sorted him out. Then I realised I’d been going the wrong way the whole time, and, after a brief confabulation with self to correct the course, I retraced the old steps reversewise, executing a pram hurdle on the return leg.
It was going to be close.
There was nobody at any of the ATMs – sure sign of a trap, but I had no time for that now. I fumbled the old wallet out, scrambled through the plastickery to find the old bank card, and took a moment to check the time.
I’ve tackled ATMs before and only been beaten once or twice. This one put up a stiff fight: only grudgingly accepted my card, then demanded the access code. I won’t lie – a bead of sweat dripped off the old brow as I worked furiously to crack the code. Finally the combination came to me, I punched it in, and retrieved fifty bucks from the vault.
Now it was on for young and old – particularly old. Some sneaky old biddy had parked her arse right up mine, ready for the quick pounce, but I had half a step on her. A quick start-stop, start-stop got her guessing, and before she could gather herself, I was past and into the Summerworld.
Sammy was sitting near the pool table with a pot and the form guide in front of him. I slid the fifty across.
‘Ta, Jago,’ he said. ‘Good bloke.’
I gave him the old upthumbs and winkjob. Another satisfied customer.
четверг, февраля 14, 2008
I reckon if I walked around the local alleyways long enough, I could find all the bricks I’d ever need. Last summer came early, and so did the first barby: I spent a day walking around the alleyways and lugging bricks home, two at a time. I invited some people over, and when they arrived, I opened a bottle of Stone’s. Old Chet wrenched the hotplate out of the shed and scrubbed it clean with newspaper while I stacked the bricks into a barby. I hadn’t seen Chet for a long time. People say he’s a moody fucker, but I reckon Chet’s alright. He knows enough that he can, at the very least, put on a good show of being interested.
‘So what’s up with that
But I’d designated myself firestarter, and I was kinda busy. You gotta pay attention to these things. Chet opened a beer and read out the question under the bottle cap.
‘What date was the
About half the others sitting around gave this some consideration.
‘Who fucking cares? We won.’
‘We are. Every second day Johnnie’s on the TV banging on about what a pack of cunts the Russians are.’
‘Naw, that’s muslims, fella.’
‘Meh. Same thing.’
‘Perestroika, mate. Get a perestroika up ya.’
Chet pointed at me again.
‘31 December 1991,’ I said.
‘Well, 1 January 1992, to be precise,’ he replied. ‘It wasn’t until the clock ticked over that it was officially dissolved, right?’
There were some raucous cheers around the backyard. That’s what happens when you slug Stone’s on a hot day: raucous cheers and flushed faces.
‘How long you been studying for, mate?’ somebody said. ‘Ten years with fuck all to show for it.’
‘It’s a complex history,’ I replied. ‘Man can’t be expected to know everything.’
Chet lit a cigarette.
‘That’s some pretty fundamental shit, man,’ he said. ‘That’s a basic fact. Can’t get a job as a secret agent if ya can’t get the basic facts straight.’
I’d done a good job: that barby was generating some fierce heat; that hotplate was radiating shimmering air-snakes.
‘Thing is,’ I said, ‘thing is, it’s a complex history. Well, you fuckers wouldn’t know that, cos you generally know fuck all about anything. Man can’t be expected to know everything, I say. Man’s gotta pick his specialty and go with it. And, you know, the dissolution of the
I won’t lie to you. I felt like Clint Eastwood. I felt like the whole town was against me, even the village priest, but I’d take ‘em all on, and I’d win, and I’d have me a meat-burning shindig while I was at it.
Old Chet, he just sat there and took a drag of his cigarette. In hindsight, he was probably figuring ‘defuse,’ but it was a hot summer day, and it’s the Devil’s job putting out spotfires on a hot summer day. And old Chet, I reckon he did what any other Devil woulda done – he couldn’t put the spotfires out, so he stoked himself a big old bushfire instead.
‘Now now,’ he said. ‘No need for that, is there?’
And he took another drag.
Well, I won’t piss you about – I got angry. I got fucking angry. Two bricks at a time I carried ‘em, and a bloke expects more than jibes and ridicule and smug smiles in return. So I stoked that fire – I gave it a thrashing until some of the others looked nervous. That’s the way I like ‘em, folks: nervous and guilt-ridden. That’s when you’ve got ‘em right where you want ‘em. But to be honest, I didn’t care so much about them. They were inconsequential. I stoked that fire, had a slug of Stone’s and a good, hard stare.
‘Chet,’ I said,’ I’m mightily impressed. As always, you’ve wrong-footed me with yer mastery of the basic facts. And I think now, on this fine day (and here I stood up and hailed the honeysuckle with both arms raised), is the perfect opportunity for you to explain how ya do it. What’s the secret behind the mastery of basic facts?’
‘Natural brilliance,’ he replied. ‘And sadly so. Cos I wish I could bestow it upon others. But some have it, and some don’t.’
Well, I wasn’t taking any of that. Nobody in their right mind would take any of that.
‘Enough with the circular logic,’ I said. ‘That’s tiresome. Come on, don’t be shy and don’t bullshit.’
‘Well,’ he said, leaning back in his chair, ‘if you’re not prepared to accept genetics as an explanation, I understand. That’s very moral of you. You’re a moral fella. I’ve always thought that. But the basic fact remains (and here he stood up and hailed the honeysuckle with both arms raised), that whether you like it or not, it is the Truth.’
And he smiled openly before sitting down.
‘Oho!’ I cried. ‘That’s a fine statement: “I can master the basic facts because I know the Truth about the mastery of basic facts.” Truth is, Chet, you’re a chump. A chump and a dilettante. Mastery of the basic facts will win you raucous cheers and flushed faces from these idiots, but who’s stoking this barby? Who got the hotplate incandescent and the air-snakes all shimmery? Who carried the bricks, two at a time? Whose honeysuckle are we hailing, and, more to the point, who did you tell to shut up when you asked your stupid question in the first place?’
Chet wasn’t smiling anymore.
‘Shut up, you fuckhead,’ he said. ‘Just shut up, will ya?’
Everyone else had fallen silent, so Chet and I just sat there and stared at one another, filled with a hatred borne of anger and slugs of Stone’s and the heat of the first barby of summer.